Tag Archives: United States

Who started this fashion of balding, paunchy, late middle-aged political leaders playing with military dress?

20 Nov

There’s something Village People-ish about it, at best; Commodus, Roman-decadent at worst…

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Pompeo heads to C-town, and makes a bee-line to the Greek Patriarchate

11 Nov
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and wife Susan

Pompeo is apparently — finally! — going to Turkey after visiting several neighboring countries, including Greece, so far this autumn and blowing Turkey off. But the US administration says that during his visit Pompeo will only meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the Phanar and not with any member of the Turkish government. And to discuss religious freedom in Turkey and around the world at that!

A major χυλόπιττα (wet “noodle” in Greek, meaning major dis or slap upside the head) for Erdoğan and Erdoğan’s Turkey generally.

Yes, too bad it’s Pompeo and the Trump administration. But the Talmud says that even the actions of the worst-intentioned individual can have positive consequences.

Apparently Pompeo’s wife Susan is Orthodox, and “…impressed everyone with her knowledge about the Divine Liturgy…” during their visit to Greece last year.

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Yugoslavia: Yeah, you found a very cool stamp. Do you have any clue what it means?

12 Nov

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It shows the extreme lengths that the Yugoslav government went to throughout the 1920s and 1930s to hold the country together, under Crown Prince and then King Aleksandar — also known as Aleksandar the Unifier.  At some point during his reign, I think after it became clear that Croatian separatism was determined to obstruct the functioning of the Skupština and the Yugoslav government in any way possible, Aleksandar redrew the constituent regions of Yugoslavia which corresponded to various ethnic groups, and introduced new administrative banovine which were given the ethnically neutral names of the main rivers that ran through each region.

And yet even despite those reforms Serbs still tried to placate Croatian separatists by allowing them — and only them — to retain an ethnic name for its historical region: what’s shown as the “Hrvatska Banovina” on your stamp.

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There is, I think, in much of Serbian pride, or even in Serbian arrogance, a certain sense of what in Greek we call φιλότιμο, “love of honor” crudely put; perhaps a better term would be “noblesse oblige”.  Since Serbs and Serbian blood pretty much created Yugoslavia singlehandedly, by fighting off the Austrians and defeating the Ottomans (along with guaranteeing us possession of Salonica ’cause they kept the Bulgarians busy while Greek Crown Prince Constantine strolled into the city like the conquering hero), you might have expected that they would work to keep a Serbian kingdom ,under the Карађорђевић (Karađorđević) dynasty, where all other ethnic groups — who did nothing to fight for south Slav independence, except tangentially the Macedonians — would simply be subject peoples to the Serbian crown.  Instead, they made a sincere and honest attempt to make the noble experiment of south Slav unity actually work, democratically and harmoniously.  There was even an ideological current running through Serbian intellectual circles of a plan for unification with Bulgaria and even Greece into one greater Balkan state, which would have made it harder for the West to push us around and fuck us up like they did and do; maybe even made us more valuable to the West than Turkey, the tail which wags the Western/US/NATO dog.

And I think King Aleksandar, for all his theoretical faults, was a genuine personification of that sense of Serbian noblesse oblige and ἀρχοντι.

And for his efforts he was assassinated in Marseille in 1934 by a Macedonian separatist in cahoots with the nasty-piece-of-work, Vatican-supported, Croatian Über-Nazi Ustaše.

And that’s what your cool stamp is all about, Charlie Brown.

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King Aleksandar I

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Who knew the Andrews Sisters were Greek-American from Minnesota?

12 Nov

They certainly looked Greek.

The_Andrews_Sisters_1952

And my — and probably everyone’s — favorite song: Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.  Is it distressing or heroic and valiant that such a peppy song was popular at such a dark time?  They toured extensively wherever there was American military during WWII and entertained men who were almost certain to face horrendous violence and brutal, mass death.  The soldiers, sailors and marines adored them.  And I don’t think the men in the video are actors, but real draftees.

Sometimes I miss America.  I don’t mean New York; I always miss New York.  But sometimes I miss for-real America, like the real thing.

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I’ve become obsessed with this video partly because I can’t forgive myself for being as musically illiterate as I am and I’m desperately trying to understand what “eight to the bar” means.  Until recently I was obsessed with trying to understand what syncopation means — after finally understanding what chromaticism and melisma are, because they’re so crucial to the music of our parts.  But otherwise…I have a very musically literate best friend who explains it all to me and it just goes way over my head.  I rarely feel so stupid.

Lyrics below for those who haven’t heard the song twenty million times and didn’t wear out the vinyl in a month like I did when I first bought it :)

He was a famous trumpet man from out Chicago way.
He had a boogie style that no one else could play.
He was the top man at his craft,
But then his number came up and he was gone with the draft.
He’s in the army now, a blowin’ reveille.
He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B.
They made him blow a bugle for his Uncle Sam.
It really brought him down because he couldn’t jam.
The captain seemed to understand,
Because the next day the cap’ went out and drafted a band.
And now the company jumps when he plays reveille.
He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B.
A-Too-li-toot-li-ada, tootli-a-da, toot
He blows it eight to the bar in boogie rhythm.
He can’t blow a note unless a bass and guitar
Is playin’ with him.
He makes the company jump when he plays reveille.
He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B.
He was some boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B.
And when he played boogie woogie bugle
He was busy as a busy bee.
And when he plays he makes the company jump eight to the bar.
He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B.
Too-li-toot-li-ada, tootli-a-da, toot toot
He blows it eight to the bar
He can’t blow a note unless a bass and guitar
Isn’t with him.
Ha ha ha ha the company jump when he plays reveille,
He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of company B.
He puts the boys to sleep with boogie every night,
And wakes ’em up the same way in the early bright.
They clap their hands and stamp their feet,
because they know how it goes when someone gives him a beat.
He really breaks it up when he plays reveille
He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of company B.
Ta ta ta ta-da, ta ta ta-da ta-da
And the company jumps when he plays reveille.
He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B

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Macron: «᾽Ιδού ὁ νυμφίος ἔρχεται…» Not happy with his Balkan policy, but he’s the only man on the world political landscape today with anything even remotely resembling a redeeming vision.

10 Nov

The future of the EU — Emmanuel Macron warns Europe: NATO is becoming brain-dead

America is turning its back on the European project. Time to wake up, the French president tells The Economist

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During the hour-long interview, conducted in his gilt-decorated office at the Elysée Palace in Paris on October 21st, the president argues that it is high time for Europe to “wake up”. He was asked whether he believed in the effectiveness of Article Five, the idea that if one NATO member is attacked all would come to its aid, which many analysts think underpins the alliance’s deterrent effect. “I don’t know,” he replies, “but what will Article Five mean tomorrow?”

NATO, Mr Macron says, “only works if the guarantor of last resort functions as such. I’d argue that we should reassess the reality of what NATO is in the light of the commitment of the United States.” And America, in his view, shows signs of “turning its back on us,” as it demonstrated starkly with its unexpected troop withdrawal from north-eastern Syria last month, forsaking its Kurdish allies.

In President Donald Trump, Europe is now dealing for the first time with an American president who “doesn’t share our idea of the European project”, Mr Macron says. This is happening when Europe is confronted by the rise of China and the authoritarian turn of regimes in Russia and Turkey. Moreover, Europe is being weakened from within by Brexit and political instability.

This toxic mix was “unthinkable five years ago,” Mr Macron argues. “If we don’t wake up […] there’s a considerable risk that in the long run we will disappear geopolitically, or at least that we will no longer be in control of our destiny. I believe that very deeply.”

Mr Macron’s energetic recent diplomatic activity has drawn a great deal of interest abroad, and almost as much criticism. He has been accused of acting unilaterally (by blocking EU enlargement in the Western Balkans), and over-reaching (by trying to engineer direct talks between America and Iran). During the interview, however, the president is in a defiant but relaxed mood, sitting in shirt sleeves on the black leather sofa he has installed in the ornate salon doré, where Charles de Gaulle used to work.

The French president pushes back against his critics, for instance arguing that it is “absurd” to open up the EU to new members before reforming accession procedures, although he adds that he is ready to reconsider if such conditions are met.

Mr Macron’s underlying message is that Europe needs to start thinking and acting not only as an economic grouping, whose chief project is market expansion, but as a strategic power. That should start with regaining “military sovereignty”, and re-opening a dialogue with Russia despite suspicion from Poland and other countries that were once under Soviet domination. Failing to do so, Mr Macron says, would be a “huge mistake”.

Dig Deeper

Cover leader (November 7th): “A continent in peril”
Briefing (November 7th): A president on a mission
Transcript: Emmanuel Macron in his own words

The Intelligence podcast: “He talked about Europe in almost apocalyptic terms”— Macron’s interview

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NYT: Armenian Genocide — “For too long, Turkey bullied America into silence. Not anymore.” — Samantha Power

30 Oct

Not 100% sure how I feel about this; see “Screamers: Genocide: what is it and why do we need the term?.  I voice my major apprehensions there.

But “bully” is such an apt term for the Turkish Republic and the Turkish body politic (“thug” also comes to mind), that I think anything that puts Turkey in its place is a positive development.

29Power-sub-superJumboCredit…Mario Tama/Getty Images

Power’s money quotes:

Although Turkish officials may see the vote as retaliation for Turkey’s recent forced displacement of Syrian Kurds, that operation — as well as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s sweeping human rights crackdown in Turkey and his purchase (over American and NATO protests) of a Russian air defense system — simply reduced the impact of Turkish blackmail.

……..

First, as a baseline rule, for the sake of overall American credibility and for that of our diplomats, Washington officials must be empowered to tell the truth.

Over many years, because of the fear of alienating Turkey, diplomats have been told to avoid mentioning the well-documented genocide. In 2005, when John Evans, the American ambassador to Armenia, said that “the Armenian genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century,” he was recalled and forced into early retirement. Stating the truth was seen as an act of subordination.

When I became ambassador to the United Nations in 2013, I worried that I would be asked about the Armenian genocide and that when I affirmed the historical facts, I could cause a diplomatic rupture.

Second, when bullies feel their tactics are working, they generally bully more — a lesson worth bearing in mind in responding to threats from China and Saudi Arabia. The Turkish government devotes millions of dollars annually to lobbying American officials and lawmakers: more than $12 million during the Obama administration, and almost as much during the first two years of the Trump presidency. Turkish officials have threatened to respond to genocide recognition by suspending lucrative financial ties with American companies, reducing security cooperation and even preventing resupply of our troops in Iraq.

On Friday, the Turkish ambassador warned that passage of the “biased” House resolution would “poison” American-Turkish relations, and implied that it would jeopardize Turkish investment in the United States which provides jobs for a “considerable number of American citizens.”

It is easy to understand why any commander in chief would be leery of damaging ties with Turkey, an important ally in a turbulent neighborhood. But Turkey has far more to lose than the United States in the relationship. The United States helped build up Turkey’s military, brought it into NATO and led the coalition that defeated the Islamic State, which carried out dozens of attacks on Turkish soil. Over the past five years, American companies have invested some $20 billion in Turkey.

If Mr. Erdogan turns further away from a relationship that has been immensely beneficial for Turkey in favor of deepening ties with Russia or China, it will not be because the House voted to recognize the Armenian genocide. It will be because his own repressive tactics are coming to resemble those of the Russian and Chinese leaders. [my emphases]

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“The final prayer heralds a new beginning: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds…to achieve lasting peace among all nations.””

24 Nov

I’m usually not particularly moved by Thanksgiving, but Roger Cohen‘s piece in yesterday’s Times was great:America: the Redeemer Nation.

Screen Shot 2017-11-24 at 1.57.41 PMAbraham Lincoln, February 1865. Credit Alexander Gardner/Library of Congress, via Getty Images

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“Shaming…” is, itself, repulsive.

18 Nov

But I knew it’d come to this.

This article on dealing with male sexual abuse, How to Stop the Predators Who Aren’t Famous, uses the word “to shame” for how to deal with sexual predators (whatever that is or, rather, whoever we choose to define as such) several times, without the slightest compunction or socio-historical apprehensions that that word should carry with it.

Our mission should be a cold, legal, detached one that will make sure that the men who committed these acts of emotional and/or physical violence to vulnerable others are brought to justice. (And women, though I remember how many were baying for Brigitte Macron’s blood when her husband first took office and it churns my stomach.)  It’s not to make a moral example of them.

The need “to shame” is as dangerous — if not more — and revolting as the behavior we would like it to stigmatize.  It’s a moralizing, slippery slope, one that has proven particularly dangerous in American history.  I know the sweet hard-on many Americans seem to experience at the public humiliation and character assassination of an individual.  Resist it.

Hester Prynne

From @hester__pynne

And see my Michael Phelps posts.

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Mapping the Greek diaspora

17 Nov

 

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Mapping the Greek diaspora from Ekathimerini — YANNIS PALAIOLOGOS

We’re definitely blue-staters, no surprise.  Wish I knew what the different colors mean.  Cluster of orange tacks around New York metropolitan area and southern New England suggest a higher percentage of recent arrivals?

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From TIMES: Greg Weiner: an unusually moving piece about the beauty of the law and custom and language and the constitution…

11 Oct

…that doesn’t descend to the rhetorical level of those he’s criticizing.  It’s depressing how rare this kind of public thoughtfulness has become.  When the Obamas felt obligated to chime in today on the Weinstein pigsty, for example, I thought for a sec it was really all over.

One problem is that his piece sort of implicitly validates whole Anglo-Saxon tradition of unwritten, customary law, and that’s not working too well right now; I mean back home too, not just here with Trump.

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Opinion | Op-Ed Contributor

The President’s Self-Destructive Disruption

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Credit Tamara Shopsin

Donald Trump ran for the White House as a change agent hostile to the habits of Washington, the place he nicknamed “the swamp.” It worked. But the customs he continues to upend as president are the scaffolding that supports the otherwise fragile words of our written Constitution. Mr. Trump’s rejection of them is more threatening to both his presidency and our constitutional regime than any technical violation of the law that he has been accused of (at least so far).

Customs are the punctuation marks of republican politics, the silent guides we follow without pausing to consider their authority. They operate in a space that is difficult for formal rules to codify. That the president of the United States speaks with caution and dignity, that he exercises the pardon power the Constitution grants him soberly rather than wantonly, that he respects the independence of law enforcement, and that, to the extent reasonable politics permit, he speaks truthfully — these are all customs, not laws. Law is powerless to impose them and powerless without them.

When Mr. Trump drains language of its normal meaning, the law can do nothing about it. His ridiculing of the United States senator who leads the Foreign Relations Committee, his repeated use of the word “fake” to describe news coverage when he actually means “unpleasant” and his style of rhetoric in front of the United Nations, where he called terrorists “losers” and applied a childish epithet to the head of a nation in whose shadow tens of thousands of American troops serve and with whom nuclear war is a live possibility, are all cases in point. There is no way to formalize conventions of maturity and dignity for presidents. Custom fills that void.

Mr. Trump’s prodigious abuse of language violates the custom according to which presidents use words to convey serious meanings. Examples arrive daily, but here are a few more. The president has promised to decree his way to better health care, which he cannot constitutionally do. He has repeatedly tweeted threats at North Korea whose imprecision has turned red lines into smudges. He zigs and zags between alliances with and attacks on other constitutional officers in such a way that no one can constructively work with him. Yet all of these abuses of language are violations of custom, not law.

When he violates such customs, Mr. Trump is at his most impulsive and self-destructive. It may sound ridiculous to invoke James Madison or Edmund Burke when we talk about this president, but that is part of the problem. Mr. Trump could profit from the wisdom of his predecessor Madison, for whom the very essence of constitutionalism lay not in what he derided as “parchment barriers” — mere written commands there was no will to follow — but rather “that veneration which time bestows on every thing.” The Constitution, in other words, would be only as strong as the tradition of respecting it.

Burke, the foremost expositor of the authority of custom, preferred “the collected reason of ages, combining the principles of original justice with the infinite variety of human concerns” to “personal self-sufficiency and arrogance, the certain attendants upon all those who have never experienced a wisdom greater than their own.”

Burke is generally seen as the progenitor of modern conservatism, but Mr. Trump, who came late to the conservative cause, is said to be so hostile to custom that his staff knows the best way to get him to do something is to tell him it violates tradition. The tweeting, impulsivity, lying, interference with prosecutorial independence, incautious rhetoric about war and peace, demagogic campaign rallies masked as presidential addresses and the like are all violations of informal customs of presidential behavior. They also tend to be the moments when Mr. Trump makes his worst mistakes.

Of course, it is a conceit of many presidents — conceit being all but a constitutional qualification of the office — that they are saviors who, by force of personality, will transform all that preceded them. Most ultimately find the traditions of the office to be a shield. Mr. Trump is finding them to be a constraint he cannot bear. Worse, because many elements of his base associate these customs with failed politics, every violation reinforces the sense that he sides with them over a corrupt establishment.

Historically, conservatism has tended to value light governance, for which custom is even more essential. Aristotle writes that “when men are friends they have no need of justice.” In other words, rules enter where informal mechanisms of society have collapsed. The philosopher and statesman Charles Frankel summed it up powerfully: “Politics is a substitute for custom. It becomes conspicuous whenever and wherever custom recedes or breaks down.”

Mr. Trump’s many critics are not all guiltless on this score. Since Woodrow Wilson’s critique of the framers’ work, progressive legal theory has generally denied that the meaning of the original Constitution, as endorsed by generational assent, wields authority because it is customary. Much of libertarian theory elevates contemporary reason — the rationality of the immediate — above all else. Both schools of thought assume that individual reason, here and now, is better at resolving social and political questions, in all their dimensions of infinite complexity, than the accumulated wisdom of custom.

The president’s daily, even hourly, abuse of language is also deeply problematic for a republic that conducts its business with words and cannot do so if their meanings are matters of sheer convenience. The unique arrogance of Mr. Trump’s rejection of the authority of custom is more dangerous than we realize because without custom, there is no law.

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