Miscellany

As full of grief as age; wretched in both!

Years from now, I won’t remember anything about that day except for David Stern losing control of his own league. Once upon a time, it was reassuring to look there and expect to see him, and darn, he was there. It was kind of neat. Those days are long gone. The National Basketball Association has lost its way. I feel like crying.

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Call of Post-Modern Warfare – Video Games as Propaganda

Despite the game’s macho bluster, Call of Duty speaks to us as a culture of fear: fear of terrorism, fear of foreign invasion, fear of duplicity and deceit on the part of our leaders. It helps accustom us to a post-9/11 view of war that is perpetual and global, a conspiratorial view of world events, and an apocalyptic outlook that views collapse and catastrophe as ever imminent.

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Gingrich v Obama would be great for the country – and for liberalism

After such debates, an Obama victory would signify more than just the re-election of a moderately popular president over an opponent who fails to inspire the base of his own party—as happened with both Bob Dole in 1996 and John Kerry in 2004. It would expose the moral and logical defects of the conservative ideology that has been mostly dominant in the U.S. since 1980, even under Democratic presidents. Then, perhaps, a true liberal revival could begin.

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O v YoYo

“We simply cannot return to this brand of you’re-on-your-own economics if we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country,” Obama said, in what will probably be the most enduring line of the speech.

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100 Best Photos of the Year

“I was in south Sudan covering the referendum when I found out that there were going to be protests in Egypt. I felt that there could be big troubles, so I returned to Egypt. I arrived at 8am and dropped my bags at home and then went to the office. Later in the afternoon clashes began in Cairo…”

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, lens 160mm, f5.6, 1/250, ISO 400

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A judgment you may’ve missed as to the sphinctral status of the late Steve Jobs

“I think you have to be something of a demanding asshole to get your designers to create a music player that has no buttons,” explained Magary. “But Jobs is proof positive that the world NEEDS assholes, that it wouldn’t necessarily be as good of a place if assholishness were somehow made extinct.”

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The Arab Spring’s going pretty well all things considered

Egypt is getting its first legitimate parliament in over half a century, and that alone will shift the dialogue from the streets to the government itself. And that is decidedly a very good thing.

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Iran-Contra 25 Years Later

If the crimes of what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal had been investigated the way they should have been — which is to say, had they been investigated all the way up to criminal indictments at the top of the executive branch, and impeachment inquiries into the conduct of relevant officials, including the president — the political world would have been changed utterly, as Mr. Yeats once put it.

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Shrinking O

His concern with alienating conservatives is wholly unproductive: it is unlikely that he can be more hated by the Tea Party than he already is. Nonetheless, he continues to relentlessly pursue compromises with Republicans that will never happen. Indeed, so concerned is he with his own degree of belonging that he jeopardizes the sympathies of those who actually have felt a natural and authentic connection to him.

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Obama owes it to the country to go negative

Thanks to the obstructive power of minority parties in Washington, a comparative election will not necessarily empower the winners of either the presidential or the congressional elections to govern effectively. But it’s far more likely to produce accountability for winners and losers alike, hastening the day when the country is not lurching from one status quo referendum to another with each cycle’s losers choosing to deny the winner any sort of mandate.

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From the Featured Archives

Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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