a new low in topical enlightenment

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Issue #159 (March 9, 2022)

Leroy Johnson, Gun for a Coward (1956)
Photograph by Sherman Clark.
Courtesy Marc Wanamaker-Bison Archives / Margaret Herrick Library.

Yellowstone vs. Hollywood's Lost Horsesense 
Joe Carducci 

 I finally published my damned film book, Stone Male, in 2016. I started working on it in 1992 after publishing my rock book - and I thought R&TPN took a long time! Over those years I collected far more stills than I could use to illustrate the book. The above image is one that Faye Thompson of the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library brought to my attention - it had just come in with a cache of images from Marc Wanamaker's invaluable Bison Archives. It's an image of stuntman Leroy Johnson performing a horse-fall for his own bit-part as a rustler in Gun for a Coward (1956). His IMDb page lists 44 stunt credits and 35 acting credits, often both in a film or tv episode. Sherman Clark was the still photographer according to the film's IMDb page and it looks shot on location before the scene was shot. The horse itself does not fall over here as Johnson has let go the reins. In the film his fall occurs across a narrow stampede but is not filmed from this close. [Note the ground underneath has been softened for his fall.] 

The movie horse-fall began with the Standing-W whereby a staked piano-wire was tied to one fore-leg of the horse and the stuntman or actor spurred the horse to a speed and when the wire's slack measured out the horse flipped and threw the rider forward while the camera-man cranked. This usually broke the horse's leg and it was then killed. The life and health of the stuntman was not quite that cheap even during the initial boom in the production of Westerns that followed the success of the eleven-minute Edison production, The Great Train Robbery (1903). It took a couple years for early distribution to get that film in front of audiences and this was done by the Edison company, many film bootleggers who routinely pirated prints of popular films, and even by the Lubin company's shot-for-shot instant remake released the next year. This and other films' successes in vaudeville houses and game-rooms helped trigger construction of film-only "nickelodeon" theaters in 1905 which in turn triggered the production boom in 1907 by the first American studios (Edison, Lubin, Selig, New York Motion Picture Co....) plus new companies like Centaur, Essanay, and American.... 

Westerns and Indian subjects were often made in New Jersey before 1910 and the action was tamer; these were more pastoral romances than action films. Producers began to send Western units (15 to 20 people and a camera) out to Colorado, Texas, New Mexico and California where they picked up real westerners to do stunts with horses, cattle, guns and bows and arrows. Sentiment, romance and comedy were the come-on in American films of the silent era but in these new Westerns made out west gunfire and horseback chases were featured and the jeopardy that threatened the heroes and heroines emanated from notably rougher looking characters. 

   Stunting slowly professionalized during this 1910s boom of one- and two-reel Westerns, chapter serials, and feature films. Horses were still the country's main mode of transport so stables and livery barns were everywhere. The division of labor between actor and stuntman-double began as soon as G.M. Anderson was making three to five one-reel Westerns per week in 1909; Anderson, a.k.a., Broncho Billy, couldn't afford to be put out of commission by doing stunts. The Standing-W was cruel and costly and was replaced when possible by the Running-W which put the other end of the piano wire into the rider's hand and he pulled it himself allowing him better preparation to make his own fall as the horse tripped. This made filmmaking somewhat safer for trained movie cowboys and their horses than it was for other stuntmen like stunt-drivers or pilots. Trains were an early obsession of cinema and at first cameras and crew simply waited for a train and ran their actors and drama around it. As distribution matured producers found they had the budgets to rent trains and direct railroad action more carefully. The Great War ended in 1919 and aviators drifted to air shows and then to Hollywood. The canvas-winged biplane became a fixture in what was basically its own action genre. Producers with real budgets could now destroy automobiles, often for comic effect, and occasionally planes and trains, all for the camera. Still, Cecil B. DeMille could concoct good old horse-killing mayhem in massed action even outside of the Western genre as in Ben Hur (1925). 

   The Selig Polyscope Co. was one of the earliest motion picture producers, founded in Chicago in 1896.  Selig established the first Southern California studio in Los Angeles' Edendale neighborhood (a.k.a. Silver Lake). Selig produced many Westerns from 1909 to 1917, first in Chicago and Michigan, then in Colorado, New Mexico and at Edendale. Tom Mix was Selig's cowboy star and his trained horse, Tony, had star billing in some films that made Mix a supporting player. And so years before the American Humane began to monitor cruelty to animals in Hollywood productions stunt-horses became necessary to protect the investment in movie horses which had been trained to ignore gunfire as well as obey commands to enter water, jump through windows or fire or off cliffs that an untrained horse would balk at. Mix protected Tony before he began to protect himself. Mix was, in essence, the first of the daredevil action stars popular in the silent era (Eddie Polo, Charles Hutchinson, Dave Sharpe, "Crash" Corrigan, Douglas Fairbanks...). The Fox Film lobby card nearby shows the famous Beale's Cut jump from the Tom Mix western, Three Jumps Ahead (1923), directed by John Ford. Though it is thought this was a process shot the platform ledge built up on the left side indicates that Mix was telling the truth when he claimed he made the jump. He further claimed that he used a stunt-horse for Tony - just in case! Richard Jensen's book, The Amazing Tom Mix spends its pages sifting through the evidence on such questions. 

Prior to signing with Fox Film Corp., Mix was producer-director-stuntman-star at his own Selig location studio in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Mix had little experience behind the camera and in my film book I quote from his 1914 letter sent to Colonel Selig asking for feedback on whether his filmmaking was good enough. The films were so profitable that Selig simply left him alone. As a performer Mix took any chance he wanted to, trusting his own skills plus those of his co-star and sometime stuntman-double, Sid Jordan, a trusted friend from his time in Oklahoma at the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch and in its Wild West Shows. They designed stunts and gags like having Sid shoot off Mix's hat or clip the cigarette in his mouth with live ammunition. The production still nearby shows Sid about to shoot off Tom's tie off in the Fox production, The Coming of the Law (1919). [Fred LeRoy Granville is at the camera, Arthur Rosson is directing and assistant director Richard Rosson is kneeling.] 

The Western genre was regularly "elevated", first by moving production westward by studios such as Essanay, American, Melies-Star, then by the Francis Ford-Thomas Ince three-reel "specials" for NYMPCo. in 1911-12. Ince had secured the services of a full company of Oklahoma's touring 101 Ranch Wild West Show which happened to be wintering in Venice, California. The show came complete with stagecoaches, wagons, tipis, horses, cowboys and Indians and so John Ford's older brother Francis fashioned the first Western epics. Although D.W. Griffith's game-changing epic feature, Birth of a Nation (1915), was not a Western its production in southern California made use of the genre's pros of that era and further honed 2nd unit skills and built up filmmaking infrastructure in the locations Westerns would continue to be made. 

As the Hollywood studio system stabilized around feature production in the 1920s the stuntmen organized themselves into an informal professional group called "The 400" which, according to author-historian Robert Birchard, "monitored the skills of would-be stunt performers in order to avoid getting themselves killed working with amateurs." (Early Universal City) James Cruze's epic, The Covered Wagon (1923), was made possible when Paramount agreed to rent or buy as many surviving Conestoga wagons throughout the western states that it could find in what was another production designed to "elevate" the genre. John Ford's The Iron Horse (1924) was Fox's answer epic dramatizing the construction of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869; a title card prints the legend that the two engines in the film are the originals that met at Promontory Summit, Utah. 

Well before Rin Tin Tin came out of the Great War a star, animal performers were integral to the studios. When the Selig studio failed its last viable division was the Selig Jungle-Zoo with its animal rental service that it's said provided the lion used in MGM's original logo. Clarence "Fat" Jones was twenty when he founded his horse stables in Edendale in 1912 to service the movie industry. But by the coming of sound in 1928 the Western pretty much went to ground. Cheaply made talkie-Westerns were shot without sound except for stagey dialogue scenes. [The Foley system of dubbing in sound effects was invented to allow 2nd unit action to continue to be filmed without sound, and to bring filmmaking back to Bishop, Cal.] The writing, directing, and acting in thirties B-westerns can be horrible, but the 2nd unit culture of stunting and horsemanship continued to develop there. The amateurish young lead John Wayne made such films through the thirties. When he got discouraged according to biographer Scott Eyman John Ford advised Wayne to just keep working. Republic Pictures was a small first step up and there Wayne worked with his double Yakima Canutt to block fight choreography for the camera that yielded more realistic fight scenes than was standard in that era. (John Wayne - The Life and Legend

   Meanwhile, back at the studio, John Ford was succeeding as producer-director of prestige A-films. But hestill nursed perverse 2nd unit resentments and pretensions from his first days in Hollywood as his brother Francis' all-purpose assistant-actor-stuntman-whipping boy. When Ford decided his young drinking buddy Wayne looked old enough to be credible he built the film Stagecoach (1939) around him. It was just before the wild early stunt culture was fully tamed with the coming of the Humane society, et. al., and John Ford let Yakima Canutt pull out all the 2nd unit stops. The image nearby is from the bravura Indian attack sequence and shows Yakima Canutt executing a running-W. By then even the the running W was strictly speaking no longer necessary as horses were being trained to fall at the shift of the rider's weight and pull of the reins. But that couldn't produce a rider-and-horsefall like Ford had in mind! The success of Stagecoach outside of the genre's normal rural and Southern distribution pattern boosted production specs genre-wide once again and through the forties and fifties. 

Fat Jones Stables, Inc. was located in North Hollywood by the late thirties when Howard Hughes hired the Oklahoma wrangler Ben Johnson to transport horses purchased for the production of The Outlaw (1943). Johnson was Irish-Cherokee, born on the Osage Reservation in Oklahoma and his father was a rancher and rodeo champ; Ben became the gold standard for movie horsemanship and acting too if you ask me [e.g., Rio Grande (1950), Fort Defiance (1951)] - Ben married Fat Jones' daughter Carol in 1941. Perhaps "roman-riding" two horses while standing on their saddles is easier than it looks but Ford lets the camera run while Johnson and Harry Carey Jr. jump on and circle the yard and jump a fence in Rio Grande - no cuts to insert stuntmen specialists. The nearby still is of Ben's ride. After WWII this final production boom of Westerns, the one that Stagecoach triggered resumed in earnest. Red River (1948) was another A-film bonanza for 2nd unit employment and its stunt crew included Ben Johnson, Richard Farnsworth, Chuck Roberson, Fred Kennedy and others including essentially a cattle-drive's worth of real cowboys tending the cattle. Producer-director Howard Hawks notably shared his director's credit with the 2nd unit director Arthur Rosson, seen above directing the trimming of Tom Mix's tie. 

In Chuck Roberson's memoir he recalls being cautioned about working for stunt co-ordinator Chuck Hayward, "The older stuntmen just bail off a horse real easy like. Cliff knows you younger guys ain't smart enough yet to be real careful." (The Fall Guy) Hayward knew an unstudied fall looked better on film and would better please the director and impress the audience. Bruce Cabot, the human lead in the horse film, Smoky (1946), noted the pampered treatment his equestrian star recieved by joking, "What we need is a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Actors." (The Fascinating Techniques of Training Movie Horses) My book, Stone Male - Requiem for The Living Picture, covers alot of ground, maybe too much (I had no editor!), but what it's really about is how the stuntman became the star in Westerns and changed acting to the point that today theatrically trained actors from London to New York to Australia present the male hero in the off-hand manner of a 2nd unit performer. Dick Grace, a "plane-crasher" for movies wrote a memoir in the late twenties when he found himself the last survivor of the group of pilots he'd come to Hollywood with. Grace wrote that everyone on a film-set, cast and crew, were likely to fly off the handle at any delay or inconvenience - everyone except the stuntmen: "[U]nlike actors, stunt men have a habit of concealing their innermost feelings. It is necessary to their work and it becomes a habit with them to use it in everyday life... [They learn that to] go clear through even with an error at a crucial moment is better than indecision." (Squadron of Death) 

B. Reeves Eason did everything in films after beginning as an actor with American Films in Santa Barbara in 1913, but most importantly he was one of the men who formalized the use of a 2nd unit for action sequences while dialogue scenes were done elsewhere. He directed the chariot race in Ben Hur (1925) for Cecil B. DeMille, the archery tournament scene in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) for Michael Curtiz, and the burning of Atlanta in Gone With the Wind (1939) for Victor Fleming. Ian Whitcomb in his warm remembrance of movie horse-trainer Ralph McCutcheon contrasted his humane methods to Eason "the horse killer... notorious for his inhumane treatment of animal actors," and claims Eason's work on The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) when over 25 horses were killed to be the trigger for the formation of American Humane. (ianwhitcomb.com) Ezra Goodman talked with Eason in 1947 and describes him thusly in his book: "I sought out Eason on his little ranch in North Hollywood, with its smokehouse and all kinds of animals, to have a talk with him about his work. He seemed a little surprised that anyone should be sufficiently interested in his moviemaking to want to discuss it with him. He was a sturdy, reddish-haired man in his late fifties, with a weather-beaten face and a habit of lighting matches by striking them on his teeth. He was a typical old-time Hollywood type, a bit of a roustabout and rather inarticulate, but an expert with the camera.... [As] a full-fledged director, he made hundreds [159 acc. to IMDb] of modestly budgeted and thoroughly unpretentious westerns and action thrillers.... But his best work was reserved for the big-budget epics on which he served as second-unit director. Eason did not pretend to be a deep thinker, but in his own blunt, practical way he knew more about moviemaking than most of the renowned directors for whom he worked." (The Fifty-Year Decline and Fall of Hollywood) 

   If there is a consistent personality type among stuntmen, nevertheless, not all stuntmen could act. John Wayne explains in Scott Eyman's biography that his friend Yakima Canutt would overact "The Heavy" when acting in a fight scene whereas Wayne claimed he would use how Canutt actually behaved when challenged or threatened - think Wayne's calm, steely smile before a fight scene. On Red River Montgomery Clift was straight off the Broadway stage when Hawks cast him opposite Wayne, who worried Clift wouldn't be able to fill the role. But Hawks had Clift follow his stuntman-double, Richard Farnsworth, around for a month to make a cowboy out of him which he did. There's a shot where Clift leaves the foreground, turning to walk to his horse and jumping up, then in mid-air inserting his left foot into the stirrup and smoothly setting himself in the saddle; the cut suggests that this is Farnsworth jumping up into the stirrup, not Clift, but maybe it just took a couple takes. I've recently been watching episodes of Henry Fonda's 1959 half-hour TV-Western, The Deputy on EncoreWesterns. In a 1960 episode called "Backfire" the old silent-era/thirties cowboy star Bob Steele is in the middle of a one-shot dialogue scene with Allen Case when Bob unties his horse and casually does a turning jump up into stirrup before his exit - no cut needed. You can see Robert Mitchum pull it off in Blood on the Moon (1948), and it looks like Anne Baxter executes it in Yellow Sky (1948) but I suspect it was her stunt-double Martha Crawford. Red River, Blood on the Moon, and Yellow Sky are great examples of the postwar A-Western and their success kept the genre preeminent whether the films were celebrated with awards or in reviews or simply accepted as "a good western". Other than Manny Farber who wrote for The New Republic and The Nation, the typical film critic's interest in the genre was limited to what they termed "psychological westerns". 

   As the studio system weakened in the postwar period, independent producers stepped in and the old production safety protocols weakened. The Stuntmen's Association was formed in 1961 by the top 2nd unit directors and performers. But by then the Western feature film was no longer their bread-and-butter. Hollywood studios had long supported an large economy of stables, wranglers and stuntmen. Horsemanship was part of the training of actors under contract right along with voice lessons and ballroom dancing. But the stars went independent after the war and soon only young actors were signing to the studios. The in-house production of Westerns by the studios themselves ended when Universal stopped producing Audie Murphy Westerns with Gunpoint (1966). The dwindling supply of Hollywood Westerns is what triggered the production of Westerns in Europe where interest in the genre was still high. Television Westerns seemed to be wearing out the American appetite for cowboy horseplay. According to Wikipedia 1959 was the peak of TV Westerns when thirty shows were in prime time. 

Action in movies came to center on car chases and vehicular mayhem. Earlier car chases of twenties comedies and thirties gangster films moved into a real specialty that could yield anything from Thunder Road (1958) to Bullitt (1968), or from Smokey and the Bandit (1977) to The Fast and the Furious (2001). Steven Spielberg seemed to want to collapse an entire cycle of auto idolatry into four years of his career, from the spare Duel (1971) to the overkill of The Sugarland Express (1974). But this was no short-lived trend, Hollywood's pictographic skills were moving on from the horse and the man on a horse to the vehicle - cars in Spinout (1966), The French Connection (1971), Drive (2011)... motorcycles in Easy Rider (1969), Electra Glide in Blue (1973), Blood Father (2016), trucks in White Line Fever (1975), Sorcerer (1977), Convoy (1978)... and still, trains: Runaway Train (1985), The Fugitive (1993), Unstoppable (2010)... 

   When I was six or seven I remember being able to stay up late once and watch The Gun of Zangara (1960) because my uncle was visiting. It was a TV-movie edited from a two-part episode of The Untouchables (1959-63) and it was full of roaring twenties car chases, tommy gun battles and bulldozed warehouse doors. I thought, "Wow, Uncle Phil really knows what to watch!" The normal TVdramatic fare for me and my brothers when growing up was after-school reruns: Rescue 8 (1958-60), Highway Patrol (1955-59), Cheyenne (1955-63), The Rebel (1959-61), Sea Hunt (1958-61), and The Whirlybirds (1957-60). Desilu Productions took over RKO's lot in 1957 which, according to Wikipedia, gave them more soundstages than either MGM or 20th Century-Fox. Desi and Lucy weren't as scattered as they appeared; The Whirlybirds spun off an episode of I Love Lucy that involved lowering Lucy onto a cruise ship from a helicopter. Lucy was impressed with the Bell helicopter with the distinctive "soap bubble" canopy which allowed the camera to see the pilots played by Kenneth Tobey and Craig Hill. The helicopter proved to be an interesting successor to the horse. On film it works as a kinetic prop that is near human scale - not as close as the horse or train, but closer than the plane or jet. Sky King (1951-59) had its lawmen flying around an Arizona jurisdiction in a Cessna which places the action a bit larger than human scale. Back when Naperville was a very small town the mail would come to town in a helicopter that would land near the High School around noon. Moms would occasionally drive their station wagons full of kids to that field and wait for the helicopter to land, hand off the mail sacks, and then take off again - it was a show. I recall Santa Claus being delivered to town in a helicopter too. Boomer kids were primed for The Whirlybirds. I don't regularly remember my dreams but one from childhood stands out: our backyard somehow was turned to a parking lot for Bell helicopters. 

   A few years later dreams of helicopters changed. They were all over the evening news in reports from Vietnam that made old DaVinci's corkscrew fever-dream of flight into an audiopictographic association with impending real world devastation: MASH (1970), Apocalypse Now (1979), Sniper (1993), Black Hawk Down (2001), Sicario (2015), Sicario: Day of the Soldato (2018)... [interestingly Robert Altman directed most of the 1958-9 season of The Whirlybirds ten years before he directed the film, MASH.] I had a jukebox at our cafe in Laramie in the late nineties and I put the Apocalypse Now soundtrack edition 45 of The Doors, "The End", on it and the high school and college delinquents who were our customer base knew the song but seemed to respond to the surprising helicopter sounds in that mix; they played it daily. Our Vietnam helicopter hangover even pushed onto the London stage in 1989 and on to Broadway a couple years later when the musical, Miss Saigon crescendos in an Act 2 flashback ("Kim's Nightmare") complete with lift-off of a prop helicopter carrying her American lover away from her as the Commies close in. 

Still, the American Western, or its sensibility, did continue. Clint Eastwood's persona was remade from what he called his "trail flunky" on Rawhide (1959-66) by the international successes of Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy before he built his own company, Malpaso, and picked Don Siegel as a mentor for his future directing career. Siegel made some good Westerns but his sensibility was urban rather than rural. Siegel also mentored Sam Peckinpah who was on his own perverse trajectory of post-studio-code Western sensibility. And 1972 saw the release of four great rodeo movies (J.W. Coop, Junior Bonner, When the Legends Die, and The Honkers); post-studio Hollywood was still interested in such western themes. When I moved to Hollywood in September 1976 I was in thrall to American films by Siegel, Eastwood, Peckinpah, Warren Oates, Jeff Bridges, Charles Bronson, and Peter Fonda. I saw in the phone book that Fonda's company, Pando, had an office near the Las Palmas newsstand, or maybe it was on Cherokee just south of Hollywood Blvd. Fonda's The Hired Hand (1971) was a groundbreaking Western with major contributions by Oates, Verna Bloom, writer Alan Sharp, cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, montagist Frank Mazzola, and musician Bruce Langhorne that together yielded a rural psychedelia that ties elemental ranch chores to the eternity of peasants on the land before the outside world threatens and the Western 2nd unit action kicks in. [At 21 I had nothing but a terrible first Western script to leave with the slack hippie girls working at Pando - oh, well... I drifted into the music business.] 

   Perhaps it went unnoticed as the original builders of the equestrian infrastructure in Hollywood began to pass. Certainly the auctioning off of MGM's wardrobe and props collections got more attention. A present-day riding site claims there are a hundred thousand horses in the L.A. area today; a hundred years ago there might've been a million. Hollywood, if not the entire city of Los Angeles was something of a cow-town before WWII. The stables run by Fat Jones, the Hudkins Brothers, Ralph McCutcheon, Glenn Randall and others must've weathered jolting downturns as the production of Westerns halved and then halved again for movies, and then for television too. Jones died in 1963; Ace Hudkins died in 1973, McCutcheon in 1975... As I wrapped up work on my film book in 2015 I wondered where the last whisp of the Western sensibility might go if Clint Eastwood were to actually finally, you know... kick the bucket. MoMA's Dave Kehr writes of Eastwood being "almost alone as a plausible candidate for the Last Classicist, perhaps the only working American filmmaker whose practical experience dates back to the 1950s." (When Movies Mattered) Eastwood is still directing and producing and occasionally acting in features; as far back as Unforgiven (1992) he plays his ex-gunfighter, now pig-farmer/widowed dad, as barely able to mount his horse. 

   It was after I put the book to bed that I saw Hell or High Water (2016). I had pretty much lost the thread of contemporary cinema while I spent years studying postwar Westerns, then years more on silent cinema and more years on fifties TV Westerns, never mind the research on Soviet cinema, Italian neo-realism, German mountain films.... But I still try to catch up on Jeff Bridges films so this was the first time I noticed the name Taylor Sheridan. (First time I heard Chris Stapleton too.) I had tried to watch an episode or two of Sons of Anarchy (2008-14) to see my old SST compadre and publisher Henry Rollins, but when he wasn't in the episode I lost interest and didn't notice Sheridan the actor though I probably saw him pass through Walker, Texas Ranger (1993-01) - Buck Taylor gave the best performance I saw on that show. Sheridan's Hell or High Water script has nice detail regarding the outlaw brothers (Ben Foster, Chris Pine) and is even better with the older pair of lawmen (Bridges, Gil Birmingham) and the featured support of random Texans (Buck Taylor, Paul Howard Smith), all without any of the arch flat affect of the Coen brothers treatment of similar types, so I took note of the screenwriter's name. It was interesting too that Sheridan plays a drive boss and gives himself the worst written line in the movie! 

   I saw that Sheridan had an earlier script produced called Sicario (2015) so I watched that. It too had well written lead parts (Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt), and interesting support (Jeffrey Donovan). Hell was directed by David Mackenzie and Sicario by Denis Villeneuve, but Sheridan's third script, Wind River (2017), he directed - he has one director-only credit for a horror film that I haven't seen. I try to keep to Wyoming myself so I looked forward to the new film, though as usual with films and television shows it was only set in the state, not filmed in it. That's been the case with Red Rock West (1993), Longmire (2012-17), Open Range (2003), and more, no doubt. Wind River, named for the Eastern Shoshone-Northern Arapaho reservation west of central Wyoming, has less graphic power than the earlier films but Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen and Graham Greene played well-written leads and Sheridan pulled in alot of Native American actors including Gil Birmingham again. Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018) was directed by Stefano Sollima and this sequel follows the black ops drug warrior veterans played by Brolin, Del Toro, and Donovan, rather than the original film's newbies (Blunt and Daniel Kaluuya) and adds teens tied to the cartel (Isabella Merced, Elijah Rodriguez) as well as intelligence bureaucrats (Mathew Modine, Catherine Keener) and people smugglers (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, David Castaneda) all of which are well-drawn and played. The production itself builds on the original's determination to show us the border and environs to portray global war-on-terror aspects too. 

   When Yellowstone (2018- ) was announced as Taylor Sheridan's next project I thought it'd be a shame if this boom in cable, premium and streamed episodic television claimed him, because even if its a kind of Western it's still just television and television's open endedness unravels storysense as fast as it weaves plot. But it's been good television with nicely mapped out reveals and shifts in alliances and well conceived characters to make those developments work. I might have included Kevin Costner in Stone Male because he has nice dry delivery for a lead player but often as producer and director of himself he's lacked Eastwood's willingness to regard his persona as ugly or foolish here and there. But aging helps actors. I'd say Yellowstone is Costner's best work; he is an executive producer on it with Sheridan and a dozen other people - it's a big production shot in Utah and recently, Montana. (Yellowstone has it that Wyoming is for dumping dead bodies.) The show's got great characters played well by Costner, Birmingham, Kelly Reilly, Cole Hauser, Luke Grimes, Kelsey Asbille, Wes Bentley, Jefferson White, Forrie Smith, Mo Brings Plenty, Ryan Bingham and again Gil Birmingham, Buck Taylor, Paul Howard Smith, and Taylor Sheridan himself. The show is a real actors mill and a great number of performers new or familiar or with remembered names like Peckinpah, Corbin, Wilhoite, Coleman, Kilcher... pass through the episodes as if the producers like actors and the casting process. That is an advantage these days because as I write in the book, its a performer's age we live in, not a director's or composer's or conductor's or novelist's age. One does notice Hollywood's corporate push for diversity and equity in the last couple seasons, as if there might be as many African-Americans as Native Americans in Montana and as many women as men cowboyin' the range. 

Sheridan sits beside an impassive Costner in the original promotional trailer as he makes light of his acting career in explaining his turn to writing and directing. But Taylor is Texas-born and a talented horseman as becomes clear in the latest season which introduces competitive reining and horse-breeding themes. There may be a Texas-set spinoff series coming based around Jefferson White's character Jimmy, and it is Sheridan's horse-dealer who connects the two ranches. Sheridan gives his own character an impatient, irksome nature which brings to mind Joel McCrea, who explained how he'd enter any scene focused on something in the room that irritated him. 

   Yellowstone was successful in rural areas from the start, but it was almost cancelled after season two. John Jurgensen reports: "When Yellowstone premieried in 2018, the show ranked fourth in the 25-to-54 age group in the least-populated TV markets, categorized by Nielsen as D markets. In the country's most populous areas - dubbed A markets... Yellowstone didn't crack the top 50.... Yellowstone fans are now more evenly distributed, with A and D markets both accounting for 28% of season 4 viewers." (Wall Street Journal) 

Yellowstone's success has spread until it's become the number one basic cable series. Sheridan has created two series for the Paramount+ streamer. His productions seem to be a key piece of Paramount's attempt to avoid the fate of 20th Century-Fox and survive as a free-standing studio-conglomerate - ViacomCBS has just been renamed Paramount Global. Premiere episodes of new Taylor Sheridan productions teased on the Paramount channel look fine, especially, 1883 (2021- ), the prequel Western for Yellowstone which casts Tim McGraw and Faith Hill as the Dutton ancestors leaving the rough edge of American civilization for the land that will become the Yellowstone ranch as told by their daughter. Sam Elliott and LaMonica Garrett are along as wagon train bosses and maybe Paul Howard Smith will show up too but perhaps his accent hadn't yet brewed up in Texas. Jeremy Renner is good in Mayor of Kingstown (2021- ) which switches the open range or desert for the claustrophic Michigan town whose business is prisons. Sheridan also created a reality show called The Last Cowboy (2019- ) which follows a bunch of the McCutcheons and others in competitive horse reining - didn't look at it. He contributed as one of three writers and directed Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021) which has Angelina Jolie as a firefighter and is either a rare misfire or a signal he is spreading himself a bit thin. Didn't see a Tom Clancy adaptation Sheridan wrote for Stefano Sollima's direction, Without Remorse (2021). 

I should have included actor Paul Howard Smith and Taylor Sheridan in Stone Male, and also the Russian film, Brother (1997) written and directed by Alexei Balabanov which a friend in Moscow told me about after my book came out and he'd read the chapter about Russian and Soviet cinemas. Brother's lead, Sergei Bodrov, Jr. plays an independant character like a young Charles Bronson figure achieving a longshot workmanlike victory against a system designed to break him - a kind of populist answer to the Andrei Zvyagintsev films. 

   Taylor Sheridan's personal bona-fides in terms of horsemanship and his successful drive to relaunch the Western ethos has allowed him to put some of the professional horsemen into the show and have them speak their lines - bad actors but little bits of underplayed or unplayed parts are good calibration for the theatrically trained thespians looking to make a scene. Still, it is clear what has been lost in Hollywood when one sees the actors in Yellowstone and 1883 riding horses. Old school Hollywood horsemanship is there to be seen in any old Western - either feature, B-Western, serial, or TV episode. In the worst kidstuff, the bad guys in the gang ride their horses in a tight formation that moves over the land like liquid, their heads so level they could hit a target at full gallup like a Mongol invader. Cole Hauser plays one of the best Yellowstone characters and here he talks about the cowboy camp Taylor Sheridan runs for his actors: “Following a full day of riding everything is going to hurt, especially your back, hips, and legs. Then your shoulders and neck hurt from roping. Being in horse shape is a lot different than being in gym shape.... It’s important to have a strong core and legs..., there are a lot of people who think you’re using the reins to steer your horse, but actually a lot of it happens through the legs and putting the right amount of pressure there with the saddle tongue.” (Men's Journal) 

And still the actors of Yellowstone bounce around atop the horses at any speed above a walk. It can't be otherwise because its more than just a loss of riding culture in Hollywood. It is a loss of a rural population and its cultural mass, and further the loss of the entertainment industry's determination to focus on the lives of the people it once accepted and respected. Those old audiences weren't just watching stories play out, they were appreciating horsemanship as riders themselves. And it is a loss of behind-the-camera expertise too. Directors and cameramen could once frame men on horseback in their sleep; they lived it... out in Lone Pine or Chatsworth or Big Bear or Bishop or Newhall. The specialization of the Western units has atrophied since the seventies. Today's 2nd units are great at shooting vehicles. The skilled execution of the productions of Taylor Sheridan's Sicario scripts demonstrates this with the action framing of helicopters, Hummers, police cars, drones, et. al. 

Francis Ford began in films at Centaur in Bayonne, New Jersey in 1908. In his unpublished memoir he ridicules those earliest Westerns they shot in the Coytesville-Ft. Lee area as "Easterns" and described them as made with "Jersey cowboys" riding "English saddles on bobtailed horses." That was the equestrian culture of the east coast back then. Maybe now the west itself is suburban or ex-urban if not entirely eastern too. This may be irreparable and simply an occasion to grant the glory days of Hollywood studios their due. But that is important too. As for today, its good to see actors bounce across the prairie on their horses and its nice to know there's an audience for it. 

[illustrations: Leroy Johnson, Gun for a Coward (Bison Archives - The Margaret Herrick Library); Tom Mix on Tony, 3 Jumps Ahead (Bison - Herrick Library); Sid Jordan and Tom Mix, The Coming of the Law; Clarence Fat Jones, Fat Jones Stables, North Hollywood (courtesy Kenneth Kitchen); Yakima Canutt, Stagecoach; Ben Johnson, Rio Grande; Steve McQueen, Bullitt; Sorcerer; Runaway Train; The Whirlybirds; Robert Altman, MASH; Apocalypse Now; Black Hawk Down; Fat Jones Stables business card; Ode Hudkins, Hudkins Bros. Stables, 1958 (courtesy Valley Times collection); Ralph McCutcheon, Van Nuys; Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino; Kevin Costner, Yellowstone; Sicario: Day of the Soldado; Sam Elliott, 1883; Taylor Sheridan and Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water; Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea at Horseshoe Lake location, October 1961 Ride the High Country shoot.]

New York City
Photograph by Jane Stokes

From the Burbank Desk of Chris Collins...

The Butterfield Blues Band - East-West (1966) From wet and roomy Chess Studios of Chicago, antipode to the anechoic void of the modern studio, Mike Bloomfield and his screeching Telecaster create the blueprint for the ten minute plus free-form raga rager native to 1967-70. But first, "Get Out of My Life, Woman" packs enough toe-tapping counter-gynophilic punch to elicit a trigger warning and 20 minutes of hand-wringing from a Woke blues podcast. Butterfield blows good harp but melts into the wallpaper as a singer, while drummer Billy Davenport snakily syncopates and barrelhouse piano adds to the party. The excursive title track which closes ushered in the guitar hero era while Jimi waited in the wings. Yes, from "Sister Ray" to "Third Stone" to "Dark Star" to "Reoccuring Dreams", you hear the idea first here (Bloomfield cited "My Favorite Things" era Coltrane as his source). Hell, it even invents Flipper's "Sex Bomb" bass line.

Pentangle - s/t (1968) English folk scene's answer to the supergroup with Bert Jansch and John Renbourn on acoustic guitars. Simple pristine production: one guitar in each channel, triangles, one of the best tom sounds ever heard. Jacqueline McShee sings prettily but doesn't register as much of a presence, unsurprising in a group oriented around interplay between previously established musicians. Danny Thompson's thumping (or bowed) double bass certainly does register; I first saw him backing Richard (no relation) Thompson at the Roxy in 1999 (still on double bass), and he played on the first two Nick Drake albums. (Drake producer Joe Boyd said Danny, a boisterous cockney, would slap Nick on the back and tease him in a way that lifted his mood, since Drake's recessive manner made others tiptoe around him.) Producer: Shel Talmy, better known for the raunch of early Kinks and Who. Audiophile anoraks say UK first pressing is more transparent than my fine sounding 1971 tan steamboat-label US Reprise issue.

Spirit - s/t (1968) Different from their later albums, spacier, less hard rock. Appealing disconnected psychedelia, a la "Fresh Garbage", and "Topanga Windows" (another song is about a fire in the Canyon. Did these three songs predict the Manson family?) at midtempo simmer somewhat akin to Love. Too much jam-filler on side 2. They were aided by a mature jazz drummer in Ed Cassady, guitarist Randy California's stepfather. "Uncle Jack" is an oddball pop throwaway that sticks to your shoe sole. The sound is best captured by "Girl in Your Eye," a languidly beautiful sitar-droner of the sort that was extinct by 1970. Producer Lou Adler took a heavy hand into the editing room, leaving some dejected members feeling the finished product wasn't theirs.

Fairport Convention - Full House (1970) The first record with Sandy Denny gone and the last one with Richard Thompson. It's their hardest rocking with the new stress on guitar-fiddle duels between Thompson and Dave Swarbrick begun on the previous LP Liege & Lief. Highlight: Thompson's nine minute dirge "Sloth" ("just a roll on your drum and the war has begun"), the first of his extended workouts. He also switched from Gibsons to Strats starting here. [Cover stickers: $5.95 at Rasputin's. Folk-rock. Lacks vocal power of Pentangle. lo-key. Different. Pleasant.] Back sleeve notes are Thompson's bulletin of arcane medieval recreation, eg: "AT MAIDS MONEY Some of the hottest dice-Throwing for years. The Doctor's Druids egg stood him in good stead. Later protests by 11,000 Virgins of Cologne against cruel sports. Wandering Jew killed in brawl with Hangman, hacked in two with a ploughshare."

Fotheringay - s/t (1970) Sandy Denny's first record after leaving Fairport. The band is as strong as Fairport with drummer Gerry Conway providing a looser more rolling foundation and Jerry Donahue a near match for Richard Thompson on guitar with his own clockwork fingerpicked patterns; Denny's eventual husband Trevor Lucas provides baritone counterpoint to her famous airy alto. Features anthropomorphic monologue "The Sea", one of Denny's best songs, but too heavy on covers (Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot). Sadly not included is "John the Gun", possibly her very best, heard on Fotheringay's superb Beat Club session. Denny left for a solo career before they could record a second Fotheringay album, oddly enough recruiting her ex-bandmates as support for her debut. "John the Gun" is featured on her first album.

Bob Dylan - Desire (1975) I'm no Dylan specialist, but one great quality of his is offhandedness. Never does he sound overarranged or calculated. "Isis" is the star of the show, and there's a song about Mexico with a beautiful quasi-Mexican melody similar to Warren Zevon's "Veracruz" from a few years later sans the actual Spanish verse. Violin is woven throughout the album. "Joe", his flirtation with "mafia chic" as Lester Bangs put it, has a lazy chorus of "Jooooooey", but I see it as his adaptation of half imagined folk song tributes to bank robbers and such adapted to a mob psycho (Joe Gallo) for yuks, though I don't like the song. Nothing this imp ever said or did was more than half serious.

Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True (1977) Hasn't fully sunk in yet. The familiar "Watching the Detectives" is just okay. Here's one of those albums that saves the best song for last: "Waiting for the End of the World" which has that white boy rap rhythm of "Subterranean Homesick Blues" - actually invented by Chuck Berry in "Too Much Monkey Business" and some lazy slide guitar. It's interesting how the Costello cult has faded. The man was pound-for-pound king amongst critics in the new wave era, yet his records sell for peanuts used. Research shows he had hit singles in the UK but not the US.

Dire Straits - s/t (1978) I heard "Sultans of Swing" on a "Trucker radio" internet station other day between Merle Haggard songs. I've known the song for years without loving it, but hearing "Water of Love" with its gorgeous slide guitar intro playing on KCSN a couple of years ago convinced me I had to get the record. They owe something to JJ Cale for a laid-back churn, Dylan for a dry croak-sing, and Richard Thompson for that thin, clean position 2 Strat tone. It took a few listens for the punchline of "In the Gallery" to register: death as the ultimate career move for a poor, skilled but workmanlike sculptor.

Elvis Costello - Imperial Bedroom (1982) I haven't heard his catalog in full, but side A seems like his peak. Leadoff track "Beyond Belief" has prismatic melody that keeps ducking and diving, slipping in and out of key like the best jazz, a light organ swirl, and wordplay that sticks to you. Baroque pop, like some late Beatles, the bridge of "Good Vibrations", the Left Banke. From there it dips a bit but builds strongly to the end of the side. Side B is an afterthought by comparison. I was never too impressed by Costello tracks I heard as a young punk, but after my ear for songcraft developed, hearing "Clubland", the leadoff track off Trust, convinced me he had something special.

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble - Couldn't Stand the Weather (1984) Hard-throttling boogie woogie roided up for the Schwarzenegger 80s. This album's "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)", used in the movie Black Hawk Down, misses the fury of the original and it put me off Vaughan for years. Foolish me. Then one day I heard side one's "Things That I Used to Do" (a 1953 R&B #1 for Guitar Slim) on the radio and was thrilled. Its guitar solo in three sections over 36 bars was doing things I'd inchoately attempted on the instrument during jams. It starts verbose, turns mantric, then finds peace in hammering-on to the tonic from the minor 7th, suspending the two notes across a chasm in the groove. Stevie was essentially a bar band leader, writing no classic tunes of his own, but his guitar and foghorn voice were enough. And everyone knows an ace bar band on a good night is the best band in the world. Concludes with a surprise lounge-bop instrumental.

Clive Gregson & Christine Collister - Mischief (1987) Gregson was a songwriter-guitarist in a power pop group called Any Trouble signed to Stiff in the early 80s who had a great shoulda-been-a-hit called "Open Fire". Together with Collister (she of the deeper voice) he was in Richard Thompson's 80s backing band. Here's another smash miss single in "Everybody Cheats on You". Blues-skewing melodicism with harmonic depth. Alternate universe hit #2: "I Specialize". Ace jazz ballad pastiche: "I Will Be There". Both sides close strong. File under: Guitar-oriented new wave era songcraft with Elvis Costello, XTC, Squeeze, Richard Thompson, Split Enz, Tears for Fears (possibly). All the better for being overlooked. Bonus: Copy I bought at Atomic records is personalized to someone by the artists

DuPage River, Illinois
Photograph by Joe Carducci

From the London Desk of Steve Beeho...

John Gray in NEW STATESMAN, The Western Mind No Longer Understands Putin.

Putin is the face of a world the contemporary Western mind does not comprehend. In this world, war remains a permanent part of human experience; lethal struggles over territory and resources can erupt at any time; human beings kill and die for the sake of mystical visions; and saving the victims of tyranny and aggression is often impossible. These are hard truths, to be sure. But the time for pretence and illusion has passed. The enervating dream of a global liberal order must be abandoned, and the reckless disarmament of the past decades reversed. Only then will we be prepared for whatever Putin’s war brings.


Justin Webb at unherd.com, In Defence of Class.

I cannot defend the attitudes my mother had. She was kindly in many ways. She worked for Amnesty International in the days when it had a single purpose: to help prisoners of conscience. She was a Quaker, a pacifist who visited the protesters at Greenham Common. And yet her view of the human beings she wanted to save from nuclear holocaust, or from foreign jails, was dismissive at best. Fifty years on, our social attitudes are utterly changed. We have said good riddance to the system that Mum believed in, that kept her and Granny safe from class disaster even when poverty overwhelmed their lives. A system of caste as much as class. But I wonder at what we have lost: in solidarity, in safety, in togetherness — and above all in psychological freedom. No longer can we shrug and say, whatever, I had no agency. Life is what it is, and I am protected from the deepest psychological hurt because I am a member of a social class and I cannot rise, and cannot fall, because of it.


Laura Dodsworth in THE CRITIC, Nudge Nudge Wink Wink.

Nudge assumes we are not rational beings. It assumes that paternalistic libertarians know what is best for us. Ruda does not shy away from this, clearly stating that “behavioural science was conceived as a means of recognising and correcting the biases that lead humans to make non-rational decisions”. Stripping away our rational choices and influencing us at a subliminal level is anti-democratic. Rebranding must not hide behind handwringing. Nudge happens behind our backs. It’s time to keep it under a spotlight where we can see it. Some of us have been doing that for some time. I’m glad to see others are finally catching up.


Frank Furedi in THE CRITIC, Danger: Semantic Engineers at Work.

In their study, Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language, Keith Allan and Kate Burridge argue that whereas traditional censoring activities were about maintaining the status quo, what came to be known as PC language was more about promoting political and social change. The attempt to change language is motivated by the objective of changing how people behave and how they identify. For example, the promotion of a gender-neutral language aims to alter the identity of a man and a woman or a boy and a girl. Allan and Burridge observe that semantic engineering has been “extremely successful in getting people to change their linguistic behaviour”. Altering how people speak serves as a prelude to changing the way people think and act. Language and the policing of verbal communication have become crucially important for guiding behaviour and shaping attitudes. Through the re-engineering of language, the meaning that people attach to their experience is altered. History shows that language does not simply mirror people’s reality but also, to some extent, constructs it.


Rod Liddle in THE SPECTATOR, The BBC Is Trapped in Its Own Smug Bubble.

And so to the present, with the BBC facing its most serious crisis since its inception 100 years ago — one occasioned by the increasingly incontestable left-liberal drift of its drama, comedy, documentaries and news and current affairs programmes, and a changing market in which a straight tax on everyone who wants to be connected to the outside world seems a little de trop. Hendy will have none of it: there was never any bias in the past, and there is no bias now. It is a standpoint so purblind as to devalue his entire undertaking. Yet, as I mentioned, it is a failing shared by almost all who work at the BBC. They do not think they have a bias because the corporation’s vast bubble agrees within itself about more or less everything. In a moving, and I think sincere, postscript Hendy acknowledges the lost opportunities, (non-political) flaws and top-heavy bureaucracy — while reminding us of Joni Mitchell’s line that ‘You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’. Well, perhaps. But the BBC has latterly been the architect of its own demise: the right has merely helped it on its way. And there are many — including those, like myself, who are not Conservatives — who would concur with Norman Tebbit’s description of the ‘insufferable, smug, sanctimonious, naive, guilt-ridden, wet, pink orthodoxy of that sunset home of third-rate minds of that third-rate decade, the Sixties’. Oh yea, and yea again.


Christian Toto at unherd.com, How China Ghosted Hollywood.

China is by no means the first country to put pressure on Hollywood. A fascinating chapter in Red Carpet looks back at 1930’s All Quiet on the Western Front. The German government cajoled Universal to restructure Front to make it less critical of their efforts in the war. Universal did as it was told in order to access German theatres. Decades later, Hollywood is once again ceding to a foreign power’s requests, but on a far larger scale than in the past. No US studio could ignore the fact that, before the pandemic, at one point China was building around 25 movie screens every day. So they censored their products. And it wasn’t just the studios. A-listers will lecture the American public on any topic that comes to mind — recall Robert De Niro’s splenetic interventions during the Trump era — except China. It adds up to a chilling indictment of Western capitalism. When uncoupled from moral scruples, it plugs smoothly into China’s mainframe.


Jon Savage in NEW STATESMAN, How Isidore Isou Ignited an Age of Youth Rebellion.

In mid-1949, posters began to appear all over the Left Bank of Paris, announcing that “12 million young people would soon be coming down the street to make the Lettriste revolution”. They were put up by the Lettristes, an avant-garde group willed into being by the febrile brain of Isidore Isou, a 24-year-old Romanian Jew who, barely surviving the Holocaust, had arrived in Paris just after the war with the express intention of taking the capital by storm. The posters trailed the latest pamphlet by Isou, entitled “Traite de l’economie nucleaire: Soulevement de la jeunesse” (“Treatise of Nuclear Economics: Youth Uprising!”). This remarkable document set out a vision of youth as a revolutionary class – a vision that within two decades would be realised with a force that went beyond Isou’s wildest imaginings. Or maybe not: from an early age, Isou was convinced that he was a religious figure, if not the Messiah. Isou’s premise was that definitions of youth as a separate class, a cohort, had hitherto been dictated by adults, authorities, regimes. They were always, in Andrew Hussey’s précis, “associated with sport, fitness, serving society and above all obedience”. But youth could be a “rebellious and dissident force”, wild and savage and free. All they had to do was to reject the strictures and structures of the society within which they lived. It was simply a matter of channelling “the energy and savagery of youth into a coherent strike-force”.


Eugene Robinson at substack.com, Surrendering to the Suck.

I was interviewing [Chuck Dukowski], marginally, for a magazine I had started, The Birth of Tragedy. The interview subsequently led to the label he repped, SST, advertising in it, and beyond that, SST deciding to release OXBOW’s second Albini-recorded record Serenade in Red. We don’t know if they used contracts with everyone, but we required a contract. My wife at the time was a lawyer and she had convinced me that though they were generally not worth the paper they were printed on, it was better to have your ass covered by one than not. So we had cruised down to the SST offices and sat and mulled over the contract. Greg Ginn was there but we were talking to Chuck and I started chuckling. “What?” Well, there was a clause regarding their rights to our recording material on tapes, CDs, vinyls or any so-called “formats of the future”. Formats of the future. Like music pills? Or play pods? Or sonic sauces? Now I was laughing. Get the fuck outta here. Music was music was music. But not for the first time and not for the last time, Dukowski got in my head and wiggled his fingers around: “if you don’t think technology’s going to change music you haven’t been paying attention.”


Lavinia Greenlaw in LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS, Why Couldn't She Be Fun?.

The New Wave scene emerged in Britain in the late 1970s when Nico was living in London.  Bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Adverts and Cabaret Voltaire revered the Velvet Underground and invited her to open their shows. The audience was divided between those who were in awe of her place in musical history and those who saw a middle-aged woman droning along to a weird little organ. The latter hurled beer cans and mocked and spat perhaps because, like Zappa, they could not bear her seriousness. One night she responded: ‘If I had a machine gun, I would shoot you all.’ She would have been serious about that, too. For young women navigating the music scene, Nico stood as encouragement to hold your ground and stay in the room, to become more yourself. She was also evidence of what it might cost.


Simon Reynolds in LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS on Paul Gorman's book, The Life and Times of Malcolm McLaren.

This bias towards the visual arts – fashion, film, the album cover as a mass-distributed canvas – runs through McLaren’s career. According to Vermorel, he had no real interest in music until the New York Dolls walked into Let It Rock. McLaren, of course, had no authorial claim over the music, which no doubt explains why he denigrated it incessantly. ‘Christ,’ he sneers in The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle, ‘if people bought the records for the music, this scene would’ve died a death years ago.’ Yet McLaren was the catalyst that made the Sex Pistols ignite. None of the musical contributors to the Pistols did anything of such electrifying force afterwards. Rotten, also a non-musician, did. But his lyrics for Public Image Ltd are noticeably different from the ones he wrote in the Pistols: they are more poetic and fractured, but the grandeur has gone. Although McLaren isn’t included in the credits of any Pistols song, his sensibility seeped into the band from the atmosphere he created around them.

Along Ehlin Road, Centennial, Wyoming
Photograph by Joe Carducci

From the DuPage and Wyoming Desks of Joe Carducci...

Bill Woodward in RANGE, The Way We Were.

What it meant to live in Wyoming came to me one cold November evening. I was elk hunting with two Basque sheepmen. We finished supper and were drinking wine, sitting in an old log cabin at 8,000 feet in the Bighorns. Domingo Martirena graduated from a seminary in France and was hired by his American relatives as a sheepherder. He talked about guiding escaping Aamerican air-crews over the Pyrenees during the war and reminisced about 1947, when he was dropped off on the Powder River at a sheep wagon with a 94 Winchester, a sack of provisions, and a border collie. Across the table sat his cousin, Charles Marton, a WWII vet who served in the same PT boat squadron as John F. Kennedy. He told tales of war in the Pacific. Occasionally, both men would hold forth in Basque - exploring some arcane bit of sheep culture best described in an ancient tongue. They talked on as the moon curled higher against a cloudless sky. I stepped outside. There was not a sound. The wind had died, and moonlight bathed the snow-covered basin below in a mantle of white. In the distance, 40 miles away, the lights of Worland twinkled like a Christmas tree.


Peter Kiefer & Peter Savodnik at substack.com, Hollywood's New Rules.

To help producers meet the new standards, the filmmaker Ava DuVernay—who was recently added to Forbes’ list of “The Most Powerful Women in Entertainment” along with Oprah Winfrey and Taylor Swift—last year created ARRAY Crew, a database of women, people of color, and others from underrepresented groups who work on day-to-day production: line producers, camera operators, art directors, sound mixers and so on. The Hollywood Reporter declared that ARRAY Crew has “fundamentally changed how Hollywood productions will be staffed going forward.” More than 900 productions, including “Yellowstone” and “Mare of Easttown,” have used ARRAY Crew, said Jeffrey Tobler, the chief marketing officer of ARRAY, DuVernay’s production company. Privately, directors and writers voiced irritation with DuVernay, who, they said, had exploited the “post-George Floyd moment.” But no one dared to criticize her openly. “I’m not crazy,” one screenwriter said.... But the result has not just been a demographic change. It has been an ideological and cultural transformation. We spoke to more than 25 writers, directors, and producers—all of whom identify as liberal, and all of whom described a pervasive fear of running afoul of the new dogma. This was the case not just among the high command at companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, but at every level of production. How to survive the revolution? By becoming its most ardent supporter. “Best way to defend yourself against the woke is to out-woke everyone, including the woke,” one writer said.


James Parker in NEW YORK TIMES on Erich Schwartzel's book, Red Carpet - Hollywood, China, and the Global Battle for Cultural Supremacy.

“There is, in fact, no such thing as art for art’s sake,” Mao Zedong said in a lecture delivered in Yan’an in 1942. On this point, he and capitalism were in complete agreement: You’re always selling something, be it a revolution or a pair of sneakers. “Red Carpet” is the story of the nexus that formed when Hollywood realized it needed China’s cash, and China realized it could first manipulate — and then appropriate — Hollywood’s special gifts for enchantment, coercion, lifestyle control, and inducing audiences to tear up by means of orchestral swells and Tom Hanks talking earnestly to small children. Or, for that matter, an 18th-century Mel Gibson all bulging with love of freedom: When Sony executives sent a print of “The Patriot” to the censors in Beijing, hoping for a release, they were told that such approval had been denied — but could Chinese officials hold onto the print? “We want others in the bureau to watch it so they can understand how to make a good propaganda film.”


Meagan Day in JACOBIN, Fassbinder and the Red Army Faction.

In 1966, at age twenty-one, Fassbinder sought admission to the brand-new German Film and Television Academy Berlin.... Fassbinder applied once more the following year, submitting two films he’d made with the financial support of an older lover, and was again rejected. In August 1967, Fassbinder stumbled into an underground theater in Munich, established six months earlier as an art house showcasing work primarily by the Oberhausen group. Action-Theater, writes Fassbinder scholar Wallace Steadman Watson, was “fifty-nine chairs... and saloon tables in what one critic called a ‘gloomy dive.’” Under the creative direction of its founders, a married couple named Ursula Strätz and Horst Söhnlein, Action-Theater had been transformed into a venue for avant-garde live plays. Fascinated, Fassbinder joined the loose collective and was quickly jockeying with Söhnlein for authority. It was at Action-Theater that he collided with the student movement, which at that time was reaching fever pitch in cities across West Germany. And it was at Action-Theater that he came to know a few of those who would push the movement into its next, more violent phase — including Söhnlein and his political friends, future RAF core members Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin.


Frederic Dalleas in LE MONDE DIPLOMATIQUE, When China's Rural Young Found Their Style.

This youth subculture began in 2006, when 11-year-old Luo Fuxing discovered Japanese and Korean music and fashion. Luo belonged to a generation known as the ‘left-behind children’ (liushou ertong) as their parents had left them in the care of their grandparents to seek factory work in the cities. He lived in Meizhou prefecture, some 400km from Guangzhou, and spent his time on the instant messaging platform QQ, then a favourite of Chinese youth. Like many others, he chatted and played computer games in several online communities. This was also the start of the so-called ‘Martian’ era, in which Chinese youth developed an alternative social media language which, like its western counterpart, used emojis, but also repurposed Chinese characters, sometimes with the aim of bypassing censorship. A whole generation of young people began enthusiastically rebelling against the dominant culture. Being different was trendy, and new fashions were emerging. Luo Fuxing was drawn to the most underground movements, but found even their style too tame. Inspired by the elaborate aesthetic of Japan’s Visual Kei subculture, he dyed his hair bright red, put on a sleeveless studded jacket and took a selfie. His new look needed a name so he transcribed the English word ‘smart’ phonetically into Chinese as shā-mǎ-tè. Within days of posting his selfie online, the Internet had picked up on the name. The three characters he’d chosen were meaningless in combination, but their individual meanings — shā, ‘to kill’; mǎ, ‘horse’; tè, ‘special’ — suggested wild freedom and combat, encouraging many young Chinese to imagine themselves as part-punk, part-dandy.


Anwen Crawford in JACOBIN, China's Slacker Superstar.

Lelush, born Vladislav Sidorov, ended up on Produce Camp - so the story goes - because he had been hired as a behind-the-scenes translator for the show's international contestants. A producer, taken with his good looks, put him in front of the camera instead, and Lelush - having realized too late that boy band boot camp was not his jam - began to intentionally sabotage his chances of victory. He rapped sullenly, danced badly, and refused to smile. Alas, unfortunately for our unwilling star, his tactics backfired - week after week, the viewers voted for Lelush to stay.... "Becoming a boy band member is not my dream," Lelush told his viewing audience, who nevertheless continued to punish him with their love.


William Langley & Edward White in FINANCIAL TIMES, China Slams 'Extravagant Pleasure' of Fandom by Reining in Celebrity Culture.

The Cyberspace Administration of China on Tuesday released a set of rules to regulate celebrities, as well as their advertising and fan groups, as part of President Xi Jinping’s drive to reform social values in the country. The CAC lambasted “the supremacy of [internet] traffic” and “abnormal aesthetics” for deteriorating “mainstream values” in Chinese society. The rules could ban fan-run pages with tens of millions of followers that have proliferated online and clashed with Beijing’s campaign to reshape youth culture by promoting equality and “common prosperity”. Fan groups must now be managed by professional celebrity agents. The number of times celebrities and their associated works or products can appear on web pages will also be limited. The new rules are designed to tackle the problems posed by “fandom”, the millions of devout followers of Asian celebrities who congregate in fan armies online.


Eva Fu in EPOCH TIMES, 21-Year-Old Tortured Over Posts About Chinese Leader's Daughter.

"The lawyer told me after seeing him that he saw cigarette burns on his arm. He can't move his right arm and has to eat with his left hand," the mother of Niu Tengyu, the jailed administrator of the wiki-based forum Esu Wiki, said in an interview. "They injected some unknown substances into his feet that caused pus. It was so painful that he can't sleep at night." Niu's supposed offense stemmed from posts dating to May 2019 that revealed photos, the identification number, and the passport photo of Xi's Harvard-educated daughter, Xi Mingze, as well as details of Xi's brother-in-law, Deng Jiagui. The forum, characterized by parodies of celebrities and nationalistic memes, has since been shut down. Niu, a self-taught coder, received the harshest punishment among 24 people arrested in connection with the case. All of them are students with administrative access to the forum, including nine who were under 18 years old.


Liyan Qi in WALL STREET JOURNAL, Beijing Targets Low Birth Rate.

The use of abortions hasn’t fallen off a cliff. In 1991, the year of the 100-day campaign in Shandong, around 14 million abortions were performed in China, according to National Health Commission data. The number was just below nine million in 2020. More striking is that the number of family-planning centers, primarily used for abortions, sterilizations and insertions of intrauterine devices, has dwindled to 2,810 across China in 2020, less than 10% of the number in 2014. Meanwhile, rounds of in vitro fertilization, or IVF—each round being a multistep process over four to six weeks—have more than doubled, from about 485,000 in 2013 to more than one million in 2018.


Garbrielle Reyes at breitbart.com, Uyghur Gynecologist Says China Sterilized 80 People a Day for Years.

The newspaper identified the female gynecologist simply as Gülgine. The doctor, herself an ethnic Uyghur, spoke to the Sankei Shimbun from Istanbul, Turkey, where she immigrated in 2011. “A lot of women were put on the back of a truck and sent to the hospital,” Gülgine said. “The [sterilization] procedure took about five minutes each, but the women were crying because they did not know what was happening to them.” Gülgine, 47, said she personally carried out sterilizations of Uyghur women at a hospital in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi.... “I understood the meaning of the surgery, but I later learned that it was a policy for the Uyghur,” Gülgine said, “and I too was sterilized.” Gülgine estimated that forced sterilization began around 1980, decades before the revelation that the Chinese Communist Party was building concentration camps for Uyghur and other Muslim ethnic minority people. Roughly 50,000 Uyghur refugees like Gülgine have fled Xinjiang for Turkey in recent years. Gülgine said some of the exiled Uyghur women have visited her in Istanbul, “complaining that they cannot have children. She has examined more than 150 so far, but many don’t know they have been sterilized, and some women start crying in anger when she explains what has happened to them,” according to the Japan Forward news site.


Vivian Wang in NEW YORK TIMES, China Moves to Overhaul Protections for Women's Rights, Sort Of.

Women have also been increasingly pushed out of the workplace and into traditional gender roles since China’s leader, Xi Jinping, assumed power. Some fear that the campaign to encourage childbirth could turn coercive. The contradictions were clear in a recent article in the Global Times, a Communist Party-owned tabloid, about Chinese feminist advocacy. While the article hailed the proposed legal revisions as a “landmark move,” it also denounced “spooky ‘feminism’” and derided the “so-called MeToo movement” as yet another Western cudgel against China.


Chris Buckley in NEW YORK TIMES, A Succession Drama, Chinese Style, Starring Xi Jinping.

At the last party congress in 2017, leaders did not pick a successor to Mr. Xi, upending the ladder-like handover of power that had been taking shape in previous decades. Some of Mr. Xi’s protégés may now be too old to stay in the race, while promising younger officials remain untested, and generally unknown. Under an informal age ceiling for senior party posts, two of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee — the top tier of power — are likely to retire: Vice Premier Han Zheng and the head of the Chinese legislature, Li Zhanshu. That unspoken rule says that members who are 68 or older should step down when a congress comes around. Mr. Xi could also engineer more retirements, including of the premier, Li Keqiang, or expand the size of the Standing Committee, which is not fixed by rule. Possible recruits into the top body include Chen Min’er, Hu Chunhua, and Ding Xuexiang. All are Politburo members young enough to serve 10 years in the Standing Committee under the age rules. So far, though, none has received a telltale pre-congress move that suggests Mr. Xi has special plans for him, such as a high-profile transfer or a propaganda push.


Minxin Pei in JOURNAL OF DEMOCRACY, China: Totalitarianism's Long Shadow.

A transition away from communism led by economic reform under the rule of a one-party state is highly likely to get stuck. Entrenched interests whose fortunes are intertwined with the Leninist party-state can use totalitarian legacy institutions to defend their privileges against any reform—economic or political—that threatens them. Indeed, the evolution of the post-Tiananmen regime under Jiang Zemin (1989–2002) and Hu Jintao (2002–12) bears out this observation. Economic reforms that began promisingly in the 1990s petered out in the 2000s, while the CCP blocked even the most modest experimental efforts to promote grass-roots democracy and the rule of law. By the time Hu became leader, market-oriented economic reform had already begun to stagnate. With Xi in power, it has gone into reverse despite his vow to accelerate it. A form of state capitalism is now ascendant. We can read the story in data regarding the share of total output produced by state-owned enterprises (SOEs). All through the 1980s, as the private sector expanded, SOEs’ total output share declined by an average of 2.5 percentage points each year. From 1992 through 2017, however, the average annual decline was only 1.3 points. Thus as of 2017, after four decades of reform, Chinese SOEs still accounted for about a quarter of GDP and employed about 16 percent of all workers.


Jie Lu & Yun-han Chu in JOURNAL OF DEMOCRACY, Trading Democracy for Governance.

[T]he United States outperforms the other regions by having the largest proportion of Principle-Holders (47 percent) and the smallest share of Agnostics (less than 1 percent). Latin America's share of Principle-Holders is very close (about 46%). North Africa's proportion of Principle-Holders is barely into double digits at 11 percent, while East and South Asia average 16.5 percent. Sub-Saharan Africa exceeds all three of these regions by having about 24 percent of respondents saying they placed norms and procedures or freedom and liberty at the heart of their conception of democracy. Not surprisingly, the order of the regions is reversed when we focus on the percentages of Benefit-Seekers.


WALL STREET JOURNAL: The Woke Chinese Communist Party.

“Canada, the UK and Australia, three members of the Five Eyes alliance, have recently taken action to put pressure on China. They have formed a US-centered, racist, and mafia-styled community,” said a Feb. 23 editorial in Global Times. “They are becoming a racist axis aimed at stifling the development rights of 1.4 billion Chinese.” The Communist Party-run paper notes that the members of Five Eyes, an intelligence-sharing network, “have a strong sense of civilization superiority.” U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton is a “neo-Nazi and extreme racist” and “the Trump administration is an extremely typical white supremacy government.” By resisting this bloc of English-speaking countries, the editorial concludes, “China is not only defending its own interests, we are also defending the diversity of the modern world.”


Frank Dong in EPOCH TIMES, Chinese Researchers Build AI 'Prosecutor' That Can File Charges by Itself.

Shanghai Pudong Procuratorate, the country’s largest prosecution office, built and tested the machine. So far, the machine is able to identify and file charges for the eight most common crimes in Shanghai—credit card fraud, running a gambling operation, reckless driving, intentional injury, obstructing official duties, theft, fraud, and picking a quarrel. The researchers said that, based on a written description of a case, the so-called AI prosecutor can file a charge with 97 percent accuracy. Professor Shi Yong, the project’s lead scientist, said the AI technology could reduce prosecutors’ daily workloads, allowing them to focus on more challenging work.


Madhumita Murgia in FINANCIAL TIMES, Google's DeepMind Develops AI Tool That Can Write Its Own Computer Code.

The system, known as AlphaCode, is a sign of the evolution of AI and would allow the automation of computer programming, a powerful and highly prized skill underpinning much of modern science and industry. DeepMind tested AlphaCode’s performance in coding competitions hosted by Codeforces, a platform that pits the skills of tens of thousands of human software programmers around the world against one another. It found that it performed with the expertise of an average human programmer.


Richard Vanderford in WALL STREET JOURNAL, AI Touted as a Means To Reduce Hiring Bias.

“There’s a growing realization that these tools can exacerbate bias,” Matissa Hollister, a McGill University assistant professor of organizational behavior. “I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, ‘Keep the humans in human resources.’” “Even tools that are not super sketchy can create significant backlash,” said Dr. Hollister, who recently collaborated with the World Economic Forum on a “tool kit” for AI in HR. Some companies have had notable AI missteps. Amazon.com Inc., for example, reportedly scrapped an algorithm meant to aid the hiring of top talent when it learned that its tool would pan candidates who listed on their résumé that they went to women’s colleges or participated in women’s clubs. The tool, according to a Reuters report, learned what Amazon sought in a candidate by looking at the backgrounds of candidates who submitted resumes in the last decade, a group that heavily skewed male. Amazon told The Wall Street Journal that the project was only explored on a trial basis and scrapped because the algorithms were too primitive.


John Gray in NEW STATESMAN, The West Isn't Dying - Its Ideas Live On in China.

The study of Western classics is actively promoted in Chinese universities. The texts are often taught in their original Latin or Greek (a practice no longer required at Princeton, where some consider it racist). China's meritocratic intelligentsia is also notable for having a grasp of Western political thought that exceeds that of many in Western universities. The works of Alexis de Tocqueville, Edmund Burke and Thomas Hobbes, as well as 20th-century thinkers such as Michel Foucault, have been closely studied. The German jurist Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) has been accepted as having the most to teach regarding China's political development. Schmitt gained recognition in the German academy by examining the influence of theological ideas on Western jurisprudence. During the 1920s he fashioned a set of ideas in which the Enabling Act of March 1933, which formally established the Nazi regime, could be formulated and justified. Law was created by sovereign political decisions, and whoever decided when a "state of exception" or regime crisis existed was the sovereign. In 1932 he published The Concept of the Political, arguing that politics was not a dialogue among members of a shared community with divergent interests and values, but a struggle between enemies - in other words, a mode of warfare.


Matthew Dean at tabletmag.com, Reading Leo Strauss in China.

Perhaps the two leading names in Chinese Straussian scholarship are Gan Yang and Liu Xiaofeng, who were classmates at Peking University. After graduation, they started an influential book series introducing Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Benjamin, and more to a culture-starved post-Mao China that was eager to rekindle a relationship with the West. This series fueled the “culture craze” of the 1980s by injecting Western philosophy into the hermetic kingdom. Of course, any expectations of subsequent political liberalization came crashing down with the Tiananmen massacre in the summer of 1989. That fall, Gan started a Ph.D. at the Committee on Social Thought in Chicago where he studied with Allan Bloom, Edward Shils, and Francois Furet, among others. At the same time, Liu went to the University of Basel to start a Ph.D. under Heinrich Ott, the Swiss theologian and student of Karl Barth. Gan left Chicago without a Ph.D. for the University of Hong Kong. After ten years, however, Gan set his sights on a return to the mainland, where in 2009 he founded Boya College, the first liberal arts college in China to take the great books model seriously. Gan at first required undergraduate students of Boya to learn Classical Chinese, Ancient Greek, and Latin. After founding a second college in the model of Boya, Gan moved to Beijing and finally established a liberal arts college (of which he is now Dean) in one of China’s most prestigious universities, Tsinghua University. While Gan has exerted the greater influence on China’s institutions, his old classmate Liu Xiaofeng is more prolific, widely read, and controversial. In one of his most famous books, Delivering and Dallying, he charges China’s three great intellectual traditions (Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism) with nihilism, by which he means that the traditional moral systems of China rejected a theistic, suprahuman basis for absolute values and never developed beyond belief in the moral essence of man to a more robust doctrine of sin. Against this he contrasts the “Judeo-Christian spirit” which is able to contend with nihilism because in it “man is very tiny and humble, he cannot rely on his own nature, he cannot be proud, since all self-reliant and self-glorifying people can only bring suffering and sin to mankind.” Chinese nihilism is both deeper and more durable than Western nihilism, he claims, since it is rooted in the doctrinal tradition of Confucianism, which has resisted interpreting mankind as needful of help from without.


Cindy Yu in SPECTATOR on Jing Tsu's book, Kingdom of Characters: A Tale of Language, Obsession and Genius in Modern China.

As western technology began to dominate, Chinese was even threatened with extinction. Be it telegraphy, typewriters or computing, the systems of modern communication were designed with western languages in mind. The chief problem with Chinese was its lack of an alphabet. How could a typewriter spit out thousands of individual characters when western models required just 26 letters, plus numbers and punctuation? How could telegraphs be sent in Chinese when the underpinning cipher— Morse code — was expressed only in letters and numbers? These were intractable problems, and without adapting Chinese to each technological era, the nation stood little chance of keeping up with the modern world.


James Kynge in FINANCIAL TIMES, Xinjiang Detention Camp Officials Studied at Harvard.

Two officials involved in overseeing China’s vast network of detention camps for about 1m ethnic minority people in Xinjiang have studied on coveted fellowships at Harvard University, according to research by an Australian think-tank. Yao Ning, a local party secretary of the Communist party who was honoured this year by Beijing for his work in Xinjiang, studied as an Asia fellow at Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation between 2010 and 2011, according to a report by the Canberra-based Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Erken Tuniyaz, chairman of the Xinjiang region, spent a few months at Harvard’s Ash Center as a new world fellow in 2012. Xinjiang’s chair ranks as the region’s second highest official after the party secretary, Chen Quanguo. In a speech in February, Tuniyaz defended Xinjiang’s internment camps as “counter-terrorism and deradicalisation measures”.


Dan Strumpf & Wenxin Fan in WALL STREET JOURNAL, Hard-Liner to Oversee Hong Kong Army Post.

Major General Peng Jingtang, a deputy chief of staff of China’s People’s Armed Police, will head the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong, China’s Xinhua News Agency reported late Sunday. He was previously chief of staff for the armed police in the far western region of Xinjiang, site of a yearslong crackdown on predominantly Muslim and Turkic-speaking Uyghurs and other minorities. There Mr. Peng was tasked with counterterrorism, helping train an elite squad known as the Mountain Eagles. In 2019, he told the state-run Global Times newspaper that the squad fired as many rounds of ammunition in 2018 as all other Xinjiang security forces combined had done over the previous three years. Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping honored an unspecified antiterrorism squad in Xinjiang that officials said killed 91 terrorists.


Yarolslav Trofimov, Drew Hinshaw & Kate O'Keeffe in WALL STREET JOURNAL, China Expands Its U.N. Clout, One Vote at a Time.

“It’s China’s sense that this is ‘our’ moment, and we need to take control of these bodies,” said Ashok Malik, senior policy adviser at India’s foreign ministry. “If you control important levers of these institutions, you influence norms, you influence ways of thinking, you influence international policy, you inject your way of thinking.” Chinese President Xi Jinping, addressing the U.N. General Assembly this month, called for the organization to play a “central role in international affairs,” particularly amid the coronavirus pandemic. “The global governance system should adapt itself to evolving global political and economic dynamics,” he added, an allusion to China’s rising clout and its perceptions of a U.S. decline.


Valentina Pop, Sha Hua & Daniel Michaels in WALL STREET JOURNAL, China Battles West to Control Global Tech Standards.

Chinese officials lead at least four global standards organizations, including the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations body governing phone and internet connectivity, and the International Electrotechnical Commission, an industry group governing electrical and electronic technologies. From 2015 to 2017, a Chinese official headed the International Standards Organization—an industry-led group known as ISO that sells its standards for everything from footwear and management systems to essential oils and sex toys.


Yoko Kubota in WALL STREET JOURNAL, Chinese Chip Startups Fail in Bid to Keep Up.

Over the past three years, at least six new major chip-building projects, including HSMC and QXIC, have failed in China, according to company statements, state media, local government documents and Tianyancha, a corporate registration database. At least $2.3 billion went into these projects, much of it coming from governments, the documents showed. Some never produced a single chip.


Cameron Cawthorne at foxbusiness.com, Hunter Biden, Former Biden Aide Invested in Chinese Company Tied to Communist Party, NBA China.

In one 2016 email, Biden calls Zhang his "good friend and business colleague." One of the names cc'd on the email was James Bulger, who appeared to help Biden get a Chinese business license for his uncle's telemedicine company a couple of years earlier. One of the emails was from Schwerin to Zhang, Biden, Person, an assistant, and Tara Greco, a former director of communications for the union that represents NBA players. The April 2016 email, which was directed at Zhang, said Greco had learned that the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) had a deal with the NBA to "build NBA branded stadiums around China," but said it appeared the project was "stalled" after only two stadiums were built, prompting Schwerin to say, "If Liaoning can get one of these stadiums that would be a big help in your efforts to get more NBA related content in Liaoning."


Hudson Lockett in FINANCIAL TIMES, China Rating Agencies Balk at Downgrades of State Groups.

“China’s rating agencies are even worse than [those] in the US,” said Andrew Collier, managing director of Orient Capital Research in Hong Kong. “They’re not only beholden to the customer but also [to] the government.” Rating agencies such as China Chengxin or CSCI Pengyuan apply a letter-based scale that resembles those of international peers such as S&P Global or Fitch Ratings. But fierce competition among Chinese agencies, most of which are state-controlled or have government ties, leaves them with little incentive to rate clients lower than double A or risk losing business. Before November, just five Chinese SOEs had defaulted in 2020, according to Fitch. That number has since jumped to eight. “The lack of downgraded ratings is only one of the privileges enjoyed by SOEs,” said Bruce Pang, head of macro and strategy research at investment bank China Renaissance, who points out that state-linked groups also generally enjoy vastly better access to capital markets than their private counterparts.


Cathy He & Ling Yun in EPOCH TIMES, CCP Manipulated Wall Street to Steer US Policy, Until Trump Became President: Professor.

In 2016, then-candidate Trump campaigned on a tough-on-China platform, focusing on the regime's unfair trade practices that have cost thousands of American manufacturing jobs. As president, Trump in 2018 launched a trade war, slapping billions worth of tariffs on a range of Chinese imports. In reference to the trade war, Di asked, "So why are we having trouble with Trump, when we were able to handle all kinds of problems between China and the United States from 1992 to 2016?" He said that previously, "all crises" between China and the United States, such as the U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999, were able to be resolved "within two months." The reason for this is that Beijing had "people in high places [in the United States]," Di said.


Andy Bounds in FINANCIAL TIMES, EU Accuses China of Patent Power Grab.

Businesses, including Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia and Sharp of Japan, have lost money after China’s supreme court banned them from protecting their patents by securing licensing deals in foreign courts, the European Commission said. Chinese courts set licence fees at around half the market rate previously agreed between western technology providers and manufacturers such as Oppo, Xiaomi, ZTE and Huawei, it added. The lower licensing fees set by Beijing deprive smartphone makers and other mobile telecommunications businesses of a crucial source of revenue to reinvest in research and development. “It is part of a global power grab by the Chinese government by legal means,” said a European Commission official. “It is a means to push Europe out.”


Andrew Jack, Jude Webber, Sun Yu & Jyotsna Singh in FINANCIAL TIMES, Pandemic Sparks Interest in Public Sector Jobs.

In China, where the word mandarin is synonymous with public servants, the lure of high social and economic status through state control of resources has been present for centuries. Imperial China’s civil service exam, which lasted for 1,300 years, was the best way for men of modest backgrounds to climb the social ladder. Under the communist regime, government jobs gained popularity after Beijing resumed the civil service exam in 1994. Today’s candidates take writing tests that include an analysis of why a state-led economy works, and more than 100 multiple choice questions on everything from the working languages of the UN to the chemical properties of silver jewellery.


Mark Pulliam in AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE on Cass Sunstein & Adrian Wermeule's book, Law & Leviathan: Redeeming the Administrative State.

The administrative state appeals to the elite class because it enables them to exert control over the rest of society without the nuisance of elections or consumer choice. Sunstein and Vermeule undoubtedly fancy themselves as latter day versions of Rexford Tugwell and Adolph Berle, who as members of FDR’s “Brain Trust” helped him design and implement the New Deal. “Trust us,” their tone suggests, “We’re experts.” Administrative law is “something to celebrate,” they conclude. Americans “should be grateful” for it. According to Ivy League technocrats, only an ingrate would oppose the Swamp.


River Page in AMERICAN AFFAIRS, The CIA and the New Dialect of Power.

Today’s new dialect of power, which has supplanted the old, is radical New Left politics internalized, individualized, and regurgitated by the professional class. It is imparted by the universities just as the previous elite idiom was imbued at British-style boarding schools. This dialect, like the transatlantic accent before it, is a class signifier. But today this class contains both CIA agents and left-wing journalists, to the embarrassment of the latter. This language was not “co-opted” by the professional class, as Natasha Lennard insisted in The Intercept.8 Quite the contrary, the CIA has as much claim to the new dialect of power as anyone else in the professional class, having had some hand in creating the New Left intelligentsia from which it sprang.


Jeff Polet in MODERN AGE, Camus and the Anti-Racists.

The mode of address becomes more intimate through the course of the book, for Clamence is the mirror Camus holds up to the reader. Like Nietzsche's Zarathustra, he is the image of all and of none. This is what I am, Clamence is saying, and this is what you are. Clamence "imperceptibly" passes from the "I" to the "we," for "we are in the soup together. However I have a superiority in that I know it and this gives me the right to speak. You see the advantage, I am sure. The more I accuse myself, the more I have a right to judge you." Like Zarathustra, Clamence has substituted honesty for grace, and just as Nietzsche argued in Daybreak, with God dead we had to extend grace to ourselves - but the fonts have run dry and the new priests have no interest in refilling them, in no small part because they profit from withholding the cleansing waters. They'll extract indulgences but never let you out of purgatory. "They believe solely in sin, never in grace" even though "grace is what they want." Instead of forgiveness we end up "with power and the whip."


John Plender in FINANCIAL TIMES on Barry Eichengreen, Asmaa El-Ganainy, Eui Esteves & Kris James Mitchener's book, In Defense of Public Debt.

The authors point out that after the Napoleonic wars the decline in the British debt-to-GDP ratio from 194 per cent in 1822 to 28 per cent nine decades later relied chiefly on primary budget surpluses, which outweighed an adverse interest rate-growth differential. The franchise was limited then to 2.5 per cent and there was considerable overlap between public creditors and voters. Much the same dynamic applied to debt reduction in the US after the civil war and in France after the Franco-Prussian war. The broadening of the franchise in the 20th century changed that dynamic as demands emerged for state provision of social and income security. Two world wars also had to be financed. So after 1945, growth played a bigger part in debt reduction while governments kept interest rates low and maintained capital controls. Inflation also played a greater role, since it is a default solution in distributional struggles where politicians fail to reconcile conflicting interests through legislation.


ECONOMIST, The Great Embiggening.

The tendency for government to grow is a hallmark of modernity. From 1274 to 1691 the English government raised less than 2% of GDP in tax. Over the 18th and 19th centuries that changed, with the rax-raising and spending capacities of the government massively expanding, especially at times of war. In the 1870s the governments of rich countries were spending about 10% of GDP. In 1920 it was nearer 20%. It has been growing ever since. It is now much higher in the rich world than either in the past or in developing countries. The growth in what governments spend typically comes with a growth in what they do, and how much they control the doings of others. In America the number of federal regulations has more than doubled since 1970. The total word count of Germany's laws is 60% larger today than it was in the mid-1990s.


George Tavlas in CATO JOURNAL, Modern Monetary Theory Meets Greece and Chicago.

Under the Chicago framework, the role of the government would be to establish the monetary rule and to ensure that it was followed—that is, the government’s role would be constitutional as opposed to administrative. Under that framework, the budget would be balanced over the course of the business cycle, with the aim of limiting the size of the government. Should the automatic stabilizers fail to provide sufficient demand during the trough of the cycle, increases in the size of the fiscal deficit, and, thus, increases in the quantity of money, would be generated through reductions in taxes—and not by increases in government spending. The Chicagoans believed that the amount of fiscal space available was subject to strict limits. In contrast, under Kelton’s proposal, which would increase the size of the government sector, the government’s role would be administrative. Under her proposal, the amount of fiscal space would be unlimited before a vaguely defined inflation constraint kicks in. There was an important reason underlying the Chicagoans’ aim to prevent the concentration of power in the government: those economists wanted to preserve individual liberty.


Jon Seidel in SUN-TIMES, Corrupt Politicians Say Prison Doesn't Work, So Feds Quote Judge from 2014 Who Argued: 'Impose More Severe Penalties'.

Pasqual wrote in his memo that Munoz once texted an acquaintance that “a wise man” told him after he became alderman that, “they will throw money at u they will throw trips and cars at u and they will throw very pretty young p---y at you.” He said the man told him “don’t take any of it” and instead “pick ur 10 friends and make them millionaires and they will take care of u legally.” Munoz noted the “wise man” wound up being indicted for tax evasion.


William Voegeli in CLAREMONT REVIEW OF BOOKS, Progressively Worse.

As sociologist Nathan Glazer wrote at the dawn of the Great Society, “How one wishes for the open field of the New Deal, which was not littered with the carcasses of half-successful and hardly successful programs, each in the hands of a hardening bureaucracy.” Political scientist Steven Teles examined this problem in a widely discussed 2013 essay for National Affairs on “kludgeocracy.” The term “kludge,” he explains, comes from the world of computer programming, with a meaning that corresponds to the pre-digital era’s “stop-gap measure.” Teles defines it as “an inelegant patch put in place to solve an unexpected problem and designed to be backward-compatible with the rest of an existing system.” As the number of kludges in a software package increases, so does the likelihood of ending up with “a very complicated program that has no clear organizing principle, is exceedingly difficult to understand, and is subject to crashes.”


Paul Rubin in WALL STREET JOURNAL, The Woke Left's Primitive Economics.

Folk economics is the economics of people untrained in economics. It is the economic view of the world that evolved in our brains before the development of the modern economy. During this period of evolution the economy was simple, with little specialization except by age and sex, no economic growth, no technological change, limited trade, little capital, and warfare between neighboring tribes. Zero-sum thinking was well-adapted to this world. Since there was no economic growth, incomes and wealth didn't grow. If one person had access to more food or other goods, or greater access to females, it was likely because of expropriation from others. Since there was little capital, a "labor theory of value" - the idea that all value is created by labor alone - would have been appropriate, and there was little need to protect capital through property rights. Frequent warfare encouraged xenophobia.


Hunter DeRensis in AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE, Merchants of Death.

To put things in perspective, Institute for Policy Studies cofounder Richard J. Barnet relates in his book The Economy of Death a story from the late 1930s of a chemist applying for work in the U.S. Department of the Navy and being rejected on the grounds that the department already had one. Fast forward thirty years to when Barnet was writing in 1969, and half of all scientists and engineers in the United States worked either directly or indirectly for the Pentagon. Economist Robert L. Heilbroner called the American system of military production “the largest planned economy outside the Soviet Union.”


Jacky Wong in WALL STREET JOURNAL, China-India Tensions Are a Concern for Business.

While the Indian government has a strong hand when it chooses to ban software companies, it is a different story for hardware. That hasn't stopped regulators from going after China-linked hardware titans in other ways. Indian authorities are searching the offices of Huawei Technologies on the basis of alleged tax evasion. Huawei's Chinese peer ZTE and smartphone makes Oppo and Xiaomi were similarly raided last year. India excluded Huawei and ZTE from its 5G trials, though they built some of the country's existing networks.


Venus Upadhayaya in EPOCH TIMES, The CCP's Agenda in Kashmir.

Pandya said India has always been "sincere and firm" in its commitment to the one-China policy but China has reciprocated by issuing stapled visas to Indian citizens from Kashmir and from Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India - a gesture that denotes that China doesn't accept India's sovereignty over these two regions. Since the 1980s China adopted a policy of neutrality on the Kashmir issue, a region that was the triggering point of multiple wars between India and Pakistan.... "From there only if I begin, you can sense some kind of nefarious designs, smacking of dishonesty, maybe some kind of larger geostrategic game," said Pandya adding that China wouldn't want a resolution of the Kashmir issue.


Ian Buruma in HARPER'S, The Great Wall of Steel.

Japanese empire building in China offers a clear model for contemporary Chinese nationalism. This is particularly true of the brutal Japanese experiment in the Thirties in Manchuria, the region that now comprises the northeastern provinces of China and the original homeland of the Manchu people.... On September 18, 1931, Japanese soldiers faked a bomb attack on a railway line in Mukden (now Shenyang) and blamed it on Chinese terrorists. Japanese troops quickly deposed the local Chinese warlord and seized the major cities in Manchuria. In 1932, the Japanese founded the state of Manchukuo, with the hapless last Qing emperor, “Henry” Puyi, on the throne. Manchukuo’s independence was a sham. Behind every Chinese or Manchu official stood a Japanese “adviser” who told him exactly what to do. Japanese propaganda presented the state as a multiethnic, anti-imperialist, thoroughly modern utopia. Manchus, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Mongolians, represented by the different colors of the Manchukuo flag, would be treated equally. The Concordia Association, the state’s only permitted political party, was founded to promote racial harmony. Hostility to liberal Western models of democracy was a constant theme in official Manchukuo rhetoric. As is the case with today’s Chinese nationalism, this was born of resentment and feelings of exclusion: Japan’s 1919 demand for racial equality in the League of Nations had been denied by Australia and the United States. Manchukuo would offer an alternative, Asian model of modernity....


Chuin-Wei Yap in WALL STREET JOURNAL, China's Fishing Fleet Powers Beijing's Global Ambitions.

Ecuador and Peru placed their navies on alert last year to track hundreds of Chinese trawlers massing near South American fisheries. In Asia, governments and the fishing industry have complained of hundreds of Chinese incursions in their domestic waters. Indonesia has take to periodically detonating seized Chinese trawlers in hopes it will deter other Chinese boats from poaching in its waters. From 2010 to 2019, Chinese-flagged or owned vessels accounted for 21% of global fishing offenses logged by Spyglass, a Vancouver-based fishing crime database, up from 16% the previous decade. A 2019 global ranking by Geneva-based Global Initiative, a trans-national crime watchdog, placed China first in the prevalence of illegal fishing by nations.


Rachel Riederer in HARPER'S, Ad Astra.

The Russian crafts had positioned themselves unusually close to the American, in a near-identical orbit, and they had synced their paths with USA-245 - a classified, multibillion-dollar KH-11 satellite, equipped with imaging systems on par with the Hubble telescope - such that one of them came within twenty kilometers of it several times in a single day.... The Russians, it seemed, were stalking an American spy satellite. The larger of the two Russian crafts, Kosmos-2542, had first entered the same orbital plane as USA-245 in late November, launched from a Soyuz rocket. This in itself was not a notable occurrence, and the two passed each other only once in eleven days. But on December 6, the Russian vessel seemed to split in two. In fact, it had spat out another, smaller craft.... According to Russia, Kosmos-2542 was an inspector satellite, a type of craft also used by the United States and China. Inspectors are smaller, more agile machines with precise navigation and controls, most often employed to closely approach or dock with friendly crafts to assess for maintenance. The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that the satellite born from Kosmos-2542, called Kosmos-2543, was also an inspector, and described its begetting as an "experiment," intended to further maintenance of its fleet. Russia also noted that 2542 was equipped with cameras powerful enough to photograph the earth's surface. USA-245 slowly lifted into a higher orbit, away from the Russian satellites, while Kosmos-2543, the baby, zipped around the sky and, in the words of a later published space-threat assessment from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, changed its orbit "constantly" - an exceptional performance in space, where fuel is precious. Then, on January 22 [2020], both Russian crafts approached radically closer to the American.


Bill Gertz in WASHINGTON TIMES, China 'Brain Control' Warfare Work Revealed.

The translated 2019 reports discuss developing brain control weaponry as part of what Chinese officials call the “intelligentization” of warfare... said the report headlined, “The Future of the Concept of Military Supremacy... The focus is to attack the enemy’s will to resist, not physical destruction,” it stated. Brain science is being used to extend warfare in the sphere of human consciousness “causing the brain to become the main target of offense and defense of new concept weapons,” the report added. “To win without fighting is no longer far-fetched,” it stated, quoting ancient strategist Sun Tzu’s maxim. The report, which was published in the official military newspaper PLA Daily, also asserted that China is merging four major technology fields for military purposes: nano, bio, information and cognition. The intended result will be enhanced individual capabilities. “Future human-machine merging will revolve around the contest for the brain,” the report said.


Nicole Hao in EPOCH TIMES, Corruption Wears Down Chinese Military's Combat Effectiveness.

In the Chinese military, there's only one general who has real combat experience. Gen. Li Zuocheng, 68, served in the Vietnam War in 1979 as the director of a company consisting of about 100 soldiers. Li is the chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the CMC.... "A general may still lead the military when he doesn't have any combat experience. He can learn from books and military exercises," U.S.-based China affairs commentator Tang Jingyuan told The Epoch Times on Dec. 17. "But if the generals and officers received their positions and ranks by bribes, they don't have the knowledge and capability to command the military to fight in a war.... Instances of generals being fired have become common under the Xi regime. On April 29, the Chinese regime announced that Maj. Gen. Song Xue, former deputy chief of staff of the Chinese Navy, was suspected of a "serious violation of discipline and law." He had been dismissed from his position on April 8. Song was China's key leader for rebuilding and training personnel for its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. Overseas Chinese commentators say that Song was involved in bribery in the Liaoning project and that he was punished because the aircraft carrier doesn't have the combat effectiveness that a carrier is expected to have. On April 26, the Liaoning carrier strike group couldn't prevent an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer with the U.S. Navy from entering into the middle of their formation as they sailed through the Philippine Sea.


Edward White & Victor Mallet in FINANCIAL TIMES, Xi's Anti-Corruption Crusade.

His campaign is already unparalleled in its scale and longevity, ensnaring about 2mn officials over 10 years. At least 10,000 such “involuntary” returns from 120 countries have been successfully notched as part of Operation Fox Hunt, which started in 2014, and Sky Net, a year later. Yuen Yuen Ang, author of China’s Gilded Age and an expert on Chinese politics, points out that before Xi, five major anti-corruption campaigns had been launched, going back to the early 1980s. Yet Xi’s battle on graft has become the “longest, widest-ranging and most penetrative anti-corruption campaign in the post Mao-era”. “Unlike his predecessors [in the Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao eras] who held on to stable, power-sharing arrangements, Xi is a political disrupter . . . Given his ambition in reshaping the Chinese political economy, Xi’s campaigns should be seen as part of his long-term vision to attain ‘socialist modernisation’ by 2035. That is why they go on and on.” Xi’s campaigns, according to western government officials, have deployed a playbook of extralegal coercion and covert overseas missions, including kidnappings, to compel fugitive Chinese political and business elites — and their families — to return from foreign soil.


Steven Hsu interviewed by Richard Hanania at substack.com, The Future of Humanity Is IVF Babies and Chinese Domination.

And furthermore, the Communist Party itself, the whole system of promotion within the Communist Party, this is not understood by most Americans, is a very long timescale meritocracy. So anybody who reaches like the top level of say the top 300 people in the Communist Party has had to do things like run a city with population of 10 million or run a province which is the size of Germany. And for example, famously the current guy who is the boss of Zheijang province was previously the head of the maned space program. So there’s actually circulation between different parts of government, not just like political governance but also even technical development or major companies in China that are state owned. You might run or have a senior position at one of the state-owned companies and then become a city manager or provincial governor. So all of these things, they’re long-timescale tests of your capabilities. And it is real. I mean, when you meet the senior people there, again, they could be dull, lifeless, bureaucratic type people, but they are pretty able. No one says like, “Hey, I had a conversation with somebody from the Ministry of Finance in China, they didn’t under actually understand how options pricing works.” No, they actually do understand how options pricing work. Whereas people here at the treasury or SEC often don’t understand how options pricing works. So anyway.


Sharri Markson & Ashleigh Gleeson in DAILY TELEGRAPH, The Covid Files: How the Red Army Oversaw Coronavirus Research.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that the “sequencing” and “virus isolation” on which the study relied was done by laboratories run by the PLA in China. In fine print at the very end of the paper in the acknowledgments section, it states: “We thank Prof. Wu-Chun Cao, Dr. Na Jia, Dr. Ya-Wei Zhang, Dr. Jia-Fu Jiang, Dr. Bao-Gui Jiang, and their team in State Key Laboratory of Pathogen and Biosecurity, Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology, Beijing for their substantial contributions to this study, including co-ordinating among research parties, conducting virus isolation, qPCR and sequencing.” The State Key Laboratory of Pathogen and Biosecurity is part of the Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology, which sits under the Academy of Military Medical Sciences. The director of the Beijing Institute is Professor Wu-Chan Cao, who also received the top acknowledgment in the research paper for his “substantial contributions to this study” including “co-ordinating among research parties”. In his official biography he is pictured in his military uniform and it states he has the “rank of colonel”.


Roni Rabin in NEW YORK TIMES, The Coronavirus Invades Cells in the Penis and Testicles of Monkeys, Researchers Discover.

About 10 to 20 percent of men infected with the coronavirus have symptoms linked to male genital tract dysfunction, studies have reported. Men infected with the virus are three to six times as likely as others to develop erectile dysfunction, believed to be an indicator of so-called long Covid. Patients have also reported symptoms such as testicular pain, reduced sperm counts and reduced sperm quality, decreased fertility and hypogonadism, a condition in which the testes produce insufficient amounts of testosterone, leading to low sex drive, sexual dysfunction and reduced fertility.... Even if just a small fraction of men experience such complications after a coronavirus infection, millions may suffer from impaired sexual and reproductive health in the aftermath of the pandemic, simply because the virus has infected so many people around the world, Dr. Hope warned.


Daniel Teng in EPOCH TIMES, PCR Sales Soared in Wuhan Before 1st Official COVID-19 Cases: Report.

The firm tracked the sales of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests over several years, revealing an almost 50 percent increase between 2018 to 2019 - the year before the COVID-19 outbreak spread across the world.... The study was carried out via an analysis of 1,716 procurement contracts from 2007 to the end of 2019. It also identified a "notable, significan, and abnormal" amount of PCR equipment purchases in 2019 from Wuhan-based institutions such as the People's Liberation Army Airborne Army Hospital (May 2019), The Wuhan Institute of Virology (November 2019), the Wuhan University of Science and Technology (October 2019), and the Hubei Province Districts Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (May-December 2019).


Jeff Carlson & Hans Mahncke in EPOCH TIMES, NIH Gain-of-Function Statement on EcoHealth, Wuhan Lab Inadvertently Reveals Coverup.

As these admissions were made, NIH officials told Congress that the viruses being experimented on were too genetically distant to have possibly caused COVID-19. But the NIH failed to tell Congress that Peter Daszak's EcoHealth Alliance, the orgainization through which Fauci was funding the Wuhan Institute, has kept a large number of unknown viruses in its possession. And only those with access to these viruses know what has been done with them or exactly how genertically close to COVID-19 they actually are. Additionally, the Wuhan Institute deleted its entire database of over 22,000 previously unreported virus samples on Sept. 12, 2019. At exactly the same time that the NIH was making the gain-of-function admission, the agency quietly edited its website to redefine what constituted gain-of-function experiments. In doing so, the NIH narrowed its definition to focus only on known and established human transmission, instead of any potential dangers to humans.


Jeff Carlson & Hans Mahncke in EPOCH TIMES, Scientists Key to 'Natural Origin' Narrative Got $50 Million in Funding.

Emails released under Freedom of Information Act requests show that the scientists told the senior members of Fauci's teleconference that they were 60 to 80 percent sure that COVID-19 had come out of a lab. Notably, despite their private concerns about the origins of the virus, the first draft of "Proximal Origin" was completed on the same day as the teleconference.


Dalibor Rohac at euobserver.com, Von der Leyen's Pfizer Texts - Why Transparency Isn't All Good.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is under fire for having lost her text messages with the CEO of Pfizer, Albert Bourla. The charges are not entirely fair – and acting on them risks doing more harm than good. The EU's ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, said that the commission was guilty of "maladministration" when it failed to publicise the texts following a journalist's request. Now, a momentum is building in the European Parliament to hold the commission accountable.


Joseph Mercola at meigutv.com, The Plan to Tag Us for the New World Order Slave System.

[Dr. Valdimir] Zelenko goes on to recount a relatively recent realization. Back in March 2020, he saw a MedCram video, episode 34, in which Dr. Roger Seheult explained some of the principles that he then ended up building his COVID protocol on. Seheult specifically quoted a paper that explained the functioning of zinc ionophores. That mechanism is what Zelenko relied upon when developing his own protocol. However, he didn’t realize until December 2021 that the author of that central paper was Dr. Ralph Baric. Why does that matter? Zelenko explains: “In 1999, Ralph Baric, funded by the U.S. government, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, figured out how to take an animal virus and have it be able to infect other species, different animals, in other words, cross-species infection. In 2015, the same Dr. Ralph Baric, and Dr. Zhengli [at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China], funded by the National Institutes of Health, figured out how to make a corona bat virus infect human beings, and augmented its lethality to human lives. That was in 2015. But in 2010, Baric published that paper that I'm referring to. So, the development of the weapon happened in stages, but before it was unleashed onto the human population, or the development of it being able to infect human beings, an antidote was made. Research paid for by the government was published.... And then, when the pandemic arrived, doctors like myself, out of necessity, came up with creative solutions, based — in my case, unknowingly — on this work. And immediately, that information was marginalized and suppressed, and doctors were deplatformed for advocating for it. So, the government who made the bomb also knew about the solution. And the reason why is they didn't want to die. The stakeholders here don't want their families to die. But for you and for me, they have a different agenda.”


Raffi Khatchadourian in NEW YORKER, Ghost Walls.

Xinjiang’s insurgents had proved unable to gather many adherents; locals favored the Sufi tradition of Islam, which emphasizes mysticism, not politics. At the time of the September 11th attacks, there was no terrorist violence to speak of in the region. But Osama bin Laden’s operation, planned across the border in Afghanistan, put a new and urgent frame around the old anxieties. Chinese authorities drew up a long list of incidents that they claimed were examples of jihad, and made their case to the U.S. State Department. Many of the incidents were impossible to verify, or to distinguish from nonpolitical violence. In China, mass attacks—with knives, axes, or even improvised explosives—are startlingly common, and often have nothing to do with ethnic unrest.


Eva Xiao & Jonathan Cheng in WALL STREET JOURNAL, Beijing Seizes Millions in Uyghur Assets.

One of the properties put up for auction was a four-story building in the western city of Kashgar, adjacent to the city's most important landmark, the nearly 600-year-old Id Kah Mosque, The building was owned by a wealthy Uyghur exporter named Abdujelil Helil. Once praised by the Xinjiang government as an "excellent builder of socialism with Chinese characteristics," Mr. Helil was arrested in 2017 and charged with financing terrorist activities. The next year he was sentenced to 14 years in prison and stripped of $11 million in personal assets.


Josh Chin in WALL STREET JOURNAL, Xi's Xinjiang Role Detailed in Leaks.

Copies of the documents, some marked top secret, describe internal speeches delivered by Mr. Xi and other senior party leaders regarding circumstances in Xinjiang between 2014 and 2017, the period when the assimilation campaign was conceived and launched. The documents show Mr. Xi warning about the dangers of religious influence and unemployment among minorities, and emphasizing the importance of "population proportion," or the balance between minorities and Han Chinese, for maintaining control in the region.


Sayragul Sauytbay in HARPER'S (Haaretz), At the Mind's Limits.

During the day, which started at 6am and ended at midnight, inmates had to learn Chinese, sing party songs, confess their crimes and moral offenses, and recite Communist Party propaganda slogans like "Thank you to the Communist Party," "I am Chinese," and "I love Xi Jinping." We received three meals a day. All the meals included watery rice soup or vegetable soup and a small slice of Chinese bread. Meat was served on Fridays, but it was pork. The inmates were compelled to eat it, even if they were religiously observant. Refusal brought punishment. There was no medical treatment, and they gave us pills that they told us prevented diseases, but the nurses secretly told me that the pills were dangerous and that I should not take them. Some prisoners who took the pills were cognitively weakened. Women stopped getting their period and there were rumors that men became sterile.



It is not uncommon for about a fifth of the adult population of a village or city neighborhood that comes under focused investigation to be "disappeared" within four months. The investigative techniques include the "Becoming Relatives" program, which sends CCP cadre to live in Uyghur homes for weeks or months. The program is officially described as "mapping the province's ideological territory family by family." It rose out of an April 2017 decision to "actively mobilize the masses to participate in the battle against terrorism." According to the few reports smuggled out, living conditions are harsh. Internees are required to study Mandarin Chinese and laws regarding Islam and politics. They are required to learn at least 3,000 Chinese characters before release. Coercive secularization is standard practice - per the official slogan "[t]here is no religion, the government and the party will take care of you" - with internees continually pressured to renounce Islam. Those considered to be especially extremist are forced to eat pork and drink alcohol.


ECONOMIST, The Party Capitalists.

Private companies with state-connected investors increased from 14.1% of all registered capital in China in 2000 to 33.5% in 2019, according to a paper by Chong-En Bai of Tsinghua University in Beijing, Chang-Tai Hsieh of the Booth School of Business in Chicago, and two other academics. While the number of state-controlled investors has not changed much, each has done vastly more business with private firms. As a result, today's Chinese corporate landscape might best be described as a sprawling complex of state-private commerce. More than 130,000 private companies had formed joint ventures with state-owned companies by 2019, up from 45,000 at the turn of the century. The jump in private companies with state investment since then has accounted for nearly all of China's increase in new registered capital.


Peter Schweizer in EPOCH TIMES, Elite Capture.

The idea is simple enough: By tempting another country's elite with money, access, and favors, you move them to see their interests and China's interests as intertwined or even the same. The Chinese are not subtle about this, and they barely try to hide it. They practice it around the world, most notably in Africa in pursuit of their Belt and Road Initiative. But elites in Western democracies have proven to be a soft touch, particularly among nongovernmental elites.


Eva Fu in EPOCH TIMES, Relative of Shanghai Doctor Reveals Details About Forced Organ Harvesting.

While Lu, Zhou, and her husband were sitting together one day, "her husband told me in person that she went to a military hospital to do [organ transplant surgery]. He also said that it's quick money and the sum is quite large," Lu told [the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong] in an interview. "He said, 'you should get people over from outside,' and that 'this is in really good quality, all fresh and alive," Lu said. The word "alive" had puzzled Lu at the time, he said.... Zhou, the Shanghai doctor, had performed several organ removal surgeries but later stopped due to fear, Lu said. "She said that she was having nightmares for doing this." Lu said. Lu prodded his sister-in-law, Zhou Yu, to reveal more details about what she knew of her sister's work. She relayed that when Zhou Qing performed the operations, people who were not sedated "would scream with all their might in sheer agony." "She said anesthesia cannot be used in every place, and the area where it [the organ] is needed cannot be anesthetized," Zhou said.


William Zheng in SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, After Six Decades, Countdown to Vote on China's Draft Civil Code.

China has tried and failed four times since 1949 to pass a civil code. The first two attempts, in 1956 and 1962, were abandoned amid political turmoil. Party veterans Peng Zhen and Xi Zhongxun, father of Xi Jinping, tried again in 1979, but shelved the plans after they reckoned that the country’s rapid societal and economic transformations made the goal unattainable. The fourth attempt launched in the early 2000s was also shelved.


Embassy of China in Belgium at euobserver.com, Right of Reply: China Does Not Harass Uighurs in Europe.

The Chinese government and Chinese people have the most say on issues concerning Xinjiang. In the face of severe threats of terrorism and extremism, the anti-terrorism and de-radicalisation efforts taken by the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in accordance with the law have effectively curbed the momentum of frequent terrorist activities. Xinjiang has not seen violent terrorist incidents for more than three consecutive years, which protect to the greatest extent the rights of life, health and development of people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang. The local government's policy and measures receive wholehearted support from people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, and has been commended by the international community.


Keith Bradsher & Amy Qin in NEW YORK TIMES, China's Crackdown on Muslims Extends to a Resort Island.

Signs on shops and homes that read "Allahu akbar" - "God is greatest" in Arabic - have been covered with foot-wide stickers promoting the "China Dream," a nationalistic official slogan. The Chinese characters for halal, meaning permissible under Islam, have been removed from restaurant signs and menus. The authorities have closed two Islamic schools and have twice tried to bar female students from wearing head scarves.... The new restrictions in Sanya, a city on the resort island of Hainan, mark a reversal in government policy. Until several years ago, officials supported the Utsuls' Islamic identity and their ties with Muslim countries, according to local religious leaders and residents, who spoke on condition of anonmymity to avoid government retaliation.


Dhondup Rekjong in WALL STREET JOURNAL, Xi Jinping's War on Tibetan Buddhism.

In September the government sponsored a conference at the Qinghai Buddhist Academy in Xining - the dlargest city on the Tibetan plateau - to discuss continuing efforts to force monasteries to translate Buddhist texts into Chinese. More than 500 religious figures and government officials from Tibetan and Chinese universities, academies and other educational organizations attended. At least 35 academic papers on the Sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism were presented. The ultimate goal is for future lamas and monks to learn Buddhism only in Mandarin - paving the way for the erasure of the Tibetan language. Tibetan leader Sithar, deputy director of the Office of the Central Tibet Work Coordination Group, gave a short speech in which he framed the effort as a way to promote "oneness" among Chinese ethic groups.


Kathrin Hille in FINANCIAL TIMES, Kazakhstan Crisis Tests China's Hands-off Approach.

In Kazakhstan, China is an outsized economic presence as the country’s largest trading partner and a big investor in infrastructure projects. But when a political crisis erupted on January 2, with demonstrations that soon turned violent, Beijing seemingly stood aside. It was not until a week later, after the bloody suppression of the unrest, that Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, publicly announced that Beijing was ready to increase “law enforcement and security co-operation” with Kazakhstan and help oppose external interference. Mukhtar Tleuberdi, Kazakhstan’s foreign minister, indicated on Tuesday that Beijing may have offered security support early on, but was rebuffed by the Kazakh authorities who argued that there was no legal basis for accepting troops sent from countries other than the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russia-led bloc Kazakhstan belongs to.


Laura Pitel in FINANCIAL TIMES, Putin Role in Kazakh Unrest Dents Erdogan's Pan-Turkic Ambitions.

In addition to building influence across the Balkans, the Arab world and Africa over the past decade, Turkey has significantly increased trade with Central Asia. Yet compared with the influence of China and Russia in the region, Ankara’s role remains “largely insignificant”, said Alp Coker, head of the Turkey desk at the London-based consultancy GPW. “Turkey never really established any military, political or economic influence to a meaningful extent,” he said. The exception, Coker said, was Azerbaijan, where Turkey is not only a key partner on energy and trade but also helped Baku to win a surprise victory in a war with Armenia in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020. That success, along with the upheaval in Kazakhstan, has spurred suggestions from some senior former Turkish military officers that the Turkic Council should have a military dimension.


Ian Ona Johnson in WALL STREET JOURNAL, Putin's Myths About the Soviets and World War II.

After victory in World War I, the Allies sought to demilitarize Germany. To avoid Allied inspection teams, the German military formed a secret partnership with the U.S.S.R. in 1922. They established a network of military bases, industrial facilities and research laboratories inside the Soviet Union to rearm both states. There could have been few doubts on the Soviet side about the militaristic intentions of their German partners. On the weapons ranges at their joint bases, officers fired at dummies dressed in Czech and Polish uniforms. German tank prototypes tested in the Soviet Union were carefully designed to fit French and Belgian railway cars.


Dimitri Simes in AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE, How Russia Went Wrong.

[Wayne] Merry told TAC that, even after the failed putsch, few in Washington believed that the Soviet Union was going to collapse anytime soon. As an example, he revealed that in late October 1991, a very heated argument erupted between George Kolt, the CIA’s top Soviet analyst, and Edward Hewett, the leading Soviet expert at the NSC. The reason for the confrontation was a memo Kolt had authored in which he argued that Ukraine could break away from the Soviet Union within five years, a notion Hewett rejected as absurd. “When I found out about this conversation, I hit the ceiling, because both the embassy in Moscow and our consulate in Kyiv had been telling Washington for some time that Ukraine was going to be independent in five weeks, not five years,” Merry said. “It was quite evident that no one was paying attention to these warnings.”


George Weigel in WALL STREET JOURNAL, The Russian Orthodox Church and Ukraine.

Thus in 1946, Russian Orthodoxy's leadership, working with the Soviet secret police, the NKVD, engineered a contrived Sobor, or church council, to liquidate the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which had become a safe-deposit box of Ukrainian cultural identity and national aspiration. The previous year, the Ukrainian church's leadership had been arrested. Those who weren't murdered were condemned to Gulag camps. The coerced "council," virtually at gunpoint, acquiesced to an ecclesiastical variation on classic imperialism, as the Russian Orthodox Church absorbed the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which ceased to exist legally. That dissidents among the Ukrainian clergy and faithful, without parish churches or other institutions, maintained the world's largest underground religious community for the next 45 years was little less than miraculous. Today, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is playing a significant role in building a religiously tolerant, democratic Ukraine.


Andrew Kramer in NEW YORK TIMES, Also at Stake in Ukraine: The Future of Two Orthodox Churches.

If Ukraine prevails against the Russian invasion, the Moscow church will all but certainly be ejected. If Russia wins, the Ukrainian church is unlikely to survive inside Ukraine. Prizes in the struggle include holy sites such as the Monastery of the Caves, a sprawling complex of churches in Kyiv overlooking the Dnieper River, whose golden onion domes were glistening in the sun on a recent afternoon as artillery shells exploded across the capital. In the caves, in grottos, lie the remains of the earliest saints of Slavic Orthodoxy, control over which would symbolize pre-eminence in this branch of Christianity. After Ukraine’s independence, the Moscow patriarchy retained access to the site, while the Ukrainian government formally owned it as a museum. The branch of the church in Ukraine subordinate to Moscow also enjoys the loyalty of a majority of city, town and village churches in Ukraine, though the newly independent Ukrainian church has had success encouraging parishes to switch allegiance. Those efforts so angered Mr. Putin that he warned in 2018 that it could “turn into a heavy dispute, if not bloodshed.”


Rebecca Abrams in FINANCIAL TIMES in Nicholas Jubber's book, The Fairy Tellers: A Journey into the Secret History of Fairy Tales.

Khudiakov was certainly anti-monarchy but his real passion, according to Jubber, was gathering folk tales from rural peasants in response to a “growing awareness of the unwritten cultural treasures stored for many centuries in places that had been ignored by the elites”. Equally passionate about adult literacy, while he was in exile he set up a school, began compiling a Yakut/Russian dictionary and, before his morale and wits finally deserted him, was gathering tales, songs, riddles and proverbs from the skomorokhi, the local storytellers. Khudiakov was part of a wider “folk cult” spreading across continental Europe in the 19th century, which sought to preserve indigenous stories and celebrate national traditions — also the motivation for the Grimm brothers in Germany — and which, in its darker incarnations, became a seed bed for communism and fascism in the 20th.


Ben Hall in FINANCIAL TIMES, A Russian Soul With a Heart in Ukraine.

After Moscow annexed Crimea and instigated a separatist war in the Donbas, Utkin set up a tech cluster to support Ukraine’s armed forces. His prominent role cost him his Russian businesses, which were expropriated. But his mother and sister still live in Russia, as do many of his friends. Like many in Kyiv, Utkin struggles to believe that Moscow could launch a full-blown offensive against Ukraine. But he does think Russian president Vladimir Putin is on a mission to recreate an empire. “The Russian empire cannot exist without Kyiv. It used to be the mother of Russian cities. It is so important for the Russian people.” Moscow also cannot afford Ukraine to succeed economically or politically, Utkin says, because it would show Russians an alternative to authoritarianism is possible. “I think they are afraid about the success of Ukraine because it could change the parameters of values. It would put people at the top of the pyramid, not a tsar or a general secretary.”


WALL STREET JOURNAL, How Ukraine Was Betrayed in Budapest.

The event was the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, in which the U.S., Great Britain and Russia offered security assurances to the nation that had won independence when the Soviet Union dissolved. That was the halcyon post-Cold War era when history had supposedly ended. Some 1,800 nuclear weapons were on Ukrainian territory, including short-range tactical weapons and air-launched cruise missiles. The U.S. wanted fewer countries to have fewer nukes, and U.S. credibility was at its peak. The memo begins with the U.S., U.K. and Russia noting that Ukraine had committed “to eliminate all nuclear weapons from its territory within a specified period of time.” Then the three countries “confirm” a half-dozen commitments to Ukraine. The most important was to “reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.” They also pledged to “refrain from economic coercion” against Ukraine and to “seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine” in the event of an “act of aggression” against the country.


Colin Thubron in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS on Marie Favereau's book, The Horde, and Shane McCausland's book, The Mongol Century.

The Mongols' terror went before them. In 1240 the panicked aristocracy of the old prince-dom of Kiev abandoned the city, which was half destroyed. Twenty years later brought the grudging submission of Novgorod, the last state to be coerced, and the subjection of Russian lands was complete. Thereafter the Horde imposed its burden of taxation and levies indirectly, assigning collection to the Russian princes, who sometimes prudently delivered their tribute away from the public gaze. The princes' collaboration in this system both entrenched their own dynasties and reduced local antagonism toward the Horde. In another astute move, Favereau writes, the Mongols exempted the Orthodox clergy from taxation, and so enrolled the favorable influence of a submissive church. "Thus there was no permanent Mongol administrative presence among the Russian population, and the political subordination of the principalities was relatively invisible on a day-to-day basis...." But this is almost too rosy a picture. If their dues were not paid, the Mongols were ruthless.


Janan Ganesh in FINANCIAL TIMES, The Incoherence at the Heart of Anti-Westernism.

A DC-to-Berlin show of unity and resolve is not the same thing as ultimate victory. There is no guarantee it will even last. But it does expose the central glitch in so much anti-western thought. In the telling of its most devoted enemies, the west is an all-powerful oppressor, and a decadent pushover. It foists its values on other parts of the world with violent certitude, and fails to stand up for its way of life due to a fog of post-Christian self-doubt. It is a monolith — the west — and a paper tiger that will come apart at the folds any minute now. It is arrogantly universalist and cringing in its relativism. It is Napoleon crossing the Alps and it is Jane Fonda in Hanoi.


Michael Meyer-Resende at euobserver.com, The End of Unrealism.

What happened on 24 February was not due to Nato or anything the West has done. Sure, mistakes have been made and much could have been done differently. But thinking that Putin is just a product of the West's actions is a form of imperialist thinking: He is not a puppet on strings that moves this or that way, depending on what the West does. No, Putin always had agency. He was a KGB agent shocked by the fall of the Soviet Union, and who enriched himself in the Russian privatisation Wild West bonanza of the 1990s. His first act as president? Destroying the city of Grozny. He ended the dysfunctional and chaotic pluralism of the Russian 1990s — to create an authoritarian regime.


Sumantra Maitra in NATIONAL INTEREST, Rise of a Counter-Elite.

Trump, for the first time, started speaking in the crude language of amoral power, which should have given realists some satisfaction. The only academic realist to come out in support of candidate Trump was Randall Schweller in Foreign Affairs, and almost no policy realists other than Nadia Schadlow in the early days of his administration, and Douglas Macgregor and William Ruger in the final days, joined the Trump administration. In fact, Trump, for all his bluster, was constantly betrayed by his own administration, by the people he himself hired, including John Bolton, James Mattis, and H.R. McMaster, all of whom repeatedly opposed the president's retrenchment instincts from the Middle East to Afghanistan.


Walter Russell Mead in WALL STREET JOURNAL, The Sun Ever Sets on the British Empire.

In some countries, corruption became a way of life. In others, the parliamentary systems the British left behind succumbed to military rule. In some, tribal, ethnic and religious rivalries led to civil wars and dictatorships. Yet for all the incompetence and corruption, nobody rejoined the British Empire. Hong Kong people may be feeling more than a little nostalgic this week, but independent peoples have managed to keep their longing for restored colonial rule well in check. Incorrruptible British civil servants and impeccably educated British technocrats are all very well, but people seem to like ruling themselves even if they don't do it in the British way.


Norimitsu Onishi & Aida Alami in NEW YORK TIMES, The Quiet Flight of Muslims from France.

France's wounded psyche is the invisible character in every one of Sabri Louatah's novels and the hit television series he wrote. He speaks of his "sensual, physical, visceral love" for the French language and of his attachment to his hometown in southeastern France, bathed in its distinctive light. He closely monitors the campaign for the upcoming presidential elections. But Mr. Louatah does all of that from Philadelphia, the city that he began considering home after the 2015 attacks in France by Islamist extremists, which killed scores of people and deeply traumatized the country.... "It's really the 2015 attacks that made me leave because I understood they were not going to forgive us," said Mr. Louatah, 38, the grandson of Muslim immigrants from Algeria. "When you live in a big Democratic city on the East Coast, you're more at peace than in Paris, where you're deep in the cauldron."


Norimitsu Onishi in NEW YORK TIMES, In France, a Racist Conspiracy Theory Edges Into the Mainstream.

“Since 2010, there’s been a significant hardening by upper-middle-class voters against immigration and Islam, but we hadn’t seen its political effects yet,” Mr. Lebourg said. “So what we’re experiencing now is a tipping over of part of the middle-class and upper middle-class.” These voters are worried about issues like “wokisme” — the supposed contamination of France by “woke” American ideas on social justice that they see as overwrought political correctness. “It’s middle-class voters who care about ‘wokisme,’ while Le Pen’s working-class supporters are completely uninterested in that,” Mr. Lebourg said. The “great replacement” was conjured up by a French writer named Renaud Camus in 2010. In an interview in 2019, Mr. Camus bemoaned the fact that leading politicians had rejected the slogan. The slogan and his embrace of the far right had turned him into a pariah in France’s literary and media circles, forcing him to publish his own books. But in recent months, Mr. Camus has been invited back on television talk shows.


Tony Barber in FINANCIAL TIMES on Colin Jones' book, The Fall of Robespierre: 24 Hours in Revolutionary Paris.

For sure, Robespierre made clear in menacing speeches to the Convention and Jacobin Club on 8 Thermidor that he was contemplating an intensification of the Terror. He was obsessed with the notion that “corruption” had spread into France’s government organs as part of a “foreign plot” organised by William Pitt, the British prime minister. However, Robespierre spent the night of 8/9 Thermidor quietly in his lodgings on rue Saint-Honoré, a sign in Jones’s view that he probably intended to launch his purge in the near future, not in the next 24 hours. As for his rivals, they grasped the need to strike at Robespierre before he struck at them. The guillotining of Georges Danton, Camille Desmoulins and other revolutionaries earlier in 1794 preyed on their minds. Yet they, too, had no master plan.... Jones departs from some accounts of 9 Thermidor by stressing the support offered by ordinary Parisians to Robespierre’s foes in the Convention. He argues that the people of Paris rose up not against the Terror but in defence of the gains of the revolution since 1789, perceived on 9 Thermidor as under threat from pro-Robespierre radicals at the Commune.


Ferdinand Mount in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS on David Bell's book, Men on Horseback: The Power of Charisma in the Age of Revolution.

Curiously then, Weber, this infinitely thoughtful and skeptical observer of human affairs, had come to agree with the mountbank Napoleon III - who named himself emperor of France in 1852 - that "the nature of democracy is to personify itself in a man." When he was consulted about the writing of the Weimar Constitution of 1918-1919, he proposed the direct election of the German president. Charismatic leadership by a single man, he maintained, was essential to cement the people's loyalty and persuade them to accept the dull impersonal weight of modern bureaucracy, which was both universal and inescapable.


Alec Russell in FINANCIAL TIMES, Albania PM Tells Balkan Leaders 'Never Give Up' on EU Dream.

When Albania began its accession process nearly two decades ago the key was to move away from Balkan nationalism, but "today, our problem is not Balkan nationalisms, it's EU nationalisms. What's keeping us from [joining the EU]... is the influence of EU nationalisms on the political life of the important EU countries." Of the "western Balkan six", Albania along with Serbia, Montenegro and North Macedonia are candidates to join the EU, while Kosovo and Bosnia are potential candidates.


Tunku Varadarajan in WALL STREET JOURNAL on Lea Ypi's book, Free: A Child and a Country at the End of History.

Millions of people graduated from communism illiterate in the ways of modern finance were sitting ducks for swindlers, who bankrolled political parties on the side. So while her family "equated socialism with denial: the denial of who they wanted to be, of the right to make mistakes and learn from them," Ms Ypi equated post-communist liberalism with "broken promises, the destruction of solidarity... [and] selfish enrichment." She writes all of this while teaching in the U.K., where liberalism, of a more orderly variety, flourishes. So it's perplexing that the negative effects of a few transient years of democratic chaos - when Albanians stumbled into the light after 45 years of pitch-darkness - should count for more than the systematic crushing of a people by a tyrant for over four decades. What isn't open to question, however - even as we agonize over her adult politics - is the sweetness and charm of Ms. Ypi's own story.


Richard Milne in FINANCIAL TIMES, Sweden Dispatches Troops to Strategic Island as Russia Steps Up Baltic Activity.

The three Baltic countries, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, which are members of Nato, had long urged Sweden to take the security of Gotland more seriously, and Swedish forces - together with a large contingent of US troops - held their biggest exercise for decades in 2017, including a simulated attack on Gotland.


Richard Milne in FINANCIAL TIMES, Police Chief Warns of Gang Terror Threat to Sweden Democracy.

Swedish police estimate there are 60 so-called "vulnerable areas" across the country, where a majority of the population is either foreign-born or has two foreign parents and Mr Thornberg said letting such suburbs develop had been a "failure of Swedish society.... When we arrest someone or when some of them are getting shot at, there's maybe 10-15 men wanting to volunteer to take a higher-up role in the gang," he said.


Richard Milne in FINANCIAL TIMES, Sweden's Populists Shift Political Balance.

Long shunned by all other poltical groups owing to their roots in the neo-Nazi movement, the Sweden Democrats have been brought in from the cold by the centre-right parties as their long-time focus on immigration and law and order has come to dominate the political agenda. Sweden has become a European hotspot for shootings and bombings as part of a gang crime wave.


Richard Milne in FINANCIAL TIMES, Swedish ESG Investors' Disdain for Defense Leaves Latvia Uneasy.

Latvia's defence minister used an interview with the Financial Times to eviscerate GErmany for its "immoral and hypocritical" relationship with Moscow, daring to say what many in eastern Europe feel. But the Latvian deputy prime minister also took aim at a more unusual target in the same interview: Swedish banks and investors. He told how he had seen an email months earlier from an unidentified Swedish bank - Swedbank and SEB dominate Latvia's financial sector - refusing to give a loan to a Latvian defence company due to "ethical standards". That follows a pattern of banks and investors, not just in Sweden but across Europe, refusing to back defence groups as it goes against their environmental, social and governance policies. Pabriks was apoplectic. "I got so angry. How can we develop our country? Is national defence not ethical? How is the Swedish defence industry financed - by Martians?" he asked.


Peggy Hollinger in FINANCIAL TIMES, EU Must Think Twice Before Branding Defence Industry Harmful.

"It is a problem if we are defined as not socially viable," said ASD president Alessandro Profumo, who is also chief executive of Italy's defence champion Leonardo. "Without security we cannot have a sustainable society." The proposals are already having an impact. Jan Pie, ASD secretary-general, cites examples of banks cutting ties with defence companies in Germany, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden. One Belgian group has even had to pay employees from non-EU bank accounts, he says.


Ed Ballard in WALL STREET JOURNAL, Sweden's SEB Reverses Ban on Investment in Defense Companies.

Sweden-based financial-services company Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB said it would permit some of its funds to buy shares of weapons makers and defense companies, reversing a position it adopted just a year ago as part of its commitment to investing based on environmental, social and governance principles.


Richard Milne in FINANCIAL TIMES, Majority of Finns Back Joining Nato for First Time, Poll Reveals.

Analysts said the increase in support for Nato in Finland and Sweden represented one of the major negative consequences for Russian president Vladimir Putin from his war against Ukraine. "The unthinkable might start to become thinkable," ex-Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt said about the Finnish poll. Russia's foreigh ministry repeated last week that "Finland's accession to Nato would have serious military and political repercussions".


WALL STREET JOURNAL: A Lesson in Energy Masochism.

A decade ago, multinational energy companies including Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell and TotalEnergies were exploring Europe's unconventional gas deposits with ambitions to repeat the U.S. shale boom. Then protests against fracking erupted across the continent, and one by one European governments surrendered to Russian energy dominance. Former NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen blamed Russia for fueling the fracking opposition. "Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called nongovernmental organizations - environmental organizations working against shale gas - to maintain dependence on imported Russian gas," he noted in 2014.


Peter Fritzsche in NEW YORK TIMES on Harald Jahner's book, Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945-1955.

As long as they remained in Germany, foreigners aroused the suspicion of Germans fearful of the revenge they might take. Neighbors were just as mistrustful of millions of German refugees who eventually settled in their towns. For years, “expellees” remained strangers in the West. But over time, Jähner argues, unwelcome refugees “de-provincialized” hometowns, mixed up local identities and caused old-timers to abandon dialect. They contributed to a melting pot of hard-working people anxious to make their way.


Harold Holzer in WALL STREET JOURNAL on Roger Lowensetein's book, Ways and Means.

In the end, the Union's vastly superior wealth, industry and appetite for innovation won the war, as surely as its generals and politicians. Ballasted by a revolutionary new national currency and new banking systems, along with the first-ever income tax, the Union overwhelmed a "cloistered" Confederacy that was whipsawed by crushing inflation and supply-chain shortages severe enough to ignite homefront riots.... [T]he South's fatal error was that the society for which it sacrificed so much life and teasure - plantations served by the enslaved - was not only offensive morally but unsustainable economically. Conversely, Lincoln's vision of a "new nation" promised that the Union would "afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." Given such a disparity, Mr. Lowenstein is right: The war was over before it began.


Jeffrey Gettleman & Suhasini Raj in NEW YORK TIMES, Arrests, Beatings and Secret Prayers: Inside the Persecution of India's Christians.

The first victims of the Modi era were Muslims. Dozens were publicly lynched by Hindu extremists claiming to protect cows, which many Hindus consider sacred. Then attacks against Christians started ticking up — the Evangelical Fellowship of India says anti-Christian hate crimes have doubled since 2014. So, too, have economic pincer movements. Hindu nationalist lawyers and activists have filed scores of complaints against Christian charities through an organization called the Legal Rights Observatory, starving them of funds and shutting many down.A few years ago, after Catholic churches in New Delhi, the capital, had been vandalized, Christian leaders pleaded with Mr. Modi for help. He was disinterested, mocking them and never addressing the attacks, according to three clergymen who attended an important meeting at the prime minister’s residence in December 2014. “He acted like a don,” said Father Dominic Emmanuel, a former official with the Delhi Catholic Church who now lives in Vienna.


Sadanand Dhume in WALL STREET JOURNAL, India May Face a Population Implosion.

In 1960 the average Indian woman would bear six children during her lifetime. By 2005 this had fallen to three. Urban India now has a fertility rate of 1.6, comparable to the European Union. And unlike China, whose government enforced a draconian one-child policy, India has achieved this largely without coercion. A harsh sterilization drive by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the mid-1970s led to her crushing electoral defeat in 1977. No Indian government tried to force the matter again.


Srdja Trifkovic in CHRONICLES, Jihad Undefeated.

The surrender of Afghanistan’s National Army, lavishly armed, equipped, and trained by the U.S. for years, had been quietly negotiated and arranged under the noses of those same American officials who had kept telling us that Kabul would be no Saigon and that, come what may, there would be a decent interval before the fall of President Ashraf Ghani’s regime. Afghanistan will now revert to its usual state of Islamic unpleasantness.


Titus Techera in MODERN AGE, A Connecticut Yankee in Afghanistan.

In the end the catastrophe that engulfs Hank comes from religion, just as surely as in our misadventures in Afghanistan. Hank is as atheistic as our elites, as contemptuous of religion, as blind therefore to its powers. He sees only what he despises in the English, he has no respect for what they manage to accomplish in very harsh circumstances. But they know who they are far more than he does, not leasdt since he has no loyalties. His fascination with the scientific power to change things, to be free because he is nothing but what he makes himself out to be, has a moral core: Hank wants to make people in his own image because it's the only way to prove to himself that he is right, that he knows the truth, that his dissatisfaction with the world is justified. He seems selfless, an utterly public man, his every action a benefaction to others, concerned with himself only when he is attacked and just to defend himself. Yet this makes him tyrannic since he can never leave people alone.


Andres Schipani in FINANCIAL TIMES, Somaliland in 30-year Fight for Recognition.

The former British protectorate of Somaliland became independent on June 26 1960. Five days later it united with the former Italian colony of Somalia, only to break away in 1991 after the fall of Siad Barre. While Somalia collapsed into civil war and has been besieged by al-Shabaab jihadis, Somaliland has delivered relative peace and stability to its 5.7m people. It has its own elected bicameral parliament, drafts its own army, prints its own currency and issues its own passports. "We've been trying to be a functioning democratic country for 30 years but it seems that to get the world's attention you need to be a troublemaker," said Ayan Mahamoud, Somaliland's former representative in the UK.


Maxwell Carter in WALL STREET JOURNAL on Neil Faulkner's book, Empire and Jihad.

Mr. Faulkner covers the unhappy feud between Speke and Burton, as well as Stanley's sensational search for Livingstone and crowning geographical discoveries. Tim Jeal's biographies of Livingstone, Stanley and their peers remain the gold standard, yet I found Mr. Faulkner's account lost little by its remarkable concision. The ambience of the tribal states that their expeditions relied upon for safe passage did not encourage dallying. During his stay in Buganda as the guest of its lunatic ruler, Mutesa, Speke witnessed frequent executions and indiscriminate terror. Just as Mr. Faulkner skewers apologist mythmaking, he does not accept countervailing fantasies. "Those who stand with the oppressed against the oppressor do themselves no favours by turning local tyrants into resistance heroes," he suggests. Mutesa and his ilk, for whom selling fellow Africans was lucrative and expedient, were, in fact, "instrumental in the spread of the slave trade across the continent."


Donn LeVie Jr in FRAUD, Cobalt Blues.

From extraction through electronic consumer products, China is present in every step of the value chain. Ninety percent of China's cobalt supply comes from Kolwezi, which is known in environmental circles rather sadly as "the lunks of Congo." Several factors contribute to China's dominance as a partner in extracting DRC cobalt. Former DRC President Joseph Kabila promoted a modernization initiative, called La Modernite that involved making natural resource extraction available to foreign companies to obtain the necessary financing for the country's industrialization. Kabila saw that China's unparalleled rapid modernization embodied what he'd envisioned for the DRC. Another influential factor was the absence of the ideological motivation that often accompanied demands by Western countries in exchange for mineral extraction rights.


Jon Seidel in SUN-TIMES, Chicago Man Admits Inciting City Rioting in August 2020.

Massey also used the name “Steve Nash” online, according to the complaint. And on Aug. 10, 2020, someone sent a screenshot of a “Steve Nash” Facebook Live video to the Chicago Police Department, it said. The screenshot included text that read, “ATTENTION ATTENTION LOTTING [sic] START AT 12am tonight … WE WILL NOT BE F---ING UP THE SOUTH SIDE EAST SIDE OR WEST SIDE DOWNTOWN AREA AND UP NORTH AREA ONLY BRING YA TOOLS SKI MASK AND GLOVES #LETSGOOOOO.” When the screenshot was taken, the video had been live for 31 minutes and 766 Facebook users were watching it, according to the complaint. Massey allegedly sent private Facebook messages to 40 people on Aug. 9, 2020, telling them to meet at 6300 S. Racine Ave. to go downtown together. Around 9:13 p.m., Massey also messaged another group, “WE LIE TOGETHER WE DIE TOGETHER.” Then, at 11:27 p.m., he posted a picture on Facebook with the caption, “Lets get ready to steal b----.”


Ryan Houlihan at inputmag.com, 'Polybius' Is Real.

But today, as was the case in the '80s, people tend to be more suspicious of their own shadowy government than they are of corporations, whose motives are transparent (they want take your money). It doesn't help matters that the FBI indeed was conducting top-secret operations out of America's arcades. The Bureau's records indicate that the agency actually was monitoring and subsequently raiding arcades in the Portland area right around the time that stories of players collapsing in arcades had hit the mainstream media. In those days, arcades, which are naturally dark and maze-like, had seedy reputations as hotbeds of gambling, drug activity, and pickpockets looking to prey on teenagers. Though the extent to which arcades captured the public imagination was out of proportion with the actual issues in the establishments, some of that reputation was earned. Cabinets were being repurposed for gambling. People were selling weed in between rounds of Pac-Man. There are pickpockets wherever teenagers tend to gather — especially in the days before cell phones.


Claire Bushey in FINANCIAL TIMES on Rosa Brooks' book, Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City.

A critic of the US criminal justice system, Brooks was shocked by her own impulse in middle age to join a Washington police department programme that trains residents to become part-time officers, complete with gun, badge and full arrest powers. She was curious, bored and wanted a challenge that was "nothing at all like a faculty meeting". Her decision appalled her mother, the writer and activist Barbara Ehrenreich. Author of immersion journalism classic Nickled and Dimed, Ehrenreich was a veteran of marches from the 1960s and 70s. She told her daughter when she applied, "The police are the enemy."


Mitch Dudek in SUN-TIMES, Cops' Parting Words.

“Bon Voyage!” “Thanks for the wonderful memories!!” “Been a slice, see ya. Hasta la vista.” They may seem like comments jotted in the margins of a classmate’s yearbook. But they’re actually the words of Chicago police officers who chose to write something in the “remarks” section of paperwork they needed to submit before exiting the department. The Chicago Sun-Times, through an open records request, obtained the comments left by officers who resigned or retired in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Here’s a sampling of their notes (edited for length in some cases): “I’ve met some great people and lost some dear friends over the last 29 years. I’ve also seen things done to human beings that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.” “My greatest joy was to help the good people of the Austin area by fighting crime and trying to give peace of mind to the honest law abiding residents of the West Side which is also my home and where I grew up and attended school. I am proud to have served all, to the best of my ability with no regrets and would like to thank my comrades in arms in keeping me safe and I keeping them safe also.” “My [Field Training Officer] was right. It has been a different carnival everyday, what a ride!”


Alfred Claassen in INDEPENDENT REVIEW, The Rise of the "Gamers".

Unlike the merchants and shopkeepers of early modernity who held inner rules rigidly or the white-collar workers 4 of the national era (1885–1965) who held them while also attuned to others’ expectations, the gamers are self-directed but accept no binding rules. By “higher” self-control, I mean self-determination that is one layer more reflexive or aware in certain respects, not that is more worthy or more advanced, all things considered. The gamers’ stock-in-trade is provisional, pragmatic policies that further their interests. Utterly immersed in and adapted to markets of all kinds, they analyze everything and hold everything up for grabs. Committed to no particulars, they cannot easily be flustered, but nor are they grounded or anchored. The gamers arose early in the global era as higher-level, rational self-understanding and self-management became dominant in the character of many of the most able, especially among those entering business and the professions. They began habitually employing their higher self-control to game their careers and fast-forward their ascents. Utterly directed toward excelling at the game, they are highly adept at all things connected with their personal advancement. Systematically pursuing their interests as they understand them, the gamers deftly adjust and fine-tune their performance at school and at work, discipline and position themselves to get into great colleges and universities, maneuver their way into valuable internships, and garner outstanding early jobs.


Jeff Carlson & Hans Mahncke in EPOCH TIMES, DOJ IG Withheld Key Evidence from Special Counsel.

The omission of information by Horowitz didn't end with his meeting with Sussmann or the information on Joffe. Durham's office has since discovered that the OIG "currently possesses two FBI cell phones" that belonged to Baker, the former FBI general counsel. Durham's discovery of Horowitz's possession of Baker's two phones doesn't appear to have come through Horowitz or his office. According to Durham's filing, "In early January 2022, the Special Counsel's Office learned for the first time that the OIG currently possesses two FBI cellphones of the former FBI General Counsel." Sussman is alleged to have lied to Baker when he tried to push incriminating data about Trump and Alfa Bank to the FBI; that data later turned out to be false.


futureofcapitalism.com, Durham's Latest.

The staffs of the New York Times and Washington Post won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for "deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage in the public interest that dramatically furthered the nation's understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign, the President-elect's transition team and his eventual administration." This reflects the Democratic and mainstream media narrative about the 2016 election. What Durham's filing suggests is that the real story of the 2016 election may be less Russian interference and more a Clinton campaign effort groundlessly to smear the Trump campaign, an effort that continued into the Trump presidency and involved somehow monitoring the White House phone system. My view of it is that Republicans and Independents should focus on the 2022 and 2024 elections, not the 2020 or 2016 ones.... Even so, though, it's a good reminder that the time-span for judging Pulitzer entries is often too short to measure how well the coverage represents the truth. I've often thought there should be a journalism prize awarded a decade later, to see how the coverage holds up long term.


Malcom Kyeyune at unherd.com, How the Left Betrayed the Truckers.

Ottawa’s truckers are a symptom of the massive class divide that is opening up across the West. Marxists are sticking their heads in the sand about this generational moment, or papering it over with absurd topsy-turvy leaps. In one recent display of moon logic, the Canadian activist, writer and self-described socialist Nora Loreto complained that “labour” was invisible in the resistance to the “fascist” truckers that had occupied Ottawa. An exasperated comrade chimed in with a story of being a shop steward for a teamster (truck driver) union, and — horror of horrors — the painful truth was that many teamsters were more likely to be in the protest themselves than protesting against it. The exchange is modern Western Leftism in a nutshell. Is there a single better illustration of the contradictions of the moment? An “activist” and organiser” recoiling in horror at a bunch of truckers — people who work in the real, material economy, ferrying the foodstuffs and goods we all depend on to survive — staging a political protest, only to then ask “but where is the organised working class in all of this?”. Isn’t it obvious to the point of parody that the workers are the people inside the trucks?


Ian Dowbiggin in AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE, The First Post-Nation.

In reality, Trudeau’s Canada can play at “post-national” politics mainly because it shares its only border with the United States, which in effect pays for most of Canada’s national defense. There is an adolescent, fantasy quality to Canadian politics. Canadian journalists, activists, academics, bureaucrats, and elected officials preach to the world—notably the United States—about Canada’s supposed post-national values because, ultimately, despite Obama’s and Trudeau’s insistence that Canada matters on the international stage, no one takes Canada very seriously. Canada’s peculiar holiday from history could be coming to an end.


Andy Kessler in WALL STREET JOURNAL, Wealth Is Knowledge.

Mr. Gilder counters, "Capitalism is not chiefly an incentive system, where entrepreneurs act in rote response to rewards and punishments like in a Skinner Box. It's an information system governed by the unveiling of surprising truths, innovation. If the creativity of entrepreneurs wasn't a surprise, socialist planning would work." Karl Marx didn't - and Bernie Sanders doesn't - understand productivity! Some recent surprising truths: mRNA, neural networks, Crispr, quantum computing.


Oren Cass in FINANCIAL TIMES, Why the US Right Wants to Put Workers in the Boardroom.

Creating a new forum for worker representation may seem to be a pro-labour reform. But in the US, the "pro-labour" Democratic party is, in fact, pro-Big Labour, with major unions historically among its biggest donors, regardless of the interests of actual labourers. In returning to the idea of EIOs (employee involvement organisations), Rubio and Banks are also proposing an intriguing innovation: their bill will stipulate that a large company opting to create an EIO must also seat a non-voting worker representative, shosen by the employees, on its board.


Kelly McBride at npr.org, 4 NPR Hosts Quit in the Last Year, 3 Were Women of Color.

All of this internal work is designed to foster a staff of journalists who can develop new content to reach a broader audience. Listeners to NPR on radio — its largest platform by far — are 78% white (compared with about 60% of the U.S. population.) The website attracts a bit more of a diverse audience, but it's still 73% white. NPR podcast audiences are younger and more in line with the American public, 67% white. And although podcast audiences are smaller, NPR gets more sponsorship money for podcasts than for over-the-air shows. (Broadcast programs are still more lucrative because they receive fees from stations and other support.)


Choe Sang-Hun in NEW YORK TIMES, The New Political Cry in South Korea: 'Out with Man Haters'.

South Korea is reckoning with a new type of political correctness enforced by angry young men who bristle at any forces they see as undermining opportunity — and feminists, in their mind, are enemy No. 1. Inequality is one of the most delicate issues in South Korea, a nation with deepening economic uncertainty, fed by runaway housing prices, a lack of jobs and a widening income gap. Many young South Korean men argue that it is men, not women, who feel threatened and marginalized. “We don’t hate women, and we don’t oppose elevating their rights,” said Bae In-kyu, 31, the head of Man on Solidarity, one of the country’s most active anti-feminist groups. “But feminists are a social evil.” The group spearheads the street rallies and runs a YouTube channel with 450,000 subscribers. To its members, feminists equal man haters. Its motto once read, “Till the day all feminists are exterminated!” The backlash against feminism in South Korea may seem bewildering.


Choe Sang-Hun in NEW YORK TIMES, How 'Multiculturalism' Became a Bad Word in South Korea.

Many Koreans explain their attitude toward foreigners by citing history: their small nation has survived invasions and occupations for centuries, maintaining its territory, language and ethnic identity. Those who oppose the mosque and immigration more broadly have often warned that an influx of foreigners would threaten South Korea’s “pure blood” and “ethnic homogeneity.” “We may look exclusionist, but it has made us what we are, consolidating us as a nation to survive war, colonial rule and financial crises and achieve economic development while speaking the same language, thinking the same thoughts,” Mr. Lee said. “I don’t think we could have done this with diversity,” he added. “We are not xenophobic. We just don’t want to mix with others.” Some say the country does not have much of a choice.


smartertimes.com, Weddings Editor Aims to "Normalize" Unwed.

"What does it mean to be committed in 2022? We will begin to tell stories outside of our traditional Mini-Vows that explore relationships outside of what we know to be marriage. Marriage has been our bread and butter because, obviously, we're the Weddings section, but I do feel that it is time that we get into what is considered nontraditional and kind of normalize that. For example, we have written about platonic spouses, or people who are marrying their friends. ...That's where we're looking to go, to just expand what the word commitment means." Nice to see the transparency about goals. It seems like a delicate balance between covering the reality of what people are doing (a traditional goal of news) and an agenda ("normalize," "expand") that involves taking a side in an unsettled values or policy debate. Newspapers do the second all the time but they often aren't quite so transparent about it.


Tish Harrison Warren in NEW YORK TIMES, The Systemic Realities Created by Legal Abortion.

Carrying a child to term will never be easy (and is, of course, more difficult than recycling). But a culture deciding that all life — including life in the womb — is valuable and worthy of protection would create systemic realities that open up ethical and practical possibilities for women. In the same way, a culture that embraces abortion on demand will end up, however unintentionally, incentivizing that choice. This has downstream consequences for women deciding whether to continue with a pregnancy. In extreme situations, employers have demanded that women have an abortion or lose their job. But the pressure to abort is often more subtle. When I worked in campus ministry, I met young women who told me that their student insurance covered abortion but not maternity care. College students told USA Today that when they became pregnant unexpectedly, their student health centers did not offer them information on what to do if they wanted to continue with the pregnancy. Universities rarely offer on-campus housing for students with children.


Alex Williams in NEW YORK TIMES, To Breed or Not to Breed?.

“We were always under the mentality of, ‘Oh yeah, when you get married, you have kids,” she said. “It was this expected thing.” Expected, that is, until the couple took an eight-month road trip after Ms. Little got her master’s degree in public health at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C. “When we were out west — California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho — we were driving through areas where the whole forest was dead, trees knocked over,” Ms. Little said. “We went through southern Louisiana, which was hit by two hurricanes last year, and whole towns were leveled, with massive trees pulled up by their roots.” Now 30 and two years into her marriage, Ms. Little feels “the burden of knowledge,” she said. The couple sees mounting disaster when reading the latest climate change reports and Arctic ice forums. Anxiety about having children has set in. “Over the last year I thought, ‘Oh my God, I have to make a decision, it’s not that far away,” she said. “But I don’t know how I could change my mind. Over the next 10 years, I feel like there are only going to be more reasons to not want to have a kid, not the other way around.” Such fears are not necessarily unfounded. Every new human comes with a carbon footprint.


Thomas Cargill in INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Eurgenics in High School History.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, however, the Malthusian predictions were increasingly contradicted by reality. Population increased, but economic growth and increased productivity supported the growing population with an increasing real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita worldwide. Nonetheless, Malthus had already opened Pandora’s Box in two ways. First, concern with population growth combined with the ideology of catastrophe had a profound influence on public policy, ranging from the welfare state and unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance to immigration. The ideology of catastrophe is a type of “madness of the crowds” used by advocates of a policy agenda to invoke fear of impending catastrophe unless action is taken immediately and to silence any dissenting views. Second, the Malthusian concern with the quantity of population relative to the resource base could easily be extended to a concern about the quality of population relative to the resource base in terms of the efficiency and productivity of the population. In On the Origin of the Species (1859), Charles Darwin attributed to Malthus his theory of natural selection and evolution toward improving the quality of any species (introduction). Herbert Spencer (1864) incorporated Darwin in his treatise on biology and coined the phrase “survival of the fittest,” arguing that societies based on the individual in the context of competitive institutions were the strongest and the fittest.


Faith Bottum in WALL STREET JOURNAL, What Does a Library's 'Diversity Auditor' Do?

The point of the audit at Bard originally appeared to be picking books to remove. The announcement in Notes, the library's newsletter, described the project as a first step in "the process of decanonizing the stacks" - academic jargon for breaking the connection to the past. A follow-up from the staff seemed to suggest that the eventual aim is a major deaccessioning (to use a librarians' term: litotes for getting rid of books). A representative of the library, however, later said in an email that was forwarded to me that the project was designed "to increase our understanding of our collection, not to remove books."


Andrew Gutmann & Paul Rossi in WALL STREET JOURNAL, Inside the Woke Indoctrination Machine.

Over the past month we have watched nearly 100 hours of leaked videos from 108 workshops held virtually last year for the National Association of Independent Schools' People of Color Conference. The NAIS sets standards for more than 1,600 independent schools in the U.S., driving their missions and influencing many school policies. The conference is NAIS's flagship annual event for disseminating DEI practices, and more than 6,000 DEI practitioners, educators and administrators attended this year. Intended as professional development and not meant for the public, these workshops are honest, transparent and unfiltered - very different from how private schools typically communicate DEI initiatives. These leaked videos act as a Rosetta Stone for deciphering the DEI playbook.


Jim Quinn & Hannah Meyers in NEW YORK TIMES, These Policies Were Supposed to Help Black People. They're Backfiring.

In 2020, Black New Yorkers, who make up about 24 percent of the city’s population, were the victims in 65 percent of murders and 74 percent of shootings. They were also the largest racial demographic among victims of felony assault and rape. It is hard not to notice that these tragic trends have emerged alongside the introduction of policies that were supposed to help Black New Yorkers — specifically, by reducing the impact of the criminal justice system on their lives. Black New Yorkers are disproportionately represented among those who are arrested, convicted and incarcerated in the city. Over the past few years, policymakers have sought to rectify this imbalance, designing policies aimed at achieving numerical parity among racial groups when it comes to relative rates of arrest, conviction and incarceration. But this strategy is harming Black New Yorkers. By aiming for racial equity in criminal justice rather than focusing solely on deterring and responding to crime, policymakers seem to have neglected the foundational purpose of law and order. What has followed — a sharp rise in victims of crime, who remain disproportionately Black, and a slight increase in the percentage of Rikers Island inmates who are Black — is a racial imbalance of a more troubling kind.


Will Feuer in WALL STREET JOURNAL, Disney to Start Residential Business.

Walt Disney Co. said it plans to start developing residential communities, starting with on in Rancho Mirage, in California's Coachella Valley. The new residential-development business will be called Storyliving by Disney, the company said Wednesday. Disney's research-and-development team, known as Imagineers, will help design the communities.


Jeffrey Tucker in EPOCH TIMES, Now Is the Time for Mass Resignations from Within the Ruling Class.

In theory, the problem of government overreach in democracy is solved by elections. The argument made for such a sysem is that it allows for peaceful change of a ruling elite, and this is far less socially costly than war and revolution. There are many problems with matching theory and reality, one being that the people with the real power in the 21st century aren't those we elect but those who have gained their priviliges through bureaucratic maneuvering and longevity. There are many strange features of the past two years, but one of them that stands out to me is how utterly undemocratic the trajectory of events has been. When they locked us down, for example, it was the decision of elected autocrats as advised by credentialled experts that were somehow sure that this path would make the virus go away (or something like that).... There were no polls. There was little if any input from legislatures at any level.... It was as if everyone suddenly presumed that the whole country would operate on an administrative/dictatorship model, and that the guidelines of health bureaucracies (with plans for lockdowns that hardly anyone even knew existed) trumped all tradition, constitutions, restrictions on state power, and public opinion generally.


Rob Natelson in EPOCH TIMES, How the Supreme Court Rewrote the Constitution: 1937-1944.

Major changes always have multiple causes. This series focuses on a central cause - perhaps the central cause: the conscious abdication of responsibility by a handful of Supreme Court justices, primarily between the years 1937 and 1944. The change occurred against the backdrop of economic depression and world war. But America previously had undergone similar crises without altering her form of government. This time, the outcome was different, largely because the Supreme Court refused to defend the Constitution.


Francis Maier in WALL STREET JOURNAL, How Marxism 'Won' the War of Ideas.

In effect, as Del Noce argued throughout his career, Marxism was and is a new form of an old heresy, gnosticism. It's a cult of sacred knowledge, the possession of which claims to unlock our understanding and allow us to control the world. But the cult inevitably leads to nihilism, because Marxist theory is fundamentally atheist, which destroys its religion-like authority when the promised heaven on earth declines to appear. Marxism succeeds in crippling the supernatural imagination. But it has nothing of any higher purpose to put in its place beyond relentless political struggle against the power structures of a corrupt present. Marxist theory may have failed, but its afterlife of bitter activism drags on in our current grievance movements.


Michael Warren Davis in AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE on Tom Gallagher's book, Salazar: The Dictator Who Refused to Die.

He despised fascism, which he dismissed as “pagan Caesarism.” Likewise, he said Hitler’s racism was “essentially pagan, incompatible with the character of our Christian civilization.” Salazar rarely used his secret police to suppress political dissent. When he did, it was limited to the militant communists who tried to blow him up in 1937 as he made his way to church. After the bomb went off, shattering the windows of his car, he dusted himself off and said to his entourage, “Everything is over now. Let’s go in for Mass.” Dr. Salazar opposed the Axis Powers’ expansionism, beginning with Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. During World War II, he helped victims of the Third Reich escape Nazi-occupied Europe; Casablanca got that much right. He lent material support to the Allies during World War II, and he would have gladly joined the war on their side. Salazar remained neutral only for fear of driving his neighbor, Francisco Franco, into Hitler’s arms.


Grant Havers in MODERN AGE on Paul Franco's book, Leo Strauss on Hegel.

Hegel writes in his 1795 essay “The Positivity of the Christian Religion” that “the supplanting of paganism by Christianity is one of those remarkable revolutions whose causes the thoughtful historian must labor to discover.” The reasons Christianity triumphed over the paganism of Greco-Roman antiquity and the religions of the East preoccupied Hegel to the end of his life. In the Lectures on the Philosophy of History, delivered at the University of Berlin in the 1820s, Hegel outlined how Christianity actualized an idea of human freedom that was inconceivable to pagan civilizations: “Eastern nations knew only that one is free; the Greek and Roman world only that some are free; while we [Christians] know that all men absolutely . . . are free.” One implication of Hegel’s theory of history is that no return to paganism is possible, however much we might admire aspects of the ancient world. Philosophers who seek a return to antiquity must address the challenge of Hegel. Readers familiar with Leo Strauss may be surprised, therefore, by the seminar on Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of History that he gave at the University of Chicago in 1965. On the few occasions that Strauss mentions Hegel in works intended for publication, the reader gets the unmistakable impression that Hegel’s philosophy initiated the doctrine of historicism. In Strauss’s view, historicism undermined political philosophy by dismissing the idea of a transcendent truth that exists apart from history.


Francesco Pacifico in NEW LEFT REVIEW, The Sorcerer.

I think I know what Codignola meant when he told me about a time when everything seemed to make sense, but that Adelphi’s books made you feel that the others weren’t telling you the whole truth. I also feel that while the likes of Guglielmi saw themselves as different in kind to the generation spawned by the Miracolo Economico and portrayed in the Commedia all’Italiana, Calasso must have felt that this self-referential, booming society was too self-involved and lacking in transcendence; he must have had a unique view of the sleazy mix of Marxism and establishment, seaside villas and existentialism, of the characters played by Mastroianni in La Notte and La Dolce Vita. Calasso didn’t really want to debate with his foes. In The Unnamable Present he wrote of the present time: ‘Thought would benefit more than ever from a period of concealment, of a covert and clandestine existence, from which to re-emerge in a situation that might resemble that of the Pre-Socratics. The powers have to be recognized before even naming them and venturing to theorize the world.’


Alexander Adams in CRITIC on Debra Bricker Balken's book, Harold Rosenberg: A Critic's Life.

Per Marx, Greenberg asserted that a Hegelian dialectical process would lead to observable and historically inevitable outcomes. Greenberg declared that art was destined to become more itself — painting would consist of paint, without imagery, sculpture would be material of pure form, without subject and so forth. The rise of Cubism, Bauhaus, Suprematism and American abstraction seemed evidence of this. Rosenberg came up with an alternative. His essay 1952 “The American Action Painters” situated the hero-artist as an agent of change, in control of artistic production. It is not hard to see why painters of the time warmed to Rosenberg’s notion of exceptional individuals advancing art. This was very much in line with Existentialist philosophy, with the emphasis on the morality and isolation of the individual, separated from tradition and nation. The fact that the essay included no specific artists allowed Rosenberg to speak in generalities. Pollock (whose image as a paint-flinging man of action was first disseminated in photographs and film in 1951) felt aggrieved that he had not been named. “[Pollock] stood outside Rosenberg’s bedroom window one night in The Springs and howled, ‘I’m the best fucking painter in the world!’”


Charlie Williams at aeon.co, The Dropout: A History.

In Byung-Chul Han’s book Psychopolitics (2017), the philosopher warns of the sophisticated use of targeted online content, enabling ‘influence to take place on a pre-reflexive level’. On our current trajectory, writes Han, ‘freedom will prove to have been merely an interlude.’ The fear is that the digital age has not liberated us but exposed us, by offering up our private lives to machine-learning algorithms able to process the masses of personal and behavioural data often unwittingly disclosed daily. In a world of influencers and digital entrepreneurs, it’s not easy to imagine the resurgence of a culture engendered through disconnect and disaffiliation, but concerns over the threat of online targeting, polarisation and big data have inspired recent polemics about the need to rediscover solitude and disconnect.


Scott Bradfield in NEW REPUBLIC on Damian Catani's book, The Ghosts of Celine.

Catani argues that French readers stopped trying to decide whether they wanted to read Céline; it became more important to decide whether he was a “good” man. Many similar writers, such as Ezra Pound, had managed to outlive the memories of their most heinous statements; others, like Wyndham Lewis, never recovered; and still others, such as Paul de Man, would only suffer censure after they were dead. But no living artist bore greater witness to debates about the relationship between his fictional and nonfictional writings than Céline.


Claude Hayward of the San Francisco Diggers, Jay Babcock interview.

Q: Looking back now, do you think the emphasis on anonymity, and no leaders, helped or hurt the Diggers’ cause? A: I think everybody took seriously the notion that nobody was in charge. I wasn’t aware of anybody making the move like they were the boss. Now there was no question that there were some strong personalities and ones not as dynamic, shall we say… It definitely had something to do with the quality of rap that you could lay down. But there are plenty of people that were anonymous Diggers that we don’t know of, that were doing one thing or another, either in concert with, or entirely independently. That’s the essence of “No Leaders/Do YOUR thing.” All I’m saying is that I felt that that was honored, that that was respected as a dynamic.


Christopher Sandford in MODERN AGE, Poet Laureate of Low Life.

Taken as a whole, Bukowski’s work—and the man himself, were he still alive—might struggle to meet the exquisite sensitivity of today’s mainstream publishing houses, let alone the growing ranks of moral arbiters on social media. And perhaps it’s that very point that serves to make so many of his books and stories so enjoyable. On some fundamental level, we need the likes of Bukowski, if only as a permanent reminder that one of American literature’s chief historical functions has always been to rattle the guardrails defining the limits of acceptable behavior. We want to be entertained by stories about him swaggering around brawling in bars. What a sad lot most of today’s morally approved American authors are by comparison. “When a writer focuses more on forming a community with his readers than conveying the fact of our experience, he can be left high and dry when the assumptions undergirding that community change,” David Orr sniffed when reviewing Bukowski’s posthumous On Drinking in the pages of the New York Times. That exclusion from the cultural mainstream would very likely have been fine with Bukowski, who had the prescience to write in his poem “The Genius of the Crowd,” as long ago as 1966:

Beware the preachers
   Beware the knowers,
   Beware those who are
   quick to know.
   They are afraid of what they do not know.
   Beware those who seek constant crowds for
   They are nothing alone.

Thanks to Andy Schwartz, Roger Trilling, J. Cabal, J. Ned, Geralyn Carducci, Mark Carducci, Matt Carducci, Mike Carducci, Julie Carducci, Mike Vann Gray...


Obituaries of the Issue...

Mike King (1936-2022)

His death made me recall that long ago day in his office and his story of “Chickenman.” For those of a certain age, this character is firmly embedded in memory. To the accompaniment of “He’s everywhere! He’s everywhere!” the character was a daily radio serial born on WCFL-AM’s Jim Runyon show in 1966, a clever satirical spoof of the then-popular “Batman” TV show. It was created and voiced by Dick Orkin, the station’s production director, and was so popular that it was eventually syndicated and twice revived after its initial run. There were 273 original episodes, some of which have been played on NPR’s “This American Life,” and many of which can still be heard on various stations internationally. King said proudly, with a twinkle in his eyes at the realization that this might be the hallmark of his considerable professional legacy, “I did most of the engineering for ‘Chickenman,’ and I can listen to each episode today and know exactly what I was doing at that time.”

John K. Singlaub (1921-2022)

General Singlaub trained resistance fighters in German-occupied France and rescued Allied prisoners of war held by the Japanese during World War II. He conducted intelligence operations during the Chinese Civil War and in the Korean War while assigned to the C.I.A., and he commanded secret Army forays into North Vietnam and neutral Laos and Cambodia during the 1960s to ambush Communist troops. A sturdy 5-foot-7 with an enduring military brush haircut, General Singlaub seemed fit for combat long after his last war. He was “the kind of guy you’d like to have on your side in a barroom brawl,” Pat Murphy, an acquaintance and the publisher of The Arizona Republic at the time, told The New York Times in 1986.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic compendium, Joe! I've read about half of it but need some long winter nights to finish it! I hope you are well!