The Higher Cannibalism

On 16 December 2010, Swiss Senator Dick Marty presented to the Council of Europe a report that he had been commissioned to make.  Senator Marty demonstrated that the government of Kosovo, led by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, operates a network of “clinics” in which ethnic Serbs and other political prisoners are routinely killed.  Their organs are removed and sold on an international black market.

The Marty Report has barely been noticed in US media.  News outlets that in 1999 were flooded with tales of atrocities that Serbs were supposed to be committing against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have been entirely silent.  If it weren’t for notices of the Marty Report in Alexander Cockburn’s column in The Nation, in Cockburn’s newsletter Counterpunch, and on, even so devoted a reader of news as your humble correspondent would have missed the story completely.

Wounded Knee, nanotech, Serbian broadcasting, and the car industry

The headquarters of Radio Television Serbia after the 23 April 1999 bombing

The headquarters of Radio Television Serbia after the 23 April 1999 bombing

Go away for a month, and things pile up.  Time to get back at it.  Here are “Periodicals Notes” on three recent issues of Counterpunch

16-30 April: Tiphaine Dickson reports on the case of Dragoljub Milanovic, the only person ever to have been tried and punished for NATO’s 23 April 1999 bombing of Radio Television Serbia (RTS), an attack on an undefended target that killed 16 civilians and served no military purpose other than to disrupt broadcasting between the hours of 2 and 5 AM that morning.  The attack followed an ultimatum NATO issued to the Serbs that the station would be considered a legitimate target unless they consented to broadcast six hours a day of NATO-approved western programs, an ultimatum NATO dropped when the Serbs accepted it.  Mr Milanovic has been in prison for seven years because of his role in this wanton act of murder.  What was that role?  He was one of NATO’s intended victims.  The director of RTS, Mr Milanovic was at his desk in the building less than an hour before the bombing.  Dickson details a story of the dizzyingly absurd injustices that Mr Milanovic has suffered, illustrating the workings of the West’s anti-Serb policies of the last couple of decades. 

In the same issue, former US Senator James Abourezk (Democrat of South Dakota) gives a synopsis of the relations between the Minneconjou tribe of the Sioux nation and the US government before, during, and after the 1890 massacre of Minneconjou people at Wounded Knee in South Dakota.  This is to serve as an introduction to Senator Abourezk’s recollections in the next issue of the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee by militant American Indian Movement (AIM) activists.  

1-15 May: Senator Abourezk tells the story of his trip to Wounded Knee in 1973, when he and George McGovern (his senior colleague in the US Senate from South Dakota) tried to mediate between AIM and the federal agents surrounding them.  The senators left thinking that they had negotiated a peaceful resolution to the standoff, only to find that the Nixon administration had blocked the deal.  Senator Abourezk suspects that the president wanted to keep the crisis going in order to stoke anti-Native feeling among whites.  

In the same issue, Steven Higgs looks at nanotechnology.  After listing such applications as self-cleaning eyeglasses (very attractive to me!), he quotes experts who are concerned that carbon nanotubes strongly resemble the microstructure of asbestos and that exposure to them may pose some of the same risks as does exposure to asbestos.  Other nanotechnologies also seem to represent considerable dangers; for example, the minute portions of silver used in high-end washing machines can enter living cells and may alter DNA there, threatening cancer.  Higgs notes that after years of federal inaction, the Obama administration has issued notice that it may begin a review of regulations in this area.   

16-30 May: Eamonn Fingleton points out that all the explanations for the decline of the US auto industry favored by corporate media are bogus.  For example, one often reads that the Big Three fail to produce any models with the steering wheel on the right, and that this explains why the Japanese won’t buy American cars.  In fact, Fingleton reports, Detroit makes dozens of models with the steering wheel on the right, and has done so for years.  We also hear that closing a country to imports will doom its manufacturers to eventual irrelevance in the global contest for shares of the export market.  Yet the Japanese and Korean car markets have been the most tightly closed in the world for decades, as Japanese and Korean car makers have gone from strength to strength and now dominate the US market. 

In the same issue, Bill Hatch reports on Michelle Obama’s visit to the University of California’s new campus at Merced.  Hatch quotes Mrs O’s criticism of the University of Chicago’s development of the Hyde Park neighborhood as abuffer between itself and the South Side of Chicago, then points out that UC-Merced is trying to do exactly the same thing.  Hatch tells how UC-Merced was built during the California real estate bubble, and how the construction of the university and the bubble worked together to shatter the working class town that had existed there.  In Hatch’s telling, Merced sounds like a ghost town in the making.

The Nation, September and October 2008

1/8 Sept– Kristina vanden Heuvel quotes Mikhail Gorbachev’s Washington Post op-ed on the Georgian crisis, claiming that “if we had heeded his vision of a truly post-Cold War world, we might not today be confronting such dangerous geoploitical gamesmanship.”  Vanden Heuvel points out that in Kosovo, the West supported the KLA’s demands for independence on grounds that treated the right of self-determination as all-important, the sovereignty of the nation-state as unimportant.  In Georgia, we oppose the Abkhazians and South Ossetians in their demands for independence on grounds that treat the sovereignty of the nation-state as all-important, the right of self-determination as unimportant.  Unless we can practice foreign policy in such a way as to show equal respect to these twin principles, vanden Heuvel argues, there will be no hope for world peace.

Stuart Klawans recommends Trouble the Water, a documentary about the destruction of African-American New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina made by African-American New Orleanians in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. 

15 Sept– Stephen F. Cohen on the lives of people released from Stalin’s gulag; David Schiff on the opera Peter Grimes; a poem by Mahmoud Darwish.

22 Sept– The first of four consecutive issues to feature the name “Palin” on the cover.  Robert Grossman’s comic strip sets “The Legend of Flyboy McPlane” to music.  Margot Canaday reviews William Eskridge’s history of sodomy laws in America.

29 Sept– The cover is a spoof of the New Yorker’s now famous Oval Office cartoon.  After the jump, images. 

D. D. Guttenplan on a couple of books about the history and meaning of comic books; Paula Findlen on Giordano Bruno’s life, his philosophy, and the power of his story as a rallying point for anticlerical sentiment.

6 Oct– I’d always thought of the idea that the Hanoi regime had withheld American POWs at the end of the war as a sick delusion.  Sydney Schanberg gives reasons to think otherwise.  Apparently there is a great deal of evidence to the effect that such a thing did happen, and Crazy John McCain has behaved rather unpleasantly in his role as one of the chief figures in the official effort to hush that evidence up.  

13 Oct– Several contributors argue against the idea of bailing out major Wall Street firms, calling instead for an effort to rebuild the American economy from the bottom up. 


Chronicles Magazine, September 2008

The theme of the issue is the importance of historianship; interesting pieces praise the historical works of David Hume, Edward Gibbon, and Ray Allen Billington. 

Elsewhere in the magazine, William Watkins reports a case in Stoke-on-Trent, England, in which non-Muslim boys attending a state school were punished for refusing a teacher’s instruction to pray to Allah as part of a diversity lesson.  Watkins is most disturbed that these boys must seek redress, not by appeal to the traditional rights of Englishmen, by under the European Convention on Human Rights.  Here is a news story about the case; here is a news story about a deadly encounter between a Muslim man and his anti-Muslim neighbor in Stoke-on-Trent, suggesting why the school there may have been nervous about diversity issues. 

Lefalcon’s idol Srdja Trifkovic takes the arrest of Radovan Karadzic as an opportunity to relate the recent history of the Balkans, demonstrating the plain falsity of much of the anti-Serb mythology Westerners have been fed since 1991.  Read a slightly different version of Trifkovic’s article here.

Chilton Williamson, whose contributions lately have tended to be barely readable stories about preposterously stereotypical characters in Mexico, writes an 11 paragraph column, the first 10 of which are surprisingly cogent.  He analyzes the notion of an “American Dream,” arguing that such a dream is “inherently inflationary, and therefore ultimately destructive.”   Destructive not only of prosperity, but of the bonds of family, faith, and tradition.  Just when it seems Williamson has abandoned his creepy racism and found a genuinely humanistic topic to explore, he concludes with a paragraph beginning “Barack Obama, the mulatto presidential nominee sprung from the loins of a white Kansas woman and a black man from Kenya, embodies the American Dream as it has been understood at least since James Truslow Adams’ day.”

The American Conservative, 24 March 2008

A remarkable story on the cover.  John Derbyshire writes that US foreign aid to Africa has produced enthusiastic crowds to greet George W. Bush on his recent visit to the continent and high approval ratings for America and Americans in polls of African opinion.  However, he expresses doubts as to the real value of such aid.  Citing Peter Bauer’s 1970’s-vintage definition of foreign aid as “transfer of wealth from poor people in rich countries to rich people on poor countries” and economic studies by Bauer and other supporting that characterization, Derbyshire argues that changes in foreign aid programs in recent years have been at best cosmetic and that aid continues to make matters worse for the countries that receive it.  Going beyond narrowly economic arguments, Derbyshire points out that foreign aid, like big oil reserves, free a government from the need to finance itself by taxing its people, and thus from the need to win that people’s support or respect.  Thus aid, however nobly intended,  undermines democracy.  Quoting Africans who resent the rich world’s gifts to their countries and prefer the more straightforward exchanges businesses from China make in Africa, Derbyshire speculates that the short-term popularity aid may buy donors will come at the cost of an overall loss of influence.  Derbyshire mars this very interesting and tightly-argued article with some paragraphs near the end wherein, for no apparent reason, he brings up James Watson and the question of race and IQ.  A well-known exponent of the nativist hypothesis, Derbyshire evidently could not write anything at all about Africa without indulging himself in this rather unseemly preoccupation of his.  Still, the article as a whole makes a powerful case against the rich world’s patronage of the poor. 

A review of recent books on the history of the American right points to an historical cleavage of considerable importance.  Before the mid 60’s, the most prominent right-wing intellectuals in the USA were men whose education had been primarily in philosophy, history, and literature, and whose chief goal was to give true answers to the main questions of the day.  The following generations were men (and a few women) whose education had been primarily in the social sciences and whose chief goal was to formulate policies that right-wing politicians could implement.  The two groups could not understand each other- the older group were mystified as to what the younger ones really wanted, and the younger group thought the older ones were foolish to care so much about being right.  This is a story that The American Conservative should tell often, since the word “neoconservative” is so easy to spin as an anti-semitic slur.  By exploring this history, the magazine could enrich the word and avoid veiled bigotry. 

Eric Margolis contrasts the Iranian president’s recent highly publicized, multi-day, triumphal procession through thecities of Iraq with the brief, unannounced visits American leaders pay to US military bases and to highly guarded sites in the quietest corners of the country.  This contrast suggests to him that the US has already lost any hope of competing with Iran for influence in the future Iraq. 

Elsewhere in the issue,  Andrew Bacevich tries to talk himself and other disillusioned conservatives into voting for Barack Obama; Leon Hadar speculates on how Obama and McCain would handle crises stemming from Kosovo’s recent declaration of “independence”; and William S. Lind explains how past Balkan crises led to World War One, and finds inexcusable hubris in western governments’ failure to see a renewed disaster brewing in the region.

Chronicles, April 2008

One of the preoccupations of this ultra-ultra-right wing publication is the value of distinctions among people- class distinctions, ethnic distinctions, gender distinctions, etc.  Most of its contributors are firmly convinced that the great trouble with the current age is that such distinctions are being elided.  They say that what they dread is not equality- that what will come when all the old distinctions are destroyed or concealed is not an egalitarian society, but its opposite.  The new elite will rule brutally, while the ruled will be atomized, unable to form bonds of solidarity among themselves. 

Several pieces in the current issue explore this worry.  Editor Thomas Fleming writes the obituary of the bourgeoisie: “The old bourgeoisie is as dead as the old aristocracy.  The two classes, at least in America, have merged into a single type.”  With them has perished the citizen who feels himself to have a stake of ownership in the state, and so too have perished the republican virtues that made free government possible.  Historian John Lukacs laments “The End of the American Middle Class,” finding that only a tiny number of Americans truly own any property.  Most of those who claim to be owners really hold only an abstraction, and that on the sufferance of the bank.  As a result, “We now live in a largely classless society.  Not unforeseeable is the emergence of a new kind of ruling class- but who, and how, and when, no one can tell.”  James O. Tate’s “Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used to Be: Arriving at Indistinction” traces the idea that “the flattening out of all distinctions would put an end to war” through various twentieth century American novelists.  Scott Richert analyzes the consequences of current trade policy on our future class structure, concluding that “we can see the ranks of the underclass swelling, while the new-new rich drive the transformation.”    

Some of the magazine’s other preoccupations crop up, too.  Its “neoconfederate” streak shows up in an extremely hostile item about Abraham Lincoln’s refusal to negotiate with secessionists in the period from November 1860- April 1861.  Christie Davies writes about the horrors that her native Britain is supposedly suffering as the result of allowing large-scale immigration from Muslim countries.  Lefalcon’s idol Srdja Trifkovic documents both the uses to which secessionist movements around the world have put the USA’s recognition of Kosovo’s declaration of “independence” and the distrust that recognition has inspired in American allies who face secessionist movements of their own.  In particular he calls attention to intense unease in India, where public opinion fears that the USA will try to win favor with Pakistan by recognizing a similar declaration in Kashmir.  A review of three movies dealing with abortion (including the Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, reviewed favorably in the Nation a few weeks back) is dominated by horror and indignation at the procedure.  The critic praises 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, because the filmmaker’s prochoice views are overpowered by graphic scenes near the end.

Chronicles (four issues)

My subscription to this ultra-ultra conservative publication ran out a couple of years ago, but they keep sending it to me nonetheless.  I suppose they really mean it when they say they believe in tradition. 

November 2007: Gregory McNamee remembers his friend Edward Abbey, alternately acknowledging his faults (“Was he a racist?  Undoubtedly, at least after a fashion”), even praising him for what others might regard as faults (the fact that Abbey “never bothered himself with developing a coherent politics apart from that most old-school of tenets: The individual trumps the collectivity, the collectivity is always suspect, freedom is the sine qua non of existence, the world is a fine place and worth fighting for.”)  Lefalcon’s idol Srdja Trifkovic compares the current phase of the US occupation of Iraq to the USSR’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.  Ted Galen Carpenter analyzes likely consequences of Kosovo’s “independence,” bringing up the six members of the Kosovo Liberation Army caught planning to attack Fort Dix. 

January 2008: Clyde Wilson looks at what it would mean if the USA were indeed a “Proposition Nation” as some like to say, finding that the consequences of such a belief are quite brutal; Kirkpatrick Sale argues that the time has come for the states to secede from the USA; Sale and Tobias Lanz sympathetically review books propounding a new agrarian vision; and Srdja Trifkovic finds the American Empire compromised, even paralyzed, on every front, and concludes that the best thing for the USA would be for this paralysis to continue indefinitely.

February 2008: Leon Hadar looks at calls for Washington to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and finds “Another Middle East Fantasy.”  “America’s role as facilitator of a potential peace accord [can] only be achieved if and when the Israelis and Palestinians reach the conclusion that the costs of continuing to fight have become so high that they require agonizing compromises over Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees, and the Israeli settlements.”  For all its influence, the American government is in no position to create a situation from which this cost-benefit anaysis would flow.  A recent case of “Honor Killing” in Canada, coupled with the Canadian establishment’s panicked attempts to prevent public discussion of the case, prompts a brief note calling for “more open debate in Canada” about immigration policy.  Chronicles editor (and classics PhD) Thomas Fleming discusses neoconservative ideas about domesticating Islam and taming Muslims, finding these ideas to be delusions that have issued in disaster, most recently in Kosovo’s “independence.”  Gregory McNamee provides a miniature biography of Billy the Kid, a surprisingly fresh and informative little sketch.  Roger D. McGrath writes about his favorite western movies, Clay Reynolds about his least-favorite specimens of the same genre.  Taki Theodoracopulos tells a story about an English judge who fined him the equivalent of $400,000 for the offense of explaining the origins of some words derived from Greek.  John Willson reviews a favoriable biography of Senator Joe McCarthy, adding hgis own fervent commendation.  Andrei Navrozov explains his multiple marriages by quoting an alleged Russian proverb to the effect that a man should marry three times- the first time for no reason, the second time for love, the third for love.  And Srdja Trifkovic finds in Kosovo’s “independence” a catastrophe of global dimensions.   

March 2008: Gregory McNamee discusses the immiseration of the average Mexican over the last few decades, connecting it to the mass migration of her citizens northward.  McNamee argues that this migration is not only a result of Mexico’s declining standard of living, but in several ways a cause of it.  William Lutz reports on educational controversies in Texas.  Taki provides his usual story of boozy life among the jet set, then tacks on some chilling facts about Kosovo.  A review of Chilton Williamson’s Immigration and the American Future focuses on ways in which mass migration of unskilled workers increases economic inequality.  A review of a biography of Dick Cheney appears under the headline “A Self-Made (Mad)Man.”  And Joseph E. Fallon points out the similarities between the ongoing massacres in the Sudanese region of Darfur and the Ethiopian region of Ogaden.  “Why the outrage over Darfur, but not over Ogaden?  There are three reasons: Islam, oil, and China.”

The American Conservative (three issues)

The Republican primaries are as much a focus of attention here as are the Democratic primaries in The Nation (see below.) 

11 Feb: A terrific cover shows a cartoon of John McCain with a large globe, apparently about to eat it.  The text: “Invade the World, Invite the World” (ostensibly a summary of McCain’s hawkish foreign policy and liberal immigration policy.)  An editorial endorses Ron Paul for president (wonder how that worked out?); an article by’s Justin Raimondo documents McCain’s warlike intentions towards not only Iraq and Iran, but Russia and China as well; and Thomas Woods reviews Paul Gottfried’s Conservatism in America, praising Gottfried for debunking earlier writers’ attempts to gloss over the eccentric and sometimes alarming character of the older American right by claiming to find links between American conservatism and European conservatism. 

25 Feb: A cover depicts Barack Obama as Christ, but wearing ammo belts and a machine gun; an article by Brendan O’Neill documents Obama’s history of support for US military intervention everywhere but Iraq; and Nicholas von Hoffman investigates Bill Clinton’s post-presidential moneymaking activities.

10 Mar: Another arresting cover, this one with text: “Fuel imported into Iraq- 3 million gallons/ day  Cost to the US- $929 million/ week.”  Steve Sailer (your favorite blogger!) analyzes Hispanic voting patterns; Scott McConnell is slightly encouraged by Barack Obama’s apparent reluctance to grovel before the most extreme elements of American Zionism; Leon Hadar dismisses the foreign policy terms “realist” and “idealist” as empty, appealing to Walter Russell Mead typology of Jeffersonian, Hamiltonian, Jacksonian, and Wilsonian as somewhat more capable of carrying meaning; Eamonn Fingleton critiques the view, widespread among America’s elite, that a prosperous China will naturally become democratic (though strangely he neglects to mention James Mann, whose recent book provided a powerful argument exploding that view); Daniel Larison sounds the alarm about Kosovo’s “independence”; Neil Clark finds that refusal to join the European Union has strengthened the economies and preserved the liberties of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and (get ready) Belarus; Jesse Walker praises The Kinks; and Doug Bandow looks at Christian Zionism and sees a collection of crazies.