Taking a shot break. Back next Wednesday 2nd July.
A Dorothea Lange photo from the Depression years:
May 1937. "One of three related Oklahoma drought refugee families on the highway near Lordsburg, New Mexico, going to Roswell to chop cotton."
Derelict pub ("Top o' the Morning") by Victoria Park:
Its brief claim to fame was that the victim of the first railway murder was brought here after the attack:
In 1864 Thomas Briggs, a 69 year-old banker, became the first person to be murdered on the railway in Britain. The case was an instant sensation in the press and played into fears about the speed of change taking place across the country in the Victorian era.
It began as a new twist on the 'locked room mystery.' At 10.10pm on July 9 the train from Fenchurch Street pulled in to Hackney Station. Two City workers entered the lead first-class compartment and sat down, only to feel wet blood on their hands and trousers. Blood was also trickling down the glass window.
There was no body, only a cane, bag and squashed black hat bearing the maker's name 'TH Walker, Marylebone'.
Twenty minutes later Mr Briggs was discovered between the up and down lines of North London Railway, not far from the Mitford Castle pub (now the Top O' The Morning in Cadogan Terrace, Bow). Incredibly, despite having his skull crushed with a blunt weapon, he was still alive. Mr Briggs passed away at home in 5 Clapton Square, Hackney, at 11.45pm on Sunday July 10.
Read the rest of the grisly tale - complete with transatlatic chase and German villain - here.
New York, 1888:
Mulberry Street, in the Lower East Side. Photographed by Jacob Riis as part of his pioneering work of photojournalism, How the Other Half Lives, which documented the squalid living conditions in New York City slums:
In the 1890s many people in upper- and middle-class society were unaware of the dangerous conditions in the slums among poor immigrants. Jacob Riis, a Danish immigrant who himself could not originally find much work, hoped to expose the squalor of the 19th-century Lower East Side of Manhattan. After a successful career as a police reporter, he published a photojournal documenting these conditions using graphic descriptions, sketches, photographs, and statistics. Riis blamed the apathy of the monied class for the condition of the New York slums, and assumed that as people were made more aware of these conditions they would be motivated to help eradicate them....
How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York explained not only the living conditions in New York slums, but also the sweatshops in some tenements which paid workers only a few cents a day. The book explains the plight of working children; they would work in factories and at other jobs. Some children became garment workers and newsies (newsboys).
The effect was the tearing down of New York's worst tenements, sweatshops, and the reformation of the city's schools. The book led to a decade of improvements in Lower East Side conditions, with sewers, garbage collection, and indoor plumbing all following soon after, thanks to public reaction.
A similar reforming spirit at the same time in London saw the demolition of some of the worst East End slums, such as the infamous Old Nichol in Shoreditch.
More of Jacob Riis's photos here.
An amusing exercise in unwitting Guardian self-parody from Joanna Bourke at CiF. Clearly we can't simply blame radical Islam for the young British jihadis off to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The fault must, inevitably, be ours:
For some commentators, these young men represent a crisis unique to British Muslims and are a justification for a further extension of surveillance of Muslim communities. Religious radicalism in the UK and throughout the world is a serious problem, but blaming religion alone takes us only so far. The problem is much wider. It includes the glamorising of violence: a fascination with armed conflict permeates male sub-cultures, crossing religious, ethnic, and class boundaries, while remaining very rooted in masculinity.
At the most general level, there is a quaint assumption in Britain that we are a peaceable people, engaging in armed conflicts half-heartedly and only when threatened by aggressors. Our role as perpetrators of violence is often overlooked. There is still considerable reluctance to acknowledge the atrocities committed during the age of empire. There is a similar reluctance to admit the role British policies have played in creating the political and economic environment that has helped foster terrorism in the Middle East.
But the problem is more complex. The glamorising of violence and military culture has effects beyond any particular group. It is not unique to young Muslim men – or, indeed, young men in Cardiff – to be excited by the prospect of combat. War is often seen as a rite of passage for young men – finally able to prove themselves as adults, not only to their parents but also to their peers. In all armed conflicts, men are heard boasting about the exhilaration of fighting, often neglecting to acknowledge their fears of dying.
This attitude is bolstered by war films, one of the most popular genres. Indeed, for many, war isn't hell; it's entertainment...
And so on.
Although only posted yesterday evening, the comments have already been switched off - presumably to avoid further embarrassment. There's some bullshit even hardened Guardianistas won't swallow.
Matti Friedman on the lesson of Israel:
Over the past few weeks, in a part of Iraq that is closer to my home in Jerusalem than Detroit is to New York, a fanatical strain of Islam has executed an astonishing advance, butchering other Muslims and forcing the further exodus of native minorities like the Christians of Mosul. Some Christians from Mosul have taken refuge in the hills with the Chaldeans, members of a tiny Christian group with their own language and culture, whose future amid the extreme sectarian violence in Iraq is likely to be brief. Other native Iraqi sects, like the Yazidis, have seen entire villages destroyed. Syrian cities like Aleppo and Homs, home to some of the oldest Christian communities in the world, have been devastated and those communities displaced.
One of the biggest stories in the region in the past century—the disappearance of the old cosmopolitan mosaic that always found a way to exist under Islam but no longer can—has now picked up speed to an extent that would have been hard to imagine even two or three years ago. Soon these communities will all be gone, and one of the great cultural losses of our times will be complete....
When one looks at the recently exiled Mandaeans, Zoroastrians, Christians, and others, the Jews displaced by Muslims from their ancestral homes beginning in the mid-20th century begin to look more and more like the proverbial canary in the coal mine. This is a role that Jews have often played in different parts of the world.
Are you an ethnic or religious minority that wishes to survive in the Middle East? You had better have a piece of land in which you are the majority, and the power to defend it. This is the lesson of the Kurds, as has been vividly brought home this past month, and it is the lesson of Israel.
The Jewish state is as imperfect as any state, and is not an Eden of religious tolerance and harmony. But with its growing populations of Middle Eastern and European Jews, Sunni Muslims, Arab Christians, and Druze, with its synagogues, Baha’i shrines, and Eastern, Catholic, and Protestant churches, it serves as one of the last minority bulwarks in a region that seems intent on expelling its minorities or consuming them alive. Israel is an intolerable affront to so many of its neighbors, and has been long before 1967 or (for that matter) 1948, not because Jews are foreign here but in large part because they are not foreign—they are a familiar local minority that has inverted the order of things by winning wars and becoming sovereign.
MJT: The White House’s Syria policy is about Iran, isn’t it?
Lee Smith: Part of it of course is that Obama understands himself as the man whose job is to get us out of entanglements in the Middle East, not to further commit American troops and resources. Still—yes, a large part of it has to do with Iran.
As I explain in The Consequences of Syria, there’s evidence suggesting that the administration feared that helping topple Assad, an ally of Iran, might have angered the Iranians and pushed them away from the negotiating table, and getting a deal with Iran was the White House’s chief goal in the Middle East.
Look at other exampled of how the White House wanted to stay on the regime’s good side. When the Green Movement took to the streets in June 2009 to protest what was quite likely fraudulent election results, the White House was extremely slow to support it even when the regime was attacking people on the streets just as the Assad regime did a few years later.
One of the reasons the administration was slow to respond—and we know this because it was reported in the New Yorker article that first put forth the now-infamous phrase “leading from behind”—is because, as one administration official put it, the White House wanted to negotiate with the regime. Same with sanctions relief, which the White House provided to keep the Iranians at the table.
It’s hard not to conclude that the administration’s Syria policy is a sub-set of its Iran policy. Many people were baffled for a long time, including me, that the president didn’t seem to see Syria strategically, as a way to weaken Iran. Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis said that toppling Bashar al-Assad would constitute the most severe blow against the Iranian regime in 25 years. A number of administration officials seemed to recognize the same thing—from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and ex-CIA director David Petraeus. Only the president seemed to not recognize that or to see Syria in a strategic framework. What we now realize is that the president does see Syria in a strategic framework. He sees that the Syrian regime is an important ally of the Iranians and doesn’t want to be seen toppling the regime for fear of angering the Iranians.
MJT: Is there any chance that the White House is going to get what it wants from the Iranians this way?
Lee Smith: If we have a powerful American presence in the Middle East it might be possible to come to some sort of accommodation with Iran. I don’t know exactly what it would look like. But it would have to be demonstrated that the United States still calls the shots in the Persian Gulf and that the United States is still the great power in the Middle East.
What we’re seeing instead is a United States in retreat in the Middle East. So I don’t see what the accommodation would look like. It’s not a grand bargain with Iran, but an American fire sale, with the US virtually giving away its assets. The US is retreating from the region and leaving it in Iranian hands....
Worth reading in full. On the comparable threats of ISIS and Iran, for instance:
A radical Sunni who wants to establish a caliphate, yelling Allahu Akbar with a black flag in one hand and a Kalashnikov in his other hand is crazy and dangerous, but he’s not a strategic threat. How does that caliphate, assuming such a thing is even possible, affect how Americans live? Are they going to impose sharia on us? Are our female friends and relatives going to be forced to wear a veil because of what some guy in Aleppo says?
When people worry that Sunni Islamists want to create a caliphate in the Middle East they seem to forget that we already have a clerical regime in Iran. What they’re afraid might happen has already happened. And the concern coming out of Tehran isn’t sharia, but the fact that a nuclear weapons program in the hands of an expansionist regime gives them a dangerous say in the flow of energy resources through the Persian Gulf. They don’t have to actually use a bomb to destabilize the region and raise the price of energy around the world. That’s the danger—that Iranian hegemony in the Persian Gulf will affect how Americans, and our trading partners, live.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is an already-existing Islamist power, with an army, a navy, an air force, a ballistic missile program, a nuclear weapons program. They have a diplomatic corps as well as a terrorist apparatus. Al Qaeda doesn’t have any of that. Iran is the key strategic threat in the Middle East for American interests and American allies.
A Saudi preacher suggests that Muslim women should be allowed to uncover their faces if they so wish, and not wear the niqab. A twitter storm follows:
“I dare you join your wife in an outing while she uncovers her face. You are seeking fame and I wish you shave your beard because you are not a man."
“If you enjoy looking at other Muslim women then it means something is wrong with you! And you are the one who needs advice.”
“Although we are convinced that uncovering [a woman’s] face is permissible, our society does not accept it and I’ve heard people describe a woman uncovering her face as a prostitute.”
There's a long long way to go.