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November 20, 2005

Handles Like a Dream

Inventor: Yoshiaki Kato of Toyota
Availability: Prototype only
To Learn More:

Our special New York-based correspondent informed us that the i-unit is a four-wheel personal-transportation system that looks like a space-age sports car. "This is designed to be an extension of the human body," says Yoshiaki Kato, chief engineer of the fully electronic, drive-by-wire concept vehicle, which is powered by lithium-ion batteries and has an exterior made of biodegradable, plant-based materials. The 3-ft.-wide, leaf-shaped i-unit is nearly 6 ft. tall when positioned upright but drops its center of gravity and reclines into a sports-car position for traveling at speeds of up to 25 m.p.h. Sensors allow the vehicle to detect obstacles. Place the steering unit to the left or right—or even at the feet of those with special needs.

November 15, 2005

Wanted! A Rare Species

More on Diversity (and consensus)...

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe following are the excerpts from a conversation with R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr., CEO of R. Thomas Consulting & Training Inc., fellow at the National Academy of Human Resources in Santa Fe, N.M. and the author of four books on diversity that appeared in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ, Nov 15 2005, Section R page 4). I was surprised by the unexpected relevance of this conversation to my thread on Consensus (see my rambling #1 and a rambling #2). Notice how consensus is again and again confused with conformity or the mere presence of variety.

....I could get a certain number of white males, women, Asians and African-Americans to work for me, but that doesn'tmean I'm prepared to deal with the diversity that comes with it. We make progress and then we digress. It's a frustrating cycle....

WSJ: But isn't hiring a more racially and gender-diverse staff progress?

Mr. Thomas: Not really. Most organizations define diversity as having the right racial composition, or "making their numbers". They think that if they get the right racial composition, then everything is ok. The question is, can you make quality decisions in the midst of all the differences, similarities and tensions that come with the mix? We just can't seem to get past that.

WSJ: So what do you recommend?
Mr. Thomas: First, the assimilation myth has to be broken. One reason we're stuck in a cycle is because of the assumption that once you get representation, people will assimilate. But we're actually seeing that people are less willing to assimilate than ever before....

...Some CEOs say that a requirement to be in senior management is having a spouse, others say you must have a wife. Some senior managers see golf as a requirement.

... We might find people that don't meet our preferences...but the question should be do the meet our requirements? Can I work with people who are qualified that are not like me? This stuff is hard on people.

A Shakespeare moment

...sweet silent hours of marriage joys...

Richard the Third

On Consensus: The Sequel

As promised, here are some more thoughts on the subject of the role of consensus. Today's Wall Street Journal issue has an article by Carol Hymowitz "As Managers Climb, They Have to Learn How To Act the Parts" (WSJ, Nov 15 2005, section B page 1). Describing a certain Selena Lo, who grew trough the ranks to a position of a CEO of a company, Ms. Hymowitz surmises that "executive must acquire new skills and behaviors with each step up the corporate ladder". Selena recalls, that "when I was a vice-president, I hated consensus", and that she had a motto: "be with me or get off the board".

The change in Selena's behavior came about with the new higher position, when there was no longer "a boss, who cleaned up after [her]... who'd soothe the people who felt [she] was steamrolling them". It really left me wondering whether it was that fact and that fact alone that was responsible for the need to seek out the consensus, well, not the consensus really, but the iluusion of collegiality.

Should we all get a powerful "rabbi" upstairs who would cover all our faults and do the PR work with the powers that be? Is the prevailing sentiment among the co-workers an equivalent of consensus on business issues? How should the business efficiency be counterbalanced by the public affection? Should we go for the widest "love" of hoi polloi or apply our charms upward? Questions, questions for the next time..

November 14, 2005

Мысль китайского философа **ru

Мысль китайского философа Чанг Инг Ю
Тот, кто в течение дня
Активен, как пчела,
Силен как бык,
Вкалывает, как лошадь
и приходит вечером домой уставшим как собака,
Должен проконсультироваться с ветеринаром, есть большая вероятность, что он осёл .

November 13, 2005

Что за жизнь!? **ru

Что за жизнь!?
Сенсация: единственный в истории человек выздоровел после СПИДа, и тот -
Куда мы катимся...

BBC | Health | Bacteria modified to combat HIV

E. coli Scientists have genetically modified bacteria living in the human body to produce chemicals that block HIV infection.
Although the research is still at an early stage, they hope it could eventually lead to a practical and cost effective new way to combat the virus. As of December 2004, there are 39.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS. The research, by the US National Cancer Institute, is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Most HIV transmission occurs on the surfaces of the gut and reproductive areas which are normally coated with a layer of bacteria. The researchers modified one of these bacteria - a form of E.coli - so that it began to secrete proteins that block HIV from infecting its target cells. When the modified bacteria were introduced in mice, they successfully colonised parts of the lower gut, and were also found in lower concentrations in the vagina.

Writing in the journal, the researchers said there was an urgent need for new ways to prevent the spread of HIV, especially in the developing world. Scientists have been working on microbicide creams and gels which can be applied to the genitals to block HIV infection. However, the researchers say the fact they need to be regularly applied before sex is likely to limit their use. They believe their approach has the potential to offer more lasting protection. "Bacteria are simple and practical to manufacture, store, distribute and administer, and they are far less expensive than protein-based microbicides," they write. They also believe the method could be adapted to deliver bacteria secreting different proteins to different parts of the body.

Although primarily designed to prevent new HIV infections, they believe it could also be used, in combination with drug therapy, to treat people already carrying the virus. Dr Tim Farley, of the World Health Organization, said: "In principle a technique such as this which enhances the body's defences against HIV sounds like a great idea. "Clearly there are many steps to be completed in the development and clinical testing of the product, and there may be special safety concerns over unexpected side effects due to deliberately colonising the gastrointestinal tract with genetically engineered bacteria."

Lisa Power, of the Terrence Higgins Trust said: "This research is promising and is based on a clever idea, using naturally occurring bacteria to improve resistance to transmission. "However, we are a very long way off its practical use in humans, and until then, condoms are the best defence we have against HIV and most other sexually transmitted infections."

Telegraph | Medics appeal to patient over HIV 'miracle cure' claims

Doctors have urged a man to come forward for more tests after he apparently shook off the HIV virus. Andrew Stimpson, 25, was diagnosed as being HIV-positive in August 2002, but 14 months later blood tests gave him the all-clear. Mr Stimpson, from Largs in Ayrshire, told press he felt special and blessed to have been "cured" and said: "I can't help wondering if I hold the cure for Aids." But Chelsea and Westminster Healthcare NHS Trust, who carried out the initial tests, said Mr Stimpson has so far declined to undergo further tests with them.

A hospital spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that he has a positive and a negative test. "I can't confirm with you that he's shaken it off, that he's been cured." She added: "We urge him, for the sake of himself and the HIV community, to come in and get tested." She confirmed Mr Stimpson had subsequently tried to sue the hospital, believing his initial positive test was inaccurate. But he was told there was no case to answer because both tests were correct, she said.

See also BBC News

November 12, 2005

I've got my first Christmas card today!!!

What do Snowmen do in the summertime?

November 11, 2005

NYT: Get French or Die Trying


THE rioting in Paris and other French cities has led to a lot of interpretations and comments, most of them irrelevant. Many see the violence as religiously motivated, the inevitable result of unchecked immigration from Muslim countries; for others the rioters are simply acting out of vengeance at being denied their cultural heritage or a fair share in French society. But the reality is that there is nothing particularly Muslim, or even French, about the violence. Rather, we are witnessing the temporary rising up of one small part of a Western underclass culture that reaches from Paris to London to Los Angeles and beyond.

To understand why this is so, consider two solid facts we do have on the riots. First, this is a youth (and male) uprising. The rioters are generally 12 to 25 years old, and roughly half of those arrested are under 18. The adults keep away from the demonstrations: in fact, they are the first victims (it is their cars, after all, that are burning) and they want security and social services to be restored.

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Yet older residents also resent what they see as the unnecessary brutality of the police toward the rioters, the merry-go-round of officials making promises that they know will be quickly forgotten, and the demonization of their communities by the news media. Second, the riots are geographically and socially very circumscribed: all are occurring in about 100 suburbs, or more precisely destitute neighborhoods known here as "cités," "quartiers" or "banlieues." There has long been a strong sense of territorial identity among the young people in these neighborhoods, who have tended to coalesce in loose gangs. The different gangs, often involved in petty delinquency, have typically been reluctant to stroll outside their territories and have vigilantly kept strangers away, be they rival gangs, police officers, firefighters or journalists.

Now, these gangs are for the most part burning their own neighborhoods and seem little interested in extending the rampage to more fashionable areas. They express simmering anger fueled by unemployment and racism. The lesson, then, is that while these riots originate in areas largely populated by immigrants of Islamic heritage, they have little to do with the wrath of a Muslim community.

France has a huge Muslim population living outside these neighborhoods - many of them, people who left them as soon as they could afford it - and they don't identify with the rioters at all. Even within the violent areas, one's local identity (sense of belonging to a particular neighborhood) prevails over larger ethnic and religious affiliation. Most of the rioters are from the second generation of immigrants, they have French citizenship, and they see themselves more as part of a modern Western urban subculture than of any Arab or African heritage.

Just look at the newspaper photographs: the young men wear the same hooded sweatshirts, listen to similar music and use slang in the same way as their counterparts in Los Angeles or Washington. (It is no accident that in French-dubbed versions of Hollywood films, African-American characters usually speak with the accent heard in the Paris banlieues).

Nobody should be surprised that efforts by the government to find "community leaders" have had little success. There are no leaders in these areas for a very simple reason: there is no community in the neighborhoods. Traditional parental control has disappeared and many Muslim families are headed by a single parent. Elders, imams and social workers have lost control. Paradoxically, the youths themselves are often the providers of local social rules, based on aggressive manhood, control of the streets, defense of a territory. Americans (and critics of America in Europe) may see in these riots echoes of the black separatism that fueled the violence in Harlem and Watts in the 1960's. But the French youths are not fighting to be recognized as a minority group, either ethnic or religious; they want to be accepted as full citizens. They have believed in the French model (individual integration through citizenship) but feel cheated because of their social and economic exclusion. Hence they destroy what they see as the tools of failed social promotion: schools, social welfare offices, gymnasiums. Disappointment leads to nihilism. For many, fighting the police is some sort of a game, and a rite of passage.

Contrary to the calls of many liberals, increased emphasis on multiculturalism and respect for other cultures in France is not the answer: this angry young population is highly deculturalized and individualized. There is no reference to Palestine or Iraq in these riots. Although these suburbs have been a recruiting field for jihadists, the fundamentalists are conspicuously absent from the violence. Muslim extremists don't share the youth agenda (from drug dealing to nightclub partying), and the youngsters reject any kind of leadership.

So what is to be done? The politicians have offered the predictable: curfews, platitudes about respect, vague promises of economic aid. But with France having entered its presidential election cycle, any hope for long-term rethinking is misplaced. In the end, we are dealing here with problems found by any culture in which inequities and cultural differences come in conflict with high ideals. Americans, for their part, should take little pleasure in France's agony - the struggle to integrate an angry underclass is one shared across the Western world.
Olivier Roy, a professor at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, is the author of "Globalized Islam."

November 9, 2005

NYT: Rowdy Children in Coffee Shops

The New York Times today published an article, which tells a story of my new hero, Mr. McCauley - a guy, who owns a shop where he placed a reminder to the parents that their children must behave themselves. He was ostrasized by the (predominantly, female) parents of said children.

The usual breeder arguments were flown around - how dare he, who hath no offspring, teach them how to have it! how dare he imply they are not perfect parents!

Read the article to appreciate this little gem:

Mr. McCauley said he would rather go out of business than back down. He likens this one small step toward good manners to his personal effort to decrease pollution by hiring only people who live close enough to walk to work.

"I can't change the situation in Iraq, I can't change the situation in New Orleans," McCauley said. "But I can change this little corner of the world."

I am about to start reading a book by Theodore Dalrymple, contributor to The Spectator magazine, called "Culture, what's left of it", so expect more on the subject!

Evolution in the bible, says Vatican

From: the Australian
By Martin Penner
November 07, 2005

The Vatican has issued a stout defence of Charles Darwin, voicing strong criticism of Christian fundamentalists who reject his theory of evolution and interpret the biblical account of creation literally.Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the Genesis description of how God created the universe and Darwin's theory of evolution were "perfectly compatible" if the Bible were read correctly.
His statement was a clear attack on creationist campaigners in the US, who see evolution and the Genesis account as mutually exclusive.
"The fundamentalists want to give a scientific meaning to words that had no scientific aim," he said at a Vatican press conference. He said the real message in Genesis was that "the universe didn't make itself and had a creator".
This idea was part of theology, Cardinal Poupard emphasised, while the precise details of how creation and the development of the species came about belonged to a different realm - science. Cardinal Poupard said that it was important for Catholic believers to know how science saw things so as to "understand things better".

His statements were interpreted in Italy as a rejection of the "intelligent design" view, which says the universe is so complex that some higher being must have designed every detail.

Science and Religion Share Fascination...

Science and Religion By LAWRENCE M. KRAUSS
from the New York Times: November 8, 2005
Most of the current controversies associated with science revolve around the vastly different reactions people both within the scientific community and outside it have, not to the strange features of the universe that we can observe for ourselves, but rather to those features we cannot observe.
In my own field of physics, theorists hotly debate the possible existence of an underlying mathematical beauty associated with a host of new dimensions that may or may not exist in nature.
School boards, legislatures and evangelists hotly debate the possible existence of an underlying purpose to nature that similarly may or may not exist.
It seems that humans are hard-wired to yearn for new realms well beyond the reach of our senses into which we can escape, if only with our minds. It is possible that we need to rely on such possibilities or the world of our experience would become intolerable.
Certainly science has, in the past century, validated the notion that what we see is far from all there is. We cannot directly see electrons but we now know that material objects we can hold in our hand are actually, at an atomic level, largely empty space, and that it is the electric fields associated with the electrons that keep them from falling through our hands.
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And when we peer into the darkness of the night sky, within the size of the spot covered up by a dime held at arm's length, we now know that over 100,000 galaxies more or less like our own are hiding. And we know most contain over 100 billion stars, many housing solar systems, and around some of them may exist intelligent life forms whose existence may, too, remain forever hidden from us.
One hundred years ago, Albert Einstein began to unveil the hidden nature of space and time, and after working for another full decade he discovered that space itself is dynamic. It can curve and bend in response to matter and energy, and ultimately even the calm peace of the night sky, suggesting an eternal universe, is itself an illusion. Distant galaxies are being carried away by an expanding space, just as a swimmer at rest in the water can nevertheless get carried away from shore by a strong current.
Thus, it is perhaps not too surprising that when one approaches the limits of our knowledge, theologians and scientists alike tend to appeal to new hidden universes for, respectively, either redemption or understanding.
The apparent complexity of our universe has compelled some evangelists, and some school boards, to argue that the natural laws we have unraveled over the past four centuries cannot be enough on their own to explain the diversity of the phenomena we observe around us, including the remarkable diversity of life on earth.
For very different reasons, but still without a shred of empirical evidence, a generation of theoretical physicists has speculated that the four dimensions of our experience may themselves be just a grand illusion - the tip of a cosmic iceberg.
String theory, yet to have any real successes in explaining or predicting anything measurable, has nevertheless become a fixture in the public lexicon, and the elaborate and surprising mathematical framework that has resulted from over three decades of theoretical study has been enough for some to argue that even a thus-far empirically impotent idea must describe reality.
Further, it has now been proposed that the extra dimensions of string theory may not even be microscopically small, which has been the long accepted mathematical trick used by advocates to explain why we may not yet detect them.
Instead, they could be large enough to house entire other universes with potentially different laws of physics, and perhaps even objects that, like the eight-dimensional beings in a Buckaroo Banzai story, might leak into our own dimensions.
I wouldn't bet on their existence, but the fact that such potentially infinite spaces could exist and still be effectively hidden in our world is nevertheless remarkable.
Whatever one thinks about all of these ruminations about hidden realities, there is an important difference - at least I hope there is - between the scientists who currently speculate about extra dimensions and those whose beliefs cause them to insist that life can only be understood by going beyond the confines of the natural world.
Scientists know that without experimental vindication their proposals are likely to wither. Moreover, a single definitive "null experiment," like the Michelson-Morley experiment in 1887 that dispensed with the long-sought-after ether, could sweep away the whole idea.
Religious belief that the universe is the handiwork of an all-powerful being is not subject to refutation. This sort of reliance on faith may itself have an evolutionary basis. There has been talk of a "god gene": the idea of an early advantage in the struggle for survival for those endowed with a belief in a hidden patrimony that gives order, purpose and meaning to the universe we experience.
Does the same evolutionary predilection lead physicists and mathematicians to see beauty in the unobserved, or unobservable? Does the longstanding human love affair with extra dimensions reflect something fundamental about the way we think, rather than about the world in which we live?
The mathematician Hermann Weyl was quoted as having said not long before he died, "My work always tried to unite the true with the beautiful, but when I had to choose one or the other, I usually chose the beautiful."
Mathematicians, artists and writers may choose beauty over truth. Scientists can only hope that we do not have to make the choice.
Lawrence M. Krauss is a professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University. His latest book is "Hiding in the Mirror."

November 8, 2005

Jacques Attali: Mitterand et Gorbatchev **fr

[Révolutions de velours à l'Est, chute du mur de Berlin, perspective de la réunification allemande: à la fin de l'année 1989, le monde change de destin. Un bras de fer terrible s'engage avec Kohl, car Mitterrand veut obtenir des engagements fermes avant la réunification de l'Allemagne. Le vrai visage des acteurs de cette période clef de notre Histoire se dévoile.]
Le 6 décembre, François Mitterrand rencontra Mikhaïl Gorbatchev à Kiev. Entrevue fascinante, l'une des plus dramatiques à laquelle il m'ait été donné de participer, car s'y dessinait déjà la fin de l'URSS. «Aidez-moi à éviter la réunification allemande - dit un secrétaire général fatigué, qui semblait avoir perdu de sa tranquille assurance - ici, on ne me le pardonnerait pas; je serais remplacé par un général. Est-ce dans l'intérêt de l'Occident?» C'était très exactement ce que François Mitterrand craignait de s'entendre dire un jour, depuis son arrivée au pouvoir, par un dirigeant de l'URSS! Gorbatchev ajouta: «Kohl est bien décevant; il ne comprend rien à ses intérêts à long terme. Chez nous, le moindre dirigeant politique de province joue avec six coups d'avance. Kohl veut la réunification à tout prix, sans comprendre qu'à long terme cela conduira à la militarisation du pouvoir à Moscou et à la guerre sur le continent.»

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[…]Le président français l'encouragea à résister, au moins le temps nécessaire pour obtenir du chancelier qu'il se plie à ses conditions: «Le problème allemand a été trop vite posé… Je ne veux pas blesser les Allemands, mais je leur ai dit que le problème allemand se poserait après la résolution d'autres questions: à l'Ouest, la Communauté; à l'Est, l'évolution […]. Le discours de Kohl a bouleversé la hiérarchie des urgences - à tort.»

[…] Le surlendemain, 8 décembre 1989, les douze européens se réunirent à Strasbourg. En prenant son petit déjeuner avec le président français, Margaret Thatcher, très agitée, sortit de son sac une carte de l'Europe où une gigantesque Allemagne écrasait le reste du continent: «Vous ne voulez pas de ça, n'est-ce pas?» Elle souhaitait encore obtenir de Mitterrand l'assurance qu'il refuserait la réunification; il ne lui donna que celle de ne rien faire pour l'accélérer. Elle insista: «Trop de choses arrivent en même temps! Si l'Allemagne domine les événements, elle prendra le pouvoir sur l'Europe de l'Est, comme le Japon l'a fait sur le Pacifique, et cela serait, de notre point de vue, inacceptable. Ce n'est pas une affaire purement allemande. Les autres doivent s'allier entre eux pour l'éviter. Quand la RDA aura été une démocratie pendant quinze ans, on pourra peut-être parler de réunification.»

«Gorbatchev est inquiet des conséquences militaires de la réunification»

François Mitterrand lui exposa ses propres inquiétudes, qui portaient non pas sur la réunification des deux Allemagnes, mais sur la stabilité de la frontière germano-polonaise: «Kohl ne parle jamais de la réunification de la RFA avec la RDA, ce qui serait clair. Il utilise systématiquement la formule “unité du peuple allemand”. Qu'est-ce que ça veut dire, l'unité du peuple allemand? Kohl y inclut-il les Allemands qui vivent en Silésie polonaise ou dans les Sudètes tchécoslovaques? Chaque fois qu'on lui demande de préciser sa pensée, il reste dans le flou. Il doit évidemment faire face à la surenchère électorale de son extrême droite, qui revendique les territoires du Grand Reich. Mais en laissant subsister le doute, il joue un jeu dangereux. Cette formulation est une question primordiale pour l'avenir de l'Europe. Il ne faut pas oublier comment l'Europe a explosé en 1937.» Et il ajouta: «Le danger serait d'avoir, en réaction, en URSS un régime multipartite, nationaliste et militariste.»

Le président reçut ensuite le chancelier Kohl en tête à tête et lui raconta sa rencontre de Kiev pour lui faire prendre conscience des risques d'une trop grande précipitation: «Gorbatchev est inquiet des conséquences militaires de la réunification, pas de ses conséquences politiques. Le maintien du pacte de Varsovie est son dernier rempart. Il accepte tout le reste. Mais que veut dire un pacte s'il est inutilisable en cas de guerre?» Helmut Kohl répondit en faisant part de son intention d'acheter l'acquiescement de l'URSS à la réunification en échange d'une pluie de marks: «Si la croissance économique s'améliore en URSS, cela lui donnera des chances de coopération plus étroite avec nous. Gorbatchev doit cesser d'avoir peur d'un envahisseur venant de l'Ouest.» Et puis il ajouta, comme en passant: «En RDA, la situation est très instable, il faut attendre. Hans Modrow m'a fait dire cette nuit qu'il souhaitait que je parle à la RDA dans les jours à venir et que j'annonce une évolution paisible vers la réunification.» Le mot était lâché pour la première fois. Voyant l'inquiétude de François Mitterrand face à ce fait accompli, Kohl confirma son ralliement au processus d'union économique et monétaire à douze, c'est-à-dire à l'euro; puis il s'engagea, sur l'insistance du président français, à ne pas toucher, après la réunification, à la frontière germano-polonaise, la ligne Oder-Neisse. «Mais rien ne peut être écrit avant la réunification», persista-t-il. […]

[Cette réunification, réalisée en 1990, a affaibli Mikhaïl Gorbatchev.] A la fin de juin 1991, il était devenu évident que, sans une aide massive de l'Occident, le putsch que François Mitterrand prévoyait depuis dix ans aurait bientôt lieu à Moscou. Je décidai alors de tenter un dernier coup de force: puisque le G 7 ne voulait pas inviter Mikhaïl Gorbatchev à Londres pour son sommet, j'allais l'inviter à la banque, à Londres, à la même date. Je rendis aussitôt publique cette invitation. François Mitterrand, que j'avais prévenu, approuva et demanda de nouveau que le secrétaire général du PCUS fût par la même occasion convié au sommet. Les autres membres du G 7 réitérèrent leur hostilité: un Soviétique n'avait rien à faire dans le club des riches Occidentaux. Le Premier ministre britannique me téléphona, furieux: «Jacques, vous n'avez pas pu faire ça! Ce n'est pas correct!» Je lui répondis que Gorbatchev allait accepter mon invitation et que les sept devraient choisir entre le laisser séjourner à Londres en même temps qu'eux sans le voir ou l'inviter à traverser la rue pour les rejoindre! John Major raccrocha. […]

Le 17 juillet de cette année 1991, Gorbatchev arriva donc à Londres après maints va-et-vient de messagers. Il espérait l'annonce de l'octroi d'une aide massive. Il avait besoin, me dit-il, de 10 milliards de dollars par an. Anne Lauvergeon, qui m'avait remplacé comme sherpa français, me prévint que les dernières conversations des sept avant le sommet avaient conclu à un refus d'aider Gorbatchev. Il n'aurait rien. Je n'oublierai jamais le regard qu'il échangea avec son conseiller Primakov quand, juste avant le début du sommet, je lui annonçai la mauvaise nouvelle. Il savait ce qui l'attendait à son retour à Moscou: «Jacques, vous avez bien fait d'essayer, et s'ils ne veulent pas, on n'y peut rien. Ils ne se rendent pas compte des forces terribles qu'ils vont déchaîner.» Le sommet le lui confirma: ce fut «rien» … exprimé en six points. Seul cadeau: il fut invité à Munich… pour participer au sommet de l'année suivante! Contre l'avis même de six des sept, le G 7 était ainsi devenu de facto le G 8.

En apprenant l'issue de cette visite, Boris Eltsine, en direct à la télévision russe, réclama la démission de Gorbatchev. Le sort du secrétaire général était scellé: il serait bientôt renversé soit par son rival russe, soit par l'armée soviétique. Il le fut successivement par les deux.

Che Saddam? Mickey Guevara?

Well, I guess it was bound to happen at some point or another :) Every one is a bloody Andy Warhol now, re-furnishing any images for his/her own purpose. Is this art? Is this propaganda? Is this another commercial exploit that this creation by a Palestinian artist seems to be? French magazine L'Express did not name the "genius" behind this new line of T-shirts, but it has been already picked up by the Cubans.

Motorola Q: Am I in Love or Not?

At first I thought I was in love with this seemingly lovefest of Motorola RAZR-thin device. And what's not to love? Thin, Smartphone, quad-band, mini-SD card, Bluetooth, full QWERTY keyboard - even the unpleasantness like camera would not spoil it. And then I saw the video - I saw a human hand holding this device - it is HUGE! Only Blackberry fans can fall in love with such a Godzilla of portable phones. So the love affair is over before it even began. Sadness!...

see video here.

November 7, 2005

John Fowles is dead at 79

What can one say about John Fowles? I first read him at 16 and was immediately swayed away by the sheer force of The Collector. The magic of turning the pages has never given me a palpable sensation of being overtaken by such imagination, such mastery of telling. (If you ever read The Collector, you too then understand, why turning pages in that book was so mesmerizing, especially the last ones...)

When I finished The Magus in 30 hours of non-sleep, sit-through heroic effort for somebody who did not even know how to spell subjunctive, I fell asleep and then, once, awake, immediately started reading it again. It was the third reading that made me think, that I was getting very closed to obsessions with somebody's fantasies of the world.

The All-Union State Foreign Languages Library in Moscow did not have that many of his non-fiction books, so I had to wait patiently for the new ones to come out. Daniel Martin, The Ebony Tower and then, then there was Aristos. I bought 6 copies of that book and gave them away to anyone who cared to think about this world and one's place in it.

By the time Wormholes was published, I knew John Fowles was very ill, so I made sure to see him, to hear him talk while he was still alive, still traveling. My mom (who does not speak a word of English) came to visit me in New York that day, so in order not to choose between filial obligations and the chance to see Fowles live at the 92nd Y, I took her with me. She stoically sat through a 2 hour conversation, while I was in heaven, listening to the musing of the most wicked, well-read, bookish, erotic mind of Britain.

Couple of month ago I purchased a first (un-revised) edition of The Magus, so I am looking forward to reading it again, now that I read Shakespeare in English, now that I can recognize some of the allusions, now that I know there will be no further variants of that amazing story.

Kikko Taki Interactive Monkey

Huh? Are they for real? Well, enjoy the latest fad in our capitalist universe - interactive monkeys, there are multiple models, and they do various things. Visit the First Street Online to see other ODD things :)

November 6, 2005

BBC: Love Soup

It is an interesting phenomenon among the new TV shows - constant attempt to re-invent the medium, to get away from the usual classifications and standard paces. Few such endeavours succeed. "Love Soup" is definitely a winner in that yet-to-be-defined category, which has to comprise both drama, comedy, fantasy and extremely literary approach to human quest for love and happiness. Laden with allusions, interspersed with snippets of shows within the show, voice-overs and frantically re-enacted flashbacks - it is ultimately a story of loneliness, of struggle to find, recognize and then to retain one's true (or almost true) soulmate.
Fantastic! You can learn more about this show, find the episode guide, see the cast photos etc. here

Felicity Huffman as a transsexual...


What a strange coincidence that a desperate housewife Felicity Huffman would play a would-be transsexual named "Bree". I smell an Oscar-nomination! And judging by the first looks, it would be a well-deserved one.See the clip here

Deep Deep Ocean

by Richard Hamblyn

Fathoming the Ocean: The Discovery and Exploration of the Deep Sea
by Helen Rozwadowski
[ Buy from the London Review Bookshop ] · Harvard, 276 pp, £16.95

The largest migration of life on earth departs every night from the twilight zone, the kilometre-deep middle layer of open ocean in which the majority of living creatures can be found. As darkness falls, millions of tons of animals, ranging in size from the smallest arrow worms to the largest cetaceans, swim their way up to the photic zone to feed in relative safety, braving shallower waters under cover of night to gorge themselves on nutrients – and on one another – before plunging back into the gloomy depths as dawn begins to break. For a few short hours, the top thirty metres of the world’s great oceans teem like overstocked aquaria. The process, known as vertical migration, was discovered relatively recently, and as yet scant details of its natural history have been collected by marine zoologists, for whom many of the goings-on in the ocean’s deeper regions remain just as mysterious and out of reach as they were when ocean science began in earnest in the mid-19th century. ‘The great depths of the ocean are entirely unknown to us,’ Jules Verne declared in 1869, in the early pages of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. ‘What passes in those remote depths – what beings live, or can live, twelve or fifteen miles beneath the surface of the waters – what is the organisation of these animals, we can scarcely conjecture.’ Much the same could be said today, 140 years on from the voyage of the Nautilus, with less than 5 per cent of the world’s 320 million cubic miles of ocean having so far been explored, and an estimated 50 million unknown species thriving in its depths.

Like space exploration, a branch of science with which it is often compared, deep-sea oceanography is an extremely expensive and risky endeavour; in fact, more people have been sent into outer space than have ever journeyed into the dark zone, 2000 metres below the surface, and there are still only a handful of unmanned submersibles capable of reaching the deep-sea floor, six or seven kilometres down. What makes deep exploration so difficult and dangerous is the steady increase in hydrostatic pressure caused by the weight of water above. By 1000 metres down, the outside pressure has risen to 100 times that at the surface. By 5000 metres (just over three miles) down, the pressure will have increased to 500 atmospheres – some 3.5 tons per square inch – inducing levels of stress that few man-made objects can withstand. A popular trick among deep-sea divers is to strap a polystyrene coffee cup to the outside of their submersible, and, as they descend, watch it being slowly crushed to the size of a doll’s-house thimble – which is pretty much what would happen to their internal organs should the vessel spring a leak.

the full text of the article can be found here.

Is Paris Burning?

by David Garrioch

The Abbé Grégoire and the French Revolution: The Making of Modern Universalism
by Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall
Buy from the London Review Bookshop ] · California, 341 pp, £35.95

What can be done with a people that produces 246 different cheeses? General De Gaulle’s remark may be apocryphal – France has far more than 246 cheeses – but it captures a central dilemma in French history. How could such a diverse collection of peoples be forged into a single nation? The question remains pertinent. Despite an apparent unity, regional differences and identities remain strong. There are Breton, Occitan, Basque and Corsican independence movements, and even a tiny separatist grouping in Savoy. Regional cuisine is proudly preserved, and a Burgundy mustn’t be confused with a Bordeaux. Much of France’s 19th and 20th-century history was, as Eugen Weber put it, about making ‘peasants into Frenchmen’, about creating national unity around one language, one history, one set of national symbols. French imperial policy worked the same way, stressing the cultural assimilation of the colonies to form a ‘greater France’.

There is little celebration in France of ‘multiculturalism’ in the English-language sense of the word. National identity is understood in terms of the relationship of citizens to the state: all are equal and all are to be treated the same way. But what constitutes equality and sameness? Can one be French if one does not speak the language? Can one be both Muslim and French? Or Jewish and French? After the Dreyfus Affair, a resolution of sorts was reached with the total separation of church and state, but republican secularism has been interpreted in a way which has failed to resolve the problem. The recent debate over headscarves suggests that the French state is not so much blind to religious difference as concerned to erase it in public life and institutions.

For Alyssa Sepinwall, the ‘crucial question’ of the Abbé Grégoire’s life, and the central problem of the French Revolution, was ‘how to build a coherent and egalitarian national community out of a diverse people’. Regional and linguistic differences were far greater than they are today. A fifth of the population did not speak French, but Breton, or Provençal, or Occitan, or Alsatian German. Then there were millions who spoke a patois, possibly around the same number as those who spoke standard French. There was no single legal system, and a host of customary and regional law codes. In inheritance law, for example, some parts of the country had male primogeniture, others had equal division of property between sons, others again gave daughters an equal share. A pint in Paris was not necessarily the same as a pint in another town, and there were hundreds of local variants for measuring weight, length and volume. Then there was the byzantine tax system, which obliged people in some provinces to pay far more in both direct and indirect taxes than people living only a few miles away. The nobles and the clergy were the major beneficiaries both of financial advantages such as tax exemptions and of forms of privilege that bestowed status. But many other groups had privileges, too: certain provinces, by virtue of the agreements made when they came under the French Crown; particular towns, thanks to their individual charters; and individuals who, because of their occupation, might not have to pay the salt tax, might be exempt from prosecution before the ordinary courts, or might have the right to petition the king in person.

Why did the revolutionaries of 1789 attempt to create a polity based on the elimination of difference? For decades, a growing number of others had been demanding reform of the inefficient administrative and tax system, and with the calling of the Estates General the moment seemed to have come. There was also a political logic to the ideal of the nation. As Sepinwall points out, the deputies who came to Paris in the spring of 1789 relied on a rhetoric of national unity to overcome the opposition of the privileged groups who were hostile to reform. When the men of the Third Estate created the first National Assembly, in defiance of royal authority, they needed to legitimise their actions, and did so by appealing to the authority of a sovereign nation, independent of the monarchy. On behalf of ‘the nation’ they abolished special privileges and declared all French citizens equal before the law. Yet their rhetoric opened the way for demands for inclusion by groups whom the deputies did not have in mind at all. Were Jews to be admitted to full citizenship? Or people of mixed race in the French colonies, who began demanding citizenship in the autumn of 1789? And were the slaves in those colonies now to receive the same rights as their owners and other Frenchmen? For that matter, should the illiterate peasantry have the same say in government as the educated classes, even if many of them did not speak French and were likely to vote as the parish clergy or the local nobles told them to?

Unlike most of the revolutionaries of 1789, and most unusually for a Catholic priest, the Abbé Grégoire was convinced that Jews and blacks and the poor should be granted citizenship. And he had the courage and the rhetorical power to make his case. Along with Robespierre, he opposed the proposal that French males should be divided into ‘active’ and ‘passive’ citizens: ‘active’ citizens, those with a certain level of wealth, were given full voting rights, while ‘passive’ citizens – all the rest – enjoyed the other rights of citizens but could not vote or stand for election. At first Grégoire’s views were disregarded and the active/passive distinction was enshrined in the constitution of 1791. As the pressure from excluded groups increased, however, he provided the deputies with the useful idea of regeneration, which he had developed in the 1780s, when he won an essay competition proposed by the Academy of Metz on the subject ‘Are there ways of making the Jews more useful and happier in France?’ He argued that the perceived degeneracy of the Jews in 18th-century Europe – their aversion to gentiles, their physical deformities and sexual degradation, their debased morality and their taste for moneylending at usurious rates, none of which he disputed – was not inherent but rather a result of their circumstances and of the way they had been treated. Giving them religious freedom and the right to practise other trades would ‘regenerate’ them: ‘If we encourage the Jews,’ he wrote, ‘they will insensibly adopt our way of thinking and acting, our laws, our customs, and our morals.’ This, he believed, would also lead them to convert to Christianity. But regeneration must be a gradual process, new rights being accompanied by an obligation to adopt the morals and customs of the French.

Grégoire was condemned for expressing these radical views, yet the idea of regeneration was adopted by the National Assembly because it provided a way of reconciling its declarations about universal human rights with concerns about the consequences of extending these rights to groups who might not be able to exercise them appropriately. In January 1790, the deputies granted citizenship to Sephardic Jews; the Ashkenazim were allowed into the national fold the following year. In May 1791, people of mixed race who had two free parents were given full citizenship. Others of mixed descent, and free blacks, were enfranchised in April 1792. The active/passive distinction remained until the 1791 constitution was swept away by the insurrection of August 1792. In the meantime, Grégoire and others worked to improve the education of the peasantry and in particular to find ways of eliminating the different patois that he believed created an obstacle to citizenship.

Grégoire’s belief in regeneration didn’t extend to women. Like Rousseau, he saw them as inherently emotional, irrational, easily corrupted and an evil influence on public life. Unlike most Enlightenment thinkers, he didn’t believe that women had superior moral qualities to men, though he agreed that they should play a key role in raising children, and strongly supported the education of girls. He rejected calls for citizenship to be granted to women, and the majority in the National Assembly agreed with him, particularly because women’s resistance to the new Constitutional Church (created in 1791 to replace the Roman Church) and their disorderly behaviour in the face of food shortages had begun to seem a threat to the Revolution itself.

Little known before 1789, Grégoire quickly gained a reputation as a forceful speaker: he persuaded the majority of the clerical deputies to the Estates General to join the Third Estate, and was one of the first to take the Tennis Court Oath, appearing in the foreground of David’s painting. He was secretary of the National Assembly during the session of 14 July 1789, and later president, as well as a key member of some of the important committees that did much of the real work of revolution. One of the leaders of the Jacobins, he welcomed the overthrow of the monarchy and actively supported the patriotic war against the European powers, condemning the external and internal enemies of the Revolution in sometimes sanguinary terms. He was an architect of the Revolution’s cultural policy, designed to regenerate the French people through education, by eliminating symbols of monarchy, and by the use of the French language in all parts of the country.

Grégoire was one of the first to take the clerical oath of 1791 and later that year was elected bishop of Blois, an appointment that has led his later detractors to condemn him for opportunism. Yet, as Sepinwall demonstrates, he was convinced that there was no necessary conflict between the ideals of Christianity and those of the Revolution, even though the increasing anticlericalism of the leading revolutionaries made things more and more difficult for him. He never rejected his Catholic faith or gave in to the pressure to renounce his vows: he played down religious references in his speeches, but even at the height of the dechristianisation campaign, and at the risk of losing his life, he continued to wear his bishop’s robe.

This resistance enabled him to survive the fall of the Jacobin regime even though he had been one of its most active supporters. After 1794 he was one of the founders of the Conservatoire Nationale des Arts et Métiers, which set out to extend the practical application of technology. He also became active in the campaign to abolish slavery, while continuing to insist that the extension of the French colonies was good both for France and for the colonised people, who would acquire the benefits of French civilisation. At the same time, he struggled to rebuild the Revolutionary Church and was its principal spokesman right up to the moment when Napoleon signed the Concordat with Pope Pius VII in 1801.

Partly for this reason, but also because of a continuing commitment to republicanism, Grégoire remained in opposition to Napoleon and subsequently to the restored monarchy. Until his death in 1831, at the age of 80, he continued to write pamphlets and books, to campaign against slavery, and to encourage independence movements in Latin America and particularly in Haiti. He maintained an extensive correspondence with American, European and Latin American abolitionists and republicans. And increasingly he wrote defences of what he saw as the true Catholic religion. A multi-volume history of religious ‘sects’ recounted the errors of everyone from Voltaire to the Anabaptists, Islam and the Greek Orthodox Church, while condemning the actions of popes and church officials who had allowed the true Church to become corrupt.

Sepinwall is mostly interested in Grégoire’s intellectual career and has little to say about his personal life, on which the sources are limited. Even so, she convincingly demonstrates the way that his views on the Jews, the French peasantry and colonialism were shaped by his experiences in late 18th-century Lorraine and Alsace. The origins of his other convictions, however, his republicanism and his anti-feminism, remain disappointingly mysterious. She is also excellent on his posthumous career. Having been refused the sacraments by the archbishop of Paris because he wouldn’t renounce his loyalty to the Revolutionary Church, he became a symbol of liberal Catholicism and 25,000 people attended his funeral. To many Jews he remained a hero, and throughout the 19th century he was celebrated by black leaders in the United States and the Caribbean. As Fascism gained strength in the 1930s, Grégoire became a symbol for leftist Jews and republicans, and after the war he remained a hero for anti-imperialists and civil rights activists. Despite his support for French imperialism he was praised by Ho Chi Minh as ‘the apostle of the liberty of peoples’. More recently still, as part of the bicentenary of the French Revolution, he was placed in the Panthéon, the first priest to be thus recognised. Church leaders refused to attend the ceremony.

Denouncer 001: A Little Swine

Sheila Fitzpatrick

Comrade Pavlik: The Rise and Fall of a Soviet Boy Hero by Catriona Kelly
Buy from the London Review Bookshop ] · Granta, 352 pp, £17.99
London Review of Books, vol. 27 No. 21 Nov 3 2005

for additional information in Russian see

‘Report any suspicious persons,’ the message flashing above the New Jersey turnpike said as I drove south towards Washington a few months after 9/11. I did not respond to the call, but it reminded me of someone who did: Pavlik Morozov, the heroic young Soviet denouncer of the early 1930s whose legend is the subject of Catriona Kelly’s new book. Unfortunately in Pavlik’s case the suspicious person he dobbed in was his own father, and angry relatives took revenge by murdering him. Pavlik won a lasting place in Soviet martyrology as the boy who was brave enough to put loyalty to the state above loyalty to family. Then, in the twilight of the Soviet regime in the 1970s and 1980s, he became the anti-hero of the Russian intelligentsia’s counter-myth, which presented him as a cowardly betrayer and a dupe. The real-life Pavlik story is, of course, more complicated; and Kelly has set herself the task of straightening it all out, which includes correcting an earlier revisionist effort, Yury Druzhnikov’s Denouncer No. 001 (1995).*

Denunciation – the act by which one citizen tells the authorities about wrongdoing on the part of another citizen, implicitly or explicitly calling for his punishment – has always been a touchy subject. In the first place, there is the inevitable uneasiness about motive: is the denouncer the patriot that he claims to be, or is he acting out of self-interest and a wish to settle personal scores? The rhetoric of civic virtue with which governments (and schools, prisons and other closed institutions) surround denunciation coexists with a subaltern counter-discourse in which denunciation is an act of betrayal. Our assessment of acts of denunciation is highly sensitive to context and angle of vision: if I do it, it’s public-spirited; if you do it (especially if you do it to me), it’s contemptible. Ambivalence about denunciation has produced parallel lexicons in many languages: the French have the classic dichotomy of dénonciation (the good kind of denunciation) and délation (the bad); the Russians have the pejorative donos/donoschik to set against various official euphemisms; Americans admire whistleblowers but disdain squealers, distinguishing the patriotic act of providing tips from the sordid habit of snitching.

Practices of denunciation have a long pedigree. States have sometimes offered financial rewards: the Roman Empire is one example, Restoration England another. Or the state may proclaim a duty to denounce and punish citizens who fail to honour it: Muscovite Russia comes immediately to mind, but the Napoleonic Penal Code made similar provision. During the Spanish Inquisition, as Henry Kamen writes, ‘there was no need to rely on a secret police system, because the population as a whole was encouraged to recognise the enemy within the gates.’ The tradition of denunciation as civic virtue was reinvented in the French Revolution, when the revolutionaries’ passion for transparency led them to advocate dénonciation and the rooting out of corruption as a high revolutionary duty. In the words of a speaker at Marat’s funeral in 1793, ‘Denunciation is the mother of virtues just as vigilance is the surest safeguard of the people and of liberty.’ In mid-20th-century America, the pro-denunciation case was put by Elia Kazan (who had recently named names before the House Un-American Activities Committee) in On the Waterfront (1954), starring Marlon Brando as a longshoreman who risks his life by breaking ranks and denouncing the mob; while the counter-view of denunciation as betrayal was presented in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge (1955), the story of a docker who turns in his wife’s cousins as illegal immigrants.

If occasional denunciation is part of the everyday life of all societies, there are times when it runs riot, as it did in the Soviet Union during the Purges of the late 1930s, and in France under German occupation in World War Two (as well as after the Liberation). Mass denunciation is also precipitated by moral panics, as it was during the Salem witch-hunts, or at the time of the anti-Communist hysteria in the US in the 1950s, or, more recently, in the extraordinary outburst of public anxiety about child abuse in the 1980s and early 1990s that produced thousands of accusations, most of which turned out to be baseless, against kindergarten teachers and day-care workers.

Liberals, who generally abhor denunciation, often see it as a phenomenon peculiarly characteristic of totalitarian states, whose regimes encourage it as a method of social control. While it’s not clear to me that the historical record bears this out, there is no doubt that denunciation flourished in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and the postwar Soviet-style regimes in Eastern Europe. The sociologist Jan Gross developed the ingenious theory that denunciations constituted a form of ‘privatisation’ of the totalitarian state, since they enabled individuals to draw on the state’s coercive power to settle private grievances. When we think of denunciation in a totalitarian context, we think of secret police, of ideologies exalting loyalty to the state or party, of zero tolerance of dissent, and the possibility of appalling outcomes – death or concentration camp – for those denounced. Such states also tend to stigmatise certain groups (kulaks, Jews) as ipso facto disloyal, without regard for the actual attitudes or behaviour of a particular individual. This makes denunciation all the easier, a mere act of labelling, while at the same time rendering it virtually impossible for the victim to prove his innocence.

The Romans, as Kelly reminds us, had a legend that placed loyalty to the state above loyalty to family: Livy’s story of Brutus the Elder, ‘who condemned his own sons to death for treachery to the Republic’. Notwithstanding this (and the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac, which shows family loyalty being trumped in the service of God) denunciation of family members has often earned special opprobrium. In Western commentary on the Pavlik Morozov story, Pavlik’s denunciation is seen as infamous because its target was his father, implying an unnatural repudiation of family loyalty. In the real-life Soviet Union of the 1930s, however, ‘family’ denunciations, though not unknown, seem to have been comparatively rare. This was no doubt largely because of the dangers they posed: at peak periods for denunciations, to denounce a family member as an ‘enemy of the people’ put the entire family at risk of the Gulag or death.

There were many different forms of denunciation in the Soviet Union, their variety no doubt a testimony to the relative poverty of alternative forms of individual agency and legal redress. ‘Loyalty’ denunciations were one genre, practised particularly by Communists in the Stalin period who either genuinely suspected one another of heresy or noticed that labelling someone an ‘enemy of the people’ was a good way of getting rid of them. Even more prevalent were the ‘whistle-blowing’ denunciations (first identified as such in Nicholas Lampert’s Whistle-Blowing in the Soviet Union, 1985), in which ordinary citizens (usually not Communists) denounced their (usually Communist) bosses for abuses of power – embezzling, bullying of subordinates, nepotism or bribe-taking. In its Soviet guise, ‘whistle-blowing’ was a quintessential ‘weapon of the weak’, in James C. Scott’s phrase, whose purpose was to get the offending persons removed from office. As with whistle-blowing all over the world, the Soviet practice involved risk: if you wrote to higher authorities about your local boss, and the higher authorities sent your complaint back down to the local level, you might well be the one to suffer, rather than your boss.

Pavlik’s legendary denunciation had a whistle-blowing component but seems closer in genre to the patriotic denunciation, though it seems pointless to try to classify a denunciation of which no original text survives – according to Kelly, none may ever have existed. Her remarkably thorough research, far surpassing even Druzhnikov’s (which for its time was impressive), encompassed the central archives of the Russian security police (a real coup); archives in Ekaterinburg (formerly Sverdlovsk), the provincial capital of the Urals; the files of Tavda district’s local newspaper; and even oral history in the remote village of Gerasimovka, where Pavlik lived and died. The result is a wholesale deconstruction of the myth. The reader may feel a tinge of disappointment that no ‘true story’ is offered as a replacement, and even fleetingly wonder if this is a deliberate postmodern effect – no ‘true’ stories, only different versions – but Kelly, I’m sure, is enough of a natural puzzle-solver to have given us a ‘true’ story if her materials had supported one. As it is, the fascination of the chase outweighs any disappointment about the outcome. It is sobering – sometimes almost comic – to see the sloppiness and failures of logic of the 1930s Soviet documentation nakedly revealed under such a formidable analytic gaze. Those half-educated Tavda officials, with all their confusions, mendacities, grammatical mistakes and self-interested evasions, are no match for Catriona Kelly.

The Soviet myth of Pavlik Morozov has no single, canonical version; indeed, its evolution over time is an important part of the story Kelly sets out to tell. It is nonetheless possible to give a rough paraphrase of the official version, as established by early investigative journalism and the original trial of Pavlik’s alleged murderers. It runs as follows: Pavlik, born in 1918 of peasant parents in a poor village near the border between the Urals and Siberia, denounced his father, Trofim Morozov, chairman of the village soviet, for selling identity documents to kulak deportees who had been settled in the neighbourhood. The motive for the denunciation was patriotism: Pavlik was a Young Pioneer, or junior Communist. He was murdered by members of his own family, the Morozov clan, whose patriarch (Pavlik’s grandfather) was the big man in the village and therefore close in spirit to a kulak. Thus the murder was not only an act of revenge for family betrayal but also an episode in the ‘class war’ between kulaks and the proletarian Soviet state in the wake of collectivisation. Pavlik’s denunciation was an act of bravery and he died a martyr.

In Druzhnikov’s 1995 version, it was all quite different. In Kelly’s view, Druzhnikov’s story, which won great acclaim among post-Soviet intellectuals, was ‘as much a product of myth-making as the official legends about the boy’, flawed by its assumption – common among the Russian intelligentsia in late Soviet times – that the truth had to be not just different from the official version, but its opposite. Druzhnikov’s Pavlik was not a Pioneer – there were no Pioneers in this backward, depressed village – or a Soviet patriot or any kind of exemplar; he was the poor son, widely disliked and despised in the village, of a peasant mother (Tatiana) whose husband, Trofim, had left her for another woman. Even the name ‘Pavlik’ (one of several possible diminutives of Pavel) was false: the actual Pavel Morozov was called Pasha or Pashka by his family and schoolmates. Pavlik (we will keep the false name so as not to confuse the story even further) denounced his father as part of a feud between his parents, compounded by his own resentment at inheriting, as eldest son, the chores of the man of the house. He was then killed not by members of his father’s family, but by the OGPU, who wanted to set up a show trial of kulaks in Tavda and saw the Morozovs as the best candidates. Thus there was no virtue involved in this squalid case, no patriotism, and the murder was instigated by the Soviet state, not its enemies.

In Kelly’s version, based on close scrutiny of court and other documents, practically all certainties evaporate. Pavlik existed (though she agrees with Druzhnikov that he was not called Pavlik), and was probably murdered in the forest (unless an animal killed him). There is no reason to think he was murdered by the OGPU rather than a villager, but which villager(s) did the deed is unclear. While he was not formally a Pioneer, since there was no Pioneer organisation in the village, he may have thought of himself as one in spirit. He may or may not have denounced his father; and his father, while certainly absent from the village, may or may not have been tried and sentenced for helping kulaks. Kelly confirms that – according to local gossip – Pavlik’s father did go off with another woman, and that Pavlik, an unpopular boy, was a habitual snitch whose killing, committed by Morozov family members, was a consequence of his snitching. Her own best guess, however, is that Pavlik was killed by two young men, his cousin Danila (convicted of the murder in the original trial in 1932, along with his grandfather and one of his uncles) and another villager, Efrem Shatrakov (convicted on the lesser charge of failing to prevent the murder), because of resentment arising out of his denunciations and a quarrel over a piece of horse harness. In the end, though, ‘the Morozov murder case is likely to remain open for ever . . . the substance of the boy is long gone, evaporated in fantasy, fiction and deliberate lies – as created by Soviet myth-makers, by provincial journalists, by police investigators and, not least, by his fellow villagers.’

The evolution of the Pavlik myth in the Soviet Union is one of the most interesting parts of Kelly’s account. The story was first publicised, in connection with the trial of Pavlik’s alleged killers, in the local newspaper. Then it was picked up by Pioneer Pravda. But the real breakthrough came when Maxim Gorky spoke to the Communist youth organisation in 1933 of ‘the heroic deed of Pioneer Pavlik Morozov, the boy who understood that a person who is a relative by blood may well be an enemy of the spirit, and that such a person is not to be spared’. Gorky was an ally and favourite of Stalin’s, but this particular initiative does not seem to have been to Stalin’s taste, at least according to rumour: ‘What a little swine, denouncing his own father,’ is one remark attributed to him. Nevertheless, a Pavlik Morozov cult took off. Streets, parks and clubs were named after him, plays and songs written. Eisenstein even made a film, Bezhin Meadow (1936), freely adapted from the Pavlik legend, though it failed to win favour. In 1948, a monument to Pavlik – admittedly less grand than the one originally projected, and not in Red Square – was sculpted by Izaak Rabinovich and erected in a once revolutionary district of Moscow, Krasnaya Presnya. In 1955, Pavlik was canonised ‘in the Book of Honour of the Moscow Pioneer Palace, as “Pioneer No. 001”’.

Pavlik’s reputation had its ups and downs. In the 1940s, he was temporarily eclipsed by Arkady Gaidar’s fictional boy hero, Timur, as well as by various teenage partisans martyred during the war; in the 1960s and 1970s, he made something of a comeback. The emphasis in the myth itself tended to shift from the virtue of his denunciation to his bravery in challenging the village consensus and his martyrdom. By the 1970s and 1980s, a strong current of anti-Pavlik feeling was developing among the intelligentsia, based on dislike of him for squealing to an increasingly discredited state. In the course of her extensive researches on children and children’s memories in the Soviet Union, Kelly has found that many people remember being moved by the Pavlik myth as children – not necessarily because of their pro-Soviet feelings, but out of admiration for his bravery and horror at his death. She compares its disturbing power over Soviet children’s imaginations with the ‘stirring but strange’ legend of the Spartan boy stoically refusing to cry out when his innards were gnawed by a fox, which used to be read to British schoolchildren.

In 1991, Pavlik’s statue was one of the first to fall, along with that of Felix Dzerzhinsky. The statue in Ekaterinburg, then still called Sverdlovsk, also disappeared. But in 2003, in an odd twist, George Soros’s Open Society Foundation gave $7000 to the Ekaterinburg branch of the Memorial society to help re-establish ‘a Pavlik Morozov museum of a radically new kind’ – putting the legend in its context of forced collectivisation and drawing on oral histories of the repressed. Not everyone reacted favourably to this idea: Kelly reports that some people suspected that ‘the museum would be pushing its own ideological line, a simplistically anti-Soviet, pro-Western one, all with the aid of Western money.’ However bizarre the form, it seems that the Pavlik legend lives on.

Pavlik’s story ‘raises important issues about civic duty that are valid well beyond the context of the Soviet system’, Kelly writes. But these issues receive relatively short shrift in her book, which is understandable, given the detail and complexity of the material with which she has to deal and the fact that her book for much of its length belongs to the genre of the historical detective story. But the moral issues are worth exploring further.

Many Russians would warmly endorse E.M. Forster’s belief that private loyalties trump public ones, given the low regard in which they hold their current (and former) government: Kelly notes that in recent decades in Russia and the Soviet Union the concept of loyalty to a tight group of friends and family has been so exalted, and that of loyalty to the state so depressed, that ‘the idea that one might – in whatever circumstances – report a misdeed by a member of . . . a closed group to the police or government authorities (whose reputation for probity is non-existent) would strike many people as laughable.’

In the US, people like to think well of their government. Thus, Forster’s Two Cheers for Democracy was certainly one too few in the opinion of such critics as the philosopher Judith Shklar, who hotly disputed his preference for private over national loyalty. While denunciation was undoubtedly immoral under the Nazi and Soviet regimes, Shklar argued, it is both moral and necessary in democratic countries like the United States and Britain, where the governments deserve their citizens’ trust and a ‘decent legal system’ gives recourse to innocent victims. Hence, there is no real commensurability between informing on a fellow citizen in the United States and performing a similar act in the Soviet Union. As with the morality of sexual intercourse inside and outside marriage, everything depends on institutional context.

Commensurability was a big problem in Anglo-American Soviet studies during the Cold War. In the 1970s and 1980s, many people felt that any comparative analysis, even the implicit comparison involved in the use of (supposedly universal) social-science terms like ‘interest groups’ and ‘social mobility’, presupposed a moral equivalence between democratic and totalitarian societies and was an attempt to whitewash the latter. By the 1990s, such views were on the wane: even denunciation (which Sovietologists had treated as a purely totalitarian phenomenon) seemed ripe for comparative treatment. In 1997, Robert Gellately and I edited a comparative volume called Accusatory Practices: Denunciation in Modern European History 1789-1989. This was around the time of the attempted impeachment of President Clinton, which featured a denunciation of Monica Lewinsky by her erstwhile friend Linda Tripp, and the New York Times was intrigued by the idea that denunciation might be part of the American democratic tradition (‘Before Tripp, a Long Line of Denouncers’, 30 January 1999). The Times did sound a note of caution about commensurability, quoting Gellately on the difference between the likely consequences of denunciation in America and in the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany: ‘While someone in the United States can easily report a neighbour they do not like as a crack dealer or child molester, that neighbour still has protections under the American judicial system: the right to a lawyer, due process, the right to a trial.’ Reviewing our book in the LRB on 19 March 1998, Timothy Garton Ash took a sterner view, describing the whole comparison between Stalinist denouncers and American whistle-blowers as ‘a ludicrous piece of pseudo-liberal moral relativism’.

In the light of recent developments in both Britain and the United States, however, real liberals as well as the pseudo variety may need to revisit the question of denunciation in democratic societies: not in the interests of moral relativism but because there are real moral issues involved. The argument over morality cuts two ways. If commensurability may imply a moral equivalence (‘the Soviets were no worse than we are’), insistence on incommensurability may be a way of getting ourselves, rather than the Soviets, off the hook (‘since our government is democratic, we don’t need to worry about the morality of denunciation’).

It is not hard to draw a clear moral distinction between denouncing a Jew in Nazi Germany, a political dissident in the old GDR, and a terrorist in present-day Germany. But these are comparatively easy cases, since the offence being denounced is directly related to the political values of the regime in question, and it is (relatively) easy to assign ‘good’ and ‘bad’ labels to these regimes. (Shift the cases to Turkey or Pakistan, for example, and the good/bad dichotomy immediately becomes trickier.) But what about non-political denunciation, where the targets are, let’s say, serial murderers, arsonists and drug peddlers? Such people threaten the welfare of the community, and even ‘bad’ states carry out necessary functions of community protection. Does it make sense, following Shklar’s argument to its logical conclusion, to say that denouncing a serial murderer would be an act of civic virtue in the Federal Republic of Germany but would have been morally dubious in the GDR and totally immoral under the Third Reich? The same problem applies to whistle-blowing, for it is surely wrong to argue that an insider’s denunciation of corruption in an American corporation like Enron is moral and courageous, while a similar, but even more risky act in the Soviet Union (relating, say, to corruption in one of the big oil trusts) would not have been.

Imagine Denunciations, a parlour game, in which you, as a player, have to decide whose wrongdoing, and wrongdoing of what kind, to denounce to the authorities: your son’s marijuana-growing; your neighbour’s tax evasion; a colleague’s affair with a student; a commuter who parks without a permit in front of your house; an Islamic extremist; an illegal immigrant; a paedophile schoolteacher or Scout leader; a sexist boss. Are all these denunciations equal in moral terms? Which, if any, could properly be addressed to a non-democratic government? Within the democratic context, to which authorities – local police, FBI/MI5, the inland revenue, your child’s headmaster, your immediate boss at work – would you be willing to pass information, and what euphemism would you use? You might even go a step further and require players to offer their own most recent experience of denunciation, either as victim or as perpetrator.

Denunciation for everyday offences is always with us. Nevertheless, its pervasiveness, as revealed by a search of the Chicago Tribune in the early 1990s, came as a surprise. That search turned up not only a multitude of new items but also a commentary, ‘Goodbye, good neighbour policy; hello, public snitching’ (21 October 1994), warning that

Big Brother, as it turns out, may be your little brother, your former sister-in-law or the neighbour whose power-saw you forgot to return last summer. In a phenomenon that gives a new twist to the concept of community policing, people in Chicago’s suburbs are busily snitching on each other over zoning infractions . . . Meanwhile, Chicago officials, in hopes of enticing the more jaded city dweller to do the same, are contemplating offering people money to turn in the brazen scofflaws who don’t buy their annual vehicle stickers.

Recently, as a result both of the growth of the web and the ‘war on terrorism’, it has become easier than ever to denounce, and the calls to do so have become more urgent. ‘Help your country,’ exhorts the official US government website, FirstGov. ‘Provide tips, support the troops, volunteer, donate.’ ‘Submit a tip’ is prominently displayed on the FBI’s counter-terrorism website, which offers an online form as well as a toll-free hotline. The State of Pennsylvania advertises a special email address for tips on terrorism. MI5, too, has its own ‘anti-terrorist hotline’ (call 0800 789 321) and its website says: ‘If you know something about threats to national security, we want to hear from you.’ The Department for Work and Pensions is even more forthright with its National Benefit Fraud Hotline: ‘Report a cheat’ is the injunction (‘you do not need to tell us who you are’), followed by a remarkably detailed form for online reporting of the frauds practised by your neighbours. The British Public Interest Disclosure Act was passed in 1998 to protect whistle-blowers from dismissal and victimisation.

This wave of vigilance has not gone unremarked or unprotested. In 2002 the Bush administration’s new Citizen Corps (a department of FEMA) proposed a new national Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS) for reporting ‘suspicious and potentially terrorist-related activity’, but this had to be hastily abandoned after widespread objections. The programme was to have ‘involved the millions of American workers who, in the daily course of their work, are in a unique position to serve as extra eyes and ears for law enforcement’ – truck drivers, bus drivers, train conductors, mail carriers, utility readers and so on. (This text, now deleted from the Citizencorps website, is quoted from a retrieval site called the Memory Hole.) Unfounded denunciations, such as that by a Chicago man who admitted to having falsely accused his relatives of links to Osama bin Laden and plans to blow up the Sears Tower (reported by the Associated Press on 16 August), have led to prosecutions in the US. The authorities’ pro-denunciation websites have generated some anti-denunciation sites as well, such as Operation TIP-TIPS for denouncing denouncers, with its spoof encouragement to ‘aspiring citizen informants . . . to demonstrate their patriotism by using this form to report any and all suspicious persons to the authorities . . . Liberal, Homo, Intellectual, Falafel-Breath . . . Gun Control Nut, ACLUer, Homeless, Academic, Welfare Mother, Immigrant . . . (check all that apply).’

It is easier for civil libertarians to attack programs like TIPS than to say exactly what guidelines and boundaries for reporting fellow citizens to the authorities can or should be set. But the ‘war on terrorism’, with its creation of a demonised category of ‘terrorist’ and removal of the normal safeguards for persons under suspicion, obviously complicates the moral question about denunciation, as well as undermining the argument for the incommensurability of denunciation under ‘good’ and ‘bad’ governments. Is it still possible to say – as Robert Gellately quite reasonably did in 1999 – that denunciation in democratic countries is different and not morally problematic because everyone is assured of due legal process? Not in the US or UK if it’s an accusation of terrorism. Yet, despite that, there are real terrorist threats, and most of us would probably recognise a duty to denounce if we had hard information of, for example, a forthcoming bomb attack in the New York subway. But what of a latter-day Arab-American Pavlik: if he suspects his father of terrorism, should he denounce him?


November 4, 2005

HDTV? Pshaw!

1920x1080i seems to be High Enough for you? Well, forget about that! How about 7680 x 4320? As Reverend Jim Ignatowski would have said: "Now THAT's television!" - Japan demonstrates next-gen TV broadcast