Excellent stuff from Paul Krugman on the riots of Baltimore:
And the riots in Baltimore, destructive as they are, have served at least one useful purpose: drawing attention to the grotesque inequalities that poison the lives of too many Americans.
Yet I do worry that the centrality of race and racism to this particular story may convey the false impression that debilitating poverty and alienation from society are uniquely black experiences. In fact, much though by no means all of the horror one sees in Baltimore and many other places is really about class, about the devastating effects of extreme and rising inequality.
Laments such as this one from James Traub always bug me:
The president who once made an open-handed offer to the world now delivers a harsh challenge. The president who once fixed his gaze, and that of his audience, on the global problems looming on the horizon now speaks of urgent crises requiring instant action. The tribune of hope and change now speaks modestly of hitting singles and doubles. The president has been well and truly mugged by reality.
Wake up America! Barack Obama was always a realist masquerading as an idealist not the contrary! He hasn't changed, he is being himself because you married him twice and he no longer has to pretend that he is the one, your prince charming!
Rudy Giuliani, who isn't aging well, responding to criticism following his claim that the Potus doesn't love America:
Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people(...) This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.
I hate it when people's stupidity forces me to defend Obama, but since when is socialism and anti-colonialism aren't American? I have said it since Barack Obama was crowned as the One, who was going to change America : he is as American as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and that is in part of his problem. His non-whiteness masks his sameness!
Good stuff from Democracy in America taking down Rand Paul:
Mr Paul's case for voluntary vaccination is not only pragmatic but principled. "The state doesn't own your children," he said in his exchange with Kelly Evans, the CNBC presenter. "Parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom". After a beat Mr Paul hastily added, "And public health". Apparently freedom comes before public health in Mr Paul's mind.
When Mr Paul says "the state doesn't own your children", he seems to be saying that the state has no standing to override or undermine the authority of parents by telling them what to do with their kids. The language of ownership is unfortunate. We don't own our children. Even if we did, however, it wouldn't follow that ownership implies that the state can't justifiably tell us what to do with our property. I literally own my dog. He is chattel. (Sorry, Winston!) I can have him euthanised pretty well whenever I like. (Don't worry, Winston!) Nevertheless, I am required by law to have him vaccinated for rabies, and rightly so. This does not imply that the state owns my dog. Property in the real world always comes attached with all sort of liabilities that smooth the tensions between private control and public welfare.
I hope Rand Paul never becomes Potus. However, now that I have expressed that wish, he will certainly replace Obama. What a pity !
Hollow words from the POTUS used to grandstand:
Our biggest advantage is that our Muslim populations, they feel themselves to be Americans (...)There are parts of Europe in which that’s not the case. And that’s probably the greatest danger that Europe faces…It’s important for Europe not to simply respond with a hammer and law enforcement and military approaches to these problems.
Ah I can't believe that some still believe that Obama gets the world because he claimed to be a citizen of the world!
I agree with Jonathan Hafetz on this:
(...) herein lies the Torture Report's central paradox. It is because the Senate report provides such devastating details into the Torture Program that the stakes for the rule of law are now so high. By demonstrating the depth and degree of America’s lawlessness, the Torture Program shines the light even more brightly on law’s absence in addressing the crimes of the past.
Sugary excerpt from last week's Ta-nehisi Coates must-read article on Obama and Ferguson:
Hope is what Barack Obama promised to bring, but he was promising something he could never bring. Hope is not the naiveté that would change the face on a racist system and then wash its hands of its heritage. Hope is not feel-goodism built on the belief in unicorns. Martin Luther King had hope, but it was rooted in years of study and struggle, not in looking the other way. Hope is not magical. Hope is earned.
David Rothkoff on Chuck Hagel's 'resignatiom as Secretary of Defense:
But Hagel is not the problem. Sure he has been distant, spending much time on the road. But largely that was due to the fact that this administration has alienated its own Cabinet members more than any other in memory. To illustrate this, one need only recall Mark Landler's line in the New York Times about John Kerry being so disconnected from the White House that he resembled the George Clooney character from the movie Gravity, untethered and adrift. (...) No, Hagel's alienation, the tension between he and the White House, and the military leadership's burgeoning frustration with the false starts, half measures, and micro-management that have marked the administration's Iraq and Syria campaigns, are signs of much deeper problems that lie within the way the president himself operates and, from a process perspective, from the way that his National Security Council operates.
Putain, two more years!
Another punch from Ta-nehisi Coates:
Black Republicans, with some exception, don't simply exist as people who believe in free markets and oppose abortion, but to assure white Republicans that racism no longer exists.
The problem, as always, with Coates isn't that he is right, but that he isn't wrong.
I have to say that I am more happy than ever not to be a race woman!
From Sandy Levinson:
There is no other way to read the election results than a repudiation of President Obama's style of leadership (not to mention campaign finance, etc.). Might we not be better off with at least a quasi-parliamentary system that would allow the Democrats to replace him with Biden? Cf the Tory's dismissal of Thatcher and Labour's forcing Blair out of office. Is this unfair to Obama?Sure. But politics, like life, is often unfair, and Obama has simply lost whatever charisma and mandate he once possessed. So sad, because in some ways he has been a fine president. But in too many other ways....
Ouch! Levinson is still being too nice. Obama ran for president too early. He knew how to be an outstanding presidential candidate ( à la Sarkozy) but never figured out how to be president because he was too much in love with campaigning.
What a shame! Oh well, it's almost over!
On the day of the American mid-term elections, a quote from Ian Bremmer on the American who cemented America's addiction to Hope and other sugary stimulants:
Bush is a leader who didn’t like to think (...) Obama is a thinker who doesn’t like to lead.
The sentence of Monday is from Ta-Nehisi Coates's must-read on the Charles Barkleys of the world and their need to blame 'blacks' for their own ills :
Respectability politics is, at its root, the inability to look into the cold dark void of history.
A 'joke' from Senator Ted Cruz of Texas:
Three weeks ago a man was stopped climbing the fence of the White House (...) The Secret Service ran up to him and said ‘I’m sorry Mr President but you’ve got two more years!’
Clever and edgy but I can't bring myself to laugh...
I almost agree wholeheartedly with Laura Poitras on this:
What I find disturbing and frightening about Obama is the extent to which he's advanced, normalized and institutionalized Bush policies. You have the expansion of surveillance, of course. Guantanamo's still open. We're bombing other countries. It's not that Bush responded in an emergency situation by overreaching and then we sort of dialed it back. As we know, in the second World War, we put in camps a lot of Japanese-Americans, but they were let out. We didn't keep those camps open. Yet Guantanamo's still open. There are some things that Bush put in motion that are really frightening in terms of executive power, which Obama hasn't dialed back. If he doesn't do it, that makes it harder for the next person because it becomes institutionalized.
Sentence of the day from former director of the National Security Agency Michael Hayden:
The government needs to be strong enough to keep me safe but I don't want it so strong that it threatens my liberties.
Hayden is the new or rather old Obama. Non!
Good news from Philip N. Cohen:
Women’s increasing independence and men’s increasing insecurity don’t bode well for the traditional institution of marriage.
Sugary excerpt of the end of the summer from Ian Katz :
In the past, the media were more deferential because politicians were generally regarded as being better educated and occupying a higher social position than mere journalists.
Today, the boot is on the other foot. The interviewer is likely to be a celebrity media figure, earning multiples of a minister’s salary. One could be forgiven for thinking the media are the new “lords of the earth”, while ministers and politicians are inconvenient functionaries.
Sugary excerpt of the summer from the great Judith butler:
Prisons too continue the legacy of slavery, acting now as the institutional mechanism by which a disproportionate number of people of colour are deprived of citizenship. The fact that the death penalty is disproportionately applied to people of colour implies that it is a way of regulating citizenship by other means and, in the case of the death penalty, concentrating state power over questions of life and death that differentially affect minority populations.
David Bromwich on the POTUS:
Obama is adept at conveying benevolent feelings that his listeners want to share, feelings that could lead to benevolent actions. He has seemed in his element in the several grief-counselling speeches given in the wake of mass killings, not only in Newtown but in Aurora, at Fort Hood, in Tucson, in Boston after the marathon bombing; and in his meetings with bereft homeowners and local officials who were granted disaster funds in the aftermath of recent hurricanes. This president delivers compassion with a kind face and from a decorous and understated height. And that seems to be the role he prefers to play in the world too. (...) He watches the world as its most important spectator.(...)Disengagement has become the polite word for Obama’s grip on his own policies. Absent and not accounted for was the general view of him as the crisis in Ukraine built up in January and February.(...) Disgust with Bush and Cheney, even in the Republican Party, was general in early 2009 and it gave real leverage to a new president. But the idea of a return to the rule of law has not prospered under Obama; the phrase itself has scarcely been heard. We have seen not one significant prosecution of a Wall Street criminal and not one legal action against a lawyer who justified torture or an officer who ordered torture or an agent who committed it. Where Cheney and Bush are felt to have instigated crimes, Obama is seen to have countenanced or condoned them.
His relaxed way with the Constitution has finally put him on the wrong side of his most faithful allies even among centrist Democrats.
(...) the fact is that the first world war was a time when Muslims were generally used as pawns in European imperial games—whether they were Indians who fought for Britain, Senegalese or Algerians who fought for France or Turks who fought on the German side. Fighting on any side in the first world war was a pretty miserable experience, and that certainly deserves to be remembered. But Islam's collective memory of that period is probably a bit different from the European one.
Great stuff from Henry Farrell:
A real Weberian analysis of the politics of surveillance (rather than one which misemploys Weber’s arguments as a crutch for prejudice) could help illustrate the tragic aspects of surveillance politics. From a Weberian perspective, Snowden is very plausibly a hero, someone who has declared his “Hier stehe ich,” and is devoting himself to his cause, regardless of its consequences for him personally. Arguably Greenwald is too. While Packer is right that he’s a brawler, so too were the German party newspaper journalists of the early twentieth century that Weber singles out for particular admiration. But it’s plausible that Snowden’s and Greenwald’s political opponents, who adhere to a very different political philosophy, and are prepared to fight on its behalf can be described as Weberian heroes too. For Weber, what is admirable about a politician is not the righteousness of the politician’s cause, but the willingness of the politician to struggle on its behalf.
It must torturous and self-mutilating to be a national security liberal!
Sugary excerpt from Sandy Levinson's must read article on the ever extending polarization of American society:
(...) our national polity is like a Thanksgiving from hell, in which the members of the family stare at each other with daggers, insult one another, and then get drunk, while everyone resolves to try to be elsewhere come next Thanksgiving.
From Paul Krugman:
Yes, liberals are sometimes subject to bouts of wishful thinking. But can anyone point to a liberal equivalent of conservative denial of climate change, or the “unskewing” mania late in the 2012 campaign, or the frantic efforts to deny that Obamacare is in fact covering a lot of previously uninsured Americans? I don’t mean liberals taking positions you personally disagree with — I mean examples of overwhelming rejection of something that shouldn’t even be in dispute.
Or look at how liberals reacted to the woes of healthcare.gov. We heard a lot of talk about how it was Obama’s Katrina, or his Iraq. But was there anything like Bush’s “heckuva job” moment — which was matched by widespread insistence on the right that he was actually doing a great job? Was there anything like the years-long denial that anything was going wrong with the Iraq occupation? On the contrary, liberals were quick to acknowledge that the rollout was a disaster, and in fact sort of freaked out — which, as Noam Scheiber says, is what they usually do in the face of setbacks. And what’s more, as Scheiber says, that’s a good thing: faced with setbacks, liberals rush to fix things, rather than denying the problem. Hence the stunning Obamacare comeback.
I agree strongly with this from Brendan O'Neill:
One of the most striking developments of recent years has been the movement of conspiratorial thinking into the centre of political life and public debate. For decades, conspiracy theories about global affairs and domestic politics being controlled by largely hidden, unnamed actors with a malevolent agenda tended to flourish only on the fringes of society, especially among far-right groups. But today, it is commonplace to hear very mainstream thinkers and activists talk about the ‘cabals’ and ‘cults’ that allegedly control economic life and dictate the global agenda. As a result of a broader crisis of politics, of a long drawn-out evacuation of meaning and oftentimes purpose from the political sphere, political and economic developments can seem arbitrary and unhinged to many – and they respond by devoting their energies to obsessively hunting down the dark, dastardly thing which, they assume, must be puppeteering these confusing developments from behind the scenes.
Please, Ta-nehisi stop you are going to make me puke!:
"I am not raising 'nothing niggers,'" my mother used to tell me. "I am not raising niggers to stand on the corner." My mother did not know her father. In my life, I've loved four women. One of them did not know her father and the other two, very often, wished they didn't. It's not very hard to look at that, and seethe. It's not very hard to look at that and see a surrender, while you are out here at war, and seethe. It not hard to look around at your community and feel that you are afflicted by quitters, that your family--in particular--is afflicted by a weakness. And so great is this weakness that the experience of black fatherlessness can connect Barack Obama in Hawaii to young black boys on the South Side, and that fact--whatever the charts, graphs and histories may show--is bracing. When Barack Obama steps into a room and attacks people for presumably using poverty or bigotry as an excuse to not parent, he is channeling a feeling deep in the heart of all black people, a frustration, a rage at ourselves for letting this happened, for allowing our community to descend into the basement of America, and dwell there seemingly forever. (...) There are moments when I hear the president speak and I am awed. No one, from the offices of the White House, could have better explained to America what the George Zimmerman verdict meant. And I think history will remember that, and remember him for it. But I think history will also remember his unquestioning embrace of "twice as good" in a country that has always given, even under his watch, black people half as much.
Awesome stuff from Paul Krugman:
The whole politics of poverty since the 70s has rested on the popular belief that the poor are Those People, not like us hard-working real Americans. This belief has been out of touch with reality for decades — but only now does reality seem to be breaking in. But what it means now is that conservatives claiming that character defects are the source of poverty, and that poverty programs are bad because they make life too easy, are now talking to an audience with large numbers of Not Those People who realize that they are among those who sometimes need help from the safety net.
I agree with Sean Collins on this:
it is a myth that the US is becoming ‘libertarian’ – the number of restrictions on personal behaviour is increasing, not decreasing. At the same time as marijuana is being legalised in Colorado, cities are banning e-cigarettes for no rational reason. The newly ‘liberal’ America says it’s cool to smoke marijuana but then demonises those who eat a McDonald’s hamburger or drink a Big Gulp soda. Many of the same people who are posing as liberty’s champions over marijuana are the same ones who are leading the charge when it comes to bans, limits and nudges on tobacco, soda, school lunches, and so on.
A hahhah moment from Juan Cole :
Greatness has escaped Mr. Obama. He seems content to be the community organizer of the Federal government, asking Congress and Federal officials what they think they need and offering to try to get it for them. That isn’t leadership. His response to the NSA leaks was to announce that the country could now have a discussion of the practices, as though the citizenry could discuss matters being actively hidden from them, on which a sitting senator like Wyden is muzzled. Mr. Obama’s chance at greatness is before him. Most of the abuses are in the executive, over which he largely has control. He could initiate major reforms restoring constitutional liberties. If he does not, he is very unfortunately choosing to play P.W. Botha, not Nelson Mandela.
Ah another one from Elisabeth Drew:
Barack Obama had an unfathomable inability, beginning in his early years in office, to grasp the difference between campaigning and governing—and for that he’s been paying a fearful price in his second term.
Sentence of the day from Paul Krugman:
(...) anyone counting on Obamacare to collapse is probably making a very bad bet.
Of course Krugman is right, but the point remains that Obamacare is and will remain a canard boiteux; something liberals and many Democrats will defend to their death because it is a symbol of the blind faith they placed in the One even though it will never fix the American Health care system and a policy that all others will resist because to them it epitomizes government's meddling in an area it either can't help.
Well, thank you Obama for ruining the dream of Universal healthcare for America.
I agree with Julian Ku on this:
In other words, the problem is not that spying itself is illegal or morally wrong, but that it is illegal and morally wrong to spy on your allies and friends. Spying on other countries might very well be morally and legally justified (e.g.: North Korea, Iran, China, Russia ( ...) In any event, my prediction is that the fallout from the latest NSA scandal will be a flurry of “no-spy-on-you” promises and then a series of new “no spy agreements” for certain favored “allies”. I think Germany will talk about a universal anti-spying norm, but this initiative will eventually die largely because no large nation really wants it.
Was I just having a nightmare or didn't the One get a Nobel Peace prize just for not being George W Bush ? I'm sure it was a dream !
David Bernstein on why the rollout of Obamacare has been 'messy':
Why, it’s obviously because President Barack Obama and his top aides hate government, and therefore can’t be trusted to run a major government program. When the government is run by political forces committed to the belief that government is always the problem, never the solution, that belief tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Key priorities are neglected; key functions are privatized; and key people, the competent public servants who make government work, either leave or are driven out. What we really need is a government that works, because it’s run by people who understand that sometimes government is the solution, after all.
Doesn’t make any sense to you? It made just as little sense when Paul Krugman made the argument in 2008, imaginatively (to say the least) positing that George W. Bush and John McCain were wild-eyed libertarians, and that the former’s purported libertarianism was the cause of FEMA’s incompetence in dealing with Katrina. (...) t must come as a surprise to Krugman and his defenders that government can prove itself to be wildly, disastrously incompetent even when run by people whom even Krugman would have to admit aren’t going to be confused with libertarians any time soon (assuming, of course, that Krugman actually ever believed the nonsense he wrote).
Bernstein is been willfully disingenuous to score cheap political points for actually the failings of the Obama administration on this issue and others make Krugman. They show that Obama, as Bush, believes more in winning than in government or for that matter governing. Obamacare has no soul, c'est un machin used to gain liberal cred through a symbol that makes lovers of Harry Potter like change good.
In short, Obama is not and has never been a Krugman democrat.
People like Obamacare. They like Medicare and Social Security too, and not just because they are junkies hooked on the government yayo, but also, I suspect, out of a sense that in a country as rich as America people should not starve or freeze or die because they cannot afford to see a doctor. To roll all of this back, Republicans will have to set aside the exciting, romantic, vox clamantis thrill of noble failure, and get about the boring drudgery of actually winning elections—and not just in gerrymandered districts, but nationally. As I tell my five-year-old: destroying things is easy. Building is hard.
But building is better, and more necessary. America really does need an effective check on the Obama administration's regulatory instincts. It needs a sane, functional pro-business party—one focused on doing things like winning elections in an increasingly diverse country by actually persuading voters rather than by keeping "undesirable" voters from the polls.
From Daniel Drezner:
Thanks to the Mongolian clusterf**k that Ted Cruz, John Boehner, and some other economic know-nothings in the U.S. Congress have perpetuated, the next decade of global political economy will provide an excellent natural experiment to see whether there will be any form of economic balancing against the United States.
Oh well, chaos is good or at least flashy so there is nothing to worry about...
I agree with this :
For news-media creators, potentially catastrophic events like the shutdown are the deep source of the currency we seek: page views, forwards and links. The shutdown captivates the attention of the fickle public, tearing it momentarily away from the spectacle of a naked Miley Cyrus gripping giant construction apparatus between her legs. (That spectacle itself, of course, is a different type of calculated attention-getting "controversy" constructed by a number of self-interested media players, not least of them Ms Cyrus herself.) Journalists and bloggers swarm over the shutdown like ants on a dropped twinkie. But in an even more symbiotic relationship, we also create the controversy we feed on by swarming to it. Bloggers, tweeters, politicians and everyone else have an incentive to focus on the shutdown, to intensify the controversy, in order to drink from the resulting fount of public attention.(...) Nowadays, however, almost everyone who participates in social media understands it. A very large number of Americans are now adept at identifying potentially viral memes, and then ramping up the hype in order to both create and piggyback on them. In the general media viral memes may often be merely weird or titillating, but in politics, since politicians have not yet figured out how to use sex scandals to win (rather than lose) elections, they are almost always divisive, insulting, controversial and infused with prophecies of doom. So in politics the effect of increasingly widespread participation in this dynamic has been to exacerbate the American public's already deep attachment to apocalypticism.
Governing America is a lot more challenging than seducing Oprah...Thank God That's great.
It should be puzzling just how little power the present executive is actually capable of wielding. He can go to the U.N. or Kansas City and make speeches (that themselves often enough implicitly cast him as a kind of interested observer of his own presidency), but nothing much that he says in Washington seems any longer to be seriously attended to. In the foreign policy arena, he is surrounded by a secretary of defense who ducks for cover, a secretary of state who wanders the world blowing off steam, and a national security advisor and U.N. ambassador who seem like blundering neophytes and whose basic ideological stance (in favor of American -- aka “humanitarian” -- interventions globally) has been rejected in this country by almost any constituency imaginable. Unlike previous presidents, he evidently has no one -- no Brent Scowcroft, Jim Baker, or even Henry Kissinger -- capable of working the corridors of power skillfully or bringing a policy home.Domestically, who ever heard of a presidency already into its second term that, according to just about all observers, has only one significant achievement -- Obamacare (whatever you think of it) -- and clearly hasn’t a hope in hell of getting a second one?
Jeff Shesol sums up perfectly the American policy on Syria:
Foreign policy-making, unlike the domestic variety, is rarely compared to sausage-making, but what we have seen over the past couple of news cycles should be inspected by the U.S.D.A.
I would love to be having whatever Andrew Sullivan for Obamaland must be Eden when one is high.
To mourn the end of summer or rather celebrate my return to blogging life, sugary excerpt of my hiatus from Sandy Levinson;
:For reasons known only to himself, President Obama has decided to risk his presidency on the outcome of the congressional vote. As I see it, the best way to assure the destruction of his second term is to authorize a strike that makes almost literally no sense in terms of the public rationales that have been offered. There is literally no measure of what might count as "success," other than deterring additional use of chemical weapons. Given that there is no evidence that Assad ordered the use of those weapons in the first place, one might well imagine that he will make some efforts to make sure they are not used again. (There is something particularly indecent about the Obama Administration claiming that Commanders-in-Chief must be held responsible per se, a reversion, it appears to the Yamashita doctrine right after World War II. This, of course, is the Administration that has resolutely refused to hold anyone from the Bush Administration responsible for what is at least equally banned by international and domestic law, i.e., torture, or, for that matter, to pursue members of the Bush I Administration for their toleration of Saddam Hussein's use of poison gas against Iran and then Iraqis. )
It is ominous that Obama's chief domestic support is coming from John ("I never met a war I didn't want to get into") McCain. We all live with (and are victimized by) analogies. I keep thinking of Vietnam, in which thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lost their lives in order to vindicate American "credibility" and fight against the perception that we were a "paper tiger."
Poignant question from Sandy Levinson:
Why has "surveillance state" apparently become so widely accepted as a "neutral" term describing the present United States (and, no doubt, other countries as well, and perhaps all that have the technological capacity), while "police state," even if modified by "soft" or "pink" or, to adopt an adjective from the 18th century referring to one type of despot, "benevolent," still presumably raises all sorts of hackles and undoubtedly would generate accusations of ideological shrillness (perhaps like using "constitutional dictatorship" to refer to at least aspects of the American system, even if most of it these days is dysfunctional and incapable of any cogent action regarding many of our most crucial challenges)?
What happened? Well, my guess that something died in America when the change we could believed in ended up being nothing more than remixed Bushism.
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.