Photo by Joe Carducci
The American Hebrew, 1936
I would like to thank my father for a recent gift – an unexpected, even startling object I found in a box full of yellowed papers and decaying receipts. Though he died ten years ago at the age of 86, I recently came across, glossy and intact, an issue of a magazine called, The American Hebrew. The name itself seemed antique if not cryptic. While it is the heritage passed on by my father I couldn’t readily relate to the title – The Hebrew? Is that a language, a country, a people?
The date on it is October 30, 1936. World War II hadn’t begun, and kristallnacht, which marked the beginning of the holocaust was still 2 years off. In America, especially in New York, 1936 seems in high season judging by the magazine. There were charity events at the Plaza, weddings and sailings announcements, lectures, a movie reviewed that starred Martha Raye, Jack Benny and Stokowski, music reviews featuring Eugene Ormandy, and notables such as playwright Lillian Hellman sighted at luncheons. The city in full swing. Plus reminders to vote in November. American culture and the Hebrew successes as chronicled seemed one.
A random issue of a 57-year-old national weekly? I don’t know why my father had held onto the magazine. I do know he was an avid reader and interested in all aspects of culture and philosophy which this magazine fed. At the time, my father was twenty years old and was just trying to survive by having a costume jewelry booth on the boardwalk of Coney Island (it later evolved into a medical manufacturing business). Maybe it was the moment-in-time the issue represented, and how its premonitions of what was to come over there could be laid out by the editors alongside the quotidian happenings here:
What did they know and when did they know it?
Right behind the front cover is the shock in a letter-to-the-editor from a correspondent. A conventional social justice frame-of-reference hides from view and disguises what they knew – ideologies that would utterly transform The American Hebrew in the generations to come:
“TO ESTABLISH GHETTO SCHOOLS
The Nazi press forecasts the early segregation of the German Jewish children in the elementary schools. The Jewish community has awaited this move, on the part of the Government for some time and although this would officially establish the School Ghetto, nevertheless it would not be unwelcome by the Jews. For it is expected that as soon as the official ‘Jew-Schools’ are established, the Government will take over the support of these schools which are at present a burden on the shoulders of the Jewish community.” (TAH)
The editorial page comments on issues ranging from the pope to Syria, to a gift given by B’nai B’rith. It states its positions: the pope is sympathetic despite recent slanders that he is not and in Syria indigenous Jews will be threatened with revenge as soon as Syria obtains its independence from France, then being negotiated. But the editorial’s major focus was the gift which was for agricultural land in Palestine, which at that time was under British mandate.
The American Hebrew was sensitive to the word Zionism and the world prejudices it had caused but saw Palestine as a place of refuge:
“…The significance of the B'nai B'rith grant at this point in Palestine's rehabilitation lies in the fact that the mutations of world events have dissipated the apprehensions and the fears of anti-Zionists and non-Zionists with regard to the Jews and political Zionism. So magnificent and constructive a lift to Palestine by a great non-Zionist organization is a message to Great Britain that non-Zionists are united with Zionists in the expectation that Majesty's Government may not default on the Palestine Mandate….” (TAH)
The American Hebrew took a compromise position toward Palestine despite the limits on immigration. They left it for the future to settle Palestine, a theme that would go on to haunt the later generations:
“…A safe and inviting land for… ‘Jews who choose Palestine as their homeland,’ leaving the political determination of the country to the future.” (TAH)
The political page, takes you further from the issues of the Jews in Europe. The “Potomac” column, while not formally endorsing a candidate, makes it clear that Franklin Roosevelt is the answer – for maintaining the relationship with Britain and for the still hoped-for recovery of the economy. My father was a Democrat his whole life – unquestioning, never moving left or right. A campaign advertisement in this issue describes the Democrat at the time:
“THINGS TO REMEMBER ON NOVEMBER 3, 1936
DO NOT forget the soup line of America from 1929 to 1933.
DO NOT forget the idleness of the mills and factories of this country from 1929 to 1933.
DO NOT forget the meager wages paid in America from 1929 to 1933.
DO NOT forget the ruinous prices of agricultural products from 1929 to 1933.
DO NOT forget that humanity comes first with Roosevelt.
DO NOT forget that the Roosevelt Administration stood and fought for the welfare and happiness not of one class but for the advancement and prosperity of every group, section, element of our diverse population.
DO NOT forget it was Franklin D. Roosevelt who brought this country from the depth of depression to the highway of prosperity.
DO NOT forget to vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt for President on November 3, unless you favor a return to the dark days of 1932. – Adv.” (TAH)
The campaign for a second term is in full gear. The editors are drifting from the subject of the European crisis. I skip several pages to find the raw news. “Late happenings around the globe” are reported by on-the-scene correspondents. They pour out in alphabetical order:
Nazi Riots Force Law School to Close
(Special to The American Hebrew)
Prague, October 25 Nazi students left the lecture hall after their leaders had shouted: ‘All German students quit–only Communists and Jews remain.’ Most of the Jewish students were beaten after they left the classroom, whereupon the university authorities declared the law school closed.” (TAH)
One can almost see how The American Hebrew could have missed the warning signs in Europe. There were riots but they seemed limited. It was a different world of slow communications and journalists after all report on what has happened. The Europe they knew seemed relatively safe and most believed or hoped the Great War had made another war inconceivable. The social events page reports on the frequent sailings and honeymoon cruises to Europe. However, a Berlin citizen is reported as going to South America to discuss future emigration. And the League of Nations was being presented with the issue of emigration to “alleviate the problem in Europe.” Still, it was not yet Europe of the second war or Europe as prisons feeding the furnaces of the holocaust.
Hopeful signs, especially in England, counterbalanced the flare-ups of anti-Semitism on the continent.
“CHURCH OF ENGLAND DEFENDS JEWS
—the London diocesan conference urging Christians not to tolerate anti Semitism… a common front to meet the interference of outsiders.” (TAH)
There is another article devoted entirely to the heroic episode in London, as Nazism is being rejected around Europe:
“It is no doubt that when Parliament reassembles, the question of future Fascist demonstrations, the wearing of the black Fascist uniforms, and the existence of a private Fascist army, will become the storm centre of the session. The indications are that the Government itself will introduce legislation prohibiting at least the public provocations of Fascism. In any event, it is quite certain that Mosley will not attempt another march on the East End in the near future. He has met his defeat at the entrance to Whitechapel.” (TAH)
But “Germany” is the listing that draws the eye. At this point, after the last influx of Jews after WWI, immigration to the United States was severely limited. No one really knew in the fog of deception that genocide was being planned. FDR in 1939 still doesn’t know genocide has begun, witness the case of the ship of refugees forced to return to Germany as portrayed in the film, Voyage of the Damned (1976).
Hitler had been in power three years by 1936, a short presidential term by American standards. He was voted in democratically and had just taken full power through constitutional means (the enabling act). Also, Hitler’s face was not the face in the news, but the faces were his various surrogates, as reported in the “Germany” section. Jewish meetings are not being closed down but merely postponed. Relatives are not killed; they just find themselves dealing with insidious bureaucracies.
Jewish Meetings Banned
(From Our Own Correspondent)
Berlin, October 25 – A Proposal to affect mass trans-Jewish meetings, public gatherings and lectures was announced by the Gestapo this week. Consequently, many Jewish conferences scheduled for the week, including a Zionist meeting, have been postponed. Another Gestapo order prohibited individual Jews or Jewish organizations from contacting Gestapo officials in any way other than through the mails. This means that Jewish families or organizations may remain ignorant of the whereabouts of arrested relatives or members until such time as the Gestapo may care to answer their letters.
“Von Leers Made ‘Professor of Anti-Semitism’
The well-known anti-Jewish agitator, Dr. Von Leers, who is next to Julius Streicher, probably the most violent anti-Semite in Germany, has been awarded for his services in the cause of anti-Jewish propaganda by his nomination as the first professor of what may be called ‘Scientific Anti-Semitism.’ Dr. Von Leers has specialized in the so-called ‘science’ of anti-Semitism. The professorship conferred upon him is officially described as a professorship in the ‘legal-political and social science on a racial basis.’” (TAH)
There is fear, but it is not yet realized. There are rumors about the political plans:
“Jews Fear New Measures
In circles of Berlin Jewry it is generally expected that new discriminatory laws against Jews are coming in the future. The basis for this belief is the new anti-Jewish drive against ‘World Enemy Number One’ recently launched by Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda. That drive is gaining in strength daily. Leading Nazi officials are addressing huge rallies in numerous cities in Germany. At these meetings the so-called ‘Jewish danger’ forms the chief subject and the people are incited against the Jews in the well-known Streicher manner. It is generally believed here that this drive was started to prepare the ground for the new measures. It is even mentioned with more or less certainty that these will be announced sometime toward the end of November on the occasion of the Frankfurter trial in Switzerland. It is said that the measures were in fact ready for promulgation at the last Nuremberg Congress, but a proper opportunity was missing. They were therefore postponed for the end of the Frankfurter trial. Incidentally, the food shortage in the country is getting stronger and this too, may serve as an occasion for new anti-Jewish measures as a means of diverting attention from the real trouble.” (TAH)
The spin at the end of the posting – the “incidentally…food shortages…diverting attention…” – goes straight to the blind spot – “science”, “theories” – illustrating how even from an American Hebrew eyewitness reporter, genocide was inconceivable.
The Frankfurter trial is often referred to as the predecessor to kristallnacht, when the killing of the ambassador was used as the crisis to explain the supposed spontaneous attacks on the Jews in the night of broken glass. In the Frankfort case, a Jewish student in Switzerland killed a Nazi officer. The world is waiting to see how Switzerland will position itself and waiting and to see how the Nazis will use this “crisis”. History, at least in this week, was put on hold.
Piece by piece they saw and they didn’t see: Propaganda campaigns, politicized science, racializing the legal and political, bending social science to their ends, flooding the political system with impossible regulations…. How different, really, from governments of our own time?
Discrimination was not new. It’s an ancient theme. In Germany is was “the Jewish danger”; The American Hebrew readers were fortunate to live in a country where it was merely “the Jewish question”. Ultimately, the magazine saw the world situation through the lens of politics. It was about economic theory, social-justice political strategy. Discrimination was dealt with in the role it played in their own politics and the Jewish vote. They were diverted from seeing or even imagining the Final Solution. But what did The American Hebrew know on a deeper level?
The editorial page in the fateful days of the now – cries out in the voice of the rabbis: “Prejudice, hatred, wars flame the sky. We stand uncertain of the way. Is there a God who will protect the children of Israel…? Where is He now?”
The essay page has an article on the Catholic defense strategy, contrasting two methods of combating prejudice and persecution and it indirectly cautions the reader against “hysterical” reactions to the news. Interesting differences between the religions, but the advantage of reading a magazine, was I could skip between the attitudes and the news.
But there was a gap where the politics left off and the religion began. Dispersed throughout the pages was, in the collage that only a magazine can present, games for children, recipes, a religious calendar, history lessons, woman issues, readers’ questions, bible stories….
What happened on that date in earlier history, for example, could give give a longer perspective than the American one:
“October 24th 1870, …the decree of the Delegation de la Defense Nationale, …naturalized the Algerian Jews… ‘Suppressed Judaism as a nationality.’ Anti-Semitism on the European plan…
“October 26th 1407, Riots at Cracow…..Blood Libel….. had followed hot on the trail of the Jews ….when they came to Poland” (TAH)
The candlelight club was what would be the “Home” page and refers to the ceremony of home and family, lighting the candles on Sabbath. Women who may be going to the latest Margaret Sanger lecture on birth control (as mentioned in the social happenings) are also given teachings on the nature of man and woman from the column “A Talmudic Tale”. One column, “Daniel’s windows open to Jerusalem,” meditates on the meaning of the return to the homeland with the verse in the bible that tells the history of the Hebrew in exile, told as a clergyman’s inquiry into anti-Semitism.
A letter in “Editorial” pleaded with the rabbis of America
“to begin to eschew constant references to our heroes and glories of ages gone and to begin to answer the questioning that agitate the Jewish heart in the dangerous fateful days of the now!” (TAH)
The fateful days of the now is presented as a question: With the distance between the rabbis and the common man, how does the religion apply?
But it was never answered. There were eyes to Jerusalem, and there was anti-Zionism. There was the rabbi with the stories of the past, and there was the common man with his suffering. Between the Hebrew and the American was a gap.
For The American Hebrew the American came first, the readership was assimilated and secure. My father as a demographic of one, a staunch atheist. And I am sure he skipped those religious columns altogether. But, he as the demographic of one, had a context to understand the fateful days of the now – one generation away from the persecutions in Europe. He understood the depth and varieties of anti-Semitism.
The generations that followed, however, seem to have fallen into that gap between the worlds of American and Hebrew. And the next generation of the sixties went even more in the American direction, veering distinctly leftward. And the generation after continued and was on the way to falling off the page. It is said of the Jewish New Left that politics became the religion.
As for the magazine it merged with The Examiner (Brooklyn) and in 1958 was renamed The American Examiner – the Hebrew was dropped but the American retained, and by the 1970s the magazine was seen no more.
Photo by Joe Carducci
From the library of Chris Collins...
Excerpts from The Decline of the West, Vol. 2: Perspectives of World-History (1922), by Oswald Spengler
Chapter IV. Cities and Peoples. (A) The Soul of the City.
"The peasant is the eternal man, independent of every Culture that ensconces itself in the cities. He precedes it, a dumb creature propagating himself from generation to generation, limited to soil-bound callings and aptitudes, a mystical soul, a dry, shrewd understanding that sticks to practical matters, the origin and the ever-flowing source of the blood that makes world-history in the cities." (p. 96)
"The present-day piety of the peasant is older than Christianity; his gods are more ancient than those of any higher religion. Remove from him the pressure of the great cities and he will revert to the state of nature without feeling that he is losing anything."
"Democracy is the political form in which the townsman's outlook upon the world is demanded of the peasantry also. The urban intellect reforms the great religion of the springtime and sets up by the side of the old religion of noble and priest, the new religion of Tiers Etat, liberal science. The city assumes the lead and control of economic history in replacing the primitive values of the land, which are for ever inseparable from the life and thought of the rustic, by the absolute idea of money as distinct from goods. The immemorial country word for exchange of goods is "barter"; even when one of the things exchanged is precious metal, the underlying idea of the process is not yet monetary -- ie. it does not involve the abstraction of value from things and its fixation in metallic or fictitious quantities intended to measure things qua "commodities." "
"The notion of money attains to full abstractness. It no longer merely serves for the understanding of economic intercourse, but subjects the exchange of goods to its own evolution. It values things no longer as between each other, but with reference to itself ... Money has now become a power, and, moreover, a power that is wholly intellectual ... a power the reality of which resides in the waking-consciousness of the upper stratum of an economically active population. A power that makes those concerned with it just as dependent upon itself as the peasant was dependent upon the soil ... "
" ... Money has become, for man as an economic animal, a form of the activity of waking-consciousness, having no longer any roots in Being. This is the basis for its monstrous power over every beginning Civilization, which is always an unconditional dictatorship of money, though taking different forms in different Cultures. But this is the reason, too, for the want of solidity which eventually leads to its losing its power and its meaning, so that at the last, as in Diocletian's time, it disappears from the thought of the closing Civilization, and the primary values of the soil return anew to take its place." (p. 98)
"Finally, there arises the monstrous symbol and vessel of the completely emancipated intellect, the world-city, the centre in which the course of a world-history ends by winding itself up. A handful of gigantic places in each Civilization disfranchises and disvalues the entire motherland of its own Culture under the contemptuous name of "the provinces." The "provinces" are now everything whatsoever -- land, town and city -- except these two or three points. There are no longer noblesse and bourgeoisie, freemen and slaves, Hellenes and Barbarians, believers and unbelievers, but only cosmopolitans and provincials. All other contrasts pale before this one, which dominates all events, all habits of life, all views of the world." (p. 99)
"It should not be forgotten that the word "province" first appears as a constitutional designation given by the Romans to Sicily; the subjugation of Sicily (Second Punic War, 212 BC. See: Siege of Syracuse. -ed), in fact, is the first example of a once pre-eminent Culture-landscape sinking so far as to be purely and simply an object. Syracuse, the first real great-city of the Classical world, had flourished when Rome was still an unimportant country town, but thenceforward, vis-a-vis Rome, it becomes a provincial city. In just the same way Habsburg Madrid and Papal Rome, leading cities in the Europe of the seventeenth century, were from the outset of the eighteenth depressed to the provincial level by the world-cities of Paris and London. And the rise of New York to the position of world-city during the Civil War of 1861-5 may perhaps prove to have been the most pregnant event of the nineteenth century."
"The stone Colossus "Cosmopolis" stands at the end of the life's course of every great Culture. The Culture-man whom the land has spiritually formed is seized and possessed by his own creation, the City, and is made into its creature, its executive organ, and finally its victim. ... so long as the hearth has a pious meaning as the actual and genuine centre of a family, the old relation to the land is not wholly extinct. But when that, too, follows the rest into oblivion, and the mass of tenants and bed-occupiers in the sea of houses leads a vagrant existence from shelter to shelter like the hunters and pastors of the "pre-" time, then the intellectual nomad is completely developed. ... I see, long after A.D. 2000, cities laid out for ten to twenty million inhabitants, spread over enormous areas of country-side, with buildings that will dwarf the biggest of today's and notions of traffic and communication that we should regard as fantastic to the point of madness." (p. 101)
"But no wretchedness, no compulsion, not even a clear vision of the madness of this development, avails to neutralize the attractive force of these daemonic creations. The wheel of Destiny rolls on to its end; the birth of the City entails its death... Long ago the country bore the country-town and nourished it with her blood. Now the giant city sucks the country dry, insatiably and incessantly demanding and devouring fresh streams of men, till it wearies and dies in the midst of an almost uninhabited waste of country. Once the full sinful beauty of this last marvel of all history has captured a victim, it never lets him go.... He would sooner die upon the pavement than go "back" to the land. ... [he] has lost the country within [himself] and will never regain it outside."
"What makes the man of the world-cities incapable of living on any but this artificial footing is that the cosmic beat in his being is ever decreasing, while the tensions of his waking-consciousness become more and more dangerous.. ... the animal, waking side supervenes upon the vegetable side, that of being, and not vice versa... tension without cosmic pulsation to animate it is the transition to nothingness. But Civilization is nothing but tension... Intelligence is only the capacity for understanding at high tension. ... The advance, too, from peasant wisdom -- "slimness," mother wit, instinct, based as in other animals upon the sensed beat of life -- through the city-spirit to the cosmopolitan intelligence... can be described as a steady diminution of the Destiny-feeling and an unrestrained augmentation of needs according to the operation of a Causality..."
"And then, when Being is sufficiently uprooted and Waking-Being sufficiently strained, there suddenly emerges into the bright light of history a phenomenon that has long been preparing itself underground and now steps forward to make an end of the drama -- the sterility of civilized man. This is not something that can be grasped as a plain matter of Causality...; it is to be understood as an essentially metaphysical turn towards death. The last man of the world-city no longer wants to live -- he may cling to life as an individual, but as a type, as an aggregate, no, for it is a characteristic of this collective existence that it eliminates the terror of death. That which strikes the true peasant with a deep and inexplicable fear, the notion that the family and the name may be extinguished, has lost its meaning.... the destiny of being the last of the line is no longer felt as a doom. Children do not happen... principally because intelligence at the peak of intensity can no longer find any reason for their existence.... Intelligence and sterility are allied in old families, old peoples, and old Cultures, not merely because in each microcosm the overstrained and fettered animal-element is eating up the plant element, but also because the waking-consciousness assumes that being is normally regulated by causality.... When the ordinary thought of a highly cultivated people begins to regard "having children" as a question of pros and cons, the great turning-point has come. For Nature knows nothing of pro and con... At that point begins prudent limitation of the number of births. ... in Buddhist India as in Babylon, in Rome as in our own cities, a man's choice of the woman who is to be, not mother of his children as among peasants and primitives, but his own "companion for life," becomes a problem of mentalities. ... The primary woman, the peasant woman, is mother. The whole vocation towards which she has yearned from childhood is included in that one world. But now emerges the Ibsen woman, the comrade, the heroine of a whole megalopolitan literature from Northern drama to Parisian novel. Instead of children, she has soul-conflicts; marriage is the craft-art for the achievement of "mutual understanding." It is all the same whether the case against children is the American lady's who would not miss a season for anything, or the Parisienne's who fears that her lover would leave her, or an Ibsen heroine's who "belongs to herself" -- they all belong to themselves and they are all unfruitful. The same fact... is to be found in the Alexandrian, in the Roman, and as a matter of course, in every other civilized society."
".... At this level all Civilizations enter upon a stage, which lasts for centuries, of appalling depopulation. The whole pyramid of cultural man vanishes. It crumbles from the summit, first the world-cities, then the provincial forms, and finally the land itself, whose best blood has incontinently poured into the towns, merely to bolster them up awhile. At the last, only the primitive blood remains, alive, but robbed of its strongest and most promising elements. This residue is the Fellah type." (p. 105)
"If anything has demonstrated the fact that Causality has nothing to do with history, it is the familiar "decline" of the Classical (Roman -ed), which accomplished itself long before the irruption of Germanic migrants. The imperium enjoyed the completest peace; it was rich and highly developed; it was well organized; and it possessed in its emperors from Nerva to Marcus Aurelius a series of rulers such as the Caesarism of no other Civilization can show. And yet the population dwindled, quickly and wholesale. The desperate marriage-and-children laws of Augustus -- amongst them the Lex de maritandis ordinibus, which dismayed Roman society more than the destruction of Varus's legions (9 AD, Teutoburg Forest, Germany: documentary -ed) -- the wholesale adoptions, the incessant plantation of soldiers of barbarian origin to fill the depleted country-side, the immense food-charities of Nerva and Trajan for the children of poor parents -- nothing availed to check the process. Italy, then North Africa and Gaul, and finally Spain, which under the early Caesars had been one of the most densely populated parts of the Empire, became empty and desolate... the historical student has only to turn his attention seriously to other Civilizations to find the same phenomenon everywhere... If the Maya population literally vanished within a very short time after the Spanish conquest, and their great empty cities were reabsorbed by the jungle, this does not prove merely the brutality of the conqueror -- which in this regard would have been helpless before the self-renewing power of a young and fruitful Culture-mankind -- but an extinction from within that no doubt had long been in process. And if we turn to our own civilization, we find that the old families of the French noblesse were not... eradicated in the Revolution, but have died out since 1815, and their sterility has spread to the bourgeoisie and, since 1870, to the peasantry which that very Revolution almost re-created. In England, and still more in the United States -- particularly in the east, the very states where the stock is best and oldest -- the process of "race suicide" denounced by Roosevelt set in long ago on the largest scale." (p. 106)
Previous Spengler excerpts
(Painting: Thomas Cole, "The Arcadian or Pastoral State", 1836)
"Locus" by Michael J. Safran
From the Wyoming Desk of Joe Carducci…
Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi at opendemocracy.net, "The Politics of Aesthetics: Mussolini and Fascist Italy".
“Kant’s famous definition of art as “purposiveness without purpose” helped solidify the identification of the aesthetic realm with non-instrumental ends. For Kant, this did not mean that art should be disconnected from social life. In contrast, art provided an ideal space within which to envision a public forum away from concrete political or governmental action and where enlightened citizens could freely discuss political issues. Art was a self-proclaimed non-political space in which politics, however, worked as a motivational engine. In this sense, although seemingly founded on separation, modern aesthetics originated in relation to politics, domesticating the masses, with all their desires and impulses and winning them to democratic politics. How is all this discussion of aesthetics connected to Mussolini and to the centrality of aesthetics in Mussolini’s conception and exercise of power? What do I mean by “conception of” power? In my view, Mussolini’s subscription to aesthetics ensured that symbols, art and rituals were all seen as contributing to a transformative, moulding power. They deeply informed how Mussolini conceived and exercised power. Mussolini subscribed to the notion of aesthetics promoted by the art for art’s sake movement, that is, the notion of art as autonomous and self-referential and detached from worldly matters. At the same time, and somewhat paradoxically, Mussolini had a great intuition about the crucial role of affect in politics, an intuition that, combined with his approach to aesthetics, gave way to the strange and lethal alchemy that we know of as fascism.”
Patrick McGuinness in TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT on Carmen Bugan’s book, "Burying the Typewriter – Childhood under the eye of the secret police".
“It was only after he is arrested in 1983 that his children learn that Ion has already spent time in prison, also for political dissidence, before they were born. The Securitate dig up the typewriter on which he has been typing his anti-regime tracts (the book includes a photograph of it from the Securitate files), and which he buries in the garden every time he finishes his typing. Ion is arrested and sent to prison, and there begins the familiar story of persecution for those left behind, who are isolated, deprived of food, abused and bullied. In such a world, small acts of heroism and kindness stand out: Carmen’s literature teacher, who, under the pretence of taking her out of class to punish her, takes her to a quiet room and feeds her bread and salami….”
Ian Brunskill in TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT on Julian Preece’s book, "Baader-Meinhof and the Novel – Narratives of the nation, Fantasies of the revolution".
“Preece is shrewd in his assessment of the political and intellectual vacuum at the heart of Baader-Meinhof. The group’s early actions, as it emerged from the student protests of 1968, were an adolescent attempt to provoke the state into acting as the ‘fascist’ coercive apparatus of radical caricature. Once the original leaders were imprisoned, the RAF’s only real objective was to get them out; for all its rhetoric, it was little more than a lethal personality cult. Violence acquires its own logic. When the bloody campaign to secure the release of Baader, Ensslin and Raspe ended in failure with the Stammheim suicides, the surviving members devoted a further futile twenty years to a murderous memorial campaign. The lack of political substance secured the RAF a depth and breadth of support it could never have enjoyed had it had coherent aims.”
Michael LaPointe in TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT on Michael Szalay’s book, "Hip Figures – A literary history of the Democratic Party".
“According to Szalay’s delicate thesis, novelists such as Norman Mailer, John Updike and E.L. Doctorow ‘invoked hip… to consolidate the voting constituencies of postwar liberalism’ on behalf of the Democratic Party. Szalay reads the invocation of ‘invigorating black hip’ as an attempt to ‘reconcile white suburbanites and working-class African Americans’, and therefore to ‘improve the product’ of a party out of step throughout the 1950s. Because ‘success or failure in political styles’, hipster novelists were ‘the most important political strategists of their time’.”
Mark Bauerlein in NEW CRITERION on David Horowitz’s book, "Radicals – Portraits of a Destructive Passion".
“Radicalism has its political content, he agrees, but it marks a pathological condition as well. If it were only political, it would advocate for a single-payer healthcare system, a more steeply progressive income tax, and other policies expanding state control. People demand those reforms, of course, but they aren’t really radical, for they work through democratic channels to enact them. Genuine radicals target the channels themselves. To attempt this in a country as free and self-critical as the United States, however, they must distort the reality in front of their eyes and the identity they have constructed over the years. Horowitz alleges that they act and speak in bad faith: that contradictory psychosocial state first analyzed in Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness and illustrated by Horowitz’s subjects time and again. Radicals tenders five of them in in-depth portraits (Christopher Hitchens, Bettina Aptheker, Cornel West, Susan Lydon, Saul Alinsky), and dedicates another chapter on three female ‘bombers’ (Kathy Boudin, Linda Evans, Susan Rosenberg…)”
Anders Rasmussen at opendemocracy.net, "Headscarfs and Homosexuals – Feminist Ideals in Xenophobic Politics".
“The controversial imam is known for his reactionary interpretation of Sharia law. He has repeatedly argued that men should be allowed to beat their wives, that extramarital sex should be punished by 200 lashes and, not least, that gay sex should be punished by death. Against this background, the dissatisfaction with Bilal Philips was understandable. As Trine Pertou Mach of the Socialist People’s Party wrote in an opinion piece on the portal Modkraft the week before the conference, he represents ‘the complete opposite of what a left wing characterised by solidarity works for’. Nevertheless, Mach was in doubt about how best to respond to the event. She remembered all too clearly what had happened three months earlier, when left-wing activists and politicians assembled outside the Danish Royal Library to demonstrate against the radical Islamic group Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which held a public rally that was given considerable media attention. At that rally, Mach and her allies suddenly found themselves side by side with representatives of the right wing. Denmark’s National Front, the Nazi party DNSB and the organisation Stop the Islamisation of Denmark had turned up along with uniformed soldiers. They carried the Danish flag, sang the national anthem and raised banners bearing slogans such as ‘Deport These Fifth-Column Traitors’and ‘Go to Hell’.”
Rochelle Gurstein in BOOKFORUM on Paul & Karen Avrich’s book, "Sasha and Emma – The Anarchist Odyssey of Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman".
“These wildly misguided idealists justified the attempt on Frick’s life by regarding him, as Goldman put it, not ‘as a man, but as the enemy of labor,’ ‘antisocial and antihuman,’ ‘the perpetrator of coldblooded murder.’ Berkman went so far as to declare that ‘to remove a tyrant is an act of liberation, the giving of life and opportunity to an oppressed people.’ In such declarations, Berkman and Goldman were applying – or misapplying – lessons they had learned during their youths under the tyranny of czarist Russia, where public protest and even criticism were punished by long prison terms, exile, or execution, leaving those seeking to right economic and political inequalities only the most dramatic, violent gestures.”
Richard Lewontin in NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS on Harry Ostrer’s book, Legacy – A Genetic History of the Jewish People, and Nadia Abu El-Haj’s book, "The Genealogical Science – The Search for Jewish Origins and the Politics of Epistemology".
“Nadia Abu El-Haj’s avowed purpose is to make clear ‘the ways in which the past is understood to be a constitutive element of the self.’ The key word here is “understood.” Her emphasis, over and over, is on how the knowledge of ancestry, revealed by modern techniques of genetics, may serve as a basis for and a legitimation of a self-image. For her, to ignore the genetic information about ancestry ‘is to abandon a historically authentic self that I carry around within.’ Once again, as in works on the genetics of race, we encounter the concept of an ‘authentic’ self that lies hidden and unexpressed, but which in some sense is the essence of what I am, even if unperceived and without a basis in any scientific demonstration. The concept of a self that is an authentic essence, but not clearly perceived, suggests that my manifest properties and attitudes are a mere patina and that, in ways that I do not recognize, my inherited inner self is struggling to assert itself. The Austrian Catholic Mendel and the Austrian Jew Freud meet on the speculative ground of our inner being.”
Lawrence Solomon briefing at meforum.org, "The Huge Impact of Israel’s Energy Reserves".
“Mr. Solomon projected that within the next one to two decades, the Muslim nations will lose their oil weapon and diplomatic clout due to a new emerging energy order. Recent discoveries of plentiful global resources of shale oil and shale gas reserves, in combination with technological advances in ‘fracking’ …will enable many countries to be less dependent on energy imports. According to Solomon, shale oil will be so abundant that in the future China will join the ranks of energy exporters, and a total of thirty-eight countries in every region of the world could achieve energy self-sufficiency. The boom will push prices down and North America, already engaged in developing its immense amounts of shale, can become energy independent in a decade. Israel is among the beneficiaries of this energy bonanza. The discovery of large shale oil resources on its land and natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean's Levant Basin near Cyprus, will enable it to become a major natural gas exporter to Europe. In addition to creating the potential for wooing back former allies in Western Europe, these discoveries are already enabling Israel to form commercial and military alliances with Cyprus and Greece to coordinate gas exploration and extraction and thwart Turkey's belligerence. Gazprom Israel, a new commercial partnership formed with Russia, provides geopolitical as well as economic benefits for the Jewish state.”
David Barash at chronicle.com, "The Evolutionary Mystery of Homosexuality".
“What if one or more genes that predispose toward homosexuality (and with it, reduced reproductive output) in one sex actually work in the opposite manner in the other sex? I prefer the phrase ‘sexually complementary selection’: A fitness detriment when genes exist in one sex—say, gay males—could be more than compensated for by a fitness enhancement when they exist in another sex. One study has found that female relatives of gay men have more children than do those of straight men. This suggests that genes for homosexuality, although disadvantageous for gay men and their male relatives, could have a reproductive benefit among straight women. To my knowledge, however, there is as yet no evidence for a reciprocal influence, whereby the male relatives of female homosexuals have a higher reproductive fitness than do male relatives of heterosexual women. And perhaps there never will be, given the accumulating evidence that female homosexuality and male homosexuality may be genetically underwritten in different ways.”
Dorothy Rabinowitz in WSJ on the tv program, "Enemies Within: Joe McCarthy".
“By 1950 he had discovered he could attract the press attention he longed for by making sensational charges. That was the year of his Wheeling, W.Va., speech in which he charged that right at that moment he knew of 205 subversives in the State Department. It was the beginning of his grasp of the factor so vital in his rise to power—namely the attention of the press. Having understood, he never looked back. No McCarthy documentary in memory has so captured the role of his press acolytes. Reporters admired him, were charmed by him, and they were above all grateful for the inside information he gave them. The film offers testaments from witnesses both living and dead to the ways McCarthy courted reporters. Jack Anderson tells of being set up to listen in on McCarthy's phone while the senator called some other Republican, like Robert Taft, to ask what had happened at some important closed meeting that had just been held. It was a long while before McCarthy's appeal for that press wore off. He was a gregarious man who could strangely seem to forget any animus he felt for a witness he had just finished trying to destroy. One man tells of running into McCarthy in a hallway just after the senator had brutalized him at one of his hearings—and finding, to his amazement, McCarthy throwing his arm around him and asking if he'd like to go for a drink.”
Kevin Young in NYT on Yuval Taylor & Jake Austen’s book, "Darkest America – Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop".
“While the authors of ‘Darkest America’ seek to trace this tradition — or bad habit — from its inception all the way to the present, they set out to examine its influence not on American culture but on the African-American culture it originally mocked. Their boldest choice comes early on, without fanfare: to refer to minstrelsy as ‘black,’ losing the ‘blackface’ that usually precedes it. While Taylor, a co-author of ‘Faking It,’ and Austen, the author of ‘Flying Saucers Rock ’n’ Roll,’ don’t mention this change, it allows them to talk about minstrelsy both as a blackface phenomenon — started onstage by white minstrels in the 1820s and then later adopted and adapted by African-Americans in and out of blackface in the late 19th century — and as a force in plain-faced comedy. The authors provocatively contend that African-Americans have adopted black minstrelsy as a form of liberation: ‘It must have been a great joy to act silly, lazy, foolish and free while contributing to a tradition widely viewed as their greatest gift to American entertainment.’ To Taylor and Austen, black minstrelsy may be embraced, rejected or ‘signified on,’ but it remains ever-present: ‘Whichever approach is taken, the black minstrel image remains inescapable, something that every black performer, critic and thinker has to reckon with.’”
Anna Vesterinen at opendemocracy.net, "Who are the Finns? Ask The Finns! ".
“The Finns further describe different cultures in their signature colloquial style: ‘an individual national culture is a gift that each nation can give to the diversity of the world’. And the gift of Finland is ‘Finnishness’. This type of sentimental argumentation is common in ethnonationalist thinking. Furthermore, as national differences are natural, The Finns underline that maintaining societal order and preserving the Finnish culture is not racism. For the party, highlighting the importance of separate cultures actually enhances the position of a society’s weaker members. This is because such nationalism acknowledges the uniqueness of individuals, unlike the prevailing “supranational’ policies, which ‘practically force people to move across national borders’.”
James Fontanella-Khan at FT, "Global Taste for Trappist Ale brings Job Benefits".
“There are three basic rules that certify the Trappist trademark: the beer has to be brewed inside the abbey; monks have to be in control of the brewery; and profits must go to charity. These values are defended by the International Trappist Association, a group based in Vleteren, Belgium, that protects Trappist monks’ interests. ‘We are aware our family name has economic value. That’s why we want to protect the monastic economies that support our communities against unfair competition,’ it says. Mr Goffinet says the monks, who have ceased working on a day-to-day basis but still oversee the running of the brewery, had no interest in expanding but agreed to do so to generate local employment and support other chapters as well as charity projects. ‘If I owned Chimay I would not run it the way it is now,’ says Mr de Halleux. ‘I would produce way more beer with fewer people, but that’s not their philosophy and given that they still do a great beer, it should be respected.’”
John Tagliabue in NYT, "Swedish School’s Big Lesson Begins with Dropping Personal Pronouns".
“At an ocher-color preschool along a lane in Stockholm’s Old Town, the teachers avoid the pronouns ‘him’ and ‘her,’ instead calling their 115 toddlers simply ‘friends.’ Masculine and feminine references are taboo, often replaced by the pronoun ‘hen,’ an artificial and genderless word that most Swedes avoid but is popular in some gay and feminist circles. In the little library, with its throw pillows where children sit to be read to, there are few classic fairy tales, like ‘Cinderella’ or ‘Snow White,’ with their heavy male and female stereotypes, but there are many stories that deal with single parents, adopted children or same-sex couples. Girls are not urged to play with toy kitchens, and wooden or Lego blocks are not considered toys for boys. And when boys hurt themselves, teachers are taught to give them every bit as much comforting as they would girls.”
Laura Snyder in WSJ on Robyn Arianrhod’s book, "Seduced by Logic – Emilie du Chatelet, Mary Somerville".
“Châtelet (1706-49) was born less than 20 years after the publication of Isaac Newton's ‘Principia Mathematica,’ in which the British physicist proved the law of universal gravitation and revolutionized physics. Châtelet had been dissuaded from her dream of studying mathematics until she embarked on a decades-long affair with a man who shared her interests, the philosophe François-Marie Arouet, known by the nom de plume Voltaire. Soon Châtelet would help Voltaire write his ‘Elements of Newton's Philosophy,’ which aimed to gain adherents for Newton's controversial views in France, where the opposing physics of René Descartes ruled supreme. Her most impressive project was a translation of the ‘Principia’ into French, still considered one of the finest 18th-century translations of Newton's book. Mary Somerville (1780-1872) was born three decades after Châtelet's death. She too was discouraged from reading about mathematics as a child, her parents resorting to confiscating her candles at night. Encouraged by her second husband, Somerville began to study scientific topics in earnest. Her book ‘Mechanism of the Heavens’ (1831) was a translation, with detailed explanatory notes, of the first two volumes of Pierre-Simon Laplace's ‘Celestial Mechanics,’ a work which developed and extended Newtonian physics by applying to problems of mechanics the algebraic form of calculus devised by Gottfried Leibniz.”
futureofcapitalism.com: "Anonymous Harvard Professors Trash Broadwell".
“The professors here may well be violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (Ferpa) by discussing Ms. Broadwell's academic record without her consent. But never mind the possible illegality; what about the hypocrisy. Are we supposed to believe that the Harvard faculty, or the Kennedy school faculty, consists entirely of people who are not self-promoters and who never showed up at office hours when they were students? Come on. Let it be a warning to any prospective student considering plunking down the $70,000 or $80,000 that Harvard says one should budget for nine months at the Kennedy School (tuition, room and board, health insurance, books, etc.) If you wind up in the news, your professors will anonymously trash you to the Boston Globe. Maybe I am overreacting, but in my judgment, the actions of the professors in sliming their former student, and the actions of the Globe reporters and their editors in granting them anonymity to do so, are a breach of faith in a relationship (the student-teacher relationship) comparable, if perhaps on a different scale, to the breaches of faith that Ms. Broadwell and General Petraeus apparently made in their marital relationships. One other point: several Harvard Kennedy school professors are regular contributors to the Globe op-ed page and are paid for their contributions. The Globe doesn't say whether the two professors who talked anonymously about Ms. Broadwell are professors who write regularly for the Globe and who are paid for their contributions. But if they are, it opens up a whole other dimension.”
Christopher Caldwell in FT, "A Last Chance to Strike a Bargain on US Immigration".
“The problem is that, in border control as in fiscal policy, governments are inclined to take the path of least resistance. Ronald Reagan’s immigration reform of 1986 was passed to halt the flow of immigrants and wound up opening the floodgates. Voters in both parties demand enforcement.
This week’s election complicated matters. It made evident an ethnicisation of the US party system. If Latinos and Asians are going to vote 75 per cent Democratic, then 9m of those 12m would-be citizens probably will too. That makes Republicans less comfortable with amnesty; it will also turn some Democrats against enforcement, lest they kill the goose that lays the golden political egg.”
Scott Sayare in NYT, "Where ‘In Bed With Media’ Can Be Taken More Literally".
“The nation’s leading conservative newspaper ousted its top editor, apparently hoping to ingratiate itself with the new government. A cultural magazine brought in a new editor as well, opting for the partner of a newly minted government minister. The man she replaced took a job working for the new president. The springtime election of François Hollande, the first French president from the left in 17 years, has brought about a shuffling of the news media ranks, along with a host of potential conflicts of interest. Coverage has shifted too. Much of the news media, which largely lean left, used to revel in denouncing Mr. Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, but now many journalists are feeling bereft of material because of the new president’s less dramatic governing style. Mr. Hollande has proved confoundedly boring, they say, especially for news outlets that sometimes cover the government as if nothing else matters, relying on Paris politics to drive the news.”
Fred Weir at csmonitor.com, "Russian Beauty Queen Puts Spotlight on Russia’s Official Corruption".
“A Russian beauty queen garnered global headlines this week by standing by her impassioned denunciation of the endemic corruption that demoralizes society and saps the economic life of her homeland, made in an essay she'd written that was supposed to be about why she's proud to be a Russian. ‘But my Russia – it is also my poor, long-suffering country, mercilessly torn to pieces by greedy, dishonest, unbelieving people,’ Natalia Pereverzeva wrote in an essay that was part of her entrance requirement to the Miss Earth competition this week in Manila, Philippines. ‘My Russia – it is a great artery, from which the 'chosen' few people are draining away its wealth. My Russia is a beggar. My Russia cannot help her elderly and orphans. From it, bleeding, like from a sinking ship, engineers, doctors, teachers are fleeing, because they have nothing to live on,’ she wrote. Ms. Pereverzeva's outburst was almost certainly spontaneous, based on her own personal experience and straight from the heart. But it also happens to coincide with one of the periodic anticorruption crusades launched from the Kremlin to convince the Russian public that something is being done to combat the official graft that by some accounts siphons off as much as a third of Russia's gross domestic product….”
Catherine Belton in FT, "Shale Surge Poses Threat to Gazprom in Europe".
“When Gazprom last month finally launched its new flagship project, the Bovanenkovo gasfield far above the Arctic Circle, it should have been a triumphant moment: the field contains enough gas to supply Europe’s needs for decades to come. But instead, the launch of the field – after years of delays and more than $44bn in capital expenditure – was overshadowed by a warning as Vladimir Putin called on the state gas company to pay more attention to the shale gas boom in the United States. The shale revolution that is revolutionising global gas markets is also threatening to undermine Gazprom’s export position in Europe, where it accounts for 25 per cent of gas sales, and to relegate projects like Bovanenkovo to relics of the past.”
James Angelos in WSJ, "IKEA Rues Using Prison Labor".
“Some present during the announcement, however, urged IKEA to move quickly to compensate victims. Carl-Wolfgang Holzapfel, a political activist and former detainee of the East German authorities, complimented the company for vowing to support further research, but also said IKEA was running out of time to help victims of forced labor camps. ‘They're dying out,’ said Mr. Holzapfel. Alexander Arnold, 51, claimed to have been forced to make office chair legs, allegedly for IKEA, while detained in Naumburg during the early 1980s. He described how forced laborers who didn't meet a stringent production quota were confined to a dark cellar. Those who refuse to work, he added, were bound by their feet and hands to a bed for days at a time. Mr. Arnold said he was pleased and surprised that IKEA has now decided to face up to its wrongdoings, but added that it was just the beginning of revelations into how companies may have used forced labor. ‘Our picture of the GDR,’ he said, referring to East Germany, ‘is still skewed.’”
Liz Alderman in NYT, "Privatizing Greece, Slowly but Not Surely".
“The measure, which barely passed, cleared the way to privatize assets like Greece’s water utility. Yet even there, a new regulatory agency must be established, along with a public policy on how to price water. The government owes the utility around 700 million euros in unpaid bills; when it will ever pay is unclear. And then there is land: It is the bulk of the portfolio, and it comes with the biggest problems. Property registries are almost nonexistent in Greece, a curiosity that dates back to the Ottoman Empire. Ownership was almost never recorded, so investors could face potential lawsuits from people claiming land as theirs. ‘Just imagine — the state doesn’t know exactly what real estate it really owns,’ says George Katrougalos, a Greek constitutional lawyer who is currently a fellow at New York University. ‘It’s a legal mess.’ Worse still, Greeks built on state land probably while the government looked the other way. That was the situation that Mr. Taprantzis’s agency found in Katakolo, a once-verdant beachfront near ancient Olympia. in the Western Peloponnese, where thousands of people squatted on state land without paying for or registering the property. Local politicians enabled the activity. For decades, on days when national elections were held, hundreds of people would throw up cinder-block houses literally overnight. In exchange, locals supported candidates who would not sanction them or force them to pay taxes on the construction. Electricity was eventually brought in through political favors, and little by little, a community was established.”
Richard Barley in WSJ, "To Boost Bond Markets, Europe Needs to Promote Failure".
“The European Commission Regulation on Insolvency only specifies that the law applicable to insolvency proceedings is to be that of the member state where proceedings are opened. The U.K. and Dutch frameworks are regarded as working relatively well. But elsewhere, creditors are subject to laws that vary in terms of their treatment of creditor rankings; the rights of existing management, shareholders and employees; and the ability of creditors to enforce their claims. Restructurings often therefore bypass the court system—particularly since judges can in some jurisdictions throw out deals that have been painstakingly negotiated between debtors and creditors. That risks companies ending up in liquidation rather than being rescued. The problems in Europe have led to complicated workarounds where companies from Germany and elsewhere suddenly rehome themselves in the U.K. to take advantage of the more flexible legal system.”
Joshua Chaffin & James Fontanella-Khan in FT, "Threat to Growth Fund Highlights Painful Adjustment".
“In addition to France and Italy, raiding the growth funds could also assuage some other unhappy countries. Chiefly, they could help to pay for the budget rebates demanded by a group of northern member states, such as Denmark, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands. The preservation of the much larger British rebate has made their demands even more insistent. The sudden vulnerability of the growth funds is a consequence of Mr Van Rompuy's effort in recent days to mollify David Cameron, the British prime minister, by limiting the overall size of the budget. The reductions that Mr Van Rompuy has made have, by necessity, already hit the biggest pillars of the budget - the common agricultural policy, and the development money known as "cohesion funds". Together, they would decline by more than €50bn.”
Nick Jacobs at euobserver.com, "Why the EU Must Dare to Debate ‘Degrowth’".
“Do alternatives to growth really exist? The debate remains on the margins of the public political sphere, but in Europe and elsewhere serious academic theories and grassroots movements are building around the idea of a ‘steady state economy’ with zero growth, or even ‘sustainable degrowth’. The degrowth movements believe that producing more year on year will not make us truly better off, and cannot go on infinitely due to ecological limits. US ‘steady state economy’ advocate Herman Daly argues that we have already hit a threshold where growth no longer brings net gains even in purely economic terms, i.e. the costs of all the damage done by additional growth (e.g. paying for environmental clean-up and health afflictions linked to pollution) already outweighs the benefits.”
Simon Heffer in DAILY MAIL, "Why Should Anyone Listen to a Country Whose Imploding Economy Could Drag the Whole of Europe Down with It? ".
“If France’s refusal to shed its socialist, high-spending habits does result in the country’s economic collapse, it will take many other European countries with it. Its banking system is especially vulnerable and has heavy liabilities in Spain and Greece. We have already noted the dependency of France’s vast rural areas on handouts from Brussels — and the threat to social stability if those subsidies were reduced. Northern France has big, modernised farms between Paris and the Belgian border; but further south and west is a more traditional peasant-style agriculture that is unviable without EU handouts. A properly run and healthy economy could deal with such a problem. However, the EU estimated that French exports dropped by 20 per cent between 2005 and 2010, a bigger fall than Greece’s.”
ECONOMIST: "France – So Much to Do, So Little Time".
“Public spending accounts for almost 57% of national output, the public debt stands at over 90% of GDP (and rising) and the country seems to be running a near-permanent budget deficit. It is no surprise that in January France lost its AAA grade from Standard & Poor’s, a rating agency. Wealth, profits and high incomes are heavily taxed, the rich are routinely abused and people are instinctively hostile to capitalism. Everything from the labour market to pharmacies to taxis is heavily regulated: no wonder would-be entrepreneurs feel discouraged. No entirely new company has entered the CAC-40 stockmarket index since it started in 1987; redundancies can lead to endless court proceedings; and trade unions and protesters tend to take to the streets at the first hint of reform. It adds up to a deeply anti-business culture.”
James Mackintosh in FT, "The Short View".
“It is easy to see why independence looks attractive. Quite apart from a certain highhandedness from London and Madrid, more and more power is wielded from Brussels, while central governments offer little and demand austerity. An independent Catalonia would be richer but more indebted than Spain. Gross domestic product per head of €27,430 last year was ahead of Italy, while the rest of Spain at €22,284 was closer to Greece than the eurozone average. If debt was divided by GDP, Catalonia would have debt of 94 per cent of GDP, far ahead of the rest of Spain’s 79 per cent. But its taxes would no longer have to subsidise Spain. Scotland, meanwhile, would look much like the rest of the UK, at least until oil ran out. In the best case, investors would be miffed to find their bonds turned into debt of a country with no record. Yields would surely rise. The worst case would be that the new countries were locked out of Europe by vengeful Spanish or English politicians, destroying their trade.”
Andres Cala at csmonitor.com, "A Role Reversal as Former Colonies Meet Former Colonists at Ibero-American Summit".
“On Friday in the historic Spanish port city of Cádiz, the leaders of Spain, Portugal, and Latin American nations gathered for the 22nd annual Ibero-American summit. But unlike past meetings, the European nations are no longer running the show: now the former colonists are seeking help from their empowered cousins. The tables have turned since the 2007 edition, when King Juan Carlos infamously said ‘Why don’t you be quiet’ to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in a moment which came to represent Spain’s arrogance and Latin American muscle flexing. Today, Spain and Portugal are in dire economic shape and will remain crippled for at least another couple of years, if not more. In contrast, Latin America is consolidating its political and economic transition toward stability, despite strong headwind from the global slowdown.”
mercopress.com: "Brazil Increases Gold Holdings".
“Brazil’s holdings expanded 17.2 tons last month to 52.5 tons, the most since January 2001, according to data on the International Monetary Fund’s website. The country’s 1.7-ton purchase in September was the first since December 2008. Kazakhstan’s holdings increased 7.5 tons, Russia added 0.4 ton and Turkey’s reserves rose 17.5 tons, the data show. Germany, the second-biggest holder, after the US, cut gold holdings by 4.2 tons, the first reduction since June. Central banks have been expanding reserves as the metal heads for a 12th straight annual gain.”
Simon Romero in NYT, "Swallowing Rain Forest, Cities Surge in Amazon".
“The torrid expansion of rain forest cities is visible in places like Parauapebas, which has changed in a generation from an obscure frontier settlement with gold miners and gunfights to a sprawling urban area with an air-conditioned shopping mall, gated communities and a dealership selling Chevy pickup trucks. Scientists are studying such developments and focusing on the demands on the resources of the Amazon, the world’s largest remaining area of tropical forest. Though Brazilian officials have historically viewed the colonization of the Amazon as a matter of national security — military rulers built roads to the forest under the slogan ‘Occupy it to avoid surrendering it’ — deforestation in the region already ranks among the largest contributors to global greenhouse-gas emissions.”
Simon Roughneen at csmonitor.com, "Vietnam’s ‘Tiger’ Economy Losing Its Roar".
“This summer, the country's central bank conceded that bad debts amounted to as much as 10 percent of all bank loans. And analysts speculate that the real number could be at least twice that. To compare, total nonperforming loans at four of China's biggest banks came to just 1 percent of all loans last year, meaning Vietnam's bad loans are likely closer to figures for Spain, where around 10 percent of bank loans are not being repaid according to the country's Central Bank.
With the country under such an economic pall, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung recently made a rare apology for problems at state-owned enterprises – which make up 35 percent of the Vietnamese economy. The prime minister was on the end of a public rebuke from rival Communist Party bigwigs, leaving the party looking divided over the troubles facing the Vietnamese economy and the effect these travails could have on its legitimacy.”
Andrew Ward in FT on Daniel Tudor’s book, "Korea – The Impossible Country".
“Yet happiness often seems the one thing still eluding this country of 50m people. Koreans have a word, ‘han’, for the sense of melancholy ingrained in their national psyche. It is usually attributed to the peninsula’s history of invasion and oppression by neighbours and, more recently, the civil war that split families between the communist North and capitalist South. Growing wealth has done little to lighten the mood. The suicide rate has doubled during the past decade and is now second-highest in the world after Lithuania. Tudor attributes this to some of the same characteristics that have made the country so successful: intense competitiveness and a thirst for betterment, which mean that South Koreans are rarely satisfied with their lot.”
Sarah Mishkin in FT, "Taiwanese Society Opens New Front as Army Prepares for End of Conscription".
“Current and former soldiers say the end of the draft will change Taiwan society, as men will no longer, regardless of home town or class, share the camaraderie that Mr Hsu says has long been ‘one good common topic’ to bond over. Strategically, the change means Taiwan can focus on training elite and longer serving troops such as pilots and naval crews who use the nation’s high-tech weapons systems, says Parris Chang, an opposition leader and former deputy head of Taiwan’s national security council. ‘In practice,’ however, says Arthur Ding, an academic specialising in military affairs, ‘I’m not so confident.’ A big concern, say both Mr Ding and Mr Chang, is that Taiwan is not fully prepared for the cost of the transition. While military spending in countries such as China, Japan and South Korea has risen sharply, Taiwan’s has fallen slightly, at $10bn last year compared with $10.8bn in 2008.”
Simon Rabinovitch in FT, "March of the State Presses Private Companies".
“The boss of the factory called the police but was told they could do nothing - the demolition crew had been sent by an investment company owned by the municipal government. It was eager to get its hands on the land occupied by the factory in Hangzhou, a wealthy city in Zhejiang province, eastern China. ‘Our relationship with the investment company is like that between a sailboat and an aircraft carrier,’ said Xu Zhongwei, Wanqiang's vice-general manager. This battle between state owned juggernauts and smaller private companies has played out across China with increasing frequency over the past decade. The state has more often than not been the winner. A debate is raging inside and outside government on whether to halt this trend. With the country's leaders gathered in Beijing this week for the Communist party congress, held once every five years, this is the issue that lies at the heart of their discussions on economic policy.”
Jamil Anderlini in FT, "Corrupt Party Displays Classic Signs of Dynasty in Slow Decline".
“Some western diplomats estimate that as much as 40 per cent of China’s military budget is siphoned off through corruption. As a phalanx of senior PLA officers ascended the steps of the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square this week, many of them sported generous pot bellies, leading one party member to comment wryly to the Financial Times that nothing displays structural weakness like overweight generals. David Shambaugh is an expert on China’s political system at George Washington University and has written extensively about the Communist party’s uncanny ability to adapt to meet the needs of its citizens. But he now argues the party has begun to ossify and is starting to show classic signs of dynastic decline. These signs include a hollow state ideology in which nobody believes, cronyism, public apathy towards politics, an assertive military not fully under the control of civilian leaders, rampant corruption, capital flight, a rise in social vice and factionalism at the top of the system.”
Michael Loewe in TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT on the book, "The History of Chinese Civilization".
“Readers who have labored under the misapprehension of a China that long lay stagnant will appreciate the continuities of her culture and the onset of change over the centuries, and they will perceive the important role that hierarchies played in public and private activities. History is presented in these volumes not as an affirmation of progress, but rather as a search to establish harmony between conflicting motives of trends. China’s traditional historians assumed that change comes about within repetitive cycles, rather than in linear fashion. It would be within those cycles that they would see H.A.L. Fisher’s ‘emergences following upon one another as wave follows upon wave’ as taking place, rather than as deriving from identifiable causes of the moment.”
Gary Schmitt & James Ceaser in WEEKLY STANDARD, "Reading Tocqueville in Beijing".
“Strange indeed, but Tocqueville’s Old Regime may be exactly the book for this moment in Chinese history. As Tocqueville himself explains, his aim in writing about that bloody and ultimately disastrous revolution was ‘to discover not only what illness killed the patient, but how the patient could have been cured. . . . My purpose has been to paint a picture both accurate and instructive.’ Some major themes of the book cannot help but remind the Chinese of their own circumstances. For a Chinese reader, the revolution of 1789 is neither the revolution of 1911, which overthrew the last imperial dynasty and established the Republic of China, nor the Communist revolution of 1949, but the revolution they wish to avoid in the future by achieving a successful transition from their current situation to a more stable order. This reading suggests, paradoxically, that the Chinese are still living under the Old Regime.”
James Hookway in WSJ, "Myanmar’s Ethnic Strife Undercuts Reform".
“Sayataw Virathu, 43 years old, a charismatic preacher with a toothy smile, was jailed in 2003 for allegedly helping to spark anti-Muslim riots in the Mandalay area by handing out sectarian pamphlets. Within months of his release, he was again railing at Myanmar's Muslim minorities. The trigger was another feud—this time in the west of the country between Muslim Rohingyas and local Buddhists that erupted in a deadly spree of violence that has killed more than 170 and has pushed about 100,000 others, most Rohingyas, from their homes. Sayataw Virathu and his followers have traveled to the western state of Rakhine, site of the conflict, to assess its impact. ‘We have to expel the Muslims. We don't want what happened in Afghanistan to happen here,’ Sayataw Virathu said in an interview at the monastery, referring to the Taliban's 2001 bombing of two towering 6th century Buddha statues in Bamiyan.”
Victor Mallet in FT, "A Task of Extremes to Modernise India".
“There are two shocking things about this number: its magnitude and the gap between the upper and lower estimates. The range means either that up to 100,000 children are dying in addition to the known 400,000, or that they are still alive. Or perhaps the extra 100,000 do die annually, but not from diarrhoea, for the total number of under-five deaths is a still more chilling 1.66 million – roughly equivalent to the population of Qatar or Hawaii. My purpose is not to criticise India or Ramesh – who has campaigned vigorously to end the health scandal of leaving 600 million Indians to defecate in the open – but to point out the terrifying scale of the challenges facing a country that will soon overtake China to become the world’s most populous nation.”
Amy Kazmin in FT, "India’s Party People".
“In the early days of India’s information technology boom, Bangalore bars, clubs and discos were open until the early morning, catering to young people getting off work at all hours. These days, police are actively enforcing a previously ignored 1967 law that requires bars to shut down by 11.30pm – it also prohibits dancing in venues that serve alcohol. Ostensibly, these strictures help an overstretched police force maintain law and order. They have also curtailed a boom in seedy ‘dance bars’, where women were paid to dance for an almost exclusively male clientele – often a front for prostitution. But controls on upmarket pubs such as Love Shack – and others of its ilk, which cater to young men and women with money in their pockets – also have strong public support. Many older, middle-class Indians feel that clubs where young people mix, lubricated by alcohol, are a threat to Indian culture and to their own children. At one bar, I watched a very drunk 22-year-old IT company intern, from a conservative north Indian family, nearly fall off her bar-stool while sharing a bowl-sized Long Island Iced Tea with a male colleague, who pawed her hopefully. She confided she had recently split up with a boyfriend. Now, she says, she goes out in the evening ‘with anyone who treats me.’ Men on the lower rungs of the economic ladder – where cash is tight and tradition strong – often view upmarket bars, and the scenes that play out inside, with both disapproval and envious resentment.”
John Kay in FT, "Learn from the Moguls: Rent-Seeking Will Destroy Your Empire".
“Like most visitors to northern India, I visited the Taj Mahal. Unlike most visitors, I asked economic questions. Reports of his tax policies suggest that Shah Jahan may have appropriated as much as 40 per cent of what we now call gross domestic product to support a lifestyle of exceptional ostentation and self-indulgence. He was overthrown by his son, who was exasperated by his father's penchant for monumental building, anxious to maximise his own share of the loot and concerned by the scale of the levies on the population. But it was all too late. The Mogul empire was in irretrievable decline. The activities of Shah Jahan epitomise rent-seeking – the accumulation of a fortune not by creating wealth through serving customers better but by the appropriation of such wealth after it has already been created by other people. Both are routes to personal enrichment and the tension between them has been a dominant theme of economic history. Whenever the balance shifts too far in favour of appropriation over creation, we see entrepreneurial talent diverted to unproductive activity, an accelerating cycle in which political power and economic power reinforce each other - until others become envious of the proceeds of appropriation, and the resentment of the oppressed undermines the legitimacy of the regime.”
Tim Arango in NYT, "Angry Turkish Secularists Plant Their Flag at Trial".
“Turkey is endlessly fixated with the past. Its competing interpretations play out each day in the newspapers. From one edition of a local paper this week came these stories: Was the reformist president, Turgut Ozal, who died suddenly in 1993, actually poisoned by his enemies? Did Adnan Menderes, the prime minister in the 1950s who was hanged after a military coup, give orders for a pogrom in 1955 against non-Muslims? And who, exactly, was behind the coups of 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997? The courthouse in which the Ergenekon defendants are facing trial is in Silivri, a town on the Sea of Marmara an hour’s drive west of Istanbul. The caretakers of the tent encampment are dissidents, nationalists, secularists, the family and friends of the accused, and even some defendants. The tents, set up as a permanent base of protest, call to mind a refugee camp. And in a sense, the men and women who visit, sometimes for a day but often for longer, are exiles from Turkey’s past. They are a political minority in today’s Turkey and, as loyalists to the secular and nationalist traditions of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded modern Turkey in 1923, they are fearful that Mr. Erdogan has decisively banished them from the center of power.”
Maria Abi-Habib in WSJ, "Afghan Women Fear Rights Will Erode as U.S. Leaves".
“‘It's a men's country,’ says Hawa Alam Nuristani, one of a handful of female members on the High Peace Council, the government body appointed by Mr. Karzai to reach out to the insurgency. ‘Our only support is from the international community. What is the guarantee that we won't be faced with a similar regime as the Taliban when the Americans withdraw?’ The U.S. says women's rights will remain an important issue after the withdrawal, even though American officials acknowledge the limits of their waning influence. ‘Afghanistan is run by Afghans; we are significant partners,’ says Melanne Verveer, the U.S. Ambassador at large for global women's issues. ‘We will continue to ensure that women's rights are pivotal because of our partnership and because it is critical to the future.’”
Binod kumar Singh at satp.org, "Insurrections against the Insurgency".
“Continuing violence and the Taliban’s increasing brutality in Afghanistan have sparked violent ‘uprisings’ across the country, as Taliban extremists are attacked and overwhelmed by Afghan villagers, at least on occasion with nothing more than farming tools, sticks, stones, or even their bare hands. While such acts of resistance are intermittent and unpredictable, at best, some of the most noticeable of recent incidents include:
July 9, 2012: Local residents fought Taliban militants and forced the latter to pull back from the eastern Paktia Province, when an estimated 400 Taliban attacked Mirazka District in the Province. May 27, 2012: In Andar District of Ghazni Province, 11 Taliban were killed by villagers and another 15 were held hostage. No further information about the hostages is available in open sources. April 12, 2012: Angry residents cut off a Taliban militant’s ear after two children were killed and another two injured in a roadside blast in the Garmsir District of southern Helmand Province. August 27, 2011: Residents in the Pirzada suburb of Ghazni city in Ghazni Province clashed with Taliban fighters who were attempting to forcibly collect zakat (alms) from locals. One Taliban terrorist was killed and another was injured during the attack. August 22, 2011: A mob of villagers stoned to death a Taliban ‘commander’ and his body guard in the Nawa District of Helmand Province. The villagers turned on the two Taliban insurgents for the unjust and brutal killing of a local village elder.”
Jeffrey Gettleman in NYT, "Congo Rebels, After Victory, Vow to Take the Capitol".
“No visa is necessary to cross this border anymore. Nor do red-eyed soldiers hang around reeking of home-brew. Gone, too, are many of the quasi-government officials who used to buzz around this border post harassing travelers and squeezing out bribes, including one little man who claimed to be a health officer and had ‘Doc’ scribbled in Magic Marker on his coat. Instead, the doorway to Goma, one of Congo’s largest and most strategic cities, is now manned by lean, young rebels in crisp fatigues. They captured this town on Tuesday, ridding it of an often sloppy and menacing Congolese Army presence, and on Wednesday the rebels announced at a triumphant rally that Goma was just the beginning. ‘We’re going to Kinshasa!’ vowed Col. Vianney Kazarama, a spokesman for the M23 rebel group.”
Robert Jenkins in FT, "It’s Time to Think the Unthinkable on America’s Debt".
“Will the US request a bailout? Will the International Monetary Fund grant it? On what terms and conditions? What writedown of US debt will be needed to restore sustainability to its fiscal accounts? What impact will this have on world financial markets? These are not questions being asked today but they are questions worth contemplating. Thinking the unthinkable is one of the lessons of the eurozone saga. Another is the speed with which complacency can convert to crisis. So although I am not predicting Armageddon, I would like to signal a series of factors that policy makers of all nationalities would do well to keep in mind.”
Josh Mitchell in WSJ, "Federal Student Lending Swells".
“‘Is there any way the federal government could possibly come out to the good?’ Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) asked at a Senate Banking Committee hearing in July on student loans, noting that the government demands no collateral and has no underwriting requirements. ‘What we're really doing is piling up debt down the road the same students are going to have to pay off.’ Others are asking whether the government is encouraging students to take on too much debt. ‘The way the system works now…put money on the stump, people come and get it,’ said Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. ‘Can't blame them. It's sitting out there in plain view. It's easy to get.’ Unlike most other types of consumer credit, student debt is extremely difficult to discharge in bankruptcy. After falling behind on payments, a borrower typically finds it harder to obtain other types of consumer loans, or can only do so at higher interest rates.”
futureofcapitalism.com: "Times Tax Error".
“A front-page New York Times article by David Kocieniewski that is also republished at CNBC reports: ‘In 1970, there were 14 tax brackets for the top 2 percent of earners, with a top rate of 91 percent.’ That ‘91 percent’ figure for 1970 is inaccurate. According to the Tax Foundation, the top rate in 1970 was 70%; according to the Tax Policy Center, it was 71.75%. Maybe the reporter just hit a 7 instead of a 6, and meant 1960 instead of 1970. Or maybe it's just another example of the Times trying to pretend that the Kennedy tax cut never happened.”
Bjorn Lomborg at project-syndicate.org, "The Moral of Sandy".
“From Bill Clinton to Robert Redford, countless pundits blamed Sandy on climate change. Most spectacularly, the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek placed the monumental caption ‘IT’S GLOBAL WARMING, STUPID’ over a picture of flooded Manhattan. Now, global warming is real, and cutting CO2 is a good idea when the reduction cost is lower than that of the damage it prevents. There is also a grain of truth in the connection between hurricanes and global warming: the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expects stronger but fewer hurricanes toward the end of this century. But the end of the century is 88 years from now, and blaming global warming now is simply unconvincing (Bloomberg’s first source for its claim was a 134-character tweet). In its 2012 report on extreme weather, the IPCC said that it puts little trust in any attribution of hurricanes to global warming. The authors of one of the central Science papers for the UN’s hurricane estimates put it clearly: ‘It is premature to conclude that human activities … have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane activity.’ We will be unable to detect an impact ‘until we near the end of the century.’ In fact, the US has not seen a hurricane of Category 3 or higher since Wilma in 2005. Those seven years without strong hurricanes is the longest such span in more than a century. (Sandy, which was downgraded from a hurricane before it hit New York, was rebranded in the media as a ‘superstorm.’)”
George Will in WASHINGTON POST, "Answerable to No One".
“There can be unseemly exposure of the mind as well as of the body, as the progressive mind is exposed in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a creature of the labyrinthine Dodd-Frank legislation. Judicial dismantling of the CFPB would affirm the rule of law and Congress’s constitutional role. The CFPB’s director, Richard Cordray, was installed by one of Barack Obama’s spurious recess appointments when the Senate was not in recess. Vitiating the Senate’s power to advise and consent to presidential appointments is congruent with the CFPB’s general lawlessness. The CFPB nullifies Congress’s power to use the power of the purse to control bureaucracies because its funding — ‘determined by the director’ — comes not from congressional appropriations but from the Federal Reserve. Untethered from all three branches of government, unlike anything created since 1789, the CFPB is uniquely sovereign: The president appoints the director for a five-year term — he can stay indefinitely, if no successor is confirmed — and the director can be removed, but not for policy reasons. One CFPB request for $94 million in Federal Reserve funds was made on a single sheet of paper. Its 2012 budget estimated $130 million for — this is the full explanation — ‘other services.’ So it has been hiring promiscuously and paying its hires lavishly....”
James Piereson in NEW CRITERION, "He Was the Change".
“The great political battles in the United States during the nineteenth century were never ideological contests in the modern sense but rather controversies fought over the meaning of the Constitution and the intentions of the founding fathers. Political contests over expansion, the Bank of the United States, slavery, secession, and the regulation of commerce were fought out along constitutional lines. The politicians and statesmen of that era were not divided into liberal and conservative camps; those terms had little meaning in nineteenth-century America. Abraham Lincoln was not thought of as a ‘liberal,’ nor were slave owners derided as ‘conservatives.’ Both sides of that controversy appealed to the Constitution or to the Declaration of Independence to defend their positions. The Progressives introduced an ideological element into American politics by detaching their arguments from the Constitution and grounding them instead in claims about progress and historical development. Progressives (they were not yet called ‘liberals’) asserted that the Constitution, with its complex framework designed to limit government, was out of date in the modern age of science, industrialism, and large trusts and corporations. Constitutionalists looked backwards to the founding fathers; Progressives looked forward to a vast future of never-ending progress and change.”
Andrew Sorkin in NYT, "Private Equity and Hostess Stumbling Together".
“The behind-the-scenes tale of Hostess and Ripplewood may be the opposite of a project to buy it, strip it and flip it. When Mr. Collins originally looked at Hostess, he was trying to make investments in troubled companies with union workers. He was convinced that he could work with labor organizations to turn around iconic American businesses, and he hoped Hostess would become a model for similar deals. Early on, Mr. Collins sought out Richard A. Gephardt, the former House majority leader, who had become a consultant on labor issues, to help Ripplewood acquire Hostess and work with its unions. Mr. Collins had previously been a donor to Mr. Gephardt’s election campaigns, according to an article in Fortune magazine this year that described the relationship. It was Mr. Collins’s relationship with Mr. Gephardt — a Democrat and longtime friend of labor — that helped make the deal happen in the first place. While Ripplewood sought significant concessions from the unions in 2009, some insiders and outside analysts privately suggested that Ripplewood did not fight hard enough for even greater givebacks from the unions in the bankruptcy process — savings worth $110 million — perhaps as a function of Mr. Collins’s relationship with Mr. Gephardt.”
Holman Jenkins in WSJ, "Twinkies: A Defense".
“The Teamsters reluctantly agreed to givebacks to finance the company's latest turnaround attempt. The bakers rejected any concessions and went out on strike, despite being informed that the result would be the liquidation of the parent company and the loss of 18,500 jobs. Tsk tsk, went even the liberal media, assuming that union bloody-mindedness must be at work. Think again. As the bakers rightly saw it, they were being asked once more to prop up Teamster jobs that would likely guarantee that any Hostess resurrection would be short-lived. Start with the fact that Hostess's bakery operations are relatively efficient, and though the company planned to sell or close some of the plants anyway, the company had the power to do so already under its union contracts. Under the latest turnaround plan, the sticking point was Hostess's distribution operations, source of the Hostess horror stories filling the media. Union-imposed work rules stopped drivers from helping to load their trucks. A separate worker, arriving at the store in a separate vehicle, had to be employed to shift goods from a storage area to a retailer's shelf. Wonder Bread and Twinkies couldn't ride on the same truck.”
Holman Jenkins in WSJ, "The Media Choke on a Twinkie".
“Where wealth and livelihood are entailed, where teams act together and have time and incentive to think carefully, a good assumption is that people—management, labor—act rationally. Unfortunately, journalists who might be prepared to brave bullets in a war zone nonetheless lack simple courage to see what's in front of their eyes in a matter like the Twinkies bankruptcy. The reason is endemic: Not enough is at stake for the media itself to cause the media to prefer an uncomfortable truth when a comfortable fallacy is at hand.”
Paul Volcker at nybooks.com, "What the New President Should Consider".
“Virtually every day we read of polls about the president’s popularity, or the ups and downs of the Republican contenders during the recent election. The poll that concerns me is different, and much more challenging. ‘Do you trust your government to do the right thing most of the time?’ That question has been asked regularly for decades by experienced pollsters. These days only 20 percent or even less say yes. In other words, four out of five Americans don’t instinctively trust our own government to do the ‘right thing’ even half of the time. That’s not a platform upon which a great democracy can be sustained. I know we have been witnessing a large ideological debate. Much of that is beyond the concerns of financial or economic policy. But I also know that the political divide is too often put as ‘big government’ versus ‘small government.’ That particular argument may be—probably should be—endless. After all, it started back at the beginning of the republic, Jefferson against Hamilton, on and on. But can we not agree on some basic points of departure? Government is, after all, necessary. What we want is effective government, worthy of instinctive trust. I have long been concerned that our particular governments—large or small, federal, state, and local—are not consistently administered and managed as well as they should be, and can be.”
James Mackintosh in FT, "The Short View".
“The US has long been the Saudi Arabia of agriculture, producing about 40 per cent of the world’s maize. Now it is set to be the Saudi Arabia of oil, too. The International Energy Agency estimates US oil production will pass Saudi levels in five years, while the US should be almost energy independent in oil and gas in just over two decades. If the IEA is right (there are questions about shale sustainability), this has big implications for world politics as the US loses the economic incentive to interfere in the Middle East. It will have implications for asset prices rather sooner though. Already the flood of new oil from shale and Canadian sources has pushed the West Texas Intermediate benchmark to a discount of a fifth to Brent, the international benchmark. Big chunks of the US are getting oil on the cheap, which should make them more competitive.”
John Bussey in WSJ, "Export U.S. Gas, Yes or No? ".
“The tricky part, though, is determining what demand may eventually be. Rock-bottom gas prices are already fueling a surge of new manufacturing activity in the U.S. Consumers, from big utilities to condo buildings in New York, are also converting to burning the cheap new gas. And what happens when natural gas fuels more of our trucking and transportation fleets? Dow and other chemical companies are busy building new plants in the U.S. to capitalize on cheap energy. Mr. Biltz shares a list Dow compiled of 102 big new manufacturing investments in the U.S. that he attributes in part to gas prices. The companies involved read like a Who's Who of industrial America: high-value, energy-intensive businesses like steel, aluminum, plastics, glass, vehicles and packaging. ‘This competitive advantage is just massive,’ he says. His energy costs are well below what many competitors abroad pay. That gives Dow an edge, and it's one reason total exports of chemicals from the U.S. have risen.”
WSJ: "Illinois the ‘Unfixable’".
“The Commercial Club of Chicago wrote that because the November elections did not bring in lawmakers willing to push real reform, the state's roughly $200 billion debt now threatens education, health care and basic public services. The problem is worsening so fast that the usual menu of reforms won't be enough to keep public pensions from sucking taxpayers and whole cities into its yawning maw. If you think Illinois lawmakers aren't taking the problems seriously enough, just ask Pat Quinn. On Sunday, the Illinois Governor kicked off a ‘grass-roots’ effort to rally the state around pension reform. The Governor hasn't come up with a plan, but don't despair: He introduced the state's new animated mascot, ‘Squeezy, the Pension Python,’ and encouraged voters to talk about the problem over Thanksgiving. Here's some food for thought. The state estimates its unfunded pension liabilities at around $95 billion. But that rosy scenario is based on the assumption that pension investments earn some 8% a year. In fiscal 2012, the Teachers Retirement System had a 0.76% return, the State Employees Retirement System 0.05%, and the General Assembly Retirement System a negative 0.14%.”
Charlotte Allen in WEEKLY STANDARD, "The Decline and Fall of California".
“The center-right middle class is the demographic mainstay of the Republican party, and as the middle class has withered in California, so has the GOP, which is now pretty much confined to the state’s relatively unpopulated agricultural and desert interior, while the coastal metropolises where the vast majority of Californians live — with the exception of historically conservative Orange County — went solid blue for President Obama. The California legislature has been controlled by Democrats since 1970 (except for one year), but is now almost laughably lopsided. On November 6 the Democrats managed to secure their long-desired two-thirds supermajority in both houses (54 seats out of 80 in the Assembly, 27 out of 40 in the Senate) that will enable them come January to pass budgets and tax increases whenever and of whatever size they like. ‘The Republicans have been neutralized,’ says Robert J. Cristiano, a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco. ‘There’s not a single Republican holding statewide office,’ he adds. ‘Policy in this state is 100 percent dictated and determined by the Democratic party.’”
Ross Douthat in NYT, "The Liberal Gloat".
“Liberals look at the Obama majority and see a coalition bound together by enlightened values — reason rather than superstition, tolerance rather than bigotry, equality rather than hierarchy. But it’s just as easy to see a coalition created by social disintegration and unified by economic fear. Consider the Hispanic vote. Are Democrats winning Hispanics because they put forward a more welcoming face than Republicans do — one more in keeping with America’s tradition of assimilating migrants yearning to breathe free? Yes, up to a point. But they’re also winning recent immigrants because those immigrants often aren’t assimilating successfully — or worse, are assimilating downward, thanks to rising out-of-wedlock birthrates and high dropout rates. The Democratic edge among Hispanics depends heavily on these darker trends: the weaker that families and communities are, the more necessary government support inevitably seems.”
John Thornhill in FT on Slavoj Zizek’s book, "The Year of Dreaming Dangerously".
“Rejoicing in the fact that capitalism has re-emerged as the ‘name of the problem’, he cites the revolutionary mantra of Mao Zedong: ‘There is chaos under the heaven – the situation is excellent.’ But the hero of the Occupy movement, who has become something of a cult leader for the radical left, offers scant solutions to our present dilemmas, provoking and baffling the reader in equal measure. In spite of his revolutionary impulse, Zizek at one point suggests that Marxists should perhaps renounce the myth of the Great Awakening, that glorious emancipatory moment when the dispossessed seize power and lead the world to a more just future. Inaction, he concludes, could be even more revolutionary than action – a maxim that will comfort all those who believe they can change the world from the safety of their own sofa.”
Michael Fitzpatrick at spiked-online.com, "After ‘New Atheism’, Let’s Re-humanise Humanism".
“Tallis takes off from the polemic against ‘scientism’ launched in his last book, Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity. In that work, he challenged the fashionable attempts to explain all human life in terms of neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, and the associated denial of human agency and elevation of anti-humanist prejudices. As he ironically sums up the apologetic ideology of ‘neurotruistics’ proclaimed in a thousand banner headlines: ‘The latest findings of neuroscience confirm what we already know.’ Here, Tallis begins with the claims of physicists to have arrived at a theory of everything, noting that they ‘can get away with metaphysical murder because their technologies are practically so useful’ (not something that the biologists, surveying the hubris of the Human Genome Project and the ‘decade of the brain’, can claim). Quite apart from the problem that the two most comprehensive theories of the material world put forward by physicists – relativity and quantum mechanics – are incompatible, much of the natural world, including matters such as the relationship between the living cell and the organism, our relationship to our own bodies, vision, memory, language, remain beyond scientific explanation. As Tallis observes, the scientific gaze ‘chills as it amazes’, while philosophy ‘seeks to achieve most directly the state of wonder to which art brings us by indirection’, inviting us ‘to be surprised and puzzled by the things that lie closest to hand’.”
Alvin Plantinga in NEW REPUBLIC, "Why Darwinist Materialism is Wrong".
“The probability, with respect to our current evidence, that life has somehow come to be from non-life just by the working of the laws of physics and chemistry is vanishingly small. And given the existence of a primitive life form, the probability that all the current variety of life should have come to be by unguided evolution, while perhaps not quite as small, is nevertheless minuscule. These two conceptions of materialist naturalism are very likely false. But, someone will say, the improbable happens all the time. It is not at all improbable that something improbable should happen. Consider an example. You play a rubber of bridge involving, say, five deals. The probability that the cards should fall just as they do for those five deals is tiny—something like one out of ten to the 140th power. Still, they did. Right. It happened. The improbable does indeed happen. In any fair lottery, each ticket is unlikely to win; but it is certain that one of them will win, and so it is certain that something improbable will happen. But how is this relevant in the present context? In a fit of unbridled optimism, I claim that I will win the Nobel Prize in chemistry. You quite sensibly point out that this is extremely unlikely, given that I have never studied chemistry and know nothing about the subject. Could I defend my belief by pointing out that the improbable regularly happens? Of course not: you cannot sensibly hold a belief that is improbable with respect to all of your evidence. Nagel goes on: he thinks it is especially improbable that consciousness and reason should come to be if materialist naturalism is true. ‘Consciousness is the most conspicuous obstacle to a comprehensive naturalism that relies only on the resources of physical science.’ Why so? Nagel’s point seems to be that the physical sciences—physics, chemistry, biology, neurology—cannot explain or account for the fact that we human beings and presumably some other animals are conscious. Physical science can explain the tides, and why birds have hollow bones, and why the sky is blue; but it cannot explain consciousness.”
John Haldane in FIRST THINGS, "A Tale of Two Thomases".
“The combination of subjectivism and progressivism has long been prominent within cultural, social, and historical studies, and it has received occasional endorsement and even encouragement from some ‘radical’ philosophers who have acquired a following outside their own discipline. A prominent example was the late Richard Rorty, who was explicit about forging a link between antirealism and liberalism, and eager to challenge what he regarded as the superstition of realism, be it metaphysical or noral. In one of his last publications, An Ethics for Today, published two years ago, he makes the link explicit and asks: ‘Is the Church right that there is such a thing as the structure of human existence, which can serve as a moral reference point? Or, do we human beings have no moral obligations except helping one another satisfy our desires, thus achieving the greatest possible amount of happiness?’ …It is significant that Rorty chose as his opponent Roman Catholicism and its present pope. He is right to view them as his principal opponents, since they represent one of the few contemporary institutional embodiments of the realist idea that morality is rooted in an objective moral order and the structure of reality.”
Paul Gavrilyuk in FIRST THINGS, "The Orthodox Renaissance".
“The Russian Religious Renaissance was an attempt to interpret all aspects of human existence – culture, politics, even economics – in Christian terms, brought about by the generation of Nicholas Berdyaev, Sergius Bulgakov, Nocholas Lossky, and Lev Shestov. This older generation built upon the main currents of nineteenth century western European and Russian religious thought. For example, Berdyaev’s religious existentialism and personalism had its roots in German mystics, especially Jacob Boehme, as well as in the religious questions raised by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Bulgakov took as his point of departure the German Idealist tradition, especially Schelling, as worked out in the sophiology of Vladimir Solovyov. Lossky developed religious and philosophical intuitivism, whereas Shestov worked out a form of antirationalist existentialism akin to the religious vision of Soren Kierkegaard. The movement was interrupted midstream in Russia, but it continued with renewed vigor in the diaspora. The younger generation, whose thought matured in the emigration, was led by Georges Florovsky and Nicholas Lossky’s son Vladimir. This generation rebelled against the previous generation’s perceived theological ‘modernism’ and was concerned to free Orthodox theology from its centuries-old ‘Western captivity.’ They announced a reform of Orthodox theology through a return to the patristic sources.”
Joseph Epstein in WSJ on Anka Muhlstein’s book, "M. Proust’s Library".
“Marcel Proust (1871-1922) was immensely well read. ‘In Search of Lost Time’ encapsulates within itself the main traditions in French literature: both in fiction (from Madame de Lafayette through Stendhal, Balzac, Flaubert and Zola) and in the belle-lettristic-philosophical line (from Montaigne through Pascal, La Rochefoucauld and Chamfort). Proust formed a strong taste for generalization through these latter writers. I own a small book of his maxims, drawn from the novel and his discursive writings, and an unusually high quotient of them are dazzling. Let one example suffice: ‘It has been said that the greatest praise of God lies in the negation of the atheist, who considers creation sufficiently perfect to dispense with a creator.’”
Christy Wampole at nytimes.com, "How to Live Without Irony".
“Irony is the most self-defensive mode, as it allows a person to dodge responsibility for his or her choices, aesthetic and otherwise. To live ironically is to hide in public. It is flagrantly indirect, a form of subterfuge, which means etymologically to ‘secretly flee’ (subter + fuge). Somehow, directness has become unbearable to us. How did this happen? It stems in part from the belief that this generation has little to offer in terms of culture, that everything has already been done, or that serious commitment to any belief will eventually be subsumed by an opposing belief, rendering the first laughable at best and contemptible at worst. This kind of defensive living works as a pre-emptive surrender and takes the form of reaction rather than action.”
Christopher Caldwell in FT, "It’s Only Right to Put Learning by Heart to the Test".
“While the SAT has certainly helped some recent Asian immigrants, its general tendency is to decrease, not increase, diversity. Where that happens, politics usually requires that the SAT be ignored or played down. Mr Gove is wrong, too, to scoff at the Labour leader Ed Miliband’s vision of a Britain that does more for the 50 per cent who do not attend university. In Poland, Mr Gove claims, 73 per cent of students matriculate. If so, some of them must be taking degrees in tyre realignment and pizza delivery. In a globalised economy, western countries will not need more than, say, 20 per cent of their populations in university, unless we assume a global division of labour in which the west continues to perform all the managerial work while the rest of the world remains content to hew wood and draw water. The argument Mr Gove makes in favour of memorising ‘scales or times tables or verse’ is considerably stronger. It has been attacked for years now – unfairly.”
David Fontana in NEW REPUBLIC on Brian Tamanaha’s book, "Failing Law Schools".
“The problems affect almost all law schools because law schools are required to be more similar to one another than different. There are at least two major reasons for this. First, the American Bar Association (ABA) decides which law schools can be accredited, and it requires that law schools primarily employ tenured or tenure-track professors. Sixty-five percent of professors in American universities are employed in positions not eligible for tenure, but any law school that tried to match that proportion could lose its accreditation. As a result, law schools shoulder the cost of a permanent crop of highly compensated professors. Law schools also lose the flexibility to shuffle professors in and out as pedagogical and scholarly needs change.”
Anthony Daniels in NEW CRITERION, "Loss & Gain, or the Fate of the Book".
“These stories were of the wholesale abandonment or destruction of rare and valuable books by public institutions, even of those books willed by individuals to those public institutions. It was not as if librarians were merely ambivalent or negligent of the books in their charge, but as if they actually hated them, as workers in chocolate factories come to hate chocolate. One bookseller in Wales told me that he found seventeenth- and eighteenth-century books dumped in a skip outside a supposed institution of learning. Another found the librarians of a county library walking over the sixteenth-century books that they had pulled from the shelves preparatory to throwing them away in order to make space for more computer terminals. The process is called deacquisitioning, a truly Orwellian term, as if demolition or bombing were called debuilding; and one of the justifications for the process is that records show that the deacquisitioned items have not been consulted for years, for decades. A library is no longer a repository of all that has been thought or written but a department store where the readers determine by their borrowing habits what stock should be held.”
James Taranto at wsj.com, "The Privilege to Speak".
“Alito elaborated an argument this column made in January 2010, just after he and his colleagues handed down Citizens United. He noted that many landmark free-speech decisions vindicated the rights of corporations, including two that involved the New York Times Co. Here's the company's response: In New York Times v. Sullivan, in which the First Amendment was used to rein in the law of libel, the Supreme Court focused on the "profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open." It made almost no mention of the fact that The Times was a corporation. Nor were the free speech rights of a corporation any part of the ruling in the Pentagon Papers case. Really? The free speech rights of a corporation weren't "any part" of a case styled New York Times Co. v. United States? As for the libel case, it was similarly styled New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. Leaving out the ‘Co.’ is a common journalistic shorthand, but in this case a misleading one. The editorial also omits that Times v. Sullivan concerned a political advertisement, the very sort of communication that the Times insists is not protected by the First Amendment. At least this time, unlike in its 2010 editorial about which we wrote back then, the Times Co. acknowledges that it had been exempted from the censorship regime it endorsed.”
Gordon Crovitz in WSJ, "The U.N.’s Internet Sneak Attack".
“Many of the U.N.'s 193 member states oppose the open, uncontrolled nature of the Internet. Its interconnected global networks ignore national boundaries, making it hard for governments to censor or tax. And so, to send the freewheeling digital world back to the state control of the analog era, China, Russia, Iran and Arab countries are trying to hijack a U.N. agency that has nothing to do with the Internet. For more than a year, these countries have lobbied an agency called the International Telecommunications Union to take over the rules and workings of the Internet. Created in 1865 as the International Telegraph Union, the ITU last drafted a treaty on communications in 1988, before the commercial Internet, when telecommunications meant voice telephone calls via national telephone monopolies.”
Jed Perl in NEW REPUBLIC, "The Curse of Warholism".
“Warhol without Warholism is a troubadour of café society and its mentality, his visual effects closer to the quicksilver insights of a fashion designer than the adamantine decision-making of a painter. These are period pieces with an enduring formal jolt, comparable in some respects to the work of Florine Stettheimer, who in the 1920s and 1930s chronicled the parties and pastorals of high bohemian Manhattan in paintings that transcend illustration, but just barely. If you want to know what the passing parade looked like when it included Marcel Duchamp, Stettheimer can tell you. Warhol can tell you a historical thing or two as well. What’s missing in Warhol’s work is Stettheimer’s artisanal energy, the intricate fashioning of the image that gives her social documents their poetic vibration. Warholism is not so much an outgrowth of Warhol’s paintings and sundry other products as it is the state of mind in which his work thrives. Warholism is bigger than Warhol. But Warhol’s work, fueled by popular culture’s cult of gigantism, is that rare hot air balloon that has been overinflated without ever bursting and collapsing, at least until now.”
Jackie Wullschlager in FT, "Beyond the froth and jargon".
“It is inescapable that the connoisseur has declined, too, as the art professional has risen, with the empirical language of the former – brushstrokes, colour, form – drowned out by the theory-drenched jargon of the latter. Professional jargon is pernicious because it legitimises anything, especially weak, dry, over-theoretical art that cannot stand on its own legs. It keeps afloat, for instance, the current Turner Prize, whose works are impenetrable without explanatory captions.
Since today’s curators tend to be products of a conceptually-driven rather than connoisseur-based education, this jargon dominates group shows, which have political not aesthetic agendas and rarely include great art for fear of exposing the rest as second-rate.”
Roger Atwood in TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT on Mario Vargas Llosa’s book, "La Civilizacion del Espectaculo".
“Critical standards in art and literature have disintegrated to the point where we can no longer tell good from junk. Twenty years ago, people talked about the end of history. In fact, Vargas Llosa says, it was culture that was in danger of dying. ‘Culture, in the traditional sense of that word, is today on the verge of disappearing’, he writes. ‘Or perhaps it has already disappeared, discreetly emptied of its content and replaced by another, denatured version of itself.’ Elsewhere, we are told that our culture is drowning in ‘frivolity, superficiality, ignorance, gossip-mongering and bad taste’, a result of a post-war prosperity which democratized culture too quickly and made entertainment its highest aspiration. Academe and the mass media wanted to bring down snobbish elites, a laudable goal in itself. But instead, these forces created a new hierarchy which rated humour over gravity, surface over content, and – above all – image over words and ideas. We are left with a culture that seeks only to entertain and refuses to deal with humanity’s deepest dilemmas. The results include social fragmentation and the erosion of democracy.”
Max Fincher in TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT, "A Frame for History".
“The Gothic is now ubiquitous in post-millennial American popular culture, according to Victoria Nelson. In ‘Gothicka’, she shows how contemporary films, video games, graphic novels and television series have reinvented and transformed the Catholic iconography of the late medieval period and how the Gothic has even offered ‘a vehicle for developing the frameworks of new religious movements’. ‘Faux Catholic’ is the coinage Nelson uses to characterize this recurrent paradox: in the twenty-first century, ‘gothicka’, while appearing to be anticlerical, in fact ‘strangely empowers and elevates the very religious denomination it seems to slander’.”
Marc Myers in WSJ, "When He Washed My Sins Away".
“Ms. Morrison: One Sunday morning in early 1969, I was listening to a gospel radio show on KSAN-FM in San Francisco when our recording of ‘Oh Happy Day’ came on. I froze. I said to myself, ‘Oh my God, that's us—that's me.’
Mr. Hawkins: When the song caught on in San Francisco in March 1969, I began receiving calls from major record companies. They all wanted to buy the rights to release the recording nationwide on their labels. I asked Mel Reid of Reid's Records, a gospel store, in Berkeley, for advice. He said to go with Buddah Records [now known as Buddha]. A company representative flew out from New York to talk with me. Then I flew to New York to sign the deal. Meanwhile, the church thought what we were doing was sacrilegious and insisted we remove the choir's name from the record. So Buddah renamed the choir the Edwin Hawkins Singers. In early April 1969, Buddah released ‘Oh Happy Day’ as a single on Pavilion—a label it had set up for gospel music. By the end of May, it was No. 4 on Billboard's pop chart. In June, we appeared with the Isley Brothers at Yankee Stadium. That's when I realized the song's magnitude.
Ms. Morrison: I wasn't paid for the record, but that doesn't matter. I was singing in the church, singing for the Lord. Soon after I was hired to sing backup on Simon & Garfunkel's ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water,’ which led to work with Van Morrison, Boz Scaggs and so many other artists. Edwin performs the song today with his singers, and I do, too, with the Blues Broads. Audience reactions are always strong. People want to have a happy day, and that song helps them do it. My delivery is still innocent and real, but sometimes I get so caught up that I have to stop and cry. Hey, the song gets to me, too.”
Marc Myers in WSJ, "Sounds of Suspense".
“‘When I write a suspenseful score, I need to make audiences forget they are in a safe place,’ said the 80-year-old composer, conductor and arranger, settling into a sofa in the dimly lit den of his home, which once belonged to Groucho Marx. ‘Movie composers, they are like magicians. The music is there to contribute to the make-believe. With suspense, you must create concern where none exists.’ Mr. Schifrin knows a thing or two about making palms sweat. Since 1963, he has written more than 100 suspenseful themes and scores for television and the movies—including ‘Mannix,’ ‘Bullitt,’ ‘The Cincinnati Kid,’ ‘Cool Hand Luke,’ ‘The Eagle Has Landed,’ four of Clint Eastwood's five ‘Dirty Harry’ films, ‘The Amityville Horror’ and the ‘Rush Hour’ series. This month marks the 45th anniversary of Mr. Schifrin's most famous soundtrack—‘Mission: Impossible,’ which won him two Grammys and set new standards for TV and movie suspense music. On Tuesday, a four-CD set—‘My Life in Music’ (Aleph)—will be released, surveying Mr. Schifrin's prolific composing and recording career in film, jazz, bossa nova, classical and opera.”
FILTER: "Milo Turns 50".
“Watt: Milo, how did you get connected?
Milo: Billy showed up at school with the ‘Ride the Wild/It’s a Hectic World’ single, where he was selling it to the students.
Watt: He was slinging!
Bill: Yeah, but I was more interested in trying to get attention for myself than anything else. I remember that Milo and I had this PE coach who was also our environmental studies teacher. He was very cruel to Milo, the typical thing of a jock picking on a nerd. And it endeared me to Milo because I sympathized with his position: here’s this idiot picking on the smartest guy in the class. Soon, Milo became a fixture at our practices, like part of the furniture. Frank didn’t want to sing and play guitar at the same time, and one day at practice Frank said in his high Frank voice: ‘Ah, fuck it, we should just make Milo sing the songs.’”
Chris Estey reviews Carducci’s Life Against Dementia at "kexp.org".
“Content worth noting first in this exhaustive, thrilling collection include a wonderful history of outlaw folk in Oregon in the 1970s (a must read for rustic, indie freaks); connecting to his work at SST Records, wonderful tributes to The Minutemen, and a beautiful ode to gnarled-metal demigods Saint Vitus and the small triumphs and bitter tragedies within the band; clear-eyed assessments of Meat Puppets ll, Sadistic Mika Band, Tangerine Dream, and a ton of bands that needed a good shit-kicking. Carducci loves to pinpoint what you’re missing in the ‘music press’ such as Rolling Stone and MTV, and lovingly theorizes on the films of Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, horror and violence in the movies. Also: Lyrics he’s written for bands, sports, ‘Metagaming of the System,’ and more. If previous books by Carducci seemed less cohesive or too scene-specific but you’ve enjoyed his literary vibrancy, raw perceptual energy, sophisticated yet street-level thinking, lack of fear for orthodox spiritual belief, etc., then this is the best book of his to own. It’s my personal favorite single author anthology of the year.”
Joe Carducci reading/q&a/signings…
Thurs. Dec. 6, 7pm at Wolverine Farm Bookstore, Fort Collins.
Sat. Dec. 8, 6pm at Night Heron Books, Laramie.
Wed. Dec 5 Carducci live streamed 11am Mountain on Grady’s “Morning Music” program on KUWR FM.
Carducci profile by Peter Baumann in Laramie Boomerang.
Jay Babcock interview at thefader.com.
“What voice or perspective is missing from the cultural conversation right now?
Well, I don’t know how to answer that question directly. What I can say is I’m not aware of any cultural conversation existing anymore. What’s happened is in culture, broadly speaking, technology has trumped the arts. We all talk about what platforms we use, what devices we have, what luck we’ve had lately with what app. Those are the subjects of our conversation. Those are the metaphors that we use, and in other times, our culture and our conversation [revolved more around] the things we have in common. The things we had in common had to do with the arts, the entertainment, and the culture that we were embedded within. The songs, the films, the books, the TV shows, whatever you want to say in the twentieth century, those provided the metaphors we could either use or rebel against. They gave us a common language that we could all use. We could rebel against it, but at least we had stuff in common that was derived from human, artistic expression. Now what we have in common are the tools that we use that have been made for us by nerds and venture capitalists that have made it hard for us to speak with each other in a meaningful way. We’re interested in continuing to do the work that we always did, but I have no idea how far the conversation that we do or the work that we do—I have no idea how far that will stretch. It might only be for a few thousand people, and that’s okay. If that’s the best we can do, and if we can just keep doing it, then so be it.”
“Arthur is no longer distributed for free anywhere. Those days are (sadly) long gone. Now you gotta buy Arthur or you won't see it.”
Pre-order ARTHUR No. 33
Ben Sisario at nytimes.com, "A Counterculture Totem to Return as a Leaner Magazine".
“From 2002 to 2008, Arthur was music’s version of a literary-minded little magazine. Distributed free in record stores and coffee shops, it celebrated underground culture of all kinds and attracted writers like Alan Moore (‘Watchmen’), Douglas Rushkoff and even Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, who wrote a reviews column with the critic Byron Coley. Like magazines of all sizes in the digital age, however, Arthur struggled to stay in print. It briefly suspended publication, and then resumed it, in 2007 before disappearing completely the next year. Now Arthur is back, with what its publisher and founding editor, Jay Babcock, says is a more stable business model. It will cost $5 an issue and be published on newsprint, with ads only on the back covers of its two sections, a move intended to shield the magazine from fluctuations in the economy and the ad market.’”
"The Exxtras – Waiting for You"
(15-song cassette w/ MP3 download)
Out Dec. 13, 2012.
“It all began with two old friends from back in the day — the day being San Pedro in the mid-80s. Philo had been in a band called SWA, and Raenie worked at SST Records. Raenie moved to Eugene, OR, in 1990, where she learned to play drums and played in Eugene bands like the Shudders, the Danged, and the Naysayers. Back home in Pedro, Philo went on to play in Fishcamp, the Jack Brewer Band, and the Last. Then in 2010, after 20 years in Eugene, Raenie moved back to Pedro and called up Philo to see if he wanted to jam. They played around together in a little room at Koos Studios and soon realized they needed some help. Enter Bill. Bill is Philo’s cousin-in-law. That is to say, his wife’s cousin’s husband. He’s also a bass player, gigging around Southern and Northern California with singer/songwriter Julie Tan, among many others. Bill was a fan of Philo’s various bands, and never missed an opportunity to slip in an “if you ever need a bass player” comment at gigs or family gatherings. Philo finally made that call, and the original power trio that would become the Exxtras was off and running... After a couple of months, Philo invited Jack Brewer to come to band practice to hang out. Jack was another friend of Philo and Raenie’s from the old days, being the lead vocalist in Saccharine Trust, the Jack Brewer Band, and the Obstacles. Jack started to come to practice regularly, sitting in on guitar and vocals, and was soon a full member of the band. Besides his trademark showmanship and unique guitar skills, Jack contributed songs he co-wrote with Marshall ‘Mellow’ Dana, which became cornerstones of the setlist, and inspired him and the others to fill in the rest of the set with original songs. Jack also contributed the name for the band, the Exxtras.”
Chuck Berry in JET LAG, 1980, on punk singles at "musicruinedmylife".
Sam Lefebvre at eastbayexpress.com on "Superior Viaduct records and the Stranded in Oakland shop".
“The walls of Oakland's newest record store are adorned with black and white photographs of Bay Area bands mounted beneath effective lighting, the floor plan is spacious and intuitive, and the cover of the album currently playing rests on its own display. It reflects the attention to detail that Viaduct has honed for the last year with his record label, Superior Viaduct, which finds its first physical headquarters in Stranded. From behind the counter, Viaduct gestured to a display of LPs from his label's reissues and archival compilations — all early Bay Area punk bands such as Black Humor, Noh Mercy, Factrix, and Monte Cazzazza — but then he brandished his label's most recent reissue, the Sleepers' Painless Nights, out December 11.”
David Greenberger & Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound –
"They Like Me Around Here".
“In a follow up to their 2009 CD, Cherry Picking Apple Blossom Time, Artist David reenberger reprises his collaboration with Paul Cebar for the release of their new CD of monologues with music, They Like Me Around Here. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, WI commissioned this new work in conjunction with their exhibit Hiding Places: Memory in the Arts. Greenberger’s conversations with elderly at Sheboygan mealsites, Community centers, assisted living and nursing home, and private residences became the basis for the text he created. Recording with the full band in Milwaukee, Greenberger and Cebar then completed the work at engineer/musician Mark Greenberg’s (Coctails, Wilco, Mavis Staples, Andrew Bird), Chicago studio.”
Louis Bayard in BOOKFORUM on David Thomson’s book, "The Big Screen – The Story of the Movies".
“What happened to this golden era? Well, sometime around the mid-1960s, or maybe it was the late 1970s, ‘the shining light (became) a mockery of enlightenment and a means of imprisoning the mass.’ You nod as you listen, knowing the old man is engaging in just the kind of mushy mythography that a tough-minded critic should be immune to. (How, exactly, were the masses of the 1920s any less imprisoned than the masses of the 2010s?) But he’s revealed himself all the same. Helplessly, on might add, for ‘helpless’ is the qualifier he uses more than any other. The ‘helpless guilt’ of Vertigo. The ‘helpless authorship’ of Orson Welles, and Brando’s ‘helpless need… to become someone else.’ The ‘helpless gamble’ of casting and the ‘helpless progress’ of censorship and the ‘helpless respect’ of United Artists for Michael Cimino and the ‘merry admission of helplessness’ in Tarantino’s work. So much impotence, and no one more helpless than this veteran watcher of screens, who suspects that his greatest love as been his enemy – our enemy. Film has ‘enacted and armored our detachment from the world’ and steered us away ‘from inner truth to appearance.’ It may once have looked like a ‘lustrous, improved version’ of reality, but in truth it has ‘let us give up on reality, and use it as a story, a dream, a toy version of life.’”
Dave Kehr in NYT, "Defending the Young and the Innocent".
“Pickford’s uncanny business acumen stood in stark opposition to her screen image. With her cascading rolls of golden curls, expressive blue eyes and tiny frame (five feet and 105 pounds, or so the fan magazines said), she projected a childlike innocence and frailty (though with a strong mischievous streak), and as soon as she achieved her artistic independence she came to specialize in playing little girls and young teenagers. In ‘The Poor Little Rich Girl,’ directed with his usual rich atmospherics by the pioneer filmmaker Maurice Tourneur, a 24-year-old Pickford plays the 11-year-old daughter of a neglectful Wall Street financier; in Sidney A. Franklin’s social drama ‘The Hoodlum’ she’s a spoiled teenager who moves with her social reformer father from Fifth Avenue to a multiethnic Lower East Side; in William Beaudine’s ‘Sparrows,’ the latest film in this collection and the last in which she played an adolescent, Pickford is ineffably moving as Molly, the oldest girl (and self-appointed protector) of a group of orphans being held as slaves in a ‘child farm’ deep in a Southern swamp. Arguably Pickford’s masterpiece, ‘Sparrows’ is a radiant example of the timelessness and clarity of feeling that silent film could achieve. Made with an awareness of the formal developments of the contemporary German cinema, the film seems like a lost tale from the Brothers Grimm, immersed in primal fears. As Molly leads the children away from the ogrelike overseer, across the quicksand and through the Expressionist swamp, the film seems to burrow into the viewer’s subconscious.”
Obituary of the Fortnight…
"Eugene Genovese" (1930-2012)
“A leftwing colleague sent me Gene’s obituary from The New York Times with the comment that it contained the ‘worst summary of Roll, Jordan, Roll I have ever read.’ Be not surprised. The piece also included the obligatory cheap shot, a quote from the progressive historian Eric Foner on paternalism, the animating feature in Gene’s interpretation of the world masters and slaves made together in the Old South: ‘[P]arents do not normally sell their children, the historian Eric Foner wrote in 1982.’ Well, one might respond that if Professor Foner had checked out his Bible lately, the most frequently mentioned means of enslavement in the text is the buying and selling of children. And further, only after the eighteenth-century advent in the West of a full-blown capitalist system, which broke human communities out of Malthusian cycles, was the buying and selling of children put beyond the legal pale throughout the world. But let me move on to clear up confusion. At one level of analysis, paternalism – some variant of government by the father – can be found in every slave society in history and in many other societies based on other forms of coerced labor.”
Thanks to Steve Beeho, Mark Carducci, Jay Babcock.
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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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