a new low in topical enlightenment

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Issue #149 (December 1, 2016)

East Mid-town

Photo by Joe Carducci

Know It Alls vs. Know Nothings
Joe Carducci

I was going to call this, “What We’ve Learned,” listing what ought to have been learned, if not in Iraq then certainly in Egypt once the military recouped power after two years of the Muslim Brotherhood’s democratically elected pogromchik – Coptic citizens standing in for the long expelled Jews of Egypt. The West’s official protest for the vanquishing of democracy in Egypt barely rated a half-hearted whimper. The evidence of learning was clear if unspoken: Muslim societies are best governed by dictators. This is unspoken because the West continues attacking the Syrian regime though now its unsure it wants Bashar Assad to actually fall! But the geopolitical machinery once set in motion grinds on, the pride of the Know-It-Alls of the U.S. and E.U. deeply invested in the idea of his fall, or in denying Putin his broken clock’s credit in being correct in this instance.

Likewise now in Turkey: Which western states, or eastern ones for that matter, are really pleased that the military coup against freely elected President Erdogan failed? And further I was going to go back and tick off what-all therefore need be reconsidered: Bush I’s Gulf War where he organized a UN-full of allstar coat-holders (including Assad’s father), and even Jimmy Carter’s shove to the Shah of Iran in light of the Shiite furies thereby unleashed which triggered the battle of Mecca and the Iran-Iraq War and the usual Lebanon crises. But when the Democrats in full conviction that the Iraq War was the worst catastrophe of all time can proceed nonetheless as they have in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen… one wonders whether the only issue for the centrists of each party is who directs the catastrophes.

The point to underline might be how our political discourse, run between two necessarily compromised political parties, and overseen by a willfully compromised news media directed by the leading cement-heads of institutions which believe themselves political players (New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, and assorted Academia nuts), enables us to avoid learning much of anything. The reading-writing-talking class’ obsessive concern with the maintenance of a linguistic etiquette that handily bakes in their own proposed solutions, succeeds mostly in chasing more and more of the electorate outside of shrinking polite society. Their reflexive inflation of their opinions to profound objections is just the collegiate set seeking to enforce working class silence. To the sophomore what needs to be true is true; its a simple matter of lingo mastery to make it so. In fact, polite society can’t account for America’s improved race relations so its burns much energy pretending things have gotten worse.

Real existing racial accommodation occurred here on the factory floors, in the military, in sports and popular culture and had nothing to do with politesse. I have a 96-year old aunt who grew up on the northwest side of Chicago in the 1920s and ’30s, had ten kids whose youngest daughter divorced a jerk and then married a black guy they liked and had three grandkids they love. Talking about life in Chicago, certainly the capital of working class America not to mention capital of black America, she put it succinctly: “Nigger, kike, polack, dago, kraut… that’s just how we talked.” My cousins were older than me so we learned things over at her house like how to ride bikes or how to have a firecracker war. It was where I first heard the word “nigger” and having no idea what it meant I went with my onomatopoetic sense that it must be something like a booger. My uncle like any Chicagoan threw the aspersions around because he was seeing and dealing with all kinds of people in the city; in fact he had played professional basketball with black guys in the pre-NBA leagues. The point is all of this tribal roughhousing within a dynamic economic culture changed Americans. And Europe is currently failing to accomplish racial or ethnic accommodation with merely more rules, regulations and etiquette – more lying etiquette! Sweden could once lecture us about race relations because they had zero racial incidents, now Swedes may come to accept Polish plumbers only because Muslim immigrants are such unmitigated trouble. And within Swedish society it is the working class who must deal with these immigrants while an elite ushers more and more into the country to the huzzahs of Davos, the E.U., and the U.N.

  We forget that the case for the Iraq War was pretty convincing: chronic middle east bloodshed would become nuclear at some point; before that why not collar those nations with democracy where the citizens might restrain future strongmen with delusions of anything but constituency service. In this regard I remember either Vice President Cheney or Bill Kristol saying at one point that Iraq was about Egypt, Cairo being the capital of Arab culture. So finally Egypt does democratize – the perfect called bankshot. The western newsmedia finds images of the uprising which pop, say the young Egyptian woman shot by David Degner, call her Marianne-of-the-sunroof, holding the Egyptian flag high, which “translate” the inscrutable hieroglyphic Egyptian action into mediated terms. More recently European news reports of thousands of young male refugees setting out to cross the Mediterranean Sea are sweetened with images of the anomalous children or young women somehow found amongst the testosterone-fueled horde. Newsmedia photo editors are highly skilled, but at what?

Linguists and lawyers labor to enable our new administrative class. They are lead by an Ivy League cabal of the credentialed, to rule for the people in our name but unencumbered by tallies of the votes of the great unwashed. The smartest of them clamber up into niches from which they merely criticize the productive sector or the people and their wayward political and cultural choices – good gig! Our political season is administered and interpreted by some permanent interests and they smell like the insiders who bullied the British but also fell short in the Brexit referendum. It’s important to remember that our constitutional democratic republic is not designed to guarantee that children live better than their parents, or that everyone goes to college, or even that the government work hard for world peace. The founding fathers designed the mechanisms of the state to keep it busy against itself so that short-term manias are slowed and cooled and freedom is safeguarded from the state itself. What any individual does with that freedom – smoking, drinking, gambling, reading, working, shirking, spending, investing, saving… – is beside the constitution’s point. If the Federalists and anti-Federalists alike were naïve it wasn’t about the eternal dangers from the state but perhaps about the durability of the common Christian folk culture of that day that might be the necessary precondition for any freedom to work best. Their Christianity was Protestant, and they were very suspicious of Catholicism. The Irish, Polish, Italians, and Bavarian Germans who came over in waves after the 1830s were a big test of the American premise. Certainly at first the Catholic immigrants retarded race relations in 19th century America. In an established Eastern city such as Boston such immigrants were allowed to replicate more of their old world patterns than they were in the roiling new industrial towns from Pittsburgh to Chicago. These became the cities which forged a Catholic variant of American citizenry, but the jury was out until WWII or so.

Catholics joined unions and were part of the New Deal coalition but they remained otherwise conservative, trusting moral and cultural precedent. Black Americans were mostly Baptists, Methodists, or Pentecostals, and had been Republicans until the New Deal made them Democrats, but they too remained conservative and religious. Catholics as a group track pretty well with the swing-voter or Reagan Democrats. Unions typically become parochial interest groups rather than vanguards of social change. Apartheid in South Africa evolved from trade union socialism in order to protect white workers and pay scale from black, largely migrant labor. Capital was tempted to employ black non-union labor so the unions closed up shop to them. Similar forces yielded less draconian outcomes here in part due to our decentralized, federal structure. Capital was free to employ anyone here and growth and American geography made it work. Capital and economic growth pulled blacks north and immigrants over here until the multicultural imperatives of the new class debuted with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Factories no longer forged American citizens out of foreigners; now its up to the popular culture to do it, and in opposition to a counseling bureacracy who sell the immigrants on their right to be wards of the state and advise them, “Never change,” since America is now a mosaic, not a melting pot.

The administrative class took shape here with each war-time centralization of power, from the Civil War, through the Spanish-American War and WWI. The New Deal put it in the driver’s seat and the WWII mobilization and the Cold War locked it in place. WWII had leveled the production capacity of the industrial world except for the United States. It should be no surprise that the Obama administration found many new wars to its liking – the center-left has profited from every war’s further eroding of the constitutional check on our state. America could usually outbid Russia for overseas Cold War allegiances. Ultimately the currency paid to our allies was easier access to the American market. Even nominally free trade must be administered after all, and fees and tariffs charged, regulations enforced. Those who made these trade agreements for America consigned whole regional industries to the scrapheap of American history: textiles, garments, steel…, to fend off Communism in Central and South America, Northeast and Southeast Asia, Western Europe, the Middle East…. Americans got cheaper products but had to pay for them from a store of inherited wealth as the job base withered. In the Soviet Union the lives of Russians were cheered by sudden access to Cuban sugar, Nicaraguan bananas and Ethiopian coffee but their empire was being fully impoverished as they spent first the Tsar’s money, then the Church’s money, then their war booty, whereas our alliances were enriching this nation, but also hollowing out the working class. Aside from the elite, only the public sector seemed to thrive; perhaps embarrassed they began to make even more extravagant claims their work, as if should the Republicans eliminate the Departments of Education, Energy, and Commerce, we would no longer have education, gasoline, or business of any sort.

American decadence probably began with Ralph Nader’s campaign against GM’s Corvair. Detroit made plenty of small gas-efficient vehicles before the lawyer-driven liability revolution made it unwise to continue. Then just as the baby boom’s daughters began to go to college or work they found only Japanese imports fit their needs. As a salve to geopolitical free-riding the manufacturing of foreign cars began to be relocated here from Japan and West Germany in the 1980s but mostly in southern states to avoid the union costs and restrictions of the industrial midwest. The American manufacturers had to right-size or die under this pressure. Michael Moore made fun of GM in his “Roger and Me” doc but CEO Roger Smith was actually his kind of guy, running GM for its administrators, its workforce and salesforce, at least in the short term as the unwieldy behemoth tipped into a death spiral that Ross Perot made his name by calling out. Smith’s successor was hardly the Chainsaw Al required but the U.S. government stepped in and prevented the marketplace punishment that would have right-sized the American auto industry naturally. Chrysler was also bailed out, and so the one healthy American manufacturer, Ford, was effectively punished via the propping up its incompetent competitors. The WWII bubble burst.

This crux, where an increasingly pretentious state meets and directs private corporations, is essentially fascism. The state no longer nationalizes production outright but seeks to steer corporations, while leaving any liability in place for old time’s sake. Further we can see the state’s drive to tax, regulate, and direct a corporation’s existence to the point at which it begins to require state subsidy to survive. The state does recognize a single salutary societal role for an enterprise, as employer. This is perfect socialist stasis from the new class’ perspective – a vampire feeding on a zombie. Only competition from beyond the borders monkey-wrenches a perfect closed system. Globalization seems to the center-left the true test of seriousness and an excuse to cash in, but it means something different to the E.U. project than it does to us. And now if the Clintons are out of the way the Democratic Party looks set to re-McGovernize. It seemed odd to me that the party with 17 candidates for the nomination was considered broken and the party that allowed the Clintons to wire up a coronation was healthy. At least until the day after.

  We don’t let police departments determine how they will police us, but cops are the only public sector employees who aren’t granted a dispensation for self-aggrandizement. Most government agencies now write laws which aren’t passed by any legislature of representatives of the people, and the Supreme Court sleeps. But the new class mistrusts and disrespects the police as members of the working class; with this affectation the new class defines itself. They see themselves well above the working class in sensibility though they do not consider themselves middle class. Marx at his most rigorous allowed that classes could only pursue their own interests; the industrial proletariat was the new class then. Marxism leaves the intelligentsia, no less the active revolutionaries as pursuing what, for whom? Hannah Arendt conflated them in retrospect as a new leisure-class! Lenin, being impatient, had decided that this perverse, pretentious leisure-class of busybodies had to assert a vanguard position to lead the dim-bulb working class to its fated socialist paradise. This vanguardism is the malady our Know It Alls still suffer. But Marx’s economics was socialism’s Gordian knot preventing a real world application. Remember, Marx’s Economics had Capitalism doing all the heavy lifting dirty work mulching ancient feudal patterns, leaving Socialism to show up after the fact in a white hat. Lenin and Stalin sniffed out that all that mulching was the fun part of historical materialism. Marx tried to ground an earlier naïve back-to-nature Socialism in economics, a science rather than wishful thinking.

Today race and occasionally gender are the Left’s skeleton key to open and recode America’s black box, its constitution. All recent permutations of post-Marxism, call it Late Socialism, were hard to trace and keep in mind until pre-modern, tribal, biological man showed up again in the form of Islam in the west. There is nothing like Know Nothings-of-color to really knock Know It Alls-of-pallor for a loop. The 9-11 attacks made me think three things: one, that the government would have to get out of some of its oversight responsibilities so as to do a much better job at minute-by-minute security around airports and borders; two, conservatives would be reminded how okay they were with much of the liberalized sexual and cultural patterns in the west as they contemplated the demands of Islam, and three better to build along the ground like the Pentagon than to build straight up. But for Know It Alls multiculturalism would easily trump feminism or liberalism in their world of politics. It seems long ago indeed when the Muslim nations joined with the Vatican and assorted fundamentalist Protestant faiths to stop a U.N. abortion rights push at a 1994 world population conference in Cairo.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries Industry needed workers and the American state wanted settlers. The high, even double-digit growth rates required large-scale immigration and internal migration from farms to cities. But at each correction the government increasingly made the mistake of trying to do something about economics. Today “centrist” economists ready us for low growth yet they and their party seek more immigration, even that which eludes their administrative law. Cui bono, Native Americans? Blacks? Hispanic Americans? Mexicans themselves are a special case and they look a pretty good deal for America next to the Muslims where even the first generation American-born come with a culture that provides an auto-destruct button that is the accepted way for wayward young men and women sinning in the west to get right with Allah in a flash. Know It Alls point to such Muslims’ very American births so as to count these bloody acts of terrorism as good old American violence rather than Islamic terrorism. The Know It Alls posit that returning illegals or “dreamers” to Mexico might be some kind of fate worse than death. If that is so and the border must be open than they are one half-step from arguing for the annexation of Mexico, rather than any kind of Reconquista, as La Raza comprendoes it anyway. Nafta my ass, Washington D.C. could hit the real staffing-up bonanza to administer the Estados Unidos Mexicanos, I dare say.

The Know Nothings accept tradition and American reality as their families have known it. They do not understand the Know It Alls but they do know bullshit when they smell it. The race-mongering of the Know It Alls has in mind a numbers game that tells them they will subdue the Know Nothings once and for all when they can deliver the future to a majority of color. If this occurs under a Republican his regime will be referred to as a white minority government, an illegitimate occupation, even if Mexican-Americans end up joining their fellow Catholics as swing voters. The Know It Alls deny American exceptionalism or the country’s special providence or unique history. They behave as vicarious ex-pats in their identification with European elites who seek to offload the historical crimes of the white race onto America. The same America whose revolution succeeded where European revolutions failed. The U.S. remains in the dock for slavery, rather than the European powers, the Arab world, or the African tribes. European Know-it-alls are far dumber on the educated-beyond-their-intelligence scale than are American elites who do have, despite themselves, a practical American ingenuity. And European Know-Nothings are far more insular and dangerous than their American counterparts. In this country with these choices you have to go with the Know-Nothings because you just cannot grade a Know It All on a curve.

Certainly the United States owes some negotiable amount of consideration to those black Americans whose ancestors were slaves, and to Native Americans. The Know It Alls actually steal this due consideration from its rightful recipients when they act as if America owes the same programs or payouts to others of color or to genders 2 thru 5. Academia, the media, and the Democratic Party are particular offenders in this regard. Every immigrant allowed in or who steals in is a new competitor for jobs and drives wages downward. Black voting behavior suggests they have given up on the private sector and are resigned to government employment or assistance. Immigration into a low growth economy probably requires a selectivity beyond the state’s competence; the civil service can’t be fired so they don’t feel this issue themselves. As far as refugee settlement goes, one wonders why there was no talk of airlifting Christians out of Egypt or ISIS-threatened territory. The black box of the state’s immigration algorithm was surely set by Know It Alls.

The new class’ eyes are simply too big for its stomach. That’s obvious enough. But this actually profits them in the upside-down world of public sector particle physics. Our sprawling bureaucracies are rewarded with greater funding and staffing the worse job they do. Mass higher education, tilting toward scarcely useful Liberal Arts hot-house specialties as opposed to engineering and sciences, yields this Know It All pretention rather than anything remotely connected to cultural or historical wisdom. The wisdom of the elders is left for the Know Nothings to share and pass along as popular tradition. (The Kit Wilson link below, “Sentimental Nihilism and Popular Culture,” digs into this phenomenon.) College is less vocational now and the campus center of gravity is no longer found in the old noblesse oblige class or in the working class meritocrats determined to better themselves and the country. Now the center of weightlessness is found in a pretentious yet quite middle class expectation of consumer demands being serviced on a whole ’nother level.


Amity Shlaes in FT, "The Long History and Uncertain Future of Trump’s Forgotten Man".

The Forgotten Man first popped up in the 1880s, in the lectures of an egregiously popular Yale sociologist named William Graham Sumner. Sumner worried that progressive spending programmes would darken the American entrepreneurial spirit and slow economic growth. He formulated a little algebra to capture his Forgotten Man and pounded it into the brains of several generations of undergraduates: “A”, the man at the top, said Sumner, wants to help “X”, the man at the bottom, the poor man. That is fine as far as it goes. “A” may join a wealthy colleague, “B”, so they can work together. But there comes a problem, Sumner posited, when “A” and “B” coerce “C,” an innocent and anonymous third party, into co-funding their perhaps dubious project for “X”. “C”, wrote Sumner, was the Forgotten Man, the anonymous silhouette who does not happen to fall into a specific social class or interest group: “the man who pays, the man who prays, the man who is not thought of”. When the progressive Roosevelt ran for president in 1932, he put another spin on the Forgotten Man term. Then New York governor, he promised the national government would help “the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid”. That was the poor man, Sumner’s “X”. The key distinction between Sumner’s Forgotten Man and Roosevelt’s was that Sumner spoke generally and Roosevelt targeted a specific constituent for aid.


Peggy Noonan in WSJ, "How Elites Forsake Their Countrymen".

It was as good an explanation as I’d heard. But there was a fundamental problem with the decision that you can see rippling now throughout the West. Ms. Merkel had put the entire burden of a huge cultural change not on herself and those like her but on regular people who live closer to the edge, who do not have the resources to meet the burden, who have no particular protection or money or connections. Ms. Merkel, her cabinet and government, the media and cultural apparatus that lauded her decision were not in the least affected by it and likely never would be. Nothing in their lives will get worse. The challenge of integrating different cultures, negotiating daily tensions, dealing with crime and extremism and fearfulness on the street—that was put on those with comparatively little, whom I’ve called the unprotected. They were left to struggle, not gradually and over the years but suddenly and in an air of ongoing crisis that shows no signs of ending—because nobody cares about them enough to stop it. The powerful show no particular sign of worrying about any of this. When the working and middle class pushed back in shocked indignation, the people on top called them “xenophobic,” “narrow-minded,” “racist.” The detached, who made the decisions and bore none of the costs, got to be called “humanist,” “compassionate,” and “hero of human rights.”


James Payne in THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, "Government Fails, Long Live Government!".

The findings of this vast policy-evaluation industry have been rather consistently unflattering to government. Report after report has found that government programs don’t work the way they should and are riddled with inefficiencies and harmful side effects. For example, economists’ closer look at the 1930s now reveals that Roosevelt’s policies, far from fixing the economic slump, actually made it worse (Roose 1954; Anderson 1980; Best 1991; Hall and Ferguson 1998; Smiley 2003; Higgs 2006; Shlaes 2008).


Helen Andrews in THE HEDGEHOG REVIEW, "The New Ruling Class".

Meritocracy began by destroying an aristocracy; it has ended in creating a new one. Nearly every book in the American anti-meritocracy literature makes this charge, in what is usually its most empirically reinforced chapter. Statistics on the decline of social mobility are not lacking. In 1985, less than half of students at selective colleges came from families in the top income quartile; in 2010, 67 percent did. For those authors brave enough to cite Charles Murray (as Robert Putnam, for one, was not), Coming Apart documents quantitatively the growing tendency of the members of America’s cognitive elite to marry each other, live near each other in “Super Zips,” and launch their children into the same schools, and thence onto the same path to worldly success. Deresiewicz puts this betrayal of the democratic impulse neatly: “Our new multiracial, gender-neutral meritocracy has figured out a way to make itself hereditary.”


Robert Kagan in FT, "An End to the Indispensable Nation".

He aims to put America First, which means we are closer to the end of the 70-year-old US world order. Mr Trump, in this respect, is no anomaly. Pat Buchanan rode “America First” a long way against George HW Bush of  New World Order fame in 1992; and after the Iraq and Afghan wars and the financial crisis, it became a national phenomenon. Internationalists  such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio went nowhere this year; Bernie Sanders joined Mr Trump in attacking global involvement; and Hillary Clinton was hit from all sides for being too internationalist and too wedded to the idea of the US as the “indispensable nation”, the Bill Clinton phrase that encapsulated the thinking of every president from Harry Truman to George W Bush. President Barack Obama was the transitional figure away from that tradition, and Mr Trump’s election  is the decisive break. The US is, for now, out of the world order business. This does not mean a “return” to a mythical American isolationism. This powerful, commercially minded nation has never cut itself off from the rest of the world, not even in the 1930s. What it does mean is a return to national solipsism, with a much narrower definition of American interests and a reluctance to act in the world except to protect those narrow interests. To put it another way, America may once again start behaving like a normal nation. A hypercritical Europe, with its own solipsism, has often taken for granted just how abnormally unselfish American behaviour has been since the  second world war.


Nikole Hannah-Jones in NYT, "On Black America, Trump Isn’t Entirely Wrong".

Trump, in turning the usual rhetoric on its head — claiming that black people are living in inner-city hells and should therefore spurn the Democratic Party — has forced progressives, both black and white, into the uncomfortable position of arguing that things aren’t nearly as bad for black America as Trump would have us believe. In the weeks before Trump’s alleged sexual improprieties overtook everything else, writers dashed off thousands of words arguing that the “inner cities” are improving (gentrification!) and that poverty is not just in the inner city but in suburban America too, and that there are lots of middle-class black folks doing just fine, thank you. Writers pointed out that Trump was wrong when he said nearly half of inner-city black children are poor when it’s actually just one-third. If Trump had raised these statistics and said black people needed to simply work harder, these same people would be arguing that candidates needed to be talking about what they were going to do address the systemic causes of devastatingly high poverty and unemployment rates that black Americans experience. And they would have been right.


Mackenzie Eaglen in WSJ, "Cutting Troops But Letting the Civilian Army Swell".

Another round of pink slips for U.S. troops: On July 9 the Army announced that 40,000 soldiers will be cut from active duty—some involuntarily. This comes on top of the 80,000 soldiers already let go since the Iraq and Afghanistan buildup. At a time of increasing global tension, the American military is smaller than it was before 9/11 at the nadir of the Clinton “peace dividend” drawdown. Yet even as the military shrinks and readiness wanes, the Pentagon’s two civilian workforces—government employees and federal contractors—remain disproportionately large. Since defense budgets peaked in 2010, the number of civilian employees at the Pentagon has grown nearly 6% to 744,000. Similarly, the figure for civilian contractors has ballooned 20% to an estimated 730,000. Active duty military personnel, who number 1.36 million, are now outnumbered by the civilians supporting them—a historic shift.


Gabriel Schoenfeld in WSJ on Rosa Brooks’ book, "How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything".

In a world where our enemies do not belong to armies or wear uniforms—where a weapon can be a roadside bomb or a computer virus—confusion reigns. Do the laws of war apply, allowing for the liberal use of force? Or must we adhere to the laws of peacetime, which constrict the application of force within a web of legal procedures? “We don’t know,” Ms. Brooks writes, “if drone strikes are lawful wartime acts, or murders.” We don’t know “when it is acceptable for the U.S. government to lock someone up indefinitely, without charge or trial.” We don’t know “if mass government surveillance is reasonable or unjustifiable.” Thanks to the haziness of our present situation, Ms. Brooks concludes, we are losing “our collective ability to place meaningful restraints on power and violence.” Decisions taken first by George W. Bush and then by Barack Obama, she writes, “have allowed the rules and habits of wartime to pervade ordinary life.” She cites “the militarization of U.S. police forces,” evident in the proliferation of SWAT teams armed with equipment intended for war zones; the blanket of secrecy thrown over court proceedings; and intensified surveillance that can have “chilling effects” on the exercise of constitutional rights.


Kimberley Strassel in WSJ, "Justice’s Liberal Slush Fund".

It works likes this: The Justice Department prosecutes cases against supposed corporate bad actors. Those companies agree to settlements that include financial penalties. Then Justice mandates that at least some of that penalty money be paid in the form of “donations” to nonprofits that supposedly aid consumers and bolster neighborhoods. The Justice Department maintains a list of government-approved nonprofit beneficiaries. And surprise, surprise: Many of them are liberal activist groups. The National Council of La Raza. The National Urban League. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition. NeighborWorks America (which awards grants to left-leaning community organization groups, and has been compared with Acorn).


WSJ: "The Obama-Clinton Coal Bailout".

Democrats have a three-stage strategy when they want to destroy an industry: Pick a politically vulnerable target, then pile on new regulatory costs, and finally demand that taxpayers bail out the victims of the destruction. We’re now in phase three in President Obama’s war on coal, with Democrats demanding that Congress save the United Mine Workers pension fund. The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) runs a multi-employer pension plan that has struggled as coal has shrunk under Mr. Obama’s political assault and competition from natural gas. For every worker there are now 10 retirees. Liabilities have exploded as bankrupt companies have stopped paying for their workers and retirees. Benefits are underfunded by $5.6 billion, or about $600,000 per worker, and the pension plan is projected to go broke by 2025.


Photo by Joe Carducci

The Passing of a Chicago Sports Gestalt
Joe Carducci

“Chicago is a great sports town; if you could only win here.” Ben Bentley, “The Sportswriters” WFLD, 1985

  The pre-war working class style of Chicago sports yielded to television-age baby boomer fans very slowly. That makes our experience with the old venues at that late date (Comiskey Park, Wrigley Field, Chicago Stadium…) particularly rich in retrospect. The old style of sports culture as it existed back in the town’s golden age of baseball, football, boxing, and horse racing in the roaring teens and twenties hung in the air like the tobacco smoke at the Stadium come the third period or fourth quarter. Bentley himself had been a great Stadium announcer of the old laconic style in the years before the big money melodramatic presentation took hold.

  The city itself settled into a one mob, one party machine after its last Republican mayor, Big Bill Thompson, left office early in the Depression. The Black Sox who threw the series in 1919 didn’t win another pennant until 1959. Baby boom fans generally were too young to have memories of the Go Go Sox, or even the 1961 Blackhawks Stanley Cup and the Bears 1963 Championship. But those championships often triggered the interest of parents to take their kids to games thereafter, but as pre-videotape live events they barely exist in contemporary memory. It’s the notorious Cubs’ collapse in 1969 that really haunted the baby boom Cubs culture.

The 1969 Cubs were the most perfect reflection of the team’s biggest star, Ernie Banks, through his sunny “let’s play two!” twenty year career. Banks moved from the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues to the Cubs in 1953. By 1969 he was a player-coach and two years from retirement was still a kind of pied piper for the baby boom generation of fans. My dad knew an ex-Cub player named Bob Will (1957-63) and we got tickets to a Bulls game in 1969 and before the game Will and my dad were taking me and my brother Matt to the concessions when we could hear someone up ahead. It was Ernie Banks and he was strolling down the concourse announcing to one and all, “The Bulls’re gonna beat the Bullets!” The Bulls were an expansion team and not very good so the Stadium was not crowded. Will had played with Banks and they greeted each other like old friends and we got to meet Ernie Banks. Me and my brothers were allowed to take the train down to Union Station and walk the Loop blocks to catch the elevated to Wrigley Field and we got to see a great double-header against the Mets on June 11, 1967 (we won 5-3 and 18-10: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CHN/CHN196706112.shtml). My favorite Cub was Billy Williams, Matt’s was Ron Santo and Mark, just ten years old and new to going to games, unfortunately saw the young Panamanian centerfielder Adolfo Phillips hit four home-runs, three in consecutive at-bats in game 2, six total hits, 8 rbis, a stolen base and two diving catches. So naturally Mark picked Adolfo as his favorite player. He was soon traded to Montreal for Paul Popovich.

   The Blackhawks’ Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita were young when they won the 1961 Cup. The following year and in 1965 they lost in the finals, though these years are still before the memory of my contemporaries. Hull and Mikita never won another, although they had a run of great contending teams soon after being moved to the new Western Conference in 1970. They feasted on expansion teams but then couldn’t quite get it done the two times they got into the finals in 1971 and 1973, both times against the Montreal Canadiens. (Bobby Hull moved to the expansion league WHA’s Winnipeg Jets in 1972). These two Cup finals losses built on the Cubs’ futility in this period. We watched those finals home games via closed-circuit television at the Berwyn Theater. Lloyd Pettit came into his own as the voice of the Blackhawks on radio and tv but he had begun as just another WGN utility broadcaster doing baseball poorly as Jack Brickhouse’s second.

   Also in the early seventies the Bulls were suddenly a great team. They were coached by Dick Motta and featured Bob Love and Chet Walker plus guys who went on to be NBA coaches themselves: Jerry Sloan, Bob Weiss, Norm Van Lier, and Matt Goukas. But in this era the big man was dominant and team ball could not quite overcome Wilt Chamberlain or Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar). The Bulls lost valiant playoff series against Alcindor when he was with the Milwaukee Bucks or Chamberlain and later Jabbar when they centered the Los Angeles Lakers. Jack Fleming was the voice of the Bulls on radio and tv in this period. Ultimately just more gut-check Chicago sportsfan steeling. But for what?

The White Sox had some great players I remember from the mid-sixties on: Moose Skowron, Luis Aparicio, Carlos May, Bill Melton, Walter “No Neck” Williams, Hoyt Wilhelm, Tommy John, Wilbur Wood…. I remember when knuckleballer Wood was put on a half-rotation where he pitched every second game, and I remember Dick Allen hitting home-runs off of American League pitching like it was batting practice. Bill Veeck controlled the team after the last of the Comiskey heirs yielded majority share in 1958 but he lost control in 1961 before returning in 1975. Comiskey Park was a great old relic, built in 1910 and certainly salvageable but the owners never even replaced the non-box seating areas some of which didn’t even face the infield. And the team often seemed a retirement home for Yankees wash-outs in a day of less trading of players. My brothers and I went to Comiskey Park for the first time with dad and a fellow doctor and his three sons (Wayne, Dean and Keith) in 1967; they’d bought neighboring lots to build new houses in Naperville so we were soon neighbors and could get up a game of street hockey or football or baseball or basketball in an instant. We drove through the southside to get to Comiskey and I studied the black kids sitting on their stoops. It was our first night ballgame and Veeck’s exploding scoreboard was a great tacky hood ornament for the otherwise dark stately steel structure.

Perhaps the White Sox almost moved in 1970; I don’t remember that but I can believe it. Bob Elson was their radio voice from 1929 until 1970, but the Sox wanted their own television deal where they didn’t come second to the Cubs so they left WGN for WFLD and then WSNS, both UHF channels and hard to receive clearly outside the city. As a kid, though, you could tell that the crowd at Comiskey were men by the sound. The Cubs crowd was more kids and women and the day games with Jack Brickhouse on the mic just reinforced their sunny presentation. You wouldn’t know that Leo Durocher wanted to be rid of Banks. He wrote in his memoir: “He couldn’t run, he couldn't field; toward the end, he couldn’t even hit…. But I had to play him. Had to play the man or there would have been a revolution in the street.” (Nice Guys Finish Last) On the southside, after Veeck returned to Comiskey he hired Harry Caray after he was fired by the St. Louis Cardinals; with Jimmy Piersall as his color man they began the revival of the Sox.

  Regarding the Bears post-1963 Chicagoans often took comfort in the performances of singular athletes like Gale Sayers, Dick Gordon, Dick Butkus or the defense generally. I remember one stat that contributed to Chicago’s loser compensations: Circa early 1970s the Butkus defense would keep the team in almost any game, sometimes even outscoring their own offense. And the following week their opponents invariably lost their next game – a measure of how they’d been beaten up by Chicago. We didn’t go to football games generally but you always tried to watch them on television. They played at Wrigley up until they moved to Soldier Field in 1970. We did go to see two of the College Allstars games which the Bears played annually at Soldier Field for charity. Old Soldier Field had very shallow plank seating that really put you a mile away from the game; they eventually rescinded its Landmark status and built a modern stadium within the old structure which was built for track and field style competitions.

  Chicago had once been the business-culture action capital of the country and its growth in the late 19th century had been the prompt for New York’s merging with its other boroughs to maintain its pride of place as the country’s most populous city. Chicago stopped growing in the 1960s, peaking in 1970 and thereafter losing over a million people down to its current 2 million. This too colored the flavor of a disappointment on the far side of bitterness. I got back to the city from the west coast in late 1986 and went to the old derelict parks as often as I could before the Stadium and Comiskey were torn down. Wrigley survived but the Tribune Co. bought the Cubs and installed lights over much resistance. WGN AM had always been a regional clear channel station, “the farmer’s friend”, and now the World’s Greatest Newspaper made its television channel an early cable television superstation. Both of these built on the old team’s greater Chicagoland midwestern fan-base.

The city’s number one White Sox fan, Richard J. Daley, died in late 1976 and the old Chicago stasis began to shift and break apart – both its good aspects and its bad. In sports, however, this could only mean good news! The White Sox in their “Southside Lumber Company” phase hit their way into the playoffs in 1983, the Cubs did the same the next year, before the Bears, suddenly possessed by their “Monsters of the Midway” ghosts, destroyed the NFL in 1985 and won Superbowl XX. The Bulls had drafted Michael Jordan in 1984, and watching the team constructed around him come together for their 8 year run of 6 NBA Championships (1991-93, 1996-98) was a joy unknown in the city since before the 1919 Black Sox.

The Bulls’ run was Chicago’s first taste of winning expectations for one of its teams, something like exists for the Boston Celtics, New York Yankees, Montreal Canadiens, and a few others. The pressure that built from success and the perceived NBA interest in having the New York Knicks play the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals was suddenly released when Jordan decided to go play baseball for the White Sox, whose co-owner Jerry Reinsdorf also owned the Bulls. The sports press was generally derisive about this but it sounded like Jordan loved it in the minor leagues and though he probably had the largest strike zone in baseball he did finally hit well over .300 during his last month before he decided to return to the NBA. Jim Durham was the voice of the first three championships, and Neil Funk from the second run on. The refs did steal one finals from the Jordan-less Bulls but the whatif is, Could they have won eight straight with Jordan with that pressure increasing each year?

  The Cubs got back to the pennant chase but came up short in 1984 against the San Diego Padres. Me and Matt got tickets to game two and sat across the aisle from Bill Veeck in the center field bleachers; he was shirtless and with his peg-leg and eye patch he looked like a pirate and he sat with his brother Ed who looked like a healthier, complete version of Bill. (Veeck had lost control of the Sox to Eddie Einhorn and Jerry Reinsdorf in early 1981 and so wouldn’t attend Comiskey.) The Cubs won those two home games and then were stoned in San Diego three straight and Veeck had a tumor removed from his lung on the day of that last loss. In 1989 Wrigley got lights; Matt got tickets to Wrigley’s Opening Night and I got tickets to the next night’s game so when the first game got called for rain we still got to see the actual first full game. But they lost that year to the San Francisco Giants in five. They came up short again in 2003 against the Florida Marlins and reinforced talk of being cursed. We were no longer kids but Matt staying in Naperville to practice medicine so he follows the team every year and has developed anti-White Sox and anti-Cardinal prejudices which follow from that.

  Some kind of corner had been turned by the city though. The White Sox finally came through in 2005 beating the Angels and then the Houston Astros in the World Series. The way they took every advantage including notably conscience-less capitalizing on bad calls made in their favor really made Chicagoans take notice. But like the Superbowl Bears they didn’t threaten to repeat. The Bulls looked like they might return to the finals with the Derrick Rose-led teams but they plateaued without ever reaching the finals. It was the Blackhawks who built the next dynasty. They’d surprised us and made the finals in 1992 but were swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins; Matt got to use our tickets but the rest of us were in Italy visiting dad’s birthplace. The current Jonathan Toews-led team has won the Stanley Cup every other year since 2010 and may not be done; Mark has been especially excited about this and his kids are all Blackhawks fans – only one of Matt’s four kids is into sports but she has gone right past the Blackhawks-mania to know everything about the NHL. The games are called by Pat Foley who grew up listening to Lloyd Pettit with the rest of us. Matt, Mark and I managed to get into the United Center for a finals game for the first two Cups but it’s not like it would have been in the old building, torn down in 1995. But yeah, Blackhawks Nation is now as full of girls as Cubs Nation is, filling arenas with visiting team cheers to piss off the home fans.

  And now the Cubs have won the World Series. Matt and I got to game two in Cleveland and then he got into Wrigley for game 5 and back to Cleveland for game seven. I’m as interested in the parks as the teams but I’m glad I went to Cleveland and saw the Cubs in a World Series. You never know but it could happen again soon, this Cubs team is so deep. The fans around us at the game did not hang on every pitch; in fact many were gone for innings at a time at the concession stands and Matt’s crazy game seven story begs for “After Hours”-like treatment. All the creature comforts and facilities are great in these new stadiums. But if the team wasn’t winning the new owner of the Cubs, Ameritrade scion Tom Ricketts, might’ve been attacked for what’s been done to the bleachers in Wrigley Field. But maybe the younger fans have no taste for derelict early 20th century working class semi-comfort. What we do know is that Chicago isn’t the same city. Every neighborhood is gentrified and the factories are mostly gone with that third million what filled up Denver, Phoenix and points west. The voice of today’s Cubs is Len Kasper, appropriately yuppieish you’d have to say, but not bad all the same. The old Tribune hand Bernie Lincicome writes of the “special rot of winning” that must be contended with now. Kids growing up Chicagoan will now come to their sports teams with utterly different expectations and pretentions. Chicago might even be ready for reform now.

  My youngest brother, Mike, grew up stranded with five sisters separating him and his three older brothers. Our dad was from Bradford, Pa. and was a lifelong Pirates, Steelers and Pitt fan. Mike grew up with cable TV following dad’s teams plus the Penguins. How could you argue for picking Chicago teams to root for when you could follow the teams from Pittsburgh, city of champions? Well now Chicago might warrant that claim. When the 2010 Stanley Cup parade was clocked at two million, I wondered at what a Cubs championship parade might draw and figured I’d never know. Did it really draw five million? Was it really the seventh largest gathering of humanity in history? Just the claim tells you something. Ben Bentley didn’t live to see it, but his statement back in 1985 tells us he had an inkling.

(photos - Wrigley Field vidcap; Carducci kids by Filomena Carducci, left to right: Joe, Mark, Geri, Matt; 1962 Blackhawks logo; Bulls 1969 roster; Bears middle linebacker Dick Butkus; Chicago Stadium coming down 1995 by Joe Carducci; World Series game 5 scoreboard; Matt at Comiskey Park 1990 by Joe Carducci; Matt at Progressive Field, Cleveland game two)


Thomas Boswell in WASHINGTON POST, "You Knew It Couldn’t Come Easy, But the Cubs Are World Series Champions".

Because this game went beyond the baseball surreal, because it provided forgetfulness and forgiveness for several Cubs who might have been enormous goats, including reliever Aroldis Chapman and Manager Joe Maddon, it seemed to encapsulate the team’s long history of staring into the abyss. Only this time, at long last — it only took a century or so — the abyss blinked.


Christopher Borrelli in CT, "http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/columnists/ct-cubs-fans-red-sox-borrelli-spt-1024-20161023-story.html".

Should the postseason continue to pay off, however, late at night, you will be visited by the Ghost of Baseball Past: You will soar above the Wrigley Field of yesteryear. You will see, the picture is warmer and friendlier. Having not won a World Series since 1908, Wrigley Field has avoided, as Chicago writer Bill Savage noted in ESPN.com recently, a likely move to a colder, contemporary suburban field. You have not traded the charm of your cozy confines for slabs of concrete and a U.S. Cellular Field-like shopping-mall anonymity. There's soul and quirks in these Cubs, a unity forged from endurance. Your failures are still mediocre (not grandiose, like the Red Sox), your hopes are still modest, even Midwestern.


Phil Rosenthal in CT, "Jack Brickhouse, The Overlooked Voice of Cubs Optimism".

“I’ve telecast more than 4,800 Cub games,” Brickhouse told the Tribune’s David Condon when it was announced in the summer of 1981 he was passing the mic to Hamilton. “I don’t see how anyone else can ever come close. Yet after all the years, I’m more enthusiastic about baseball than as a teenager broadcasting Peoria’s Three-I League games. And I’ve never regretted the reputation of being a superfan. Occasionally, I criticize, yet basically I’m the good guy. It’s not my nature to nail people. Sure, lots of broadcasters are rough critics. They create controversy more to line their pockets than to safeguard the fans’ interests.”


Joseph Epstein in WEEKLY STANDARD, "Joy in Mudville".

Although the decades of defeat are a bit of a blur, for me they will always be characterized by a television commercial in the 1950s that invited fans to venture out to Wrigley Field as to a forest preserve, there to enjoy the sunshine, green field, and ivy-clad walls, have a hot dog and beer, and, while at it – an afterthought – see a ballgame. This was under the uninspiring ownership and management of the Cubs by the Wrigleys, the chewing-gum dynasty. A Churchillian writing a multivolume history of Cubs teams of this period might title the volume The Dismal Years. Not the least dismal thing about them was the team’s television announcer Jack Brickhouse. Brickhouse announced games from 1948 to 1981, providing 33 years of cheerful nullity…. The comedian Bill Murray, who grew up in north suburban Chicago, has recounted as a boy returning home from school, turning on the Cubs game, and listening to Brickhouse put an optimistic gloss on yet another Cubs defeaet to the accompaniment in the background of the echo of straggling fans stomping on empty paper beer cups. Sheer depression.


Andy Grimm in CST, "A Sweet Chicago Serenade".

As the poet laureate of long-frustrated Cubs fans, the late Steve Goodman surely would have been doubly thrilled that his beloved team won the World Series and that his sing-along anthem “Go Cubs Go” finally charted for the first time 32 years after he recorded it, family members say…. They sold the publishing rights this year for Goodman’s entire song catalogue, according to his daughter Rosanna Goodman. “I called it,” Goodman said by phone from her home in Austin, Texas. “We sold it, and I said, “This is the year the Cubs are going to win the World Series.” The singer himself probably never would have made such a bold prediction, according to his widow, Nancy Goodman Tenney…. She said that, although Goodman elaborately outlined his ideal burial in the lyrics for “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request,” he never told his family what to do if the Cubs actually ever won the World Series….


Canadian television doc, "King of the Hill" follows Ferguson Jenkins and the Cubs through 1972-73 seasons.


"Phil Georgeff" (1931-2016)

At the outset of his career, Georgeff coined the phrase "And here they come spinning out of the turn …" to enable TV sports announcers to segue into race footage and it became his trademark. After sending the horses "spinning out of the turn" for the last time, Georgeff and his wife, Bobbi, moved from Villa Park to Fairhope, a small community on the east coast of Mobile Bay. "My father was excited about watching all the Cubs' games in the playoffs and World Series (on TV)," said Scot, who lives in Oswego with his wife, Cari. "He and my mother stayed up late to watch the seventh game." Indicative of the esteem in which he was held was the furor that followed his firing by one-time Arlington President John Mooney on a Saturday afternoon in August 1982, eight days before the Arlington Million. Mooney, who was in his first year at the track then owned by Gulf & Western, wanted Georgeff to tone down his calls — "save the excitement for the feature race" — and quit using "spinning out of the turn."

Snowy Range

Photo by Joe Carducci

From the London Desk of Steve Beeho...

John Gray in the NEW STATESMAN on "The Closing of the Liberal Mind".

Any suggestion that liberal values are not humanly universal will provoke spasms of righteous indignation. Liberals cannot help believing that all human beings secretly yearn to become as they imagine themselves to be. But this is faith, not fact. The belief that liberal values are universally revered is not founded in empirical observation. They are far from secure even in parts of continental Europe where they were seen as unshakeable only a few years ago. In much of the world they are barely recognised.


Christopher Bray in the SPECTATOR on "Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School".
The Frankfurters could find fascism everywhere. Adorno, a gifted pianist and music critic, saw in his one-time hero Stravinsky’s abandonment of modernist experiment for neo-classicist tonalism what Jeffries calls ‘the arbitrary control of a Führer’. Later in life, says Jeffries, Adorno would claim that an orchestra conductor was ‘the musical equivalent of [an] authoritarian dictator’. As for American mass culture — movies, TV, jazz — that was pure aesthetic tyranny, a put-up job foisted on the masses to prevent them from listening to the late Beethoven that would foment revolution.


"Grey, grim and glorious" - Alexis Petridis in the GUARDIAN on "I’m a Freak Baby: A Journey Through the British Heavy Psych and Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-1972".

The sleeve notes are packed with horrified reviews from the contemporary music press: “essentially joyless”, “sordid, squalid … the bottom of the bin”, “from the first note, you know you don’t want to hear any more”. [...] A few years later, the predominant style found on I’m a Freak Baby would be streamlined, warped and codified into heavy metal. Others would find their influence erupting elsewhere. In north London, a Pink Fairies fan called John Lydon was clearly paying close attention to the band’s anthem Do It. But these bands’ real spiritual successors would emerge much later, on the other side of the Atlantic. If someone told you that Jerusalem’s Primitive Man or Little Free Rock’s Dream had actually been released not in 1972 or 1969 but on Sub Pop, around the time of Nirvana’s debut album, you wouldn’t bat an eyelid.


Julie Burchill in the NEW STATESMAN on how Marina Abramovic has turned attention-seeking into a modern art form.

Abramovic, however, was the child of Party elite whose abode was “like an apartment building in Paris . . . a whole floor, eight rooms for four people”, about which she was rightly upset when she discovered that it had been seized from a Jewish family by Nazi occupiers during the war. In the same breath, she criticises her mum’s taste in art: “Later I also realised the paintings my mother put in our apartment were not very good.” It’s hard to say which offends her the most.


Josh Gray at thequietus.com hails Brant Bjork's indelible contribution to Kyuss' “Wretch”.

The best thing about listening back to Wretch is hearing Brant invent his signature sound between takes, glancing only occasionally in his wing mirror to watch the band’s early Black Flag pretensions recede into the distance. [...] The premise for Brant’s soon-to-be perfected technique is simple: build a wash of cymbal sound, vary it up enough dynamically to cast the illusion of a never-ending crescendo, but keep it stable enough to function as a sonic highway that the accompanying tussling bass/guitar juggernaut can safely helter down the middle of.


Loring Kemp at coverourtracks.com on Peter Fischli's sleeve designs for LiliPUT.
For 1979's "You", Fischli opted to design a simple proto Pac-Man graphic, which would become an unofficial logo for the band - appearing on buttons, promo photos and later in another form on the Mississippi Records 4-LP vinyl release.  If you look closely at some of the creatures Fischli fashioned for the floral collage on 1983's "You Did It", you can see the open-mouthed motif again.  Although the designs for each Fischli single were unique in approach, all reflect the exuberant spirit of LiliPUT's clamorous brand of punk.


Pete Stennett interviewed at musiclikedirt.com about the history of the Small Wonder Records shop and label: Part I. Part II.


Simon Reynolds at PITCHFORK on "Metal Box".

If you do doggedly listen to Metal Box in accordance with its given running order, what comes across strongly now is its sheer accumulative power as an album. That in turn accentuates the feeling that this is a record that can be understood fairly easily by a fan of, say, Led Zeppelin. It works on the same terms as Zoso:  a thematically coherent suite of physically imposing rhythm, virtuoso guitar violence, and impassioned singing. Lydon would soon enough ‘fess up to his latent rockism on 1986’s hard-riffing Album (also reissued as a deluxe box set at this time) on which he collaborated with Old Wave musos like ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker. That incarnation of PiL even performed Zep’s “Kashmir” in concert.


Tony Rettman interviews Alan Jones at greenroom-radio.com about witnessing the birth of the Sex Pistols and later contributing to Stefan Jaworzyn's immortal Shock Xpress.

One day, there were a group of guys hanging around in the shop and the next day they were on stage at a pub called The Nashville doing one of their very first gigs and we’re looking at them going “Oh, this is now something that’s happened!” I can remember that first Sex Pistols gig like it was yesterday. It was so unlike anything anyone had ever seen. They were talking to the audience from the stage and waving at us. It was just great. They might have been musically undeveloped, but you could see it was going to go somewhere.


"Partying with the Germs and drinking with X" - Steve Samiof and Melanie Nissen on Slash magazine in LAT.

The concept for the loud-mouthed, photo-driven newsprint magazine — whose name was inspired by British slang for urination — was put together over just a few weeks in spring 1977. Its layouts were improvised and its drippy logo was sketched out on a paper bag in 30 minutes. Yet, almost instantly, it became the  bible of L.A.’s early punk scene, documenting now-legendary musical acts while they were still in their infancy. (The Screamers, in fact, held their debut performance at Samiof’s Pico Boulevard studio.)


Dave Hyde  interviews Grace Ambrose and Shivaun Watchorn at terminal-boredom.com about the MRR archive project.

Tim Yohannan was a record collector. Records were the most important thing in the world to him. That’s why we have 48,000 punk records instead of 48,000 tapes. Manic Hispanic put out a record that he loved, but only on CD. He wanted to own a vinyl copy of it so he paid for a short run of records. Undoubtedly, part of the reason Tim did the magazine was to get free records. He would say that himself!


Charlie Gates in the PRESS on The Fall's memorable 1982 tour of New Zealand.

When Marc Riley arrived in New Zealand at Christchurch Airport on August 17, 1982, The Press was there to capture the moment.The photograph of the 21-year-old guitarist from The Fall came to represent the cult British band's brief, but influential tour of New Zealand. The photograph appeared on the front page of The Press newspaper the next day under the headline "Happy Fall Guitarist" and also featured on the cover of Fall in a Hole, the live album that captured the band performing in Auckland. But, the chirpy looking photograph and headline masked tensions within the band. Riley had been in a punch up with the band's singer, Mark E Smith, just weeks earlier and was exhausted after a nearly-month long tour of Australia. The front page photograph only made tensions worse and its appearance over a year later on the live album cover made Smith angry all over again, even though by then Riley had been booted from the band.


Brad Cohan at observer.com, The Time Mike Watt, Dave Grohl and Eddie Vedder Jammed Econo

How did you feel about going solo after all those years of being in a band with Minutemen and fIREHOSE?

  Scared. Pretty pants-shitter. No Ed fROMOHIO to hide behind, no D. Boon, no Georgie. Georgie, 14 years! But especially D. Boon and Edward. Both Edward and D. Boon played like, “This might be the last gig.” Those guys, total hard chargers. You could not be afraid playin’ a gig with Ed fROMOHIO or D. Boon or Ig. They are just such strong cats. And now…I’d never even stood in the middle before! The whole thing was a total pants-shitter! But I had to man up and grow a pair, as they say. In some ways, it doesn’t look like nostalgia but a chapter in my music thing.

"The Ford Brothers – Together Again"

  Joe Carducci is at The Metrograph on the lower east side of Manhattan on Saturday Dec. 10 introducing two Francis Ford silent films and two John Ford feature films, followed by a Q&A with noted film writer Nick Pinkerton about Carducci’s new film book, Stone Male-Requiem for The Living Picture.

  Saturday, Dec. 10 2:00 pm The Invaders (1912) / The Quiet Man (1952) 4:45 pm The Bandit’s Wager (1916) / The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

(The Quiet Man, left-to-right: Francis Ford, John Wayne, Victor McLaglen, John Ford, front: Barry Fitzgerald.)


Francis Ford began making movies in 1908 in New York and New Jersey, moved to San Antonio to make better Westerns in 1910 and finally to Southern California in 1911 where he came into his own as an early motion picture director-star. This link to The Metrograph’s in-house publication, issue No. 5, is to an excerpt from Francis Ford’s unpublished memoir about the early years of filmmaking, " Up and Down the Ladder" (1933) a copy of which can be found at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library.

I can not help but recall an incident that happened in my home town when my dad took his brother to see me on the screen. It was a serial and one of the first pictures my uncle had ever been induced to witness. They sat through the picture and when I was being beaten up by a gang of rough necks it was as much as my dad could do to keep Uncle John from rising from his seat and doing damage to the manager for allowing what he called in an Irish brogue a dammed unfair brawl. He was finally restrained from doing harm, but when the performance was over and my dad started to go, he still remained seated. When my dad asked him what he was waiting for he indignantly said: “Well, you’re a hell of a father. Ain’t you going to stay and see your boy after the wonderful fight he put up?” It was almost impossible to convince him that I was miles away in California working, and what he saw was just a moving picture. It was hard for him to believe that I was not there.

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

Barry Perryman in RANGE, "Time Travel".
Range and livestock-grazing research have been hit particularly hard. I believe that this trend needs to be reversed. Applied, mission-oriented research in agriculture and natural resources that solves local and regional problems is critically important to citizens in both rural and urban areas of the West. We need to move back to a system that works toward the original charter of land-grant universities and agriculture experiment stations. And it doesn’t help when land-grant university presidents make statements like, “This is not a land-grant university, ; it is a liberal arts university with land-grant responsibilities.”


Neil Steinberg in CST, "12 Months of Farming, How It Used to Look".

The Chicago region has been a center for farm machinery since 1847, when Cyrus McCormick moved his famed Reaper Works from New York to be closer to his farmer customers, settling on a spot just east of where the Michigan Avenue Bridge is today. As Chicago grew, farm machinery manufacturing moved even closer to the fields, and the Quad Cities — Rock Island, Moline, East Moline and Davenport, Iowa — became “to tractors and combines what Pittsburgh was for steel and Detroit to the automobile,” according to the New York Times…. They drove 1,500 miles photographing tractors and talking to their owners, which turned into the best part of the trip, stopping at places like Van Petten, Illinois, population 2. “That’s something we noticed,” said Blomquist. “It wasn’t just about tractors. We really liked the old farmers. Really nice people, despite the fact that all of them are Trump fans. They are so much more relaxed than we are. Very laid back and soothing talking about the tractors they’re passionate about.”


Andrew Higgins in NYT, "Russia’s Acres, if Not Its Locals, Beckon Chinese Farmers".

Locals, she said, “have much to learn from Chinese peasants.” She said there were no real figures for the number of Chinese working in the area as full-time hired hands for Russian landowners, seasonal laborers or as farmers on land they lease for themselves. But, Ms. Voron added, one thing was abundantly clear in a region that was originally set up by Stalin in the 1930s as a would-be Jewish homeland: “There are definitely many more Chinese here than Jews.” With a Russian population of just 1,716 people, Ms. Voron’s district has only two Jewish families left — all the others moved to Israel or elsewhere — but it has hundreds of Chinese. Her daughter, Maria, who is the district administration chief, complained that many Chinese worked without registering and “sleep in the fields.” But she, too, cheered their work ethic. “They all work like mad,” she said, praising them for turning previously unused land into productive farms. Local men, many of them alcoholics, are less enthusiastic and curse the Chinese for getting up too early, using too much chemical fertilizer and overworking the land.


Andrew Higgins in NYT, "Vladivostok Lures Chinese (Many Think Its Theirs)".

The name Chinese use for the city, Haishenwai, roughly translates as “sea cucumber bay,” though some historians believe the name is not Chinese at all but Manchu, the language of the court during the Qing dynasty, which ruled China from 1644 to 1911. Whatever the language, Chinese tour guides and guidebooks nearly all give Haishenwai as Vladivostok’s original and true name. Even under Russian rule, Vladivostok has at times had nearly as many Chinese residents as Russians. In 1912, for example, nearly 30 percent of the population was Chinese, with the rest divided between Russians and a large number of Europeans, Japanese, Americans and other foreigners. That all changed with Russia’s 1917 revolution, after which the Soviet authorities declared the city a sensitive military zone and sealed it off.


Amie Ferris-Rotman in WSJ, "Chinese ‘Red Tourists’ Are Flocking to Russia".

Next year’s centenary of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution is expected to bring a deluge of Chinese visitors to Russia, he said. The German birthplaces of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are also preparing for more tourists. According to adventure tour company Russian Discovery, around 200,000 Chinese visited Russia last year on communist-inspired travel. This includes expeditions in Lenin’s footsteps, beginning with his birthplace of Ulyanovsk in central Russia, followed by the city of Kazan where he studied, St. Petersburg for the October revolution and Moscow, where his embalmed body lies in a pool of red light in a mausoleum. Russia and China, former Communist rivals that share a 2,500-mile border, have been steadily drawing closer as East-West ties strain.


Tom Mitchell in FT, "The Means of Corruption".

One of the central pillars of China’s economic transformation over the past 35 years has been decentralisation. Whether the yardstick is government spending, industrial production or control of the country’s most valuable resource — land — it’s clear that local governments rule most roosts. As the Chinese adage has it, “the mountains are high and the emperor is far away”. The fundamental problem, as Pei sees it, is that control of state assets was dispersed without any corresponding clarification of property rights. The richer China became in the decades after the party crushed pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989, the richer the pickings for corrupt cadres. “A predatory state always defines [property] rights to maximise its income and privileges,” Pei writes.


Tom Mitchell in FT, "Sony ‘Patent Troll’ Case Shows China’s New Clout in Corporate Litigation".

Wilan is what critics call a “patent troll”, a company that collects payments from other companies on its intellectual property but produces little if anything itself. If Wilan wins, Sony could be barred from selling and exporting its LTE handsets as early as next summer. The potential ban on exports is the real threat, given China’s pivotal role in almost all global manufacturing chains. Imagine a similar suit with the same potential consequences, only with an Apple or a Samsung cast as the defendant. The impact on consumers would be enormous. A new corporate era beckons in which a Chinese judge could conceivably cut off the lifeblood of some of the world’s most valuable companies.


Robert McDowell & Gordon Goldstein in WSJ, "The Authoritarian Internet Power Grab".

Today’s global fight over internet freedom started more than a decade ago. In 2003, China, Russia and other countries initiated a persistent and patient campaign to bring Icann under the control of the United Nations. In 2012 the U.S. led a coalition of 55 countries that refused to sign a global treaty negotiated in Dubai that would have expanded the U.N.’s reach and power to shape how key aspects of the internet operate. While the U.S. and some of its internet allies rejected the Dubai power grab, 89 other countries voted for more U.N. influence, including an enlarged role in “international Internet governance and for ensuring the stability, security and continuity of the existing Internet and its future development.” That particular resolution was rammed through at 1:30 a.m. on the penultimate night of the conference—forcing the U.S. delegation, of which we were both members—to contest the conference’s legitimacy and boycott its result. In 2015 a coalition comprised of China and 134 other countries submitted a manifesto to another U.N. meeting insisting that national governments—rather than NGOs, civil society, consumers or business innovators—should dictate the digital future. The bloc declared that “overall authority for Internet-related public policy issues is the sovereign right of States.”


(AP) "Interpol Names Chinese Police Official as President".

His appointment is effective immediately as he replaces Mireille Ballestrazzi of France, the organization said in a statement. While the job of Interpol’s president is limited in scope, the announcement was met with disdain by human rights groups. Authoritarian governments like Russia and China have been known to abuse Interpol’s “red notices,” tantamount to international arrest warrants, to hunt down political enemies. China’s law enforcement agencies have shown little regard for international borders in recent years, spiriting away political opponents from places like Thailand and Myanmar. “The appointment of Meng Hongwei is alarming given China’s longstanding practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad,” Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.


John Gapper in FT, "If China Cannot Beat Europe, It Will Acquire It".

There is no mystery as to why it is happening. The Made in China 2025 plan unveiled last year calls for China to move into advanced manufacturing in 10 industries, including machine tools and robotics, aerospace, medicine and information technology. If it cannot beat advanced companies in Germany or the US, it will acquire them. This is not inherently sinister. It has advantages over China’s former tactic, which was to spark “indigenous innovation” by making European and US companies that wanted access to its home market form joint ventures with Chinese companies and transfer their technology as the price of entry.


Chandran Nair in FT, "Duterte’s Embrace of China Is a Rational Challenge to the Old Order".

China and the Philippines have a relationship far older than the Phillipines’ relationship with the US, and one free of histories of colonialism. China is also re-emerging as the economic and cultural centre of East Asia. We can even understand Mr Duterte’s attitude to China using the Asian concept of “face”. By heralding Beijing as the focal point for a different economic, political and cultural order, Mr Duterte according it a lot of prestige. And, in return, China is willing to support the new Filipino president, perhaps by rdeceding from the issues that divide them. Many in the west – with their focus on credibility, “rational” interests and power as a zero-sum game – will always miss relationships based on prestige and mutual benefit.


Lucy Hornby in FT, "Beijing Reform Paves Way for Large-Scale Corporate Agriculture".

The move to corporate farming is designed to solve two pressing problems of the Chinese countryside – a rapid increase in elderly farmers and poor yields from hundreds of millions of small plots – while accommodating the ruling Communist party’s opposition to individual private land ownership.


Chris Buckley in NYT, "Sluggish China Takes a Lesson from Reagan".

Skeptics attribute the problem partly to the repeated clash of Mr. Xi’s economic goals with his political objectives. While he has shown great enterprise in centralizing power, they say, he has been reluctant to restrain the reach of the state, especially to curtail state companies’ privileged, often monopolistic, access to loans, resources and customers. Several economists said Mr. Xi’s supply-side initiative may turn out to be cosmetic — promising market liberalization yet magnifying state control. “To get the government more onto the market track, it would have to abstain,” said Ning Zhu, a professor at the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance. “But that’s exactly what they haven’t been doing.”


Didi Tatlow in NYT, "With Fertility Rate in China Law, Some Press to Legalize Births Outside Marriage".

Findings from a 2015 government census show that the average Chinese woman has 1.05 children — a legacy of the one-child policy that changed on Jan. 1 to a two-child policy. It is the lowest fertility rate in the world, according to People’s Daily, the main newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party. The fines, known as social maintenance fees, can run up to tens of thousands of dollars and close an avenue to increase birthrates, critics say. “Especially with these falling birthrates, the right thing to do would be to allow single women to have children,” Wu Youshui, a lawyer in Hangzhou who specializes in reproductive issues, said in an interview. “But in fact, they’re still fining people,” he said. “A lot. People see it and don’t understand why.”


NEW DELHI TIMES, "China’s Looming Debt Crisis".

An examination by the National Audit Office of China discovered that in 2013 debt was outstanding of 18 trillion yuan. In 2016, Chinese debt rose to a whopping 237 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). China’s ratio of debt to GDP has been rising extremely fast, that it has been a cause of concern within the Chinese political establishment. During 2007, the ratio was at around 150 per cent and the speed it picked up till 2016 has had alarm bells ringing in China. The harrowing question is that how will the debt crisis affect China’s vibrant economy. What is the reason behind China’s rising tower of debts and its fast economic slowdown? Is an impending collapse of the Chinese economy on the cards? The rising debt to GDP ratio suggests that China is likely to face a crisis yet one thing to consider is that China is in a strong balance of payment position. Countries like Greece saw an economic collapse not only because of the high debt levels but also because it was not able to compensate its balance of payments. Considering this China is most likely to recover.


Edward Wong in NYT, "The Clash of Modern Life for Nomads of China’s Highlands".

Chinese scholars say both the Uighurs and the Yugurs (sometimes called the Yellow Uighurs) are descendants of an ethnic group called the Huihu, a Turkic-speaking nomadic people who had an empire in the eighth to ninth centuries on the steppes of present-day Mongolia. Western scholars use the term Uighur or Uyghur to describe that earlier group. One branch migrated west into what is now the Xinjiang region. They converted to Islam over several centuries. Another major branch moved east down the Hexi Corridor, a broad plain between mountain ranges that was the passage to Central Asia for empires and dynasties in eastern China. The Qilian Mountains form the southern boundary of the corridor. Yugurs who settled toward the western end of Sunan County were mostly Turkic speakers, while those to the east spoke the language that now resembles old Mongolian. They had lived under a Mongolian khanate. The influence worked both ways: Mongolians at one point adapted the old Uighur script, now vanished, to create a written language, which in turn was adapted by the Manchus; the original Uighur script has roots in Aramaic, Syriac and Sogdian scripts.


Andrew Jacobs in NYT, "Manchu, Once a Language of Empire, Nears Extinction".

Loyal to the core and prized for their horsemanship, several thousand Manchu soldiers heeded the emperor’s call and, with families and livestock in tow, embarked in 1764 on a trek that took them from northeastern China to the most distant fringes of the Qing dynasty empire, the Central Asian lands now known as Xinjiang.... Two and a half centuries later, the roughly 30,000 people in this rural county who consider themselves Xibe have proved to be an ethnographic curiosity and a linguistic bonanza. As the last handful of Manchu speakers in northeast China have died, the Xibe have become the sole inheritors of what was once the official tongue of one of the world’s most powerful empires, a domain that stretched from India to Russia and formed the geographic foundation for modern China. In the decades after the revolution in 1911 that drove the Qing from power after nearly 300 years, Mandarin Chinese vanquished the Manchu language, even in its former stronghold in the forested northeast. But the isolation of the Xibe in this parched, far-flung region near the Kazakh border helped keep the language alive, even if its existence was largely forgotten until the 1940s. For scholars of Manchu, especially those eager to translate the mounds of Qing dynasty documents that fill archives across China, the discovery of so many living Manchu speakers has been a godsend.


Yuan Yang in FT on David Moser’s book, "A Billion Voices: China’s Search for a Common Language".
Hong Kongers and Tibetans have protested the encroachment of Mandarin in schools. In Muslim Xinjiang, compulsory Mandarin education is arguably part of a racial politics designed to erode local culture. The tension between the unifying goals of China’s leaders and the reality of a diverse, often disunited citizenry runs through the book. Moser, a linguist based at Beijing Capital Normal University, introduces the linguistic struggles of early 20th century China through the lives of intellectuals of the time. His colourful portraits include the initial convener of the committee to create a standard Chinese, a foul-mouthed firebrand who called for the country to “flush all classical literature down the toilet.”


Richard McGregor in FT, "China’s Linguistic Shift to Socialism with Gay Characteristics".

On this occasion, unfortunately, the language of China, like the country itself, has moved on since the days when a comrade was a fraternal colleague in the noble pursuit of socialism. Although it may have passed the politburo inner circle (average age about 65) by, for a few decades the word has been expropriated by the gay community. Both playful and cleverly politically correct, gay people use “comrade” to show solidarity in a society that has by and large been hostile to homosexuality. It was not until 2001 that homosexuality was removed from the ministry of health’s list of mental illnesses. Out-and-out hostility has mostly gone, at least in metropolitan areas, but the stigma is still widespread.... It was no surprise, then, that the directive for party members to use “comrade” elicited much sniggering from young people on social media and from the foreign press. This will not worry the leadership too much as the message was directed at party members, not the public at large. Even so, the language diktats of the theorists should not be dismissed too lightly. The directive that instituted the linguistic change, “Norms of political life within the party under current conditions”, was issued by the Central Committee, which acts as a kind of enlarged board of directors for the Communist party. In other words, it was released only after serious consideration at the highest of levels.


Francis Rocca & Chun Han Wong in WSJ, "Beijing, Vatican Weigh Pact on Bishops".

If Pope Francis and Chinese leaders sign off on the proposed deal, the pope would accept eight bishops ordained by the Chinese government without the Vatican’s permission. But the deal would leave many other issues unresolved, including the role of China’s state-run Catholic institutions. Negotiators are waiting for the pope’s decision; if he agrees, the final decision will be up to Beijing. It would be a diplomatic breakthrough for the pope, who has eagerly pursued an opening to China that eluded his predecessors, though re-establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican—which Beijing severed in 1951—would remain a distant goal. Vatican officials, however, are bracing for strong protests from Chinese Catholics in the so-called underground church, some of whose members have suffered imprisonment or other punishment for defying government control of the church, and who could regard the agreement as a lopsided win for Beijing and hence a betrayal of their fidelity. The deal would defer many thorny issues, including the legal status of underground Chinese bishops loyal to Rome, who currently operate without government approval.


Yu Jie in FIRST THINGS, China’s Christian Future. "".
Christianity has transformed how I see myself as a dissident. Over decades of involvement with the Chinese democracy movement, I have seen so-called dissidents think the same, talk the same, act the same as those from whom they are supposedly dissenting. Too often the Communists and dissidents are kindred spirits. I have also seen personal ambitions and power struggles drive friends apart and turn those who should be working with one another against one another. My fellow dissidents attach great hopes to democracy, but it is simply a better method of public management and division of powers—the least worst, as Churchill said. It is not the horizon of all human hope and longing. If one does not believe in something other than democracy, one is no better off than the Communists, making a god of a ­political system.


Jeremy Page in WSJ, "Many Chinese Join Extremists in Syria".

The studies by two U.S. think tanks found that almost all Chinese fighters in the records said they came from China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, where some members of the Muslim Uighur ethnic group have been resisting Beijing’s rule for decades. Some Chinese recruits didn’t specify their origin, but gave names, noms de guerre or other details suggesting they were Uighur. The research from the New America think tank and the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point was based on Islamic State registration forms, leaked by a defector, for recruits entering Syria from Turkey from mid-2013 to mid-2014. It corroborates Chinese officials’ assertions that there are about 300 Uighurs fighting with Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq. It’s unclear if more Chinese fighters joined the group outside the period covered by the leaked documents.


Barbara Demick in LAT, "Tibet’s Last Princess Gives a Rare Interview".

Gonpo is the heir to a now-defunct kingdom known as the Mei that until the mid-20th century was centered in Aba, a predominantly Tibetan city in China's Sichuan province…. Until the 1950s, the area was ruled by Gonpo's family. Although the Chinese referred to her father as a tribal chieftain, Tibetans used the word gyalpo, or king, and referred to his holdings as the Mei kingdom. By whatever name, the king reported neither to the Tibetan government in Lhasa nor to Chinese authorities. His constituents maintained a fierce independence, often fighting with other Tibetan rulers who coveted their land and the yak and sheep that were their livelihood…. Her father, Rapten Tinley, a tall, slim man with high cheekbones and furrowed brows, appears in photos seeming to carry the weight of the world. A few years ago, neighbors erected a small shrine to the king over a stream next door. "The people were very loyal to the king," says Amdo Gelek, an amateur historian from Aba who now lives in exile in Dharamsala. He says his own father was a general in the king's militia. "He tried to protect his people from the Chinese until the very end."


Andrew Duff in SPECTATOR, "The Story of Sikkim’s Last King and Queen Reads Like a Fairy Tale Gone Wrong".

As is often the case with nationalist causes, Sikkim wanted to be free of India but was heavily reliant on the aid flowing from Delhi. Inevitably, Mrs Gandhi got her way and annexed the kingdom in 1975. Duff is sympathetic to Thondup and instinctively on his side, but he makes it clear that the man was not an adept politician. Emotion ruled the day — when his minders in Calcutta refused to let him fly the Sikkim flag on his car, he let the vehicle proceed without him and walked with an assistant holding the flag. In short, he was not up to his job. One wonders who would have been, with almost every superpower on the case. ‘Everyone agrees,’ writes Duff, ‘that Sikkim’s sensitive geopolitical position dealt Thondup an almost unplayable hand.’ At least the state enjoys relative peace now, living off hydroelectricity and tourism — unlike Tibet. But one has ample evidence that Beijing will not rest until cultural annihilation on the plateau is complete. As a result of a referendum, the monarchy was abolished in 1975, and the marriage crumbled under the strain of events. Cooke left the modest palace in Sikkim’s capital, Gangtok, and returned to America with her two children. Thondup died in 1982, and Cooke lives on in New York, though she refused to meet Duff.


Robin Harding & Simon Mundy in FT, "North Korean ‘Ghost Ships’ with Dead Crews Wash Up in Japan".

Japanese coastguard patrols have spent the past few months engaged in a macabre annual ritual — recovering a steady stream of dilapidated wooden vessels, apparently from North Korea, unmanned save for skeletal corpses. The “ghost ships” show the dangerous lengths to which North Korean fishermen have gone in search of their catch, often far beyond their own territorial waters. The numbers peak every autumn — the main squid-catching season for North Korea’s fisheries — when cold winds blow from the north and drive the vessels towards Japan. According to the Japanese coastguard, 80 ships drifted ashore in 2013, 65 in 2014 and 34 as of November 27 this year — although it counts every piece of wreckage as a separate incident so the figures likely overstate the total. The vessels often carry the bodies of the crew, victims of exposure or starvation — whose advanced state of decomposition suggests they have been dead for as long as three months, according to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, which reported this week that 25 bodies have been found in the past two months.


Will Nicoll in SPECTATOR, "Enver Hoxha: Stalin’s Devilish Disciple".

Born in the southern Albanian city of Gjirokastër in 1908, Hoxha studied at the French lycée in Korçë before winning a government scholarship to the University of Montpellier. Outwardly, this bright start suggests diligence and intelligence. In reality, Hoxha won both these early benedictions, and practically every advantage there-after, through networking. When he flunked Montpellier, nepotism got him board and lodgings with a wealthy friend of a friend called Hasan Jero (whom he later sentenced to 35 years in prison). The same sort of inflence won him a job at the Albanian embassy in Brussels, when the foreign minister to the Kingdom of Albania, Eqrem Libohova, put Hoxha forward for the position. Libohova also found Hoxha a teaching assistant position in Korçë when he returned home in 1936. It’s even arguable that networking got Hoxha the post of General Secretary of the Communist Party of Albania in 1943 — and national leadership after the German defeat in 1944.


Richard Vedder in WSJ on Joel Mokyr’s book, "A Culture of Growth".
The author further observes that while a lively intellectual environment was present elsewhere, notably China, it lacked the favorable conditions prevailing in Europe. Confucian philosophy still dominated Chinese thinking and the content of the all-important civil service examination, so modern scientific scholars seldom became members of that civil service. Moreover, there were no alternative political parties or jurisdictions for innovative thinkers to flee to. In short, the country’s monopolistic government bureaucracy stifled innovation.


Darrin McMahon in WSJ on Deirdre Nansen McCloskey’s book, "Bourgeois Equality".

Ms. McCloskey convincingly dismisses each one of these explanations. The Chinese, after all, long had a thriving mercantile culture and good “institutions.” But the Great Enrichment didn’t begin there. Italian bankers accumulated vast sums of capital in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. But by the 18th century, their leading cities languished in faded grandeur. And the “economic effect of imperialism on ordinary Europeans” was, for all its horrors, “nil or negative.” One can’t explain the Great Enrichment by theft. No, this monumental achievement was caused by a change in values, Ms. McCloskey says—the rise of what she calls, in a mocking nod to Marx, a “bourgeois ideology.” It was far from an apology for greed, however. Anglo-Dutch in origin, the new ideology presented a deeply moral vision of the world that vaunted the value of work and innovation, earthly happiness and prosperity, and the liberty, dignity and equality of ordinary people. Preaching tolerance of difference and respect for the individual, it applauded those who sought to improve their lives (and the lives of others) through material betterment, scientific and technological inquiry, self-improvement, and honest work. Suspicious of hierarchy and stasis, proponents of bourgeois values attacked monopoly and privilege and extolled free trade and free lives while setting great store by prudence, enterprise, decency and hope.


Alan Kors in WSJ, "The Victims of Socialism".

To be moral beings, we must acknowledge these awful things appropriately and bear witness to the responsibilities of these most murderous times. Until socialism—like Nazism or fascism confronted by the death camps and the slaughter of innocents—is confronted with its lived reality, the greatest atrocities of all recorded human life, we will not live “after socialism.” It will not happen. The pathology of Western intellectuals has committed them to an adversarial relationship with the culture—free markets and individual rights—that has produced the greatest alleviation of suffering; the greatest liberation from want, ignorance, and superstition; and the greatest increase of bounty and opportunity in the history of all human life. This pathology allows Western intellectuals to step around the Everest of bodies of the victims of Communism without a tear, a scruple, a regret, an act of contrition, or a reevaluation of self, soul, and mind.


Robin Harding in FT, "Japan Hopes Talks with Russia Will Calm Islands Row".

The two countries never signed a peace treaty after World War Two because of Moscow’s seizure of the four southernmost islands of the Kuril chain. Covering about 5,000 square kilometres, the islands offer rich fishing and have a Russian population of thousands. The previous Japanese population was expelled after the war. The starting point for any settlement would most likely be a 1956 joint declaration by Japan and the Soviet Union agreeing that the smallest of the four disputed islands — Habomai and Shikotan — should go back to Japan. But there is little sign Mr Putin is minded to return any territory at all.


Julio Teehankee & Mark Thompson in JOURNAL OF DEMOCRACY, "Electing a Strongman".

Known as “the Punisher” for condoning the summary execution of alleged criminals, Duterte used as his campaign calling card his record as mayor of Davao City (population 1.4 million) on the southern island of Mindanao. He ran on the tough-guy (siga) image that he originally crafted as the self-proclaimed savior of communist-infiltrated and crime-infested Davao. Duterte was first elected mayor of Davao in 1988, and for the past 28 years the people of Davao have “allowed him to rule with an iron-fist in exchange for social peace and personal security.” Duterte has shrugged off accusations of human-rights abuses, promising to implement his Davao model nationwide. According to Philippine sociologist Randy David, “Duterte promises just one thing: the will and leadership to do what needs to be done – to the point of killing and putting one’s own life on the line.”


Abbas Milani in WSJ on Andrew Cooper’s book, "The Fall of Heaven".
According to this view, the Shah was rapidly modernizing Iran and increasingly challenging the West, particularly when it came to the price of oil. But communists, oil companies, disgruntled clergy and Western powers with bad intentions—especially the U.S. and Britain—manipulated the Iranian people and global public opinion to turn against the Shah. These interests all came together to orchestrate his overthrow and stop Iran from becoming one of the greatest powers in the Middle East. Mr. Cooper’s book stands out for his access and his willingness to repeat what many of his partisan contacts—including officials from the Carter White House, Iran’s last queen and several of her intimate friends—say to him. In a telling passage, the author reveals the reason he was afforded such trust. He was, he says, “struck by how many of my Iranian interviewees confided that they felt more comfortable talking to a New Zealand-born historian than an ethnic Iranian scholar, whom they feared would cast judgment on them or misinterpret or even manipulate their words.” By way of disclosure, I must say that in writing my books on the Pahlavi era, I was one of those Iranian scholars denied such access.


Rod Nordland in NYT, "Turkey’s Free Press Withers as Erdogan Jails 120 Journalists".

A prominent columnist wrote recently about how President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey hates cigarettes so much that he confiscates packs from his followers, lecturing them on the evils of smoking. The columnist, Kadri Gursel, then urged his readers to protest the president’s anti-democratic ways by lighting a cigarette and not putting it out. For that, Mr. Gursel was arrested on terrorism charges and is being held in pretrial detention, one of 120 journalists who have been jailed in Turkey’s crackdown on the news media since a failed coup attempt in July. There, he has the company of 10 colleagues from his newspaper, Cumhuriyet, the country’s last major independent publication. Among them are its editor and the paper’s chief executive, arrested as he stepped off a flight to Istanbul last Friday.


Justin Marozzi in SPECTATOR on Malcolm Lambert’s book, "Crusade and Jihad".
Lambert acknowledges the great difficulty as a 21st-century historian in trying to understand the minds of the men who exulted in this extraordinarily violent expedition, an 11th-century combination of piety and savagery. Perhaps they saw themselves as agents of the wrath of God. When David Hume described the crusading movement as the ‘most signal and most durable example of the folly of mankind in the history of any age or nation’, he was unwittingly demonstrating that he was as much a product of his time as the crusaders were of theirs. One man’s fanatic is another man’s Scottish Enlightenment empiricist and philosopher. Lambert is right to highlight as a lacuna in modern studies the lamentable absence of attention given to massacres by Muslims of Muslims in the 11th century. ‘Crusades had no monopoly of atrocities.’ Lambert does not mention it, but if further evidence of the abuse of jihad is required, the career of the 14th-century Turkic conqueror Tamerlane, whose countless holy wars killed infinitely more Muslims than infidels, provides it in abundance. ‘Readers deserve better of their Muslim historians,’ writes Lambert in a crusaderly swipe at his counterparts. One might add that Muslims deserve better of their leaders.


Alan Jacobs in HARPER’S, "What Became of the Christian Intellectuals? ".

As these institutions grew stronger and more confident, they provided ways for highly educated Christians, Christians who perhaps in an earlier era would have had a chance of becoming significant public intellectuals, to talk to one another more than to the culture at large. As they devoted themselves to these labors, all around them the Sixties were happening; by the time they realized just how dramatically the culture had changed, it was too late for them to learn its language — or for it to learn theirs. One career might serve to illustrate this general trend: that of Richard John Neuhaus. Neuhaus first made a name for himself in the late Sixties, when he was serving as the pastor of a black Lutheran congregation in Brooklyn. He participated vigorously in the civil-rights movement, and if he later exaggerated his relationship with Martin Luther King Jr., there was indeed something to exaggerate. The practice of social protest led him, quite naturally he believed, to vocal opposition to the Vietnam War. He appeared regularly on television, published widely, and was reported on and interviewed by every major periodical in America. Neuhaus was not a scholar, but he was certainly an intellectual, and was capable of reflecting learnedly on the ways in which Scripture and Christian tradition spoke to the crises of the time. (It is said that when they met, Reinhold Niebuhr remarked, “I’m told you’re the next Reinhold Niebuhr.”) But then things changed for Neuhaus. He did not cease to think that racism was a massive wound at the heart of American life, nor did he cease to believe that the Vietnam War was utterly misbegotten; but he did come to believe that the liberal establishment was neglecting an equally serious moral issue: abortion.


Saeed Shah in WSJ, "Modernity, Muslims Squeeze Tribe in Pakistan".

Many Kalash consider themselves descendants of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian conqueror who led his army into what is now Pakistan in 326 B.C. Anthropologists believe the Kalash are more likely the marroned remnants of an ancient migration from Central Asia to South Asia and Europe. The Kalash’s realm once straddled Pakistan’s far northwestern Chitral area and the adjacent Afghan province of Nuristan, a region dubbed Kafiristan, or “Land of the Infidels.” Muslims began to conquer Chitral in the 14th century, driving the Kalash into ever-smaller pockets. Afghanistan’s King Abdur Rahman forcibly converted Kalash in the 1890s to Islam. The tribespeople now inhabit three narrow valleys in Chitral, where they grow crops and raise long-haired goats in a region accessible only by a narrow track carved into the mountainside. The Kalash language and religion are distinct, as are their pacifist ways in a region known for violence and internecine feuding.


Kamel Daoud in NYT, "Sexual Misery and Islam".

Sex is a complex taboo, arising, in places like Algeria, Tunisia, Syria or Yemen, out of the ambient conservatism’s patriarchal culture, the Islamists’ new, rigorist codes and the discreet puritanism of the region’s various socialisms. That makes a good combination for obstructing desire or guilt-tripping and marginalizing those who feel any. And it’s a far cry from the delicious licentiousness of the writings of the Muslim golden age, like Sheikh Nafzawi’s “The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight,” which tackled eroticism and the Kama Sutra without any hang-ups. Today sex is a great paradox in many countries of the Arab world: One acts as though it doesn’t exist, and yet it determines everything that’s unspoken. Denied, it weighs on the mind by its very concealment. Although women are veiled, they are at the center of our connections, exchanges and concerns. Women are a recurrent theme in daily discourse, because the stakes they personify — for manliness, honor, family values — are great.


Noemie Bisserbe in WSJ, "Europe’s Prisons Fuel Spread of Radicalism".

Within that system, Islamist radicals act as an “aristocracy,” the audit said, dictating prison etiquette to other inmates by forbidding them to take showers naked or listen to music. Televised matches of women’s tennis are also banned by inmates in some cells, the audit said. A 52-year-old inmate who has been in and out of prison for a decade said radicals who once kept to themselves have begun reaching out to thieves and drug dealers to expand their following. “They’re now willing to promote their cause by whatever means possible,” he said. The audit found that radicals have little trouble communicating beyond prison walls. French intelligence recovered contraband mobile phones from one jail showing that many inmates had contacted people in Syria and Yemen. A popular wallpaper for such phones, the audit noted, was the Islamic State’s flag.


Barton Swaim in WSJ on Pierre Manent’s book, "Beyond Radical Secularism".
Not only, though, must the French begin again to understand themselves as citizens of the French Republic; they must also come to terms with what he calls the European continent’s “Christian mark.” Mr. Manent’s “perspective is not that of a pious person, nor that of a ‘believer,’ ” he writes. But he notes that liberal democratic nation-states developed in Europe rather than elsewhere for specific reasons. Europe formed nation-states of free citizens, he argues, as a consequence of a profound and double-sided “indeterminacy”: On the one hand, the Christian revelation offered the concept of a “covenant” between man and a loving God but did not dictate exactly how governments should reproduce that covenant; on the other, the Christian gospel demanded a response that could take different forms in different places. Over centuries, geographically cohesive groupings established similar but separate forms of religious adherence along with distinctive forms of covenantal government—that is, government in which rulers ruled for the good of the governed, not merely for self-aggrandizement or territorial gain. The only humane, enlightened way to deal with the Muslim presence in France, then, is to acknowledge France’s Catholic Christian character. France’s Catholic Church, he thinks, will need to assert itself as a “mediator” between Muslims and non-Muslims, with a view to admitting Muslims into a civic life defined by some common practices and a common good.


Patrick Marnham in SPECTATOR, "Meet the Intellectuals Leading France to the Right".

The new reactionaries do not see themselves as a group, but they defend a common point of view about the causes of France’s diminishing status and influence. They look back on a golden age that started with the French revolution and continued for nearly 200 years as France — driven by the republican principles of freedom, equality, brotherhood and the rights of man, plus anti-clericalism — pursued its worldwide ‘civilising mission’. Today the pressures of globalisation threaten France’s identity and a nation that once imposed its vision on the world is having to swallow ideas the very opposite of those it has always preached. The importance of ‘the French model’ is drilled into the nation’s schoolchildren daily. But in the view of these philosophers, ‘Anglo-Saxon’ political correctness (‘la bien-pensance’) has poisoned teacher-training courses, which have become ‘gulags of knowledge’. The new reactionaries are convinced that one of the cornerstones of French culture, ‘freedom of expression’, is dying. They reject ‘post-colonial guilt’ and are appalled by ‘cultural relativism’. To get down to the nitty-gritty, they take the view that France’s sovereignty is under threat from Arab immigration. Europe’s migration crisis has highlighted their fears, and the lip service that President Hollande pays to Angela Merkel’s refugee-quota system — widely unpopular in France — has further aided the reactionaries’ arguments.


Ruth Bender in WSJ, "Some Muslim Arrivals Seek More Than Refuge in Churches".

In many countries where classical Islamic law is a strong element of the legal system, such as Afghanistan and Iran, conversions by Muslims to another religion are prohibited and can be punished by death, said Ebrahim Afsah, associate professor of international law at the University of Copenhagen. “Out of fear of being sent back, many refugees feel that converting is the safest route to getting their papers,” the church official said. “In most cases, such asylum requests are granted.” German authorities can grant asylum if a conversion exposes the applicant to persecution at home, according to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. But a baptism certificate alone rarely suffices.


Aleksandra Eriksson at euobserver.com, "Learn to Love Migrant Quotas, Juncker Tells Eastern EU".

“It’s not the EU, but some member states that are failing on refugees,” Juncker said. EU parliament's Schulz tuned in saying Orban was misleading voters and should stop dividing the EU. “The EU is based on compromise, not on confrontation,” he said. “Europe was always strong when there was a spirit of unity. Eastern countries are asking for solidarity on economic development, on Russia, but have none of it when it comes to refugees. Solidarity is a principle, not cherry picking.”


Ralph Atkins in FT, "Swiss Nationalists’ Fight with Brussels Offers Parallels for Brexit Negotiations".

Swiss conservatives cheered in February 2014 when the country defied Brussels and voted narrowly for controls on immigration from neighbouring countries. But negotiations with the EU, with which the affluent Alpine state has close economic ties although it is not a member, started badly. Then the British voted for Brexit, enormously raising the stakes of any negotiations and scuppering any chance of the deal conservatives wanted. “Our government and parliament have decided not to implement this [Swiss] vote; they simply ignored the referendum,” Albert Rösti, president of the ultra-conservative Swiss People’s Party (SVP) said. “I was very angry … It is really a historic situation.”


Tove Lifvendahl in SPECTATOR, "How Sweden Became an Example of How Not to Handle Immigration".

For years, Sweden has regarded itself as a ‘humanitarian superpower’ — making its mark on the world not by fighting wars but by offering shelter to war’s victims. Refugees have arrived here in extraordinary numbers. Over the past 15 years, some 650,000 asylum-seekers made their way to Sweden. Of the 163,000 who arrived last year, 32,000 were granted asylum. Sweden accepts more refugees in proportion to size of population than any other nation in the developed world — when it comes to offering shelter, no one does it better. But when it comes to integrating those we take in (or finding the extra housing, schools and healthcare needed for them), we don’t do so well…. The problems relating to immigration have been building up for years, but the country’s left and right were united in maintaining employment regulations and rent controls that kept immigrants unemployed in ghetto-like suburbs. As a result, we lost valuable time. Three years ago, there were riots in socially deprived areas of Stockholm, and it’s only got worse since then. A parallel society is emerging where the state’s monopoly on law and order is being challenged. ‘Today, the gang environment is — well, I don’t want to exactly call it the Wild West, but something in that direction,’ says Amir Rostami, an authority on Swedish organised crime who teaches at Stockholm University.


James Black in DAILY MAIL, "How Labour Threw Open Doors to Mass Migration in Secret Plot to Make a Multicultural UK".

Labour threw open the doors to mass migration in a deliberate policy to change the social make-up of the UK, secret papers suggest. A draft report from the Cabinet Office shows that ministers wanted to ‘maximise the contribution’ of migrants to their ‘social objectives’. The number of foreigners allowed in the UK increased by as much as 50 per cent in the wake of the report, written in 2000. Labour has always justified immigration on economic grounds and denied it was using it to foster multiculturalism. But suspicions of a secret agenda rose when Andrew Neather, a former government adviser and speech writer for Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett, said the aim of Labour’s immigration strategy was to ‘rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date’.


Adam Cohen in HARVARD MAGAZINE, "Harvard’s Eugenics Era".
Harvard’s geneticists gave important support to Galton’s fledgling would-be science. Botanist Edward M. East, who taught at Harvard’s Bussey Institution, propounded a particularly racial version of eugenics. In his 1919 book Inbreeding and Outbreeding: Their Genetic and Sociological Significance, East warned that race mixing would diminish the white race, writing: “Races have arisen which are as distinct in mental capacity as in physical traits.” The simple fact, he said, was that “the negro is inferior to the white.” East also sounded a biological alarm about the Jews, Italians, Asians, and other foreigners who were arriving in large numbers. “The early settlers came from stock which had made notable contributions to civilization,” he asserted, whereas the new immigrants were coming “in increasing numbers from peoples who have impressed modern civilization but lightly.” There was a distinct possibility, he warned, that a “considerable part of these people are genetically undesirable.” In his 1923 book, Mankind at the Crossroads, East’s pleas became more emphatic. The nation, he said, was being overrun by the feebleminded, who were reproducing more rapidly than the general population. “And we expect to restore the balance by expecting the latter to compete with them in the size of their families?” East wrote. “No! Eugenics is sorely needed; social progress without it is unthinkable….”


Fraser Nelson in SPECTATOR, "The Return of Eugenics".

When a Sterilisation Bill was brought before Parliament in 1931 it had the backing of social workers, dozens of local authorities and the medical and scientific establishment. It was defeated, but the agenda continued. The Nuremberg Trials established that the Nazis (latecomers to all this) carried out some 400,000 compulsory sterilisations — a figure so horrific it has eclipsed the 60,000 in Sweden and a similar number in the United States. The idea of a biological divide between the fit and the unfit was no Nazi invention. It was the conventional wisdom of the developed world.


Barton Swaim in WSJ on Roger Scruton’s book, "Fools, Frauds and Firebrands".

In a sense, the Frankfurt theorists did what leftist intellectuals have always done. First they collapsed European and American society’s bewildering variety of mediating institutions—churches, charitable organizations, debating societies, pubs, brass bands—into a single lifeless word, “capitalism.” Second, they set the present “capitalist” society against a future state of total equality, a state that by definition couldn’t be measured or even described. This latter maneuver is everywhere in New Left writing. Mr. Scruton relays a remarkable sentence from the historian Eric Hobsbawm: “If the left have to think more seriously about the new society, that does not make it any the less desirable or necessary or the case against the present one any less compelling.” Hobsbawm felt no obligation to prove or even argue that this “new society” would be better than the old; the fact that he could envision it was all he needed to condemn the society he lived in. That disposition of studied ingratitude is the defining characteristic of leftist theorizing, and it’s the temptation against which modern liberalism must constantly guard itself.


Michael Lind in SMART SET, "Intellectuals Are Freaks".

The views of intellectuals about social reform tend to be warped by professional and personal biases, as well. In the U.S. the default prescription for inequality and other social problems among professors, pundits, and policy wonks alike tends to be:  More education! Successful intellectuals get where they are by being good at taking tests and by going to good schools. It is only natural for them to generalize from their own highly atypical life experiences and propose that society would be better off if everyone went to college — natural, but still stupid and lazy. Most of the jobs in advanced economies — a majority of them in the service sector — do not require higher education beyond a little vocational training. Notwithstanding automation, for the foreseeable future janitors will vastly outnumber professors, and if the wages of janitors are too low then other methods — unionization, the restriction of low-wage immigration, a higher minimum wage — make much more sense than enabling janitors to acquire BAs, much less MAs and Ph.Ds.


Jonathan Derby in FT on Mark Lilla’s book, "The Shipwrecked Mind".
Lilla places this freshly minted declinism in a tradition that dates back to the French Revolution, and includes writers such as Joseph de Maistre, Chateaubriand, Maurice Barrès and Louis-Ferdinand Céline. He also notes the affinities that contemporary writers such as Zemmour have with the thinkers from other national traditions whom he examines in this book — notably the German-Jewish philosopher and theologian Franz Rosenzweig and the political theorists Eric Voegelin and Leo Strauss, both of whom were born in Germany and made their reputations in the US in the mid-20th century. What Rosenzweig, Voegelin and Strauss have in common, in Lilla’s reading, is a “World We Have Lost narrative”, an apocalyptic view of modernity as a kind of post-lapsarian state. For this cast of mind, he writes, “the present, not the past, is a foreign country”. This is the outlook of the reactionary, who differs, in the “militancy” of his nostalgia, from the conservative. Unlike the conservative, the reactionary is a distinctively modern figure, yearning for the past while also dreaming of a future in which the wounds caused by some originating catastrophe — whether it’s the fall of Jerusalem, the Reformation, the abolition of the caliphate or, in Zemmour’s case, the social reforms of the 1960s — will be healed. All the thinkers Lilla discusses here conjure the memory of a well-ordered state undone by alien ideas promulgated by a deracinated intellectual elite — the betrayal of elites, he notes, being the “linchpin of every reactionary story”.


Sheri Berman in JOURNAL OF DEMOCRACY, "The Lost Left".

But perhaps more puzzlingly, many on the left failed to understand or wholeheartedly accept the new order. Some forgot that reforms, while important, were merely means to an end, an ongoing process of taming and domesticating capitalism. So they let themselves be content with pedestrian management of social and economic policy. Some similarly believed that capitalism had been rendered static and benign by the postwar order and stopped thinking critically and carefully about its evolution and dynamics. Others on the left never really accepted the loss of a postcapitalist future and viewed the postwar order as “second best.” Because such leftists believed that true justice could come on with capitalism’s elimination, they implicitly and sometimes explicitly denigrated efforts to tame it and felt there was little need to devote their energies to developing policies and reforms that could do this.


Adam Tooze in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS on Gian Giacomo Migone’s book, "The United States and Fascist Italy".

Already in 1972 John Patrick Diggins, in his Mussolini and Fascism: The View from America, had revealed the widespread enthusiasm for Mussolini among progressive American intellectuals. What Migone’s book laid bare was that these affinities were founded on more than ideas and politics. Behind the scenes, financial interests had a part in orchestrating the connubio between America and Italian fascism. As he puts it in his preface, Migone may not have started out as a Marxist, but through “reading documents produced by central banks and investment bankers” he sometimes felt as though he might “become one.” One of the obstacles to acknowledging the amicable relationship between Wall Street and Italian fascism was the commonplace view of the interwar period as an era of economic nationalism. Mussolini was famous for his advocacy of autarchy and for triumphs such as draining the Pontine marshes and the “battle for grain” in agriculture. Italy, for its part, was severely affected by America’s nativist immigration quotas imposed early in the 1920s.


Nicholas Wade in WSJ on Loren Graham’s book, "Lysenko’s Ghost".

Russian geneticists also flirted with eugenic ideas, Mr. Graham relates. Under socialism, the Russian geneticist A.S. Serebrovskii wrote, “love will be separated from childbirth” and women would have to obtain sperm not from their husbands but from “a specific approved source.” With “outstanding” men fathering up to 10,000 children, “human selection will make giant leaps forward,” Serebrovskii predicted. H.J. Muller, a Nobel-winning American geneticist and staunch Marxist, made the same proposal in a letter to Stalin. Russian women, he said, should be inseminated with sperm from “the most transcendently superior individuals,” of whome he gave Lenin as an example, so as to create a higher type of human being.


William Wilson in WSJ, "Meanwhile, About Bill Nye…".

If science was unprepared for the influx of careerists, it was even less prepared for the blossoming of the Cult of Science. The Cult is related to the phenomenon described as “scientism”; both have a tendency to treat the body of scientific knowledge as a holy book or an a-religious revelation that offers simple and decisive resolutions to deep questions.


Kit Wilson at standpointmag.co.uk, "Sentimental Nihilism and Popular Culture".

Anchored by the conservatism of public taste, most popular forms — film and music in particular — stayed the course of the 20th century much more successfully than their “higher” cousins. Many can trace an unbroken line back to the very traditions the modernists tried to sever us from. If a contemporary classical composer writes in a tonal style, it sounds peculiar to us: too self-conscious, too kitsch. But in popular music, the continued use of a harmonic system developed centuries ago sounds perfectly natural — precisely because it never tried fully to break away. Indeed, far more of the West’s teleological code might have been smuggled in popular forms than their highbrow critics ever realised. Just as the eye seems to appear on whichever evolutionary branch one looks at, so the same trends that preoccupied Western musicians a hundred years ago are unfurling in pop music today. Melody strains against its rhythmic and harmonic leashes once again, threatening to snap free altogether. But while Schoenberg — motivated by political ideology — thrust this melodic “autonomy” onto his works, today it grows out of humanity’s simple desire to explore. The prognosis for today’s music is therefore, I believe, much better. Popular culture crystallised archetypically Western tropes that, if nurtured, may still blossom again. It is probably the closest thing we have today to a myth about ourselves — we do not question, perhaps cannot question, the pre-rational sway it has over us. So ingrained in the public’s mind are the perfect cadence and the love story that not even the Enlightenment’s cynical ticks can burrow deep enough to suck them out. Today, like the lounge suit, their ubiquity conceals a quintessentially Western inheritance.


Steph Yin in NYT, "The Lingering Embers of Discovering Fire".

Now, two new studies have proposed theories on how negative consequences of fire might have shaped human evolution and development. In the first, published Tuesday, scientists identified a genetic mutation in modern humans that allows certain toxins, including those found in smoke, to be metabolized at a safe rate. The same genetic sequence was not found in other primates, including ancient hominins such as Neanderthals and Denisovans. The researchers believe the mutation was selected for in response to breathing in smoke toxins, which can increase the risk of respiratory infections, suppress the immune system and disrupt the reproductive system. It’s possible that having this mutation gave modern humans an evolutionary edge over Neanderthals, though it’s speculation at this point, said Gary Perdew, a professor of toxicology at Pennsylvania State University and an author of the paper. But if the speculation is correct, the mutation may have been one way that modern humans were inured against some adverse effects from fire, while other species were not.


Stephen Budiansky in WSJ on Steven Vogel’s book, "Why the Wheel Is Round".

One seemingly small, and at first glimpse even obvious, difference between the design approaches of evolution and engineers forms the premise for Vogel’s final book, the newly (and posthumously) published “Why the Wheel Is Round.” Vogel begins by noting a “paradoxical problem.” Most useful things that people have built machines to do, from ancient times to the present—grinding grain, pumping water, spinning fibers, shaping pottery, drilling holes, propelling vehicles—require rotary motion. Yet, “through most of human history . . . muscle has been the main motor of our technology. . . . Muscle can only pull, and it must remain attached at both ends.” No organism bigger than a bacterium has a moving part that can turn through a complete, 360-degree circle. So how can a non-rotating engine drive truly rotating machinery?


James Gorman in NYT, "Prehistoric Massacre Hints at War Among Hunter-Gatherers".

The injuries, she said, showed that two different size clubs were used, as well as arrows. Deep cuts to foreheads, jaws and hands, she said, meant that a third type of weapon, with embedded stone blades, must have been used. The stone remnants were obsidian, which is rare in that area, and, she said, they “suggest the attackers were coming from somewhere else.” The authors of the Nature report say the attack could have been a raid for resources, or it could be an example of organized violence that was common among ancient hunter-gatherers, but rarely preserved. This was a highly fertile time in the Lake Turkana area. Pottery found in the region suggests that some groups of foragers at that time may have been storing food — resources worth stealing. Or the attackers may have been after captives. Bones from one young teenager were found at the site, and remains of adults and children under 6, but no remains of older children, who might have been taken by the attackers.


Glyn Williams in WSJ on Susanna Moore’s book, "Paradise of the Pacific".
Among Hawaiians, strict observance of kapu began to decline, and again the presence of foreigners played its part, for islanders noticed that their blatant disregard of traditional rules and penalties went unpunished. The critical moment came five months after Kamehameha’s death and involved Kaahumanu, the king’s favorite among his 22 wives and a strong personality in her own right. She had appointed herself regent to Kamehameha’s successor, his son Liholiho (Kamehameha II). At a feast that Kaahumanu arranged in his honor, Ms. Moore writes, the young king ate with the women and ”was not struck dead” by the gods. It was the end, she notes, of a thousand years of kapu, and although some resisted the new order, the event was followed by widespread rejoicing and the burning of images of the gods.


Carl Zimmer in NYT, "In the Bedroom, an Evolutionary Mystery".

While women release an egg each month, other female mammals, such as rabbits and camels, release an egg only after mating with a male. Ovulatory cycles evolved in only a few lineages of mammals, including our own, Dr. Pavlicev and Dr. Wagner found. Before then, our ancient mammal ancestors originally relied on ovulation triggered by sex with a male. Those early mammals developed a clitoris inside the vagina. Only in mammals that evolved ovulatory cycles did the clitoris move away. Based on these findings, Dr. Pavlicev and Dr. Wagner argue that the female orgasm first evolved as a reflex to help females become pregnant. When early mammals mated, the clitoris could send signals to the brain, triggering hormones that released an egg. Once the egg became fertilized, the hormones may have helped ensure it became implanted in the uterus. This arrangement has worked well for mammals that rarely encounter males. It helps females make the most of each mating. But eventually some mammals, including primates like us, started spending their lives in social groups. Females had access to regular sex with males, and orgasm as an ovulatory mechanism was no longer so useful. Our female forebears instead evolved a new system: releasing eggs in a regular cycle. As the original purpose of the orgasm was lost, the clitoris moved away from its original position. Dr. Wagner speculated that this shift was part of evolution’s dismantling of a sensor system: “You don’t want to have the old signal sending noise at the wrong time,” he said.


Jessica Gavora in WSJ, "How Title IX Became a Political Weapon".

The road that took Title IX from a classically liberal antidiscrimination law to an illiberal gender-quota regime began in 1996 with an innocent-seeming “Dear Colleague” letter written by federal education officials in the Clinton administration. The letter targeted colleges and universities struggling to answer the difficult question of what constitutes (unlawful) discrimination under Title IX in sports programs that are already segregated on the basis of sex. It instructed schools that quotas—equalizing the participation of men and women in athletics, despite demonstrated disparities of interest—were the way to comply with the law. Activists who had been instrumental in creating the new standard took the federal guidance and ran with it. Aided by the trial bar, they initiated lawsuits that enshrined the new bureaucratic “guidance.” The case brought against Brown University in the early 1990s by a coalition of feminists and trial lawyers set the stage. It alleged that Brown—which offered more women’s sports teams than men’s at the time—had violated the law by downgrading two women’s teams. The university produced reams of data showing that women at Brown had more opportunities to play sports than men, but more men than women played intramural sports by 3 to 1 and club sports by a whopping 8 to 1. To the applause of the Clinton administration, the court ruled that such data didn’t matter. The responsibility of the school wasn’t to provide equal opportunity to participate in sports—it was to educate women to be interested in sports.


Henry Allen in WSJ on Steven Watts’ book, "JFK & the Masculine Mystique".

In an epilogue, we’re told that Kennedy’s “crusade for invigorated masculinity helped unleash subversive social forces that . . . whirled out of control” to give us the ruckus of the later ’60s. In pop-psych vocabulary, Mr. Watts attempts to reconcile the masculinism of Kennedy and the feminism of Betty Friedan by saying they both defined “a new nirvana of emotional self-realization for affluent men and women.” On the other hand, the author concludes by saying that “mortally wounded along with JFK was an intensely male cultural style that would soon prove unsatisfying to just about everyone, from the politically correct Left to the family-values Right.”


Vikki Ortiz Healy in CT, "Injectable Estrogen Shortage Worries Trans Community".

To achieve female characteristics such as curvy hips, breasts, thinning face and hair growth, trans women may be prescribed estrogen — a hormone that stimulates development in those areas. But the injections, which are typically needed in high dosages of 40 mg for trans women, became scarce this fall. Par Pharmaceutical, one of the companies that manufactures estrogen injections under the name Delestrogen, ceased making its product after one of its suppliers stopped providing a material used in the injections. To begin producing Delestrogen again with material from a new supplier, that supplier must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Heather Zoumas-Lubeski, senior director of corporate affairs for Par Pharmaceutical.


Guy Dammann in SPECTATOR, "The Nobel Prize for Literature, at Long Last, Has Been Awarded to a Complete Idiot".

What, then, does Bob Dylan teach us to see? Dylan, perhaps better than anyone, raises a smudged and shaking mirror to the shallowness and lack of intellectual ambition which have come to stand as our age’s foremost images of excellence. In Dylan’s singer-songwriting we can apprehend with hideous clarity the easy self-satisfaction of the protestor who thinks constructive engagement is for losers and phonies. Above all, Dylan expresses our epoch’s celebration of the protraction of adolescence; a glorified refusal to be understood, because no one understands the real me. So much modern art exists to perpetuate and celebrate our facile self-regard, but Dylan’s music oozes it. Its whole texture is shot through with its insufferable smugness, from its inexplicable contentment with a handful of inanely doodled rhymes and empty riddles, to the performer’s blatant refusal even to sing it properly. His cracked vocal timbre, and habit of singing against the stress and flow of his own verses, so beloved of his millions of fans, articulates with breath-taking clarity the spirt of the adolescent’s stubborn refusal to realise his confused view of the world, and his place in it, is not a mark of genius but a waste of everybody else’s time. Hence the injured tone of much of Dylan’s songs, and his performances of them. His music is the sound of everything being everybody else’s fault, the music of the drop-out.


Ben Sisario & Sydney Ember in NYT, "Facing the Music".

Wenner, which is privately owned, also shoulders more than $14 million in debt payments each year for a loan that dates to 2006, when the company borrowed $300 million to buy back the 50 percent share in US Weekly that it had sold to Disney for $40 million just five years before. Analysts say that Wenner has been disciplined in paying down the loan — its obligation is now $59 million — but described the terms as aggressive, since lenders want to make their money back before the magazine business falls apart. Last month, in a $40 million deal, Wenner Media sold a 49 percent stake in Rolling Stone to BandLab Technologies, a Singapore-based music tech company. Wenner used $25 million from that transaction for a special payment on its loan, according to credit reports, and the rest is intended as an investment to expand Rolling Stone’s reach internationally, and into new areas of branding and licensing like concerts and hotels. The Singapore deal was a coming-out of sorts for Gus Wenner, who was appointed to his current position two years ago and has quickly become the company’s heir apparent. For years, Jann Wenner had seemingly never needed a succession plan.


Andrew Goldman in WSJ MAG, "L.A. Vice".

“If a lot of the stuff that we’re doing seems politically correct now, it’s because Gen Y people make it,” Smith says. “We don’t hide our past. That said, we did have to look at what side of history we wanted to be on. A lot of my views on a lot of things were outdated. There’s a more positivist thing going on now. It’s like Bob Dylan going electric. We have to keep changing and challenging ourselves.” McInnes – who parted with Vice in early 2008, citing “creative differences,” and no longer speaks to Smith – howls when hearing this pronouncement. “It’s a great sales pitch,” he says. “I think the edginess to him was a hindrance for his job, which was selling ads. This is about what’s going to make the most money. If you want the young demo, you have to acquiesce to the predominant narrative, which is political correctness.” A couple of years after McInnes left, Freston, who had been fired from Viacom, helped Vice buy back its stake from Viacom and assumed an unofficial role as the company’s in-house grown-up.


Gavin McInnis at takimag.com, "Lena Dunham Killed Phyllis Stewart Schlafly".

After discovering we are living in a world that venerates the likes of Lena Dunham, she decided life was no longer worth living and went gently into that good night. An old, amateur Wiki entry trivialized Phyllis’ work thusly: Schlafly believed that if women were given equal rights they would be drafted into the military, that unisex bathrooms would be mandated and that same sex marriages would be legalized, none of which were correct. Schlafly also believed that with having the Equal Rights Amendment the atmosphere and the “traditional home life” would be disrupted. That last hyperlink, entitled “My Brother’s Pregnancy and the Making of a New American Family,” features a woman with a beard “chest-feeding” her son because she thinks she’s a man and moms don’t have breasts when they’re dads, got it? The amount of injections, hormones, fake smiles, and suspensions of disbelief required to make his “brother’s pregnancy” appear normal is enough to make you wish Phyllis croaked about fifteen years ago.


Adrien Bose in TABLET, "Double Exposure: Jean-Pierre Melville".

Jean-Pierre’s attitude toward his brother’s murderer highlights the man’s deepest ambiguity. Unexpected, unclassifiable, quick to take a side step, he is forever turning on its head the commonplace and the simplistic. With his brother a committed Socialist, he became a right-wing anarchist and took pleasure, in the conformist setting of his cultural milieu, in expressing his devotion to the army and its representatives. And while the French New Wave filmmakers hailed him as a founding father, he opposed their moral transgression from his seat on the board of censors, where he categorically banned all pornography from film, defining it in the strictest terms. Melville always turned up with a series of sharp, shocking, and amoral pronouncements, which he dispensed in his affected voice, enunciating each word with gracious geniality.

Obituary of the Issue

"Ashraf Pahlavi" (1919-2016)

Princess Ashraf was a glamorous and divisive figure. As a teenager in 1934, she and her older sister, Shams, along with their mother, appeared at a public ceremony not wearing the veils that were a part of traditional dress in Iran. This public display, part of her father’s program to bring Iran into the 20th century, helped establish her public image: Western-oriented, modern, fashionably dressed, fluent in French and English, with a taste for the high life. She used her privileged position as a princess to plead the cause of women in a variety of ways, most visibly as the president of the Organization of Iranian Women, the chairwoman of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the Iranian delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and an adviser to the World Conference on Women in 1975. At the same time, Princess Ashraf gained a reputation as a steely political operator, an unashamed apologist for the despotic regime of her brother, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and a mink-draped sybarite, well known at the casinos of the French Riviera, who amassed a considerable fortune during her brother’s years in power and lived in luxurious exile after he was overthrown in 1979.


Thanks to Mike Vann Gray, Chris Woods, Matt Carducci

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