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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Obama Apparently Virtual Prisoner

The BBC writes today:

On Sunday, as more than a million marchers took to the Paris streets and 44 heads of state joined arms on Boulevard Voltaire, there was one notable absence.

In a Monday afternoon press conference, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said Mr Obama wished he could have attended, but the “onerous and significant” security preparations for a presidential visit require more than the 36-hour advance notice the White House received.

I find this explanation fairly incredible. François Hollande, David Cameron, Angela Merkel, Mariano Rajoy, Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu can all travel, but Obama needs more than 36 hours notice? The excuse rings false, but if taken at face value would seem to declare Obama’s a fearful prisoner.

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Pakistan Taliban: US drone ‘kills militants’ in tribal region

This morning on the BBC I read this story, which briefly reports on a US drone strike reportedly killing six in Pakistan. There’s no explanation of why the US attacked.

I’m reading Camilo Mejia’s Road From Ar Ramadi, and was struck by how Mejia’s experience confirms contemporaneous reporting on Iraq and serves to confirm my move to Germany in 2002. The US dirty wars are now a continuous sort of background, free of mention let alone question in the US mainstream media.

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