December 5, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 9:15 PM

WE PERFECTED IT BY GIVING THE CROWN MORE POWER AND THE COMMONS LESS:

Britain, become a republic! You can even keep the Queen! (DAN HIND and JAMIE STERN-WEINER 3 December 2012, OpenDemocracy)

Britain has been fooled. Told that 'republicanism' just meant sacking the monarchy, the British have missed its radical vision for the future. We interview the author of a new pamphlet that seeks to ignite the flame. [...]

Montesquieu characterised the English constitution as a 'republic [hiding]... under the form of monarchy'. If Britain is a de facto republic, why does it take 'the form of monarchy' at all?

Well, I agree with Montesquieu, and with Bagehot who made a similar point. I call it an illicit republic because I wanted to stress the extent to which rule is out of sight.

The monarchy is still useful. For one thing it confounds the reforming imagination. It is kind of indefensible in logic, but it is emotionally appealing to lots of people. So the blundering rationalist calls for its abolition and everyone laughs at the silliness of those who don't enjoy our rich traditions, and so on. Like I say it is part of how the game of public speech is played.

More seriously, the current constitution, where the Crown-in-Parliament rules, gives enormous discretionary power to a tiny handful of people. Many people think that they live in a constitutional monarchy that also is a democracy. They are wrong on both counts. They live in an absolute monarchy whose sovereign power has been captured by a Parliament. This Parliament has conceded some democratic elements but the people are not sovereign. The country is not even formally, let alone maximally, republican. But this has nothing to do with the fact of a crowned head of state. The issue is the constitutional status of the general population. Britain isn't, as a matter of boring old fact, a democracy. This matters a great deal; it is a large part of how Britain's particular version of capitalism organises itself.

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 PM

IN AN EDGELESS LEAGUE:

Rajon Rondo: NBA's Most Valuable Rebel : Pushy, combative behavior used to be embraced in professional basketball. Sujay Kumar says the Celtics outspoken point guard should be celebrated for keeping the tradition alive. (Sujay Kumar, 12/02/12, Daily Beast)

[W]hile today's players retweet each other and hand out pregame high-fives like they were BFFs, Rondo's philosophy of treating the opposing team like they're the enemy is refreshing. He isn't auditioning for the Portland "Jail Blazers." He hasn't choked a coach. He's not throwing brutal elbows. There's no malicious intent. He's just keeping it real. But someone should really tell him you just can't mess with referees.

This edge is good for the NBA. Why not go back to the days of bad boys? You know, guys with massive egos who talk trash about your mother and shatter your ankles (not literally). As Garnett would say, it's a bar fight. Rondo, with his cockiness and propensity to take on the league's best in talent and fisticuffs, is the best at what he does.

Posted by orrinj at 9:06 PM

GREAT YOKELS FROM LITTLE ACORN GROW:

Republicans not handling election results well (PPP, 12/04/12)

49% of GOP voters nationally say they think that ACORN stole the election for President Obama. We found that 52% of Republicans thought that ACORN stole the 2008 election for Obama, so this is a modest decline, but perhaps smaller than might have been expected given that ACORN doesn't exist anymore.

Posted by orrinj at 8:30 PM

TAKE FIVE, DAVE (via Glenn Dryfoos)

-Dave Brubeck, Who Helped Put Jazz Back in Vogue, Dies at 91 (BEN RATLIFF, December 5, 2012, NY Times)
For all his conceptualizing, Mr. Brubeck often seemed more guileless and stubborn country boy than intellectual. It is often noted that his piece "The Duke" -- memorably recorded by Miles Davis and Gil Evans in 1957 on their collaborative album "Miles Ahead" -- runs through all 12 keys in the first eight bars. But Mr. Brubeck contended that he never realized that until a music professor told him.

Mr. Brubeck's very personal musical language situated him far from the Bud Powell school of bebop rhythm and harmony; he relied more on chords, lots and lots of them, than on sizzling, hornlike right-hand lines. (He may have come by this outsiderness naturally, as a function of his background: jazz by way of rural isolation and modernist academia. He was, Ted Gioia wrote in his book "West Coast Jazz," inspired "by the process of improvisation rather than by its history.")

It took a little while for Mr. Brubeck to capitalize on the greater visibility his deal with Columbia gave him, and as he accommodated success a certain segment of the jazz audience began to turn against him. (The 1957 album "Dave Digs Disney," on which he played songs from Walt Disney movies, didn't help his credibility among critics and connoisseurs.) Still, by the end of the decade he had broken through with mainstream audiences in a bigger way than almost any jazz musician since World War II.

In 1958, as part of a State Department program that brought jazz as an offer of good will during the cold war, his quartet traveled in the Middle East and India, and Mr. Brubeck became intrigued by musical languages that didn't stick to 4/4 time -- what he called "march-style jazz," the meter that had been the music's bedrock. The result was the album "Time Out," recorded in 1959. With the hits "Take Five" (composed by Mr. Desmond in 5/4 meter and prominently featuring the quartet's gifted drummer, Joe Morello) and "Blue Rondo à la Turk" (composed by Mr. Brubeck in 9/8), the album propelled Mr. Brubeck onto the pop charts.

Initially, Mr. Brubeck said, the album was released without high expectations from the record company. But when disc jockeys in the Midwest started playing "Take Five," the song became a national phenomenon. After the album had been out for 18 months, Columbia released "Take Five" as a 45 r.p.m. single, edited for radio, with "Blue Rondo" on the B side. Both album and single became hits; The album "Time Out" has since sold about two million copies.

In 1960, realizing that most of the quartet's work centered on the East Coast, the Brubecks, with their children, Dan, Michael, Chris, Darius and Catherine, moved to Wilton, where they stayed. They later had one more child, Matthew.

Genial as Mr. Brubeck could seem, he had strong convictions. In the 1950s he had to stand up to college deans who asked him not to perform with a racially mixed band (his bassist, Gene Wright, was black). He also refused to tour in South Africa in 1958 when asked to sign a contract stipulating that his band would be all white. With his wife as lyricist, he wrote "The Real Ambassadors," a jazz musical that dealt with race relations. With a cast that included Louis Armstrong, it was released on LP in 1962 but staged only once, at that year's Monterey Jazz Festival.

When Mr. Brubeck's quartet broke up in 1967, after 17 years, he spent more time with his family and followed new paths. In 1969 he composed "Elementals" (subtitled "Concerto for Anyone Who Can Afford an Orchestra"), a concerto grosso for 45-piece ensemble. He later wrote an oratorio and four cantatas, a mass, two ballets and works for jazz combo with orchestra. Most of his commissioned pieces from the late '60s on, many of them collaborations with his wife, whose contributions included lyrics and librettos, were classical works.

As a composer, Mr. Brubeck used jazz to address religious themes and to bridge social and political divides. His cantata "The Gates of Justice," from 1969, dealt with blacks and Jews in America; another cantata, "Truth Is Fallen" (1972), lamented the killing of student protesters at Kent State University in 1970, with a score including orchestra, electric guitars and police sirens. He played during the Reagan-Gorbachev summit meeting in 1988 and he composed entrance music for Pope John Paul II's visit to Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1987.

In 1968 he formed a quartet with the baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, and later he began working with his musician sons Darius (a pianist), Chris (a bassist), Dan (a drummer) and Matthew (a cellist). He performed and recorded with them often, most definitively on "In Their Own Sweet Way" (Telarc, 1997).

    -BIO: Dave Brubeck (All Music)
    -OBIT: DAVE BRUBECK 1920-2012: Dave Brubeck: A jazz icon who reached a massive audience (Howard Reich, December 5, 2012
    -TRIBUTE: Farewell, Dave Brubeck (ROBERT SCHLESINGER, December 5, 2012, US News)
    -TRIBUTE: R.I.P. Dave Brubeck (Tom Breihan, 12/05/12, StereoGum)
    -TRIBUTE: Dave Brubeck Was Jazz's Greatest Centrist: Take five - hits from the Brubeck catalog, that is. (Matthew DeLuca, Dec 5, 2012, Daily Beast)
    -TRIBUTE: R.I.P. Jazz Titan Dave Brubeck (Larry Fitzmaurice, December 5, 2012, Pitchfork)
    -ESSAY: Dave Brubeck's Jewish cantata (Adam Soclof · December 5, 2012, JTA)
    -TRIBUTE: Dave Brubeck (1920-2012): An Appreciation (Something Else! Reviews)
    -Dave Brubeck: Making a Joyful Noise Unto the Lord: This jazz icon sought to break racial barriers, cross national boundaries and build cultural connections. Then he found the Catholic faith. (Mark Lombard, American Catholic)
Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM

THE BRIDGE TO JEB:

George W. Bush to Republicans: Embrace Immigration (John Avlon, Dec 5, 2012, Daily Beast)


On Tuesday morning, the Bush Center held a conference on immigration and economic growth at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. It was only the second major policy speech the former president has delivered since leaving office, and Bush let himself wax poetic on the subject of immigration: "Not only do immigrants help build our economy, they invigorate our soul." [...]

The core message of the conference was that America needs more immigrants, not fewer, in the current economic climate. It was bipartisan in tone, arguing that we should be competing for the best and the brightest, including offering green cards with graduate-school diplomas--one of the few immigration measures that Senate Republicans and Democrats agree on. Most notable was the call for comprehensive immigration reform of the kind Bush backed in 2007, including what a new book from the Bush Center calls "a compassionate solution" for undocumented workers now in the country. In a campaign season, that would be called "amnesty."

All this is breathtakingly sensible given the tortured state of immigration debate in the Republican Party. Romney consistently pandered to the worst impulses in his party on this issue--first using it to get to the right of John McCain in 2007, and then Rick Perry in 2011. It was a cynical and short-sighted strategy, as Romney campaign manager Eric Fehrnstrom recently acknowledged--and contributed to the former governor's pathetic lack of demographic diversity in this year's general election.

Bush is not a proud policy wonk. But over the past four years, we have consistently been reminded of what a steadying and centering impulse he was on the most conservative wing of his party. The GOP--hell, the country--missed his voice during the unhinged ground zero mosque debate. Bush was always an advocate of religious tolerance, especially toward Islam at the height of the war on terror.

Republicans will need to decide whether to follow the Bush-McCain-Rubio wing of its party or the likes of Limbaugh. It should be an easy call. Sadly, it is not.

Likewise, Bush was consistent in reaching out to the Hispanic community, both as a border-state governor and as president. Xenophobic voices were not tolerated in his administration. As Bush said in Tuesday's speech, "America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time. As our nation debates the proper course of action relating to immigration, I hope we do so with a benevolent spirit and keep in mind the spirit of immigrants."

In the wake of Romney's election defeat, it has fallen to another Bush--Jeb--to raise the flag for a modern and inclusive Republican Party. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM

ON NOT SUBSIDIZING OIL:

With military's push, biofuels can grow (Andrew Holland, December 2, 2012, CS Monitor)

For strategic and budgetary reasons, the military has identified this dependence on oil - a single point of failure - as a threat to national security. The Air Force and (especially) the Navy have embarked on a program to address this threat. Put together, the potential market for Air Force and Navy biofuels is expected to be about 700 million gallons per year by 2020. For an industry that is only just beginning to commercially produce fuel now, that will require significant investment. But it also should give investors some certainty that there will be a buyer for these fuels, so long as they are available. Once capital is made available for commercial-scale plants, this sector can grow very quickly.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM

WE ARE ALL NEOCONOMISTS NOW:

TAX VOBISCUM (HENDRIK HERTZBERG, 12/05/12, The New Yorker)

[C]utting (or eliminating) the payroll tax is a remarkably good idea. By the same token, the payroll tax itself is a remarkably bad idea, and not just because it's regressive. The payroll tax is a bad idea because it's a tax on jobs--and jobs are something we want more of, not less of. It's not a tax on "job creators" who may or may not get around to creating a job sometime. It's a tax on job creation itself. [...]

By all means let's have a stiff carbon tax--a whole carbon-tax package, one that folds in levies on other pollutants and on the wasteful or dangerous use of natural resources in general. And, at the same time, let's make the carbon tax the source of the trust fund. Call it the Dignity for Seniors tax, because that's what it would provide. Or the National Patrimony tax, because that's what it would preserve. Or the Social and National Security tax, because it would underwrite both kinds.

Or, maybe, the More Payrolls Tax. As John Marshall and Daniel Webster long ago pointed out, the power to tax involves the power to destroy. With the More Payrolls Tax, we would no longer be using that power to destroy jobs.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM

hISTORY ENDS EVERYWHERE:

Africa: Ripe for investment (Hibah Yousuf,  December 5, 2012, CNNMoney)

Over the past decade, Africa has been the second-fastest growing economy in the world, with GDP accelerating more than 5% a year on average, according to the World Bank.

And even as the global economy has slowed in recent months, growth in Africa has largely remained on track, with the World Bank predicting the continent could be on "the brink of an economic takeoff, much like China was 30 years ago, and India 20 years ago."
Africa's natural resources are certainly a big driver of the growth, but an even bigger factor is the continent's rising consumer class.

"The consumer demand in Africa is enormous," said Larry Seruma, managing principal at Nile Capital Management and manager of the Nile Pan Africa Fund (NAFAX), the only U.S. mutual fund to focus exclusively on the continent of Africa.

According to McKinsey Global Institute, household consumption is now higher in Africa than in India or Russia, and is only expected to surge further. In fact, the number of African households with discretionary income is expected to jump by more than 50% to almost 130 million by 2020.