Quote of the day from Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the US House of Representatives:
The one thing I do conservatively is count.
Quote of the day from Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the US House of Representatives:
The one thing I do conservatively is count.
Best thing I read last week from Muhammad Idrees Ahmad's bit in the London Review of Books on the recent presidential election in Pakistan:
Terrorism may be foremost in the minds of Western observers; Pakistanis are more worried about the economy, education and corruption. Opinion polls showed that people’s biggest concerns are inflation and unemployment, as well as power outages and high energy costs, which have stunted economic growth and caused much misery: 20-hour blackouts are not unknown. Not all Pakistanis are exposed to terrorist violence; everyone has to buy bread.
I agree wholeheartedly with Art Goldhammer on this :
Anyone who watches French TV or goes to the movies is aware that whatever "cultural exception" has existed since World War II has not done much to ward off American influences on French popular culture. Whether one deplores or applauds those influences (and I personally think neither deprecation nor applause is warranted), a trade negotiation is not a good place to stop it. In such a venue, money is what counts, not culture.
Perhaps as a cultural mongrel myself, capable of appreciating both high and low, domestic and foreign, I simply don't evaluate the stakes as the self-appointed defenders of European culture do. I say, let people decide what they like. I may often not approve of other people's choices, but I don't think that taste can be improved by imposing quotas, any more that it can be legislated or enforced by curricular edict. I do know that part of my love of France came from watching some fairly low-brow French films. I would have lost something if my government had tried to "protect" me from them. But American governments have never been much interested in that kind of protection (as opposed to prophylactic censorship of supposed sexual immorality). The mask of antiphilistinism is more commonly worn in Europe, but those who wear it are less concerned with the culture of the masses than they are with the profits to be made from them.
In truth Mr Obama’s problems extend well beyond the confines of the capital’s Beltway. The president’s headache is that his winning majority resembles the hamlet in “Brigadoon”. It exists all right, twice sending him to the White House. But, like that Highland village, it is hard to see or touch most of the time. (...) The magic at the heart of Mr Obama’s two victories was his ability to expand the electorate itself, mobilising sporadic voters who shun politics most of the time, notably the young and minorities. Now that he is no longer on the ballot, his loose coalition risks being no match for the intense ideologues who fight and oversee Washington’s partisan battles.
I agree with Dan Drezner on this:
At best, George W. Bush was a well-meaning man who gave the occasional nice speech and was thoroughly overmatched by events. At worst, he was the most disastrous foreign policy president of the post-1945 era.
The best sentence I read this week from Sandy Levinson over at Balkinization:
(...) the Constitution is evermore a clear and present danger to the health of the American Republic.
Foreseeable crap from Eugene Kontorovich:
Russia only succeeded in suprresing the Chechen Islamists with extremely brutal tactics that would never find support in the U.S – essentially leveling the Chechen capital. Yet dealing with such a threat would also be impossible with a politically correct approach to counter-terror that, for example, turns away from talking frankly about the terrorists profiles and motives.
Yeah let's transform America into Russia, it won't be too difficult for Obama has at least one thing in common with Putin.
Is it possible to wait to now more facts before advocating ideological measures in the name of security?
From Dan Drezner:
Boston is a tough, resilient town. This sort of thing will shock us in the moment. As shock fades away, what is left is something stronger and more substantive, something that a few homemade bombs cannot destroy. That's the narrative that will hopefully emerge, and it's the one that does the best job of defeating the psychology of terrorism. The next thing that will happen is foolish, uninformed speculation about who or whom was responsible.
Chris Dillow on Margaret Thatcher who died today:
When Thatcher became Tory leader, she faced both gender and class snobbery; she was seen as a shrill lower middle-class housewife. Her success reduced class and gender prejudice amongst the rich. I suspect that my job prospects (as someone with an accent similar to her natural one) improved because of her. I fear, though, that this increased equality of opportunity was only temporary. I don't say all this to sing her praises. I suspect her legacy is mostly a malign one and that she was more of a class warrior than a genuine libertarian. I do so merely to suggest that she was not wholly the devil the left pretends.
I was never able to dislike Margaret Thatcher because she had balls even though she rarely used them correctly.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Charles Simic on the American health care system:
Today, when the acquisition of wealth, quickly and in large amounts, is admired above any other human endeavor, every medical emergency or catastrophic illness is seen as an opportunity for some to enrich themselves beyond their wildest dreams. It’s no wonder that our healthcare is so much more expensive than that of every other developed country in the world, where the costs are not only much lower, but people also live longer than we do. Unlike us, other countries have the peculiar notion that profit has no place in any situation in which the basic decencies that human beings owe to one another ought to be the first consideration, and for that reason regulate the cost of lifesaving drugs and operations. In other words, they are less greedy than we are and far more humane.
From Vali Nasr, author of a new book on Obama's foreign policy The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat:
The White House was ever afraid that the young Democratic president would be seen as ‘soft’ (...) It did not want to try anything as audacious as diplomacy. It was an art lost on America’s top decision makers.
Sentences of the day from Paul Krugman:
So Europe in 2013 is doing barely better than Europe in 1935 — and all indications are that by next year recovery will be lagging behind what was achieved in the Great Depression.
The sky is falling...may be not...
I disagree strongly with Professor Bainbridge on this:
Former Democratic Congressman, Clinton Administration White House Counsel and federal judge Abner Mikva once explained that: "I support the result of Roe v. Wade. … But … in retrospect, I wish the court had stayed its hand and allowed the political process to continue, because we would have legislated the effect of Roe v. Wade in most states — not all of them, but in most states — and we wouldn’t have had to pay the political price we’ve had to pay for it being a court decision. The people who are angry at that court are angry beyond measure. As far as they are concerned the whole system is rotten because they’ve lost their opportunity to slug it out."
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has likewise stated that "Roe v. Wade ... halted a political process that was moving in a reform direction and thereby, I believe, prolonged divisiveness and deferred stable settlement of the issue."
Because it is custom, tradition, and long familiar patterns that enable people to live together peaceably, social change needs to come slowly. Change and progress are necessary, of course, but sudden change disrupts social bonds, induces stress and engenders controversy as old and vested interests are upset.
Sudden change by a cabal of unelected and largely unaccountable judges is particularly likely to engender controversy.
Sometimes, and I will argue almost always, sudden change is necessary in a society as complex and entrenched as America's. The trouble of course is that change in America is more often than not symbolic (cough Obama cough) when it is sudden and spectacular and in the political process, its effects are diluted at best for many reasons, one of which is that America isn't a nation-state.
I guess my inability to find sudden change troubling explains why I can't become a conservative no matter how hard I try.
I agree with Corey Robin on this:
During the Vietnam era, liberals and leftists believed not only in social justice but also in mass protest. Whether the cause was democracy at home or liberation abroad, men and women afflicted by oppression had to organize themselves for freedom. Yes, some of yesterday’s activists were blind to coercion within these movements, and others joined elite cadres bombing their way to liberation. Still, the animating faith of the 1960s was in the democratic capacities of ordinary men and women, making it difficult for liberals and leftists to believe in conquering armies from abroad or shock troops from on high.
Many liberals, and some leftists, no longer hold these views. Their faith is guided not by the light of justice but by the darkness of evil: by the tyranny of dictators, the genocide of ethnic cleansers and the terrorism of Islamist radicals. Despite their differences—some of these liberals and leftists support the war in Iraq, others do not; some are partial to popular movements, particularly those opposing anti-American governments, while others favor constitutional regimes, particularly those supporting the United States—theirs is a liberalism, as the late Harvard scholar Judith Shklar put it in a pioneering essay in 1989, that seeks to ward off the “summum malum” (worst evil) rather than to install a “summum bonum” (highest good). Reversing Augustine’s dictum that there is no such thing as evil—evil being only the absence of good—today’s liberal believes there is only evil and progress is measured by the distance we put between ourselves and that evil.
Ah good intentions and the obsession with evil...
From Denis Lacorne:
The most popular French politician is Barack Obama. Nearly 80 percent of the French would vote for him if they were given the opportunity! The traditional, white, Catholic or secular elites are not really representative of the new French reality: an immigrant society, in which traditional religions are fast disappearing; an ethnically and religiously pluralistic society, which finds more affinities with a black U.S. president than with native, white French presidents. But French society is not as race conscious as its American counterpart. Barack Obama sees himself as an "African American," and this is the category he chose in the 2010 Census form that was submitted to him. For the French, who prohibit the use of racial categories in the census, Obama is simply un métis, a mestizo, a multiracial individual, like many young Frenchmen. He is, in other words, "one of us."
Pertinent stuff from Any Davidson on the Steubenville's rape trial:
There is something deeply harmful in all of the adults reinforcing the idea that the lives of teen-age boys are destroyed when a girl says what they have done. There is also something incomplete about just replying that they deserved the consequences (as much as they do). For one thing, it can mean asking a sixteen-year-old to be the one to judge the weight of her own trauma. It isn’t trivializing the seriousness of the sentence to say that teen-agers always think, when one door is closed, that everything is over, and that it’s the job of grownups to explain that it isn’t. A different life is not a worthless one. (Absent parents, not incidentally, are a theme of this story.)
The problem is that Americans are as obsessed with absolute justice as they are with absolute freedom.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Jennifer Vanasco:
Why do we in the media try to make some women standard bearers for all women? (...) A man who writes an inspiring business book meant to help people get ahead at work doesn’t have his wrist slapped because he’s promoting himself as well — of course he is! And a man who tries to change a failing corporate culture is more likely to be lauded as courageous than accused as cowardly, as [Marissa] Mayer was. (...) Not everything every woman does is a social statement. And it shouldn’t have to be.
Great stuff from Mukoma Wa Ngugi:
For western journalism to be taken seriously by Africans and Westerners alike, it needs Africans to vouch for stories rather than satirizing them. I am not saying that journalism needs the subject to agree with the content, but the search for journalistic truth takes place within a broad societal consensus. That is, while one may disagree with particular reportage and the facts, the spirit of the essay should not be in question. But Africans are saying that the journalists are not representing the complex truth of the continent; that Western journalists are not only misrepresenting the truth, but are in spirit working against the continent. The good news is there have been enough people questioning the coverage of Africa over the years that Western journalists have had no choice but to do some soul searching. The bad news is that the answers are variations of the problem.
Michela Wrong, in a New York Times piece shortly before the Kenyan elections, debated the use of the word “tribe.” She acknowledged that the word tribe “carries too many colonial echoes. It conjures up M.G.M. visions of masked dances and pagan rites. ‘Tribal violence’ and ‘tribal voting’ suggest something illogical and instinctive, motivated by impulses Westerners distanced themselves from long ago.” But she concluded the piece by reserving her right to use the term. She stated that “When it comes to the T-word, Kenyan politics are neither atavistic nor illogical. But yes, they are tribal.” The term tribe should have died in the 2007 elections when Africanist scholars took NYT’s Jeffrey Gettleman’s usage of the term to task. To his credit, Gettleman stopped using the term.
If you have Wrong insisting on using a discredited analytical framework, you have others who position themselves as missionaries and explorers out to save the image of Africa. But their egos end up outsizing the story.
Well, the problem starts with the simple fact that Africa is not a country and that therefore Kenya is neither Mali or Cote d'Ivoire and vice versa.
It is sad to realize that Quebeckers take French more seriously than France :
It began, as do many things these days, with a tweet. On February 19th, Massimo Lecas, co-owner of an Italian restaurant, Buonanotte, in Montreal, wrote that he had received a letter from the office warning him that there were too many Italian words (such as "pasta") on his menu. This was a violation of Quebec’s language charter, he was told, and if they were not changed to the French equivalents (pâtes in the case of pasta) he would face a fine. (...)Much to Quebec’s credit, French is alive and well there, even though the province's 7.4m French-speakers (94% of Quebec's population) are barraged with English from the rest of Canada and from the United States. It’s not easy for the government to find the right balance between preserving French and making peace with a world where English is the language of business. What makes the job harder is that the guardians of French also want to keep out foreign words, whereas English tends to appropriate them. Language is of course also a deeply political issue in Quebec, a former French colony conquered by Britain before it became part of Canada. The current Parti Québécois (PQ) government wants to make the province an independent country.Diane de Courcy, the Quebec minister responsible for language, tried at first to shrug off the pasta stories, saying she was satisfied with the work of the inspectors. When the bad publicity persisted, she announced a review of that particular case. The PQ government is currently attempting to toughen language laws, and pastagate was becoming a distraction. But by March 8th it was clear something more was needed. Quebec was the butt of too many jokes. Ms de Courcy announced that Louise Marchand, president and director-general of the language police, was leaving her post effective immediately.