Miscellany

The Iraq Syndrome

Many on the right think President Obama’s Oval Office address last night should have credited “the Surge,” and they would have preferred thanks to his predecessor for taking and implementing a decision that Senator Obama and others fiercely criticized.  The

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Summer Snow

“Restoring Honor” seemed like a strange theme for a mass rally on the National Mall in the year 2010.  In the absence of some very particular, widely perceived grave national dishonor as obvious referent, the title came across to me

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Unsettling Israel

Gadi Taub – In Israel, Settling For Less – NYTimes.com: The religious settlement movement is not just secular Zionism’s ideological adversary, it is a danger to its very existence. Terrorism is a hazard, but it cannot destroy Herzl’s Zionist vision.

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The obsolescence of the obsolescence

Fouad Ajami writes the history of the present moment better than anyone else I know of, but, as with all such writing, the content tends to be obsolete before it’s published.   His current essay on “The Obsolescence of Barack Obama”

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Note on “9/11 Trutherism”

One conservative political goal seems to be to make acknowledgment of any U.S. co-responsibility for 9/11, of any even potential validity in Binladenist justifications for war, as inadmissible as “Trutherism” – which latter, informatively, stands as a classic “repressive de-sublimation,”

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The Horror, The Horror

In a Facebook post entitled “Journey into the Media’s Heart of Darkness,” Sarah Palin writes of a “dark and demented conspiracy,” but no evidence of such a conspiracy appears in the material she references – 15 pages of e-mail exchanges

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Real and Unreal Threats from Iran

Yesterday’s headline topics included unusually “blunt” remarks by U.S. Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba of the United Arab Emirates on U.S. intervention against Iran’s nuclear program: I think it’s a cost-benefit analysis. I think despite the large amount of trade we do with

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Flamesem & Japesem (All-Contentions Edition)

[T]he leaking of this memo and the notion that it represents the opinions of many in the Pentagon ought to scare Israelis and leave them less willing than ever to make the sorts of concessions Washington believes can strengthen the

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CONTENTION OF THE DAY – since we’re stuck with Obama, it’d be better for McChrystal to go

Who has the sense that President Obama is politically and morally invested in the surge being ramped up in Kandahar? When does he speak of it in public? When does he lend the weight of statesmanlike rhetoric to the military

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The other obvious

From Shelby Steele in the Wall Street Journal – “Israel and the Surrender of the West” – comes a highly articulate rendition of a familiar conservative stance.  Ideological from first word to last, such work can add to pre-existing understandings

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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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