The sentence of the day from Martha Vicinus:
Sexuality, unlike race or gender, is most often seen in terms of identity, rather than power.
The sentence of the day from Martha Vicinus:
Sexuality, unlike race or gender, is most often seen in terms of identity, rather than power.
The reality is that Mr Putin sees holding Ukraine within Russia’s sphere of influence as a vital national interest that he is willing to run pretty big risks to secure. What is more, it seems highly probable that he does not take threats from Mr Obama particularly seriously. He has seen at close hand the American president’s disastrous vacillation over Syria, culminating in the scuttling away from his own red line declaring punishment for the Assad regime if it used chemical weapons. He no doubt also draws conclusions from big American defence spending cuts in the pipeline and Mr Obama’s extreme sensitivity to the war-weariness of American voters.
If Mr Putin believes (as he almost certainly does) that Mr Obama will do little more than deliver a petulant slap on the wrist, he will have no compunction in putting into operation a familiar playbook. (...) While it is easy to criticise Mr Obama’s infinite capacity for thoughtful inaction, the dilemmas for Western diplomacy are real enough. The problem is that like the fox, the West knows lots of different things but is not sure what it really wants, while Mr Putin is like the hedgehog that knows just one big thing, namely that Ukraine, especially in the south and east, is really part of Russia's world.
In particular, given our capacity and willingness to spy on virtually everyone, you'd think that American diplomats would be entering foreign policy contests and diplomatic negotiations with an enormous advantage over their counterparts. If we're as good at extracting private information from other countries' networks, cell phones, emails, and the like, you'd think U.S. officials would usually have a good idea of our antagonists' bottom line and would be really skilled at manipulating them to our advantage. We now know that the Allies in World War II got big strategic benefits from cracking German and Japanese codes; I want to know if we're getting similar benefits today.
It is hard to believe we are, given that America's foreign policy record since the end of the Cold War is mostly one of failure. And that leads me to suspect that one of two things is true. Either 1) the NSA is good at collecting gazilla-bytes of stuff but not very good at deciding what to collect or figuring out what it means, or 2) the rest of our foreign policy establishment is not very good at taking advantage of the information the NSA has worked so hard to acquire. In other words, either the NSA is not worth the money we're paying for it, or the rest of our foreign policy establishment is less competent than we thought. To be frank, I'm not sure which possibility I prefer.
[...]the US hates being preached at and needs little encouragement to act as an injured innocent.
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.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Malise Ruthven:
Drones, for all their horror, are just the latest instruments by which powers based in urban centers (and not just those linked to the United States) beat into submission the peripheries—what Morocco’s rulers used to call the “Land of Insolence.”
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?
I agree Stephen Walt on this:
If you wanted yet more evidence of how unserious the United States is in its conduct of diplomacy, I'd nominate the breathless "will they, won't they?" attention paid to whether U.S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hasan Rouhani will actually meet during the U.N. General Assembly meeting. If they do meet, will they shake hands? Will it be an impromptu sidebar or a sit-down conversation? What color tie will Obama be wearing? Will they drink coffee or tea? Boxers or briefs?
For all I know, these and other truly vital questions will have been resolved by the time this gets posted. My main point is that Americans attach too much significance to these sorts of meetings -- mostly because we are too fond of not talking to countries we dislike -- and this reticence cripples our diplomacy. Refusing to talk to people or countries with whom we differ is really just a childish form of spite and one the United States indulges in mostly because we can get away with it. But it also makes it more difficult to resolve differences in ways that would advance U.S. interests. In short, it's dumb.
So boxers or briefs? I don't know but they will inhale.
I agree with Professor Bainbridge on this:
Bush was bad enough, but Obama's not much better and in some ways worse. We seem to be living in a permanent security state that is gradually morphing into something disturbingly authoritarian. (...) We're losing the moral high ground to criticize places like Russia and China, as we allow our freedoms to continually erode.
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.
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 Peter Temin and David Vines, authors of The Leaderless Economy: Why the World Economic System Fell Apart and How to Fix It:
The United States set the example for bank bailouts during the crisis itself, but then it vanished as a world economic leader, (...) Like Britain roughly a century earlier, America has become part of the problem, not the solution.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Conor Friedersdorf:
Obama and [John] Brennan may both be more thoughtful men than most, as their supporters argue. The problem with both is their excessive trust in their own judgment. A prudent person does not trust himself with the unchecked power to kill in secret, nor does he trust the executive branch with so extreme an unchecked power in a system constructed around checks and balances.
Our era is the one of Me so nothing new here.
Obviously, I agree with Glenn Greenwald on this:
t is a perfect illustration of the Obama legacy that a person who was untouchable as CIA chief in 2008 because of his support for Bush's most radical policies is not only Obama's choice for the same position now, but will encounter very little resistance. Within this change one finds one of the most significant aspects of the Obama presidency: his conversion of what were once highly contentious right-wing policies into harmonious dogma of the DC bipartisan consensus.
The sentence of the day is from Dan Drezner:
(...) I still think Americans are awful at empire-building.
Americans are awful at empire-building because they view themselves or rather their country solely as a benevolent and reluctant empire devoid of any 'selfish' self-interest.
From Glenn Greenwald:
Political leaders and political movements convinced of their own Goodness are usually those who need greater, not fewer, constraints in the exercise of power. That's because - like religious True Believers - those who are convinced of their inherent moral superiority can find all manner to justify even the most corrupted acts on the ground that they are justified by the noble ends to which they are put, or are cleansed by the nobility of those perpetrating those acts.
Political factions driven by self-flattering convictions of their own moral superiority - along with their leaders - are the ones most likely to abuse power. Anyone who ever listened to Bush era conservatives knows that this conviction drove them at their core ("you are with us or with the Terrorists"), and it is just as true of Obama-era progressives who genuinely see the political landscape as an overarching battle between forces of Good (Democrats: i.e., themselves) and forces of Evil (Republicans).
Well, four more years...Bush + Obama = ?
I wish this were true:
Though it may be painful, though it may be costly at the polls in the short run, Republicans don't have a future unless they break up with the religious right and the gay-bashing, Bible-thumping fringe that gives the party such a bad rap with every young voter. By fighting to legally ban abortion, the party undercuts the potential to paint itself as a rebel against the governmental-control machine.
It is impossible for the Republicans to break up with the religious right, the best thing to hope for is an open relationship.
From Glenn Greenwald:
One of the primary reasons war - especially protracted war - is so destructive is not merely that it kills the populations at whom it is aimed, but it also radically degrades the character of the citizenry that wages it. That's what enables one of America's most celebrated pundits to go on the most mainstream of TV programs and coldly justify the killing of 4-year-olds, without so much as batting an eyelash or even paying lip service to the heinous tragedy of that, and have it be barely noticed. Joe Klein is the face not only of the Obama legacy, but also mainstream US political culture.
I'm not sure this is just an American 'thing' for it has to do with power and the complacency that comes with a sense of entitlement.
I agree totally with Tony Junod on this:
We have been told, many times, that each killing carried out by the administration is accompanied by vigorous and even agonized debate about its legality, advisability, efficacy, and morality. That debate, however has remained staunchly internal — has remained secret — and it has become clear that the only way to find out what our two presidential candidates think about the implications of the Lethal Presidency is to ask them, tonight, at the debate in Florida. President Obama has limited his comments to all but the most self-serving circumstance, and Governor Romney has spoken only through inference and through the often confounding comments of his foreign-policy surrogates. Bob Schieffer should know that if he does not ask a question about targeted killing tonight, he is — we are — unlikely to get another chance.
Unfortunately,the main concern of most journalists and of most Americans is to protect America by whichever means necessary. Thus, until Americans feel secure, they are going to be willing to let the president do whatever it takes to keep them safe even if they sense that the means used are wrong and will mean apologizing and regretting them in the future.
From Glenn Greenwald:
(...) the fact that the US government keeps files on people who have never been charged with any crimes, let alone convicted of them, and then deems some of them to have "derogatory national-security records" is creepy indeed. Governments should not be surveilling and storing massive amounts of information about law-abiding citizens, and in free countries, by definition, they do not. But that is exactly what a surveillance state entails.
I would love to see a debate between Glenn Greenwald and Paul Krugman because the more I read them, the more I wonder what is the point of Obama's presidency? The answer to that question can't just be the other side is evil especially when the 'good guys' are doing abominable things!
Man (pun intended), Australia must be a fun country! I have to learn a lot more about what the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is talking about to comment substantively, but I must admit that I love parliamentary democracies. I do for at least one reason: debate, political leaders, whether they are in power or not, have to face others and answer questions and learn how to rumble no matter how powerful and entitled they become.
After what we saw last weekend in the US , it is hard not agree that power isolates and moreover makes one lose touch with reality because it, almost never, has to answer tough questions until debates in an election year; even then the answers are never persuasive and satisfying.
Worrisome stuff from the Economist's Democracy in America blog:
If the taker economy has less to do with citizens receiving transfer payments and rather more to do with crony capitalism (or "public-private partnership", as boosters like to put it) and a rapidly expanding security state that is more parasitical than protective, then it is not at all clear which major-party presidential candidate is most on the side of the makers.
Takers are less and less willing to share and to even acknowledge that inequality as well as unproductiveness is a problem because of identity politics.
The following words from Hugh Roberts make me uncomfortable:
The reason Muslims have been demonstrating from Tunis to Jakarta is not that they are exceptionally thin-skinned and liable to throw tantrums at the drop of a hat, nor even that US policy has given them plenty of other grounds for grievance over the years. It is that Islamist movements now collectively dominate but nowhere monopolise the political field and are bound to mobilise their supporters to the hilt whenever any of their rivals begin to do so. This is what the eclipse of the modernist nationalist tradition has led to, and Western – and by no means solely American – policy is responsible for it. The result is growing anarchy in the region from which Americans and American interests cannot realistically expect to remain immune.
Do we really live in a world where there are masters who act freely and slaves who submit and suffer from the actions of the all-powerful?
I am having a literary crush on Pankaj Mishra, which just intensifies when he says things like this:
The other thing that influenced me was the post-9/11 political climate in the West. How such a wide range of politicians, policymakers, journalists and columnists could re-embrace the delusions of empire - those you thought had been effectively shattered by decolonisation 50-60 years ago; how they could bring themselves to believe that the Afghans and the Iraqis were just longing to suck on the big sticks proffered to them by American soldiers, as [decorated New York Times foreign affairs columnist] Thomas Friedman inimitably recommended…
All this was just staggering to me, and people like myself who share a reflexive suspicion of armed imperialists claiming to be missionaries.
I have to admit that I am ashamed to have once taken Tom Friedman seriously...
For a long time, Western histories simply suppressed non-western perspectives — nobody cared what the ‘native’ thought. But even today, the benignly universalist West creates the standards of judgement, and the historian at the imperial metropole of course writes the truly objective and coolly rational history. And the non-westerner challenging it with other perspectives is prone to be described — and discredited — as no more than a polemicist (The word is usual preceded by a damning adjective like ‘left-wing’ and ‘angry’). (...) By loudly invoking religion and culture and race, these Western pundits want to prevent us from examining the material basis of global inequality in all matters, intellectual as well as economic — the long history behind the fact that some countries are rich, many others permanently poor; why some forms of large-scale violence, such as neo-imperialism, enjoy moral sanction and respectability, and those opposed to them prone to be dismissed as left-wing crackpots and losers. I think the neo-imperialists and their sympathisers are best seen as a symptom of Anglo-America’s bizarre political culture of the previous two decades — a culture in which politicians supported by an unquestioning corporate media wage genocidal wars while feeding lies to their electorates, crooked bankers give themselves huge salaries and bonuses, and intellectuals — well, many of them turn to justifying and vindicating this shameful state of affairs and are given bully pulpits for this purpose at mainstream institutions like Harvard and the BBC.
Two quotes on Obama's kill list and assassination powers.
The first from Glenn Greenwald:
In fairness to Obama, he did campaign on a promise of change, and vesting the President with the power to order the execution of citizens in secret and with no oversight certainly qualifies as that. (...)to summarize the Obama campaign’s apparent argument: it’s absolutely vital that we know all about the GOP nominee’s tax shelters and financial transactions over the last decade (and indeed, we should know about that), but we need not bother ourselves with how the Democratic nominee is deciding which Americans should die, his claimed legal authority for ordering those hits, the alleged evidence for believing the target deserves to be executed, or the criteria used to target them. So low are one’s expectations for an American Election Year that there are very few spectacles so absurd as to be painful to behold, but the Obama campaign’s waving of the transparency flag definitely qualifies.
The second from Joseph Lelyveld:
Just how is a president supposed to take on terrorists thousands of miles away whom he believes to be targeting the country he’s sworn to protect in a constitutional manner? Should he file an extradition request with the government in Islamabad or, as Bill Clinton did before September 11 but after the attacks on the USS Cole and the embassies in East Africa, lob cruise missiles from the Arabian Sea and hope for the best?
To settle this debate, we only have to quote Karl Marx or rather to use a Marx's quote used by Camus in the Rebel:
An end which requires unjustified means is no justifiable end.
Interesting excerpt of the conversation between Robert Wright, whom I'm finding hard to resist, and Baratunde Thurston about race, racism and the media. It reminds me of the whole brouhaha about the 'native informer' concept which points to the fact that America, although it was never a colonial power in the normal sense of the word, did and still does have the colonial impulse to understand the barbarians in order to placate them when it listens to its conscience or to civilize them when it follows its Hobbesian instincts.
It isn't a race or racist thing, it is a power and domination struggle.
One more person, or rather Nathalie Rothschild in this case, has seen the light:
The revelations that the NYPD routinely infiltrates places like schools, dollar stores and Halal restaurants in the name of rooting out terrorism shows – yet again – that civil-rights assaults were not a Bush-era anomaly, but continue under, and are literally sponsored by, the Obama administration.
The trouble with identity politics is that it makes policy and actions secondary and even unimportant for the focus is placed on the persona of the doer and on whether he is 'one of us.'
In short, the main issue that many liberals/democrats had with Bush was that he wasn't one of them. His policies were never really the problem for they were seen as the proof of his otherness, of his stupidity and unculture. Obama is seen as smart and cultured so there is no way for too many people that his policies can be barbaric and simply dumb!
The sugary excerpt of this Monday morning is from Adam Hochschild whose book King Leopold’s Ghost is a must-read:
We tend to think of wars as occasions for heroism, and in a narrow, simple sense they can be. But a larger heroism, sorely lacking in Washington this last decade, lies in daring to think through whether a war is worth fighting at all. In looking for lessons in wars past, there’s a much deeper story to be told than that of a boy and his horse.
It is frightening to come to the realization that war or the use of force through drones or other means is becoming the preeminent method for the United States to conduct its foreign policy.
The point here isn't Ron Paulian for the issue isn't about putting America first, but about whether wars can be won everywhere and achieve policy goals even when they deal lethally with immediate threats, which may not be the most dangerous ones.
I agree with Rich Yeselson on this:
The authenticity obsession about Romney has become a national, wasteful pursuit like the Iraq invasion and occupation without the laughs.
As I have said before a part of me likes Mitt Romney (liking somebody and voting for him are two different things, although the former fact makes the latter one possible). My uneasy 'fondness' (the word bugs me, but I can't find another one) for Romney has to do precisely with the fact that he isn't as good as Obama is at faking authenticity and that tells me that most of his life, his focus hasn't never been on ideology, but on success and results.
To put it simply, I think that Romney might just make a decent president for the same reason that he is a mediocre republican candidate (so far), his obsession with the end might make him govern adequately.
Authenticity in politics is like purity in love/sex, it serves only the deviants and those seeking godliness or who believe ferociously that that they are god-like and like neither politics nor love/sex because they love God or humanity simply to avoid liking people.
Sugary excerpt from Pankaj Mishra's critical, but fair piece on Niall Ferguson:
The banner of white supremacism has been more warily raised ever since in post-imperial Europe, and very rarely by mainstream politicians and writers. In the United States, racial anxieties have been couched either in such pseudo-scientific tracts about the inferiority of certain races as The Bell Curve, or in big alarmist theories like Samuel Huntington’s ‘clash of civilisations’. It’s not at all surprising that in his last book Huntington fretted about the destruction by Latino immigration of America’s national identity, which is apparently a construct of ‘Anglo-Protestant culture’. As power ostensibly shifts to the East, a counterpoise to dismay over the West’s loss of authority and influence is sought in a periodic ballyhooing of the ‘trans-Atlantic alliance’, as in Philip Bobbitt’s Terror and Consent (2008), which Niall Ferguson in an enthusiastic review claimed will ‘be read with pleasure by men of a certain age, class and education from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to London’s West End’.
I wish I could read Mishra's writings without reservations, but I cannot even though I like him as a writer. Oh well, it's always good to be aware of one's own prejudices.
The Economist's Democracy in America blog on the Wall Street protests :
HERE's my two cents on the Occupy Wall Street protests: Woo!
Maybe that's one cent. Anyway, I am not by disposition a joiner, but I'm nevertheless inclined to smile upon attempts to stick it to the man, even if the attempt is quixotic or confused and the man in the end remains unstuck. The Burkean horror of social upheaval is fine in its place, but there is no apparent danger of upheaval. And who among us doubts that the man deserves a good sticking to? So why not try?
I don't find the whole Occupy Wall Street stick compelling for the simple reason that it seems to me that the idealists willing to come to New York to protest against corporate greed are the same who fell in love with Obama in 2008 and who, instead of holding him responsible for his actions, are looking elsewhere to blame for the state of the American economy and society.
In short, the Occupy Wall Street movement represents a unsettling manifestation of identity politics for as in the Salem Witch Trials, the priority is to stick it to certain people while refusing to acknowledging the responsibility of the others who look/think/feel as the 'occupiers' but never take a definite stand by acting and fighting back.
Sugary excerpt from a Michael Moore's interview with the Financial Times :
“I was overcome with emotion, voting for [Barack Obama] on that day,” he says, suddenly looking down, jowls bulging under his chin’s pale stubble, arms folded as if hugging himself. “I think he’s a person of good heart and he means well, but ...” There is a long pause. “I thought he’d come in swinging ... come in like Franklin Roosevelt ... What an opportunity to go down as a great president – squandered.” He looks pained.
The Republicans “decided to treat him as the invisible president”, he adds bitterly, making sure I catch the reference to Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel about racial injustice.
What year are we again? Well, it's alarming to realize that Obama doesn't exist for too many people for they never take into account what he does since they are so certain that they know who he is or rather who he cannot be not matter what he does/says.
I wonder if Michael Moore realizes that fo him too Obama is an invisible president.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Ta-nehisi Coates:
If you paid more attention to Obama's skin color, than to his speeches, the voluminous amounts of journalism noting his moderation, his two books which are, themselves, exercises in moderation, then you have chosen to be ignorant.
You are now being punished for that ignorance. No one should feel sorry for you. Try not being racist.
I agree with Coates except that voluntarily and disingenuously, he stops in the middle of the road in order not to drive his truck in the ditch. Obama is indeed what he does as I have always argued and the fact that he is black/says that he is black or African-American doesn't change that. However, too many are making race a part of his presidency to either objectify him by making him a victim or an intelligent little man or to give him a pass for his failures and for the fact that he has shown that to the contrary to he argued in 2008 experience does matter and that he is afraid to lose. The point is that Obama is the POTUS and his actions or inactions speak louder than his words or his 'race.'
Acting black and being black in America and unfortunately in most of the world is about nothing more than following stereotypes and submitting to traditional and nonsensical notions about what blackness is when it is nothing more than an illusion created to soothe thoughtlessness and ideology.
In short, Coates and America are going to realize when the love/lust is really gone with the help of Obama that there is such as things as black people. Obama has so much more in common with Mitt Romney than he does with Ta-nehsi Coates!
I'm supposed to be on vacation, but nothing was going to stop from quoting this sugary excerpt from Paul Krugman:
(...)the point is that if you ask what Mitt Romney would probably be doing if he were in the White House and not trying desperately to convince his party that he shares its madness, it would look a lot like what Obama is doing.
Boy, yes we can indeed or rather yes they (liberals) did swallow another pot of manure for the sake of style, eloquence and bling bling! My guess is that they like so much the taste of Obamanian crap that they are going to keep on swallowing arguing that it can't be shit because it comes fro their chosen one and not from the evil/dumb/zeal/crazy other side.
Sugary excerpt of the weekend from Jack Balkin:
The fact that Obama is a former professor of constitutional law does not justify his scuttling practices that are designed, over long periods of time, to improve legal deliberations and help ensure that presidents conform to the law. Former professors of constitutional law, like current ones, have been known to disagree among themselves about what the law requires; they have even been known to make mistakes and engage in serious misjudgments.
The fact that Obama may think he is smarter and more learned than George W. Bush also does not justify his practice. The next President, or the one after that, may think themselves smarter than Obama. They will certainly find a group of able lawyers somewhere in their Administration to tell them so. Obama came into office promising to reform the abuses of the Bush Administration and its manipulation of the OLC. The best way to do that is not to create entirely new abuses of one's own.
What alarms me is the deepening silence of some of Bush's biggest critics on Obama's actions and those people who were convinced that the One was going to bring them change they could believe in. Oh, I forgot American politics is about identity and about voting for people who can do wrong as long as they are "one of us."
Sentence of the day from Paul Krugman on the IMF and the process by which it chooses its director:
I hope for the best if it is indeed Lagarde; but things are already off to a bad start.
I agree with Krugman and believe that there is something bothersome about this whole process. My discomfort has little to do with Lagarde, but with the ways the IMF chooses its leader. On a humorous note, there ought to have been more outrage about the fact that the only 'African' candidate Stan Fischer as disqualified. Man, where are the advocates of diversity when the one they ought to be fighting for is the most competent for the j.o.b!!!!
Sugary excerpt of the day from the always pertinent Chris Dillow:
Successful power structures persist in large part because the way in which power is exercised is hidden from us. The importance of class and the lack of discussion of it are two sides of the same fact.
For some reason, I have this unnerving feeling that we are back in the time of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (Molière) when class was determinative, what saddens/disturbs me is that that reality is true particularly in America where there is a strong and maniacal denial about the existence and the relevance of 'class.'
She elides the fact that you, as a woman, know when you’re being flashed vs. when you accidentally walk in on someone who hasn’t heard your knock. Really. Big difference. A man showing you his penis on purpose has a certain way about him, let’s just say. Do I really have to go there? He is likely (thought not certain) to be visibly sexually aroused. And sauntering around looking at you weird, with his penis in his hand as often as not. This is not the behavior of the startled guest who shouts—”wait—don’t come in!” and begins pulling the sheets around himself in a fit of embarrassment. I honestly would have thought, here is a class of rich people whom not even Megan McArdle would defend! I begin to suspect the null set is involved.
I always find it fascinating that more often than not it is women making unbelievable arguments in sexual harassment and sex crime cases. To me, that fact show how icky and hard, it is to identify with the victim of a sex act no matter how believable she is because nobody wants to believe that not only shit happens, to put it bluntly, that it can be sexual and can place in the woman in a position where she is possessed/touched/harassed without having caused the situation.
In short, women are tougher on women victimized sexually because it is both empowering and reassuring.
I agree with this:
In practice Mr Obama's anti-ideological pragmatism amounts to little more than carrying on the policies of his more ideological and motivated predecessor. No doubt Bush administration vets are gratified to learn that Mr Obama has implicitly conceded that their foreign policy approach is in fact "what actually works". But those who supported Mr Obama over John McCain precisely because he promised to get America out of Iraq and Afghanistan will be rather less pleased.
More people are realizing that the trouble with Obamamism is that it has no odor, no taste, no color, and yet, the prevalent argument remains that it is good for Americans because it has all the required vitamins and nutrients to be healthy and because the people who know nothing about gastronomy and just love bacon hate it.
Well, reading these words from Alex Massie makes me want to gloat, but I resist that urge because I'm not sure that Americas or at least those who ought to know better that it isn't good for Americans to have a president who loves cake:
No Obama speech is a proper Obama speech unless it contains a rejection of "false choices". Often the choices he deems "false" are actually the choices you'd think a President must make. But, again, Obama doesn't see it that way. Much of his presidency is oddly, perhaps unusually, conditional. He's for or against a public option for health care as circumstances demand or allow. He's certainly in favour of closing Guantanamo but only if it can be done without fuss or too much opposition. Like everything else, it just depends. That was then but this is now. Judge me on what I do, not what I say. Except there are times when you should judge me on what I say, not what I do. And so on.
In some respects this produces an administration that can be impressively nimble. The speed with which the Americans ditched Mubarak was impressive in its own way. But Obama's style also makes for a White House that can sometimes seem strangely passive or reactive. What does the President really believe?
I have to admit that I'm fed up with people asking questions about where Obama was born, who is he is, what he believes as if his actions in the last few years haven't answer those questions. Obama is as American as Clinton or as George Bush for he is one of those few Americans who was able to go to Columbia and to Harvard and to get elected to high office and to believe that he could raise the money to become POTUS. He is a centrist who masquerades a leftist who is playing the role of centrist because he is a prisonner of the system. In short, there is nothing revolutionary new about Obama because he has never been a revolutionary and was always just a 'dude' who looked different, but who was always an acceptable representative of the system he was supposed to change.
Sugary excerpt from Chris Dillow:
The belief that society is perfectible and fully controllable causes our rulers to fail to accept that there will always be plenty of ruin in a nation, and causes them to think they can eliminate even small costs. (...) Politics has become about the revelation of character, and trivial issues serve as dividing lines here.
I have the feeling that I'm going to love 20112 which are election years in both France and the US. I wish I could get use to mediocrity and triviality in politics. I made a bet with somebody that both Obama and Sarkozy are going to get reelected, why? Because they are the best, for now, at the politics of trivia.
I agree with Mick Hume on this:
Today, over Libya, NATO stands exposed as an empty shell, an alliance in name alone. The US no longer exercises global leadership through NATO. Instead it has effectively withdrawn from the Libyan conflict and pushed NATO forwards in its stead. Yet no other NATO member has the wherewithal or the will to take the lead. For all their pretensions to playing an independent role, even the French government is now reduced to complaining that the Americans should do more.
When the US, French and British leaders published their joint call to arms on Libya earlier this month, it looked less like a collective show of strength than an exercise in buck-passing, each trying to hide behind one another and the paper shield of NATO. It was striking that no NATO members responded to the request to send more warplanes to bomb the Gaddafi regime – not even US president Barack Obama. Lacking leadership and direction, the NATO states are now like longstanding members of a club who still begrudgingly pay their dues, but take little active part in its activities, while grumbling about one another’s habits and especially about the self-aggrandising committee members.
Just one question, no two : why does NATO still exist? And why did Sarkozy thought it was a brilliant idea for France to reintegrate NATO''s military command? The answer to one of these questions is pretty obvious.
Interesting point from Roger Ebert:
In America there is an ingrained populist suspicion of fats cats and robber barons. This feeling rises up from time to time. Theodore Roosevelt, who was elected as a Trust Buster, would be appalled by the excesses of our current economy. Many of the rich have a conscience. Andrew Carnegie built libraries all over America. The Rockefeller and Ford Foundations do great good. Bill Gates lists his occupation as "philanthropist."
Yet the most visible plutocrat in America is Donald Trump, a man who has made a fetish of his power. What kind of sick mind conceives of a television show built on suspense about which "contestant" he will "fire" next? What sort of masochism builds his viewership? Sadly, I suspect it is based on viewers who identify with Trump, and envy his power over his victims. Don't viewers understand they are the ones being fired in today's America?
I don't think that Americans care about being fired as much as they care about the possibility to still have the faith conviction that one today they will be the one doing the firing and being in the top one percent of Americans "now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation's income every year."
I agree with Glenn Greenwald on this:
One thing is for certain: right now, the Democratic Party is absolutely correct in its assessment that kicking its base is good politics. Why is that? Because they know that they have inculcated their base with sufficient levels of fear and hatred of the GOP, so that no matter how often the Party kicks its base, no matter how often Party leaders break their promises and betray their ostensible values, the base will loyally and dutifully support the Party and its leaders (at least in presidential elections; there is a good case that the Democrats got crushed in 2010 in large part because their base was so unenthusiastic).
In light of that fact, ask yourself this: if you were a Democratic Party official, wouldn't you also ignore -- and, when desirable, step on -- the people who you know will support you no matter what you do to them?
Well to paraphrase David Mamet, that is in part the reason I am no longer a brain-dead liberal and I have decided to be an independent. Politics should never be about loyalty or to be more accurate partisanship but about thought and action.
John Quiggin has a take on Greenwald's post that makes me wonder why politics has become about good and evil and about saying that the others are scarier and therefore should be kicked to the curve. More people should fight the talibanisation of American politics by refusing to make it about good and evil and solely about actions and no empty words such as hope and exceptionalism.
Long sugary excerpt of the day from Glenn Greenwald on Obama, Libya and American exceptionalism:
The fact remains that declaring yourself special, superior and/or exceptional -- and believing that to be true, and, especially, acting on that belief -- has serious consequences. It can (and usually does) mean that the same standards of judgment aren't applied to your acts as are applied to everyone else's (when you do X, it's justified, but when they do, it isn't). It means that you're entitled (or obligated) to do things that nobody else is entitled or obligated to do (does anyone doubt that the self-perceived superiority and self-arrogated entitlements of Wall Street tycoons is what lead them to believe they can act without constraints?). It means that no matter how many bad things you do in the world, it doesn't ever reflect on who you are, because you're inherently exceptional and thus driven by good motives. And it probably means -- at least as it expresses itself in the American form -- that you'll find yourself in a posture of endless war, because your "unique power, responsibilities, and moral obligations" will always find causes and justifications for new conflicts.
It's a nice political point on the President's behalf to insist that he has proven his belief in American exceptionalism. That insulates him from a political vulnerability (i.e., from the perception that he rejects a widely held view), which is nice if politically defending the President is an important goal for you. But the harder -- and far more important -- question is whether this American exceptionalism that you attribute to him is actually true, whether it's well-grounded, and whether it should serve as a premise for our actions in the world.
I have never had a problem with American exceptionalism, maybe that's because I believe in it almost as much as believe in the exception française or that le Cameroun c'est le Cameroun. I think that the trouble comes when one defines exceptionalism as having rights and not as many responsibilities. The question isn't about Obama's belief in American exceptionalism for all American presidents come to believe in it at some point especially when it gives them a justification to do what they want to do,. The issue is about whether American exceptionalism will ever make Obama do something that requires something more than idealism and is expensive not only to him, but to its short term goals. America exceptionalism becomes a problem, when it becomes an excuse not to justify the problematic because then it becomes about faith and not much else.
In short, the issue isn't hat Obama says or believes, but again what he does, how well he does and how he reacts to failure and to adversity.
This sugary excerpt from Gideon Rachman is the best remedy to the headache I feel after a short weekend :
There has been a certain amount of sniggering about the fact that it was Obama’s female advisers who were most prominent in pressing for military intervention in Libya, while the men hung back. Amongst the interventionists were the evocatively-named pair of Power and Slaughter – that is Samantha Power on the National Security Council and Anne-Marie Slaughter, who recently stepped down as head of the Policy Planning staff at the State Department and tweeted effectively from her new perch at Princeton. And then there was Susan Rice, the US ambassador at the UN and, finally (and decisively), Hillary Clinton.
The implication of all this is that it was the women who turned out to be the real men – prepared to get tough – while the men were wusses, who hung back. In this account, Obama is cast as the hesitant king, with Hillary as Lady Macbeth, hissing – “Infirm of purpose, hand me the dagger.”
Ahhh I wish I could take all of this seriously, but I cannot because we are in 2011 and that I am over gender. That said I think the bigger point of Rachman's point is about Obama and about the fact that America needs its commander in chief to be firm and to look in command when it is 'at war.' Obama doesn't look in command because it is obvious that he knows that the Libyan intervention os problematic for America because it increases the uncertainty and the instability in a region key to its strategic interest.
I agree mostly with Eric Posner on this:
Thanks to Bush, Obama enjoys the legal authorities he needs to conduct the conflict with Al Qaida—and so, until our next crisis, we don’t know how Obama would have acted under similar circumstances. The Obama lawyers are certainly less inclined to bloviate than the Bush lawyers were but again where it counts—have Obama’s lawyers ever stopped him from going beyond the edge of legality?—we have little information and some reason for skepticism. Obama has vigorously expanded the drone program, taken the war into Pakistan, robustly defended his right to kill American citizens abroad, and opposed litigation that could expose secrets about the treatment of detainees. What is most interesting is that there is currently little comment on the left about Obama’s extensive uses of executive power. There are some outliers who were celebrated during the Bush administration for their attacks on the presidency and who have persisted in their views now that Obama is in office, but who today are ignored. The only public apology from the left for the Obama administration’s executive branch jurisprudence that I am familiar with is this one by David Cole, who starts off vigorously enough but ultimately falls back on legalisms and ends up undercutting his defense in the second half of the article, where he laments Obama’s dependence on secrecy, which raises the question how we know what to make of Obama’s actions as an executive if we don’t know what they are. And that was before the Libya intervention.(...) On Congress’ tomb should be inscribed this epitaph, courtesy of a democratic congressman: “They consulted the Arab League. They consulted the United Nations. They did not consult the United States Congress.” As for the Republicans, with some trivial exceptions, they range from complaining that Obama did not communicate with them (nothing about consultation let alone a vote of some sort) to complaining that he did not act aggressively enough!
Isn't comforting to realize that Obama is as American as George W. Bush in his exercise and consolidation of executive power? Somebody should tell Charlie Rose and others that spending a few years in Indonesia as a child and having a Kenyan father who was never around don't necessarily make a 'full blooded American male' (he spent most his life in America) so different that he gets foreigners intuitively without the need of knowledge and give him peculiar views of America and of power.
In short, as I like to say often with smugness, Obama is what he does and he is for all intents and purposes an Imperial American president.
We’ve got lots of problems in Wisconsin and Ohio and California and New Jersey and Indiana, and just so we’re clear, here’s the deal. If we agree that the UN is the place to deal with all your funny and hard to figure out and frankly not very relevant or interesting foreigner stuff, will you all just sod off and let us get on with figuring out our new VAT tax and our grandchildren’s interest payment schedule to China?
Since the Obama's administration has no good choices in the Libyan crisis, it is trying to let the UN take the lead to avoid having to take responsibility for the worst and to be able to take credit for the good.
In short, we are in 2011, next year is a presidential election year, that fact is having disastrous effects on the foreign policies of both America and France (the french presidential election is in also next year).