BTW in case you missed it Film is dead

R.I.P., the movie camera: 1888-2011 – Salon.com

We might as well call it: Cinema as we knew it is dead.

An article at the moviemaking technology website Creative Cow reports that the three major manufacturers of motion picture film cameras — Aaton, ARRI and Panavision — have all ceased production of new cameras within the last year, and will only make digital movie cameras from now on.  As the article’s author, Debra Kaufman, poignantly puts it, “Someone, somewhere in the world is now holding the last film camera ever to roll off the line.”

What this means is that, even though purists may continue to shoot movies on film, film itself will may become increasingly hard to come by, use, develop and preserve. It also means that the film camera — invented in 1888 by Louis Augustin Le Prince — will become to cinema what typewriters are to literature. Anybody who still uses a Smith-Corona or IBM Selectric typewriter knows what that means: if your beloved machine breaks, you can’t just take it to the local repair shop, you have to track down some old hermit in another town who advertises on Craigslist and stockpiles spare parts in his basement.

As Aaton founder Jean-Pierre Beauviala told Kaufman: “Almost nobody is buying new film cameras. Why buy a new one when there are so many used cameras around the world? We wouldn’t survive in the film industry if we were not designing a digital camera.” Bill Russell, ARRI’s vice president of cameras, added that: “The demand for film cameras on a global basis has all but disappeared.”

Theaters, movies, moviegoing and other core components of what we once called “cinema” persist, and may endure.  But they’re not quite what they were in the analog cinema era. They’re something new, or something else — the next generation of technologies and rituals that had changed shockingly little between 1895 and the early aughts. We knew this day would come. Calling oneself a “film director” or “film editor” or “film buff” or a “film critic” has over the last decade started to seem a faintly nostalgic affectation; decades hence it may start to seem fanciful. It’s a vestigial word that increasingly refers to something that does not actually exist — rather like referring to the mass media as “the press.”

Posted in Miscellany

as if we needed yet another problem

(h/t Nerdcore)

Posted in notes

…and now a word from Koli Gindas

kali gindoleod?

Once upon a time when I was identifying especially strongly with my Jews, and especially un-strongly with my Christians, I thought about changing my name, or at least about adopting a nom de plume that more accurately reflected my maternal roots, and that suited someone who, in my view and in the views of most at the time, also happened to look Jewish (schnoz, curly hair).

“Gindas” was supposedly the original rendering of the Polish-Jewish family name that was Ellis-Islandized to the more slavic-looking “Gindoff.”  I can’t really vouch for the accuracy of “Gindas” as a transliteration, but I’m too lazy to call up a cousin who knows the story better to confirm my interpretation of the family tale.

In addition to sounding a little ridiculous next to “Gindas” or “Gindoff,” “Colin” has problems of its own.  Though the name translates as “young, virile,” it’s always sounded a bit effeminate to my ear – the liquid “l,” the hard “kah” sound softened into a “C,” which, even if it sounds a “k” before a following open vowel, appears commodious and receptive:  more cunt than cock.  Could simply reflect a lack of masculine self-esteem on my part, I guess, and the history of “Colin” – Colin the kisser, Colin Clout, General Colin Powell, American fighter ace Colin Kelly (my namesake, I’ve been told) – goes against my interpretation, but I’ll stand by it anyway:  I don’t think anyone today thinks about Colin Clout, and Coh-lin Powell (he prefers that pron.) has always struck me as a pretty, prissy General as Generals go.

“Colin”‘s cognates include “Nikolai” or “Nicholas,” and, though I like those names, one could hardly get more gentile.  Ditto for “Klaus,” of course.  But “Koli” looked Hebraic enough to me, like it could be the nickname of an Israeli journalist or politician.  Also my best friend in those days called me “Collie,” like the dog, and I like dogs, and dogs are more male than cats.  Plus Koli got rid of the unfortunate pun on one common pronunciation of “Colin” – a pronunciation which the educated effete might want to associate with a favorite punctuation mark of the educated effete, but which everyone, even the effete when forced to tell the truth, associates first with the lower alimentary canal.

Having once been named, the personality Koli Gindas cannot help but exist a little, somewhere.

The odd, but predictable thing about Koli is that he sounds even more like a Scot than CuntcockfucK MacLeod does, and he’s just about always drunk, even when he hasn’t imbibed in days, trying but failing to forget his banishment from the proud, never vanquished Skye-born Highland clan of the sons of the brutal, the ugly, the loud.

His anima or feminine aspect, his other self inevitably, under the non-vocalic Hebraic spelling, is Kali, of course.  If you suffer from lacking macho, what better feminine aspect than Kali?

So, Koli Gindas says,

It’s my fuken borthday

so no one can horth may. 

Posted in Miscellany

Conservative Politics as Warfare

Wake up, commentators. The most dangerous group of “right-wing extremists” today is not the grass-roots tea party. It is the financial and ideological leaders in the Republican coalition who have embraced the extremist philosophy of “politics as warfare.” | Democratic Strategist

Writers and commentators who, in private, will cheerfully concede that, of course, the crisis is fundamentally the fault of Republican intransigence will then fall back on “both sides are equally to blame” clichés in their public writing — not only to avoid charges of liberal bias but also to portray themselves as impartial and intellectually superior observers of all career politicians.

There is, unfortunately, one major problem with this “elites as pragmatic, fringe as extreme” view: it is deeply, profoundly and fundamentally wrong. The most dangerous group of political extremists today is not the grass roots supporters of the Tea Party. It is the major sector of the Republican financial and ideological elite who have embraced the philosophy of “politics as warfare.”

To see why this is so, it is necessary to very clearly distinguish between two entirely distinct meanings of the term “extremism.” On the one hand, it is possible for a person or political party to hold a wide variety of very “extreme” opinions on issues. These views may be crackpot (e.g. “abolish paper money) or repugnant (“deny non-insured children medical care”). But as long as the individual or political party that holds these views conducts itself within the norms and rules of a democratic society, this, in itself, does not lead such groups or individuals to be described as “political extremists” by the media or society in general.

Libertarians and the Libertarian Party offer the best illustration. Vast numbers of Americans consider many libertarian views “extreme.” But, because the libertarians conduct themselves within the norms and rules of a democratic society, they are virtually never described by the media as “political extremists.”

The alternative definition of the term “political extremists” refers to political parties or individuals who do not accept the norms, rules and constraints of democratic society. They embrace a view of “politics as warfare” and of political opponents as literal “enemies” who must be crushed. Extremist political parties based on the politics as warfare philosophy emerged on both the political left and right at various times in the 20th century in many different countries and circumstances.

Despite their ideological diversity, extremist political parties share a large number of common characteristics, one critical trait being a radically different conception of the role and purpose of the political party itself in a democratic society.

In the politics as warfare perspective a political party’s objective is defined as the conquest and seizure of power and not sincere collaboration in democratic governance. The party is viewed as a combat organization whose goal is to defeat an enemy, not a governing organization whose job is to faithfully represent the people who voted for it. Political debate and legislative maneuvering are seen not as the means to achieve ultimate compromise, but as forms of combat whose objective is total victory.

This basic conception of the role of political parties leads to the justification and use of two profoundly anti-democratic strategies.

First, in the politics as warfare perspective it is a legitimate strategy for a political party to paralyze the workings of government in order to prevent a democratically elected government of an opposing party from implementing the platform on which it was elected. In the politics as warfare perspective the extremist political party accepts no responsibility for stability–engineering the failure of the existing government is absolutely paramount and any negative consequences that may occur in the process represent a kind of “collateral damage” that must be accepted as inevitable in warfare.

Historically, the Republican Party never embraced this strategy at any time during the Democratic administrations of Truman, Kennedy or Carter. The strategy first made its appearance when Newt Gingrich engineered the shutdown of the government in 1994. After Obama’s election in 2008 the use of this “paralyze the government” tactic accelerated dramatically with the conversion of the filibuster into a minority veto of virtually all majority-sponsored legislation and a Republican bar to the huge numbers of judicial and administrative appointments.

Previous generations of Republicans would have been scandalized by the notion of crippling the administration of justice by leaving courts grotesquely understaffed in order to prevent the appointment of individuals who did not strictly adhere to conservative orthodoxy.

The most dramatic escalation of this approach, however, occurred after the elections of 2010 and was reflected in the rejection of the very substantial reduction in federal spending that Obama offered the Republican house majority. Observers concurred that the deal was far more favorable to conservatives in terms of policy than the deal Ronald Reagan accepted in 1986 on tax reform or that Newt Gingrich accepted on welfare reform in 1995. But public statements by Republican leaders indicated that the deal was rejected in substantial part on the explicitly political grounds that any legislative agreement that produced a “victory” for Obama was unacceptable. In effect, the political objective of weakening the president had actually become a higher priority than the achievement of the most fundamental long-sought conservative policy goals.

It is almost impossible for anyone who does not remember previous eras of American politics to realize how extraordinary this transformation actually is. It would have been literally inconceivable to the Republican senators and congressmen of the 1950s and 1960s.

The second, even more directly and profoundly anti-democratic strategy that directly flows from the politics as warfare philosophy is the calculated attempt to disenfranchise likely pro-Democratic voters.

There were no systematic Republican initiatives to disenfranchise voters during the Nixon, Reagan or Gingrich eras. But after the 2008 elections Fox News began promulgating the notion that massive voter fraud had occurred. Fox News featured a video of two members of the New Black Panthers at a single polling site more than 100 times on its national programs, asserting that they had intimidated voters in order to insure Obama’s election. Even after it was conclusively demonstrated that sworn eyewitness testimony had been intentionally falsified in order to fabricate this charge, Fox continued to air the accusations and to assert that they were the tip of the iceberg of similar incidents. In parallel, accusations were also made that massive numbers of fraudulent votes had been cast in the election.

The result of these charges was a widespread grass-roots effort by local tea party groups to police polling places and record incidents of intimidation and fraudulent voting during the 2010 elections — an effort that produced not a single documented case anywhere in the country. Nonetheless, there is now a major, nationally coordinated and massively funded effort to prevent pro-Democratic constituencies from casting their ballots.

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: , ,

Gotcher Silver Lining Right Here, Dude

World power swings back to America – Telegraph

The US already meets 72pc of its own oil needs, up from around 50pc a decade ago.

“The implications of this shift are very large for geopolitics, energy security, historical military alliances and economic activity. As US reliance on the Middle East continues to drop, Europe is turning more dependent and will likely become more exposed to rent-seeking behaviour from oligopolistic players,” said Mr Blanch.

Meanwhile, the China-US seesaw is about to swing the other way. Offshoring is out, ‘re-inshoring’ is the new fashion.

“Made in America, Again” – a report this month by Boston Consulting Group – said Chinese wage inflation running at 16pc a year for a decade has closed much of the cost gap. China is no longer the “default location” for cheap plants supplying the US.

A “tipping point” is near in computers, electrical equipment, machinery, autos and motor parts, plastics and rubber, fabricated metals, and even furniture.

“A surprising amount of work that rushed to China over the past decade could soon start to come back,” said BCG’s Harold Sirkin.

The gap in “productivity-adjusted wages” will narrow from 22pc of US levels in 2005 to 43pc (61pc for the US South) by 2015. Add in shipping costs, reliability woes, technology piracy, and the advantage shifts back to the US.

The list of “repatriates” is growing. Farouk Systems is bringing back assembly of hair dryers to Texas after counterfeiting problems; ET Water Systems has switched its irrigation products to California; Master Lock is returning to Milwaukee, and NCR is bringing back its ATM output to Georgia. NatLabs is coming home to Florida.

Boston Consulting expects up to 800,000 manufacturing jobs to return to the US by mid-decade, with a multiplier effect creating 3.2m in total. This would take some sting out of the Long Slump.

As Cleveland Fed chief Sandra Pianalto said last week, US manufacturing is “very competitive” at the current dollar exchange rate. Whether intended or not, the Fed’s zero rates and $2.3 trillion printing blitz have brought matters to an abrupt head for China.

Fed actions confronted Beijing with a Morton’s Fork of ugly choices: revalue the yuan, or hang onto the mercantilist dollar peg and import a US monetary policy that is far too loose for a red-hot economy at the top of the cycle. Either choice erodes China’s wage advantage. The Communist Party chose inflation.

Foreign exchange effects are subtle. They take a long to time play out as old plant slowly runs down, and fresh investment goes elsewhere. Yet you can see the damage to Europe from an over-strong euro in foreign direct investment (FDI) data.

Flows into the EU collapsed by 63p from 2007 to 2010 (UNCTAD data), and fell by 77pc in Italy. Flows into the US rose by 5pc.

Volkswagen is investing $4bn in America, led by its Chattanooga Passat plant. Korea’s Samsung has begun a $20bn US investment blitz. Meanwhile, Intel, GM, and Caterpillar and other US firms are opting to stay at home rather than invest abroad.

Europe has only itself to blame for the current “hollowing out” of its industrial base. It craved its own reserve currency, without understanding how costly this “exorbitant burden” might prove to be.

China and the rising reserve powers have rotated a large chunk of their $10 trillion stash into EMU bonds to reduce their dollar weighting. The result is a euro too strong for half of EMU.

The European Central Bank has since made matters worse (for Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France) by keeping rates above those of the US, UK, and Japan. That has been a deliberate policy choice. It let real M1 deposits in Italy contract at a 7pc annual rate over the summer. May it live with the consequences.

The trade-weighted dollar has been sliding for a decade, falling 37pc since 2001. This roughly replicates the post-Plaza slide in the late 1980s, which was followed – with a lag – by 3pc of GDP shrinkage in the current account deficit. The US had a surplus by 1991.

Charles Dumas and Diana Choyleva from Lombard Street Research argue that this may happen again in their new book “The American Phoenix”.

The switch in advantage to the US is relative. It does not imply a healthy US recovery. The global depression will grind on as much of the Western world tightens fiscal policy and slowly purges debt, and as China deflates its credit bubble.

Yet America retains a pack of trump cards, and not just in sixteen of the world’s top twenty universities.

It is almost the only economic power with a fertility rate above 2.0 – and therefore the ability to outgrow debt – in sharp contrast to the demographic decay awaiting Japan, China, Korea, Germany, Italy, and Russia.

Europe’s EMU soap opera has shown why it matters that America is a genuine nation, forged by shared language and the ancestral chords of memory over two centuries, with institutions that ultimately work and a real central bank able to back-stop the system.

The 21st Century may be American after all, just like the last.

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with:

Campaigning on foreign policy among those who don’t care about it

Five thoughts on the politics of Obama’s foreign policy | Daniel W. Drezner

“As president, I have to address both domestic policy and foreign policy. Because of the way that the commander-in-chief role has evolved, I have far fewer political constraints on foreign policy action than domestic policy action. So let’s think about this for a second. On the foreign stage, America’s standing has returned from its post-Iraq low. Al Qaeda is now a shell of its former self. Liberalizing forces are making uneven but forward progress in North Africa. Muammar Gaddafi’s regime is no longer, without one American casualty. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are winding down. Every country in the Pacific Rim without a Communist Party running things is trying to hug us closer.

“Imagine what I could accomplish in domestic policy without the kind of obstructionism and filibustering that we’re seeing in Congress — which happens to be even more unpopular than I am, by the way. I’m not talking about the GOP abjectly surrendering, mind you, just doing routine things like sublecting my nominees to a floor vote in the Senate. I’ve achieved significant foreign policy successes while still cooperating with our allies in NATO and Northeast Asia. Just imagine what I could get done if the Republicans were as willing to compromise as, say, France.”

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with:

Seems we just get started then before you know it…

Yes, the U.S. is withdrawing from Iraq | Marc Lynch

Iraq still faces many difficult challenges and won’t be fully secure or politically stable for a long time.  But the U.S. military presence is now largely irrelevant to those problems. Nor would the remaining troops have greatly troubled Iran.  Iraqi politics and security institutions have long since adapted to the reduced American role and its impending departure.  Disaster did not follow when U.S. troops stopped patrolling, or when 100,000 troops left over the course of a year. Instead, Iraqi Security Forces took over the lead role in internal security under the new conditions, and adapted effectively enough.  Even if an agreement had been reached to keep some U.S. troops after 2011, they would have been almost exclusively involved in training and support. The ongoing terrorist attacks and unresolved instability along the Arab-Kurdish border pose real challenges, but the U.S. troops which might conceivably have stayed behind in 2012 weren’t going to be dealing with them.

Crucially, Iraqis will not be surprised by the American withdrawal. This is no rush to the exits. Thanks to Bush’s 2008 SOFA deal and Obama’s clear public declarations over the last few years, the withdrawal will not be a sudden, unexpected or disruptive removal of a vital support structure. Iraqi politics have already adapted to the declining American role, and factored it in. The result hasn’t been pretty — worrying centralization of power by Prime Minister Maliki, a fractious and ineffective Parliament, continuing institutional deficiencies, a nasty political discourse, and ongoing low level violence. But it looks resilient enough to avoid catastrophe, and above all it doesn’t depend on (or want) constant American pushing and prodding and intervention to carry on. 

The reality, too often downplayed in the U.S.-centric debate, is that most Iraqis simply didn’t want the U.S. troops to stay.  This matters in the intensely polarized Iraqi political arena.  The scars of invasion, occupation, and civil war run deep. There are plenty of Iraqi elites who privately hoped that the U.S. would stay, who recognized Iraq’s external military weakness, warned of a resurgent civil war, or feared for their political future. But very few would make that case to Iraqis in public because they knew it would be political suicide. And that matters.  It should not be a surprise that negotiations over extending the U.S. presence collapsed over the question of immunity for U.S. troops — essential to the Pentagon, but perhaps the single most politically incendiary issue for Iraqis. 

While there’s of course a wide range of opinion, it’s worth noting that Iraqi officials with whom I’ve spoken recently shrugged when asked about the likely effects of a full American withdrawal. They didn’t expect a major impact on security, and some thought that removing the issue of extending the U.S. troop presence from the Iraqi political debate would have a healthy effect.  People whose political lives depend on it don’t all seem to share the apocalyptic fears often heard in Washington — and if they did, presumably they would have behaved differently during the negotiations. 

Even those who privately hoped the U.S. would stay opposed the idea of a small residual force, which they pointed out would keep the political issue alive without providing many real security gains. Trying to circumvent public opinion through a secret agreement or through a deal which didn’t require Parliamentary approval would have been even worse, leaving the U.S. presence in a vulnerable condition of contested legitimacy which would have ensured that it remained a top political wedge issue.

The Obama administration did what it could to negotiate an agreement to keep a training and support mission in Iraq. But administration officials involved with the issue seem satisfied with the outcome, as they should.  As I wrote months ago, I wouldn’t have been bothered much if Obama and the Iraqi government had ultimately agreed to keep a few thousand troops in an agreement ratified by the Iraqi Parliament.  It wouldn’t have been necessary, and would have looked like he had broken his commitment to withdraw, but it wouldn’t have remotely resembled an occupation under those terms.  But I am glad that it didn’t work out that way. It’s simply better that the troops all leave.  And it’s far, far better that the Obama administration didn’t accept either a fatally flawed deal or one which had not won Iraqi political consent — which were the only other plausible outcomes. 

I do hope that Obama’s invitation to Maliki to come to Washington in December to discuss the implementation of the Strategic Framework Agreement leads to real, mutually beneficial cooperation between the U.S. and Iraq.  The fact that most Iraqi elites recognize that they still need U.S. logistical support, especially for external defense needs, should give them a strong incentive to stay engaged with us even without a new SOFA. There are plenty of non-military ways that the U.S. could help Iraq, more important to building an enduring relationship than the military dimension, even if Congress still doesn’t seem inclined to pay for them.  One way to get around the deal would be to rely even more on private contractors — and, indeed, their continuing role is one of the main criticisms already aired on the left against the withdrawal announcement. But it wouldn’t surprise me if the expected army of thousands of American security contractors and massive Embassy staff also soon comes into question.  

Those questions will all come up soon, though I suspect that the actual fallout on the ground and in the region will be limited. But for now, the announcement of the withdrawal of all U.S. troops should be welcomed as a major step forward and an opportunity to develop that new relationship. 

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with:

further on the descent into political prisencolinensinainciusol

…if voters who agree with Obama are inclined to vote for Republicans because Republicans are blocking Obama’s ideas, then not only is 2012 lost, but the descent of American politics into hysterical irrationality is complete.

Steve Benen – The incentive behind GOP obstructionism

Posted in notes

You’re getting warmer, warmer… REALLY

Climate Skeptics Take Another Hit | Mother Jones

“Muller’s views on climate have made him a darling of skeptics,” said Scientific American, “and newly elected Republicans in the House of Representatives, who invited him to testify to the Committee on Science, Space and Technology about his preliminary results.” The Koch Foundation, founded by the billionaire oil brothers who have been major funders of the climate-denial machine, gave BEST a $150,000 grant.

But Muller’s congressional testimony last March didn’t go according to plan. He told them a preliminary analysis suggested that the three main climate models in use today—each of which uses a different estimating technique, and each of which has potential flaws—are all pretty accurate: Global temperatures have gone up considerably over the past century, and the increase has accelerated over the past few decades. Yesterday, BEST confirmed these results and others in its first set of published papers about land temperatures. (Ocean studies will come later.) Using a novel statistical methodology that incorporates more data than other climate models and requires less human judgment about how to handle it (summarized by the Economist here), the BEST team drew several conclusions:

  • The earth is indeed getting warmer. Global average land temperatures have risen 0.91 degrees Celsius over the past 50 years. This is “on the high end of the existing range of reconstructions.”
  • The rate of increase on land is accelerating. Warming for the entire 20th century clocks in at 0.73 degrees C per century. But over the most recent 40 years, the globe has warmed at a rate of 2.76 degrees C per century.
  • Warming has not abated since 1998. The rise in average temperature over the period 1998-2010 is 2.84 degrees C per century.
  • The BEST data significantly reduces the uncertainty of the temperature reconstructions. Their estimate of the temperature increase over the past 50 years has an uncertainty of only 0.04 degrees C, compared to a reported uncertainty of 0.13 degrees C in the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
  • Although many of the temperature measuring stations around the world have large individual uncertainties, taken as a whole the data is quite reliable. The difference in reported averages between stations ranked “okay” and stations ranked “poor” is very small.
  • The urban heat island effect—i.e., the theory that rising temperatures around cities might be corrupting the global data—is very small.

In the press release announcing the results, Muller said, “Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the US and the UK.” In other words, climate scientists know what they’re doing after all.

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: ,

The neoneoneocons are back in neo-neon

Leslie H. Gelb Argues That Neocons Like Bill Kristol Are Back to Warmongering – The Daily Beast

Once again, the neoconservatives mount their steeds. They hint that we need another war or at least a little military strike, this time against Iran. They’re pushing to increase military spending; the China threat, you know. They’re also trying to further weaken Obama by charging that he’s losing Iraq to Iran by not keeping U.S. forces there (without mentioning, of course, that Iraq is throwing them out).

I find it hard to believe that any of these new tricks will work, but I have come never to underestimate the neoconservatives, that formidable group mostly of Republicans who sprang from the loins of the great Democratic senator from Washington, Henry “Scoop” Jackson. They are very smart and far tougher than their liberal and moderate opponents. They write and speak with far greater simplicity and force. (Democrats just must make 17 complicated points about everything.) They are always relentless and on the attack. The only ones to stand up to them effectively have been other Republicans, specifically the best of the foreign-policy realists such as George Shultz, James Baker, Brent Scowcroft, and George H.W. Bush.

Here’s a standard technique for the neoconservatives: One of America’s many nasty enemies does something provocative, as they inevitably do. The neocons say the president has to get tougher. Then the enemy does another nasty thing, and the neocons say the president wasn’t tough enough. And so on until they’re off to the races and suggesting that the only effective means to stop the devils is a bombing attack, or a hundred thousand troops, in and out quickly, of course. If some poor Democratic president doesn’t follow their advice, he’s labeled a wimp who is endangering U.S. security. If the wimp starts a war, the game continues with charges that the president isn’t really trying to “win” the war and should be adding more troops. We’ve heard this routine so many times, you’d think that the wimpy Democrats would have built up some immunity, and that the media would stop providing the bullhorns. Alas, it goes on and on.

Iran sits atop the neocons’ list of priorities. Beyond argument, its leaders are dangerous. They are probably trying to construct nuclear weapons. On top of this, we seemingly have some Quds Force general buying a hit on the Saudi ambassador in a D.C. restaurant. Bill Kristol is leading the charge, calling the recent alleged Iranian assassination plot “an engraved invitation” to use force. He continued: “We can strike at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and weaken them. And we can hit the regime’s nuclear weapons program, and set it back.” Were these mere musings? No! He goes on to say that if the White House doesn’t use force, Congress should authorize force against a variety of Iranian targets, and against its “nuclear weapons program.”

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is equally direct. He approves the administration’s current efforts to tighten and target. “But they will not scare it,” he wrote in The Wall Street Journal. “The White House needs to respond militarily to this outrage. If we don’t, we are asking for it.” And what of the likely wave of terrorist attacks that will follow worldwide from such attacks? The Iranians are not going to just cower in the corner because we talk and act tough. Alas, that just doesn’t happen. They escalate, too.

And in case you believed that Republicans, faced with America’s economic calamity and indebtedness, won’t press for higher military spending, take another look…

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: ,

Noted & Quoted

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To take power, May had to pretend that she, too, dreams these impossible dreams. And that led her to embrace a phony populism in which the narrow and ambiguous majority who voted for Brexit under false pretences are be reimagined as “the people.”

This is not conservatism—it is pure Rousseau. The popular will had been established on that sacred referendum day. And it must not be defied or questioned. Hence, Theresa May’s allies in The Daily Mail using the language of the French revolutionary terror, characterizing recalcitrant judges and parliamentarians as “enemies of the people” and “saboteurs.”

This is why May called an election. Her decision to do so—when she had a working majority in parliament—has been seen by some as pure vanity. But it was the inevitable result of the volkish rhetoric she had adopted. A working majority was not enough—the unified people must have a unified parliament and a single, uncontested leader: one people, one parliament, one Queen Theresa to stand on the cliffs of Dover and shake her spear of sovereignty at the damn continentals.

...Brexit is thus far from being a done deal: it can’t be done without a reliable partner for the EU to negotiate with. There isn’t one now and there may not be one for quite some time—at least until after another election, but quite probably not even then. The reliance on a spurious notion of the “popular will” has left Britain with no clear notion of who “the people” are and what they really want.

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The most extraordinary paragraph in this op-ed, however, is this one:

The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a “global community” but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage. We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.

...First — and this is so obvious I can’t believe I have to type out these words — the United States can’t simultaneously proclaim “America first” and then claim any kind of moral strength. Saying loudly and repeatedly that American values are not going to be a cornerstone of American foreign policy strips you of any moral power whatsoever.

The second and bigger problem is that the “embrace” of a Hobbesian vision of the world by the most powerful country in the world pretty much guarantees Hobbesian reciprocity by everyone else. Most international relations scholars would agree that there are parts of the world that fit this brutal description. But even realists don’t think it’s a good thing. Cooperation between the United States and its key partners and allies is not based entirely on realpolitik principles. It has helped foster a zone of stability across Europe, North America and the Pacific Rim that has lasted quite some time. In many issue areas, such as trade or counterterrorism or climate change, countries gain far more from cooperation than competition.

Furthermore, such an embrace of the Hobbesian worldview is, in many ways, anti-American.

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The rise of the military, if coupled with the undermining of civilian aspects of national power, demonstrates a spiritual exhaustion and a descent into Caesarism. Named after Julius Caesar — who replaced the Roman Republic with a dictatorship — Caesarism is roughly characterized by a charismatic strongman, popular with the masses, whose rule culminates in an exaggerated role for the military. America is moving in this direction. It isn’t that some civilian agencies don’t deserve paring down or even elimination, nor is it that the military and other security forces don’t deserve a boost to their financial resources. Rather, it is in the very logic, ideology, and lack of proportionality of Trump’s budget that American decline, decadence, and Caesarism are so apparent.

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