Several recent developments reveal how political and institutional fragmentation in the United States has produced self-inflicted wounds for the U.S. abroad. In all of these instances, America’s ability to exercise economic power in the world has been deliberately curtailed through decisions made unilaterally in Washington by American political leaders.
Some Paths to the True Knowledge[*] - "Attention conservation notice: A 5000+ word attempt to provide real ancestors and support for an imaginary ideology I don't actually accept, drawing on fields in which I am in no way an expert. Contains long quotations from even-longer-dead writers, reckless extrapolation from arcane scientific theories, and an unwarranted tone of patiently explaining harsh, basic truths. Altogether, academic in one of the worst senses. Also, spoilers for several of MacLeod's novels, notably but not just The Cassini Division. Written for, and cross-posted to, Crooked Timber's seminar on MacLeod, where I will not be reading the comments."
“It is the strangest of bureaucratic rituals,” write two New York Times reporters. “Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die.” In Washington, this weekly meeting has been labeled “Terror Tuesday.” Once established, the list of nominees is sent to the White House, where the president orally gives his approval to each name. With the “kill list” validated, the drones do the rest. [more inside]
The Singing Sailor Underwater Defense System - the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society sends out a message of peace, love, understanding and respect to Russian submariners cruising through the Stockholm archepelago
Fashion to Die For: "Fast fashion might seem like a modern invention, but in the turbulent world of 18th-century France, when Marie Antoinette was calling the shots, fashion moved at light speed." Dr. Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, art historian specializing in fashion and textiles, gives a delightfully rich interview to Collectors Weekly. Through the prism of fashion, she touches on class fluidity and lack thereof, gender roles, textile trades, guilds, self-expression – all elements that rapidly metamorphosized at the end of the Ancien Régime and inexorably led to the French Revolution and its Reign of Terror. [more inside]
China rates its own citizens - including online behaviour: "The Chinese government is currently implementing a nationwide electronic system, called the Social Credit System, attributing to each of its 1,3 billion citizens a score for his or her behavior. The system will be based on various criteria, ranging from financial credibility and criminal record to social media behavior. From 2020 onwards each adult citizen should, besides his identity card, have such a credit code." [more inside]
"What does it mean to be British? Read five outspoken collectives' views on identity in UK culture in this roundtable." - text by Zing Tsjeng for Dazed magazine (part of a series of articles on the state of the nation as the May 7 election approaches in the UK).
"In four short weeks, the sure-thing election about nothing has turned into an election about everything; a historic campaign that could spell the end of the 44-year Progressive Conservative political dynasty, or see them snatch another stunning victory from the jaws of defeat." Alberta goes to the polls May 5 in their 29th general election. It has turned out to be a far more interesting campaign than many thought at the outset. [more inside]
1967 NBC News Special Report: "Summer of '67"[YouTube]
The 1967 Detroit riot, also known as the 12th Street riot, was a violent public disorder that turned into a civil disturbance in Detroit, Michigan. It began on a Saturday night in the early morning hours of July 23, 1967. The precipitating event was a police raid of an unlicensed, after-hours bar then known as a blind pig, on the corner of 12th (today Rosa Parks Boulevard) and Clairmount streets on the city's Near West Side. Police confrontations with patrons and observers on the street evolved into one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in United States history, lasting five days and surpassing the violence and property destruction of Detroit's 1943 race riot. [Wiki]
The Washington Post sheds some much needed, highly relevant historical context on "[t]he long, painful and repetitive history of how Baltimore became Baltimore". [more inside]
In Grimsby, the former fishing capital of England, sandpipers scurry across the tarmac of derelict streets. The sandpiper isn’t a creature of asphalt and paving. It’s a small white-breasted bird usually to be found foraging on British foreshores in groups of twenty or so, scuttling up and down sandy beaches as the foaming forward edge of the sea roars in and hisses back. I’d come to Grimsby to see why, after seventy years of voting Labour, the town was flirting with the United Kingdom Independence Party. After a while I began wondering what had happened to make Grimsby a wild and lonely enough place for the sandpiper to feel at home. It turns out the reason is the same. Someone, or something, abdicated power in Grimsby, leaving swathes of it to rot. But who, or what? And what will the succession be?James Meek in the LRB provides an indepth look at the problems of one northern town, featuring the decline of the fisheries, the hopes resting on new offshore wind energy parks revitalising the town, the difference between Victorian local capitalism and contemporary pension fund driven global capitalism, the leftwing grassroots Ukip campaigners trying to end the dominance of Labour and their parachuted in candidate with a campaign manager engaged to the local candidate for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, heardheaded Greens, the withdrawal of the State and the hollowing out of local control of everyday necessities needed for any town to flourish.
"For the sake of argument, here are the best and most reasonable ways to improve [the White House Correspondent's Dinner]." [more inside]
Foundation: Public Goods and Options for the Bottom Billions - "Human beings just don't handle the very long run well" and that's where government increasingly comes in... (via) [more inside]
As a historic constitutional showdown over gay marriage looms this month at the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys are fighting over another bitterly disputed issue: their fees. In some cases, the fee requests run well into seven figures and are submitted on behalf of powerful law firms that a Reuters examination found have outsized access to the Supreme Court. Individuals and advocacy groups that file lawsuits aimed at the high court sometimes retain big-firm lawyers who specialize in arguing in that forum and boast remarkable success rates in getting their cases heard.
"More than sixty years have passed since Israel started its nuclear venture and almost half a century has elapsed since it crossed the nuclear weapons threshold. Yet Israel's nuclear history still lacks a voice of its own: Israel has never issued an authorized and official nuclear history; no insiders have ever been authorized to tell the story from within. Unlike all seven other nuclear weapons states, Israel's nuclear policy is essentially one of non-acknowledgement. Israel believes that nuclear silence is golden, referring to its nuclear code of conduct as the policy of amimut ("opacity" in Hebrew)." A special collection of declassified documents was published by the National Security Archive this Wednesday, that sheds some light on How Israel Hid Its Secret Nuclear Weapons Program.
Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan chronicler of Latin American history, politics, and football, has died at the age of 74 today in his hometown, Montevideo. [more inside]
From The Bitter Southerner: Dixie Is Dead
"We live in an age of satirical excess. If economists were to diagnose it, they might well call it a comedy bubble. We currently have six late-night talk show hosts, all nattily clad, life-of-the-party, white-guy topical jokers—Conan, Kimmel, Fallon, James Corden, Seth Meyers, and (come September) Colbert—to sum up, and send up, our day for us. We have four comedy news-commentary shows—Maher, Larry Wilmore, John Oliver, and (for a little while longer) Stewart—and fake news from SNL’s Weekend Update, The Onion, ClickHole, and several lesser lights. Vines, viral Funny or Die clips, podcasts, Twitter: each new media platform generates stars of its own, ranging from seasoned comedians to everyday office wits—often, people who have no intention of seeking careers as professional humorists. It would be easy to sniff in condescending high-gatekeeper form and talk of the low signal-to-noise ratio of truly funny people to not, but with 280 million active users on Twitter alone, that still leaves a pretty big signal." [more inside]
What Russians really think - "Many in the west see Russia as aggressive and brainwashed. But its citizens have a different view." Meanwhile,[1,2] in Moscow and Lviv...
John Oliver explores the topic of government surveillance in the context of the June 1st deadline to reauthorize the Patriot Act and the ongoing Edward Snowden case.
California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth [New York Times]
A punishing drought is forcing a reconsideration of whether the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has for so long been the state’s engine has run against the limits of nature.California Water Use [New York Times] Are you affected? [New York Times] The Drought, explained. [New York Times Video] [more inside]
A group of 4th graders in New Hampshire, learning about how Government works and following a long-held tradition of schools across the US, drafted and presented a bill proposing that the red-tailed hawk be named the official state raptor of New Hampshire. Their bill was solidly defeated by the Legislature, drawing ire for its mean-spirited mocking as well as a highly dubious abortion metaphor. While some have defended the Legislature's decision, others have come to the aid of the 4th graders, mostly thanks to John Oliver's declaration of the red-tailed hawk as the official mascot of Last Week Tonight. There are plans to potentially resurrect the bill.
On stage that day, Iglesias declared that Podemos would take back power from self-serving elites and hand it over to the people. To do that, the new party needs votes. If that means arousing emotions and being accused of populism, so be it. And, as the party’s founders have already shown, if they have to renounce some of their ideas in order to broaden their appeal, or risk upsetting some in their grassroots movement by tightening central control, they are ready to do that, too. The aim, after all, is to win. [more inside]
Incumbent President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan today conceded defeat in last weekend's election, and called President-Elect Muhammadu Buhari to congratulate him. The election has generally appeared to be the fairest in Nigeria's history and mostly free of the bloodshed of Jonathan's 2011 defeat of Buhari; this transition will mark Nigeria's first transfer of power to an opposition party after an election. Buhari's presidency will be his second administration as leader of Nigeria after acting as the head of a military junta from 1983 to 1985. [more inside]
Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has fled the country as Saudi Arabia initiates a bombing campaign against the Houthi rebels. A ground invasion by Egypt and other members of Saudi Arabia's 10-country coalition is apparently to follow the bombing. The United States has withdrawn its special operations forces from Yemeni territory with a potential civil war looming. [more inside]
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Ben Carson?
What If Sarah Palin Were a Brain Surgeon?
Taking Ben Carson Seriously
What If Sarah Palin Were a Brain Surgeon?
Taking Ben Carson Seriously
"[In] the face of a culture that would deny them, it becomes necessary for an artist of color in the west to defiantly announce to the world: I am a fact." In April 2014, at the first ever Yale Asian Alumni Reunion, Vijay Iyer delivered a powerful speech "on two intertwined issues: the role of Asian Americans as upwardly mobile minorities and the role of the artist as a potential transgressor within elite institutions."
Amid a historically crowded pool of candidates exploring bids in the 2016 presidential elections, one might say that there are..... Too Many Cooks.
The Wall Street Journal reports on how Google favored its own shopping, travel services over rivals, and the U.S. antitrust probe of Google:
The 160-page critique, which was supposed to remain private but was inadvertently disclosed in an open-records request, concluded that Google’s “conduct has resulted—and will result—in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.”Is Google an unelected superpower? A truly sinister social networking platform could manipulate public opinion even more effectively. (Previously)
The connection between education and occupation is now so firmly ingrained as to seem almost a fact of nature. To get a good job, you get a diploma: at once time a high school diploma stuffed, and then a B.A., but now you're better off with a J.D. or an M.B.A...Yet this familiar system, far from evolving “naturally” or “unconsciously,” is the product of distinct cultural changes in American history. The process that left it in our landscape is less like the slow raising of a mountain range or the growth of oxbows on the Mississippi, and more like the construction of a dam. Three changes, which took place in the past hundred years, produced the system that is now producing M.B.A.s. They were the conversion of jobs into “professions,” the scientific measurement of intelligence, and the use of government power to “channel” people toward certain occupations. James Fallows explains in a 1985 article in The Atlantic. (See also William James 80 years prior on The Ph.D. Octopus).
Putin Has Vanished, but Rumors Are Popping Up Everywhere.
“I have enough trouble keeping track of the whereabouts of one world leader,” said Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman. “I would refer you to the Russians for questions on theirs. I’m sure they’ll be very responsive.”This is, in large part, a crisis of the Kremlin’s making. (Previously)
Last September, Hamid Karzai, the outgoing president of Afghanistan, made a number of disparaging remarks about U.S. involvement in that country. “America did not want peace for Afghanistan because it had its own agendas and goals here,” he said after pointedly leaving the U.S. out of the group of countries he thanked for helping during the course of his largely U.S.-backed administration. John Oliver, the former “Daily Show” correspondent, responded on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” by reading a series of negative Yelp reviews of The Helmand, one of the four Baltimore restaurants owned by Qayum Karzai, the president’s older brother. “It was a funny joke,” Qayum says, pulling up in front of the restaurant in what he calls his “mujahideen Jeep—because you can only jump in and jump out.” “They did not do their due diligence,” he adds. “It is known to everybody that my politics is not the same as my brother. I’m sorry that [Oliver] is thinking about collective guilt. My brother is a different person.”
The recent Republican letter to Iran has received an impressive, diplomatically amusing response on Twitter from Iran's Foreign Minister, in which he schools the Republican Party on the intricacies of international law and the US Constitution. The letter, penned by a freshman senator who recently advocated regime change and an end to talks with Iran, appears to have violated the Logan Act, but probably can't be prosecuted. President Obama's response was short and classic.
"Re-homing" is the largely unregulated practice by which parents of adopted children in the U.S. hand over those children to new families, with little or no government oversight. While some states started cracking down last year, the issue has gained new attention with the story of Arkansas Representative Justin Harris and his wife. They adopted a pair of girls, 3 and 6, who proved more troublesome than they seemed. Harris and his wife gave the girls to a worker in the religious school he owned, who subsequently raped the 6-year-old. The girls' previous foster family has now raised questions about Harris' story. [Previously, a 2013 Reuters investigation: The Child Exchange - Inside America's underground market for adopted children] [more inside]
The New York Times reports today that as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton used her personal e-mail address to conduct all business. In response to a new State Department effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices, Mrs. Clinton’s advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department. [more inside]
Tom Schweich, Missouri's state auditor and a candidate in the Republican gubernatorial primary, died in an apparent suicide on Feb. 26. [more inside]
Historians of war and society would like to believe that military conflicts have fixed beginnings and ends. Conventional depictions of the Lebanese civil war are no exception and typically confine that conflict within the notional temporal parameters of 1975–90. But the key aggravating features generally identified with the events of the Lebanese civil war—class resentments, echoes of the Arab-Israeli conflict on a regional scale, domestic geographical inequalities, sectarian rancor, and political infighting across the Lebanese scene—had been accumulating since 1948, and even earlier. [more inside]
“I’m always surprised to see what I do,” Jean-Luc Godard admits at the beginning of a talk delivered, nearly four decades ago, at Concordia University in Montreal. Could the single most influential filmmaker of his generation, who is still a provocateur at age 84, possibly be as baffled as we? [more inside]
Putin's Russia: Like a gangster running a crime syndicate, Putin muscles opponents and assassinates critics. Nonetheless, his bid in Ukraine may be reactionary to NATO edging closer to Russia's borders. As Dan Carlin notes, it's as if Russia began training Mexican soldiers. Meanwhile, everyone needs a hero.
Anyone who writes articles on the web knows the maxim: "Don’t read the comments." Fortunately for Yoni Appelbaum, a recent Ph.D. in history from Brandeis University, the well-known writer Ta-Nehisi Coates routinely ignores that rule.How a history Ph.D. who was on the tenure-track market ended up in with a pretty good gig in journalism, primarily because of the quality of his comments.
When President Obama appointed Tom Wheeler (a former top telecom lobbyist) as chairman of the FCC, he got a lot of grief for selling out his '07 pledge to protect Net Neutrality -- the founding principle long prized by open web activists that ISPs cannot privilege certain data over others, without which dire visions of a tiered and pay-for-play internet loomed. Earlier, weaker attempts at net neutrality had failed in court, and the new chairman looked set to fold. But after an unprecedented outcry following last year's trial balloon for ISP "fast lanes" -- including a viral appeal by John Oliver, a public urging by the president, and perhaps Wheeler's own history with the pre-web NABU Network -- the FCC yesterday voted along party lines to enact the toughest net neutrality rules in history, classifying ISPs as common carriers and clearing the way for municipal broadband. ISPs reacted with (Morse) venom, while congressional Republicans are divided over what they called "Obamacare for the internet."
After every terror attack the call rings out for the Muslim world to become modern. Whenever jihadi groups carry out an atrocity, or – as is happening a lot these days, western foreign policy failures lead to large areas of the world coming under the sway of oafs who claim to be acting for God – the call goes up for a Muslim Enlightenment. The imputation of Védrine, the French schoolteachers, and thousands of other commentators is that various internal deficiencies have excluded Islam from this indispensable cultural and intellectual event, without which no culture can be considered modern. Such views cut across political borders; they would find sympathy at the BBC as well as in the editorial offices of the Sun. Islam needs to get with the programme. [more inside]
Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald recently did an AMA on Citizenfour, their Oscar winning documentary about Snowden and the NSA scandal. Among the highlights is Snowden discussing the relationship between people and their governments and how enforcing the law too well actually can have severe drawbacks.