May 22, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 PM


The liberal complacency of Martin Amis: His exquisite style hid a squalid sense of morality (TERRY EAGLETON, 5/22/23, UnHerd)

Hitchens's spiritual twin, Martin Amis, easily matched him for mordant wit. He was the great poet of the postmodern metropolis, his finger unerringly on the pulse of its hardboiled, streetwise, sexually libidinous inhabitants. His sensibility belonged as exactly to its time and place as that of Dickens or Faulkner. We are ushered into a depthless, deregulated world of appetite, self-interest, and purely vacuous freedom in which anything goes, held together only by the rigour of literary style. Style in Amis is what rises triumphantly above the squalor of his material. Its shapeliness, equipoise and finesse constitute an implicit critique of contemporary culture, which saved him from anything as uncool as having to pass explicit moral judgements on it. He once remarked that he would sell his grandmother for a finely turned phrase, and if I were his grandmother I would have taken this comment seriously enough to go into hiding. In a literary milieu in which style is sometimes considered "elitist", few modern writers can handle a sentence so superbly.

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Along the highways, Indian restaurants serve America's truckers: The roadside stops, called dhabas, run by Punjabi immigrants are sprouting up to serve a growing trucker population a slice of home (Meena Venkataramanan, May 20, 2023, Washington Post)

Long before dawn on a frosty February morning in Dallas, Palwinder Singh rises from the mattress in his sleeper cab and prepares to haul his cargo cross-country. After five hours of driving north along U.S. 287, and then west on Interstate 40, it's lunchtime.

Singh, 30, pulls his semi off Exit 36 into Vega, a quiet town in the Texas Panhandle along the historic Route 66. For lunch, he bypasses the typical long-haul trucker menu of convenience-store snacks and heat-lamp hot dogs at the large Pilot Travel Center and instead rolls into the parking lot of a modest white building across the street. A sign on the building's red roof spells out the words "Punjabi Dhaba" in the Punjabi language's Gurmukhi script, with the English translation below it.

The Vega Truck Stop and Indian Kitchen, as it's officially known, attracts truckers like Singh originally from Punjab, a region spanning northwest India and eastern Pakistan. The store is filled with Punjabi snacks, sweets, truck decorations and a restaurant, known as a dhaba, that serves fresh meals including paratha and butter chicken -- a slice of South Asia in the middle of rural Texas.

That afternoon, Singh parked his truck, decorated with colorful fabrics and ornaments called jhalars and parandas. He was promptly greeted in Punjabi by another trucker, Amandeep Singh, of Fresno, Calif., who had also stopped for lunch. As they each poured a cup of steaming chai indoors, the truckers chatted about their drives.

The Vega eatery is among an estimated 40 dhabas, and likely many more, that have popped up along American highways across the country in response to the growing number of Punjabi truckers, who have dominated the Indian trucking industry for decades. Punjabis now make up almost 20 percent of the U.S. trucking industry, according to Raman Dhillon, chief executive of the North American Punjabi Trucking Association. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Beyond Bakhmut's Destruction, The News From Ukraine Is Mostly Good (Lucian K. Truscott IV, May 22 | 2023, National Memo)

As Zelensky indicated in Japan at the G-7, what they are fighting over when it comes to Bakhmut is a town that has been completely destroyed. That Russia has been willing to spend the lives of so many of its troops - as many as 100,000 either killed or wounded since last December - is either proof of Putin's hubris, Prigohzin's hubris, or both. Sources inside Russia have indicated to Western reporters that the battle for Bakhmut is as much about a war going on between Putin and his erstwhile "friend" Prigohzin as it is about anything else.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why was this massive Trump scandal hiding in plain sight for 28 months?A shocking allegation that then-President Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani was selling pardons for $2 million got lost. Why it matters now. (Will Bunch, May 21, 2023, Philadelphia Inquirer)

[T]rump had to race through some important unfinished business before the clock struck noon on Jan. 20, Biden's inauguration day. The night before, the ongoing president issued a whopping 144 pardons and commutations as he wielded one of his few utterly unchecked powers granted in the U.S. Constitution. Indeed, looking just at pardons, Trump issued 116 of just 143 during his four years in office in his final month, January 2021.

To the very end, Trump ignored the practices of past presidents -- who'd worked mostly off petitions that had been investigated by the Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney -- and granted clemency largely for connected folks that he tended to know, from close cronies like Roger Stone and Steve Bannon to his reality-TV pal Rod Blagojevich, the disgraced Illinois governor, to his son-in-law's dad, Charles Kushner. Then there was an additional category: those who'd paid good money to Trump World insiders to plead their case.

On Jan. 17, 2021, the New York Times published an article headlined: "Prospect of Pardons in Final Days Fuels Market to Buy Access to Trump." Based on more than three dozen interviews with key players, the Times confirmed that wealthy convicted felons were paying tens of thousands of dollars to insiders like a former Trump personal attorney, John Dowd, in the rush to gain clemency. To be clear, hiring a lawyer promising special access -- while perhaps unseemly -- is not new and probably not unlawful. But a Times passage about convicted ex-CIA leaker John Kiriakou, who paid an unnamed Trump associate $50,000 with a contingent promise of $50,000 more if a pardon was granted, included a jaw-dropping if unproven allegation:

"And Mr. Kiriakou was separately told that Mr. Trump's personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani could help him secure a pardon for $2 million. Mr. Kiriakou rejected the offer, but an associate, fearing that Mr. Giuliani was illegally selling pardons, alerted the F.B.I. Mr. Giuliani challenged this characterization."