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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Monday, 18 April 2005

Topic: For policy wonks...

Archimedes said ?Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.? Here?s one.

It seems that lately when I glance at television in the evenings I keep seeing the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. What?s up with that?

Over at the Discovery Channel they?ve been running "Does Europe Hate the U.S.?" (first shown on Thursday, April 7, 8-9 pm Eastern and Pacific). A synopsis? - With the European Union seeming to be changing the global balance of power for the 21st Century, the confrontation between the U.S. and Europe has big implications for the future. In this documentary, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman explores Europe's feeling about America.

Guess what? They?re not happy with us. Well, it is a bit more complicated than that. The interviews with the students in Germany and France are cool, and those with the government big-wigs just depressing.

And then Friedman just popped up on the PBS Charlie Rose Show, plugging his latest book that was released this month, "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century."

Interesting. But should we listen to this guy?

From his Times bio you can find out that Friedman won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, and that was his third Pulitzer for the Times. He became the paper's foreign-affairs columnist in 1995. Before that he was their chief economic correspondent in the Washington bureau - and before that he was the chief White House correspondent. And this year he was elected as a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board. He?s got a BA in Mediterranean studies from Brandeis and a masters degree in Modern Middle East Studies from Oxford. Not bad. And his book, "From Beirut to Jerusalem" (1989), won the National Book Award for non-fiction that year - and "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" (2000) won the Overseas Press Club award for best nonfiction book on foreign policy, and has been published in twenty-seven languages.

He might know something.

This new book he was chatting up on the Charlie Rose Show? It?s about this:
Friedman argues that in the last few years, while we were distracted by Osama Bin Laden's transformation of the political landscape, a whole new phase of globalization was taking shape. Fueled by Internet-friendly software and cheap fiber optics, it features the fine-grained and far-flung division of data-related labor, often with little need for hierarchical, centralized control; and it subjects yesterday's powerhouses to competition from upstarts. "Globalization 3.0 is shrinking the world from a size small to a size tiny and flattening the playing field at the same time," bringing a "newfound power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally."

? He shows us some of globalization's beneficiaries - such as Indians who take "accent neutralization" classes and who, so far as I can tell, are as decent and worthy as the American airline reservation clerks and tech-support workers whose jobs they're taking (and who seem to prefer "exploitation" to nonexploitation). What's more, even as some Americans are losing, other Americans are winning, via cheaper airline tickets, more tech support, whatever. So, with net gains outweighing net losses, it's a non-zero-sum game, with a positive-sum outcome?a good thing on balance, at least from a global moral standpoint. ?
Oh. Yawn.

But wait! In the last two issues of Just Above Sunset, the parent site of this web log, you can find a lively discussion by many readers of the various ways the Democrats can mount a challenge to the powers that be ? the imperialist Christian evangelicals, as it were. There was April 10, 2005 ? Liberal Wimps: The Allure of Calm Reasoning With the Powerful Right followed a week later by Inventing a Loyal Opposition. Eight or nine different folks had a lot to say about what can be done. The problem was finding that lever to move the world.

And now this week Robert Wright is suggesting that Thomas Friedman has provided that lever to move the world. And that is here -

The Incredible Shrinking Planet
What liberals can learn from Thomas Friedman's new book.
Robert Wright ? SLATE.COM - Posted Monday, April 18, 2005, at 12:30 PM PT

Here?s the opening (my emphases throughout) -
What do you call it when multinational corporations scan the world for cheap labor, find poor people in developing nations, and pay them a fraction of America's minimum wage? A common answer on the left is "exploitation." For Thomas Friedman the answer is "collaboration"?or "empowering individuals in the developing world as never before." Friedman has written another destined-to-be-a-best-seller, destined-to-annoy-many-leftists-even-though-he's-a-liberal book, The World Is Flat.

Readers of Friedman's 1998 The Lexus and the Olive Tree may ask: Why another best-selling, left-annoying Friedman book on globalization? Friedman argues that in the last few years, while we were distracted by Osama Bin Laden's transformation of the political landscape, a whole new phase of globalization was taking shape. Fueled by Internet-friendly software and cheap fiber optics, it features the fine-grained and far-flung division of data-related labor, often with little need for hierarchical, centralized control; and it subjects yesterday's powerhouses to competition from upstarts. "Globalization 3.0 is shrinking the world from a size small to a size tiny and flattening the playing field at the same time," bringing a "newfound power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally."

This theme will get the book read in business class, but the reason leftists back in coach should read it has more to do with Osama Bin Laden's transformation of the political landscape. Islamist terrorism has been a godsend to the American right, especially in foreign policy. President Bush has sold a Manichaean master narrative that fuses neoconservativism with paleoconservative hawkism, the unifying upshot being the importance of invading countries and of disregarding, if not subverting, multilateral institutions.
Wright then argues that if ?the left is to develop a rival narrative,? it will have ?to honestly address the realities of both globalization and terrorism.? And he says Friedman's book ?contains the ingredients of a powerful liberal narrative, one that harnesses the logic of globalization to counter Bush's rhetoric in foreign and, for that matter, domestic policy.?

Really?

Wright contends that ?these days? hardly anyone accepts the label "anti-globalization." And that leads to an odd place -
Most leftists now grant that you can't stop the globalization juggernaut; the best you can do is guide it. Friedman's less grim view suggests that, if you look at things from the standpoint of humanity as a whole - a standpoint many leftists purport to hold - globalization may actually be a good thing. ?

? Even globalization's downsides - such as displaced American workers - can have an upside for liberals in political terms. A churning workforce strengthens the case for the kind of safety net that Democrats champion and Republicans resist. (Globalization-induced jitters may help explain why President Bush's plan to make Social Security less secure hasn't captured the nation's imagination.) Friedman outlines an agenda of "compassionate flatism" that includes portable, subsidized health care, wage insurance, and subsidies for college and vocational school. You can argue about the details, and you can push them to the left. (He notes that corporations like to put offices and factories in countries with universal health care.) But this is clearly a Democratic agenda, and, as more and more white-collar jobs move abroad, its appeal to traditionally Republican voters should grow.

Globalization's domestic disruptions can also be softened by global institutions. As the sociologist Douglas Massey argues in his just-published liberal manifesto Return of the L Word, the World Trade Organization, though reviled on the far left as a capitalist tool, could, with American leadership, use its clout to enforce labor standards abroad that are already embraced by the U.N.'s toothless International Labor Organization. For example: the right of workers everywhere to bargain collectively. (Workers of the world unite.)
That?s pretty cool, even if Wright admits ?Friedman doesn't emphasize this sort of leftish global governance.?

But you think the war was a bad idea? You might like globalization!
Friedman persuasively updates his Lexus-and-the-Olive-Tree argument that economic interdependence makes war costlier for nations and hence less likely. He's heard the counterargument - "That's what they said before World War I!" - and he concedes that a big war could happen. But he shows that the pre-World War I era didn't have this kind of interdependence - the fine-grained and far-flung division of labor orchestrated by Toyota, Wal-Mart, et al. This is "supply chaining" - "collaborating horizontally - among suppliers, retailers, and customers - to create value."

For example: The hardware in a Dell Inspiron 600m laptop comes from factories in the Philippines, Costa Rica, Malaysia, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, India, and Israel; the software is designed in America and elsewhere. The corporations that own or operate these factories are based in the United States, China, Taiwan, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Ireland, Thailand, Israel, and Great Britain. And Michael Dell personally knows their CEOs?a kind of relationship that, multiplied across the global web of supply chains, couldn't hurt when tensions rise between, say, China and the United States.

Friedman argues plausibly that global capitalism dampened the India-Pakistan crisis of 2002, when a nuclear exchange was so thinkable that the United States urged Americans to leave India. Among the corporate feedback the Indian government got in midcrisis was a message from United Technologies saying that it had started looking for more stable countries in which to house mission-critical operations. The government toned down its rhetoric.
Wow! Off-shore systems shops and those Nike sweatshops can stop wars? Perhaps so.

And Wright points out that the new hyper-globalization ?rewards inter-ethnic tolerance and punishes tribalism.? He cites Friedman - ?If you want to have a modern complex division of labor, you have to be able to put more trust in strangers.? And that would mean ?nations famous for fundamentalist intolerance? like Saudi Arabia don?t get to play in the new, big sandbox.

And how far can one go with this?
Peace and universal brotherhood - it almost makes globalization sound like a leftist's dream come true. ?

Like Friedman, I accept Bush's premise that spreading political freedom is both morally good and good for America's long-term national security. But is Bush's instinctive means to that end - invading countries that aren't yet free - really the best approach? Friedman's book fortified my belief that the answer is no.

Friedman, unlike many liberals, has long appreciated that, more than ever, economic liberty encourages political liberty. As statist economies have liberalized, this linkage has worked faster in some cases (South Korea, Taiwan) than in others (China), but it works at some speed just about everywhere.

And consider the counterexamples, the increasingly few nations that have escaped fine-grained penetration by market forces. They not only tend to be authoritarian; they often flout international norms, partly because their lack of economic engagement makes their relationship to the world relatively zero-sum, leaving them little incentive to play nicely. Friedman writes, "Since Iraq, Syria, south Lebanon, North Korea, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran are not part of any major global supply chains, all of them remain hot spots that could explode at any time."

That list includes the last country Bush invaded and the two countries atop his prospective invasions list. It makes you wonder: With all due respect for carnage, mightn't it be easier to draw these nations into the globalized world and let capitalism work its magic ??
Well, that?s a thought. I have often argued with my conservative friend about our fruitless embargo on trade with Cuba and the matching severe travels restrictions. What is the point? If we want them to ease out of the Albanian communist mode, why not open up all sort of trade with them? A Starbucks on every corner, a KFC every ten blocks ? we buy cigars and do the tourist thing ? and money flows back and forth? So much for their people?s revolution.

Wright puts it this way -
This is one paradox of "neoconservative" foreign policy: It lacks the conservative's faith in the politically redeeming power of markets. Indeed, Bush, far from trying to lure authoritarians into the insidiously antiauthoritarian logic of capitalism, has tried to exclude them from it. Economically, he's all stick and no carrot. (Of Iran he said, "We've sanctioned ourselves out of influence," oblivious to the fact that removing sanctions can be an incentive.)

Of course, if you took this approach - used trade, aid, and other forms of what Joseph Nye calls "soft power" to globalize authoritarian nations and push them toward freedom - hyper-tyrannies like Saddam Hussein's Iraq would be the last dominoes to fall. More promising dominoes would include Egypt, even Saudi Arabia. But according to neocon reverse-domino theory, it only takes one domino.
Yeah, but we do things militarily. How odd. And Friedman supported the war.

Anyway, the lever for changing things may be this book, if my friends buy into it premises -
? selling this lefty, peacenik message to Friedman isn't as improbable as selling it to some lefty peaceniks, because buying the message means coming fully to terms with globalization?not just granting its inevitability but appreciating its potential. The Naderite left reviled The Lexus and the Olive Tree for what they took to be its Panglossian depiction of globalization as a force of nature. ? But, seven years later, Friedman's early depiction of globalization's power - good and bad - looks prescient. And with this book he's shown how and why globalization has now shifted into warp drive. Meanwhile, the main achievement of Naderite nationalists has been to put George Bush in the White House. If forced to choose between the two - and, in a sense, liberals are - where would you look for inspiration?
Look to globalization.



Footnote:

Panglossian? Think baseless optimism.

Pangloss is a character in Voltaire's Candide, ou l'Optimisme (1759). Pangloss is a follower of - and some argue a caricature or outright satire of - the philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, who theorized that the world we live in is the best of all possible worlds. As one wag said, perhaps we should fear we do. (See this.)

Posted by Alan at 21:59 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 18 April 2005 22:04 PDT home


Topic: The Law

Anniversaries: An Oklahoman Turns European

The death penalty has been discussed before in these pages. For example, October 12, 2003 Reviews contains an extended discussion of Scott Turow?s book Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing With the Death Penalty (Farrar, Straus & Giroux: 166 pp., $18), and December 21, 2003 - The Culture of Death: Who We Should Kill and Why is a discussion of whether Saddam Hussein deserves the death penalty. In this - July 25, 2004 - The Company We Keep - you will find a discussion of which countries, like us, employ the death penalty. In this - March 6, 2005 - A Minor Matter - you will find opinion on the recent Supreme Court decision that we really ought not execute minors. And here - March 20, 2005 - An Idea Whose Time Has Come - you will find a discussion of the idea proposed by a professor of constitutional law at UCLA that not only should we have a death penalty, we should have extended public executions involving torture and pain, and the family of the victim should be the ones inflicting that pain and death ? but he doesn?t think we will go for amending the constitution to allow that. And then he changes his mind. Maybe the whole idea wasn?t that good an idea.

So it?s not as if this issue hasn?t come up before.

Anyway, the nub of the matter, as Turow puts it in his book, is that, on the one hand, some crimes, like murder, are so extreme that they require the most extreme retribution. On the other, state-sanctioned killing reduces our society to its lowest common denominator, making all of us complicit in the taking of a life. Fine.

The basic question? "Should a democratic state ever be permitted to kill its citizens? If the people are the ultimate source of authority in a democracy, should the government be allowed to eliminate its citizens?"

Who knows?

Those enthusiastic about the death penalty see it as "a statement of moral value" to be applied widely and often, to say who we are - to clearly show what we just won't tolerate. And there may be some merit in that. But some of us won?t tolerate the concept that the state can decide to take anyone?s life ? as the decision is so often flawed, and even when it isn?t flawed, shows something else about us all. We don?t like what it shows.

And round and around it goes.

And that brings us to April 19, the tenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing ? the anniversary of the day that McVeigh fellow blew up the federal office building there, killing 168 people and injuring about 500 others. Well, he was executed for that.

And that brings us to Emmett "Bud" Welch, 65, whose daughter, Julie Marie, was one of those who died ten years ago in the bombing.

In a retrospective published on the editorial pages of the Buffalo News (Buffalo, New York) and noted on the web log ?Talk Left? here, buried deep in the long retrospective you get this -
Emmett "Bud" Welch, 65, whose daughter, Julie Marie, died in the blast, has found his own way to deal with the pain. The bombing turned Welch, a former gas station owner, into an international crusader against the death penalty and human rights violations.

Welch has spoken about human rights in London, Rome, Kenya and dozens of other places all over the world. "For 11 months after the bombing, I dealt with my situation by drinking. I'd go to the bomb site two or three times a day, with my head splitting from a hangover," Welch said. "Finally, one day, I said, "What are you doing to change your life?'

"I remembered how Julie was so adamantly opposed to the death penalty. She felt so strongly, she started an Amnesty International chapter in her high school at age 16."

? Welch opposed the death penalty, too. He decided that the best way to honor his daughter was to tell the world some of the things she would have said. Welch's crusade has upset some people in Oklahoma City, who believed that both McVeigh and co-conspirator Terry Nichols deserved the ultimate punishment.

"I forgave Tim McVeigh before he died," Welch said. "I don't think everyone has to forgive, but if you are able to do it, the feeling you get in your heart is tremendous. I am at peace."
Well, drinking heavily to deal with emotional trauma is not uncommon. But there are those hangovers. And nothing gets resolved. The question is what is an effective alterative to drinking heavily.

You can work to get the mad bomber(s) executed ? painfully and publicly and with your own participation if allowed ? or you can do this, you can pull a "Bud" Welch.

And which you choose says what about you, and what you will not tolerate?

Ah, what would Jesus do? Don?t ask Scalia or the evangelical right. You actually might, for a refreshing change, decide to ask a Christian, one of the old-fashioned kind. You might be surprised.

Or you could ask one of those secular Europeans who think the idea the state should be allowed to kill its citizens is just so? mistaken. Ah, you have to assume this Welch fellow is being told that, if he feels this way, he should move his sorry ass to damned France.

Let?s see. Where would you rather be? Central Oklahoma? Paris? Decisions, decisions?.

___


On related note, Emily Schmall writing in SALON.COM offers some thoughts on recent events in New York, and interviews Richard Dieter, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. See The executioner's swan song: Reflecting growing national unease with the ultimate punishment, New York strikes down its death penalty law from April 16. (Newsday covers the story here on April 12.)

Schmall?s summary?
Last June, New York's highest court struck down a provision of the state's death penalty statute as unconstitutional. The provision required trial courts to instruct jurors in capital cases that if they failed to unanimously agree on a penalty of either life imprisonment or death, the court would set a sentence of life with the possibility of parole. In People vs. Stephen LaValle, the Court of Appeals concluded that jurors might sentence a defendant to die not because they thought he deserved it, but because they feared he might someday go free. It was up to the state Legislature to fix the law in order to reinstate the death penalty. On Tuesday, the Codes Committee of the General Assembly chose not to.
That, in effect, takes the death penalty off the books for now in New York. Schmall does note that thirty-eight states still have death penalty statutes on the books in one form or another, and Kansas' statute was deemed unconstitutional and awaits a federal review; Connecticut, Nebraska and New Mexico have come close to abolition, and Illinois' moratorium on executions has lasted through two governors, one Republican and one Democrat. That?s something.

And we are reminded of recent cases ? as covered in these pages, in March, Roper vs. Simmons, which removed juvenile offenders from the possibility of a death penalty. And curiously we see that in Texas, the Supreme Court there has sent back cases for prosecutorial misconduct, allegations of racial biases, and turned over cases where lawyers didn't do a good enough investigation of the defendants' cases. Texas?

And there is the matter of international pressure set against domestic urges, as Dieter notes?
In 1989, there was a global treaty signed and ratified (with the exception of the U.S. and Somalia) to end the execution of juveniles, and in 2002, the European Union submitted a brief calling for an end to the execution of the mentally retarded. But these changes can also be attributed to domestic pressures. The chief way the death penalty is evaluated is the Eighth Amendment, which the court has said is an evolving standard of decency. Fifteen years ago, it was OK to execute juveniles and the mentally retarded. When the public's views are expressed through legislation and juries' by votes, the Supreme Court announces a consensus has been made, and the law quickly acclimates.

It was state legislation that the Supreme Court looked to in both of those cases [Roper vs. Simmons and Atkins vs. Virginia]; it's the direction states were going. They found 31 states that forbid the practice [of executing juveniles] and that number had grown from 15 years ago, back in 1989 [when executing juveniles was deemed constitutional]. That was enough to prove our standards had evolved.
Well, evolved should be revised to ?are evolving.?

Note this:
If the Supreme Court were to strike down the death penalty, they would probably do it because the standards of decency have moved against it, but they're not going to do it on their own. It could be so through the will of the people; the court could kind of mop up the final act. They could by finding it unconstitutional. The death penalty will continue to be tested through state-by-state legislative actions, and through litigation of the typical issues that have always been a part of this debate -- innocence as the primary issue.

It is and will remain very difficult to construct a statute that will never make mistakes, and it's becoming more expensive to sentence someone to death. Courts are giving people another review because of possible innocence, to ensure the quality of the review, and because of changes in the Supreme Court. New York estimated that they spent $170 million [to maintain the death penalty system] and have nothing to show for it.
Ah, we will be the last country that finally abolishes the death penalty ? but not because it is the wrong thing to do, but rather because it isn?t cost-effective and we mess up on the basic facts of the case at hand. Well, it?s a start.

Of course, we might continue to execute folks anyway, considering this from the president?s favorite Supreme Court justice: "Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached." - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Herrera v. Collins 506 US 390 1993

Oh well.

Still Dieter sees things shifting against the death penalty -
Public opinion is down 50 percent -- that means jurors are half as likely to ask for death. Executions are consequently down 40 percent. And then you turn to legislatures; New York declined to even fix it. Other states are taking more of a reform approach; some are coming close to voting to abolish the death penalty. New Mexico and Connecticut came close, and Illinois continues its moratorium. Kansas is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review what its state court did, and so its death penalty is pending; it could be that if the Supreme Court doesn't do anything, Kansas will fix it through legislation. There's a wide range of legislative changes across the country -- 14 states have had commissions to study the death penalty, states are allowing DNA testing on appeal, particularly for death row, and some states are approving defense council review.
Something is afoot. ?Bud? Welch is not alone.

But he?s not arguing for cost-effectiveness or against sloppy prosecutions. He?s arguing the concept is just plain wrong.

He?ll enjoy Paris, if he lives that long.

___

"Our ancestors... purged their guilt by banishment, not death. And by so doing, they stopped that endless vicious cycle of murder and revenge."
- Euripides

"'It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners."
- Albert Camus (1913-60)


Posted by Alan at 17:34 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 18 April 2005 17:39 PDT home


Topic: Backgrounder

From the Department of Useless Information

From Bob Patterson, columnist for Just Above Sunset - the parent site to this web log:
One of our regular readers works near my apartment and we chat often. He asked me if there was a period when Greek literature diminished and then bounced back. He wanted to know when the revival in Greek Literature occurred.

I wondered if there had been one long gradual decline in interest in Greek Literature. I have no idea how to answer this question? Any feedback that I can relay to him?
Ah, yes.

Ah - it comes and goes. What brought Greek literature back from obscurity was Greek fascination with the French Enlightenment (Voltaire and those dudes) that got the proto-nationalist folks there looking at the local roots of the local culture and digging up old texts - Candide may be responsible for that, and much more - and a tad later the Romantic poets, particularly Byron traipsing around Greece with Keats. In fact, Byron died of a fever at Missolonghi in April 1824 - a town in western central Greece, on the north shore of the Gulf of Patras (it was under siege by the Turks in the wars of 1822-26 and he was way pro-Greek as they tried to break away from the Turks). Think also of the Elgin Marbles swiped from the Parthenon being a big deal in England at the time. The Brits still have them. Lord Elgin loved Greek stuff, and stole it when he could. All things Greek were big around 1820 - and not much before and not much since. That was the peak. Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn" was first published in 1820 - and so on and so forth.

I must admit I never caught the enthusiasm for all things Greek - but way back in the early seventies I was an eighteenth-century English lit PhD student and thought Keats was for misty-eyed girls, and Byron with his clubfoot and brooding was a bit too Hollywood. My guy was Swift. (Byron was nicely cynical, however.)

You see, from Dryden through Pope and Swift, and on out to Johnson, the model was Roman. That was the Augustan Age, after all. Caesar Augustus. August. Wise. Retrained and controlled. Think Cicero, Juvenal, Ovid, Tacitus and Virgil. You imitated those guys.

Then comes 1798 and Wordsworth publishes "Lyrical Ballads" and all things fall apart. (In fact, I had a professor in grad school at Duke who said English literature itself ended that year.) Anyway, for the next three or four decades you get Homer, Sappho, Herodotus, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Thucydides, and Plato. Oh my! George Chapman had translated Homer way back in 1611 and suddenly THAT was rediscovered - and we get Keats' sonnet "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" in October 1816. Geez! It's not THAT good a translation! (I used to teach the Robert Fitzgerald translation back in Rochester - and it is mighty fine.)

But I digress.

See this -
Under Turkish rule, Greek literature virtually ceased, except in Crete. In the late 18th cent. two patriots, the poet Rhigas Pheraios (1751-98) and the intellectual Adamantios Koraes (1748-1833), sought to encourage a revival of Greek letters. The revolutionary society Philike Hetairea, founded in 1816, reflected the growing influence in Greece of the French Enlightenment and the rise of European romanticism; both furnished the intellectual framework for the War of Independence (1821-27) and spurred the postwar nationalist revival that awakened a modern Greek literature.
Fascinating stuff? Probably not.

But Greek food is great ? lamb, and spanakopita! Great stuff. And retsina? Fine. Ouzo? Interesting.

_____


Follow-Up:

From our friend Vince in Rochester, New York ?
Why am I fascinated by meaningless patter?

Curiosity - from the unenlightened peanut gallery... is there a similar reflection of the Greek revival in architectural design (that showed up in North America as Southern plantations or things column-iar? (how would you say that adjectively?). What about the differences in Roman and Greek columns and architectural styles? Also the ebb and flow in those timeframes?

Dumb questions... to go with useless topics?

Bit it is interesting to note in your final quote, however, that the impact of Greek/French attention was bi-lateral - reflected with renewed energies in and on both cultures/societies.
My reply to Vince is that if you think about what is at this site ? Greek Revival Architecture (1800-1850) - and sites like it, you see this is all part of the same deal. And here you don?t blame Voltaire and Candide ? you blame a follower of Voltaire?s ideas, Thomas Jefferson.

Note:
Inspirations and beginnings: Thomas Jefferson designs Monticello, Charlottesville, VA in 1770. Influenced by Palladio. Jefferson believed in architecture as a symbol; he despised Williamsburg due to English origins: Williamsburg represented colonial exploitation. In France, Jefferson learned of Roman architecture and its symbolic association with Greek democracy.
Okay, Lord Byron is writing loopy poetry and fighting for Greek independence in the early 1820?s ? and Jefferson was in Paris decades earlier, or was that Nick Nolte? (Jefferson in Paris is an amusing movie.) It was a time for thinking about Greece in its Golden Age.

Think about this. Our revolution in 1776 and that French one in 1789, were efforts towards ?democracy? ? a Greek word, isn?t it? That there AGE OF REVOLUTION (1789-1848) in the history books was full of all sorts of references to ancient Greece. That was the model for all the changes planned and executed, so to speak and not to bring up Robespierre and Doctor Guillotine. Why wouldn?t architecture follow?
To Jefferson architecture was a form of visual education in support of democratic ideal. The Greek Revival movement becomes widely accepted throughout the early U.S. as a symbol of the new democracy.
Of course.
Dominant style in America, 1820-1850. Also called ?national style? due to popularity. Known as the ?Territorial style? in early Western towns, including Santa Fe, NM. Style diffused westward with settlers (especially New Englanders, across upstate New York), first American architectural style to reach West Coast.?
And this? ?Greek place names, street names, and architecture became dominant throughout the Northeast.?

One sometimes contributor to these pages - our high-powered Wall Street attorney - grew up in Greece, New York, just a few miles west-northwest of where Vince sits in Rochester. His mother still lives there. I remember the area. I used to shop at the Greece Town Mall, which our high-powered Wall Street attorney tells us has gotten huge lately. Heck, if Rochester weather were better they would have build it differently ? with outdoor colonnades and Doric columns and fountains ? and called it the Greece Town Agora. But winters there are too harsh. (This web log is published not too far from Agora, California.)

Oh, and on styles of Greek columns see this from Boston College. The page has links to items on the styles. The four JPG examples are from the US northeast, including the Custom House down in The Battery in Manhattan, right in front of the park, the old Bowling Green, where Rick, our News Guy in Atlanta, reminds us, after looking at the picture of the bull down there -
Bowling Green, where the Dutch in New Amsterdam used to go bowling, and where, on the evening of July 9, 1776 - moments after George Washington, in what is now City Hall Park, had the newly-arrived Declaration of Independence read to the troops - a mob of exuberant citizens descended on the park to haul down the equestrian statue of George III (that they themselves had paid for), and to knock the heads of the royal family that were on the posts of that very fence you see there, later melting them all down into shot to be used by Continental soldiers to shoot redcoats. That other building beyond the park is the Customs building, which sits on the spot of the original New Amsterdam fort, which was essentially the first settlement on the island, out of which the whole city grew.
The NYC Custom House columns are Doric. The spirit is Greek and revolutionary.

Minor note ? the scale patterns in music theory are called modes. And they are named somewhat like the columns ? Dorian and such. You see, music had been studied mathematically, and there were many such collections of ?pleasing pitches,? generally called modes. There is the Phrygian. And Lydian. And the Mysolidian. And the Eolian. And the Locrian. There?s a lot of Dorian mode in rock music, and in much of Miles Davis. That?s what I meant by saying this is a minor note ? listen to ?So What? from his best album, ?Kind of Blue? ? as Miles had a Dorian career.

Ah, them Greeks!

Posted by Alan at 09:36 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 19 April 2005 11:46 PDT home


Topic: Oddities

From the Department of Useless Information

From Expatica this is most curious.

The event?
In Paris: Bo Diddley

One of the pioneers, and now greatest stars, of rock guitar, 77 year-old Diddley would never received his full acclaim without becoming a cult figure among British rockers after falling from favor in his native US.

A rare appearance in Paris.

April 24

L'Olympia
28 boulevard des Capucines
75009 Paris
Tel: 08 92 68 33 68
To the three regular readers in Paris, don?t go out of your way. On the other hand we glean these facts from the Bo Diddley link above ?

1987: Bo Diddley inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and presented his award by ZZ Top who credits this guy with "even teaching us to put fur on our guitars!"

1989: Performs at President G. H. W. Bush's Inaugural gala in Washington, appearing in the "Celebration for Young Americans: Tribute to Rhythm and Blues " with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Joe Cocker and so on

1989: Receives a star in the sidewalk on the Hollywood Hall of Fame

1992: Appeared at the Democratic National Convention's celebration for Bill Clinton in New York City?

And there is more.

It seems Bo Diddley's legal name was Ellas McDaniel, but he was born Otha Ellas Bates. He got passed around a few families. He got the stage name Bo Diddley from a one-stringed African guitar thing.

And that?s this morning?s useless information.

Note:

Oddly enough, no readers from Paris sent any reaction to this. Phillip Raines sent a note from Georgia -
Bo Diddley played in Atlanta at the Royal Peacock on Auburn Avenue, a few doors up from the birth place of the SCLC and a few blocks from the birthplace of Martin Luther King.

The club was owned by Clay Harper, a singer, band leader and pizza chain owner - one of my peers who couldn't help but make money everywhere he turned. Clay lined up a band of good players from the general local scene. One of the guys was Brendan O'Brien, who later went on the produce the first Nirvana album and, after that, Mick Jagger's solo album, and not too long ago, Bruce Springsteen's latest album.

I ventured to the gig, which was in a decidedly black section of downtown, but the club dragged in all these new wave (it was the eighties) white kids to the area. It was actually a big risk for Clay to re-open this club with no guarantee it would draw a crowd even with Clay's Midas touch. I talked to Brandon and Clay about working with this living legend.

Clay was nervous when he picked Bo Diddley up at the airport. He told Bo Diddley the band was waiting for him at the club to go over the material and Bo Diddley held up his hand to stop him explaining any details and said, "Just tell me when the gig starts." He had no intention on going over any songs, assuming that the pick-up band was made up of competent musicians they would be able to follow along. Like the pick-up bands that accompany Chuck Berry (who always travels alone, no band) they should be familiar enough with the material to pull it off. In honesty it is really simple music and each song sounds a lot like the next.

Clay took him to the club anyway, where not only the musicians were waiting (for nothing it turns out), but a local news crew had been tipped off (summoned) to interview Bo Diddley. The interview was brief and in it Bo Diddley said - "Everybody playing bum-t-bum-t-bum---t-bum bum. All these white people making money off Bo Diddly's guitar lick, but where's the money for Bo Diddly?"

Well that night the money for Bo Diddley was eight grand and a round trip air ticket in first class and a hotel room at the Hyatt. I thought it was a lot for a 45 minute show by a guy who was sitting down the whole time. Maybe he didn't have his heart in it, or maybe it was an attitude about the white crowd in a formerly black club owned by white punkers smack dab in an area of such important black history.

His stage directions were minimal. Holding his right hind in the air, rolling his fingers, and Brandon would roll the chords on the acoustic piano, or flopping his hand with his pinky and thumb showing for octave trills, or telling Rick Richards (GA Satellite's guitarist) to "take one Guitar man". The drummer knew to lay off the cymbals (as is consistent with the request of older band leaders). It was just such a brief show. The pick-up band played and hour before his show and an hour and a half afterward. It turned into a social evening listening to my pals jamming on rock standards, and this legend playing a predictable set for a short time.

Bo Diddley no longer had to prove he was a legend. The pick-up band members were paid 200 each, though 250 is rate - but Clay is cheap and thought it would be an honor for them to play with a legend. Bob Diddley never learned their names and was only friendly enough to pull off his show with them.

It is commendable that the British rockers learned obscure blues and imitated it, in spirit to bring it to the world in the form of rock-and-roll. Music is more fashion to Brits, and I won't be convinced otherwise. A lot of legends would not have been noticed with out them. A lot of legends weren't all that good, and it took the charisma of fashion-minded British rockers to merit notice.

To Bo Diddley and Little Richard (another chronic braggart) I ask, what have you produced lately? How long do you get to rest on the past laurels you cranked out when you were hot? Sorry you were cheated by the record companies and your style was exploited by the Brit rockers, but you can still make a good buck for an hour's work and be called a legend. That's better than a lot of other players.
Phillip?s writing appears in Just Above Sunset - see the lower left of the home page. The key music pieces are here and here and here and here.

Posted by Alan at 09:02 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 18 April 2005 19:14 PDT home

Sunday, 17 April 2005

Topic: Photos

New Directions: The End of Outrage?

The new issue of Just Above Sunset was posted late Saturday night. Sunday morning Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, sent an email pointing out a misspelling on the home page, so I fixed that and reposted. Is this any manner in which to spend a sunny weekend in Los Angeles ? putting together, and reediting, an online virtual magazine? Either your editor doesn?t have a life, or still is in the second week of a really appalling head cold. Best guess? Forty percent of the former, and sixty percent of the latter. [More corrections will be posted late Sunday evening. One should not be obsessive, but one should be correct. And one should always have Kleenex at hand.]

But the new issue, while deeply steeped in politics and what would be sputtering outrage if this writer weren?t so cynical and sensed nothing anyone with similar views could do about anything anyway, is unusually deep in photography.

For example, Bob Patterson?s column on Einstein has two somewhat appropriate shots from Princeton. Don Smith?s cool photo from Paris is supplemented by a matching one from lower Manhattan. In fact, there are five photography pages, and links to two extensive photo albums. Many recent pages have been illustrated with photos.

What?s up with that? Is the publication shifting from words about the world to just images? (And can you call a virtual magazine a publication if it is not really published? There are now an average of ten thousand unique logons each month, but is Just Above Sunset really a publication?)

There is a bit of a shift, away from words. This is perhaps not anti-intellectualism per se but something more like fatigue. What more is there to say about how the world is going these days?

For example, I just didn?t have the energy to say anything about the plan to hunt down and kill cats in Wisconsin - a hot story out of the upper center of America last week ? even if two readers did suggest it. In short?
MADISON (AP) Thursday, April 14, 2005 ? Feral felines fearing for their lives in Wisconsin got a boost Wednesday from Gov. Jim Doyle, who said a plan to allow hunters to shoot wild cats at will is dead.

"I don't think Wisconsin should become known as a state where we shoot cats," said Doyle, a Democrat who neither hunts nor owns a cat. "What it does is sort of hold us up as a state that everybody is kind of laughing at right now."

He said his office has received calls from throughout the country denouncing a plan passed Monday night at meetings of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress that would classify wild, free-roaming cats as an unprotected species. ?
Whatever. What is there to say?

By the way, Samuel Johnson, the eighteenth-century poet and essayist, who wrote the first English dictionary, had a big yellow tabby he called Hodge, just as fat as Sam himself, and Johnson never wrote a word about Hodge. Boswell mentions Hodge only once in his ?Life of Johnson.? It seems Beau Brummell (yes, THAT one) and his proto-frat-boys friends had been gadding about London shooting housecats for their amusement, and Boswell says when he mentioned this to Johnson, Johnson tickled Hodge in his lap, smiled wryly and muttered, ?They shant shoot Hodge, they shant shoot Hodge??

You could look it up. And see this - At 17, Gough Square, EC4, London, England - a brand new statute of Samuel Johnson?s cat Hodge. It stands opposite Johnson's house in Gough Square.

Well, they shant shoot my Harriet either.

But, cat-hunting aside, keeping up with what might seem moderately outrageous has been what this editor has been doing since starting the virtual magazine in late May of 2003, and the companion web log in mid-November of the same year. Are there really 672 entries there? It seems so.

What can one do to keep going on with this?

One can, of course, surf the blogs in hopes of picking up some secondary outrage. And lately a good place to start seems to be the Daily Kos from Markos Moulitsas Zuniga. Kos can do the heavy lifting.

What do we find there? An echo-chamber.

Kos points to an item from David Sirota, a fellow from the Center for American Progress who points out that we Americans are not only systematically being denied information by out government, previous information to which we had access is simply disappearing.

Yeah, well, what did you expect?

Sirota quotes our president saying that "in a society that is a free society, there will be transparency." Sirota takes that to mean that we have a government where the public gets to see as much information as possible about its government.

Really? Here?s what he notes -
- Knight-Ridder reports today [April 16] that the Bush administration announced yesterday that it has ?decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered."

- When unemployment was peaking in Bush's first term, the White House tried to stop publishing the Labor Department's regular report on mass layoffs.

- In 2003, when the nation's governors came to Washington to complain about inadequate federal funding for the states, the Bush administration decided to stop publishing the budget report that states use to see what money they are, or aren't, getting.

- In 2003, the National Council for Research on Women found that information about discrimination against women has gone missing from government Web sites, including 25 reports from the U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau.

- In 2002, Democrats uncovered evidence that the Bush administration was removing health information from government websites. Specifically, the administration deleted data showing that abortion does not increase the risk of breast cancer from government websites. That scientific data was seen by the White House as a direct affront to the pro-life movement.
Kos comments ? ?Can there be any doubt that this is the worst presidency ever?? Yawn.

And Kos is upset by something else from the BBC. Kos tells us that Aschiana is the name of an Afghan charity for street children. It means "the nest", and it will soon be replaced by a five-star hotel.

The BBC item?
Afghanistan's internationally renowned charity for street children, Aschiana, survived the Afghan wars of the 1990s and the Taliban era.

However, the free market economics of Kabul's post-war boom now seem a more potent enemy than rockets and bombs.

Aschiana, which means "the nest" and provides support, food, education and a refuge to 10,000 street children, faces the closure of its main centre in Kabul.

It is the victim of rocketing rents and land prices rather than artillery.

The charity's compound on Char Rahi Malik Asghar, which it has occupied since 1997, has been sold by its owner to an international company.

A five-star hotel will be built on the site.
The comment from Kos? ?It's social Darwinism in action.?

And so it is. What is there to say? The world has ever been different?

And Just Above Sunset just covered issues with the pending repeal of the Estate Tax here - and there is a whole lot of commentary all over on that. It seems to grow and grow. How outraged can you continue to be?

One blogger here is conflicted.
I've been taking care of some long-neglected yard work and prepping the place for summer ?

Anyway, I'm back off to the outdoors, but first, because the issue of the Estate Tax is still pissing me off, I wanted to note that Fred Clark over at Slacktivist has a powerful piece up on the Estate Tax and its impact on charities, should the Senate repeal it. And in it he links to Max Sawicky's takedown of the stated defenses used by those benighted who still think that getting rid of it is going to ruin all those family farms (as opposed to, say, Archer Daniels Midland ?).
Oh, go do the yard work. Fred Clark points out our own government economists say the repeal of the Estate Tax will reduce charitable contributions to society from rich folks by at least twelve percent. You can read the reasoning at the link. And of course the idea that charity should not come from the government ? as it destroys initiative and makes people forget personal responsibility - is covered too. Okay. And Max Sawicky is brilliant. But?.

Nothing will change. Perhaps you will see more photos here.

Ah, and our friend, the high-powered Wall Street attorney, sends this along?




Posted by Alan at 19:47 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 17 April 2005 19:50 PDT home

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