Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Out of the crouch.

The choice between Clinton and Obama is the choice between a defensive crouch and a confident engagement. It is the choice between someone who lost their beliefs in a welter of fear; and someone who has faith that his worldview can persuade a majority.
Andrew Sullivan.


American psyche.

Writer Proves Stupidity Of Americans With Guardian Column.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Child abuse?

According to the Social Security Administration, "Xzavier" was the 617th most popular boy's name last year.

Satchmo plays Khartoum.

Two days later, the Sudanese came to the hotel to ask how I was feeling. How am I feeling? Oh, my friends, you want to know how I feel? Yes, how do you feel, because Louis Armstrong is coming, there's a concert tomorrow in the stadium.

I am instantly better.

The stadium was quite a distance outside the city, small, shallow, with a capacity of at most five thousand spectators. Even so, only half the seats were occupied. In the center of the field stood a podium, weakly illuminated, but we were sitting near the front and could see Armstrong and his small orchestra well. The evening was hot and airless, and when Armstrong walked out, attired moreover in a jacket and bow tie, he was already soaked with perspiration. He greeted everyone, raising into the air the hand holding his golden trumpet and said into the cheap, crackling microphone that he was pleased to be playing in Khartoum, and not only pleased, but downright delighted, after which he broke into his full, loose, infectious laugh. It was laughter that invited others to laugh along, but the audience remained aloofly silent, not quite certain how to behave. The drums and the bass resounded and Armstrong launched into a song appropriate enough to the time and place -- "Sleepy Time Down South." It is actually difficult to say when one first heard Armstrong's voice; there is something in it that makes one feel one has known it for ever, and when he starts to sing, everyone, with the most sincere conviction of his or her connoisseurship, proclaims: Why yes, that's him, that's Satchmo!

Yes, that was him -- Satchmo. He sang "Hello Dolly, this is Louis, Dolly," he sang "What a Wonderful World" and "Moon River," he sang "I touch your lips and all at once the sparks go flying, those devil lips." But the spectators continued to sit silently. There was no applause. Did they not understand the words? Was there too much openly expressed eroticism in all this for Muslim tastes?

After each number, and even during the playing and singing, Armstrong wiped his face with a large white handkerchief. These handkerchiefs were constantly changed for him by a man whose sole purpose in accompanying Armstrong around Africa seemed to have been this. I saw later that he had an entire bag of them, dozens and dozens probably.

After the concert people dispersed quickly, vanishing into the night. I was shocked. I had heard that Armstrong's concerts elicited great enthusiasm, frenzy, ecstasy. There was no trace of these raptures in the stadium in Khartoum, despite the fact that Satchmo played many songs from the American South, from Alabama and Louisiana, where he himself came from -- songs that had originated with African slaves. But by then their Africa and this one here belonged to different worlds, lacking a common language unable to communicate much less partake of an emotional oneness.

The Sudanese drove me back to the hotel. We sat down on the terrace for some lemonade. Moments later a car brought Armstrong. He sat down with relief at a table, or, more precisely, he collapsed into the chair. He was a stout, thickset man with wide, drooping shoulders. The waiter brought him an orange juice. He downed it in a single gulp, and then another glass, and another. He was depleted, sitting with his head bowed, silent. He was sixty years old at the time and -- something I didn't then know -- already suffering from heart disease. Armstrong during the concert and Armstrong immediately after it were two entirely different people: the first was merry, cheerful, animated, with a powerful voice, able to coax an astonishing range of tones from his trumpet; the second was heavy, exhausted, weak, his face covered in wrinkles, extinguished.
Ryszard Kapuscinski, Travels With Herodotus 121-23 (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007). The notion that Muslim Sudanese would be touched by a shared heritage with songs from the American South is touchingly naive, really.

Fermor and Durrell, together on Rhodes.

Attentive readers will have figured out that I've been taking a literary tour of Greece, first with Patrick Leigh Fermor's Mani and then with Lawrence Durrell's Prospero's Cell and Reflections On A Marine Venus. It turns out that Fermor and Durrell were acquainted, and Fermor once wrote a short piece in which he described visiting Durrell on Rhodes during the postwar period described in the latter book:
When the war was over, I read Prospero’s Cell in its actual literary setting of Corfu, during that first miraculous summer, and soon Xan [Fielding] and I and the Corn Goddess (as Larry called her; we eventually married) went to see Larry on Rhodes. We found him settled into the Villa Cleobolus among old Turkish tombstones and elaborate black-and-white pebble mosaics dappled with the shadows of leaves. It was an amazing sojourn, spent in talk and music and feasting, and one afternoon, in the ruins of ancient Camirus, wine-sprung curiosity set the four of us crawling on hands and knees through the bat-infested warren of underground water-conduits. We climbed out covered in droppings and dust and cobwebs, and our exploration reached an extraordinary climax when Xan leaped a couple of yards from the coping of a high ruined wall on to the top of an Ionic column twelve feet high which rocked frighteningly on its stylobate for several seconds. At last, as we watched with held breath, it became static with its new arrival poised on the capitol – for some reason, but most appropriately, with nothing on – like a flying stylite.

Reflections on a Marine Venus, which captures these Rhodian months, was an admirable successor to Prospero’s Cell. Each island gave birth to a book and a new sheaf of poems, and they made one look at Greece with a different glance and the same excitement and zest as the Tyrrhene coast and Calabria prompted in the pages of Norman Douglas. We visited him later in Cyprus and the midnight echoes of the vaults of Bellapaix Abbey resound in the memory still.
Patrick Leigh Fermor, "Reflections on a Marine Vulcan," 33 Twentieth Century Literature no. 3 305, 306 (Fall 1987). I guess I should have turned to Norman Douglas next, but instead it's Ryszard Kapuscinski.

But why?

Kieren Healy knows where Tyler Cowen's secret blog is but he isn't telling.

Playing chess with death.

Ingmar Bergman just died at 89, evoking this:

Friday, July 27, 2007

The kalamatiano.

At the festival of St. Soulas, on Rhodes, in the summer of 1947:
Two more big drums have begun to beat with punctual emphasis and one circle of dancers is beginning to form below me on the slope. They are gathered round a cluster of music-makers, dummer, violinist, clarinettist and guitar, who stand back to back, heads inclined towards one another. The dances always unfold like this from the centre, in a flower-like pattern. For a moment or so the participants stand in a semi-circle about the musicians, listening with lowered heads and nodding to establish the time: then they begin, slowly, hesitantly, to dance, the subtle meshes of their footwork calculated, deliberate, matching itself to the scribbling of the strings. Then, one by one, they appear to catch fire; their heads rise on their shoulders, their tip-tilted chins begin to carry upwards from the very ankles the smiles of recognition which light their faces. As the circle moves slowly about its centre -- the little statuary group musicians -- it begins to establish the authority of the rhythm, rising, you feel, as much from the warm dust of the earth as from the music that is being made. In a little while too, the musicians begin to feel the established circuit, and raise their heads with a sort of pleased relief; they relinquish the melody to its own created momentum and allow it to be carried away on the tide of the dancing feet. Meanwhile the circle itself is growing as new dancers break into the circumference at every point, taking up the rhythms from the twinkling feet of their neighbours', smoothly as candles taking a light from one other. Soon the whole organism has developed its own life and swallowed up the individuality of each of its members, accepting it into the rhythm of the whole, which now moves round and round the live hollow centre of music with the queer archaic peristaltic movements of the kalamatiano -- the most graceful and earth-coaxing of all Greek dances. From where I sit I cannot hear the highly syncopated jabber of the violins with any clarity: but the spicy afternoon air begins to tremble at the thump of the big drum which marks the end fo each bar with a cavernous wallop. The circle wheels and sways, ever-widening as new dancers surrender to its magical appeal.
Lawrence Durrell, Reflections On A Marine Venus 166-67 (E.P. Dutton & Co., 1960).

Thursday, July 26, 2007

New depths.

You have to hand it to the Attorney General, who has transcended whatever limits one might have imagined to his shamelessness and fecklessness. To have put himself in the position to be charged with perjury is no small feat for the nation's top law enforcement officer, but to have as the star witness against him his nominal subordinate, the director of the FBI, is, well, simply astounding.

The wit of the staircase.

"A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo sapiens--second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter. Millions survive without love or home, almost none in silence; the opposite of silence leads quickly to narrative, and the sound of story is the dominant sound of our lives, from the small accounts of our day's events to the vast incommunicable constructs of psychopaths."

--Reynolds Price

These seem to have been Theresa Duncan's last words, posted to her blog on July 10, the day that the LA Times reports she was found dead in her East Village apartment. A week later her boyfriend, Jeremy Blake, was seen walking into the ocean. No one has seen him since.

Ron Rosenbaum is asking questions about their deaths, here, here and here. Foremost: Is Blake really dead?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The water of Corfu.

Abstemious in the matter of drinks, the Greeks produce their own light wines and cognacs in abundance. Yet during our whole stay here we have seen a drunk person not more than once; and more endearing still, we have discovered that these people have so delicate a palate as to be connoisseuers of cold water. The glass of water appears everywhere; it is an adjunct to every kind of sweetmeat, and even to alcohol. It has a kind of biblical significance. When a Greek drinks water he tastes it, and pressing it against the palate, savours it. The peasants will readily tell you which wells give the sweetest water, while even the townspeople retain a delicate taste in water, and are able to recognize the different sources from which the little white town handcarts (covered in green boughs) are replenished.
Two days before Christmas we climbed the dizzy barren razorback of Pantocratoras to the monastery from which the whole strait lay bare, lazy and dancing in the cold haze. Lines of dazzling water crept out from Butrinto, and southward, like a beetle on a plate, the Italian steamer jogged its six knots towards Ithaca. Clouds were massing over Albania, but the flat lands of Epirus were frosty bright. In the little cell of the warden monk, whose windows gave directly upon the distant sea, and the vague rulings of waves to the east, we sat at a deal table and accepted the most royal of hospitalities -- fresh mountain walnuts and pure water from the highest spring; water that had been carried up on the backs of women in stone jars for several hundred feet.
Lawrence Durrell, Prospero's Cell 97 (E.P. Dutton & Co., 1960).


Tom Toles, via litbrit.


Eve Fairbanks, in The New Republic, on the Attorney General's particular brand of fecklessness:
That Gonzales wants to remain attorney general to heal the department he screwed up so badly--an idea he put forth many times at the hearing--is the apotheosis of the audacity displayed in these smaller episodes. He's already weathered the worst of this scandal, and he knows he probably won't go now. And so Gonzales was neither defensive, as most political types tend to be when under attack, nor contrite. He just appeared to be entirely without shame. Like the broken mole in a Whack-A-Mole console, no matter how many blows he receives, he maintains his infuriatingly rigid smile and won't go down. In this he recalls Bush during Katrina, Rumsfeld during Iraq, Cheney--well, Cheney all the time. In the end, I think this peculiarly uniform immunity to feelings of shame or remorse will stand as this administration's defining trait.
My pal G. points out that this absence of shame has been a boon, a competitive advantage to the Administration that has permitted it to get down to the business of enriching its friends and realizing its ideological goals without hindrance. Does Cheney have any time to feel shame? Hell, no -- he's got more important goals, and less than two years left in which to realize them.

A Phillipines prison takes rehabilitation in a whole new direction.

The Algorithm March is explained here. More from the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center can be found here, here, and here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

She's not baking cookies.

According to Politico, which seems like an appropriate source for this story, Fred Thompson forced out his campaign manager because he didn't get along with Thompson's wife:
Tom Collamore, the former Altria lobbyist who had been running Fred Thompson's campaign, has resigned . . . . Collamore will stay on as a "senior adviser" to the effort, but with a diminished role. Accounts vary as to what exactly happened, but Collamore was reportedly unhappy with the level of involvement of Thompson's wife, Jeri . . . .
Digby, who read Politico so that I don't have to, says:
The press gave Bill and Hillary Clinton such a hard time for her involvement in his political life, and here we have alleged traditional values candidates Giuliani and Frederick of Hollywood with second and third wives on the front lines whom they are just as proud as punch to allow to run roughshod over their campaigns. Rudy is so attached to Judy that he wants her in cabinet meetings.
Digby also says:
It will be interesting to see if the press finds this as fascinating as John Edwards' haircuts and Hillary Clinton's cleavage.
No: It won't, and they won't.

Look out below.

Don't stand under the plunging housing market . . . .

eta: The New York Times has more:
Countrywide Financial, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, said yesterday that more borrowers with good credit were falling behind on their loans and that the housing market might not begin recovering until 2009 because of a decline in house prices that goes beyond anything experienced in decades.

Now established in the Everglades.

Closing the barn door after the Burmese pythons are loose:
Skip Snow, a federal biologist in Everglades National Park, would love to spend his days monitoring the dizzying array of native wildlife across this 1.5-million-acre “river of grass” west of the ever-expanding Miami metropolis.

Lately, however, he has been spending ever more time studying the remains of the park’s birds and animals, extracted from the stomachs of captured or road-killed Burmese pythons, the latest — and most spectacular — addition to Florida’s growing list of biological interlopers. . . .

“We’ve found everything, from very small mammals — native cotton mice, native cotton rats, rabbits, squirrels, possums, raccoons, even a bobcat, most recently the hooves of a deer,” Mr. Snow said. “Wading birds and water birds, pied-billed grebes, coots, egrets, limpkins and at least one big alligator.”

The South Asian snakes, which can top 200 pounds and 20 feet, probably entered the park as discards or escapees from the bustling global trade in exotic pets. Year-old, footlong pythons are a popular $70 item at reptile fairs and on the Web but in a few years can reach room-spanning, cat-munching size, prompting some owners to abandon them by the roadside. That practice may not pose an ecological problem in Detroit, Mr. Snow said, but in a near-tropical Florida park, it is an unfolding nightmare.

Some very rough estimates put the state’s pet python population above 5,000. More than 350 have been found in the park since 2002, with others showing up in mangroves along Florida’s west coast and farther north in the state. There are perhaps 10 more for every one that is seen, Mr. Snow said.

In May 2006, biologists confirmed that Everglades pythons were not a transient curiosity when they found the first eggs. “There were 46 eggs, 44 fertile,” Mr. Snow said. Shortly afterward, they found another clutch of two dozen, already hatched.

Signs abound, he said, that the pythons are still colonizing new terrain. “This is a species that is really made for invading.”

And they're hard to find:

On a recent checkup on several tagged females, Mr. Snow and Lori Oberhofer, another park biologist, headed out in Mr. Snow’s battered, white S.U.V. with a beeping radio-tracking receiver and “Python Pete,” a beagle trained to sniff out pythons.

The challenge of extirpating such snakes in such a vast place becomes clear up close. Even when the beeps and snuffling dog indicated that a 10-foot python was between Mr. Snow and a reporter 15 feet away, the animal could not be located for a couple of minutes — until it slid directly past the reporter’s soggy shoes.

But wait, there'll be more:
Despite his focus on pythons, Mr. Snow’s greatest worry remains the next species down the line, whatever that may be.

Amid the bags of frozen biological items back in the park laboratory was a coiled eight-foot-long yellow-bellied snake that Mr. Snow received in January. A forestry crew in Big Cypress National Preserve had stumbled on the animal, he said. “They assumed it was a python, but when I looked at it and saw it had nostrils on top of its head, I said, ‘Oops, this is no python.’ ”

It was a yellow anaconda, from South America, not South Asia.

“Is this one individual or a population?” he mused. “Do we put a moratorium on sales or do nothing? Is it the new kid on the block? We don’t know yet.”

Going to the dogs.

When I was in graduate school, I remember one of my fellow students mentioning that raising the subject of dogs is a known tactic among community organizers when public meetings are not going the way they want them to. Dogs raise strong emotions for and against that hardly ever correlate to issues that community organizers might be working on - like affordable housing, stopping Wal-Mart, etc. So when a meeting needs to collapse or a decision needs to be postponed, someone just needs to say something about dogs - it doesn't matter whether for or against. Suddenly the meeting will shift topics, and a completely new set of allegiances and divisions will form.
Steve Harrison of Blacksburg, Va., quoted by Jon Carroll in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Monkey's Paw.

This is excellent!

Watching the Tour de France.

Anna checks it out:
On Tuesday Nick and I went to Compiegne to see the Tour de France. Our day there consisted of several hours of loafing around in cafes drinking and reading, two hours of waiting by the race route and watching various promotional vehicles drive by (bottled water,, Haribo candies, shower gel, and Les Simpsons all favored us with free giveaways), and approximately 90 seconds of bicycle racing. That 90 seconds was cool, but given that it was only 90 seconds, I kind of don't get France's national obsession with bicycle racing. I kept reminding myself that the French probably don't understand the appeal of Nascar or the Kentucky Derby, but then I remembered that I don't like those things, either.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Athenian cats.

The cats of Athens, like the citizens, are very intelligent. Just after the war I used to eat almost every night in an open-air taverna in the Plaka. One end of the garden was separated by a high wall from an outdoor cinema, and at the same moment every night, a huge black and white tom-cat stalked over the tiles to sit with his back towards us on this wall, intend and immobile except for the slow rhythmic sway of his hanging tail. After exactly five minutes he would saunter away again over the roofs. The waiter's verdict on this procedure was obviously correct. "He comes for the Mickey Mouse every night," he explained. "You could set your watch by him."
Patrick Leigh Fermor, Mani 301 (NYRB, 2006).


Christ Pantokrator, from the Toplou Monastery in Crete, late 15th century

Paul Halsell at Fordham has put some work into this excellent gallery of Byzantine images, and also links to other on-line resources.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Lost in translation, or gained?

Thursday, July 19, 2007


LessinSF took this shot in Bratislava:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

On the trail of gorgons.

I had some news of a gorgon three years ago, the greatest of them, in the rocky little island of Seriphos, windiest of the Cyclades. An intelligent boy of nine took me under his wing the moment I landed, and turned himself into a most instructive guide. After explaining the windmills and the churches, he led the way, halfway on hands and knees, up a steep rock face to a chapel jutting from the cliff. Once we were inside, he pointed to a spot between his feet on the floor, which was half irregular slabs and half excavated rock, and said with a broad smile: "Guess what's down there!" I gave up. "The head of Medusa the Gorgon!" he said, "they buried it there out of harm's way -- fathoms and fathoms down. Her hair was all snakes!" He flourished his hands in the penumbra overhead, hissing and mimicking with his fingers the dart of forked tongues. "It was in case it should sting people. . . ." It was in Seriphos that Perseus, with a flourish of his dripping and petrifying trophy, turned the tyrant Polydectes to a statue along with all his toadies at the banquet. This gesticulating boy made it seem as though it had all occurred last week.
Patrick Leigh Fermor, Mani 217 (NYRB, 2006) (originally published in 1958 -- that boy is 58 now).

Genre fiction rises from the grave.

"God damn that Chabon, dragging it out of the grave where she and the other serious writers had buried it to save serious literature from its polluting touch, the horror of its blank, pustular face, the lifeless, meaningless glare of its decaying eyes!" Read Ursula K. Le Guin.

H/t RepubAnon.

The decline and fall of Robin Williams.

Where funny goes to die, in Radar.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Everyone rides Trenitalia.

Tim Parks commutes from Verona to Milan, not a strange thing in Italy:
First and foremost, train tickets must be cheap, or seen to be so. People's desire to live in one city while working in another requires this. It is the structure of Italian nationhood. Which leaves little room for the market. A student has to be able to afford to travel home every weekend. The friends you make at primary school are your friends for life, you can't be without them. And who will do your laundry if not your dear mother? There are very few laundromats in Italy. So to travel from Verona to Milan -- 148 kilometers my ticket tells me -- costs only 6.82 euros, peak or off-peak, weekend or weekday. About £4.50. It's a joke. And there are big reductions for students, for conscript soldiers, pensioners and a variety of other groups, needy and not. Priests and nuns travel free.
Tim Parks, "Trenitalia," 94 Granta 161, 164-65 (Summer, 2006).

Monday, July 16, 2007


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Does the shoe fit?

Robert Novak certainly is a conservative hack, but is he an ideologue? Does he seem to believe in anything?

Worth too little.

Millions of Indian coins are being smuggled into neighbouring Bangladesh and turned into razor blades. And that's creating an acute shortage of coins in many parts of India, officials say.

Police in Calcutta say that the recent arrest of a grocer highlights the extent of the problem. They seized what they said was a huge coin-melting unit which he was operating in a run-down shack...

"Our one rupee coin is in fact worth 35 rupees, because we make five to seven blades out of them," the grocer allegedly told the police.

BBC, via Tyler Cowen.

Amaze friends and strangers.

How to cold read.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Good touch.

Megan says that some people just have good touch. Who knew?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

But he does want to talk about Michael Bennett.

Don't ask about Phil Nugent's day job, but if you like what you hear you should check out Then We Came To The End.

Recommended by G.

G. tells me that Michael Pollan's new book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, is quite good and ought to be read by right-minded folks everywhere.

Karl Marx, Prometheus of the working class.

It is Prometheus who remains his favorite hero; for Prometheus is a Satan who suffers, a Job who never assents; and, unlike either Job or Satan, he brings liberation to mankind. Prometheus turns up in Das Kapital (in Chapter Twenty-three) to represent the proletariat chained to capital. The Light-Bringer was tortured, we remember, by Zeus's eagle's tearing, precisely, his liver, as Karl Marx himself -- who is said to have reread Aeschylus every year -- was obsessed by the fear that his liver would be eaten like his father's by cancer. And yet, if it is a devouring bird which Father Zeus has sent against the rebel, it is also a devourer, a destroyer, fire, which Prometheus has brought to man. And in the meantime the deliverer is never delivered; the slayer never rises from the grave. The resurrection, although certain, is not yet; for the expropriators are yet to expropriated.
Edmund Wilson, To The Finland Station 311 (NYRB, 2003).

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Classic ceviche.

1 lb fresh, skinless snapper, bass, halibut or other ocean fish fillets (the fish I listed I like because they have a large flake or meaty texture), cut into 1/2-inch cubes or slightly smaller

About 1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice

1 medium white onion, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

1 lb (2 medium-large round or 6 to 8 plum) ripe tomatoes, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

Fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 2 to 3 serranos or 1 to 2 jalapenos), stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few leaves for garnish

1/3 cup chopped pitted green olives (choose manzanillos for a typical Mexican flavor)

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin (optional, but recommended to give a glistening appearance)


3 tablespoons fresh orange juice OR 1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 large or 2 small ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and diced

Tostados or tortilla chips, store-bought or homemade, or saltine crackers for serving
Makes about 4 1/2 cups, serving 8 as an appetizer, 12 as a nibble.

1. Marinating the Fish. In 1 1/2-quart glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the fish, lime juice and onion. You'll need enough to juice to cover the fish and allow it to float somewhat freely; too little juice means unevenly "cooked" fish. Cover and refrigerate for about 4 hours, until a cube of fish no longer looks raw when broken open. Pour into a colander and drain off the lime juice.

2. The Flavorings. In large bowl, mix together the tomatoes, green chiles, cilantro, olives and optional olive oil. Stir in the fish, then taste and season with salt, usually about 3/4 teaspoon, and the orange juice or sugar (the sweetness of the orange juice or sugar helps balance some of the typical tanginess of the ceviche). Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately.

3. Serving the Ceviche. Just before serving, stir in the diced avocado, being careful not to break up the pieces. For serving, you have several options: Set out your ceviche in a large bowl and let people spoon it onto individual plates to eat with chips or saltines; serve small bowls of ceviche (I like to lay a bed of frisee lettuce in each bowl before spooning in the ceviche) and serve tostadas, chips or saltines alongside; or pile the ceviche onto chips or tostadas and pass around for guests to consume on these edible little plates. Whichever direction you choose, garnish the ceviche with leaves of cilantro before setting it center stage.

Working Ahead: The fish can be marinated a day in advance; after about 4 hours, when the fish is "cooked," drain it so that it won't become too limy. For the freshest flavor, add the flavorings to the fish no more than a couple of hours before serving.

From Rick Bayless, with Jeanmarie Brownson and Deann Groen Bayless, Mexico: One Plate At A Time 14-15 (Scribner, 2000).

The Cossacks work for the Czar.

At this hour, the lead story at SFGate.com is a piece by Tom Raum of the Associated Press suggested that Vice President Cheney's act is wearing thin on the GOP. His approval ratings are low, and the Libby commutation has brought (more) unwanted publicity. He's a punching bag for Democrats, of course, but Raum suggests that Cheney is losing Republican support, too:

Is anyone listening to Cheney any more?

The vice president shuffled alone and in silence out of a luncheon of Republican senators last week amid defections on Iraq by GOP senators and as the administration's immigration overhaul went down to defeat.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, branded as "unfounded" Cheney's claim to extra protections for his office because of his constitutional powers to preside over the Senate and break ties.

"I don't think he handles too many documents in that capacity. He handles a gavel. That's about all he handles," Specter said in an interview. . . .

Cheney has seen his influence wane with rank-and-file Republicans and even conservatives, once his most ardent supporters. They are uneasy about Cheney's signing onto Bush's attempt to liberalize immigration law; spread democracy in the Middle East, which they deride as "nation building"; the amassing of record budget deficits; and even Cheney's support for certain gay rights (a daughter, Mary, is openly lesbian).

"We don't feel we're invested in Cheney, because he hasn't — in any way we're aware of — carried any of our water in these 6 1/2 years," conservative activist Richard Viguerie said. . . .

"He must be an awfully bruised guy at this point. I think his star has set," said Thomas E. Cronin, a political science professor at Colorado College, where Cheney's wife, Lynne, and their daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, went to college.

All of this is incredibly misguided. Cheney does not rely on Arlen Specter or other Republican senators, and he does not need the support of of Richard Vigueroe or the esteem of political scientists to do what he does. Cheney's star will have set when -- and only when -- President Bush stops listening to him and shuts him out. And if you think that has happened, I have a bridge to sell you.

The many faces of socialism's failures in the United States.

[I]t was the United States, with its new social optimism and the enormous unoccupied spaces, which was to become the great nursery for [socialist] experiments. . . .

. . . Robert Owen came to America in 1824 and started an Owenite movemen: there were at least a dozen Owenite communities; and Albert Brisbane, who had brought Fourierism back from Paris and had been given a rostrum by Horace Greeley in The New York Tribune, propagandized for it in the 1840's with such success that more than forty groups went out to build Fourierist phalansteries (which included Brook Farm in its second phase). This movement, which arose at the same time as the great tide of religious revivalism and which was entangled at various points with Transcendentalism, Swedenborgianism, Perfectionism and Spiritualism, persisted through the early fifties until the agitation for free farms in the West, culminating in the Homestead Act of 1863, diverted the attention of the dissatisfied from labor organizations and socialism. It is hard to arrive at any precise estimate of the number of these communities, but there are records of at least a hundred and seventy-eight, including the religious communities practising communism, ranging in membership from fifteen to nine hundred; and Morris Hillquit, in his History of American Socialism, seems to believe there were many more, involving altogether "hundreds of thousands of members." The Owenite and Fourierist communities alone are supposed to have occupied some fifty thousand acres. There were communities entirely Yankee and communities, like the French Icarians and the German religious groups, made up entirely of immigrants. There were sectarian communities, communities merely Christian and communities full of Deists and unbelievers. There were communities that practised complete chastity and communities that practised "free love"; communities that went in for vegetarianism. Some aimed at pure communism of property and profit, and some -- notably the Fourierist phalanxes -- were organized as joint stock companies. Some, entirely discarding money, lived by barter with the outside world; some by building up industries and driving a good bargain. . . .

With their saw mills and grist mills and flour mills and their expanses of untried acres, with their communal dormitories and dining halls, they achieved some genuinely stimulating, harmonious and productive years, but more quarreling and impoverished failures. A very few of these communities lasted longer than a decade, but a great many never completed two years. They had against them sources of dissension within and pressure of public opinion from without, incapacity of lower-class groups to live up to socialist ideals and incapacity of upper-class groups to adapt themselves to manual labor. And all kinds of calamities befell them: fires and typhoid epidemics. A creek would overflow on swampy ground and they would all come down with fever and ague. They would be baffled by land which they had had the bad judgment to buy while it was under snow. They would start off with inadequate equipment or insufficient supplies and never be able to make them go round; or with debts that would get heavier and heavier and finally drag them down. They would find themselves in legal difficulties in connection with their titles to land; they would be unbusinesslike and make messes of their accounts. They would be disrupted by the bigotries of the religious and by jealousies among the women. They would suffer, as was said by a member of the Marlboro Association in Ohio, from "lack of faith in those who had the funds and lack of funds in those who had the faith"; and from "accepting the needy, the disabled and the sick." They would end up in acrimonious lawsuits brought by members against the association; or in the event of their actually having been able to increase the value of their property, there would be members unable to resist the temptation to speculate and sell the community out.
Edmund Wilson, To The Finland Station 101-04 (NYRB, 2003).

Standing greivances.

On Friday, a federal appellate court reversed a district court's ruling that the government's wireless surveillance of telephone calls (the Terrorist Surveillance Program) violated citizens' constitutional rights, ruling that the plaintiffs (including the ACLU) lacked standing to bring the claims because they had not established injury by asserting that their privacy had been violated. Thus, Judge Gibbons says, in his concurrence: "The disposition of all of the plaintiffs’ claims depends upon the single fact that the plaintiffs have failed to provide evidence that they are personally subject to the TSP." The Sixth Circuit's decision is here; discussions of it by Jonathan Adler and Orin Kerr are at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Since the government is closely guarding the details of the program, one could imagine that the TSP will escape judicial scrutiny for lack of standing, which makes this story from Wired significant. A Washington, D.C., lawyer who was representing a Saudi charity was sent -- accidentally, surely -- a document recording surveillance of his communications:
Federal officials were investigating the Ashland, Oregon, branch of the group for alleged links to terrorism, and had already frozen the charity's U.S. assets. [Wendell] Belew was one of several lawyers trying to keep Al-Haramain off a U.S. Treasury Department watch list -- an effort that sent much paperwork flying back and forth between the attorneys and the Treasury Department's Washington D.C. headquarters across the street from the White House.

On Aug. 20, 2004, fellow Al-Haramain attorney Lynne Bernabei noticed one of the documents from Treasury was marked "top secret." Bernabei gave the document to attorneys and directors at Al-Haramain's Saudi Arabia headquarters, and gave a copy to Belew. The document was a log of phone conversations Belew and co-counsel Asim Ghafoor had held with a Saudi-based director for the charity named Soliman al-Buthi. . . .

It's not clear when officials realized they'd given a highly classified document to an organization they considered terrorist, but the FBI showed up at Belew's office in October and demanded the call log back, advising the lawyer not to attempt to remember the document's contents.

By then, Belew had given a copy of the document to Washington Post reporter David Ottaway, who had been writing about how the government investigated and listed individuals and groups suspected of funding terrorism. Ottaway did not report on the classified call log, and when the FBI called, the Post dutifully handed over its copy.

That might have been the end of it. But in December 2005 The New York Times revealed that the government had been spying on Americans' overseas communications without warrants, and Al-Haramain's lawyers realized why the FBI had been so adamant about getting the document back.

"I got up in the morning and read the story, and I thought, 'My god, we had a log of a wiretap and it may or may not have been the NSA and on further reflection it was NSA," says Thomas Nelson, who represents Al-Haramain and Belew. "So we decided to file a lawsuit."

The lawyers retrieved one of the remaining copies of the document -- presumably from Saudi Arabia -- and used it to file a complaint in U.S. District Court in Oregon in February of last year. They sought damages from the government of $1 million each for Belew and Ghafoor, and the unfreezing of Al-Haramain's assets, because that action relied on the allegedly illegal spying.

The lawsuit is poised to blow a hole through a bizarre catch-22 that has dogged other legal efforts to challenge the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance. . . .

Belew's lawsuit is pending in the Northern District of California, before Hon. Vaugh Walker.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Sue Storm reads TRP.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]