WAR AND PEACE
Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers
Copies of the top-secret U.S. intelligence reports reviewed by McClatchy, however, show that drone strikes in Pakistan over a four-year period didn’t adhere to those standards.
The intelligence reports list killings of alleged Afghan insurgents whose organization wasn’t on the U.S. list of terrorist groups at the time of the 9/11 strikes; of suspected members of a Pakistani extremist group that didn’t exist at the time of 9/11; and of unidentified individuals described as “other militants” and “foreign fighters.” Micah Zenko, an expert with the Council on Foreign Relations, a bipartisan foreign policy think tank, who closely follows the target killing program, said McClatchy’s findings indicate that the administration is “misleading the public about the scope of who can legitimately be targeted.” The documents also show that drone operators weren’t always certain who they were killing despite the administration’s guarantees of the accuracy of the CIA’s targeting intelligence and its assertions that civilian casualties have been “exceedingly rare.”
Amy Goodman | The Guardian
WikiLeaks has released a new trove of documents, more than 1.7m US State Department cables dating from 1973 to 1976, which they have dubbed “The Kissinger Cables”, after Henry Kissinger, who in those years served as secretary of state and assistant to the president for national security affairs. One cable includes a transcribed conversation where Kissinger displays remarkable candor:
“Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, ‘The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.’ [laughter] But since the Freedom of Information Act, I’m afraid to say things like that.”
While the illegal and the unconstitutional may be a laughing matter for Kissinger, who turns 90 next month, it is deadly serious for Private Bradley Manning. After close to three years in prison, at least eight months of which in conditions described by UN special rapporteur on torture Juan Ernesto Méndez as “cruel, inhuman and degrading”, Manning recently addressed the court at Fort Meade:
“I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information … this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general, as well as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.”
These words of Manning’s were released anonymously, in the form of an audio recording made clandestinely, that we broadcast on the “Democracy Now!” news hour. This was Bradley Manning, in his own voice, in his own words, explaining his actions.
Sarah Laskow | The American Prospect
For too long we have allowed some corporations to hold a gun to our heads and demand that we choose jobs or choose the earth.” That’s what Terry O’Sullivan, the general president of the Laborers International Union of North America, told green groups and fellow unions at a green-jobs conference in February 2009, just a few months after the union—one of the largest in the country—joined the Blue-Green Alliance, a group organized to advocate for a “clean economy.”
But by January 2012, O’Sullivan had made a choice. The climate bill had failed, the money from the recovery act had run out, political tides had turned against government spending, and the union was no longer so keen to partner with the environmental movement. “We’re repulsed by some of our supposed brothers and sisters lining up with job killers like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to destroy the lives of working men and women,” O’Sullivan said. This heady “job killer” rhetoric was aimed not just at green groups but at unions like SEIU and the Communications Workers of America. They hadn’t had to do much earn this scorn. They had just opened their mouth about the Keystone XL pipeline.
Dorothy Wickenden | The New Yorker
Ahead of the release of what many believe will be favorable unemployment figures on Friday, Dorothy Wickenden hosts John Cassidy and James Surowiecki on this week’s Political Scene podcast to discuss the still-uneven economic recovery.
Ezra Klein | Bloomberg
The season premiere of “Mad Men” ended with Don Draper staring at the front page of the New York Times from Jan. 1, 1968. “World Bids Adieu to a Violent Year,” reads the headline. (The Times story, by Murray Schumach, is real; you can read it here.)
As in “Mad Men,” a sense of dread pervades the Times story. “Nations said farewell to a year of violence, tension, and economic uncertainty,” it informs readers, who will soon discover that the new year brings even more lurid violence than the one just past. The accompanying photograph shows two New Yorkers, backs to the camera, umbrellas open against a storm, walking through a deserted Central Park. It’s bleak.
That was America, 1968. By comparison, the America of 2013 is downright quiescent. “No one is burning down cities,” says author Rick Perlstein, whose “Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America” is a history of political convulsions. “The national guard isn’t shooting anyone. You don’t have thousands of people on college campuses pledging themselves to sedition against the United States. You don’t have civil rights activists being murdered or churches being bombed. You don’t have draft resistance. You don’t have a string of political assassinations. In that sense, what’s happening now doesn’t compare to the 1960s.”
In fact, the 1960s marked a low point of congressional polarization; as the country was coming apart, Washington was working overtime to pull it together. When Beltway graybeards long for the comity of the “Mad Men” era, they are recalling a political system in which polarization flowed into Washington, was more or less homogenized by the establishment, and then flowed back out as consensus. What we have today might be called the “Mad Congress” era: Relative calm flows into the capital, angry polarization flows out.
First, Chung effectively embalms a cold isolated brain with a liquid combination of formaldehyde and acrylamide. The formaldehyde connects most of the brain’s molecules, like proteins and DNA, to the acrylamide, which hardens into a solid, transparent gel when heated to body temperature. Then, Chung runs an electric current through the brain, which carries off anything that’s not linked to the gel. It’s like taking a pencil drawing of a scene and rubbing out all the edges.
What remains is a phantom brain. It comprises the contents of every cell but not their outlines. It’s transparent because the lipids where the things that were scattering and reflecting light. It can be easily infused with marker molecules since, again, the lipids were acting as a barrier. “You can image entire tissues and reconstruct them in 3D,” says Chung. “You don’t need to slice.”
Nature.com | Youtube
David Weigel | Slate
. . . She has access to the White House chief of staff, played as a loser by Kevin Dunn—the dad from the Transformers trilogy, somehow even less authoritative here. “We all know the White House would work so much better if there wasn’t a president,” he tells Meyer. “But there is, and we have to work around that.” Her prize for having, as the callow new adviser played by Gary Cole notes, “traction with the swing voters”: an actual role in the administration, in foreign policy. And happily for Veep, that means she gets to commit higher-quality mishaps.
Veep creator Armando Iannucci got an Oscar nomination for In the Loop, his farce about the start of an Iraq–like war, which wrenched jokes out of a conflict that would kill tens of thousands of people. The higher the stakes, the funnier it was. Meyer’s expanded foreign-policy brief gets her Situation Room access and planning roles in military missions. When Meyer meets her daughter’s new boyfriend, an Iranian-American, the vice president can only think about the next rung. Louis-Dreyfus pulls this off with some excellent mugging and awkward conversation—“Oh, you speak Farsi?”—before telling an aide to vet the boy and his family. She’s not pathetic anymore, and a darker farce is a funnier farce.
Stephanie Carrie | LA Weekly
If you missed H+: The Digital Series, Warner Premiere Digital’s apocalyptic tale of computer implants in the human mind, when it premiered on YouTube in August, do yourself a favor and watch it. Now.
The innovative storytelling of first-time creators John Cabrera and Cosimo De Tommaso, riveting performances by an international cast and the exceptional production value on what a studio would define as a shoestring budget places H+ undeniably among the best of the web. Yet despite the prestige of its producer, Bryan Singer (director of X-Men and The Usual Suspects), and its double Streamy Award win this year, you’ve probably never heard of it.
BOOKS | MYSTERY
Matthew McCallister | Guernica
Georges Simenon, author of over four hundred novels and inventor of probably the second-most-famous detective in literature, Jules Maigret, is now, despite the fame of his creation, largely and unjustly forgotten. You might find a couple of dusty reprints in a big-box bookstore with a beefy mystery section, but only if you’re really looking. He was widely read in his lifetime, though he was, and still is, recognized more for his persona (the obsessions, lies, and hatefully competitive disposition) than for his prose.
That persona was one of excess, which is why it so overshadowed his work. Excess in his writing, in his social life, and particularly in his romantic relationships. One of his greatest lies, if it was in fact a lie, was that he’d slept with more than ten thousand women. (Coincidentally or not, the same number claimed by Wilt Chamberlain.) Still, his writing had admirers, and reputable ones. In an interview with The Paris Review, when asked if he read mystery stories, William Faulkner replied: “I read Simenon because he reminds me something of Chekhov.” It is not surprising that Ernest Hemingway also was a fan—few writers more fully embodied his iceberg theory than Simenon.
In 1942, two very similar novels were released. One, The Widow, by Simenon, concerns an aimless and conscienceless man, a drifter, who commits a terrible murder. The other was The Stranger, the novel that would contribute to Albert Camus’ winning the 1957 Nobel Prize. (Upon hearing that Camus had won, Simenon said to his wife, “Can you believe that asshole got it and not me?”)
Susan Straight | The Believer
We were the same person, but I kept my wildness to the page, and went to college, and he became a house painter and citrus farmer, living so free and off the grid that in every sense of modern life he was invisible. There was little record of his existence. No driver’s license, social security, or tax records, few photos. He never had a computer or cell phone. He didn’t even like to call me on a landline.
He died ten years ago, when he was thirty-eight. He would be forty-nine today. I do not miss him less than when he died. I miss him the same every day.
Here is what he left me:
His heavy Levi’s jacket, sheepskin lined, with ragged holes in the left side where someone threw battery acid at him. He left it here when he moved from the house where I still live, where he had lived with me and my husband when we were all very young. We had to ask him to leave, and I feel guilty about that even today. He and his friends were living a life people watch now with fascination on HBO, but it was dangerous, involving drugs I can’t even explain because they were so homemade and particular to where we lived, long before anyone made cable shows about them. When I got pregnant, I had to choose my kid. I wear his jacket only in winter, when that wind comes howling down off the mountains we used to climb when we were children. When I wear it my daughters say I look exactly like him, like who we were—crazy white-trash inland Californians.
But we had so much fun.
He left me his Mexican fighting hen named Coco. She is of Chihuahuan extraction. She is twelve years old now. My brother lived as a caretaker in a barn, in an orange grove bordered by a ranch where a man named Little Jose raised palm trees and a man named Big Jose raised fighting roosters. Coco was the mother of some of those roosters, but my brother couldn’t bear to fight his pets and so he trained them to sit beside him on the couch and watch football and eat Doritos.
Rob Alderson | It’s Nice That
When we heard that New York’s Museum of Moving Image (MOMI) was hosting an exhibition celebrating the art and history of the music video, our first thought was – isn’t MOMI a funny acronym? Our second thought was – that sounds awesome. But our third thought (it was a busy day) was – how will curators Jonathan Wells and Meg Grey Wells of Flux go about bringing these important cultural artefacts to life. How can you structure a show like this beyond a series of TV screens? Well now we have our answer – and my word have they aced it. Working with exhibition designers Logan, they have created an amazingly immersive and occasionally interactive experience for visitors to engage with the work of the likes of OK Go, Kanye West and Björk. The presence of the giant milk carton from Blur’s Coffee and TV is just the cherry on top.
SEAT is an installation by NYC-based E/B Office (previously here). Composed of approximately 300 simple wooden chairs arrayed and stacked in a sine wave surface drawn into an agitated vortex rising from the ground, chairs are transformed from detached useable objects into structural and spatial components of an ambiguously occupiable edifice. It’s intended to be legible as a collection of individual seats, but when approached, visitors realize that sitting down in any one of them amounts to a deliberate act of occupation; a temporary social contract to redefine their perception of sitting embodied as architecture. Chairs around the immediate periphery are rotated for outward observation of the city and the surrounding neighborhood. At the base of the vortex, chairs turn inward to create an intimate, compressive space for visitors to converse and regard the upward flow of chairs transcending their function. Chairs suspended above ground between these zones re-constitute the role of the seated object as one that can also play as structure, decoration, and enclosure.
Michael Ruhlman | ruhlman.com
But I loved the idea of the heavy lemon. I loved the idea of, every now and then, not being aware of the alcohol in my drink. What does this lead to? Well the latter leads to using vodka, America’s go-to, boneless-skinless-chicken-breast default spirit. Yes, sometimes I have this, even want it (Moscow Mule!—need to invest in the sporty mugs next time).
So last weekend whilst looking for a cocktail using vodka that was worth making, I went to my sterling cocktail companion See Mix Drink, and found the Lemon Drop. I had been making lemon curds for the new book and had an abundance of lemons. Thus it was decided. And it is absolutely lovely. I will be making this very drink tonight before watching the finale of Season 5 of Madmen so that I am properly primed for Season 6. It’s alcoholic lemonade, a delightful cocktail.
Marine Laclotte | Vimeo
BOOKS | HISTORY
Rich Yeselson | The American Prospect
. . . Southern politicians, solidly Democratic, weighed the value of their party loyalty against their fear that new laws and proposed initiatives would disrupt the system of cheap African American labor that grounded their indigenous racial hierarchy. These included the monumental decision to prepare for and enter World War II. In an unintentionally hilarious part of the book, Katznelson describes how Hitler’s propagandists hoped that white Southerners, whom they saw as kindred spirits in bigotry, would provide an American fifth column. But the white-supremacist South baffled and disappointed Berlin. Against opposition from isolationist Republicans, it was the South—guided by, in addition to patriotism, the region’s desire for export markets, military bases, and assurances that its apartheid would remain stable—whose crucial votes in Congress supplied the British with arms and conscripted a vast military force to fight the Nazis. In a wonderful phrase, Katznelson calls this an expression of the South’s “provincial internationalism.”
. . . Katznelson concentrates on Congress rather than the oft-explored theme of presidential leadership embodied in, say, Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s The Age of Roosevelt. How did almost every vote of consequence depend on the weight applied by the Southern legislators? The short answer is one-party rule by the Democrats. Katznelson traces a sequence of reinforcing structural dynamics. Uncontested elections led to the accrual of Southern political seniority. Seniority resulted in leadership positions. The guaranteed long tenures of Southern politicians gave them a deep understanding of how Congress worked. Throughout the period, Southerners chaired the majority of committees in both houses and sometimes held the majority of seats within the Democratic Party.
Elbert Ventura | The American Prospect
It is a truth universally acknowledged that TV has surpassed the movies as the medium of choice for the discerning viewer. Since the evolutionary leap that was “The Sopranos,” episodic television—the grown-up kind, that is; the kind that’s not TV, but HBO (or Showtime, or AMC, etc.)—has raised its game with complex plots, high-quality production, morally ambiguous protagonists, and eager forays into R-rated territory. So, this weekend, the sixth-season premiere of “Mad Men” will suck up all the cultural oxygen. A couple million viewers will tune in, and tens of thousands of words will be written obsessing over every detail of Don Draper’s continuing journey from icon to relic. Director Shane Carruth’s new film, Upstream Color, meanwhile, will open in one theater in New York, kicking off a brief art-house rollout that, if he’s lucky, will win over a modest, devoted following.
. . . Luckily for us, Carruth re-emerged this past January and unveiled Upstream Color at Sundance. Sensuous and emotional where Primer was austere and withholding, Upstream Color is an altogether radical work, relentlessly finding ways to fracture narrative and use the language of movies to express knotty ideas. It is also the most original American film to come out in the last couple of years. In a culture that congratulates itself on living through a Golden Age of Television, in a year that awarded the diverting, disposable Argo the Oscar for Best Picture, Upstream Color is a reminder that there are still experiences that movies—and only the movies—can give us.
STEPHEN FRY’S DOORS OPEN
Lindsey Zoladz | Pitchfork
Cerulean Salt, Crutchfield’s new album, is going to be heard. But from its opening moments, you get the sense that she’s ready for it, the newfound assurance, steadiness, and clarity of her voice immediately obvious. “We are late, we are loud, we remain connected as you’re reading out loud,” she sings on the smolderingly evocative opener, “Hollow Bedroom”. Like American Weekend, it begins with just a guitar and a voice, though this time the instrument’s plugged in and the recording sounds more professional. (It was still recorded at home, this time in the Philadelphia house she shares with her sister and bandmates.) But it’s no less intimate– if anything, the clean recording only brings you in tighter. Crutchfield’s voice rises to be heard over the distortion that kicks in during the song’s final minute. “And I don’t believe that I care at all,” she sings with quiet defiance. “What they hear through these walls.”