Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tom Gross on Libya's Lobbyists

From Tom Gross's Media Dispatch:
* No remorse from The London School of Economics (LSE) which agreed to take millions from Gaddafi
* Only 11 weeks ago, Gaddafi himself was invited to address LSE students via video link, with the help of a leading London PR firm

* Leading New York law firm White & Case took $1000 an hour to lobby for Gaddafi

* Among others who have written soft propaganda pieces for Gaddafi in the Western media in recent months: Sarah Leah Whitson, the head of Human Rights Watch’s Mideast division (the same woman who has helped run the HRW delegtimization campaign against Israel), and Stephen Walt (author of the best-selling conspiracy theory “The Israel Lobby”), and writers for The New York Times and Financial Times.

This dispatch concerns the situation in Libya.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Martin Kramer on the MIddle East

I have to admit that I don't know enough about the Middle East to have a reasonable opinion about what is going on. So, here's a link to Martin Kramer's blog, Sandbox.

Monday, February 21, 2011

House Votes to Zero Out Corporation for Public Broadcasting

I waited 20 years for this, since coming to Washington in 1991. Even if the Senate restores the money, the "sacred cow" status of public broadcasting has ended. This happened in 1995 with the National Endowment for the Arts. The agency is still around, but as "damaged goods." And you know what...the arts in America improved after 1995. My guess is that broadcasting should improve after 2011, due to similar factors--the beginning of the end of the official stamp of approval, the "imprimatur," that was what NPR and PBS had to offer (in addition to cash).

Look for alternate sources of news, informational, and educational broadcasting to emerge via the internet, cable, and who knows...maybe even Twitter. The Huffington Post-AOL deal may be a sign of things to come, in this regard.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sen. Jim DeMint v. the Muppet Lobby

From the Charleston, South Carolina, Post & Courier:
WASHINGTON — The Muppets are in town. No, not for a show. They are in Washington to do business.

Inside the Beltway, 'Sesame Street' turns into K Street and Elmo is a lobbyist.

Last year, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was allocated $420 million by Congress. And President Obama is asking Congress to give a whopping $451 million to CPB in his new budget, even though the nation is more than $14 trillion in debt.

To put that in perspective, it would take Count Von Count more than 42 years to count the 451 million, one 'Ah! Ah! Ah!' dollar at a time.

But any talk of reducing or cutting the 'Sesame Street' subsidy is met with a Muppet revolt. PBS' Arthur the Aardvark was on Capitol Hill Wednesday for a Democrat press conference where Rep. Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, accused Republicans of 'silencing Cookie Monster.'

Behind the adorable anteater, aides held signs depicting Bert and Ernie being handed a 'GOPink slip.'

Make no mistake, public broadcasting's furry friends are political animals.

Elmo has been particularly busy. Elmo has testified before Congress about the need for more funding for the arts and participated in other press conferences to increase spending on public broadcasting. Elmo even went on the lecture circuit last year with Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genochowski to promote government-funded broadband Internet.

At this rate, Americans can expect Big Bird to start filming commercials to hype ObamaCare. If the FCC can borrow Elmo from PBS to build support for their plans, what's to stop the Department of Health and Human Services from feeding Big Bird some lines?

It's time to draw a clear distinction between the government and entertainment. Democrats shouldn't cast our children's most beloved creatures as characters for their big-government, big-spending causes.

Publicly funded media simply have no place in our modern, tech-savvy society. CPB was created by the 1967 Public Broadcasting Act to 'facilitate the development of public telecommunications.' Only a handful of television channels existed. More than 30 years later, Americans have thousands of choices in news, entertainment and educational programming provided by innumerable television, radio and Web outlets.

Shows like 'Sesame Street' are multi-million dollar enterprises capable of thriving in the private market.

According to the 990 tax form all nonprofits are required to file, Sesame Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell received $956,513 — nearly a million dollars — in compensation in 2008. And, from 2003 to 2006, 'Sesame Street' made more than $211 million from toy and consumer product sales.

When taxpayer funding for public broadcasting ends, rest assured, Cookie Monster will still be fed.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Glenn Greenwald on FBI's Botched Anthrax Case Against Bruce Ivins

Serious doubt cast on FBI's anthrax case against Bruce Ivins:
In addition to reigniting doubts, the report has also reignited calls for an independent investigation into the entire FBI case. Yesterday, Rep. Holt re-introduced his legislation to create a 9/11-style Commission, complete with subpoena power, with a mandate to review the entire matter. Sen. Grassley told the Post: "There are no more excuses for avoiding an independent review." Ivins' lawyer added that the report confirms that the case against his client is "all supposition based on conjecture based on guesswork, without any proof whatsoever." All of that has been clear for some time, and yesterday's report merely underscored how weak is the FBI's case.

It is hard to overstate the political significance of the anthrax attacks. For reasons I've described at length, that event played at least as much of a role as the 9/11 attacks in elevating the Terrorism fear levels which, through today, sustain endless wars, massive defense and homeland security budgets, and relentless civil liberties erosions. The pithy version of the vital role played by anthrax was supplied by Atrios here and here; in essence, it was anthrax that convinced large numbers of Americans that Terrorism was something that could show up without warning at their doorstep -- though something as innocuous as their mailbox -- in the form of James-Bond-like attacks featuring invisible, lethal powder. Moreover, anthrax was exploited in the aftermath of 9/11 to ratchet up the fear levels toward Saddam Hussein, as ABC News' Brian Ross spent a full week screeching to the country -- falsely -- that bentonite had been found in the anthrax and that this agent was the telltale sign of Iraq's chemical weapons program, while George Bush throughout 2002 routinely featured "anthrax" as one of Saddam's scary weapons.

That there's so much lingering doubt about who was responsible for this indescribably consequential attack is astonishing, and it ought to be unacceptable. Other than a desire to avoid finding out who the culprit was (and/or to avoid having the FBI's case against Ivins subjected to scrutiny), there's no rational reason to oppose an independent, comprehensive investigation into this matter.

Sen. Grassley: Investigate FBI's Botched Anthrax Investigation

U.S. Sen. Grassley: Response to National Academy of Sciences Amerithrax report


TO: Reporters and Editors RE: Grassley response to National Academy of Sciences Amerithrax report DA: Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Senator Chuck Grassley released the following statement after a new report from the National Academy of Sciences raises questions about some of the science used to close the Amerithrax investigation. Grassley has conducted oversight of the FBI’s handling of the case since 2002.

“For years the FBI has claimed scientific evidence for its conclusion that that anthrax spores found in the letters were linked to the anthrax bacteria found in Dr. Ivins’ lab. The National Academy of Sciences report released today shows that the science is not necessarily a slam dunk. There are no more excuses for avoiding an independent review and assessment of how the FBI handled its investigation in the anthrax case.”

Background: During a September 17, 2008 Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing with FBI Director Robert Mueller, Grassley brought up the need for an independent review of both the science and the investigative work. Here is the text of that portion of the hearing transcript.

“…This is one of the longest and most expensive investigations in FBI history, and there will probably never be a trial. Congress and the American people deserve a complete accounting of the FBI’s evidence, not just as selective release of a few documents and a briefing or two. There are many unanswered questions the FBI must address before the public can have confidence in the outcome of the case, and a thorough congressional investigation is needed to ensure that those questions are answered. And I appreciate the Director referring to the National Academy, BUT I would like to also suggest that the National Academy would not be reviewing FBI interview summaries, grand jury testimony, internal investigative memos, other investigative documents. The Academy would only be reviewing the science, not the detective work. And, of course, I believe we need an independent review of both…”

Niall Ferguson on Obama's Egyptian Policy

(ht Althouse)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Yours truly on NPR and PBS - To the Point on KCRW

Here's a link to Warren Olney's To the Point on KCRW, in which I discuss NPR and PBS in relation to Juan Williams, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, the Huffington Post, the Drudge Report, and quote from Glenn Garvin's seminal article about NPR.

PBS Pledge-Week Ads Violate Federal Law

Last night, Washington's WETA, our local PBS station, was running ads that urged viewers to call their congressmen to stop proposed Republican budget cuts for public broadcasting. The national campaign is coming from an organization called 170MillionAmericans.Org. Here's the Maryland Public Television version:

IMHO, these PBS call to action ads violate both FCC regulations on non-commercial broadcasting that prohibit "calls to action" as well as CPB legal requirements for overseeing "objectivity and balance" in coverage of controversial issues.

Here's the FCC rule:
B. Announcements containing a call to action are not permissible. Examples of such announcements are:
-- "Stop by our showroom to see a model";
-- "Try product X next time you buy oil."

SOURCE: In the Matter of Commission Policy Concerning the Noncommercial Nature of Educational Broadcasting, 1992 Reprint excerpted from Public Notice, April 11, 1986 (FCC 86-161),
which was published at 51 Federal Register 21800, June 16, 1986
7 FCC Record 827 (
Here's the CPB rule:
From its advent more than four decades ago, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has had a legal mandate to ensure "strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature." This principle is part of the bedrock of public broadcasting in America, a country built upon a foundation of lively and open political and social discourse.

CPB carries out its mandate by encouraging public comment on programming to individual stations and to CPB's own ombudsman. By promoting diversity in programming, CPB also ensures that a wide range of perspectives is available to viewers and listeners. Annual Open to the Public reports, as required by Congress, offer extensive detail on this important goal.

SOURCE: CPB's Commitment to Objectivity and Balance (

So far as I can tell, neither the FCC nor CPB has taken any action whatsoever to enforce these legal requirements. That the Republican Congress permits public broadcasting to violate both with impunity, in the middle of a funding debate, shows their lack of seriousness.

If CPB isn't enforcing the "objectivity and balance" law in this crystal-clear case, and the FCC turns a blind eye, what other laws are being broken by public broadcasters?

At the very least, Congressional committees with oversight responsibility for public broadcasting should hold hearings into the matter of how and why FCC and CPB have failed to prevent the hijacking of PBS and NPR for blatant political advertising on one side of this controversial issue.

UPDATE 2/16/2011

I just filed a complaint with the FTC, after viewing WETA's 30-second spot calling upon viewers to tell their members of Congress what they think--that the Republicans are trying to kill Big Bird, the only reasonable conclusion, from the false and misleading claims made in the ad. Here's what I received in response from the automated website:
Thank you for contacting the FTC. Your complaint has been entered into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies worldwide. Your reference number is:29264359

Here are links to the publications you may find useful:

No links available for selection

If you want to update your information or have any questions, please call our Consumer Response Center, 1-877-FTC-HELP. Keep your reference number handy.
I'm not holding my breath, since I don't see any evidence that anyone in a position of responsibility holds PBS to any standards of decency, whatsoever...I don't know that Congressman Lamborn even obtained a GAO audit of NPR's finances...

BTW, the type of lobbying by cartoon characters shown in the clip below strikes me as precisely the type of manipulative advertising aimed at children ("host-selling") that PBS was supposedly set up to counteract...

Monday, February 14, 2011

B.R. Myers on the Immorality of "Foodies"

From The Atlantic Online:
THE ROMAN HISTORIAN Livy famously regarded the glorification of chefs as the sign of a culture in decline. I wonder what he would have thought of The New York Times’ efforts to admit “young idols with cleavers” into America’s pantheon of food-service heroes.

With their swinging scabbards, muscled forearms and constant proximity to flesh, butchers have the raw, emotional appeal of an indie band … “Think about it. What’s sexy?” said Tia Keenan, the fromager at Casellula Cheese and Wine Café and an unabashed butcher fan. “Dangerous is sometimes sexy, and they are generally big guys with knives who are covered in blood.”

That’s Severson again, by the way, and she records no word of dissent in regard to the cheese vendor’s ravings. We are to believe this is a real national trend here. In fact the public perception of butchers has not changed in the slightest, as can easily be confirmed by telling someone that he or she looks like one. “Blankly as a butcher stares,” Auden’s famous line about the moon, will need no explanatory footnote even a century from now.

But food writing has long specialized in the barefaced inversion of common sense, common language. Restaurant reviews are notorious for touting $100 lunches as great value for money. The doublespeak now comes in more pious tones, especially when foodies feign concern for animals. Crowding around to watch the slaughter of a pig—even getting in its face just before the shot—is described by Bethany Jean Clement (in an article in Best Food Writing 2009) as “solemn” and “respectful” behavior. Pollan writes about going with a friend to watch a goat get killed. “Mike says the experience made him want to honor our goat by wasting as little of it as possible.” It’s teachable fun for the whole foodie family. The full strangeness of this culture sinks in when one reads affectionate accounts (again in Best Food Writing 2009) of children clamoring to kill their own cow—or wanting to see a pig shot, then ripped open with a chain saw: “YEEEEAAAAH!”

Here too, though, an at least half-serious moral logic is at work, backed up by the subculture’s distinct body of myth, which combines half-understood evolutionary theory with the biblical idea of man as born lord of the world. Anthropological research, I should perhaps point out, now indicates that Homo sapiens started out as a paltry prey animal. Clawless, fangless, and slight of build, he could at best look forward to furtive boltings of carrion until the day he became meat himself. It took humans quite a while to learn how to gang up for self-protection and food acquisition, the latter usually a hyena-style affair of separating infant or sick animals from their herds. The domestication of pigs, cows, chickens, etc. has been going on for only about 10,000 years—not nearly long enough to breed the instincts out of them. The hideous paraphernalia of subjugation pictured in The CAFO Reader? It’s not there for nothing.

Now for the foodie version. The human animal evolved “with eyes in the front of its head, long legs, fingernails, eyeteeth—so that it could better chase down slower, stupider creatures, kill them, and eat them” (Bourdain, Medium Raw). We have eaten them for so long that meat-eating has shaped our souls (Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma). And after so many millennia of domestication, food animals have become “evolutionarily hard-wired” to depend on us (chef-writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, The River Cottage Meat Book). Every exercise of our hungry power is thus part of the Great Food Chain of Being, with which we must align our morals. Deep down—instinctively if not consciously—the “hardwired” pig understands all this, understands why he has suddenly been dragged before a leering crowd. Just don’t waste any of him afterward; that’s all he asks. Note that the foodies’ pride in eating “nose to tail” is no different from factory-farm boasts of “using everything but the oink.” As if such token frugality could make up for the caloric wastefulness and environmental damage that result from meat farming!

Naturally the food-obsessed profess as much respect for tradition as for evolution. Hamilton, in Blood, Bones and Butter, writes of her childhood dinners: “The meal was always organized correctly, traditionally, which I now appreciate.” Even relatively young traditions like the Thanksgiving turkey must be guarded zealously against efforts to change or opt out of them. Foreign traditions destigmatize every dish even for the American. In Best Food Writing 2010, one foie gras lover asks another whether he would eat tortured cat if there were sufficient Mongolian history behind the dish; the answer is yes.

How Potatoes Changed the World, by Eliyho Matz


“A present-day teacher of philosophy doesn’t select food for his pupil with the aim of flattering his taste, but with the aim of changing it.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, Peter Winch, translator
[Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980]; p. 17e.

The potato has been part of the diet of Europeans and North Americans for a long time, at least 400 years. This tuber can be baked, boiled or fried, and I assume that there are hundreds of other ways to prepare potatoes for human and non-human consumption. It seems that all modern life evolved with the vegetable tuber called “potato.” An old Yiddish folksong describes the weekly existence as including the daily consumption of potatoes; not a single day passes without the “kartofle,” or “bulbus.”

The potato enters into the European consciousness via the Peruvian Andes. (I am not going into the famous potato wars between Peru and Chile, each claiming the origin of the potato for its own sovereign state.) The Spanish Conquistadors brought the potato to Europe: Spain, France, Ireland and the rest of Europe from the early 1600’s. The Andes’ high elevation provided the ancient Incas with the agricultural opportunity to develop various varieties of potatoes that the ancient people of the region learned how to preserve so they could survive during the cold winter season. If historically we need to define the Inca civilization, we may as well call it “a potato civilization.” Of course, the Incas are no longer in existence; after a few thousand years of cultivating potatoes and potato products they mysteriously disappeared. Is it possible that the potato had anything to do with their disappearance?

The potato plant belongs to the “nightshade” family of plants, which indicates that the leaf of the plant is poisonous. Is it possible that the tuber itself is a bit poisonous? Or that it has some mind-altering chemicals in it that we do not know much about? According to botanist Judith Sumner, “the thin-walled cells that compose potatoes contain thousands of amyloplasts,” and potatoes were boiled for hours in order to get rid of the poisons.” Furthermore, “the early suspicion that potatoes are poisonous is in part correct; potato cells exposed to light synthesize solanine, a glycoalkaloid that interferes with activity of cholinesterase, and enzyme associated with activity of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.” [Judith Sumner, American Household Botany: A History of Useful Plants 1620 – 1900 (Portland: Timber Press, 2004), pp. 91-92]. The fact is, we do not really know much about the implications of the chemistry of the potato, and the Incas are not here to provide us with details about their historical/gastronomical association with potatoes. We can only guess.

Throughout the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Europeans perfected the production of potatoes with few obstacles. Bearing in mind the tragic Irish famine that is associated with potatoes, no such events appeared to happen on the European continent of such magnitude. As a matter of fact, because the potato provided such good nutrition to the continent’s inhabitants, the European population more than quadrupled over the past 200 years. “European populations increased in size as peasants began growing potatoes for their own use….” [Sumner, p. 89]. Moreover, according to historian Tom Kemp, “expansion of demand for agricultural produce, both within Germany and abroad, in the period after 1815 enabled the reorganized agrarian system to prosper.” He continues to say that a combination of political, social and agricultural factors in Germany, including the cultivation of the potato, “…brought a demographic revolution to Germany. Population rose by 59 per cent between 1816 and 1865. In 1820 it had been 25 million…and by 1910 it was almost 65 million. [Tom Kemp, Industrialization in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Longman Group Ltd: New York, 1985), p.85.] In the words of one David Ricardo, “You can make nothing of potatoes but more people, who…will only make more potatoes” [Catherine Gallagher & Stephen Greenblat, Practicing New Historicism (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 2001), pp. 133-134].

It is obvious that the leaders in the production of potatoes were the Germans. At the turn of the 20th century, the United States imported huge quantities of potatoes from Germany. American researchers of that period Grubb and Guilford, reported that “during the season of 1911-1912, the United States has imported large quantities of potatoes from Europe. The [US] crop of 1911 was a good many million bushels short of the needs of the nation….’Germany, with an area not more than twice that of Colorado, can and does produce fully two billion bushels of potatoes annually….’”[Eugene H. Grubb and W.S. Guilford, The Potato: A Compilation of Information from Every Available Source (New York: Doubleday Co., 1913], p.3, 5). The Russians and the Poles kept up their own productions and ultimately the potato evolved into a liquid called “vodka.” Variations of spirits likewise appeared in diverse locales of Europe, thus the German potato “schnapps” and its similar versions all over the continent. Cheap food, inexpensive alcohol, and intense sex brought the European population to record growth, then in actuality to intensive and extensive national wars. I would like to propose that the causes of World Wars I and II were directly related to extensive potato production and consumption. One can even attach to the madness of these wars the secret influence of the potato’s ability to bring about mind-change (as mentioned above by Judith Sumner), of which we know very little. After all this is told, the reader is possibly puzzled by these grand strikes on the white canvas producing a watercolor of a picture that might seem fantastic: the Europeans’ consumption of potatoes, which led to their high rate of reproduction and an obsession with drinking potato alcohol, thus causing them to be a bit out of control mentally and producing wars that no one could manage and that begot millions of casualties and tragedies of huge proportions.

Since the history of Jews has been my interest for many years, I will take a detour here to talk about East European Jewry. The introduction of the potato into the diet of Eastern and Central Europe, southern Russia and Poland, where Jews had resided for at least one thousand years, resulted in a quick rise in the general population, and in the Jewish population as well. It is difficult to explain the numerical rise of the East European Jewish population without taking into account the cultivation of potatoes in the vast fields of the Ukraine, Poland and Russia where the Pale settlement Jews endured over many generations. In sort of a fantastical way inspired by a fabled miracle, the potato entered Jewish religious life via the latke, or potato pancake, which has been consumed voraciously on the Chanukah holiday since its introduction in the mid-18th century. Hopefully, no one is naïve enough to suggest that the Maccabees in ancient times ate potato latkes, or levivot, or any other potato products. So we eat potatoes, and we multiply. It is difficult otherwise to figure out the increase in the Jewish population without exploring the arrival of potatoes in Eastern Europe. Jews were in tune with the other Europeans. Of course, the drastic increase of the European population led to an increase in violence in general, and to the infamous anti-Semitism in particular, which came to a boiling point in the 1880’s and caused Jews to start immigrating to America and to other Central European states. Jewish Haskalah (education) and various ideologies, among them Zionism, evolved in Eastern Europe at that time. According to historian Barbara Kreiger, a Jewish man by the name of Meshullam who lived in Palestine and converted to Christianity in the 1850’s “…planted the potatoes, which some travelers assert were unknown in Palestine at the time….The success of Meshullam’s potatoes was a momentous occasion…” [Barbara Kreiger, Divine Expectations: An American Woman in 19th-Century Palestine (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1999), p. 45] The introduction of the potato to what was then known as Palestine should be considered for its impact on the future population growth and the mental condition of the Palestinians and eventually the Zionist settlers who arrived in the 1890’s, and on the future conflict in the region.

By the early 1900’s, the potato revolution on the European continent was in full swing, and eventually, among other things, led to the Holocaust. But here an explanation is needed. The German love-affair with potatoes and potato production is a well known fact. The largest producers of potato crops by the turn of the 20th century, the Germans developed multiple uses of potatoes as food products, animal products, and alcohol and became the world’s largest consumers of potato products, all the while totally unaware of the consequences the potato would hold for them. For this population, i.e., one that was not hungry but rather well fed with potatoes, followed into the rise of Nazism led by Adolf Hitler, who advocated, among many other crazy ideas, lebensraum (in this case meaning expansion into the vast fields of Poland, the Ukraine and Russia) and the extermination of Jews. Of course, the conquest of the vast territories of Poland and Russia, especially the region where Jews were settled, ended with the Holocaust and the possibility of the Nazis (Germans) to grow more potatoes in this lebensraum. It may appear to be a bit naïve to look at the German experience during World War II and link it to potatoes, but it is inevitable in my mind not to ignore this connection. As a matter of fact, it is worthwhile to look at Gunter Grass’ renowned book and subsequently the great movie The Tin Drum to realize that his story begins with two people having sex in a potato field. I am not sure how Grass’ conscious and subconscious viewed the field of potatoes in the creation of this scene. Of course, Grass is controversial, especially recently, with his memoir, Peeling the Onion [Michael Henry Heim, translator (New York: Harcourt, 2007)], in which he admitted that as a youth, age 15 or 16, he became an SS volunteer. In any case, in the memoir, which I think represents a decent way for him to ask for forgiveness for his participation in the Nazi era experiment, he mentions potatoes at least 15 times. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate for him to call his book “Peeling Potatoes” and thus close a chapter in German national and personal shame and consciousness.

Fast-food and slow food restaurants serve huge amounts of fried, baked and mashed potatoes. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, the largest producers of potatoes are the Chinese and the Indians. We are not going to analyze here these nations’ mental conditions with such vast production and consumption of potatoes. There are a few more issues concerning potatoes. The American society is absolutely committed to the consumption of potatoes. In a vast product line as well as distribution, the potato has had an impact on our waistlines as well as our mental capabilities of thinking. Since the potato belongs to the night-shade family of plants, in which the leaves are poisonous, is it possible that the spud that produces the leaves has some poison in it, or, as botanist Judith Sumner and others suggest, at least some kind of mind-altering chemicals? Is it possible that in the future we will be able to produce organically a new type of potato that will be pink and will not have the toxic chemicals associated with the current potato? The future is pink.

I would like to apologize to the readers of this article for not having the time to use major libraries in my research on potatoes. Following is a short list of sources of interest about potatoes and potato usage:

Adam, Hans Karl. The International Wine and Food Society’s Guide to German Cookery. Publisher: Bonanza Books, 1967.

Bernand, Carmen. The Incas: People of the Sun. Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

Bushnell, G.H.S. Ancient Peoples and Places: Peru.

Conan, Terence and Kroll, Maria. The Vegetable Book. New York: Crescent Books, 1976.

Lemnis, Maria and Vitry, Henryk. Old Polish Traditions in the Kitchen and at the Table. Warsaw: Interpress Publishers, 1979.

Midgley, John. The Goodness of Potatoes and Root Vegetables. New York: Random House, 1992.

Nelson, Kay Shaw. The Eastern European Cookbook. New York: Dover Publications, Inc; 1977.

Roberts, Annie Lise. Cornucopia: The Lore of Fruits and Vegetables. New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1998.

Rysia. Old Warsaw Cook Book. New York: Roy Publishers, 1958.

A Note:

For the past eighteen years I have resided in the Berkshires of Massachusetts in the town of Great Barrington, and I must apologize for my fixation on potatoes. However, I always remind myself of another author who lived in this region many years ago who had his own fixation. His was on whales, his name Herman Melville. It seems like this mountainous region produces writers with fixations. Unlike Melville, who did not tend his own whales, I do grow my own potatoes, especially Yukon Gold.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year!

It's the Year of the Rabbit!

Barry Rubin: Robert Kagan Really Is Muslim Brotherhood's Useful Idiot

From the American Thinker:"What are we going to do -- support dictators for the rest of eternity because we don't want Islamists taking their share of some political system in the Middle East?" Thus spake Robert Kagan in advocating regime change in Egypt.

But that raises an interesting question. How many dictators is the United States supporting in the Middle East? Not many. Of course, to the Islamists the kings of Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and all the small Gulf sheikdoms are dictators. Do we regard them as such? If not, there aren't many potential dictators left.

The United States gives some help to Algeria, but that country isn't an American client. So what's left in the dictator category? Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, and the Palestinian Authority (though its government has outstayed its term)  and some others have governments picked in free elections. That's about it.

So with Tunisia gone, and the regime's fall welcomed by the United States, Egypt was the only dictatorship the United States was supporting. And indeed, the U.S. government overthrew two dictatorships -- in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and helped make them into (imperfect) democracies.

So was one remaining dictatorship too many? At any rate, Kagan's charge is false, unless he'd like to see the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood overthrow the monarchy with U.S. help.

On the other side, of course, there are a lot of dictatorships:  Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iran, and the Gaza Strip. Those dictatorships have proven to be pretty durable. Their number is increasing.

Almost everyone has forgotten how the regime that rules Egypt got started in the first place. Kagan's argument parallels what American policymakers said then: Why support a corrupt monarchy when there are these shiny young idealistic officers who will win over the people and thus be more effective bulwarks against Communism. I don't want to give the impression that the 1952 coup was mostly America's doing, but U.S. support was a factor.

The result was disastrous: Gamal Abdel Nasser became leader of the radical Arab faction and turned the Middle East upside-down for two decades.  

In Iran in 1978-1979 the administration of Jimmy Carter applied what we might call Kagan's rule:

"What are we going to do--support dictators for the rest of eternity because we don't want Islamists taking their share of some political system in the Middle East?"

And so the United States helped push the Shah out of power in the belief that a popular democratic government would emerge, the Iranian people would be happy and they would thank America. There was no need to be afraid of Islamists "taking their share." The resulting regime has turned the region upside down now for three decades. 

Now the United States is doing the same thing. Fearful of being tarred with supporting a dictator (King Farouq, the Shah) it wants to get rid of the old ally and bring in a new democratic model. Certain that the old regime's fall is "inevitable," Washington helps it along. Scoffing at the fear of radicals (nationalists in Egypt's case; Islamists in Iran's case), the United States opens the door wide to them, certain it will be rewarded for that generosity.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Is Robert Kagan an Agent of the Muslim Brotherhood?

After reading this Washington Post column threatening to punish Egypt if it successfully puts down the current Muslim Brotherhood coup attempt, one might reasonably think so...

Of course, Kagan may not be a conscious agent, or in the pay of the Muslim Brotherhood. In which case, he must be be a fellow-traveller, dupe, stooge, or useful idiot.

Andrew McCarthy on the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

From National Review:
But we have to mind that. History is rarely a Manichean contest between good and evil. It’s not a choice between the pro-Western shah and Iranian freedom, but between the shah and Khomeini’s ruthless Islamist revolution. It’s not a choice between the pro-Western Musharraf and Pakistani freedom, but between Musharraf and a tense alliance of kleptocratic socialists and Islamists. Back in the 1940s, it was not a choice between the British-backed monarchy and Egyptian freedom, but between the monarchy and a conglomeration of Nasserite pan-Arab socialists, Soviet Communists, and Brotherhood Islamists. And today, the choice is not between the pro-American Mubarak and Egyptian freedom; it is a question of whether to offer tepid support to a pro-American dictator or encourage swift transition to a different kind of tyranny — one certain to be a lot worse for us, for the West at large, and for our Israeli ally: the Muslim Brotherhood tempered only, if at all, by Mohamed ElBaradei, an anti-American leftist who willfully abetted Iran’s nuclear ambitions while running the International Atomic Energy Agency.

History is not a quest for freedom. This is particularly true in the Islamic ummah, where the concept of freedom is not reasoned self-determination, as in the West, but nearly the opposite: perfect submission to Allah’s representative on earth, the Islamic state. Coupled with a Western myopia that elevates democratic forms over the culture of liberty, the failure to heed this truth has, in just the past few years, put Hamas in charge of Gaza, positioned Hezbollah to topple the Lebanese government, and presented Islamists with Kosovo — an enduring sign that, where Islam is concerned, the West can be counted on to back away even from the fundamental principle that a sovereign nation’s territorial integrity is inviolable.

The Obama administration has courted Egyptian Islamists from the start. It invited the Muslim Brotherhood to the president’s 2009 Cairo speech, even though the organization is officially banned in Egypt. It has rolled out the red carpet to the Brotherhood’s Islamist infrastructure in the U.S. — CAIR, the Muslim American Society, the Islamic Society of North America, the Ground Zero mosque activists — even though many of them have a documented history of Hamas support. To be sure, the current administration has not been singular in this regard. The courting of Ikhwan-allied Islamists has been a bipartisan project since the early 1990s, and elements of the intelligence community and the State Department have long agitated for a license to cultivate the Brotherhood overtly. They think what Anwar Sadat thought: Hey, we can work with these guys.

There is a very good chance we are about to reap what they’ve sown. We ought to be very afraid.
BTW, the Muslim Brotherhood has it's own English-language website:

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

US State Department Discusses Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Role

From today's daily press briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley:
QUESTION: Yeah, what about the Muslim Brotherhood?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, again --

QUESTION: How about Ayman Nour?

QUESTION: Are you talking to the Muslim Brotherhood?

MR. CROWLEY: This is not our process. This is not our list. We do not have a favorite candidate or candidates. We are not going to anoint any successor to President Mubarak. These are decisions to be made by the Egyptian people as part of a transition that occurs in Egypt. Our point is this transition, this process to fundamental change needs to begin now. If any figure wants to play a role in this process, they can come forward. If any group --

QUESTION: Does that include the Muslim Brotherhood? Does that include the Muslim Brotherhood?

MR. CROWLEY: If any group wants to come forward and play a role in a democratic process, a peaceful process, that is their right as Egyptians. It’s not for us, the United States, to dictate this.

QUESTION: What about the Muslim Brotherhood? Can you talk about the Muslim Brotherhood and whether there have been any contacts with them and whether you think that the Muslim Brotherhood should be part of any political process? You say you’re not going to anoint anybody, but what if a figure from Muslim Brotherhood emerges as the primary candidate to lead the country?

MR. CROWLEY: Again --

QUESTION: Specifically on the Muslim Brotherhood?

MR. CROWLEY: We have not met with the Muslim Brotherhood.

QUESTION: Have you spoken to --

QUESTION: Okay. Can – no, but what if – should they be part of a political process?

MR. CROWLEY: No, we have had no contact with the Muslim Brotherhood.

QUESTION: But should they be part of a political process? They obviously have a following in the country.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, that is up to them. They are a fact of life in Egypt. They are highly organized. And if they choose, and if they choose to participate and respect the democratic process, that is a – those are decisions to be made inside Egypt. The army obviously will play a role in this transition. There are a broad variety of political figures, political groups, political actors that can participate if they choose. These are decisions to be made inside Egypt.

QUESTION: Have you met – have you asked to meet the Muslim Brotherhood?


QUESTION: Why not?

QUESTION: Wait. P.J. --

QUESTION: Well, it’s obvious that the --

QUESTION: I mean, you’ve met with other opposition members. Who – can you say who you’ve met with? Ayman Nour, you’ve met with – can you give a decent --

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have a list here. We are doing an aggressive, active outreach to a broad range of figures. We have always done that. We’re going to continue to do that. We’ve been very active in the last few days. I can’t detail all the people we have and have not. You asked a specific question. We have not had contact with the Muslim Brotherhood.

QUESTION: But why don’t you meet with the Muslim Brotherhood? What’s the reason not to meet with them?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m – we will meet with figures. If we meet with anyone along those lines, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Do you give conditions before you meet with people?

QUESTION: Are you saying that the reports about the meeting with – that Ambassador Wisner has had with the Muslim Brotherhood representatives is false?

MR. CROWLEY: I was in touch with Ambassador Wisner on the airplane as he was coming back. He had two meetings, one with President Mubarak and one with Vice President Suleiman.

QUESTION: So is the report false or is it not false?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I’m just telling you he had two meetings. So if you’re saying, "Did Mr. Wisner meet with the Muslim Brotherhood," the answer is no.

QUESTION: Why is it obvious that the army is going to play a role in this transition? This is a democratic transition. Shouldn’t it be led by civilians only?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, it’s not for us to determine who wants to participate. The army is a respected institution within Egyptian society. You’re going to go through fundamental changes in Egyptian society. The army, as a respected institution, can play a role in this. But again, these are decisions to be made inside Egypt.

QUESTION: P.J., could you share with us the future --

QUESTION: But why didn’t – wouldn’t it have made sense – wouldn’t it make sense to leave Frank Wisner on the ground a bit longer? You keep talking about the private advice you’re giving the government. You sent this trusted emissary over, he had two meetings, and he came back. Was there nothing more for him to do?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have an Ambassador, Margaret Scobey, who conducts our day-to-day business with the Government of Egypt. She is doing a brilliant job. She is engaged with members of civil society. She is engaged with political figures every day. And she will be our point person on a day-to-day basis as --

QUESTION: Should we --

MR. CROWLEY: -- Egypt goes through this transition.

QUESTION: Should we interpret that, then, to mean that Wisner accomplished what he was sent there to do? Or that the response was such that there was no point in him staying any longer?

MR. CROWLEY: Ambassador Wisner has a longstanding relationship with President Mubarak and other key leaders within the Egyptian Government. We thought it was useful for Ambassador Wisner to go over and have a two-way conversation as a means of providing his perspective to President Mubarak given their friendship, and also to bring back his judgment as to what the situation is at the highest levels of the Egyptian Government. He will report back to the President and the Secretary when he lands.

Martin Kramer: Obama's Egypt

From Martin Kramer's Facebook response to a recent story on The Atlantic online:
Did White House staff really get a briefing informing them that "Egypt wasn't a Muslim country" and that "Hosni Mubarak was a Coptic Christian of a certain sect"?

US NGOs Become Haiti Election Issue

As a result of the election, Haitians have begun a revolt against NGOs, according to today's Washington Post:
Haitian officials speak of being "overrun" by "an invasion" of NGOs. Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said that foreign NGOs operate in Haiti with little regard to government planning and that their presence, while necessary, can actually undermine long-term recovery efforts. By funneling most aid dollars through the NGOs rather than the government, which struggles with a legacy of corruption, the NGOs condemn the country to a cycle of dependence, he said.

Michel Martelly, the popular carnival singer who has become a top contender in the chaotic presidential election, promised that if elected, his government would rein in the NGOs and change how they do business in Haiti.

"We will allow them to function, but I will tell them what to do and where to do it," Martelly said in an interview. "We are going to impose a system to oversee what is done. We are going to get control of them."

NEA Chair Rocco Landesman Tells It Like It Is

The National Endowment for the Arts Chair himself has said it...and it's greatly to his credit:
Examine our arts infrastructure. There are 5.7 million arts workers in this country and two million artists. Do we need three administrators for every artist? Resident theaters in this country began as collectives of artists. They have become collectives of arts administrators. Do we need to consider becoming more lightly institutionalized in order to get more creativity to more audiences more often? It might also allow us to pay artists more.

More at Linda Essig's CreativeInfrastructure blog.

Groundhog Day Verdict: No Shadow This Year

Via the Huffington Post:
Punxsutawney Phil emerged just after dawn on Groundhog Day to make his 125th annual weather forecast in front of a smaller-than-usual crowd who braved muddy, icy conditions to hear his handlers reveal that he had not seen his shadow.

Including Wednesday's forecast, Phil has seen his shadow 98 times and hasn't seen it just 16 times since 1887, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle, which runs the event. There are no records for the remaining years, though the group has never failed to issue a forecast.

Two years ago, Phil's forecast also acknowledged the Pittsburgh Steelers' Super Bowl XLIII win the night before. This year, Sunday's game was mentioned in the forecast but no winner was predicted between the Steelers and the Green Bay Packers, who meet in Dallas for Super Bowl XLV.

"The Steelers are going to the Super Bowl," Mike Johnson, vice president of the Inner Circle, said just before the forecast was read, drawing cheers from the clearly partisan crowd gathered on Gobbler's Knob, a tiny hill in this borough of about 6,100 residents some 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

The Groundhog Day celebration is rooted in a German superstition that says if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2, the Christian holiday of Candlemas, winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow was seen, legend said spring would come early.

In reality, Pennsylvania's prophetic rodent doesn't see much of anything. The result is actually decided in advance by 14 members of the Inner Circle, who don tuxedos and top hats for the event.

Marc Ginsberg on Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

From the Huffington Post:
Given its status as an illegal organization, there are only rough guestimates how many Egyptians would identify themselves as either members or support of the Brotherhood until its cells emerge from their secret hiding places.

That poses a real dilemma for anyone trying to accurately predict the Brotherhood's political strength in any free and fair election, of which there hasn't been any in Egypt.

Moreover, since 1928, its virulent paleo-jihadi salafist ideology remains a cornerstone of its political charter. It's Arabic motto remains unchanged: "Allah is our objective, the Prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, Jihad is our way, and dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope... Allahu akbar!"

And despite efforts to sanitize its salafist rhetoric, the Brotherhood is patently undemocratic in its rigid orthodoxy. Although banned, it fields candidates for Egypt's parliament as "independents" and have, by objective observers, accounted for garnering at least 20% of the parliamentary vote in 2005. No one knows what would happen if it were permitted to field more candidates in a free and fair election.

It's preoccupation with Egypt's parliamentary elections is merely a means to an end. The Brothers have been consistent in their goal to use whatever political avenues avail themselves to monopolize power, and then, pass whatever man-made laws are necessary to usher in Allah's ultimate law on the land.

Also, let us not forget that the Muslim Brotherhood is the primary benefactor and best friend of the terrorist organization, Hamas, which it spawned. However it may be cloaked in inoffensive-sounding language, the Brothers share Hamas' unmitigated hatred of Jews and Israel. And it is the hub of a largely underground radical Islamist political wheel, with many spokes in each major Arab nation... a true transnational Islamic political apparatus.

This is just the tip of a deep, foreboding iceberg. It would be short-sighted and naive for anyone to assert that as currently constituted, the Brotherhood has defanged itself to accommodate its future to a globalizing, more peaceful moderate Islamic institution.

Nonie Darwish on Egypt

From the Huffington Post:
I am therefore not optimistic that the current uprising will bring democracy. Many Egyptians believe they can combine democracy with Sharia Islamic law. That is the first unrealistic expectation. Sixty percent of Egyptians want to live under Sharia law, but do not understand the ramifications. Many chant "Allahu Akbar" and "Islam is the solution." But the truth is, Islam can be the problem.

The most dangerous law in Sharia that stands in the way of democracy is the one that states, "A Muslim head of state can hold office through seizure of power, meaning through force." That law is why Muslim leaders turn into despots in order to survive. When a Muslim leader is removed from office by force, we often see the Islamic media and masses accept it and even cheer for the new leader who has just ousted or killed the former leader, who is often called a traitor to the Islamic cause.

That was what happened to the Egyptian King Farouk in 1952. The assassination of Mubarak's predecessor, Anwar Sadat, followed many fatwas of death against him for having violated his Islamic obligations to make Israel an eternal enemy. He became an apostate in the eyes of the hard-liners and had to be killed or removed from office. This is the reality of what Sharia has done and is still doing that causes political chaos in the Muslim world.

Many in the Muslim world lack the understanding of what is hindering them, as well as the foundation for forming a stable democratic political system. I fear that my brothers and sisters in Egypt will embrace extremism instead of education. I worry that they will continue to rise and fall, stumbling from one revolution to another and living from one autocrat to another while seeking the ideal Islamic state that never was. The 1,400 year old Islamic history of tyranny will continue unless Sharia law is rejected as the basis of the legal and political systems in Muslim countries.