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Cold War II: America vs. China

Wednesday, 10 October, 2018

A year ago, the President of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, was the pride of China — local boy done good, sort of thing. Then, while visiting his homeland last week, he vanished. Gone Guy. As far as we know, he’s being held under a new form of detention called liuzhi, or “retention in custody.” Under liuzhi, people can be denied access to legal counsel or families for as long as six months. Within that time frame, the thugs of the National Supervisory Commission will extract the desired confessions. Most in the West are still in denial about the true nature of the so-called “People’s Republic,” but one man has decided to speak up. He’s Mike Pence, the US Vice President.

Mike Pence Announces Cold War II” was the headline on an opinion piece yesterday in the Wall Street Journal by Walter Russell Mead. Snippet:

Imperialism and all reactionaries are all paper tigers, 1965 “The Trump administration’s China policy swam into view, and it’s a humdinger. Vice President Mike Pence gave a guide to the approach in a speech last week at the Hudson Institute (where I am a fellow). Denouncing what he called China’s ‘whole of government’ approach to its rivalry with the U.S., Mr. Pence vowed the Trump administration will respond in kind. He denounced China’s suppression of the Tibetans and Uighurs, its ‘Made in China 2025’ plan for tech dominance, and its ‘debt diplomacy’ through the Belt and Road initiative. The speech sounded like something Ronald Reagan could have delivered against the Soviet Union: Mr. Xi, tear down this wall! Mr. Pence also detailed an integrated, cross-government strategy to counter what the administration considers Chinese military, economic, political and ideological aggression.

In the same week as the vice president’s speech, Navy plans for greatly intensified patrols in and around Chinese-claimed waters in the South China Sea were leaked to the press. Moreover, the recently-entered trilateral U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement was revealed to have a clause discouraging trade agreements between member countries and China. The administration indicated it would seek similar clauses in other trade agreements. Also last week, Congress approved the Build Act, a $60 billion development-financing program designed to counter China’s Belt and Road strategy in Africa and Asia. Finally, the White House issued a report highlighting the danger that foreign-based supply chains pose to U.S. military capabilities in the event they are cut off during a conflict.

Any one of these steps would have rated banner headlines in normal times; in the Age of Trump, all of them together barely registered. But this is a major shift in American foreign policy.”

China is a mortal enemy of democracy and freedom. It’s time for people to shout this from the rooftops.

Imperialism and all reactionaries are all paper tigers, 1965


The milk of life

Tuesday, 9 October, 2018

My mother milked cows by hand and emptied countless buckets of their milk into churns that were then taken by my father to the local branch creamery of the Dairy Disposal Company, which was the name the nascent Free State had given to the Condensed Milk Company of Ireland. For both my parents, milk was more than a product. It was life.

Johannes Vermeer painted The Milkmaid around 1660 and it’s one of the most brilliant of his 34 brilliant works that still exist today. As the Rijksmuseum puts it:

“A maidservant pours milk, entirely absorbed in her work. Except for the stream of milk, everything else is still. Vermeer took this simple everyday activity and made it the subject of an impressive painting — the woman stands like a statue in the brightly lit room. Vermeer also had an eye for how light by means of hundreds of colourful dots that play over the surface of objects.”

The Milkmaid


The Bezosian Scale

Monday, 8 October, 2018

What is it? Well, the first thing to note is that the Washington Post’s publishing platform, Arc, currently powers the top-three news and information sites in France, Canada, New Zealand, Argentina and Spain. Last month, Arc signed up both The Dallas Morning News and the publisher of El País, PRISA Noticias, as customers. By the end of the first quarter next year, Arc “will power over 400 websites and serve over 10 billion page views per month,” says Shailesh Prakash, Chief Information Officer for the WaPo. By the way, his Twitter bio says he’s “Planning the plan that will plan the plan…”

And the Bezosian Scale? It’s a measure for mapping the dimensions of Arc’s global expansion writes Ken Doctor at Nieman Lab. The role model is the enormously powerful and profitable Amazon Web Services (AWS). According, to Doctor, Arc wants to head down the path prepared by AWS: a technology stack built for internal use and then licensed to the world.

First, we take Washington and then we ramp up and take the world, plots Jeff Bezos. That’s ambition on the Bezosian Scale.


Trump’s winning week

Sunday, 7 October, 2018

It began with the USMCA, the new “NAFTA” trade deal between the USA, Canada and Mexico, which the markets loved. Then came the 3.7%, stat, confirming the lowest unemployment rate in the US since 1969, and the icing was put on the cake yesterday evening with the confirmation and swearing in of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. This is President Trump’s second Supreme Court confirmation of his administration, after putting Neil Gorsuch on the top bench last year.

They call it winning.


Welcome to the flesh parade! says Camille Paglia

Saturday, 6 October, 2018

“We certainly did not foresee that ‘booty pics,’ reducing women to their buttocks like Stone Age fertility totems, would become a wildly addictive genre of Instagram self-portraiture,” writes Camille Paglia, whose Provocations: Collected Essays will be published on Tuesday. Paglia wonders if the Instagram-driven exhibitionism that’s influencing both workplace wear and dating clothing is deepening the divide between men and women. Writing in the Hollywood Reporter, she says:

“The current surplus of exposed flesh in the public realm has led to a devaluation of women and, paradoxically, to sexual ennui. A sense of appropriateness and social context has been lost, as with Ariana Grande wearing a sleeveless minidress with bared thighs to perform from the pulpit at Aretha Franklin’s funeral. That there is growing discontent with overexposure in Western women’s dress is suggested by the elegant flowing drapery of Muslim-influenced designs by Dolce & Gabbana and Oscar de la Renta, among others, in recent years.”

Paglia illustrates her point with an Instagram image of Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar aka Cardi B, a stripper who rose to fame on social media and then became a hugely successful rapper with the mixtapes Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

Cardi B


Job of the day: Corporate Historian at Ralph Lauren

Friday, 5 October, 2018

“Corporate Historian will lead archival efforts in documenting, preserving, cataloguing and promoting the company’s 50+ year history. The Historian will also leverage the company’s archive and history to work with internal and external partners to engage audiences with the story and heritage of Ralph Lauren.”

That’s the job. If you want it, bring some knowledge to the table. For example, knowledge of twentieth century American Fashion history and general knowledge of American and New York history. Helpful, too, a “working knowledge of library database, taxonomy, and metadata.” Photoshop, InDesign and Excel proficiency are pluses.

There’s a significant media component: “Pull and capture notable quotes by and about Ralph Lauren found in editorial, social media and advertising on a weekly basis,” and a legal one: “Lead ongoing vetting process by partnering with high-level executives in design, philanthropy, and legal departments.”

Naturally, there’s “storytelling” to be done: “Collaborate with Director of Rare & Historical Collection and Director of Marketing & Advertising Assets to promote the company’s history through storytelling in partnerships with internal departments as well as potential external partners in exhibitions, publishing projects, and new media.”

Ralph Lauren’s story deserves a historian as it’s a uniquely American one of rags to riches. And, as Churchill said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”

Ralph Lauren


Apple anecdote

Thursday, 4 October, 2018

“The doctor’s wife ate two apples a day, just to be safe. But her husband kept coming home.” — Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories

Apples


Reader! make time, while you be

Wednesday, 3 October, 2018

Sir Fukle Greville’s death in 1628 followed an attack by a servant, Ralph Hayward, on 1 September that year. Hayward appears to have been unhappy with the terms of his master’s will and stabbed Greville in the stomach while he was assisting him to fasten his breeches. Fukle Greville died of gangrene on 30 September, after physicians had replaced the damaged natural fatty membrane around his intestines with animal fat.

Apart from his closest friend, the gifted Sir Philip Sidney, Fukle Greville was the main courtly writer of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. His works include the poetic dramas Alaham and Mustapha, the sonnet sequence Caelica and five verse treatises: An Inquisition upon Fame and Honour, A Treatise of Humane Learning, A Treatise of Wars, A Treatise of Monarchy and A Treatise of Religion. Throughout his writings, Greville’s main concern is with the dangers of power and intrigue in an absolute monarchy, and in his sombre opinion, the individual is powerless in the face of political corruption. The careerist and artist Greville survived dangerous times and ended up convinced of the degeneracy of human nature. This view is encapsulated in a remark of his in a letter to Sir John Coke dated 1 February 1613: “I know the world and believe in God.”

You that seek what life is in death

You that seek what life is in death,
Now find it air that once was breath.
New names unknown, old names gone:
Till time end bodies, but souls none.
Reader! then make time, while you be,
But steps to your eternity.

Fulke Greville (3 October 1554 — 30 September 1628)

Fukle Greville


Snogging, partying, snoring — and champagne

Tuesday, 2 October, 2018

The illiberal left has given us a glimpse this past fortnight of the kind of Orwellian Dystopia it wants to create on earth. All youthful indiscretions and errors will be punished in their brave new world and woe betide those who indulge in alcohol, for theirs is the path to perdition.

Raucous parties and drunken antics have been part of the wild world of privileged youth for generations and the British variety is brilliantly depicted in the photographs of Dafydd Jones, who was engaged by Tatler in the early 1980s to snap the society weddings, debutante dances and the Hunt Balls of the season. The printed result is The Last Hurrah, which is being promoted with an exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery Print Room in the Soho district of London. The book is an exuberant cocktail mixed with a good dash of humour and the Dafydd Jones photograph here shows Benita Douglas-Robertson with Matt Gomez at the Blizzard Ball in the London Hilton on 3 January 2001.

Dafydd Jones


Catalonia, 1 October

Monday, 1 October, 2018

Even if the referendum on Catalan independence was ruled illegal and therefore non-binding, 2.3 million people out of 5.5 million eligible voters cast their ballots on this day last year, despite intimidation and violence. When the counting was done, 90 percent had voted to break from Spain. The regional government in Barcelona promised to declare independence within 48 hours of the vote if the “Yes” side won, but when it finally did issue the declaration on 27 October, tellingly, no country recognized Catalonia, and Madrid promptly sacked the entire Catalan administration, causing several key figures to flee abroad, including deposed president, Carles Puigdemont. Others were jailed, accused of rebellion.

Today, separatist groups will mobilize hundreds of thousands of supporters to protest in Barcelona to mark the anniversary of the referendum and to ask that “the wishes of the majority of Catalan people be put into effect.” The reality, however, is that disagreements over independence have deepened since the plebiscite and arguments about implementing “the wishes of the majority of Catalan people” have led to accusations of betrayal. As well, the separatist movement is now divided into three parties and there are also divisions between its leaders who are outside Spain, those who are in prison and those who remain at liberty. Meanwhile, the relationship between Barcelona and Madrid is as fractious as ever, and Catalonia, with all its beauty and wealth, is damaged and disunited, tragically.

“Beware of my partisanship, my mistakes of fact, and the distortion inevitably caused by my having seen only one corner of events.” — George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

Homage to Catalonia


The Trials of Judge Kavanaugh

Sunday, 30 September, 2018

Andrew Sullivan nails it in the ‘Daily Intelligencer’ section of New York Magazine with “If everything were fair game in public life, none of us would survive.” Snippet:

To the extent that the hearing went beyond the specifics of Ford’s allegations and sought to humiliate and discredit Kavanaugh for who he was as a teenager nearly four decades ago (a dynamic that was quite pronounced in some Democratic questioning of the nominee), it was deeply concerning. When public life means the ransacking of people’s private lives even when they were in high school, we are circling a deeply illiberal drain. A civilized society observes a distinction between public and private, and this distinction is integral to individual freedom. Such a distinction was anathema in old-school monarchies when the king could arbitrarily arrest, jail, or execute you at will, for private behavior or thoughts. These lines are also blurred in authoritarian regimes, where the power of the government knows few limits in monitoring a person’s home or private affairs or correspondence or tax returns or texts. These boundaries definitionally can’t exist in theocracies, where the state is interested as much in punishing and exposing sin, as in preventing crime. The Iranian and Saudi governments — like the early modern monarchies — seek not only to control your body, but also to look into your soul. They know that everyone has a dark side, and this dark side can be exposed in order to destroy people. All you need is an accusation.

The Founders were obsessed with this. They realized how precious privacy is, how it protects you not just from the government but from your neighbors and your peers. They carved out a private space that was sacrosanct and a public space which insisted on a strict presumption of innocence, until a speedy and fair trial. Whether you were a good husband or son or wife or daughter, whether you had a temper, or could be cruel, or had various sexual fantasies, whether you were a believer, or a sinner: this kind of thing was rendered off-limits in the public world. The family, the home, and the bedroom were, yes, safe places. If everything were fair game in public life, the logic ran, none of us would survive.

Having dug an “illiberal drain”, the Democrats will have to live with the stench.