Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
SOURCE: NYT (10-2-12)
Pearl K. Ford Dowe is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Arkansas.
The survey by the Public Religion Research Institute is consistent with previous research showing that white working-class Southerners with limited education feel that they are held back economically and socially, just as African-American Southerners are.
But the potential for multiracial coalitions to address these issues is made less likely by the rightward drift of white Southerners and their aversion to potential African-American partners....
SOURCE: NYT (10-1-12)
Hastings Wyman is the founding editor of Southern Political Report.
Despite a generation of economic and social change, the South’s history is distinct from that of the rest of the country and helps explain why working-class whites in the South are significantly more conservative than those elsewhere.
The South did not undergo the industrial revolution in the late 19th century, so immigrants who created a more liberal political environment elsewhere never arrived....
SOURCE: NYT (10-2-12)
SOURCE: Asia Times Online (9-29-12)
Victor Kotsev is a journalist and political analyst.
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (10-1-12)
John Arquilla is professor and chair of the department of defense analysis at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and author, most recently, of Insurgents, Raiders and Bandits.
SOURCE: WSJ (10-1-12)
Mr. Blinder, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University, is a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.
SOURCE: WaPo (10-2-12)
Richard Cohen is Opinion Writer at the Washington Post.
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (9-26-12)
Jeremy Warner is assistant editor of The Daily Telegraph.
SOURCE: National Review (9-27-12)
Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security.
...George Will, the venerable columnist, once cited Northern Ireland as one of the world’s two “intractable” conflicts. The other was what was then known as the Arab–Israeli conflict, today more usually called the Palestinian–Israeli conflict, though in reality it is now Islamist regimes and movements that are most seriously waging what they call a jihad against Israel....
On a brief return to Northern Ireland this week, it was apparent that there are still tensions, still segregated neighborhoods, still pubs where Protestants and Catholics do not mix. But the Troubles ended when most people on both sides accepted the idea of an imperfect peace, when they came to see compromise as preferable to more killing and dying, and when they tired of the poverty and degradation that chronic carnage brings in its wake....
Should that give us hope that peace in the Middle East also is possible and perhaps even imminent? Absolutely not.
At its worst, the IRA never sought the destruction of Britain and never vowed to wipe Protestants off the Irish map. The most extreme Protestant paramilitaries did not argue that southern Catholics had no right to self-determination....
SOURCE: TomDispatch (9-27-12)
As in 2004 and 2008, Rebecca Solnit and her blue-state henchwomen and men will probably invade northern Nevada on election week to swing with one of the most swinging states in the union. She is, however, much more excited about 350.org’s anti-oil-company campaign and the ten thousand faces of Occupy now changing the world. Also, she wrote some books.
Forgive me if I briefly take my eyes off the prize to brush away some flies, but the buzzing has gone on for some time. I have a grand goal, and that is to counter the Republican right with its deep desire to annihilate everything I love and to move toward far more radical goals than the Democrats ever truly support. In the course of pursuing that, however, I’ve come up against the habits of my presumed allies again and again.
O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears. Because what we’re talking about here is not an analysis, a strategy, or a cosmology, but an attitude, and one that is poisoning us. Not just me, but you, us, and our possibilities.
Leftists Explain Things to Me
The poison often emerges around electoral politics. Look, Obama does bad things and I deplore them, though not with a lot of fuss, since they’re hardly a surprise. He sometimes also does not-bad things, and I sometimes mention them in passing, and mentioning them does not negate the reality of the bad things.
The same has been true of other politicians: the recent governor of my state, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was in some respects quite good on climate change. Yet it was impossible for me to say so to a radical without receiving an earful about all the other ways in which Schwarzenegger was terrible, as if the speaker had a news scoop, as if he or she thought I had been living under a rock, as if the presence of bad things made the existence of good ones irrelevant. As a result, it was impossible to discuss what Schwarzenegger was doing on climate change (and unnecessary for my interlocutors to know about it, no less figure out how to use it).
So here I want to lay out an insanely obvious principle that apparently needs clarification. There are bad things and they are bad. There are good things and they are good, even though the bad things are bad. The mentioning of something good does not require the automatic assertion of a bad thing. The good thing might be an interesting avenue to pursue in itself if you want to get anywhere. In that context, the bad thing has all the safety of a dead end. And yes, much in the realm of electoral politics is hideous, but since it also shapes quite a bit of the world, if you want to be political or even informed you have to pay attention to it and maybe even work with it.
Instead, I constantly encounter a response that presumes the job at hand is to figure out what’s wrong, even when dealing with an actual victory, or a constructive development. Recently, I mentioned that California’s current attorney general, Kamala Harris, is anti-death penalty and also acting in good ways to defend people against foreclosure. A snarky Berkeley professor’s immediate response began, “Excuse me, she's anti-death penalty, but let the record show that her office condoned the illegal purchase of lethal injection drugs.”
Apparently, we are not allowed to celebrate the fact that the attorney general for 12% of all Americans is pretty cool in a few key ways or figure out where that could take us. My respondent was attempting to crush my ebullience and wither the discussion, and what purpose exactly does that serve?
This kind of response often has an air of punishing or condemning those who are less radical, and it is exactly the opposite of movement- or alliance-building. Those who don’t simply exit the premises will be that much more cautious about opening their mouths. Except to bitch, the acceptable currency of the realm.
My friend Jaime Cortez, a magnificent person and writer, sent this my way: “At a dinner party recently, I expressed my pleasure that some parts of Obamacare passed, and starting 2014, the picture would be improved. I was regaled with reminders of the horrors of the drone program that Obama supports, and reminded how inadequate Obamacare was. I responded that it is not perfect, but it was an incremental improvement, and I was glad for it. But really, I felt dumb and flat-footed for being grateful.”
The Emperor Is Naked and Uninteresting
Maybe it’s part of our country’s Puritan heritage, of demonstrating one’s own purity and superiority rather than focusing on fixing problems or being compassionate. Maybe it comes from people who grew up in the mainstream and felt like the kid who pointed out that the emperor had no clothes, that there were naked lies, hypocrisies, and corruptions in the system.
Believe me, a lot of us already know most of the dimples on the imperial derriere by now, and there are other things worth discussing. Often, it’s not the emperor that’s the important news anyway, but the peasants in their revolts and even their triumphs, while this mindset I’m trying to describe remains locked on the emperor, in fury and maybe in self-affirmation.
When you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail, but that’s not a good reason to continue to pound down anything in the vicinity. Consider what needs to be raised up as well. Consider our powers, our victories, our possibilities; ask yourself just what you’re contributing, what kind of story you’re telling, and what kind you want to be telling.
Sitting around with the first occupiers of Zuccotti Park on the first anniversary of Occupy, I listened to one lovely young man talking about the rage his peers, particularly his gender, often have. But, he added, fury is not a tactic or a strategy, though it might sometimes provide the necessary energy for getting things done.
There are so many ways to imagine this mindset -- or maybe its many mindsets with many origins -- in which so many are mired. Perhaps one version devolves from academic debate, which at its best is a constructive, collaborative building of an argument through testing and challenge, but at its worst represents the habitual tearing down of everything, and encourages a subculture of sourness that couldn’t be less productive.
Can you imagine how far the Civil Rights Movement would have gotten, had it been run entirely by complainers for whom nothing was ever good enough? To hell with integrating the Montgomery public transit system when the problem was so much larger!
Picture Gandhi’s salt marchers bitching all the way to the sea, or the Zapatistas, if Subcomandante Marcos was merely the master kvetcher of the Lacandon jungle, or an Aung San Suu Kyi who conducted herself like a caustic American pundit. Why did the Egyptian revolutionary who told me about being tortured repeatedly seem so much less bitter than many of those I run into here who have never suffered such harm?
There is idealism somewhere under this pile of bile, the pernicious idealism that wants the world to be perfect and is disgruntled that it isn’t -- and that it never will be. That’s why the perfect is the enemy of the good. Because, really, people, part of how we are going to thrive in this imperfect moment is through élan, esprit du corps, fierce hope, and generous hearts.
We talk about prefigurative politics, the idea that you can embody your goal. This is often discussed as doing your political organizing through direct-democratic means, but not as being heroic in your spirit or generous in your gestures.
Left-Wing Vote Suppression
One manifestation of this indiscriminate biliousness is the statement that gets aired every four years: that in presidential elections we are asked to choose the lesser of two evils. Now, this is not an analysis or an insight; it is a cliché, and a very tired one, and it often comes in the same package as the insistence that there is no difference between the candidates. You can reframe it, however, by saying: we get a choice, and not choosing at all can be tantamount in its consequences to choosing the greater of two evils.
But having marriage rights or discrimination protection or access to health care is not the lesser of two evils. If I vote for a Democrat, I do so in the hopes that fewer people will suffer, not in the belief that that option will eliminate suffering or bring us to anywhere near my goals or represent my values perfectly. Yet people are willing to use this “evils” slogan to wrap up all the infinite complexity of the fate of the Earth and everything living on it and throw it away.
I don’t love electoral politics, particularly the national variety. I generally find such elections depressing and look for real hope to the people-powered movements around the globe and subtler social and imaginative shifts toward more compassion and more creativity. Still, every four years we are asked if we want to have our foot trod upon or sawed off at the ankle without anesthetic. The usual reply on the left is that there’s no difference between the two experiences and they prefer that Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure. Now, the Che pedicure is not actually one of the available options, though surely in heaven we will all have our toenails painted camo green by El Jefe.
Before that transpires, there’s something to be said for actually examining the differences. In some cases not choosing the trod foot may bring us all closer to that unbearable amputation. Or maybe it’s that the people in question won’t be the ones to suffer, because their finances, health care, educational access, and so forth are not at stake.
An undocumented immigrant writes me, “The Democratic Party is not our friend: it is the only party we can negotiate with.” Or as a Nevada activist friend put it, “Oh my God, go be sanctimonious in California and don't vote or whatever, but those bitching radicals are basically suppressing the vote in states where it matters.”
Presidential electoral politics is as riddled with corporate money and lobbyists as a long-dead dog with maggots, and deeply mired in the manure of the status quo -- and everyone knows it. (So stop those news bulletins, please.) People who told me back in 2000 that there was no difference between Bush and Gore never got back to me afterward.
I didn’t like Gore, the ex-NAFTA-advocate and pro-WTO shill, but I knew that the differences did matter, especially to the most vulnerable among us, whether to people in Africa dying from the early impacts of climate change or to the shift since 2000 that has turned our nation from a place where more than two-thirds of women had abortion rights in their states to one where less than half of them have those rights. Liberals often concentrate on domestic policy, where education, health care, and economic justice matter more and where Democrats are sometimes decent, even lifesaving, while radicals are often obsessed with foreign policy to the exclusion of all else.
I’m with those who are horrified by Obama’s presidential drone wars, his dismal inaction on global climate treaties, and his administration’s soaring numbers of deportations of undocumented immigrants. That some of you find his actions so repugnant you may not vote for him, or that you find the whole electoral political system poisonous, I also understand.
At a demonstration in support of Bradley Manning this month, I was handed a postcard of a dead child with the caption "Tell this child the Democrats are the lesser of two evils." It behooves us not to use the dead for our own devices, but that child did die thanks to an Obama Administration policy. Others live because of the way that same administration has provided health insurance for millions of poor children or, for example, reinstated environmental regulations that save thousands of lives.
You could argue that to vote for Obama is to vote for the killing of children, or that to vote for him is to vote for the protection for other children or even killing fewer children. Virtually all U.S. presidents have called down death upon their fellow human beings. It is an immoral system.
You don’t have to participate in this system, but you do have to describe it and its complexities and contradictions accurately, and you do have to understand that when you choose not to participate, it better be for reasons more interesting than the cultivation of your own moral superiority, which is so often also the cultivation of recreational bitterness.
Bitterness poisons you and it poisons the people you feed it to, and with it you drive away a lot of people who don’t like poison. You don’t have to punish those who do choose to participate. Actually, you don’t have to punish anyone, period.
We Could Be Heroes
We are facing a radical right that has abandoned all interest in truth and fact. We face not only their specific policies, but a kind of cultural decay that comes from not valuing truth, not trying to understand the complexities and nuances of our situation, and not making empathy a force with which to act. To oppose them requires us to be different from them, and that begins with both empathy and intelligence, which are not as separate as we have often been told.
Being different means celebrating what you have in common with potential allies, not punishing them for often-minor differences. It means developing a more complex understanding of the matters under consideration than the cartoonish black and white that both left and the right tend to fall back on.
Dismissiveness is a way of disengaging from both the facts on the ground and the obligations those facts bring to bear on your life. As Michael Eric Dyson recently put it, “What is not good are ideals and rhetorics that don’t have the possibility of changing the condition that you analyze. Otherwise, you’re engaging in a form of rhetorical narcissism and ideological self-preoccupation that has no consequence on the material conditions of actually existing poor people.”
Nine years ago I began writing about hope, and I eventually began to refer to my project as “snatching the teddy bear of despair from the loving arms of the left.” All that complaining is a form of defeatism, a premature surrender, or an excuse for not really doing much. Despair is also a form of dismissiveness, a way of saying that you already know what will happen and nothing can be done, or that the differences don’t matter, or that nothing but the impossibly perfect is acceptable. If you’re privileged you can then go home and watch bad TV or reinforce your grumpiness with equally grumpy friends.
The desperate are often much more hopeful than that -- the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, that amazingly effective immigrant farmworkers’ rights group, is hopeful because quitting for them would mean surrendering to modern-day slavery, dire poverty, hunger, or death, not cable-TV reruns. They’re hopeful and they’re powerful, and they went up against Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Safeway, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s, and they won.
The great human-rights activist Harvey Milk was hopeful, even though when he was assassinated gays and lesbians had almost no rights (but had just won two major victories in which he played a role). He famously said, “You have to give people hope.”
In terms of the rights since won by gays and lesbians, where we are now would undoubtedly amaze Milk, and we got there step by step, one pragmatic and imperfect victory at a time -- with so many more yet to be won. To be hopeful means to be uncertain about the future, to be tender toward possibilities, to be dedicated to change all the way down to the bottom of your heart.
There are really only two questions for activists: What do you want to achieve? And who do you want to be? And those two questions are deeply entwined. Every minute of every hour of every day you are making the world, just as you are making yourself, and you might as do it with generosity and kindness and style.
That is the small ongoing victory on which great victories can be built, and you do want victories, don’t you? Make sure you’re clear on the answer to that, and think about what they would look like.
SOURCE: Daily Star (Lebanon) (9-25-12)
Robert Skidelsky, a member of the British House of Lords, is professor emeritus of political economy at Warwick University.
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (9-25-12)
The writer is a Tokyo-based analyst at Arcus Research.
SOURCE: NYT (9-25-12)
FOR 65 years, the Nishat cinema stood in Karachi, Pakistan. A giant screen showed blockbuster films from around the world, reflecting Pakistan’s relative openness compared with neighboring Muslim nations. Vast billboards over the door featured handsome movie stars flanked by young women with revealing clothes and long, luxurious hair.
The cinema also symbolized the country’s resilience. Opened in 1947, the year of Pakistan’s independence, the Nishat became a landmark in a lively district of theaters, nightclubs and cafes. An Islamist dictator closed the bars and many theaters after 1977, but the Nishat survived. Crowds attended movies even though boys and girls who sat together risked harassment by religious conservatives.
The show went on until last Friday, when a mob set the Nishat on fire. Although it happened on “Love of the Prophet Day,” a state-sanctioned holiday devoted to protesting an anti-Muslim video made in the United States, the attack was the latest episode in a long-running pattern of self-destruction....
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (9-25-12)
SOURCE: WSJ (9-24-12)
Mr. Yarim-Agaev is a scientist and human-rights activist who was a leading dissident in the Soviet Union in the 1970s. He is currently a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution.
SOURCE: Robert Reich's blog (9-21-12)
Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration.
...America has had hugely wealthy presidents before — think of Teddy Roosevelt and his distant cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt; or John F. Kennedy, beneficiary of father Joe’s fortune.
But here’s the difference. These men were champions of the working class and the poor, and were considered traitors to their own class. Teddy Roosevelt railed against the “malefactors of great wealth,” and he busted up the oil and railroad trusts.
FDR thundered against the “economic royalists,” raised taxes on the wealthy, and gave average working people the right to form unions — along with Social Security, unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, and a 40-hour workweek.
But Mitt Romney is not a traitor to his class. He is a sponsor of his class. He wants to cut their taxes by $3.7 trillion over the next decade, and hasn’t even specified what “loopholes” he’d close to make up for this gigantic giveaway....
SOURCE: American Spectator (9-25-12)
J.T. Young served in the Department of Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004 and as a Congressional staff member from 1987 to 2000.
Since when have Democrats had a problem with wealthy presidential candidates? Democrats' two most revered presidents, FDR and Kennedy, were extraordinarily wealthy. Interestingly, the contrast between Democrats' past history and their current attacks on Romney is never acknowledged -- either by Democrats or the media.
The Obama campaign has used Romney's wealth to caricature him. To hear them tell it, he was born Richie Rich and became Gordon Gecko. Of course, such a sketch serves many purposes -- from the politics of division to the economics of redistribution. The problem is it neither fits Romney nor Democrats' own self-cherished past.
Despite the recent resurrection of Bill Clinton -- really a factor of limited choices (it's either Clinton or Carter), the modern Democratic party rests on the twin pillars of Roosevelt and Kennedy. And those pillars' political careers rested on great wealth.
FDR built today's Democratic Party, and along with it the modern all-encompassing presidency. Democrats idolize both.
SOURCE: American Spectator (9-25-12)
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at email@example.com.
Dick Morris is right.
Here's his column on "Why the Polls Understate the Romney Vote."
Here's something Dick Morris doesn't mention. And he's charitable.
Remember when Jimmy Carter beat Ronald Reagan in 1980?
That's right. Jimmy Carter beat Ronald Reagan in 1980.
In a series of nine stories in 1980 on "Crucial States" -- battleground states as they are known today -- the New York Times repeatedly told readers then-President Carter was in a close and decidedly winnable race with the former California governor. And used polling data from the New York Times/CBS polls to back up its stories....
SOURCE: The Daily Beast (9-24-12)
Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic, weekly columnist for the Sunday Times of London, brought his hugely popular blog, The Dish, to the Daily Beast in 2011. He's the author of several books, including "Virtually Normal," "Love Undetectable," and "The Conservative Soul."
As the fall has turned crisper, a second term for Barack Obama has gotten likelier. This may, of course, change: the debates, the Middle East, the unemployment numbers could still blow up the race. At this point in 2004, one recalls, George W. Bush was about to see a near eight-point lead shrivel to a one-state nail-biter by Election Day. But one thing that has so far, in my view, been underestimated is the potential impact of a solid Obama win, and perhaps a Democratic retention of the Senate and some progress in the House. This is now a perfectly plausible outcome. It would also be a transformational moment in modern American politics.
If Obama wins, to put it bluntly, he will become the Democrats’ Reagan. The narrative writes itself. He will emerge as an iconic figure who struggled through a recession and a terrorized world, reshaping the economy within it, passing universal health care, strafing the ranks of al -Qaeda, presiding over a civil-rights revolution, and then enjoying the fruits of the recovery. To be sure, the Obama recovery isn’t likely to have the same oomph as the one associated with Reagan—who benefited from a once-in-a-century cut of top income tax rates (from 70 percent to, at first, 50 percent, and then to 28 percent) as well as a huge jump in defense spending at a time when the national debt was much, much less of a burden. But Obama’s potential for Reagan status (maybe minus the airport-naming) is real. Yes, Bill Clinton won two terms and is a brilliant pol bar none, as he showed in Charlotte in the best speech of both conventions. But the crisis Obama faced on his first day—like the one Reagan faced—was far deeper than anything Clinton confronted, and the future upside therefore is much greater. And unlike Clinton’s constant triangulating improvisation, Obama has been playing a long, strategic game from the very start—a long game that will only truly pay off if he gets eight full years to see it through. That game is not only changing America. It may also bring his opposition, the GOP, back to the center, just as Reagan indelibly moved the Democrats away from the far left.
Looking back, of course, the comparison between Obama and Reagan seems -absurd—even blasphemous. There is, to begin with, the scope of Reagan’s reelection, winning 49 states in 1984—-something Obama, in a much more polarized time, cannot hope to replicate. More fundamental is the mythology of Reagan as an unfaltering ideological conservative who galvanized the right and demoralized the left. But the reality of Reagan, especially in his first term, was very different. He was, in office, a center-right pragmatist who struggled badly in his first term, reversed himself on tax cuts several times, was uneasily reliant on Southern Democrats, -invaded Lebanon, lost 265 U.S. servicemembers, and then fled, and ran for reelection with a misery index of unemployment and inflation at 11.5 percent. (Obama is running for a second term with a misery index of 9.8 percent.) Reagan also got major flak from his right wing, as Obama has from his left. A classic excerpt in early 1983 from The Miami Herald: “Conservatives may not back President Reagan for reelection in 1984 unless he reverses what they consider ‘almost a stampede to the left’ in the White House.” Reagan’s Republicans lost 26 seats in 1982, down 13 percent from their previous numbers. That same year, Reagan’s approval ratings sank to 35 -percent—several points lower in his first term than Obama’s ever reached. If you compare Gallup’s polls of presidential approval, you also see something interesting: Obama’s first-term -approval—its peaks and valleys—resembles Reagan’s more than any other recent president; it’s just that Obama’s lows have been higher and his highs lower. Reagan struggled. By his reelection in 1984, he’d been buoyed by a rebirth of economic growth and -lower -inflation—but it was in his second term that he became the icon he remains today....
SOURCE: NY Review of Books (9-13-12)
Christian Caryl is a Senior Fellow at the Legatum Institute and the editor of Foreign Policy’s Democracy Lab website.
The year 1979—when Iranian student revolutionaries stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and took dozens of American diplomats hostage, and Muslim radicals in Saudi Arabia, a staunch US ally, brazenly laid siege to the Grand Mosque in Mecca—marked the debut of a new political phenomenon known as “Islamism.” To be sure, the theorists and advocates of political Islam had been around for a while, and there was an extraordinary explosion of Islamic activism around the Muslim world in the 1970s; in some countries there was even talk of a sahwa, an “awakening” of Islamic political consciousness. But few people outside of the ummah, the global community of Muslim believers, were paying any attention, and the US was caught flatfooted as Ayatollah Khomeini proceeded to transform his theory of “Islamic government” into reality. “Political Islam” was no longer a theory. It had become an active, practical force in global politics.
Perhaps it’s helpful to recall the events of 1979 as we contemplate the tragic death of US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and the storming of American diplomatic buildings in Cairo, Sanaa, Tunis, and elsewhere in the Muslim world. (Curiously, that same year was also the last time—until Stevens’ death—that a serving ambassador was killed overseas. The unlucky diplomat in 1979 was Adolph Dubs, killed in a Kabul hotel in a hostage-taking gone wrong.) The events this week appear at least in part to have been set off by an inflammatory anti-Muslim film. But they have been dominated by groups that were little known before the recent Arab uprisings: Salafi Islamists. Once again, a growing political force from within the Islamic world—one of which Westerners were only dimly aware—has dramatically and violently demonstrated its capacity to shape global politics....