a new low in topical enlightenment

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Issue #73 (November 24, 2010)

Off Highway 130, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

China’s Fantasy Ideology
by Joe Carducci

I guess it was five years ago when it seemed like China was knocking down its border disputes one after another. These were the easier ones of course, but they were all around, from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, India, to Vietnam. China also borders North Korea, Mongolia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, and Laos for good measure, and all these former sometime Imperial tributaries now potential tripwires don’t include the offshore island disputes with South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and the Sultan of Brunei. Not to mention China’s claim on Taiwan which brings to mind restive internal colonies Tibet-Qinghai, Sinkiang-East Turkestan, and probably Inner Mongolia. This leaves larger disputes with India, both in the northeast and the north central as well as the two chunks of Kashmir that Pakistan thoughtfully ceded to China and are sometimes called Aksai Chin.

The Chinese Communists gave up on Maoism in the eighties and dropped Marxism soon after. At that point the march of Economics raced forward while History began retreating. One imagines the Party’s cadres of Historians pouring carefully over every surviving Imperial document or map as they seek to reconstitute the high-water mark overlaps of the Qin, Chin, Song, Qing, and even a Mongol dynasty or two around the pole of the glories of the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD). Were these many contemporary disputes to be settled to the Party’s satisfaction we could reasonably expect the regime to then be knocking on doors from Indonesia to Poland referring all the while to their All-Party Geographical History Department of Maps. I almost forget, they’re going to the Moon and Mars as well, but they go undoubtedly for merely all Hankind.

Its easy to forget that before the attacks on 9-11 relations were pretty rocky between China and the US. Then because there were nominally Chinese Uigurs among the guerrillas in Al-Qaeda training camps things calmed down and the PRC went on its fence-mending quest with neighbors. After the attack on the WTC the papers and magazines and TV studios were filled with experts on Islam, Afghanistan, the sub-continent, Central Asia, and Warlordism. It was a useful crash course. But one of the most incisive pieces came a year after by a nobody from Georgia named Lee Harris which identified what he called “the fantasy ideology” of Al-Qaeda. He reached this description as his analysis led him to depart from the Clausewitzian assumption of war as politics by other means, and from there to ditch the assumption that “an act of violence on the magnitude of 9/11 can only have been intended to further some kind of political objective.” Harris even claimed that Karlheinz Stockhausen, with his bon mot/faux pas where he tagged 9/11 “the greatest work of art of all time”, was onto something because the act was not designed to convince anyone of anything, but merely concerned with the maintenance of “a specific personal fantasy.”

It might be that the Chinese Politburo has fixed on an Historical fantasy of the Han people to make up for the lack of any philosophical basis for their rule. If so at its worst it might be as if the white minority South Africa insisted on expansion and rule over more and more black Africans. Absurd. Suicidal even. The one-child policy and the more and more confident Chinese middle and working classes may insure that any actual war-fighting will end the regime. People, citizens, do not give up their only sons for offensive wars. Not for long. If their growth engine goes to their geography-obsessed heads and they actually pull the trigger somewheres they may lose all the other somewheres and never get to Mars where it is believed the Mandate of Heaven is buried underneath the statue of Elvis.

Here’s a weeks worth of striking Chinese action:

Juliet Ye & Jason Dean in the WSJ, "Chinese Blogger Conference Is Cancelled Under Pressure".

Michael Wines in the NYT, "China’s Censors Misfire in Abuse-of-Power Case".

John Markoff in the NYT, "Report Looks at How China Meddled With the Internet".

WSJ: "China’s ‘State Capitalism’ Sparks a Global Backlash".

Norihiko Shirouzu in the WSJ, "Train Makers Rail Against China’s High-Speed Designs".

Barry Bearak in the NYT, "Zambia Balances Aid From China and Resentment".

David Fickling & Ross Kelly in the WSJ, "Fight Over Miner Simmers".

Amit Ranjan at Asiasentinal.com, "Beijing’s Threat to India’s Water Security".

The New York Times Criterion
by Joe Carducci

The New Criterion for November features an excerpt from William McGowan’s book, Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of ‘The New York Times’ Means for America. The excerpt is titled, "Pop goes the Times", and focuses clumsily on the NYT’s “treatment of film, television, theater, music, and other arts”. I’m sympathetic to his general thrust but the piece is an illustration of how slow on the uptake the Right has been on popular culture if not the arts themselves. This has left an entirely corrupted and inadequate Left to have its way with the arts. The issue is all but impossible to get into focus today because so many erstwhile critics, consumers, fans, scholars… have begun producing art since there seems to be money fun and fame attached to the arts as they went Pop under the demographic power of the baby boom. Then Pop culture invaded the Humanities and weakened aesthetics -- the Critic vanquished Art and proceeded to produce mere Culture in place of Art. Such Culture is far more politically settled and easier to market in the near term.'

The New Criterion is designed to fight a rearguard defense of Art against all this, so its easy to sympathize. But their defense of Art is as Art was before Elvis and Warhol, but that line leaves so much outside their ken as to invite dismissal. I always wondered why the publication wasn’t titled The Old Criterion, or just The Criterion. Seems like calling it The New Criterion was throwing in the towel on some level. And there’s so much righteous objecting and critiquing for them to do!

I liked the old WSJ as it was edited by Robert Bartley, and the CNBC television hour that the editorial board did with Stuart Varney was a lot better than the half-hour they do now on Fox News Channel. Bartley didn’t look like he cared at all about the mechanics of performing on television which is quite rare and unlike his replacement Paul Gigot who had done PBS’s "News Hour" for several years. The hippest writer on the board and the shows was/is Dorothy Rabinowitz who projects a classic Manhattan hauteur though she’s currently wasted reviewing Television. I once caught a NYT television program on the local NY1 cable channel but its primarily a vehicle to tout that week’s Sunday Times features.

There wasn’t much on music or film in the Journal until Bartley died and Gigot took over, though movie coverage got the head-start. Now with Murdoch’s ownership the paper is about as hip as its gonna get. But it doesn’t have near the ambition the Times has when it comes to arts coverage. McGowan makes easy points about the politically interested and invested compromises the Times makes whenever it disapproves of some development or is suddenly embarrassed to have missed the early stages of some phenom. Coverage of books which it finds uncomfortable is elided when its felt the attention a Times review would get the book is oxygen it would otherwise not get. This is different than the ignoring of Rush Limbaugh, his arrival in Manhattan, his turning civics into compelling radio, his best-selling books, his effective connecting up the WSJ editorial board with just-folks out across the country; the Times’ determination to be up to speed on all matters of American culture failed them here and they backed into coverage of Limbaugh with a profile of him that acknowledged the book had gone to #1 on their own chart yet not been reviewed. Such media-figure political books are now a deluge, and certainly the Times’ obsession with Sarah Palin since the McCain ticket lost is somewhat shaped by their earlier failure to note activity out between the University towns of America.

The Times did cover Limbaugh-fan Camille Paglia’s first book fairly quickly given she was unknown, but Sexual Personae was published by Yale and easy to identify as likely significant. And her text was hip enough in simplified Manhattan terms (references to The Rolling Stones, movie stars, etc.). Hers was also an Arts corrective -- not in full sync with The New Criterion’s but an interesting update of it. (My own books haven’t been reviewed in the Times, even the revised edition released by Henry Rollins’ company in 1995 was elided, though of course here we’re talking about a Pop Music regime-past whose understanding of what was important was perversely relaxed by Nirvana’s pop success and any back-checking would be painful for the paper of record. My third edition was pitched to the NYT Book Review section editor, but by 2005 you know…. I’m waiting for my reverse-gear Limbaugh-style profile.)

Though Books and Music are important to the NYT, they only attempt comprehensive reviews with regard to Films and Theater. Obviously, they couldn’t hope to review every music release, or live performance, or every book published, but it does probably mean something that movies rate so important -- even those that do not come with advertising budgets, even those played from dvds in pizza parlors. One of the marks against former Times editor Howell Raines when he was on his way to being fired was his front page placement or even the assigning of an article on Britney Spears in the early days of what I counted as her third life, this one her red-shift blast-off as new media supernaut. She wasn’t drying up and blowing away and the micro-paparazzi with all that bandwidth and syndication to feed were metastasizing into something new. Raines was ahead of that curve, and perhaps right as well to put it up front rather than in Arts.

McGowan writes:

“Part of the late 1970s Sectional Revolution, in which the Times became a multisection publication bulging with soft news and life-style journalism, was a greater use of market research and polling of target constituencies, especially in the area of cultural coverage. The research explained that the Times needed to ‘reach out to a new generation, people whose attention spans were shorter,’ Warren Hoge, the assistant managing editor, told NPR. It needed to replace its older readers with a new generation, one that was educated but ‘aliterate,’ meaning they did not read much…. Over time this transformation crowded out coverage of high culture in favor of an oddball, wink-and-nod popular culture. ‘The entire social and moral compass of the paper,’ as the former Times art critic Hilton Kramer later said, was altered to conform to a liberal ethos infused with ‘the emancipatory ideologies of the 1960s’….

The change was met by disaffection and derision within the paper’s newsroom. Grace Glueck, who ran the culture desk for a while as replacement editor, was one of the disaffected and famously once asked, ‘Who do I have to f[…] to get out of this job?’”

Hilton Kramer has been co-editor and publisher of The New Criterion since he left the New York Times in the early 1980s, so presumably the limitations of William McGowan’s book are the generic Manhattan limitations.

Back before Raines went a Britney too far, Sridhar Pappu in the New York Observer recounted the murderers’ row of the Times' recent glory years:

“For years, particularly from 1967 to 1990 under Mr. Gelb's direction, the culture section of The Times served as the repository of New York's most distinguished cultural critics: Harold C. Schonberg and Donal Henahan on music; Hilton Kramer and John Russell on art; Walter Kerr, Stanley Kauffmann and Mr. Rich on the theater; Clive Barnes on dance; Renata Adler, Vincent Canby and Janet Maslin on the movies; Ada Louise Huxtable and Paul Goldberger on architecture; and Jack Gould, John O'Connor, Walter Goodman and John Corry on television. And in dance, literature and cabaret, The Times ruled the waves. Even readers who hated those critics read them.” (Jan. 19, 2003)

Some of those critics are even good, just as some of today’s are good. If they are any less lethal it becomes academic so-to-speak when the varied arts are failing as they are.

The paper is now fully a national paper. It sells only perhaps a couple hundred thousand copies in New York City, and those in Manhattan. In the city itself, the New York Post, the New York Daily News, and Newsday, each outsell the Times. The marketing department is especially visible in the Arts and Travel section; each dip into Chicago theater or L.A. taco trucks or Austin filmmaking or Portland coffee trends is an attempt to juice distribution in those now important markets for the Times. Certainly this has begun to temper the old Manhattan-bound politik -- it was harder for the literature-based Old Left frame-of-reference cosmopolitan Times to molt unto a Pop-based New Left Times hip to developments on the West Coast than it will be for this new rootless pop provincialism to now sell itself to a faithless cell-phone “readership”. Their television ads tell you who they think these young ‘aliterates’ are, and that maybe they want the paper just on weekends.

The political element of the Times that concerns McGowan and Kramer now seems weakened everywhere under the effect of the web and the general dispersion to formlessness of what media remains; only NPR seems strengthened as an influence-magnifier for the Times. When there was talk of the paper going non-profit I thought I heard a harmonic.

Centennial Ridge, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

Francolinus Griseostriatus by James Fotopoulos

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

James Wood’s appreciation of Keith Moon in the NYer isn’t available on-line but might be of interest to fans of The Who as it runs five pages plus a full-page Ross Halfin shot of Moon behind his drum-kit. It’s somewhat limited to Wood’s childhood knowledge of just The Who’s output after its groundbreaking Maximum R’n’B sixties singles period when the band was increasingly tamed by the requirements of AOR programmers and the LP itself with their double-album rock operas. Wood is good on Moon, though, because he was a kid for whom drumming answered young and ancient impulses that his traditional classical and church-based musical training on other instruments did not. He writes, “Sitting behind the drums was like the fantasy of driving (the other great prepubescent ambition)…”, and on Moon drumming: “He seems to be reaching for everything at once.” Wood contrasts Moon to John Bonham profitably (to Glenn Gould less so) but then noting their deaths two years apart, ends, “And then English drumming went quiet.”

Your editor ought to have told you that was a subject worth six pages of the New Yorker: as in, What happened? A good ten years where the UK produces drummers like Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts, Mick Avory, Jack Jones, Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell, Moon, Bonham, Bill Ward, Robert Wyatt, Greg Palmer, Bill Bruford, Clive Bunker, John Marshall, Phil Collins, John Weathers, BJ Wilson, Cozy Powell, Ian Paice, Mick Fleetwood, Barrie Barlow, Simon King, dozens more at least… until glitter and punk and media itself turned on music in the hot-house Pop machine that is London.


Lillian Gish film series at MoMA
•November 26–December 13

The features are worth seeing but the first two programs of earlier one and two reelers on Friday, and Saturday are harder to come across. Gish was a child actor on stage when she and her sister Dorothy followed a stage acquaintance Mary Pickford into Biograph’s studio on E. 14th St in New York. There and in New Jersey, and on E. 175th, and in Hollywood Lillian followed D.W. Griffith as he rationalized what they’d later term the grammar or rhetoric of film. Gish’s 1969 memoir is well-observed and heartfelt. She was young and thought at first to work only with Griffith and was hurt when he let her go as he let others go when they got to be stars who could make more money elsewhere. And she tells the story of Griffith’s fall in twenties well. She loved the making of films and writes of the 1910s on 14th Street studio, a Victorian brownstone since torn down, “When we worked there the house was alive with movement; filled with people with strange painted faces, wearing odd costumes. They were actors who applied their own makeup, contrived their own costumes, often wrote their own stories, and fought for choice roles day after day, as a ceaseless stream of pictures poured out of the studio. They were not respected by some actors of the legitimate stage, but they brought to their work an excitement and spontaneity that did not exist anywhere else and has regrettably long since disappeared from most movies.” The MoMA series includes some of her latter sound films but doesn’t include Unforgiven (John Huston, 1960) which is the best of those.


Nick Gillespie in Reason, Brian Lamb interview.

“A famously stone-faced interviewer comfortable grilling figures from across the political spectrum without revealing his own leanings, Lamb, 69, actually got his start in television on an Indiana-based pop music show called ‘Dance Date’; he played drums for local bands while getting his undergraduate degree from Purdue. After a tour in the Navy, Lamb did press relations for Robert McNamara’s Defense Department and then worked for the Nixon administration, experiences that cemented his conviction that governments should be as open as possible. C-SPAN started the process of televised openness in 1979.”


Matt Welch in Reason, "The Libertarian Conspiracy".

“If these attacks appear to lack a consistent theme, it’s because Democrats need the Koch bogeyman to accomplish so many political tasks. The narrative that emerged after the [Jane] Mayer article, which became a kind of pre-election Rosetta Stone for Democrats trying to decode why they were going to lose in 2010 and maybe 2012, boils down to a strained four-part theory: 1) The ruthlessly powerful Kochs are ‘covertly’ waging a war against Obama on behalf of right-wing Republicans; 2) they are doing so chiefly out of their own corporate self-interest (mostly to pollute) and a general ‘pro-corporate’ agenda; 3) they are creating and/or co-opting populist anti-government sentiment they don’t necessarily believe in; and 4) this is all a direct effect of the Citizens United decision, in which the Supreme Court lifted restrictions on political speech by corporations (though wealthy individuals such as the Kochs have always been free to spend their money on political messages).

What a long, strange trip it has been for the Kochs. In 1980 David Koch was the vice presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party, when he and Ed Clark (a self-described ‘low-tax liberal’) ran on a platform that included abolishing the CIA and FBI. Not long before that, according to Senior Editor Brian Doherty’s definitive history Radicals for Capitalism, Charles Koch had openly considered buying the progressive opinion magazine The Nation before helping to launch Inquiry, which published such writers as Noam Chomsky and Marcus Raskin. The conservative flagship National Review beat The New Yorker by a solid 31 years with its cover-story shocker that ‘anarchists, backed by corporate big money’ were ‘infiltrat[ing] the freedom movement.’ Horrors!”


Julian Jackson in The Guardian on Richard Wolin’s book, The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution, and the Legacy of the 1960s.

“If people tend to remember May '68 nowadays in terms of sexual liberalisation, at the time protesters spoke the language of Marxism, and Wolin focuses on one particularly radical Marxist group – the French Maoists – whose heyday was the period 1967-73. This might seem a somewhat narrow subject until we remember that the supporters of the Maoists included such luminaries as Michel Foucault and Jean-Paul Sartre (who had nothing else in common). This was a time when the language of politics was extraordinarily violent. André Glucksmann, now one of the anti-totalitarian ‘new philosophers’ of whom the most famous is Bernard-Henri Lévy, believed in his Maoist phase that France was a fascist country; Sartre called for popular tribunals to counteract bourgeois justice. Not to be outdone, Foucault advocated a ‘people's justice’ without courts on the lines of the September massacres of 1792.

Curiously the Maoists had missed out on 1968 itself. Blinded by dogmatism, they assumed that an event led by students could not be serious. It must be a plot hatched by de Gaulle and the French state as a pretext to crush the proletariat. This complete contradiction between the reality on the streets and what theory said must be happening caused one Maoist leader, Robert Linhart, to have a nervous breakdown.”


David Bellos in The Telegraph on Romain Gary.

“He spoke Russian and Yiddish as native languages and had acquired Polish properly, too. (Vilna, where Gary was born in 1914, was part of Poland between 1921 and 1939.) He knew German because he’d taken it at school, but at his lycée in Nice he’d won first prize in French composition, and had in his youth drafted countless French novels, now lost. He’d studied law at Aix-en-Provence and then in Paris, living on odd jobs and croissants filched from bars. He naturalised at the age of 21 and was called up in 1938. It was Gary’s good and bad luck to be doing military service when war was declared: his time was automatically extended for the duration.

When France fell to the Germans in June 1940, he fled in a two-seater plane to Algiers and then Casablanca, and onwards by sea via Gibraltar to Britain, arriving in time to swear allegiance to Charles de Gaulle at his first rally at the Albert Hall. Gary was one of the handful of hotheads who gave Free France its own air force. Of the 200 airmen who enlisted at the start, only five remained alive in 1945. The burden of such luck weighed on Gary for the rest of his life.”


Eric Ormsby in the WSJ, on the book, The Classical Tradition.

“‘The Classical Tradition’ is a guidebook of great erudition that is notably well written and unexpectedly compelling. It definitely is not another of those solemn introductions to ‘the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome.’ Instead it is a lively compendium of the manifold ways in which the enduring creations of the classical tradition, and the Greek and Latin classics, have been imitated, adulated, denounced and misunderstood—or understood all too well—over the past two millennia.

In their introduction, the editors—a triumvirate, as is only fitting (Anthony Grafton, Glenn W. Most and Salvatore Settis)—state that they aim to strike a balance between ‘an unwavering commitment’ to the truth and ‘an undogmatic appreciation of the endless resourcefulness and inventiveness of human error.’ Accordingly, the tradition in question isn't simply the preserved legacy of Greece and Rome in art and literature, philosophy and statecraft; it comprises the centuries of commentary and interpretation that have elaborated and embellished that legacy.”


Andy Martin at the NYT Opinionator blog.

“One implication of what a psychologist might say about autism goes something like this: you, a philosopher, are mindblind and liable to take up philosophy precisely because you don’t ‘get’ what other people are saying to you. You, like Wittgenstein, have a habit of hearing and seeing propositions, but feeling that they say nothing (as if they were rendered in Chinese). In other words, philosophy would be a tendency to interpret what people say as a puzzle of some kind, a machine that may or may not work.

I think this helps to explain Wittgenstein’s otherwise slightly mysterious advice, to the effect that if you want to be a good philosopher, you should become a car mechanic (a job Wittgenstein actually held during part of the Great War). It was not just some notion of getting away from the study of previous philosophers, but also the idea that working on machines would be a good way of thinking about language…. Perhaps language can be seen as a car, a vehicle of some kind, designed to get you from A to B, carrying a certain amount of information, but apt to get stuck in jams or break down or crash; and which will therefore need fixing. Wittgenstein and the art of car maintenance. This car mechanic conception of language is just the sort of thing high-functioning autistic types would come up with, my psychologist friend might say, because they understand ‘systems’ better than they understand people.”


Martin Wolf in the FT on Will Hutton’s book, Them and Us: Changing Britain.

“Hutton makes four basic propositions. First, capitalism is, indeed, the unique productive system its proponents claim. But it must be the capitalism of the innovative entrepreneur operating in a competitive economy open to all the talents…. Second, such an open-access economy demands an open-access society…. Third, if economic elites are allowed to dominate the state, the economy will become ossified and stagnant. ‘Closed political systems beget closed and monopolized economies.’ This, in Hutton‘s view, is what has been happening in the UK, with the domination over public policy of a rent-extracting financial elite. Fourth, the maintenance of a fair, open access society and economy demands an engaged and supportive state.

This set of propositions challenges the right’s hostility to the state and the left’s hostility to the market.”


Mercopress.com: "Guerrilla Dilma gathered information for bank hold-ups in the sixties".

“The president-elect was arrested in 1970 when she was 23 and accused of belonging to ‘subversive groups’ and had to remain in jail for almost three years, when according to her statements was the victim of ‘barbarian tortures’. According to the military documents from the dictatorship she was described as the ‘Joan of Arc’ of subversion and joined ‘subversive forces in 1967’. As a member of the Colina and VAR-Palmeiras guerrilla groups Dilma Rousseff ‘commanded strikes’, advised in ‘bank hold-ups’ and was the ‘organizer and distributor of tasks’, although it was never proved that she effectively was directly involved in any armed action.”


Anita Raghavan in the NYT, "From Russia Expert, Gloomy Outlook for Developed World".

“Mr. Browder, the grandson of Earl Browder, a onetime leader of the American Communist Party, is uniquely qualified to answer. From 1996 to 2005, he was on the front lines of investing in Russia, becoming one of the country’s most prominent and vocal activist investors with a fund that ballooned to $4.5 billion by the end of 2005, from $25 million a decade earlier….

Mr. Browder is looking grayer these days, but he is upbeat until he starts talking about Russia; then his smile fades and his demeanor turns serious. ‘I have pretty dark feelings about Russia,’ he says. ‘I think it is a place best to avoid both for financial and moral reasons.’”


Simon Roughneen at Atimes.com, "Tales of an avuncular Ho".

“At least 19 dissidents have been caught in the government's dragnet since October. Those who remain free must take great care when airing their views or meeting with foreigners. Asia Times Online recently managed to speak face-to-face with one Hanoi-based dissident who requested anonymity and this story will refer to simply as ‘Ho’. He immediately settled into some mordant observations about life as an enemy of the state. ‘In East Germany, under the Stasi, it was said that one in 50 of the population were spies,’ Ho said. ‘In Vietnam today, it is more like one in 40.’ …Along with other Southeast Asian nations with claims to the maritime area, Vietnam appears increasingly threatened by China's assertion that the South China Sea is a ‘core interest’ on par with Tibet and Taiwan, the latter of which Beijing considers a renegade province….

Despite the growing chill in Sino-Vietnam relations, state media is prevented by the government from covering touchy issues related to China…. With the Communist Party congress looming, Ho predicts that despite recent disputes between the two countries ‘the Chinese will get their man’ when senior appointments, including the premiership, are decided at the meeting. China typically pushes back when it perceives Vietnamese officials contrarian to Beijing's interests are in positions of power.”


John Glionna in the LAT, "North Korea’s mind games at the negotiating table".

“During a 1999 visit to Pyongyang to discuss North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, chief U.S. negotiator William Perry got under the skin of a senior North Korean military official. In another capital, Perry might have expected a dismissive gesture from across the table or even a snide put-down. But this was North Korea, which does things its own way: The military man calmly responded that he knew where the American diplomat lived. ‘He warned that if the U.S. ever used force against North Korea, they would turn Perry's home into a sea of fire,’ recalled Evans Revere, a former North Korea expert for the State Department, who was at the meeting. ‘It was nice to have them focus so personally on your hometown.’”


Amira al-Ahi at Qantara.de, "Bloggers in the Arab World".

“Since 2005, Wael Abbas has been one of Egypt's most active bloggers. His name and his blog are known throughout the Arab world. It was he who published on his website photos of sexual assaults on women in Cairo and videos showing torture in Egyptian police stations, which led to a scandal and made him famous. Abbas reports regularly on abuses in his country. He is one of the most vocal activists in Egypt, denouncing, accusing and demanding change, and in doing so he has made himself a thorn in the side of the government. Over the past ten years, the Egyptian government and Arab states in general have invested a great deal in Internet infrastructure. However, it was probably not clear to most regimes that this would open a door to democratic development." 


Raymond Ibrahim at Hudson-ny.org, "Muslim’s Project Islam’s Worst Traits onto Israel and the Jews".

“Sometime back, I noted that Muslims have been projecting the worst aspects of Islam(ism) onto the Copts, Egypt's Christian minority. This raised more questions: Is Islamist projection onto the Copts a unique phenomenon? Do Muslims project onto other non-Muslims, too? Is there a trend? To answer this question, it seemed logical to begin with how Islamists approach their archenemy: Israel and the Jews. Thinking this may be difficult to prove — it is one thing to hate your enemy, another to project unconsciously your worst traits onto him — I expected this might require some research. I went to MEMRI and, lo and behold, came across three back-to-back examples of projection against Israel and the Jews. Consider the following excerpts, especially the italicized portions: On September 7, Egyptian cleric Abdallah Samak made the following remarks on Al Rahma TV:

‘The Jews are known for their merciless, murderous, and bloodthirsty nature… The number one characteristic of the Jews – which appears in the Bible – is that they are always prepared for combat. They believe that it is their fate and destiny to be in a state of perpetual war. This is not what we want. We are seekers of peace and security. We seek to spread love. But we are dealing with a people, a society, that believes that its destiny is linked to war. The number one characteristic of the Jews is that they are a people that believes that its destiny is linked to war. They cannot live without war. They can only live if they attack others. They can only live through annihilation, revenge, and mercilessness.’

The notion of ‘perpetual war,’ in fact, is straight out of Muslim doctrine and history — best recognized by the word ‘jihad‘— and has no corollary in Judaism or any other religion.”


Gabriel Latner in the Jerusalem Post, "Is Israel ‘a rogue state’? You’d better hope so".

“I’m going to try and convince the die-hard Zionists and Israel supporters here tonight to vote for the proposition. By the end of my speech, I will have presented five pro-Israel arguments that show Israel is if not a ‘rogue state’ then at least ‘rogue-ish.’ Let me be clear. I will not be arguing that Israel is ‘bad.’ I will not be arguing that it doesn’t deserve to exist. I won’t be arguing that it behaves worse than every other country. I will only be arguing that Israel is ‘rogue.’”


Norimitsu Onishi in the NYT, "In Sliver of Indonesia, Public Embrace of Judaism".

“Long known as a Christian stronghold and more recently as home to evangelical and charismatic Christian groups, this area on the fringes of northern Indonesia has become the unlikely setting for increasingly public displays of pro-Jewish sentiments as some people have embraced the faith of their Dutch Jewish ancestors. With the local governments’ blessing, they are carving out a small space for themselves in the sometimes strangely shifting religious landscape of Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.”


Justin Vela at Atimes.com, "Political Islam has many faces in Turkey".

“The AKP has supported traditionally practicing Muslims economically and politically more so than any previous government and has also changed and modernized what it means to be Islamic in Turkey. Yet the AKP does not enjoy the support of the openly Islamic Saadet Party and many more conservative Muslims in Turkey. There is indeed a deep rift between the groups, with members of Saadet believing the AKP to have been co-opted by Western powers, becoming a pawn of a global imperialism extending from these countries. The AKP's neo-liberal trade policies are, also, condemned by Saadet as Turkey maintains high unemployment and uneven wealth distribution.

The current head of Saadet, Necmettin Erbakan, recently lashed out at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul in an August 2010 interview with the German newspaper Die Welt. ‘Some foreign powers brought them into their current position. Zionist, imperialist and racist powers in the current world order. They are supporting a Western, Zionist world order unintentionally. Most of what they have done is wrong. They are making the Zionists richer with taxes and debts. Erdogan became the cashier of Zionism. He was my student before. Yet now, our aim is to knock him over.’”


Nick Jacobs at euobserver.com, "Waiting for Doha".

“World leaders have set themselves yet another deadline for completing the World Trade Organisation’s Doha Round. The trade talks, launched in 2001 and tipped for completion in 2005, 2008 and then 2010, should now be wrapped up in 2011, according to last week’s G20 declaration. Doha is fast becoming the global economy’s answer to Waiting for Godot. Like Beckett’s absent hero, a Doha deal is constantly talked about but never comes around. And as with Godot, you begin to wonder whether those who talk about Doha really know what it will look like when it finally arrives.”


Wieland Wagner at Spiegel.de, "Land of the Setting Sun".

“The Japanese are withdrawing more and more into the private sphere, from the elderly to their unemployed children, who are living on the pensions and savings of their parents. Many of the elderly are being downright exploited by their children, says Nemoto. ‘All people think about now is money.’ For many families, Japan's thrifty older generation represents the last financial hope, and has replaced the state in many cases. The other nucleus of Japanese society, the company, pays very little attention to its employees these days.”


Joshua Chaffin at the FT, "Ministers struggle with the language".

“Mr Van Rompuy had shocked observers by warning in a speech that ‘a survival crisis’ threatened to tear apart the European Union…. Mr Van Rompuy said he had been misinterpreted. But the episode offered a vivid example of the EU’s struggle to communicate with financial markets during the crisis -- a failing that has been painfully on display in recent months. ‘They don’t understand the markets,’ said Karel Lanoo, chief executive of the Centre for European Policy Studies, a Brussels think-tank. ‘This is extremely dangerous.’”


Peter Spiegel in the FT, "Lunch with Jose Manuel Barroso".

“Barroso was a leader of an anti-government student group during Portugal‘s 1974 revolution, which ended the dictatorship. I find it frustratingly difficult to pry from him how in 1985, while still only 29, the incoming Portuguese government plucked him from a doctoral programme in political science at Georgetown University to become an MP and then a top official in the foreign ministry. ‘Look, you cannot compare, because in Portugal, and in Spain as well, there was a generation gap,’ he says, noting that any association with Slazar’s regime was political poison after the revolution.’”


Ross Douthat in the NYT, "Ireland’s Paradise Lost".

“To the utopians of capitalism, the Irish experience should be a reminder that the biggest booms can produce the biggest busts, and that debt and ruin always shadow prosperity and growth. To the utopians of secularism, the Irish experience should be a reminder that the waning of a powerful religious tradition can breed decadence as well as liberation. (‘Ireland found riches a good substitute for its traditional culture,’ Christopher Caldwell noted, but now ‘we may be about to discover what happens when a traditionally poor country returns to poverty without its culture.’)

But it’s the utopians of European integration who should learn the hardest lessons from the Irish story. The continent-wide ripples from Ireland’s banking crisis have vindicated the Euroskeptics who argued that the E.U. was expanded too hastily, and that a single currency couldn’t accommodate such a wide diversity of nations. And the Irish government’s hat-in-hand pilgrimages to Brussels have vindicated every nationalist who feared that economic union would eventually mean political subjugation. The yoke of the European Union is lighter than the yoke of the British Empire, but Ireland has returned to a kind of vassal status all the same.”


Russian Auto club video of Putin’s cross-Siberia jaunt in the Russian-made Lada Kalima, a car Putin hopes Russians will trade in their Japanese autos for. The club are there to see Putin go by but they witness a long convoy of foreign-made official vehicles interspersed with Putin in his yellow Lada, a second spare yellow Lada, and then towards the end of the long stretched out convoy, a third yellow Lada up on the bed of a tow-truck which triggers deep Russian laughter.


Virginia Postrel in the WSJ, "The Allure of Techno-Glamour".

“For all its deceptiveness and mystery, glamour reveals emotional truths. What today's green techno-glamour demonstrates, first and foremost, is that its audience has no inclination to give up the benefits of modernity and return to the pre-industrial state idealized by radical greens. Neither the Unabomber nor Henry David Thoreau would go for wind farms and high-speed rail. To the contrary, these iconic new machines cater to what Al Gore denounced in Earth in the Balance as ‘the public's desire to believe that sacrifice, struggle and a wrenching transformation of society will not be necessary.’ They promise that a green future will be just as pleasant as today, only cleaner and more elegant.”


Adam Curtis at bbc.co.uk, "From Pigeon to Superman and Back Again".

“I have a suspicion that the politicians' revival of the old behaviourist ideas and techniques will be helped and reinforced by a powerful ally - the machines we have built.

The computers. In our age of individualism we see computers as ways through which we can express our individuality. But the truth is that the computers are really good at spotting the very opposite. The computers can see how similar we are, and they then have the ability to agglomerate us together into groups that have the same behaviours. And from that they can predict what choices and decisions we will make. And they do it solely through our observed behaviour.

In 1964 B.F. Skinner wrote a utopian vision of the future called Beyond Freedom and Dignity. It argued that the idea of individualism was actually a terrible prison.”


Katie Roiphe in the FT, "Could try less".

“This fantasy of control begins long before the child is born, though every now and then a sane bulletin lands amid our fashionable perfectionism, a real-world corrective to our over-arching anxieties. I remember reading with some astonishment, while I was pregnant, a quiet, unsensational article about how one study showed that crack babies turned out to be doing as well as non-crack babies. Here we are, feeling guilty about goat’s cheese on a salad, or three sips of wine, and all the while these ladies, lighting crack pipes, are producing intelligent and healthy offspring.”


Thomas Fleming in the WSJ on Thomas Allen’s book, Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War.

“One of the book's themes is that the conflict between the loyalists and rebels amounted to ‘America's first civil war.’ But not until the later pages, when the fighting with the British shifts to the South, does a semblance of civil war become evident. The Irish Presbyterians of the Southern backcountry had a history of feuding with wealthy coastal planters, who supported the insurrection. The ingrained antipathy for the planters, more than any fondness for King George, prompted the backcountry boys to ally themselves with the British—leading to vicious seesaw fighting. A climax to this war within the larger war came in late 1780 with the battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina, a purely American versus American, loyalist versus rebel fight. The rebels won a total victory, and in the process quashed British dreams of creating a native-grown loyalist army that might provide a decisive advantage.

The best section of Tories deals with black loyalists, the thousands of runaway slaves who responded to a British offer of freedom in return for military service. The British used these men largely as laborers, not fighters. In making peace at war's end the politicians agreed to return the runaways. But Gen. Guy Carleton, the last British commander in America, refused to do so. About 3,000 blacks were among the 80,000 loyalists who retreated to Canada and the West Indies when hostilities ended.”


Darrell Hartman in the WSJ, on Jeremy Evans’ book, In Search of Powder: A Story of America’s Disappearing Ski Bum.


Emily Steel in the WSJ, "LeBron James Ad Asks for It."

“The episode highlights the difficulties of repairing the image of a beleaguered public figure in the days when the Internet enables consumers to influence public perception.

‘This is how the people struck back,’ says Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategy and innovation officer at Vivaki, a digital-marketing unit owned by Publicis Groupe SA, which wasn't involved in the ad.

A similar situation occurred earlier this year when Nike released a campaign in response to the Tiger Woods sex scandal. In the ad, Mr. Woods solemnly listens to the voice of his deceased father, Earl Woods. Like Nike's commercial with Mr. James, the parodies of the Tiger Woods spot attracted more online video views than the original ad, according to Visible Measures.

‘Controversial ads such as these are intended to generate controversy. But what happens when the spoofs get more views than the originals and take over the conversation?’ says Matt Cutler, chief marketing officer at Visible Measures.”


Obituary of the Week.

David Nolan (1943 - 2010)

“In 1971, sitting with friends and watching Richard Nixon announce wage and price controls, he declared, ‘We need another party,’ and started the Committee to Form a Libertarian Party.”


Thanks to Jay Babcock.

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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, November 17, 2010

Issue #72 (November 17, 2010)

Mada On The Road: 20 km north of Morondava, l'Allée des Baobabs, Madagascar

Photo by Alexandre Cohen

Snowy Range, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

Falco Tinnunculus by James Fotopoulos

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

Dave Kehr in the NYT on MoMA’s “Weimar Cinema, 1919–1933: Daydreams and Nightmares” (November 17, 2010–March 7, 2011) barely mentions Noir, thank God, but that’s the spreading Asian Carp of film history that is the context of his response to this series which sounds as if it complicates film history nicely though certainly futilely:

“In the standard film histories Weimar is synonymous with Expressionism, a movement that began in painting and theater and grew to include the exaggerated shadows, wildly stylized acting and doom-laden atmosphere of Robert Wiene’s Caligari, which burst upon an astonished world in 1920. But Expressionism was a short-lived novelty, taken up in a handful of films… before the public tired of its grotesque exaggerations. Instead the lessons learned from Expressionism — the dramatic use of dense patterns of light and shadow; the creation of complex, emotionally charged spaces through sets constructed in a studio — were tamed and absorbed into a wide range of genres…. [T]he revelation of the MoMA program is the large collection of comedies and musicals produced in the Weimar years. These are movies of wit, charm and lightness of touch that because they do not fit the traditional Weimar narrative of gathering fascist clouds, have largely been tossed out of the repertory.”


With Cannon Films’ bubbsey twins, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus talking with the Lincoln Center Film Society’s Scott Foundas and Gavin Smith before or after the screening, it may be wiser to just rent Runaway Train (1985). Still, you might have an appetite for the big city hassle to see an important film in a nice theater. Jon Voight is not an actor I’m focused on in my forthcoming film book, but this film is dealt with in a chapter where I compare Soviet cinema’s sad-sack existentially cuckolded unhero with the American film hero, and also where I consider both cinemas departures from the classic forms: Epic, Tragedy, Comedy. In my summary of the now free Russia’s attempt to rebuild an autonomous heroic lead character I call Andrei Konchalovsky’s Runaway Train the first free Russian cinema masterpiece though it appears in exile five years before the fall of the U.S.S.R. [I consider Andrei Zvyagintsev’s The Return (2003) to be the first domestic free Russian masterpiece since before the revolution.]

Being a Cannon production, Runaway Train had the worst kind of poster art and so as I did inventory on Naperville’s Video Villa, beginning even then work on this book, watching a film or two a day for about ten months in 1986-7 while I found, bought and rehabbed my building in Chicago, Runaway Train was about the last film I rented. The video box art made it look like one of those incompetent international co-productions. It’s not. It’s one of the best action films and one of the best art films -- maybe the one true intersection of those categories.

Runaway Train
•Sat. Nov. 20, 7pm

The following Tuesday, sans Cannon extra features, is the second very Russian ex-pat film that Konchalovsky made in America in the last years of his supernation (Konchalovsky’s father wrote, and re-wrote a number of times, the Soviet national anthem’s lyrics; his brother, Nikita Mikhalkov, is some kind of special cultural apparat of Vladimir Putin, who is himself some kind of semi-free Russian hero but with cuckold tendencies.). In 1987’s Shy People, Konchalovsky, who took his mother’s maiden name to differentiate himself from Nikita -- also a filmmaker, found the thrall of a bayou Stalin in Louisiana.

Shy People
•Tues. Nov. 23, 1pm


Manohla Dargis makes of her NYT review of one of the stranger Criterion DVD collections, America Lost and Found: The BBS Story, a rare shot across the bow of olden New Hollywood, something well overdue. BBS were Bert Schneider, Bob Rafelson, and Steve Blauner, three pretentious underachievers par excellence given the size of the wave they caught or simply found themselves upon. The seven films are: Head (1968), Easy Rider (1969), Five Easy Pieces (1970), A Safe Place (1971), The Last Picture Show (1971), The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), and Drive, He Said (1972). Of these only Peter Bogdanovich and his The Last Picture Show had any real feel for Hollywood past. Dargis has less to say about most of the films than she does about the concatenations of generational aesthetic change in Hollywood and the greater failure of those that might have done better with all the studios left behind. One minor mistake in her recap of the origins of The Monkees is that the concept was not inspired by The Beatles but rather by Paul Revere and the Raiders; it did however take The Beatles first success in film, A Hard Day’s Night (1964), to award the rock band TV show idea the go-ahead -- rock and roll was of no interest and radio hits per se were no enticement to the producers of network television.

Dargis writes that New Hollywood “has been the subject of so much popular adulation and academic scrutiny as to become a veritable fetish. This was the era, or so its enthusiasts insist, when American movies grew up (or at least started undressing actresses); when directors did what they wanted (or at least were transformed into brands); when creativity ruled (or at least ran gloriously amok, albeit often on the studio’s dime).” Had there been less contempt, to use Godard’s word, the art-cinema New Hollywood had in mind might have improved genre filmmaking; Konchalovsky’s action-art masterpiece proved that still possible even five years after the extravagant but merely arty western-manqué Heaven’s Gate (1980) destroyed that New Hollywood already weakened by the Next Hollywood of Lucas, Spielberg, and on to what Dargis refers to as “the end of times known as Michael Bay.”


David Mermelstein in the WSJ, "A Cultural Conversation with Kevin Brownlow".

“Mr. Brownlow—then still an adolescent—began to seek out film's pioneers, many of whom were still alive in the 1950s. One of his first interviews was with Charles Rosher, who though little-known today had shared the first Oscar for cinematography, bestowed in 1929. ‘He had been one of the first in Hollywood to crank a handle, starting in 1911,’ recalled Mr. Brownlow. ‘He went on to become Mary Pickford's cameraman for about 12 years, and his cinematography made absolute nonsense of those who said silents were crude. He'd been a portrait photographer in Edwardian England.’

Soon thereafter, Mr. Brownlow started meeting important directors like King Vidor and Clarence Brown, and in 1964 he made the first of many trips to the U.S., recording the reminiscences of such early film superstars as Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson and Louise Brooks.”

Jean-Luc Godard on his Oscar, translated at Landscapesuicide blog.

Now you are being modest. You and your colleagues developed the auteur theory that today structures the canon as works of directors.

The phrase la politique des auteurs was made up by journalists. When François Truffaut wrote his first articles, he only said: The auteur of a film is not the screenplay writer — it is not the one who gets the story on paper who is important, but the one who stages it.

In 1980, you revoked the auteur theory with a mea culpa. Why?

I suffered severely from the consequences, that they talked more about the author and not his works. That’s why I didn’t go to Cannes for the world premiere of my latest work Film socialisme: they would have only talked about me. But it was already like this during the Nouvelle Vague: we were no more than ten critics who spoke of films and not directors. By the way, this was a mistake: with Truffaut and Jacques Rivette, we only talked about cinema and not about ourselves. We didn’t know one another.”


NYT’s "Sentence of the Week", by art critic Roberta Smith:

“I refer to the uproariously erotic (if predominantly heterosexual) display of William N. Copley’s ‘X-Rated’ paintings from 1973-74 at the Paul Kasmin Gallery in Chelsea, and the take-no-prisoners, fluorescent-hued canvases of Peter Saul, seen in a brisk 50-year survey at Haunch of Venison in Midtown.”


Christopher Borrelli in the CT, "Sam Shepard offers more of himself."

“Shepard is 67; and he was born in Fort Sheridan. He wore jeans and a casual sports coat, the kind a rancher would wear in a movie, with suede at the shoulders. He seemed to be playing Sam Shepard and came across the way his work does, rooted but playful, part Dylan, part Clint, part Cormac McCarthy….

Indeed, how did he end up at this point, Shepard wondered, ‘playing yet another military man which I am not and never would be but my father most certainly was,’ portraying another stone-faced solider and authority figure showing ‘grim determination in the face of hopeless odds’? Where did that come from? He read from his story and wondered aloud about this – or was it that he wondered aloud about this while reading from his story? Either way, he said in that familiar crinkled rasp, if someone would ‘just tap me on the shoulder and invite me the hell out of here, believe me, I wouldn't miss it.’”


Tony Fitzpatrick interviewed in the CST.

“Ever hear of Chicago Alzheimer's? It's when you forget everything except the grudges.”


Jimmy Alvarado in Razor Cake, gives us another amazing LA Punk story as he skillfully debriefs the surviving members of Nervous Gender, one of the unlikeliest bands and full of impossible people (Gerardo Velasquez, Michael Ochoa, Edward Stapleton, Phranc, and Sven their 8 year-old German drummer). Razor Cake, though it is the successor to Flipside put together by the staff when Al Flipside decided to stop, is a non-profit outfit and even a recipient of L.A. Dept. of Cultural Affairs grants! The piece may be posted eventually, but its long and only Part 1 so look for a copy. A lot of NG’s story was news to me though I have their records and saw them play. Here is part of their discussion on their origins, beginning with their connection to The Stains who did an album for SST (parentheticals are theirs):

“Jimmy: Was The Snappers your first band?

Michael: …We would make cassettes and just kind of fuck around. And then Gerardo met up with Robert (Becerra) and Jesse (Amezquita, aka ‘Jesse Fixx,’ both members of The Stains), and he invited me over to meet them, and that’s how Snappers was formed.

Jimmy: That’s one of those bands that have kind of been lost. What can you tell me about that band?

Michael: I think we only did one show. I think we had only one rehearsal, or it was the second rehearsal, and the drummer quit. He hated what we were doing. Jesse moved to drums, Robert put a fuzz box on the bass, and Gerardo had an old synthesizer. Then he asked me to sing, so that’s how that formed. It was interesting stuff, but Jesse was so annoyed by what we were trying to do that he made sure that it self-destructed.

Jimmy: And that LACE show that you guys did, that was for Gronk, I believe, right? (Jimmy is referring to the 10/31/78 art exhibition opening at LACE for visual artists Gronk and Patssi Valdez, both members of East L.A. performance art group ASCO. This was The Snappers’ last show and the night Edward met Michael and Gerardo.) Were you guys aware of ASCO and some of the performance and avant-garde ASCO artists from East L.A.?

Joe: I think Non played that night, too.

Jimmy: Yeah, Monitor, too.

Michael: We met the Pasadena Art Mafia at that point, and connected with those guys really well. We liked those guys and started hanging out with them a lot.

Joe: They were all about the noise….

Michael: Well, all of us were just kind of alienated from where we were, and we were trying to get away from it. The last thing we wanted to do was hang out in East L.A….

Jimmy: Were you aware of, in trying to get out of East L.A., that there were these little pockets of stuff going on as well?

Michael: No, we weren’t aware of it. The thing about it was, me and Gerardo were both gay, and the last thing we wanted to do was hang out in East L.A., where being gay wasn’t the best thing.”


The Australian band, Gallucci, did a mixtape called “Paranoid Parade” which is a music-oriented collage somehow featuring Mike Watt reading a brief bit from my Enter Naomi book. It sounds along the lines of Negativland’s old KPFA sound-collages only not done live but done upside down on Australia’s ABC network.


Rich Zweiback’s review in The Big Takeover of Andrew Earles' just issued book, Hüsker Dü: The Story of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock.

“The author makes it clear in his forward that he would not be engaging in a ‘gossipy’ tone. Thus, many of the band dynamics that would have allowed for a more comprehensive perspective of the band are not included. The sexual dynamics between Hart and Mould, the death of road manager Peter Savoy and the dissolution of the band itself are not given the coverage that is needed. In a book such as this- those pressures and observations are crucial to understanding the band. While an extremely thorough analysis of the music is included (and is a strength of the book), more concentration on the lyrical messages inherent would have been helpful as well. The book also deals in depth with the first few years of Hüsker Dü fantastically; but does not delve into the ‘Candle Apple Grey’ and ‘Warehouse’ albums as well as it could have.”


"NPR Hires Outside Firm to Investigate Williams Firing, and Twitter facts" by Alicia Shepard.

“NPR held its fall quarterly board meeting on Nov. 11 and 12. On Thursday, there was a public comment session that allowed anyone inside or outside of NPR to comment on the firing of former news analyst, Juan Williams. But no one stepped up to the microphone.”


John Kay in the FT, "Even a filthy habit deserves a fair hearing."

“The studies I have cited are carefully referenced and use advanced statistical techniques. But sophistication of method is used to torture data to reveal conclusions that do not obviously follow from them, but which fit either the researchers’ preconceptions or the sponsor’s policy objectives, or both. Bad arguments do not necessarily invalidate the causes in which they are deployed. People should not drink and drive. Smoking is unpleasant and perhaps harmful to non-smokers. But these observation do not justify blurring the distinction between genuine scientific analysis and propaganda disguised as science.”

David Kesmogel & Betsy McKay write in the WSJ that "Anti-Smoking Programs" are having their budgets cut around the country. They don’t say that any resultant rise in smoking levels will bring in more tax revenue, but that moral hazard was built-in to this uplift attempt and I’m surprised the WSJ lets it slide here. Any new universal health-care set-up will just exacerbate the level of state interest in personal behavior.

“States have cut their combined funding for smoking prevention in the current fiscal year to the lowest level since 1999, according to data gathered by a coalition of antismoking groups for a report that will be released later this month. The $517 million allocated by states for tobacco prevention and cessation in fiscal-year 2011 is down 9.2% from $569 million a year earlier and 28% less than states spent in 2008, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington advocacy group preparing the report, along with the American Lung Association and others.

The latest amount still exceeds the $300 million spent by states in fiscal 1999, when many programs were getting under way or accelerating their efforts following the landmark Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement in 1998 between 46 states and cigarette companies that was designed to help states recoup the cost of treating sick smokers. Under the agreement, the tobacco companies were to pay an estimated $246 billion over 25 years to the states, though states are allowed to spend their settlement dollars on needs other than tobacco prevention.”


Farai Mutsaka in the WSJ, "Zimbabwe Enemies Unite on Tobacco".

“For years, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and his allies have sought to drive white farmers from their land, and the farmers have fought back through the courts. In recent weeks, the World Health Organization has managed to bring the two warring camps together by attacking one of their few shared interests: tobacco.”


Binyamin Appelbaum in the NYT, "Putting Money on Lawsuits, Investors Share in the Payouts."

“Large banks, hedge funds and private investors hungry for new and lucrative opportunities are bankrolling other people’s lawsuits, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into medical malpractice claims, divorce battles and class actions against corporations — all in the hope of sharing in the potential winnings….

A recent Nevada case illustrates one reason many companies are troubled by the rise of financing: They fear that investors will move from supporting to producing lawsuits.”


WSJ Editorial: "Wind Jammers at the White House".

“The eight-page October 25 memorandum to the President was written by soon-to-depart chief economic aide Larry Summers and senior policy aides Carol Browner and Ron Klain, and it's been kicking around Capitol Hill and industry circles for the last week. The trio walks through an interagency dispute about Energy Department subsidies for wind, solar and other forms of ‘renewable’ power, which DOE claimed were being held up by the joint Treasury and White House budget office (OMB) reviews.

Recall that the stimulus transformed the government into the world's largest private equity firm. The many tools now at DOE's disposal include $6 billion to guarantee loans and another dispensation so that the department can convert an energy investment tax credit equal to 30% of a project's cost into a direct cash grant to green developers.
The Summers memo notes that these two provisions alone reduce ‘the cost of a new wind farm by about 55% and solar technologies by about half relative to a no-subsidy case.’ So taxpayers are more than majority partners in these private projects, except they get no upside.”


George Gilder in the WSJ, "California’s Destructive Green Jobs Lobby."

“Conservative pundits have lavished mock pity on the state. But as America's chief fount of technology, California cannot go down the drain without dragging the rest of the country with it. The irony is that a century-long trend of advance in conventional ‘non-renewable’ energy—from wood to oil to natural gas and nuclear—has already wrought a roughly 60% drop in carbon emissions per watt. Thus the long-term California targets might well be achieved globally in the normal course of technological advance. The obvious next step is aggressive exploitation of the trillions of cubic feet of low-carbon natural gas discovered over the last two years, essentially ending the U.S. energy crisis.”


WSJ: "China’s ‘State Capitalism’ Sparks a Global Backlash."

“Western anger with China has focused on Beijing's cheap-currency policy; President Obama blasted the practice at the G-20 summit in Seoul last weekend…. China's national economic strategy is detailed and multifaceted, and it is challenging the U.S. and other powers on a number of fronts. China's economic approach today is still far more focused on government guidance than the world's other top economies. Central to China's approach are policies that champion state-owned firms and other so-called national champions, seek aggressively to obtain advanced technology, and manage its exchange rate to benefit exporters. It leverages state control of the financial system to channel low-cost capital to domestic industries—and to resource-rich foreign nations whose oil and minerals China needs to maintain rapid growth. China's policies are partly a product of its unique status: a developing country that is also a rising superpower.”


Andrew Kramer in the NYT, "Gazprom to Drill for Oil in Cuban Waters."

“Under the agreement, the Russian company will also assume a role in operating offshore drilling platforms. Russian oil firms, which operate mostly on land in Siberia, have little expertise offshore and have sought to form partnerships to gain experience….

As Cuba has made plans to drill for oil in the Gulf, concern has risen in Florida. Ocean scientists warn that a well blowout at a site where a Spanish company, Repsol, intends to drill next year could send oil spewing onto Cuban beaches and then the Florida Keys in as little as three days. Repsol has contracted with an Italian operator to build a rig made in China for the deep-water well about 50 miles from the coast of the United States. Cuba lacks the underwater robots and spare drilling rigs that would be needed to contain a big spill, while the trade embargo could complicate assistance by United States companies.”


Luke Johnson in the FT, "Graduates need to go beyond the City."

“A wise fellow recently have me his explanation for the financial crisis: too many highly intelligent graduates went to work in the investment banks on Wall Street and in the City…. Doing tedious things such as inventing real products, manufacturing goods and providing genuine services for a profit is hard work and takes time. It requires travel to savage places with industrial estates, many miles from the money centres full of skyscrapers. Whereas if you just manipulate vast sums of money -- via shares, bonds, options or even more complicated and obscure securities -- you just have to shave off a tiny fraction from each trade, and pretty soon you‘re raking in billions.”


Gerry Hassan at Opendemocracy.net, "Learning how to hug a Tory and the folklore of anti-Toryism."

“This isn’t a pro-Tory or anti-Tory argument. It is an argument against attaching labels to things, and the misuse of stereotypes which limit people’s thinking. Anti-Toryism feeds a sense of politics which has long outlived its usefulness, which belongs to a clichéd view of the past and periods such as the 1930s and 1980s, and which does not aid an open, creative, thoughtful politics.

In an age of uncertainty, change and fluidity, the time has surely come to finally abandon a set of attitudes which have no real relevance or usefulness in the present day.

Those of us who disagree politically with Conservative values, ideas and policies have to do better and aim higher. We have to learn how to debate, and relate to Toryism, to understand and even empathise with it. This will entail recognising that it is a valued and genuine part of the fabric of Scottish and British life.”


Max Hastings in the FT, "Britain’s old ruling class is on a high, but can it last?"

“All this prompts speculation, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, that Britain‘s upper crust is staging a comeback, that after decades in which it has become a cliché to assert that ‘we are all middle class now‘, toffs have climbed out of the tomb. Both Cameron and ‘Downton Abbey‘ profit from a popular revulsion against yobbishness.”


James Grant in the NYT, "How to Make the Dollar Sound Again."

“The Federal Reserve was created in 1913 — by coincidence, the final full year of the original gold standard. At the outset, the Fed was a gold standard central bank. It could not have conjured money even if it had wanted to, as the value of the dollar was fixed under law as one 20.67th of an ounce of gold. Neither was the Fed concerned with managing the national economy. Fast forward 65 years or so, to the late 1970s, and the Fed would have been unrecognizable to the men who voted it into existence. It was now held responsible for ensuring full employment and stable prices alike.

Today, the Fed’s hundreds of Ph.D.’s conduct research at the frontiers of economic science. ‘The Two-Period Rational Inattention Model: Accelerations and Analyses’ is the title of one of the treatises the monetary scholars have recently produced. ‘Continuous Time Extraction of a Nonstationary Signal with Illustrations in Continuous Low-pass and Band-pass Filtering’ is another. You can’t blame the learned authors for preferring the life they lead to the careers they would have under a true-blue gold standard. Rather than writing monographs for each other, they would be standing behind a counter exchanging paper for gold and vice versa.”


Robert Skidelsky in the FT, "A golden opportunity for monetary reform."

“[T]he underlying cause of the present crisis was an increase in reserve ‘hoarding’, chiefly by China. This was made possible by the deliberate undervaluation of the renminbi against the dollar; its motive was to insure against another flight of ‘hot money’ from east Asia as happened in 1997-98. Under a gold standard, increased reserve accumulation would have been deflationary, since it would have drained the rest of the world of liquidity. Had Chinese reserves been held in gold rather than in US Treasury bills, the Fed would have been obliged to raise interest rates; as it was, it could run a cheap money policy.”


FT Analysis: "In gold they rush".

“Danny Gabay at Fathom, a London economic consultancy, notes that the inflation-gold price relationship broke down in the early 2000s just as international pressure ratcheted up on the Chinese to allow the renminbi to appreciate. He reckons that gold is in effect acting as a proxy for the Chinese currency. ‘Investors have become increasingly concerned about sovereign default and they think that most currencies should fall against the renminbi,’ he says. ‘But since non-convertibility means they can’t buy the renminbi, they buy gold instead, which can’t be debased.’”


Gillian Tett in the FT, "Dismal odds for an intellectual reformation".

“Twenty years ago, I used to feel a tad jealous of economists. Back then, I was doing doctorate research in the department of social anthropology at Cambridge university, which was a fascinating place to work but also underfunded, ignored by the outside world and riven with intellectual self-doubt. The economics department, by contrast, always seemed irritatingly cash-rich, prominent and confident. It had a good reason to strut: each year, streams of economics students would pour into jobs in governments and corporations, to positions of power, status and wealth. The economics department seemed the modern equivalent of a seminary: not only did it write the creed shaping western thinking, but it produced the priesthood too.”


Nissa Rhee in the CSM, "G20 host Seoul positions itself as rags-to-riches mediator."

“The country’s aggressive industrialization policies of the 1960s and '70s that emphasized exports helped create what Koreans call the ‘Miracle on the Han River.’ Between 1962 and 1989, the country experienced an average of 8 percent growth per year. Over the past 50 years, Korea’s GDP per capita has risen from around $100 to just under $20,000 today. The country’s rather recent emergence from economic destitution has put it in an unusual position among today’s advanced economies.

‘Korea can play an important role [at the G20 Summit] as a country that still has a living memory of poverty, but that is rich enough to know what economic prosperity means,’ University of Cambridge economics professor Ha-joon Chang told a Seoul audience last month. South Korea has used its rags-to-riches success to launch a series of campaigns encouraging poor countries to adopt what is known as the Korean development model.”


Evan Ramstad in the WSJ, "Meet in Korea Fuels G-20 Fever."

“Before world leaders assembled here to deliberate exchange-rate gyrations and the relative merits of stimulus versus austerity, South Koreans warmed up for the big event with academic conferences, a G-20 film festival and a G-20-theme pop concert of singers from across Asia. South Korea's first lady was a guest of honor at a G-20 formal style gala. As the G-20 enters its third year as the main forum for leaders to address global issues, South Korea is the first host not to have been a member of the more exclusive G-8. This point has led to an outpouring of national pride by citizens, corporations and top-level bureaucrats, whose office telephone systems have been greeting callers not with ringtones, but with bars from the G-20 song's chorus: ‘Let's gooooo! Oh oh oh!’ The fever had been building since nearly a year ago, when the flags of the G-20 countries appeared at airport baggage claims and in shopping malls across the country.”


Jet-set correspondent and Monocle editor Tyler Brûlé writes in the FT about "Brand Korea", as if the Republic of Korea can actually be openly appraised east and west. But since the nation reached its democracy and its first world economy via an anti-communist military dictatorship it can be allowed to model for no other nation. Chile and Spain, and even Japan and Germany, bear similar burdens, even as one hears talk of the Chinese model. Only those do not have a still visible communist alternative staring at them across a DMZ to embarrass elite opinion.

Brûlé blithely offers, “It could be argued that a total brand statement for Korea will only come when the borders are thrown open and the country embarks on the long and painful road to reunification; in the meantime, South Korea needs to rein in other agencies and get the world to understand what it’s trying to say.” Perhaps he is semi-conscious of this weird force-field around ROK, but he doesn’t appreciate that China has been laying historical groundwork for its own claim to the north should the Democratic Peoples Republic of Chosin finally collapse; they never liked the idea of a Yalu River border. Or perhaps they’re just bucking for a price paid to them for a unified Korea. In any case there is so much invested in sealing off South Korea’s lessons from being applied to the half-paralleled, fully misremembered history of the lost RVN that there will always be a veil across ROK and its principle export will remain horror films.


MercoPress: Nicolas Eyzaguirre, "IMF Western Hemisphere Dept."

“Right now, the booming economies of emerging markets Brazil, India and China are like 'rockets' being fuelled by US and European investor inflows, Nicolas Eyzaguirre, the head of the IMF Western Hemisphere Department, told a business conference in Sao Paulo.

In return, slumping developed countries are trying 'to attach ropes to those rockets to drag themselves out' of their low-growth situations, he told the event, hosted by Britain's magazine The Economist. But 'China is avoiding being caught by the rope,' Mr Eyzaguirre said, pointing specifically to Beijing's policy of keeping its currency in line with the sliding US dollar.”


Jason DeParle in the NYT in his article "Defying Trend, Canada Lures More Immigrants", makes the same type of mistake Sam Donaldson made once when he came to believe in the literal truth of a mere political rap. Sam’s was about taxes and percentages, DeParle’s is about Immigration as his paper uses it. He writes the following as if it would such would never fly in America:

“In Canada, which has little illegal immigration, Manitoba won new power to bring foreigners in, handpicking ethnic and occupational groups judged most likely to stay. This experiment in designer immigration has made Winnipeg a hub of parka-clad diversity — a blue-collar town that gripes about the cold in Punjabi and Tagalog — and has defied the anti-immigrant backlash seen in much of the world.”


Jan-Werner Müller interesting piece in the Boston Review, "Making Muslim Democracies", focuses on how Catholicism came to democracy. It’s mostly an interesting history of European Christian Democratic politics, which probably had one eye on American Catholics. Mller doesn’t really have his eye directly on whether the successful development of democratic reflexes in Catholics could model for what Europe needs from its Muslim population, but any consideration of that has to recall the centuries of rough stuff, the violence and ridicule heaped on the Church until it learned its place in post-Holy Roman Empire Europe. Perhaps the resultant new Europe’s more empathetic, welfare-oiled strategy will do the trick this time, but I doubt it.

“Personalism was… simultaneously anti-liberal and anticommunist; its proponents held that liberalism and communism, for all their apparent differences, were forms of materialism, whereas personalism did justice to the spiritual dimension of human life…. In the 1930s personalism began to take off. For a time [Jacques] Maritain was a mentor to Emmanuel Mounier, editor of the premier personalist magazine, Esprit, which sought a communitarian alternative to liberal parliamentarianism. But Maritain worried that his disciple’s search for alternatives to liberal democracy would end in a form of authoritarianism, and, indeed, Mounier flirted with both the Vichy regime, and, after the war, Soviet Communism. Unlike many European Catholics, Maritain refused to endorse Franco or to portray the Spanish Civil War as a kind of modern crusade. He began to work out a philosophical rapprochement between Catholicism and modern conceptions of human rights and democracy, and in 1938 he published Integral Humanism, which advocated the place of Christianity in an increasingly ideologically diverse world. The book, with its clear endorsement of pluralism in the temporal sphere, became an early touchstone in Christian Democratic political theory.”


Liat Collins in the Jerusalem Post, "Double take and double think."

“Some of the stories grow bigger in the meantime; some fade only to return in a slightly different form later. Such is the strange case of UNESCO. I didn’t want to bash the world body two weeks running and since I was far from the only Israeli journalist to note the recent resolutions essentially redefining the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb as ‘Palestinian,’ I hesitated to write again about the organization using its mandate to rewrite history. Then I heard the planned venue of this month’s UNESCO-sponsored annual World Philosophy Day: Teheran. It was a column that could almost write itself.”


Phyllis Chesler in Middle East Quarterly, "Ban the Burqa? The Argument in Favor."

“The fact is that Muslim women are increasingly not given a free choice about wearing the veil, and those who resist are beaten, threatened with death, arrested, flogged, jailed, or murdered for honor by their own families, by vigilante groups, or by the state. Being fully covered does not save a Muslim woman from being harassed, stalked, raped, and battered in public places, or raped or beaten at home by her husband. Nor does it stop her husband from taking multiple wives and girlfriends, frequenting brothels, divorcing her against her will, and legally seizing custody of their children. A fully covered female child, as young as ten, may still be forced into an arranged marriage, perhaps to a man old enough to be her grandfather, and is not allowed to leave him, not even if he beats her every day. Moreover, after decades of attempted modernization in Muslim countries, the battle to impose the veil was launched again by resurgent Islamists…. As one Egyptian man lamented, ‘My grandmother would not recognize the streets of Cairo and Port Said. The women are covered from head to toe; the mosques blare hatred all day long.’ And this in a country where the authorities go to great lengths to fight Islamist influences.”


Pamela Ryckman in the NYT, "The Risk-Taking Edge of West Coast Women."

“‘Back east, my whole network was men,’ she said, ‘but here there’s this big group of incredible, fearless women. They rise a lot more quickly in their careers, and they support each other. They’ve made their own money and they take risks. There’s such a disconnect between the two coasts.’ …Ms. Perry Piscione sees West Coast businesswomen opening their Rolodexes and, perhaps more important, their wallets for one another, and she says she believes their East Coast counterparts have something to learn. ‘There are all of these women who made tons of money and now are not doing anything with it,’ she said. East Coast women may have attended top business schools and reached the apex of corporate America, but Ms. Perry Piscione said, ‘they’re not making their mark.’ They are losing relevance, she said, in the ‘new economy.’”


George Packer in the NYTBR, on Timothy Garton Ash’s book, Facts Are Subversive.

“Why doesn’t Garton Ash see in Hirsi Ali a figure of conscience like his friends from the Iron Curtain days? Because her scathing denunciations of what is cruel and unfree in Islam are not ‘showing the way forward for most Muslims in Europe, at least not for many years to come.’ This is true, but it isn’t the most important truth. Hirsi Ali isn’t a youth leader or social activist with a responsibility to show European Muslims ‘the way forward.’ She’s a dissident from the world of Islam who has been driven by personal suffering, and also by her treatment in liberal, multicultural Europe, to a radical rejection of any compromise between her former faith and the secular society she has embraced.

‘Writers are not diplomats,’ Garton Ash says in another essay. But he wants to live in a Europe where millions of believing Muslims feel welcome so that they don’t turn to jihad, and Hirsi Ali’s exacting standard makes it harder. This is a complicated matter, and Garton Ash is honestly working his way through it. That doesn’t make him a weak-kneed appeaser of Islamist ideology — there is plenty of evidence, in this essay and others, that Garton Ash has a keen sense of the threat and will not abandon his liberal convictions in the hope that it might disappear. But he doesn’t feel the oppressiveness of Islamic societies in his bones, as Hirsi Ali does, and as he felt it of Communism. He is, first and last, a European.”


Benjamin Wallace-Wells in New York, "Diplomat Gone Rogue."

“John Kenneth Galbraith was close to his sons until his death, in 2006, though he was intimidating too: witheringly logical and highly opinionated, six foot eight, with Rushmore features. But he gave his children something to defend. In Jamie’s case this was a critical theory of capitalism. In Peter’s, it was the beginning of a particular idea of how America might operate overseas—allying itself with the powerless, without seeking to remake their world.

In the immediate aftermath of the Iran-Iraq War, when the Reagan administration was strongly allied with Saddam Hussein, Galbraith (then a Senate staffer) flew into Kurdistan and emerged with documentation that the Iraqi troops were systematically rounding up and gassing their own people. In the Balkans, he directed the CIA to the mass graves at Srebrenica. As ambassador to Croatia, he gave tacit permission for the Iranians to ship arms through the country to arm the Bosnian Muslims and help turn back the Serb militias; this antagonized the CIA, which accused Galbraith of going rogue and persuaded Congress to hold hearings (Galbraith says he was acting under orders from the Clinton White House)…. In the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003, Galbraith supported the invasion and wrote op-eds reminding Americans of Saddam Hussein’s poison-gas campaigns to slaughter his own Kurdish citizens. But as Operation Iraqi Freedom began, Galbraith could see that the Bush administration’s plans for Iraq would not include a separate Kurdish state.”


James Poniewozik at Time.com, is predictable in his piece, "Olbermann Jousts Koppel in Battle of High Horses". The fundamental “known-forgotten” in all this unknightly mud-wrestling is that these clowns still agree that they want leadership from their politicians. Well, I give you George W. Bush. Some on the left pushed for such leadership out of Bill Clinton as regards Bosnia, and Rwanda, and a few of those felt the same when Saddam did not fall or behave after the first war. The rationale for the second Iraq War was clear enough to win authorization. If the now-conventionally wise anti-Bush anti-War Democrats were actually duped by forged evidence they would be leading a charge into Tehran right this minute. But they weren’t duped, they simply changed their minds when the rough going opened up a domestic political opportunity (this wasn’t true of those who opposed the war throughout such as Barack Obama and Pat Buchanan). Thinking back through the broadcast brotherhood’s phantasmagoria of self-congratulatory relief at discovering they’d been duped, what became clear is how few serious folks are about in our news media.

Perhaps its no business of ours what happens in Israel, Georgia, Poland, Rwanda, Nicaragua. I often think that when I hear what sounds like reflexive interest in odd corners of the world on the BBC expressed in an Imperial accent, or when I’m listening to Buchanan run down his take on the cost to our Republic of our Empire. But such words don’t always reflect reality clearly, especially those words inherited from the discourse of the true Imperial Age. Facts aren’t half as subversive as trade and trade survives and evolves, even under attempts at full suppression. The rules of trade might be critiqued, but probably not very convincingly by those who oppose it reflexively, as their best attempts to live a conscientious life are subverted by the motion of global trade through all human action. And ancient terminology with its settled meanings, do not apply to this moving target.


Nicky Pear of COHA in the Santiago Times, "Bolivia’s new coast."

“From 1879 to 1884, Bolivia and Peru were embroiled in a military conflict with Chile over the control of territory on South America’s western shore. The War of the Pacific was fought both on land and at sea, and saw Chile conquer an area of Bolivia known as the litoral, or coast. Chile’s spoils of war included access to a greatly expanded and mineral-rich, former Bolivian territory. Bolivia, on the other hand, was left landlocked and has remained so to this day….

The story of Commander Eduardo Abaroa is today a thing of legend in Bolivia. During the military conflict with Chile, Abaroa cemented himself in Bolivian folklore by replying to an order to surrender: ‘¿Rendirme yo? ¡Qué se rinda su abuela, carajo!’ (‘Surrender? Your grandmother should surrender, you bastard!’) Abaroa’s legacy lives on in Bolivia, where the specter of the War of the Pacific looms large in the national conscience. The nationalistic desire to regain access to the Pacific Ocean is expressed every year on March 23, when Bolivians celebrate a national Day of the Sea (Día del Mar), during which they demand that Chile return part of Bolivia’s coastline.”


Uruguay’s president Jose Mujica at Mercopress.com.

“‘Any thing which you intend to accomplish is like a child birth’, said Mujica who took office last March as leader of the ruling left wing coalition Broad Front, a catch all party whose arch extends from radicals and communists to Christian democrats. He himself is the former leader of an urban guerrilla group from the sixties who spent almost 14 years in jail. Regarding the first general strike his administration had to face last month in spite of the fact that Uruguayan unions respond to the Broad Front coalition, Mujica said that it was basically union leaders who were doing most of the obstruction work.

However Mujica admitted Uruguay was on the right track ‘if we look at tax revenue figures, which is almost like in Scandinavian countries and certainly not like in Paraguay or Central America where people simply refuse to pay taxes’. But ‘in Norway and Sweden things work because the state, the bureaucracy is efficient, which does not happen in Uruguay, where it doesn’t work properly’. It’s a like a curse ‘Scandinavian taxes but Central American services’.”


At Opendemocracy.net, Mikhail Khodorkovsky final statement at 2nd trial.

“I am ashamed to see how people – people that in the past I respected – try to justify the arbitrariness of bureaucrats and lawlessness. They exchange their reputation for a quiet life within the framework of the current system, for privileges and sops. Fortunately, not everyone is like that, and there are increasingly more people of the other kind.

I am proud of the fact that among thousands of employees at YUKOS, after 7 years of persecution, none have agreed to give false testimony, to sell their soul and conscience. Dozens of people have been personally threatened, have been cut off from family and friends, and thrown in prison. Some have been tortured. But, even though they lost their health and years of their lives, they preserved what they considered most important, their human dignity.

Those who started this shameful case – [First Deputy Prosecutor General Yuri] Biryukov, [Investigator Salavat] Karimov and others - at that time contemptuously called us ‘traders’, regarding us as scum, ready to do anything to protect our prosperity and escape prison. Years have passed. And who turned out to be the scum? Who lied, torture and took hostages for the sake of money, and because they were afraid of the bosses?

And this is what they called a ‘matter of state’!”


David Crossland in Der Spiegel, "Newly Published Memoir Recalls Horror of Western Front."

“[Ernst] Jünger's war hero status and his books made him an idol of the German right in the 1920s and 30s. ‘The Nazis worshipped him but he didn't want anything to do with that rabble,’ said Krumeich, the historian. ‘He represented the idea that, happen what may to my body, I am indestructible, Germany is indestructible. That was a powerful argument among young people at the time.’

Some 10 million soldiers and civilians died, and 18 million were seriously wounded in the war, according to conservative estimates. A generation was decimated -- 35 percent of German men born in Jünger's birth year of 1895 were killed. But the war has faded from Germany's public memory in recent decades as the country was preoccupied with confronting the Nazi period and the Holocaust that followed it. The death in 2008 of the last German veteran known to have fought in World War I, Erich Kästner, went largely unnoticed.”

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