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Number of posts: 86
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By John Hickman:
self-indulgent con man
Any additional reassurance that Donald Trump is not an American Adolf Hitler was provided by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) last Tuesday. That is the same North Korean government entity that previously announced that North Korea had invented not only the hamburger but also a drug that cures AIDS, Ebola and cancer. So if the KCNA likens POTUS 45 to Der Fuehrer, you know it is almost certainly untrue. What is interesting is that plenty of smart people outside the information bubble…
Splitting the difference is sometimes the closest approximation to justice achievable when judges rule in contract and family disputes. When the liberty protections in the U.S. Constitution are involved, however, splitting the difference is an evasion of judicial responsibility. Consider the Supreme Court’s June 26th decision on the Muslim Ban in Donald J. Trump v. International Refugee Assistance and Donald J. Trump v. Hawaii.
foreign policy anarchy
The geopolitical peril facing Qatar in 2017 resembles that of Switzerland in 1938: small, wealthy, tenaciously independent … and caught between militarily powerful neighbors, one of which wants to end its neutrality. Eighty-one years ago, little Switzerland occupied some of the most dangerous territory on the planet, bordered by Nazi Germany to the north and east and by Fascist Italy to the south. With the Fall of France in 1940 she would be completely surrounded …
K.J. McElrath and Glen Greenwald appear disoriented. This is not the post 2016 election political struggle that they had anticipated. Or know how to fight. They were prepared to wage a virtuous virtual campaign against a President Hillary Clinton by continuing to expose the secrets of the military intelligence complex that spies on Americans and conducts a forever war to police the Middle East. Instead, the exposures of massive troves of mostly prosaic secrets via Wikileaks that they celebrated and propagated helped to shove history down a different path, leaving them stumbling and flailing.
Despite the “never, ever, ever give up” language in Donald Trump’s recent disaster of a commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy it takes little imagination to picture him suddenly resigning from office. Although a majority of Americans would like to see him depart for his golf courses permanently as quickly as possible, an excruciating slow motion departure from office would be more beneficial. Beyond the raw entertainment value of watching a ridiculous narcissist get his comeuppance…
counterfactuals are free
Did the world need another biography of V.I. Lenin? That we have no need of new biographies of Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler or Winston Churchill is obvious. Yet they will be published. In contrast the world might be rather richer for new biographies of Ranavalona I, Jósef Pilsudski, Pancho Villa and Trygve Lie. But another Lenin biography?
Lenin’s seeming unparalleled role in making history is Tariq Ali’s excuse…
Bidding for public attention among Republican state legislators appears astonishingly intense. Consider Colorado State Representative Dave (not David) Williams. On first encounter, Williams appears to be just another standard issue ‘guns, fetuses and homophobia’ Republican. His issue page endorses the Second Amendment as defense against enemies “foreign and domestic.” How he squares appeals to Red Dawn wingnut fantasies with his national party leader being in the pocket of President Vladimir Putin is anyone’s guess…
Americans have reason to be impressed by the U.S. State Department’s formal denunciation of the Russian crackdown on the March 26th demonstrations. Although there was nothing inspiring in the wording of the official condemnation – indeed it de-mothballed the long exhausted ‘marketplace of ideas’ trope – it was nonetheless perfectly adequate to the task. Given the incompetence performance of this most aberrant of presidential administrations, achieving mere adequacy is noteworthy.
Hitler and drugs are such an obvious formula for successful popular history that it is a wunder someone hadn’t already published something similar to Norman Ohler’s 2016 Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany. Likely to please readers interested in social history and drug policy, the book is certain to perturb serious political and military historians with what appear almost uni-causal explanations for phenomena such as Adolf Hitler’s erratic decision making and the success of the blitzkrieg as a strategy…
right to bear cars
Running down pedestrians with your car is wrong. Whether the act is intentional or negligent, running down pedestrians is absolutely wrong. That ethical absolute extends to encouraging others to commit such an act. Unfortunately a couple of Republican lawmakers in Tennessee want their state courts to take a much more permissive approach to vehicular murder and assault. Tennessee State Representative Matthew Hill and State Senator Bill Ketron have introduced…
Remember how Donald Trump spent much of the 2016 election campaign touting his ability to negotiate better deals for the United States? For all the bombast about trade with China and nukes in Iran, and cheering from supporters who probably couldn’t find either country on a world map, it turns out that the international agreements he intended to renegotiate and perhaps junk altogether were with our allies and not our rivals. That’s why Vice President Mike Pence was …
twisting ideological knots
Donald J. Trump’s lies, especially about numbers, and that presents a puzzle. His claims about fraudulent votes cast against him in the general election and the size of his inauguration crowd make him appear not just obsessive and puerile, but also remind audiences of his illegitimacy. Conservative populists claim to speak for “the people.” References to numbers remind us that he is only the leader of an angry minority and not the majority of Americans …
we are a hostage audience
Revenge is one of the powerful unspoken temptations of public office. For incoming presidents, the urge to punish often involves diminishing the historical legacies of their predecessors. Ronald Reagan took revenge on Jimmy Carter by gutting renewable and clean energy policies. Fuel efficiency standards were rolled back, renewable energy research and development funding was slashed and the wind power investment tax credit was eliminated. Reagan even had the solar panels on the roof of the White House taken down.
The kompromat story becomes more plausible with each passing day.
The important information for much of the news audience is that Donald Trump allowed himself to be caught in a classic honey trap, one made all the more embarrassing because it involved a peculiar paraphilia. The accusation is that the president elect paid Russian prostitutes to urinate on him.
Which seems more astonishing? That Donald Trump’s supporters have forgotten the Cold War and fallen in love with a Russian dictator? Or that the only major historical event diehard supporters of Bernie Sanders remember is that the George W. Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? What connects the amnesia of the former with the schematic error of the latter is that both are now being deployed to deny that Russian intelligence agents …
Dismayed by the extraordinary vitriol and vituperation expressed in online discussions of politics that we continue to read reminded me of the insights into behavior in Elias Aboujaoude’s fascinating 2011 book Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality. Aboujaoude is a Professor and Director of the OCD Clinic at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and specializes in the treatment of compulsive disorders…
Perpetrators must first envisage crimes before they commit them. Often that entails a fantasy that their intended victims deserve what’s coming for having committed the same crime. Psychological projection helps dodge acceptance of moral responsibility. When the envisaged crimes are political, the fantasies projected onto opponents are often spun as conspiracy theories.
After years of loopy conspiracism from populist conservatism it is easy to overlook the fact that as primary candidate, as party nominee, and even as President-elect, Donald Trump deployed only a few of the many available conspiracy theories to denounce Hillary Clinton…
tinfoil hat crazy
That Donald John Trump will be the 45th President of the United States still seems unreal and that sensation is not helped by the realization that millions of the Americans who voted for him may have done so because of runaway conspriracism. As the improbable candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, the billionaire real estate developer/reality television celebrity played to conservative gullibility by …
Viewers can be forgiven if they missed the geopolitics of the second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on October 9th. The emotional tension in their encounter was certainly unprecedented in American political history. Dramatics notwithstanding, how the nominees perceive or think voters perceive international politics may be discerned from a content analysis of their geographic references.
Note that the geographic references in this debate were more narrowly focused than in the first debate on September 26th…
Dangerous but unchallenged nonsense is what listeners heard from U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson in his September 30th interview on Georgia Rewind with Bill Nigut. After performing the ritual of joviality between elected officials and journalists with Bill Nigut and Jim Galloway that is expected on the program, the third term Republican got down to the serious business of evading questions and promoting militarism. Asked about legislative gridlock in Congress, Isakson was allowed to reduce the problem to budgeting and then blame it on House Republicans and President Obama.
Are political courage and smart ideas enough to unseat an entrenched incumbent? Jeremy Salter is counting on a thoughtful electorate ready for overdue criminal justice reform as the challenger in the contest for Floyd County District Attorney against incumbent Leigh Patterson. That Patterson is the most prominent of the four local public officials in the county who recently changed their affiliation from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party adds an element of drama to the race…
That Hillary Clinton trounced Donald Trump in the first debate between the party presidential nominees on September 26, 2016 is obvious. She was clear while he was confusing. She was self-possessed while he was easily baited. The differences were so obvious that they tended to obscure what their responses revealed about their respective geopolitics. A bare bones content analysis of the number of references to locations reveals much about their perspectives on global politics.
vp candidate, green party
Disappointment and boredom have left many Americans with the suspicion that something essential to democracy is missing from the 2016 presidential contest as it is covered by corporate news media… and they are correct. The presidential and vice-presidential nominees of the two major parties are painfully uninspiring and their ideas promise nothing but different versions of ‘more of the same.’ Americans are hungrier than ever for leaders willing to confront entrenched power. Which is why I was delighted to interview Ajamu Baraka, the Vice Presidential for the Green Party…
American novelists have been disturbing comforting denials about the evils of racism since the publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852. Ben H. Winters’ carries on that proud tradition with his latest novel, Underground Airlines, a brilliant exploration of the relationship between political compromise and personal complicity. Winters graciously offered to answer my questions about his writing.
Katie Archibald-Woodward is a photojournalist and minister who produces arresting images of resistance to oppression in Palestine/Israel and here in the United States. Katie seems constantly on the move but she can be claimed by both Atlanta and Los Angeles. I caught up with her long enough to ask questions about the power of her art. She was also kind enough to share some of her work here.
John: As your photos remind us, photography can be an extraordinarily powerful medium. Do you have any thoughts about the secret of its power to move us?
ile de ré
Remember when we associated France with popular rebellion against tyranny and individual liberty? The French Revolution, the Paris Commune, the French Resistance and May 1968 provided ideas and imagery for innumerable liberation movements around the world.
To the dismay of many Francophiles, of late liberal democracy in L’Hexagone has gone pear shaped in response to Islamist terrorism. Surveillance was ramped up and the number of prosecutions for hate speech multiplied after the January 7, 2015 Charlie Hebdo mass killing…
threat to our democracy
For millions of Americans watching the 2016 Republican Party Convention in Cleveland, disbelief and dismay have given way to bemused contempt. They see a GOP in a state of extraordinary disarray and unable to prevent a likely electoral train wreck. Many of its heavy weights simply refused to attend, including two former presidents, six governors, and 21 U.S. Senators. David and Charles Koch are notably absent.
minor celebrities matter
The first night of Donald Trump’s 2016 (Republican Party) Presidential Nominating Convention in Cleveland, Ohio provided more entertainment value than any in living memory. One after another former celebrities, practiced victims and assorted public figures took the stage to throw rhetorical raw meat at a seething pale audience.
Among the highlights were appearances by Marcus Luttrell and Scott Baio. Luttrell because he seemed to call for a civil war here in the United States when he asked, “Who among you are gonna step up and take the fight to the enemy? Because it’s here.”
requires frightened people
In what might be the smartest appeal so far in this otherwise dismal presidential election, Hillary Clinton did NOT call Donald Trump a fascist during her July 13th speech on unity in Springfield, Illinois. Instead she warned about what he might do once in power. Declining to use the “F word” might seem pusillanimous, the sort of rhetorical restraint that conservatives pounce on, but using it could actually blur what is more important point.
BREXIT has elicited expressions of wounded outrage from European intellectuals emotionally invested in the current European Project. Some have contented themselves with name-calling by denouncing British voters as shortsighted bigots manipulated by conservative populists. Disappointment in the outcome of the referendum was so great for others that they have begun asking whether democracy itself might be the problem. If people, the British to be precise, are unable to see what is in their own best interests then perhaps …
adopting a two-round system
Perhaps the only good thing that may be said for the Electoral College is that every four years it relieves most of us of the burden of choosing the lesser of two evils from among major party presidential nominees. Once we know that a clear majority of the other voters in our state will be plumping for the Democrat or the Republican, we are free to vote sincerely rather than a strategically for any candidate that we like. And that includes the nominees of third parties. Blame the ‘winner take all’ rule …
bald faced untruth
Do Marco Rubio’s inhumanly large and pointy ears wiggle when he lies? That’s what it seemed like during last Sunday’s interview with John Dickerson on “Face the Nation.” Maybe it was just a trick of the television lens but there is reason to think that something almost fey about Rubio’s successful dissembling. Asked about possible political repercussions of failing to do what most Americans believe U.S. Senators are paid to do – to actually vote on legislation in the U.S. Senate – said, “I’m not a political strategist; I’m a candidate.” And he got away with that…
pause to pity
Pause a moment to pity temporary front runner Ben Carson for his poor performance at the Third Republican-CNBC Debate in Boulder. Perhaps ‘non-performance’ is the right word. He was hardly a presence among the weirdly energized collection of candidates. So how did candidate Carson go from being the ‘great Evangelical hope’ to ‘doctor who?’ You only notice that Carson is boring when he is faced with any competition for attention on the stage. Between his soft, slightly slurred voice and the rambling illogic of his story-telling…
Does the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump serve any useful purpose? If your first reaction is to dismiss the question because the idea that such an absurd and repellant figure could be taken seriously, it is worth remembering that American voters have elected others just as unlikely to the White House. Ronald Reagan the movie actor and George W. Bush the old money underachiever whose daddy was president were no less improbable early in their political careers.
o be sure, Trump’s candidacy might be nothing more than an example of the public attention seeking that afflicts the superrich.
That hawkish Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have once again blasted President Barack Obama for an insufficiently bellicose foreign policy barely qualifies as news. Of course they did. That is what they do. The scorpion always stings the frog halfway across the stream. What is worth noting is the rationale offered they present for a much riskier American foreign policy.
Worthy of Comment
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