a new low in topical enlightenment

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Issue #43 (April 28, 2010)

Centennial, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

Wildwood Canyon trail, the Verdugo Mountains
Burbank, California

Photos by Chris Collins

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of Joe Carducci…

NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller pulled the book review assignment for the new Alan Brinkley biography, The Publisher - Henry Luce and His American Century, not because he identifies with Luce, that ended at puberty we’re led to believe, but so he could attack Rupert Murdoch for being “corrosive” in effect and merely seeking “the demolition of his rivals.” Regarding the book itself, Keller reads Brinkley’s take on Luce all the more sympathetically for the NYT’s current struggle to keep its voice heard above the din of the web. Luce might once have been blamed by the NYT for every single death in Vietnam including even Frenchmen, for his publications’ consistent editorial position arguing for the projection of American power in Asia, but these days that might demand Keller cut this unnamed “79-year old Australian billionaire” some slack.

If the newsmedia’s current problems didn’t leave journalists so self-absorbed Keller’s review might have read more like the one next to it: Ronald Steel, author of Walter Lippmann and the American Century, reviews two new books: The War Lovers - Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898, by Evan Thomas, and The Imperial Cruise - A Secret History of Empire and War, by James Bradley. Judging by the review both are quite timely whatever misunderstandings the many empty buzzwords flying around signify. After all in 1898 and for longer thereafter than understood, “racism”, “empire”, and “national destiny” were all part of Progressivism. At the time of the Spanish-American War any American over fifty years of age had personal memory of the American Civil War. Still, a younger educated class sensed the power of the country and wanted to exercise that power on the world stage. Everything in American higher education was still European-oriented, and so political ambition was now more common and no longer focused on domestic affairs. It wasn’t the largely rural population of America that wanted war, nor the urban working class of which increasing numbers had just escaped the old world, although they could be convinced which is where Hearst and Luce came in.

In political terms Theodore Roosevelt begins this “imperial” drift in the Republican Party, perhaps building on Lincoln’s fully excused constitutional abuse during the Civil War. And it spreads through his Governor of the Philippines, Secretary of War and successor President William Howard Taft, but then jumps like a virus to Democratic President Woodrow Wilson. Roosevelt and the other war-lovers had the doddering Spanish Empire in Cuba for a pretext -- the Philippines was a bonus which further required the annexation of Hawaii. Our military’s first lessons in fighting an insurgency were in the Philippines and war-fever soon passed due to that bloody reality. But Americans, humans, forget. Wilson promised to keep America out of WWI but after reelection in 1916 he entered the war anyway, despite that war’s long-having degenerated from the initial thrilling pageantry of all the great royal empires of Europe as they marched off for glory, only to find a new, modern techno-brutality of machine-guns, poison gas, aerial and tank war. Wilson was full of ideas, many cooked up by a young Walter Lippmann who had co-founded The New Republic in 1913. Europe ignored all of these ideas until The League of Nations, which Wilson found he couldn’t sell to his own country. Europe seemed to go out of its way to prove no model for the new world, yet our new class enjoyed walking around Versaille and Buckingham Palace carving up the world with the best of European society.

The triumph of Leninism in Russia changed Progressivism by action and reaction, and these tensions played out all through the American Century and into this Chinese one. Lippmann in his 1929 book, A Preface to Morals tries to deduce a post-religious non-Marxist morality that might sustain an elite coming out of the Roaring Twenties and heading for the Crash. He writes, “[T]he mature man would take the world as it comes, and within himself remain quite unperturbed. When he acted, he would know that he was only testing an hypothesis, and if he failed, he would know that he had made a mistake. He would be quite prepared for the discovery that he might make mistakes, for his intelligence would be disentangled from his hopes. The failure of his experiment could not, therefore, involve the failure of his life…. Defeat is no less interesting than victory.” Very wise and in terms of politics utterly unrealistic. Rather, the unlettered crowd must replace that “mature man” and it is their prerogative alone to recognize, as unpretentious less-invested ruling judge, what is mistaken or successful and move in or out of power these clinging experts and their politician-vehicles. This has gotten difficult as the number of permanent bureaucrats and expert advisors collect around the federal and state governments, seeking immunity from the judgment of mere voters.

On NPR Tuesday morning Evan Thomas explained that The War Lovers was, if not an apologia for his own hawkishness on the 2nd Iraq war, an attempt to explain his and other opinion-shapers' alignment with the effort (Thomas is editor of Newsweek). Not having read his book, on the radio he sounded myopic in this Lippmann manner. Stepping back it can look much simpler. America might have been better off not having fought any war from 1898 on. The rest of the world perhaps less so, and it is possible that that may have redounded back onto us economically or by overwhelming invasion by refugees from that troubled world, if not by military pressure or invasion. That might have had to be called Blowback as well, innocent as a newborn non-empire as we’d have been. Still, it doesn’t seem likely to me that America might have opted out of it all given what the 20th century threw at our leaders. They, restrained imperfectly by voters, tried this, then that, then something else again, leaving the experts to be correct until proved wrong. None of those wars was alike. It would be up to them whether they took it personally or learned something when judged mistaken. Sounds like Evan Thomas learned more than a Thomas Friedman did. That may have something to do with the culture of the New York Times, where Friedman toils at his own suppressed apologia via an environmentalism intended to be as muscular as old Teddy Roosevelt’s, minus all that hunting.


Daniel Pipes from National Review on Pascal Bruckner’s book, The Tyranny of Guilt - An Essay on Western Masochism, summarizes: “Paradoxically, it is Europe's very readiness to acknowledge its faults that prompts self-hatred, for societies that do not engage in such introspection do not lacerate themselves.” One break on the admission of national guilt that is not often mentioned is that of the raising of children within a culture. Odd that it goes unmentioned because most of culture is concerned ultimately with just that task. Small children need an optimistic, sunny culture to come up in. They even must hold similarly sunny ideas of other cultures; they picture boys and girls from China or France or Mexico this way. Puberty will cloud that view enough, but to be hectored by teachers bent on scouring all simple pride and patriotism from young minds amounts to child abuse and cultural vandalism. The Germans dealt with it in ways that are hard to imagine but that void is mentioned as fundamental to their art by German musicians and filmmakers from the late sixties on -- and before that there was two decades of almost nothing. It doesn’t surprise me at all that the Russians and the Japanese for two never quite bend the knee to the satisfaction of their wounded neighbors.


Here is the NYT shaping the battlefield, setting up a definition of failure so wide there can be no success, full stop. There’s no sense of any military reality; they (there are four named authors) may appear to be surveying the situation on the ground in Kandahar but their eyes are as always on the next American election. They’ve probably rationalized that any Republican gains mid-term will help the Democrats keep the White House. What makes them nervous: Can President Obama withdraw from Afghanistan? And what about Pakistan where by strictly military rights any American ground troops ought to be.

There are no new Vietnams though, because the military was pulled and told it was unwinnable just twenty-five years after their officer corps had chased the Japanese from everywhere and eighteen after their junior officers had secured South Korea. A new political-media establishment beat an older one thanks to the assassination of JFK, followed by LBJ’s and Nixon’s inability to similarly harness the baby boom cultural revolution. That’s a long story never well-told, but the military’s own long story which involved a discounting of policy rationalizations and a burrowing down into what they could control was led by Colin Powell, John McCain, Donald Rumsfeld, and many more unknown to civilian authority. They fought through their own military culture revolution to produce the best, nimblest, cross-trained force there’s ever been. The placing of the Power Point graphic on the front page above the fold of Tuesday’s NYT would have once been presented as a virtual Pentagon Papers, but Elisabeth Bumiller’s article provides the critique of the use of this technocrats’ toy by the military brass itself and so whatever the editors believed putting a thin, side-bar story front and center, the story itself doesn’t warrant it. But the graphic invites a reaction-shot golden oldie, boo-bait for double-dome bubbah, if not for the original bubbah now recapitulating good old American isolationism in the Tea Party groups.

PBS’ “The American Experience” just did their battlefield-shaping, re the Af-Pak Theater and their wayward Commander-in-Chief on that stage with a new documentary on My Lai. Curious. But it brings to my mind just how lost in myopic tactics Al Qaeda has been. They might have attacked just the Pentagon on a meaningful date, say, the anniversary of My Lai. They might have allowed the western press to run loose behind enemy lines. Instead, they knit the world together against them by their actions at the World Trade Center, Bali, London, Madrid, where else? Moscow? Urumqi? Then they decapitate any western reporter they can get their hands on. Reporters would love to win their Pulitzers writing up any and all civilian deaths from the drone attacks over Pakistan. They’d love to find the inner peace-loving ascetic that is Osama - a regular Ho...

Further pummeling of the battlefield, PBS grimly touts that the next greatest hit of our tragic national melodrama, i.e., “The American Experience”, will be “Roads to Memphis”, which is not about Elvis.


Ross Douthat in the NYT on the Comedy Channel’s submission to the Prophet (pbuh, or else). Douthat summarizes, “This is what decadence looks like: a frantic coarseness that ‘bravely’ trashes its own values and traditions, and then knuckles under swiftly to totalitarianism and brute force.” He might be describing John Stewart’s reflexive defense of his employer’s act as being one of concern for its employees. “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone weren’t buying that judging by their comments at their site, southparkstudios.com. Stewart on Friday duly assembled clips of all of the Comedy Channel’s brave trashing of every other religion in an unintended but predictable submission to Islamic sensibilities. That’s pretty damn Reform of him. The frat-boys and newsmedia loved it, or maybe that’s a laugh track.


Christopher Caldwell in the FT on "Freedom to discriminate":

It is a bad sign when a court case that seems likely to set precedent is based on a bizarre controversy. This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Christian Legal Society v Martinez, which revolves around the question of whether a Christian group violates anti-discrimination law if it insists that its leaders be Christians (as it understands the term). The case has generated 40 friend-of-the-court briefs, a sure sign of brewing political controversy. There has always been a contradiction at the heart of anti-discrimination statutes. The rights they confer are bought at the cost of other people’s right of freedom of association.

Caldwell also reviews Ray Madoff’s book, Immortality and the Law - The Rising Power of the American Dead in the FT:

Trust law is at the heart of Madoff’s discussion but she deals with a range of macabre and infuriating subjects besides. With advances in organ transplantation since the 1960s, a corpse is now a more valuable object -- a mother lode of medical resources. A decade ago, the Los Angeles Times discovered that the local coroner‘s office was selling corneas to an eye bank. Authorities are scrambling to tap this new source of funds, replacing laws under which citizens must register to donate with laws under which they must register not to.


Richard Serrano in the L.A. Times, "U.S. prosecutors rattle, but don’t break, Mexican cartels", features short, sharp portraits of imprisoned cartel leaders one is tempted to call uniquely penitent, Catholic, Mexican crime-bosses. They don’t sound like Italian-American mafiosi at all, but as with the mob here, Serrano like the press generally, fails to connect the removal of the bosses and their replacement by younger, less stable toughs with an increase in violence and ultimate progress against feudal crime culture.


There’s just a blizzard of state and municipal budgetary disaster reporting. Here’s Fran Spielman on Chicago’s flavor of it in the CST, "We’ll All Feel Pension Pain", and Peter Applebome on New Jersey’s funk in the NYT, "Governor Christie vs. the Teachers: Nastiness in New Jersey", and Tamara Audi on Los Angeles’ stench in the WSJ, "Mayor Confronts Former Union Allies", and finally, Gov. David Paterson on New York rot in the NYT, "Borrowing Our Way to Failure". He must really be running for his life to fess up to so much. There’s still wiggle room though, in his formulation, “Anyone who has ever managed a household budget or a small business knows that there are only two ways to correct that kind of unsustainable budget imbalance: Cut spending or increase revenues. Borrowing accomplishes neither of those goals. It only imposes a burden on future generations without a corresponding benefit. Borrowing solves nothing.” Obviously what the borrowing bought were votes and election day “volunteers”. And all has been leveraged in this Age of Finance until we find ourselves like Wile E. Coyote a good ten paces out past the cliff’s edge. And by “increasing revenues” Paterson means to bag tax increases for every cut, when in any of these high tax cities and states further rate hikes will yield more revenue only momentarily at best, until the activity or persons taxed are suppressed or move.

What I suspect is that Mayor Richard Daley with his special entre to this White House via Rahm Emmanuel and President Obama himself will seek to replay what his father received in emergency city aid from President Johnson. It’s hard to imagine there may be more borrowing and spending by the federal government, but there will be coast-to-coast attempts to offload these budgetary and pension deficits onto the federal government. If the economy is truly rebounding then some of this might be hidden in an inflation cycle, but it’ll take one fully out of control to disguise it all. I predict that Paul Volcker will soon find that he wishes to spend more time with his family.


Jed Graham in the IBD’s Capital Hill blog, "What Krugman Left Out About U.S. Debt Outlook".

Paul Krugman’s recent piece ‘Learning From Greece’ is more right than wrong: Hitting the fiscal and monetary brakes too soon still poses a risk to the recovery -- and the nation‘s fiscal health. But in arguing against premature tightening, Krugman has also created an impression that our budget plight is much less worrisome than it is.


David Wessel in the WSJ on UC’s Raghuram Rajan’s "Mapping Fault Lines of Crisis":

The first Rajan fault line lies in the U.S. As incomes at the top soared, politicians responded to middle-class angst… by fostering an explosion of credit, especially for housing. This has happened before. Farmers’ grievances led to a U.S. government-backed expansion of bank credit in the 1920s… But one thing was different: ‘When easy money pushed by a deep pocketed government comes into contact with the profit motive of a sophisticated, amoral financial sector, a deep fault line develops,’ Mr. Rajan writes….

The second fault line lies in the relentless exporting of many countries. Germany and Japan grew rich by exporting. They built agile export sectors that compete with the world‘s best, but shielded or strangled domestic industries such as banking and retailing. These industries are uncompetitive and inefficient, and charge high prices that discourage consumer spending….

A third Rajan fault line spread the crisis. The U.S. approach to recession-fighting… and its social safety net are geared for fast recoveries of the past, not jobless recoveries now the norm. That puts pressure on Washington to do something: tax cuts, spending increases and very low interest rates. This leads big finance to assume, consciously or unconsciously, that the government will keep the money flowing and will step in if catastrophe occurs.


In that bizarre paid advertorial that has run unread in the NYT Sunday opinion section probably since teachers gave up professional status for union membership in the late sixties, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers writes:

‘WE THE TEACHERS…’ Teachers don’t have their own version of the U.S. Constitution, but I sometimes think we should have a similarly bold, substantive and specific document that lays out what constitutes a good education, and how we can ensure every student has access to such an education.

Too often, the policies governing public education read more like: ‘We the school board,’ or ‘We the Department of Education,’ or ‘We the administrators of such-and-such program.’ In a democratic society, each of these entities can and should play a supportive role. But it shouldn’t eclipse that of classroom teachers, who know children, who understand what works in education and what falls flat, and who know how policies and mandates can directly affect what goes on in the classroom -- for better or worse.

Thanks to the union, no doubt, the average length of a public school teacher’s in-the-classroom career is I believe under ten years and has been for decades. They move out of the classroom up into administration as fast as possible. The few real teachers who bother with the kids and their parents are cover for the rest.


Patti Waldmeir in the FT, "China embraces freedom of the road". It’s already the Fifties in the Chinese Century.


Gideon Rachman in the FT on Stefan Halper’s book, The Beijing Consensus - How China’s Authoritarian Model will dominate the Twenty-First Century, traces former Nixon, Ford, Reagan-hand Halper’s argument that China will not democratize, nor militarily threaten the U.S., but will help sustain otherwise unnatural pariahs like Burma and North Korea, will hold sway over its third world raw material suppliers, and will compete for the diplomatic alignment of rising nations like India and Brazil. But the photo by Paolo Woods that accompanies this book review is even more interesting. It shows a Chinese man in hard-hat with sleeves rolled up and shirt half-open standing surrounded by Congolese workers on the construction site of the Imboulou dam. What such Chinese are learning as they spread around the world building and running massive things will return to China over the next decades and they will change it.


Charles Horner and Eric Brown in The American Interest on "Beijing’s Islamic Complex".


David Pilling in the FT, "Tokyo wobbles on the American alliance".


Simon Montlake in the CSM, "Thailand’s red-shirt protestors find sympathizers in military".


Henry Louis Gates Jr. in the NYT, "Ending the Slavery Blame-Game", comes close to the full disclosure for how vexed the issue of slavery is, even at this late date. But Gates does not mention the Arabs in his piece, nor do the three letters it inspired, all from academics. Before the Portuguese, French, Spanish, and British arrived at west African ports, the ongoing slave trade was north overland to Arabia. And this trade persists. The poverty culture of the desert encourages these ancient patterns. Leaving this out in polite discussion is necessary because there are all these black Americans since the sixties running around with assumed Arabic names. Ghetto provincialism led them to make a symbolic mistake of enormous proportions; to tweak the Man descended from slavers they took to the trappings of the culture that kept the ancient slave trade alive to be expanded in the colonial age. I remember the street intellectuals of 80s Chicago buzzing over the Jewish financing of the Slave trade, to the point that they seemed willing to let whitey off the hook where he could high-five Abdul.


Christopher Hitchens in the Guardian on Orwell’s Animal Farm.


J.J. Green on WTOP interviews "Libyan Islamic Fighting Group leader".

‘I'm 100 percent sure they had no clue about what was going to happen,’ says Noman Benotman, who was head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in the summer of 2000.

‘What happened after the 11th of September was beyond their imagination,’ says Benotman, who adds that al-Qaida thought the U.S. was a ‘paper tiger.’

Sitting on the floor at bin Laden's compound in Kandahar, Afghanistan during a meeting the summer before the attacks, Benotman shocked bin Laden and more than 200 other international jihadist leaders by telling the al-Qaida leader his jihadi strategy was ‘a total failure.’

Benotman, a highly regarded associate of bin Laden's at the time, says he surprised him again by rebuffing a plea for help. ‘He asked for my help. Bin Laden asked me personally, you know. I responded immediately on the spot ...'No. I'm not going to help you.'’ Bin Laden was stunned.

‘Because he used to like to sit next to me, you know. My right hand side,’ Benotman says.
The seating location meant he was someone bin Laden respected.

Benotman says he spoke frankly because his reputation allowed him to.

‘I've spent time in the front line engaging with the enemy more than bin Laden and [Ayman Al-]Zawahiri and the entire group of al-Qaida.’

Zawahiri laughed when he warned those at the 2000 meeting that the U.S. response would be swift, hard and long, Benotman says.


Robin Wigglesworth in the FT, "Islamic banks caught between two worlds".

Islamic financial theory stipulates that sharia-compliant banks are agents who invest depositors‘ money in profitable ventures. Therefore, according to many sharia scholars, if a bank loses money, depositors should in theory share in the loss. In reality this has never happened, as it could cause runs in the Islamic finance industry, bankers point out. Yet it is still uncertain what would happen if an Islamic bank were to default.


Hungarian writers Peter Nadas interviewed in Die Zeit at Signandsight.com, and Laszlo Foldenyi interviewed at Salon.eu.sk, on the victory of the right party Fidesz’s victory over the Socialists and Jobbik -- an extreme nationalist party.

Peter Nadas: The political competition has degenerated into a fight for the state as prey. The Socialists plundered the state when they were in power. But the Europeans should refrain from finger pointing. Because EU accession in 2004 only made everything worse, because then it was EU money that was up for grabs. The party political struggle became nothing but a front for the battle for cash. Without a national bourgeoisie, East European society in transition cannot stabilise. And this is what I mean by the ‘great transition‘ which we are now facing. The first round of Hungary‘s attempt to catch up with the modern states in Europe has failed…. (Victor) Orban has very limited room for manoeuvre. The country is heavily in debt and in need of radical reform -- in education, health, pensions. The bureaucracy is absurdly inflated. A third of the population lives off the state.

Laszlo Foldenyi: Unlike other countries Hungary has never really come to terms with its involvement in the Holocaust. In the last two years of the War 600,000 Jews were deported from Hungary or were killed on Hungarian soil. It was a civil war against the defenceless which became a taboo later, in the communist era. We still haven‘t come to terms with this issue; it‘s lodged deep inside the Hungarians… The country cannot sink any lower. And that might actually give Fidesz a chance to raise morale a little. Fidesz has to rein in anti-Semitic groupings such as Jobbik. I prefer to see it as a historical challenge…. However, even under contemporary capitalism Hungary has a semi-feudal social system. The Hungarians’ attitude, unchanged for a century, continues to be an expectation that they will be saved by the state, from above. That is why communism worked particularly well in Hungary. Better than in Czechoslovakia. People were content with the system. It is no coincidence either that communist Janos Kadar still comes out in opinion polls as the most popular Hungarian politician of the twentieth century.


Elaine Tyler May in the NYT, "Promises the Pill could never keep". Some literature is designed to endarken rather than enlighten. The Scientific Method is not as popular in the Humanities where it doesn’t earn one rewards to risk jeopardizing prevailing political winds, nevermind cyclones.


Sulzberger the Elder in KC May 25, 1994 on the web at JimmyCsays.com, wherein all those years ago in cybertime Mr. Punch lurches into the truth, “And while you’re thinking about newspapers, don’t forget serendipity. How many times has one opened a newspaper to discover some fascinating tidbit you never would have had the wit to search for in a computer?” Serendipity, or as Lightbourne reminds me, McLuhan considered the old broadsheet newspaper page with its hodgepodge of unrelated matter, the origins of surrealism.


Steve Pond has a nice piece in the new DGA Quarterly on Directing Sinatra:

‘When Sinatra really wanted it, and when he respected the director, he worked hard,’ says Hawk Koch, whose father Howard was the head of Sinatra’s production company in the early 60s.’ …‘Aaron Rosenberg, who produced The Detective, told me that the way they worked with Sinatra was to light six setups ahead,’ says director John Badham, who interviewed Rosenberg for his book I’ll Be in My Trailer. ‘When he walked in the door at 10 o’clock in the morning, they’d put him right where he was supposed to be and shoot the first scene. Then they’d walk him to the next set, scrambling to light ahead of him. And by 2 or 3 they’d be done with him for the day.’ …Gordon Douglas, whose Sinatra films included Robin and the 7 Hoods, Tony Rome and The Detective, pre-lit every scene and blocked it with Sinatra’s double, so that he was ready to shoot as soon as his leading man appeared. ‘That was always the key,’ says Koch. ‘When you called Frank to the set, you’d better be ready to roll camera.'


Alan Licht, Lee Ranaldo, Gary Panter, Henry Kaiser, and others:

Saturday May 1:
Text of Light (Licht & Ranaldo) with psychedelic light show by Gary Panter & Josh White at Thirty Days NY 70 Franklin St., 7pm

• Sunday May 2:
Henry Kaiser, Alan Licht, Charles K. Noyes, and Weasel Walter
Two guitars, bass and drums at The Stone 2nd St. & Ave. C, 10pm

• Tuesday May 4:
Video & Music: Ralph Gibson & Jon Gibson, Alan Licht "Shaka Drone"
at the Stone, again, 8pm


(thanks Steve Beeho)

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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
• Copyright retained by the writer, artist, or photographer

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Issue #42 (April 21, 2010)

City Hall, Los Angeles

Photo by Chris Collins

Liberté, Fraternité . . . Solidarité (Jews Need Not Apply);
or, Finally! A Holocaust Film Worse Than Schindler’s List

By Carolyn Heinze

To speak of grocery-shopping in Paris, we must speak of war. To speak of war, I’d like to propose the Parisian grocery store. Ever been grocery-shopping in Paris? No, not in the, ‘Chéri, let’s buy a bottle of water before we climb that big set of steps leading up to Sacré Coeur,’ kind of way. And no, not in the, ‘Chou-chou, let’s hit that cute-typique-authentiquebakery shop and that cute-typique-authentique cheese shop and that cute-typique-authentique wine shop and that cute-authentique-typique butcher shop with the cute-typique-authentique French butcher with the chubby red face and the chubby black moustache and the chubby red pencil behind his chubby pink ear, so we can bring it all back to our sublet vacation rental in the Marais – sooo typique !! – and play chubby wooden-beamed French house,’ kind of way, either. I mean, really grocery-shopping?

You’re missing out. And not just on the cheap wine. Because if you live here and love here and exist here and subsist here and go grocery-shopping here, on a regular basis, regularly, you’re a damned-by-default social commentator. No, non, you’re a philosopher. No, non, excusez-moi, you’re a sociologist. With a minor in philosophy and another minor in social commentary and a major in patience, and . . . Well, bref. If you’re paying attention, patiently, while you’re grocery-shopping in Paris, you only have to go a few times to know more than Alexis de Tocqueville ever gathered about democracy and/or the United States and Bernard Henri-Levy will ever gather about anything, including how to achieve wispy-wavy-wistfully philosophical, democratically dramatic French hair.

I’m talking Monoprix (when your deadbeat clients finally pay you) and Franprix (when your deadbeat clients say they’re going to pay you, and offer a check number and mail date and everything) and E.D. (when you start asking yourself if your deadbeat clients are ever going to pay you) and Leader Price (when you finally conclude that your deadbeat clients are just a bunch of damn deadbeats, and that from them you are going to see the dough, le pognon, le fric, le blé never, ever, plus jamais, again). Because: if you look and you watch and you observe and you see, and you’re in a grocery store in Paris, you’ve pretty much got a handle on French society. And how it works. And how it doesn’t work. And how it sort-of works. And how it is.

Let’s take a step back, back behind the safety of the Maginot Expess Line. You know how some countries are called The People’s Republic Of Wherever and The People never have a say in anything? Or how some other countries have snappy-smart slogans about progress and achievement and freedom and justice but the word-count limit doesn’t allow for the part about ‘for those with Swiss bank accounts?’ France has a slogan, too, you know: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. Means ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ in English. Or, ‘liberty, equality, brotherhood,’ but that latter translation always pisses the feminists off. Anyway, France has a slogan, and I feel sorry for the poor slob who wrote it. His word-count limit was strict! Because there’s another word the French really love, and that’s solidarité. In English, it means ‘solidarity;’ in French, it means chacun pour sa gueule. Which is just a slightly less-polite way of saying every man for himself. Or every woman for herself. Sorry.

Again, grocery-shopping in Paris? C’est la guerre. As you may recall, the French know War. Or at least they’ve been in and around and beside and above and underneath and in the vicinity of one or two. And just like good old-fashioned fix-your-bayonet-and-off-we-go trench-warfare, the Battle of le Supermarché demands its own set of weapons and warfare and strategies and tactics and torture and Machiavellian/Sun Tzu-esque art. Because there are buggy-blockades and basket-caches, and unstoppable tank-like caddy-chariots and knee-capping baby strollers weighed down with fierce French babies, and even dual-strollers and dual-babies, and their single mothers and their elbows . . . dual-elbows . . . . and tsk-tsks and oh là là’s and hurled insults and free zones and occupied territories and collaborators and collateral damage and denunciations and friendly fire and plain-old prison-camp psychology when all you’re trying to do is stand in line. Or tunnel out. It’s a jungle out there – or in there, as it were – and silly is the soldier without a strategy all their own. Un pour tous, tous pour un ! Chacun pour sa gueule ! Solidarity forever! Bombs and baskets and buggies away!!

In Germany, even though the grocery stores are a bit more – how you say? – civilisés, they can’t stop talking about war. Especially that Second Big One of theirs. In France, they talk about war, too, every now and then, quite often, sometimes, and sometimes, quite often, every now and then it’s about the Second Big One as well, but that’s mainly on the Arte TV channel (where every Wednesday night is Nazi Night – don’t forget the schnitzel!) and one mainly surmises that that’s because, mainly, Arte is half-owned by the Germans. Because while the Germans are mainly trying to remember so that they mainly don’t forget, the French would like to forget mainly. Not the entirety of war per se, and not the Second Big One, entirely, but there are a few specific specifics, a few damning details, a handful of horrifically horrible horrendous horrors that mainly place into question the real French definition of the term solidarité. Like: Did L’Academie Française quietly declare it synonymous with collaboration somewhere between, say, 1939 and 1945?

Not a question posed in director Roselyne Bosch’s new film, La rafle. In fact, more to the point, La rafle poses few questions. In point of fact, as the unfortunately-named Bosch points out, pointedly, in a pointed interview in the in-house magazine distributed at strategic drop-off points by the movie chain UGC, the point of La rafle was not to question, no, but simply to show: “It couldn’t, at any price, place blame or emphasize the good points. . . I contented myself to show what happened, and I leave the viewer to find the admirable and to condemn, in their mind, the Vichy government, whose decisions – it must be made very clear – went against those of the French populace.” (Huh?) (WTF???) Really???? Er. . . I don’t know. Maybe Ms. Bosch gets her groceries delivered. Oh sure, go to any real French dinner party with any real French people at it, and somewhere along the line you’re sure to hear a real, honest-to-goodness, real-life, surely based-on-a-true-story story about how somebody’s uncle or cousin or grandfather or great aunt or long-lost bastard brother was surely a part of the Résistance, but . . . Once again, have you ever been grocery-shopping in Paris? I mean, really grocery-shopping? Giving you the real-life, true-blue, honest-to-goodness opportunity to experience, first-hand, on the front lines, in-the-trenches, the real French application of the concept of solidarité ?

Here’s the based-on-a-true-story story: La rafle recounts the real-life, actual, entered-in-the-history-books tale of La rafle du Vél d’Hiv, when, over the course of July 16 and 17, 1942, the French police, in collaboration with the French Vichy government, in an incredible coup of collaboration and cooperation and complaisance with the German Gestapo and the German Führer and the German Nazis, rounded up 13,000-some-odd French Jews, their own fellow countrymen, their own neighbors-parisiens, all libre-like and égal and fraternale and solidaire, and packed them into the Vélodrome d’Hiver, a sports stadium designed not to hold Jews, but bicycle races. While it was far from being the only rafle the French police ever staged, La rafle du Vél d’Hiv was the biggest round-’em-up-and-ship-’em-out job the French authorities had ever conducted on behalf of their Nazi occupiers in the history of the Second World War.

So there they were, 13,000-some-odd-Jews, French Jews to be precise, some who had immigrated and done the paperwork and been naturalized and some who had even fought for the French in the First Big One too, there they were, right there in the Vélodrome d’Hiver, right there in the XV arrondissement, right there not far from the lovely Eiffel Tower, rounded up, herded, pushed and prodded and pronged by the French-Parisian police into one cacophonous cell, an ante-chamber to the ones where the real business at hand would eventually take place. It was a waiting room of sorts, only without the back issues of Marie-Claire and Marianne and Elle and Glamour and Vogue. The medical staff was skeletal, and there was no food to speak of; there wasn’t any running water, either, nor toilets or showers or sinks. There was, however, alternately, en abondance, the stench of sweat and vomit and urine and feces and fear. The weakest dropped dead; the more proactive took their own lives, and anyone who tried to escape. . . well, the gendarmes did the job for them. The rest waited, and suffered, and waited and suffered some more, until several days later they were once again herded and hoarded and harried and harangued into the buses that took them to the trains, and then into the trains that took them to the non-Michelin Guide-approved, un-starred accommodations they would temporarily inhabit in the camps of Beaune-la-Rolande and Pithiviers and Drancy. Next stop after that? For most of them, Auschwitz. Also, for most of them, when talking ‘accommodations,’ temporary. For those who managed to make it that far, bien entendu.

It had a cute little code name, La rafle du Vél d’Hiv : ‘Vent printannier.’ Means ‘Operation Spring Cleaning’ in English. Sure, O.K., all right fine, it was July, you gotta admit. But you gotta also admit ‘Summer Cleaning’ didn’t have the same ring to it. It just didn’t pop.

Here’s the kicker: The Gestapo’s quota for this particular mid-summer spring-cleaning sale was 22,000 Jews. But the French police, under instructions from the super-ambitious-dynamique-initiative-taking Vichy government salesman Pierre Laval, were aiming for 27,361. Vichy, in true-bureaucratic-blue, épaulette-sporting, paper-pushing, fastidiously-French fashion, had conducted a census, after all, which had been carefully, complicitly, conscientiously conceived of and compiled and composed by the tediously tenacious André Tulard – the guy in charge of the distribution of the yellow stars. The fichier Tulard has since been mainly-mostly-meticulously destroyed, but at the time it offered an extremely helpful and detailed breakdown of the Jews that resided in Paris. Think of it as a sort of telephone book for which you don’t have the right to request an unlisted number. (Oh, wait — that’s the Internet.) And the listings comprised so many more than a mere 22,000 Jews. For there were, of course, the women to think of . . . and then there were the children! So this time, for the very first time, for this very ambitious and arduous Spring Cleaning, the French didn’t just pawn off French-Jewish men, but their wives and offspring, too. The Gestapo really didn’t want ’em, but it eventually saw Pierre Laval’s point: once their parents were carted off, what was the famous French social system supposed to do with a bunch of screeching, squalling, weeping, wailing, wandering Jewish orphans? It was, you gotta admit, un gros problème.

So they brought the quota up, way up, to 27,631. Why, then, in the end, at the end of two days, for this particularly purposeful and purposefully-planned rafle, were only 13,152 Jews rounded up? In an interview with À Paris, the quarterly propaganda rag published by the Paris City Hall, historian Annette Wieviorka attributes this to the “true solidarity of the Parisian people,” hailing all of the concièrges and restaurateurs and non-Jewish families and the odd rebellious French cop or two for helping to hide and hole-up and rescue and save over 10,000 Jews. Once again: Er . . . um . . . I don’t know. Some historians and some movie-makers have a funny way of cooking the books, flambée-ing the facts, depending on who they’re selling their books and movies to, and if sales are good enough, everyone can afford to get their groceries delivered, skipping the notoriously troublesome cheese aisle altogether. So let’s, for a moment, let’s forget the numbers. And let’s, solidarily, for solidarity’s sake, let’s consider the following:

It took until 1994 for them to get around to erecting a monument – in Paris, of all places, veritable capitale of monuments, where monuments breed like mosquitoes – in memory of the victims of La rafle du Vélodrome d’Hiver. (It’s in the XV arrondissement, on the quai de Grenelle . . . not far, once again, from the Eiffel Tower, for you touristy types!) It took until a year later for a French government official – it was the newly-elected President Jacques Chirac – to recognize, publicly, in a snappy little speech, France’s participation in and responsibility for aiding and abetting and assisting the Nazis in sending its own citizens to their deaths. There are plaques on the Parisian schools in memory of the deported Jewish schoolchildren . . . those started, started appearing about 2000, 2001. And while Vichy super-salesman Pierre Laval was executed in 1945, André Tulard – the yellow star guy, remember him? – escaped prosecution, and kept his grade de chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur to boot. Maurice Papon, who oversaw similar rafles in and around Bordeaux, enjoyed a stellar post-war career. Once done with the Jews, he moved on to the Algerians and, as chief of the Paris police force during the course of the Algerian War, was implicated in the October 17th Massacre of 1961, during which Parisian cops slaughtered hundreds of pro-independence Algerian protestors and threw their bodies in the Seine. Papon wasn’t prosecuted for his crimes against humanity until 1998, and he only did three years of his ten-year sentence because, pauvre bébé, he was old and, as legend has it, he had a weak heart. Yes,mesdames et messieurs, legend has it that Maurice Papon actually had a heart! Only he placed more priority on its health than he did on the hearts of Jews. And the hearts of Algerians. And pretty much every other heart deemed to be part of a France-related minority that he could get his grubby genocidal hands on. Vive la solidarité ! Ain’t it magnifique ?

La rafle, which covers an event, a major one, one that took place way, way, waaayyyy back in 1942, is the first full-fledged treatment of La rafle du Vél d’Hiv in the history of French cinema. Might make those of you who think Hollywood took its time to attack America’s role in the war in Viet Nam, well, it might make you think differently. And it must be stated, as far as World War II movies go (in fact they should think about putting this in the testimonials featured in the trailer): Finally, a Holocaust film that’s even worse than Schindler’s List! Because La rafle is bad. Really bad. Surprisingly bad – even though you know as soon as you see the movie poster that it’ll be pretty bad because it’s starring Jean Reno and any film with Jean Reno in it isn’t going to be any good. (What? You think I’m being harsh? I have three words for you: Da Vinci Code. Two more: Luc Besson. Four more: Collaborated with Luc Besson.) (Need I say more?) (O.K. — Godzilla.) It’s a shame, because Jean Reno seems like a nice guy, even if he is close friends with Sarko. But like his taste in friends and French presidents and directors and dictators, he has lousy taste in scripts. La rafle is so bad it makes you wanna cry, which is the only reason you wanna cry during this film because the actual movie is so bad and cheesy and embarrassing and uncapitivating that it could keep you from crying during a raging case of PMS. You know, one of those spells where you cry at TV commercials about telephone plans that urge you to ‘reach out and touch someone?’ Yeah, that bad. Really, really baaad. Soooo bad it’s a catastrophe.

But wait! There’s worse: You know the Vélodrome d’Hiver – the sports stadium that once held bicycle races before it held Jews? They tore it down in 1959. In its place, up until 2007: the domestic counter-intelligence offices of the Ministère de l’Interieur. You know: The far-reaching French governmental body that’s in charge of the French police. Soon to be a division of Franprix. Clean-up on Aisle Trois, s’il vous plaît . . .

Or, as Frauline Direktor so pointedly said: “I contented myself to show what happened, and I leave the viewer to find the admirable and to condemn, in their mind, the Vichy government, whose decisions – it must be made very clear – went against those of the French populace.”

Bienvenue à Monoprix; the Express Line starts over there.

Southeastern Wyoming, Along Highway 130, Part 2

Photos by Joe Carducci

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of Joe Carducci…

Valentina Pop at the EUObserver.com on Romanian novelist Herta Mueller’s indictment of the EU’s blind-eye to post-Communist continuity in East Europe.

"‘I think the EU acted pretty naively by taking these countries on so quickly and was not able to foresee what kind of crafty and obstructionist barriers they would be faced with,’ she told journalists during a press conference at the Passa Porta literature house in Brussels. ‘I know that in Romania, scores of people who used to work for the Securitate are now in high-level positions and this has virtually no consequences. It is not important for the society,’ she said. ‘These people have gained so much influence that they have managed to almost re-create their old network of power, where they all know and serve each other. It is the second life of the dictatorship. Under different circumstances, organised in a different way. And without ideology. Without Socialism.’"


Christopher Caldwell in the FT on Spain’s Judge Baltasar Garzon:

“His basic tactic has been to delegitimise the amnesties that often accompany (and make possible) transitions from dictatorship or civil war to democracy. In Mr Garzon’s view, the parliamentary arrangements by which Chile granted Pinochet a limited amnesty and a senatorship-for-life were, under international human rights law, null and void. Spaniards, who for the most part applauded when Mr Garzon inflicted this doctrine on the world, are having second thoughts on seeing it applied to their own history.”


Eric Posner in the WSJ, “Garzon and the Trouble With International Law”:

“Universal jurisdiction arose centuries ago to give states a means for fighting pirates. In recent years, idealistic lawyers have tried to convert it into an all-purpose instrument for promoting international justice. But supporters of this law turned a blind eye to the diverse and often incompatible notions of justice that exist across countries… When Mr. Garzon indicted Pinochet, riots erupted in Chile. No matter, thundered the champions of international law: Let justice be done though the heavens fall. But when Mr. Garzon turned his sights on his own country, the gates of justice slammed shut. Spain’s establishment was not willing to risk unraveling its own transition to democracy, and rightly so.”


Back in 2006 Sudanese cell-phone billionaire Mo Ibrahim decided to set up a $5million prize plus $200,000 annual salary-for-life to African leaders who voluntarily stepped down from power, in the manner of George Washington, I would say. Late last year the Times of London ran a photo of this pan-African patriot throwing up his hands at having no worthy candidate. All the many potentates must consider that chump change to what they can haul in by staying in the saddle where their people/family/clan demand they stay. Plus they fear likely arrest/trial/execution once they have left the protection of guards and military. If those who cheer for the prosecution of sitting and former leaders want blood; they can find plenty in Africa.


Mary Anastasia O’Grady in the WSJ on the strange drive to rewrite Honduran history from Washington D.C. Prideful, no doubt, as Democrats embarrassed themselves before their putative enemy in Columbia and ally in Venezuela, but there’s also the lingering bitterness of those who long hoped for a red Latin America? or is that blue? Can you imagine the border problem had their dreams come true?


Andrew Jacobs has a report in the Sunday NYT on Chinese “aid” to Tibetans after the recent earthquake:

“The Buddhist monks stood atop the jagged remains of a vocational school, struggling to move concrete slabs with pickax shovels and bare hands. Suddenly a cry went out: An arm, clearly lifeless, was poking through the debris. But before the monks could finish their task, a group of Chinese soldiers who had been relaxing on the school grounds sprang to action. They put on their army caps, waved the monks away, and with a video camera for their unit rolling, quickly extricated the body of a young girl. The monks stifled their rage and stood below, mumbling a Tibetan prayer for the dead.”

Photographer Du Bin’s slideshow is also very striking.


Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday reports on his trip through village and city to study Chinese “gendercide”.

“And in every cheerful classroom there was a slightly sinister shortage of girls, as if we had wandered into some sort of science fiction fantasy.”


Gordon Chang in World Affairs, “The Party’s Over: China’s Endgame”:

“Chinese technocrats, goaded by a multitude of analysts and foreign leaders, have known for years that they would have to diversify the economy—steer it away from investment and exports and toward consumption. Yet Wen, in office since 2003, has not made much of an effort to do so. His stimulus plan targets the creation of infrastructure and aims almost entirely to boost industrial capacity even further, which would only aggravate the unbalance of the Chinese economy. Continuing with the old way of doing things will further reduce the role of consumption in creating prosperity, which has been sliding from its historical average of about 60 percent to about 30 percent today. That’s the lowest rate in the world, and it is continuing to decrease as the central government’s stimulus plan bolsters industrial production and exports.

So the Chinese economy, once in an upward super-cycle, is now headed on a downward trajectory. Beijing’s leaders had the opportunity to fix these problems in a benign period of growth, but they did not because they were unable or unwilling to challenge a rigid political system that inhibits adaptation to changing circumstances. Their failure to implement sensible policies highlights an inherent weakness in the system of Chinese governance, not just a single economic misstep at a particular moment in history.”


John-Paul Rathbone in the FT on Brazil's cuddly ways in the world:

"Only last week, Brasilia hosted the leaders of China, Russia and India at the second 'Brics' summit - with South Africa along for good measure. More remarkable still has been the speed of Brazil's ascent. It first attended a G8 summit only six years ago, as an observer. Back then, it had about 1,000 diplomats stationed around the world. Now there are 1,400. Last year, it even opened an embassy in Pyongyang."


Brendan Goldman at AmericanThinker.com on Tariq Ramadan’s American debut:

“The sole bright spot on the panel was New Yorker journalist George Packer, who used his allotted time to pelt Ramadan with questions about his views of his grandfather Hassan al-Banna's connections to the Nazi ally and Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Hussayni. Citing Paul Berman's research from his soon-to-be-released book, The Flight of the Intellectuals, Packer noted that al-Banna was an admirer of fascist Italy and Germany and quoted al-Banna as saying, "Hitler was sent by Allah [as a punishment for] the corruption of the Jews." Packer then asked Ramadan whether he was willing to condemn al-Banna for his alliance with the Mufti and for his admiration of Hitler and Mussolini. The normally dispassionate Ramadan was visibly unsettled. Claiming that he had already been asked three times about Berman's book since arriving in the States, he said, "I put this in the context of the [19]30s and '40s." In remarks following these, Ramadan employed the terms "context," "contextual," and "contextualized" at least four times….

‘I don't like to contextualize a long-term alliance with a leading Nazi propagandist and collaborator,’ Packer responded…”

In George Packer’s NYer blog entry, he describes Ramadan as seeming to address “disaffected young second-generation immigrants in a working-class mosque in Lille or Leicester,” as if unaware of any differing American context. Packer himself is at pains to salvage Ramadan’s reputation as some kind of “garden-variety” European leftist. Is it really garden-variety leftism over there to pivot from fending off savage Anglo-Saxon jungle capitalism, to unconditionally opening the doors of citizenship and social welfare to pre-modern Muslims? Given their authentically foreign metaphysical sense of things they can only receive such post-Christian charity, refuge and welfare as tribute due from infidels. We know the demographics there; I wonder at Euro-Islamic voting patterns: do Muslims vote as “conservative” as their culture? Or do they vote “liberal” for the time being? Certainly Europe needs some amount more of “savage” economic dynamism to transform these or any immigrants into Europeans.


Nonie Darwish at Frontpagemag.com, “A Letter to Gaza”:

“Arab education has never told us the truth about the Israeli people and the story from their side and what Jerusalem means to them. We were told that Jerusalem was a Muslim city simply because Mohammed dreamt one night that he went to the farthest mosque but he never mentioned Jerusalem. The Koran never mentioned Jerusalem, which is mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible as the heart and soul of the Jewish people. We as Muslims never respected other religions holy cites and always claimed them to Islam; even Spain and India are being claimed as Muslim land. It was the tradition of Muslim conquerors to convert churches and temples to mosques and that is exactly what happened to the Jewish Temple Mount when 100 years after the prophet Mohammed died, Muslim conquerors built the mosque right on top of it. Just imagine if Jews or Christians had built a temple on top of the Kaaba in Mecca. This is how Islam has treated the Jews. It is time for Muslims to seek redemption and forgiveness and to extend the hand of reconciliation and peace to the Jewish people.”


Charlotte Wiedemann in Die Zeit on “The Scramble for Timbuktu“, at Signandsight.com:

“Saudi Wahabists have been trying for a long time to establish a ‘cleansed’ de-Africanised Islam in Mali. They have had no success in Timbuktu so far; even the religious students still wear fetishes. If you talk to Abdramane Ben Essayouti, Timbuktu's leading imam, about the Wahabists, he straightens his bright blue robe, the bubu, and relates a famous anecdote: When in 1324 the Malian King Kankou Musa went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, his caravan was loaded with so much gold that while he was on the road, the value of gold in Cairo plummeted. ‘Saudi Arabia,’ say the Imam with a subtle smile, ‘was just a sandpit in those days’. When the King returned he brought an architect with him who set to work building Timbuktu's cultural heritage for the future. The Djingareyber mosque is still standing 700 years later and Ben Essayouti is its imam. ‘The Wahabists will not be able to do anything about a tradition as strong as ours.’"


Thomas J. Reese, S.J. in the WP on clerical abuse:

“The media is being attacked by the defenders of Pope Benedict who feel that its coverage of the sex abuse crisis is unfair. Do some reporters do a sloppy job reporting? Sure. Are some commentators over the top in their rhetoric? Sure. When the argument is between The New York Times and the Catholic Church, it may simply be one infallible institution taking on another.”


Bari Weiss in the WSJ, “Hasids vs. Hipsters: A Williamsburg Story”


Hugh Carnegy in the FT on Linda Polman’s book, War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times, writes:

“Polman argues that this ‘see no evil’ approach on the part of aid agencies has led to them being cynically exploited by political regimes around the world, with the result that many conflicts have been made worse, not better, by their presence.”

While Andrew Kramer in the NYT reports on how the directed, “semi-official” Russian press exposs of Kyrgyz corruption, blocked by the now former President Bakiyev’s regime were aided in their directed semi-coup by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Freedom House. Well played double bank shot of one, two, many useful idiots.


My grandfather, Secundo Carducci, fought in WWI in the Trieste area; how the Italian officer corps treated the foot soldier it seems was a big part of his decision to emigrate to America in the mid-twenties. My dad came with his parents at age three in 1930. All these years later dad has Alzheimer’s and one of the few jokes he remembers involves a sale of surplus Italian rifles, the pitch being: “never been fired, dropped twice.” Max Hastings in the FT tours the now Italian Southern Dolomites battlefield of WWI and finds evidence of some different stories from Italian military history. It reminds one of Kargil battle between Indian and Pakistani troops on the glaciers of the Hindu Kush -- existential heroism beyond sense and reason -- only with Italians and Austrians.


Economix, et. al.

Tyler Cowen in the NYT on Cutting Spending

“A move toward a V.A.T. ...brings price inflation, a big increase in the tax-collecting bureaucracy and the emergence of favored sectors with exemptions or lower rates… Burdening citizens with much higher taxes would fundamentally change what this country is about. Our founders envisioned a government that would provide public goods but not guarantee everyone’s well-being against every possible obstacle. Immigrants would be offered a franchise to come here and make good if they could — while bearing considerable risk themselves. To this day, this openness has elevated many millions in health, prosperity and liberty — and enabled many newcomers to innovate and offer new goods and services, or scientific ideas, to the world.

Higher levels of government spending and taxation would also soak up resources that might otherwise foster innovation and new businesses. And sentiment would most likely turn ever stronger against those immigrants who consume public services and make the deficit higher in the short run. Current residents might feel more secure in a larger welfare state, but over time the loss of commerce and innovation takes a toll….

The received wisdom in the United States is that deep spending cuts are politically impossible. But a number of economically advanced countries, including Sweden, Finland, Canada and, most recently, Ireland, have cut their government budgets when needed… Most relevant, perhaps, is Canada, which cut federal government spending by about 20 percent from 1992 to 1997.… In his book In the Long Run We’re All Dead: The Canadian Turn to Fiscal Restraint, Timothy Lewis describes Canada’s move from fiscal irresponsibility to a balanced budget — a history that helps explain why the country has managed the current global recession relatively well.”

WSJ Tax Day editorial: “Europe’s VAT Lessons”. The accompanying chart is worth looking at even if you don’t have the neural bandwith to spare on the obvious. As Cowen’s piece above would suggest Canada is the only country whose VAT has decreased, though Japan and Switzerland seem to have the political discipline to contain the insiders’ stealth temptation to grab at more of the outsider-citizenry’s property.

Steven Malanga in City Journal on Calif., “The Beholden State”, is long and dark:

“How public employees became members of the elite class in a declining California offers a cautionary tale to the rest of the country, where the same process is happening in slower motion. The story starts half a century ago, when California public workers won bargaining rights and quickly learned how to elect their own bosses--that is, sympathetic politicians who would grant them outsize pay and benefits in exchange for their support. Over time, the unions have turned the state’s politics completely in their favor. The result: unaffordable benefits for civil servants; fiscal chaos in Sacramento and in cities and towns across the state; and angry taxpayers finally confronting the unionized masters of California’s unsustainable government.”

Deborah Simmons in the Washington Times on the American Federation of Teachers and Washington Teachers Union’s balking on yet another minimalist school reform program over an apparently faulty budget total, no doubt added up by a graduate of said educational system. Result: the bouncing of hated schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

“Obama-Dodd financial bill would further enrich Goldman Sachs”, writes John Berlau at Openmarket.org. The Wall Street insiders + The Washington insiders = Tea Party


Michael Barone in the WSJ on “Immigration Reform: The New Third Rail”.


Michael J. Trinklein in the WSJ on how to succeed at seceding from the Union.


Brendan Simms in the WSJ on two books on Guilt by Pascal Bruckner and Bernhard Schlink.


Two books of interest reviewed in the current National Review: Theodore Dalrymple's The New Vichy Syndrome, by Claire Berlinski, and Frederick Brown’s For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus, by Christopher Caldwell.


The NYT believes in regulation. I mean they really believe in regulators personally in general, whether they be zealot-drones or clock puncher-watchers. To those arguing more responsibilities be dumped in their in-boxes, they are a different breed of human, heroes really, who have never been empowered, witness the current complete mess that is their purview which they heretofore have had nevertheless nothing to do with, sitting on their lard-asses innocently as they may well have been since the day they were hired. The news laws they will quickly pass to lay atop all the earlier law creating an impenetrable crushing geo-illogical straiation that extends the time spent in courts to determine the simplest questions, are a defense of and argument for more such federal hirelings. In today’s instance, our paper of record defends the character and endless purview of the FCC, which as all Lenny Bruce fans with experience in music radio and television know full well, is and has been always Sterling! The Commission and its courtiers at the networks and their minions in the air are why newspapers follow every move REM and U2 make. In fact, Bono Vox ran his regular editorial column in the very NYT just this Sunday wisely making light of his starpower in the villages of Africa. And where are the great cannibal civilizations of sub-Saharan Africa when one is ringing the dinner bell?

Gail Collins -- happy warrior or wanton battle-axe? You be the judge: here she is in the NYT, “Celebrating the Joys of April 15”, straining for self-interested humor, something Christopher Hitchens might advise her to stop. It's really only vicariously self-interested so the point seems to be merely self-display, flying her control-freak flag high. And to think all those reporters out in free-fire zones producing barely noted bulletins, protecting as it were, the editorial board’s right to pronounce in safety from those coveted window-perches as they move upward within the ivory tower.

Which brings to mind last week’s TCM screening of The Bowery Boys in News Hounds (1947), starring Leo Gorcey as Slip, a copy-boy/wannabe investigative reporter, and Huntz Hall as Sach:

Leo: (discouraged) Sach, I’m afraid I’m a failure.
Huntz: (enthusiastically) I knew you’d make it!
Leo: You don’t understand, I’m going to have to give up germalism.


I don’t know if anyone remembers, but Paul Krugman's enumeration of Wall Street scams in the NYT includes the time-honored hot potato fraud that was the basis of the Kennedy family fortune, earned by Joseph P. on Wall Street in the years before the crash and his flight to Hollywood, where he immediately grabbed three film studios by the books and Gloria Swanson’s body and soul by personal contract. Thereafter read Kennedy liberalism as cover-up.


I believe that Mogadishu radio truly requires the many proven broadcasting talents of Randy Michaels and Lee Abrams. I’m sure the Tribune Co. and American germalism can spare them for as long as it takes to whip Somalia mass media into shape -- but maybe play a little less Pink Floyd.


Migrating Forms (1999, 16mm, b&w)
James Fotopoulos

May 10, Art Cinema OFFoff, Gent, Belgium.


ONO, The Secret History of Chicago Music exhibition of art by Plastic Crimewave

• Tuesday May 11, free
Steve Krakow speaks at 6pm
ONO plays at 7pm

Museum of Contemporary Art
220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago


• Thursday, May 20 at Reserve LA:

Bruce Kalberg / Bruce Caen
1979-1984 PunkPeepsPhotos from the NOMAG files

Reserve, Hollywood; across from Canter's Deli on Fairfax at Melrose.

The Bangs (later, The Bangles) radio ad for NoMag, 1982


2 more Trust mag-sponsored SST DJ evenings in Germany:

• Hamburg, Friday May 28, bar Hasenschaukel
• Berlin, Saturday May 29, bar Wiener Blut

Trust info promises DJs Stone and Schippy playing SST, new alliance, and Cruz releases. “Why SST? read here (sorry, all in german, short in english)”


The Big Takeover 30th Anniversary Festival:

Friday And Saturday, July 30-31
The Bell House, Brooklyn
“Celebrating 30 years of American's oldest indie-produced music magazine.”

The Avengers (reformed S.F. '70s punk legends, with two original members, singer Penelope Houston and guitarist Greg Ingraham), Channel 3, plus Visqueen, Springhouse, Libertines U.S., Flower, EDP & more.

Mark Burgess, Chameleons, For Against, Springhouse, The Sleepover Disaster, Don McGlashan, Jon Auer, Astrid Williamson, The Sharp Things, Paul Collins, The Curtain Society & more.


Obituary of the Week

Daryl F. Gates (1926 - 2010)

The Los Angeles Times treats Gates fairly enough, though a reader might not know that the paper was once in full-sync with LAPD, and so it's turned on him in retrospect as an institution. The LAT, like its Tribune Co. owner, has long been trying to live down its true founder’s heritage.

David Cay Johnston covered the LAPD for the L.A. Times from 1980-83 and he titles his farewell, “The Story the L.A. Times Didn’t Tell”. In it his focus is on the department’s “red squad” which every major city had and each got in trouble as the sixties cultural revolution left cops (among others) at a loss as to the new low of now acceptable political and personal behavior. Johnston like any politico is happy to exploit that disconnect but he knows what he knew and it's interesting.

Jim Newton is the L.A. Times' editor-at-large and he covered the LAPD from 1992 to 1997 and so he has a shorter series of impressions about Gates in retirement when he stayed active as a radio talk show host.

Los Angeles Punk Rock of course had long experience with Gates, just as the Hippies and Freaks had earlier with his predecessors. The Elks Lodge Hall riot (March 17, 1979) was ordered by Gates in his first year as a way to mark territory and perhaps to safely try out new riot suppression tactics, designed for use against the next Watts riots or S.L.A. radicals. In my book Enter Naomi I quoted Nicole Panter’s description of the Elks Lodge/police invasion from the Alice Bag website. The Punks at that show did disperse rather easily in the face of massive police assault, but they never would again. There was a full decade of cat-and-mouse battles all over Los Angeles between punks and cops. I saw kids throw rocks up at police helicopters that were illuminating the night as punks were chased by riot cops on foot and on horseback from Dead Kennedys and Black Flag gigs, from Hollywood to the Harbor. In the end the LAPD got its riot and Gates was forced to resign. In defense of Daryl Gates, a one-time cop-hating kid from Glendale, Los Angeles is ungovernable and certainly not policeable either. One great city and he must have loved trying.

This Black Flag radio ad is a cultural response to the LAPD and Chief Gates by the band as they advertised their next self-produced gig (Feb. 11, 1981) on KROQ. The other ads (released on side 4 of BF’s “Everything Went Black”) are great too, but this one -- at the 7:55 mark -- is particularly well-produced and funny. It features Mitzi, Spot, Merrill Ward, and Dez Cadena.


(Thanks Jane Schuman, Steve Beeho)

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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
• Copyright retained by the writer, artist, or photographer

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Issue #41 (April 14, 2010)

Chocolate Hills, Carmen, Bohol, Philippines

Photo by Dr. Rodilla Tumanda

Fuck A Duck: A Flocking of Canards

by Bart Bull

The way the story gets told, he was, at bare minimum, bisexual. And that's to be gracious about the waterfowl. His most notorious film, 1926's Le Canard, was supposedly titled “Fuck A Duck” in English. Although that may itself be yet another canard. This is the kind of story where we'd better question everything.

Bernard Natan wasn't his real name. He was a Romanian Jew, so it's likely that Natan Tannenzaft or Tannanzapf probably wasn't really his real name either, though it does suggest he made his way across Germany at some point. And before he was shuttled back across Germany, he ended up owning Pathé, France's biggest film company. The one whose proud symbol is a rooster.

That's an actual fact — though declaring facts in the life of Bernard Natan is to take a swan-dive into the murkiest of French duckponds, into the cluckingest of poulet coops, into the near- impenetrable bird-poop of the closed-shutter French business-banking-judicial-governmental hierarchy of the 1930s. And then, even worse, to paddle into the time of the Vichy Government, when the Nazi occupiers were pleased and bemused to discover that they'd at last invaded a country whose citizens were not only willing to rat out the Jews but to help provide the proper enforcement mechanism too. Worse yet, when you come up for air, all you can do is breathe in the successful silence that followed the grand national collaboration.

Bernard Natan, Jew, foreigner, financial wizard, technological visionary, marketing seer and distribution innovator, studio chief and new owner of that ultra-modern French institution, Pathé, had appeared, the French courts were told, in scandalous stag films, lewd movies with elaborate sets and scenarios, films he wrote and directed and produced and then performed in as well. (As it was still The Silent Era, translation was a simple matter of, shall we say, inserts.) He was a sodomite, a foreigner, a pornographer, a Jew, and, of course, surely, a swindler. En plus, he had allegedly fucked a duck. It was enough to make a judge's knife hesitate above his medallions de maigret.

He was accused of fraud, of financial mismanagement, and he was, let it be said over and over again, a foreign Jew who fucked ducks on film — native ducks, noble French ducks. Early in his career, an emigrant, he had established a film company that produced nearly three dozen movies, and then he created his own production lab, Rapid Films, on rue Francouer, with labs and studios, workshops and soundstages that have since been transformed into le Femis, the French national film school. He created a advertising-publicity firm that still exists (under a less-troubling name, of course), he created the first footage of the 1924 Olympics, he built studios and stages and distributors and labs and projectors, and he produced major commercial movies.

In 1928, Charles Pathé, announcing that film was no longer profitable, stripped Pathé Cinema down to a shell company and sold off its assets. Bernard Natan risked acquiring it, transforming it into the dynamic Pathé-Natan. He began purchasing theaters, sixty-two of them across France; in September of 1929, he produced France's first talkies, licensing RCA's sound system for his new theaters; he re-launched Pathé's newsreels and added sound to the pioneering international news source that would be both distributed and widely imitated worldwide and which would lead to television news; by November of 1929, he had created France's first television company; it developed a transmission of television using telephone lines. He funded the research that led to the anamorphic lens, which led to Cinemascope and the contemporary wide-screen film. He innovated what we would now call vertical integration, controlling not only the means of production but the production labs as well, and the distribution and the theaters themselves. By 1930, no longer so convinced it was impossible to make money with movies, Charles Pathé wanted his company back.

Articles began to appear in the press, so many that they could surely be considered a well-organized campaign. Despite the fact that he'd been married to the same woman since 1909, despite the fact that he had two children, despite the fact that he made at least 60 major movies during the first half of the 1930s, he was now under steady attack: a Jew, an étranger, a pornographer, a pederast, perhaps even a foul violator of feathered fowl, and yet with his grasping grip clutching such an important economic institution of la France. A swindler, an embezzler? Surely. How could he not be?

The anti-Semitism of France in the 1930s is only so little remembered because France's next-door-neighbor was so successfully raising the standard, and because... well, there are other reasons too. After years of steady slander and innuendo, of gossip, and rumors in the press, all meant to destroy Natan's hold on the nation's most famous film company, in 1936, at the height of the Depression, the Tribunal de Commerce succeeded in appointing a receiver who proceeded to declare Pathé-Natan bankrupt. Natan continued to produce films; the firm continued to operate at a profit. But by 1938, just after Kristallnacht in Germany, Natan was arrested, and indicted, accused of fraud, of bilking investors, of negligent management and of hiding his heritage by changing his name.

Natan was imprisoned in 1939, and indicted yet again in 1941. This time he was convicted. Released in September, 1941, the Vichy Government arranged to have him placed on what is said to have been the very first train from France to Auschwitz. He was never seen again. Pathé (sans Natan) carried on with properly French management into the 1980s, based on the armatures Natan had created, and the theater chain he established lives on today.

If you should visit le Femis on rue Francouer, where once Bernard Natan first established his film lab, you enter the gates under a striking antique arch that still says "Pathé Cinema" with the fabled rooster emblazoned. On a sunny day, you will see France's elite film students smoking underneath solemn marble plaques with the names of those who died defending La Belle France against the Nazis. They are the cream of their generation, these film students. As ever in France, to succeed, to advance, to prevail, you must absolutely attend the proper school; all politicians, left, right and center, attend the same school, and all up-ranking military officers uniformly attend another. And le Femis is where the future of film in France is being instructed. There is, of course, no mention of Bernard Natan on those memorial plaques. In fact, to the degree that he is remembered at all — and he isn't, not much — he is noted in French film history as a swindler, an embezzler, and as a dirty duck-fucking pornographer. There is reason to believe he never did any such things, and much proof that he didn't, but he never got a chance to tell his tale. Putain. Fuck. Fuck a duck.

(Note: in 1999, Gilles Willem published an article, "The Origins of Pathé-Natan" in Screening The Past, Issue 8, and it was translated by Annabelle de Croÿ. I'm indebted to this remarkable effort at re-examining the restructuring of Pathé, at Bernard Natan's innovations, and at the financial and judicial machinations of that time.)

[Photo: Natan in the dock, c. 1936]

Southeastern Wyoming, Along Highway 130

Photos by Joe Carducci

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the Lapinator (patent pending) of Joe Carducci…

James Bowman at his site on the NYT’s approval of President Obama’s casual ironing out of ambiguity from forty or fifty years of American nuclear strategy. Apparently community activists don’t pay much attention to such things. Presidents Nixon and Reagan were never more effective in the world than when the NYT, WP, CBS, NPR, et. al. had convinced that world looking in that we had elected a madman as likely to push the button as scratch their butt. Sarah Palin is discussed as well.


God writes a hell of a plot and it can even salvage His somewhat weaker characterizations, even in a setting as grim as the Katyn Forest.


The Sunday NYT went sorry-happy. The paper’s status has gone to its head again. I suppose that’s the whole point of working there now in these last days of capitalism and newspapers. Or maybe they’ll apologize for it in the morning. Here’s the lead editorial, however I can’t in good conscience link to everything involved across the full six dollars of newsprint. But if it isn’t Maureen Dowd demanding an apology from her Pope for embarrassing her before the Saudi Regime, it's Frank Rich trying to tie it all together in his column-and-a-half; they ought to just put the names in bold-face because his column has turned into a Kup’s column, this week featuring Robert Rubin, Charles Prince, Alan Greenspan, Michael Steele, Charles Rangel, David Paterson -- all of yous apologize. Frank actually names those who needn’t apologize: David Letterman, Matt Taibbi, and Jon Stewart. Elsewhere Rachel Donadio is exercised about her Pope, “As the Roman Catholic Church continued to battle a sexual abuse crisis, Pope Benedict XVI spent Friday evening watching a movie. And not just any movie: a biopic about wartime Pope Pius XII, one of the most contentious figures to haunt his five-year-old papacy.” Didn’t the last NYT tantrum take care of Hitler’s Pope? I could’ve sworn there was a U.N. resolution, a hearty handclasp and Pulitzers all around over that one.

Still there is some fine reporting and foreign features which is where the real value in the paper lies. They tried to charge for their columnists several years ago and that was just a sad misunderstanding of which side of the foodchain is up. Here is what all that poundage of opinion and not-so-hot culture coverage counts on:

Lydia Polgreen in Bihar India.

Seth Mydans in Bangkok, with some great action photos by Agnes Dherbeys.

And now back to the commercial messages…

Alexei Barrionuevo reports from Volta Grande do Xingu that James Cameron got to live out his boyhood dream to be an Indian and on the front page of the NYT, albeit below the fold, “In the 15 years since he wrote the script for Avatar, his epic tale of greed versus nature, Mr. Cameron said, he had become an avid environmentalist.” I’m very happy for him; I just hope he doesn’t live in Los Angeles.

In the NYT Mag Paul Krugman explains Green Economics, which proves that one can invent economies out of whole cloth. Simply incentivize money-losing good things and tax profit-making bad things. Then when there’s nothing going on anymore but rioting in the streets -- voila! -- you return to Princeton a hero.

I feel certain that Rupert Murdoch really enjoyed his Sunday Times.


NYT Monday editorial -- “First, They Get Rid of the Law Clinics”. Does the unsigned editorialist really mean to invoke national socialism as in Pastor Martin Niemller’s poem of 1946? Or are they trying to take a swipe at Laura Ingraham’s recent construction which she applied to the coming tax regime (First they came for the rich…)? The cruder construction is likely more to do with Shakespeare’s line of dialogue in Henry VI which Manhattan service-economy elites surely never tire of explaining is placed in the mouth of coup-plotters and is thereby pro-lawyer. But lawyers were of more value back when they were scarcer, any economist can tell you that. But I’m wondering if all those loyal NYT readers at NPR and the Comedy Channel will understand that.

Best sentence in the NYT Monday, maybe all week, in a live review of High on Fire by Ben Ratliff: “The riffs keep revolving until you feel as if you’re playing them yourself.”

And here’s the story that really galvanized NYT staffers on Tuesday: Apple Polishers Delight: 4 Pulitzers for Washington Post; 3 for the Times, and 1 for Hank Williams!


The NYer takes it as its mission to provide just slightly more subtle and leisurely applied analysis as to why the Church ought be run from below, not that they really accept democracy per se. Hendrik Hertzberg lards it on: “Our largely democratic, secularist, liberal, pluralist modern world, against which the Church has so often set its face, turns out to be its best teacher -- and the savior, you might say, of its most vulnerable, most trusting communicants.” I guess he forgot that modernity is doomed to be drowned in rising, boiling seas. He’s also forgetting the rest of recent news about that modern world in his fever over how many criminals in the Church how many years ago? He prefers by ignoring the sexual brutalism in high schools and junior highs -- never mind colleges -- (see Christopher Caldwell ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’ link below). Well no, one can’t expect New Yorker writers to be able to keep all that in mind when an opportunity to attack class enemies presents itself; the subscribers in Iowa demand it. Hertzberg means rather to applaud lawyers, judges and newsmen! I’ll be kind and just note the problem of scale -- the Church is a large enough multi-national on-going philosophy of living applied to varying degrees of competence and inspiration by hundreds of millions of people, mostly now African, Asian, and Latin, that all manner of crime must be occurring somewhere within it at every moment. That’s right, the Church even as we blog, is right now committing even plagiarism!

In Monday’s NYT Ross Douthat dashes off a note to his own editorial board regarding which Pope might actually be the less culpable in the matter of their current campaign.


Nathaniel Popper on Raul Hilberg in The Nation:

But it is hard not to see the youthful anger of both Hilberg and Arendt--the expression of an inchoate Zionist zeal--occasionally ruffling their more sober later writing. Scholem perceptively pointed to something very personal in Arendt's work. In his letter, he told her, ‘Your book speaks only of the weakness of the Jewish stance in the world. I am ready enough to admit that weakness; but you put such emphasis upon it that, in my view, your account ceases to be objective and acquires overtones of malice.’ With Hilberg, such overtones are evident when he describes innocent Jewish families going to their death: ‘During ghetto-clearing operations many Jewish families were unable to fight, unable to petition, unable to flee, and also unable to move to the concentration point to get it over with. They waited for the raiding parties in their homes, frozen and helpless.’ The writing in the works of both thinkers rings with an almost visceral desire to distance themselves from the weak Jews… Yehuda Bauer, the eminent Israeli Holocaust scholar, recalls a moment when he was giving a lecture with Hilberg before a college class in Boston during the '70s. Bauer spoke about Jewish resistance to the Nazis; Hilberg began his rejoinder on a characteristically dry note before suddenly losing his temper. ‘He yelled at those students and he said, 'How many of you have guns in your home?'’ Bauer remembers. ‘I said to him, 'You think there will be Nazis in Boston?' But he wasn't talking to the students--he was talking to the Jews in Europe. For a moment he forgot himself.’


Tim Johnston in the FT on the Thai class-war revealed when the wrong one kept winning elections until the bourgies got the coup they demanded from the King and the military.


Jonathan Kay in the National Post on Canada’s racism.


Dorothy Rabinowitz in the WSJ on Tom Hanks’ need to believe in America’s reflexive racism.

It had not, or course, been necessary to remind Americans of who they were and were not. No menacing hordes, then or later, ever threatened American Muslims -- and it has been an insult to the nation to have been lectured to the same way after every attempted terror attack, as though wild mobs of citizens might actually run through the streets attacking Muslims. Even as the ruins of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon still smoldered, countless Americans had reached out to their Muslim neighbors to reassure them.


The NYT is in the car with Tariq Ramadan, the new Said manque who was cheated out of being “a tenured professor of religion, conflict and peace-building at the University of Notre Dame” (that may count as positive coverage of Catholicism). -- Either the bomb was in the other car or Bill Keller considers Kirk Semple expendable.


Two weeks back we saw Ron Rosenbaum’s coverage of Paul Berman’s dismantlement of Ian Buruma’s book; this week the NYTBR gives it to Peter Beinart who is deeply impressed. He does “quibble” with Buruma’s claim that “American Christians… sometimes feel more akin to conservative Muslims than to secular liberals.” This sounds like some mysteriously approved form of racist insult, but it should be remembered that there was something of an ecumenical backfire watershed moment in 1994 when the U.N.’s population conference in Cairo foundered when varied faithful of the Middle East, and darkest Africa balked at the gifts of contraception, sex-ed and abortion from the ice people of the great white north, who naturally took to blaming the Pope John Paul II, who must’ve stood there squinting his blue eyes against the sun uncomprehendingly. 9-11 headed all that off and global warming became the U.N.’s new chew-toy.


The U.N. and the last genocide. David Bosco in the WP tracks the Rwandan ambassador-to-the-U.N. during the massacres, Jean Damascene Bizimana, to a French-owned plastics company in Alabama:

Canadian Gen. Romeo Dallaire… told me that Bizimana and top officials in Rwanda used satellite phones to stay in touch even as the carnage was raging. Regime officials, Dallaire wrote in his memoir, ‘were always ahead of me in the field and could adjust to any initiative I tried. Through [Bizimana] they knew exactly what the council was going to do’ He is particularly bitter that Bizimana knew more about the Security Council’s decisions than he did. ‘There I was with my small team of intelligence officers who were risking their lives for crumbs of information,’ Dallaire wrote, ‘while the extremists had a direct pipeline to the kind of strategic intelligence that allowed them to shadow my every move.’

Many Rwandan expatriates have settled in Upstate New York, but to my surprise, Bizimana‘s name and number came up with an address in Opelika, a city of fewer than 30,000 people, beginning in the summer of 1994.


Daniel Ford on Robin Olds’ posthumous autobiography, A Man on a Mission:

When Robin Olds flew his first mission, in World War II, a fighter pilot needed to be young enough to withstand high levels of G-force. It is not unusual in combat for a pilot to be jammed into his seat by six G's—six times the force of gravity—so that he suddenly weighs half a ton. The blood rushes out of his skull and his vision may dim to gray, then black. By the time of the Vietnam War a G-suit, with its inflatable bladders, could substitute for the suppleness of young muscles, and electronics went far to make up for reflexes that were no longer youthful and fast.

So the modern U.S. Air Force is routinely able to put majors and colonels in the cockpit—but it is so dominant at the moment that in the 21st century no American pilot has shot down an enemy aircraft. Who in his right mind would challenge the U.S. in the air? This turn of events makes Robin Olds—107 combat missions as a youngster, 152 missions as a full colonel and 16 aerial victories—one of a kind. His career couldn't have happened in the old days, when middle-age men didn't fly combat missions, and it is unlikely to happen again. The whole fighter-pilot ethos, from the cigarette to the mustache, from the rule-breaking to the red stars on the fuselage (each denoting, in Vietnam, a MiG fighter shot down), is a relic of the past.


Mythili Bhusnurmath in The Economic Times, financial paper of the Times of India group:

Using airpower has been a big no-no since the one and only attempt in Mizoram backfired in the 1960s. But today it is possible, as US attacks against the Pak Taliban have shown, to zero in on specific targets with minimum collateral damage. Remember the troubles in Punjab did not end till the state decided to use brute force. But before it could do that it had to win the tacit approval of the public and that happened only when terrorism entered drawing room conversations in the capital. Today talk of the Maoists has replaced the Sensex in the capital’s drawing rooms. This is the tipping point for Mr Chidambaram to ‘do a Gill’.


Shadi Hamid in the CSM on Bush Nostalgia in the Middle East. What little discussion remains of democracy for Muslims still neglects to understand that it is a good thing if Islamists win an election for then they must leave heaven behind and administer water and sewers, port facilities and roads and bridges, or debase their political currency for the forseeable future. They might then keep power by fraud as in Iran but this also seals their fate. Unfortunately, there is a window closing on this and that is the arrival of nuclear weapons in the Persian and Arab worlds. Because when the sewage is backing up and the bridges collapse into rivers and the shelves are bare an Islamist will just contrive to hurry along to Heaven.


Christian Oliver in the FT on the footrace to North Korean souls between Protestantism and Buddhism:

'Buddhism is regarded as a patriotic institution in North Korea, associated with the nationalist movement and fighting Japanese colonial rule,' (Bop Ta) said, but added temples were often tourist sites. North Korean Buddhism is waning. Hwang Jang-yop, a former senior communist official and North Korea's most high profile defector, says the monks at temples there are 'fakes'. Bop Ta said North Korea's outlawing of Chinese script prevented proper study of ancient texts and that monks also defy tradition by marrying.


The IBD: Paul Volcker, Inflationist. More good plotting.


Hillsdale College power couple in the WSJ on the end of the depression.


Roger Pilon of Cato in the CSM, on the hearings to come to replace Justice White, I mean, Brennan, no Souter, or maybe Stevens:

The party’s base, already disappointed with Mr. Obama, will doubtless press the president for a liberal replacement. But with the growing ‘tea party’ movement raising long-ignored constitutional issues, even a moderate nominee will face questions congressional Democrats would rather leave buried. Chief among those is that most basic question, brought to the fore by ‘ObamaCare’: Are there any longer any constitutional limits on federal power?


Christopher Caldwell in the FT, “The kids are not alright”, on the suicide of Phoebe Prince in South Hadley, Mass.:

Getting rid of the old punitive morality that surrounded sexuality seemed like it would do no one any harm, and relieve a lot of unnecessary anguish and guilt. But young people have not reacted to it as theorised. They will gladly skip the ‘morality‘ part. But in a world as socially competitive as that of teen dating, the ‘punitive‘ part is simply too useful a tool to do without. So people proclaim themselves free of moral hang-ups, and yet throw around words like ‘slut‘ and ‘whore‘ with an abandon that no previous generation ever did. It is unlikely there was any moral disapproval in the taunts to which Prince was allegedly exposed. It might have been better if there had been.


Terry Teachout in Commentary on Brad Gooch’s biography, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor:

Because these stories are in the broadest sense comic -- and because they portray a culture of which most educated Americans of the 50‘s knew little or nothing -- it was inevitable that they would be misunderstood by many of their first readers, who wrongly pigeonholed their author as a purveyor of the same Southern gothicism and grotesquery that they had previously encountered…. O’Connor was unsurprised by such obtuseness. ‘I have found,’ she wrote with dry amusement, ‘that anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.’


Jill Lepore in the NYer on the Henry Luce - Harold Ross feud manifested in their magazines, Time and The New Yorker:

Ross was born in a prospector’s cabin, in 1892; Luce was born in 1898, in a missionary compound. Ross never finished high school; Luce went to Yale, like his father before him. A person could be forgiven for expecting Ross to have been the one to start the magazine edited for the old lady in Dubuque and Luce to have started the one that wasn’t. That just the reverse came to pass explains some of the waywardness between them.


Robert McCrum in The Guardian on “the worldwide dialect of the third millenium”.


Carolyn Cui in the WSJ on Chi-comedy.

One of the jokes he told at Beijing's Haidian Theater, Mr. Wong says, was about parking: ‘I'm not good at sports, but I love parallel parking. Because unlike sports, when I am parallel parking, the worse you are, the more people are rooting for you.’ …That didn't get as many laughs in China as it does in the U.S., probably because Chinese drivers park wherever they want to, he says. Last month, Mr. Wong performed before Vice President Joe Biden in Washington, earning a standing ovation at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner. To prepare, he read Mr. Biden's biography, he told the crowd, and, after meeting him, declared: ‘I think the book is much better.’


The Stooges’ remarks at their Hall of Fame induction.

The Stooges' “Search and Destroy” there.


Here’s Jon Savage’s summation of Malcolm McLaren in The Guardian, which touches gently on his limitations without measuring what those did to the one important thing he had anything to do with. Savage’s book, England’s Dreaming, goes deeper into it all but even that is a bit charitable to McLaren.

Contempt is something few can carry, primarily because it argues ultimately for either murder or suicide. Godard named it with his film which involved international film production itself, but in popular culture it was probably a New York thing even then, introduced and branded as we now say by Andy Warhol. That story as it pertains to music is told very well in the book, Please Kill Me, by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain; it begins in 1965 (before Hippie let us note) with the Velvet Underground as presented by Warhol. Of the figures riffing by in this oral history’s prologue, only Danny Fields has anything one could call a love for music and he explains being unable to convince Lou Reed and John Cale that they should get away from Warhol’s “corny” presentation and trust in their music.

Savage’s book covers McLaren’s experiences in early-seventies NYC with the New York Dolls. It's hilarious. Taking what he’d learned back to London he was allowed a do-over he may not have happened upon had he stayed in NYC and tried to get involved with the earliest punk bands there. The media and money were tightening up in the American music industry after 1972, but in the hot-house London-based economy of British newspapers and record labels the punk paradigm shift could happen on the front pages, on the BBC, and at the top of the charts.

England’s Dreaming was one of the few books I read before updating my own book, R&TPN, and what struck me most reading the impressive blow-by-blow was that all the hubbub in the media was caused by the simple, natural loutish behavior of Steve Jones and Paul Cook topped off with the reaction shots of Johnny Rotten grinning. All Malcolm had to do was blithely defend it, which according to Savage he decided to do only the day after the infamous Bill Grundy “Today” program appearance; Malcolm had originally been unnerved himself by the swearing. But that show was actually the perfect demonstration of what it was all about! Grundy, a middle-aged straight, was flirting with the punkettes with the band on live television and the Sex Pistols were disgusted at him! And one motor of cultural revolt is surely that young men attempt to keep the females of their cohort for themselves against the poaching of their elders who always have more to offer. So culture and fashion, where young males can with a little ingenuity and gall pull a cool-switch and make older males look suddenly hopelessly out of it is a perennial tendency. Again Britain was ripe coming off the hippie boom due to the careful and conscious tribalizing of youth factions and the Sex Pistols were suddenly hunted by the same Teddy Boy fifties-styled rockers that Malcolm had given up on just five years earlier.

It was McLaren’s perverse American tour-dates and his use of Sid Vicious thereafter in NYC that really turned off many; it was passive cruelty worthy of Warhol but McLaren didn’t get shot. And its major accomplishment was to plant a useless Sid-clone in every American punk rock scene thereafter -- those scenes necessarily made up of far less decadent go-getters for all the decadence of the American music and media industries. And this doesn’t even address the problems this Brit re-branding of punk rock with Situationist pretense and vomit made for the ongoing attempt to crack that American music blockade by The Ramones, Television, The Weirdos, Black Flag, etc.

In any case it wasn’t until after Nirvana’s galvanization of the industry for punk in 1991 that the deal was easy enough for the now older, wiser ex-Sex Pistols to reunite and tour. When John remarked that now they’d finally get to be a band, that was not an indictment of the London newspapers or ITV but of their manager who had thought them terrible. The Sex Pistols weren’t the only thing Malcolm had contempt for.


Billy Childish on authenticity and originality:

Then again it's only pseudo-cleverness, 'cause it's not actually clever at all, it's sort of that adolescent covering your tracks. Because it's neurotic, really, it's not genuinely clever, it's trying to be clever, trying to be an adult by being sarcastic. It doesn't have any affiliation with real cleverness, that is sort of the feeling you get, that they want to appear smart. But it's pseudo, a lot of these things are not what they appear to be. People don't call things by their proper names. They're always trying to outwit their critics. You know, like, by any sort of adolescent manoeuvre they can come up with. My claim to originality is [that] authenticity is far more important. Most people seem to think originality would have something to do with authenticity but not when it's... most originality is pseudo-originality. The only way to become authentic, in other words, to have any original ideas at all is to be an authentic first. Because if you're authentic you're true to your calling, to your heart. Follow your star, the thing that leads you and inspires you, and that means that something else might come through which comes close to the notion of originality. To strive for originality in itself is a pointless adolescent preoccupation.


Paul Beston in the WSJ reviews Andrew Potter's book, The Authenticity Hoax:

Mr. Potter notes that the search for authenticity often ends up as a status-seeking game... The local-food trend illustrates what Mr. Potter calls 'conspicuous authenticity,' by which the well-heeled embark on a 'perpetual coolhunt,' whether it is for authentic jeans, pristine vacation spots or mud flooring....


Stanley Crouch in the Daily News on the film Facing Ali.

Part of what makes Facing Ali such a good film is that it does not miss out on the truth of Ali's connection to the cult that Malcolm X bitterly attacked after he went to Mecca and claimed to have been misled and deceived by Elijah Muhammad. One of the reasons that nothing is said, especially by black writers, politicians and the media, is that Louis Farrakhan scared the pants off of them…

The film is made great by the men who fought Ali and suffered at his hands whenever he had the chance to belittle them as servants of the ‘enemies’ of black people, as opposed to himself, the shining race hero... What is most overwhelming about Facing Ali, however, is the human grandeur of those men who won or lost fights to him. They bled, they suffered, they were treated unfairly and they were disappointed - but they prevailed in deep human terms. The size of feeling and the depths of philosophical understanding heard from Joe Frazier, George Chuvalo, Larry Holmes, Ken Norton, Ron Lyle and George Foreman will startle those who think that his opponents were as intellectually limited as Ali was and probably still is.


Obituary of the Week: Arthur Mercante Sr., Boxing Referee


On the NYT sports page is George Vecsey’s reprise of the ancien Howell Raines regime‘s campaign, Billy Payne is the Pope, and women are little boys, or something like that.


Allen Barra in the WSJ on Jim Bouton’s Ball Four.


(Thanks to Steve Beeho)

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• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
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