"New York Public Library," 2017, photographed by Alexey Titarenko:
Well, that's one way of looking at it. Timothy Snyder:
We no longer need to wonder what it would be like to lose a war on our own territory. We just lost one to Russia, and the consequence was the election of Donald Trump. The war followed the new rules of the 21st century, but its goal was the usual one of political change.
The greatest student of war, Carl von Clausewitz, defined war as "an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will." In his own time, the 19th century, force meant battle: "there is only one means in war: combat." Combat is not war, but a means to win a war, to impose one's will.
But what if the enemy's will can be altered without the blood and treasure of military engagement? If that were true, then a country with a smaller military budget, like Russia, might beat one with a better army, like America.
That just happened, and we are still wiping our eyes in foggy denial.
Nearly 70 percent of the North Korean population, roughly seven in 10 people, is undernourished, a U.S. broadcaster reported Wednesday, citing a U.N. report on the need for humanitarian aid to North Korea.
According to the report released the previous day by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), some 18 million North Korean people, including 1.3 million children under five, are malnourished because of the socialist country's poor state food rations which lack protein and fat, Radio Free Asia said.
The report also pointed out that the North's daily food rations remained at 300-380 grams per person on average last year, just half of some 600 grams that the United Nations recommends as the minimal daily requirement, the broadcaster said.
The report stressed the need for fresh assistance to the North, while reminding that North Korean residents suffer insufficiency in food, sanitation and drinking water because of recurring natural disasters like droughts and floods.
It ain't recurring natural disasters that cause the undernourishment of the North Koreans: it's the unnatural regime in Pyongyang. Aid to North Korea simply gets siphoned off to the military. It's been happening for years, and still the aid agencies don't get it.
The aid agencies are still advocating the same failing strategy they’ve pursued for decades, which has hardly made a statistical dent in the percentage of undernourished North Koreans. The obvious cause of this, as the U.N. Panel of Experts recently reported, “This humanitarian situation is largely the result of priority being accorded to the military and defence industry, which has significantly distorted economic resource allocation.” (Para. 279.)
I’ve documented, for example, how North Korea squandered millions on its military on a mausoleum for Kim Il-sung while millions were starving of dying of opportunistic disease in the countryside. Or how it continues to spend six times on luxury imports what the U.N. World Food Program is asking foreign donors for each year. Or what spends to build luxury facilities like ski resorts, amusement parks, and 3D theaters for its elites. Or the billions it spends on missile development and testing, or nukes (for which we still have no estimates). Or Kim Jong-un’s affinity for yachts.
A more overlooked cause is the regime’s interference with private agriculture and markets that provide a substantial share of the food that most North Koreans survive on. Yet another is the fact that Pyongyang exports a substantial amount of the food it produces to raise cash for things that matter more to it than the nutrition of its people.
Meanwhile there are reports that the number of workers heading to Russia has increased sharply, with the old route through China being reopened - signs of the increasing desperation of Pyongyang to earn foreign currency:
A source close to North Korean affairs in China said that Russia is likely to welcome the plan by the North Korean authorities to dispatch a large labor force for foreign currency earning, noting, "The international community is keeping a watchful eye on North Korea's dispatch of workers abroad in order to block the nation's sources of foreign currency. But as long as Russia is in need of a cheap labor force, the regime can keep dispatching workers. The fact that they have resumed the old route [via Dandong] ten years after it was shut down shows the magnitude of the operation."
A recent report by Radio Free Asia (RFA) lends further weight to these claims. RFA reported that according to statements made by the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang on March 20, Russia and China discussed the issue of dispatching workers during a joint working group meeting held on March 17 in Pyongyang. "These movements," the report read, "can be interpreted as part of a policy to increase the number of dispatched workers, despite negative sentiment from the international community."
These workers, it should be remembered, work under conditions of virtual slave labour, under close supervision from Kim loyalists, with torture and execution awaiting those who try to escape.
The Times headline this morning - Killer was Muslim convert:
The terrorist who brought carnage to Westminster was a Muslim convert and violent criminal known to the security services, it emerged last night, as the death toll rose to five.
Khalid Masood, 52, who stabbed PC Keith Palmer to death outside the Palace of Westminster after mowing down pedestrians on the nearby bridge, had been in prison twice, raising concerns that he may have been radicalised behind bars.
Masood was born Adrian Russell Ajao in Dartford, Kent, and brought up by a single mother in the seaside town of Rye, East Sussex, before a religious conversion, sources confirmed. After he was shot dead, Islamic State hailed him as one of its “soldiers”.
How wonderful that a violent criminal can find a meaning to his life, and gain final redemption, through the power of religion.
Can't quite let Chick Berry go without one more live performance. This one's on Belgian TV, from 1965. God knows who's backing him, but it doesn't matter: it's all about Chuck and his guitar. An amazing performance:
I said last week that he'd had the "brilliant idea of writing rock'n'roll songs with lyrics that appealed to white teenagers". Which may not be quite fair, but certainly no other black R'n'B artist of the time could possibly have come up with that lyric - "Roll over Beethoven, and tell Tchaikovsky the news".
Bob Dylan - "When I first heard Chuck Berry, I had no idea that he was black. I thought he was white hillbilly."
The early years:
By early 1953 Berry was performing with Johnnie Johnson's trio, starting a long-time collaboration with the pianist. The band played mostly blues and ballads, but the most popular music among whites in the area was country. Berry wrote, "Curiosity provoked me to lay a lot of our country stuff on our predominantly black audience and some of our black audience began whispering 'who is that black hillbilly at the Cosmo?' After they laughed at me a few times they began requesting the hillbilly stuff and enjoyed dancing to it." Berry's calculated showmanship, along with a mix of country tunes and R&B tunes, sung in the style of Nat King Cole set to the music of Muddy Waters, brought in a wider audience, particularly affluent white people.
If you missed it, David Remnick's obit in the New Yorker is worth a read.
In contrast to the prevarication and dithering that greeted Trump's claim that Obama got the security services to tap his phone, GCHQ over here, when the finger was pointed at them by Judge Andrew Napolitano, lost no time in describing the allegations as rubbish. Which, as Michael Totten notes, is what the FBI should have done from the start:
Comey’s response, while serious and polite and respectful, is a vestige, an anachronism from an earlier era. “With respect to the president’s tweets,” he said in his testimony, “I have no information that supports those tweets. We have looked carefully inside the FBI.”
He looked carefully inside the FBI? Really? He was under oath, so he probably did, and if so, what a mistake. GCHQ didn’t look inside its own agency carefully, I assure you—it didn’t have time—any more than NASA would look seriously inside its own organization if Vladimir Putin accused it of fomenting international terrorism.
Important men and women with dignified jobs have better things to do than go on a snipe hunt.
The FBI shouldn’t have spent more than five minutes “investigating” Trump’s ludicrous claim that Obama wiretapped his phone for the same reason that they never investigated Trump’s equally ludicrous claim that Obama was born in Kenya. Despite what Trump has said on the subject, law enforcement will not waste its time looking into whether or not Senator Ted Cruz’s father participated in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, nor will the Federal Election Commission bother proving or disproving the president’s boast that he won the popular vote because three million people voted illegally for Hillary Clinton. The American Medical Association certainly won’t look into Trump’s claim that vaccines cause autism. It was thoroughly debunked years before the president disgraced himself by repeating it.
Serious people can’t take the president of the United States seriously. He is a compulsive liar and a crackpot conspiracy theorist and must be treated accordingly without delay.
If it was purely a high body count he was after, would the Westminster terrorist have been better off driving at speed down somewhere like Oxford Street. perhaps? Instead, that is, of the more symbolic target of Westminster itself, and the Houses of Parliament?
Well, maybe not. We're now getting news from Antwerp:
A French national of North African origin has been arrested in the Belgian city of Antwerp on suspicion of driving at a crowd, officials say.
A car was driven "at high speed" on De Meir, the northern city's main shopping street, before it was intercepted. There were no reports of any injuries.
Knives, a non-lethal gun and some unidentifiable liquid were found in the car, prosecutors say.
What they don't tell you is that De Meir is pedestrianised. Admittedly it's broad enough for pedestrians to be fairly widely spaced, and to get out of the way, but even so it seems extraordinary that no one was hurt. If that's what the driver was intending.
Meanwhile, a welcome corrective to the endless news coverage, from the Daily Mash:
LONDON residents have told extremists that they have far more pressing things to worry about.
Londoners told terror wannabes that they will never even scrape the top five of things that plague their tired, jumbled minds on a daily basis.
“If terrorists think they can make me more scared than I already am, good luck with that. As far as nagging daily anxieties go, I’m afraid they’ll have to take a number and join the back of the queue.”
Brixton-based Mary Fisher said: “I live in a garden shed with two 45-year-old computer programmers and today I did a three-bus commute to Oxford Circus, then paid £12 for a chicken sandwich in some vaguely fancy bread.
“I deal with London bullshit every single day. I am undefeatable.”
In the wake of yesterday's Westminster attack from yet another homicidal Islamist, it's perhaps worth reminding ourselves how often our security forces catch these delusional bastards before they do any harm. From today's Times:
A group of men who called themselves the “musketeers” were planning a terrorist attack using a pipe bomb and a meat cleaver with the word “infidels” etched into the blade, a court has been told.
Police searched a black Seat Leon on August 26 last year and found an arsenal of weapons in a plastic JD Sports bag under the driver’s seat.
Naweed Ali, 29, and Khobaib Hussain, 25, lived next door to each other in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham. The other two defendants, Mohibur Rahman, 32, and Tahir Aziz, 38, lived in Stoke-on-Trent where Mr Rahman worked at a takeaway restaurant called Mactas’ Peri Peri Grill. Mr Ali drove the Seat Leon.
The first three defendants set up an encrypted chat group using an image for Disney’s The Three Musketeers, which revealed their “desire to take action”, the Old Bailey was told.
Gareth Patterson, QC, for the prosecution, said: “Evidence found on phones and other devices that they used show that each of these four defendants shared radical and extremist beliefs and ideologies. Each of them believed in the use of violence in support of these radical beliefs.”
Well, it's not unusual.
And here, with the latest from MEMRI TV, we get to the source of all this. Mild stuff, mind, compared to ISIS propaganda, but it's all here: the glories of offensive jihad; no coexistence possible; death for apostasy as " one of the greatest punishments in Islam"...
Saudi cleric Sheikh Ayman Al-Anqari:
Much of the problem, as I've argued before, is that in Islam there's no overall control - no pope or Archbishop of Canterbury figure - to rein in the excesses of these clerics. It's a race to the bottom.
There are, though, the odd dissenting voices, who can see that all is not well in the Muslim world:
"Look around you. We have been building universities for over two centuries, and we have been filling our cities with intellectuals and doctors, yet we are even more backward than we used to be. In the past, we did not create organisations like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. At least we had aspirations and dreams of change. But what is happening today is the opposite. All we want to do is to become even more backward. We believe that further regression is the right choice...."
The Twelvetrees Ramp over Bow Creek is now open for pedestrians and bikes, as part of what they're now calling the Leaway.
Low tide, as you can see. [I posted here, pre-Olympics, on the Bow Back Rivers, and how much better it would all look if they'd build a lock downstream so it would no longer be tidal. Though it would lose that urban wasteland vibe.]
It's now a great deal quicker and easier to cross over, but you still can't get past Cody Dock. As a result it's pretty much deserted, but eventually it'll open up all the way down to Bow Ecology Park, East India Dock Basin, Trinity Buoy Wharf and the Royal Docks. And then, presumably, the walkers and cyclists will come.
But, like all these post-Olympic developments, everything moves slowly. Very slowly.
The sordid and largely forgotten tale of Paul de Man, Yale Professor and champion of deconstruction, is being resurrected in a new off-Broadway play.
In 1987, some four years after his death, the truth about de Man's wartime record surfaced. A native of Belgium, he'd written antisemitic articles in a pro-Nazi paper during the war.
It is interesting how rapidly de Man disappeared from academic view, considering how important he was generally considered to have been in the spread of deconstruction as the dominant form of literary criticism throughout American English departments. It's almost as though there's some....embarrassment about it all.
Deconstructionism is then, as the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur has observed in Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences, like Marxism, Nietzcheism, and Freudianism: it is a hermeneutics of suspicion; it has as its intention the unmasking or the stripping away of the merely apparent; its objective is the demystification of what linguistically seems, in favor of an announcement of what is. In the case of deconstructionism, that which is always turns out to be the bankruptcy of all metaphysics, the collapse of the whole tradition of Western intellectual thought, because it is “logocentric” or founded on a faith in language and a theology of meaning.
What invariably emerges from deconstructionist criticism is an assault on the rational principle itself, as language endeavors to express it. Every effort is made in this criticism to subvert the meaning said to be expressed in literary texts because language and reason provide no stable ground for certitude. Thus we reach very quickly, in this criticism, what the deconstructionist J. Hillis Miller calls “the abyss of ‘annihilation.’” Staring into this abyss—the meaningless of meaning— apparently gives the deconstructionist some kind of thrill. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, a translator of Derrida and practicing deconstructionist in her own right, has announced that “The fall into the abyss of deconstruction inspires us with as much pleasure as fear. We are intoxicated with the prospect of never hitting bottom.” And Jonathan Culler commends the excitement of sawing off the philosophical limb one sits on. Others will know this attempt to subvert rationality by subverting language for what it is—the latest form of nihilism.
As Lehman suggested, it was perhaps no surprise that a man with such a disgraceful past, and with such a troubled relationship with reality, should go on to champion a critical approach that fundamentally undermines any notion of objective truth. If words are just signs which only attain meaning through their difference from other signs - if there is nothing outside the text - then writing is removed from the range of activities which might have consequences, and ultimately from the realm of morality. Perfect.
Evelyn Barish's 2013 The Double Life of Paul de Man added more detail - her "revelatory and compulsively readable biography proves that Paul de Man, once considered America's foremost literary theorist, had been an active Nazi collaborator in Belgium during the war and was also a convicted embezzler, a bigamist, and a narcissist who stared at himself in the mirror for hours."
From a New Republic review, Paul de Man Was a Total Fraud:
The full picture is actually far worse than any of these initial condemnatory reports, as Barish demonstrates in carefully documented detail. What she shows is that from the beginning, de Man was a person who flagrantly disregarded rules and obligations, shamelessly and repeatedly lied about himself, and had a criminal past. A Belgian cousin reports that the young de Man once said to him, “Principles are what the idiots substitute for intelligence.” One should add that he was an extraordinarily gifted con man, persuading the most discerning intellectuals that he had credentials he did not possess and a heroic personal history, rather than a scandalous one, while he worked his charm on generations of students.
The perfect man to bring the exciting new theory of deconstruction to college literary departments across America.
And now we have the play. Kyle Smith:
For decades de Man had been an avatar not just of leftist politics but also of the leftist war on truth, the never-ending campaign to recast objective fact as subjective and open to question. And here he was, proven to have written 200 pieces for a collaborationist newspaper. Not for the first time, fascism and the far Left found themselves inconveniently linked.
Considering the question in hindsight, it ought not surprise us that a man who questioned the existence of truth turned out to be a champion liar—a “total fraud....who lied about every part of his life.” The meaning of that career in dissembling has not received the scrutiny it deserves because the embarrassed Left simply fed de Man into the memory incinerator. In that same 1987 piece the Times noted that “Venerated as a teacher and scholar, he was the originator of a controversial theory of language that some say may place him among the great thinkers of his age.” “Some” then. No one today. “De Man is now scarcely remembered by the general public"....
Deconstruction, is set in 1949, and concerns the affair that de Man is supposed to have had with Mary McCarthy:
The play derives much of its narrative energy from the arrival of a third giant of the era: the public intellectual Hannah Arendt ... Arendt, who fled Germany in 1933, is instantly suspicious of a detail from de Man’s past that McCarthy finds most attractive: his supposed role in the Resistance. But instead of grilling him about details of his biography, she challenges de Man from an oblique angle. The two spar about their competing interpretations of the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, Arendt’s former professor and lover and a onetime member of the Nazi party.
The play becomes, then, an erudite detective story, an inquiry into a man’s personality wrapped up in an in inquiry about philosophical concepts. By probing de Man’s views on Heidegger, Arendt gradually uncovers the young man’s hostility to truth, and this in turn leads to a devastating reckoning.
Hmm. I doubt that I'll be rushing to see it, should it make it over here to London. Even Tom Stoppard would have a hard job making competing interpretations of Heidegger interesting or amusing. Nor would I trust Hannah Arendt as a worthy antagonist and keen seeker of the truth. She was, after all, famous for that "banality of evil" phrase, which she coined after being completely fooled by Adolf Eichmann and his self-serving "just a bureaucrat following orders" defence.
As for Heidegger, well, as I've been documenting here on occasion, the news has been getting worse and worse. He's now revealed as a bona fide, unrepentant anti-Semite, and passionate early supporter of Hitler. Yet his critique of the "imperious dehumanising movement of western modernity" is still regarded by many on the left as a seminal contribution - if not the seminal contribution - to radical philosophy. As I suggested a while back, when you're keen, as so many of our critical thinkers are, to analyse the shortcomings of modern western society, it's perhaps wise not to base your analysis on the works of a thinker who saw enemies in world Jewry and British democracy, and the answer in National Socialism.
The roots of Critical Theory lie in some very murky waters indeed.