The New Vulgate

a new low in topical enlightenment

Friday, March 1, 2024

Issue #162 (March 3, 2024)

Quarry Pond, Naperville
Photograph by Joe Carducci

Violet Montgomery

In passing, five men, two women, six hens, one spider, two friends, one waitress and 85 children have mentioned I’m the ugliest woman in Cincinnati, Ohio.
In just, this week alone.
Oh, I’m forgetting, my 82-year-old landlord mentioned I have a healthy relationship with my sexuality, for someone so ugly.
Or for one inherently disliked by society based on one's physicality.
I found that compelling at first glance.
Poetic, even.
Five hours, I had checked out, paralyzed by his stance.
Realizing, tough as I am, his words, deformed the way of which I thought I knew to stand proud.
Despite the recognition, in which is long standing within my shallow skull: God didn’t put good looks on my side.
A young mother I met on Instagram, who’s 23, shares: “I wish I was youthful and beautiful like you.”
Me, 22.
Meanwhile this mother is loved, and praised by nearly everyone she meets.
Far more than God could ever let a woman hear, I fear, even beautiful as she.
Her world, promises of ethereal consciousness for her small waist line shines.
While mine, curvy and grooved compensates with a district of thieves.
Butcher shops to disguise the crimes they commit at night.
The cliche dump-site bourgeois owners and proletariat garbage-men.
Who give not a fuck to pick up all the rubbish women of my kind allow to feed their mind.
Crinkly, shiny, wrappers, with 99-cent embellished velour.
Cheap whore...
Leading for my side of Cincinnati, to have rotten fish piled to the top of 25-foot buildings, as those crooks and fucks give not a damn about the ugly women that inhabit that nook of land.
Nor cleanliness nor beauty that is their surround.
Further, there is no authority, around this part of town, unfortunately to share the stance, for man to be of gold not charcoal.
“Make way, ugly bitches” the police cars shriek upon the rare occurrence of an obese woman having a stroke, picking her up to go to the morgue.
There is no rape on my side of town, as all women are bleak, and have to beg for their plump legs to be raised for intercourse, once in their lifetime if God takes a chance.
Or, upon urban myth, to increase chance, pray five thousand and twenty-two times a day, equating to be 7 hours a day, in prayer, of hope, for a schmuck to rock your guts.
Though, on the opposite part of town, the Beautiful Northern Side, where beautiful skinny women reside, of eternal consciousness, it is like heaven, though those who inhabit know the world to be no other way.
But for me, it’s a land of which there is no horror insight and a land I can believe God prophesied.
There lives the young mother beside a forest with doe, mama deer, daddy bucks, fairies glistening in the lavender grass, and a shadow reflecting her and every resident’s every move in a fluorescent green which resembles gas station drinks.
It is in that land, that smells of cotton candy and newborn babies, where the young woman walks around with a baby blue gingham pram.
Her baby never cries, for in its peripheral, his mother is in site, a woman who reflects the angels in the afterlife.
The young mother strolls, humming to a non-existent beat on the mosaic-paved street.
Outside the cottage the young mother's husband gifted her two days after announcing her pregnancy.
For it was that day, his pride bounced from wall to wall upon the acknowledgment his bloodline was to be blessed, for he had done good, by the name of the men that came before he.
Though, more impressively, in a tone too quiet for her to hear the flowers whispered compliments to her nonstop on her walk.
And in fact, not just on her walk, but anytime she laid a toe out the door.
Though too faint for those of beautiful figures to be aware of, the whispers were just loud enough for those oppressed by the ugliness of their figure to perceive.
Creating the vision for all who were not blessed by beauty, of beautiful women aloofly walking around Northern town, who have grown immune through the routine, never to acknowledge the thousands of budded blooms complimenting them.
Though, for that seemingly insincerely insecure mother, I imagine how it would feel if she could hear all the sweet words, all the sweet admiration.
All the flowers, and all other photosynthesizing greens screaming their adoration.
She'd never believe, that for me, this is my real life, to watch no dream.
My ex-husband once mentioned, before he left me for a northern woman, “there are mental adaptations in recognition in those who are ugly, that make for a compelling fuck, and that, my love, is why, I love you.”
I blink my eyes, one, two, three times....
Shoving the pillow closer to my stomach, elongated by gluttony, I exhale, recognizing my clenched jaw, kicking my legs that had grown stiff on the mount of my old, stained, red couch.
My space heater moving in circles, running heat against the draft at me.
I remember where I am...
The clock now reads 6:25.
Five hours and twenty-five minutes since I was stopped in my tracks, by the eighty-something year-old man mentioning my physical imperfections are nothing to be ashamed of.

[illustration: Union Terminal, Cincinnati - photograph by Violet Montgomery]

Red Rocks, Nevada
Photograph by Joe Carducci

Antifa for Trump
Joe Carducci

   Marketing in the postwar period zeroed in on the commuter and the homemaker, and then their kids - the baby boom. America was about the only economy still standing after the war and broadcast and print advertising overtook the culture, and not just high end arts and letters. The old "cathedral" radio as the center of the family room gave way to a television by 1960. Then transistor radios spread to every other room and the car. Then televisions spread everywhere and finally personal computers, the internet and the cellphone centralized all media and made it totable. The electronic media slowly, then suddenly ate the print media. But the marketing energy was, as I've written, the superior product of desperate, more diabolical minds and it flipped the cultural inherited fact of music, news, and theatrical works which had once been "brought to you by Alka Seltzer" but now were demoted to content, windowdressing for the real transaction - the marketing data needs of the conveyance software and hardware manufacturers. Today if you aren't dropping out of this overt/covert vertigo regularly to read long form journals or books or even to watch a goddamn movie then you will lose the thread of meaning and... good day to you sir, madame. Those phoning it all in may be with-it, they are certainly in tune with the zeitgeist, standing in the infostream, wading in ever deeper as they follow the sirens' song designed to lead them away from the texture and smell of reality for maximum consistent monetization for further leveraging in the footrace for next, revealing, what..., some final substrata of biological, material self-loathing perhaps. We just saw Apple's marketing debut for its Vision Pro goggles which they hope will leapfrog Meta's VR Oculus scuba mask system. Here's hoping our post-George Floyd crime wave or the new driverless autos will clear these imbeciles from our streets.

   I was born in 1955 so the signal shifts in marketing I noticed first-hand began in the late 1960s when I entered high school and began reading newspapers and watching the news regularly - becoming a witness to events as immediated (meaning, exposed to them yet shielded from them in some strange pro forma way). I was preparing to be a writer. A couple years earlier I read only Mad magazine if I could help it. The Chicago AM stations I listened to, WLS and WCFL, staggered their five-minute newscasts at the top of the hour so one could switch back and forth and proceed newsless. When I bought some aircheck cassettes to revisit 1960s Top 40 AM radio for a book of mine I was struck by the sugar-buzz pace of everything that wasn't the song itself. The buzz of advertising and disc jockey patter ended at the song (but crowding the song's intro and fade-out). Airchecks cut out the song itself to showcase the DJs, now DJs rap over looped noise arrangements for kids who never were grounded in churches or schools - no bible stories, no times tables, no rock and roll... But in our lives back then, the media-buzz ended at school and church. We went to Mass - the Latin Mass! - every day before school and on Sundays. That was some grounding. We Catholics envied public school kids, naturally, as their progressive educators pulled them up out of the Protestant American soil to dry out rootless. And today the buzz of mere tv and radio is considered "linear" as it dissolves into the brownian motion of social media as we wait to get chips installed in our brains. Which brings to mind the late Lester Bangs' prescient 1977 Elvis obit's summation: "We will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis. So I won’t bother saying good-bye to his corpse. I will say good-bye to you." (Village Voice)

   I don't doubt that any changes in ballyhoo I noticed occurred within the slipstream of earlier, even more fundamental alterations well before my time. America is herself the product of a revolutionary new idea, after all. And frankly we did need someone to tell us that cereal was supposed to stay crunchy even in milk. A couple of early jingles that regularly come to mind as I think about the news are George Washington's warning about "entangling alliances," which lost its staying power back around Teddy Roosevelt or so, and Robert Goodloe Harper's 1798 slogan, "Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute," and how it might apply today when public servants routinely order up technological breakthroughs from the future for deliverance of today's policy ends. (Who made Cobalt and Lithium mining sustainable?) Recent changes play out more unpredictably than ever in real time; but what is real time anymore? America was where the leading edge of modernity had stumbled upon a regnant stone age just as it was entering the bronze age in 1492. All those goddamn westerns are about that historical ouroboros. Modernity had the edge then. Today the global South's third worldful of pre-modern iron age ideas of blood and soil is pouring into what one must call a post-modern global North where everything is a social construct in the decadent vernacular of a rather bloodless, neutered academe. These immigrants from the old worlds are mostly just ambitious people; they certainly are genuine in their belief in two sexes and their lack of multi-cultural experience, so expect them to recharge waning American racism and sexism as they decide who to vote for.

   One measure of overall recent change in branding that stands out is the use of the word controversial. In high school I got into stand-up comedians on television, radio, and record. Wayne Juhlin on WDAI overnights (1-5am) played comedy tracks and had Second City performers in as guests taking calls pretending to be self-help gurus. That show was where I first heard Lenny Bruce bits such as "Father Flotsky's Triumph," from his 1958 LP, Interviews of Our Times. By the time I heard Lenny Bruce, he was dead. I read his autobiography, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People and a book of transcripts, The Essential Lenny Bruce. Soon there was a biography by Albert Goldman as well as double- and triple-albums showcasing Bruce's increasingly free-form, associational performances just before his overdose death in 1966. Lenny Bruce was no longer seen as a sick and corrupt menace - his 1959 album was even titled, "The Sick Humor of Lenny Bruce," mocking even truth in advertising. In death he was re-branded as a social critic, a moralist, a prophet, even a martyr for freedom of speech. People were liberals then, not progressives. Bruce had been controversial, a suit-wearing creature from the fifties dropping out of Sinatra's world to work "blue" in burlesque houses until winding up essentially touring America's jails for talking dirty in public. After his death the working class world that had enforced an inherited public etiquette for polite society - even for adult mixed-company in nightclubs! - began to pass from the scene. The 1968 Democratic Convention was a more focused point of collision between the old frame of reference and the new. CBS's canceling of the The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1969 was another signal collision of the era. They had made repeated anti-war comments during network entertainment. Tom and Dick Smothers were folkies after all, but suddenly the burden of what Roosevelt, Wilson and Roosevelt wrought with their progressive, responsible, burden-shouldering, democracy-defending entanglings was recast as a moral crime, and by neo-progressives at that. I read novels instead of paying attention in high school and one I recall fondly is Ira Levin's, This Perfect Day. It's Levin's only unfilmed novel, which makes me suspect that Klaus Schwab secured the film rights and commenced to crib his life's work from this story of a narcotized one-world society run by technocrats from under a mountain in Switzerland. The hero blows up their supercomputer, so, you know, it was controversial then, but now it would be Controversial!

   I spent over a year at college in Denver, a year in Chicago and a year in Hollywood and hadn't managed to do much with my writing. I moved to Portland, Oregon in 1977 and it turned out to be the right size town and interesting things were possible there. I worked at Cinema 21, started at Renaissance Records which we built into Systematic Record Distribution, and got a radio show on the Pacifica affiliate, KBOO. Portland's punk scene was getting together around Ice 9, Neo-boys, The Wipers, and others. Writers like John Shirley and Katharine Dunn, and artists like Eva Lake and Michael X. King made the scene which intermingled music, movies, art, theater, poetry, drugs, sex and record collecting. Everyone was an anarchist of one sort or another - in a word: controversial. I had already written for The Match!, a Tucson paper and had ordered books from Mother Earth Books in Seattle. Beginning in Chicago I did a study on Makhno, Nechaev, Kropotkin, Bakunin, as well as the usual gang of Marxist idiots before moving to the west coast. Probably Lenny Bruce, Edward Abbey, and the Three Stooges were my political mentors. David Lightbourne was a personal mentor; he worked at Cinema 21, did a 1950s rock and roll radio show, had a 1920s-style band with Fritz Richmond - The Metropolitan Jug Band - and he frequently sat in with Steve Weber's Portland line-up of the Holy Modal Rounders. Lightbourne was also a pioneer of 1970s drug smuggling before it involved big money and bloody business. Dave thought his compadre-in-crime, Tom Wood, had been killed in Mexico largely because he didn't carry around a paintbrush or a guitar. Today the Northwest produces an Antifa full of Toms, rather than Daves.

   I knew the Northwest anarchist culture before moving to Berkeley with Systematic at the end of 1979. In February 1980 I took the train right back up to Portland to check out the First International Symposium on Anarchism at Lewis & Clark College; anarchists of the punk and hippie and wobblie eras were involved, the Neo-boys played and papers were presented by Sam Dolgoff, Paul Avrich, and other less specialized academics. I saw Dolgoff waiting for an elevator and asked him if he knew what had happened to The Match!; he said in his Russian-Bronx-Lower East Side accent: "Fred had psychologic problems." No doubt! (I was surprised to see a relaunched Match! in Tower's magazine stand decades later.) Berkeley's political culture seemed more a product of the University, Bob Avakian's Revolutionary Communist Party, and Tim Yohannan's "Maximum RocknRoll" - a radio show that began in 1977 and launched a fanzine in 1982. Berkeley had a sturdier pre-hippie radical base. The Pacifica Foundation was started by two conscientious objectors in 1946 and it began broadcasting at KPFA FM in 1949. One saw many old Volvos in Berkeley and knew that had to do with KPFA's lifestyle marketing, the Vietnam War and probably even Sweden's neutrality in WWII. I remember seeing The Day After Trinity at the Pacific Film Archive in 1980; it was a doc about Oppenheimer and I slowly realized that the audience was made up of UCB Physics and Lawrence Livermore Lab people because everytime Edward Teller came on the screen the audience hissed like it was at a Saturday matinee at the Bijou. I followed politics but I stayed with the arts, trying to focus on the best music generally while being too anti-social to organize anything but record distribution. I explained to Tim Yohannan once that I was interested in the best stuff in any style - Tony Bennett, Black Flag.... He was from New Jersey; he laughed. In the world of punk rock Maximum RocknRoll did the reverse; they began to drop their interest in old garage rock and other strains of punk for a streamlined, left wing hardcore and world revolution.

   SDS radicals had called their einsatzgruppe, Weatherman, when Bob Dylan distinctly sang that you don't need a weatherman. This confirms that politicos just can't hear the muse. Bill Ayers' and Bernardine Dohrn's favorite president Barack Obama when he was a bright-eyed community organizer in Chicago was quickly disappointed to find that his community just wanted him to organize the repair of toilets and elevators in their housing projects. He didn't want to hear what they wanted; that might confirm America's first commandment: The customer is always right. He wanted them to listen to him tell them what they wanted: snake oil liniment! In Chicago Richard M. Daley, like his dad, talked like a dummy but was actually the ventriliquist. He could drink water while his dummies gave orders because, frankly, they'd been able to reverse the flow of the Chicago River to flush sewage to Saint Louis. What else might they do?! Daley transplanted the late reformist mayor Harold Washington's braintrust into what was left of the Daley Machine as he threw his voice and pulled puppet strings. Before he got connected, Obama ran against ex-Black Panther-now-party-stalwart Bobby Rush for his seat in the U.S. Congress - that was the first time I saw his name in the papers. I thought, "Barack Obama - who is that poor sacrificial lamb?" He lost by thirty points to a guy who speaks Chicagoese worse than Daley.

   Barack was thought to have promise because he speaks the King's English, but Southside experts advised him that if he married his Dutch-Asian fiance he'd never be elected to anything in Chicago so he married Michelle Robinson instead. Her father worked for the city and was a precinct captain for the Cook County Democrats. Barack was further lucky that Daley feared he might challenge him for Mayor of all Chicago toilets and elevators so he sent him to Washington, D.C. No paintbrush, no guitar, not even a pipe wrench but into the White House you go! It's only now, all these years later that the street radicals, community activists and teachers union organizers Obama ran with have seized the organs of what's left of the old machine in what's left of old Chicago. Are these Saul Alinsky's grandkids? No, they are dumber and far more pretentious. Are they Bill and Bernardine's kids? No, they will never be half as high on their own stash as those two were... They are more like only children - an American version of China's "little emperors" caused by the Party's one-child policy. These people aren't controversial, they simply want to defund the police, end magnet schools, and hate Israel. First though they must sell black and brown Chicagoans and public and private sector unions on the idea that they want more immigration not less. That may keep them busy…

   That word controversial retained a positive ring for decades. The perspective that privileged anything that could be slotted in as "blows against the empire" had been built by Margaret Mead, Alfred Kinsey, Paul Goodman, Norman O. Brown and thousands of repressed malcontents who could speak or write a good game. Many of them had helped build the empire over the resistance of the old, regionally decentered, folk America. But it didn't matter how prickly and individualistic their busy body revolt; they believed in socialism! Some seemed to want upheaval for its own sake or to relieve boredom. Others thought American exceptionalism was unfair if true. From this side of the sexual revolution they seemed mostly just horny. They may even have suspected they would be among the first consumed by any successful revolution but, you know, problem solved for any existentialist... Prince's 1981 album was titled, "Controversy", so that positive ring got recharged by the election of Ronald Reagan. Once considered a madman, his election and Margaret Thatcher's in Britain rerouted the aesthetically productive punk rock absurdist challenge into pat, socialist protest. Prince wanted to be controversial; he also wanted to be Italian. Mike Douglas or Merv Griffin or Dick Cavett used to introduce Jerzy Kosinski or Peter Fonda or Gloria Steinem as controversial!

   Once Hillary Rodham was elected First Lady of America in 1992 the word controversial lost its sexy ring.  Suddenly, controversial was not a positive. It now served, rather, to imply that the straights were still The Man, while Lenny and Hillary and we-all/you-all were decidedly not The Man, were in fact still outsiders, powerless but for our drop-out freedoms of the hippie era which claimed to measure such things against new criteria or perhaps an older, natural, long suppressed one. You could ask Bill. The theater of it all, though, called for something that he and Hillary did not actually believe in. That was no problem for him - he was a born snake-oil salesman from the South - but Hillary seemed most upset that the political moment demanded she play the wronged wife (or even the wronged feminist) when their power-couple open-marriage had always allowed Bill to be Bill. We knew what he is while we still don't quite know what she is. And whatever feminists really thought, Hillary needed Bill to be re-elected so women God help us were not believed. That old, passing New Deal working class etiquette still had some sort of zombie life in it after all, at least until NBC's Tom Brokaw's 1998 book, Greatest Generation, rebranded those we now know as the parents of the deplorables, covered them in glory and shoveled on the dirt.

   Today, controversial is a term that implies not a person cutting a sexy profile in the world, but rather, someone beyond the pale - racist, sexist, fascist... problematic! - and on his way (and he is mostly male) to a well-deserved jail term or media freeze-out. Is it simply that the boomers took over demographically from their depression-era/WWII veteran parents and so it's their dudgeon that obtains? Dashing rogues such as Hugh Hefner or Timothy Leary had been controversial in the context of a mass media which, though full of leftish, progressive folk, understood their position as translators and editors of arts and letters for the masses at the other ends of their newspapers, magazines, radios, and televisions. They could only apply a gloss to the outre; they couldn't quite normalize or endorse it. This was the high-low pact of the New Deal bargain; it depended on an elite that would submit as well, at least publicly, to a general national morality that would aid the working class in its struggle to maintain family discipline and purpose against the decadent forces of chaos once known as American freedom but now known as The Sixties. There was even a kind of midwestern-face or southern-face often put on by the Manhattan minstrelsy networks (Huntley, Brinkley, Chancellor, Cronkite, Brokaw, Moyers, Rather, MacNeill, Lehrer, Donahue, Carson, Cavett...) to sell it all. This was how even the "Tiffany" network, CBS, could specialize in product like The Beverly Hillbillies and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., et. al. The Civil Rights movement of that era had been started by religions and churches but the Revolutionists had lost their faith and got stuck on the ideological glue-trap of Marxism, and American Communists had always opposed racism against black people because they hoped to enslave everyone equally. Black Lives Matter may be trained Marxists but that's not to say at this late date that they believe in communism.

   Interestingly on the fall of Communism in Europe the suddenly truly worldwide economy vaulted large international corporations and national champions to a global scale which seemed to make them a new threat to national cultures and mores. This was what Marx had predicted would happen before Communism. The Communist Party control of the Peoples Republic of China wobbled in the wake of the end of the U.S.S.R., but to avoid that fate economic reform was accelerated after the June 1989 massacres at Tiananmen Square and elsewhere across China. These reforms were half-assed and ultimately favored only state-owned enterprises or province-backed ones since there was barely a civic culture left after all of Mao's destruction. But what American and European factory floors had survived the Japanese, South Korean, and Taiwanese challenges were not surviving the Chinese challenge of seemingly limitless cheap labor and state-directed capital, plus the duplicity of the mandated local partners who typically ran the I.P. out to a secret, wholly-owned Chinese factory that went to town bootlegging any partnership's product. Chinese communists could slaughter thousands, imprison millions, brainwash a billion and still produce high quality goods and move up the value chain to electronics, automobiles, planes.... By the end of the 1990s China was being invited into the WTO, or rather, the free peoples of the West and East were being sold the ultimate bill of goods by their own governments and corporations under the auspices of unaccountable global entities. It was as if they thought they didn't need factories and their people didn't need jobs, or maybe it was simple, reflexive class war, or maybe to be charitable they thought that membership itself would change China's behavior.

   The co-chairs of the 1999 World Trade Organization's Seattle ministerial conference were Boeing's Phil Condit and Microsoft's Bill Gates. Other sponsors included banks, telecoms, carmakers, IBM, Caterpillar..., companies now scaling up from the West to service Russia, Eastern Europe, China, Vietnam, and maybe someday even Cuba. Seattle was primed to present itself as a world capital on the map of the future. They seemed to know nothing of the Northwest's anarchist subculture and were surprised at the vehemence of a bunch of espresso-drinking weirdos' rejection from the left of their globalistic project. Didn't Muscovites love their new McDonald's, wtf?! In Seattle, then, some strata of cognitive dissonance clanged out as the Bolshevik pursuit of power spread throughout the democratic socialists and the anarchist left, leaving populists alone tied to the private sector constituency for economic success and good union wages. Pat Buchanan was running for president again in 1999 and went to Seattle to make his point that American sovereignty should be defended against both the WTO and free trade itself as Republicans and Democrats understood it. AP quotes Pat saying:

"The WTO should never have been created. It's an embryonic monster.... It takes away from the tens of thousands who are walking to demonstrate that their jobs and their security and their American dreams are being sold out.... By bringing China into the WTO and by seeking to grant China unrestricted, open access to the greatest market on Earth without asking anything in return, Bill Clinton in my judgment is dealing away the human rights of the Chinese people, selling out the workers of the United States and impairing the sovereignty of this country.″ (Buchanan Praises WTO Protesters)

Buchanan deplored the black bloc's bow in downtown Seattle but he supported the labor union demonstrations. Earlier that decade Pat had made his "Culture War" speech at the 1992 Republican Convention. I remember ABC's David Brinkley declaring immediately after it, "Now that was a great political speech!" I also saw its money shot running in loop at the 1993 Whitney Bienniale as if the entire art world was proud to be at war with such a person and such a country. But the Battle of Seattle was another development threatening to smudge or erase time-honored battle lines so the news media got on the same page to misinterpret-for-effect; the networks could still pull that off.

Pat Buchanan got little traction from the electorate and the Republican Party was still on its Cold War footing. It hoped to whistle past the graveyard with George W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney..., finding new responsibilities for the military-industrial complex while the Democrats would be satisfied with incremental growth of the social services state. Pat's example with third party efforts convinced Ron Paul to stay a Republican and Bernie Sanders a Democrat even though each had their Iowa upsets and untold mo' stolen from them by those parties and under cover of that newsmedia. Presidential politics settles around the business cycle; maybe it has gradually harmonized with it. In the wake of any economic boom as tax collections rise the fight over the new revenue inspires three responses: A few conservatives wanted to return the money to the people by way of tax cuts. More Republicans act as if that's a nice idea but impossible in practice and that therefore the only responsible thing to do with the new revenue was to give as much as possible to the Pentagon so that at least the country is stronger for it, as they expect the Democrats to succeed in spending the rest and more in all directions on social needs and political vote-buying.

   In any case Islamic terrorism strung everyone along - after 9/11 I don't recall anyone saying, "Gee, I wish Al Gore was president, don't you?" The post-Vietnam Republican franchise on bold, responsible heavy-lifting action in the conduct of the dirty cowboy business of America out in the world of entangling alliances still held. Just before the Al-Qaeda attacks Donald Rumsfeld was failing in his effort to reform the armed services, to force them to plan and work together so that smaller mobilizations could happen quickly, thus preventing the so-called Powell Doctrine's demand for overwhelming public consensus before committing troops anywhere from becoming a barrier to necessary leadership in the world. The intelligentsia believes The People want leadership and so FDR's campaigning to stay out of WWII while scheming to enter it is considered a profile in courage. GWB was accused of not connecting the dots pre-9/11 so afterwards he started connecting dots like a motherfucker and invaded Iraq before they got the bomb - leadership alright but profile in courage denied. Still, the notion that the 2004 election had been stolen from John Kerry, this time in Ohio, didn't raise the same media storm. Bush II was successfully whistling past the graveyard. Saddam's program it turned out had been stopped but in intimating that he still had an ongoing covert program to match Iran's he misjudged the post-9/11 moment. Iran also misjudged the moment but gets a pass; it will get the bomb and its martyr complex will put up or shut up. The reform of anything but Pentagon strategy was off the table for the foreseeable future. And the lesson of Iraq was buried under the attempt by the Coalition Provisional Authority, a creature of the Pentagon with U.N. cover, to administer the country. Rumsfeld had argued to grab Saddam and get out of Dodge. Which brings us back to the expanding void of incompetent yet grasping national and international bureaucracies. They need more money to throw into their furnaces - our tribute to their expertise.

   After the decay of Communist ideology, the "color revolutions" in eastern Europe (Yugoslavia, Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan...) look like urban progressive revolts against rural traditionalist rule - a social dynamic which can be seen everywhere from the U.S. and France to Iran and Venezuela. To the extent these revolutions were Western interventions, they began with the seemingly doomed effort to get post-Soviet Russia's first president Boris Yeltsin re-elected in 1996. His challengers were Communist Party candidate Gennady Zyuganov, the former General Alexander Lebed, and the Liberal Democratic Party candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky. They were all polling ahead of Yeltsin. Columbia University economists in Russia had tried to show up what the Chicago Boys had done in Chile when Pinochet halted Allende's imposition of socialismo in 1973 - a 9/11 that really lives in infamy as the New York Times reminds us every year. Zyuganov made a campaign stop at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 1996 and scared George Soros, Russian oligarchs, the Clinton political team as well as European figures into forming the "Davos pact" to re-elect Yeltsin. Lebed toured the West too as part of his campaign for President of Russia and when he admired General Pinochet in Chile he was pressed about the killings of Allende supporters totalling nearly three thousand. The Soviet General said, "Three thousand?! Pfft, that's nothing." While in Chicago touring the Cabrini Green housing project where Mayor Jane Byrne had moved to try to stop gang shootings, Lebed declared, "In Moscow these would be luxury apartments."

   Yeltsin won a second term with timely IMF financing and no doubt help from even less savory characters. But the Columbia economics department never did much but throw good money after bad as Russia devolved while resisting the "color revolutions" to come under Yeltsin's hand-picked successor Tsar Vladimir Putin. He puts such revolutions down while fomenting backwoods subregional revolts and nobody calls him a cowboy or even a cossack. These societies are organized by clans and whereas they once deferred to a king, today's modern state and its elected president and/or premier lay much heavier upon peoples yet have close to zero call on loyalties beyond their own immediate family. It's a calumny of Marxist historicism that the opposite seems must have been true. It's worth underlining here that this Russian obsession with its neighbors and their weak sub-regions (Transdniestria, Moldova itself, Abkhazia, South Ossetia...) is the diplomatic gamesmanship of European crowns that George Washington was warning us away from. The national aspirations of Ukraine, Armenia, and Chechnya shouldn't have to wait for a normal Russia, but one can say the same for large regions of China and India too. Who has a deep enough Lone Ranger complex to go at such a world? (Lenny Bruce had an old bit called, "Thank you Maskman.") The Democrats gave up on the Cold War in 1968 but now have a hard-on for international new order maintenance? They must be planning to escape America when they break it.

   Whatever the WTO took from the Battle of Seattle, the Northwest radical culture loved its time on the world stage. But now the Portlanders I know from the olden days of punk poesy and Anarchy symposia - political people, music people, drug people... - now talk more like Trump supporters than Maoists. The city turned from a locus of comicly portentious consumption fads to a rancid crime-celebrating humorless hell-scape seemingly overnight. Something about the old New Left got passed to a post-self esteem generation and transmuted into an organicly American version of Leninism. The pretentious 14-year old teacher's pet that puberty pushed out of the suburbs and over the edge whom no elder ever humiliated for their childish ignorance and therefore their teen apoplexy blotted out all existential sensitivity. These revos are too cagey to do anything as self-loathing as the cultish psychosexual deprogramming of the Weather Underground, but they will strip out two millennia of shame culture and, borrowing from any Other handy (Arabia, China, Indigeni...), adopt a face culture that precludes interior life and soul for power and programmatic success. They have got to know better than their parents, and certainly better than you. They become vampires who contribute nothing but enervating critique and fortuitously can't see themselves in the mirror as they suck life from those they presume to rule. Their pursuit of power seems compulsive to the point of being unmeditated regarding the use any next majority might make of the removed guardrails and obstacles which are designed to force a consensus rather than elide one. Leninism itself does not look ahead and foresees no next majority as a fourteen year-old knows no context. But will they vote Democratic? Will they turn out? Donald Trump's greatest achievement may well be forcing the Democrats to perform the defending of our norms. Former Attorney General Eric Holder even submitted Jan. 18th on MSNBC that "we have come to all know and love" the United States!, the end of which is expected with a second term of Donald Trump. I guess C.R.T. and D.E.I. and E.S.G. really have fixed this country good. Add legalized drugs and gambling and you can guess where we're heading. (Gambling problem? 1-800-GAMBLING) Or this all could be just more Leninist jive from the ancientest political party for whom slavery wasn't the deal-breaker it was to the Republicans.

   And yet the intentions of the parties and players don't much matter when the sheer growth of the state's bureaucracies becomes its own imperative - quantitative easing writ large becomes Modern Monetary Theory. No single pol nor unanimous assembly can do anything when the public sector's growth threatens to kill its host. Its growth can't be sustained even should it get out of the private sector's way a tad and let capitalism generate a greater tithe more efficiently. But they know they must demonstrate that they know better than their parents, the greatest generation, Richard Nixon, or Ron Paul. They still insist that in the 1980s the Reagan tax cut didn't bring in a penny more revenue because they succeeded in spending it all before it could land in Fort Knox. It seems childish to mischaracterize actuarial matters but they need to feel right about their own behavior, or at least prevent enemies from victories so wrong. The mathaphobes in the news media are happy to provide just cover for unjust truths. But, however covertly, they must foreclose on their own dream; this is how they were programmed at fourteen. Hannah Arendt was struck by "the meekness with which revolutionists in all countries which fell under the influence of the Bolshevik Revolution have gone to their doom." (On Revolution) Their behavior on display whether regarding the environment, or race, or economics reveals that there is no solution on offer, rather there is just just punishment to be meted out upon assuming power.

   Who even sees or feels the growth creep of the public sector? How many servants does the public require? Don't call me a servant. Servants rule, OK! Each fiefdom spends its annual budget by the tenth month of the fiscal year to underline that they do not have the money or the personnel to do the job, yet they grab onto any additional responsibilities anywhere near their purview. They fail intentionally, while risking only some single manager who may must take the fall should they not evince Fauci-like dancing skills to stay above all the programmatic incompetence. Secretary Mayorkas may not possess such skills but don't expect the Department of Homeland Security's budget to be cut. They need more money to prevent the Border Patrol from doing more of its job. (Of course, any normal country has its military patrolling its own borders! The very idea is a mere parenthetical aside when dealing with me dealing with our absurd American predicament.) They'll tell you our public sector is a mere 14% of the working age population but we know it has neared 50% or they never would have shut up about tipping points. And by the administrative state's regulatory appetite we are all made public sector. The easier young person's choice is to identify with the public sector. College kids now want in loco parentis reinstated! This is also what the panic and counter-panic of the Covid outbreak was all about - who identifies with the expert class in the public sector versus who saw the usual class-war motives about. Those who drank the Kool-aid now worry nobody is getting the booster. They seem to have faith that being a toady will be its own earthly reward and are quite willing to let China's military off the hook if they can spring the CDC and NIH experts from culpability as well.

   The two public servants who did do selfless, costly, heavy lifting in recent years were Rudy Giuliani and Scott Walker. The New York City Democrats had so bolloxed up the city that Democratic voters turned to the Republican mob-buster and made him mayor. The Manhattan media took this personally and was laying for Rudy while he was still mayor, despite his heroic labors as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and then as mayor, essentially making the city safe for non-native meritocrats to whine about missing the excitement of getting mugged in old Times Square or stabbed on the Lower East Side. 9/11 turned the tables on the newsmedia's planned send-off for Rudy but they never forget and he's still the number one figure of fun for them. The New York Times had a single useful report from Janesville, Wisc. in early 2011 explaining that Gov. Walker was getting support from labor in his effort to strip the public sector's right to unionize from the books. Those working the private sector whose unions had long offered give-backs and concessions to preserve factory jobs looked at the inside game played by public employees lead by Madison's public sector elite who give nothing but always get like clockwork and felt zero solidarity - as if the public sector are not working class. The press since has seemed to think a little nostalgia for the good old days of anarcho-syndicalism was in order. Looking that one article up again I see that it was reported out of Janesville by A.G. Sulzberger (now the chairman and publisher of the paper) and out of Madison by Monica Davey, and that five days later corrections were made according to an extensive editor's note. It may also be of note that I couldn't find it via the NYT's search bar but google found it for me. I was surprised how little traction Walker had in the Republican contests in 2016. He had proven up for the fight against the administrative state but just wasn't a good candidate. It seems on the basis of Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan that a Republican presidential candidate must know more about the media than the media for him to succeed in presenting himself to voters through those very media. In both cases the candidate was underestimated and that helped.

   The Democrats have lead themselves into strategic and policy dead-ends even as they have won several large, long-term postwar arguments on entanglements and trade. Whatever their own psychological interests in lording it over their former New Deal minions or stamping out competition from Buchanan or Trump, the decades of lowering the bar for the party by a sympathetic newsmedia and a kept academia has dulled their wits and reflexes while convincing them of the opposite. The legacy newsmedia has itself softened and slowed as well, rather than sharpened and sped up under the new economic pressures of the web and phone. This is most evident in the putative high-end of Letters (The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books...) where their work is more trustworthy the farther away from temporal Washington political concerns a story is. But the Right's new newsmedia has only quickened and found its bearings. Rush Limbaugh was a longtime free professor of newsmedia studies and his generations of students are today quite nimble as they turn left wing rhetoric against itself. Christopher Rufo in the City Journal quickly repurposed the feminist term grooming and applied it to Drag Queen story hours and the transitioning of children, and just recently endocrinologist Roy Eappen wrote in the Wall Street Journal that these kids are just gay and are being abused by a new strata of institutional homophobia! That's some jiu-jitsu move!

   These and the internet outlets sniff out new Democratic maneuvers before the legacy media has even got on the same page as the politicized bureaucracy they hope to help. It seemed almost a full week that talk show hosts, columnists and expert analysts made fun of the right wing fear of losing their gas stoves before, sure enough, the legislation to ban gas stoves came out of committee and was introduced in the New York state legislature and now in Illinois and elsewhere with all due solemnity that saving the planet requires. But it's hard for know-it-alls to change their minds when they define themselves against those they consider know-nothings. They have no awareness that Revolver, zerohedge, Breitbart, Judicial Watch, Blaze and a dozen others ate their lunch. They are blocked from such outlets under the guise of monitoring them via Media Matters' clip service. They're even blocked from the knowledge that they have won those big arguments over trade and overseas American policing duties. If a know-nothing agrees with a know-it-all that's a crisis for the know-it-all. And when will we hear from the foodie elite on this pressing issue of not cooking with gas at their French Laundries and Gravitases? Is the New York Times' Food editor on this story?!

   The newsmedia's first draft of history is so compromised by its rhetorical game of generalizing from anomalies that they've missed or rejected evidence that the world context around them has shifted on a scale not seen since the black vote last went Republican. A case could be made that the response to Donald Trump in the White House made it harder for the newsmedia to continue to pretend that things were as they had been, that nothing was changing around them. They are clingers. In the postwar period there are watershed moments where, say, South Korea moved from poor dictatorship to wealthy democracy. It followed Japan and was followed by Taiwan in these signal American policy successes, but three opportunities to revisit the effort in Vietnam in light of... and to re-edit the first draft of journalism were fended off successfully. The first draft will be the final draft - call it historicism. Michael Lind's book, Vietnam - The Necessary War, was about all that was entertained and that has since been papered over by more droning, unnecessary conventional-wisdom final first draft doorstops. Journalists are barely even reporters now but their identities for a generation were obviously deeply invested in losing Vietnam. They are the intelligentsia - a false intellectual classlet - set to defend their own first draft of history against all editors - even their more astute allies in narrative maintenance. Those allies' exasperation might appear proof of debate inside the Left but with Leninism freed of Marxist inevitability, who can say? It seems the melodramatic pretention of comic books, especially the terrorism and assassinations in Alan Moore's and Frank Miller's tales may accurately foretell very non-comicy years of lead ahead.

   There's a certain kind of backwards thinking that rationalizes what one wants to be true until you can consider it to be true enough for day-to-day use. But such truths-to-order don't stand up in the slightest breeze so it requires closing down any contrary inputs from undependable independent information sources. Reporters and their editors accepted sustainability as a real thing long ago. But it's a rhetorical device, a trump card for political arguments. The new ice age promised in the 1970s became global warming became simple climate change without blushing. This and other wouldbe existential vetoes are rhetorical slush funds to spend in any attack or simple everyday narrative maintenance. It allows the taking of power or the closing down of companies or entire sectors of the economy or society with the greed and megalomania covered by a seeming selfless concern for the greater good. It's advertised as altruism, though it proceeds with all the evident hostility of a class war bent on revenge. After any final green victory over the economy they would pivot to deal with the true believers who would no longer be useful but now would be in their way. The true believers produce new toxic mining victims for their EVs and still they burn additional energy to recycle because its tribute paid to them, and power demonstrated by them. They don't care any more than recreational drug users care what they've done to Latin America.

   Pat Buchanan slowed and retired just as Donald Trump became the vessel for his effective main idea that with the Cold War won America should come home. Buchanan also gave on the free trade doctrine of the former Republican consensus before it became apparent just what Wall Street and Capitol Hill had wrought in China - intentionally transplanting more of America's manufacturing capacity there than Japan had managed to depress by even unfair competition. Buchanan found out as Trump has too, never agree with the sore winners of the Democratic Party. If the grown-ups of the Republican Party, despite their misgivings, responsibly picked up the Cold War that the Democrats started but changed their mind on, if those Republicans now start to behave like childish Democrats in the streets, those same soft-on-crime Democrats will jail them so fast your head'll spin. There's Democratic Party talk of reinstituting the death penalty in blue states and perhaps they'll legalize assassination at least in one mostly peaceful instance. The E.U. and NATO as well as all of right thinking center-left civilization duly objects to Trump's calling out their national failures to contribute to their own defenses, even though it's that calling out that will force Europe to pony up, learn to walk on their own and finally defend themselves which is what they tell themselves they want! Thank you maskman!

   Democrats and their newsmedia cohort have created the monster they cannot jail. The Party nominated Joe Biden, the man who co-created their other monster, Clarence Thomas, who silently ate decades of know-it-all press abuse to now run the Supreme Court's majority - Originalism's beast-zero. Trump might win election from jail. Is that what's stirring the black vote? A Trump victory wouldn't change his opposition but any significant increase he gets of the black and brown vote is the only hope that the Democratic Party and its newsmedia would re-think anything.... The black bloc hasn't exactly been rotting in jail writing memoirs on prison toilet paper but they must be contemplating that, hmm..., on day one of a second Donald Trump term he will decapitate the FBI, the CIA, and the Department of Justice..., certainly a vivid wetdream once guaranteed to fire the loins of the Old and New Lefts since the days of COINTELPRO. The oldest Left, the CPUSA however, might say, Not so hasty, now that we have our hands on the organs of state power we can weather Trump as we have weathered American exceptionalism; it's the bureaucracy, stupid. We may soon see where Antifa stands and whether those strings that lead inside the black box of the Democratic Party's stavka of lawyer-warriors can make them dance on command again against what they might once have claimed as their own interests.

Red Rocks, Nevada
Photograph by Joe Carducci

From the Wyoming and DuPage Desks of Joe Carducci…

Joe Carducci at, Introduction & Acknowlegements for Chicago Stories - Unsolved, Bullethead, City Final, Ghost Dance.

I should thank Chicago news media first and foremost in this collection. The papers and channels and stations provided an ambient ticker of all manner of crime and criminals going back to the days of five city dailies when I was a kid. You got hooked into the news even if all you intended to read was the comics and sports sections. When I was eight the President was assassinated and the whole country got a news bath for days - even the kids shows were pre-empted for the news, then Oswald’s killing and finally the funeral itself. When I first began to read the papers’ front sections in earnest my interest was in the features from overseas. I only later realized how interesting Chicago’s local news was. We got the Tribune in the mornings and Chicago Today as well as the Aurora Beacon in the afternoons. Naperville was a small town then and it only had a weekly paper, the Naperville Sun which wasn’t much for crime coverage or me and my brothers might’ve been labeled a crime wave. But schools took kids down to our paper where we could see the lead ingots lowered into the linotype machine to form the slugs for the paper’s layout. It must’ve been about 1966 when I saw it and it looked like those old guys had to be able to read backwards to slot the pages together properly. My mom had two sisters in Naperville and their mother lived with us too so there was alot of Chicago for us in our little town-not-even-a-suburb yet and if I wasn’t visiting cousins to spread our proto-crime wave, I’d be over with the entire family for Christmas or a birthday and I would drop out of the festivities to look at their Chicago papers, the Sun-Times, the Daily News… For two weeks I subbed for a neighbor doing his paper route. That was interesting, seeing the Newspaper Agency in an old house across from the train station. They got the papers delivered by train before anyone else was awake. There were some older guys running things and dozens of boys rolling up the papers for their routes, bagging them, hoisting the full canvas sack onto the handle-bar spurs on their bicycles and then riding off into the dark to throw them on all those nice 19th-century midwestern porches before most any house had a light on inside. I’m sure that was the first time I saw the Southtown Economist, the American and a few other papers too.


Eduardo Suarez at, New York Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger: "Our Industry Needs to Think Bigger".

In early January 1996 journalist Kevin McKenna presented the New York Times’ first website to three generations of the Sulzberger family: the publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., his father and predecessor, and his eldest son, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, who would succeed him in 2018 and who was 15 years old at the time. McKenna was part of a four-member committee that had been working for a year on different prototypes of the website, which would go live a few days later. According to a new history of the Times by journalist Adam Nagourney, the youngest Sulzberger asked McKenna whether the new site would be updated with late-night scores from the games of the Seattle SuperSonics – those results that often came in too late to make the deadline for the morning newspaper. He responded it would. Almost three decades later, the teenager who asked that question is at the top of the masthead of a news organisation with almost 10 million digital subscribers. Sulzberger, now 43, is the sixth member of his family to serve as publisher since the newspaper was purchased by Adolph Ochs in 1896.


Peter Van Buren in AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE, The Mainstream Media Are Dying of Self-Inflicted Wounds.

Journalism is at a crossroads at best (it may have already crossed into the abyss). The old models of reader-supported or advertising-supported media are no longer sturdy and seem still to apply only to a few giants like the New York Times. Americans’ trust in the mass media’s reporting matches its lowest point in Gallup’s trend line, largely because of Democrats’ decreased trust. (Republicans were lost an election or two ago—see Russiagate—though independents still lead the two parties in lost trust.)


James Bowman in NEW CRITERION, No Surrender.

I can't help thinking that the apparent unconcern of the security services and the media about their devastatingly poor public image reflects a quiet confidence on their part that there will never be another Republican president, or at least not one who could or would dare take on the deep state-media complex and its scandal machine.


Operative 413 at, All Journalists Are Bastards.

Journalists are the First Estate because they have the power to determine who is moral and immoral, respectable or extreme, just or unjust in the eyes of society. They can sell vice and call it virtue. They can appeal to our worst and make it feel like we are following the better angels of our nature. With modern technology, they have power clerics of the past can only envy. It’s not that most journalists have a huge amount of power individually – most of them are hardly wealthy, and many have problems with substance abuse. But individual weakness actually enhances their collective power. The ability to set a terrifying machine in motion gives them a collective power far greater than any plutocrat or politician. The frenzy to tear other people down, to turn personal grievances into a collective political crusade, or to skillfully appeal to people’s lowest instincts because you yourself have no higher ones gives one the demonic energy needed to succeed today. Many have nothing to lose and nothing real to protect, so they can dedicate themselves to destruction.


James Bennett in ECONOMIST, When the New York Times Lost Its Way.

The new New York Times was the product of two shocks – sudden collapse, and then sudden success. The paper almost went bankrupt during the financial crisis, and the ensuing panic provoked a crisis of confidence among its leaders. Digital competitors like the HuffPost were gaining readers and winning plaudits within the media industry as innovative. They were the cool kids; Times folk were ink-stained wrinklies. In its panic, the Times bought out experienced reporters and editors and began hiring journalists from publications like the HuffPost who were considered “digital natives” because they had never worked in print.... Though they might have lacked deep or varied reporting backgrounds, some of the Times’s new hires brought skills in video and audio; others were practised at marketing themselves – building their brands, as journalists now put it – in social media. Some were brilliant and fiercely honest, in keeping with the old aspirations of the paper. But, critically, the Times abandoned its practice of acculturation, including those months-long assignments on Metro covering cops and crime or housing. Many new hires who never spent time in the streets went straight into senior writing and editing roles. Meanwhile, the paper began pushing out its print-era salespeople and hiring new ones, and also hiring hundreds of engineers to build its digital infrastructure. All these recruits arrived with their own notions of the purpose of the Times. To me, publishing conservatives helped fulfil the paper’s mission; to them, I think, it betrayed that mission.


Leon Wieseltier in LIBERTIES, The Rise of Narrative and The Fall of Persuasion.

The narrational imperative reaches to the highest levels of power: one commentator on contemporary politics has called this "the Scheherazade strategy." Reflecting on his first term in office, Barack Obama once remarked that "my biggest failure was not to tell a story," adding that "the nature of this office is to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism." In 2017, the People's Daily in Beijing, praising Xi Jinping as "the master storyteller," instructed its captive readers that "telling stories has been a common characteristic of celebrated statesmen and thinkers in China and beyond since ancientd times, and it is a clear characteristic of General Secretary Xi Jinping's leadership style."


Moira Weigel in NEW REPUBLIC, The Cultural Conspiracy.

In universities, Rufo writes, his prophets inspired an explosion of administrators, who came to control the ideology of these institutions “from all angles,” by dictating decisions about hiring, funding, and tenure as well as admissions, designating funds for affinity spaces, and mandating diversity training for both students and employees. (A chestnut, for readers of conservative bestsellers: Rufo gives an important new supporting role to Marcuse’s third wife, Erica Sherover-Marcuse, who in the 1980s “designed a series of training programs that became the prototype for university [diversity, equity, and inclusion] programs nationwide,” with workshops on “‘institutionalized racism,’ ‘internalized oppression,’ and ‘being an effective ally.’”) Rufo allows that, by the time Marcuse had immigrated to the United States, the New Deal had already “established the federal government as the great shaper of American life.” But, he says, critical theorists transformed the state into “the primary vehicle of revolution,” enforcing left-wing codes of speech and behavior and turning grant-making agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts and even the National Science Foundation into a “patronage machine for left-wing activism.” The “long march through the media,” Rufo continues, “can be represented in miniature through the conquest of the New York Times.” Citing a “veteran reporter, who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisals,” Rufo claims that, since the Great Recession, a “faction of younger, ideologically driven employees” have seized control of the paper and used it to embed a set of “ideological phrases” like “systemic racism” or “police brutality” into the “public mind through the force of repetition.”


Chris Bray at, It's Class Warfare All the Way Down.

This isn’t your grandfather’s class war. An extremely wealthy Nebraska slaughterhouse owner who votes hard right and drinks Coors is a lower class rube with “mere money” that doesn’t mean anything; a performatively radical adjunct professor with a $32,000 salary in Fresno is upper class. A comment here a few months ago suggested another source of understanding: the “new class” described by the economist Joseph Schumpeter. In this book, scroll down to pg. 145 and start reading about “the sociology of the intellectual.” Schumpeter describes a growing class of professional intellectuals as a product of corporate capitalism; they are people who…
wield the power of the spoken and the written word, and one of the touches that distinguish them from other people who do the same is the absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs. This touch in general accounts for another—the absence of that first-hand knowledge of them which only actual experience can give. The critical attitude, arising no less from the intellectual’s situation as an onlooker—in most cases also as an outsider—than from the fact that his main chance of asserting himself lies in his actual or potential nuisance value, should add a third touch.
Pick a favorite nuisance politician, and look at their professional background.


Glenn Ellmers in CLAREMONT REVIEW OF BOOKS, Pandemic Pandemonium.

Klaus Schwab’s World Economic Forum (WEF) is perfectly open about its plans. The coronavirus pandemic, according to its website, revealed the “inconsistencies, inadequacies, and contradictions” of our current political institutions, and thus afforded the opportunity “to build a new social contract.” In a wide selection of articles devoted to explaining what it freely calls its “Agenda,” one learns about wonderfully clever ideas like storing human DNA on the moon, and even more ambitious goals for “human enhancement” and transhumanism, such as “genetic, wearable and implantable technologies that artificially expedite the evolutionary process.” In the WEF’s plans for the glorious future, to take one indicative example, individuals will be expected to “embrace a new form of human intelligence beyond IQ and EQ [emotional intelligence].” You better get with the program if you want “to be successful in the AI age,” because citizens of the new social contract will need “digital intelligence (DQ)” in order to effectively utilize technology for the benefits of themselves, others, and society as a whole.... If Schwab is the organ-grinder of the new world order, his dancing monkey is Yuval Harari. An Israeli academic, Harari provides the pseudo-intellectual arguments for transhumanism’s scientific and historical inevitability. He is given to grandiose pronouncements, such as that human beings will soon be “hackable animals.” You just have to deal with that, Harari instructs us, because “free will—that’s over.” Harari, like Schwab himself—who sometimes dresses like a 1970s James Bond villain—can be hard to take seriously. But the systems of technocratic manipulation and control they celebrate are not a joke.... In May 2022 he caused a firestorm by claiming that a major concern of artificial intelligence will be figuring out what to do “with all the useless people.”


Niccolo Soldo at, Saturday Commentary & Review #155.

It’s no secret that the European Union is a bureaucrat’s dream where the most petty people can find work trying to dictate how the most trivial bits of life should be lived by its citizens. This is the Tyranny of the Busybody, the complete opposite of a vision for a grand future. These bureaucrats have successfully convinced themselves that they are saving the world via their plans and actions. Meanwhile, Europeans continue to grow increasingly frustrated by these consistent intrusions in our lives, intrusions that we know aren’t going to make the world a better place, but that do “justify” the vast bureaucracy that we pay for. To be fair, what else can the EU do anyway now that it has effectively ceded its foreign policy to the USA? It has also indicated that it will obey US dictates on who it can and can’t do business with in the future as well. All that’s left for EU policymakers to do is to try and arrange and re-arrange what happens internally, hence the focus on dictating the minutiae of our lives.


Michael Anton in CLAREMONT REVIEW OF BOOKS on Patrick Deneen's book, Regime Change - Toward a Postliberal Future.

Rightists of various stripes—intellectual, philosophic, religious, traditional, libertarian—offer many answers to the question, “what went wrong, and when?” Working backward, some say wokism, others the welfare state, many “the ’60s,” others the Progressive era, a committed few blame Abraham Lincoln, others “second wave” modernity, still others the Enlightenment, and others still modernity itself. Conservative Catholics and the Orthodox cite the Reformation; the more reactionary among them point to a crisis that emerged from or ended the High Middle Ages, while a certain type of classicist fingers Socrates’ “second sailing,” and another the pre-Socratics’ discovery and demystification of nature. Meanwhile, the most pious of all identify the Fall of Man (an explanation with which, it must be said, the others have something in common). Deneen seems at various points to embrace all of these explanations, at least in part, but at his most explicit he fingers modernity, the true subject of both books (with John Locke as their true villain)—partly one suspects so as to deflect blame from the American Founders onto a more convenient scapegoat. But the two prove impossible to disaggregate and so America must be condemned, if only by implication, along with the man many assume to be America’s philosopher.


Michael Hartney in CLAREMONT REVIEW OF BOOKS on Philip Howard's book, Not Accountable - Rethinking the Constitutionality of Public Employee Unions.

This tidy, well-organized monograph eschews jargon that would distract from its central argument: beginning in the 1960s governments ceded power to public-sector unions, making these private entities equal partners in democratic governance. Elected officials gave public employee unions special privileges to pursue private gains at public expense, rendering public administration an illusion. Explaining how we got here, Howard shows that New York, the first large state to experiment with public employee unions, ignored its own independent commission’s advice to avoid giving legislative powers to arbitrators. The commission also urged that the state legislature be required to approve each collective bargaining agreement. By ignoring these warnings, Empire State lawmakers handicapped future elected officials in every dispute with the unions. New York’s failures have spread nationwide. Public-sector unions, Howard explains, make government: 1) unaccountable to voters, 2) unmanageable for supervisors, 3) unaffordable for taxpayers, 4) inattentive to the common good, and 5) permanently resistant to reform.


Helen Roy in CLAREMONT REVIEW OF BOOKS on Mary Harrington's book, Feminism Against Progress.

Convincingly, if rather charitably, Harrington reconceptualizes the history of feminism as the loosely collective action of women fighting to reclaim the standing and purpose lost during the early industrial period. Victorian “protofeminists,” as she calls them, argued for the dignity of family against the ravages of unforgiving markets and volatile mores. Feminism as Harrington describes it began in a battle for personhood properly understood, embedded within a network of given family obligations and rightly delimited by the facts of human biology. In the 20th century, however, feminists were increasingly enabled by the technological evolution of birth control (and later, industrial abortion) to reject the reality of their sexual difference altogether. The loudest and most influential actors would eventually pursue a disembedded personhood: their ideal was the deracinated homo economicus, whose imagined birthright is to transcend any and all limitations, however natural. Thus, feminism is no longer a matter of achieving equal human dignity for men and women in their distinct capacities, but of “liberating” women from their womanhood to pursue “sameness” with men, stripping away every obstacle to power as measured by economic profit. The pursuit of total liberation from social bonds and the body itself in service of markets is the mark of modern feminism. It prompts the still more radical quest to transcend the boundaries of the human species altogether, known as “transhumanism.” This is the feminism with which we are now most familiar: that which, empowered by technology, subjugates inherited wisdom and family ties to economic participation. Harrington seems to suggest that to degrade the body, as well as the bonds our bodies can forge, is to degrade women. Modern women’s degradation flies under the cover of empowerment. In reality, it’s plain alienation, rebranded.


Rob Henderson in WSJ, 'Luxury Beliefs' That Only the Privileged Can Afford.

When my classmates at Yale talked about abolishing the police or decriminalizing drugs, they seemed unaware of the attending costs because they were largely insulated from them. Reflecting on my own experiences with alcohol, if drugs had been legal and easily accessible when I was 15, you wouldn’t be reading this. My birth mother succumbed to drug addiction soon after I was born. I haven’t seen her since I was a child. All my foster siblings’ parents were addicts or had a mental health condition, often triggered by drug use. A well-heeled student at an elite university can experiment with cocaine and will probably be just fine. A kid from a dysfunctional home with absentee parents is more likely to ride that first hit of meth to self-destruction. This may explain why a 2019 survey conducted by the Cato Institute found that more than 60% of Americans with at least a bachelor’s degree were in favor of legalizing drugs, while less than half of Americans without a college degree thought it was a good idea. Drugs may be a recreational pastime for the rich, but for the poor they are often a gateway to further pain. Similarly, a 2020 Yahoo News/YouGov survey found that the richest Americans showed the strongest support for defunding the police, while the poorest Americans reported the lowest support. Consider that compared with Americans who earn more than $50,000 a year, the poorest Americans are three times more likely to be victims of robbery, aggravated assault and sexual assault, according to federal statistics. Yet it’s affluent people who are calling to abolish law enforcement. Perhaps the luxury belief class is simply ignorant of the realities of crime.


Scott McConnell in AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE, French Best-Seller: U.S. Is a 'Nihilist Empire'.

Between 2005 and 2015, virtually every nation under American influence legalized gay marriage, and most went further with the normalization and acceleration of transgenderism. Todd seems not particularly conservative on this issue and in interviews has made clear his preference for “equal rights” for all. But, as an analyst, he is unsparing. He argues that most of the world is strictly patriarchal in family structure, as opposed to the more “bilateral” or more equally influenced by mothers and fathers structures common to the West. This may have made the West more receptive to political liberalism, but it has also given rise to a gender radicalism which partially explains the “indulgence” granted Russia by the peoples and governments of Iran (traditionally highly distrustful of Russia), Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. Some degree of feminism may have advanced globally, but not in Western form. The question of morals, Todd argues, has, probably for the first time, emerged as a critical factor in international relations. With arrogant self-assuredness that it incarnates international morality, the West “has not understood that it has become suspect to the larger part of the world which is patrilineal, homophobic, and in fact opposed to the Western moral revolution.” To accuse Russia of being scandalously anti-LGBTQ, he argues, is to play Putin’s game. Russia knows that its homophobic and anti-trans policies, far from alienating the rest of the planet, “confer on it a considerable soft power.”


Len Gutkin in CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, A Decade of Ideological Transformation Comes Undone.

When Erika asked her Sillimanders whether they should be more skeptical about "bureaucratic and adminstrative" power over college students, she put her finger on a generational rift between baby boomers like herself and the millennials she was superintending. She simply couldn't fathom that many students welcomed the guiding hand offered by administrators at the Intercultural Affairs Council. Her own generation, after all, had demanded that college students be emancipated from the in loco parentis oversight of their elders on campus. "Whose business is it," Erika had asked in her letter, "to control the forms of costumes of young people? It's not mine, I know that." Students disagreed.


Christopher Caldwell in CLAREMONT REVIEW OF BOOKS, Unfair Harvard.

There are two ways to “eliminate” a system. You can cautiously dismantle it, trusting that the harms it did will fade over time. That is more or less the conservative position on civil rights, and it is what Americans thought they were getting when they backed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The second way to eliminate a system is to counteract it, running its machinery in reverse for a while in the hope of getting results faster, and trusting that you will know when to stop. That is more or less the progressive position on civil rights, and it is the one that has dominated American life since Lyndon Johnson introduced affirmative action by executive order in 1965. Affirmative action for a long time degraded academic life, muddled constitutional thinking, and poisoned partisan politics. Those who managed educational institutions came to see diversity as more important than education itself—witness the State of California’s elimination of standardized testing requirements in the wake of the 2020 race riots. The decision to eliminate affirmative action in Students for Fair Admissions is the right one, but it is late—perhaps too late. The moment has something Gorbachevian about it. Sonia Sotomayor insists that affirmative action has become part of the American system. We may shortly see whether it can be removed without taking the system down with it.


Dana Goldstein in NYT, What to Know About the Science of Reading.

The science of reading represents a significant shift for the nation’s school system. For the past two decades, a school of thought known as balanced literacy dominated how colleges prepared future teachers for the classroom and how those teachers taught. The scholarly roots of balanced literacy are in the education and English departments of universities. Brain researchers, examining reading with M.R.I. machines, worked in other departments. As is common in academia, the two groups rarely shared ideas or collaborated. Balanced literacy emphasizes the importance of surrounding children with books and allowing them to spend quiet time reading literature that interests them. It includes some phonics, but the instruction is less structured. Letter-sound relationships may be introduced as they come up in stories or through classroom games, instead of in a sequence designed to build foundational skills. Balanced literacy curriculums have often relied on teaching strategies that have been discredited, such as coaching children to guess difficult words by using pictures and the first letter, instead of sounding out the entire word from beginning to end. Educators and researchers have said that technique leaves children ill-prepared to tackle more difficult texts, without illustrations, as they get older.


Adam Kotsko at, The Loss of Things I Took for Granted.

Defeating the open conspiracy to deprive students of physical access to books will do little to counteract the more diffuse confluence of forces that are depriving students of the skills needed to meaningfully engage with those books in the first place. As a college educator, I am confronted daily with the results of that conspiracy-without-conspirators. I have been teaching in small liberal arts colleges for over 15 years now, and in the past five years, it’s as though someone flipped a switch. For most of my career, I assigned around 30 pages of reading per class meeting as a baseline expectation—sometimes scaling up for purely expository readings or pulling back for more difficult texts. (No human being can read 30 pages of Hegel in one sitting, for example.) Now students are intimidated by anything over 10 pages and seem to walk away from readings of as little as 20 pages with no real understanding. Even smart and motivated students struggle to do more with written texts than extract decontextualized take-aways. Considerable class time is taken up simply establishing what happened in a story or the basic steps of an argument—skills I used to be able to take for granted.


Stephanie Lee in CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, Did the University of California Try to Bury a Consequential Vote on Math?.

Emails obtained by The Chronicle show that after the committee’s July 7 meeting, members repeatedly pushed their chair, Barbara Knowlton, a psychologist at UCLA, to broadcast what they had decided: that courses billed as “data science” would no longer count as a substitute for algebra II, one of the UC system’s longstanding requirements. They cited widespread concerns that the courses were not preparing students for college-level math. "Barbara, I think it would be dishonest to delete the language regarding the vote and withhold this information from the communication to the state Board of Education," wrote one member of the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools, the UC faculty committee that oversees admissions policy. "We do not get to rewrite what took place." But the group's internal emails, obtained through public-records requests, show that to the chagrin of members, Knowlton proposed issuing a statement that left out any mention of the vote, instead saying merely that data science was under discussion.


Mark Bauerlein at, The Rise of the Sectarian University.

The real peril to elite higher education, then, isn’t that these places will be financially ruined, nor that they will be effectively interfered with in their internal operations by hostile conservatives. It is, instead, that their position in American society will come to resemble that of The New York Times or of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Which is to say that they will remain rich and powerful, and they will continue to have many bright and competent people working within their ambit. And yet their authority will grow more brittle and their appeal more sectarian.


Laurence Krauss in WSJ, Alan Sokal's Joke Is on Us as Postmodernism Comes to Science.

When I taught physics at Yale in the 1980s and ’90s, my colleagues and I took pride in our position on “science hill,” looking down on the humanities scholars in the intellectual valleys below as they were inundated in postmodernism and deconstructionism. This same attitude motivated the mathematician Alan Sokal to publish his famous 1996 article, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” in the cultural-studies journal Social Text. He asserted, among other things that “physical ‘reality,’ no less than social ‘reality,’ is at bottom a social and linguistic construct” and that “the scientific community . . . cannot assert a privileged epistemological status with respect to counter-hegemonic narratives emanating from dissident or marginalized communities.” Mr. Sokal’s paper was a hoax, designed to demonstrate that postmodernism was nonsense. But today postmodern cultural theory is being infused into the very institutions one might expect to be scientific gatekeepers. Hard-science journals publish the same sort of bunk with no hint of irony....


Anjana Ahuja in FT, A Cure for the Scientific Fraud Epidemic Is Being Ignored.

Instead of this ad hoc vigilantism, Bishop argues, there should be a proper police force, with an army of scientists specifically trained, perhaps through a masters degree, to protect research integrity. It is a fine idea, if publishers and institutions can be persuaded to employ them (Spandidos, a biomedical publisher, has an in-house anti-fraud team). It could help to scupper the rise of the “paper mill”, an estimated $1bn industry in which unscrupulous researchers can buy authorship on fake papers destined for peer-reviewed journals. China plays an outsize role in this nefarious practice, set up to feed a globally competitive “publish or perish” culture that rates academics according to how often they are published and cited. Peer reviewers, mostly unpaid, don’t always spot the scam. And as the sheer volume of science piles up — an estimated 3.7mn papers from China alone in 2021 — the chances of being rumbled dwindle. Some researchers have been caught on social media asking to opportunistically add their names to existing papers, presumably in return for cash. AI is a godsend to this modern racket.


Janan Ganesh in FT, The Genius of Britain's Anti-Intellectualism.

Consider the greatest British minds. Shakespeare wrote 38 plays and 150-odd poems without giving the slightest hint of an overarching worldview. David Hume, the most important philosopher to have written in English, dealt in a sort of anti-philosophy, which put the stress on experience, not reason, as the basis of knowledge. In his penetrating book on British art, Sensations, the critic Jonathan Jones argues that one theme runs from Thomas Gainsborough to Lucian Freud and beyond: empirical observation. While continental painting had its ideas, its academicism, British art grew alongside and in response to science. At all turns, there is, or has been, a bias in the UK against the theoretical. While Paris and New York obey grand schematic plans, London must be the most improvised of the major western cities. (Even LA has a grid of sorts.) Compare the casualness of an English garden with the Euclidean lines of a French one. So, yes, we skirt the subject of identity. But then we skirt most disembodied concepts. In the end, Britain is cosmopolitan because it doesn’t overthink.


Jennifer Kabbany at, UMich Now Has More Than 500 Jobs Dedicated to DEI, Payroll Costs Exceed $30 Million.

DEI staff is well compensated with salaries as high as $402,800 for the university’s chief diversity administrator, Tabbye Chavous Sellers. She is paid almost two times more than the average full professor, about 2.5 times more than the governor, and about three times more than the average assistant or associate professor. Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s salary is $159,300, and the average salaries for assistant, associate, and full professors at UM are $129,500, $148,300, and $206,500, respectively. The average DEI salary at UM is $96,400; factoring in fringe benefits, 144 DEI employees at UM receive a total compensation of more than $100,000.


Michael Barone in WSJ on Benn Steil's book, The World That Wasn't.

Farm policy is not Mr. Steil’s interest, however. “The World That Wasn’t” devotes 17 pages to Wallace’s record as agricultural secretary but 61 pages (and 281 footnotes) to his 1934-35 entanglement with Russian emigre Nicholas Roerich, his “guru,” a man who sought to create a quasi-Buddhist community called Shambhala somewhere between Manchuria and Tibet. In multiple letters, not fully revealed until 1947, Wallace referred to Roerich as Father, himself as Galahad, and Roosevelt as the Wavering One. Something about Roerich reverberated in Wallace’s reverent and mystical soul. He used his office to send a pair of botanists to accompany Roerich abroad, purportedly to gather seeds for crop experiments, and aroused the wrath of the State Department. In the “guru” episode, Mr. Steil suggests, Wallace showed the weaknesses he would display in foreign policy. He “shrank from face-to-face confrontations,” had “great difficulty in recognizing duplicity” and, when cornered, “muddied and falsified” the record and told outright and often unconvincing lies. It bears keeping in mind, though Mr. Steil doesn’t emphasize it, that Roosevelt’s July 1940 decision to make Wallace vice president came at a parlous time. This was 11 months after the Hitler-Stalin Pact and a month after the fall of France; Hitler and Stalin controlled or were threatening to absorb vast expanses of the Eurasian landmass. Roosevelt, eager to aid beleaguered Britain, knew that he was opposed by Communists on the left and Midwestern isolationists on the right. Wallace, as an exponent of “economic democracy” and central planning—and as an agriculture expert from Iowa—had potential appeal to both groups. That calculation paid off. The Roosevelt-Wallace ticket carried the Midwest and won the president an unprecedented third term.


David Brooks in NYT, Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts.

Sometimes in this job I have a kernel of a column idea that doesn’t pan out. But other times I begin looking into a topic and find a problem so massive that I can’t believe I’ve ever written about anything else. This latter experience happened as I looked into the growing bureaucratization of American life. It’s not only that growing bureaucracies cost a lot of money; they also enervate American society. They redistribute power from workers to rule makers, and in so doing sap initiative, discretion, creativity and drive. Once you start poking around, the statistics are staggering. Over a third of all health care costs go to administration. As the health care expert David Himmelstein put it in 2020, “The average American is paying more than $2,000 a year for useless bureaucracy.” ...The growth of bureaucracy costs America over $3 trillion in lost economic output every year, Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini estimated in 2016 in The Harvard Business Review. That was about 17 percent of G.D.P. According to their analysis, there is now one administrator or manager for every 4.7 employees, doing things like designing anti-harassment trainings, writing corporate mission statements, collecting data and managing “systems.” This situation is especially grave in higher education. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology now has almost eight times as many nonfaculty employees as faculty employees. In the University of California system, the number of managers and senior professionals swelled by 60 percent between 2004 and 2014. The number of tenure-track faculty members grew by just 8 percent.


Gus Carter in SPECTATOR, The Weirdness of Our New Migrant God.

Funny to think what our taxes go on. I wouldn’t have had ‘the invention of a deity’ on my 2024 government expenditure bingo card, but here we are. The National Maritime Museum, which last year received £20 million from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, has unveiled a statue of a ‘god-like protector of all migrants’ to sit next to a bust of Horatio Nelson. The pair will engage in a pre-recorded conversation in which the gender-neutral god praises the ‘resilience’ of those ‘escaping war’ while moaning about our national hero’s ‘fancy medals and uniform’. There’s plenty to laugh at in this commission. Take the fact that every stakeholder imaginable seems to have been consulted, from the trans charity Mermaids to Action for Refugees in Lewisham, or that the bust seems to have a can of pepper spray placed artfully on top of its head. But what strikes me about the creation of a new god is its sheer weirdness. What kind of publicly-funded museum, charged with preserving the remains of the past for the benefit of today, decides that coming up with a new deity is the best way to carry out that duty?


Gary Morson in NEW CRITERION, Galaxy Brains.

Solzhenitsyn’s novels about the events leading to the Bolshevik takeover depict Russia’s real heroes not as revolutionists who disdain everything bourgeois and practical but as engineers who actually build things. In August 1914, General Martos knows that Russians must overcome their characteristic way of thinking if they are to defeat the Germans. He “could not tolerate Russian sloppiness, the Russian inclination to ‘wait and see,’ to ‘sleep on it,’ and leave God to make the decisions.” Is it any wonder, then, that Russians have been inclined to utopianism, mysticism, and pseudoscience? In tsarist times, intellectuals commonly imagined revolution in millenarian terms, as a transformation not just of society but also of the universe. When the anticipated revolution happened, many presumed that this political upheaval would instantaneously change everything else. Wealth would be abundant within days. Suffering would instantly become a thing of the past. And, before long, mortality itself would be overcome, just as the Book of Revelation promised, only without divine intervention. These atheists anticipated that strictly scientific laws, as outlined in Marxist–Leninist philosophy, would accomplish everything that mystics had foretold.


John Carter at, The White Man's Ghost Dance.

Our governments are wholly captured, Quisling states with no loyalty to the nations over whom they preside. All efforts to overthrow these occupation governments have so far come to nought, not least because most do not yet recognize that they are occupation governments in the first place. After all, they were not imposed by a conqueror’s armed might, but rather mutated step-by-step in an imperceptibly gradual process from representatives of the people’s will and guarantors of the nation’s interests, to violators of the nation’s interests that are utterly insensible to the people’s will.... Is it any wonder, then, with no clear path forward, with defeat leading to defeat and whatever small victories we win also leading to defeat, that so much of the discourse on the dissident right has turned to the past, to the cult of the body, to tradition? We must RETVRN, we say. We have to go back. You must lift weights, get fit, perhaps learn combat sports – take up boxing or MMA. And of course, you must find God. Go to church, ideally the same church your forefathers attended. Read the Bible. Read old books. Become wise in the ways of the old philosophers, especially the Romans and the Greeks. Reconnect with your roots, it is very Indo-European. Is all of this not exactly what the Red Man did? The Han Boxer? The Judean Zealot? Is the entire dissident right no more than the white man’s Ghost Dance?


Jennie Lightweis-Goff in LIBERTIES, Concept Creep: A Progressive's Lament.

Perhaps it was not the "paranoid style" of the political right, but the "hermeneutic of suspicion" practiced by the academic left, that seized American tongues. The desire to flush out the enemy of concealed meaning generates martial language in scholarly writing; there, the writer does not argue, he intervenes. He does not analyze; he interrogates. Concepts steadily creeped from colleges and universities to the broader world: think the heights to which intersectionality and performativity climbed in these dishonest decades.


Tamsin Shaw in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS on Calder Walton's book, Spies, and Cecile Fabre's book, Spying Through the Glass Darkly.

At one point during the war Finnish intelligence officers got hold of a Soviet code book, which they sold to the OSS. When the US secretary of state, Edward Stettinius Jr., and the OSS director, William Donovan, discovered this, they ordered that it be returned. Meanwhile, the Soviets had infiltrated Allied governments, militaries, and intelligence agencies at the highest levels, including the Manhattan Project. The extent of what Stalin's spies got away with is in retrospect quite astonishing.


John Banville in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS on John Gray's book, The Leviathans - Thoughts After Liberalism.

Religion is pervasive in Putin's domain: according to a source cited by Gray, "mobile temples accompany intercontinental ballistic missiles, and nuclear submarines have their portable churches." One of the numerous figures whom Gray plucks from relative obscurity is Konstantin Leontiev, who as well as being a journalist and a novelist - and an energetic bisexual - was "a censor in the service of the tsarist state." He was an avowed antiliberal, yet he repudiated nationalism and race-based politics and "proposed that the tsarist system shold impose an autocratic socialism, which would be the new feudalism of which he dreamt." ...In contrast to Putin's historical mythologizing, the Chinese president Xi Jinping's "project of nation-building originates in the illiberal West." One of the unlikely-seeming thinkers whose work, Gray tells us, has influenced China's social strategists of today is the German jurist and unrepentant Nazi Carl Schmitt. While Western thinkers such as Hobbes and Leo Strauss are closely studied in China, "Schmitt is seen by many Chinese intellectuals as having most to teach."


James Bowman in NEW CRITERION, Meritless Meritocracy.

Like the late Angelo Codevilla, I don't mind the idea of a meritocracy in theory; I just dislike the one we've got, which consists of overeducated and cosmopolitan pseudo-aristocrats who have more sense of solidarity with their counterparts in other countries than with their fellow countrymen of the populus. To these elites, those who sport banners proclaiming "Make America Great Again" are self-condemned; as the ex-governor Andrew Cuomo once put it, America "was never that great" to begin with. Not so long ago, such a saying would have been political suicide, but, like Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Cuomo must have recognized that his party's constituency, consisting of his fellow meritocrats and the various notionally oppressed minorities of whom they claimed to be the protectors, no longer has room in it for the great mass of patriotic Americans. These patriots, after all, were the notional oppressors.


Gordon Chang in NEW CRITERION on Joshua Kurlantzick's book, Beijing's Global Media Offensive - China's Uneven Campaign to Influence Asia and the World.

In general, it would seem that China has two successful state media models to choose from: Qatar's Al Jazeera and Russia's RT, once known as Russia Today. Qatar has allowed Al Jazeera to produce "a high degree of excellent reporting" without interference except on a few subjects, notably Israel and Saudi Arabia. For the most part, the Qatari government has little interest in the general state of the world. China's regime, however, wants to control the storylines about everything and therefore imposes tight control on all subjects. Scratch Al Jazeera as a model for China. RT has been popular because it is "disruptive, hypercontrarian, controversial." China has increasingly employed Russia's "flame-thrower approach," but this effective tactic has only limited utility for an ambitious Beijing. China wants to be seen by the world as "a different type of power from the United States and other leading democracies," because, it argues, it understands "developinng states' needs" and is sensitive to their "political and cultural norms." Therefore, "going full crazy, Kremlin style" is not in the cards for Chinese leaders, Kurlantzick perceptively writes.


Anne-Sylvaine Chassany in FT, Davos Elite Laps Up Milei's Lecture on How It Lost Its Way.

There was a slight gasp among my headset-wearing neighbours in the World Economic Forum’s congress hall when Javier Milei blamed all political movements except his own for the west’s woes. “Whether they proclaim to be openly communists, fascists, Nazis, socialists, social democrats, national socialists, Christian democrats, neo-Keynesians, progressives, populists, nationalists or globalists, there are no major differences. They all say the state should steer all aspects of the lives of individuals,” Argentina’s libertarian president told the well-heeded crowd last week. Corporate executives exchanged amused gazes. There was sporadic laughter. It was only one among many astounding lines in Milei’s 20-minute speech in Davos — his first trip abroad since taking office in December. WEF participants, whom the economics professor labelled the “heroes” of the capitalist world, had been “co-opted” by neo-Marxists, radical feminists and climate activists, he warned.


David Rivkin & Lawrence Friedman in WSJ, Trial Lawyers Are Wrecking the Bankruptcy System.

Trial lawyers have found an opportunity to exploit the traditional bankruptcy claims process through the use of well-honed mass tort shakedown strategies. The scheme is simple but damaging. Plaintiff lawyers invest in a flurry of marketing through social media, TV and radio ads, often using professional “lead generation” companies, to identify the maximum number of potential tort claimants. These claims can’t be fully verified, challenged or adjudicated within the framework of bankruptcy proceedings. Their proliferation siphons off tremendous resources from companies that are already in financial distress, compromising their ability to emerge from bankruptcy and short-changing established creditors, including earlier plaintiffs. As a lawyer for one of the Boy Scouts’ insurers told the press in 2021: “Allowing invalid and fraudulent claims will hurt valid survivors of sexual abuse by delaying and diluting any compensation they would receive.”


Bruce Pardy in EPOCH TIMES, The WHO's Managerial Gambit.

The World Health Organization is now proposing a new international pandemic agreement and amendments to the International Health Regulations. These proposals will make next time worse. Not because they override sovereignty, but because they will protect domestic authorities from responsibility. States will still have their powers. The WHO plan will shield them from the scrutiny of their own people.


Pamela Paul in NYT, What Is Happening at the Columbia School of Social Work?.

The National Association of Social Workers now stipulates that “antiracism and other facets of diversity, equity and inclusion must be a focal point for everyone within social work.” In October, Thema S. Bryant, the 2023 president of the American Psychological Association, published a column titled “Psychologists Must Embrace Decolonial Psychology.” In it she wrote, “Decolonial psychology asks us to consider not just the life history of the individual we are working with but also the history of the various collective groups they are a part of, whether that is their nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion or disability.” The profession, she explained, needed to include a range of goals, from appreciating “Indigenous science” to shaping “systems and institutions” in addition to individuals and families.


Samo Burja at, The End of Industrial Society.

Early modern Europe, while sharing many features typical of agricultural civilizations, also developed social technologies that lent themselves to an explosion of material production. One example was an ideological commitment to truth in speech among some aristocratic circles, exemplified by Britain’s Royal Society, whose Latin motto translates roughly to “take nobody’s word for it.” This commitment enabled advances in basic science by assigning high status to verifiable mathematics, empiricism, and experimentation. It further lent itself to honesty about the process of production. Another key social technology was the Protestant conception of friendship as expressed through the community of willing believers. Strangers could be trusted by default within this community, and thereby coordinate closely to form and run companies. Material factors like roads, canal networks, or good climate contribute to industrialization, but they don’t tell us about the social machinery that took advantage of them. With a handshake and a reputation at stake, you could sail to the other end of the world, spending years out of contact with your business partners, yet secure in knowing they would honor their word. This trust at a distance provided the conditions for ocean-based commodity markets to beat regional commodity markets.


L.M. Sacasas in HEDGEHOG REVIEW on Joseph Minich's book, Bulwarks of Unbelief - Atheism and Divine Absence in a Secular Age.

Minich is keen to show that it was in the late nineteenth century, in the wake of industrialization, urbanization, and the transformation of the technological milieu and conditions of labor, that unbelief became thinkable for large segments of the population and that narratives of secularization, disenchantment, and modernity proliferated among the scholars and intellectuals. As he puts it, “There are good reasons to suspect that the metaphysical furniture of the cosmos and our basic/tacit sense of things probably changed less (at least in the West) between 750 and 1750 than it did between 1850 and 1950.” In the two central chapters of Bulwarks of Unbelief, Minich sets out, first, to establish a correlation between the rise of modern technoculture in the mid-nineteenth century and the rise of modern atheism, and then to argue for a causal relationship between the two phenomena. Citing historical and literary sources, he contends that the rise of unbelief is properly correlated not to the emergence of modern science or Enlightenment models of rationality, but to the lived experience of urban and industrial settings and, critically for Minich, an alienation from the world through the vector of humans’ alienation from their labor.


Michael Weinman in HEDGEHOG REVIEW on Richard Wolin's book, Heidegger in Ruins - Between Philosophy and Ideology.

In this case, Wolin argues, the “Deutschland Metaphysik” in which Heidegger participates goes back to a thinker who more often appears as his nemesis: the Marburg neo-Kantian Paul Natorp, who, in a 1914 lecture on the theme of such a “metaphysics of Germany,” attributed this line of thought to Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation. In the era of the Napoleonic Wars, as Wolin summarizes Natorp’s argument, Fichte and others “endowed what was merely factual with the character of necessity.” The problem here, which Wolin acutely diagnoses, is that Heidegger joined Natorp and many others in linking—inextricably—the historical fact of the emergence of something almost like the German nation-state with a particular metaphysical quality that is attributed to Germanness. In this metaphysical sense, Germany is believed to exist not merely as one nationality among many but also somehow as the fullest expression of nationhood itself. The importance of this insight is clear when Wolin connects it to Heidegger’s invocation of the “metapolitics of historical Volk,” by which he did not “mean any Volk whatsoever. He meant the German Volk, which, as the Black Notebooks repeatedly reaffirm, Heidegger regarded as the only genuinely historical Volk”.


Christopher Caldwell in FIRST THINGS, The Fateful Nineties.

James M. Buchanan, a Chicago-trained economist, pioneer of “public choice theory,” and Nobel Prize–winner in economics in 1986, would focus on three things: information, efficiency, and values. Because exchange is “complex,” Buchanan told the Australians, state planners are too far away from the action to “fully exploit the strictly localized information that emerges in the separate but interlinked markets.” Considering what we had come to know about the information carried in market prices, Buchanan was incredulous that so many had denied the superiority of free markets for so long. Read decades later, his speech gives the sense that the triumph of free markets was on shakier intellectual ground than anyone understood at the time. Buchanan’s assumptions about “strictly localized” information—presumably from factories, shops, and households—reflected how the problem of gathering business information had been understood between the 1930s and 1990. But the internet would begin to draw a broad commercial public roughly three years later, and once it was up and running, almost no information would remain “strictly localized”—nor could it be kept private, except through measures that were themselves costly. A new tool for centralized, comprehensive, and efficient surveillance of market transactions was on its way—and with the invention of HTTP cookies, such information might simply be requisitioned, like grain stocked by Soviet peasants in the 1930s. Eventually, certain academic economists would suggest that, in enabling capitalism to triumph in practice, the personal computer had made socialism possible in principle. A new universe of economic possibilities was opening up.


Cremieux Recueil at, How Do Elite Groups Form?.

Shortly before the establishment of the Turkish republic, that country carried out a genocide of Armenians, Assyrians and Greek Christians – which was certain to have wiped out some of their wealth. The republic also enacted the Varlık Vergisi (a wealth tax that was later characterized as explicitly discriminatory) with the goal of impoverishing non-Muslims, who saw it as the return of the "jizya gavur", or the jizya for infidels. It is perhaps the closest a government has ever gotten to writing up a list ranking ethnicities by how much they hate them. At the top of the list, Christian Armenians were forced to pay an incredible 232% rate, followed by Jews, who had to pay a 179% rate. There was clearly an ethnic element to this tax because Christian Greeks were faced with a rate of “only” 156%. Muslims, on the other hand, were taxed at an extremely low rate of 4.94%. It’s no wonder this caused a massive transfer of wealth to Muslims and left a huge number of non-Muslims enslaved in prison camps, deprived of their livelihoods, and in many cases, dead by their own hands.

*** Them vs. U.S..

The Elites, a group with extraordinary political and societal power, have views and attitudes that are wildly out of touch with the American people. At the center of the gap is a difference of opinion over individual freedom. Most Americans think there is too little freedom in our nation today, a view shared by only 21% of the Elites. There are subsets of this elite world with even more extreme views. Roughly a third of these Elites talk politics daily. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of this politically active segment believe there is too much individual freedom. Only 12% share the public’s view that there is not enough individual freedom in America today. These un-American views are not the result of a conspiracy. They arise from what might be better described as a fraternity culture. Just over half of the Elites have a degree from one of the twelve Elite universities. These schools play a crucial role in defining the Elite culture and perspectives. Elites who attended one of these schools are more likely to talk about politics, and have more extreme views than Elites who attended other schools. Among those who attended one of the 12 schools and talked about politics daily, 73% believe there is too much individual freedom in America today, and 95% trust the government to do the right thing most of the time. Another significant demographic divide among the Elites is a notable generation gap. Among members of the Elites who are 55 or older, just 10% think there is too much individual freedom—a majority (54%) of Elites under 35 hold that view.


Jennifer Schuessler in NYT, What Is 'Settler Colonialism'?.

Many scholars trace the current sense of “settler colonialism,” and its exploding influence in academic circles, to Patrick Wolfe, a British-born Australian scholar and the author of the 1998 book “Settler Colonialism and the Transformation of Anthropology.” In a tribute to Wolfe after his death in 2016, the scholar Lorenzo Veracini wrote that Wolfe said he had included the phrase in the title at the last minute, at the urging of his publisher. (It occurs infrequently in the book itself.) “Like the British, who had supposedly set up an empire without really wanting to,” Veracini wrote, “this committed anti-imperialist scholar kick-started a scholarly field in a fit of absent-mindedness.”


Rob Jenkins in EPOCH TIMES, Is Serfdom Humanity's Default?

We can certainly point to countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, where the United States and its allies have attempted to "liberate" the people, only to have them return to centuries-old power struggles and warlord tribalism - essentially, a form of serfdom - as soon as the Western powers pull out. Do those people really yearn for freedom, for democracy? Why don't they have it, then? But the problem actually strikes much closer to home. I'm convinced that a large and growing minority of people in this country, especially among young people, don't want freedom - certainly not for others, but untimately not even for themselves. Witness the recent Buckley Institute poll in which 51 percent of college students supported campus speech codes, while 45 percent agreed that violence was justified to prevent people from expressing "hate speech."


Peter Gordon in NATION on Christina Morina's book, The Invention of Marxism.

A theme that Morina returns to throughout her book is how many of these socialists sought to interpret Marxism as an objective science. “The co-opting of ‘science’ by Marxist social analysis,” she writes, “may have been the most effective political idea of social critics on the left in the nineteenth century. It turned Marx’s theses into Marxism, and an intellectual worldview into a political truth.” The idea of a “scientific Marxism” grew in popularity among theorists like Engels, who praised Marx at his friend’s graveside as the Darwin of the social world. But it also became a common view among Marx and Engels’s heirs. In the era of electrification and rampant technological expansion, a vague kind of positivism gained in authority among socialists, moving many Marxist theoreticians to claim that Marxism, too, could enjoy the prestige of a science no less than that of the natural sciences such as physics and biology. Morina does not examine this view in much depth, and today very few Marxists would wish to defend the notion that Marxism is a strict science that discovers unbending or universal laws. All the same, she recognizes that the ambition to portray Marxism as scientific can help us to appreciate why it caught fire as a cultural and political ideology. In this respect, she treats Marxism no differently than a social historian might treat other systems of belief: To explain its ascendancy, she looks at its motivational power, not its claims to truth.


Chris Knight at, An Anthropologist Studies the Warring Ideas of Noam Chomsky.

From the start of his academic career, no part of his scientific work would show up in his political activism, while no trace of his activism would be detectable in his science. Among the inevitable outcomes was a conception of language utterly divorced from what most of us mean by that term. Language, for Chomsky, is a computational module restricted entirely to the individual, and devoid of communicative, cultural or social aspects. If it has any remaining purpose or function, it exists merely for talking to oneself. This novel and allegedly ‘scientific’ model of language was so extreme in its individualism and abstraction that, in the end, it proved of no use to anyone. Not even the US military could make any of it work.


John Ellis in WSJ, Higher Ed Has Become a Threat to America.

Personnel is policy. Effective reform means only one thing: getting those political activists out of the classrooms and replacing them with academic thinkers and teachers. (No, that isn’t the same as replacing left with right.) Nothing less will do. Political activists have been converting money intended for higher education to an unauthorized use—advancing their goal of transforming America. That is tantamount to embezzlement. While we let it continue we are financing our own destruction as a society. But how can we stop them? State lawmakers can condition continued funding on the legitimate use of that money and install new campus leadership mandated to replace professors who are violating the terms of their employment. Though only possible in red states, this would bring about competition between corrupt institutions and sound ones. Employers would soon notice the difference between educated and indoctrinated young people.


Robert Zaretsky in THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR, Thought Experimenters.

A few years ago, writer and philosopher Wolfram Eilenberger enjoyed commercial and critical success for Time of the Magicians. The time in question was the decade following the end of the First World War; the magicians who dominated it were Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin, and Ernst Cassirer. Ultimately, these four thinkers had little in common apart from the German language and the shared goal of rethinking the purpose of philosophy. Thanks to this foursome, as Eilenberger argued in his vibrant and often gripping account, the 1920s became “philosophy’s great decade.” With his new book, Eilenberger offers a sequel of sorts, moving from the 1920s to the period between 1933 and 1943, from magicians to visionaries, and from men to women. This time around, the dramatis personae are Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, Ayn Rand, and Simone Weil. Eilenberger pivots expertly among the four storylines, and his writing shimmers with the same intelligence and insight, sense of drama, and urgency that he brought to Time of the Magicians. His four magi, emerging from the material, moral, social, and political wreckage wrought by the First World War, grasped that philosophy had to be utterly reimagined. Similarly, his four visionaries, pursuing their philosophical studies as the world lurched toward the Second World War, found themselves increasingly preoccupied with, well, the vision thing.


Oliver Traldi at, The Pervert's Guide to Philosophy.

In the introduction, Alamariu insists that he is not a Straussian theorist like his advisor—a petulant acknowledgment of just how much he owes to the Straussian tradition in which he was trained. What Alamariu means is that he, as Bronze Age Pervert, is willing and even eager to say offensive things rather than hide them, but his use of a pseudonym seems to confirm rather than undermine Strauss’s theories. However, once the door is opened to hidden meanings, it’s hard to close it. A friend of mine insists that Alamariu’s first book, Bronze Age Mindset, is written in support of Adolf Hitler, because it calls on readers to be “pirates” and Strauss uses the word “pirate” to describe Hitler, and virtually nobody else. This might seem like a stretch, but it’s the sort of interpretation that an esoteric approach seems to encourage.

***, How the Leaders of the Great German Farmers' Protest Are Committed to Neutralising Their Own Movement, and What the Farmers Must Now Do If They Want Anything to Change.

Major news outlets are insisting, via police sources, that only 8,500 protestors attended – probably 30% of the true number. From the beginning, I guess, the press hoped to downplay the size of the protest. I had no illusions that either Rukwied or Lindner would have anything good to say. The former spent the days before the protest railing against “radicals” and singing hymns to “democracy” and the “ballot box”; the latter gave a speech on 6 January telling the farmers to go home. The question was merely how bad these men would be, and I regret to report that both of them were as terrible as possible. You must remember that there is one way – and only one way – for the protest to succeed: The farmers have to adopt an inclusive political programme with broad appeal, and their goal must be the resignation of the Scholz government and new elections. While the farmers are a well-organised and influential segment of society, there aren’t that many of them, which is why the government alighted upon their plan of increasing farm-specific taxes to plug their budgetary hole in the first place. If the farmers confine themselves to issues like the diesel tax hike, they’ll make themselves irrelevant. Even the farmers I talked to seemed not to care that much about diesel subsidies; they have a wide array of much more serious and relatable concerns. The vision and the strategy are there, but their leadership is wholly compromised. Rather than embrace the grievances of the farmers they summoned, Joachim Rukwied and the German Farmers’ Association are determined to shut them down.


James Gagliano at, What I Witnessed at the FBI Will Be the Agency's Waterloo.

J. Edgar Hoover, the father of the FBI, was born in 1895. Hoover hired James Wormley Jones, a WWI veteran who in 1919 became the FBI’s first African-American special agent. This was some 29 years before President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981, leading to desegregation of U.S. Armed Forces. Yet in 2015, a handful of FBI agents complained about a "wax-like, life-size figure of J. Edgar Hoover" positioned within the New York division’s museum. What was the reflexive decision by FBI headquarters public affairs office? Immediately remove the "offensive" statue so as not to "trigger" some fragile agent. The Washington Post characterized it thusly: "The decision to oust Hoover, who was the FBI director for 48 years and served under ten presidents, is something of a cultural moment for the bureau. Once revered among FBI agents, Hoover is no longer universally admired at the crime-fighting organization he built…Today’s agents and other employees dislike the history he represents…" That same year, I also witnessed firsthand the FBI’s shift away from objective resource allocation and "calling things what they were" when Barack Obama’s "wing man," Attorney General Eric Holder, compelled Comey’s FBI to resist accurate description of terror attacks by "radical Islamists" in exchange for more nebulous depictions of our efforts in "combating violent extremism." Contrast that muted downplaying of the Muslim perpetrators of the vast majority of worldwide terror attacks with how DOJ treated the January 6th "insurrectionists" and angry parents at school board meetings -- compared again to 2020 ANTIFA and BLM anarchists and rioters.

***, Behold, the Regime Unveils Its New Catchphrase for All Political Dissent: "Stochastic Terrorism".

Basically, “stochastic terrorism” is the idea that, when somebody on the right criticizes somebody, they aren’t really just making a political argument. Instead, they are trying to “stoke hatred” in the expectation that some random third party will be “radicalized” and then commit political violence on their behalf. In the modern sense of the phrase, “stochastic terrorism” was first coined by a left-wing blogger in 2011, who used it to describe the nefarious terrorist activities of, er, Sean Hannity....


James Piereson in NEW CRITERION, The New Conservative Dilemma.

These programs eventually erased the unofficial barrier that had existed until that time between the powers of the federal government and those of other institutions across the society. The New Deal expanded many of the powers of government but did little to interfere with this traditional barrier. In 1961, the U.S. government spent about $80 billion, with 57 percent ($46 billion) going to national defense and the rest scattered among interest payments, Social Security, agricultural programs, and veterans affairs. By 1980, when Great Society programs were in full swing, the federal government spent about $550 billion, with just 24 percent allocated to defense. But 39 percent was allocated to income programs of various kinds (through Social Security, Medicare, welfare, and other items) and 16 percent to grants and payments to state and local governments. Those sub-grants to other institutions were accompanied by requirements to carry out civil-rights legislation, in addition to others later mandated by laws dealing with the environment, mental health, and physical handicaps. The new programs created in that period spawned a host of advocacy groups in Washington that worked with journalists, congressional committees, and executive agencies to protect expenditures and expand the reach of the programs. The advocacy groups were funded by charitable foundations and wealthy individuals, and sometimes by the government itself, which sent money to such groups to press Congress to spend more, in a cumulative process of expansion.


David McCarthy in NEW CRITERION, Conservatism Reconfigured.

About forty years ago the hard-right columnist and political theorist Sam Francis began to devise a new framework for understanding power in modern America. Francis accepted as true James Burnham’s argument that a “managerial revolution” had superseded the old class struggle between labor and capital and resulted in a new human type, the “managerial class.” To this Francis added an idea borrowed from the sociologist Donald Warren, who in The Radical Center: Middle Americans and the Politics of Alienation (1976) described men and women who might today be called “populists” (or “deplorables”) as “Middle American Radicals,” or mars. Francis recognized them as the population left behind and disenfranchised by the accumulation of power in the hands of the managerial elite. The class conflict of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, as he saw it, was between the mars and the managers. Burnham seems not to have believed that there was any way to reverse the managerial revolution, just as one could not undo the industrial revolution. Francis, by contrast, suggested that a “Middle American Revolution” might come from an uprising of mars, perhaps beginning with the election of Pat Buchanan as president sometime in the 1990s. It bears emphasizing that a politically engaged Middle American Radical is not a conservative; Francis was an unsparing critic of the conservative movement, which at its best consisted, in his estimation, of “beautiful losers.” Political mars would be far more confrontational than conservatives had traditionally been; they would not flinch at using state power to advance their goals, and they would not be encumbered by any debt to “classical liberalism.”


Margot Cleveland in NEW CRITERION, The Promise of Populism.

After decades of conservative acquiescence to the one-way movement of cultural and constitutional norms, the Left’s ratchet could go no further once it demanded ideological and moral capitulation and celebration of the converse. The ruling class’s “no enemies to the left” approach finally fractured a unified nation by denying Americans a live-and-let-live refuge. While conservatives may prefer the more refined platitudes of the past, their polite words and attitude of compromise are exactly what sowed the field of authoritarianism that is now choking our liberty. Conservatives are faced with a stark choice. They may remain apathetic and go quietly into the night, or they can welcome into the fold the people who stand ready to rebuild America on her foundational principles. So, rather than allow the Left to define the movement or the cause, conservatives should champion populism and define it for what it is—an embrace of the lowercase-D democracy that underlies our constitutional republic. Let the Democrats argue against real democracy, which they now refer to as “our democracy” every time they feel their power threatened.

***, Ice Ice Baby: Why Donald Trump Should Annex Antarctica.

If Donald Trump has a pet peeve as a politician, it’s bad deals—and worst of all, bad deals that stick around for no discernible reason. When the U.S. proposed making Antarctica a neutral zone, it was by far the country with the greatest ability to develop Antarctica. America remains as such today, but in a far less dominant position than 60 years ago. Today, the Cold War is over, and both China and Russia flagrantly lay the groundwork for economic expansion in Antarctica, while the U.S. does nothing. Antarctica is certainly an unhospitable place. Temperatures in the interior routinely drop below -100 degrees in winter, and most of the continent literally never reaches above freezing temperatures. The continent’s original landmass is buried beneath a mass of ice averaging more than a mile in thickness. Merely finding, let alone harvesting, the natural resources of Antarctica’s interior would be enormously difficult and expensive. But consider that, at this moment, the world dreams of building bases on the surfaces of the moon and Mars. An asteroid-mining startup has collected enough investor cash to launch a probe aboard a SpaceX rocket next year. Sure, drilling a hole through a mile of ice is hard, but it’s not as hard or expensive as building a literal moon base.


W.M. Akers in NYTBR on Gregory Wallance's book, Into Siberia - George Kennan's Epic Journey Through the Brutal, Frozen Heart of Russia.

George Kennan lost his faith in the Russian city of Tomsk. A journalist, he came in the summer of 1885 to report on the country’s exile system, which every year sent thousands of men, women and children to the wilds of Siberia, intending that they should work, be forgotten and die. In Tomsk he found what one local official called “the worst prison in Siberia,” where entire families crowded into cages too tight for them to move, the air was noxious and the hospital was so “saturated with disease” that a physician there was lobbying to have it burned down. Kennan had come to write a defense of the sprawling network of work camps and prisons. Tomsk broke him. “The exile system is worse than I believed it to be, and worse than I have described it,” he wrote in a letter to the publisher of Century magazine. “It isn’t pleasant, of course, to have to admit that one has written upon a subject without fully understanding it; but even that is better than trying, for the sake of consistency, to maintain a position after one sees that it is utterly untenable.” “Into Siberia,” Gregory Wallance’s new biography of Kennan, convincingly portrays him as one of the 19th century’s most influential journalists, arguing that “Siberia and the Exile System,” his account of his 1885-86 journey, was what first soured American relations with Russia. (Kennan was related to George F. Kennan, the Cold War-era diplomat who would later make his own mark on the Russo-American relationship.)


Sui-Lee Wee in NYT, Vietnam Relied on Environmentalists to Secure Billions. Then It Jailed Them.

“We’re dealing with a juggernaut,” said Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division. “They have run the table on the international community, and they’re continuing to do so.” He pointed to Vietnam’s invitation to the Group of 7 summit this year, its inclusion on the Human Rights Council and now the funding from the Just Energy Transition Partnership, despite the country’s troubling human rights record. Climate Forward There’s an ongoing crisis — and tons of news. Our newsletter keeps you up to date. Get it in your inbox. Since 2016, when Nguyen Phu Trong, the general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, was re-elected, the space for civil society has shrunk immensely. The country has the second-highest number of political prisoners in Southeast Asia, with more than 160 people currently detained for exercising their basic rights, according to Human Rights Watch. The authorities in Vietnam have long persecuted people who are viewed as overt threats to one-party rule. But Mr. Trong’s administration has gone much further, targeting people who were previously given some room to operate.


Perry Link in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS on Ha Jin's book, The Woman Back from Moscow - In Pursuit of Beauty.

The distinguished Australian Sinologist Simon Leys once observed that comparisons of the CCP elite to the mafia are in a sense unfair to the mafia, in which a certain loyalty to "brothers" does play a part. Losers of political battles at the top of the CCP generally are not relegated to comfortable retirements - they go to prison or worse.


Nicolas Niarchos in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS on five books on Congo Mining.

Artisanal mining, as small-scale mining in Africa is known, often involves child labor, exposure to poisonous chemicals, and wage slavery - this part of the business is in particular need of change. The most powerful firms in the mining sphere and in the manufacture of battery components, as well as many of the major buyers of artisanally mined cobalt, are Chinese. Western businesses buy cobalt that has already been processed in China, and so they are further implicated in the supply chain - including the terrible conditions at artisanal mines.... At industrial mines, which account for anywhere between 70 and 85 percent of the cobalt produced in Congo, the ore is mined using modern, mechanized methods, but the conditions at artisanal mines are immensely dangeerous and toxic, and they need to be improved.... Yet anyone who attempts to improve conditions and wages at artisanal mindes must face the fact that workers can't afford to lose what little they have.


Ian Frazier in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS on Alicia Puglionesi's books, Common Phantoms, and In Whose Ruins.

From the Grave Creek Mound, Puglionesi goes about 150 miles northeast, to western Pennsylvania, site of the world's first oil boom. Oil was so plentiful there that it seemed from the ground. Native Americans had dug pits as deep as ten feet, lined them with timber to collect the seeps, and used the oil for medicine and trade. The Seneca, one of the six nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, still had large holdings of land in the region in 1859 when Colonel Edwin Drake, who wasn't a colonel, drilled the first commercially successful oil well, near Titusville. The rush that followed gave a preview of the suicidal modern world. Drillers widened their well bores with nitroglycerin torpedoes that set towns on fire. A gusher came in, caught fire in the air, rained down, and burned seventeen people to death.... In terms of environmental damage, Puglionesi says the California Gold Rush of 1849 had attracted similar hordes of fortune seekers, but "the forty-niners were artisans compared to the oil operators."


Magda Teter in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS on Moshe Taube's book, The Cultural Legacy of the Pre-Ashkenazic Jews in Eastern Europe.

What makes the existence of this Slavic version of medieval Hebrew texts even more intriguing, Taube points out, is that Muscovy was then a backwater, its clergy "barely literate." No "classical learning of the ancient Greeks and Romans penetrated the walls of pious obscurantism in Russian church institutions, including the monasteries." If so few scholars had Greek, certainly none were trained in Hebrew. And even KyivanRus', a region where Jews lived that was politically and culturally distinct from Muscovy, was a place known "as a source of furs and slaves," not erudition. The eastern Europe of the book's title covers the territories of today's Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, and parts of Russia, which were all once part of Kyivan Rus' - a veritable battleground of Russian and Ukrainian historiographies.


Greg Afinogenov in AMERICAN SCHOLAR, An Outrage Sacred to the Gods.

We say “trade route,” but the primary goods for sale were human. Varangian traders (we know them as Vikings, though they called themselves Rus) used it to ship Slavic slaves south to the wealthy cities of Byzantium, eventually bringing north Orthodox religion, art, and artisan goods. The Rus were an unpleasant bunch, though today, Russian and Ukrainian historians vie for their legacy as the origin of their respective states. The Arab diplomat Ahmad ibn Fadlan, who claimed to have met some of the Rus in the 10th century, records an elaborate burial rite they performed upon the death of one of their chiefs. An old woman known as the “Angel of Death” would kill one of the chief’s slave girls following a sequence of ceremonial rapes. Then both chief and girl would be laid out on a boat piled with kindling and set on fire in classic Viking fashion. Ibn Fadlan found all this shocking, but one of the Rus told him it was the Arabs who were stupid. “You go and cast into the earth the people whom you both love and honor most among men,” he said. “Then the earth, creeping things, and worms devour them. We, however, let them burn for an instant, and accordingly he enters into paradise at once in that very hour.” Then, writes Ibn Fadlan, the Viking “burst into immoderate laughter.” Until they began to integrate with the Slavic population they dominated, most of the Rus left little indication that they thought of these lands as a home to return to; there was no reason for them to leave their dead behind.


Edward Chancellor in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS on Bruce Caldwell & Hansjoerg Klausinger's book, Hayek - A Life, 1899-1950, and Vikash Yadav's book, Liberalism's Last Man - Hayek in the Age of Political Capitalism.

Hayek's ideological assault on fascism started in 1933 with a brief memo to LSE director William Beveridge entitled "Nazi-Socialism." Controversially, Hayek maintained that fascism was a genuine socialist movement and that hostility to traditional liberalism united both fascists and communists. Antiliberalism in economic affairs, he wrote, "leads inevitably to a reign of universal compulsion, to intolerance and tdhe suppression of intellectual freedom." He developed these notions over the following years - notably in his 1938 paper "Freedom and the Economic System," in which he extended his critique to central planning in general.


Geoffrey Wheatcroft in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS on Julian Jackson's book, France on Trial - The Case of Marshal Petain.

One man understandably absorbed by this story was Philippe Pétain, who in the winter of 1944–1945 “settled down to the memoirs of Talleyrand,” Julian Jackson writes in France on Trial, “perhaps seeking tips about how to make a transition from one regime to another.” Pétain had been head of the collaborationist Vichy government of France from July 1940 until August 1944, and was now holed up in Sigmaringen, an ancient Hohenzollern castle in southwestern Germany and “an appropriately Ruritanian setting for the final act of the Vichy drama.” He had scurried thither ahead of the Allied armies, along with the flotsam of Vichy, among them Pierre Laval, Jean Luchaire, and Louis Ferdinand Auguste Destouches. Laval’s career, remarkable even in that age of political tergiversation, took him from left-wing socialist in 1914 to prime minister twice in the 1930s and again under Vichy, then to trial and execution in 1945. Luchaire was a corrupt journalist who had arrived with “at least two mistresses, his wife and his daughter.” And Destouches was a doctor, an ardent antisemite, and a writer under the pen name Céline, who has been called the greatest French novelist of the twentieth century.


Christopher Browning in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS on Volker Ullrich's book, Germany 1923, Mark Jones' book, 1923, and Michael Brenner's book, In Hitler's Munich.

Following Germany’s defeat in World War I and acceptance of armistice terms as well as the flight of the kaiser and the collapse of the monarchy in November 1918, the new provisional government was dominated by Social Democrats, and in Berlin a move by the Communist-linked Spartacists in January 1919 to replace it with a more revolutionary regime—as had occurred in the fall of 1917 in Russia—was repressed with much bloodshed, including the summary execution of the Spartacist leaders Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht at the hands of right-wing paramilitary units. In nationwide elections held later the same month, a coalition of middle-class liberals (German Democratic Party, or DDP), moderate socialists (German Social Democratic Party, or SPD), and Catholics (Center Party) won a clear majority, drew up the constitution for a parliamentary democracy known as the Weimar Republic, and formed the governing majority in its first legislature, or Reichstag. However, even if not doomed, the republic was a “burdened” democracy from the beginning.... Both ends of the political spectrum—the radical left, composed of Communists loyal to Moscow, and the resurgent right, composed of both traditional authoritarians and emerging fascists—rejected democracy outright and sought the overthrow of the republic.


Dominic Green in WSJ on Anthony Kaldellis' book, The New Roman Empire, Philip Freeman's book, Julian, and Peter Sarris' book, Justinian.

The 19th-century historian Jacob Burckhardt called ancient history a “base-chord heard again and again” through the medieval and the modern eras. The eastern empire created the doctrines and institutions of early Christianity and preserved and developed the Roman law. Yet for centuries, Western Europeans remained selectively deaf to these resonances. Medieval European warlords pretended to the confected title of Holy Roman Emperor, despite the endurance of a real holy Roman empire to the east. They were abetted by the Latin churchmen who forged the Donation of Constantine as the pope’s license to appoint a king of the Romans. The Greek and Latin churches split over doctrine in the Great Schism of 1054, and in 1204 a western alliance fatally wounded the eastern empire by diverting the Fourth Crusade from Jerusalem and sacking Constantinople. Modern historians repeated the insult in the name of the Enlightenment. Edward Gibbon, in the 18th century, called the eastern empire a “new Rome,” but saw its history as a fall that followed the decline of the old Rome. In the 19th century, French historians used “Byzantine” to mean the opposite of progress: procrastination, irrationality, mystification. Naturally, this image appealed to artists. Their ideal resembled the jeweled tortoise in J.K. Huysmans’s “Against Nature” or the gilded perfection in W.B. Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium”: gorgeous but immobile, timeless but useless. Recent scholars see Byzantium differently. As Christianity grew from Judaism, so the inheritances of the modern West grew from the new Rome as well as the old. In “The New Roman Empire,” Anthony Kaldellis, a professor of classics at the University of Chicago, argues that the eastern empire “directly inherited Roman political traditions, Greek literature, and Biblical monotheism.” The new Rome, not the old, passed this heritage to the West as “curated versions of the corpus of Roman law, Greek literature and thought, and the Church Fathers and decisions of the Church Councils.” We might add to the Byzantine legacy two unprecedented templates, the sensuous austerities of Byzantine art and the accidental invention of what we now call identity politics.


Stephen Platt in WSJ on Sheila Miyoshi Jager's book, The Other Great Game.

Ms. Jager’s central argument is that we simply cannot comprehend the course of East Asian history from the 1860s to the early 1900s without putting Korea at its center. Her book explores how Russia, China and Japan separately formed their own ambitions for control and influence there, as well as how their competition over the peninsula led to war. So Korea is at the center, though often as an object of imperial desire rather than as the subject of its own story. Nevertheless, Ms. Jager is entirely correct. While readers expecting a book on Korea may be disappointed that more chapters don’t actually take place there, those with global interests will find it revelatory to see how all the pieces fit together. Ms. Jager’s “other great game” makes the original round of diplomatic jousting that goes by that name seem simple by comparison. The contest for Afghanistan during the late 19th century had two primary contenders: Britain and Russia. In regard to Korea, there is the three-body problem of Meiji Japan, Qing China and czarist Russia, as well as a concatenation of factions and schisms within Korea itself.



There were fortunes to be made shipping opium - legally or illegally - to China. Two of them belong to Warren Delano Jr. (1809-1898), maternal grandfather of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Delano arrived in China before the First Opium War and quickly developed a workaround to Chinese import prohibitions. Opium would be carried on ships with legal cargo, the drugs being off-loaded onto smaller vessels before the ship entered the Pearl River. Delano's fortune was largely wiped out in the Panic of 1857, so he returned to China to repeat his earlier success. By that time importation was legal, and he even shipped the drug to the US for palliative care of wounded soldiers during the US Civil War. Chinese leader, including Chiang Kai-shek, were of course aware of FDR's sordid family history, as was the president himself. It made communications between the two - especially in face-to-face conversations - somewhat awkward.


Vincent Bevins in NATION on Sebastian Edwards' book, The Chile Project - The Story of the Chicago Boys and the Downfall of Neoliberalism.

Sebastian Edwards, the author of a new book on the Chicago Boys, is one of those defenders of neoliberalism. Born in Chile to a very influential family, he eventually became a Chicago–trained economist himself and now teaches at UCLA. As a younger man he’d supported Allende, but after the coup he attended the Universidad Católica, the college where the Chicago Boys had set up shop, before studying at the University of Chicago and going on to work for the World Bank and as an advisor to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now, in The Chile Project: The Story of the Chicago Boys and the Downfall of Neoliberalism, Edwards tries to separate the neoliberal project from the very illiberal regime that first put it into practice. Edwards is as successful as one can be in such an endeavor, armed with an impressive command of the material and a serious concern for the period in question. Even for those who see the Chilean coup as one of the worst crimes of the 20th century, his perspective can be welcomed. A sympathetic narrator who knew many of the people he chronicles in the book, he can offer additional details—and dispel some of the myths that haunt the left as much as the right.


John Reed in FT, Maldives Order Indian Troops Out by March as Islands Draw Closer to China.

India has about 75 troops in the Maldives and operates two helicopters, used in part for medical evacuations, in addition to operating radar equipment and naval patrols on its territory. Muizzu’s call for withdrawal comes against a backdrop of tensions between New Delhi and Beijing over their disputed border and respective influence in India’s backyard. The Maldives’ push for India to pull out its small contingent has in recent weeks sparked heated online commentary, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 4 posted pictures of himself meeting residents, strolling on beaches, and snorkelling in India’s Lakshadweep islands, off the coast of India’s southern Kerala state. In a post on X, the Indian leader described Lakshadweep as “mesmerising” and declared: “For those who wish to embrace the adventurer in them, Lakshadweep has to be on your list.”


Colin Kidd in LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS on Claire Rydell Arcenas' book, America's Philosopher - John Locke in American Intellectual Life.

Reinvented as ‘America’s antidote to Marx’, his works, especially the easily digested Second Treatise of Government, became firmly entrenched in the undergraduate curriculum. Wrenched out of their context – England during the Exclusion Crisis and its aftermath – and unobtrusively mangled, Locke’s political ideas were repackaged as inoffensive bourgeois liberalism. Between the publication of The Vital Centre by Arthur Schlesinger Jr in 1949 and the appearance in 1960 of The End of Ideology by the sociologist Daniel Bell, America witnessed a decade of conspicuous consensus. It helped that Eisenhower was a centrist, who, though wooed by the Democrats, decided in the end to run for president as a lukewarm Republican. But consensus was also grounded in social attitudes: what Hartz possibly misdescribed as an intuitive, common sense Lockeanism. The first direct challenge to the Hartzian consensus came from the conservative movement’s most exotic coterie, a grouping that, perversely, didn’t celebrate American institutions in any straightforward way. The Chicago-based German émigré Leo Strauss and his followers championed the high ideals enshrined in the political philosophy of the Ancients, at the expense of the Moderns, such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke and the authors of the Federalist Papers, with their depressingly low view of humanity. Straussians bemoaned the checks and balances of the American constitution, mechanisms premised on man’s sordid self-interest. Strauss read Locke as a benighted Modern, dismissing his purported vision of bourgeois acquisition as ‘the joyless quest for joy’.


Erin Thompson in LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS on Christopher Heaney's book, Empires of the Dead - Inca Mummies and the Peruvian Ancestors of American Anthropology.

Soon after capturing Atahualpa, the conquistadors looted the palace of his father, Huayna Capac. They took his gold ornaments but left his preserved body behind, which must have mystified the Inca, who secreted Huayna Capac in a more secure place. The former emperor was thought capable of such powerful acts as bringing or stopping rain. Rival imperial aspirants sometimes seized or even burned the bodies of one another’s ancestors in order to cut off such sources of power. The Chinchorro culture began mummifying their dead in what is now southern Peru and northern Chile around 6000 BCE, making South America’s earliest mummified bodies two thousand years older than those of Egypt. When the Inca conquered much of the Andes in the 15th century, they found that their new subjects practised many ways of preserving the dead. The hot sand near the coast preserved bodies buried there through desiccation, while in the mountains bodies were freeze-dried in caves or special mortuary towers. Communities often continued to care for their preserved ancestors, bringing them out of their resting places to help settle disputes or to assure good rains and harvests.


David Todd in LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS on Robert Darnton's book, The Revolutionary Temper - Paris 1748-89.

This sense of extraordinariness was initially shared across Europe and the world. Two days after the storming of the Bastille, even Lord Dorset, the British ambassador in Paris, couldn’t conceal his enthusiasm: ‘The greatest Revolution that we know anything of has been effected with, comparatively speaking – if the magnitude of the event is considered – the loss of very few lives. From this moment we may consider France as a free country.’ By the end of the Reign of Terror in 1793-94 and two decades of war with other great powers, the loss of life had turned out to be much greater than Dorset thought. Yet the awesomeness of 1789 as a model of human emancipation inspired revolutionaries of various kinds – liberal, socialist, anticolonialist – worldwide until at least the mid-20th century. Only the Anglo-American world, perhaps because it thought itself already emancipated, has remained largely immune to the messianic allure of 1789. By hailing France’s sudden accession to the status of ‘free country’, Dorset meant that it had abruptly attained a state of political bliss that Britons had built over centuries.


Angel Gurria-Quintana in FT on Alvaro Enrigue's book, You Dreamed of Empires.

Central to the success of the real-life Spanish expedition were two translators who appear to have been doing all the diplomatic heavy lifting while also seeking to advance their own agendas. One, Malinalli, was a local princess whom Cortés had brought “into his entourage and his hammock”. She spoke Nahuatl, language of the Mexica, as well as Maya. Malinalli’s fellow interpreter, Gerónimo de Aguilar, was a shipwrecked Andalucían friar who spoke Maya and Castilian: “he lived like a priest in every sense of the word. He was always praying, he spoke Latin and Greek, he was learned in church doctrine, he refused to wear military garb, he slept, ate and drank as austerely as a Carmelite, and he only bedded handsome youths.” Moctezuma, “the most famous man in an entire world”, is troubled by portents of disaster but firmly committed to his daily nap — and addicted to magic mushrooms and hallucinogenic cacti. “People said that in recent months, ever since things had gotten out of hand, he had turned too frequently to the wisdom of the gods.” But might there be some tactical benefit behind his apparent obsession with the Spaniards’ horses?


William Dalrymple in FT on Peter Jackson's book, From Genghis Khan to Tamerlane - The Reawakening of Mongol Asia.

He was something of a late starter for a world conqueror: it took him nine battles over 18 years to conquer his local metropolis of Samarkand. But then he erupted from what is now Uzbekistan to raze the other great cities of the Persianate world. The poet Hafez, who lived through these horrors, wrote with dread, “Again the times are out of joint . . . / The wheel of fortune has turned / What next proud head to the lowly dust will it bring?” Like the first wave of Mongols during the 13th century, Timur conquered deep into Russia, although his advance on Moscow in 1391 was cut short, according to a Rus source, “by a nocturnal vision of the Virgin Mary”. On the other hand, unlike his predecessors, he succeeded in taking Delhi and looting its riches — including its celebrated war elephants — while taking time to visit its architectural wonders during “a kind of plundering tourism”. Impressed, he then dragged the masons back to Samarkand, where he forced them to build towering monuments. Timur finally died on 19 February 1405 while planning an expedition against China to dethrone the emperor he referred to as “Fat Pig Khan”. Unlike Genghis, Timur was uninterested in institutions, and as a result his empire quickly shattered after his death. And yet the most surprising part of the story is what followed. Quite unexpectedly, Timur’s successors proved to be some of the greatest scholars and aesthetes of Islamic history. Timur had destroyed the old order, but his conquests left Central Asia as one of the Earth’s richest and geopolitically critical regions, while the craftsmen he hauled back to Samarkand turned his steppe capital into one of the world’s great cities. From these ingredients his successors were able to fashion a major cultural renaissance. The later Timurids — dubbed “the Oriental Medici” by the 20th-century travel writer Robert Byron — transformed themselves into refined connoisseurs of painting, poetry and calligraphy.


Thomas Latschan at, What Was Behind the Balochistan Strikes?.

Both Jaysh al-Adl and the BLF are militant separatist groups fighting for the independence of a region called Balochistan. The Baloch are an ethnic group who live on both sides of the Iran-Pakistan border and into parts of southern Afghanistan. In total, this area is roughly the size of France. The Pakistani province of Balochistan forms the largest part, followed by the province of Sistan and Balochistan on the Iranian side. Mountainous with a dry desert climate, it is sparsely populated by some nine million Balochs who are organised into tribes rather than feeling that they belong to a state. Efforts for autonomy or independence have been violently suppressed on both sides of the border for decades. On the Pakistani side, such efforts are seen as an attempt to divide the country; on the Iranian side, things are complicated by the fact that the Baloch are a Sunni minority in an otherwise predominantly Shia country. Both states have taken correspondingly harsh action against the ethnic group. In Pakistan, up to 20,000 Balochs have disappeared in recent decades, presumably abducted, tortured or even murdered by Pakistani security forces, according to Amnesty International.


Steve Stalinsky & Yigal Carmon interviewed in WSJ by Elliot Kaufman.

Unfortunately, the tendency of sophisticated observers is to play down what terrorists say they believe. In a phone interview from Washington, Steve Stalinsky, Memri’s executive director, points out that in all the coverage of the war, “we have heard almost nothing about the Hamas ideology. Yeah, sure, sometimes you hear about the Hamas Covenant”—the group’s charter, which spells out its genocidal intentions—“but that’s it, and no one even prints it.” Memri prints it, and publishes video compilations of Hamas leaders stating their movement’s goal: to build an Islamic caliphate stretching from Palestine across the region and the world. That sounds more like international jihad than Palestinian nationalism. Headquartered in Washington, Memri monitors and translates TV broadcasts, newspapers, sermons, social-media posts, textbooks and official statements in Arabic, Farsi and several other languages. The work may be drudgery, but it yields a steady stream of articles and viral video clips that condemn the region’s tyrants, terrorists and two-faced intellectuals with their own words.


Richard Milne in FT, Gang Violence - 'It Is Tearing Us Apart'.

Ask a Swede what has gone wrong in their country and you will get a mixed response. Those on the right largely blame immigrations, which has added 2mn people to the country in recent decades. Those on the left point to social factors, including the privatisation of Sweden's welfare system which has led to worse services in deprived areas. For most of the 2010s, the nationalist Sweden Democrats were a lone voice opposed to mass immigration, but their support has risen almost in lockstep with the intensifying violence. Now, the one-time fringe party is one of Sweden's largest political groups. "For a long time, we were alone. We were labelled racists. Today the situation is so bad. We're not alone any more," says Jomshof, of the justice committee.


Susannah Savage in FT, 'Ghost Ship' Threat to Global Fish Stocks Laid Bare.

While the footprint of land-based extractive industries such as agricaulture is plotted down to almost the last square metre, oceans were "still the Wild West", said David Kroodsma, one of the study's lead authors and Global Fishing Watch's diretor of research and innovation.... GFW's study, published in the journal Nature yesterday, used GPS positions from hundreds of thousands of ocean-going vessels as well as satellite radar imagery and artificial intelligence to track marine activity between 2017 and 2021. It found that on average 63,000 craft were detected at any given time. About half were industrial fishing vessels, three-quarters of which were off-radar, including many around Africa and south Asia.


Andy Bounds & Javier Espinoza in FT, Rich World Accused of Using Green Policies to Hold Back Poor.

The US has enacted the landmark Inflation Reduction Act with $369bn of subsidies and tax breaks for domestically produced goods such as electric vehicles. The EU has responded in kind with increased subsidies and policies to stimulate production of silicon chips, critical minerals and green technology. "Developing countries see a lot of these policies as protectionist. They don't have the fiscal space to go the path of subsidies, so they have to go the path of restrictions to trade or even duties or taxes," she said. Grynspan attacked the EU for taking Indonesia to the WTO over its restrictions on nickel exports and requirement to process the ore locally. She said the Jakarta government wanted to move up the value chain by making products from the nickel. "They don't want it to be exported in the raw form, but with value added. So they were taken to arbitration in the WTO. They lost in the first instance precisdely because global trade rules have not been adjusted." she said.


Stephen Bush in FT, Goodbye to the Days of Ambient Cultural Liberalism.

China's success exports something that is vastly different to Muzak-liberalism. Liu Yifei, the Chinese-American actor who played Mulan, supported the police's repression of protests in Hong Kong. Chinese writer Liu Cixin's marvellous work of science fiction, Three Body Problem, released in English almost a decade ago, is itself the winner of a Hugo Award but - from the struggle of the heroic Earth who seeks to overcome a technologically superior superpower, to the vacillations of the triolgy's liberal characters - it is also steeped in Chinese Communist party beliefs and values. This year's Hugo Awards have been rocked by controversy, after several authors and entries were declared ineligible. One was an episode of the Netflix dramam Sandman, a series shose comic book predecessors have previously been eligible, but whose creator, Neil Gaiman, has called for the release of jailed Chinese authors. Also declared ineligible were RF Kuang's Babel, an account of an alternate version of the British empire powered by magic, and Xiran Jay Zhao's Iron Widow, which reimagines the life of China's only female emperor in a far future setting. Both writers are part of the Chinese diaspora.


Sadanand Dhume in WSJ, In the 'Asian Century,' Indians and Chinese Flee.

Geopolitical pundits often describe this as the “Asian century.” The economic rise of China and India is supposed to end 500 years of Western pre-eminence any day now. But votaries of this notion often overlook a curious fact: Both China and India continue to account for a large portion of the world’s emigrants. If these countries’ prosperity and stability are assured, then why are so many—including the well-educated and the wealthy—eager to leave? Each year, tens of thousands of Indians and Chinese are willing to risk life and limb to enter America illegally. In fiscal 2023, Customs and Border Protection agents encountered 97,000 Indian and 53,000 Chinese inadmissible aliens, or people without authorization to enter the country. That’s more than three times as many Indians and more than twice as many Chinese as were caught in 2021. Based on CPB data, China’s numbers are on track to rise dramatically this year.


Darlene Sanchez in EPOCH TIMES, US Taxpayers Help Fund Border Crisis.

Until President Joe Biden took office, the United States had obligated about a half-billion dollars per year to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the U.N.'s migration arm. But that funding has skyrocketed under the Biden administration to nearly $1.3 billion in 2023 - more than double what it had been under the Trump administration, according to The government spending database shows that most of the money comes from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Two of the largest government give-aways were voluntary contributions to the U.N.'s IOM from the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration totalling $547 million over two years ending in 2023. The bureau's objective was "to fund processing individuals requesting refugee status and resettlement in the United States and arrange their movement." The U.N. is pouring a staggering amount of money - particularly stemming from U.S. taxpayers - into the illegal immigrant crisis. The U.N.-orchestrated Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan update for 2024 calls for distributing $1.6 billion in 17 Latin American and Caribbean countries with the help of 248 partner agencies, which are also receiving U.S. grants. The plan allocated $372 million in "cash and vouchers" and "multipurpose cash assistance" during 2024 for 624,300 migrants - the population of Detroit - in Central and South America who are headed to the U.S. border.


Nina Shea in NATIONAL REVIEW, Pope Xi - How the Vatican Capitulated to the Chinese Communist Party.

The Patriotic Association doubtless includes faithful Chinese clerics. And it certainly includes CCP infiltrators. Chinese Communist espionage in the West is notorious and has not spared the church. In the 1970s, the FBI uncovered a spy in the Church of the Transfiguration in New York’s Chinatown. He posed as a Catholic priest but was actually a married Chinese-state-security agent and had trained over several years for the mission by saying Mass and hearing confessions in churches throughout Asia. Just as Ostpolitik was exploited by the KGB to send Eastern European clerics as spies to the Holy See and Vatican II, the current policy of Sinicization will provide further opportunities for CCP infiltration of the church. In 2020, China’s state-sponsored hackers targeted Vatican computer networks, according to Catholic News Agency. Since the agreement, the CCP has rounded up for detention or banishment, by my count, six Catholic bishops who refuse to pledge their independence from the Vatican. Bishop Su and eleven others, arrested before the agreement, have continued to suffer persecution. At a 2020 press conference, Parolin admonished a questioner not to talk of “persecution” of China’s church, saying there were only “regulations that are imposed and which concern all religions, and certainly also concern the Catholic Church.” When pressed about Beijing’s repressive Sinicization policy, he incorrectly conflated it with “inculturation,” the benign practice, favored by 16th-century missionary Father Matteo Ricci, of adopting local dress and manners, as if this settled the question of ceding papal authority.


Alec Russell in FT on David Van Reybrouck's book, Revolusi - Indonesia and the Birth of the Modern World.

Van Reybrouck sets the stage with a tart account of the Netherland's acquisition of its empire, driven primarily by the desire to corner the market of the fabled "Spice Islands", in particular their cloves and nutmeg. He deftly captures the hypocrisy of the venture when assessing the directors of the 17th-century Dutch trading company that oversaw it in its early years. These "seventeen pipe-puffing white-collared worthies who expressed themselves in baroque sentences... would have preferred the monopolies to be acquired with a little less bloodshed," he writes, "but they continued to give Coen [one of the especially ruthless Dutch commanders] their full support because he was so good for the bottom line." In the following 300 years, they took more and more from the local rulers - a history Van Reybrouck tells with piercing judgment. But his narrative really takes off in the 1930s, with the Dutch suppression of the independence movement. By this time, its colony had become an even more treasured part of the Netherlands' economy, not least given the discovery of rich deposits of oil - one of the primary goals for the Japanese when they invaded in 1942.


Ben Hubbard in NYTBR on Alex Rowell's book, We Are Your Soldiers - How Gamal Abdel Nasser Remade the Arab World.

In his quest for control in Egypt, Nasser developed a dictator’s playbook: Gain a grip in the country’s military, find disgruntled allies among the ranks, come to power in a coup and then smash anything that could threaten your power while claiming to act according to the people’s will. To personalize the torment his reign caused, Rowell dedicates a blistering chapter to the mostly communist and other leftist activists tortured by Nasser’s security forces at a prison near Cairo that Rowell argues could justly be called a concentration camp. In other chapters, Rowell follows Nasser around the region, detailing the ways in which he sowed the seeds of future troubles. In Iraq, he supported coups and coup attempts and granted recognition to putschists while hosting a young Saddam Hussein in Cairo for three years before Hussein returned home and, eventually, tookover the country. Nasser sought to seize effective control of Syria by uniting it with Egypt in the short-lived United Arab Republic, contributing to the chaos from which President Hafez al-Assad rose to take power in 1970. Nasser pushed through a 1969 agreement with Lebanon that gave Palestinian militants free rein in the country in their fight against Israel, a reality that both contributed to Lebanon’s disastrous 15-year civil war and made it harder to resolve.


Mohamad Alrabino at, The Long Road to Modernising Marriage.

The association of a particular family system with advancement ("civilization") was originally a European idea. Europeans asserted that differences between their family system and those of others accounted for European superiority. Egyptian and Ottoman thinkers followed that logic and adopted European ideas selectively to achieve social advancement. They justified these ideas – women's education, discouraging polygyny and limiting divorce – by referring to Islamic sources and history. Aisha bint Abi Bakr, for example, was literate. At the same time, they combined those ideas with the "maintenance-obedience relationship" in marriage, which was derived from Islamic jurisprudence. I therefore describe the modern Egyptian family ideology as a hybrid, not a case of Westernisation in the old sense of the term. A force for change after World War I, ideology spread in the print media, films and school curricula. Before the war political and demographic factors were more important. The Khedival family set a public example of monogamy that the rest of upper-class society emulated over time. The end of slavery eliminated one form of polygyny and raised the status of women overall. Secondary and post-secondary education for middle- and upper-class men meant delayed marriage, which increased the likelihood of conjugal family households.


John Burn-Murdoch in FT, A New Global Gender Divide Is Emerging.

Gen Z is two generations, not one. In countries on every continent, an ideological gap has opened up between young men and women. Tens of millions of people who occupy the same cities, workplaces, classrooms and even homes no longer see eye-to-eye. In the US, Gallup data shows that after decades where the sexes were each spread roughly equally across liberal and conservative world views, women aged 18 to 30 are now 30 percentage points more liberal than their male contemporaries. That gap took just six years to open up. Germany also now shows a 30-point gap between increasingly conservative young men and progressive female contemporaries, and in the UK the gap is 25 points.... Outside the west, there are even more stark divisions.


Ola Cichowlas at, 'Give Birth to More Soldiers': Hardline Russia Turns on Abortions.

"When a country is at war, it is usually accompanied by this kind of legislation," said Leda Garina, a Russian feminist activist exiled in Georgia. The measures, she said, sent a clear message to Russian women: "Sit at home and give birth to more soldiers." The timing has raised eyebrows — Russia's abortion rate has already fallen "almost tenfold" since the 1990s, according to Russian demographer Viktoria Sakevich. Russian President Vladimir Putin said recently that he was against banning abortion, but that terminations were against state interests. The 71-year-old said he wanted women to "safeguard the life of the child" in order to "resolve the demographic problem". Russia's abortion debate comes as Putin seeks re-election in March and as he projects an ever more conservative vision of what a Russian family should look like. For years the president has offered financial incentives for Russians to have more children, with the population shrinking fast since the 1990s. But since the Ukraine war, this has acquired new meaning.


Liyan Qi in WSJ, China's Baby Bust Is Hard to Reverse.

“For many years overpopulation was China’s major concern. It was difficult to convince the government and the public that China will have the problem of fast decline and aging of the population,” Zuo wrote in an email. Song has said he believed it had been a good call. China had successfully defused the bomb that could have led to a “population explosion,” he wrote in a 2010 essay published by the University of Jinan, his alma mater. “Zero growth [in population] is the destiny of modern mankind and an urgent task for contemporary China,” Song wrote. He estimated China’s population wouldn’t start shrinking until after 2035. He was off by more than a decade, with official data showing the drop starting in 2022. Beijing has said the policy prevented 400 million births, a claim it has often put forth as a kind of Chinese gift to the world, including at the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen. Demographers have disputed the figure, saying China’s fertility rate would have gone down on its own as economic conditions improved.


Liyan Qi & Shen Lu in WSJ, China's Campaign For More Babies Meets Resistance.

The country’s total fertility rate in 2022—the average number of babies a woman has in her lifetime—is approaching one birth per woman, or 1.09. In 2020, it was 1.30, well below the 2.1 needed to keep a population stable. The campaign for a “birth-friendly culture” has taken on the tone of an urgent national mission, with government-organized matchmaking events and a program encouraging military families to have more babies. “Soldiers win battles. When it comes to giving birth to second or third children and implementing the national fertility policy, we are also taking the lead and charging to the front,” Zeng Jian, a top obstetrician-gynecologist at a military hospital in Tianjin, told state media in 2022. In August, residents of the western city of Xi’an said they received an automated greeting from a government number during the Qixi Festival, the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day: “Wishing you sweet love and marriage at an appropriate age. Let’s extend the Chinese bloodline.”


Joe Leahy, Sun Yu & Andy Lin in FT, Dreamers and Dropouts Flock to China's Subtropical Haven.

Gao explains that dreamers and dropouts have been coming here for decades but this reached a critical mass during the pandemic, when digital nomads flooded in. He estimates there are now about 100,000 "alternative-minded" people in the Dali prefecture, whose population is 3.6mn. These include those doing tang ping, or "laying flat", usually young people who reject societal pressure to work long hours, buy overpriced houses and have children. They tend to be middle-class people from single-child families, bankrolled by parentds or grandparents. "For our post-90s generation, when they step out of university, our economy has shifted from high speed to slow growth," said Gao. "They see no possibility of owning a home, settling down and living contentedly, leaving hem directionless and aimless." When they come to Dali, "initially, it's [for] 'lying flat' - a passive stance", said Gao. "But these are young people - inherently vibrant, passionate and aspirational," he added.


Arthur Lisch interview at

This is the Eastern garden. This is the garden that faces to the east. To the east are developments — parking lots, playing fields, houses. To the west, rolling hills; further on, the ocean. Now the significance for me of founding this site here around this old chestnut tree is that in the east, in that direction, is the Sonoma Mission — the furthest north that the missionaries brought Catholicism in the 19th century, the Sonoma Mission, is over there. Over there, the Russians came, bringing the Orthodox faith over to the coast. And they established a fort, with a chapel, at Fort Ross. This place is halfway between those two, this is the halfway point between those two ancient spiritual streams that separated in the old world between East and West. [They] came together from the north and south, met here in Sonoma County. So this site has to do with reconciliation, has to do with the hope that people who have split in the past can reconcile in the present. Speaking of which, this is a rose that was planted when the Palestine-Israeli peace accords were signed. Palestinian people and Jewish people, a large group, gathered and planted a peace rose together, which is surviving in the eastern garden.


Chrispin Sartwell in LA REVIEW OF BOOKS, What Happened to David Graeber?.

His ideas, including those beautifully captured in his book Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2011), helped motivate and shape the Occupy movement, which took inspiration from his commitments to radical democracy, egalitarianism, and “prefigurative politics”—the idea that people seeking to make a revolution should try to live and organize now in a way they’d want to arrange their lives together in the future. Graeber studied at the University of Chicago under Marshall Sahlins and did his anthropological fieldwork in Madagascar in the early 1990s. When he returned, he published the still-neglected Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams (2001), a work of high theory whose ambitions constituted a throwback to the eras of Marcel Mauss or Claude Lévi-Strauss, though its positions were strikingly fresh. On the strength of his early work, he got a job at Yale and at the same time became active in the “anti-globalization” movement (Graeber hated that term), with its demonstrations and actions against such organizations as the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. When he didn’t get tenure at Yale, he believed it was because of his politics. By his own account politically unemployable in American academia, he claimed that, though the academy of that era sheltered myriad “authoritarian Marxists,” anarchism was considered beyond the pale, as I can confirm from personal experience. But with his remarkable energy and productivity, he landed on his feet in London, eventually scoring a richly deserved professorship at the London School of Economics. Debt continued his work at the juncture of anthropology and economics that had begun with Theory of Value. The two disciplines overlap, after all, in being concerned with the nature of exchange, the origin of money, and in describing structures of inequality, among other matters. The book had a remarkable reception; never before has an anarchist been enthusiastically blurbed by the editor of the classic capitalist organ Financial Times.


Nina Siegal in NYT, He Made a Magazine, 95 Issues, While Hiding From the Nazis in an Attic.

There, Bloch shared the crawl space with a 44-year-old German-Jewish refugee, Bruno Löwenberg, and Löwenberg’s 22-year-old girlfriend, Karola Wolf, whom they called Ola. During their time in hiding, Bloch fell in love with Ola and wrote many verses just for her. “He had a lot of courage, but he also had a reckless streak,” Groeneveld said. Each edition of Bloch’s magazine consisted of just a single copy. But it may have been read by as many as 20 to 30 people, Groeneveld estimated. “There was huge organization behind him, which included couriers, who brought food, but who could also bring the magazine out, to share with other people in the group who could be trusted,” Groeneveld said. “The magazines are very small, you can easily put one in your pocket or hide it in a book. He got them all back. They must have also returned them in some way.” Bloch named his magazine in response to a German-language radio program that played on Dutch airwaves during the occupation, the Sunday Afternoon Cabaret. But this, Groeneveld explained, was the Underwater Cabaret, which took its title from a unique term in Dutch for the act of going into hiding: “onderduiken.” Its literal translation is “to dive under,” but a common translation is “to slip out of public view.” A person in hiding was an “onderduiker,” who had gone “under water,” or was submerged.


Harris Wheless in CINEASTE, How the Western Was Reimagined - Anthony Mann, James Stewart, and Their "Psychological" Westerns.

While Stewart's wife, according to Matzen, talked about the PTSD symptoms he continued to experience long after the war - "the nightmares, the sweats, the shakes" - the actor himself was reluctant to talk about his service. "I saw too much suffering," he said. "It's nothing to talk about." Nevertheless, as Matzen explains, "He learned that the anger he had inside of him could be channeled into these dark performances, dark character moments." Stewart's wife and daughter concurred about those screen performances, commenting, "That's him in real life. He would go from zero to 100 in two seconds. He would fly into a very rare blind rage. That was the war." ...Clint Eastwood later commenting on the Mann-directed Stewart films, said Stewart "had a great way with violence. Most people don't realize that about him, but when he was mad about something, when he had been wronged in a film, when he showed anger, it was much more intense than in most actors. He could be extremely volatile. When he snapped, his danger came on strong."


Don Robson in NYT, On the Ice, Just a Kid Doing What He Has Always Loved.

He is now almost 52 years old and we are here to see the famous fighter go another round. Donald Brashear is the marquee attraction. He is the Wendake Black Jack captain. He appears in most of the team’s online promotions. Brashear is the only player who doesn’t wear a helmet during warmups. His bald head shimmers under the rafter lights. From the stands, he looks almost exactly as he did when he retired from the NHL 13 years ago. A salt-and-pepper beard and slight lines around his eyes are all that betray his age. He is 6-feet-3 but seems at least a foot taller than any other player. He is much broader through the shoulders, but trim through his frame — without the average-joe paunch that several of his counterparts carry as they weave through a pregame routine. Brashear skates in swift strides, casually gliding then accelerating, dangling a puck with his stick, and flicking a light shot at the Black Jack goaltender. He smiles and laughs with teammates. He taps their shin pads with his stick. Brashear looks joyful — like a man, blessed with remarkable athleticism who is fortunate to still play the game he found safety and comfort in as a boy, escaping the turmoil of his childhood. It’s the happiness Brashear described to me two years ago, when he told me that he’d started skating in a pro league for a few hundred bucks a game, right before the pandemic shut it down. Gliding on ice, all of the troubles that plagued him after his NHL career faded away: the substance abuse, the broken relationships, the anxiety attacks, the bankruptcy, the arrest. In the game, he was just a boy doing what he loved.... As a talented prospect with the Montreal Canadiens, he wanted to be known for his skill, but it was overshadowed when hockey found a better use for him.

Along Hwy 130, Wyoming
Photograph by Joe Carducci

From the London Desk of Steve Beeho…

Johannes Lichtman in PARIS REVIEW, Invisible Ink: At the CIA’s Creative Writing Group.

While we waited for our food, the writer of dystopian sci-fi confirmed that if you work for the CIA, lawyers have to vet anything you publish. But they were more lenient than I would’ve guessed. She said that one of her novels had helped change how the agency viewed fiction versus nonfiction. While reading her novel, the lawyers decided that just because a character in a novel says something doesn’t mean that the author necessarily agrees, so there should be more leeway for CIA fiction writers. (Which suggests CIA lawyers are more nuanced literary critics than half of Goodreads.) Obviously you can’t share classified information, I was told. You can’t violate the Hatch Act, showing your political affiliation, and you’re also not supposed to violate the Washington Post rule, which was: Would the CIA be embarrassed if this were in tomorrow’s Washington Post? (This seemed trickiest to determine.)


Peter Hitchens in AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE, An Old-Fashioned Future.

I shall not try to list here all Chandler’s superb figures of speech. No modern English writer does them better. But the personal failure and unhappiness which lay beneath all this brilliance are very hard to bear, even when you know how good he could be. Chandler hinted at this overpowering sadness himself in what may have been his cleverest sentence, carved into his gravestone: “Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.”


Sebastian Milbank in THE CRITIC, Go woke, go broke?.

The simple fact is that Vice, once an effective and witty member of the alternative media, ran up against an epochal change it was never destined to survive. The audience for alternative media still exists, but the progressive audience for alternative media does not. The dissident energy, for good or ill, has gone over to the right, where audiences, commentators and provocateurs from a wildly dissonant series of belief systems share a rather confused exile. Some dissident leftists forced out of their old niche simply go full tilt to the other extreme, some stand in proud isolation, most end up, uneasily, somewhere in the middle. But even the most principled progressive dissidents have woken up to a drastically changed audience, with very different interests and demands. Vice’s golden age of being offensive, effortlessly cool and still courted by legacy media is never coming back, and was never going to.


Sam Bidwell in THE CRITIC, Train Lines to Nowhere.

Even more unsettling than Khan’s astroturfed progressivism is the realisation that Britain has become a twee, unserious country which feels the need to tell people what it stands for. Particularly in London, we now bombard the unsuspecting public with constant reminders of what Britain is all about, as determined by a litany of faceless stakeholder committees. This is the same childish instinct that prompted Birmingham City Council to come up with street names like “Equality Road” and “Diversity Grove”, shortly before it declared bankruptcy. A self-confident country would be at-ease with functional or geographical names in the public realm. It might even give a nod to a historical figure of particularly significant stature, or to a long-standing national institution. Our Victorian ancestors didn’t feel the need to signal their political priors when naming public infrastructure. Aside from nods to the monarchy with the Victoria and the Jubilee, most Underground lines have remarkably dry and functional names — District, Metropolitan, Northern. The fact that these utilitarian names still have the ability to provoke such clear cultural associations is a testament to London’s standing as a city of genuine global significance. Back then, we didn’t need to tell people what their country stood for — our values, culture, and accolades spoke for themselves.


Sam Dunning at, The Amateur Sleuths Taking on the CCP: Pianogate Sparked a Rebellion Among 'Overseas Chinese'.

[United Front Work Department] guidance that I’ve been studying states that “Overseas Chinese” are the “sons and daughters of China connected by blood” and that their goal is “national reunification and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”. This is of course nonsense. It is the CCP that wants to “reunify China”. (For “reunify China”, read annex Taiwan, gain control of some Malaysian, Philippines, Vietnamese and Japanese waters, plus hopefully various bits of India and Bhutan too.) The claim that the “Overseas Chinese” share this goal is an attempt to conjure a “broad United Front” in support of the CCP. The CCP thus claims to be speaking on behalf of all “Overseas Chinese”, asserting the right to monitor and guide these people, enticing collaboration and intimidating sources of opposition — all in the service of “national reunification and the great rejuvenation”. Happy-clappy galas and functions of the kind overseen by reliable hosts such as Adelina Zhang serve various functions. They are a great setting for propaganda. Attracting hangers-on from British commerce, academia and politics also make them a staple source of information and connections for the UFWD and a cosy ecosystem for hard-core spies in the employ of China’s intelligence agencies.


John Gray in NEW STATESMAN on Anthony Grafton's book, Magus - The Art of Magic from Faustus to Agrippa.

Our world is a by-product of the growth of knowledge. The increase in human numbers – from around a billion at the start of the 19th century to over eight billion at present– would not have been possible without technological spin-offs such as public sanitation and vaccination, the extraction of fossil fuels, and intensive farming. Anyone who questions scientific progress denies reality. But science and magic continue to be closely linked in contemporary culture. As it has multiplied, transformed and extended human lives, science has been credited with magical powers as miraculous as those attributed to the magi in the times chronicled by Grafton. Magus is a brilliantly vivid exercise in intellectual history, as told through the biographies of the early modern magi, which will stir the thoughts of everyone who reads it. It is a pity the book does not include a postscript detailing the links between science and magic in more recent times, for they are many. The American rocket engineer Jack Parsons (1914-52), one of the most important figures in the US space programme, was a disciple of the occultist Aleister Crowley, as was Major-General JFC Fuller (1878-1966), the leading British interwar proponent of tank warfare. Rocket science and occultism were closely connected in tsarist and Soviet Russia in the person of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), a founding father of aeronautics and a key figure in the cosmist movement, which proposed that human immortality could be achieved by interplanetary migration. The seminal cosmist thinker was the Russian Orthodox mystic Nikolai Fedorov (1829-1903), who prophesied the technological resurrection of all the human beings that had ever lived. For a time cosmism blended with Bolshevism, producing the slogan “Dead of the world, unite!”. Evidently, the world revealed by science – a purposeless cosmos in which the human animal is a passing accident, headed like all other species for eventual extinction – cannot satisfy modern minds. So they have concocted an ersatz religion of scientism, in which science can eliminate hunger, ageing and death. If these transformations are not enough, humans can fashion a new world by escaping their planetary home.


Ben Turtle at, Beware the Little Lambs.

In an imperfect world, it is easier to criticize solutions than it is to make pragmatic choices that require taking the least-worst option and making sacrifices along the way to a more positive future. It’s easier to protest than it is to overcome oneself and creatively invent new values that make it possible to navigate the real world. Beyond keeping individuals trapped in resentment and outrage, this reactive morality can be used to justify acts of brutality directed at a perceived oppressor, while masking the true motivation behind such acts. Assuming an identity of “the oppressed” makes it easy for collectives to condone behavior that would otherwise be obviously distasteful. Today, we see this mindset everywhere. Progressives demand that middle-class workers must lose their jobs over a tasteless joke on social media; Republicans defend their leader’s worst misdeeds in the name of “punching back” at the elite; anti-colonialists defend the rape and murder of Israeli civilians by Hamas in the name of “resistance”; white supremacists justify violence and hate in retaliation for “replacement”; Stalin sought to free Russia from plotting bourgeois capitalists and imperialists; Hitler believed he was fighting a global Jewish conspiracy. It’s easier to fill the void with outrage, envy, and hatred than it is to truly perceive ourselves and grapple with the world in all its complexity.


Don Paterson in THE SPECTATOR, What Convinces Jeremy Corbyn That ‘There Is a Poet in All of Us’?.

At some point the left will have to reckon with the apparently devastating news that mediocrity, just like talent, is colour blind. As one of the most respected black voices included here once muttered to me at the bar: ‘The white liberal class has a lot to gain by promoting black mediocrity.’ It is a criticism the left will not understand, far less heed. Let me parse it for them: there is a class of gatekeeper whose dream is both to revel ecstatically in their guilt and remain fully in charge. Both states are required to indulge their main paraphilia, namely saviourist largesse. Moreover, the promotion of bad writing affords them a frisson of charity they would not derive from the good. Bad writing is not the fault of bad writers, which is why one never names names. It is the fault of those making you read it. Bad art actively undermines its cause. Had the editors bothered to consult anyone who knew anything, they could have furnished this book with fine, ‘accessible’ and politically stirring poems by many contemporary non-white poets – say, Terrance Hayes, Jericho Brown, Natasha Trethewey, Zaffar Kunial, Kayo Chingonyi or Airea Matthews – and at least have added some actual substance to the signalling. […] The kindest thing one can say is that this book was not compiled in bad faith. The worst is that it embodies the very bourgeois presumptions it claims to challenge: proud ignorance, paternalistic saviourism and zero acquaintance with the tastes of the class to which it claims to appeal. Len [McCluskey] wants to eliminate the stigma that poetry is only for ‘posh people’ or ‘softies’, apparently unaware that the great Kendrick Lamar won his Pulitzer years ago. Contemporary poetry has many terrible problems, but lack of popularity isn’t one of them. […] More sinisterly, there is a clear line between this garbage and the post-Foucauldian assault on the humanities: both wings of the left use the tactic of cultural deletion as a shortcut to the world as they would prefer it. The bulk of the poems included here date either from before the first world war or last week, with precious little in between. Good, though, to know we can always skip the decoloniality theory and fall back on pig ignorance.


Shannon Effinger in THE GUARDIAN, A Man Cannot Learn Without Discipline’: Jazz Guru Marshall Allen on Life with Sun Ra – and Turning 100.

“My father said: ‘I got a house for you and you can move the band down here,’” says Marshall Allen when I meet him at the house in November. The 99-year-old has been an Arkestra member since 1957 and the group’s leader for nearly 30 years. He has now retired from international touring, however, and the Arkestra is considering how to approach its next phase. The house’s previous owner “was a man who drove trucks, 16-wheelers. He had all these big tyres upstairs,” Allen recalls, laughing. “I threw them out in the back.” Since Allen already had a home in Germantown, he turned down his father with one proviso. “I told my father to sell it to Sun Ra, and he sold it to him for a dollar,” says Allen. “All the band members had a room, with a space down here for rehearsal. We don’t do much rehearsing now because we’re trying to fix the house.” Arts foundations have funded work on major structural issues, and several Arkestra members have provided repairs. “Sun Ra couldn’t move out of here because he was sick, so we put in a new toilet back there,” Allen says while pointing to the back of the house. “Our drummer was the plumber.”


Jon Savage in NEW STATESMAN, The Invention of the Teddy boy.

The arrival of rock ’n’ roll in the UK with the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle and its accompanying Bill Haley soundtrack hit, “Rock Around the Clock”, brought a fresh level of attention to the subculture. Before the onset of rock ’n’ roll, Teddy boys listened to blowsy big-band jazz: most famously, “The Creep” by Ken Mackintosh and His Orchestra. Hearing “Rock Around the Clock” on huge cinema speakers demanded a physical and enthusiastic response, and young audiences reacted with behaviour castigated as unseemly by the authorities. Already yoked to youth consumerism, the Teds were linked to this new music, with its fresh opportunities and double-edged media exposure. In the popular press, Teddy boys and rock ’n’ roll were indivisible: both raucous, loud, animalistic – a proper youth Armageddon amplified even further when the film Rock Around the Clock opened the next year to rowdy scenes. As one columnist wrote: “What is the peculiar quality of 'Rock Around the Clock' that it should provoke our young people to such a frenzy that they behave like savages?”

Mirror Lake, Wyoming
Photograph by Joe Carducci

Obituaries of the Issue

Jimmy Van Eaton (1937-2024)

“A lot of people try to copy” the sound of those Jerry Lee Lewis records, Mr. Van Eaton was quoted as saying in “Good Rockin’ Tonight: Sun Records and the Birth of Rock ’n’ Roll,” by Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins. But, he added, they can’t do it because what he played was “a shuffle with a backbeat” and not a straight 4/4 beat. “I never could play that straight country shuffle,” Mr. Van Eaton continued. “Maybe for eight or 16 bars, but after that I start falling off the stool. I’ve got to concentrate, and when you concentrate, you lose the feeling.” Feeling was paramount to Mr. Van Eaton’s drumming. His galloping accompaniment of Mr. Lewis was so unbridled at times that the tempo almost seemed to outrun the two men mid-session.
Khaled Nezzar (1937-2024)
As the head of the army in October 1988, he ordered troops and tanks into Algiers to put down an uprising of young people enraged over deteriorating living conditions and egged on by Muslim fundamentalists. At least 500 people were killed in Algiers’ narrow streets. “The army was given free rein to shoot into the crowds and to torture arrested prisoners,” Martin Evans, a historian, and John Phillips, a journalist, wrote in the book “Algeria: Anger of the Dispossessed” (2007). In a 2018 memoir, General Nezzar largely blamed tired, inexperienced troops for the massacre, saying they had been pressured by a heckling mob. He was promoted to army chief of staff after that episode, where he again played a central role in an even larger conflict, the Algerian civil war of the 1990s, known as the Black Decade. As defense minister from 1990 to 1993 and “de facto head of state,” according to Mr. Evans and Mr. Phillips, General Nezzar directed the first phase of the army’s ferocious suppression of a radical Islamist uprising that precipitated the civil war. That conflict would last almost 10 years and take the lives of more than 100,000 people.
Nikolai Ryzhkov (1929-2024)
The task was urgent. Food and fuel, as well as clothing, housing, medical aid and other economic necessities, were in short supply for the 286 million people living across the vast expanse of the 15 Soviet republics. Mr. Ryzhkov and Mr. Gorbachev understood the problem and were well aware that a solution lay in a move toward a Western-style market economy. In a speech to a Communist Party congress in Moscow in 1986, Mr. Ryzhkov put the case candidly. “Of all the dangers,” he said, “the biggest is red tape. Creating the appearance of work. Taking cover behind hollow rhetoric. Bureaucracy may hold back the improvement of the economic mechanism, dampen independence and initiative, and erect barriers to innovation.”

Thanks to Joseph Pope, Mark Carducci, Mike Carducci, Dan Burbach, Andy Schwartz, Wade Oberlin, Mike Vann Gray, Janet Lynn...