a new low in topical enlightenment

Friday, June 29, 2012

Issue #134 (June 27, 2012)

South of Libby Flats, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

Magazines, Women and Women’s Magazines

Joe Carducci

Something’s odd about magazine cover stories on the subject of women lately. The pieces are always mis-labeled for one – titled to pretend soft is hard, or weak is strong, or fantasy is reality. Somehow the marketing and design staffs believe readers want hard strong reality in their magazines, while the editors and publishers and writers do not. I’m not referring to generic women’s mags either. Judging by those covers in their newsstand-grocery store ghettos or the copies I see at my parents’ and sisters’ houses women’s titles are split into either a focus on homemaking (5 New Spicy & Healthy Recipes!) or on how to fuck (5 Things to Do in Bed to Drive Him Crazy!) – both types include hefty helpings of diet tips and all done in soft focus at breezy lengths leavened with sunny, fresh advertisements for the latest antidepressants rolled out in time for the June Weddings issue. But I don’t mean these mags; no I’m talking serious journals of opinion and analysis by experts.

Some of this bait-and-switch is desperate marketing as publishers struggle to survive as their hard copy franchises dissolve in the internet acid bath. Maybe young women will buy the issue at a newsstand, maybe it’ll be noticed as a most-emailed, maybe they’ll subscribe for more squishy pandering in a guise of hard news and analysis. Especially at The Atlantic it seems to have been judged a success as they have an unofficial annual woman’s issue now. The current issue’s cover by Anne-Marie Slaughter, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”, is a classic. It’s endless, and intellectually indulgent. Slaughter is one of these Hillary-types whose transgendered small-man complex is somehow exacerbated by her being a high-born beneficiary of social programs hijacked from civil rights-era remedies for slavery and Jim Crow-era discrimination. Subtexts of this kind of drivel is that our mothers and grandmothers, never mind female hominids going back to the African savannahs, lived lives akin to slavery, and the Feminists gift of Liberation depends on Pharmacology if not a surgical procedure. As Slaughter’s cover story follows a 2010 Atlantic cover bulletin, “The End of Men – How Women Are Taking Control of Everything” by Hana Rosin, one ponders how if women do not presently have it all, since men are finished, then who is it who’s got whatever’s left? Perhaps the hermaphrodite community, those greedy freaks. Earlier Atlantic marketing examples include the covers, “What Me Marry?” and “Should Women Rule the World?”

The Atlantic has gotten dumber for a number of reasons I suppose. I think James Parker is one of the few writers who can do justice to music, but they never have him write about music. Music is now too sectarian for a mag striving for eyeballs online. But my advice is that women writing about Women probably need extra editing and that their editors don’t get that is some sort of political breakdown. Perhaps the move from Boston to D.C. was a kind of political surrender by The Atlantic. The New Yorker’s dedication to its idea of writerly style has prevented such formless rambling by highly educated but perhaps not intrinsically intelligent women from appearing in their precious pages, though it is the home of the long-form essay. It’s also true that politics is simply inadequate as an analytical frame to place around women. It’s actually inadequate for everything and therefore its primacy in such literature is the best indicator of limited intelligence. And politics is only the first rung of pretension, so where’s the ambition?

Slaughter in her essay seems proud to have obsessed over her two sons in her various workplaces at Princeton and State Dept. whenever old feminist bitties told her to stop it lest she bring down patriarchal patronization on the office hen party if not the entire gender. She poses with her boys in a nicely telling family portrait that does not include her husband. Her older son is properly sullen about the whole situation fiddling with his drumsticks and ready to bolt, whereas the younger son looks tamed and comfortable. Her feminist’s dream of a husband (one guesses Alan Alda, Phil Donahue… you know some improvement on Jesus H. Christ) gets a mention twice. Here’s the best one:

“I continually push the young women in my classes to speak more. They must gain the confidence to value their own insights and questions, and to present them readily. My husband agrees, but he actually tries to get the young men in his classes to act more like the women – to speak less and listen more.”
(The Atlantic, July-Aug. 2012)

That they actually double-think that sex is a social construct allows for this parade of semi-disillusioned reclaiming of good-old common sense as something radical. They prefer the word ‘gender’ because it references mere language. Progressives manage to pick fights with God and Darwin and Einstein in the name of a Romantic flight from biology into a purely civic existence proscribed by legal texts seeking to guarantee certain perverse extrapolations from Marx’s deformed version of Christianity.

Slaughter herself, as one of America’s meritocratic elite, genuflects at the female working class’s “difficulties” but has no doubt those will be solved once we “put a woman in the White House”. As a friend and underling of Hillary she obviously expects to return to State in a few years. The scale of this elite self-absorption demands the cover of a radical-seeming politique. She makes much of her and her female cohort of Rhodes scholars but generously understands that “these women cannot possibly be the standard against which even very talented professional women should measure themselves.” Do tell, mama! Only Rhodes scholarships are not meritocratic awards; they are political sponsorships reserved for a kind of teacher’s pet writ large – the kind of ambitious cretin who so loves school they never leave it. The kind of insufferable student gov-types that have intuited where the jobs are that pay better as you fail in unnecessary, impossible, quixotic, fundamentally vain attempts to solve democracy and tell people how they are to live. Make-work for an incipient new class of royals. (Slaughter’s article was occasioned by her need to explain to the bitties and “young women” but not her sons why on earth she would ever even contemplate leaving public service – Director of Policy Planning at the State Dept. – before her party leaves power.)

Unfortunately The Atlantic scored big with its wobbly indulgent kaffee-klatsch kvetch on its website and two days after it hit newsstands it’s judgment was confirmed by an above-the-fold A1 New York Times breaking story by Jodi Kantor proving her new boss Jill Abramson’s bonafides as one of these non-bitty non-young-woman super-achieving flailing feminists. In the Times’ take, “Elite Women Put New Spin On Old Debate”, Kantor explains that these newest female “barrier-breakers” have children and helpful husbands, unlike earlier ones “from Gloria Steinem to Condoleezza Rice,” joyless battle-axes one-and-all apparently. (Mediabistro.com confirms Slaughter’s piece has record web action; you’d think the publisher if not the editors would chop these overblown essays to web-size if their e-bait.)

The Times is wrong, this is nothing new, it’s an even older spin spun new-like to avoid letting a new old timeless fresh breeze off the African savannah into their brave bubble of unaging sterile soft-focus feminism that somehow remains relevant after even the end of men when, in fact, feminists did little but run to the front of the American parade, what was coming like a freight train just try to stop it. In other courses across campus this all might be judged late capitalist spectacle. At the Newman Club if it hasn’t been turned into a birth control dispensary they’d label it Despair, which sounds closer to an honest truth.

Elsewhere in Friday’s NYT we have “a professor of the history and theory of sexuality at the University of Michigan” writing a mixed-up defense of “foofy” “queeny” gayishness in this modern period of postmod normalization of garden variety faggotry. “Normal as Folk” is somebody at the former gray lady’s idea of a cleverdick pun, though “Judy Who?” also seems to be its title, referring to Judy Garland who the old queens worry isn’t firing the young studs’ perverse imaginations as once seemed mandatory. (Michael Musto in the Village Voice also wrote about this generational issue about Judy Garland’s relevance recently.) The author, David M. Halperin, of the mortified Halperins, brags on how gay men used to “frighten the horses” with their sexual outlawry but he retreats skittishly from the wide acceptance of gay men today to the safe shelter of a still rejected gay culture. He means those gay parade exhibitionist-types on and off Broadway. Well there once were sexual outlaws and they all died horrible deaths thanks to Reagan and the Christian Right we’re told. And yet the closeted true culture of homosexuals did change, but the false public in-your-face personal-is-political bukkake culture denies they had anything to learn from anyone or anything except the guidance provided by their endrocrine system. All to cover the coming in from the cold of the last surviving reformed outlaws and the parade of Judy Garland-loving anti-heroes back to a civilization kept warm and steady by the Christian Right, or the Republicans, or the bourgies in flyover America, against all late capitalism could concoct against it. All so the righteouser-than-thou could… (wait for it) Get Married!

Recall that coastal consensus opinion in the 1970s was that marriage was a bankrupt institution and Psychiatry concurred in penance for having once judged homosexuality a mental illness. It took decades for studies to undo the old seventies canard that divorce was better for the kids. PBS just showed the 2011 doc, We Were Here, which tells well the early Aids crisis story in San Francisco without a lot of mere politics and so gets at how the disaster changed the subculture and, now we know, sent the survivors on their long journey toward the altar. Of the six or so witnesses debriefed in the documentary the most telling is the friendly soft-spoken guy who on arriving in San Francisco in the mid-seventies found himself out-of-it even there because he couldn’t get into anonymous sex and found that trying to get to know gay men was considered a turn-off. Five years later as a hospice volunteer for those dying friendless and without family he found his humane approach finally appreciated.

What is disappointingly more common is the psycho-political jiu-jitsu that turns embarrassment or guilt around and onto designated class enemies as a totalized cultural assault. This is now a Pavlovian reflex that triggers instant cant from the pseudos of the self-esteem generation. The old movements were safety-in-numbers rackets best effective politically by cultivating immunity to doubt – like religions without the metaphysical resonance. And in academia the professoriat found it easy to lord such over the studentky who weren’t old enough to realize it was their own money they were wasting. All were graded on a curve or a pass-fail so who could tell that it wasn’t all very meritocratical; they were graduating unto the ruling class so why argue. Come their middle-age crises it appears to take Buddhism to evade the threatened self-knowledge crack-up. That’s fine, whatever it takes; I’ll avert my eyes.

A related cover story is the May-June woman issue of Foreign Policy, which features an oil-covered nude Arab female on the cover and in a mock-centerfold; no doubt she’ll be murdered by her brother or father by the next issue. They dimmed down the red ink announcing it as “The Sex Issue,” and pushed forward the title, “Why Do They Hate Us?” as if the issue is a tried-and-true stoking of Anti-Americanism disguising a Democratic Party-sponsored plea for understanding that it’s not their fault. But the subtitle promises something quite new: “The War on Women in the Middle East”. “In the middle east?! How ’bout in the midwest?!” responds Pavlov’s daughter. And Israel is in the middle east so I was still suspicious and I was right, though it isn’t about patriarchal Israeli settlements claiming and mining Palestinian women’s bodies in that neo-Nazi jiu-jitsu that European crusaders for Justice pretend to believe in. In the lead essay Mona Eltahawy pretends to be thinking big but the truth is she’s an American citizen who went back to Egypt and got attacked by the post-Mubarak military forces last November. So she’s upset, but first things first:

“Yes, women all over the world have problems; yes, the United States has yet to elect a female president; and yes, women continue to be objectified in many “Western” countries (I live in one of them). That’s where the conversation usually ends when you try to discuss why Arab societies hate women. But let’s put aside what the United States does or doesn’t do to women….”
(Foreign Policy, May-June 2012)

I believe she’s addressing Anne-Marie Slaughter, here. The piece has its strong declaratives about its subject but either Eltahway or her editors know they must finger their multi-cultural worry beads and hope for the best from her brave sisters at the barricades in the State Dept. Her world is politics and the world of statistics and law. Her review of the horrors of the middle east, from the liberal Morocco to the conservative Saudi Arabia are news to nobody thanks to the much more courageous work of unsisterly apostate conservatives who shall go nameless here. Eltahway seems satisfied to call it a simple hatred for women as if it springs from nothing but bad law enforcement, bad table manners, or a lack of democracy, when it is democracy that will, initially anyway, make many of these outrages even worse as the secularish regimes of Kings and Generals yield to truly representative government by the Muslim in the street – who is always male despite the many Arab Spring cover-girls that deceptively graced Western publications.

A second essay in The Sex Issue of FP, ”The Ayatollah Under the Bed (Sheets)”, by Karim Sadjadpour, is better at scoring its points in the Iranian context. Still his insistence that things sexual are just as retarded among “their evangelical Christian, Catholic, Orthodox Jewish, and Sunni Muslim counterparts” tells the reader that, marketing appearances aside, bravery is as rare a commodity as ever. Elsewhere in the issue is Hillary Clinton’s former first lady’s White House chief of staff”s “Why Women Are a Foreign Policy Issue, Seriously, Guys” and the mag’s Beijing contributor’s “The Startling Plight of China’s Leftover Ladies.” Not an entirely worthless issue but not what it promises.

I’ll miss magazines, even though they really aren’t worth the saving. With sidebar stats and power lists Foreign Policy performs its best backbend contortions to look at the unbalanced cultures of one obviously failing civilization without letting our own successful one off some hobby-horse hook or other they keep polished in their closet. The highly skilled editors at women’s magazines are women, and they could have made these points far more skillfully and delivered them efficiently to more women for their lack of standard issue transgendered small-man pretension. The men who edit The Atlantic are easier to impress I guess.

South of Libby Flats, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

Bret Stephens in WSJ, "Lady Gaga Versus Global Jihad".

“Since 9/11, the West's approach to Islamism has been one long pre-emptive cringe. It's how we have come to handle the Quran with white gloves and shy away from reprinting the Danish cartoons. It's why Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is now being represented in court by a military attorney wearing a hijab. It's why the phrase ‘Islamic terrorism’ has become taboo. It's why nobody in the Army had the sense to call out Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan on his rants before he went on his rampage. The predictable result has been to violate our best principles while encouraging Islamists to make ever-more outrageous demands. Maybe there's a better way. The West so far has been trying to fight radical Islamists with a mix of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism strategies. But it's not going to win the long war unless it has a countercultural strategy, too.

Consider Lady Gaga's abortive attempt to perform in Jakarta: What's interesting isn't merely that she was forced to cancel. It's that the show would have filled a stadium had it gone ahead.

Similarly with Ms. Manji: The salient fact of her visit wasn't just that she was set upon by thugs. It's that there were Indonesians on hand to shield her physically against violent men with crowbars. And that was for a woman heckled with calls to ‘please go back to your lesbianland.’

In other words, both Lady Gaga and Ms. Manji have important constituencies in mass and high culture. The worrying question is whether those constituencies still form a majority capable of defending Western-style rights.”


Jean Guerrero in WSJ, "In Mexico’s Countryside, Machismo on Wane".

“Traditional gender roles aren't disappearing, and aren't about to. Men are still in charge of rural Mexico, with about 6.6 million employed in the agriculture sector during the 2010 census versus about 1.6 million women. Many women depend on remittances from their migrated husbands, who take the lead in the family business activities once again when they return. But in many cases, relationships have changed permanently. Ms. Fernández's story isn't unusual. Most of the men who migrate from Mexico never return, according to the country's National Population Council. And many stop sending money back to their wives, the women say. Nearly 80% of remittances from migrants come from sons, not husbands, said Antonieta Barron, an economics professor at Mexico's National Autonomous University. Women are now the main breadwinners in 1.19 million of Mexico's estimated 6.2 million rural households, a third higher than a decade ago. More than half of the people who participate in all of the Agriculture Ministry's farmer programs, including those that incentivize productivity through subsidies, are now women, up from only about 30% just four years ago. And in the few cases where men do return from the U.S., they often take on a greater share of the household duties—at least temporarily—like washing dishes and cooking, which they were forced to learn while abroad, researchers said.”


Samuel Freedman in NYT, "Gospel Music Secrets, Challenging Black Homophobia".

“‘The family secret has become public knowledge,’ Mr. Heilbut writes in his book, ‘and the black church, once the very model of civil rights, has acquired a new image, as the citadel of intolerance.’ Left unchecked, he continues, the trend ‘would introduce an ugly but not uninformed term, black redneck.’ While Mr. Heilbut’s book is only beginning to be widely distributed and read, his contentions have provoked vigorous dispute from some black clergy members. Their complaint, interestingly, is far less with Mr. Heilbut’s assertions about the significance of gay performers in gospel music than with that fact’s relevance to same-sex marriage.”


Terry Eagleton interview at Oxonionreview.org.

So do you think there might be potential in an alliance between religion and left politics?

In a sense, you might almost say that’s been the theme of my intellectual career. It’s not always obvious to me or to anybody else for that matter. But of course I started, when I was at Cambridge, as a left-wing Catholic in the heady days of the Vatican Council. And I suppose what you might call ‘political Christianity’ has run as a kind of subcurrent beneath my work. It’s now come to the surface, and there were times, particularly in what you might call my Althusserian phase, when it wasn’t so obvious.

Lots of people would see a contradiction between Marxism and Catholicism, for example…

Well, I’m not sure I would talk about myself as a Roman Catholic. I was brought up in that culture, and it is a culture. That’s one of the attractive things about it. You know, you meet a Catholic from Korea or somewhere, and you share an enormous amount of things in common. It’s like being a Jew, in that sense. I have no truck with the Vatican and all that kind of stuff. But I suppose it’s a certain theological mainstream that interests me, and the political implications of such. And of course that’s been coming much to the fore in the past few years. If you think of the number of agnostic and very theistic leftists from Agamben and Zizek to Habermas and Badiou, who have been raising theological themes, it’s very much part of the zeitgeist.”


James Piereson in New Criterion, "The fourth revolution".

“The regime of public spending has at last drawn so many groups into the public arena in search of public dollars that it has paralyzed the political process and driven governments to the edge of bankruptcy. These groups are widely varied: trade associations, educational lobbies, public employee unions, government contractors, ideological and advocacy organizations, health-care providers, hospital associations that earn revenues from Medicare and Medicaid programs, and the like. These are what economists call rent-seeking groups because they are concerned with the distribution of resources rather than with the creation of wealth. They consume rather than create wealth. These groups are highly influential in the political process because they are willing to invest large sums in lobbying and election campaigns in order to protect their sources of income. While rent-seeking groups can be found in both political parties, the largest and most influential of them (at least on the spending side) have congregated within the Democratic Party. To expand on what was said earlier, one might describe the Democratic Party as a coalition of rent-seekers. Rent-seeking coalitions have little interest in moderating their demands in the interests of the broader economy because, as their leaders reason, the economy will be little affected by the small share of it to which they are laying claim. In addition, they calculate that if they do not take the money, then someone else will—and so they are not inclined to be “fools” for the public interest. But since the leaders of all rent-seeking groups think this way, the interest group system as a whole operates with little concern for the requirements of economic growth and wealth generation. This is one reason why, in times of crisis, rent-seeking coalitions demand tax increases to pay for their programs instead of recommending policies to accelerate growth.”


Jeffrey Rosen in New Republic, "Constitution Avenue".

“Einer Elhauge of Harvard Law School, for example, pointed out that the Founders had explicitly endorsed the concept of a health care mandate when the first Congress passed legislation in 1790 requiring shipowners to buy health insurance for their sailors. This law was signed by President George Washington. Taking a different angle, Jack Balkin of Yale Law School argued that the mandate is clearly authorized by Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, which permits Congress to ‘lay and collect taxes.’ Rather than getting tangled in the wonky particulars of exactly when individuals enter the health care market, these scholars were locating a justification for the law in the text of the Constitution and the historical understanding of the men who wrote and ratified it. This approach was striking, because for a long time, conservatives alone worshipped at the temple of originalism—that is, the belief that the highest legal authority in the United States is the original meaning of the nation’s Founding document. For decades, the right brandished originalist arguments to potent political effect, casting conservative judges as sober adherents to the Constitution and liberal judges as uninhibited meddlers. In recent years, however, a growing movement on the legal left has sought to fashion its own version of originalism. Its proponents—known less than pithily as the New Textualists—insist that arguments grounded in constitutional text and history can be deployed just as effectively to support liberal policies as conservative ones. So far, the New Textualists have an impressive track record of winning over conservative justices and judges. But their ideas are being strenuously resisted by the liberal legal establishment—both by administration lawyers like Verrilli and an older generation of scholars, who fear their approach will ultimately lead to the downfall of landmark precedents, including Roe v. Wade.”


Timothy Noah in New Republic, "Nanny Dearest".

“Bloomberg’s health policies are straightforwardly paternalistic, and paternalism is an idea nobody feels comfortable with. Indeed, it was loathed by the left before it was loathed by the right. Colonialism was essentially paternalism on a global scale. The 1960s counterculture brought an end to college parietals—the prohibition against a girl spending the night in a boy’s dorm room or vice versa—and never took government prohibitions on recreational drug use very seriously. Listen today to Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 song ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ and you may be surprised by how politically incorrect it has become. Yes, it mocks the Vietnam draft, but it also lampoons—as yet another petty imposition on individual freedom—environmental regulations concerning the disposal of solid waste (known in those days as ‘garbage’). The left’s aversion applied to all sources of paternalistic authority: government, corporations, priests, university administrators, and, of course, parents. When the virus jumped to the right it mutated into an aversion only to government authority (with exemptions for the military and police) and granted blanket amnesty to private businesses, religious authorities, mom, and dad. Yet, even as liberals and conservatives profess to hate the idea of government paternalism, both practice it. Liberals support restrictions on harmful things individuals do to their bodies, like smoking, driving without a seat belt, and riding a motorcycle without a helmet. Conservatives support restrictions on actions they deem harmful to the soul, like having abortions, using contraception, and marrying a person of the same sex.”


Jonathan Last in Claremont Review of Books on Frederick Lynch’s book, One Nation Under AARP – The Fight over Medicare, Social Security, and America’s Future.

“Joining AARP once you turned 50 became like joining AAA after you got your first car: the fee was so nominal and the benefits so substantial that lots of people joined simply because it was easy and there was no reason not to. Today AARP has 40 million members, making it, after the Catholic Church, the second-largest organization in the country. (This number is particularly impressive considering that 2 million members die every year.) All those membership checks add up to an operating budget of $1.4 billion, money that put to numerous but not necessarily modest uses. For instance, in the early ’90s AARP built an 820,000 square foot headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. – a building so massive it sports its own zip code. The group’s monthly magazine has 23.7 million subscribers, the largest circulation of any American periodical. What AARP really does is lobby. So do many organizations based in Washington, of course, but what makes AARP so distinctive is the disconnect, sometimes even the contradictions, between its organizational agenda and its members interests.”


John Marini in Claremont Review of Books, "Abandoning the Constitution".

“When the principles that establish the legitimacy of the constitution are understood to be changeable, are forgotten, or denied, the constitution can no longer impose limits on the power of government. In that case, government itself will determine the conditions of the social compact and become the arbiter of the rights of individuals. When that transformation occurred, as it did in the 20th century, the sovereignty of the people, established by the Constitution, was replaced by the sovereignty of government, understood in terms of the modern concept of the rational or administrative State. It was a theoretical doctrine, the philosophy of history, that effected this transformation and established the intellectual and moral foundations of progressive politics.

Established on the foundation of natural rights, constitutionalism has been steadily undermined by the acceptance of the new doctrine of History. The Progressive movement, which is the political instrument of that theoretical revolution, had as its fundamental purpose the destruction of the political and moral authority of the U.S. Constitution. Because of the success of the Progressive movement, contemporary American politics is animated by a political theory denying permanent principles of right derived from nature and reason. In exposing the theoretical roots of progressivism and the liberalism it has spawned, it is possible to reveal the difference between a constitutional government and the modern State.”


Ephraim Radner in First Things on Brad Gregory’s book, The Unintended Reformation – How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society.

“Gregory gives the Balmesian tradition some new twists. His previous research into the competing martyrologies of the sixteenth century has made him sensitive to the rich character of Christian conviction during this period. In light of this, he seeks to sympathetically explain the reasons for the Reformation. He forthrightly acknowledges, for example, the abuses, moral corruption, and failures of late medieval Christian practice, going far beyond the grudging acknowledgements of earlier Catholic polemicists. Given what he calls ‘the failure of medieval Christendom,’ particularly ‘the pervasive, long-standing, and undeniable failure of so many Christians, including members of the clergy both high and low, to live by the church’s own prescriptions and exhortations based on its truth claims,’ a reaction was inevitable. He also recognizes that present-day Catholicism, whose constricted and often blinkered approach to faith and society was formed by reactive responses to Protestantism, has not been exempt from the dissolving effects of private judgment.”


Henrik Bering in Policy Review on Jonathan Steinberg’s book, Bismarck – A Life.

“Tensions in the new Reich were exacerbated by economic woes. After years of boom, helped by French war reparations, came the crash of 1873, which was followed by a long depression. Seeking common ground between the Junkers and the large artisan class in a shared hatred of free markets, capitalism, and free mobility, Bismarck responded by introducing a number of protectionist measures. Bismarck’s main concern was the threat represented by the urban workers. Preferring to act preemptively by making changes from the top, rather than face increased pressure from the bottom, he introduced a state system of social security involving accident, sickness, old age and disability insurance, in the belief that this would stem the calls for change. Still, notes Steinberg, the Social Democrats kept gaining seats, thanks to universal suffrage, ‘formerly his best weapon, but now increasingly impossible to control.’ In fact, says Steinberg, had he known how easily the princes would have given in, he would never have introduced universal suffrage in the first place. His other mistake had been to assume that the masses backed the monarchy, as they had Napoleon 111 in France, overlooking the fact that while France still remained very much an agricultural nation, that no longer applied to Prussia.”


WSJ: Robert Higgs from his book, Delusions of Power.

“John Maynard Keynes persuaded his fellow economists and then they persuaded the public that it makes sense to think of the economy in terms of a handful of economy-wide aggregates: total income or output, total consumption spending, total investment spending, and total net exports.... In fact, ‘the economy’ does not produce an undifferentiated mass we call ‘output.’ Instead, the millions of producers who bring forth ‘aggregate supply’ provide an almost infinite variety of specific goods and services that differ in countless ways. Moreover, an immense amount of what goes on in a market economy consists of dealings among producers who supply no ‘final’ goods and services at all, but instead supply raw materials, components, intermediate products, and services to one another. Because these producers are connected in an intricate pattern of relations, which must assume certain proportions if the entire arrangement is to work effectively, critical consequences turn on what in particular gets produced, when, where, and how. These extraordinarily complex micro-relationships are what we are really referring to when we speak of ‘the economy.’”


Luigi Zingales in WSJ, "Crony Capitalism and the Crisis of the West".

“Cronyism has a long history in Italy, where historically the Catholic Church enjoyed tremendous influence. Popes and other members of the hierarchy wielded—and often abused—enormous power, including that of placing their children and friends in positions of influence, regardless of merit. A truly competitive market has no place for favoritism, but when one company or institution dominates a market, such practices become inevitable. In Italy today, even emergency-room doctors gain promotions on the basis of political affiliation. Instead of being told to study, young people are urged to ‘carry the bag’ for powerful people in the hope of winning favors. Mothers push their daughters into the arms of the rich and powerful, seeing it as the only avenue of social promotion. The nation's talent-selection process is broken: One routinely finds highly intelligent people employed in menial jobs while mediocre people often hold distinguished positions. Once an incompetent appointee finds himself in a powerful position, he tends to hire only subordinates of equal or lower quality, since more talented people pose a threat to him. After a few years, a firm's human capital will become so eroded that it won't be able to compete without some form of protection.”


David Brooks in NYT, "What Republicans Think".

“In the 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower reconciled Republicans to the 20th-century welfare state. Between Ike and George W. Bush, Republican leaders basically accepted that model. Sure, they wanted to cut taxes and devolve power, but, in practice, they sustained the system, often funding it more lavishly than the Democrats. But many Republicans have now come to the conclusion that the welfare-state model is in its death throes. Yuval Levin expressed the sentiment perfectly in a definitive essay for The Weekly Standard called ‘Our Age of Anxiety’: ‘We have a sense that the economic order we knew in the second half of the 20th century may not be coming back at all — that we have entered a new era for which we have not been well prepared. ... We are, rather, on the cusp of the fiscal and institutional collapse of our welfare state, which threatens not only the future of government finances but also the future of American capitalism.’ To Republican eyes, the first phase of that collapse is playing out right now in Greece, Spain and Italy — cosseted economies, unmanageable debt, rising unemployment, falling living standards.

America’s economic stagnation is just more gradual.”


John Cook at Gawker.com, "The De-Watergating of American Journalism".

“So imagine, if you will, how the ombudspersons of our day would have reacted if they had learned that reporters for the Washington Post had agreed to adhere to ‘guidelines’ and ‘ground rules’ laid out by Ken Starr governing how and when they could interview potential witnesses in his investigation? How would Media Matters react if a Fox News reporter got caught privately advising Rep. Darrell Issa on fruitful leads to pursue in his Fast and Furious inquiry? How would Fox News react if it emerged that New York Times reporters, in pursuit of an interview with Obama for a story about his ‘Kill List,’ had agreed to submit their questions in advance?

Woodward and Bernstein, of course, did all the above and more—including burning confidential sources, illicitly accessing phone and credit card records of investigative targets, colluding with congressional and law enforcement investigators, and impersonating sources in order to trick targets into talking—in the course of their Watergate investigation. These are not secrets—they're all right there, laid out in full view in All the President's Men, which at times reads more like a confessional than a victory lap. To their credit, the reporters seemed as concerned with unburdening themselves about the corners they cut and mistakes they made as they were with soaking in the glory of their fresh kill. The ‘diciness’ of the whole affair comes through loud and clear, even though it has subsequently been sanctified by the priesthood.”


WSJ: "Food Stamp Fiasco".

“When the food stamp program began in the 1970s, it was designed to help about 1 of 50 Americans who were in severe financial distress. But thanks to eligibility changes first by President George W. Bush as part of the 2002 farm bill and then by President Obama in the 2008 stimulus, food stamps are becoming the latest middle-class entitlement. A record 44.7 million people received food stamps in fiscal 2011, up from 28.2 million as recently as 2008. The cost has more than doubled in that same period, to $78 billion, and is on track to account for 78% of farm bill spending over the next decade. One in seven Americans now qualifies. Once there was a stigma to going on the dole, and it was seen as a last resort. But now the Agriculture Department runs radio and TV ads prodding people to get the free food, as in a recent campaign that says food stamps will help you lose weight.”


Randall Henning in Prospect, "California’s lesson for the euro".

“The lessons of the American model might be counterintuitive. But the US shows that federations or other unions can be equipped to deal more forcefully with irresponsible members if they ‘mutualise’ or share the costs of government and of recapitalising failing banks. These features enable Washington to avoid being blackmailed into providing bailouts. The ‘no-bailout’ stance in turn deters the excessive accumulation of debt by individual states. It is important to note that the US has not sought to shield the union from the economic spillover from dysfunctional states by ‘receivership’ or any other form of direct intervention by the federal government in state decisions. The EU should take inspiration from this feature of the American model. Governments should agree to insure bank deposits across the eurozone collectively and to create a way of acting together to recapitalise banks directly rather than channeling capital to banks indirectly through their member states.”


Aaron Tornell & Frank Westermann in NYT, "Europe Needs a Federal Reserve".

“What ails the euro zone is not a Teutonic allergy to inflation, or a timidity about extending loans, but what economists call the tragedy of the commons. Here’s an example: A group of people go for a drink and agree to split the tab. They tend to drink a bit more than when each goes alone. Each person gets to enjoy 100 percent of the marginal benefit of an additional drink, yet she is responsible only for a portion of that drink’s cost. So she has an incentive to outdrink her friends and exploit the common pool of money that will be used to pay the tab. The central bank system in Europe is akin to letting the government of California issue bonds, pledge them as collateral at the San Francisco branch of the Fed, and then get fresh dollars to pay for its budget deficit. If this were reality, imagine the strong temptation for California to tap Fed resources to indulge imbalanced spending and borrowing.”


David Marsh in FT, "Don’t count on Germany’s economic surrender".

“German obduracy in the face of French demands for more funding has been repeated countless times. In a precursor of today’s strains, Germany refused in 1968 to give in to strong US, French and British pressure to help other currencies by revaluing the Deutschmark, although it relented a year later. ‘The French want to put shackles on what they see as our sinister monetary policy,’ wrote Otmar Emminger, former Bundesbank board member and president, in 1970. In 1981, after Mr Mitterrand’s election victory, the Bundesbank called for French devaluation, asking: ‘What do they really want?’ The Bundesbank again threatened the French with devaluation in 1992, softening only when Mr Kohl intervened. Mr Kohl and President Jacques Chirac nearly came to fisticuffs in 1996 over French pleas for relaxed budgetary stringency. France’s perennial refusal to give up fiscal sovereignty explained why an earlier plan for economic and monetary union failed in the early 1970s. Germany’s current insistence that mutualised liabilities through eurozone bonds or Europe-wide deposit insurance can come only after full-scale economic convergence echoes Germany’s 1960s and 1970s view that monetary union should be delayed pending full economic harmonisation.”


Hugh Carnegy & Scheherazade Daneshkhu in FT, "French business in revolt on tax plans".

“The emergence of plans to impose an extra tax on company dividends added to concern among business leaders already angered by proposals to raise the marginal tax rate to 75 per cent on incomes above €1m and to toughen legislation inhibiting the ability of companies to fire workers and close factories. Laurence Parisot, head of Medef, the French employers’ federation, said on Tuesday: ‘We say – be careful. We must not turn our country into a kind of hyper-rigid enclave, disconnected from the functioning of the economy and market which you find everywhere else.’

A spokesman for one major French company said: ‘The concern at executive level is that you cannot tax your way out of trouble.’”


Jonathan Ree in Prospect, "France’s greatest export? ".

“French industry as a whole was in poor shape at the end of the second world war, but one sector was soon reporting an export-led recovery: philosophy. Ever since the Revolution, the French state in various incarnations had promoted philosophy as the crowning glory of secular secondary education. Under the command of the minister of education in Paris, an army of well-trained philosophy professors was deployed throughout the hexagon, and in the colonies too, to propagate a certain idea of France, based on humanistic morality, civic idealism, and the essence of European civilisation. France produced philosophers as Switzerland produced cuckoo clocks. After the liberation French philosophy went global. Jean-Paul Sartre had been part of the system, working as a provincial prof de philo before reinventing himself as a novelist and playwright. In January 1945, after a dull but productive war, he was flown to New York as a guest of the US State Department, which was keen to show the wonders of America to the top brains of the new France. Sartre annoyed his hosts by comparing American imperialism to Nazi terror, but as far as intellectual trade was concerned, he hit on a winning formula.”


Aristides Hatzis in FT, "Back to the 1930s: the hammer, sickle and swastika".

“How did Greece, the birthplace of democracy, come to have a parliament full of hammers, sickles and swastikas? This is not how it was ever meant to be. After winning independence in the late 1820s, Greece was attached to the west and particularly to the UK, which protected and patronised Greece until it was replaced by the US in the late 1940s. This patronage had some beneficial side effects. Greece was always on the winning side: in the first world war, the second world war, the cold war. From 1929 to 1980 Greece had an average growth rate of 5.2 per cent and was admitted to the European Community as early as 1981 partly as a reward. The rest is history: welfare populism, cronyism, statism and corruption can describe the Greek political system for most of the period from 1981.”


Walter Russell Mead in WSJ, "The Euro’s Global Security Fallout".

“It is not all good news in the Kremlin—Russia will hurt economically, as the European Union is its most important trading partner and customer for oil and gas. But geopolitically, Russia will have a lot of new opportunities. Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus will feel less pull from the West and more from the East. It is also likely that Russian commercial and to some degree political penetration of countries like Romania and Bulgaria (to say nothing of Cyprus and Greece) is going to become easier. Those countries will be hurting from the general slowdown in Europe. EU aid budgets could be cut or redirected if the crisis deepens, and issues like judicial transparency and reform will loom less large in a Brussels consumed by the struggle for the euro. Europe's East will be less deferential to its West as this crisis drags on. Elsewhere, the euro crisis has reinforced Turkey's decision to drop its long courtship of Europe and become an independent actor. Europe looks less and less to the Turks like a model to imitate and more and more like a fate to avoid. Turkey in any case would like to replace the EU as a major political and economic force in the Arab world, and it is likely to use this period of European introspection and preoccupation to advance its agenda. Between Russia's new geopolitical opportunities and Turkey's detachment from Europe, the situation in the Balkans is going to become much more confused and perhaps even dangerous.”


Steven Russolillo & Katy Burne in WSJ, "This Greek Seeks a Chorus of Gifts".

“Mr. Nomikos says he has faith that his countrymen will rally to the cause. ‘Greeks are terrible citizens, but exceptional patriots,’ he says. Other recent attempts to rescue struggling sovereigns through patriotic efforts have yielded mixed results. In the late 1990s, during the Asian financial contagion, tens of thousands of South Koreans swarmed banks to donate gold with hopes of helping the battered country shore up its central-bank reserves and repay $57 billion it owed to the International Monetary Fund in rescue funds. In Indonesia, then-President Suharto's eldest daughter in 1998 launched a campaign dubbed ‘I Love the Rupiah,’ in which hundreds of people exchanged millions of U.S. dollars for the local currency. Separately, a ‘National Love Indonesia Campaign’ encouraged people to donate gold and jewelry to the central bank to bolster its flailing currency. While those campaigns boosted national sentiment, they did little for the countries' economies.”


Paul Shirley in WSJ, "Greece’s Double Dribble".

“After a moderately successful basketball career at Iowa State University—and a brief stint at the Los Angeles Lakers training camp—I found myself in the fall of 2001 signing a one-year contract for $100,000 with Panionios, one of Greece's 14 pro teams. I took to Greece quickly. The people were friendly, the food was fantastic and the relaxed Greek attitude toward living seemed perfect. Or so I thought, until I learned that the country's easygoing ways extended to how my team would pay me. In January 2002, Panionios began making half payments of my monthly salary. When I consulted my American agent, he told me that Greek law didn't come down on the side of the ‘laborer’ until an employer was three months in arrears. That spring, my landlord appeared one night at my door, telling me that I had to be out of my apartment by the next morning. The team hadn't paid my rent in four months. When I called the team in the sort of panic you would expect from an overanxious 23-year-old living in a foreign country for the first time, a manager told me not to worry. The landlord couldn't do anything until the team was six months behind. In other words, the manager said with a laugh, the team was two months ahead.”


Laurent Gelsin at Mondediplo.com, "The EU’s far frontier".

“Eastern Poland is often referred to pejoratively as ‘Polska B’ — as opposed to ‘Polska A’, the western part, which was German until 1918, while the east was occupied by Russia. According to political scientist François Bafoil, some believe these historical differences are to blame for the divide between ‘developed, industrial Poland and rural Poland, the Poland of agricultural smallholdings or even micro-holdings. A divide between the values represented by the trilogy of God, Honour and Fatherland particularly associated with the eastern parts of the country, and the values of openness and dynamism traditionally associated with the west’. The results of the legislative elections of October 2011 appear to support this view: most of the west voted for Civic Platform, the neoliberal, pro-European party in power since 2007, while the east remained faithful to the Law and Justice party founded by the very nationalist president Lech Kaczyn’ski, killed in a plane crash at Smolensk in April 2010. ‘The locals are country folk; they are faithful and hardworking,’ said Paweł Makowiecki, a young engineer who is trying to develop information and communications technologies in Białystok. ‘But they are not very open. Changing attitudes is hard work. So EU aid is an opportunity not to be missed.’”


Andrew Stuttaford in New Criterion on Keith Lowe’s book, Savage Continent – Europe in the Aftermath of World War II.

“Vengeance dominates this book. It ‘permeated everything’ writes Lowe. It was ‘a fundamental part of the bedrock upon which postwar Europe was rebuilt.’ After six years of Nazi savagery, 1945 was a time for a settling of scores. The Red Army was not alone in its ferocity. Without ever drawing facile analogies between the deeds of Germans and their collaborators and what was now being done to them, Lowe tracks the grim trajectory of revenge back and forth across the continent from the early explosions of long repressed rage – the first shootings, lynchings, and beatings – to the more systematic cruelties that followed. Lowe explains that mob law waned once incoming governments took strong enough action to persuade their citizens that the state would punish those that merited it.”


Raymond Ibrahim at meforum.org, "Greatest Church Soon To Be Mega Mosque? ".

“First, this is not about Muslims wanting to pray; it's about Muslims wanting to revel in the glory days of Islamic jihad and conquest: Muslims ‘staged the prayers ahead of celebrations next week marking the 559th anniversary of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet's conquest of Byzantine Constantinople.’ According to Salih Turhan, a spokesman quoted by Reuters, ‘As the grandchildren of Mehmet the Conqueror, seeking the re-opening Hagia Sophia as a mosque is our legitimate right.’ Sultan Mehmet was the scourge of European Christendom, whose Islamic hordes seized and ravished Constantinople, forcibly turning it Islamic. Openly idolizing him, as many Turks do, is tantamount to their saying "We are proud of our ancestors who killed and stole the lands of Christians." And yet, despite such militant overtones, Turhan, whose position is echoed by many Turks, still manages to blame the West: ‘Keeping Hagia Sophia Mosque closed is an insult to our mostly Muslim population of 75 million. It symbolizes our ill-treatment by the West.’”


Raymond Ibrahim at meforum.org, "Egypt: Islamists vs. Copts".

“Realizing that threats—with which Copts are well acquainted—would not prevent Christians from voting for the secular candidate, in a campaign that borders on the comical if not absurd, Islamists began imploring the Copts to vote for the Brotherhood's Morsi—who some say vows to return the Copts to bondage. Islamist kingpin Yusuf al-Qaradawi himself called on politically-active Muslims to go and meet with the Copts and ‘explain to them’ how they have nothing to fear from an Islamist president, and convincing them that ‘Shafiq will be of no use to you.’

Most adamant was popular TV personality Muhammad Hassan, a cleric who appeared several times assuring Copts that they have ‘nothing to fear from the application of Sharia,’ which he portrayed as the best guarantor for their safety and freedom.”


Borzou Daragahi in FT, "Tunisia must get tough with extremists after art show riots".

“A primary argument for accepting and even advocating the rise of moderate Islamists in Libya, Egypt and Syria is that only they will be able to confront the radicals in their ranks and guide them into the mainstream. In Tunisia’s case, Nahda’s political inexperience has caused it to lurch between mollifying and confronting the Salafists. The ultraconservative Islamists smashed and looted the gallery, smashed up a courthouse, attacked police stations and tried to burn down the fine arts academy. ‘Nahda are in a very difficult position,’ said Omayya Siddik, an independent political analyst in Tunis. ‘They [the party’s leaders] do not know how to create a balance between the attacks from the Salafists and the possibility of losing the religious electorate. The problem is that the protests against the art exhibit are very popular among a huge part of the public.’”


Roula Khalaf in FT, "Cairo court’s constitutional bombshell has echoes of Algeria".

“For many Egyptians – not least the Muslim Brotherhood, which won the biggest share of seats in the legislature – the decision by a court packed with appointees from the ousted political order was seen as the most damaging move in a well-planned counter-revolution, engineered by the ruling military and remnants of the old regime. Across the Arab world, it will revive memories of Algeria in 1991, when the army cancelled a second round of elections to derail a victory by an Islamist party, plunging the country into a decade-long civil war. It is perhaps too early to judge how the constitutional decision came about and the exact role played by the military but few analysts were convinced that it was not politically influenced.”


Neil Rogachevsky in Claremont Review of Books on David Goldman’s book, How Civilizations Die.

“Islam, he argues, is an ‘all or nothing’ proposition. Seemingly so strong when contained in pre-modern circumstances, Islam crumbles when it brushes up against a modern world built on a doctrine of individual rights, along with the science, technology, and globalization that this world has produced. According to Goldman, Judaism and Christianity are premised on a covenant that limits God’s power within the framework of promises He has made, leaving the individual sovereign over what God omits. Christianity render to God what is God’s and to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s. Islam, in contrast, has no concept of individual rights because this would imply a limit on Allah’s power: there is no god like Allah, no prophet like Muhammed, and thing that Allah cannot do. Late modernity is hard on religion, but at least modernity’s stress on freedom is compatible with those faiths that focus on the free individual’s relation with God.”


Carl Schuster in Strategy & Tactics, "The First Jihad: From Yarmuk to Tours, AD 636-732".

“Though Byzantine victory over the Persians came in 628, the empire’s position among the Syrian tribes and cities had been weakened by Persian occupation and the constant fighting of the previous decades. The Persians had broken the pro-Byzantine domination of the area’s Bedouin tribes in 611, and Byzantine authorities were just reestablishing their presence in Syria as Mohammed’s forces arrived. The Emperor Heraclius realized the criticality of reasserting imperial authority and presence in the area, because in 629 he became the first Byzantine emperor to visit Jerusalem, returning to it relics such as the True Cross. Heraclius recognized the need to rebuild the devastated province, but he had few resources with which to do it. To raise money he ended the subsidy payments to regional tribal leaders and instead spent it on rebuilding towns and farmlands in central Syria. He also hoped to end the empire’s religious strife, which was riven by violent divisions within the Christian faith. Unfortunately, he chose to force Orthodox doctrine onto the other Christian sects. Worse, he then exacerbated his problems by punishing the Jewish tribes who’d recently sought refuge outside Damascus after Mohammed had driven them off their lands north of Mecca. He tried to force their conversion to Christianity. Mohammed sent missionaries into Syria and initiated contact with the tribes south of Amman. In some cases he replaced the Byzantine subsidies with payments of his own.”


Tao Wang in Claremont Review of Books, "Leo Strauss in China".

“The man who first studied Strauss thought and made Chinese readers aware of its significance and relevance to China was Professor Xiaofeng Liu, an important intellectual who now teaches at Renmin University in Beijing. Born in the late 1950s, he grew up during the Cultural Revolution, and went to college in the early 1980s. Most scholars of Liu’s age were intellectually stimulated by the radical change in Chinese society over their lifetime. Although his main field is German philosophy, his interests range widely. Liu explains that his introduction to Strauss was through Heinrich Meier’s studies on Carl Schmitt. Mark Lilla wrote that he had heard from a journalist that Strauss and Schmitt are at the center of intellectual debate in China, but Liu’s account shows that this is not the case. It was from Schmitt that Liu learned of the defects in the pure formalism of liberalism and in the legal positivism of Hans Kelsen. But Liu indicates that Heinrich Meier’s brilliant books, The Lesson of Carl Schmitt (1998) and Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss (2006), exposed the theological basis of Schmitt’s thought, and revealed to Liu the profundity of Strauss’s critique of Schmitt. Through this critique, Liu began to notice Strauss’s effort to save modern rationalism from nihilism.”


Gordon Crovitz in WSJ, "Google Fights Back in China".

“Some critics in business and politics wonder why Google would challenge China, especially since Google has lost about half its market share in the country. David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, answered the question in 2010 when the company first exposed Beijing's online activities: ‘It is good for our business to push for free expression.’ China is the un-Google. It is enforcing a regulation requiring Chinese citizens who use the local equivalents of Facebook and Twitter to use their real names. This is intended to intimidate users and help domestic security forces spot troublemakers. This month, Beijing suppressed information about the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and crackdown by blocking Web searches. This went so far as to block searches for the closing price of the Shanghai Composite, the country's leading stock index, when it happened to fall 64.89 points on the anniversary date—numbers often used as code in China for June 4, 1989.”


Ian Johnson in NYT, "China Closes Window on Economic Debate, Protecting Dominance of State".

“After nearly a decade of President Hu Jintao’s focus on strengthening the state, a broad consensus of Chinese economists says the country is overdue for another big push to encourage private enterprise and to foster a shift toward a more consumer-driven economy. The challenge, they say, is turning back China’s domineering state sector. But that seems increasingly unlikely. Publicly controlled enterprises have become increasingly lucrative, generating wealth and privileges for hundreds of thousands of Communist Party members and their families. And in a clear sign of its position, the government has moved to limit public debate on economic policy, shutting out voices for change. While political reform has always been a taboo topic in China, in economics, from the late 1970s to the early 2000s, almost anything went, with powerful voices backing strong measures that challenged the status quo. But now, despite the rise of social media, fewer prominent voices within China are able to make the case for a systemic overhaul that would prepare the nation for long-term prosperity on sturdier foundations.”


Keith Bradsher in NYT, "Chinese Data Mask Depth of Slowdown, Executives Say".

“Record-setting mountains of excess coal have accumulated at the country’s biggest storage areas because power plants are burning less coal in the face of tumbling electricity demand. But local and provincial government officials have forced plant managers not to report to Beijing the full extent of the slowdown, power sector executives said. Electricity production and consumption have been considered a telltale sign of a wide variety of economic activity. They are widely viewed by foreign investors and even some Chinese officials as the gold standard for measuring what is really happening in the country’s economy, because the gathering and reporting of data in China is not considered as reliable as it is in many countries. Indeed, officials in some cities and provinces are also overstating economic output, corporate revenue, corporate profits and tax receipts, the corporate executives and economists said. The officials do so by urging businesses to keep separate sets of books, showing improving business results and tax payments that do not exist.”


Guy Gugliotta in NYT, "Discovery of a £16 Advance Sheds Light on John Cabot’s Adventures".

“Her most tantalizing assertions concerned the third voyage, in 1498, about which nothing is known. She claimed that Cabot had not disappeared. Instead, her proposal said, Cabot left Bristol with five ships carrying Italian friars, including Carbonariis, intent on establishing a mission in the North Atlantic lands that he had visited the previous year. The friars disembarked on the Newfoundland coast, Dr. Ruddock said, to build a church and establish a religious colony. This momentous new information, if true, meant that Cabot and Carbonariis had founded the first European Christian settlement in North America. And Cabot did not vanish. Instead, he sailed south along the North American coast, claiming everything he saw for the British Crown. According to Dr. Ruddock, he was the first European to see what is today the United States. Dr. Ruddock said in her outline that Cabot finally reached the coast of South America, where he ran into one of Columbus’s captains, probably Alonso de Ojeda, who warned him off.”


Martin Fackler in NYT, "A Western Outpost Shrinks on a Remote Island Now in Japanese Hands".

“Since it was settled by Mr. Savory’s American and European followers — fortune seekers, deserters, drunkards — and their Hawaiian wives, the island has been pillaged by pirates, gripped by murder and cannibalism, and tugged back and forth between Japan and the United States in their battle for supremacy in the Pacific. There was a brief revival of the island’s Western culture after World War II, when it was ruled by the United States Navy. Even the island’s V.I.P. visitor list seems outsized for a spit of land just five miles long. It includes Commodore Matthew C. Perry, who stopped here on the 1853 voyage in which he opened Japanese ports at gunpoint, and Jack London, who visited as a 17-year-old deckhand and later wrote about the Bonins. Today, the island is a sleepy place. Its rhythms are set by the arrival once every six days of the ferry that makes the 600-mile journey from Tokyo, which has administered Chichi Jima as part of what are now known as the Ogasawara Islands, after the United States returned them to Japan in 1968.”


David Pilling in FT, "Whoah there: Mongolia is not yet the next Qatar".

“Mongolia, which sits on China’s doorstep, has decades worth of coal, copper, gold, rare earths and uranium. Its president calls it a global epicentre. The best response to such euphoria is, to put it in technical terms: ‘Whoah there.’ The aspiration to turn Mongolia into a Qatar is admirable, the likelihood of it becoming Nigeria not negligible. Certainly, Mongolia’s tiny population – in an area three times that of France – should help. But think about it. A country with fragile institutions and a GDP per capita of $3,000 is about to be hosed with billions of dollars. What could possibly go wrong?”


MercoPress: "Argentina with the largest number of protectionist measures worldwide".

“According to the lastest ranking of the world’s worst by protectionist measures: Argentina leads with 191; Russia, 172; US, 106; India, 101; and China, 100. Regarding Latin America the ranking is as follows: Argentina, 191; Brazil, 86; Mexico, 23; Peru, 18; Venezuela, 11; Colombia, 7; Ecuador and Paraguay, 6 each; Uruguay, 4; Bolivia, 3; Dominican Republic, 3; Chile, 2 and Costa Riva, 1. However the Argentine Foreign Ministry argues that Argentine imports rose 30.8% last year (including 27.4% with G20 colleagues), the highest increase among G20 countries after India.”


Katia Abreu in FT, "A rancher turned power-broker".

“Having jostled up through the sleepy ranks of rural unions, she became a congresswoman in the early 2000s and then a senator in 2006 for the opposition centre-right Democrats party. ‘Brazilians tend to confuse the right with the military dictatorship,’ she comments.
Her biggest triumph, though, came in 2008 when she became the first woman to head the National Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock, the rural lobby that is the largest cross-party block in Congress and a key power broker in Ms Rousseff’s government. Ms Abreu says that she has risen ‘because I am vehement, well-prepared and articulate’. Her religious and tax-cutting political instincts are certainly robust, in the Texan manner (‘I have great faith, am very obstinate and love my work’).”


Edward Rothstein in NYT, "The Past Has a Presence Here".

“But for all that immersion in heritage (Oaxaca has even received the Unesco seal of approval as a World Heritage Site), there seems to be no temptation to glaze over the past’s harshness and imagine a pastoral harmony disrupted by colonization and only now struggling back. Leave that well-worn narrative for back home, where it has, unfortunately, become one of the embarrassments of the museum world. In the United States, in institutions ranging from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington to regional natural history museums, the real arbiters of indigenous history these days are representatives of contemporary tribes. They oversee the display of a museum’s tribal artifacts and reshape accounts of the past, in many cases relying mainly on frayed strands of traumatically disrupted oral traditions. And everything is meant to increase self-esteem with promotional banality. But here, something else happens.”


Lorrie Goldstein in Toronto Sun, "Green ‘drivel’ exposed".

“Lovelock’s invention of the electron capture detector in 1957 first enabled scientists to measure CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and other pollutants in the atmosphere, leading, in many ways, to the birth of the modern environmental movement. Having observed that global temperatures since the turn of the millennium have not gone up in the way computer-based climate models predicted, Lovelock acknowledged, ‘the problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago.’ Now, Lovelock has given a follow-up interview to the UK’s Guardian newspaper in which he delivers more bombshells sure to anger the global green movement, which for years worshipped his Gaia theory and apocalyptic predictions that billions would die from man-made climate change by the end of this century. Lovelock still believes anthropogenic global warming is occurring and that mankind must lower its greenhouse gas emissions, but says it’s now clear the doomsday predictions, including his own (and Al Gore’s) were incorrect.”


Jerusalem (2003, James Fotopoulos)

• Fri. July 13 - 7:00 pm
Museum of Arts and Design
2 Columbus Circle, New York 212-299-7777

-Director James Fotopoulos will be joined by Rebecca Cleman, the Distribution Director of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), for a pre-screening dialogue.

-Tom McCormack at Experimentalconversations.com, "Dreamful Slumbers at Microscope Gallery".

“Filmmakers like Rossellini, and like Godard himself in Breathless (1959), register their subjectivity by determining camera motion according to quotidian whims of perception. Filmmakers like Hitchcock and Lang register their subjectivity by carefully selecting elements of reality onto which they have projected it. Which kind of filmmaker is James Fotopoulos? The minimalism of many of his early films challenges, in a way similar to Godard's essay, pat distinctions between realism and expressionism. Minimalism can be an attempt to capture the world without the ostentatious adornments of popular culture; but it can also be an attempt to efface from reality all the elements the artist doesn't perceive to be an embodiment of his or her vision. The exhibition Dreamful Slumbers makes a good argument for Fotopoulos' minimalism being of the second variety. Drawing is where Fotopoulos goes to test out provisional ideas; drawing is his drawing board, as it were, and he draws from his imagination; this is where he looks, as it were.”


Richard Brody at newyorker.com, on Allen Baron’s “Blast of Silence”.

“If ‘Blast of Silence’ had come out, even in severely limited release, in an age that boasted as many perceptive, knowledgeable, and industrious critics as there are today (many of whom are working largely online) and the rapidly echoing electronic media by which their word gets out, Baron would likely have had the chance to build a body of work and to expand his artistry—and if the cinematic landscape were more like that of our time, he wouldn’t have been confined to genre productions. Between 1964 and 1982, he made three more features (none of which I’ve seen, and none of which I’ve ever noticed playing in revival). Baron is in his mid-eighties and, according to his Web site, ‘currently lives and works in Beverly Hills as a full time painter.’ I can hardly imagine, after seeing his extraordinarily imaginative first feature, the frustrations and involuted, ingrown, or just plain stifled inventions that have been working him over from within for the past half century.”


ONO living on television, "The Nick & Nora Variety Hour".


Michael Fournier at One Week // One Band, "Black Flag post #1 intro".

“With all that said, what I’m doing this week isn’t an attempt to be comprehensive or innovative. There’s so much to consider when weighing Black Flag’s career, recorded output, and legacy that certain points stick in my head. These are the points I’ll be talking about this week, accompanied by video. I’ll move in vaguely chronological order, with some discussion of the band’s first three singers, before focusing on their albums and some of the questions they raise later on in the week.”


Archie Patterson interview with Malcolm Mooney of Can at Rocksbackpagesblogs.com.


Curt Kirkwood on exiting SST.


Jake Austen in Reader, "Spoon’s Last Dance".

“Histories of urban entertainment and nightlife usually focus on nightclubs and theaters, but for most of the 20th century, the hottest happenings were often independently promoted and under the radar, organized by groups of a handful to a few dozen people—in Chicago their delightfully creative collective names have included the Green Donkeys, the Gents Optimistic, the Foxy Mannequins, Les Sophisticates Modernistics, the Fraters of Eureka, the Sapphire Ladies, the Silent Twelve, the Dress Horsemen, the Monarch-etts, and the Space Queens. The bigger clubs regularly drew up to 1,000 guests to the Parkway and Savoy ballrooms in Bronzeville, the Keymen's Club on the west side, the Greenville Mississippi Club on 119th, and the Grand Ballroom near 63rd and Cottage Grove. But except in black-press society columns (including Doug Akins's ‘The Club Set’ which ran from 1966 to '75 in the Chicago Defender), you'd be hard pressed to find reviews or other documentation of the performances that brought all those people out—some of the best shows in Chicago history.”


Old Milwaukee bands


“I’ll Go Crazy” (1980)

“My Girlfriend’s Ghost” (1981)


“Baby Let’s French” (1978)

“Drop the Bomb”, “It’s Hard to Smile When You’re Lying Face Down on the Floor” (1978/1981)


The Nig-Heist live in Richmond, Va. Apr. 9, 1984 (rated more or less ‘X’ here and there)


"The Stains Pt. II" by Jimmy Alvarado in Razorcake.

“Jesse: Black Flag never got to play that night ’cause those fuckin’ assholes literally drove a car through the wall. I saw this sea of people coming in and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, what the fuck?’ Fuckin’ riot and I’m kicking people in the face and people are throwing stuff at me. The punk gigs back then were very, very violent.”


Jim Carlton in WSJ, "Reckless Riders Spur Backlash".

“Cyclists in recent years have demanded, and received, more bicycle lanes – 25 miles of them in the past five years, some of them recently painted bright green – throughout San Francisco to require motorists to yield to cyclists. But some motorists and residents have begun to bristle at giving up street space to bicyclists. And there has been a growing outcry among pedestrians about bicyclists who ignore stop signs, stop lights and flout other traffic laws. In recent years, the San Francisco Police Department has begun ticketing bicyclists more. That enforcement, in turn, has caused complaints from some cyclists who claim police harassment. The bicycle backlash has come to a head after a series of pedestrian deaths in the San Francisco Bay area.”


Joe Barrett in WSJ, "A Winter Sport Is Flourishing This Summer on Minnesota Lakes".

“In the 1970s, some snowmobilers decided to try running their machines on lakes in the summer—and compete for bragging rights to see how far they could go. In the first competitions, drivers tried to go straight across a lake or river, but as drivers tinkered with their machines and improved their riding technique, things progressed. ‘The lake's only so long, so now you've got to try and turn and make an oval,’ said Mark Maki, 50, a pioneer in the sport, who won the first World Watercross Championship in Grantsburg, Wis., in July 1977. His winning distance: about 1,400 feet, just over half a lap. Today, good riders can stay on top of the water until they run out of gas. And they now compete in straight-line drags or on an oval course, reaching speeds as high as 75 mph, on sleds that are only slightly modified for racing. There are separate circuits in the Midwest, Northeast, Canada and Europe, with big events drawing tens of thousands of fans.”


Tim Rohan in NYT, "Teenage Prospect Goes From Big Sky to Big Skyline"

"Sitting in the visitors’ dugout, Nimmo flashed a grin as he recalled his first 10 minutes walking around Manhattan after moving to New York. He had been waiting for a stoplight to change when a couple started yelling at one another; everyone else acted as if they had not seen anything, Nimmo said incredulously. 'Everything — everything is new about it,' he said of this world, the Manhattan skyline visible in the distance. His parents were not ones to argue with each other. His father, Ron, is an accountant who grew up on a ranch in La Junta, Colo.; his mother, Patti, is a homemaker. The Nimmos took their children to church once a week and taught them humility and respect; that was just how it was out West, Ron Nimmo said. Ron’s father worked as a locomotive conductor and broke wild horses in his spare time. Ron Nimmo learned to hold on tight when his father sat him on an untamed horse and refused to catch him if he was bucked off. For much of his youth, Ron rode bulls at rodeos. So did his oldest son, Bryce, who is eight years older than Brandon. But in a family raised on bulls, perhaps no one loved bull riding more than 7-year-old Brandon. His bedroom walls were decorated with posters of his favorite bulls, Bodacious, Mister T and Red Rock, each with his own signature face-flattening routine."


Ben Ratliff in NYT, "Grazing in the Stacks of Academe":

"A lot of libraries smell nice, but the smell of the Butler stacks is a song of organic matter, changing as temperatures do through the reaches of a pond. Get yourself near Goffredo Casalis’s life’s work on the duchy of Savoy, the Dizionario Geografico-Storico-Statistico-Commerciale, published in 27 volumes from 1833 to 1854, and breathe in. A fantastic, pre-acidic-paper smell: burned caramel, basically. Nobody there but you. There are 15 floors of stacks with 64 rows of books per floor, running about 25 feet each; 6 or 7 shelves in each row. Can you actually browse there, find books on your own, faced with the dark phalanxes? You can, once you get subject areas in your head. Having made enough spot searches, you grasp the logic of each floor. There are no signs to help you, only diagrams with codes and numbers. You can also create luck in any given spot: You turn your head to the opposing row of books. A different subject area can arise, perhaps only partly to do with your areas of interest. This is non-link-based browsing. You can discover, instead of being endlessly sought. I’ve already gone back this year: Above 90 degrees was my cue."


Obituaries of the Month

Tim Mooney (1959-2012)

Jack Rabid: “The cause of death was undisclosed (update: I’ve seen a report that the family now states: ‘We have received the results of the autopsy and the official cause of death was a blood clot, but they also discovered that he suffered a small heart attack recently, that we were oblivious to’); his age was 53; other details are still as yet unreported; but this much is true: He was a nice man, who was very patient with my endlessly peppering him with questions about his days (and recordings) in The Sleepers (1978-1981), one of the truly remarkable punk and post-punk era late ’70s/early ’80s bands of all time, as well as his association with the also incredible same-era bands Negative Trend and Toiling Midgets. Still going strong the following three decades, he added his signature mood parts and creative rhythms for AMC on a host of sensational albums. And Red House Painters fans also were familiar with his playing from his work last decade on both a Mark Kozelek solo record and a Sun Kil Moon album.”


Judy Agnew (1921-2012)

"As the nation’s second lady, Mrs. Agnew, a former PTA president and an assistant Girl Scout leader, continued to cook kettles of spaghetti, buy her clothes off the rack, pack her husband’s bag and do needlepoint, just as she had previously done in Annapolis when her husband was governor of Maryland. She was fluent in the language of the 'silent majority,' the bloc of middle-class, mostly conservative, mostly white voters whom Nixon courted. When a reporter asked what she was up to, she said in an accent she called Baltimorese, 'I’ve been trying to keep the ashtrays clean.' 'I don’t take stands on anything,' she said in an interview with Parade magazine in 1970... She did have opinions, however, and they occasionally slipped out. She rejected feminism as 'silly,' saying she was already liberated. She told The New York Times that she had 'no use' for hippies, 'although I don’t know any, really.' ... Mrs. Agnew told McCall’s magazine that she learned to shrug off criticism of her husband, lest she 'be upset every day of the week.' McCall’s reported that it did not faze her when a feminist wrote to tell her that she had 'set Women’s Lib back a hundred years.'"


Thanks to Dave Lang, Tim Broun, Andy Schwartz, Ray Farrell, Steve Beeho.

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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne (1942 - 2010)
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