Seymour Melman

seymourMelmanThe 1-15 June issue of Counterpunch features a story about the US government’s snooping on Professor Seymour Melman during the years 1958-1974.  What I wanted to note were the titles of two of Melman’s books, Our Depleted Society and The Permanent War Economy.  Also noteworthy is a review of Melman’s 1962 book The Peace Race that appears in his FBI file; apparently a researcher at the Bureau’s Central Research Section was assigned to write the book up.  The remarkable thing about this review is how favorably it reported Melman’s argument against the Cold War military buildup.

Is the internet sexist?

Here’s a simple experiment.  Go to Google Images.  Turn off safe search.  Type in the word “man.”  Look at the first screen of results.  Note how many are nsfw.  Then search for “woman,” and make the same note.  Repeat the process with “girl,” “boy,” “male,” “female,” “she,” “he,” and other gender words.  Include pairs of masculine and feminine names, such as “Julia” and “Julius,” in your search.

Fake Suicides Spark Chinese Riot

Chinese government is accused of drug and murder corruption.

Burqa Officially Unfashionable, Per France

President Sarkozy declares burqa “not hot.”

If I Were a Carpenter- Johnny & June Carter Cash

Fast-talking furriners

john moschittaFrom Ed Yong’s “Not Exactly Rocket Science,” a report on a recent study of turn-taking conventions among speakers of various languages.  The surprising thing is how little variation there seems to be from culture to culture.  It seems that every language group prizes speed of communication; nowhere is it the norm to pause noticeably between speakers.   While I’m posting about Ed Yong’s coverage of linguistics, I should note that a few days ago he posted this piece about a study that seems to show that five-month old babies can recognize their native languages when they hear unfamiliar speakers use them.

The swing vote in Iran

persicos odi puer apparatusAt Language Log, Mark Liberman notes that a protest song young Iranians are singing these days has the same opening as “Bei mir bist du shayn,” a klezmer tune partly translated out of Yiddish that was a hit in the USA about 70 years ago.  This rather surprising connection in turn leads Professor Liberman to quote one of Horace’s Odes and to compare that ode with a couple of English poems composed in tribute to it.

Seven recent issues of The Nation

Ever since I started writing here, I’ve been referring to “Mrs Acilius.”  Until last month, that was a bit of an exaggeration, as I had not actually married the lady in question.  We tied the knot 12 May.  So lately, I’ve had things on my mind other than this blog.  That’s why I haven’t been posting “Periodicals Notes” regularly.  But I’ve vowed to catch up.  So here are my notes on the last seven, yes seven, issues of The Nation.

nation 25 may 200925 May: It’s been almost 60 years since a jury found that former State Department official Alger Hiss was lying when he denied that he had passed classified documents to an agent of Soviet military intelligence during the years 1934-1938.  The Nation has never let go of the Hiss case, and still publishes articles, columns, and reviews at regular intervals maintaining his innocence.  When Hiss died in 1996, I read a few books about the case.  Hiss’ own book, In the Court of Public Opinion, and his son Tony’s memoir of him, Laughing Last; Alistair Cooke‘s A Generation on Trial; and Allan Weinstein’s Perjury.  I mention the fact that I read these four books not because they qualify me as an expert on a matter as complex and hotly disputed as the Hiss case; obviously they do not.   All I want to do is explain that I have a certain familiarity with the Hiss case, and that I take an interest in discussions of it. 

D. D. Guttenplan reviews two recent books, Susan Jacoby‘s Alger Hiss and the Battle for History and Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev.  In regard to Spies, Guttenplan’s main goal is disprove the book’s accusation that journalist I. F. Stone was a Soviet agent.  I would be inclined to say that Guttenplan achieves that goal easily.  I haven’t read the book, but unless there is a great deal more to it than Guttenplan acknowledges it would seem that its authors have not only failed to make the case against Stone, but have actually made a compelling case that Stone could not have been the man the Soviets codenamed “Blin” “”Pancake.”)  

Guttenplan’s contribution to the Hiss debate is less of a triumph.  The review goes on and on about the absence of Hiss’ name from declassified KGB documents.  It would be difficult to imagine a less relevant point.  Hiss was never accused of spying for the KGB.  The KGB was an organ of Soviet State Security.  Hiss was accused of passing documents, not to Soviet State Security, but to Soviet Military Intelligence (the GRU.)  The man who identified himself as Hiss’ contact was Whittaker Chambers, whom no one denies was an operative of Soviet Military Intelligence.  In the Soviet system, Military Intelligence was a bitter rival of State Security; they most assuredly did not share with each other the names of highly placed agents whom they had recruited. 

Hiss’ defenders are not alone in ignoring this point.  So, those who are most convinced of his guilt often bring up the “VENONA Intercepts,” cables sent by KGB station chiefs in Washington to Moscow and intercepted by the FBI in the years 1946-1980.  These cables use the codename “ALES” to refer to a man who sounds more like Alger Hiss than anyone else, and describe him as an agent of Soviet intelligence.  They do not report direct contacts with ALES, however, nor do they include any intelligence gathered from him.  The likeliest explanation, then, is that the station chief had heard a rumor that Hiss was working for Soviet Military Intelligence and was reporting this rumor to headquarters.  That such rumors were circulating about Hiss in various intelligence services around the world before Chambers made his charges public has been known for some time; in the first edition of Perjury, published in 1978, Allan Weinstein devoted a whole appendix to indications that a number of European intelligence services believed Hiss was a Soviet agent.  VENONA does nothing but add Soviet State Security to the list of these services.   

nation 1 june 20091 June:  Akiva Gottlieb reviews Clint Eastwood’s latest bout of macho self-pity masquerading as a movie.  The last two paragraphs sum up Gottlieb’s view:

In the closing scene of Gran Torino, a lawyer reads from the dead man’s will, which Walt had written himself. It turns out that he had chosen to bequeath the titular totem of middle-class luxury to Thao, “on the condition that you don’t chop-top the roof like one of those beaners, don’t paint any idiotic flames on it like some white trash hillbilly and don’t put a big gay spoiler on the rear end like you see on all of the other zipperheads’ cars.” In other words, Walt gets to keep his racial epithets and be the hero, too. The closing credits roll over a shot of Thao cruising in his new vehicle of assimilation, with Eastwood’s raspy voice cooing gently on the soundtrack, reminding the next generation just who we have to thank for our liberty.


BK Torture

I usually don’t watch TV commercials. On my way to Maine I saw a BK sign- “TRY OUR ANGRY WHOPPER.” I mistakenly thought it was the unique and clever expression of a single BK manager. It certainly grabbed my attention. On the way back from Maine I suggested we stop and take a picture of the sign. I realized my assumptions were mistaken when Mr. Cymast asked me why I would want a picture of a common BK ad. Still intrigued, I found an ANGRY WHOPPER commercial online. It fits right in with the current international political attitude of the USA. And looking at the youtube comments for the commercial, people absolutely love it. Or maybe I’m reading way too much into it. But I do find everything about the commercial very distasteful, to say the least.

Rockabilly Roustabout

I’m back in the office, doing actual work.  So I need ukulele in the background.  Here‘s a number from Al Wood, aka Woodshed of Ukulele Hunt.