Saturday, July 11, 2020

"Many Secrets. No Mysteries"

"Although crucial details remain concealed, the core narrative has been visible from the start. An American private citizen worked with foreign spies to damage one presidential candidate and help the other. That president accepted the help. When caught, the private citizen lied. When the private citizen was punished, the president commuted his sentence."

David Frum at The Atlantic calls Donald Trump's commutation of Roger's Stones prison sentence "One of the Greatest Scandals in American History."

And William Kristol at The Bulwark writes that "Trump has gone further than Nixon ever did."

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

"The Left Is Far Stronger Today"

"The habit of mind I term 'asymmetrical multiculturalism', which combines white intellectuals' hostility to their own group with a romantic celebration of minorities, began not in the 2010s, but in the years following the First World War. Likewise what we call wokeness is a sensibility rooted in a set of ideas I term 'Left-modernism', a hybrid ideology of liberal cosmopolitanism and cultural egalitarianism. This blend crystallised before the War, but spread within US high culture in response to nativist populism in America and nationalism in Europe."

Eric Kaufmann at Unherd compares the 2020s to the 1920s.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

"We Are Already Paying the Price in Greater Risk Aversion"

"This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other. As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences. If we won't defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn't expect the public or the state to defend it for us."

Harper's Magazine runs a "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate" from a variety of writers.

Damon Linker at The Week warns against "taking control of the boundaries of debate, narrowing them to verify our tidy certainties, protecting our sacred texts, and punishing those who dare to profane them."

And Jesse Singal at Reason reacts to the reactions to the letter, as does Jeet Heer at The Nation, as does Nick Cohen at The Guardian.

"'Real Solutions Can't Wait'"

"Despite a mountainous climb ahead, Mr Hawkins is bullish.
"'We will take our case to the voters. We are running out of time on the life-or-death issues of the pandemic, racism, economic inequality, climate, and nuclear arms.'"

Louise Boyle at The Independent discusses presumptive Green Party presidential nominee Howie Hawkins.

And also in The Independent, Hawkins makes his case.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Burmese Daze

"Orwell may have felt he ought to be on the other side of the prison bars, but he did not seek penance by surrendering himself to the police or prison for his sins; those institutions had no moral legitimacy. Rather, he felt he would find expiation in understanding and giving voice to an oppressed community. What if all police officers heeded the pangs of conscience as Orwell did? It is time for us too to recover the cooperative values that policing seeks to suppress and find community-based forms of moving forward, of redeeming the past and keeping societies safe and just."

At Slate, Priya Satia discusses George Orwell's experience with policing.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

"Our Priority Should Be Resilience, not Efficiency"

"Ultimately the problem with economic orthodoxy lies in how it frames our values and priorities. Decisions must always be about trade-offs–the weighing up of costs against benefits, ideally measured through prices in markets. If we take our ignorance about the future seriously, this cost-benefit calculus should not even get started. Because costs outweighing benefits is the oldest excuse for not taking precautions–and is a recipe for disaster when the benefits, or the costs of inaction, are vastly undervalued."

Jonathan Aldred at The Guardian argues that the "pandemic has exposed the uselessness of orthodox economics."

"Turning Los Angeles into an Intentionally Segregated City"

"Freeways created physical barriers that made any non-white presence on the 'white' side of the road conspicuous—and thus easier to target by law enforcement. One 1943 freeway marketing pamphlet, designed to win over reluctant white communities, boasted of the freeway's fortress-like impermeability and ability to preserve 'neighborhood character.'
"As Rothstein told NPR in 2017: 'The "Underwriting Manual" of the Federal Housing Administration recommended that highways be a good way to separate African American from white neighborhoods. This... was a matter of government regulation.'"

Matthew Fleischer at the Los Angeles Times discusses how racial segregation was affected by the impact of L.A. freeways.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

"If Ever There Was a Time to Rejoin the Two and Leverage Nationalism to Counter Ethno-Nationalism, It Is Now"

"Post-Vietnam progressives answered King's call to eschew imperialism but they mistrusted nationalism. Many came to regard it as just another expression of toxic tribalism that modernization and popular enlightenment would one day wash away. Democrats have told stories of class, gender, and racial injustice, and they have rightly pressed for ameliorative policies, but they have typically failed to scale up their message to a full-blown narrative that joins the pursuit of justice to the nation's ideals, identity, and greatness. Most party leaders have also refrained from taking the lead on national interests and security, leaving that to the Republicans. As a result, they left the flag with politicians who carried it into another reckless war—and eventually turned it over to Trump, whose patriotic pretensions too often go unchallenged despite their manifest hollowness."

M. Steven Fish, Neil A. Abrams, and Laila M. Aghaie at Slate argue that "American liberals have been relatively comfortable talking about race but have forgotten how to speak the language of nationalism."

Friday, July 03, 2020

"No Substitute for the Hard Work of Persuasion"

"I call you a hate-monger and I encourage others to do the same. I come on like a tooled-up Dalai Lama, a semi-deity of moral spotlessness, and you are cast out, for ever maligned by random egg-people on Twitter. The world at large ignores it all, because all that happens is that everyone's existing world view is simply reinforced."

At The Guardian, Suzanne Moore cancels "cancel culture."

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

"The Answers to Those Questions Largely Remain Elusive"

"In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, New York City police officers descended on the Stonewall Inn to conduct what had become their typical, humiliating, and brutal raids on gay establishments. Patrons weren't having it. Several days of violent demonstrations followed.
"In popular culture, the Stonewall riots are widely viewed as pivotal. But there's also a mythic air to the protests. Folkloric tellings and retellings change with each passing year: Who spearheaded the charge against authority? Who threw that fateful first brick? Or was it a shot glass?"

Billy Binion at Reason discusses Marsha P. Johnson's role in the Stonewall Riots.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June 2020 Acquisitions

Alan Grant et al, Batman Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, 2020.
Katherine Pickering Antonova, The Essential Guide to Writing History Essays, 2020.

Liam Gallagher, MTV Unplugged, 2020.
Various, Guitar Player Presents: Legends Of Guitar--Electric Blues, Vol. 2, 1991.
Various. Metal-Age: The Roots of Metal, 1992.

"Less a Contradiction Than an Example of the Unintended Effects of American Foreign Policy Rhetoric"

"Wilson was undoubtedly a racist—even by the standards of his time. His administration resegregated several federal agencies; he wrote sympathetically about the Ku Klux Klan; and he described Southern Black people as an 'ignorant and inferior race' who couldn't be trusted with political power.
"At the same time, his advocacy of 'self-determination' unintentionally inspired people fighting colonialism and European imperialism around the world."

At Slate, Joshua Keating calls Woodrow Wilson the "Accidental Anti-Imperialist."

"Toppling Monuments Will Not Help Us Properly Understand Our Past or Resolve Our Present Troubles"

"Of course, we need critical and enquiring study of the British empire in our schools. But the aim should be to understand it–why it came into being, how it sustained itself for so long, and how it come to an end (and yes, what role slavery played, and why it was abolished)–not to praise empire on the one hand or damn it on the other."

Richard J. Evans at The New Statesmen discusses the "history wars."

Sunday, June 28, 2020

"Makes The Art of the Deal Read Like Anna Karenina"

"That this speech was held up as the framework for American race relations for more than half a century precisely because people of all races understood King to be referring to a difficult and beautiful long-term goal worth pursuing is discounted, of course. White Fragility is based upon the idea that human beings are incapable of judging each other by the content of their character, and if people of different races think they are getting along or even loving one another, they probably need immediate antiracism training. This is an important passage because rejection of King's 'dream' of racial harmony—not even as a description of the obviously flawed present, but as the aspirational goal of a better future—has become a central tenet of this brand of antiracist doctrine mainstream press outlets are rushing to embrace."

Matt Taibbi at Substack criticizes Robin DiAngelo.

Friday, June 26, 2020

"Trump Is the Worst Criminal in History, Undeniably"

"Take Richard Nixon. Pretty rotten guy, but when the time came that he had to leave office, he left office quietly. Nobody is expecting that with Trump. He doesn't act like a human being. He's off somewhere else."

Michael Brooks at Jacobin interviews Noam Chomsky.

And Windsor Mann at The Week describes Trump as "a president in which incompetence, stupidity, derangement, bigotry, corruption, and dishonesty are each struggling to take the upper hand."

"Pretending It Isn't True Won't Change It"

"Alexis de Tocqueville adds the observation that as a community addresses and corrects for grave systemic injustices over time, the (smaller) ones that (inevitably) remain come to loom ever-larger in the minds of those who suffer them, so that an act or event that would have been considered a relatively minor injustice in the past comes to take on enormous significance in the present."

Damon Linker at The Week argues that "moderation in pursuit of justice is essential."

Thursday, June 25, 2020

"How Paranoia Thrives Under Putin and Trump"

"Conspiracy theories adapt easily to virtually any political environment, but social unrest, polarization, and a recognized history of state secrecy are part of their natural habitat. In my view, however, conspiracy is less a function of politics than of information. It's probably easy to understand how conspiracy theories could thrive under a restrictive media regime: in the absence of reliable information, people fill in the blank spots with speculation. This was certainly the case in the Soviet Union, for instance, when people took for granted that they were being lied to. But conspiracy is also quite at home in informational systems based on surplus rather than shortage. The media environment in the United States, with its multiple private television channels offering radically different worldviews, allows viewers of Fox News and readers of Breitbart to live in a world that routinely excludes facts that might contradict it."

James Devitt in 2019 at NYU News interviews Eliot Borenstein about the appeal of conspiracy theories.

"There Is Something Going On in the Cultural Realm That Needs Explaining"

"Liberal democracy cannot exist without a national identity that defines what citizens hold in common with one another. Given the de facto multiculturalism of contemporary democracies, that identity needs to be civic or creedal. That is, it needs to be based on liberal political ideas that are accessible to people of different cultural backgrounds rather than on fixed characteristics such as race, ethnicity, or religion. I thought that the United States had arrived at such a creedal identity in the wake of the civil rights movement, but that accomplishment is now being threatened by right-wing identitarians, led by Trump, who would like to drag Americans backward to identities based on ethnicity and religion."

In Foreign Affairs in 2019, Francis Fukuyama responds to critics of his criticism of identity politics.

"The Lines Between Justice and Injustice Are Crisscrossed"

"'The Star-Spangled Banner' nevertheless shares its conceptual DNA with the United States as a whole. It is a product of a time when the stain of slavery was clear on the nation and part of US law. To understand the anthem and its legacy, we need to know more than just Key's words. We need to understand their author's feelings and actions about slavery."

Mark Clague in a 2016 CNN article defends "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

"They Remember, Even if the Rest of the Country Does Not"

"Just as these white settlers began moving into the region, a series of events in Mexico (a recession in 1906; the Mexican Revolution in 1910) caused an increase in Mexican immigration, as people fled instability in their home country. The decadelong revolution in Mexico ended the reign of Porfirio Diaz, a dictator who had supported wealthy landowners and industrialists. The reforms called for by Mexicans who challenged Diaz's rule included land redistribution. This scared Anglo Texans, who worried that revolutionaries might look at Texas—where some Anglos had begun to accumulate huge tracts of land that once belonged to Tejano smallholders—and see fertile ground for protest and action."

In a 2016 Slate article, Rebecca Onion discusses the era of "La Matanza" in early-twentieth-century Texas.

Imperialist or Nationalist?

"To make empire the dominant story in British history is to misunderstand the nature of Britain, its elite and its exploitative power, and its persistent racism. The racism of Oswald Mosley and Enoch Powell, for all its roots in the past, was a self-consciously post-imperial nationalist one. Imperialism reluctantly granted British Caribbean people UK citizenship. These rights were stripped away by nationalists, right down to Theresa May–this was the essence of the Windrush scandal. People voted for Brexit not because they were imperialists, but because they were nostalgic for a national Britain. They were certainly not voting for the return to free immigration from the old imperial territories. The history that seems to matter most to Brexiteers is a particular account of the second world war, one that is decidedly nationalist."

David Edgerton at The Guardian writes that the British "should not admit the framing of the debate about history as a question of a dark imperial history sullying a bright national story."

Monday, June 22, 2020

"The Product of a Completely Different World Than the Ivy League Meritocracy That Has Taken Over the Democratic Party"

"Catering to society's well-educated winners is no way to run a party of the left: Biden seems to be one of the few mainstream Democrats to have grasped this. He recalled in the interview being told by a Hillary Clinton operative in 2016 that he 'had to make a distinction between progressive values and working-class values'.
"'I said I've never found a distinction,' Biden claimed he replied. 'Never found them hard to sell.' He told the Times about white working-class enthusiasm for gender wage equality and some other issues, and then he took this shot at the very heart of modern-day liberalism: 'We treat them like they're stupid. They know they're in trouble, and nobody's talking to them. Nobody's talking to them. That's what we used to do. That was our base.'"

Thomas Frank at The Guardian explains "Joe Biden's mystique."

"A Post-Policy Party"

"By any fair measure, the GOP excels at acquiring power and exploiting electoral structures to keep it, often in defiance of the American electorate's will. Republicans may fail in breathtaking fashion when trying to govern, but they have unrivaled expertise in gerrymandering and voter-suppression techniques.
"The shortcoming quickly becomes evident after Election Day, when Republicans roll up their sleeves and clumsily try to use that power in pursuit of their ostensible priorities."

Talking Points Memo runs chapter one of Steve Benen's The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.

"You Have to Have a Conscience in Order to Have a Crisis of Conscience"

"While Trump does not have such blood directly on his hands, he has campaigned and governed on the basis of racist dog-whistles about restoring a formerly 'great' America. Racial intolerance has been perhaps the only consistent part of Trump's political character; it runs unbroken from discriminating against blacks in his family’s apartment empire, to demanding the death penalty for the wrongfully convicted Central Park Five, to trumpeting the birther lie about Barack Obama, to urging the crowds at his rallies to rough up black protesters, to rhetorically defending neo-Nazis and Confederate symbols as president.
"And Trump's denunciations and policies against Muslims, Mexicans, Central American immigrants, and African 'shithole countries,' topped off by inciting anti-Chinese sentiment during the Covid-19 pandemic, make him a more expansive bigot than Wallace ever was."

In The Guardian, Samuel G. Freedman writes, "Stop comparing Trump to the infamous racist George Wallace. It's unfair to Wallace."