Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why Would Someone Spy on Alan Patricof?

Politico says he may be the politically-connected financier mentioned in alleged Russian agent case (ht Huffington Post).

Ann Althouse Can't Find Kagan Hearing Transcripts Online...

Althouse complains she's having trouble finding Kagan transcripts on the Web:
Why am I having such a hard time finding a transcript of the Kagan hearings on line?

I want to catch up with what I missed of the hearings, without slogging through all the video — the video is very nicely presented on line at C-Span — and in a form I can cut and paste for blogging purposes. But I can't find a transcript!

Could someone point me to a transcript of the first and second day hearings so before my thoughts come to rest on the theory that the media don't want us to be able to comb through the text?

The text! The text is important when we're talking about the Constitution!
So, what's going on here? Why hasn't the Senate Judiciary Committee--or a news organization, or a Beltway NGO--posted the transcripts prominently, yet?

Charles Crawford on Russian Sleepers in Suburbia

From Charles Crawford's Blogoir:
This site always praises good technique.

So let's hear it for the FBI, who have done a most impressive number on cracking open a sophisticated Russian spy ring.

Most of the lurid media reports this morning simply rehash what is in the US Justice Department published material. Check out the two PDFs at the link to read the originals.

One of the accused is one Vicky Pelaez, who appears to be a non-Russian (born in Peru) who married one of the 'illegals' ('Juan Lazaro') and was a prominent anti-imperialist New York journalist. Here she is in full neo-Marxist rant, on Honduras.

This pro-Castro site forlornly tries to froth up a conspiracy theory: because Pelaez was the only Spanish language journalist in New York worth a damn, something had to be done about her!

It will be. The detailed Justice Department accounts of her complicated manoeuvres to help 'Lazaro' contact the Russians and carry large amounts of cash too and fro are most instructive.

This one will run for a long time, revealing all sorts of fascinating details about the Russians' spycraft. It's worth recalling that the key problem with having spies is getting from them any useful information they may have picked up, and indeed communicating with them to set targets and follow progress. How to do that regularly without arousing suspicion?

Hence the mysterious world of Steganography, the art of hiding digital information in a publicly available image.

The FBI reveal many other hi-tech ruses used in this case.

Here is an earlier alleged British attempt to effect clever communication which was very smart - until it wasn't.
Here's a link to the Department of Justice website with PDF files mentioned by Crawford above.

OMB Watch: "Kagan Has Sided With Secrecy"

OMB Watch considers how Elena Kagan might treat FOIA cases on the Supreme Court (ht FOIABlog):
Kagan Has Sided with Secrecy

During her time as Solicitor General, Kagan has pursued five cases before the Supreme Court concerning application of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the country's most fundamental open government law. In four of the five cases, she has argued in favor of government secrecy. Each time, the Court sided in favor of the government. The Court has not yet taken up the fifth FOIA case.

The most notable of the cases was Department of Defense v. American Civil Liberties Union, in which Kagan fought the release of photographs depicting the abuse of detainees while in U.S. custody. In her argument to the Supreme Court, Kagan stated, "In the judgment of the president and the nation's highest-ranking military officers, disclosure of the photographs at issue here would pose a substantial risk to the lives and physical safety of United States and allied military and civilian personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan." Kagan made this assertion despite the fact that the administration had already released Justice Department memoranda that detailed the policy and actions of U.S. personnel in torturing detainees because "the existence of that approach to interrogation was already widely known." In that case, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision to release the photographs.

In a different case, Kagan argued that it would violate physicians' privacy to release Medicare data on claims paid. Kagan's argument in Consumers' Checkbook v. Dept. of Health and Human Services was that the information could be combined with other publicly available Medicare fee information to figure out how much a physician earned each year. Consumers' Checkbook had argued that physicians' privacy did not outweigh the public interest in using the data to measure physician experience, quality, and efficiency. The Supreme Court refused to overturn a ruling from the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, which sided with the government and allowed the records to be withheld. The Court of Appeals decision had reversed the original ruling of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which found in favor of Consumers’ Checkbook and ordered the agency to release the records.

In two other FOIA cases, Kagan argued against disclosure of records sought by the public. Loving v. Department of Defense concerned a request for documents relating to the president's review of a military death sentence, and Berger v. Internal Revenue Service involved a request for an IRS officer's time sheets. In both of these cases, the Supreme Court chose not to review the cases, essentially siding with Kagan by default and letting the lower courts' rulings to withhold the information stand.

Alleged Russian Agent Had LinkedIn Site

And here's a link that worked this morning (ht Guardian UK): The Guardian, which has profiled her, also posted a link to her Facebook page. The Guardian Blog calls Anna Chapman the "The Russian Spy Loved by the Media."

CBS News posted this link to her YouTube videos, including this interview in Russian:

James Taranto on Journolist

From The Wall Street Journal (ht
Remember, Weigel's supposedly off-the-record audience consisted of hundreds of journalists, both left-wing and purportedly objective. What it appears he was doing was not merely expressing an opinion but engaging in partisan politics--i.e., advising other journalists on how they should tailor their coverage so as to avoid "doing more damage to the Democrats."

We surmise that this was not an isolated occurrence--that a lot of the discussion on Journolist consisted of this sort of blatantly partisan strategizing. We're certainly open to being proved wrong, if Journolist founder Ezra Klein--who still is at the Post--or any other member of the now-defunct list would like to supply us with a copy of its archives. We're willing to promise our source anonymity and even buy a round of drinks, though we're afraid we are not in a position to match Andrew Breitbart's offer of $100,000.

The Weigel kerfuffle has prompted a bit of confusion about journalistic ethics. Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic wrote last week: "I've been leaked postings from JournoList before--wonderfully charming things written about me, as you might have guessed--and I haven't had the opportunity to use them, but would be happy to if the need arose." This prompted a John Cole to denounce Goldberg (publicly, on his blog) for his willingness to use his "perch at the Atlantic to publish someone's private emails to viciously destroy their character and career."

But of course all Goldberg is threatening to do is commit journalism. The Journolist member or members who forwarded the emails in question to Goldberg might have violated a confidentiality agreement, but Goldberg was not a party to that agreement. Neither were the guys at the Daily Caller. In fact, Ezra Klein revealed last week on the Post's website that he had blackballed the Caller's editor, Tucker Carlson, on ideological grounds.

If a group of professionals in any other industry were conspiring to serve the interests of a political party in the way that Weigel's Coakley post suggests the Journolisters were, no journalist would deny that the public had a right to know. Why should that be any less true in this case--especially since in this case, such partisan activity would be a violation of professional ethics?
I wondered what Taranto meant by "professional ethics" and found this on the Sigma Delta Chi website for the SPJ Code of Ethics:
Act Independently

Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.

Journalists should:

—Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
— Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
— Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
— Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
— Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.

Courtland Milloy on Justice Clarence Thomas's Second Amendment Views

From today's Washington Post:
Thomas agreed with McDonald, concluding that owning a gun is a fundamental part of a package of hard-won rights guaranteed to black people under the 14th Amendment. And just because some hooligans in Chicago or D.C. misuse firearms is no reason to give it up.

"In my view, the record makes plain that the Framers of the Privileges or Immunities Clause and the ratifying-era public understood -- just as the Framers of the Second Amendment did -- that the right to keep and bear arms was essential to the preservation of liberty," Thomas wrote. "The record makes equally plain that they deemed this right necessary to include in the minimum baseline of federal rights that the Privileges or Immunities Clause established in the wake of the War over slavery."

Thomas made no mention of the black loss of life and liberty from handguns being wielded by other blacks. But he has made clear on other occasions that the problem is not that there are too many guns in the black community; the problem is too many criminals.

He dismissed the cogent gun-control arguments of his retiring colleague, John Paul Stevens, conjuring up the abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens instead: "When it was first proposed to free the slaves and arm the blacks, did not half the nation tremble?"

Let 'em quake, Thomas appears to be saying.

From Frederick Douglass, Thomas writes: " 'The black man has never had the right either to keep or bear arms,' and that, until he does, 'the work of the Abolitionists was not finished.' "

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How Russian Spies Came to Suburbia

From The Guardian (UK):
The hip and friendly young man with the brunette girlfriend in the front seat as he whipped around Washington in a top-end Mercedes-Benz attracted more envy than suspicion.

A few hundred miles away, in a tree-lined, middle-class New Jersey suburb that is home to one of America's most famous comedians, residents equally saw little to worry about in the unremarkable couple with two young daughters, although they did register the cars cruising by taking pictures.

And the fiery Latin American newspaper columnist drew more amusement than scrutiny for her repeated praise of Fidel Castro.

So it was from Virginia to Boston, and from New York to Seattle: married couples with families, young get-ahead professionals, even noisy anti-government agitators – all seemingly unremarkable in the American mix. Even the accents did not raise eyebrows in a country of immigrants.

But the carefully-crafted American normality, sometimes built over a decade or more, has been shattered with the arrest of 11 people – including eight who claimed to be married couples – on charges of being part of a long-term, deep cover espionage ring run by the Russian intelligence service.

Some of the accused assumed false names and backgrounds – in one case stealing the identity of a dead Canadian. Others lived openly under their real names, but allegedly maintained a double life controlled by Moscow.

The FBI has so far failed to reveal just what kind of intelligence these alleged deep cover agents were passing on, and while the indictments carry a hint that they may not have been very successful spies, their neighbours were invariably astonished to hear the accusations...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on British Government Support for Islamism

From The Independent (UK):
Support for Islamicist terrorism is growing partly because more and more Muslims can see how the West plays its games – no rules, no accountability – and partly because it happily does business with Muslim despots and villains. Successive British governments have backed regressive Muslim movements and nations from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to Saudi Arabia, arguably the world's most dangerous Islamic realm. The rulers of that kingdom are today our old best friends despite evidence showing the Saudis are funding Salafism across the globe. That Islamicist ideology is causing untold damage to the spirit of Islam, and spreads – but unlike the BP oil, our politicians do not believe they need to disable the source.

Domestic relations between Muslims and the state are built on the same dodgy model. Some key departmental British Muslim advisers follow Abul ala Maududi, a Pakistani revivalist, founder of the fanatical Jamat-i-Islam which fantasises about worldwide domination. Nobody checked how that determined the advice given. The Muslim Council of Britain, still excessively influential, has among its affiliates groups which promote Saudi religious ideologies. The result is all around us: enlightened Islam is pushed out, and in march the bearded and veiled ones with the blessings of the state.

In an interview in New Left Concept, the investigative journalist and author Mark Curtis discussed his new book, Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion with Radical Islam. As in his earlier, remarkable books he uses previously classified documents to build up a deplorable picture: "7/7 and the present broader terrorist threat to Britain is to some degree a product of British foreign policy ... Throughout the post-war period Britain has covertly supported radical Islamic groups in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, the Balkans, Syria, Indonesia and Egypt ... I also think the policy of allowing London to act as a base for jihadist terrorists organising around the world has been intimately related to securing British foreign policy goals". And what might those be then? Ad hoc opportunism, Curtis calls it, a tradition that the ruling classes believe (misguidedly) has served them rather well.

Self-interest is how the whole world works and all nations can act ignobly to gain advantage over others. Just look at the latest, obnoxious global battles over oil and precious minerals. But for a sustainable future politicians need to take a long view, learn from past mistakes and consider unintended consequences. Britain doesn't do that. Believing itself to be frightfully clever and adroit, it beds down with disreputable characters and governments for short-term gain, undermining its own security and prospects.

White House Lobbyists Heart Caribou Coffee

(ht Huffington Post) Whatever happened to the Alibi Club?

David Frum on the Death of Journolist

From (ht Jonathan Chait):
Ezra Klein’s JournoList was a disaster waiting to happen. I can understand why a reporter would wish to read what was posted there, but participating in closed lists is a bad idea for any writer. The idea that likeminded journalists would engage in formalized pre-discussions amongst ideologically like-minded people before publishing for the broad public is a formula for group-think. Genuinely private discussion via email is one thing. Coordination among colleagues: very different. Coordination seems to have been the purpose of JournoList from the start. It created “secret editors” to whom journalists privately reported, different from and undisclosed to their actual editors. That seems to me a genuinely sinister enterprise, a disservice to readers and corrupting of the participants in the list themselves.
Likewise, Sung Chun Kim (ht Ed Driscoll & Instapundit):
Why is no one calling for the outing of the 400 JournoList members and an investigation of whether there were any other attempts to collude and to coordinate the media narrative? Is no else as disturbed by this as I am? We’re constantly told that the media are special, that they’re the Fourth Estate, and that their proper functioning is vital to the health of the Republic. Well, is no one else profoundly disturbed that no one is watching the watchers? Or that the watchers are actually colluding in a virtual smoke-filled back room to massage and frame the narrative?

Imagine if a conservative listserv were discovered, and that it included Rupert Murdoch and 400 conservative pundits and journalists. Imagine if it were disclosed that the participants actively discussed coordination in framing stories so as to benefit the Republican Party. Do you think there would be a ho hum “Oh, it was just a private list” response? Of course not, the liberals would be howling to the rafters about the existential threat to the Republic.

So why all the frivolity here? Even now, the Weigel story is breaking down into stupid distractions like whether Weigel actually wished death on Drudge, or whether people on a listserv have an expectation of privacy. Seriously, why is that even remotely important compared to the fact that 400 of this nation’s most prominent journalists and pundits were having discusions about killing or promoting stories based on whether they hurt the Democratic Party agenda? If there is any justice or sanity in this world, this should be bigger than ClimateGate. I want to see an archive of the JournoList postings and then compare them to any contemporaneous stories written by participants. Once that is done, we can tar and feather the bastards for betraying their profession and the people of this country.
Likewise, Jim Geraghty (ht Michael Roston):
Somebody on Journo-List didn’t like Dave Weigel and decided to publish his most furious and incendiary remarks that he thought — unwisely — that he was expressing in confidence. (At least I hope these were his most furious and incendiary remarks; what could top these? “I’m going to deafen David Brooks with a vuvuzela”?) So what else is on there that, if revealed, could make life difficult for Ezra Klein or Jeffrey Toobin or Paul Krugman or Ben Smith or Mike Allen? Or is the idea that as long as they stay in line, they’ll never have some remark they regret publicized to the world? Did Journo-List evolve into a massive blackmail scheme that ensures no one inside the club will ever speak ill of another member?
Likewise, Random Observations:
So when something like "Journolist" surfaces -- a private, liberal-only chat group where reporters and pundits discussed breaking stories -- it's likewise easy to wonder if it might have been part of the aforementioned problem. Perhaps, one might speculate, journalists all used it to frame their reporting of stories, and make sure they stayed on the same narrative page?

Not to fear: Jonathan Chait dispels such concerns:

If I hadn't been on Journolist, I probably would have been fascinated with it as well. I'd probably be imputing great powers to it, like the fantastic description weaved by David Frum.... Let me disabuse everybody by revealing that Journolist was not created for people to work out some party line. The discussion was private not because the conversations were too explosive to be made public, but because they were too mundane.

Oh! Of course, that makes complete sense. Very boring and useless information is always the kind you want hidden behind a privacy wall. Which explains why a tremendous scandal arose when even one of those postings was made public. (Exposing Dave Weigel, a supposed libertarian journalist, as actually being a lefty.)

Conversations consisted of requests for references -- does anybody know an expert in such and such...

Rather than going to, say, public sources (libraries, research departments), liberals asked each other to recommend "experts" for the various stories they were covering. What kind of "experts" would such process tend to favor? "Experts" from from the Heritage Foundation? Economists of all political stripe? Academics with a wide variety of views on healthcare reform?

No, no story-shaping here, so far.

... instantaneous reactions to events...

So: one liberal journalist posts his "instantaneous reaction" to each event, and those which were most popular among other (liberal, journalist) readers then rose to the top and were repeated most often. The people who read these narratives then went on to craft national news stories on the events in question.

Okay, no story-shaping there either.

...joshing around, conversations about sports, and the like. Why did this have to be private? Because when you're a professional writer, even in the age of Twitter, you try to maintain some basic standard in your published work. I don't subject my readers to my thoughts on the Super Bowl as of halftime, or even (usually) the meaning of the Pennsylvania special election two minutes after polls close....

Hilarious! While attempting to tell us this forum wasn't used to frame important news stories, Chait can't help but throw in example after example of political stories, such as "the meaning of the Pennsylvania special election two minutes after polls close." Concerns are being dispelled with every sentence!

Not very self-aware, is he?

Why was the group exclusively non-conservative?

Again, I thought he was supposed to be dispelling these kinds of concerns, not confirming them?
Likewise, Andrew Breitbart (in The American Spectator):
Breitbart said Journolist functioned as a "cabal" through which liberal reporters and editors colluded to counteract the influence of alternative media voices like Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh.

Especially after the 2004 election, Breitbart said, liberals realized they h
ad "lost control of the narrative," and began organizing projects aimed at preventing stories that hurt Democrats from gaining traction in mainstream media. Breitbart compared the Journolist "cabal" to Professor Peter Dreier's "Cry Wolf" project that offered $1,000 fees to academics for papers pushing back against conservative policy proposals.

By exerting peer pressure within the press corps, Breitbart said, the participants in Journalist influenced reporters like Weigel to adopt their practice of treating Drudge and Limbaugh as enemies, and to suppress story angles that favored conservatives.

"Anybody who thinks this story is just about David Weigel needs to turn in their credentials as a media critic," Breitbart said.
Likewise, this comment on Ann Althouse's blog:
craig said...

Antitrust law is fairly clear in forbidding collusion not only to set prices, but also to control what products will be offered to the public. I'm pretty sure that such collusion isn't exempt simply by declaring it "private" communications.

How is Journolist any different from a hypothetical mailing list of oil refiners, distributors, and resellers discussing how to market alternative-energy and/or alternative-fuel products to gas station consumers?

Arts Club of Washington Summer Member's Exhibition

My paintings, Ella's Desk and Apples & Pear, can be seen in the gallery until July 31...

The gallery is located at 2017 I St., NW, Washington, DC 20006. Telephone: 202-331-7282. FAX: 202-857-3678.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Death of JournoList!

Apparently, Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller blog has killed Ezra Klein's Journolist, by publishing emails from Washington Post reporter David Weigel. Just for fun, let's compare what Klein had to say on the Washington Post blog with some excerpts posted by the Daily Caller:

KLEIN: ...That was the theory behind Journolist: An insulated space where the lure of a smart, ongoing conversation would encourage journalists, policy experts and assorted other observers to share their insights with one another.

JOURNOLIST: ...In April, Weigel wrote that the problem with the mainstream media is “this need to give equal/extra time to ‘real American’ views, no matter how fucking moronic, which just so happen to be the views of the conglomerates that run the media and/or buy up ads.”

KLEIN: fact it was always a fractious and freewheeling conversation meant to open the closed relationship between a reporter and his source to a wider audience.

JOURNOLIST: ...The Huffington Post, Weigel pointed out, ran “a picture of Sarah Palin, linking to a poll that suggests 45 percent of Americans believe her death panel lie. But as long as the top liberal-leaning news site talks about it every single hour of every day, I’m sure that number will go down.”

“Let’s move the fuck on already,” Weigel wrote.

KLEIN: ...In any case, Journolist is done now. I'll delete the group soon after this post goes live. That's not because Journolist was a bad idea, or anyone on it did anything wrong. It was a wonderful, chaotic, educational discussion. I'm proud of having started it, grateful to have participated in it, and I have no doubt that someone else will re-form it, with many of the same members, and keep it going.

JOURNOLIST: ...In a thread with the subject line, “ACORN Ratf*cker arrested,” Journolisters discussed how James O’Keefe, whose undercover reporting showed officials from activist group ACORN willing to help a fake prostitution ring skirt the law, had been arrested in another, failed operation at Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) office.


“Deep breath.”


US Adds Chechen to Terror List

From the New York Times:
MOSCOW — Russia on Thursday hailed a decision by the United States to designate the Caucasian insurgent leader Doku Umarov a terrorist, a step announced on the eve of President Dmitri A. Medvedev’s visit to the White House.

The State Department late Wednesday released a statement describing Mr. Umarov, formerly a Chechen separatist commander, as being part of a radical jihadist movement that poses a threat to the United States as well. Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, said that Mr. Umarov’s recent attacks on Russian targets “illustrate the global nature of the terrorist problem we fight today.”

Western governments have historically been reluctant to consider Caucasian militants in the same light as organizations like Al Qaeda, in part because they evolved out of a secular push for independence that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union. [Editors note: I think reason was more likely had been US support for Chechen independence as an anti-Soviet measure during the Cold War] The designation received approving news media coverage in Russia, whose leaders have often intimated that the insurgency receives financing or encouragement from the West.[Editor's note: it is a documented fact]

“It seems the American leadership has finally acknowledged that Caucasian terrorists and the notorious Al Qaeda are links in the same chain,” Komsomolskaya Pravda, a popular tabloid newspaper, wrote. “And maybe now in the West they will seriously take care of militants and their international sponsors.”

Mr. Umarov, 46, has acknowledged that he was barely religious until late in life, but in 2007 he pronounced himself the emir of the Caucasus Emirate, which aims to establish a pan-Caucasian state independent of Russia and based on Islamic law. He revived a dormant Chechen suicide battalion, Riyadus-Salikhin, just as the tactic surged back in the North Caucasus, and in February he vowed to strike in central Russia, saying “blood will no longer spill only in our cities and towns.”

Largely known as a guerrilla fighter, Mr. Umarov emerged from the shadows in March to take responsibility for suicide bombings on Moscow’s subway, which killed 40 people. His organization also took responsibility for the bombing of a luxury train, the Nevsky Express, which killed 28 last November, and an attack that nearly killed the president of Ingushetia, Yunus-bek Yevkurov.

Anatoly E. Safonov, Mr. Medvedev’s representative on terrorism, said the State Department designation would help Russia in its efforts to stamp out the insurgency, by imposing international sanctions on anyone who aids Mr. Umarov or his associates.

“It’s obviously a plus,” he told Interfax. “This is a good signal to all the second-rate and third-rate figures abroad who have supported Umarov in some way. This is a signal to them that if they do not stop, they are next in line.”

Mr. Umarov is the latest on a list of 83 individuals or entities identified by the president or secretary of state under an executive order by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks. Four other designations sprang from the conflict in Chechnya and were passed in 2003.

Russian officials celebrated the decision on Thursday, with the Foreign Ministry calling it “an important acceptance of the indivisible and universal nature of international terrorist threats.”
NOTE: A few years ago, I attended a seminar at Georgetown University on terrorism. When I asked a quesiton about Chechen terrorists, I was emphatically scolded by the professor, who had served in a national security position in the Bush administration: "You can't call Chechens 'terrorists.'"

So, I'm glad that someone in a position of responsibility has finally acknowledged reality...

Ann Coulter on Elena Kagan

When liberals say, "nothing is sacrosanct," they mean "nothing other Americans consider sacrosanct is sacrosanct." They demonstrate their open-mindedness by ridiculing other people's dogma, but will not brook the most trifling criticism of their own dogmas.

Thus, for example, liberals sneer at the bluenoses and philistines of the "religious right" for objecting to taxpayer-funding of a crucifix submerged in a jar of urine, but would have you banned from public life for putting Matthew Shepard in a jar of urine, with or without taxpayer funding.

These famously broad-minded New Yorkers -- "thinking, always thinking" -- actually booed Mayor Rudy Giuliani when he showed up at the opera after pulling city funding from a museum exhibit that included a painting of the Virgin Mary plastered with close-up pornographic photos of women's vulvas.

(The New York Times fair-mindedly refused to ever mention the vulvas, instead suggesting that the mayor's objection was to the cow dung used in the composition.)

Has a decision to fund or not fund "art" ever gotten a politician in any other part of the country booed in public? And how might the Times refer to citizens booing a mayor who had withdrawn taxpayer funding for a painting of Rosa Parks covered in pornography?

If New York liberals insist on bragging about their intellectual bravado in believing "nothing is sacrosanct," it would really help if they could stop being the most easily offended, P.C., group-think, thin-skinned weanies in the entire universe and maybe ease up on the college "hate speech" codes, politically correct firings, and bans on military recruiters.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

General McChrystal & Team America, World Police

Oscar Wilde said that life imitates art, and General McChrystal's resignation certainly looks like a scene from what Rolling Stone said was one of his favorite movies: Team America, World Police.

So, I don't think it was an accident that Michael Hastings' story began in Paris, France...

Google Wins Viacom v. YouTube Case

IMHO, a victory for New Media over Old Media. Here's Google's account, from their corporate blog:
YouTube wins case against Viacom
6/23/2010 01:23:00 PM
(Cross-posted from the YouTube Blog)

Today, the court granted our motion for summary judgment in Viacom’s lawsuit with YouTube. This means that the court has decided that YouTube is protected by the safe harbor of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) against claims of copyright infringement. The decision follows established judicial consensus that online services like YouTube are protected when they work cooperatively with copyright holders to help them manage their rights online.

This is an important victory not just for us, but also for the billions of people around the world who use the web to communicate and share experiences with each other. We’re excited about this decision and look forward to renewing our focus on supporting the incredible variety of ideas and expression that billions of people post and watch on YouTube every day around the world.

UPDATE 2:12PM: This decision also applies to other parties to the lawsuit, including the Premier League.

Posted by Kent Walker, Vice President and General Counsel

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Centcom's Blog: Central Asia Online

Your tax dollars at work...I guess General Petraeus is in charge of this now, too:

Disclaimer of Liability

Every effort is made to provide accurate and complete information on However, with the quantity of documents available, often uploaded within short deadlines, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided.
With respect to documents and information on this website, neither the U.S. government, nor the U.S. Department of Defence or their employees or contractors make any warranty, expressed or implied, including warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose with respect to documents available from
The U.S. Department of Defence and any other legal entity that has contributed in any way to the preparation, composition or promulgation of data hereby disclaim any overall liability arising from any inappropriate, improper or fraudulent use of data provided to site visitors. Furthermore, neither the U.S. Department of Defence (SIC) nor its contractors shall be held liable for any financial or other consequences, whatsoever, arising from such inappropriate, improper or fraudulent use of material on this website. The consultation or use of data shall automatically imply full acceptance of the above disclaimer of liability.

It looks like the Department of Defense may be using a British sub-contractor or staffers (perhaps PA Consulting?)--since we Americans spell defense D-E-F-E-N-S-E, not D-E-F-E-N-C-E.

BTW, A masthead might help to instill a greater sense of accountability, IMHO.

President Obama's Announces General McChrystal's Replacement

 THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  Today I accepted General Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.  I did so with considerable regret, but also with certainty that it is the right thing for our mission in Afghanistan, for our military, and for our country.
I'm also pleased to nominate General David Petraeus to take command in Afghanistan, which will allow us to maintain the momentum and leadership that we need to succeed.
I don't make this decision based on any difference in policy with General McChrystal, as we are in full agreement about our strategy.  Nor do I make this decision out of any sense of personal insult.  Stan McChrystal has always shown great courtesy and carried out my orders faithfully.  I've got great admiration for him and for his long record of service in uniform.
Over the last nine years, with America fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has earned a reputation as one of our nation’s finest soldiers.  That reputation is founded upon his extraordinary dedication, his deep intelligence, and his love of country.  I relied on his service, particularly in helping to design and lead our new strategy in Afghanistan.  So all Americans should be grateful for General McChrystal’s remarkable career in uniform.     
But war is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president.  And as difficult as it is to lose General McChrystal, I believe that it is the right decision for our national security. 
The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general.  It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.  And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan.
My multiple responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief led me to this decision.  First, I have a responsibility to the extraordinary men and women who are fighting this war, and to the democratic institutions that I've been elected to lead.  I've got no greater honor than serving as Commander-in-Chief of our men and women in uniform, and it is my duty to ensure that no diversion complicates the vital mission that they are carrying out.     
That includes adherence to a strict code of conduct.  The strength and greatness of our military is rooted in the fact that this code applies equally to newly enlisted privates and to the general officer who commands them.  That allows us to come together as one.  That is part of the reason why America has the finest fighting force in the history of the world.
It is also true that our democracy depends upon institutions that are stronger than individuals.  That includes strict adherence to the military chain of command, and respect for civilian control over that chain of command.  And that’s why, as Commander-in-Chief, I believe this decision is necessary to hold ourselves accountable to standards that are at the core of our democracy.
Second, I have a responsibility to do what is -- whatever is necessary to succeed in Afghanistan, and in our broader effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda.  I believe that this mission demands unity of effort across our alliance and across my national security team.  And I don’t think that we can sustain that unity of effort and achieve our objectives in Afghanistan without making this change.  That, too, has guided my decision.
I’ve just told my national security team that now is the time for all of us to come together.  Doing so is not an option, but an obligation.  I welcome debate among my team, but I won’t tolerate division.  All of us have personal interests; all of us have opinions.  Our politics often fuels conflict, but we have to renew our sense of common purpose and meet our responsibilities to one another, and to our troops who are in harm’s way, and to our country. 
We need to remember what this is all about.  Our nation is at war.  We face a very tough fight in Afghanistan.  But Americans don’t flinch in the face of difficult truths or difficult tasks.  We persist and we persevere.  We will not tolerate a safe haven for terrorists who want to destroy Afghan security from within, and launch attacks against innocent men, women, and children in our country and around the world.
So make no mistake:  We have a clear goal.  We are going to break the Taliban’s momentum.  We are going to build Afghan capacity.  We are going to relentlessly apply pressure on       al Qaeda and its leadership, strengthening the ability of both Afghanistan and Pakistan to do the same.
That’s the strategy that we agreed to last fall; that is the policy that we are carrying out, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In that effort, we are honored to be joined by allies and partners who have stood by us and paid the ultimate price through the loss of their young people at war.  They are with us because the interests and values that we share, and because this mission is fundamental to the ability of free people to live in peace and security in the 21st century. 
General Petraeus and I were able to spend some time this morning discussing the way forward.  I’m extraordinarily grateful that he has agreed to serve in this new capacity.  It should be clear to everybody, he does so at great personal sacrifice to himself and to his family.  And he is setting an extraordinary example of service and patriotism by assuming this difficult post.
Let me say to the American people, this is a change in personnel but it is not a change in policy.  General Petraeus fully participated in our review last fall, and he both supported and helped design the strategy that we have in place.  In his current post at Central Command, he has worked closely with our forces in Afghanistan.  He has worked closely with Congress.  He has worked closely with the Afghan and Pakistan governments and with all our partners in the region.  He has my full confidence, and I am urging the Senate to confirm him for this new assignment as swiftly as possible.
Let me conclude by saying that it was a difficult decision to come to the conclusion that I’ve made today.  Indeed, it saddens me to lose the service of a soldier who I’ve come to respect and admire.  But the reasons that led me to this decision are the same principles that have supported the strength of our military and our nation since the founding.
So, once again, I thank General McChrystal for his enormous contributions to the security of this nation and to the success of our mission in Afghanistan.  I look forward to working with General Petraeus and my entire national security team to succeed in our mission.  And I reaffirm that America stands as one in our support for the men and women who defend it.
Thank you very much.

France Honors Aristides de Sousa Mendes

My mother and brother are in France, for this event honoring the man who saved the life of her refugee family during World War II:
Un concert et des commémorations
Des descendants d'Aristides de Sousa Mendes et de familles qu'il a sauvées participent, du 21 au 26 juin, à une semaine d'hommage qui les conduira à Paris, Bordeaux, Bayonne, Anglet et Hendaye.

La délégation arrivera le 23 à Bordeaux pour deux journées de réceptions (Conseil général, Conseil régional, ville, préfecture, consistoire). Une commémoration est prévue quai Lous XVIII devant l'ancien consulat en présence de Manuella Caldas Faria, actuelle consule.

Trentaine de manifestations

Le jeudi 24, à 20 h 30, un concert pour les Justes (1) sera donné à la synagogue, rue du Grand-RabbinJoseph-Cohen. Mickaël Guedj, Bordelais, baryton à l'opéra de Nice, Judith Nemtabu, violon, et Hervé N'Kaoua, piano, interpréteront du Ravel et du Rossini. « On est dans la symbolique, on parle de liens historiques, de racines. Il s'agit de faire découvrir à l'actuelle communauté portugaise de Bordeaux et à la ville elle-même ses liens avec la communauté juive », dit Erick Aouizerate, président du consistoire israélite. Une grande partie de cette communauté a des origines portugaises et les célébrations à la synagogue se font selon le rite judéo-portugais.

Cette semaine d'hommage fait partie de la trentaine de manifestations prévues durant 2010 par le comité français en hommage à Sousa Mendes en France et notamment dans le Sud-Ouest.

(1) Réservations : Fnac, Ticket net et Box office. Contact :
More at More here, at FRANCE Sud Ouest:
La délégation s'est ainsi rendue à Paris, Bordeaux, hier à Bayonne et aujourd'hui à Hendaye sur les lieux mêmes où Sousa Mendes a édité à tour de bras des visas, à Bordeaux, du 17 au 19 juin 1940 puis à Bayonne, du 20 au 22 puis à Hendaye, jusqu'au 25 juin.

C'était il y a 70 ans exactement et Lissy Feingold avait 16 ans… Elle était alors de nationalité hollandaise et en route vers elle ne savait où. Devenue Lissy Jarvik, elle se souvient précisément de l'appartement de Biarritz où la famille avait trouvé refuge, du jour où son père est rentré de Bayonne avec quatre visas sur les quatre passeports appartenant aux parents et à leurs deux filles. Elle se rappelle la frayeur à Hendaye lorsqu'il a fallu descendre du train.

« On pensait qu'on allait nous empêcher de passer la frontière. À chaque pas sur le pont, nous étions morts de peur… On n'a su qu'après qu'on nous avait fait descendre à cause de l'écartement des rails différents en France et en Espagne. »

En 1984, Lissy était tombée sur un petit article du « New York Times » sur les réfugiés ayant transité par le Portugal en 1940. C'est ainsi qu'elle a connu l'histoire de Sousa Mendes, de sa détermination à braver les interdits de son gouvernement pour permettre la fuite des réfugiés de toute l'Europe.

En 1992, avec 6 survivants ayant bénéficié des fameux visas, elle est revenue à Biarritz, Bayonne et Hendaye. Elle est cette fois revenue avec son fils Jeffrey. Qui a tenu à donner à son propre fils le prénom d'Aristides.

Parvenue aux États-Unis, Lissy Feinhold Jarvik, a étudié la médecine. Elle est l'un des pionniers dans l'étude de la maladie d'Alzheimer et continue aujourd'hui encore, à l'âge de 86 ans, ses recherches en neuro-psychiatrie et gériatrie. Une brillante carrière à laquelle a collaboré à sa façon Aristides de Sousa Mendes.
Canada has also honored the Portuguese diplomat. Ottowa Citizen article here. Wikipedia page here. Portuguese virtual museum here.

Michael Hastings' Blog

Turns out, the author of Rolling Stone's profile of General McChrystal has his own blog, so here's a link to MICHAEL HASTINGS: THE HASTING REPORT on True/Slant, where you can learn information like this about the former Newsweek reporter, who may have changed the course of history (or not):
I'm the author of "I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story" and a regular contributor to GQ. Previously, I was the Baghdad correspondent for Newsweek magazine. My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Slate, Salon, Foreign Policy, the L.A. Times, and other publications of repute. This blog will focus on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other newsy foreign-ish things.

I'm Known For...
Either for my writing, or for having nasty things come up about me on Google. I'm told there's a way to fix that.
My Current Project
Reporting and writing on things, plotting overthrow of regimes.
My Greatest Achievement
The book and the foundation.
Also, not falling off the wagon. Thank you, O'Douls.
My Biggest Regret
Not falling off the wagon.
I Truly Respect
Writers who live their lives with integrity and without compromise.
Moments I'd Like To Forget
I savor them all, so no need to bring them up, thanks.
How I Pay For This Wardrobe
Blocks I've Been Around
Catholic school, prep school, to a number of colleges, county jail, rehab, the Lower East Side, Baghdad, Kabul, Vermont, Baghdad...
Things That Really Happened
Where I'd Like To Be 10 Years From Now
Living in the Second Vermont Republic.
Why True/Slant
'Cause we can.
What I'm Currently Addicted To...
Unpleasant countries with little to recommend them, except for an occupation force that looks like me.
This Is Annoying Me...
Paying for historical wrongs during arduous applications for travel visas, customs lines
This Is Making Me Worry...
The NSA. If they're taking the time to tap my phones, I want a refund of my tax dollars. On the other hand, if they're not tapping my phone--it's a mobile with a 212 area code that has been used from Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, Kurdistan, etc--then I want my money back, too.
This Is Bringing Me Joy...
Kanafe. J.G. Ballard. Snow.
I'm Running From...
A Nobel Peace Prize winner.
This Is Helping Me Create...
Writing, one would hope.
This Is Making Me Think - Hard...
Xanax, Noam Chomsky, Pat Buchanan, Istanbul. And J.G. Ballard.
This Makes My Teeth Itch
Howard Dean, Ralph Nader. In a good way.
Can't Do Without
Parliament Lights, recessed filter.
Favorite Voices
A sampling: Jason Starr, Charlie Huston, Brett Easton Ellis, Michel Houellbecq, H.P. Lovecraft, Martin Amis, Charles Bowden, Ryzard Kapucinski, Mark Danner, Mark Ames, Gary Shteyngart, and in general, whatever voices Harpers has been publishing lately.
My Most Awkward Moment
I can assure you I took it in stride.
My Secret Ambition
To maintain and cultivate an enemies list.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

General McChrystal's Rolling Stone Profile

Here's a link to Michael Hastings' article Runaway General, that has caused the current controversy:
'How'd I get screwed into going to this dinner?" demands Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It's a Thursday night in mid-April, and the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan is sitting in a four-star suite at the Hôtel Westminster in Paris. He's in France to sell his new war strategy to our NATO allies – to keep up the fiction, in essence, that we actually have allies. Since McChrystal took over a year ago, the Afghan war has become the exclusive property of the United States. Opposition to the war has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany's president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. McChrystal is in Paris to keep the French, who have lost more than 40 soldiers in Afghanistan, from going all wobbly on him.

"The dinner comes with the position, sir," says his chief of staff, Col. Charlie Flynn.

McChrystal turns sharply in his chair.

"Hey, Charlie," he asks, "does this come with the position?"

McChrystal gives him the middle finger.
A more sober side of McChrystal is to be found in his hypothetical "Memorandum for the President," from the "Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff," advocating "A Balanced Policy on Humanitarian Intervention." It was published in the 2000 Council on Foreign Relations book Humanitarian Intervention: Crafting a Workable Doctrine, edited by Alton Frye .

Washington Post: Taliban, Afghan Warlords on US Payroll

Today's article by Karen DeYoung is not surprising, but still sheds light on a serious problem in American strategy--i.e., we are paying our enemy to fight us:
The U.S. military is funding a massive protection racket in Afghanistan, indirectly paying tens of millions of dollars to warlords, corrupt public officials and the Taliban to ensure safe passage of its supply convoys throughout the country, according to congressional investigators.

The security arrangements, part of a $2.16 billion transport contract, violate laws on the use of private contractors, as well as Defense Department regulations, and "dramatically undermine" larger U.S. objectives of curtailing corruption and strengthening effective governance in Afghanistan, a report released late Monday said.

The report describes a Defense Department that is well aware that some of the money paid to contractors winds up in the hands of warlords and insurgents. Military logisticians on the ground are focused on getting supplies where they are needed and have "virtually no understanding of how security is actually provided" for the local truck convoys that transport more than 70 percent of all goods and materials used by U.S. troops. Alarms raised by prime trucking contractors were met by the military "with indifference and inaction," the report said.

"The findings of this report range from sobering to shocking," Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) wrote in an introduction to the 79-page report, titled "Warlord, Inc., Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan."
BTW, if Congressman Tierney's committee wants to check, I image that USAID-supported NGOs in Afghanistan and Pakistan may also be paying protection money to the Taliban...

In any case, here's a link to the PDF file of Cong. Tierney's report.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Boris Petric: NGOs Responsible for Kyrgyz Chaos

After the 2005 Tulip Revolution, Kurmanbek Bakiyev quickly put an end to the advantages gained by some Uzbeks in Osh during the privatization period. These politico-economic entrepreneurs, of which Deputy Batyrov is a good example, were gradually marginalized. The Bakiyev brothers then set about gaining control of the economy, and encouraged other “Uzbeks” to monopolize major economic resources from the Akayev administration’s former protégés. Control of the economy passed into the hands of Bakiyev’s allies. These new economic leaders were soon required to set up various dummy companies benefiting the presidential entourage.

Events took another turn when Roza Otunbayeva came to power in April 2010. President Bakiyev’s allies in the Osh region were quickly dispossessed of the advantages they had enjoyed. The situation deteriorated rapidly and tensions arose between different groups which aspired to control economic activities. An Uzbek businessman, Aibek Mirsidikov, was murdered in mysterious circumstances. According to rumor, Mirsidikov was involved in Mafia and other criminal activities. He was closely linked to the Bakiyev family, and it was even said that the President’s brother put him in charge of the lucrative Afghan drug trade and reorganizing economic relations in Osh. The fall of President Bakiyev therefore led to a new politico-economic shakeup in the region. The current conflict was probably triggered by the rise to power of some politico-Mafia groups, and the fall of others. The groups that had flourished under the previous government were not willing to accept defeat. Adopting extremely violent tactics, they began settling scores, aided and abetted by the Bakiyev brothers. The extent of these retaliations meant the conflict finally took an interethnic turn.

This time, however, Kyrgyzstan does not seem to have the institutions required to restore order through legitimate force. Indeed, over the last few years, the country has dismantled its institutions as a result of international pressure. There is no real army or police force. Politico-Mafia groups organize largely social regulations. Battle between them for economic influence is linked to the political tensions. Despite having both Kyrgyz and Uzbek members, these groups have transformed their rivalry into a major interethnic conflict.

Obviously, Kyrgyz political leaders, especially Bakiyev, are partially responsible for the current conflict. However, international organizations and NGOs in Kyrgyzstan are also indirectly responsible. These organizations have been present in the country for over 20 years promoting a certain conception of society and political system. Their role in co-producing a policy that has exacerbated and strengthened ethnic differences instead of producing a common social contract should be questioned. Economic liberalization and Wilson-type democracies, promoted by international donors, have not led to social peace. Roza Otunbayeva, the muse of the Tulip Revolution and now President, seems unable to restore order. She has had to request assistance from Russian and international forces to fulfill one of the state’s primary responsibilities: the safety of its citizens. But we should question whether Kyrgyzstan is still a state or the incarnation of a new kind of political arena, which emerged in the last decade in different parts of the world. I propose to call this new political arena a globalised protectorate, where the governance of the political system is strongly embedded within transnational economic networks, NGOs and international organizations.

Washington Examiner: DC Mayor Stole $10 Million from Workers' Insurance Fund

Where's the outrage? From today's Washington Examiner:
The Fenty administration took $10 million from a workers' insurance fund that is now at the center of multiple investigations, sources told The Washington Examiner.
Fenty and his attorney general, Peter Nickles, have now acknowledged that hundreds of disabled workers were charged for life insurance but weren't actually given the policies. The administration announced that it was handing the matter over to the city's inspector general last week.
The workers' money, which might be worth up to $6 million, went into the city's workers' compensation fund.
Sources familiar with the investigations into the scandal told The Examiner that the Fenty administration took some $10 million from the workers' compensation fund to balance the fiscal 2009 budget. Then City Administrator Dan Tangherlini met with finance and Risk Management agency officials in early 2008 and discovered that the workers' comp money had continually "rolled over" from previous years, the sources said.
Tangherlini assumed that insurance claims were falling and that the city was safe in raiding the fund, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigations.
The fund has since been under "spending pressure" and some workers have complained that they are being bilked out of both life and health insurance benefits.
As first reported by The Examiner, the FBI, the city auditor and the finance office's integrity unit are all probing the fund and the agency that controlled it, the Office of Risk Management.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

NGOs Lose Supreme Court Terror Support Case

Finally, a Supreme Court decision that makes sense to me, in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project...

From the Huffington Post:
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has upheld a federal law that bars "material support" to foreign terrorist organizations, rejecting a free speech challenge from humanitarian aid groups.

The court ruled 6-3 Monday that the government may prohibit all forms of aid to designated terrorist groups, even if the support consists of training and advice about entirely peaceful and legal activities.

Material support intended even for benign purposes can help a terrorist group in other ways, Chief Justice John Roberts said in his majority opinion.

"Such support frees up other resources within the organization that may be put to violent ends," Roberts said.
You can read the complete text of the decision here. (ht SCOTUS Blog)

Feliks Kulov: Russian Troops Needed in Kyrgyzstan

The former Prime Minister spoke about the Kyrgyz situation with Russia Today:
RT: The interim government is calling to external forces, including Russia, to provide peacekeepers to come to Kyrgyzstan. What kind of outcome would that have?

FK: Not only is it possible. We need it to happen. In order to achieve stability we would need forces that would, at least in some areas, hold back the armed groups allowing our own law enforcement to neutralize them. These armed groups are a real threat to peace in the region. The peacekeepers do not have to take part in military operations. They would only be there to secure certain objects, areas and settlements. There would be no threat to the country’s sovereignty. Some people say Kyrgyzstan would lose its independence if peacekeepers came in. This is nonsense. I can cite an example from 1990. I was a superintendent then. And in that case peacekeepers helped us gain sovereignty by preserving peace. So a peacekeeping operation, I think, would be an important prerequisite for maintaining our sovereignty.

RT: The CSTO have agreed to send vehicles and fuel to Kyrgyzstan. But as for the peacekeepers – they are not sending them now. Do you think that if the situation gets any worse their opinion would change?

FK: I think they don’t yet have enough information to make that decision. Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, has said the CSTO’s actions will have to be harsh but remain within the framework of the law, using the measures that CSTO member states have at their disposal. This makes me optimistic. I think peacekeepers can be brought in under certain conditions. It would be one of the main conditions for peace. I do not view the CSTO’s answer as a refusal to bring in peacekeeping forces.

RT: What are the differences between what is happening now and what was happening five years ago during the Tulip Revolution in 2005?

FK: The motives were probably the same. People objected to a single family clan governing the country. A lot of people spoke against it openly. I had to make a statement about it when the president’s son was appointed head of the Central Agency. I officially called that a risky step. The president endangered a lot of things by putting his son in power. At the same time, if his son had been unable to fulfill the duties of Central Agency director that would lead to the collapse of the whole Bakiyev clan. This was my official position. A lot of people expressed their opinions about it back then, but the general message was always the same: if the family government continues to grow it will lead the country to a downfall. That was what happened.

It was one of the reasons, one of the main causes of aggravation. There had to be a background for it of course. If the country had been flourishing the people may have put up with it. But since the people were poor and this family had the huge influence it had. It became a very negative factor.

RT: Some say that the violence we are seeing now is a struggle for power and money without any ideology at stake. What is your opinion on that?

Ian Johnson's A Mosque in Munich on C-Span's Book TV

You can watch Ian Johnson in a panel discussion about the book at the Hudson Institute, on the C-Span website, via this link. (Unfortunately, I could not figure out how to embed the video...)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mark Polizzotti on Alice Goldfarb Marquis' The Pop Revolution

Alice Goldfarb Marquis' last book has been published posthumously by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Her editor wrote about it on Artbook:
In my ten years at the MFA, I’ve been fortunate to enjoy an administrative climate that supports broadening our program beyond traditional notions of “museum publications.” One way we’ve tried to do this is to feature works on our list that can appeal to curious but non-specialized audiences, the same audiences courted by such quality-minded publishers as Knopf, Norton, or Farrar, Straus & Giroux. And I can think of few better examples of such works than Alice Goldfarb Marquis’ The Pop Revolution.

To my mind, Alice’s books epitomize what the “trade” side of our list (for lack of a better term) is seeking to accomplish. An independent historian and onetime journalist, she brings to the table a profound interest in artistic creation, a real-world appreciation of the marketplace in which these creations circulate, a reporter’s keen nose for The Story, and a seemingly inborn ability to convey it all with unflagging panache. Her first two books with MFA, Marcel Duchamp: The Bachelor Stripped Bare (2002) and Art Czar: The Rise and Fall of Clement Greenberg (2005), both earned extensive kudos for precisely those reasons. Similarly, The Pop Revolution, even in advance of its April 2010 publication, has garnered enthusiastic comments from the likes of philosopher of art Arthur C. Danto (who called it “the best account I have yet read of the New York art world in the sixties”), art dealer Ivan Karp (“engrossing and exuberant”), critic Peter Plagens and artist Charles Hinman.

But beyond my absolute agreement with these authoritative supporters, I have personal reasons for spotlighting this book. In the ten years of our collaboration, Alice and I established one of those gratifying author-editor rapports that make this business worthwhile. In a sense, we grew up together at the MFA, for she was my author virtually from the moment I started here—indeed, I arrived with the Duchamp manuscript in my briefcase. Our phone chats (since she lived in California, face-to-face meetings were rare) ranged from manuscript conferences to Surrealist trivia to real estate woes to her ever-expanding and unapologetic collection of outlandish sneakers. Though I probably shouldn’t admit it, I always had the sense that, of all her books, The Pop Revolution was closest to her heart, the one she’d been prepping for since she first began writing and on which she lavished the most care and anxiety. It was many years in the making and it went through its share of false starts, revisions, and back-to-the-drawing-board redrafts before settling into its beautifully realized voice. Little wonder that the final chapter, when she delivered it, was accompanied by a note that read simply, “Breathing, at last, in La Jolla."

Sadly, that was the last note I received from Alice. A few weeks later, even as I was getting ready to send back my editorial comments, she was hospitalized for what I later learned was inoperable cancer. She passed away soon afterward at the age of 79, the editorial remarks unsent and the book’s completion uncelebrated.
You can buy a copy at More on Alice Marquis in this email from Blair Tindall:
Dear Dr. Jarvik: I just read, on your blog, that Alice had died. I knew she was ill, and I wish I'd checked in sooner.

She was an inspiration to me, and she was integral -- to say the least -- in research for my first book. I met her first in NYC while finishing it, and later in San Diego when I had moved to the area. I was impressed not only by her scholarship and writing, but by her friendship and business sense.

Thanks for writing such a beautiful post in her memory. I am sure her son is grateful. Ever since I first encountered her research on arts policy, I have been dumbfounded that she was not recognized as the maverick she was. I guess it's a testament to how "buried in the sand" arts administrators have become in the name of their salaries. But I could go on and on...

..In any case, your remembrance made my heart sing. Thanks for taking the time and thought to do it.

Blair Tindall
--author, "Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music" (Grove/Atlantic Press, 2006; US, UK, Korea, Turkey, Japan, Portugal)
Michael J. Lewis of The Wall Street Journal reviewed Alice's book favorably in May (I must have been on my walking tour of Dartmoor and Exmoor). Here's an excerpt:
For Ms. Marquis the key figure is Leo Castelli, the upstart New York dealer who specialized in Pop artists, in contrast to Sidney Janis, who showed the leading Abstract Expressionists. Castelli (1907-99) was born as Leo Krausz in Trieste, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His youth was peripatetic to the extreme: study in Milan, work in the family insurance business in Bucharest and, eventually, art dealing in Paris, where he opened a gallery at the worst moment (May 1939). It was Castelli's last false step. Fleeing the Nazis, he made his way to New York, where his diminutive stature, linguistic gifts and preposterous Hapsburg courtliness made him an effective purveyor of art—especially novel contemporary work, which seemed to demand the imprimatur of an older culture, a tacit endorsement of lasting value.

Ms. Marquis, who was herself born in Germany and fled the Nazis in her childhood, brings a sensitivity to the international dimension of Pop. She shows how the term originated in England and was at first resisted by Americans (an influential exhibition in 1962 came close to permanently branding the artists "the New Realists") but how Pop gradually won acceptance, losing the angry social content of its English counterpart along the way. Ms. Marquis also shows how Castelli's ex-wife, Ilena (they divorced in 1959), worked cordially with him to establish her Sonnabend Gallery in Paris in 1962, which gave his stable of artists an overseas outlet. Without this European presence—and without Castelli's cosmopolitan roots—it is possible that one of his artists, Robert Rauschenberg, would not have won the first prize in painting at the V enice Biennale (in 1964), the first American painter to do so.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Washington Times: Peace Corps Volunteers Killed, Raped, and Robbed

After reading this account of Peace Corps horror stories, maybe they should re-brand The Peace Corps as The Crime Corps--to comply with Truth in Advertising regulations...
Investigative memos obtained by The Washington Times through an open records request detail some of the crimes that were the subject of the audit, showing a string of violence, theft and other illegal activities around the world in recent years involving Peace Corps volunteers as both perpetrators and victims.

The memos detailed 29 of the more than 40 cases that were closed last year by the inspector general's investigators. Of those 29 cases, 16 involved allegations of rape or sexual assault, two involved accidental death, one involved drug smuggling, two involved aggravated assaults, seven involved either robbery, theft or embezzlement, and one involved the misuse of government funds.

Perhaps the most alarming threat described in the audit and the memos is the one posed to women working in countries where cultural attitudes differ from Western values. More than a third of the inspector general's office investigations closed last year dealt with rape or sexual assault in countries such as Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Mongolia.

In a 2007 case in Mongolia, a female volunteer opened her apartment door for a group of boys who forced alcohol on her and gang-raped her.

The investigative memo said the case also involved a robbery at knife point, but was complicated by the victim's acknowledgment that she once supplied her attackers with money to buy alcohol - a misdemeanor offense because the attackers were younger than 18.

Information released by the agency shows that even when a complaint triggers an investigation of a violent incident involving a Peace Corps employee or volunteer, referrals to the Justice Department for prosecution are extremely rare, with overseas court actions only slightly more frequent.

Another Israeli Anti-Jihad Video

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Teshome Gabriel, 70

A friend just emailed the sad news that UCLA film and television professor Teshome Gabriel died suddenly of a heart attack on June 15th. He was one of my teachers at film school, and in addition to being an intellectual and a scholar, he was a very nice man--who always managed to be available and helpful to students. I remember talking to him over coffee, sitting outside, where he would hold court at a table for hours. His stories were always interesting, and he had a wonderful sense of humor and proportion. He will be missed.

The Los Angeles Times ran his obituary, and here is an excerpt:
Gabriel, who began as a lecturer at UCLA in 1974 and received his doctorate in film and television studies there before becoming an assistant professor in 1981, was the author of the 1982 book "Third Cinema in the Third World: The Aesthetics of Liberation."

Vinay Lal, an associate professor of history and Asian American studies at UCLA, said Gabriel was "one of the first scholars to theorize in a critical fashion about Third World cinema."

"He is a principal exponent of the idea of Third Cinema," Lal, who is on leave, said via e-mail from India. "He saw such a third cinema as a guardian of popular memory and as a source of emancipation for formerly subjugated peoples.

"While Third Cinema would develop its own conventions of narrative and style, its aesthetic had to be tied to a politics of social action. Teshome was very attentive, as a film scholar must be, to cinematic styles and conventions; but he kept very close to his heart the idea that Third World cinemas had to be true to the cultures, traditions and forms of storytelling found in those societies."

Gabriel co-edited the 1993 book "Otherness and the Media: The Ethnography of the Imagined and the Imaged" and most recently wrote the book "Third Cinema: Exploration of Nomadic Aesthetics & Narrative Communities."

His many other accomplishments included serving as editor in chief of "Emergences: Journal for the Study of Media and Composite Cultures." He also was founder and an editorial board member of Tuwaf (Light), an Ethiopian Fine Arts Journal in Amharic, from 1987 to 1991.

In his later years, Lal said, Gabriel "wrote on such things as the relationship of the Web to weaving, the idea of the nomadic (and the transgressive), and the relationship between the built form and ruins.

"He was a rare thinker, interested in allowing ideas a free play, and he never ceased to explore new forms of media as well as developments in cinema."

Gabriel was born Sept. 24, 1939, in the small town of Ticho, Ethiopia, and came to the United States in 1962.

He received a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Utah in 1967, followed by a
master's of education in educational media two years later. At UCLA, he earned a master's degree in theater arts (film/television) in 1976 and his doctorate in film and television studies in 1979.

He is survived by his wife, Maaza Woldemusie; daughter, Mediget; and son, Tsegaye.

A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. Saturday at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, 6300 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles.
More on Teshome Gabriel at FilmStudiesforFree.

Issandr El Amran on Ian Johnson's Mosque in Munich

In the United Arab Emirate's The National:
One argument that runs through much of the book is a warning against Western engagement of Islamists, an idea popularised in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks as a way to recruit “moderate” Islamists against the nihilism of salafist jihadist groups like al Qa’eda. The Brothers have actually needed no such encouragement to have a public tiff with al Qa’eda’s Ayman Zawahri, who hates the Brothers as much he does the “Crusaders”. But if Johnson makes a good point in cautioning against paying undue attention to the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe – where it is after all a vanguard group that is not necessarily representative of the European Muslim experience – he often does so for the wrong reason. A more compelling reason for governments and spies to steer clear of the manipulation of religious groups is that, as the West has learned at a great cost, it can so often backfire.

Ian Johnson: "We continue to make the same mistake..."

The author of A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA, and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West  was recently interviewed about US support for Islamists on NPR's KPCC-FM:
RAZ: How was the Munich mosque tied to the attacks of September 11, 2001?

Mr. JOHNSON: There's no direct ties. However, a couple of people who were closely linked to several attacks were active at the mosque. For example, in 1998, one of the Al-Qaida financiers was arrested while visiting people who frequented the mosque and he was extradited to the United States.
RAZ: You write that both the Bush administration and the Obama administration supported some efforts to work with and cultivate Islamist groups. How so?
Mr. JOHNSON: Shortly after 9/11, there was this desire to cut all ties with Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and even to prosecute them. The fundamental problem with that effort was that it tried to link them directly to terrorism, which is really not so much what the Muslim Brotherhood does. The Muslim Brotherhood creates the worldview that can lead to terrorism, the milieu where that can flourish.
So after these prosecutions failed, the Muslim Brotherhood reestablished itself, and by the second term of the Bush administration, there were already very clear efforts where brotherhood groups in Europe are being clearly cultivated for U.S. foreign policy aims.
So much of the rhetoric that you hear today is similar to what we were saying in the 1950s: that Islam is essentially a tool that we can use for foreign policy purposes. I think this is kind of - this is a fundamental problem in how we look at this religion. It's come back to haunt us again and again, but we continue to make the same mistake.

Worth a Detour: Norlfolk's Chrysler Museum

During a recent trip to Norfolk to visit the birthplace of the father of someone I know, we stopped by the Chrysler Museum of Art. It's terrific, and worth a visit. It's a hidden gem, with wonderful paintings, facilities, free admission, and free parking.

Walter Chrysler had a good eye (he built the Chrysler building), and the collection is magnificent. I especially liked the statues, the pre-Columbian art, and the paintings. But there's something for everyone--even Egyptian mummies!

No lines, no waiting, no tickets required. Plus the Sheraton  Hotel in Norfolk offers a weekend special--only $99 a night. We enjoyed the Victory Rover boat tour of the US Navy Base from the dock next door, it was also a lot of fun to see all the big ships and drydocks. There were plenty of restaurants downtown, too. Plus, the Ghent neighborhood is trendy and attractive.

A visiting show featuring antique furniture alongside Vermeers was also very good.