March 28, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM

Booker T. Jones On Mountain Stage (NPR: Mountain Stage, March 26, 2012)

During his Mountain Stage set, Jones plays a few of his well-known favorites, touches on his work with heavyweights like Bob Dylan and Albert King, and shares songs from his latest collaboration with The Roots, The Road From Memphis. This segment includes three songs not heard in the radio broadcast: an instrumental cover of Lauryn Hill's "Everything Is Everything" and the MG's hits "Time Is Tight" and "Hip Hug-Her," which features a hip-hop vocal solo from drummer Darian Gray.
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Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


Homage to the Spanish: a review of The Spanish Holocaust by Paul Preston (HUGH THOMAS, April 2012, Standpoint)

I have a number of observations. I am not sure that Professor Preston has quite entered into the minds of the Right in Spain,  who from 1934 onwards felt threatened by a left-wing revolution on a Russian model. Even the British ambassador in Moscow, Lord Chilston, thought the civil war in Spain "likely to end in the establishment of a Communist regime". That had been tried out up to a point in 1934 when the Left recklessly refused to accept their defeat in the national elections of that year and embarked on a destructive rebellion causing among other things the ruin of the University of Oviedo. The Labour spokesman for foreign policy, Hugh Dalton, thought that the rebellion of 1934 removed the justification for anyone feeling outraged by the Right's rising of 1936. 
It will be argued that there was really no danger in Spain of a Soviet-style revolution. But the once staid secretary general of the socialist trade union Large Caballero promised such a thing in early 1936 and approved the merger of his own socialist youth movement with the Communists. How were people to know that he was being rhetorical?

In Spain there was also a cult of violence in the anarchist movement which had captured the imaginations of landless labourers in Andalusia and industrial workers in Catalonia. That movement was brilliantly analysed by Gerald Brenan in his admirable book, The Spanish Labyrinth. The anarchists talked of "the propaganda of the deed" and many genuinely believed that paradise would be on its way  when "the last king was strangled with the guts of the last priest". The world could be remade "with a pistol and an encylopaedia". Half the working class of Spain in, say, 1920 believed in this idea. The consequent murders in Catalonia in particular were all the same atrocious and unpardonable. 

A second national eccentricity was the anarchists' rejection of everything to do with the state, an evil institution with which one should have nothing to do, certainly nothing like casting a vote. This meant that the Restoration  parliamentary system of 1875-1923 and the Republic of 1931-36 would have to do without any participation by half the labour force. The anarchists of the FAI (Federación Anarquista Ibérica) thought, as Professor Preston reminds us, that "the Republic, like the monarchy, was just an instrument of the bourgeoisie". The FAI wanted an insurrecction against the Republic by "revolutionary gymnastics" and the latter's replacement by libertarian Communism. That meant the abolition of the state and of private property, with communes established in the cities and villages.

The larger and slightly less doctrinaire CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo)was also anarchist in its outlook. It expected the Republic to change nothing and so also aspired in 1931 to "propagate its revolutionary objectives". The political system was thus flawed from the start. There was no anarchist vote in 1931, 1933 and 1936 though, eventually, once the war had begun the anarchists provided four ministers to the socialist government of Largo Caballero.

The anarchists' negative conduct, combined with their violence, goes a long way to explain why the civil war occurred.

Rare is the instance where a country was not well served by its fascist interlude, which, after all, merely preserves the state and traditional institutions from assault by Communists. 
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Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


U.S., Australia to broaden military ties amid Pentagon pivot to SE Asia (Craig Whitlock, March 26, 2012, Washington Post)

The United States and Australia are planning a major expansion of military ties, including possible drone flights from a coral atoll in the Indian Ocean and increased U.S. naval access to Australian ports, as the Pentagon looks to shift its forces closer to Southeast Asia, officials from both countries said.

The moves, which are under discussion but have drawn strong interest from both sides, would come on top of an agreement announced by President Obama and Prime Minister Julia Gillard in November to deploy up to 2,500 U.S. Marines to Darwin, on Australia's northern coast.

The talks are the latest indicator of how the Obama administration is rapidly turning its strategic attention to Asia as it winds down a costly decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. government is finalizing a deal to station four warships in Singapore and has opened negotiations with the Philippines about boosting its military presence there. To a lesser degree, the Pentagon is also seeking to upgrade military relations with Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

The UR merely presides over the world that W left his successors.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 AM


People Are Born with Religious Belief Argues New Book (Jesse Singal, Mar 28, 2012, Daily Beast)

One day, Anna, the 5-year-old daughter of two "proudly secular, well-educated urban Danes," asked her mother if God had created the world. Frederick, her father, carefully explained, "The world wasn't created. It has always been here." Anna didn't buy it, so he went a little more in-depth: "Well, a long, long time ago there was this big bang and suddenly everything just appeared." The girl thought about this, trying to wrap her mind around a concept we all have trouble with.

"God must have been surprised," she said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 AM


Taxation's legality is key to health reform (Michael Hiltzik, March 28, 2012, LA Times)

One afternoon in 1934, Supreme Court Justice Harlan Fiske Stone decided to quietly help Labor Secretary Frances Perkins out of a jam.
Her quandary was how to write a Social Security law that would survive scrutiny by the court's conservative bloc. Stone, a progressive, pulled her aside during a tea party at his home, glanced around to make sure he wasn't overheard, and whispered, "The taxing power of the federal government, my dear; the taxing power is sufficient for everything you want and need."

As Stone counseled, the court had earlier held that the government's taxing power was virtually absolute. And so it was that tax provisions were liberally sown throughout the bill enacting the nation's landmark social insurance program, which handily survived Supreme Court challenge a few years later. [...]
Once the lectern was turned over to lawyers for the challengers, including the small-business group and 26 states, that wasn't so clear. Kennedy and Roberts both indicated that they were at least receptive to the government position that healthcare is an interstate market that involves virtually every American, and is therefore ripe for congressional regulation.

"The young person who is uninsured is uniquely proximately very close to affecting the rates of insurance and the costs of providing medical care in a way that is not true in other industries," Kennedy said. "That's my concern in this case."

Will Scalia Rule in Favor of Obamacare? (Noah Kristula-Green Mar 27, 2012, Daily Beast)

 For amateur and professional court watchers who want to have a refresher on just how much power Scalia thinks Congress has, here are some of the key parts of Scalia's ruling on the subject. Doug Mataconis provides the highlights:

The authority to enact laws necessary and proper for the regulation of interstate commerce is not limited to laws governing intrastate activities that substantially affect interstate commerce. Where necessary to make a regulation of interstate commerce effective, Congress may regulate even those intrastate activities that do not themselves substantially affect interstate commerce.
The regulation of an intrastate activity may be essential to a comprehensive regulation of interstate commerce even though the intrastate activity does not itself "substantially affect" interstate commerce. Moreover, as the passage from Lopez quoted above suggests, Congress may regulate even noneconomic local activity if that regulation is a necessary part of a more general regulation of interstate commerce. See Lopez, supra, at 561. The relevant question is simply whether the means chosen are "reasonably adapted" to the attainment of a legitimate end under the commerce power. See Darby, supra, at 121.
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