Theory of the Leisure Class

Thinking about Thorstein Veblen this morning, as headlines blare warnings about the Chinese stock market’s ripple effect on western exchanges. There’s very little discussion of political economy in the office.

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Inside the Third Reich

Sometimes I asked myself: Why can’t I call Hitler my friend? What is missing? … When [Dietrich] Eckart died in 1923 there remained four men with whom Hitler used the Du of close friendship: Hermann Esser, Christian Weber, Julius Streicher, and Ernst Roehm.

Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1970), 100-101.

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Saw Teorema for the first time last night. The seductions were all much more matter-of-fact than I’d expected and I was surprised that the real substance of the film seemed to lie in their aftermath. Once the middle class is enlightened by the truth of communism we can never return to the banality of bourgeois life? Having tasted the apple of the tree of knowledge we will be driven mad by the promise of that which we can never experience again?

I liked some thought-provoking touches: the replacement domestic is largely interchangeable with the revolutionary first, complete with the same name. The enlightened servant doesn’t successfully organize a mass of workers, but rather dies a martyred saint. The enlightened bourgeoisie likewise suffer alienation from their class, cut off from what had been seemingly fulfilling albeit perhaps empty bonds.

In other news I just learned that Baldur von Schirach’s mother was from Philadelphia. Puts a new spin on Vonnegut and Pynchon for me. After finishing Speer’s memoirs I think I’ll have a look at von Schirach.

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The End

The disaster on the eastern front in summer 1944 was in terms of human loss by far the worst military catastrophe in German history, worse than the First World War slaughterhouse at Verdun, way beyond the losses at Stalingrad.

Ian Kershaw, The End, (New York, Penguin, 2011), 92.

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Savage Continent

One of the many aspects of the Second World War that make it unique among modern wars is the fact that vast numbers of civilians were taken prisoner along with the traditional military captives. Women and children, as well as men, were effectively treated as war booty. They were enslaved in a way that had not been seen in Europe since the time of the Roman Empire.

Keith Lowe, Savage Continent, (New York, St. Martin’s Press, 2012), 27.

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White House admits: we didn’t know who drone strike was aiming to kill

This comes on the same day that Petraeus’s wrist is slapped and he is sent off with the judge’s good wishes.

Another piece from Foreign Policy:


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The Wrong Enemy

The Afghans were never advocates of terrorism yet they bore the brunt of the punishment for 9/11. Pakistan, supposedly an ally, has proved to be perfidious, driving the violence in Afghanistan for its own cynical, hegemonic reasons. Pakistan’s generals and mullahs have done great harm to their own people as well as their Afghan neighbors and NATO allies. Pakistan, not Afghanistan, has been the true enemy.

Carlotta Gall, The Wrong Enemy, (New York, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), xiv.

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Endless American wars have been good business for Amman

[E]ndless American wars have been good business for Amman and many of the Middle East’s other newly gleaming cities.  Money from taxpayers in Wichita and Denver and Phoenix gets routed through the Pentagon and CIA and then ends up here, or in Baghdad or Dubai, or Doha or Kabul or Beirut, in the hands of contractors, subcontractors, their local business partners, local sheikhs, local Mukhabarat officers, local oil smugglers, local drug dealers — money that funds construction and real estate speculation in a few choice luxury districts, buildings that go up thanks to the sweat of imported Filipino and Bangladeshi workers kept on the job by their Saudi and Emirati bosses who confiscate their passports.  In Wichita, Denver and Phoenix, meanwhile, McDonald’s is hiring.

James Risen, Pay Any Price, (New York, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), 124.

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Richest 1% to own more than rest of world, Oxfam says

Reading James Risen’s Pay Any Price and revisiting Bush Administration pronouncements about sacrifices by “the American people” in wake of 9/11.

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US to France: you’ve got a placating, condescending friend in us

I love this headline!

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