Category: History


An End Of Summer

Labor Day more than summer end — Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means — A Somber Labor Day — An End of Summer Quiz — End of summer — or end of the world? Forecasts paint a bleak picture for fall travel — Vincent van Gogh Between Earth and Heaven: The Landscapes (Kunstmuseum Basel Exhibition)


28bb35edb7Summer Evening, June 1888


Historian: Labor Day more than summer end

UPI

Most people mark Labor Day as a sendoff to summer and a reminder not to wear white, but don’t really know what’s behind the holiday, historians say.

“I think in some ways the fact that so many people will celebrate Monday and get the day off without realizing the struggle that went into it is sort of symbolic of that struggle,” Joseph McCartin, a labor historian at Georgetown University, told the San Diego Union Tribune in an interview published Monday. “It’s kind of ironic.”

The modern-day work week — eight-hour work days, health insurance, pension, paid holidays and two days off were “earned literally with the blood, sweat and tears of generations of Americans who sacrificed to make it happen,” said Charles Chafe, executive director of Change to Win, a national umbrella organization of labor unions.

“It’s really important on Labor Day for folks to reflect on all they have,” Chafe said. “We owe it to this proud tradition and heritage to look for ways to stand up and make sure working people are treated with dignity and respect.”

The first Labor Day parade was in New York in 1882, the Union-Tribune reported. About 10,000 marchers took an unpaid day to demonstrate against what was then the workplace norm: 12-hour days, seven days a week.


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Auguste Renoir (1841–1919) Landscape near Essoyes (Landscape with two Figures), 1892


Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Founder of Labor Day

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

But Peter McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The First Labor Day

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

Labor Day Legislation

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

A Nationwide Holiday

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.


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Grain Harvest in Provence, June 1888


A Somber Labor Day

Real Clear Politics: By Robert Samuelson
WASHINGTON — The first Labor Day, held in New York City in 1882, was less a celebration of the dignity of work than a demonstration in favor of the eight-hour day, down from the prevailing 10 to 12 hours. Compared to then, American workers have come a long way. Congress made Labor Day a national holiday in 1894, and over the years, it evolved into a day off rather than a moment to reflect on the state of labor, broadly defined and extending beyond unions. Well, not this year.

It’s the bleakest Labor Day since at least the early 1980s (unemployment in September 1982: 10.1 percent ). With the unemployment rate at 9.7 percent in August and expected to go higher, cheery news is scarce. The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, has painted a statistical portrait of today’s labor market. Here are some lowlights:

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— Since the recession’s start in December 2007, the number of lost payroll jobs totals 6.9 million. A third of today’s jobless have been unemployed more than six months, almost double the share a year ago and a post-World War II high.

— Wage growth has slowed dramatically. In the first half of 2007, all private wages and salaries rose at an annual rate of 3.7 percent; in the first half of 2009, the increase was 1.3 percent.

— The unemployment and “underemployment” rate is 16.8 percent — this includes the officially unemployed plus all part-time workers who’d prefer full-time jobs, as well as discouraged and demoralized job-seekers who have stopped looking for work.

Job anxiety has also increased sharply, according to opinion surveys compiled by Karlyn Bowman of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. A Gallup poll in August found that 31 percent of workers worried about being laid off, up from 15 percent a year earlier; 32 percent thought their wages might be cut, up from 16 percent; and 46 percent feared fringe benefits might be reduced, up from 27 percent.

What’s most ominous is not today’s job market; it’s the outlook. After the 1981-82 recession, unemployment dropped steadily from an annual average of 9.7 percent in 1982 to 7.5 percent in 1984 and 5.5 percent in 1988. The descent this time is expected to be much slower. In 2014, the unemployment rate will still average 7.6 percent, forecasts IHS Global Insight, which predicts a peak of 10 percent early next year. Reducing unemployment requires an economic expansion fast enough to absorb today’s jobless plus the natural growth of the labor force. Most forecasters expect a tepid recovery will only gradually dent unemployment, despite slowing labor force growth.

“The 1982 recession was largely caused by the desire to break the back of inflation,” says economist Nigel Gault of IHS. “Once the (Federal Reserve) was comfortable it had broken inflation, it lowered interest rates, and economic growth took off.” Interest-sensitive sectors — autos and housing — propelled recovery. By contrast, today’s slump results from financial crisis, Gault says. The Fed has already cut interest rates, which will probably go up. As overborrowed households repay debt, their spending will be sluggish. The weak recovery then retards new jobs.

The implications of prolonged high unemployment — should it materialize — haven’t been fully explored. People without work don’t acquire on-the-job skills. Young college graduates are already having trouble getting work. High unemployment could depress wage gains for years. It could foster protectionism and long-term poverty. “In a tight economy like the late 1990s, firms are more willing to take chances on more disadvantaged workers,” says Harvard economist Larry Katz. EPI’s Lawrence Mishel thinks the effects on low-income families would be devastating; the child poverty rate could jump from 18 percent in 2007 to 27 percent, he says.

Of course, today’s bleak economic forecasts could be wrong — just as upbeat forecasts before the financial crisis were wrong. Some economists are warming to greater optimism. “Global manufacturers cut output too deeply,” says David Hensley of JPMorgan Chase. “People thought we might be headed into another Depression.” Here and abroad, he says, companies are reversing previous cutbacks. “Businesses overshot. They’ll snap back (in hiring); that will fuel consumer spending.” One good omen: In August, an index of online job vacancies rose 5 percent, reports the Conference Board.

Job creation has been an historic strength of the American economy. Its capacity to remain so will increasingly frame the economic debate: between those who want more government and those who want less; between those who fear budget deficits and those who favor more economic “stimulus”; between those who see meager wage gains as impeding recovery and those who see them as encouraging hiring. On Labor Day 2009, future jobs are the nation’s gigantic question mark.


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Claude Monet (1840–1926) The Mediterranean at Antibes, 1888


An End of Summer Quiz

NYT Op-Ed Columnist, By GAIL COLLINS Published: September 4, 2009

As the summer of ’09 slinks off into the sunset, let’s take a minute to reminisce. Who would have thought, when it began, that we’d spend two whole months burying Michael Jackson? Or arguing about whether or not Barack Obama wanted to pull the plug on grandma?

I think we have a theme, people. “Ghoulish” is not a word you normally attach to “vacation season” except in certain teen-slasher movies. Yet here we are.

Passions about health care ran so high! Just this week, we heard about a clash of demonstrators and counter-demonstrators in which one man got a piece of his finger chomped off. Without taking sides on who started the fight, I am going to come right out and say that this is a bad plan. You cannot achieve universal health coverage by biting off somebody’s pinkie.

Anyway, let’s see how much attention you’ve been paying:

I. Match the locale and the protester:

A) Man with loaded handgun strapped to his thigh shows up for an Obama town hall meeting.

B) Man carrying assault rifle shows up at Obama speech to veterans.

C) Congressman holding town hall meeting is greeted by a raucous crowd including at least one participant packing heat.

D) Congresswoman holding a “Congress on Your Corner” event at a local supermarket is greeted by demonstrators, one of whom has a pistol holstered under his armpit which falls and bounces to the floor.

1) Phoenix

2) Douglas, Ariz.

3) Memphis

4) Portsmouth, N.H.

*****

II. How my state spent the summer:

A) The governor is being sued by a cocktail waitress, who claims he assaulted her outside a nightclub; the lieutenant governor is facing felony charges for misusing state funds; the junior U.S. senator admits he had an affair with his campaign bookkeeper.

B) After the governor was impeached for trying to sell a Senate seat, his wife tried to help support the family by competing on a TV reality show, where she ate a tarantula. When last seen, her husband seemed to have embarked on a new career as a professional Elvis impersonator.

C) A hot race for governor was interrupted when prosecutors indicted three mayors, two state assemblymen, five rabbis and a guy who was allegedly running an organ-trafficking business.

D) Two Democratic state senators switched parties, throwing control to the Republicans, then switched back again. One of them is under indictment for attacking his girlfriend with a broken glass. The other one was named majority leader and promptly tried to give his son a $120,000 Senate job.

1) New Jersey

2) Nevada

3) Illinois

4) New York

*****

III. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota or Sarah Palin?

A) “Right now we are looking at reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom in this country.”

B) “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’. …”

C) Refuses to fill out her census form.

D) Urged people to be “armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax.”

E) Going to China to address an investors forum sponsored by a Hong Kong brokerage firm.

F) “Only dead fish go with the flow.”

*****

IV. Affairs to remember (Match the admitted adulterers and their quotes)

A) “I made a very difficult decision to tell the truth. …”

B) “Let’s not make decisions based on hyperbole.”

C) “I haven’t done anything legally wrong.”

D) “There was a gentle shyness … that I found endearing.”

1) Senator John Ensign

2) Basketball coach Rick Pitino

3) Sheryl Weinstein, mistress of Bernie Madoff

4) Gov. Mark Sanford

*****

V. Match the reality TV stars:

A) “I had no idea how fuzzy it was … and how all-encompassing that richness of flavor was going to be.”

B) “She’ll call me like, almost like a lame fish.”

C) “The photo shoot was so much fun. It was like going to Disneyland.”

D) “I was jumping up and down going, ‘Thank You, Lord.’ ”

1) Jon Gosselin, of “Jon & Kate Plus 8”

2) Michelle Duggar, mother in “18 and Counting,” who is expecting her 19th child.

3) Tom DeLay, after his invitation to compete on “Dancing With the Stars.”

4) Actor Lou Diamond Phillips after beating the ex-governor’s wife in tarantula eating.

*****

ANSWERS: I. A-4, B-1, C-3, D-2; II. A-2, B-3, C-1, D-4; III. Bachmann: A, C, D, and Palin: B, E, F; IV. A-2, B-4, C-1, D-3; V. A-4, B-1, C-3, D-2


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Claude Monet (1840–1926)The Footbridge over the Water-Lily Pond, 1919


End of summer — or end of the world? Forecasts paint a bleak picture for fall travel

Will the summer of 2009 go in like a lion and and out like a lamb?

After a promising start to the travel season, AAA this morning said it expects Labor Day travel activity to drop by 13 percent compared with last year.

Separately, a new forecast by Bing Travel predicts holiday airfares will drop precipitously.

This year, airfare for Thanksgiving travel to domestic destinations averages $327, down 22 percent from 2008 and virtually on par with 2007 fares. Christmas and New Year’s holiday airfare to domestic destinations averages $353, down 17 percent from this point in 2008, but still about 8 percent above 2007 fares.

The outlook for hotels is equally bad — or, if you’re a guest, good.

Throughout September, October and November, premium domestic hotel rates are down 13 percent from their 2008 prices, averaging about $186 per night. This trend holds true for all major U.S. cities except one: Honolulu. Premium hotel rates in Honolulu are averaging about $166 per night, about 5 percent higher than at this time last year.

According to the Bing Travel Rate Indicator, premium hotels in New York are down as much as 30 percent, and rates in Chicago and Las Vegas are down as much as 21 percent and 19 percent, respectively. San Francisco, Atlanta, New Orleans and Orlando, Fla., also have deeply discounted hotel rates throughout the fall.

For a little insight into what’s happening, let’s turn to AAA.

As was true for households grappling with travel decisions earlier in the summer, there is a mixed bag of economic considerations to weigh. Continued job losses and weakened household incomes continue to dampen enthusiasm for travel, but are offset by lower travel prices and somewhat improved consumer confidence.

Factors moderating the decline in travel include airline fares, which are likely to be 12 percent below last year’s levels, and gasoline prices, which remain about 25-30 percent below last year’s levels.

It’s not all bad news, though.

It is not only economic conditions that affect Americans’ decision to travel, the decision to travel can be influenced by much more enduring reasons, such as on what day of the week or month the holiday falls and whether the holiday is “early” or “late”.

Last year, Labor Day fell on September 1, allowing many families to schedule long vacations before their children returned to school. Gasoline prices also began falling in mid-July last year after reaching an all-time record high of $4.11 per gallon. This, combined with the earliness of the holiday and the emergence of end-of-summer travel discounts, caused large numbers of Americans who may not have vacationed earlier in the summer to make a last-minute decision to travel. As a result, Labor Day weekend travel was unusually strong, increasing 26 percent to 45.1 million travelers in 2008.

With Labor Day falling almost a full week later in 2009, many children will have returned to school, holding down Labor Day holiday travel.

Bottom line? This is going to be a very interesting fall.


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Vincent van Gogh
Between Earth and Heaven: The Landscapes

April 26 – September 27, 2009

In a spectacular, comprehensive exhibition taking place from April to September 2009, the Kunstmuseum Basel is staging the first showing worldwide of the landscape paintings by the legendary artist Vincent van Gogh. Seventy paintings – both world-famous key works as well as paintings barely seen previously by the general public – will give a completely new insight into van Gogh’s body of work. In addition, forty masterpieces by contemporaries, from Kunstmuseum Basel’s world-famous collection, will place van Gogh’s groundbreaking approach to nature in a broader context. A multimedia introduction to the life and work of van Gogh will open up the exhibition to the general public. This makes the exhibition the most important European art event in 2009.

The environs where Van Gogh lived affected him and his art profoundly. For the first time in the world, a survey of his landscape paintings is being presented at the Kunstmuseum Basel. On the basis of seventy masterpieces from major museums and private collections in Europe, the U.S. and Asia, the cosmos of his pioneering art will be on view.

By concentrating on the landscape paintings, we learn to understand and experience Vincent van Gogh in a completely new light. In his encounter with nature he found his way, step by step, to his own artistic language and, in doing so, to a radically new freedom in painting.

Thus we can see directly for ourselves how the earthy hues of the early Dutch works made way in Paris to a lighter and color-flushed style of painting. Then in the south of France, Van Gogh arrived at the intensely luminous coloring and vitalizing expression that, still today, make his paintings so fascinating.

During every phase of his brief productive life in Arles, as well as during his stay at the sanatorium of Saint-Rémy and finally in Auvers, he celebrated in his paintings the glory of creation. With themes such as the sower, flowering fruit trees, the wheat harvest or the reaper, he reaffirmed the eternal cycle of nature’s renewable forces.

While painting outdoors in natural surroundings, the restless Van Gogh found his own voice and achieved a harmony and equilibrium that was otherwise so often denied to this difficult solitary. The exhibition will present an impressive panorama of Van Gogh’s world: village or river views, garden or park scenery, farmland or land already under industrial use.


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Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) View of Mount Sainte-Victoire from Lauves, 1904/1906


Landscapes by Van Gogh’s Contemporaries – Works from the Collection of the Kunstmuseum Basel

The Landscapes is accompanied by a presentation of landscape paintings by his contemporaries. When Van Gogh arrived in Paris in 1886, he had only a rough idea of current tendencies in French painting. Thanks to his brother Theo, who was an art dealer in Paris, he quickly discovered the full spectrum of contemporary trends. As the artists appreciated Theo, they welcomed his brother Vincent with open arms. Soon Vincent was coming and going in the studios of the French capital. Coming to grips with the impulses of contemporary French art would be a decisive experience that helped him to unleash his own artistic potential. He made friends with some of the artists, among them Paul Gauguin, who later visited him in Arles. Van Gogh became acquainted with other artists via their works, which he saw in exhibitions or was shown by dealers.

The exhibition brings together landscape paintings by the older, middle and younger generations of French artists. The start is made by works by Camille Corot, Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas. Impressionist landscapes are represented by artists such as Claude Monet, Paul Signac, Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Camille Pissarro. They are joined by the other great fore-runners of modern art: Paul Gauguin and Paul Cézanne. These perspectives ultimately lead to the fiercely coloured landscapes of the Fauves André Derain, Georges Braque, Maurice de Vlaminck and Henri Matisse.


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Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) Landscape with Red Roof, 1885


1853–1880

Birth, schooling and first jobs

Vincent Willem van Gogh was born to a pastor’s family on March 30th 1853 as the first of six children. Four years later his brother Theo, Vincent’s most important point of reference, was born. Following his schooling, van Gogh began an apprenticeship at an art dealer’s in The Hague. However, since van Gogh had only a limited interest in the art trade, he quit this position after six years. Between 1876 and 1880 he worked in England and Belgium, as an assistant preacher, among other things. Van Gogh suffered increasingly under the pressure of having to define for himself a profession that would make him a living, but also fulfill him. His efforts to find a place in society failed, just as did his attempt to take up the study of theology.

1880–1885

v_1_01The begin of his art career

In 1880 van Gogh first took up an art career. His brother Theo, who now worked as an art dealer, began supporting Vincent financially. In October 1880 van Gogh signed up at the Art Academy in Brussels, but found that learning on his own suited him more, so that he soon left the academy. Vincent had to fight depression; first thoughts of suicide emerged. In The Hague he met artists from the Hague School and was given encouraging stimulus by his cousin Anton Mauve. During his time in The Hague, van Gogh worked directly from nature and discovered oil painting on his own. In 1885 his father died. At the end of October, he traveled to Antwerp and tried his luck at the painting and drawing class of the École des Beaux-Arts.

1886–1888

Departure for Paris

In the spring of 1886, van Gogh moved to Paris, thus arriving at the focal point of the European art scene. After his first meetings with John Russell, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Emile Bernard, he – through Theo – made the acquaintance of Impressionism’s most important artists, among whom: Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Paul Signac and Goerges Seurat. Under their influence, van Gogh turned from his, up to then, preferred brown and earth tones and adopted a lighter palette. In winter he made friends with Paul Gauguin. In 1887 van Gogh participated in an exhibition at Café du Tambourin that included works by Bernard, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec. Vincent exhibited further paintings with, among others, Bernard and Toulouse-Lautrec at the restaurant Du Chalet. The artists called themselves Peintres du Petit Boulevard.

1888–1889

The fresh, light colours of the south

In February 1888, van Gogh departed for Arles. It was the fresh, light colours and the warm atmosphere of the south that lured him to the Provence. There he did almost two hundred paintings and over one hundred drawings and water colours. In the spring of 1888, he painted pictures of orchards, in the summer scenes of the grain harvest. In August 1888, along with landscapes, van Gogh worked on a series of portraits. In keeping with his dream of establishing an artists’ community in Arles, he invited his Paris friends to come to Arles, but only Gauguin accepted his invitation. Unfortunately this community of two did not last long. The relationship between the effusive Gauguin and the nervously overwrought van Gogh suffered from constant friction. Which soon erupted in a confrontation. In a fit, van Gogh, on the night of 23 December 1888, cut off a piece of his left ear, whereupon Gauguin left. His neighbours in Arles arranged for this “fou roux” to be interned in a clinic. Fearful of his own unpredictability, in May 1889 van Gogh presented himself voluntarily at the sanatorium Saint-Paul-de-Mausole near Saint-Rémy. In the sanatorium Vincent had a studio at his disposal. He began to paint again, at first the view from his window; later, when accompanied, he was allowed to work outdoors.

1889–1890

The last years

In 1889 and 1890 works by van Gogh were exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, at Les Vingt in Brussels and at the 1890 Salon des Indépendants. Major art critics began publishing appreciative articles on van Gogh. In May 1890 he moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, about 30 kilometres fromParis. There he was under the personal care of the doctor, collector and hobby artist, Paul Gachet. He painted almost eighty pictures in Auvers, above all, landscapes and portraits.

On July 20th 1890 van Gogh wrote his last letter to Theo. Two days later Vincent turned a pistol on himself during an evening walk and was gravely wounded. On July 29th Vincent van Gogh died at the age of 37.


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Related Links:


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Why are we still reading Dickens? — Great Expectations “This Love” Video — Charles Dickens speaks to 21st century’s hard times — Dickens Is Back. Watch Your Wallet — Charles Dickens on the Coming Revolution


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“Dickens, and the other novelists of Victorian England, …issued to the world more political and social truths than have been uttered by all the professional politicians, publicists and moralists put together…” Karl Marx


Read Dickens with an open mind and all manner of delights await you…

“We need to read Dickens’s novels: because they tell us, in the grandest way possible, why we are what we are.”


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Why are we still reading Dickens?

The great Victorian is probably even more ubiquitous now than he was in his lifetime. How he remains such vital reading is an intriguing question

guardian.co.uk, By: Jon Michael Varese, 4 September 2009

It seems that you cannot turn a corner this year without bumping into Charles Dickens. So far we’ve seen the release of four major novels based on the Victorian icon’s life: Dan Simmons’s Drood (February), Matthew Pearl’s The Last Dickens (March), Richard Flanagan’s Wanting (May), and Gaynor Arnold’s Girl in a Blue Dress (July).

Earlier this year BBC1’s lush new production of Little Dorrit was nominated for five Bafta awards in the UK, and 11 Emmys in the US. Newspapers and magazines have run stories on his relevance to the current global economic crisis. And with the Christmas season now only four months away, it seems that there is no getting away from him any time soon.

As someone who teaches and writes about Dickens, the question of why we still read him is something that’s often on my mind. But that question was never more troubling than one day, nearly 10 years ago, when I was standing as a guest speaker in front of a class of about 30 high school students. I had been speaking for about 20 minutes with an 1850 copy of David Copperfield in my hand, telling the students that for Victorian readers, Dickens’s writing was very much a “tune-in-next-week” type of thing that generated trends and crazes, much as their own TV shows did for them today.

Then a hand shot up in the middle of the room. “But why should we still read this stuff?” I was speechless because in that moment I realised that, though I had begun a PhD dissertation on Dickens, I had never pondered the question myself. The answer I gave was acceptable: “Because he teaches you how to think,” I said. But lots of writers can teach you how to think, and I knew that wasn’t really the reason.

The question nagged me for years, and for years I told myself answers, but never with complete satisfaction. We read Dickens not just because he was a man of his own times, but because he was a man for our times as well. We read Dickens because his perception and investigation of the human psyche is deep, precise, and illuminating, and because he tells us things about ourselves by portraying personality traits and habits that might seem all too familiar. His messages about poverty and charity have travelled through decades, and we can learn from the experiences of his characters almost as easily as we can learn from our own experiences.

These are all wonderful reasons to read Dickens. But these are not exactly the reasons why I read Dickens. My search for an answer continued but never with success, until one year the little flicker came – not surprisingly – from another high school student, whose essay I was reviewing for a writing contest. “We need to read Dickens’s novels,” she wrote, “because they tell us, in the grandest way possible, why we are what we are.”

There it was, like a perfectly formed pearl shucked from the dirty shell of my over-zealous efforts – an explanation so simple and beautiful that only a 15-year-old could have written it. I could add all of the decoration to the argument with my years of education – the pantheon of rich characters mirroring every personality type; the “universal themes” laid out in such meticulous and timeless detail; the dramas and the melodramas by which we recognise our own place in the Dickensian theatre – but the kernel of what I truly wanted to say had come from someone else. As is often the case in Dickens, the moment of realisation for the main character here was induced by the forthrightness of another party.

And who was I, that I needed to be told why I was what I was? Like most people, I think I knew who I was without knowing it. I was Oliver Twist, always wanting and asking for more. I was Nicholas Nickleby, the son of a dead man, incurably convinced that my father was watching me from beyond the grave.

I was Esther Summerson, longing for a mother who had abandoned me long ago due to circumstances beyond her control. I was Pip in love with someone far beyond my reach. I was all of these characters, rewritten for another time and place, and I began to understand more about why I was who I was because Dickens had told me so much about human beings and human interaction.

There are still two or three Dickens novels that I haven’t actually read; but when the time is right I’ll pick them up and read them. I already know who it is I’ll meet in those novels – the Mr Micawbers, the Mrs Jellybys, the Ebenezer Scrooges, the Amy Dorrits. They are, like all of us, cut from the same cloth, and at the same time as individual as their unforgettable aptronyms suggest. They are the assurances that Dickens, whether I am reading him or not, is shining a light on who I am during the best and worst of times.


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Charles Dickens speaks to 21st century’s hard times

The Victorian novelist wrote about the dangers of greed and the effects of grinding poverty.

By Scott Timberg, April 11, 2009

To the jaded Holden Caulfield in “The Catcher in the Rye,” he was the guy responsible for “all that David Copperfield kind of crap.” In “The Wire,” he’s the obsession of a philistine, prize-obsessed editor who can’t stop drawing glib parallels between contemporary Baltimore and 19th century London. To Oscar Wilde, the man’s most serious tragedy provoked tears . . . of laughter.

Novelist Charles Dickens, who died in 1870 at 58, has taken a beating over the years. But he appears to be having the last laugh — and not just because he’s gone from being the most popular writer of the Victorian age to the era’s best-read emissary for contemporary readers. He’s become to the boom-and-bust early 21st century what Jane Austen was to the roaring, chick-lit-besotted ’90s.

“Masterpiece” (formerly “Masterpiece Theatre”) devoted its February to May schedule to no fewer than three new Dickens adaptations (“Oliver Twist,” “Little Dorrit” and “The Old Curiosity Shop”) alongside a revival of “David Copperfield,” the novelist’s favorite and most autobiographical book. The authors Dan Simmons and Matthew Pearl have just published takes on Dickens’ unfinished last novel, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

Newspaper dispatches seem increasingly drawn from his pages, especially from books like “Oliver Twist,” which chronicles crushing urban poverty, and “Little Dorrit,” which follows the main character’s brutal fall in the social order. The phrase “hard times” — the title of one of Dickens’ least characteristic novels but one expressing his abiding concern for children and the poor — shows up in headlines almost daily.

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As things get worse, then, Dickens looks better and better.

“The fact that the economy is in free fall,” jokes Rebecca Eaton, “Masterpiece’s” executive producer, “is just lucky for us.”

But even before the recession and its ratcheting up of debt, poverty, homelessness and other familiar Dickensian themes, the author’s work was becoming pertinent in the 21st century.

“Practically every piece of Dickens’ is the story of the corrosive power of money,” Eaton notes, whether it’s “David Copperfield,” or “Great Expectations,” or the author’s most famous work, “A Christmas Carol,” which is best known for Scrooge’s greed.

Eaton adds that the grandfather in “The Old Curiosity Shop” — played by Derek Jacobi in the version that broadcasts May 3 — suffers from compulsive gambling; he’s like today’s day traders.

Jonathan Grossman, an associate professor of English who describes himself as “the Dickens freak at UCLA,” sees a related strain in Dickens. Students often think about the 19th century as being covered in smog and defined by industrialism. “But Dickens was writing about London, which was the capital of finance, with startling parallels to today’s Wall Street,” he says.

“In ‘Martin Chuzzlewit,’ you have a real-estate scam run by a guy forever building castles in the air,” and a company like AIG, whose risky investments tied to subprime mortgages resulted in the company’s disastrous fall and contributed to imperiling the global economy. And “Little Dorrit,” he points out, includes “a financier who everyone worships but who turns out to be running a Ponzi scheme.”

When Grossman was lecturing on this nefarious Mr. Merdle character in his Victorian lit course last winter, Bernard L. Madoff’s grand jury indictment was coming down: “My students couldn’t believe it.”

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Made for TV

The 19th century classics have things to recommend them — that’s why they’re classics. But many popular or esteemed Victorian novelists — seen a good Trollope adaptation lately? — haven’t made the transition to the theater or to the contemporary world’s electronic media. By contrast, Dickens is almost perfectly suited to them.

The fact that he wrote for magazine publication, with their cliffhangers and winding plots, suits him well to the television miniseries, and is likely why sophisticated long-form dramas like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” are sometimes called “Dickensian.” His strength as a visual writer — as well as his zest with language and names — Mr. Fezziwig, the Aged P, Squeers and Grandgrind — and his fondness for large canvasses rather than difficult-to-dramatize interior monologues — doesn’t hurt.

Dickens was speaking for himself when he said in an 1858 speech: “Every writer of fiction, though he may not adapt the dramatic form, writes in effect for the stage.” Dickens loved a live audience, giving spirited readings of his work, in the U.S. and elsewhere, nearly up to the day he died.

And as British fantasy novelist Philip Pullman puts it in his “Oliver Twist” introduction timed to Roman Polanski’s surprisingly straightforward 2005 film: “Later in Dickens’ career, he was actually writing for a medium that didn’t yet exist: I mean the cinema.” Scenes from “Bleak House” and “Our Mutual Friend,” Pullman writes, “are nothing less than shooting scripts complete with camera angles, and with stage direction in the appropriate present tense.”

Pullman, whose “His Dark Materials” trilogy many consider the finest fantasy series since Tolkien’s “Ring,” is one of many writers Dickens has influenced or inspired. (The trilogy’s two child-heroes could come right out of “Oliver Twist.”) That list is long and varied: Salman Rushdie’s teeming Bombay (most memorably portrayed in “Midnight’s Children”) has been termed Dickensian, as has Zadie Smith’s comic-ethnic London in “White Teeth” and, before them, the crowded Cairo of Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz.

“People tend to associate Dickens with extreme poverty,” Grossman says, “as well as the entwinement of the rich, the middle-class and the poor. He was famous in his own time for showing their connectedness.”

Chinua Achebe wrote “Things Fall Apart” — still probably the key novel from Africa — after growing up reading Dickens in Nigeria. Los Angeles writer Bruce Wagner, whose work often concentrates on Hollywood, modeled his “I’ll Let You Go” on Dickens. Tom Wolfe compared himself to the master, and vampire queen Anne Rice called Dickens “my hero because he was both a popular writer and a great writer.” Graphic novelist Alan Moore, author of “Watchmen,” included a cameo by Oliver Twist in his Victorian-era “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.”

There’s a whole strain of fantasy and YA writers deeply rooted in Dickens, including Neil Gaiman (“Neverwhere”), steampunk writer Philip Reeve (the “Mortal Engines” series) and J.K. Rowling: The every-year-or-two release of the Harry Potter books, with its orphan hero barely escaping plots and traps, was sometimes compared to the ardor of Dickens fans who couldn’t wait to receive a story’s latest installment. (Potter fans take note: “Masterpiece’s” “David Copperfield” stars a 10-year-old Daniel Radcliffe alongside Bob Hoskins and Ian McKellen.)

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Prescient work

Dickens, then, hasn’t wanted for readers or for literary offspring. Or for respect in the academy: UCLA’s Grossman said the author’s stock has remained high for decades, though it’s seen differently at various intellectual moments: In the ’80s, “Bleak House” was widely taught, and Dickens’ work was sometimes seen to anticipate the critical theory of Michel Foucault. These days, “Little Dorrit,” with its vision of a globalized economy and its bureaucracy-from-hell called the Circumlocution Office, is esteemed by many scholars. The novel is seen as the precursor to both Kafka’s work and to the scientific discipline of systems theory.

“Masterpiece’s” Eaton wonders if some of Dickens’ hopefulness will get through to people. “He had an almost romantic sense that love will see you through. That may be what’s happening to people now — after being hypnotized by money, we’re snapping out of it. He showed people striving to survive and be good when money was pulling them along.”

Dickens, of course, had a very personal reason to be fascinated with topics like money, class and the heartlessness of large systems. These, after all, were the stories of his life.

Born in Portsmouth, on England’s south coast, in 1812, Dickens watched his father sent to debtors’ prison — Marshalsea, portrayed in “Little Dorrit” — when he was 12. As a boy he devoured picaresque novels, worked briefly pasting labels on jars of shoe polish, and largely taught himself to write before becoming a reporter and publishing work in magazines.

Thanks to his serialized novels of the 1830s — “The Pickwick Papers,” “Oliver Twist,” “Nicholas Nickleby” — he became an enormous success, traveled to the U.S., and put some of his fame into a push for reform. He became what Grossman calls “the star of the 19th century,” and worked himself almost literally to death.

“Dickens wrote about greed and debts — over and over,” Eaton says. “He himself was deeply scarred by his father’s fecklessness. And then he became a very rich man. And boy, are we in the middle of that now. He wrote about rags to riches, but also about rags to riches to rags.”

The term “Dickensian,” became a kind of punch line in the final season of “The Wire,” set in a decimated Baltimore Sun and a city wracked with childhood poverty. But at least one of the celebrated show’s writers, former Sun reporter Rafael Alvarez, all but worships Dickens. Alvarez read “David Copperfield” as a teenager, and the book taught him to structure a narrative, and he now makes his living writing for the page and the screen. Alvarez respects Dickens’ portrayal of the little man and his sheer powers of entertainment.

“With a commercial run to rival the Beatles,” he says, “he popularized for a mass audience, and shamed the establishment. His characters will live long after the conditions that gave them life have been forgotten.”


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Dickens Is Back. Watch Your Wallet.

If you want to understand the economy, don’t turn to the author of Oliver Twist for answers.

Reason OnLine, Tim Cavanaugh | July 2009

How can Charles Dickens come back if he never went away?

Acolytes of the Victorian novelist have recently arisen to champion his rescue from imaginary obscurity. In a masterful false-consensus lead, an April Los Angeles Times story smacks Dickens’ critics, including Oscar Wilde, The Wire co-creator David Simon, and Holden Caulfield, then reveals that Dickens—currently enjoying a miniseries boom that includes Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist, and The Old Curiosity Shop—is this year’s Jane Austen. The London Times claims, “America is again in the grip of ‘Dickens-mania.’ ” The Boston Globe says Dickens “is hotter than ever.”

Dickens, we’re told, is not just newly popular but newly relevant. A Washington Post puff piece on the PBS program Masterpiece’s adaptation of Little Dorrit declares that a plot line involving an investment swindle is “eerily similar to the situation of those duped by disgraced financier Bernard L. Madoff.” Masterpiece Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton intones, “We are eternally distracted by money,” whose “corrosive power” Dickens well understood.

Screenwriter Andrew Davies, a tireless exhumer of 19th century Brit Lit, opines that Dickens didn’t believe in “using money to make money.” “Mr. Dickens is reading our mail,” writes a columnist for the Culpeper, Virginia, Star-Exponent—referring, confusingly, to A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens’ riff on Thomas Carlyle’s riff on the French Revolution. The tea party movement must be bigger than I thought.

With Dan Simmons’ variation on Dickens’ unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood in bookstores and a recent Broadway version of Tale, the “Dickens Is Back” stories write themselves. There’s just one problem: This revival has been going on forever. Long before either bubble or bust, the DVD remainder bins were stuffed with old and new Nicholas Nicklebys, Oliver Twists, David Copperfields, and Great Expectationses. Clogged with talents as varied as David Lean, Roman Polanski, and Daniel Radcliffe, the trail of Dickens adaptations stretches as far into the past as memory goes.

And the future? Only the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come can see that, and lucky for us, A Christmas Carol—Dickens’ most durable franchise, although it gets little mention in recent news coverage—has been produced for the big screen thrice in the last twelvemonth: as an upcoming Jim Carrey vehicle, as a chick flick (Ghost of Girlfriends Past), and as a neoconservative farce that may well be the worst picture ever released (An American Carol).

Audiences tend to stay away from these films, but if you need a prestige-picture workhorse, you can’t do better than Dickens. The early-industrial, little-Britain look of the sets never gets old; the grotesque characters are always game for fresh scenery chewing; and the improbable, coincidence-driven plots (reviled by every generation of readers following the one that read Dickens as he was meant to be read, in cheap periodicals) work beautifully in long-form visual media.

But if Dickens has anything to teach us about money, we’re in trouble. The author’s own career demonstrates the good things that can come in a culture of vigorous lending, borrowing, buying, and selling. (From an impoverished childhood, Dickens rose to record-busting international sales and proto–rock star glory.) Yet the premise underlying all his work is that money grows on trees, that wealth exists in some leprechaun’s mug and never runs out.

Again and again in Dickens’ work, money problems get resolved not through sound financial management or hard work but through patronage. Mr. Brownlow, the rich mark who adopts Oliver Twist, whiles away his days hanging around bookstalls, helping out orphans, and taking trips to the West Indies. The source of his fortune? He’s just rich.

John Jarndyce, of the comically long estate lawsuit that fuels Bleak House’s dense plot, ends up (spoiler alert) with his family fortune eaten up by legal fees. Yet whatever diminution in lifestyle this causes remains unclear. Jarndyce is simply relieved of the burden of all that money, with no loss in his ability to arrange matters happily for good characters.

Even mighty Ebeneezer Scrooge, who at least pays capitalism the respect of constant toil and worry, turns out just to be working too hard. It’s like an early variation of the platitude about wanting what you have instead of having what you want. Scrooge just has to stop being so concerned with money, and then Tiny Tim will become miraculously uncrippled. (Or so it seems; the book is nebulous on Tiny Tim’s fate. Adaptations have taken various views, with some going so far as to have the unfortunately named tyke throw off his crutches, Lourdes-style.)

As a journalist, Dickens had inklings of where money gets made. In a wonderful reversal in Great Expectations, the eponymous fortune comes not from several expected sources but from the convict Magwitch, whom we earlier saw transported to Australia. Tellingly, it’s never explained how he got rich. Apparently, just farming down under for a few years will fill up your Swiss bank account.

George Mason University economist David M. Levy has tracked some of Dickens’ creepier predilections, including his curious hatred of the anti-slavery movement. “Dickens is attacking classical economics from the right,” Levy says. “But right-wing attacks on markets are very popular on the left.”

There are feudal elements in Dickensomics, a fondness for a universe where everything stays in its proper place. G.K. Chesterton shrewdly praised one of Dickens’ literary virtues that others might treat as a vice: that his characters by and large do not change in the course of the story. But what comes across most clearly is a journalist’s fake sophistication about money, a belief that the wealth just somehow exists and needs only to get to the right people (or be returned to them, sometimes after being retrieved from Jews and moneylenders).

It’s a boom-time mentality, the kind of thing you can only believe when you are, as Dickens was, well into a period of massive wealth creation, so that you have come to take good fortune for granted. If that’s Dickens’ lesson for our Hard Times, somebody ought to call CNBC.


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Charles Dickens on the Coming Revolution

Revolution Radio Org: Posted on Sep 1, 2009 by Paul Martin

You Dogs!’

by Jeff Snyder

It is not morning in America…

Those who want to ponder the possibility of the things that can’t happen here may want to spend some time looking to literature and history in their reflection on current events, for a little additional perspective and illumination. At times during the last year I could not help but recall Charles Dickens’ famous description of the behavior of the ruling class and wealthy in the days preceding the French Revolution.

It is an accomplishment of the best of our times that the times Dickens describes no longer seem so very different from our own, some horrific state of affairs that existed once, long ago, but which, mercifully, could never happen under so resplendent a democracy as ours, founded as it is on respect for the rights of man. I am referring, of course, to A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and particularly to Dickens’ portrayal of French society in Book II, Chapter 7, “Monseigneur in Town.”

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the story is a romance. One of the lovers, the man, is a decent enough fellow but, unfortunately for him, a member of a hated aristocratic family. He, his lover and her father must escape France and the fury of the mob. A not uncommon predicament at that time, apparently, as it is estimated that about 160,000 fled France during the Revolution, most of them aristocrats and clergy.

As a novelist, Dickens was not trying to provide an analytical or historical explanation of the causes of the French Revolution. His task was simply to provide sufficient context so that his readers would understand the long pent-up rage breaking forth, sweeping the Ancien Régime away in a tsunami of blood and destruction, and his readers would feel the lovers’ great peril.

I have reprinted the chapter below. There is much that could be said about Dickens’ portrait of French society in the days before the Revolution, but the reader will enjoy mulling it over for himself. I think it worthwhile to draw attention to a few notable aspects.

First, while Dickens certainly alludes to, and occasionally describes, the extremes of wealth and poverty of that time, it is not this great discrepancy, but the behavior and attitudes of the upper classes that are the focal points of his description of pre-revolutionary French society. It is a great example of the subtlety of Dickens’ social and political observation. He tacitly recognizes that it is not the poverty of the masses, or the great wealth of the upper classes per se, but the way the upper classes behave and the way they treat the masses, that fuels the coming violence.

His portrait of this behavior is scathing. The preoccupations and diversions of their own class are their greatest care, and the basis for their administration of the state:

“Monseigneur was out at a little supper most nights, with fascinating company. So polite and so impressible was Monseigneur, that the Comedy and the Grand Opera had far more influence with him in the tiresome articles of state affairs and state secrets, than the needs of all France. . . . Monseigneur had one truly noble idea of general public business, which was, to let everything go on in its own way; of particular public business, Monseigneur had the other truly noble idea that it must all go his way – tend to his own power and pocket.”

The bubble world they have constructed for themselves, that they travel and live in, is so artificial, so isolated and shielded from the realities of everyday life and the conditions of human life that their own lives have become “unconnected with anything that [is] real.” or any “true earthly end.” While a few exceptional people among them have begun to have “some vague misgiving . . . that things in general were going rather wrong,” their focus and activities remain fixed on their own well-being. Their efforts to address this unease are of a “spiritual” nature, completely inward and self-absorbed:

“Besides these Dervishes, were other three who had rushed into another sect, which mended matters with a jargon about ‘the Centre of Truth:’ holding that Man had got out the Centre of Truth – which did not need much demonstration – but had not out of the Circumference, and that he was to be kept from flying out of the Circumference, and was even to be shoved back into the Centre, by fasting and seeing of spirits.”

Not for one instant does it occur to them to question, address or alter the actual way in which they live their lives, the conditions of their fellow man, or the fundamental structure of their society.

Certainly the upper classes don’t feel any kinship with the people, or feel that they, with them, are a part of some overall common society. Expecting that degree of feeling would be completely utopian. No, the French upper classes don’t recognize that they have anything to do with the people. The people are a completely different, and lower, order of being. They are not even human. When describing the aristocratic perspective, Dickens refers to the people as “dogs,” and “rats.”

And yet this indifference to and disassociation with their fellow man, this elevating conceit of the upper classes really is remarkable, and a fatal flaw, because the reality is that their wealth in fact comes from the people, from their labor and production, and the fate of the upper classes ultimately depends upon, and is completely bound up in, the condition of the people.

While our own ruling class may not have reached the extreme of behavior described by Dickens, we can see some degree of semblance of this indifference and disregard in the business practices of the last few decades. For example, over the last three decades, American companies eliminated manufacturing jobs here and had their goods made abroad, thereby lowering production costs, lowering prices and increasing sales and profits. What happened to the American skilled laborers who lost their jobs? Not the companies’ problem.

Dickens’ description of consequences visited upon the common people by the actions of the upper classes is as accurate for America as it was for pre-revolutionary France: “In this matter, as in all others, the common wretches were left to get out of their difficulties as they could.” (Don’t think that, unlike then, the “safety net” provided by our welfare state makes some kind of difference. That prevents people from starving, at least as long as enough people still have jobs to pay the taxes that fund the programs. It does not create new productive enterprises that replace the lost ones.)

While moving manufacturing to low-cost venues abroad seemed a really good idea for the individual company, the reality was that this was not just the bright idea of one company, it fast became the bright idea of many manufacturers. So while the strategy promised increased profits, if enough Americans ceased making anything that people, somewhere in the world, wanted to buy, if enough Americans suffered this type of fate, who in America was going to buy all these goods, even at reduced prices?

Judging by the results, it would appear that factoring the long-term social and macroeconomic consequences of one’s business strategies into the formulation of those strategies is not a key lesson of the curriculum at America’s premier business schools or Fortune 500 internship, mentoring and manager training programs.

Yet, if they’re not taken into account, if they’re always someone else’s problem, at some point the common wretches’ problems will become the companies’ problems, possibly at the point that they overwhelm everything else. If your business strategy is based on playing the timing game of get while the getting is good and the rest be damned, at some point time runs out, and the heap of money that you’ve made before that date may not really be enough to weather the storm, and may vanish in an instant. See, e.g., current events.

The final aspect of Dickens’ portrait that I wish to highlight is the blindness of the upper classes to the coming bloodbath, and the apparent unshakable security of their position almost right up to the day it breaks. They have no sense that they are pushing people closer and closer to the brink, and never have the slightest doubt but that they are secure in the power that their position and wealth confers, and their insulation from the conditions of the rest of their society. As Dickens portrays it, even at the edge of the precipice, there is still no sign of their danger or impending doom, and it seems that things will just go on the same way forever.

We see this in the second part of the chapter, where a Marquis’ carriage runs over a small child in the streets of Paris, and the carriage stops to secure the horses. A crowd forms around the Marquis’s carriage, but Dickens notes that “[t]here was nothing revealed by the many eyes that looked at him but watchfulness and eagerness; there was no visible menacing or anger.”

The Marquis is imperial and speaks to people in the crowd, but does not doubt for one instant the security of his position. Nor would he have any cause to do so for, as Dickens notes, “[s]o cowed was their condition, and so long and hard their experience of what such a man could do to them, within the law and beyond it, that not a voice, or a hand, or even an eye was raised.”

It seems such people could never rise up to overthrow anything. The people have been brought so low, so reined in that they have no option but to continue paying, carrying and kowtowing to this predatory and useless class. But the reader knows, as the Marquis does not, that this is an illusion, that the pressure is growing, that the tighter the controls, the worse they are treated, the harder they are squeezed, the greater the coming explosion will be. The reader knows, as the Marquis does not, the dam will soon break and these people, silent and cowed today, will be part of a bloodthirsty mob tomorrow.

The facts that there are no rumblings of revolt, no outbreaks of hostility, no displays of anger, that the people are as subdued and tractable, as fully under thumb as ever, are absolutely no indication that all is well, that matters are not coming to a head. This, of course, is what makes the disconnectedness and self-absorbed, self-regard of the upper classes all the more dangerous and, ultimately, fatal.

Dickens sees that, for those living at that time, the French Revolution was not a gradual, unfolding series of events, each more clearly foretelling the horror to come, but a sudden, complete rupture of the social order, cataclysmic, like an earthquake. The ground is solid, permanent, fixed and unmoving; nothing is more stable or certain. Yet underneath the pressure is building until one day it reaches a point where the plates suddenly slip. The earth moves, a chasm may open beneath one’s feet, and the landscape is forever altered.

It is because Dickens shows life shortly before the Revolution proceeding the same as ever, that the concluding words of his chapter are so powerful: “all things ran their course.” The aristocrats are attending their Fancy Ball and “the rats,” meaning the people, “are sleeping in their dark holes.” Nothing has changed. There are no new developments that give cause for concern. Life is proceeding in the same way, everything is as it should be, all’s right with the world and it’s bright and wonderful and marvelous. Yet, as readers with the hindsight of history, we know where this course leads, and how it ends.

September 1, 2009


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Related Links:

The Atlantic:  Four Months with Charles Dickens, November 1870

Perfect People: Charles Dickens Videos

PBS Masterpiece Classic: Little Dorrit (Video)


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The New Pundit: The Dog Days Of Summer Are Hard On The Politicians — Seals & Crofts (Summer Breeze) — Real Clear Politics & Barrons: The (Blue) Dog Days of Summer — Museo Nacional del Prado: Spanish Painter Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923)


13.-Antonio-Garc__a-en-la-playa_01 Joaquín Sorolla, “Antonio García on the Beach”, 1909


See the curtains hanging in the window
In the evening on a Friday night
A little light shining through the window
Lets me know that everything’s all right

Summer breeze, it makes me feel fine
Blowing through the jasmine in my mind…


The Dog Days Of Summer Are Hard On The Politicians

The New Pundit: Posted by Troy Stouffer

August is turning out to be a very hot, and uncomfortable month for the White House and especially the Democrat-led Congress. Members of Congress have been met with outrage and frustration over the rush to socialized medicine. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the White House have tried to spin the opposition as anything from Nazi-like to “Astroturf”. Throughout it all the public has continued to voice their displeasure over the sudden and severe hearing loss that has gripped Washington DC.

President Obama’s approval rating has dropped to a new low for him, down to 47%. His Presidential Approval Index has been hovering in the negative range for several weeks and currently sits at a –8, with a mere 29% strongly approving of the President and 37% strongly disapproving. His plummeting poll numbers are a result of several factors, but his push to socialize the health care system is the main catalyst for his decline.

… The administration has further driven our country into bankruptcy and instead of changing their drunken-sailor spending habits; they ask to increase their credit limit. I suppose they need to raise it in order to pay for the economic fiasco known as health care reform. The American taxpayer had to work nearly an entire month longer than last year to pay for the ludicrous spending habits of Washington. The cost of government is 61.9% of our national income and these politicians want to raise it even higher.

The President has tried to portray his “townhall meetings” as open and fair minded, but yet there is never anyone who is opposed to his health care nightmare. Meanwhile, every member of Congress that goes out to meet the voters is met with overwhelming opposition. A recent Rasmussen poll has shown that 53% of voters are opposed to the Health Care Reform plan. Worse yet for the politicos in DC is that the much-coveted “independents” are opposed to the plan by a wide margin.

President Obama has even tried to assuage our fears about a government run health care system putting private insurance out of business, by equating it to the post office. He said that UPS and FedEx are doing fine, it is always the post office that is in trouble. Can the President be that naïve? Does he really believe that the American public want a health care system that runs as efficiently as the post office?

The White House and Congress have severely overestimated the charm of President Obama. They believe that when the President speaks the public all feel a tingle running up their legs and they forget all about the actual words that he is speaking or the actions they are undertaking. The public is smarter than for which the bureaucrats in Washington give them credit…


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Cosiendo la vela, 1896


The (Blue) Dog Days of Summer

Real Clear Politics: By David Shribman

//

… At the heart of all these conversations — at the center of the party handwringing — is a species of political animal called the Blue Dog, a beast that does not occur in nature but that, it turns out, occurs naturally in politics. If you understand the Blue Dog phenomenon, you may understand the Democrats’ problem — and you may conclude that the party’s difficulties aren’t new.

In the old days, when Americans took civics, and took civic life seriously, every schoolboy and schoolgirl knew what a yellow dog was. The phrase, which almost certainly came from Alabama more than three-quarters of a century ago, grew out of the notion that some Southerners would (gladly) vote for a yellow dog if he ran on the Democratic ticket. In short: A yellow dog was a party loyalist.

Today’s Blue Dogs don’t look quite so loyal. There are, by last count, 52 of them, and they are fiscal conservatives within a party that hasn’t always preached, and seldom practiced, fiscal conservatism. They think of themselves as centrists, and given the broad range of ideology in the United States that exists today in comparison to decades past, that’s a pretty fair estimation.

But in recent weeks these Blue Dogs have been angry, snarling canines, slowing down the procession of health-care overhaul from a presidential candidate’s promise to a president’s signature. They have worked to cut the cost of health care and avoid new taxes to pay for expanding coverage to the uninsured. They have been successful, as these elements now are regarded as touchstones of the health plan that is being debated in coast-to-coast town meetings during the August congressional recess.

The concessions House leaders made to the Blue Dogs were not insubstantial. The politics of the House is ultimately the politics of numbers. There are more liberals than Blue Dogs in the Democratic caucus, and many of them worry that the new health-care system is beginning to look a lot like the old health-care system. Thus this August of agony for Democrats.

The Blue Dogs have become the tail that wags the Democratic dog. This is a pretty strong tail, for Democratic leaders have reluctantly come to recognize that the size of this group is what consolidated the Democrats’ power in November and is what contributes to the Democratic leadership’s influence today.

… Two of the most productive periods of Democratic rule were the high tides that gave the Democrats their New Deal and Great Society in the 1930s and 1960s. Both were times when the Democratic coalition included large numbers of conservative Southerners who made a mockery of the notion of Democratic unity on social issues.

Today’s Democratic dilemma is a modern-day equivalent — a quarter of the Blue Dogs are from states that were part of the Old Confederacy. They make it difficult for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to get their way — which is precisely their goal. Indeed, among some Blue Dogs that is a point of honor. Here the names Bobby Bright, who won his House seat by 1,790 votes, and Parker Griffith, who won his by 9,328 votes, both freshmen from Alabama, come to mind. The more they can be seen as tormenters of Pelosi, the stronger their support at home becomes. The dissenters have always been with the Democrats, even in the glory years.

… Just as Johnson had his Southern Democrats, President Barack Obama has his Blue Dogs. Both dissenting groups specialized in biting their leaders in the toes, or elsewhere. But remember this: Russell’s 1964 civil rights filibuster was beaten back, allowing Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield of Montana to move for final passage of the legislation and Johnson to sign it. In the end, Russell delayed but did not destroy his president’s landmark legislation.


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El bote blanco, 1905


The ‘Blue’ Dog Days of Summer

Barrons: By JIM MCTAGUE

Thank the centrist Blue Dog Democrats for tempering the liberal agenda.

… The current iteration of Democratic control may turn out to be the next-best alternative to division. The party is living up to Will Rogers’ classic gibe that “Democratic” and “organization” have little in common. There is fierce infighting, especially in the House of Representatives, where the Democratic Party’s centrist Blue Dog Coalition has gone toe-to-toe with the party’s most liberal members — the likes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman. So far, the Dogs have forced them to blink twice over elements of President Obama’s legislative centerpieces: health care and cap-and-trade — a complex and potentially costly attempt to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gases.

The Blue Dog Coalition, which has 52 members, was founded in 1995, but has never been more influential. “THEY ARE HUGE,” says Greg Valliere, chief policy strategist for Soleil Securities Research in New York City. “The only way legislation passes is if the Blue Dogs and some moderate Republicans go along. For President Obama, I’d call this involuntary triangulation.” Thus, the Democratic health-care proposal will be scaled back dramatically, he predicts.

… At the same time, the liberal Democrats in the House have been weakened by a loudly vocal part of the public’s revolt against both their costly, government-centric health-care proposal and their obtuse decision to budget $550 million for eight corporate jets.

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It’s mostly in the math, however. Speaker Pelosi cannot pass a single measure without substantial Blue Dog support. There are a total of 256 Democrats and 178 Republicans in the House (and one vacancy). Without the Blue Dogs, Pelosi has just 204 votes, versus 230 for the opposition.

University of Virginia political expert Larry Sabato says that some Dogs are actually liberals with sympathy for Speaker Pelosi. They joined the coalition to make themselves more appealing to a broader cross-section of voters, he says. Last year, six Blue Dogs voted with liberals on economic matters more than 70% of the time, according to the National Journal.

Another nine Blue Dogs voted with liberals on economic matters more than 60% of the time. Assuming, then, that all the House Republicans oppose liberal Democratic bills and they are joined by only the 37 hard-core Blue Dogs, then the liberals would win by four votes, 219 to 215 — far too close for comfort. This is why the Speaker deals so carefully with the block.

… The group sometimes holds informal discussions with Republicans, but they don’t like the GOP all that much. The GOP is “the ‘Just Say No’ party,” says Blue Dog Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah. The Blue Dogs, he says, are populists — not ideologues — and they’re out to improve bills, not block them. Their focus is fiscal responsibility.

They’ve insisted that the health-care plan add nothing to the deficit. Matheson also wants to allow consumers the choice of keeping their current insurance.

This still isn’t two-party rule. Complacent investors could get bushwhacked. Look what happened with cap-and-trade, which critics say will harm the economy: the Dogs split, with 23 ayes and 29 nays. All 12 of the most liberal members voted for it; so did conservative Blue Dogs like former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler of North Carolina.

What happened? Members were more concerned about the bill’s regional — than its fiscal — impact. Shuler saw more green jobs and less dependence on foreign oil. Sometimes, the Blue Dogs behave like stray dogs.


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Afternoon Sun, 1903

The Museo del Prado is presenting the largest and most important retrospective ever to be devoted to the work of Joaquín Sorolla, the most internationally celebrated Spanish painter of the XIX century. The exhibition includes more than 100 paintings by the artist and will offer a comprehensive overview of his finest works, among them all of his great masterpieces.

They include the group of panels entitled Visions of Spain, painted for the Hispanic Society of America and brought to Spain by Bancaja in 2007. This exceptional exhibition has benefited from the sponsorship of Bancaja, who in addition to their significant undertaking as organising body of the exhibition “Sorolla. Vision of Spain” that was shown to great acclaim in various Spanish cities, has now made a further contribution in the form of their collaboration with this major exhibition project at the Prado.

The exhibition “Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923)” (Museo del Prado, 26 May to 6 September 2009) offers the visiting public an outstanding opportunity to see more than 100 paintings by the great Valencian master in what will constitute the most comprehensive and ambitious survey of his finest works. Among the 101 paintings on display, loaned from museums and collections worldwide, will be all the masterpieces by Sorolla that brought him most fame.


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Sevilla. Los nazarenos, 1914


Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923)

Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923) is the first major, monographic exhibition to be devoted to the artist since the one also organised in the Casón del Buen Retiro by the Ministry of Science and Education in 1963. It is also one of the most important ever organised, in Spain and abroad on this great 19th-century painter, both with regard to the number of works and their quality.

The exhibition brings together around one hundred paintings by Sorolla, the most internationally known Spanish artist of his day and one of the key figures in the history of Spanish art. It offers a comprehensive survey based on examples of his finest works and includes the fourteen panels known as the Vision of Spain painted for The Hispanic Society of America, which were brought to Spain in 2007 by Bancaja, sponsor of the present exhibition

Besides the collaboration of numerous private collections and institutions all around the world, the contribution of the Museo Sorolla (Madrid) deserves a special thanks, since it loans a group of fourteen works among them some of the artist’s masterpieces.

The exhibition has a fundamentally chronological structure, organised into various sections that emphasise the importance of the various themes and subjects that Sorolla depicted at different periods in his career. For example, there is a space dedicated to the paintings of social themes that brought the artist fame in the last decades of the 19th century. This is followed by a sizeable group of portraits and a nude that reveal the profound influence of Velázquez on his compositions during the early years of the 20th century.

Another area displays his finest beach scenes, painted in 1908 and 1909. Due to their particular importance and large size, the fourteen panels of Visions of Spain painted for the Hispanic Society of America will fill an entire room of the four occupied by the exhibition. This spectacular group was the most complex and important decorative scheme of Sorolla’s entire career and can also be seen as an epilogue and summary of his entire oeuvre. The exhibition ends with examples of his landscape paintings.

Following his years as a student at the Royal Academy of San Carlos, Sorolla travelled to Italy with a scholarship from the Provincial Council of Valencia. During his stay there, he spent time in Rome and the small town of Assisi, where he perfected his academic training. The study of the nude and the opportunity to familiarize himself with old and modern masters in Italy played a decisive role in his formation as an artist. But the grant also allowed him to visit the other artistic capital of the period, Paris, where he was exposed to the academic realism that would inspire him to paint social themes. Upon his return to Spain, Sorolla settled in Madrid, where he successfully participated in several National Fine Art Exhibitions.

In these events he presented his most committed paintings in this new genre. And They Still Say Fish is Expensive! sums up his ambitious efforts at the time to strike a balance between subjects of a contained dramatic nature, and realistic execution with special attention to light, which began to emerge as his chief concern. These public successes also brought him his first commissions for private collectors, paintings that reflected attractive popular themes in which Sorolla gradually introduced his bold artistic innovations.

1.-Aun-dicen-que-el-pescado-es-caro_01And They Still Say Fish is Expensive!, 1894

Return from Fishing was Sorolla’s first major international success. Shown at the 1895 Paris Salon, it marked his debut on the European stage and consolidated his reputation in Spain. Sorolla’s stay in the French capital also infl uenced his work in canvases such as After the Bath, which shows a shift in taste towards the academic style that dominated the Parisian market. Sewing the Sail confirmed his previous success.

The pictorial representation of the effects of sunlight that characterize these two major works increasingly drew the artist’s attention, becoming the true hallmark of his art. This quest to portray sunlight, using the sails of fishing boats as his best resource, led to Eating on the Boat, a painting in which the sail also enabled the artist to enclose the space where the action unfolds.

These same years saw the rise in Sorolla’s international reputation echoed by a greater interest on the part of private clients to buy his work. To meet this demand, he increasingly painted popular genre subjects and began a successful career as a portrait painter.

2.-La-vuelta-de-la-pesca_01Return from Fishing, 1894

Sad Inheritance established Sorolla’s reputation in Paris and secured his status on the international scene. The impact of this work, which earned him the Grand Prix at the 1900 World Fair, made him the most successful living Spanish painter, confi rming critical interest in his art—an art that explored nature with sincerity and had the seashore as the privileged setting for his paintings.

From then on, we see a change in the execution of his work. In canvases such as Mending the Sails, the brushstrokes became freer and more energetic, in search of a more direct portrayal of the depicted moment and a more faithful rendition of the effect of light. Preparing Raisins shows a progression towards a much more daring modernity, in which contemporary social themes are subordinated to the pure expression of an image.

Mother, on the other hand, marked the appearance in his oeuvre of distinctly intimate images, linked to the most private aspects of Sorolla’s life. These became a regular feature of his work, and following their success, the artist continued to pursue them until the end of his career.

As with so many other artists of his day, Sorolla’s visits to the Museo del Prado, where he was able to learn directly from the great Spanish masters, had great impact on his painting. Velázquez’s influence on his work, which critics recognized from the start, in the fi rst canvases he presented to public contests in Spain, became much more evident following his international success in Paris in 1900. From that moment on, Sorolla adopted Velázquez’s models as his own, alluding to some of his most famous pieces and even copying the resources used by the Sevillian artist.

5.-Desnudo-de-mujer_01Female Nude, 1902

Sorolla’s provocative Female Nude—in which the artist secretly celebrated the sensual quality of his wife’s body — evokes Velázquez’s Venus at her Mirror, while his family group portraits are modelled after Las Meninas. But references to the Sevillian master’s works are not always so direct. His admiration and appropriation of the Sevillian master’s portrait models resulted in dignified likenesses such as those of the Beruetes, in which Sorolla achieves a characteristic sensation of immediacy, or that of The Photographer Christian Franzen where, again mimicking Velázquez, he provides the arresting image of a shared gaze, creating a disjunction between represented space and real space.

Sorolla’s art reached the peak of its maturity in Afternoon Sun. Here, the painter’s interest in capturing the effects of natural light, in this case in a scene featuring a fishing boat being hauled ashore after a day’s work, bathed in the setting sun of a Valencian summer evening —a theme already explored in Return from Fishing—is carried to its utmost limits. Tackled with complete artistic freedom, this visually powerful canvas allowed him to exploit the potential of the colossal dimensions of the fi gures and the imposing presence of the sail, as well as the swelling movement of the sea, captured here with frenzied energy.

… During the summer of 1909, Sorolla moved to La Malvarrosa beach, where he felt a completely happy man. His triumph in Europe had been followed by further success in the United States, and the critical acclaim his work received was only surpassed by its warm reception on the market, which continued to demand more and more paintings by the artist.

This period of fulfilment and self-assurance saw the artist create a series of interesting paintings, all set on the water’s edge. They are euphoric, extraordinarily luminous works that include some of the artist’s most representative pieces. In them, the Mediterranean classicism that hovers over all of Sorolla’s oeuvre achieves its fullest expression, an effect that was reinforced by the frames the artist chose for many of them, inspired by Greek architecture.

In fact, an almost musical harmony, like that of a calm classical procession, informs Strolling along the Seashore, a work that validates the artist’s fame, in which the material treatment is given special prominence. Scenes such as The Horse’s Bath and Boys on the Beach became not only evocations of the Mediterranean’s Greco-Roman past, but also icons of Sorolla’s work and the expression of a joyful interpretation of reality, in contrast to the pessimism of the Generation of ’98.

… In the final years of his life, however, Sorolla abandoned the experimental line he had pursued in works such as La siesta and, around 1915, he returned to his own artistic order. That year, during his summer painting expedition, his art adopted a forceful, monumental tone.

This tone, already visible in Beached Boats, whose sails—as smooth as polished stone—are so swollen with wind that they are cut off by the edge of the canvas, culminates in the sensual, pagan presence of The Pink Robe, where the sculptural physique of a female figure is emphatically humanized by means of a realistic and completely modern treatment of light.

8fdfb53143The Pink Robe, 1916


… In the final years of his life, however, Sorolla abandoned the experimental line he had pursued in works such as La siesta and, around 1915, he returned to his own artistic order. That year, during his summer painting expedition, his art adopted a forceful, monumental tone.

This tone, already visible in Beached Boats, whose sails—as smooth as polished stone—are so swollen with wind that they are cut off by the edge of the canvas, culminates in the sensual, pagan presence of The Pink Robe, where the sculptural physique of a female fi gure is emphatically humanized by means of a realistic and completely modern treatment of light.

… As with his portraits, Sorolla’s landscapes were so outstanding that they alone would have been worthy of major recognition in his day. Infl uenced by his friend Aureliano de Beruete, the leading master of the genre in Spain at the time, Sorolla always showed an interest in the realistic portrayal of the effects of light in all kinds of weather and the faithful refl ection of the natural terrain.

His landscapes are often the most tangible, immediate proof of the total freedom with which he painted. Though he concentrated on views of beaches, meadows, mountains and cities, from 1901 onwards Sorolla also executed landscapes that are a product of the contemplation of a single detail, representations of a daring modernity expressed through unusual framings and a very direct and fresh pictorial language.

The artist’s efforts to portray nature en plein air, which required a great deal of physical stamina, diminished as Sorolla grew older and he became weakened by illness. His fi nal work was therefore limited to the garden of his home in Madrid, now the Museo Sorolla. Sorolla painted his last pieces between the walls of these gardens, and it was there that he laid down his brushes for the last time.

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Sevilla. Los nazarenos, 1914


Videos

Comments on the exhibition by Jose Luis Díez and Javier Barón (video) Spanish (English subtitles)

Documentary (reduced) English Video

Sorolla Collection (Video)


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China/U.S. Relations: Current Economics Issues & Implications for U.S. Policy — China’s Currency — US China Policy Under Obama Video — China Naval Modernization — Military Power of the People’s Republic of China — China’s Military & Security Relationship with Pakistan


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“If the wind comes from an empty cave, it’s not without a reason”

(Moral: There is no smoke without fire!)


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China-U.S. Relations:

Issues and Implications for U.S. Policy

Kerry Dumbaugh, Specialist in Asian Affairs, April 2, 2009

The bilateral relationship between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is vitally important, touching on a wide range of areas including, among others, economic policy, security, foreign relations, and human rights. U.S. and PRC interests are bound together much more closely now than even a few years ago.

These extensive inter-linkages have made it increasingly difficult for either government to take unilateral actions without inviting far-reaching, unintended consequences. The George W. Bush Administration addressed these increasing inter-linkages by engaging with China, regularizing bilateral contacts and cooperation, and minimizing differences.

The Administration of President Barack Obama has inherited not only more extensive policy mechanisms for pursuing U.S.-China policy, but a more complex and multifaceted relationship in which the stakes are higher and in which U.S. action may increasingly be constrained.

Economically, the United States and the PRC have become symbiotically intertwined. China is the second-largest U.S. trading partner, with total U.S.-China trade in 2008 reaching an estimated $409 billion. It also is the second largest holder of U.S. securities and the largest holder of U.S.

Treasuries used to finance the federal budget deficit, positioning the PRC to play a crucial role, for good or ill, in the Obama Administration’s plans to address the recession and the deteriorating U.S. financial system. At the same time, the PRC’s own substantial levels of economic growth have depended heavily on continued U.S. investment and trade, making the Chinese economy highly vulnerable to a significant economic slowdown in the United States.

Meanwhile, other bilateral problems provide a continuing set of diverse challenges. They include difficulties over the status and well-being of Taiwan, ongoing disputes over China’s failure to protect U.S. intellectual property rights, the economic advantage China gains from not floating its currency, and growing concerns about the quality and safety of exported PRC products.

The PRC’s more assertive foreign policy and continued military development also have significant long-term implications for U.S. global power and influence. Some U.S. lawmakers have suggested that U.S. policies toward the PRC should be reassessed in light of these trends.

During the Bush Administration, Washington and Beijing cultivated regular high-level visits and exchanges of working level officials, resumed military-to-military relations, cooperated on antiterror initiatives, and worked closely on the Six Party Talks to restrain and eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons activities.

Although these and other initiatives of engagement are likely to continue in some fashion under the Obama Presidency, their direction and format are still being formulated in the Administration’s early days.

Still, in what some see as a significant Administration signal about China’s importance for U.S. interests, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton included the PRC in her first official trip abroad as Secretary in February 2009, which included stops in Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and China (February 20-22).

This report addresses relevant policy questions in current U.S.-China relations, discusses trends and key legislation in the current Congress, and provides a chronology of developments and highlevel exchanges. It will be updated as events warrant. Additional details on the issues discussed here are available in other CRS products, noted throughout this report.

For background information and legislative action during the 110th Congress, see CRS Report RL33877, China-U.S. Relations in the 110th Congress: Issues and Implications for U.S. Policy, by Kerry Dumbaugh. CRS products can be found on the CRS website at http://www.crs.gov/.

See Complete Report: China-U.S. Relations: Current Issues and Implications for U.S. Policy


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China’s Currency:

A Summary of the Economic Issues

Wayne M. Morrison, Specialist in Asian Trade and Finance

Marc Labonte, Specialist in Macroeconomic Policy

April 13, 2009

 

Many Members of Congress charge that China’s policy of accumulating foreign reserves (especially U.S. dollars) to influence the value of its currency constitutes a form of currency manipulation intended to make its exports cheaper and imports into China more expensive than they would be under free market conditions.

They further contend that this policy has caused a surge in the U.S. trade deficit with China and has been a major factor in the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs. Although China made modest reforms to its currency policy in 2005, resulting in a gradual appreciation of its currency (about 19% through mid-April 2009), many Members contend the reforms have not gone far enough and have warned of potential punitive legislative action.

Although an undervalued Chinese currency has likely hurt some sectors of the U.S. economy, it has also benefited others. For example, consumers have gained from the supply of low-cost Chinese goods (which helps to control inflation), as well as U.S. firms using Chinese-made parts and materials (which helps such firms become more globally competitive).

In addition, China has used its abundant foreign exchange reserves to buy U.S. securities, including U.S. Treasury securities, which are used to fund the Federal budget deficit. Such purchases help keep U.S. interest rates relatively low.

The current global economic crisis has further complicated the currency issue for both the United States and China. Although China is under pressure from the United States to appreciate its currency, it is reluctant to do so because it could cause further damage to export sector and lead to more layoffs.

China has halted its gradual appreciation of its currency, the renminbi (RMB) or yuan to the dollar in 2009; keeping it at about 6.83 yuan per dollar (from January 1 through April 13, 2009). The federal budget deficit has increased rapidly since FY2008, causing a sharp increase in the amount of Treasury securities that must be sold.

The Obama Administration has encouraged China to continue purchasing U.S. debt. However, if China were induced to further appreciate its currency against the dollar, it could slow China’s accumulation of foreign exchange reserves, thus reducing the need to invest in dollar assets, such as Treasury securities.

China’s currency policy appears to have created a policy dilemma for the Chinese government. A strong and stable U.S. economy is in China’s national interest since the United States is China’s largest export market. Thus, some analysts contend that China will feel compelled to keep funding the growing U.S. debt.

However, Chinese officials have expressed concern that the growing U.S. debt will eventually spark inflation in the United States and a depreciation of the dollar, which would negatively impact the value of China’s holdings of U.S. securities.

But if China stopped buying U.S. debt or tried to sell off a large portion of those holdings, it could also cause the dollar to depreciate and thus reduce the value of its remaining holdings, and such a move could further destabilize the U.S. economy.

Chinese concerns over its large dollar holdings appear to have been reflected in a paper issued by the governor of the People’s Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan on March 24, 2009, which called for the replacing the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency with a new global system controlled by the International Monetary Fund.

China has also signed currency swap agreements with six of its trading partners, which would allow those partners to settle accounts with China using the yuan rather than the dollar. This report summarizes the main findings in CRS Report RL32165, China’s Currency: Economic Issues and Options for U.S. Trade Policy, by Wayne M. Morrison and Marc Labonte.

See Complete Report: China’s Currency: A Summary of the Economic Issues


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China Naval Modernization:

Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress

Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in Naval Affairs, May 29, 2009

In the debate over future U.S. defense spending, including deliberations taking place in the current Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), a key issue is how much emphasis to place on programs for countering improved Chinese military forces in coming years. Observers disagree on the issue, with some arguing that such programs should receive significant emphasis, others arguing that they should receive relatively little, and still others taking an intermediate position. The question of how much emphasis to place in U.S. defense planning on programs for countering improved Chinese military forces is of particular importance to the U.S. Navy, because many programs associated with countering improved Chinese military forces would fall within the Navy’s budget.

China’s naval modernization effort encompasses a broad array of weapon acquisition programs, including programs for anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs), surface-to-air missiles, mines, aircraft, submarines, destroyers and frigates, patrol craft, and amphibious ships. In addition, observers believe that China may soon begin an aircraft carrier construction program. China’s naval modernization
effort also includes reforms and improvements in maintenance and logistics, naval doctrine, personnel quality, education, and training, and exercises. Although China’s naval modernization effort has substantially improved China’s naval capabilities in recent years, observers believe China’s navy continues to exhibit limitations or weaknesses in several areas.

China_Military_Power_Report_2009_Fig2

DOD and other observers believe that the near-term focus of China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, has been to develop military options for addressing the situation with Taiwan. Consistent with this goal, observers believe that China wants its military to be capable of acting as a so-called anti-access force—a force that can deter U.S. intervention in a conflict involving Taiwan, or failing that, delay the arrival or reduce the
effectiveness of intervening U.S. naval and air forces. DOD and other observers believe that, in addition to the near-term focus on developing military options relating to Taiwan, additional goals of China’s naval modernization effort include improving China’s ability to do the following: assert or defend China’s claims in maritime territorial disputes and China’s interpretation of international laws relating freedom of navigation in exclusive economic zones (an interpretation at odds with the U.S. interpretation); protect China’s sea lines of communications to the Persian
Gulf, on which China relies for some of its energy imports; and assert China’s status as a major world power, encourage other states in the region to align their policies with China, and displace U.S. regional military influence.

China_Military_Power_Report_2009

A decision to place a relatively strong defense-planning emphasis on countering improved Chinese military forces in coming years could lead to one more of the following: increasing activities for monitoring and understanding developments in China’s navy, as well as activities for measuring and better understanding operating conditions in the Western Pacific; assigning a larger percentage of the Navy to the Pacific Fleet; homeporting more of the Pacific Fleet’s ships at forward locations such as Hawaii, Guam, and Japan; increasing training and exercises in operations relating to countering Chinese maritime anti-access forces, such as antisubmarine warfare (ASW) operations; and placing a relatively strong emphasis on programs for developing and procuring highly capable ships, aircraft, and weapons. This report will be updated as events warrant.

See Complete Report: China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress

 


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CHINA’S MARITIME QUEST

Dr. David Lai, Strategic Studies Institute

U.S. Army War College, June 2009

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) turned 60 on April 23, 2009. China held an unprecedented celebration on this occasion. For the first time in its history, China invited foreign navies to the PLAN’s birthday event. Chinese President Hu Jintao and all the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) senior leaders reviewed a parade of China’s major warships from a Chinese destroyer.

The column of PLAN vessels were headed by two nuclear-powered and armed submarines (the first-ever public appearance of China’s strategic submarine fleet) and 21 warships from 14 nations, including major naval powers such as the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France.

The parade took place off the coast of Qingdao, the PLAN Beihai (northern seas) Fleet Headquarters. In addition, China invited many foreign navy chiefs, most notably the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations and the Russian Navy Commander, as well as over 200 foreign military and navy attachés to the party.

The PLAN birthday celebration was like an Olympic meeting for the international navies. Yet behind the smiling faces, the world saw an ambitious Chinese navy eager to edge its way to the center stage of world maritime affairs.

Indeed, as PLAN Rear Admiral Yang Yi, a senior strategic analyst at the PLA National Defense University, noted, “the parade is not just about showing China’s accomplishments, it is more of a new start signaling where China needs to go in the future.”1 Yang did not have time to elaborate on his thoughts at the PLAN birthday party, but he and many other noted Chinese analysts have in recent years put forward an urgent agenda for China’s maritime power.

At the strategic level, China has raised the stakes of its need for great maritime power as a precondition for its becoming a full-fledged global power. The Chinese argue that all global powers are also strong maritime powers. Therefore China must follow suit.

Moreover, China’s quest for maritime power will be broad and comprehensive, going beyond the scope defined by Alfred Thayer Mahan more than a century ago. A powerful navy is still the first and foremost component. China must have a navy commensurate with its growing national power.

This means upgrading the PLAN to a top-ranked world-class naval power, the threshold of which, as the Chinese see it, is the possession of aircraft carrier battle groups and long-range power projection capabilities. There has been a national debate on the pros and cons of aircraft carriers since the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1995-96 (when the Chinese were furious with the arrival of two U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups to check China’s dealing with Taiwan). The debate is clearly settled.

In recent months, Chinese officials have gone on record to state that China has good reasons to acquire aircraft carriers and the world should not be surprised at their decision. China understands that aircraft carrier capability is an expensive undertaking in construction as well as in operation, but having had 30 years of phenomenal economic development and further development carefully planned well into the mid-21st century, China is confident that it can afford to run this business. There are already calls for China to openly launch its aircraft carrier construction project. China may be happy to comply.

The second component of China’s maritime power will be a world-class seaborne merchant fleet to meet the nation’s growing demand for trade and resources supply. Since becoming the “world manufacture center,” China has greatly expanded its seaborne transportation; after all, over 90 percent of China’s trade and resources supply go by sea.

Already China is among the world’s top seaborne transport holders—it has the world’s fourth largest merchant fleet and third largest shipbuilding industry; runs the heaviest container port traffic; and has five of the world’s ten busiest seaports. China wants to continue this advance and develop a blue-water navy to protect these “life supply facilities.”

The third part of China’s maritime power will cover all of its ocean interests, long-claimed (the disputed islands and the entire South China Sea) as well as those expanded by the UN Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). These include the 200 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and Extended Continental Shelves (ECS).

China Navy

The claimed area is about 3 million square kilometers, as indicated by the blue line circling area in Figure 1. However, this claim complicates China’s old disputes with Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei and brings China new enemies, the two Koreas and Indonesia. All of them are also members of the LOST and entitled to claim their share of the pie (see the overlapping claims in the South China Sea shown in Figure 2.

China Navy1

Additionally, China has to settle the Taiwan issue with the United States.

See Complete Report: CHINA’S MARITIME QUEST


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FAS Strategic Security Blog

Comments and analyses of important national and international security issues

New Air Force Intelligence Report Available

By Hans M. Kristensen

The Air Force Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) has published an update to its Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat. The document, which I obtained from NASIC, is sobering reading. The latest update continues the previous user-friendly format and describes a number of important assessments and new developments in ballistic and cruise missiles of many of the world’s major military powers. The report also helps dispel many web-rumors that have circulated about Chinese, Russian, Indian and Pakistani nuclear forces. In this blog I’ll focus on the nuclear weapon states, particularly China.

Chinese Nuclear Forces

As the DF-3A retirement continues (there are now only 5-10 launchers left of close to 100 in the 1980s), the liquid-fuel missile is being replaced by a family of solid-fuel DF-21 variants. The NASIC identifies four, including two nuclear versions (Mod 1 and Mod 2), one conventional version, and an anti-ship version that unlike the others is not yet deployed.

Thankfully, the report dispels widespread speculation by web sites, news media, and even Jane’s after images began circulating on the Internet, that a DF-25 had been deployed, some even said with three nuclear warheads.  But it was, as I predicted last year and NASIC now confirms, in fact a DF-21.

df21sA column of DF-21s on the road in what could be the Delingha deployment are in Qinghai Province. Several of the vehicles have identical camouflage patterns, raising suspicion that the image has been manipulated. Four DF-21 versions exist, two nuclear, one conventional, and one anti-ship version.

The report also reaffirms that the first of the DF-31s and DF-31As “have been deployed to units within the Second Artillery Corps,” and NASIC estimates that “less than 15” are deployed, up from the “less than 10” estimate in the Pentagon’s March 2009 report (which actually used 2008 data).

The NASIC report states that neither of China’s two types submarine-launched ballistic missiles is operational. This suggests that the multi-year overhaul of the JL-1 equipped Xia SSBN, which was completed last year, was not successful. The successor missile JL-2 for the new Jin-class SSBNs has not reached operational status either. NASIC gives the JL-2 the U.S. designation CSS-NX-14, not a numerical follow-on to the JL-1, which is listed as CSS-NX-3. The “14” could be a typo, but it appears several places in the report. The JL-2 is shown to have roughly the same dimensions as the Russian SS-N-32 SLBM.

NASIC lists single warheads on all of the Chinese missiles, not multiple warheads as speculated by many. “China could develop MIRV payloads for some of its ICBMs,” the report states. Yet it also predicts that, “Future ICBMs probably will include some with multiple independently-targetable reentry vehicles.” Whether that prediction – which appears to hint that China has more ICBMs under development – comes true remains to be seen, and the U.S. intelligence community has stated for years that one development that could trigger it is a U.S. ballistic missile defense system.

The report echoes recent statements from other branches of the U.S. intelligence community that the number of warheads on Chinese ICBM capable of reaching the United States could expand to “well over 100 in the next 15 years.” Unfortunately, “well over 100” can mean anything so it is hard to compare this NASIC’s projection with the CIA projection from 2001 of 75-100 warheads “primarily targeted against the United States” by 2015. That projection only included DF-5A and DF-31A capable of targeting all of the United States, with the high number requiring multiple warheads on DF-5A. But the timeline for the anticipated increase has slipped considerably from 2015 to 2024.

chinaproj

Moreover, ICBMs “primarily targeted against the United States” is a smaller group of missiles than those “capable of reaching the United States,” which currently includes about 60 DF-4, DF-5A, DF-31 and DF-31A ICBMs with as many warheads. For this group to grow to “well over 100 warheads” suggests that NASIC anticipates that China will deploy at least 60-70 DF-31, DF-31A and JL-2 missiles by 2024 (the DF-4 will probably have been retired by then). Assuming that includes 36 JL-2s on three Jin-class SSBNs, an additional 20-30 total DF-31s and DF-31As would have to be deployed to reach 120 ICBM warheads. If five SSBNs were deployed, then only 10 additional land-based ICBMs would be required, or 30 if the 20 DF-5As were retired.

The DH-10 land-attack cruise missile is listed as “conventional or nuclear,” the same designation used for the nuclear and conventional Russian AS-4. But unlike the 2009 DOD report on Chinese military forces, which lists 150-350 DH-10s deployed with 40-50 launchers, NASIC lists the operational status as “undetermined.”


china 27


Military Power of the People’s Republic of China

ANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS


Section 1202, “Annual Report on Military Power of the People’s Republic of China,” of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, Public Law 106-65, provides that the Secretary of Defense shall submit a report “in both classified and unclassified form, on the current and future military strategy of the People’s Republic of China. The report shall address the current and probable future course of military-technological development on the People’s Liberation Army and the tenets and probable development of Chinese grand strategy, security strategy, and military strategy, and of the military organizations and operational concepts, through the next 20 years.”

China’s rapid rise as a regional political and economic power with growing global influence has significant implications for the Asia-Pacific region and the world. The United States welcomes the rise of a stable, peaceful, and prosperous China, and encourages China to participate responsibly in world affairs by taking on a greater share of the burden for the stability, resilience, and growth of the international system. The United States has done much over the last 30 years to encourage and facilitate China’s national development and its integration into the international system. However, much uncertainty surrounds China’s future course, particularly regarding how its expanding military power might be used.

China_Military_Power_Report_2009_Fig7

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is pursuing comprehensive transformation from a mass army designed for protracted wars of attrition on its territory to one capable of fighting and winning short-duration, high-intensity conflicts along its periphery against high-tech adversaries – an approach that China refers to as preparing for “local wars under conditions of informatization.”

The pace and scope of China’s military transformation have increased in recent years, fueled by acquisition of advanced foreign weapons, continued high rates of investment in its domestic defense and science and technology industries, and far-reaching organizational and doctrinal reforms of the armed forces. China’s ability to sustain military power at a distance remains limited, but its armed forces continue to develop and field disruptive military technologies, including those for anti-access/area-denial, as well as for nuclear, space, and cyber warfare, that are changing regional military balances and that have implications beyond the Asia-Pacific region.

The PLA’s modernization vis-à-vis Taiwan has continued over the past year, including its build-up of short-range missiles opposite the island. In the near-term, China’s armed forces are rapidly developing coercive capabilities for the purpose of deterring Taiwan’s pursuit of de jure independence. These same capabilities could in the future be used to pressure Taiwan toward a settlement of the cross-Strait dispute on Beijing’s terms while simultaneously attempting to deter, delay, or deny any possible U.S. support for the island in case of conflict. This modernization and the threat to Taiwan continue despite significant reduction in cross-Strait tension over the last year since Taiwan elected a new president.

China_Military_Power_Report_2009_Fig5

The PLA is also developing longer range capabilities that have implications beyond Taiwan. Some of these capabilities have allowed it to contribute cooperatively to the international community’s responsibilities in areas such as peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and counter-piracy. However, some of these capabilities, as well as other, more disruptive ones, could allow China to project power to ensure access to resources or enforce claims to disputed territories.

Beijing publicly asserts that China’s military modernization is “purely defensive in nature,” and aimed solely at protecting China’s security and interests. Over the past several years, China has begun a new phase of military development by beginning to articulate roles and missions for the PLA that go beyond China’s immediate territorial interests, but has left unclear to the international community the purposes and objectives of the PLA’s evolving doctrine and capabilities.

Moreover, China continues to promulgate incomplete defense expenditure figures and engage in actions that appear inconsistent with its declaratory policies. The limited transparency in China’s military and security affairs poses risks to stability by creating uncertainty and increasing the potential for misunderstanding and miscalculation. The United States continues to work with our allies and friends in the region to monitor these developments and adjust our policies accordingly.

See Complete Report: ANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS – Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2009

Update – 2010 Report


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China’s Military and Security Relationship with Pakistan

Testimony before the   U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission – May 20, 2009


My name is Lisa Curtis. I am a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation. The views I express in this testimony are my own, and should not be construed as representing any official position of The Heritage Foundation.

Pakistan and China have long-standing strategic ties, dating back five decades. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari wrote in a recent op-ed that, “No relationship between two sovereign states is as unique and durable as that between Pakistan and China.”[1] China’s partnership with Pakistan first emerged during the mid-1950s when Beijing reached out to several developing countries, and then deepened significantly during the period of Sino-Indian hostility from 1962 to the late 1980s.

Chinese policy toward Pakistan is driven primarily by its interest in countering Indian power in the region and diverting Indian military force and strategic attention away from China. South Asia expert Stephen Cohen describes China as pursuing a classic balance of power by supporting Pakistan in a relationship that mirrors the one between the U.S. and Israel.[2] The China-Pakistan partnership serves both Chinese and Pakistani interests by presenting India with a potential two-front theater in the event of war with either country.[3]

Chinese officials also view a certain degree of India-Pakistan tension as advancing their own strategic interests as such friction bogs India down in South Asia and interferes with New Delhi’s ability to assert its global ambitions and compete with China at the international level. That said, Beijing has demonstrated in recent years that it favors bilateral Indo-Pakistani negotiations to resolve their differences and has played a helpful role in preventing the outbreak of full-scale war between the two countries, especially during the 1999 Indo-Pakistani border conflict in the heights of Kargil.

Chinese-Pakistan Defense Ties

China is Pakistan’s largest defense supplier. China transferred equipment and technology and provided scientific expertise to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs throughout the 1980s and 1990s, enhancing Pakistan’s strength in the South Asian strategic balance. The most significant development in China-Pakistan military cooperation occurred in 1992 when China supplied Pakistan with 34 short-range ballistic M-11 missiles.[4] Recent sales of conventional weapons to Pakistan include JF-17 aircraft, JF-17 production facilities, F-22P frigates with helicopters, K-8 jet trainers, T-85 tanks, F-7 aircraft, small arms, and ammunition.[5] Beijing also built a turnkey ballistic-missile manufacturing facility near the city of Rawalpindi and helped Pakistan develop the 750-km-range, solid-fueled Shaheen-1 ballistic missile.[6]While the U.S. has sanctioned Pakistan in the past–in 1965 and again in 1990–China has consistently supported Pakistan’s military modernization effort.

China has helped Pakistan build two nuclear reactors at the Chasma site in the Punjab Province and continues to support Pakistan’s nuclear program, although it has been sensitive to international condemnation of the A. Q. Khan affair and has calibrated its nuclear assistance to Pakistan accordingly. During Pakistani President Zardari’s visit to Beijing in mid-October 2008, Beijing pledged to help Pakistan construct two new nuclear power plants at Chasma, but did not propose or agree to a major China-Pakistan nuclear deal akin to the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement. U.S. congressional Members have expressed concern about China’s failure to apply Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) “full-scope safeguards” to its nuclear projects in Pakistan.[7]

China also is helping Pakistan develop a deep-sea port at the naval base at Gwadar in Pakistan’s province of Baluchistan on the Arabian Sea. The port would allow China to secure oil and gas supplies from the Persian Gulf and project power in the Indian Ocean. China financed 80 percent of the $250 million for completion of the first phase of the project and reportedly is funding most of the second phase of the project as well.[8] The complex will provide a port, warehouses, and industrial facilities for more than 20 countries and will eventually have the capability to receive oil tankers with a capacity of 200,000 tons. There is concern that China may turn its investment in Gwadar Port into access for its warships.

The India Factor

China has been able to successfully pursue closer relations with India, especially on the economic front (bilateral trade rose from $5 billion to $40 billion in the course of five years), while continuing to pursue strong military and strategic ties to Pakistan.

China’s interest in improving ties to India over the last decade has spurred Beijing to develop a more neutral position on the Kashmir issue, rather than reflexively taking Pakistan’s side, which has traditionally meant supporting United Nations resolutions calling for a plebiscite or backing Pakistan’s attempts to wrest the region by force, as with Pakistan’s 1965 Operation Gibraltar.[9] A turning point in China’s position on Kashmir came during the 1999 Kargil crisis when Beijing helped convince Pakistan to withdraw forces from the Indian side of the Line of Control following its incursion into the Kargil region of Jammu and Kashmir. Beijing made clear its position that the two sides should resolve the Kashmir conflict through bilateral negotiations, not military force. India was pleased with China’s stance on the Kargil crisis, which allowed Beijing and New Delhi to overcome tensions in their relations that had developed over India’s 1998 nuclear tests.

Despite the evolution in the Chinese position on Kashmir, China continues to maintain a robust defense relationship with Pakistan, and to view a strong partnership with Pakistan as a useful way to contain Indian power. China’s attempt to scuttle the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement at the September 2008 Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting was evidence for many Indians that China does not willingly accept India’s rise on the world stage. The Chinese–buoyed by the unexpected opposition from NSG nations like New Zealand, Austria, and Ireland–threatened the agreement with delaying tactics and last-minute concerns signaled through an article in the Chinese Communist Party’s English-language paper, The People’s Daily.[10] The public rebuke of the deal followed several earlier assurances from Chinese leaders that Beijing would not block consensus at the NSG.

Indian observers claim the Chinese tried to walk out of the NSG meetings in order to prevent a consensus, but that last-minute interventions from senior U.S. and Indian officials convinced them that the price of scuttling the deal would be too high, forcing them to return to the meeting.[11] Indian strategic affairs analyst Uday Bhaskar attributed the Chinese maneuvering to longstanding competition between the two Asian rivals. “Clearly, until now China has been the major power in Asia,” said Bhaskar. “With India entering the NSG, a new strategic equation has been introduced into Asia and this clearly has caused disquiet to China.” Indian official Palaniappan Chidambaram (now Home Minister), citing China’s position within the NSG, said that, “From time to time, China takes unpredictable positions that raise a number of questions about its attitude toward the rise of India.”

Tensions over Separatists and Islamist Extremists

One source of tension between Beijing and Islamabad that has surfaced has been the issue of Chinese Uighur separatists receiving sanctuary and training on Pakistani territory. The Chinese province of Xinjiang is home to 8 million Muslim Uighurs, many of whom resent the growing presence and economic grip on the region of the Han Chinese. Some have agitated for an independent “East Turkestan.” To mollify China’s concerns, Pakistan in recent years has begun to clamp down on Uighur settlements and on religious schools used as training grounds for militants.[12] Media reports indicate that Pakistan may have extradited as many as nine Uighurs to China in April after accusing them of involvement in terrorist activities.[13]

Tension has also surfaced over Islamist extremism in Pakistan. It came to a head in the summer of 2007 when vigilantes kidnapped several Chinese citizens whom they accused of running a brothel in Islamabad. China was incensed by this incident, and its complaints to Pakistani authorities likely contributed to Pakistan’s decision to finally launch a military operation at the Red Mosque in Islamabad, where the militants had been holed up since January 2007. Around the same timeframe as the Red Mosque episode, three Chinese officials were killed in Peshawar in July 2007. Several days later, a suicide bomber attacked a group of Chinese engineers in Baluchistan. Last August, Islamist extremists abducted Chinese engineer, Long Ziaowei, in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The Chinese protested vehemently to the Pakistani government and Ziaowei was released unharmed in February.

Security concerns about Pakistan could move the Chinese in the direction of working more closely with the international community to help stabilize the country. During President Zardari’s visit to Beijing in October 2008, Beijing resisted providing Pakistan a large-scale bailout from its economic crisis, thus forcing Islamabad to accept an International Monetary Fund program with stringent conditions for economic reform. Beijing did come through with a soft loan of about $500 million, though. China is part of the 11-member “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” grouping that was formed last September and met in April in Tokyo. The grouping has pledged to lend collective support to Pakistan in consolidating its democratic institutions, the rule of law, good governance, socio-economic advancement, economic reform, and progress in meeting the challenge of terrorism.

In another sign that China feels increasingly compelled to pressure Pakistan to adopt more responsible counterterrorism policies, Beijing dropped its resistance to banning the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD–a front organization for the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, responsible for the November terrorist attacks in Mumbai) in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) last December. China had previously vetoed UNSC resolutions seeking to ban the JuD over the last several years.

Recommendations for U.S. Policy

Given that China, Pakistan, and India are nuclear-armed states and that border disputes continue to bedevil both India-Pakistan and India-China relations, the U.S. must pay close attention to the security dynamics of the region and seek opportunities to reduce military tensions and discourage further nuclear proliferation.

China‘s apparent growing concern over Islamist extremism in Pakistan may provide opportunities for Washington to work more closely with Beijing in encouraging more effective Pakistani counterterrorism policies. Pakistan’s reliance on both the U.S. and China for aid and diplomatic support means that coordinated approaches from Washington and Beijing provide the best chance for impacting Pakistani policies in a way that encourages regional stability. Conversely, the more Pakistan believes it can play the U.S. and China off one another, the less likely it will be to take necessary economic and political reforms and to rein in extremists. China’s involvement in the “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” grouping is a positive sign that it may be willing to contribute to a multilateral effort aimed at stabilizing the situation in Pakistan.

The U.S. should also seek to convince China to play a responsible role with regard to its nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, emphasizing the need to discourage nuclear-weapons stockpiling in a country facing the specter of further instability. China and the U.S. share the goal of preventing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons from falling into the wrong hands–China perhaps even more so, given its geographic proximity to Pakistan. Recent encroachments by the Taliban into parts of northwest Pakistan have added a more dangerous dimension to nuclear proliferation in Pakistan and require new thinking among stakeholders in the region for avoiding a nightmare scenario in which al-Qaeda gains access to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. There is little reason to panic about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons at the moment since the Pakistan military is a professional and unified force that has adopted security procedures to avoid such a worst-case scenario. Even so, recent developments in the country should add new impetus to regional efforts to control nuclear proliferation.

The U.S. should involve China in efforts to encourage greater South Asia regional economic integration and cooperation. Chinese financial aid to Pakistan has been valuable in maintaining economic stability there both before and during the global financial crisis. Chinese direct investment, such as China Mobile’s acquisition of Paktel, and assisting Afghan and Pakistani companies to tap the potentially huge Chinese market would be helpful in the creation of a more prosperous region. Trade flows are relatively undeveloped and would be particularly promising if transport links can be improved. Washington should encourage the Chinese to take part in economic and trade ventures that involve bringing Afghanistan and Pakistan together for mutual economic benefit. This would fit with China’s interest in accessing Middle East markets through Afghanistan and Pakistan and help provide each country with a vested interest in promoting regional stability.

Conclusion

To date China’s pursuit of relations with Pakistan has been aimed primarily at containing Indian power in the region. With rising instability in nuclear-armed Pakistan and the threat of Taliban forces gaining influence there, both China and the U.S. must take responsibility for encouraging greater stability and coherence among Pakistan’s leadership. China’s handling of the current crisis in Pakistan is a true test of its credentials as a responsible global player.


[1]Asif Ali Zardari, “Sino-Pakistan Relations Higher than Himalayas,” China Daily, February 23, 2009, at http://www.chinadaily.cn/opinion/2009-02/23
/content_7501699.htm
(May 13, 2009).

[2]Stephen P. Cohen, India: Emerging Power (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2001), p. 259.

[3]John W. Garver, Protracted Contest: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Twentieth Century (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001), p. 188.

[4]Ahmad Faruqui, “The Complex Dynamics of Pakistan’s Relationship with China,” Islamabad Policy Research Institute (Summer 2001), at http://www.ipripak.org/journal/summer2001/thecomplex.shtml (May 14, 2009).

[5]“Annual Report to Congress: Military Power of the People’s Republic of China, 2009,” Office of the Secretary to Defense, p. 57.

[6]“Pakistan Profile,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, January 2009, at http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/Pakistan/index.html (May 14, 2009).

[7]Shirley A. Khan, “China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues,” Congressional Research Services Report RL31555, January 7, 2009, p. 3.

[8]Ziad Haider, “Baluchis, Beijing, and Pakistan’s Gwadar Port,” Politics and Diplomacy (Winter/Spring 2005), pp. 96, 97.

[9]Operation Gibraltar was an operation launched in August 1965 by the Pakistani military that sought to infiltrate militants into Indian Kashmir to provoke an insurrection among Kashmiri Muslims against Indian rule in the region. However, the strategy was not well-coordinated and the infiltrators were quickly discovered, precipitating an Indian counterattack that resulted in the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War.

[10]Chris Buckley, “China State Paper Lashes India-U.S. Nuclear Deal,” Reuters India, September 1, 2008, at http://in.reuters.com/article/
topNews/idINIndia-35260420080901
(May 14, 2009).

[11]Bhaskar Roy, “China Unmasked–What Next?” South Asia Analysis Group Paper No. 2840, September 12, 2008.

[12]Ziad Haider, “Clearing Clouds Over the Karakoram Pass,” YaleGlobal Online, March 29, 2004, at http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article
?id=3603&page=2
(May 14, 2009).

[13]Press release, “Freedom House Condemns Pakistan, China for Uighur Extraditions,” Freedom House, May 7, 2009 at http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=70&release=815 (May 14, 2009).

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Background Reading (Uploaded Files):

THE RISE OF CHINA IN ASIA: SECURITY IMPLICATIONS, January 2002

CHINA’S GROWING MILITARY POWER: PERSPECTIVES ON SECURITY, BALLISTIC MISSILES, AND CONVENTIONAL CAPABILITIES, September 2002

Export Administration Act of 1979 Reauthorization, Updated January 2, 2003

The Cox Report: Text of a Congressional report on security at US nuclear weapons facilities and on Chinese espionage during the Clinton Administration, Top Secret Report Date: Jan 1999 – Declassified Report Release Date: May 1999  (pdf files not uploaded)

Title: The New Silk Road: How a Rising Arab World is Turning away from the West and Rediscovering China Author: Ben Simpfendorfer Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (Audio)

Related Previous Posts:

The One World Currency Has Comith?

The “Big” News Out of Paris: 1st “Made in China” Airplane

“Sign of the Times” USA No Longer A Superpower In The Aircraft Industry?

Related Links:

The PLA Navy’s “New Historic Missions” Expanding Capabilities for a Re-emergent Maritime Power, by CORTEZ A. COOPER CT-332 June 2009 Testimony presented before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on June 11, 2009

DoC IG: InteragencyReview of US Export Controls for China Jan 2007

U.S.-Sino Relations in Space: From “War of Words” to Cold War in Space? By Theresa Hitchens, China Security Winter 2007

Economist: The dragon in the backyard

China Daily: China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue

China Daily: Obama: US-China relations to shape 21st century

China News Wrap: China and United States confirm Obama visit to China this year

China Blog Guide: Ten Eclectic China Blogs You Should Follow

Stride–2009— China’s Largest Ever Long-Range Military Exercise

The Heritage Foundation: No North Korean Thaw from Clinton Trip & U.S.-China Trade: Do’s and Don’ts for Congress

WSJ: The China Paradox

Henry Kissinger: Forging a New Agenda with China

LA Times: Obama to visit China in mid-November


Nov 2010 Updated Links -end

Time:  Dick Cheney: Why So Chatty All of a Sudden? — The Telegraph (UK) Blog: Dick Cheney is a great American hero — AJC: Washington Post pulls comic featuring Vick, Cheney — Liz Cheney Video — CBS Report: Cheney Thought Bush Showed Moral Weakness — Time: Inside Bush and Cheney’s Final Days


cheneyportrait

“Be patient and calm – for no one can catch fish in anger.” - Herbert Hoover

Cheney — code-named Angler by the Secret Service — is a lot like fishing in dark water; there’s a lot going on underneath, but you’d never know it from staring at the surface… The former Veep says he’s worried that by dismantling a controversial Bush-era terrorist surveillance program and stepping back from harsh interrogation policies, the Obama Administration is putting the nation at risk. “I think it’s fair to argue,” said Cheney, “that we’re not going to have the same safeguards we’ve had for the last eight years.”

TimeDick Cheney: Why So Chatty All of a Sudden?



Dick Cheney is a great American hero

The Telegraph (UK) Blog , By Nile Gardiner, July 17, 2009

It’s a good thing we had Dick Cheney in the Vice President’s office in the days following the 9/11 attacks. Cheney was the right man at the right time in history and was instrumental in launching the counter-attack against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and across the world, which has kept the United States safe from assault to this day.

It was a strategy that worked, from the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay to the battlefields of south Asia. It also included wiping out thousands of jihadists in Iraq, including much of the leadership of al-Qaeda in the region. Those who say the Iraq War had nothing to do with the battle against Osama bin Laden should look at the immense losses his foot soldiers suffered there at the hands of Allied forces in a humiliating and crushing defeat during the U.S.-led surge

There’s something very refreshing about a fearless leader who was willing to show the enemy no quarter – including reportedly backing a plan to train anti-terrorist hit teams to take out the senior leadership of al-Qaeda on foreign soil. The hardly earth-shattering revelation – the whole thing had been flagged by The Washington Post as early as October 2001 – about the planned operation (which was never even activated due to CIA concerns over practicality), is now provoking self-righteous bouts of condemnation on both sides of the Atlantic, with liberals on Capitol Hill hysterically calling for a witch hunt.

Critics ignore the fact that both branches of the United States Congress approved a joint resolution on September 18, 2001, which authorized the President:

“to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

They also conveniently forget that the Obama administration, like the Bush and Clinton administrations before it, implemented the targeted killing of al-Qaeda leaders by unmanned aerial vehicles or missile strikes. Is there any difference in principle between this approach and the sending of covert operatives to physically hunt down the enemy on the ground? The end result is the same – the elimination of terrorists.

Dick Cheney, a great American patriot and huge supporter of the Anglo-American alliance, deserves a medal for his leadership of the war on terror, and not howls of derision. The Vice President was absolutely right to seek to wipe out the al-Qaeda leadership, brutal barbarians responsible for the murder of 3,000 people of dozens of nationalities in New York in 2001 of all religious faiths, as well as hundreds more at the Pentagon and on planes used as suicide bombs.

Cheney rightly recognized that America, Britain and their allies were engaged in a global war against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, not some sort of glorified law and order exercise or an “overseas contingency operation.”

The West is involved in a long war against a barbaric adversary that may take decades to win. It’s a war that must be waged and ultimately won by aggressively taking the fight to the enemy.


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Washington Post pulls comic featuring Vick, Cheney

By CHRISTIAN BOONE,  August 10, 2009

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

You won’t read about Dick Cheney advising the NFL commissioner to kill Michael Vick in today’s Washington Post.

The fictional subplot appeared in the long-running “Tank McNamara” comic strip, about a former football player turned TV sportscaster. Post Managing Editor Raju Narisetti told the paper’s “Comic Riffs” blog that the storyline was deemed “inappropriate.”

The pulled strip features a conversation between the former vice president and NFL chieftain Roger Goodell, who’s seeking counsel on how to handle the reinstatement of Vick. The former Falcons star recently completed an 18-month prison sentence for operating a dogfighting ring.

Goodell: “I have to make a move on Mike Vick.”

Cheney: “Kill him.”

Goodell: “Kill him?!?”

Cheney: “Well, not you personally.”

Why Cheney would tell the commissioner to put a hit on Vick is unclear. The comic’s writer, Jeff Millar, was unavailable for comment Monday, said illustrator Bill Hinds, who referred any questions about content to Millar.

The strip’s syndicator, Universal Press Syndicate, said they weren’t aware of any other cancellations.

“We at Universal Uclick absolutely respect the right of The Washington Post to pull the strips, but we also respect the rights of our creators to write sharp and humorous satire,” according to a statement sent to the AJC Monday afternoon. “For more than 35 years, Jeff [Millar] and Bill [Hinds] have been holding athletes, the sports industry and public figures up to the light. It wouldn’t be Tank McNamara if they didn’t.”

Vick, a free agent, was conditionally reinstated by Goodell in late July. He can immediately take part in preseason practices, workouts and meetings and can play in the final two preseason games but won’t be considered for full reinstatement until Week 6 of the NFL season.

While often topical, “Tank” is rarely controversial. The strip isn’t afraid to name names, however; one of its more popular features is the “Sports Jerk of the Year” award, given one year to former Braves southpaw John Rocker.


lynne_cheney_17


CBS Report: Cheney Thought Bush Showed Moral Weakness

Former Vice President Thinks Bush Ignored Advice, Made Concessions To Public Sentiment

The book will cover Cheney’s long career from chief of staff under President Gerald Ford to vice president under Bush.

“When the president made decisions that I didn’t agree with, I still supported him and didn’t go out and undercut him,” Cheney said, according to Stephen Hayes, his authorized biographer. “Now we’re talking about after we’ve left office. I have strong feelings about what happened. … And I don’t have any reason not to forthrightly express those views.”

According to the author of the Post piece, Barton Gellman, who earlier wrote a book on Cheney called “Angler,” the former vice president believes Bush made concessions to public sentiment, something Cheney views as moral weakness. After years of praising Bush as a man of resolve, Cheney now intimates that the former president turned out to be more like an ordinary politician in the end, Gellman says.

“In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him,” Gellman quoted a participant in the recent gathering, describing Cheney’s reply. “He said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he took. Bush was more malleable to that. The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney’s advice. He’d showed an independence that Cheney didn’t see coming.”


lynne_cheney_11


Cheney Uncloaks His Frustration With Bush

‘Statute of Limitations Has Expired’ on Many Secrets, Former Vice President Says

By Barton Gellman, Thursday, August 13, 2009

In his first few months after leaving office, former vice president Richard B. Cheney threw himself into public combat against the “far left” agenda of the new commander in chief. More private reflections, as his memoir takes shape in slashing longhand on legal pads, have opened a second front against Cheney’s White House partner of eight years, George W. Bush…

…Cheney’s post-White House career is as singular as his vice presidency, a position he transformed into the hub of power. Drained of direct authority and cast aside by much of the public, he is no less urgently focused, friends and family members said, on shaping events.

The former vice president remains convinced of mortal dangers that few other leaders, in his view, face squarely. That fixed belief does much to explain the conduct that so many critics find baffling. He gives no weight, close associates said, to his low approval ratings, to the tradition of statesmanlike White House exits or to the grumbling of Republicans about his effect on the party brand.

John P. Hannah, Cheney’s second-term national security adviser, said the former vice president is driven, now as before, by the nightmare of a hostile state acquiring nuclear weapons and passing them to terrorists. Aaron Friedberg, another of Cheney’s foreign policy advisers, said Cheney believes “that many people find it very difficult to hold that idea in their head, really, and conjure with it, and see what it implies.”

… The depths of Cheney’s distress about another close friend, his former chief of staff and alter ego I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, have only recently become clear. Bush refused a pardon after Libby’s felony convictions in 2007 for perjury and obstruction of an investigation of the leak of a clandestine CIA officer’s identity.

Cheney tried mightily to prevent Libby’s fall, scrawling in a note made public at trial that he would not let anyone “sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder.” Cheney never explained the allusion, but grand jury transcripts — and independent counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald — suggested that Libby’s false statements aimed above all to protect the vice president.

… Despite an ailing heart and reduced mobility, the former vice president at age 68 retains a prodigious capacity for work. He rises early, reads voraciously about history and current events, and acquired a BlackBerry in modest recompense for the loss of daily intelligence briefings. He allows himself some indulgences, Liz Cheney said in an interview.

She said her father relishes his new freedom to take a morning drive to Starbucks in a black SUV, toting home the decaffeinated latte on which his doctor and his wife, Lynne, insist. He attends the soccer and softball games of his oldest grandchildren, Kate and Elizabeth, and spends more time than he could as vice president fly fishing near his vacation homes in Wyoming and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore…

“What impressed me was his continuing zeal,” said an associate who discussed the book with Cheney. “He hadn’t stepped back a bit from the positions he took in office to a more relaxed, Olympian view. He was still very much in the fray. He’s not going to soften anything or accommodate shifts of conscience.

There was no sense in which he looked back and said, ‘I wish I’d done something differently.’ Rather, there was a sense that they hadn’t gone far enough. If he’d been equipped with a group of people as ideologically rigorous as he was, they’d have been able to push further.”

Some old associates see Cheney’s newfound openness as a breach of principle. For decades, he expressed contempt for departing officials who wrote insider accounts, arguing that candid internal debate was impossible if the president and his advisers could not count on secrecy.

As far back as 1979, one of the heroes in Lynne Cheney’s novel “Executive Privilege” resolved never to write a memoir because “a president deserved at least one person around him whose silence he could depend on.” Cheney lived that vow for the next 30 years.

As vice president, according to one witness, Cheney “was livid” when the memoir of L. Paul Bremer, who led the occupation of Iraq, made the less-than-stunning disclosure that Cheney shared Bremer’s concern about U.S. military strategy. A Cabinet-level Bush appointee recalled that Cheney likewise described revelations by former Treasury secretary Paul H. O’Neill and former White House spokesman Scott McClellan as “beyond the pale.”

…Liz Cheney, whom friends credit with talking her father into writing the book, described the memoir as a record for posterity. “You have to think about his love of history, and when he thinks about this memoir, he thinks about it as a book his grandchildren will read,” she said.

What the former vice president assuredly will not do, according to friends and family, is break a lifetime’s reticence about his feelings. Alluding to Bush’s forthcoming memoir, Cheney told one small group recently that he had no interest “in sharing personal details,” as the former president planned to do.

“He sort of spat the word ‘personal,’ ” said one person in the room.


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Inside Bush and Cheney’s Final Days

By Massimo Calabresi and Michael Weisskopf

Hours before they were to leave office after eight troubled years, George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney had one final and painful piece of business to conclude. For over a month Cheney had been pleading, cajoling, even pestering Bush to pardon the Vice President’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby.

Libby had been convicted nearly two years earlier of obstructing an investigation into the leak of a covert CIA officer’s identity by senior White House officials. The Libby pardon, aides reported, had become something of a crusade for Cheney, who seemed prepared to push his nine-year-old relationship with Bush to the breaking point — and perhaps past it — over the fate of his former aide. “We don’t want to leave anyone on the battlefield,” Cheney argued.

Bush had already decided the week before that Libby was undeserving and told Cheney so, only to see the question raised again. A top adviser to Bush says he had never seen the Vice President focused so single-mindedly on anything over two terms. And so, on his last full day in office, Jan. 19, 2009, Bush would give Cheney his final decision. 

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These last hours represent a climactic chapter in the mysterious and mostly opaque relationship at the center of a tumultuous period in American history. It reveals how one question — whether to grant a presidential pardon to a top vice-presidential aide — strained the bonds between Bush and his deputy and closest counselor. It reveals a gap in the two men’s views of crime and punishment.

And in a broader way, it uncovers a fundamental difference in how the two men regarded the legacy of the Bush years. As a Cheney confidant puts it, the Vice President believed he and the President could claim the war on terrorism as his greatest legacy only if they defended at all costs the men and women who fought in the trenches. When it came to Libby, Bush felt he had done enough…

After a seven-week trial, Libby was found guilty on March 6, 2007, of obstructing justice, perjury and lying to investigators. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison and a $250,000 fine, a precipitous fall for a man known as the Vice President’s alter ego and formerly a prestigious lawyer at a premier Washington firm. He fought the verdict, his legal bills paid by a defense fund that raised $5 million, but a federal appeals court ruled on July 2, 2007, that Libby had to report to jail.

The White House was prepared for the ruling, in part because after six years in Washington, Bush had finally found himself a White House counsel who was up to the job. Fred Fielding, a genial, white-haired, slightly stooped figure in his late 60s, had cut his teeth as an assistant to John Dean in Richard Nixon’s counsel’s office and served as Ronald Reagan’s top lawyer as well.

He had unrivaled experience managing allegations of White House misconduct. He also was one of the few people in Washington who had served in as many Republican Administrations as Cheney had, which meant he had uncommon stature in the West Wing. And he was everything Bush’s two previous counsels, Alberto Gonzales and Harriet Miers, hadn’t been: strong-willed, independent and fearless. Says an old friend: “Freddy isn’t afraid of anyone. He will slit your throat with a razor blade while he is yawning.”

Fielding’s arrival in early 2007 was one of several signs that the balance of power in the Administration had shifted against the Vice President. Fielding reviewed the Libby case before the appellate verdict came down and recommended against a presidential pardon. Cheney’s longtime aide hadn’t met the criteria: accepting responsibility for the crime, doing time and demonstrating remorse. “Pardons tend to be for the repentant,” says a senior Administration official familiar with the 2007 pardon review, “not for those who think the system was politicized or they were unfairly targeted.”

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The verdict was one thing. Libby’s sentence was another matter. Fielding told Bush that the President had wide discretion to determine its fairness. And within hours of the appeals-court ruling, Bush pronounced the jail time “excessive,” commuting Libby’s prison term while leaving in place the fine and, most important, the guilty verdict — which meant Libby would probably never practice law again.

Fielding’s recommendation was widely circulated in the White House before it was announced, and there is no evidence of disagreement. If Cheney and his allies were disappointed with Bush’s decision, they did not show it, several former officials say, in part because they were, as one put it, “so happy that [Scooter] wasn’t going to jail.”

The response was predictable: conservatives cheered the commutation; liberals deplored it. But among Bush aides, the presidential statement was seen as a fail-safe, a device that would prevent a backtrack later on…

Longtime Cheney ally Donald Rumsfeld was eased out as Pentagon chief in late 2006, and Bush replaced him with Robert Gates, a former CIA director and Bush-family ally. Gates was as effective a bureaucratic player as Cheney — and much more of a pragmatist. “Bush was persuaded that the day of the neoconservatives had to be over…

Cheney fought some of these initiatives all the way, “taking it upon himself,” as a top adviser put it, to make the hard-line national-security case to the President. Cheney didn’t lose every fight, but he was no longer winning them all either. And his backup vanished.

Pentagon official Paul Wolfowitz moved to the World Bank in early 2005. Libby was indicted in October of that year and left the government. John Bolton resigned his post as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. the same month Rumsfeld left the Pentagon in 2006. Cheney’s allies no longer manned the key points in the national-security flow chart. “Cheney,” says an ally, “had to fight much harder to win.”

…Petitions for pardons are usually sent in writing to the White House counsel’s office or a specially designated attorney at the Department of Justice. In Libby’s case, Cheney simply carried the message directly to Bush, as he had with so many other issues in the past, pressing the President in one-on-one meetings or in larger settings. A White House veteran was struck by his “extraordinary level of attention” to the case. Cheney’s persistence became nearly as big an issue as the pardon itself. “Cheney really got in the President’s face,” says a longtime Bush-family source. “He just wouldn’t give it up.”

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That meant taking up the pardon question again was, as a West Wing veteran put it later, like passing a kidney stone — for the second time. Bolten declined to take a stand, according to several associates. Instead, he lateraled the issue to Fielding, claiming that a legal, not a political, call was required. If the counsel’s office decided a pardon wasn’t merited, says an official involved in the discussions, everyone else would have cover with Cheney. “They could say, Our hands are tied — our lawyers said the guy was guilty.”

And so again the job fell to Fielding. The counsel knew that only one legitimate reason for a pardon remained: if the case against him had been a miscarriage of justice. Because that kind of judgment required a thorough review, Fielding plowed through a thick transcript of the trial himself, examining the evidence supporting each charge. It took Fielding a full week. He prepared his brief for an expected showdown at a pardon meeting in mid-January 2009.

The Vice President argued the case in that Oval Office session, which was attended by the President and his top aides. He made his points in a calm, lawyerly style, saying Libby was a fall guy for critics of the Iraq war, a loyal team player caught up in a political dispute that never should have turned into a legal matter. They went after Scooter, Cheney would say, because they couldn’t get his boss. But Bush pushed past the political dimension. “Did the jury get it right or wrong?” he asked.

… The President had been told by private lawyers in the case that Libby never should have testified before the grand jury and instead should have invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself. Prosecutors can accept that. But lie to them, and it gets personal. “It’s the difference between making mistakes, which everybody does, and making up a story,” a lawyer told Bush. “That is a sin that prosecutors are not going to forgive.”

A few days later, about a week before they would become private citizens, Bush pulled Cheney aside after a morning meeting and told him there would be no pardon. Cheney looked stricken. Most officials respond to a presidential rebuff with a polite thanks for considering the request in the first place. But Cheney, an observer says, “expressed his disappointment and disagreement with the decision … He didn’t take it well.”

The_Angler


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Counter-Terrorism: An Affront To American Values-Undermines National Security-Intellectual Narrowness???

Further reading

* Professional Military Education: An Asset for Peace and Progress : A Report of the Crisis Study Group on Professional Military Education (Csis Report) 1997. ISBN 0-89206-297-5

* Kings of the Hill: How Nine Powerful Men Changed the Course of American History 1996. ISBN 0-8264-0230-5

* Andrews, Elaine. Dick Cheney: A Life Of Public Service. Millbrook Press, 2001. ISBN 0-7613-2306-6

* Gellman, Barton. Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency. Penguin Press, 2008. ISBN 9781594201868

* Hayes, Stephen. Cheney: The Untold Story of America’s Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President. HarperCollins, 2007. ISBN 0060723467

* Mann, James. Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet. Viking, 2004. ISBN 0-670-03299-9

* Nichols, John. Dick: The Man Who is President. New Press, 2004. ISBN 1-56584-840-3

Related Links

Hot Air: CIA memos on interrogation requested by Cheney finally released; Update: Cheney issues statement

The Weekly Standard:  Text of Cheney’s AEI Speech

Washington Post: Detainees Shown CIA Officers’ Photos

Washington Post: A Different Understanding With the President, June 24, 2007

Washington Post: Pushing the Envelope on Presidential Power, June 25, 2007

Washington Post: A Strong Push From Backstage, June 26, 2007

Washington Post: Leaving No Tracks, June 27, 2007

Washington Examiner: Cheney defends interrogations, talks history in interview, January 7, 2009

PBS: Cheney Reflects on Legacy, Defends Interrogation Policy, January 14, 2009 (Audio)***MUST LISTEN***

WSJ: CIA Had Secret Al Qaeda Plan, July 13, 2009

NYDailyNews:  President Barack Obama authorizes extended Secret Service guard for former VP Dick Cheney

NPR: Cheney: A VP With Unprecedented Power, January 15, 2009

NPR: ‘Angler’ Takes Measure Of Cheney’s Influence Sep. 16, 2008

NRO: Killing Terrorists-Gate’ and Phony Outrage

NRO: Papal Economics 101

fishing_lureHe’s Fly Fishing…


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