Friday, August 31, 2007

MuseBook e-Scores

I think I found the company that makes the automatic music score device spotted on From the Top last night: MuseBook.

You can buy one online from Kelly's Music and Computers:
MuseBook Score is an electronic score solution which automatically turns page for you! Use a Tablet PC instead of sheet music and open MusicXML score files saved on your computer's hard disk. As you play the piano, MuseBook Score listens to the piano performance through a microphone, recognizes where you are playing, then turns pages automatically. MuseBook Score works with both acoustic and digital pianos.

Automatic Page Turning
Let MuseBook Score be your page turner. You concentrate only on the music, and then piano practicing becomes far more effective.

Current Position Display
Have MuseBook Score respond to your piano performance. As you play the piano, it indicates the current performing note with a color you defined. It provides not only an easier way of reading scores, but also more fun piano practicing by interactive learning environment.

Score Player
With MuseBook Score, you can hear what the score sounds like. Listening to the score before you practice helps you understand and memorize the music better.

How does MuseBook Score work?

MuseBook Score listens to the live piano performance through a microphone connected to a computer and recognizes the complex performance utilizing artificial intelligence technology. Therefore, MuseBook Score automatically tracks current performing notes and turns the pages over when it is timed to.

Music recognition technology enables a machine or a computer to listen to the music and recognize its contents in a similar way as human ear and brain do. Artificial intelligence software emulates a human's music recognition process by means of digital signal processing.

Ken Burns' Latest Snafu

Is Ken Burns fubar?

According to today's Washington Post, the latest controversy swirls over four-letter words in his 14 1/2-hour PBS documentary about WWII, The War:
"It's the world we live in right now," said Joe Bruns, WETA's chief operating officer. "My own view is that with the landscape of a 14-hour film about World War II, and given the overall obscenity of war, four words are not particularly shocking -- especially given the fact that these are words used routinely at that time. But [nowadays], we have to exercise an abundance of caution."

The profanity could subject a station to a $325,000 indecency fine if broadcast between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

In two instances, the words are spoken by former American soldiers as they describe the meaning of the common military euphemisms "snafu" and "fubar," as well as some combat experiences. The other two words refer to a body part and excrement. In the edited version, the soundtrack briefly goes silent when the profanities are uttered.

In an interview, Burns called the soldiers' comments "four incredibly appropriate words." He added: "It's what soldiers in battle say, and not just during World War II."

From the Top

Last night, our local PBS station aired a marathon broadcast of From the Top, a show in which young people perform classical music. I enjoyed it. To hear and see 12 year old virtuosi of widely diverse backgrounds play Chopin on the piano, Kreisler on the violin, or Schumann on the clarinet provided a sorely-needed alternative to MTV, gangster rap, or Britney Spears. Sort of a junior classical "American Idol," without the competition.

It reminded me of watching the Culture TV channel in Russia, where 6-year olds performed Mozart (the youngest musician I heard on PBS last night was 10, playing a cello) in real musical competitions as well as on variety shows.

Producer Don Mischer did a good job keeping the tone light rather than solemn for Carnegie Hall and WGBH, Boston (how come not WNET?). Pianist Christopher O'Riley did his best as an MC to keep things moving along. He accompanies the kids on the piano, so you can see how good they are compared to him.

And, I really loved the electronic music score on the piano--no more page turners. Who makes it, and how does it work? Maybe O'Riley will explain it someday.

Only a few quibbles:

*The show is billed as "Live" from Carnegie Hall. Actually, it is taped in front of a live audience. It's nice, but not really live. Truth in advertising, please.

*O'Riley's jokes can verge on the tasteless, especially in front of children. Giving a 12-year old pianist "Michael Jackson's glove" and a 12-year old violinist a pair of worn tube socks prizes seemed tacky and undercut the positive atmosphere of the show. O'Riley also seemed a little jealous of his young co-stars at times. It would be nice if he could keep that natural competitiveness more in check.

*Let's have information on CDs, iTunes, and websites on the TV screen while the kids perform on the show. There is a link on the NPR website, but it takes a few clicks.

*The NPR radio show version (about which I had heard nothing before the PBS broadcast), is not simulcast. Why not?

These are minor points. Overall, From the Top is top-notch cultural fare, and a welcome addition to the TV schedule. I'm sure it will help encourage more young people to take music lessons. Although the original 13-episodes are "in the can" (they showed 7 half-hours last night on WETA, I think), I hope PBS gives it a regular weekly time-slot in the Fall.

BTW, Young musicians can apply to perform on the show by clicking this link.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Rudy Giuliani & Teddy Roosevelt

Yesterday I stumbled accross Ed Koch's attack on Rudy Giuliani in a local bookstore. I thumbed through the large print of Giuliani: Nasty Man (easy to read at my age) and found a chapter that actually explains Giuliani's appeal.

In what he thought was a savage demolition of Giuliani's mayoral record, Koch called him "a great NYC Police Commissioner." Koch meant it as a put-down, but I think it may turn out to be a compliment.

Koch's label can help Giuliani overcome the jinx that prevented other NYC mayors, like John Lindsay and Ed Koch, from reaching the Oval Office. For Giuliani can run as a former NYC Police Commissioner, just like Teddy Roosevelt. According to the law of unintended consequences, Ed Koch may have done Giuliani a favor.

TR served as NYC Police Commissioner before he became President. Like Giuliani, Roosevelt was a maverick Republican, a Progressive who believed in peace through strength. He built up US Navy's "Great White Fleet"--and never had to use it. He presided over the expansion of American power throughout the world, and the dynamic growth of American industry at home. Peace and prosperity were the hallmarks of the Roosevelt Era. TR's enduring popularity helped Franklin Roosevelt (his cousin) win the Democratic nomination during the Great Depression. His "Square Deal" was a forefunner of the "New Deal."

Not bad for a NYC Police Commissioner. Here's a link to his bio on Wikipedia.

Nureyev on PBS

Speaking of anti-communists, I hope readers had a chance to watch PBS' broadcast of the BBC documentary Nureyev: The Russian Years last night on Great Performances. The documentary was fascinating, and explained why the Soviet ballet star defected to the West--he faced 5 years in a Siberian prison camp for homosexual behavior, which just might have been his death sentence. Having just read David Caute's The Dancer Defects, with a chapter on Nureyev, the film seemed particularly vivid and compelling. The face-off between KGB and French police at Le Bourget airport at the moment of Nureyev's leap to freedom was dramatized beautifully in a first-person eyewitness account. Nice clips of Nureyev dancing both in Russia and the West, too.

You can read my review of The Dancer Defects at

Humberto Fontova: Shame on the Washington Post!

Agustin Blazquez sent us this op-ed by Humberto Fontnova, author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him, criticizing the Washington Post for running a recent Pat Oliphant cartoon advocating the deportation of Cuban-Americans:
Note that a smiling Uncle Sam insults an American ethnic group as “nuisances" while forcibly expelling them from the nation in a rickety boat titled "Cuban-Americans," while these scowling, elderly and Mafiosi-clad people scream “we demand a chance to interfere with the '08 election!”

By “interfere” we have to assume the cartoonist refers to the right, privilege and duty bestowed upon U.S. citizens known as "voting." It so happens that the cartoonist, Pat Oliphant, is himself an immigrant to this country. In an interview with Time magazine he admitted to “leaning Democratic” in his politics.

I now invite you to contemplate the reaction from the usual political-correctness police had any other U.S. ethnic group (except overwhelmingly Republican Cuban-Americans) inhabited that boat. Imagine the fire and brimstone (literal, perhaps) if instead of Fedoras (rarely worn by Cuban-Americans, by the way) the group had worn kuffiyeh's, burkha's and chadors!

Imagine the clamor and attempted extortions followed by craven apologies and grovelings if the boat's passengers had been "nappy-headed" and headed for Africa! Imagine the rallies in Los Angeles and the indignant blusterings by California politicians and Nancy Pelosi if they'd worn sombreros!

Such cartoons are indeed imaginable with other ethnic groups — but surely with Uncle Sam cast as the villain, wearing a white hood, a swastika or an Ann Coulter mask. Maybe all three. In this one Uncle Sam smiles benevolently while handing the boat's ethnic occupants their just desserts.

When earlier this year authorities in Virginia's Prince William County attempted to enforce U.S. laws against illegal immigration the Washington Post denounced it as “shameful," "hypocritical" and "ugly." "Hounding Immigrants" ran the editorial's title (no mention of "illegal" in the title, though it came up in the text.) "By singling out illegal immigrants, local politicians are contributing to what is becoming a poisonous, increasingly nativist atmosphere that will infect relations with Hispanics generally."

Nothing "poisonous" or "infectious," "shameful" or "nativist", mind you, about a cartoon gloating over the expulsion of U.S. citizens of Hispanic origin from America's shores in a manner identical to Ferdinand and Isabella's expulsion of Jews and Moors from Spain.

When U.S. Federal authorities attempted to enforce U.S. law against illegal immigration in New Bedford earlier this summer the Post once again stormed to its pulpit and denounced it as: "Cruel," "lurid" "hypocritical, "self- defeating" and "illogical." "Stop the Raids! Stop Hurting Children!" blared their editorial headline. "The New Bedford raid is an inelegant example of how badly this country needs a clear-eyed immigration policy, one that provides . . . a path to citizenship for immigrants who have put down roost and contributed to the national economy." ("As long as they don't go on to vote Republican" they forgot to add.)

The immigrant (actually, refugee) group the Post insults in a manner utterly inconceivable for any other, is in fact the very one that “implanted roots" and "contributed to the national economy” like few others. The 1998 census shows Americans of Cuban heritage to have income and educational levels higher — not just than other "Hispanic" (a meaningless term) groups, but higher than the U.S population in general. Lower crime rates than the national average complete the picture.

But these insufferable people consistently vote close to 80 percent Republican, you see. This sin instantly nullifies all of the Washington Posts usual hyper-sensitivity in these matters.

Attempting to enforce U.S. law as in potential expulsion, (with full due process) of, illegal immigrants is denounced by the Washington Post as "xenophobic," "shameful," "poisonous," "nativist," "cruel," "self defeating," "illogical," and "ugly."

But a cartoon celebrating the expulsion of Americans who happened to be foreign-born, who played by the rules, who became U.S. citizens, who then outpaced even the overall U.S. population in educational and income levels (in "Americanization" you might say) and who specialize in exercising their right and duty to vote, well, these vermin should be shoved off en masse to Stalinist prison camps by a smiling Uncle Sam. Unreal.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Senator Craig & Walter Jenkins

Another parallel comes to mind, between the predicaments of Republican Sen. Larry Craig and Democratic LBJ aide Walter Jenkins, the Karl Rove of the Johnson administration, whose career came to an end after he was arrested in a YMCA toilet. Here's a link to the Wikipedia version of the story:
Johnson's former aides have generally credited much of Johnson's political success to Jenkins. In 1975 journalist Bill Moyers, a former Johnson aide and press secretary, wrote in Newsweek, "When they came to canonize political aides, [Jenkins] will be the first summoned, for no man ever negotiated the shark-infested waters of the Potomac with more decency or charity or came out on the other side with his integrity less shaken. If Lyndon Johnson owed everything to one human being other than Lady Bird, he owed it to Walter Jenkins." Joseph Califano wrote, "Jenkins was the nicest White House aide I ever met in any administration. He was never overbearing. It was quite remarkable."

D.C. Scandal

His career with Johnson ended in October 1964, when Washington, D.C. police arrested Jenkins during a homosexual liaison at a YMCA and a reporter at the Washington Star learned of the incident. Johnson applied considerable pressure on the newspaper not to print the story and recruited his personal lawyer, Abe Fortas, to lobby the newspaper's editor. However, the story eventually appeared in the Star and Jenkins was forced to resign.

The arrest raised questions about whether Jenkins had been blackmailed. At this time gay men and lesbians were automatically denied clearance. Johnson's opponent in the 1964 presidential election, Barry Goldwater, who knew Jenkins from the Senate and served as commanding officer of his Air Force Reserve unit, chose not to make the incident a campaign issue. "It was a sad time for Jenkins' wife and children, and I was not about to add to their private sorrow," Goldwater later wrote in his autobiography. "Winning isn't everything. Some things, like loyalty to friends or lasting principle, are more important." Jenkins arrest was quickly overshadowed by international affairs -- the People's Republic of China successfully tested its first nuclear device and the politburo of the USSR overthrew Nikita Khrushchev.

Members of Congress called for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to carry out an investigation into the case, citing concerns that the FBI had been unaware of Jenkins previous offence in the same Washington toilet six years earlier. Tapes of Johnson's Oval Office telephone calls later revealed that the President had orchestrated the FBI report that cleared Jenkins of any suspicions that he had compromised national security. However, investigations did reveal that Jenkins, a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, had tried to use his influence to reinstate a fellow officer dismissed for sex offences.

Johnson did not replace Jenkins, but instead divided his responsibilities among several staff members. "A great deal of the president's difficulties can be traced to the fact that Walter had to leave," Johnson's press secretary, George Reedy, once told an interviewer. "All of history might have been different if it hadn't been for that episode." Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark suggested that Jenkins' resignation "deprived the president of the single most effective and trusted aide that he had. The results would be enormous when the president came into his hard times. Walter's counsel on Vietnam might have been extremely helpful."
The LBJ library has tapes of conversations between Abe Fortas and the President about Jenkins. I think I may have heard this recording broadcast on C-SPAN. Here's the catalog listing, for readers who want to check out the original tape.
Citation No.: 5876
Tape: WH6410.08 Program No.: 6
Length: 15:03

Date: 10/14/64
Time: 3:56P
To/From: F
Transcribed: N
Restriction: OPEN



Alberto Gonzales & Webster Hubbell

The departure of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General recalled the saga of former Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell in the Clinton Administration. This reminder, from Wikipedia:
Webster Lee Hubbell (born 1949), known as Webster L. Hubbell and Webb Hubbell, was an Arkansas lawyer and politician. He was a lawyer in Pulaski County before serving as Mayor of Little Rock from 1979 until he resigned in 1981. He was appointed by Bill Clinton as chief justice of Arkansas State Supreme Court in 1983. When Clinton became President, Hubbell was appointed as associate attorney general; he was generally considered the third most powerful person in the Justice Department. His wife is Suzanna "Suzy" Hubbell.

In December 1994, Hubbell pleaded guilty to federal mail fraud and tax evasion charges connection with his handling of billing at the Rose Law Firm, a firm with partners that once included Hillary Clinton and Vince Foster. Hubbell admitted he had defrauded former clients and former partners out of $482,410.83. On June 28, 1995, Judge George Howard sentenced Hubbell to 21 months' imprisonment.
On the other hand, Ann Coulter compares Gonzales with Janet Reno.

Gordon Hahn: The West Has Lost Russia

From the Moscow Times (ht Johnson's Russia List):
Now Moscow's bitter disappointment with the West has taken the form of harsh anti-Americanism. It has also translated into a burning desire among the Russian elite and public to finally show the West that it would regret its policies once Russia "got up from its knees." That time has surely come.

Some analysts warned that this would be the inevitable result of NATO expansion and other flawed U.S. and Western policies. Only a partnership with Russia and a firm policy of drawing it into the West would prevent Moscow's turn to the East. This also would have prevented the revival of traditional Russian suspicion -- if not outright antagonism -- toward the West. Finally, a closer cooperation with Russia may have prevented Moscow's disenchantment with democracy, which it has interpreted as being no more than an insidious and cynical Western ploy to weaken Russia.

The cost of NATO expansion is that Russia has been lost in the medium term -- and perhaps in the long term as well -- as a powerful, committed democracy and Western ally. Moreover, the West has pushed Russia closer to China and Iran.

If these are the costs of NATO expansion, what are the advantages? Few, if any. The alliance received from its new member states: a few thousand additional troops that are stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq, a three-jet Latvian air force and five Estonian nurses. Compare these benefits to Russia's vast military and intelligence resources and experience -- particularly in Afghanistan. Moreover, Moscow has helped to track down global jihadists, prevent the proliferation of weapons and materials of mass destruction and reconstruct Afghanistan. As a true ally, Russia could contribute much more to the Western alliance than the small new NATO members.

All opinion polls now show that a plurality or majority of Russians regard the United States as the greatest threat to Russia and the world. Putin has repeatedly decried the U.S. impetus for a "unipolar" international structure -- which is to say, global hegemony.

The Russian elite's consensus is even harsher. Alexander Solzhenitsyn recently said the United States seeks to encircle and weaken Russia. This statement is highly symbolic, coming from the esteemed writer who once took refuge in the United States as a political refugee from the Soviet state. It also underscores how cold U.S.-Russian relations have become.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

John Danforth for Attorney General

Here's who I would like to see President Bush nominate for Attorney General of the United States: John Danforth. The former Ambassador to the UN and Senator from Missouri might be able to restore respect to the Justice Department among the American public, Congress, and the rest of the world. I bet he would not give a green-light to torture, either--since he's an ordained Episcopal priest, in addition to everything else.

He resigned in a hurry from his UN job in 2005, no doubt passed over for a cabinet job like Secretary of State. Now's Bush's chance to bring him--and mainstream thinking--back into the administration. I think he'd get confirmed without too much trouble by the Senate, especially since Danforth used to serve on the Judiciary Committee...and according to CNN, he told Bush that he would be available for "short-term assignments". With only 18 months left in the administration, sounds like a perfect match.

Here's a link to Danforth's Wikipedia entry.

Alex De Waal: Darfur Problem Not Genocide

In the Washington Post today, De Waal and co-author Julie Flint say the real problem in Darfur is "anarchy:"
While the script of many rights campaigners and activists has remained stuck in the groove of "genocide," Darfur faces something that can be just as deadly in the long term: anarchy. The government is a dictatorship, but its writ doesn't run beyond the first checkpoints outside the towns. The army has a fearsome arsenal, but two much-heralded offensives last year were smartly and bloodily annihilated by rebels. The air force is rarely used, except when targets of opportunity arise -- or the rebels have the army on the run. There have been no large-scale offensives by the government in 2007.

The Sudanese government relies on its Arab militias for a semblance of control, but increasingly these militias pursue their own agendas. The largest loss of life this year occurred in clashes between two Arab militias, most recently at the end of July, when 100 militia members and Arab civilians died. The other big ongoing crisis, and the major cause of more than 100,000 people being displaced this year, is a multisided conflict in Southern Darfur involving warring Arab militias; rebel commanders from the Sudan Liberation Army who are now allied with the government, though other commanders are fighting it; a militia drawn from West African immigrants; and a rebel commander from the Justice and Equality Movement who answers to no one but himself. Simple, it isn't.
More on Darfur by De Waal at the CSIS website and on his Social Science Research Council blog.

As Seen At Victoria Airport Bookshop

On our return from summer vacation in British Columbia--my cousin Daniel Kalla's novel Resistance displayed on the sales shelf next to The Da Vinci Code...

Russia Blames Berezovsky for Politkovskaya Murder

According to the Daily Telegraph (UK), the arrest of 10 suspects in Moscow for the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya is adding to Russian-UK tensions:
When asked by Russian journalists if he believed that Mr Berezovsky, a former oil tycoon, was behind the murder, he smiled and said: "Our investigation has led us to conclude that only people living abroad could be interested in killing Politkovskaya.

"Forces interested in de-stabilising the country, in stoking crisis, in a return to the old system where money and oligarchs ruled, in discrediting national leadership, provoking external pressure on the country, could be interested in this crime.

"Anna Politkovskaya knew who ordered her killing. She met him more than once."

The thinly veiled accusation will raise the pressure on Mr Berezovsky, who met Miss Politkovskaya several times and has made no secret of his wish to overthrow Mr Putin.

It will also worsen relations with London, which expelled four Russian diplomats after Moscow refused to extradite the chief suspect in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB agent, in London last year.

USAID Defers Terror Screening

That didn't take long. Just days after newspapers reported protests from, the Bush administration caved. According to today's Washington Post: "The Bush administration has decided to defer the start of a new security screening program for thousands of officials of organizations seeking funds from the Agency for International Development..."

Score: Terrorists, 1-Bush, 0.

Inside the Al Haramain Charity Case

From Zombietime (ht lgf):
Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, Inc. was the Ashland, Oregon-based American branch of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a huge international Islamic charity founded and headquartered in Saudi Arabia, with subsidiaries in countries around the world. After 9/11, several governments (including the U.S., the U.K., and even the United Nations) began investigating the terror funding network, and found evidence that money from Al-Haramain was used not just for charity projects but also to finance Al Qaeda and specific terrorist plots. Various foreign branches of Al-Haramain were broken up or shut down, but it was not apparently until 2004 that the U.S. branch of Al-Haramain came under intense investigation.

In early 2004, government intelligence services supposedly (or has been alleged) began electronic surveillance of phone calls connected to the Ashland Al-Haramain office. It is not known if warrants were obtained, or if the calls were domestic or international. Partly based on intelligence gathered during this surveillance, The U.S. government declared the Oregon branch of Al-Haramain a "specially designated global terrorist."

Unexpectedly, Al-Haramain fought back. They contacted lawyers and sued to have the "terrorist" designation revoked. During what is called "discovery" (a legal term in which each side in a civil case must reveal its evidence to the other side), an employee of the U.S. government accidentally included in a stack of documents given to Al-Haramain a Top Secret record of the surveillance logs.

Al-Haramain's lawyers brought in more anti-government lawyers, who recognized a golden opportunity: since this Top Secret document proved that surveillance of specific individuals had taken place, they now had "standing" (the legal right) to challenge the entire underlying lawfulness of government surveillance in principle. And so the case went into overdrive, and suddenly took on much greater significance than just an individual organization fighting for its reputation: legal activists saw a chance to use the courts to stop the Bush administration from surveilling anybody. If they could get the courts to rule that Al-Haramain had been surveilled illegally, then it would set a precedent and prevent any similar surveillance in the future, and also would render unusable any evidence gathered by surveillance in the past. In other words: a very big deal.

The government's legal team sought to forestall this by recalling the document, insisting that its Top Secret status made it unusable in court because revealing its contents would endanger national security.

From here onward, things became bizarre, a dizzying tug-of-war over surrealistic legal technicalities. Both sides were put into completely impossible positions: The government had to suppress a document which revealed Top Secret surveillance without actually admitting that it had conducted any surveillance; whereas Al-Haramain sought to revoke its designation as a terrorist organization by citing the very evidence (the information gathered during the surveillance) that suggested it was a terrorist organization.

In a word: farcical.
Read the whole thing.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Just finished an interview with film critic Oleg Sul'kin of Novoye Ruskoye Slovo about the 25th anniversary release of Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die on DVD by Kino International Corporation (Kino distributes a lot of Russian films). We had a very interesting discussion about a lot of things--including New Russian Cinema. This led to a google search, which led in turn to KinoKultura, a website devoted to Russian film--and this review of Kirill Serebrennikov's Playing the Victim.

Antonio de la Cova: An Open Letter to the Washington Post

Agustin Blazquez sent along this complaint about the racist depiction of Cuban-Americans in a cartoon by Pat Oliphant:
The racist, anti-immigrant spirit of 19th century cartoonist Thomas
Nast lives on today in the pages of The Washington Post.
In your August 22 edition, you published a Pat Oliphant syndicated
cartoon ( of Cuban Americans
being shoved back to their homeland in a crowded
small boat by a grinning Uncle Sam, who refers to them as “nuisances.”

A figure on the shore approvingly waves farewell. The outcasts are being
told to “Say hello to Batista,” implying that they are all supporters of
the Cuban strongman who died in 1973. Oliphant depicts the Cuban
Americans as demanding “a chance to interfere with the ‘08 election.”
The cartoonist mimics Cuban Communist propaganda stereotypical
depictions of Cuban Americans as elderly, cantankerous people, with
mustachoed men wearing Mafia-style fedora hats, dark eyeglasses, and
smoking cigars. In contrast, when Fidel Castro announced last year that
he was relinquishing power, most of the Cuban Americans who appeared in
the newsmedia celebrating and dancing in the streets of Miami were young

I am honestly grateful that you have published this cartoon, as it gives
me the opportunity to show my students that a leading U.S. newspaper
like The Washington Postis insensitive toward a politically-active
Hispanic minority, which has four representatives and two senators
elected to Congress in one generation, and turned Miami into a major
American city. My students will now be able to have class discussion on
how they would feel if Mr. Oliphant had drawn a similar scenario with
African Americans being sent back to Africa by boat, American Jews being
shipped off to Israel, or Mexican Americans being deported south of the
border, while demanding to “interfere” in the upcoming American
political process. As a class assignment, we will compare this cartoon
with those made by Thomas Nast, showing the Irish as violent, ape-like,
drunken creatures who “corrupted” U.S. elections

My students will also be able to determine if The Washington Post is a
truly liberal newspaper by publishing this inconsiderate cartoon and how
Mr. Oliphant does not need to hide behind a white hood to express his
racist views.

Antonio de la Cova, Ph.D.

Gonzales Goes

According to Bloomberg, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned today. Long overdue. He was an embarrassment to the nation, from his "torture memo" to the US attorneys scandal.

Now, what about Dick Cheney?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy

Just came across this blog, by film critic Leonard Maltin. His new 2008 movie guide has just come out. Take a look a the website to find out more...

Natan Sharansky on Iraq and Vietnam

Cokie Roberts mentioned Natan Sharansky's Washington Post oped as the source for President Bush's comparison of Iraq to Vietnam, so here's a link:
No one can know for sure whether President Bush's "surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq will succeed. But those who believe that human rights should play a central role in international affairs should be doing everything in their power to maximize the chances that it will. For one of the consequences of failure could well be catastrophe.

A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces could lead to a bloodbath that would make the current carnage pale by comparison. Without U.S. troops in place to quell some of the violence, Iranian-backed Shiite militias would dramatically increase their attacks on Sunnis; Sunni militias, backed by the Saudis or others, would retaliate in kind, drawing more and more of Iraq into a vicious cycle of violence. If Iraq descended into full-blown civil war, the chaos could trigger similar clashes throughout the region as Sunni-Shiite tensions spill across Iraq's borders. The death toll and the displacement of civilians could climb exponentially.

Perhaps the greatest irony of the political debate over Iraq is that many of Bush's critics, who accused his administration of going blindly to war without considering what would happen once Hussein's regime was toppled, now blindly support a policy of withdrawing from Iraq without considering what might follow.

In this respect, the debate over Iraq is beginning to look a lot like the debate about the Vietnam War in the 1960s and '70s. Then, too, the argument in the United States focused primarily on whether U.S. forces should pull out. But many who supported that withdrawal in the name of human rights did not foresee the calamity that followed, which included genocide in Cambodia, tens of thousands slaughtered in Vietnam by the North Vietnamese and the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of "boat people."

In the final analysis, U.S. leaders will pursue a course in Iraq that they believe best serves U.S. interests. My hope is that as they do, they will make the human rights dimension a central part of any decision. The consequences of not doing so might prove catastrophic to Iraqis, to regional peace and, ultimately, to U.S. security.

Amil Imani on Iran's Next Move

From Amil
As for the “Great Satan”, going after the mullahs seems completely out of the question. We have no stomach for it; the Ayatollahs know it. Even Bush’s most loyal sidekick, ex-UK-PM Tony Blair, was opposed to it. The Iraq misadventure has hopefully taught them an old lesson they seem to have had difficulty learning. The lesson is that it is a terrible mistake to go half way across the world and invade a country, unless you are able and willing to bulldoze the whole thing from one end to the other, with all the people bar none buried under the rubble. The reason this rule is so important for us to learn is that having and displaying overwhelming power usually means you will not have to use it. But because the West has forgotten how to overwhelm the enemy, the war of attrition persists, and the people of the West become disheartened. They can’t even interrogate presumed terrorists; they have to send them to Egypt to get the job done!

It’s no wonder that recent military undertakings have been by-and-large busts— in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and even Afghanistan. This same policy of weakness has been successfully replicated in Israel, where the West ties Israeli hands behind their back so they don’t “over-react” to missiles hitting their towns and cities, tunnels dug under their borders, and soldiers being captured by terrorists! The Mullahs know this game very, very well. They persist, and we pretend the worst can’t happen. Whose opiate is the more effective, theirs or ours?

In the meantime, Iran’s illegitimate regime will, with ever greater peace of mind, pursue their quest for the nuclear bomb, by hook or by crook, and the Mullahs of mass destruction will keep the corrupt, yawning, toothless UN “watchdog” content and distracted by throwing it a bone or two from time to time. Eventually, these suicidal, homicidal followers of Muhammad will have their WMD. In time, they will use it. Future historians will ask: how could the entire world have seen it coming and done nothing about it? What kind of opiate were these people on?

Saturday, August 25, 2007's Terrorism Lobby?

While I was on vacation, newpapers reported that, an NGO representing NGOs receiving USAID funding from the American taxpayers, has objected to proposed USAID guidelines designed to insure that aid money doesn't go to terrorists.

Even if not the intention of the USAID proposal, the controversy has served to reveal that NGOs belonging to InterAction may indeed have possible links to terrorists they don't want to disclose. Otherwise, why object to disclosure on principle? Qui bono?

Although The NY Times reported that InterAction members receive some $4 billion a year from Uncle Sam, they apparently object to telling Uncle Sam exactly who is getting the dough. A more reasonable position would be only to demand that USAID allows a right to appeal any finding that aid money is going to terrorists, through some sort of public administrative law procedure. But that's not the InterAction position. They demand "privacy." Last time I checked, public programs paid for by public funds were not private--even if contracted out to NGOs. US taxpayer dollars remain accountable to Congress. Which is a good thing, in principle and in practice.

Among the InterAction board members is former Congressman Lee Hamilton, vice-chairman of the 9/11 Commission which reported that Al Qaeda used charities in order to funnel money to terrorists. Now Lee Hamilton's organization objects to tracing the recipients of such charity funds...

What ever happened to calls for open government, transparency, accountability and "the public's right to know?"

Given the clout of InterAction's board, I'm pretty confident the Bush administration will cave under pressure--further emboldening America's enemies. To see why, take a look at the list of InterAction board members on their website:
InterAction Board Members
(as of April 2007)

Charlie MacCormack, Chair
Save the Children

Lelei Lelaulu
Counterpart International

Ritu Sharma, Vice Chair
Women's Edge

Jo Luck
Heifer International

Amy Coen, Treasurer
Population Action International

John McCullough
Church World Service

Nancy Aossey
International Medical Corps

Steve Moseley
Academy for Educational Development

Ken Bacon
Refugees International

Dan Pellegrom
Pathfinder International

David Beckmann
Bread for the World

Linda Pfeiffer

Carol Bellamy
World Learning

Robert Radtke
Episcopal Relief and Development

Sekyu Chang
Korean American Sharing Movement

Yolonda Richardson

Julius Coles

George Rupp
International Rescue Committee

Helene Gayle

Zainab Salbi
Women for Women International

Ann Goddard
Christian Children’s Fund

Ron Sconyers
Physicians for Peace

Lee Hamilton
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Richard Stearns
World Vision

Khalil Jassemm
Life for Relief and Development

Kathy Spahn
Helen Keller International

Neal Keny-Guyer
Mercy Corps

Tsehaye Teferra
Ethiopian Community Development Council

Elizabeth Latham
US Committee for UNDP

Thursday, August 16, 2007

John T. Reed on General Petraeus' Counterinsurgency Manual

While waiting for General Petraeus's report on Iraq, it seemed like a good idea to read Petraeus' Army counterinsurgency manual, published in 2006. A google search led to this review from West Point graduate, businessman, and author John T. Reed. He wasn't too impressed:
My main impression of the manual is that it is muddled. In the first “overview” chapter, they try to define insurgency, counterinsurgency, and the various tactics and strategies used by insurgencies. What a disaster! If this were a freshman college paper, the authors would get ripped by the professor and probably get a D or an F.

Much of what they say about insurgents and their tactics and strategies would apply equally to our Founding Fathers, the Democrats, the Republicans, the Catholic Church, and the American Cancer Society. At times, it sound like the sort of thinking that the FBI used to justify creating files on civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. and actor Gregory Peck.

Insurgents can lie?
Some of the statements are simply illogical. For example, at ¶1-13, Petraeus et al say, “Counterinsurgents seeking to preserve legitimacy must stick to the truth and make sure that words are backed up by deeds; insurgents on the other hand, can make exorbitant promises and point out government shortcomings, many caused or aggravated by the insurgency.”

Stated as a more competent writer would put it, Petraeus is saying that insurgents can lie, but counterinsurgents must tell the truth. That’s bull!

Lying is its own punishment. Reputation is like fine china: easily cracked but never really repaired. That applies equally to both insurgents and counterinsurgents. If insurgents lie, they will get a reputation for lying and, like the boy who cried “Wolf,” will be ignored even on the rare occasions when they tell the truth.

We Americans were insurgents in our Revolutionary War. I do not recall that our forefathers were entitled to lie to our fellow citizens then. Nor do I recall our revolutionary leaders doing that. Nor do I think it would have been well received if they had. Honesty is the best policy—for both sides in an insurgency.

U.S. never lies?
I also dispute the notion that the U.S. government in general, or its military in particular, always feel compelled to tell the truth. History in full of examples of governments and their militaries lying—like the exaggerated body counts in Vietnam or former NFL player and Army Ranger Pat Tillman’s posthumous receipt of a Silver Star and Purple Heart (both of which require interaction with the enemy) in Afghanistan. After their cover-up was exposed, the Army admitted he was killed by his fellow Americans.

Substitute “party out of power” for insurgents and “party in power” for counterinsurgents and you can test Petraeus’ assertions with regard to U.S. politics. The party in power in the U.S. prior to the 2006 elections was the Republicans. Did they claim the Democrats were lying the gain power? You bet, as did the Democrats when the Republicans were out of power early in the Clinton Administration.

Viewed in that context, Petraeus is just another politician claiming the other side is lying. Am I saying that al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the sectarian Iraqi militias never lie? Hell, no! They lie all the time. But so do our politicians, including the military ones, when they think they can get away with it—like early in the Pat Tillman incident. The bottom line is that there is nothing intrinsic about insurgencies that permits them to get away with lying and if the U.S. government has abandoned all lying it must be an extremely recent development.

Also, insurgents in the Middle East are not the only politicians who create problems for the other side, then try to blame the other side for those same problems. Republicans and Democrats do that exact same thing all the time.

Free government services and utilities from the U.S.
Petraeus et al say that the occupying counterinsurgents (that’s us in Iraq and Afghanistan) have to provide good police, justice, government, and infrastructure to win over the local people. Where in the name of God are we going to get the money and manpower to offer such massive, comprehensive, free services? Petraeus seems to think it is entirely the responsibility of the Army and Marines. It sounds to me like the military’s legendary “can-do” attitude gone berserk. Or maybe when you spend your entire adult life living off a seemingly bottomless pit of taxpayers’ money you think the nation can afford to adopt the entire population of Iraq as a ward of the U.S. military.

Mao’s book
This is not the first military manual on this subject. Communist Chinese leader Mao Tse-Tung wrote one called On Guerilla Warfare. Indeed, his was so good that his readers took over mainland China and won the Vietnam War. Seems to me the way to write a counterinsurgency manual would be to create a mirror image of Mao’s manual with some additions to reflect technological and other changes since Mao wrote his.

‘Precision munition’
At ¶1-23, Petraeus et al describe suicide attacks as the “precision munition of extremists.” I like the use of the word “precision,” but the rest of the phrase is off target.

Suicide attacks are not a munition. They are a delivery system. The munition involved is simply Centex or C4 or some other well-known and long-used military explosive. The vast majority of military forces deliver such explosives to the target via bomb or artillery, weapons that contemporary insurgents rarely possess.

The word “extremist” says more about Petraeus’ bias than it does about our enemies. In World War II, we called Japanese suicide attackers—most notably Kamikaze pilots—“fanatics.” On rare occasions, U.S. military personnel have launched suicide attacks against our enemies. One example is the U.S. destroyer escort Johnston captain Ernest E. Evans in the WW II Battle of Leyte Gulf who attacked much more powerful Japanese cruisers and battleships even though he was out of torpedoes and his 5-inch-gun rounds bounced off the armor of the Japanese ships. He and many of his men were killed and his ship was sunk.

Was he an “extremist?” He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

U.S. military brass have sent individuals and units on suicide missions or missions from which few, if any, survivors were expected—like the WW II Doolittle raid on Tokyo or much of D-Day in World War II. Americans regularly throw themselves on grenades to save their comrades.

Suicide attacks are a tactic used by all militaries, including our own, in desperate situations. Labeling our enemies’ suicide attackers “extremists” while calling ours heroes is precisely the sort of lie that Petraeus said earlier that we counterinsurgents could not get away with.

For this subject, I highly recommend the book Utility of Force. It appears to be a better version of this famed new Army/Marines Counterinsurgency Manual. I say “appears” because it is taking me forever to read the manual. Why? It’s not very readable.

Memo to the Army from a professional writer. A book ought to be readable. If your generals cannot write readable books, have them work with someone who can, like competent publishers do. Then the authorrs are listed as “Petraeus and the Marine WITH [insert name of professional writer here].”
Reed's comments suggest that perhaps one might not want to raise one's hopes too high in anticipation of Petraeus' September report on Iraq. Meanwhile, you can buy Mao's On Guerilla Warfare and Rupert Smith's The Utility of Force from
And here's a link to General Sir Rupert Smith's lecture (he's British) on the utility of force at the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Also, his May, 2007 lectue on the changing nature of war.

Michael Gambon's FAITH

Someone I know and yours truly watched Faith over the last few nights, a 2-part British television mini-series about a Tory politician who gets caught in webs of international gun-running, family melodrama, and tabloid sensationalism. It was like taking a time-machine back to the John Major era, when people in the UK were talking about "sleaze" instead of "spin." Some observations:

1. Britain was a lot poorer in the 90s that it appears today. It shows in the film. Things look battered and worn, while today they look new and shiny.

2. What was shocking in the 90s is passe today. Men kissing each other on TV--yawn...

3. Socialism, and Ken Livingstone (who appears in the film) have certainly changed their branding strategy since the 90s. They called it "socialism" by name. Haven't heard many direct calls for more of that in a long time--the Tony Blair legacy, of New Labour, I guess.

4. The British certainly know how to do these political shows as horror films--A Very British Coup, House of Cards, To Play the King et al. are all cynical and scary. In contrast American shows like The West Wing appear naive, because, as one Britisher told us on our walk, "everyone seems so sincere" (not necessarily a bad thing).

You can get it from Netflix.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rudy Guliani's Uzbek Connection

According to this week's New Yorker profile by Peter J. Boyer, he's New York used-car dealer and actor Elliott Cuker:
It became clear at the start of Giuliani’s political career that his courtroom talents—the ability to break a witness o the stand, for example—were not especially useful in the task of charming voters. In Giuliani’s delivery style, ther was no trace of the natural politician. Apart from mechanical liabilities—including a lateral lisp that produces a slushy “s” sound—Giuliani was impaired by a native harshness that proved resistant to the remedies of his political advisers. I both runs against Dinkins, Giuliani’s campaign enlisted the candidate’s wife, Donna Hanover, in an effort to humaniz her husband through television ads. (These ads are now YouTube staples.) Old friends and trusted advisers, such a Peter Powers, despaired of ever coaxing a softer Giuliani to the fore. Then, about midway through his first term Giuliani turned himself over to a man named Elliot Cuker, who, in short order, had him squeezing into a dress

In Giuliani’s circle, Cuker functioned variously as the Mayor’s drama coach, his personal adviser, and his best friend. Born near Tashkent, Cuker had worked as an actor before establishing a successful business selling classic automobiles. During a stint in private law practice in the nineteen-seventies, Giuliani represented Cuker in a tax case, and the two men established a bond that both amused and puzzled Giuliani’s political associates. Cuker, unrestrained by deference, was credited by Giuliani with crafting a speaking style for him—a conversational persuasiveness—that became a political strength (and a source of vast wealth on the lecture circuit). “He was a dreadful speaker,” Cuker recalls of the early public Giuliani. “He was stiff, and his forehead would get drenched, with sweat running down both sides of the temples. He was extraordinarily uncomfortable speaking.”

Giuliani was a pliant student, making himself available to Cuker at all hours. “I’m a member of the Actors Studio,” Cuker told me, “and I had the key to the Actors Studio, and when everybody left I would take him there sometimes, like at ten o’clock at night, and work with him. But we worked everyplace.” Cuker’s aim was to force Giuliani away from his notes and toward spontaneity. “The fact is, I got close enough to him as a friend, at the time, that he had such trust in what I’m doing with him, that he let himself truly open up to me in a way that he really hadn’t done with anybody,” Cuker said. “And he’s become very spontaneous, as you can see. Very spontaneous.”

By the time Giuliani gave his third state-of-the-city address, in 1996, he left his notes on the lectern and, microphone in hand, walked about the stage, “talking” his speech. “Just talk to the people,” Cuker had advised. “Connect to the people.” Giuliani gave Cuker a parking pass at Gracie Mansion, and put him in charge of the annual Inner Circle political dinners—the municipal equivalent of the Washington Gridiron Club dinner, in which politicians and members of the press kid each other in skits and songs. Cuker saw the Inner Circle performances as another means of shaping the Mayor’s image. “I would rewrite a Broadway show to put Rudy into the show to help with what he needed at the time, politically, for his image,” Cuker recalled. “For example, when he was throwing Arafat out of Lincoln Center, people saw him as being very angry.” In 1995, during a United Nations celebration, Giuliani called Arafat a “murderer” and had him removed from a concert at Avery Fisher Hall. Cuker continued, “What I did was I chose the show ‘Grease,’ and I rewrote the show. And I put him on a motorcycle, and I showed him as a Hells Angel rebel back in school, and how it all started. So every show I did had a purpose.”

It was Cuker who was responsible for Giuliani’s turns in drag, which have also become a YouTube staple. “I am the one who convinced him that it would be a great idea to put him in a dress, soften him up, and help him get the gay vote,” Cuker says. “And, ultimately, it was his biggest bonus, because he got the gay vote—and the conservatives, who couldn’t believe that he had the balls to do something like that. It was a home run for him, and he got national attention. It showed that he had a sense of humor.”

Cuker accompanied Giuliani to the golf course and to Yankee Stadium, and talked with him on the phone a half-dozen times a day. When Cuker sensed that the Mayor needed a retreat, he opened a cigar bar—Cooper Classic Cars and Cigars, on West Fifty-eighth Street—which became Giuliani’s Elaine’s. “We were almost like brothers,” Cuker says now. “We were extremely close. He had a very strong trust in me, and he knew that I cared about him. And he knew that, whatever I did, I always tried to be there for him, and to help him with that other part of himself.”

Rudy Giuliani's Foreign Policy Manifesto

From "Toward a Realistic Peace," published in the September issue of Foreign Affairs:
The next U.S. president will face three key foreign policy challenges. First and foremost will be to set a course for victory in the terrorists' war on global order. The second will be to strengthen the international system that the terrorists seek to destroy. The third will be to extend the benefits of the international system in an ever-widening arc of security and stability across the globe. The most effective means for achieving these goals are building a stronger defense, developing a determined diplomacy, and expanding our economic and cultural influence. Using all three, the next president can build the foundations of a lasting, realistic peace.

Achieving a realistic peace means balancing realism and idealism in our foreign policy. America is a nation that loves peace and hates war. At the core of all Americans is the belief that all human beings have certain inalienable rights that proceed from God but must be protected by the state. Americans believe that to the extent that nations recognize these rights within their own laws and customs, peace with them is achievable. To the extent that they do not, violence and disorder are much more likely. Preserving and extending American ideals must remain the goal of all U.S. policy, foreign and domestic. But unless we pursue our idealistic goals through realistic means, peace will not be achieved.

Idealism should define our ultimate goals; realism must help us recognize the road we must travel to achieve them. The world is a dangerous place. We cannot afford to indulge any illusions about the enemies we face. The Terrorists' War on Us was encouraged by unrealistic and inconsistent actions taken in response to terrorist attacks in the past. A realistic peace can only be achieved through strength.

A realistic peace is not a peace to be achieved by embracing the "realist" school of foreign policy thought. That doctrine defines America's interests too narrowly and avoids attempts to reform the international system according to our values. To rely solely on this type of realism would be to cede the advantage to our enemies in the complex war of ideas and ideals. It would also place too great a hope in the potential for diplomatic accommodation with hostile states. And it would exaggerate America's weaknesses and downplay America's strengths. Our economy is the strongest in the developed world. Our political system is far more stable than those of the world's rising economic giants. And the United States is the world's premier magnet for global talent and capital.

Still, the realist school offers some valuable insights, in particular its insistence on seeing the world as it is and on tempering our expectations of what American foreign policy can achieve. We cannot achieve peace by promising too much or indulging false hopes. This next decade can be a positive era for our country and the world so long as the next president realistically mobilizes the 9/11 generation for the momentous tasks ahead.
Meanwhile, Fox News reports Giuliani is opposed to formation of a Palestinian state:
Outlining his foreign policy views in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, Giuliani said "too much emphasis" has been placed on brokering negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians -- an apparent swipe at President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who have been pushing both sides for final status negotiations despite Hamas's takeover of Gaza in June.

"It is not in the interest of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism," the former New York City mayor said.

"Palestinian statehood will have to be earned through sustained good governance, a clear commitment to fighting terrorism, and a willingness to live in peace with Israel," Giuliani said. "America's commitment to Israel's security is a permanent feature of our foreign policy."


How did I miss this last Sunday?
For some time now the novels have been attempting a kind of secular dramatization of the battle between good and evil. The Ministry of Magic (one of Rowling’s better inventions) has been seeking to impose a version of the Nuremberg Laws on England, classifying its subjects according to blood and maintaining its own Gestapo as well as its own Azkaban gulag. But again, over time and over many, many pages this scenario fails to chill: most of the “muggle” population goes about its ordinary existence, and every time the secret police close in, our heroes are able to “disapparate” — a term that always makes me think of an attempt at English by George W. Bush. The prejudice against bank-monopoly goblins is modeled more or less on anti-Semitism and the foul treatment of elves is meant to put us in mind of slavery, but the overall effect of this is somewhat thin and derivative, and subject to diminishing returns.

In this final volume there is a good deal of loose-end gathering to be done. Which side was Snape really on? Can Neville Longbottom rise above himself? Are the Malfoys as black as they have been painted? Unfortunately — and with the solid exception of Neville, whose gallantry is well evoked — these resolutions prove to possess all the excitement of an old-style Perry Mason-type summing-up, prompted by a stock character who says, “There’s just one thing I don’t understand. ...” Most of all this is true of Voldemort himself, who becomes more tiresome than an Ian Fleming villain, or the vicious but verbose Nicolae Carpathia in the Left Behind series, as he offers boastful explanations that are at once grandiose and vacuous. This bad and pedantic habit persists until the final duel, which at least sees us back in the old school precincts once again. “We must not let in daylight upon magic,” as Walter Bagehot remarked in another connection, and the wish to have everything clarified is eventually self-defeating in its own terms. In her correct determination to bring down the curtain decisively, Rowling has gone further than she should, and given us not so much a happy ending as an ending which suggests that evil has actually been defeated (you should forgive the expression) for good.

Greater authors — Arthur Conan Doyle most notably — have been in the same dilemma when seeking closure. And, like Conan Doyle, Rowling has won imperishable renown for giving us an identifiable hero and a fine caricature of a villain, and for making a fictional bit of King’s Cross station as luminous as a certain address on nearby Baker Street. It is given to few authors to create a world apart, and to populate it as well as illustrate it in the mind. As one who actually did once go to boarding school by steam train, at 8, I enjoyed reading aloud to children and coming across Diagon Alley and Grimmauld Place, and also shuddering at the memory of the sarcastic schoolmasters (and Privet Drives) I have known.

The distinctly slushy close of the story may seem to hold out the faint promise of a sequel, but I honestly think and sincerely hope that this will not occur. The toys have been put firmly back in the box, the wand has been folded up, and the conjuror is discreetly accepting payment while the children clamor for fresh entertainments. (I recommend that they graduate to Philip Pullman, whose daemon scheme is finer than any patronus.) It’s achievement enough that “19 years later,” as the last chapter-heading has it, and quite probably for many decades after that, there will still be millions of adults who recall their initiation to literature as a little touch of Harry in the night.
You can buy it here from

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Find Out Who's Editing Wikipedia Entries

With this neat Wikiscanner (ht lgf).

Picasso on Government Arts Funding

After attending a disappointing free dance recital at the Carter Barron amphitheatre in Rock Creek Park featuring pretentious wannabe Twyla Tharp-types who seemed to have program descriptions written for NEA grants (the only good group was a troupe of students who looked like they ranged in age from 7-27 from a DC tap-dancing school) this quote from Picasso leaped out of David Caute's The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War:
Only the Russians are naive enough to think that an artist can fit into society. That's because they don't know what an artist is...Even Mayakovsky committed suicide. There is absolute opposition between the creator and the state...People reach the status of artist only after crossing the maximum number of barriers. So the arts should be discouraged, not encouraged.
More on David Caute here.

Ann Althouse on Hillary's First TV Ad

I don't think she likes it:
Wow! Does she think you are invisible! But she's not saying she views you as a massive horde of nonentities. Oh, no! She's the one who is here to make you visible. She's got the power to heal you of your invisibility. Just a word from her lips..

Monday, August 13, 2007

James Bowman on Becoming Jane

He doesn't like it much:
This is so obvious that we are forced to the conclusion that Becoming Jane has made not the slightest attempt to imagine itself back into Jane Austen’s time. Instead, it drags her into ours and so makes her utterly unlike what we know she was. It’s the easiest thing in the world to do, but we know at the outset that it is false as hell. The people in Jane Austen’s time simply didn’t go around thinking that all they needed was to loosen up sexually and allow women more freedom to choose their own destinies. Certainly Jane Austen didn’t. The beliefs about sex and families and money that people held in Jane Austen’s time may have been benighted, but they really did hold them. Not to give them credit for this but instead to treat them as if they were children who simply didn’t know any better — as if they could have been put right by any prematurely "experienced" high school girl of today — is worse than philistinism. It is an act of historical vandalism.

Paul Gigot on Karl Rove's Resignation

In the Wall Street Journal:
A big debate among Republicans these days is who bears more blame for 2006--Messrs. Bush and Rove, or the behavior of the GOP Congress. Mr. Rove has no doubt. "The sense of entitlement was there" among Republicans, he says, "and people smelled it." Yet even with a unified Democratic Party and the war, he argues, it was "a really close election." The GOP lost the Senate by its 3,562 vote margin of defeat in Montana, and in the House the combined margin in the 15 seats that cost control was 85,000 votes.

A prominent non-Beltway Republican recently gave me a different analysis, arguing that the White House made a disastrous decision to "nationalize" the election last autumn; this played into Democratic hands and cost numerous seats.

"I disagree," Mr. Rove replies. "The election was nationalized. It was always going to be about Iraq and the conduct of Republicans." He says Republican Chris Shays and Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman survived in Connecticut despite supporting the war, while Republicans who were linked to corruption or were complacent lost. His biggest error, Mr. Rove says, was in not working soon enough to replace Republicans tainted by scandal.

What about that new GOP William McKinley-style majority he hoped to build--isn't that now in tatters, as the country tilts leftward on security, economics and the culture? Again, Mr. Rove disagrees. He says young people are if anything more pro-life and free-market than older Americans, and that, despite the difficulties in Iraq, the country doesn't want to be defeated there or in the fight against Islamic terror. He recalls how Democrats thought driving the U.S. out of Vietnam would also help them politically. "Instead, Democrats have suffered ever since on national security," he says.

Mr. Rove also makes a spirited defense of this president's policy legacy, sometimes more convincingly than others. On foreign affairs, he predicts that at least two parts of the Bush Doctrine will live on: The policy that if you harbor a terrorist, you are as culpable as the terrorist; and pre-emption. "There may be a debate about degree," he says, "but it's going to be hard for any president to reverse that."
Will Dick Cheney be the next to go?

Cold-Hearted Survivior

For some reason, article by Joel Garreau in yesterday's Washington Post caught my eye:
Peter Houghton is grateful for his artificial heart. After all, it has saved his life.

He's just a little wistful about emotions.

He wishes he could feel them like he used to.

Houghton is the first permanent lifetime recipient of a Jarvik 2000 left ventricular assist device. Seven years ago, it took over for the heart he was born with. Since then, it has unquestionably improved his physical well-being. He has walked long distances, traveled internationally and kept a daunting work schedule.

At the same time, he reports, he's become more "coldhearted" -- "less sympathetic in some ways." He just doesn't feel like he can connect with those close to him. He wishes he could bond with his twin grandsons, for example. "They're 8, and I don't want to be bothered to have a reasonable relationship with them and I don't know why," he says.

He can only feel enough to regret that he doesn't feel enough.

Could the poets have been right all these millennia? Could emotions be matters of the heart?

Friday, August 10, 2007

The King Who Would Be An Ordinary Man

Registan has just published a moving appreciation of the late King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan by Dr Ehsan Azari:
A king who was borne as a prince and died as an ordinary citizen, the ex-Afghan king, Zahir Shah was the most democratic head of state in Asia for many decade until he was deposed in 1973. He ascended to the throne in 1933 when his father was killed by a student with a personal vendetta. During the time of his reign, all neighbouring countries of Afghanistan had been ruled by tyranny and colonial powers. Iran was under a despotic monarch, Raza Shah, with his notorious intelligence Savak, Pakistan was under a military dictatorship, and Central Asian countries, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, were all colonies of the Soviet empire.

In 1964, he formed a new constitution in the country which ushered in a democratic and parliamentarian government. Within an overall Islamic context, the constitution guaranteed woman emancipation, human rights, and freedom of press. But he failed to sign the legislation authorising the formation of political parties, despite its recognition by the constitution. This also helped the semi underground communist party to flourish across the country.

He advocated modernisation, reforms, and economic development. In his time Afghan women were more free than hey have been in the past three centuries of Afghan history. Women were not forced to cover themselves from head to toe with burqas and they had full access to education.

“When we were kids our family used to live in single room that was too long. When one began to cough all would cough, and if one fell ill all would fall ill. At elementary school in Kabul, our teacher beat us by rulers. When young I tried to learn Sitar but failed,” he said in an interview to BBC.

Zahir Shah was a soft hearted and peaceful leader who was tolerant of his political dissident. His subjects remember more of this than himself. (He was once driving past a busy street in Kabul when he saw a public water tap had been left open, he stopped and from his Choverolate window asked a person to close the tape and advised that it was not wise to leave water going down the street. The young tailor’s apprentice who knew he was the king shouted: “you are drinking the blood of a thousand poor people, it is better to stop that”. The king slowly drove past.

Watching all this, the tailor stormed out of his shop and began to beat the rude folk black and blue while crying: “What have you done? What will happen to us now?” A few weeks later, the young man recovered from his wounds and the king forgot everything.

Another time a man was once sentenced to death in Kandahar for killing someone’s brother. According to Islamic laws if the closest one to murdered victim pardons the accused, he can be saved from execution. The king took his hat off to the man and begged for the convict to be pardoned. But the vengeful man refused.

Sadly, there was a snake lurking amongst the royal court. His own fist cousin and brother-in-law, Daoud Khan, staged a bloodless coup and deposed the king while holidaying in Italy. Like Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s tragedy, Daoud had overweening arrogance, and after five years of an authoritarian rule he was brutally killed by a bunch of low-ranking communist and non-commissioned officers in a bloody coup, slaughtering nearly all of his family and close relatives in 1978.

Zahir Shah’s fall was not only the fall of his dynasty but the portent of the endless tragedy in waiting for his country. A year later the communist coup paved the way for the Russian genocidal occupation. A decade later, the Russian’s defeat and departure from Afghanistan, and the loss of one and a half million Afghans didn’t bring liberty and peace. Upon the toppling of the communist regime in 1992, the warlords and Islamist militants entered Kabul and avenged themselves upon the city and its tortured inhabitants with murder, pillage, rape, and destruction. Then the Taliban ushered in a galloping medieval theocracy, philistinism, and the terrorism of Osama bin Laden that reduced Afghanistan to the land of the dead.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Turkish Model for Iraq

James Lewis argues in The American Thinker that Iraq needs to follow Ataturk's model of building a strong military to hold Islamists in check:
There is a fallback option to a perfect democracy in Iraq. That is the Turkish solution, which has worked in other countries, beginning with Kemal Ataturk's aggressive reforms in 1923. That is for the Army to become the guarantor of electoral governments. Turkey is riven by many political and religious factions, from modernizers and to open reactionaries. In the last election some 50 parties fielded slates, but only three made it over the 10 percent threshold into parliament. It is Ataturk's Turkish Army that has consistently been the most unifying and modernizing national force for eight decades. And by having a universal draft for young males, the modernizers have exercised great influence to bring the former Ottoman Empire into a mixed system, with a strong element of electoral legitimacy.

Today that system is endangered by three successive elections in which the Islamist AKP has won up to 40 percent of the vote. Given Turkey's winner-take-all parliamentary system, that means Islamists control all the cabinet departments. The AKP has used that leverage to infiltrate its supporters into the bureaucracy, while claiming to be reshaping Turkey to fit European standards of electoral legitimacy. (The EU is itself not elected, of course, being staffed by socialist careerists, but it is still shaping the Turkish political scene.)

While the Turkish Army does may be unacceptable by Western standards, it's pretty good for the Middle East: When the electoral system throws up a wild regime, the Army simply takes governments into receivership, runs the country until Islamist reactionaries are pushed back, and then goes back to the barracks. General Musharraf has done much the same thing in Pakistan. Indonesia has a similar dynamic, and Jordan's Hashimite dynasty depends upon its army as well.

The question is whether the new Iraqi Army, rebuilt from the bottom up by the Americans with Coalition help, can become a modernizing and unifying force in a new Iraq. It may be the only acceptable solution, because so far, Iraqi politicians have not been able to make their parliamentary system work.

Lenin's Philosophy Steamer

When I interviewed applicants for Fulbright Scholarships to study in the United States, I was surprised at the number of Russians who said they wanted to travel to America in order to look at the papers of sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, who taught at Harvard. A new book helps explain the importance of this dissident sociologist, one of the first wave of intellectual Russian refugees expelled on the orders of Lenin. Bill Grimes' fascinating review of Lesley Chamberlain's Lenin's Private War: The Voyage of the Philosophy Steamer and the Exile of the Intelligentsia in the New York Times yesterday puts Sorokin's story in context--and explains why Russians are interested in his fate. An excerpt:
It certainly deserves to be better known, if only for the light it sheds on the often fumbling efforts of Lenin’s regime to impose its harsh ideology. Lenin and his enemies sprang from the same soil of opposition to czarism, believed in a special destiny for Russia and in many ways thought the same thoughts. Although branded as enemies of the state, the purged intellectuals were exiled, not shot, because, Ms. Chamberlain speculates, “Lenin was prepared to treat them with a minimum of civic dignity, as his equals on the defeated side.”

In the early 1920s, ideological divisions had not yet hardened to the point of eliminating all human feeling. In a telling instance, the secret police officers monitoring the launch of the Philosophy Steamer raised their hats in salute as it left the harbor, shouting: “We are all Russians. Why is this happening?”

At the same time, the manufacturing of evidence, the manipulation and rewriting of the legal code and the government’s brazen lying to its own people and the West amounted to a rough draft for the future. In an interview with an American journalist, Trotsky carefully explained that the expulsions were an act of mercy, because in the event of renewed civil war, the exiled intellectuals would probably go over to the enemy, and then they would have to be shot.

The legal grounds for expulsion and transcripts of interrogations make particularly chilling reading. Some intellectuals were marked down by the secret police for such offenses as “knows a foreign language” or “is ironic and fools about in his lectures.” Prince Sergei Trubetskoy, the head of the White underground movement, sized up his interrogators perfectly. When asked his attitude toward Soviet power, he replied, “I am watching its development with interest.”

That was true of his fellow victims too. Their fatal weakness was to be cultivated humanists with no political program other than a belief in personal liberty and the importance of moral values rooted in religion. The language of totalitarianism was unintelligible to them, and not only to them.

“The idea that a single and total view of the world could be universally imposed by a brutal police regime was a new political fate in the modern world,” Ms. Chamberlain writes. Lenin’s exiles had the misfortune to be the advance guard in a persecuted army whose numbers would soon be legion.
You can read a sample chapter by clicking this link.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

How Not to Win "Hearts and Minds"

From Johnson's Russia List:
Russian Schoolchildren Allege Mistreatment in US English Language Program

Rossiyskaya Gazeta
August 6, 2007
Article by Vladislav Kulikov: "Tourist Trip
Survival Course; Russian Schoolchildren Treated Like Criminals in USA"

A scandal erupted yesterday with Russian
children, who had encountered purely American hospitality.

A group of schoolchildren, who had gone on an
educational program to study English in
California, but in essence found themselves in
survival courses, returned to Moscow.

"This was simply awful, I will never again go to
America," said 16-year old Yulya, exiting the
arrivals gate at Sheremetyevo-2. "They simply
hate us there. They housed us in a dormitory,
where the doors did not close. They were
constantly digging around in our things. The
director of the dormitory, her name was Nancy,
was always saying, "you, Russians, are lame-brains."

Also, as the children recounted, shady characters
of all nationalities wandered about the corridors
of the student campus "and offered drugs, sex,
and anything you wanted." We will note that the
youngest of our schoolchildren were 11 years old,
and the eldest--16-18. They had expected
something entirely different from America.

"Initially, it was presumed that the children
would be housed with families," the mother of one
of the trip participants, Tatyana Sinchenko, told
our Rossiyskaya Gazeta correspondent. "The tour
was called 'Host Family,' and was very expensive.
I would not allow myself such a thing, but one
spares no expense for one's child. Literally at
the last moment, at the airport before the
flight, the parents were informed that there were
no host families for our children, and therefore
they would be housed in dormitories at the
California State University in Long Beach. If
someone refused, they would not get all their money back."

Literally 20 minutes before the start of
registration for the flight, the shocked parents
signed consent forms, agreeing to this
"force-majeur circumstance." We learned about the
fact that, in accordance with this "new" program,
the children would go hungry on weekends and in
the evenings already from their reports from the other continent.

The happy American tour was organized by English
First--the world's largest private educational
company, specializing in language instruction.
That is now it describes itself on its website.
But, judging by the recounts of parents, the
clients of the educational company are treated as
they would be by some fly-by-night tourist firm,
or even worse. When the children started having
problems, the management of the Russian branch
office suddenly became unreachable. Whoever
answered the phone knew absolutely nothing, and did not want to know anything.

The most outrageous incident during the tour
occurred with a 15-year old girl, against whom
unfounded accusations of using alcohol were
leveled and she was taken to the police station,
where she was treated like a criminal.

"After that, my daughter was kept locked up for 2
days, without food or water," the girl's mother,
Yelena Fishkova, said with indignation. "Why, that is a matter for a lawsuit!"

They kept her locked up not at the police
station, but in the dormitory, where the director
made something akin to her own jail. She locked
children up in her office without food. They were
allowed only to drink and go to the bathroom, and
only then if they asked nicely. Even after the
police issued a statement as to the innocence of
the girl from Russia, the director continued to
keep her imprisoned. The schoolgirl was released
only after her mother made special arrangements
for a lawyer to intervene on her behalf. Need we
say that the parents of the girl never received
any assistance from the associates of the Russian branch of English First?

"The group included 28 children and three
adults," say representatives of English First.
"This problem was raised by two mothers out of
the entire group. The rest had no complaints. I
believe that we did our work well."

However, our Rossiyskaya Gazeta correspondent did
not meet a single satisfied parent at
Sheremetyevo-2. On the contrary, we managed to
collect a set of business cards of fathers, who
said that they were preparing a lawsuit.

International educational programs are a
necessary and good thing, we cannot argue with
that. Furthermore, this is a fairly good business
for the English-speaking countries, where they
make money off of people's interest in the
language of international communication. By
organizing language courses, the countries are
killing two birds with one stone: They are
earning money, and they are spreading their
culture. And they are getting a tiny bit of a
foreign one. Thanks to this, it becomes easier
for people on different continents to find a
common language. But not this time. We need not
recount the impression with which the children
left America. They never did learn English.

"I am at level five," Olya Fishkova told our
Rossiyskaya Gazeta correspondent. "But they gave
me elementary things to learn, such as 'do you
speak English?'." But I wanted to brush up on my grammar.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Leon Aron on Russian "Chaos"

From AEI Russian Outlook:
It is very much in the Russian and, even more so, Soviet political tradition for rulers to deprecate their predecessors. As they climb up the power ladder, the would-be Kremlin occupants must profess complete loyalty to the current leader in order to succeed. Once in power, the country's new masters bolster their authority by dissociating themselves from previous leaders. Along with the weakness of the country's political institutions, which undermines the legitimacy of the transitions, such repudiations almost inevitably result in the personalization of power, as the new occupants mold the political, social, and economic systems to their liking. Hence, Russian and--again and especially--Soviet history have often looked like a succession of very distinct personal political regimes--indeed, sometimes different states under the same name.

Thus, at first blush, there is nothing unusual in this Kremlin's castigation of the 1992-99 period, which is portrayed as an unmitigated disaster. It is described as a time of gratuitously and maliciously inflicted humiliation, of "a failed state," and, most of all, of "chaos." Advanced relentlessly, this line of argument has been largely adopted not just by many Russian commentators (who quickly recovered their Soviet skill of line-toeing), but also by some leading Western media, editorialists, and pundits. The latter are apparently untroubled by the fact that a booming economy has sprung from the alleged calamities of the preceding years, like Athena who appeared fully armed from Zeus's head.

For all its conformity to national tradition, the "chaos" propaganda campaign has several features that do not fit the usual pattern. First, President Vladimir Putin was--and continues to be--very popular, and is in no need of gaining additional legitimacy at the expense of his predecessor. In the 1990s, moreover, the breadth and intensity of public criticism of the government (in newspapers, on television, and in the parliament) were unprecedented in Russian, let alone Soviet, history. All the many warts and boils, real and imagined, of the Boris Yeltsin regime were exposed and lanced at the time. Indeed, many Russian pollsters believe that much of Putin's popularity is due simply to his not being the late Yeltsin: very sick, often inebriated, and increasingly unsteady and erratic in public. Thus, harping on the very real failures and hardships of the Yeltsin years can hardly be expected to bring the public's opinion of them any lower than it already is.

A plausible explanation is that the aim of the "chaos" mantra is much higher. As often happens in Russia, the past is invoked to shape the present and the future. In this case, the denunciations of the 1990s may, the Kremlin hopes, help manage the tense transition ahead (or the risks of Putin's decision to rewrite the constitution and run again) and, more importantly, establish the direction that Russia should take in the long run. No one disputes that in the 1990s, Russia was the freest it had ever been, save for the nine months between February and November 1917. Just as undeniable is the ideology of the first post-communist regime. As a leading Russian political analyst put it, it was based on two "simple ideas": that "personal liberty is the foundation of progress of a modern state" and that "Russia has no other way but to follow the Western model of development."

It is this ideology and this model that the current regime seems to be determined to stamp with the "chaos" cliché. If the freest Russia in history produced nothing but misery and disorder, then liberty is, in principle, bad for her. Ergo, Putin's proto-authoritarian "sovereign democracy" and the "vertical of power," in which the executive controls (or owns outright) other branches of government and key sectors of industry.

Such fateful implications make the veracity of the "chaos" claim worth exploring. Specifically, one needs to ascertain, first, whether economic liberalization and democratization bear the primary responsibility for the "chaos," and, second, whether there was anything but chaos in the 1990s.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Ann Althouse on "Honey, I Shrunk the NY Times!"

I saw the notice the other day saying that The New York Times was going to get a little smaller, but reading today's paper, the first smaller one, it didn't register until I got to the editorial page. Then: shock! Only 2 columns of letters instead of 3! The editorials look huge and dominating. I've always liked the letters. I read many more letters than editorials.

The editors try to mollify us:

The available space for letters in print has been reduced by about a third.

Online, we present a bigger sampling of letters on subjects of greatest reader interest. And we will run other letters that were selected for publication but for which there was no room in the print version.

... [A]ll letters will be archived and become part of The Times's permanent record.

It feels like the first step toward the seemingly inevitable day when there will be no paper version.