a new low in topical enlightenment

Monday, May 22, 2017

Issue #152 (May 22 2017)


From Centennial Ridge
Photograph by Joe Carducci
















Let’s Edit the First Amendment!
Joe Carducci

   The first rule to remember when reading newspapers or otherwise consuming reportage is don’t forget what you know firsthand, that whenever a reporter has happened upon your own neighborhood or area of expertise you smiled or laughed out loud over that reporter’s inadequate understanding of what was before him. One might have been angered if that incomprehension seemed rather a tactical use of reality as raw material to achieve some pre-existing storyline the reporter brought to town with him. Such disregard intensifies the more reporters are hot on the trail of any single story – their mob uni-brain constructs a better disguise more quickly for the imposed narrative – an asserted teaching moment for those underfoot. The bald truth is never enough, as Laramie, Wyoming witnessed when Manhattan’s satellite trucks landed on it for the 1999 Matt Shepard murder trial. Somewhere I have the Village Voice with the painting of a buck fence on the Hudson overlooking New York. Raising the wrong particulars became threats to the reverence demanded by the campaigners for hate crime legislation, and so nothing less than a justification for the brutal murder. Local officials in the college town necessarily submitted, though hardly fast enough for the conductors of that teaching moment. One could barely discern the shape of the far more interesting and tragic actual story underneath the fable of a saint’s martyrdom, but politicos don’t miss truth or poetry.

   In my record business years I didn’t see this in my four years at Systematic (1978-81) where we were buying and distributing small label and self-released records. The rock media weren’t involved at all, even as we regularly sent them promotional copies from our own labels and from the Rough Trade labels. I imagine those rock critics rarely took their award-winning Dylan albums off the turntable to listen to the 45s and LPs we sent them. But fanzines did review them and gradually the college radio stations played them and so that music was not edited out of rock and roll history entirely even though it was made to wear its outside-ness in ways that the music of the 1950s and 1960s was not, even before rock print media existed. With the rock-press came a mediated self-serving defensive narrative, an identity politik most earnestly worked out at Rolling Stone magazine, somewhat subverted and critiqued at the sharper, downscale, sadly less influential Creem magazine.

   Black Flag started touring beyond California in 1979. This made them suddenly the only band (and label) that Systematic could work with in a kind of amateur business-art version of major label touring band behavior. Black Flag on the road would first hit the best record shop in town according to the promoter. Systematic wasn’t primarily an importer of UK major label releases like most small distributors; we’d solicit regularly whether shops needed restocks of the bands and labels we carried. The importers were generally interested only in new releases, not catalog sales. And the record shop dudes were typically more into spending their budgets on the newest UK major label imports that they got from those companies.

   But now Black Flag was at their counter asking where they got “Jealous Again” or why they didn’t have it in stock. The shop-dude invariably answered “Systematic” or “The distributor was out of stock.” But the band knew that wasn’t the case because they had shipped their own records to us and we had known of the tour and which shop accounts were along its route. Black Flag was unusually interested in trying to understand and develop this latent underground independent system’s potential. We bonded over such esoteric knowledge of shop-dude behavior. But truth required a third perspective on the situation – Black Flag had to get into the shop the way a major label’s regional distribution sales agent might for the reality on the ground in the bins to be clear. Otherwise the shop-dude’s weasel nature worked against solid information moving efficiently to where it was needed. Eventually bands had to sell their own records at gigs and shop-dudes lost their choke-hold on music.

   The news media and its reporters on the scene should provide that perspective. In earlier decades reporters apprenticed their way into the job during or after high school. Today they get a professional degree in journalism at a University. Whatever they are learning now is less useful than the old system, for they arrive on the scene of the crime like a know-it-all intern.

   I experienced Rolling Stone magazine interest in SST matters only after I was long gone from the label. The magazine was fumbling to make up for lost time in the period after Nirvana’s multiplatinum success. Michael Goldberg was writing something on SST’s 1993 lawsuit against the Meat Puppets and the lingering Negativland-U2 hubbub. I knew nothing of the contracts at issue, but given how short the resulting news feature, I was impressed by how thorough Michael was in trying to understand the pre-contract years of SST which I did know about but which he seemed never to have encountered before. I remember asking him at some point if he was going to write a book, it was taking so long. It was all foreign to him, thanks to his editor-publisher Jan Wenner’s longtime disinterest in punk, but he was scrupulous about getting the flavor of it.

   In the early days at SST we didn’t even shake hands on our deals, we just proceeded from the phone, the mail, the gig.  There could be no hope of money advances when radio play was zero and sales microscopic so none of us at the label or in the bands paid attention to paperwork.  That foreclosure of commercial prospects was itself largely due to Jan Wenner and other media criminals (Lee Abrams in radio, Lorne Michaels in television…), but our philosophy was to keep sending out pr and free records and let people get hip at their own pace so I was happy to talk to <i>Rolling Stone</i> in 1993.  And Michael had written the one RS feature on the touring underground bands in 1985 which meant it was about SST bands plus Flipper (the Travolta-Curtis “Perfect” movie cover!). I wasn’t name-checked in that article though I’d talked to Goldberg then, but I took his quoting of the eminently quotable Jordan Schwartz (who worked at our booking office) as Rolling Stone magazine’s concession that SST might not be a menace, and perhaps was just a typical record label since there was a Jew in the office.

   Four years earlier Greg and Chuck of Black Flag had heard that MCA label-head Al Bergamo dropped the “Damaged” album after calling up Rolling Stone to ask about the band and getting an earful of dirt. We covered up the MCA logo of the first run of covers with a sticker quoting Al from his explanation to Billboard, “As a parent… I found it an anti-parent record…”). I figured that Michael was playing his famously punkophobic editor, Jan Wenner, for the benefit of his story and SST and goddamn rock and roll history.  To little effect in the end, though, as that 1993 story imparted little of just how rich and sad the implosion of SST Records was.  The label was the culmination of independent label work since at least the first Ork and Hearthan releases, and aesthetically the deliverance of failed underground rock since The Stooges debuted on Elektra.  Michael told me great bits that others had told him but those didn’t make it into his piece.  Jan is an idiot and Rolling Stone is now half-owned by a Singaporean agribusiness billionaire’s son named Kuok Meng Ru; great for Jan maybe but not so good for rock and roll.

   So I began to think about how an editor, who doesn’t run to the story or make the calls himself, but monkeys around with his underling’s report after the fact, might easily upend and debase that reporter’s work, yet it still goes out under the reporter’s name alone. I’ve read newspapers since I was a little kid and had no idea. Publishers have an interest in hiding these aspects of their product – non-fiction requires a necessary fiction apparently. Recently in obits or memoirs of aged book editors we learn that these faceless men assembled the cornerstones of AmLit reading lists from the drunken scribblings sent with pleadings for cash advances from hotels in France or Spain. Last week The New York Review of Books announced that Ian Buruma would succeed Robert Silvers as editor; Buruma had hailed Silvers on his death for having possessed “no ambition to be a writer himself” and so didn’t treat his writers’ submissions as “raw material to get his teeth in and start to rewrite himself…. The way that so many editors do.” (NYT) But, as one, publishers, editors, reporters, and comedians jumped on the very idea of “alternative facts” when each story they work on has fact after fact trimmed out in an editing process. At the end there is the story as told and there is a pile of orphaned bits, details and facts that might reasonably be suspected of having been cut because they ran interference against the editor’s chosen through-line. An alternative story might easily be assembled from the same raw material though they pretend not to know that, assuming their readership are still children.

   I had never done much writing for any publication that went in for heavy editing as my dozens of readers know. But when I did run into it, that editing became a laundering of my voice as if I was a wayward toddler. And this was not even done by the editor himself who did a fine job helping me with clarity, which I try not to make a thankless task. He knew why he’d asked me to write about the subject, but the executive editor did not and ran the piece through his own conventional politicultural filter. I was on to other stuff and knew I’d have the true version available in my anthology, plus I’d hoped that new site would develop into something. Around that same time I saw how one young writer’s music biography of his favorite band was rushed out by its independent publisher to the point of sabotage, while another established music writer on a major publisher was chumped out of illustrations that he’d paid for personally, leaving an orphaned page of Naomi Petersen photo credits but no photographs! This in a Cannongate-Viking research-heavy hardcover doorstop! And again in both cases the writer’s name was on the resulting book, not the dude who messed it up, and I imagined the writers were both sick over what had happened to “their” books – I didn’t have the heart to press them for details. I wasn’t raring to write for any kind of publisher when Blogger came along and made it unnecessary as well as ameliorating somewhat the sudden absence of Tower Records, Books, Magazines & Video. In any case, I’m a screenwriter first so I never felt as vulnerable as the journeyman writer who is easily run in circles by editor-sadists. (I’ll re-write just once on a script; I’m sorry that’s our policy.)

   Now that the web has shattered three networks, four major labels, five movie studios, and six publishing houses into an ambient buzzing smart landscape, and its crowned with President Trump, the newsmedia’s subject number one whose metabolism magnifies their own dyslexic battle against context, it may be that Marinetti’s Future has finally dawned, shoveling the dirt onto old media for its richly deserved eternal buzzing quietus. The evening news programs can’t hit Trump on more than two different stories per night because they require one geriatric health feature for advertisers (“Do not take ViberziTM if you have no gall bladder.”) and must finish with a heartwarming postscript from out near an affiliate. But by then Trump has already committed two additional impeachable offenses! Cable news, even with its endless clock, is stuck with its uni-brain pile-on to one, maybe two stories for weeks or months at a time.

   The Vanity Fair monthly shows up showed-up on day-one. When did Graydon Carter sign off on the current issue? He all but admits he’s throwing in the towel:
“In the B.T. (Before Trump) era, most people I know went about their daily lives reasonably confident in the knowledge that the papers or news sites they read that morning were all they needed to stay informed for the rest of the day. But now, A.T., all that has changed. Those same people check their phones with the regularity of lovelorn teenagers… wincing as they look to see what fresh horrors the great man in the White House has unleashed. Trump may thrive on conflict and disorder, but most of us do not.” (VF, “Trump Family Values”)
   Carter then illustrates this by switching off onto the First Lady – If only she were as respectable as Nancy Reagan, Betty Ford, or Barbara Bush. (VF still specializes in the old Life magazine-style Camelot-ing look-backs at our ur-royal families.) A monthly publication must step back from the headlines but Camelot-ing is part of our modern mediated problem. Graydon can suddenly read like a slow, kicked-in-the-head David Remnick as he tries to bag the Trump mid-Honeymoon, or was it pre-Hundred Days?

   In the last Vanity Fair Carter sent Maureen Dowd after the truth about artificial intelligence. (Maybe the NYT is getting ready to offload more op-ed dead wood, always a difficult, sensitive matter akin to disarming a bomb.) I wonder if that VF issue’s Alec Baldwin’s memoir excerpt (the cover story) is as unfact-checked as he complained his book itself is. Editors love to stick it to beautiful people too. If I were sitting awkwardly at Graydon Carter’s desk I’d stick to Met Museum Turmoil and Gay and Nan Talese. Expect Camelot-style photo-essays looking back on the Obama wonder years well ahead of schedule for genuine nostalgic graphic impact.

   The New Yorker is a weekly but thinks long term, not that it helps much. Evan Osnos was just on Terry Gross for the whole hour talking about his endless primer, “End Games – How Could Trump Be Removed from Office?,” and this was before the firing of James Comey. Osnos and his editor are trying to own the expected impeachment as The American Spectator once owned Bill’s and The Washington Post owned Dick’s. But those weren’t drawn up beforehand. And Nixon and Clinton made pretty piñatas for discrete opposition parties and then handed them the knives themselves. Trump has scrambled his own party but he may not be standing still long enough for the geriatric Senate Democrats to gather with their walkers and beat him with their canes even if he succeeds in making that their one and only desire.

   
   Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson while at the WSJ back in 1991 almost took Clarence Thomas’ scalp back before Bill Clinton forced the sexual harassment bar lower (it’s back up again). Abramson made it to the top of the NYT masthead but then got fired. Mayer has been at The New Yorker. She belled the Koch brothers back in August 2010. Thereafter every progressive tossed their names around knowingly. Mayer stayed on the Kochs beat with other New Yorker staff writers, wailing on them with occasional curveballs that contrasted them positively with ruder right-wingers. Suddenly their libertarian views could be taken as something other than a masque for plunder. These puff-ish pieces didn’t make sense until Mayer’s book, Dark Money, came out early in the election year. The magazine was attempting to coax the Kochs with something like sugar into talking to her for the book. But even in a weekly magazine with constant Kochs coverage (crowned with the book released just before the Iowa caucuses), in the end the Kochs’ scary noirish darker-than-black money sat out the election! Mayer was forced by events to shovel dirt on her own book in a piece called, “Koch for Clinton? Not a Chance,” – actually it seems there was a chance. The Kochs’ scariness somehow, unaccountably, would not harmonize with Trump’s scariness no matter how skilled New Yorker editing is. And Donald Trump and David Koch are both New Yorkers.

   As with the NYT, The New Yorker is most trustworthy when it reports from distant lands well outside its paradigming narrative-mongering, say, its excellent explication of the bloody implosion that ended the Nepali royal line in the July 30, 2001 issue. You expect The Washington Post, the company-town crier of our nation’s capital, to identify with the public sector to the exclusion of all else. They’re good at it too, and have us still in Cold War mode on top of our World’s policeman duties while we’re supposed to continue making the world safe for democracy, when the current challenge of an Islam-in-crisis is doing its best to unite America and other democracies with the interests of Communists and sundry dictatorships. The Post, whether under its old ink-stained crusading clichés straight out of Superman comics (blue-haired Katharine Graham, white-winged man’s man Ben Bradlee…) or the new post-humanoid cyborg cliché right out of Batman comics (Jeff Bezos), is just tending its readers’ provincial interests the way small-town newspapers do. But given the scale of Manhattan pretensions there really is no excuse for similar self-absorption there.

   And yet look at ‘em… The strange newsmedia coda of the Great Koch Bros. Non-Story of 2016 begins back on Aug. 22, 2016 when Tyler Durden, following up on WSJ reports about changes inside the Trump campaign, wrote at zerohedge.com, Meet the Hedge Fund Puppetmaster Behind This Presidential Election:
“And while the emergence of the true puppetmaster behind Trump's campaign is fascinating, we were more curious to dig deeper into the potential influence of Renaissance not on just one, but both candidates.”
   
   The founder of hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, Jim Simons, it turned out was one of Hillary’s biggest donors! But never mind that, she lost the selection, and Donald Trump, a president right out of Gotham City is now the story. So in March of this year another heretofore unmentioned billionaire with eccentric behavioral ticks and ideas, one who was long ago in the Ted Cruz camp with the Kochs but unlike them made the jump to Trump, enters stage right – namely Robert Mercer. He is yet another owner of Renaissance Technologies as well as part-owner of Breitbart News and he made his sudden overdue debut in three contending would-be scoops. Mercer with the weirdest of his three daughters, Rebekah, was instrumental in bringing Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon to Trump’s campaign and White House no less.

   The early WSJ and zerohedge pieces hadn’t done the trick apparently. But on Feb. 23, 2017 one of Mercer’s hedge fund partners, David Magerman, talked to the WSJ’s Greg Zuckerman and in the resulting story demanded that his boss stop backing Trump whom he, as another RT Clinton supporter considered a white nationalist bent on world destruction. Mercer apparently had told Magerman not to worry, that he’d be less involved henceforth, but Magerman, like most disappointed Democrats, was not assuaged. He wrote his own somewhat mixed-up mea culpa op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer on March 1 where he fears donors’ sense of “investing” in campaigns for returns:
“I know this because up until recently I was one of those donors.  I tried to buy influence in the schools in my community, in my synagogue, and in other communal institutions. These investments all failed for one key reason: communal institutions are not for sale, and you should not be able to buy stock in them…. I have learned this lesson, and it is time for Robert Mercer and the rest of the 0.001 percenters to learn it too.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)
   
   Magerman considered it was money that he had made for Mercer at Renaissance Technologies that had beaten the other RT monies that he himself, as well as Jim Simons, had donated to the Clinton campaign and got Trump elected. The stories about Robert and Rebekah Mercer finally hit in March of this year as if the slow metabolisms of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and even The Washington Post had rushed them out half-baked. The wonder is that the Mercers and Renaissance Technologies as massive contributors to both campaigns came visible only three months after Election Day. It seems some major part of the light-absorbing darkness of “dark money” is provided by the news media itself. Light of some intensity came on March 17 at huffingtonpost.com with Vicky Ward’s long essay, “The Blow-It-All-Up Billionaires”. It’s quite funny with its emphasis on the Mercers’ eccentricities, especially Robert’s asocial manners that seem to come with his code-writing genius. And the piece also explores the relationships that brought Conway and Bannon to the insanity of the Trump campaign and then to our attention. On the same day Matea Gold wrote a short Washington Post article called, “The Mercers and Stephen Bannon: How a Populist Power Base Was Funded and Built.” Not as much poesy to be found in WaPo prose but I suppose it fed the most salient facts to a company town.

   
   The same day those two pieces were posted and/or printed the Huffington piece’s author Vicky Ward appeared on “Charlie Rose” interviewed by a substitute host William Cohan from Vanity Fair which made me wonder if Ward’s piece might have been intended for VF, especially when ten days later a long and lumbering Jane Mayer piece on Robert Mercer showed up in The New Yorker titled, “Trump’s Money Man.” Mayer’s piece reads like an emptying out of a notebook for a piece not yet ready, which makes one wonder at what point it was begun – if the initial WSJ piece triggered both Ward’s and Mayer’s essays than the weekly New Yorker must require as much lead time as the monthly Vanity Fair. Mayer’s essay is mostly interesting as a awkwardly disguised come-down from her investment in inflating the Kochs as public enemies Numbers 1 & 2. Cue Emily Litella, “Never mind.” Mayer had to settle for a Wednesday appearance on NPR’s “Fresh Air”.

   
Vicky Ward was not so good on television; the enthusiastic Cohan was left insisting how good and funny and groundbreaking the piece was and he was right. Ward doesn’t mention the Clintons, Mayer emphasizes them and Mercer’s hatred of them. Like many Manhattan professional women Mayer’s identification with Hillary is almost total, though it ought to clash with her obsession with the Citizen United scenario given the Clinton money operation. But maybe that’s her editor’s imposition. I’m sure both are miserable over being scooped so skillfully and on a story that can only stand as a correction to a long series of New Yorker essays going back before that initial 2010 Koch Bros. hit piece; they’ve virtually been a beat of their own in the magazine. Further, the British-born Ward’s good humor shows up Mayer’s melodrama even though it too may have been hurriedly moved to the web from a monthly to beat a weekly.

   Now into the Trump administration it will be interesting to see whether the newsmedia can retain a focus on anything else – Donald Trump, this rather typical New Yorker is surely the least conservative Republican president since Richard Nixon. He may be triggering a similar territorial response – even an identity crisis disguised somewhat by class and regional stylistic differences. What frightens them may be that Trump doesn’t so much solve continuing Republican Party factional contradictions so much as he threatens to solve those of the Democratic Party.

   In all the talk and reportage over why Hillary lost the election one big non-fake real reason “forgotten” by the newsers for the same reason Hillary doesn’t mention it, is that somehow the Obama administration or the deep state or just blind bureaucratic obliviousness decreed that healthcare premiums would go up in 2017 – this dropped on Hillary’s skull two weeks before the election by the Dept. of Health & Human Services. Given Hillary’s long identification with healthcare this hurt her most with those just above the point of having to pay unsubsidized prices so that they pay for the subsidized non-payers as well. The NYT “Upshot” numbers guy, Nate Cohn just produced, “A 2016 Review: There’s Reason to Be Skeptical of a Comey Effect” , and his graph is clear, Hillary’s polling dive begins at the healthcare premium rise announcement; she’s already bottomed-out at the Comey announcement. But Cohn and his editors don’t bring up the premiums as possible cause. Don’t even look for another dot to connect. Probably Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are crawling with such folks. Someone could look into that.

(Illustrations: Jan Wenner, Anne De Salvo, John Travolta “Perfect” film still; Jane Mayer on “Rachel Maddow”; Koch Bros newsflash on CNN; The Mercers – Rebekah, Robert, Diana; Vicky Ward and William Cohan on “Charlie Rose”)


















Centennial Ridge
Photograph by Joe Carducci
















From the Wyoming Desk of Joe Carducci,,, 

Jim O’Neal & Guido van Rijn in LIVING BLUES, Paramount Records, A Centennial Celebration.
Local talent scouts became more and more important for Paramount to bring new artists to studios in Chicago or to the Gennett studio in Richmond, Indiana. In 1929, Paramount opened its own studio in Grafton. As interest in vaudeville blues faded, the recordings featured more hokum or double entendre music, and male solo guitarists became Paramount’s “Exclusive Artists.”


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David Mikics in TABLET, Was Nazi Germany Made in America? .
The Nazi regime saw itself at the cutting edge of racial legislation, and America was their inspiration. “Nazi lawyers regarded America, not without reason, as the innovative world leader in the creation of racist law,” Whitman remarks. In the 1930s, the American South and Nazi Germany were the world’s most straightforwardly racist regimes, proud of the way they had deprived blacks and Jews, respectively, of their civil rights. Scholars have long known that the American eugenics movement inspired the Nazis; now Whitman adds the influence of America’s immigration policy and its laws about race. Today, Whitman’s idea that Nazism looked to America for inspiration is liable to throw us into a moral panic. But there’s another side to the story, and in the Trump era, especially, we can benefit from taking a hard look at it. Our president was elected in part because he capitalized on an America-first nationalism that hunts ruthlessly for external and internal enemies. In this view, rootless cosmopolitans, immigrants, and the lawless inner cities constantly threaten the real America.


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Vivian Gornick in NYT, They Were True Believers.
It is perhaps hard to understand now, but at that time, in this place, the Marxist vision of world solidarity as translated by the Communist Party induced in the most ordinary of men and women a sense of one’s own humanity that ran deep, made life feel large; large and clarified. It was to this clarity of inner being that so many became not only attached, but addicted. No reward of life, no love nor fame nor wealth, could compete with the experience. It was this all-in-allness of world and self that, all too often, made of the Communists true believers who could not face up to the police state corruption at the heart of their faith, even when a 3-year-old could see that it was eating itself alive. I was 20 years old in February 1956 when Nikita Khrushchev addressed the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party and revealed to the world the incalculable horror of Stalin’s rule. Night after night the people at my father’s kitchen table raged or wept or sat staring into space. I was beside myself with youthful rage. “Lies!” I screamed at them. “Lies and treachery and murder. And all in the name of socialism! In the name of socialism!” Confused and heartbroken, they pleaded with me to wait and see, this couldn’t be the whole truth, it simply couldn’t be. But it was.


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Dominic Green in SPECTATOR on Peter Cozzens’ book, The Earth Is Weeping.
Every Indian victory was pyrrhic, in provoking terrible retribution. Every defiant leader — Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse — surrendered in the end. The federal government failed to help the Indians starving on reservations, but always found the means to punish every Indian revolt. In December 1890, the massacre of Bigfoot and the Lakota Sioux in the snow at Wounded Knee marked the closure of the frontier, and the death of an ancient civilisation. This murder by ‘grand encirclement and slow strangulation’ was not, Cozzens argues, genocide. The federal governments that reneged on treaties and defrauded the Indians of their land and rights also launched five sets of ‘peace’ talks in the 1860s and 1870s. In 1866, when General Sherman, the head of the US army, advised ‘vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women, and children’ the Grant administration instead pursued peace talks. Yet when Sherman advanced his solution for the ‘Indian problem’, he was the legal subordinate of the secretary of war. Cozzens writes that ‘the federal government never contemplated genocide’, but this is to acquit on a technicality.


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David Beito in REASON, Roosevelt’s War Against the Press.
Roosevelt warned in 1938 that "our newspapers cannot be edited in the interests of the general public, from the counting room. And I wish we could have a national symposium on that question, particularly in relation to the freedom of the press. How many bogies are conjured up by invoking that greatly overworked phrase?" Roosevelt's relationship with radio was warmer. The key distinction was that broadcasters operated in an entirely different political context: Thanks to federal rules and administrators, they had to tread much more lightly than newspapers did. At its inception in 1934, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reduced the license renewal period for stations from three years to only six months. Meanwhile, Roosevelt tapped Herbert L. Pettey as secretary of the FCC (and its predecessor, the Federal Radio Commission). Pettey had overseen radio for Roosevelt in the 1932 campaign. After his appointment, he worked in tandem with the Democratic National Committee to handle "radio matters" with both the networks and local stations. It did not take long for broadcasters to get the message. NBC, for example, announced that it was limiting broadcasts "contrary to the policies of the United States government." CBS Vice President Henry A. Bellows said that "no broadcast would be permitted over the Columbia Broadcasting System that in any way was critical of any policy of the Administration." He elaborated "that the Columbia system was at the disposal of President Roosevelt and his administration and they would permit no broadcast that did not have his approval."


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James Bowman in NEW CRITERION, Who Governs America? .
Their triumph during the Obama presidency, about which they were as unanimously pro- as they are unanimously anti-Trump, must have emboldened them. Now they do not hesitate to present themselves to the public as the rightful government of the country and in news stories and editorials and opinion pieces alike to cast all the doubt they can on the legitimacy of Mr Trump and all who serve him. "News", "fact", "truth" have all become their property, to be decided by them alone, the inhabitants of "the realm of the true" as Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times described it on the day when even some Times readers must still celebrate the birth of the man who described himself as "the way, the truth and the life." His bosses at the Times must have been taken with the idea as, with the new year, they proceeded to discharge a blizzard of e-mails seeking new subscribers, all with tag-lines like: "Discover the truth with us" or "Searching out truth is what we do" or "The truth is what we do better" or "We’re passionate about truth. Are you?"


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Jennifer Senior in NYT on James Forman Jr’s book, Locking Up Our Own.
When he discusses policy decisions first made in the 1970s, the audience knows what’s eventually coming — that a grossly disproportionate number of African-American men will become ensnared in the criminal justice system — but none of the players do. Not the clergy or the activists; not the police chiefs or the elected officials; not the newspaper columnists or the grieving parents. The legions of African-Americans who lobbied for more punitive measures to fight gun violence and drug dealing in their own neighborhoods didn’t know that their real-time responses to crises would result in the inhuman outcome of mass incarceration. The effect, for the reader, is devastating. It is also politically consequential. Conservatives could look at this book and complain, for example, that Michelle Alexander underemphasized black enthusiasm for stricter law enforcement in her influential best seller, “The New Jim Crow.” But it’s also possible, reading Forman’s work, to stand that argument on its head. One of the most cherished shibboleths of the right is that African-Americans complain about police brutality while conveniently overlooking the violence in their own neighborhoods.


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Paul Beston in WSJ, The Truth About Muhammad Ali and the Draft.
Ali told his boxing idol, Sugar Ray Robinson, he couldn’t join the army…. “If you ask me,“ Robinson said later, “he wasn’t afraid of jail. He was afraid of being killed by the Muslims.” Nearly a decade later, Ali told reporter Dave Kindred, “I would have gotten out of[the Nation of Islam] a long time ago, but you saw what they did to Malcolm X…. I can’t leave the Muslims. They’d shoot me, too.” It speaks volumes that Ali was more willing to face jail time than the Messenger’s wrath, especially since, by his own admission, the government had offered him “all kinds of deals.” Military brass neither wanted him in combat nor wished to see him become a draft resister. He would have served in a ceremonial capacity, as Joe Louis had in World War II, visiting and entertaining troops. The federal prosecutor who handled the case sensed that Ali was ready to sign up for a noncombat role, but that “some of his advisers wanted to make a martyr out of him.” They succeeded. It is not the only irony of Ali’s life that his submission to Elijah Muhammad’s authority somehow transformed him into a hero of freethinking and moral conscience. Yet he deserves credit for handling himself with magnanimity and elan.


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Peggy Noonan in WSJ, Does Steve Bannon Have Something to Offer? .
He speaks of two “disturbing” strands. “One is state-sponsored capitalism,” as in China and Russia. We also, to a degree, see it in America. This is “a brutal form of capitalism” in which wealth and value are distributed to “a very small subset of people.” It is connected to crony capitalism. He criticizes the Republican Party as “really a collection of crony capitalists that feel they have a different set of rules of how they’re going to comport themselves.” The other disturbing strand is “libertarian capitalism” which “really looks to make people commodities, and to objectify people, and to use them almost.” He saw this stand up close when he was on Wall Street, at Goldman Sachs. There he saw “the securitization of everything” and an attitude in which “people” are looked at as commodities.” Capitalists, he said, now must ask: “What is the purpose of whatever I’m doing with this wealth? What is the purpose of what I’m doing with the ability that God has given us… to actually be a creator of jobs and a creator of wealth?”


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Michael Barone in CST, The New World Politics is Capital City Vs. Countryside.
The countryside party, Trevor-Roper writes, vied to “pare down the parasitic fringe” of central government and sought to “protect industry” “rationalize finance” and “reduce the hatcheries which turned out the superfluous bureaucrats.” Similar impulses are apparent in Britain, France and America today. In different ways, Brexit, Le Pen and Trump seek to counter the university-trained bureaucratic, financial and cultural elite in London, Paris and NY/DC/LA/SF. They resent overlarge bureaucracies and public employee unions, the paymasters of the Labour and Democratic parties. With blunt, often ill-advised rhetoric, they challenge the pieties of the universities just as 17th-century countryside parliamentarians challenged the established church and universities.


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Tim Alberta in POLITICO, Pat Buchanan “The Ideas Made It, But I Didn’t” .
Buchanan says he has “always been a pessimist,” and despite Trump’s conquest, two things continue to color his dark forecast for the nation. First, Buchanan harbors deep concerns over whether Trump, with his off-topic tweeting and pointless fight-picking, has the requisite focus and discipline to execute his nationalist agenda—especially over the opposition of a media-establishment complex bent on his destruction. Second, even if Trump delivers on the loftiest of his promises, Buchanan fears it will be too little, too late. Sweeping change was needed 25 years ago, he says, before thousands of factories vanished due to the North American Free Trade Agreement, before millions of illegal immigrants entered the country, before trillions of dollars were squandered on regime change and nation-building. He’s not unlike the countless Trump voters I met across the country in 2016, many of them older folks yearning for a return to the country of their youth, a place they remember as safer, whiter, more wholesome, more Christian, more confident and less polarized. The difference is that Buchanan refuses to indulge in the illusion that a return to this utopia of yesteryear is even possible. Economically and demographically and culturally, he believes, the damage is done. “We rolled the dice with the future of this country,” he tells me. “And I think it’s going to come up snake eyes.”


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James Rosen in NATIONAL INTEREST on Pat Buchanan’s book, Nixon’s White House Wars.
Time and again, as Nixon and his men deliberated the conduct of the Vietnam War and the threats posed by the radical Left, school desegregation and affirmative-action programs, Supreme Court nominations and Great Society funding, Buchanan struggled to understand why the Nixon he knew intimately from 1965 onward, the wily politician whose worldview aligned so squarely with the “Silent Majority” of Americans—a phrase Buchanan himself had coined—had embraced the policy prescriptions of his political opponents. “Why did the conservatives, who had so influenced the policy positions that Nixon had adopted during his comeback, fail to play a comparable role in the transition and the administration?” Buchanan asks. At one point, he even plaintively wonders whether the president and his key aides—principally, Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman and domestic policy adviser John Ehrlichman—entertained an “inherent suicidal tendency or death wish.” This lamentation, exposing the inner workings of the “troubled marriage” between Richard Nixon and conservatism and drawing on a thousand memoranda Buchanan exchanged with the president, many previously unpublished, provides the chief value of Buchanan’s book.


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Samuel Freeman in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS on Stuart Jeffries’ book, Grand Hotel Abyss, Stefan Muller-Doohm’s book, Habermas, and Peter Gordon’s book, Adorno and Existence.
The Frankfurt School’s leading theorists were neither skeptics about truth nor relativists about value. The phrase “false consciousness” suggests that people have a misconception of reality and hold false beliefs and values. But the Frankfurt School never articulated an explicit statement of true human values or a theory of society wherein such values could be realized. This was not because they were relativists but rather because they were pessimists about the validity of philosophical and ethical knowledge under capitalism.


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Marjorie Perloff in WEEKLY STANDARD, The Codebreaker.
Michael Wood's elegant and concise study of the great British literary critic William Empson (1906-1984) is especially welcome. Empson was all of 22 when he produced, at the suggestion of his Cambridge supervisor I.?A. Richards, a bulky manuscript called Seven Types of Ambiguity. Published in 1930, the book quickly became a classic, read and hotly debated in classrooms across Britain and the United States. Not until the 1970s, with the rise of Deconstruction, did Empson's star go down, the irony being (as Wood notes) that he anticipated so many of the theorems of what he called, in a letter to a friend, "those horrible Frenchmen"—he referred to the chef d'école of Deconstruction as "Nerrida"—who were "so very disgusting, in a social and moral way." Wood explains: What Empson found disgusting was the seeking out, as he saw it, of complexity for complexity's sake, a project that was "always pretending to be plumbing the depths" but in reality was only congratulating itself on its cleverness. Above all he took it—this was in 1971—as just one more instance of what he saw as happening to language and literature everywhere: the human stakes were being removed, words were let loose in the playground, no agents or intentions were to be seen.


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Helen Pluckrose at AREO, How French “Intellectuals” Ruined the West: Postmodernism and Its Impact, Explained.
Religions and other totalizing ideologies are metanarratives in their attempts to explain the meaning of life or all of society’s ills. Lyotard advocated replacing these with “mininarratives” to get at smaller and more personal “truths.” He addressed Christianity and Marxism in this way but also science. In his view, “there is a strict interlinkage between the kind of language called science and the kind called ethics and politics” (p8). By tying science and the knowledge it produces to government and power he rejects its claim to objectivity.  Lyotard describes this incredulous postmodern condition as a general one, and argues that from the end of the 19th century, “an internal erosion of the legitimacy principle of knowledge” began to cause a change in the status of knowledge (p39). By the 1960s, the resulting “doubt” and “demoralization” of scientists had made “an impact on the central problem of legitimization” (p8). No number of scientists telling him they are not demoralized nor any more doubtful than befits the practitioners of a method whose results are always provisional and whose hypotheses are never “proven” could sway him from this. We see in Lyotard an explicit epistemic relativity (belief in personal or culturally specific truths or facts) and the advocacy of privileging  “lived experience” over empirical evidence. We see too the promotion of a version of pluralism which privileges the views of minority groups over the general consensus of scientists or liberal democratic ethics which are presented as authoritarian and dogmatic. This is consistent in postmodern thought.


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Robert Boyers in CHRONICLE REVIEW, The Academy’s Assault on Intellectual Diversity.
In the early 1950s, Isaiah Berlin identified what he called “a common assumption” informing the work of Enlightenment thinkers: “that the answers to all of the great questions must of necessity agree with one another.” This “doctrine,” Berlin argued, “stems from older theological roots,” and refuses to accept any suggestion that we must learn to live with irresolvable conflicts.


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Douglas Belkin in WSJ, Liberal Arts Lose Luster.
“The big shift is cost,” said David Breneman, an economist and former college president, who has written about the pressures on liberal arts colleges, “People just can’t afford to be educated; they almost have to be trained.” The number of humanities degrees declined by almost 9% between 2012 and 2014, according to a 2016 analysis from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. That led to a drop in humanities’ share of all bachelor’s degrees to 6.1% in 2014, the lowest level since record-keeping began in 1948. Undergraduate students are opting instead for programs leading to jobs in homeland security, parks and recreation and health care.


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James Stewart in NYTBR on Duff McDonald’s book, The Golden Passport.
In virtually every instance, McDonald contends, Harvard has obsessively pursued money, sending a disproportionate number of its graduates to consulting firms beginning in the 1950s (it was all but synonymous with McKinsey), to Wall Street in the 1980s and to entrepreneurial start-ups once initial public offerings became the rage in the 1990s — and provided intellectual justifications for its actions. Much of that wealth found its way back to the school itself. Its professors earn enormous sums as consultants to businesses populated by their former students, who also give generously to their alma mater: Its endowment stood at $3.3 billion by 2015, a dedicated portion of the university’s enormous $32.7 billion. McDonald’s criticism of Michael Jensen, now an emeritus professor, is especially withering. As he sees it, Jensen bears major responsibility for the rapacious hostile takeovers and the obsession with stock prices and short-term results that led to the Enron and WorldCom scandals, as well as for the emergence of outlandishly high chief executive pay. Jensen came to the business school in 1984, just as the junk-bond-fueled takeover boom was gaining steam, and he became a full-time faculty member in 1989. Undeniably one of the most influential business theorists of modern times, he advocated an “agency” theory of management in which management’s sole duty was to maximize shareholder value. This upended the long-held “stakeholder” model, in which management was seen as having broader obligations to a corporation’s workers, customers and communities.


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Charlotte Shane in BOOKFORUM on Laura Kipnis’ book, Unwanted Advances – Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus.
Marshaling this enthusiasm, she handily identifies a number of interconnected problems. The first is that the so-called feminist framing of the issue of campus assault is "blatantly paternalistic," wrong from the start, because relying on a classic woman-in-peril narrative is far more likely to harm women than to help them.The second is that this framing also employs a "rhetoric of emergency" designed to quash any seed of criticism of measures adopted to combat sexual assault.And third, that there's been an unwarranted expansion of Title IX, which has been almost gleefully misapplied in recent years.


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Andrew Sullivan in NEW YORK, Is “Intersectionality” a Religion? .
Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., “check your privilege,” and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay. The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required. Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse. It enforces manners. It has an idea of virtue — and is obsessed with upholding it. The saints are the most oppressed who nonetheless resist. The sinners are categorized in various ascending categories of demographic damnation, like something out of Dante. The only thing this religion lacks, of course, is salvation. Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. It’s Marx without the final total liberation.


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Harvey Silverglate in WSJ, Trump and Congress Can Help Restore Campus Free Speech.
The law currently conditions federal funding on compliance with federal antidiscrimination laws such as Title IX, but it does not require schools – even public universities, which are bound by the First Amendment – to refrain from violating free-speech rights as a condition of funding. As a result, while universities spend millions on antidiscrimination efforts, speech codes are ubiquitous. According to a survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, 93% of colleges and universities prohibit constitutionally protected speech.


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Amy Marcus in WSJ, Lab Creations Raise Ethics Issues.
As tissue-engineering techniques enable the creation of different types of synthetic entitles, some scientists – who are studying these organisms for clues to human development and the origins of diseases – are starting to consider whether the ethical guidelines should be expanded. In a paper published Tuesday in the journal eLife, researchers in the lab of George Church at Harvard University seek broader guidelines to encompass characteristics of engineered embryo- and organ-like structures, which they refer to as “synthetic human entities with embryo-like features,” or SHEEFs. The paper’s four authors recount how, in 2015, a scientist in the lab was working with adult reprogrammed cells, trying to grow them into brain “organoids.”


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David Chen in NYT, Where Halls of Ivy Meet Silicon Dreams, a New City Rises.
New York has plenty of company, of course, as universities worldwide, in hopes of imitating the success of Stanford, which has collected well over $1 billion in royalties as innovations linked to its campus made their way into the market, build or repurpose their own facilities. The University of Oregon announced in December a $1 billion initiative for a new science campus, financed in part by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. “I think what you’re seeing is a culture change,” said Michael H. Schill, Oregon’s president, who founded N.Y.U.’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy more than a decade ago. “A lot of universities for which previously the words ‘applied sciences’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ were dirty words now are jostling with each other to get a piece of the game.”


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William Galston in WSJ, The Clinton Economy, the Left’s Ingratitude.
The Democratic Party is in the early stages of a much-needed debate about its economic agenda. But reshaping the future is no reason to rewrite the past. That’s what many self-styled progressives are now doing with their no-holds-barred rejection of Bill Clinton’s economic legacy. The latest participant in this self-defeating historical amnesia is AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who said in a recent interview that the Clinton administration was “the beginning of the schizophrenic days, when they needed workers’ votes but wanted Wall Street money, so they tried to serve two masters but were successful at neither.” This gets it exactly backward. In fact, both “masters” – indeed, all segments of the economy – prospered during Mr. Clinton’s eight years in office.


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Holman Jenkins in WSJ, America’s Most Anti-Reform Institution? The Media.
There may be much to regret in President Trump’s temperament, his nonmastery of detail, his estrangement from the facts. Not without utility, though, is his generalized disdain for the major media, the most reflexively anti-reform institution in American life. Both major parties look like hotbeds of free-thinking in comparison. The media are a major factor in the outcomes we get. Large spending commitments are willed into being without willing the tax revenues or economic growth to pay for them. Social Security and Medicare are in a $70 trillion hole. Unfunded pension and health-care liabilities of the states and localities are at least $2 trillion. Federal debt has doubled to $20 trillion in less than 10 years. GDP growth has fallen by half. In our next recession, annual deficits could quickly surge to $1 trillion. Our comeuppance lies in a less and less distant future. But today we get only the horror of any proposed budget cut. We get the intolerability of any entitlement reform – and will continue to get such reporting right up to the day when it all unravels.


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Bret Stephens in NYT, Climate of Complete Certainty.
As Revkin wisely noted, hyperbole about climate “not only didn’t fit the science at the time but could even be counterproductive if the hope was to engage a distracted public.” Let me put it another way. Claiming total certainty about the science traduces the spirit of science and creates openings for doubt whenever a climate claim proves wrong. Demanding abrupt and expensive changes in public policy raises fair questions about ideological intentions. Censoriously asserting one’s moral superiority and treating skeptics as imbeciles and deplorables wins few converts. None of this is to deny climate change or the possible severity of its consequences. But ordinary citizens also have a right to be skeptical of an overweening scientism. They know — as all environmentalists should — that history is littered with the human wreckage of scientific errors married to political power.


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Holman Jenkins in WSJ, Climate Editors Have a Meltdown.
But not even the EPA’s Mr. Pruitt or the New York Times’s newest recruit exhibits the ill grace to phrase the “so what” question. “So what” is the most important question of all. So what if human activity is causing some measure of climate change if voters and politicians are unwilling to assume the costs (possibly hugely disproportionate to any benefit) of altering the outcome of the normal evolution of energy markets and energy technology. Even liberals have noticed that climate advocacy has morphed into a religion, unwilling to deal honestly with uncertainty or questions of coast and benefit. Climate apoplexy, like many single-issue obsessions, is now a form of entertainment for exercised minorities, allowing them to vent personal qualities that in most contexts they would be required to suppress.


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Tarek Fatah in TORONTO SUN, It’s OK to Say Western Civilization Is Superior.
Should we who have our ancestors in Africa or Asia feel guilty when we are inspired by the Hobbesian covenant, the Lockean contract or the Rousseauian pact? Some in the Islamic world believe so, and condemn any learning that originates from the words of the “Kufaar” (Christians, Jews, Hindus, Atheists). But now it seems some in the West also feel it is racist for non-White people to look up to Europe’s past for inspiration. Across the world, non-European leaders in the 20th century aspired to lift their societies to match the rights and responsibilities that had become part and parcel of the psyche of Europe and North America. Whether it was followers of Marx or Milton Friedman, they aspired for the right to be free as equal citizens, free of tribalism and caste, and not to be rated by some hierarchy of race and religion.


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Bret Stephens in WSJ, ‘Other People’s Babies’.
Without immigration, our demographic destiny would become Japanese. But our culture wouldn’t, leaving us with the worst of both worlds: economic stagnation without social stability. Multi-ethnic America would tear itself to pieces fighting over redistribution rights to the shrinking national pie.


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Aaron Carroll in NYT, Birth Control Causes Depression? Not So Fast.
The study found that those who used hormonal contraception had significantly higher risks of also taking an antidepressant. The study broke down the increased relative risk for each hormonal method this way: combined oral contraceptives (23 percent), progestogen-only pills (34 percent), the patch (100 percent), vaginal ring (60 percent) and levonorgestrel intrauterine system (40 percent). The risks were highest in adolescents and decreased as women aged. The risks also peaked six months after the start of contraception. Needless to say, many news outlets covered this finding widely. Some portrayed it as shocking new information that should change the way we think about hormonal birth control. Others saw it as a vindication of many women who said for years that birth control had triggered their depression while scientists and doctors ignored them. But we have to acknowledge the limitations of this type of research. It’s not a controlled trial, and it’s impossible to establish causality. Women who choose to have sex could also be more likely to consider antidepressant use.


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Mark Smith in WSJ on Carolyn Purnell’s book, The Sensational Past.
Natural light governed the lives of working people, principally because candles were expensive. Night workers – such as baker boys known as “bats,” who worked in cheerless basements – learned to rely on their other senses, most notably touch. Patrons frequenting the markets also found sight less than reliable when it came to buying food. Smell and touch were the more trusty sentinels here; the murk of the markets meant that the color and health of fruits and vegetables simply could not be assessed visually. Hearing also augmented squinting eyes in the markets. Sounds, calls, shouts and noises helped map the spaces and also ascertain prices. The senses were also intimately tied to inner worth and character. “For Enlightenment consumers, a delicious food or beverage had more than just the power of giving a person pleasure,” writes Ms. Purnell; taste, it was held, could influence personality, emotions and intelligence. Take coffee, “the triumphant beverage of the Age of Enlightenment.” Considered a “sober liquor,” it stimulated creativity without courting the prospect of drunkenness…. Taste was also gendered: Coffee was deemed too strong for women; drinking chocolate was thought more suitable.


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Richard Paddock in NYT, Becoming Duterte: The Making of a Philippine Strongman.
His father told him that since he was always in trouble, he could save legal fees by becoming a lawyer, his brother recalled, so Rodrigo went to law school. In his final year, he shot and woun His father told him that since he was always in trouble, he could save legal fees by becoming a lawyer, his brother recalled, so Rodrigo went to law school. In his final year, he shot and wounded a fellow student whom he accused of bullying him. Mr. Duterte graduated anyway and became a prosecutor. “One thing about my brother is he is hardheaded,” Emmanuel Duterte said. “The more you tell him not to do it, the more he will do it. He needs to tone down on his anger. He needs anger management.” In the 1980s, his mother led frequent marches against President Marcos’s dictatorial rule. After his ouster, President Corazon Aquino offered her the post of Davao’s vice mayor. She asked that Rodrigo be appointed instead, friends and family said. Two years later, in 1988, he ran for mayor and won, starting a lifelong streak in which he has never lost an election. When he took office, much of Davao was a war zone. The iron rule of the Marcos era had ended, and Communist rebels held a large part of the city. Armed groups operated with impunity and assassinations of police officers were common. Making the city safe was Mr. Duterte’s biggest challenge, and one he accepted personally. Jesus G. Dureza, a high school friend who is now a cabinet-level adviser, recalls seeing him late one night in the taxi he often drove to patrol the city. Mr. Duterte said he was hunting for a man who had been robbing cabdrivers. Mr. Dureza noticed that his pistol was cocked. “He had a death wish,” Mr. Dureza said.


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Adrian Chen in NEW YORKER, The Tough Guy.
The day after insulting Obama, Duterte released a statement expressing regret that his comment “came across as a personal attack on the U.S. President.” In his outburst, Duterte had used the Tagalog phrase putang ina, which means, literally, “your mother is a whore.” But it is also used to communicate frustration, as in “son of a bitch.” “It’s just an expression,” Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s chief legal counsel, explained to the press. “I don’t think it was directed to President Obama.” A columnist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer provided foreign journalists with a satirical guide to “Dutertespeak”: “Putang ina really means ‘I firmly believe you are mistaken.’ ” Duterte thinks out loud, in long, rambling monologues, laced with inscrutable jokes and wild exaggeration. His manner is central to his populist image, but it inevitably leads to misunderstanding, even among Filipino journalists. Ernie Abella, Duterte’s spokesman, recently pleaded with the Presidential press corps to use its “creative imagination” when interpreting Duterte’s comments.


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Alexander Clapp in NATIONAL INTEREST, Prisoner of the Caucusus.
On April 2, 2016, Azerbaijan launched its most severe attack on Nagorno-Karabakh in more than two decades. From the south and north, a nighttime missile barrage preceded a large ground assault on frontline villages. “There were six explosions,” Kegham Aghajanyan, the principal of the Madagis village elementary school, told me, gesturing to a crater the length of a pickup truck several meters from the school’s doorway. “Most children were evacuated by truck.” The Armenians pushed back. In Yerevan, I met Marat Petrosyan, a nineteen-year-old sergeant who successfully knocked out three Azerbaijani tanks before passing out midfire; by the time he came fully to, he’d been declared a national hero in Armenian neighborhoods around the world. Heavy fighting ceased after four days and some four hundred casualties. Both governments took to state TV with pronouncements of victory, but only the Armenians had any genuine case for it. An Azerbaijani invasion twenty-two years and $30 billion in the making had the capture of three brambly hillsides near the Iranian border to show for itself. In antiquity, Nagorno-Karabakh marked the easternmost frontier of the mountainous Armenian watershed. The arrival of medieval Turkic nomads from Central Asia turned it into an ethnic borderland: Muslim shepherds from around the Caspian Sea brought their flocks to the Nagorno-Karabakh highlands during summer months. From 1920 on, the Bolsheviks “solved” the ethnic dispute through top-down divide-and-rule, making an autonomous republic of Nagorno-Karabakh situated entirely within the borders of Soviet Azerbaijan.


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Marian Brehmer at qantara.de, Sufis Targeted in Pakistan.
In Pakistan's unabating series of terror attacks, Sufi shrines are a recurrent target. The attack on the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh in the heart of Lahore, which killed more than 40 people in 2010, was especially traumatic for Pakistani Sufis. In the years that followed, attacks were carried out against Sufis in all parts of the country, most recently last November at the shrine of Shah Nurani in the western province of Baluchistan. Like no other shrine in Pakistan, the shrine in Sehwan is a symbol of the religious pluralism that is firmly rooted in this nation. Religious minorities are not only welcome at the tomb of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar – to this day, one of the guards continuing the family tradition of looking after the shrine is a Hindu. Not only that: women dance alongside men in the dhamal ritual. In the forecourt of the shrine, the otherwise ubiquitous separation of the sexes is repealed. This is why on 16 February, a large number of victims were women and children.


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INDIAN EXPRESS: Converted Hindus, Engineers Among 52 ISIS Terrorists Held by NIA.
Those arrested for allegedly being ISIS operatives were of different age group. A total of 28 were in 18-25 year group, 20 between 25 to 40 years and four were above 40 years, it said. A highest of 20 accused were graduates or engineers, 13 were matric passed, 12 were diploma holders, four were senior secondary passed while three were post-graduates with Master of Arts or Master of Computer Application degrees, the NIA said when releasing data on the arrests. Giving details of the religious affiliations of the accused, the agency said 50 per cent belong to ‘Ahle Hadith’, 30 per cent to ‘Tahligi/Jammat’ and 20 per cent followed Deobandi. Of these 52 Islamic State-influenced persons held by NIA, 85 per cent of them are Sunni Muslims and rest are converted from Hinduism and Christianity, a senior NIA official said.


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Hassan Moosa & Geeta Anand in NYT, Inhabitants of Maldives Atoll Fear a Flood of Saudi Money.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia was expected to visit the Maldives last week, but canceled at the last minute, citing a flu epidemic on the islands. It was widely assumed here that he wanted to avoid inflaming the dispute or facing protests. The Saudi interest in Faafu Atoll began with a 2014 visit by King Salman, then the crown prince, and his son Mohammed bin Salman, now the deputy crown prince. A year later, Prince Mohammed returned to host a week of parties. He and his entourage took over two resorts, said a person familiar with the plans. That person said guests had flown in night after night on private jets to attend the parties, which featured famous entertainers including the rapper Pitbull and the South Korean singer Psy. Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, formerly a member of Mr. Yameen’s economic and youth council, said that he had attended the signing of a memorandum of understanding between representatives of the Saudi royal family and the Maldives two years ago. He said he had been told that it involved selling the atoll, although he was not privy to the details.


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Hassan Moosa & Kai Schultz in NYT, Maldives Blogger Who Challenged Radical Islamists Is Killed.
The police said that Mr. Rasheed was found with multiple stab wounds in his apartment building in the capital, Malé, shortly before 3 a.m. He was rushed to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital and died soon after. The Republic of Maldives, a nation of nearly 1,200 islands southwest of India, is best known as a spectacular vacation destination. But the country, with fewer than 400,000 people, has also become a source of recruits for the Islamic State. The government said at least 49 Maldivians had traveled to Syria to fight with the group, also known as ISIS; a 2015 study by an international security firm said the number was about 200. The population, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim, has traditionally been liberal in its interpretation of Islam, with women rarely covering their heads. But a more conservative strain of Islam has spread in recent years under the increasing influence of Saudi Arabia, which sends religious leaders to the Maldives and offers scholarships to Maldivian students to study at Saudi universities.


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Joseph Croitoru at qantara.de, Saudi Arabia’s Entertainment Offensive.
The entertainment offensive is being pursued vigorously, despite this resistance. The head of the authority, Ahmad al Khatib – a former health minister and most recently advisor to the defence ministry and the king – has now announced no less than 3000 events in 22 Saudi cities for the present year. An ?entertainment calendar? shared via several websites and Twitter profiles provides details on festivals, concerts, plays, comedy shows, exhibitions and mass spectacles such as the Monster Jam motorsport event. One of the highlights of the coming months is the American actor Al Pacino's first appearance in Saudi Arabia. Pacino will talk about his life and acting career and answer audience questions in Riyadh on 11 May. The event is listed in the ?For Families? category, meaning it is theoretically open to both men and women. It would be up to the religious police to check whether the ?family members? really are relatives, but the force has recently shown noticeable reserve about enforcing the gender segregation required in all sectors. Entertainment authority head al Khatib, at least, feels the huge visitor numbers confirm his strategy. The first 77 events offered in the last quarter of 2016 were attended by more than 150,000 people, he recently told the Saudi press. Al Khatib sees the ?Saudi entertainment industry? as already on its own two feet, although he admits there is much to be done. Over time, increasing numbers of local businesses are to become part of the sector.


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Nasser Rabbat at qantara.de, The Decline of Humanism in the Arab World.
The union between Syria and Egypt only lasted from 1958 to 1961. At the time, I was still a little boy in Damascus. One of the few things I can remember from that era is the sight of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser on the balcony of the official guest house addressing an enthusiastic, frenetically cheering crowd in the square below. At the tender age of four, I imagined the crowd was cheering me as it chanted 'Nasser, Nasser'! I also recall my parents' furtive, whispered conversations about the increasingly tight control exercised by the secret services and the intimidation, torture and sometimes even murder of opposition activists. Despotism in itself was certainly nothing new in Syria; nor was torture. What was new was the organised structure applied to this oppression by the secret services run by Abdel Hamid al-Sarraj, Syria's strong man at the time…. Before al-Sarraj and Abdel-Nasser, state oppression was a matter of moods and circumstances; it was often driven by very personal, tribal, or clientage considerations, as well as by values of macho masculinity – namely magnanimity and forgiveness – that were deeply rooted in the pre-Modern structures of most of the very young Arab nation sates. After al-Sarraj and Abdel-Nasser, however, state persecution became an integral, structural part of the state apparatus and one of its primary instruments of control. Models were imported and adapted from both West and East, from the CIA and the French Deuxieme Bureau to the KGB and the East German Stasi.


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Patrick Kingsley in NYT, The Jihadi Who Turned to Jesus.
Exactly why he sought solace in Christianity, rather than a more mainstream version of Islam, no one can quite explain. Reading the Bible, Mr. Mohammad claimed, made him calmer than reading the Quran. The churches he attended, Mr. Mohammad said, made him feel more welcome than the neighborhood mosques. In his personal view, Christian prayers were more generous than Muslim ones. But these are subjective claims, and many would reject the characterization of Islam as a less benign religion, much as they would reject Nusra’s extremist interpretation of it.


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Harriet Sherwood & Philip Oltermann in GUARDIAN, European Churches Say Growing Flock of Muslim Refugees Are Converting.
Reliable data on conversions is not available but anecdotal evidence suggests a pattern of rising church attendance by Muslims who have fled conflict, repression and economic hardship in countries across the Middle East and central Asia. Complex factors behind the trend include heartfelt faith in a new religion, gratitude to Christian groups offering support during perilous and frightening journeys, and an expectation that conversion may aid asylum applications. At Trinity church in the Berlin suburb of Steglitz, the congregation has grown from 150 two years ago to almost 700, swollen by Muslim converts, according to Pastor Gottfried Martens. Earlier this year, churches in Berlin and Hamburg reportedly held mass conversions for asylum seekers at municipal swimming pools. The Austrian Catholic church logged 300 applications for adult baptism in the first three months of 2016, with the Austrian pastoral institute estimating 70% of those converting are refugees. At Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral in the UK, a weekly Persian service attracts between 100 and 140 people. Nearly all are migrants from Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere in central Asia.


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Mey Dudin at qantara.de, A Mosque for Athens.
Athens is one of the few European capitals – if not the only one – not to boast a large mosque for use by its Muslim population. Believers pray in dozens of private spaces in basements and rear courtyards. And this despite the fact that it is almost 40 years since the government promised to erect a mosque – something it has repeatedly put off due to vociferous resistance. Greek media reports say the mosque is now due to be completed in May. No official opening date has so far been announced. The decades-old conflict exposes the persistently difficult relationship between the Orthodox Christian nation, which was ruled by the Ottomans for several centuries, and Islam.


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Declan Walsh in NYT, Priest Prays in Cairo For a Church Made Legal.
To move the project along, Father Saad hired a Muslim contractor, which caused the price to rise sharply. He visited the construction site quietly, not wishing to attract attention. Then in August, Mr. Sisi’s government appeared to throw him a lifeline: a new law that contained a provision for the legalization of illegal churches. But the law, which has been criticized by international human rights groups as not going far enough, still allows the authorities to refuse permission for a slew of reasons, including the threat of violence from Muslim neighbors. So far the congregation has had no problems. On Sundays, worshipers file out in small groups to avoid scrutiny. Yet even the rickshaw drivers know it is a church, Father Saad said, so he and his congregation are bracing for possible trouble. Already the neighbors have made their displeasure known. The nearest mosque, Father Saad said, which is about 300 feet away, moved its loudspeakers closer and cranked up the volume during daily prayers. But he cannot complain because his church is illegal. It is also dangerous. Because the church lacks government permission, it has not received state protection since the recent Islamic State attacks. So while armed security officers guard a nearby Orthodox church, the door of Father Saad’s is monitored by scouts, including his daughters.


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Nour Malas in WSJ, Among Many Arabs, Erdogan Remains Model Reformer for Region.
The Results of the referendum, in which Turks voted by a slim margin to concentrate more power in the presidency, were met with supportive nods in corners of the Arab world, though the vote was marred by allegations of irregularities. Some of the nods came from citizens of countries led by monarchs or repressive regimes – a sign of how deeply split the Middle East is over ideas of reform and Islamist rule, and how relative and fluid those notions can be.


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Ulrich von Schwerin at qantara.de, Turkey Post-Referendum.
With the transition to the presidential system, Erdogan promised, the era of a "new Turkey" would begin. His visit to the graves of Menderes, Ozal and Erbakan can be understood as a nod to three heads of state who had themselves promoted a reform of the secular state order that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk bestowed on Turkey. As a result, his mentor Erbakan was forced by the military to stand down in 1997, Menderes was executed in 1961, while Ozal died 24 years ago in suspicious circumstances. Erdogan on the other hand has not only managed to survive a coup attempt by the military, but also to enforce a tailor-made presidential system against the resistance of the old elite.


***

Bartle Bull in WSJ on Christopher de Bellaigue’s book, The Islamic Enlightenment.
For the Middle East in the 19th century, to “modernize” meant to Europeanize. For the Ottomans, it was not Napoleon but weakness against the Russians that prompted the urge. In the 1820s and 1830s, Sultan Mahmud II set up a medical school, hired a Prussian officer to reform the army, and rode in a European saddle. At his medical school, Mahmud overturned an ancient Islamic proscription against human dissection and fought the fatalism that God’s untrammeled caprice puts at the heart of Sunni Islam.


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WSJ Weekend Interview, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
She chuckles here: “That’s a horrible phrase… ‘institutions of socialization’… but they’re there, in families, in schools, in universities, prisons, in the military as chaplains. And we can’t allow them to pursue their aims unchecked.” America needs to be on full alert against political Islam because “its program is fundamentally incompatible with the U.S. Constitution” – with religious pluralism, the equality of men and women, and other fundamental rights, including the toleration of different sexual orientations. “When we say the Islamists are homophobic,” she observes, “we don’t mean that they don’t like gay marriage. We mean that they want gays put to death.”


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Paul du Quenoy in NEW CRITERION on Pieter Judson’s book, The Habsburg Empire.
In a provocative thesis covering the last 150 years of the Empire’s existence, he argues instead that nationalism—the modern concept of an ethnic community defined by common linguistic and cultural traditions—complemented rather than challenged imperial governance. The “nations” that boldly asserted independence in late 1918 arose not from magically reawakened Herderian spirits of collective defiance but from deliberate measures taken by the imperial government itself to improve efficiency, undermine non-national sources of opposition, and—in its last decades—promote a supra-ethnic Habsburg patriotism based upon multiethnic inclusiveness and legally guaranteed civic equality. Rather than feebly reacting to angry waves of unstoppable national liberation, the Habsburg state proved remarkably adept at the reform, compromise, and balance it needed not merely to survive but to flourish. If its rulers held their thrones for more than six hundred years, something obviously had gone right. At the same time, the “nationalists” among the Empire’s dozen or so minorities made abundant use of imperial institutions not to destroy the empire but to reshape its structures to maximum local advantage.


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Adam Tooze in FT on Perry Anderson’s book, The H-Word – The Peripeteia of Hegemony.
What first Athens and then Sparta exercised, Aristotle tells us, was hegemonia. The term went out of use with the Romans – for them Republic and Empire sufficed. But as Perry Anderson shows in his fascinating history The H-Word, talk of hegemony was revived in the mid 19th century by those who fancied that in fractured, post-Napoleonic Germany, Prussia might play the role that Athens once had in Greece. Since then, talk of hegemony has never gone away. The term was put to use by revolutionary Marxists, International relations theorists, political scientists and economists. Today, hegemony is the bread and butter of highbrow op-eds.


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Stephen Mihm in NYTBR on Charles Morris’ book, A Rabble of Dead Money – The Great Crash and the Global Depression: 1929-1939.
“It is hard to conceive of the Great Depression absent World War I,” he says, and he begins his book with the colossal military miscalculations that sent Europe into the abyss. Most of the remainder of the book dwells at great length on the “disordered aftermath” of this conflict overseas, which he believes set the stage for the collapse. This is refreshing, and Morris traces in considerable detail the economic effects of the war, beginning with Europe’s abandonment of the gold standard and, even worse, the attempts to return to it at all costs (France gets particular blame for its “semi-messianic drive … to force a gold-based deflation on the rest of Europe”)…. Still, the average reader may not delight in being subjected to discussions of the nuts and bolts of war reparations and the endless negotiations in Europe over the gold standard. Morris does cover simultaneous developments in the United States, but these tend to showcase the underlying strength and resilience of the American economy. Though Morris acknowledges that the agricultural sector was a “laggard,” and grants that the stock market was getting a little frothy by 1929, he insists it was “international developments that pushed the United States over the brink” and into the Great Depression. Indeed, if there’s a culprit here, it’s Europe, especially Germany with France a close second. At times, Morris goes out of his way to pillory Germany. “The Germans paid the reparations by borrowing from the war’s victors, and rubbed it in by defaulting on the loans,” he notes in a typical comment. In this account, Weimar Germany comes across as a nation of hypocritical deadbeats.


***

Henry Kissinger in WSJ, The Man Who Saved Europe the Last Time.
From this posture, Adenauer heralded a historic turning point. The new Federal Republic would seek, in his words, “full freedom” by earning a place in the community of nations, not by pressure or by seizing it. Calling for an entirely new conception of foreign policy, Adenauer proclaimed the goal of “a positive and viable European federation” to overcome “the narrow nationalistic conception of the states as it prevailed in the 19th and 20th century… in order to restore the unity of European life in all fields of endeavor.” Adenauer’s conduct reinforced his rejection of European history. Tall, erect, imperturbable, his face immobile from an automobile accident in his youth, he exuded the serenity of the pre-World War I world that had formed him. Equally distinctive was his sparse speaking style. It conveyed that unobtrusiveness and performance, not exhortation or imposition, were to be the operating style for the new Germany.


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Martin Breum at euobserver.com, Power Struggle in Greenland.
Firstly, Greenland holds vast deposits of minerals of strategic importance to industry. These include some of the largest deposits of rare earth minerals outside China, which controls some 90 percent of the world’s rare earth mineral production. Already in 2012, Antonio Tajani, the then vice-president of the European Commission, travelled to Nuuk to strike a deal that would keep Greenland’s rare earth minerals out of the hands of the Chinese. In exchange, Greenland got EU support to develop a mining sector. The mining industry, however, has been hesitant to invest in Greenland with its harsh climate and limited infrastructure. Political instability in Greenland could push mining in Greenland further into the future. Secondly, Greenland has been sympathetic to the EU’s wish to increase its role in the Arctic. Greenland withdrew from the EU in 1985, the first nation ever to do so, long before Brexit, but today it enjoys cooperation with the EU over fisheries, which provides substantial revenues and support. Other Arctic players – Russia and Canada, in particular – have proven far less friendly to the EU’s Arctic plans. Brussels needs to remain a close friend to whomever wins the top job in Nuuk.


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Alissa Rubin in NYT, Stripped Village Homes Expose a Hollowing Out of France’s Heritage.
Throughout the French countryside, especially in less visited rural areas of eastern and central France, some homes have fallen victim to speculators who strip their architectural treasures and sell them, often abroad, leaving once graceful historic structures little more than empty shells behind gaily painted facades. In other cases, the owners themselves sell the architectural elements to raise some cash. Joinville’s losses are anything but an exception. The sales are for the most part legal, but the phenomenon is an element in the gradual depopulation of many of France’s villages, and what some fear is an ebbing away of French traditions and culture.


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Anne Sulvaine Chassany in FT, The Shadow of de Gualle Stalks the French Election.
Do we French have no politicians greater than Charles de Gaulle to celebrate? Perhaps not. The founder of the Fifth Republic exited French politics nearly half a century ago despised and humiliated, but it seems everybody still wants a piece of his legacy. As the meltdown of the mainstream parties that have governed for four decades heralds a new, potentially messy political era, French presidential candidates from right to left are conjuring up the general’s reassuring, fatherly figure to lure confused voters.


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Diana Johnstone at counterpunch.org, The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty.
Fifty years ago, it was “the left” whose most ardent cause was passionate support for Third World national liberation struggles. The left’s heroes were Ahmed Ben Bella, Sukarno, Amilcar Cabral, Patrice Lumumba, and above all Ho Chi Minh.  What were these leaders fighting for? …They were fighting for independence, for the right to determine their own way of life, preserve their own customs, decide their own future. They were fighting for national sovereignty, and the left supported that struggle. Today, it is all turned around.  “Sovereignty” has become a bad word in the mainstream left. National sovereignty is an essentially defensive concept. It is about staying home and minding one’s own business.  It is the opposite of the aggressive nationalism that inspired fascist Italy and Nazi Germany to conquer other countries, depriving them of their national sovereignty. The confusion is due to the fact that most of what calls itself “the left” in the West has been totally won over to the current form of imperialism – aka “globalization”.  It is an imperialism of a new type, centered on the use of military force and “soft” power to enable transnational finance to penetrate every corner of the earth and thus to reshape all societies in the endless quest for profitable return on capital investment. The left has been won over to this new imperialism because it advances under the banner of “human rights” and “antiracism” – abstractions which a whole generation has been indoctrinated to consider the central, if not the only, political issues of our times. The fact that “sovereignism” is growing in Europe is interpreted by mainstream globalist media as proof that “Europe is moving to the right”– no doubt because Europeans are “racist”. This interpretation is biased and dangerous. People in more and more European nations are calling for national sovereignty precisely because they have lost it.


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Michael Barone in WSJ on Amy Goldstein’s book, Janesville – An American Story.
Some readers may assume that “Janesville” is a guide to economically ravaged Trump voters. It is true that Rock County’s 62%-38% margin for Barack Obama in 2012 fell to 52%-41% for Hillary Clinton. But the focus is not on partisan politics: “Janesville” is more the story of a strong union town come to grief. Ms. Goldstein deftly sketches the city’s industrial history: how George Parker founded Parker Pen there in the 1880s; how Joseph Craig, a manager at a local tractor factory, enticed GM to open the auto plant in 1923; how both men generously endorsed civic institutions. She notes Janesville’s unusually nonviolent resolution of the illegal sitdown strikes against GM in 1936-37. But she mentions one pivotal event only briefly, noting how a GM-er’s grandfather participated in the United Auto Workers’ 67-day GM strike in 1970. Out of that strike came “30 and out” – retirement after 30 years, a provision demanded by workers who hated their jobs – and, later, generous retiree health benefits. After all, a 48-year-old retiree won’t get Medicare for 17 years. Business writers began characterizing GM as a health insurer with a side-line producing cars, and retiree pensions and benefits did much to send the company on the road to bankruptcy.


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Gina Kolata in NYT, Scientists Recover Ancient Human DNA from Cave Dirt.
Although DNA sticks to minerals and decayed plants in soil, scientists did not know whether it would ever be possible to fish out gene fragments that were tens of thousands of years old and buried deep among other genetic debris. Bits of genes from ancient humans make up just a minute fraction of the DNA floating around in the natural world. But the German scientists, led by Matthias Meyer at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, have spent years developing methods to find DNA even where it seemed impossibly scarce and degraded. “There’s been a real revolution in technology invented by this lab,” Dr. Reich said. “Matthias is kind of a wizard in pushing the envelope.” Scientists began by retrieving DNA from ancient bones: first Neanderthals, then Denisovans. To identify the Denisovans, Svante Paabo, a geneticist at the Planck Institute and a co-author of the new paper, had only a child’s pinkie bone to work with.


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Kenneth Chang in NYT, Ancient DNA Hints at How Horses Were Tamed.
Among the farm animals whose lives have become entwined with people, horses were a late addition. Dogs were the first animal friends of humans — wolves that scavenged for food among garbage piles and turned docile about 15,000 years ago, or possibly much earlier. Cattle, chickens and pigs were domesticated by people in different parts of the world between 8,000 and 11,000 years ago. It was only about 5,500 years ago that people in Central Asia started catching and keeping wild horses for meat and milk. Riding horses came later. In the new research, the scientists used a bit of bone from the horse skeletons — less than half a gram in most cases — to extract DNA. They were able to decipher the genomes for 11 of the 13 horses from the Scythian mound. They also analyzed the DNA of two stallions from a royal Scythian tomb 400 years earlier, and one mare, dating to 4,100 years ago, that belonged to a nearby, earlier people, the Sintashta, who had already figured out how to use horses to pull two-wheeled chariots.


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Terry Anderson in WSJ, Utah Faces Down the Rock-Climbing Industrial Complex.
In fact, profits from recreation are what drive the politics of federal land management. More wilderness for backpackers means that wealthy, healthy Gen Xers and millennials will buy more backpacks, tents, boots, mountain bikes and high-tech clothing for trekking into the backcountry. To take one example, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which is calling on the Trump administration to budget more for “intact, working landscapes,” has argued that outdoor recreation generates $646 billion in direct spending while supporting six million jobs. But the foundation of these profits is an enormous subsidy from the American taxpayer. Every year the federal government spends millions to support recreation, without earning much revenue from those campers, bikers and hikers. For every dollar that the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management spent on recreation from 2009-13, they took in less than 30 cents….


***

Andrew Marantz in NEW YORKER, Alt Dance-off.
Recently, she took a Saturday-night gig, at a downtown cigar bar. “I was told that it would be a group of journalists having an eighties-themed party,” she said. She was not told that the party would be called the Real News Correspondents’ dinner—not the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, and not Samantha Bee’s “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” but a smaller event, held as a form of right-wing counterprogramming…. The first speaker was Lucian Wintrich, from the Gateway Pundit. He introduced Gavin McInnes, a talk-show host and a self-proclaimed “Western chauvinist,” who took the microphone from Wintrich and kissed him on the mouth. “You can’t get AIDS from kissing, right?” McInnes said. He wore a studded denim vest, and his face was smeared with dirt. “This is how I dressed in the eighties,” he said. “I was an anarchist punk, and I think in many ways I still am.” He argued that the G.O.P. was the party of freedom. “You became the Nazis, Democrats,” he said. “You became the Fascists.” He concluded with what he called “a poem that I just came up with right now.” The poem was a chant: “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”


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Neil Steinberg in CST, My Final Calls with ‘Concrete’.
Concrete had been phoning me at the newspaper for 15 years. Once a week, once a month – it’s not like I kept track. He’d comment on columns, talk about stuff in a blunt, rounded Chicago voice, massaging his “t’s” into “d’s.” “Hi, it’s Concrede,” he’d say. He was informed, often complimentary. But still, for years I viewed him as something of a nuisance. I had work to do. I’d surf the web while we talked. It’s not something I thought much about. I had no idea, for instance, why I called him “Concrete.” Over the past few months, he got sick – heart failure – and started to die. I began paying closer attention.


***

Obituary of the Issue Dick Contino (1930-2017)
With muscled arms built up with barbells and Charles Atlas’s dynamic tension exercises, Mr. Contino played the accordion like a rock star. His fingers flew over the keys. Elvis-like, he wiggled, shook and swaggered. He played polkas, jazz, romantic songs, show tunes and folk music. And, of course, “Lady of Spain.” But his onstage physicality belied his early shyness. “Playing the accordion was like he was talking to you,” his brother Victor said in an interview. Mr. Contino started playing his father’s accordion and learned so well, and so quickly, that at 18 he won $5,000 in a contest staged by the popular bandleader and radio star Horace Heidt. Mr. Contino’s popularity soared when he played with Mr. Heidt’s band. Restless, Mr. Contino sued to break away from Mr. Heidt’s contractual control, but settled and stayed for a while before leaving.



Thanks to Archie Patterson…


















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3 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Kissinger. Now you are making me really mad! So tell me something, what is so great about a murdering scumbag who brought Pinochet to power? Have a secret love affair with tyrants? It really disgusts me when Israel whines about how Nazis treated them yet prop up dictators like Pinochet. Oh yeah I'm anti-Semitic, right? Not that I like Nazis or those fucking skinheads either. Of course you'd like Skrewdriver cos that's just like the 70s cock-rock you think is so great! Keep up your war on 'limey fagwave',asshole!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kissinger. Now you are making me really mad! So tell me something, what is so great about a murdering scumbag who brought Pinochet to power? Have a secret love affair with tyrants? It really disgusts me when Israel whines about how Nazis treated them yet prop up dictators like Pinochet. Oh yeah I'm anti-Semitic, right? Not that I like Nazis or those fucking skinheads either. Of course you'd like Skrewdriver cos that's just like the 70s cock-rock you think is so great! Keep up your war on 'limey fagwave',asshole!

    ReplyDelete