The Political Animal

All things political

  • Culture Clash,  The Political Animal

    The Firing of Melissa Click

    This is where the faculty case against firing Melissa Click, otherwise correct in every respect, falls apart: But no one on the campus filed a complaint against the professor, Ms. Henrickson said, a step that would have triggered the university’s own procedures. “No one took the opportunity to avail themselves of that process,” she said, so the board began its own. This is why the federal government becomes involved in local cases, when local government and law enforcement prejudicially does not do its job. The faculty was not supplanted or overruled. It did not do its job when it should have. Why it did not is perhaps at the very heart of…

  • The Political Animal

    The Causes of ISIS

    Establishing what caused ISIS has become, for many, something of a cause. I have not researched exactly when the debate began – what was, as it were, the cause of the debate over the cause of ISIS – but certainly soon after its sweep from Syria into Iraq began, and unsurprisingly if even earlier, people began to seek to account for it. Aside from the customary ambient smoke of conspiratorial accounts, an immediate choice was the Obama administration’s obvious utter failure, post withdrawal from Iraq, to anticipate and clandestinely target the organization. Soon enough, another “cause” came to supersede that one, that of the Iraq War, and the forces it…

  • The Political Animal

    La Habana Nueva

    (It is a historic day — the American flag raised over the American embassy for the first time in 54 years. It seemed a good time to share my poem, La Habana Nueva, composed in 2002.) In the new Havana which is the old Havana but older, as Dylan was younger than that now Cesar – one eye now forever lost and spinning in centerfield, glove and bare hand waiting and reaching calmly beseeching the sky for the ball – used to play for Industriale who are the Yankee invasion that took. When he sees your eyes search the cathartic saline sick facades, as his eye still seeks high drives…

  • The Political Animal

    Announcing the Release of FOOTNOTE #1: A Literary Journal of History

    It has been a long time in gestation, but Footnote, a new literary journal with a unique focus is now here, and I am pleased to say that I am a featured writer in its inaugural issue, which includes ten pieces of my poetry, creative nonfiction, and documentary journalism. Over the coming days and weeks, I will be showcasing excerpts from my work in the journal. In the meantime, here is what its publisher, Alternating Current Press, an endlessly enterprising, two-decade old small press has to say about it. Within our pages, you will find contemporary outlooks on history right alongside little-known public domain works that feel as fresh and…

  • The Political Animal

    Discrediting Arguments on the Iran Deal

    Argument and persuasion are not the same thing. An argument is a series of statements, or premises, arranged and propounded to entail a conclusion – to support a claim. Persuasion is the attempt to influence and change minds. Ideally, the former plays the major role in the latter, but in politics and policy, as in life, this is not always so. Armed robbery is an act of persuasion. The barrel of a gun makes a weak argument that its holder is entitled to your wallet, but it makes strong case that you should hand it over. At the point of a gun, one is persuaded to give up the goods.…

  • The Political Animal

    Arguments in Defense of the Iran Deal and Their Implications

    There are many areas on which to focus one’s attention in the Iran deal. My own has been consistently drawn to the administration’s arguments in defense of the deal. Attended to, they are remarkably revealing in their implications about administration thinking, while not, in fact, actually being much remarked upon. It is a tediously if necessarily repeated truism that negotiation requires compromise in positions about which the parties were previously uncompromising. Thus there will always be opportunity for absolutists not at the table to carp and condemn. Negotiators are charged with perfidy by those they represent only a little less often than battlefield turncoats. However, when the very subject of negotiation…

  • On The Road,  The Political Animal

    Penelope’s Last Day

    When this blog was in its heyday, Penelope had a featured role on it. Julia photographed her. I wrote about her. Now that I prepare to modestly revive the blog, I feature Penelope one last time. Two months ago, after seventeen years, we lost Penelope, an eventuality I anticipated back when I was celebrating her. Julia and I had both put dogs to sleep before, suffered more loss of them than that. We knew the experience. But Penelope, a Shiba Inu mix – Penelope was different. Penelope had surpassed them all. We had loved her brother Homer, gone nearly two years before her, and he had loved us, in his…

  • The Political Animal

    Iraq and “Last Days in Vietnam”

    At the Los Angeles Film Festival I caught Rory Kennedy’s powerful and moving Last Days in Vietnam. If you think you are familiar with the story of the botched and frantic – and heroic – American evacuation of Vietnam, with the fall of Saigon, including some many tens of thousands of lucky Vietnamese, this film will set you straight. There is an iconic photo from that time of desperate Vietnamese climbing a spindly ladder to the narrow roof top of the American Embassy and the last helicopter out. In truth, it was not the American Embassy (rather the home of the assistant CIA station chief) and there were many more…

  • The Political Animal

    Ave Atque Vale

    from Ave Atque Vale by Algernon Charles Swinburne XVIII For thee, O now a silent soul, my brother,       Take at my hands this garland, and farewell.       Thin is the leaf, and chill the wintry smell, And chill the solemn earth, a fatal mother,       With sadder than the Niobean womb,       And in the hollow of her breasts a tomb. Content thee, howsoe’er, whose days are done;       There lies not any troublous thing before,       Nor sight nor sound to war against thee more, For whom all winds are quiet as the sun,       All waters as the shore.

  • The Political Animal

    Ukraine and Legitimacy

    It is fascinating to witness with events in Ukraine an enduring controversy of history in the making. Controversies arise all the time, of course, but some are drawn in more dramatic relief than others, and one of those is Ukraine, 2013-14. Most Western exponents of liberal democracy, of both right and left – by no means all – are adamant that Ukraine represents one more natural social outburst of the desire for freedom and democracy, and a rejection of the democratically-styled authoritarianism that is just one form of corrupt oligarchism. One needn’t dissent from this view to find many of the forces for good in these events, as they zealously…

  • The Political Animal

    The Revolution with No Name

    When it seemed to some at the end of the Cold War that we had also reached the end of history, more than ever, every act of rebellion and revolution seemed cause to celebrate an elevated human spirit. After a long winter of merely staving off an enemy’s further success, now freedom was rising with people uprising, and cheer was in the air. We got, relatively peaceful and colored (orange and rose), revolutions and “springs” that sprang of the hope – so richly did the sap of it rise in great municipal squares around the world – that all that is necessary to topple tyranny is for good people to…

  • Israel,  The Political Animal

    A Misguided Argument About Anti-Semitism

    (This essay originally appeared in the Algemeiner on February 11, 2014.) In the Wall Street Journal of February 3, Harvard’s Ruth R. Wisse published an Op-Ed titled “The Dark Side of the War on ‘the One Percent.” In the article, Wisse argues for a “structural” connection between “anti-Semitism and American class conflict.” First tracing the rise of nineteenth century European anti-Semitism in the accusation that Jews took “unfair advantage of the emerging democratic order in Europe, with its promise of individual rights and competition, in order to dominate the fields of finance, culture and social ideas,” Wisse proceeds to find like grounds for potential anti-Semitic outbreak in President Obama’s and…

  • Indian Country,  Israel,  The Political Animal

    Academic Boycotts and Re-Colonization by Theory

    (The full text of the following essay was published by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.) from “Academic Boycotts and Recolonization by Theory”  As a matter of international justice, however, conceptually distinguishing and crucial in consideration of what constitutes an indigenous people have been the following characteristics, developed for the Working Paper on the Concept of “Indigenous People” prepared for the U.N.’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations: Priority in time, with respect to the occupation and use of a specific territory; The voluntary perpetuation of cultural distinctiveness, which may include the aspects of language, social organization, religion and spiritual values, modes of production, laws and institutions; An experience of subjugation,…

  • Israel,  The Political Animal

    A Second Look: Thinking Through the Iranian Dilemma

    I posted the following on March 19 of last year. Nothing that has transpired since, not even the recently achieved, yet still not implemented short-term deal – which I think a basis for justified future military action just as it is, more hopefully, a foundation for peaceful resolution – has changed the balance of views contained within. Thinking Through the Iranian Dilemma Attempting to think through a dilemma like the threat of a nuclear Iran is like trying to make one’s way through a windstorm. For most people, who have none of the inside information of those in various official roles, or the view from the doorway of the analysts…

  • The Political Animal

    A Second Look: Abraham Lincoln on the “Mud-Sill” Theory of Labor

    The movement to increase the minimum wage, and to tie it legislatively to the cost of living, is growing. The obscenity of low-wage employment among adults – full-time employment that does not offer a living wage – is increasingly apparent. As Arindrajit Dube pointed out in The New York Times: the evidence suggests that around half of the increase in inequality in the bottom half of the wage distribution since 1979 was a result of falling real minimum wages. And unlike inequality that stems from factors like technological change, this growth in inequality was clearly avoidable. All we had to do to prevent it was index the minimum wage to the cost…

  • The Political Animal

    A Second Look: the End (of History, War, the Enlightenment, and Western Civilization) Or Not

    My recent posts on Syria were argued against a more global backdrop: considerations of war and how it is entered into, with what achievable (or other) ends in mind, and, more specifically again, how the United States engages in it. In focus were questions of American empire and the nature of victory and whether it can be achieved. Syria, like all the Middle East, offering up so much tyranny, appealing to so much humanitarian feeling, calling on so many instincts toward real politique – and with the ever present wild card Joker of Israel in the deck – seems to roil all settled understanding of right and left in politics.…

  • The Political Animal

    Syria, the Limits of Interventionism, and the International Order

    Noted in the comments to the previous post, “A Plague: Contesting Syria, in Context,” is the posting of a reply to it at his blog from my ever wry blogging compadre, Snoopy the Goon. Please do  read it here. Below is my response to, ahem, the Goon. Dear Snoopy, How do we go on after that John Lennon crack? I believe forgiveness is all. (Well, something, anyway.) And then there is your introduction. Okay. I think there is not that much disagreement between us, some points needing just some clarification and refinement. I note your eloquent and just paean to the “warriors of the cold war,” and what their sacrifice…

  • The Political Animal

    A Plague: Contesting Syria, in Context

    Context They are always there, sitting on both shoulders, sounding into your ears. On either side, they buzz insistently their ceaseless drone. Now, they speak of Syria, whisper and wheedle action or inaction as they wish. They have been singing their songs of superpower or imperial America since the end of World War II. In the mid 1950s it was the “bomber gap.” Misconstrued numbers of Soviet M-4 Bison bombers, estimated at near a thousand and amplified by the device of policy by press release, set the United States on a frantic construction binge of almost 2,750 B-47 and B-52 bombers in response. President Eisenhower was doubtful, but even he…

  • Creative,  The Political Animal

    Norm of the Norm

    I didn’t think I would write anything. I was not friend or family to Norm Geras, and so could speak nothing of the private man that those to whom he truly belonged had known. And how many were there who could say at least as much as I – that though I had never met Norm Geras, I felt somehow that I knew him, that he had made an addition to my life, that I cared for him? I knew there was nothing I could say that many others would not say as well and more personally. I knew this even before I checked the blogosphere and social media, and…

  • The Political Animal

    Edward Snowden and the Question of Authority (a Surveillance of Terms)

    Edward Snowden received the Integrity Award from the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence this week, and WikiLeaks has posted several videos of the rarely-seen whistleblower during the event. The Huffington Post As opinions about Edward Snowden have flown wildly back and forth, the vocabulary of public debate has suffered woefully. The sorry truth is that well beyond striving politicians, those who pretend to a journalist’s precision of detail or an analyst’s wise counsel in policy have no less the tendency than the politicians to throw words around like jalopies in a demolition derby. Last one still moving its lips wins. Much of the debate over Snowden, supporting the leanings of…

  • The Political Animal

    A Second Look: James Madison & the Tea Party

    The current government shut down over the Affordable Healthcare Act speaks directly to issues found in the nation’s beginnings. Among the many ironies of Tea Party foolishness is that while its adherents are enemies of federalism and shape minor deities of the nation’s founders, the nation’s founders very purposefully opted for federalism. This post from February 2011, about Federalist paper No. 10 considers James Madison’s clear and famous thoughts about political “factions,” the “aggregate interests of the community,” and the “rights of large bodies of citizens.” James Madison and Madison, Wisconsin Conservative deification of the Founders regularly overlooks their choice – in a constitutional, federal government over the prior confederation…