Thursday, July 31, 2014

Republican skulduggery (from the archives)

In our review of the movie “Argo”, we noted above that Reagan received undue credulous-public credit for the release of the Tehran hostages, and that he used his own Presidency for disgraceful truckling to Iran.  It turns out there may be more to the story, of a particularly ominous kind.
I’m reading the new biography of Robert Ames -- The Good Spy by Kai Bird (2014).   We reach the time after the Shah of Iran had been overthrown, and Khomeini was in power,  but the U.S. embassy had not yet been attacked.  What should be done about the ex-Shah?
The author introduces this chapter with an unvarnished quote from President Jimmy Carter (we ourselves -- since this is a family site -- shall varnish it slightly, to the extent of replacing a vowel with an asterisk):   “F*ck the Shah.  I am not going to welcome him here when he has other places to go where he’ll be safe.”  This was no more than prudent, in accord with national security.   Yet “Carter had been hounded for months by a lobbying campaign, code-named ‘Project Alpha’, personally financed by David Rockefeller” (p. 228);  Rosalynn Carter’s diary states “Kissinger, David Rockefeller, Howard Baker, John McCloy, Gerald Ford -- all are after Jimmy to bring the shah to the United States.”  Alas, Carter eventually bent to the relentless pressure, and on 22 October 1979, the shah arrived in New York. 
Two weeks later, our embassy in Tehran was taken over, and the hostages seized, in what became the defining tragedy of the Carter administration, and a convenient preparation for Ronald Reagan to take over the Presidency.

But it gets worse …

[continued here]

Double-edged Meanings

(Significations à deux tranchants.)

We earlier examined the case of politically sensitive non-verbal interpretation:

And subsequently, in the same context of Judeo-Gallic sensitivities, a verbal case:

And now, as an update to that latter essay, this:

The Jewish community was shocked by photographs taken at a Berlin demonstration last week where the clothes of children were brushed with red paint. To some, such images allude to the death of Palestinian children in the Israeli strikes on Gaza. But Jewish leaders here have condemned them as a revival of anti-Semitic myths that paint Jews as child killers who used their victims’ blood in religious rituals.

I have no idea whether attribution to Germans generally, of a memory of the blood-libel, is realistic or not.   This knowledge lives on, to be sure, among Jews and folklorists -- it was strictly in an academic context, while studying literature from the age of Chaucer, that I learned of the thing.   Certainly your average American, whose collective memory extends back no further than Season 1 of “Mad Men”, would not have a clue what you are talking about.   But there are, indeed, parts of the world, in which the Unfinished Business of History looms large in preconsciousness -- particularly, among Muslims of the Middle East.  (For an excellent discussion, cf. Bernard Lewis, The Political Language of Islam [1988].)

For another case of interpreting a non-verbal symbol in the Middle East, try this:

Saturday, July 26, 2014


I might be off the grid for a bit;  so in the meantime, here is a link to the complete roster of individual indices, by theme (literary criticism; movies; psychology; geopolitics; philosophy; mathematics; etc.).

And, for those of you who risk acute hypocutopoenia during the interval,


Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Man of Sorrow, and Acquainted with Grief

Sorrowful indeed:
Roscoe Holcomb - I am a man of constant sorrow

Less so:
Man of Constant Sorrow - The Stanley Brothers

Dylan’s version (1963):
(The album version is even more robust, but it seems to be unfindable online.)

The Soggy Bottom Boys (these are the real singers; lip-synched by various movie-stars):
(Terrific video, thanks to the Coen Brothers)

Stabat mater, dolerosa

Darker, deeper:

Schubert, “Der Leiermann”

Yet another notch  down/down/down …


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Update to the “Paschal scandal”

In a WDJ X-clusive, we earlier revealed a clue to the the perplexing Case of the Disappearing Wristwatch, from the Orthodox patriarch -- and this, in a locked room!!

And now, in a startling development, the purloined watch  has turned up on the wrist of the Caliph Ibrahim, Amir al-Mu’minîn:

The Tell-tale Timepiece

Does this, then, signify  the passing of predominance  from Christianity to Islam?
Truly, this is a sign of the End Times.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Jour de la Bastille

Félicitations à nos alliés de plusieurs guerres, et meilleurs vœux pour une solide coopération entre les Présidents Obama et Hollande. 
Et heureux anniversaire à mon épouse Suzanne Marie, née en ce jour il y a, eh ben, quelques années et le pouce, et qui porte un nom français en l’honneur de cette amitié  plusieurs foix séculaire.
Pour célébrer, voici le palmarès de nos aperçus hexagonaux:
A consulter aussi:
(1789 vs. 1776)
(nos compliments de l’année dernière)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fun Topix

At the very bottom of each post, there is a field labeled “Labels” (rather meta, that).  On most computers, they show up as blue, turning to red once you’ve clicked on it;  if you are a member of the Illuminati, yours will show up in gold.  These are functional, labeling one of the topics of that particular post, so if you’d like to see other posts with that same theme, you simply click and are presented with the whole roster of posts that deal with it.

Mostly the labels are straightforward and utilitarian:  things like topology or linguistics.   The word itself might or might not appear in the actual post;  and the post as a whole need not be mostly about that topic:  for instance, in the humorous deadly serious post Topology of a Conspiracy, there is an image intended to suggest the wheels-with-in-wheels complexity of the dastardly Riemann Affair:  the image depicts the Alexander Horned Sphere, a famous topological construction showing infinite linkage.

Sometimes, though, the labels are themselves alluring words.  Check these out:

das Ewig-Weibliche
God in the quad
grand guignol
grommet-top curtains 
haute vulgarisation
humble woodchuck
in for a penny, in for a pound
just-so stories
la bosse des maths
office life
old-time radio
One-tooth Scully
Occam’s razor
Piglet’s birthday

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sensuous Sounds

It’s a curious thing.  All sorts of little clicky sounds  are normally irritating.  As, the intermittent clatter of dishes and spoons from the next room.  Only … perhaps the annoyance does not inhere in the raw sound, but is relative to the surrounding ideation.
For:  One of the “audially erotic” tricks of cinema, is the quick precision  k-L!CK  of precise metal gunparts, snapping into place, in the hands of an expert.   This gimmick is used with expertise in the somewhat underrated film “The American”.   Here George Clooney plays the role analogous to that of Edward Fox in “Day of the Jackal”, but more engagingly.  Fox  has the odor of dishwater, somehow;  Clooney can be vibrantly charismatic, but here wisely abstains from any fireworks, given his role as a deeply undercover guy:  a discretion exactly parallel to that of the other Seven-Arts god  Ben Affleck, in “Argo”, for quite the same reasons.

Anyhow,  the  Cklick;    Cklack;    of the sniper-rifle parts, 
parallel but surpass  those of the “Jackal”.

In the end, however, such slick tricks are mechanical and empty:  so proves the film to be.   The looks and sounds are expertly produced;  but in the end it is all sonority without sense.   Plot, motivation, character  -- such details had doubtless been jotted down, but then left in “the pocket of his other suit”.   Nothing -- beginning with the title, and ending with the World’s Shortest Shootout -- has any point to it.

Bonus factoid:  In this movie,  Clooney rather resembles this gentleman,

خالد مشعل
who, unlike sundry Hollywood actors, truly does live a life of international intrigue and derring-do.


Thursday, July 10, 2014


"The cabinet noir  introduced, in a curious way, the Open Diplomacy  advocated by the enthusiasts of the League of Nations."

Whenever a storyline crops up  such as the recent [redacted], sparsely reported, I always check the Readers’ Comments at e.g. the WaPo, since a number of local readers will have information beyond what the hapless reporters are aware of or are willing to reveal.  But such is the squawking of the public square, in our day and place, that any intelligent or revelatory commentary  is likely to be swamped by knee-jerk Obama-bashing.   Today is no different; no comment is required.

But it is interesting to see how our Deutsche Freunde are taking all this;  remarkably, with considerable skepticism and good-humor, for the most part.  I have frequently had occasion to quote the Comments of the alert and witty Figaronauts;  here, the readers of the Frankfurter Allgemeine  likewise do not disappoint.

[Sponsored content]
Clothiers to gentlemen since 1917

Herewith a sampling, chosen  as ever  with a view to spicy umgangsprachlich expression, here highlighted for the benefit of Deutschlernende:

Puuuh... [NDLR: apparently a German equivalent of Gallic “Booooof ….”] … jetzt geht es aber wirklich zu weit!! Erst diese völlig überzogene Aufforderung an den amerikanischen Nachrichtendienstrepräsentanten Deutschland zu verlassen und dann verschiebt der Steinmeier auch noch seinen Besuch in Washington... wir wollen mal die Kirche im Dorf lassen! Echt jetzt! Ist ja nicht so als hätten uns die Amerikaner jahrelang nach Strich und Faden verarscht...
Ich vermeide eigentlich Mensch-Tier-Vergleiche,weil sie an eine unselige deutsche Epoche erinnern.  Dennoch kann man im Fall "Ausgespähtwerden durch Freunde" von einer Made-im-Speck-Situation sprechen.Die Freunde schalten (im Wortsinne) und walten hierzulande an mehreren Horchposten nach Gutsherrenart und spähen Bürger und Wirtschaft dreist aus.Werden sie dabei erwischt,"möchten" sie sich "dazu nicht äußern" oder nennen die Losung
( ich gehe davon aus, dass unser Geheimdienst auch nicht so unbescholten ist - innerhalb der USA). Das ist ein Geplänkel einer Reaktion - es löst nicht das Hauptproblem dieser Schnüffelei.
Nimmt diese Erbärmlichkeit denn kein Ende.

"Die Bundesregierung schämt sich, die Hoheitsrechte unseres Landes verteidigen zu müssen. Wir bitten daher alle Staatsfeinde, endlich das Land zu verlassen. Ihre Anwesenheit hier ist unerträglich für unsere PR."

Landesverteidigung Marke Schwarz-Rot.
Nee, Leute, wir treffen uns an der Glienicker Brücke
Von wegen "das Land verlassen". Nein, da sind jetzt harte Bandagen gefragt. Wen wollen wir denn austauschen? 5 von unseren gegen wieviele von denen?
Sicherlich haben die "Erstklassigen" vor der Entscheidung über die Ausladung in Washington angefragt, wie man reagieren könne. Ausschlag gebend war dann daß der Mann sowieso nach Hawaii wollte weil er die Golfplätze um Berlin nun zur Genüge kannte
Eigentlich egal, ob nun die NSA, CIA oder ein anderer der vielen Geheimdienste der USA die Finger im Spiel hatte.
Da die USA Deutschland als Bundesstaat der USA zu betrachten scheinen, warum leitet die Regierung nicht gleich alles weiter? Treten wir doch den USA bei. Hieße aber bezüglich der EU vom Regen in die Traufe zu kommen. Diverse User bescheinigen den USA Beschützermentalität und das Deitschland unter den Atomwaffenschirm schlüpfen darf. Der Besitz jener ist Deutschland verboten. Also Ansage an die USA, wir bauen auch welche zur Abschreckung. Fast jeder Dritte Weltstaat hat sie, warum wir nicht auch? Deutschland soll ja angeblich mündiger werden! Also packen wir es an! Das Deutschland sich an einen sterbenden Hegemon klammert verstehe ich nicht! Es gibt besseres!
Wann sind wir endlich in der Lage uns vollständig von der Ex-Besatzungsmacht zu emanzipieren?
Snowden#s Asyl wäre ein Zeichen - alles andere ist Augenwischerei!
Nach dem 11 September und der Proklamation des Bündnisfalls wurde den Amerikanern durch unsere damalige Regierung des Ausspionieren genehmigt. Die Amerikaner agieren vollkommen legal: Sie können in Deutschland alles und jeden abhören. Die Bundesregierung weiß das natürlich auch. Ihre Erregung ist eine bemerkenswerte schauspielerische Leistung.

Die Grundlage ist der Artikel 3, Absatz 2 des „Zusatzabkommens zum Nato-Truppenstatut“ vom 3.
August 1959.

Vollständiger Artikel auf DWN 7.7.2014. Sehr lesenswert.
Mir scheint die meisten verwechseln das Wort Mut   mit einer kindlichen Trotzreaktion!

[Update 1 March 2015]  For a treacly, self-licking, autogynophilic view of the DGSE, check out the “exclusif” in today’s “For Dummies” section of Le Figaro:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

رمضان مبارك

We have often had occasion to praise the Moroccan-born radio-feulletoniste Fouad Laroui.  Here is the bio thumbnail provided by Medi1:

Depuis les Pays Bas, il nous offre chaque lundi sur Medi 1 le regard distancé, ironique, amusé ou caustique d’un maghrébin vivant en Europe du « Nord », et a pour cible la bêtise, la méchanceté et le fanatisme.

All that is true enough;  but he is not simply a satirist.  Here, he chronicles some quite intelligent and inventive innovations by Europe-based Muslims -- one taking into account history and northern latitudes, another observing Ramadan in what is effectively more a Lenten Christian spirit:

Friday, July 4, 2014


The Fourth of July celebration -- in origin quite earnest, and a time for historico-political speechmaking -- has gradually softened and loosened, like an old sweater, into a fairly agenda-free holiday for kids:  Fireworks, fun, and french fries.  Well I recall, how we as kids  lined up along Ridgewood Avenue, excitedly half-comprehendingly, to watch the parade flow by.

As you grow older, some of it does get old.  Brief bursts of bright blotches against the night sky  no longer move me -- not, at any rate, so much as the least glimpse of God’s own handiwork, like the more permanent pattern-and-colorburst on the leaves of a coleus.

But in another way, the meaning of this day grows ever deeper, even sombre.  For the success and permanency of the American Revolution was by no means a foregone conclusion -- we were truly in uncharted territory back then.   The more you learn about history, and the more history itself keeps happening, you are forced to conclude:  Most revolutions  go awry.

To begin with our own.   Contrary to the impression we get in school, at the time of the Declaration of Independence, a bare one third of the American population was in favor of rebelling against Britain; a third against; a third undecided.   The perfect setting for an immediate post-revolution civil war.  Yet it did not happen (the Civil War a century later fell along quite different lines).  The only threat came again externally, in 1812 (“the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air”), when the wrath of the British Empire was again turned against us, and the nation’s capital was set in flames.   The pinwheels and cherry bombs of latter days  commemorate an actual peril.

Remarkably as well, we managed, over the years and (by now) centuries, to maintain (most of us) extremely cordial, even intimate relations with the Mother Country -- an unusual trans-hemispheric affinity, unmatched by the relations of the Latin American countries to Spain and Portugal (let alone Haiti to France).

Consider next the French revolution -- “next”, because in fact it was subsequent to our own, having broke out in 1789; though the way Europeans run on about it, you’d think it was the first revolution in the history of the world.  Anyhow, it remains a proud occasion;  the French version of Independence Day is Bastille Day, celebrated on July 14, with great fanfare.  (For our friendly nod to our old ally, click here:  Merci la France.)
Yet their revolution was -- franchise oblige -- a gorawful bloody cock-up.  Not content with overturning centuries of monarchy, the revolutionaries proceeded to la Terreur, and to a sort of overreaching ideological Gleichschaltung that foreshadowed the Bolshevik excess. And to crown it all, it didn’t stick:  within a couple of decades, the kings were back.

France did not ultimately found a Republic that stuck, after the imperial and revived-monarchical interludes, until 1871, with the Third Republic (which segued into the Fourth and Fifth without a relapse into pre-Republican polity).   Nor did this event stem in any direct way from the events of 1789.  As William Shirer tells it, in The Collapse of the Third Republic (1969, chapter “A Freakish Birth):

It came into being by a fluke.  The National Assembly, elected in 1871 ... had not wanted a Republic.  Nearly two thirds of its members were Monarchists.  But they could not agree on a king …
So the lawmakers … sort of backed into the harness of a republic … by a majority of one vote … 353 to 352 -- though there would have been a tie  had one deputy, who was against it, not been late in arriving for the balloting.  Even then it was not clear to many members that they were actually choosing a republic.  The day before, they had rejected it, or thought they had.

By contrast, the Constitution that came out of our revolutionary days  has lasted and guided us down to the present, with comparatively modest and incremental additions.


Since the end of the Second World War, world history has been spotted by rebellions and revolts, mostly anti-colonial, in quest of independence.   And for the most part, the results have not been pretty.
MyanmarZimbabwe.   Algeria. Somalia.  Cambodia.  South AfricaCongo.  The fragment that is Pakistan, and the mini-fragment of Bangladesh.  And now most recently, South Sudan and Azawad.  Names like tombstones along the  the corpse-strewn path of History’s forced-march.

And thus the American declaration of independence, which shone at the time, shines yet more brightly now, against the contrasting dark.  It is as though the metal of which men then were made, deemed sturdy bronze at the time, were revealed, in the fullness of time, with the reckonings in and the dust dispersed, to have been, in actual and astonishing fact, of purest gold.

[The perspective of this essay thus falls under the general rubric of American exceptionalism.]

[4 juillet 2014]  The above is a reprint of our essay from earlier years at this time.
Additionally, this morning’s Washington Post has a quite readable portrait of a contemporary attempt to recapture Independence to the potential exclusion of certain other values (such as civilization):


And, a view from England: