November 6, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Defiantly playfulA composer worth discovering and rediscovering (Norman Lebrecht, 11/06/22, The Critic)

Whilst Karol Szymanowski is unlikely ever to be voted into the Classic FM Hall of Fame, his stock has risen steadily in the present century, so much so that he can almost be counted now as mainstream. This was never the case in his lifetime, when he suffered the dual disability for a composer of being Polish and gay. On the first count he was compared unfavourably to Chopin, on the second disparagingly to Tchaikovsky. Always his own man, Szymanowski (1882-1937) sounds like no other maker of musical language -- as even a cursory listening will attest.

A Stabat Mater of 1926, mourning the death of a beloved niece, is unexpectedly upbeat for the circumstances. Sung in Polish and using two female soloists and a tenor, it conjures more hope than loss in a musical style closer to Janacek than Stravinsky. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Man held after propane tank wrapped in burning clothes left near Alabama synagogue (STUART WINER , 11/06/22, Times of Israel)

A man was detained on suspicion of arson after a propane gas tank wrapped in burning clothes was found near the Temple Beth-El Synagogue in Birmingham, Alabama, police said Friday. [...]

In 1958, 54 sticks of dynamite were set outside the same synagogue but did not detonate after the fuse burnt out.

The attempted bombing of Temple Beth-El was thought to be retaliation for Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Homeland Security Admits It Tried to Manufacture Fake Terrorists for TrumpA new Homeland Security report details orders to connect protesters arrested in Portland to one another in service of the Trump's imaginary antifa plot. (Dell Cameron, 11/05/22, Gizmodo)

The report describes attempts by top officials to link protesters to an imaginary terrorist plot in an apparent effort to boost Trump's reelection odds, raising concerns now about the ability of a sitting president to co-opt billions of dollars' worth of domestic intelligence assets for their own political gain. DHS analysts recounted orders to generate evidence of financial ties between protesters in custody; an effort that, had they not failed, would have seemingly served to legitimize President Trump's false claims about "Antifa," an "organization" that even his most loyal intelligence officers failed to drum up proof ever existed.

The DHS report offers a full accounting of the intelligence activities happening behind the scenes of officers' protest containment; "twisted efforts," Wyden said, of Trump administration officials promoting "baseless conspiracy theories" to manufacture of a domestic terrorist threat for the president's "political gain." The report describes the dossiers generated by DHS as having detailed the past whereabouts and the "friends and followers of the subjects, as well as their interests" -- up to and including "First Amendment speech activity." Intelligence analysts had internally raised concerns about the decision to accuse anyone caught in the streets by default of being an "anarchist extremist" specifically because "sufficient facts" were never found "to support such a characterization."

One field operations analyst told interviewers that the charts were hastily "thrown together," adding they "didn't even know why some of the people were arrested." In some cases, it was unclear whether the arrests were made by police or by one of the several federal agencies on the ground. The analysts were never provided arrest affidavits or paperwork, a witness told investigators, adding that they "just worked off the assumption that everyone on the list was arrested." Lawyers who reviewed 43 of the dossiers found it "concerning," the report says, that 13 of them stemmed from "nonviolent crimes." These included trespassing, though it was unclear to analysts and investigators whether the cases had "any relationship to federal property," the report says.

A footnote in the report states that "at least one witness" told investigators that dossiers had been requested on people who were "not arrested" but merely accused of threats. Another, citing emails exchanged between top intelligence officials, states dossiers were created "on persons arrested having nothing to do with homeland security or threats to officers."

Questioned by investigators, the agency's chief intelligence officer acknowledged fielding requests by Wolf and his acting deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, to create dossiers "against everyone participating in the Portland protest," regardless of whether they'd been accused of any crime, the report says. That officer, Brian Murphy, then head of the agency's Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), told interviewers that he'd rejected the idea, informing his bosses that he could only "look at people who were arrested," and adding that it was something his office had done "thousands" of times before.

The DHS report, finalized more than a year ago, includes descriptions of orders handed down to "senior leadership" instructing them to broadly apply the label "violent antifa anarchists inspired" to Portland protesters unless they had intel showing "something different."

Once the dossiers were received by the agency's emerging threat center, it became clear that DHS had no real way to tie the protesters to any terrorist activities, neither at home nor abroad. Efforts to drum up evidence to support the administration's claim that a "larger network was directing or financing" the protesters -- a task assigned to another unit, known as the Homeland Identities, Targeting and Exploitation Center, diverted away from its usual work of analyzing national security threats -- "did not find any evidence that assertion was true," the report says.

Their "crime" was protesting racial injustice.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Learning lessons from dependency on a hostile powerBelief that mutual economic dependence would avoid conflict is quickly - and dangerously - being replaced by new era of engagement avoidance (BILL EMMOTT, NOVEMBER 6, 2022, Asia Times)

For although engagement has gone out of fashion, the question still hangs in the air: What, truly, was the alternative? If the West had not "engaged" with China and Russia during the past 30 years, what would it have done instead?

Can countries like Japan or Britain or Germany or even the United States really decide totally to shun powers that are the size and importance of Russia or China? Would it really make sense to turn your back on them?

We shall find out the answer to this during the coming months and years. Certainly, both the West - especially Europe - and Russia are learning an important lesson from the war in Ukraine. It is that dependency on a hostile power for supplies of a crucial commodity - in this case, energy - can be turned into a weapon of war.

Yet, for Russia, the further lesson is that Europe has proven much more capable of dealing with that weaponization of energy supply than it expected, more capable of finding alternative supplies quite quickly and more capable of absorbing the economic costs of doing so.

This promises to do more long-term damage to Russia than to the West. By weaponizing the supply of gas, Russia has lost its major customer, probably permanently, without gaining any sustainable advantage in the war.

It is possible to imagine Europe returning as a buyer from Russia after the war has finished, but it will not buy anywhere near as large a quantity of Russian gas as it did before.

Russia has badly underestimated the political resolve of European governments and the resilience of their public opinion, which has remained firmly supportive of Ukraine and is now determined to avoid such dependency in the future.

This has been helped by the fact that decarbonization through the replacement of fossil fuels with clean and renewable energy sources is both necessary and popular, depending on the cost.