• The Political Animal

    The State of Surveillance

    God knows your calling patterns. God knows your friends on Facebook, your pages liked, your rants and your dissenting comments. More – and better than the NSA or FBI – God knows what you think. Or, if there is no personal God,  if that term is just a word made of letters – G-O-D – then what we refer to by the word but that does not exist does not know all these things about us. The fact is, though, that we do not know which of these states prevails. Are we divinely surveilled by an all-knowing being, all our sins and virtues, our decencies and transgressions known, or do…

  • The Political Animal

    The Voting Rights Act and the Consequences of Our Actions

    . A little over a year ago, to counter a vein of left criticism of President Obama during the election year, I wrote, of the 1968 presidential election, Significantly, while Nixon won 86% of the registered Republican vote, Humphrey won only 74% of registered Democrats. Democratic division before and after the ’68 convention [primarily over the Vietnam War] caused many McCarthy, Kennedy, and McGovern supporters to withhold their votes from Humphrey. Because of that 12 percentage point difference in support from registered party members, Nixon won the presidency, by 512,000 votes. Ironically, or not, Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 presidential election by just under 544,000 votes.…

  • Israel,  The Political Animal

    Two Epistemic Closures: The GOP and Israel-Critics

    . (This commentary originally appeared in the Algemeiner on January 25, 2013.) What do Tuesday’s election results remind us of? They should recall the result of November’s U.S. elections. Against all evidence – and here I do mean all evidence – Mitt Romney and Republicans of every stripe, from Tea Party to establishment, genuinely believed that they were going to win. Strictly speaking, this was not a case ofepistemic closure. It was more a case of confirmation bias, of false-consensus bias. Against consistent evidence of how most Americans view their nation and the role of government, in the face of polls that all year had shown, however marginally, Barack Obama invariably leading Romney across…

  • Uncategorized

    Why Obama Hearts Hagel

    . This commentary first appeared in the Algemeiner on January 11.  The last time I wrote about President Obama’s then only rumored selection of Chuck Hagel I said two things I knew I would wish to revise. The first, rhetorically, was the question: “What was he thinking?” The second was a quotation from Gil Troy’s generally very good writing on this subject, which I qualified then as “[p]erhaps overstating the case.” In attempting to answer the rhetorical question, I need to begin by deepening my critique of the passage I quoted from Troy. Troy wrote, The question of where Obama stands regarding Israel has often pivoted on this deeper question of which Obama shows up…

  • The Political Animal

    Blasphemy Is not Bigotry

    . The President has spoken (at the United Nations). People are praising what they think he got right and what he got not so right. (We ignore here today the people who think he gets most everything wrong. They get too much attention anyway.) On the issue of free speech stemming from the “Innocence of Muslims” video and the paroxysms of (I use the word mindfully ) mindless violence that have followed from it, some people – when they think that President Obama got it right – are, along with the President, wrong. Oh, the basic message about freedom of expression is rightfully stated in the usual way, but a crucial…

  • Israel,  The Political Animal

    Maureen Dowd and her Critics

    . A couple of interesting comments from Noga and David on my post, “A Political Hall of Mirrors,” prompts these further considerations on the reaction to Maureen Dowd’s neocon puppet master column. I don’t think this is a subject in which people need necessarily hold hard positions unwaveringly and completely opposed to differing views. Of course, I had read the Jeffrey Goldberg post that David directed me to, and what Goldberg does very well in it is demonstrate the deep history of “puppet master” as an anti-Semitic trope. But Goldberg himself says more than once that he does not believe that Dowd was drawing on that history – had intended…

  • Uncategorized

    Anti-Labor, Anti-Free Press, Anti-Gay, Anti-Israel

    . Some people never get the point. Some people once got the point, or claimed to, claimed to see it – there it is, over there – and then they got their hands on the point and stretched the point, to make a point, turned it inside out, inverted and perverted the point, developed a string theory of the point, and later conceived an alternate universe of the point. From Eric Lee, examining the role of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre on the contemporary history of left anti-Semitism: This may be news to some, but what is today commonplace was once quite rare. I’m referring to anti-Semitism on the far…

  • The Political Animal

    The Freedom to Restrict the Freedom of Others

    . Conservative arguments in support of Chick-Fil-A – or more to the point, against those critical of Chick-Fil-A – demonstrate a characteristic contemporary conservative confusion of terms. What better example than Gary Bauer to represent how conservatives do it. The left’s response to Cathy’s rather innocuous comment has once again exposed the gay rights movement’s intolerance for opposing viewpoints, an intolerance that often produces the very bigotry the movement says it exists to combat. Though not much of a success at running for President, Bauer has enjoyed some fair success as a player on the American political scene. He is not a stupid man, so one has to believe that…

  • Uncategorized

    The Real Dispute behind the Supreme Court’s Health Care Vote

    . If you pay attention to the expert analysis and the more general opining, you might think from either that the argument over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, and the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision upholding it, hast to do with the Commerce Clause and taxation. This thinking represents two kinds of pretense. The first, common pretense is that lay people hold opinions on the matter based upon their reading of the Constitution and on a coherent conception of it as a whole, and of the Commerce Clause’s place in that whole. This is nonsense. Most people derive their opinion on such policy disputes from their existing political dispositions.…

  • The Political Animal

    Pride of a Partisan

    . As much as some people might be apt to choke on the mere thought of it, ahead of the very thing itself, the central node of American political tendencies was to be found this past Friday, June 23, 2012 in a studio at Television City, in California, on Bill Maher’s Real Time. What? you say. Maher’s guests panelists were the cable news liberal heroine of the day, Rachel Maddow, a suitably wealthy media magnate and mainstream business Republican, in Mort Zuckerman, and, in Nick Gillespie, the editorial force behind Reason magazine and Reason.com, the show’s just as representative cranky libertarian. Not a half wit or lightweight among ‘em. Guess…

  • The Political Animal

    Is Chris Hayes Too Thoughtful for the Mediated Public Square?

    . You don’t have to think of Chris Hayes as the anti-Limbaugh. (That’s most of us.) Consider him the anti Chris Matthews, his stable mate at MSNBC. Matthews drew a lot of attention the other day for his interview of Newt Gingrich, during which he did play, yes, a form of hardball, asking tough questions and scoffing at nonsensical answers, but he also played Tip O’Neill to the Newt’s Reagan. “Mr. Speakaah,” Matthews intoned in verbal backslappery in introducing his guest. For Matthews, as everyone knows, loves the game, and Gingrich as full of shit as he is, and vile when he needs to be, is a player in the…

  • Israel

    “How the Left Turned Against the Jews”

    . Nick Cohen at Standpoint writing, in “How the Left Turned Against the Jews,” about Colin Shindler’s new book, Israel and the European Left: But in a strange manner few discuss, the death of Communism has freed far-Left ideas from the cage of the Cold War. When the far Left was a global force, the mainstream liberal Left had to draw dividing lines and defend itself from its attacks. Now that the far Left threatens no one, the borders have gone. The media would hound from public life any conservative who shared platforms with members of a neo-Nazi group. But respectable leftists can now associate with those who would once…

  • Israel

    The Unsound Judgment of Peter Beinart

    . Just over two years ago, I wrote a post titled “The Unsound Judgment of Andrew Sullivan.” Sullivan, for all his true virtues, is a man of strikingly unsound judgment. He swings, he swings frequently, he swings with emotion from one impassioned response to another, a kind of journalistic Thaïs transforming regularly from the life of a courtesan to the devotions of ascetic convert, and always extreme in his commitment, whatever it is. On the ridiculous level, this results in his campaign against male circumcision (a fair enough position to take) by mischaracterizing it as “male genital mutilation.” His infatuation with Ron Paul, before succumbing to Obama, was typical on a…

  • The Political Animal

    From the People Who Brought You Richard Nixon & George W. Bush

    Who has a shorter memory than the perpetual loser? Over and over the perpetual loser performs the same self-defeating act. Again and again, the loser fails, and failing, finds cause for failure in the inadequacy of others. Charlie Brown runs, as he has run countless times before, for the football Lucy holds to the ground, and which she withdraws yet again, at the ultimate instant, just before Charlie’s flailing kick. Upending himself, he falls to the ground, and cries out in despair, “How long, O Lord.” Lucy, analyzing Charlie’s unknowing allusion to scripture, offers the final verdict. “All your life, Charlie Brown. All your life.” And you thought Peanuts was…

  • The Political Animal

    The Libertarian Delusion

    . One of the signatures of the fallen human state is how precipitously and flat seemingly reasonable people can land on their cogitative rears. Accordingly, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on ourselves. You watch me, friend. I’ll be checking you. For now, we have Ron Paul. In addition to certain strains of the disaffected young, neo-Nazi white supremacists, homosexual-hating pastors, Andrew Sullivan, and Glenn Greenwald, we Tuesday got Robert Wright at the Atlantic in a post titled – honestly – “The Greatness of Ron Paul.” Wright likes Paul’s ideas on foreign policy, and it is one of the characteristics of falling in like with a libertarian idea…

  • The Political Animal

    See Ted Kennedy Smile

    Will the the GOP’s defeat of efforts to appoint Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turn out to have been a Pyrrhic victory? This video says yes. Related articles Video Of Elizabeth Warren’s Passionate Rebuttal Of ‘Class Warfare’ Goes Viral (mediaite.com) Chris Weigant: Elizabeth Warren’s Campaign Takes Off (huffingtonpost.com) Elizabeth Warren, a Fighter for a New America (goodolewoody.wordpress.com) Rachel Maddow Interviews New Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren (pinkbananaworld.com) Elizabeth Warren (socyberty.com) Rachel Maddow & New Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren (bilerico.com) A Champion Of The Middle Class (duanegraham.wordpress.com)

  • The Political Animal

    9/11/11: The Stylus Avenger

    . (Twelfth in a series) It had been possible in the countryside of so many nations, on another continent, always in transit, to leave the palpable sense of 9/11, if not our emotions, behind. The last day, at Charles de Gaulle Airport amid intense security, and three weeks after the attack, Julia and I rejoined the larger world. The night before, though, in bed, I had done some thinking. I anticipated the security to come – what turned out to be three body and bag checks just between the gate and the plane – and knew it would be very hard to get a weapon on board. And the likelihood,…

  • The Political Animal

    9/11/11: a “Good Terror”

    . (Ninth in a series) When it came to 9/11 sympathies too absent to squander, Slavo Zizek actually beat Baudrillard to the text. On September 14, 2001, only three days after 9/11, he first posted to the internet “Welcome to the Desert of the Real,” which he revised and extended several times. Later, like Baudrillard’s The Spirit of Terrorism, it was published in book form by Verso. Zizek’s provocative considerations of a wide swath of popular culture make him an unusually accessible and fun theorist, and Zizek is well aware of this surface appeal, which he terms, in his preface to the” The Zizek Reader, “a proper symbolic lure.” Lure…

  • The Political Animal

    9/11/11: Squandered Sympathies

    (The seventh in a series) The squandered sympathies meme states that the United States, as a consequence of 9/11, was the recipient of widespread international sympathy and good will. The meme was born as soon after 9/11 as some people began to anticipate U.S. action in Afghanistan, which is to say as early as those segments of the left ideologically predisposed to condemn as imperial and brutal any form of U.S. military action, even in self-defense, could characterize any non-passive reaction by the U.S. to 9/11 as exactly, by definition, imperial and brutal. That is to say, further, that the squandered sympathies meme was created by those from whom, ideologically,…

  • The Political Animal

    Two and a Half Centuries before 9/11

      (9/11/11: the first in a series) Long ago loosed from popular memory, the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 was not only a natural catastrophe but a crisis of the enlightenment mind as well. The quake is estimated to have lasted ten minutes, with three distinct jolts. Modern seismological estimates, based on recorded observations of the temblor’s effects, are that the quake was a 9.0 on the Richter scale, the same as the 2004 Indian Ocean quake off Sumatra. It was felt in North Africa and Central Europe and was quickly followed by the three tsunamis, with waves of perhaps fifty feet, sweeping out to sea not only thousands from shaky…

  • The Political Animal

    The U.S. International Role: Conservative & Progressive

    I offered my take on the current war of words and ideas over whether the U.S. should engage in more warlike action in Libya. Now, there are three essential considerations at The Atlantic. Substituting for James Fallows, Sam Roggeveen offers here and here, with more to come, two deeply considered  posts (beneath the common sturm und drang) on the nature of international “society” and what a historically appropriate U.S. engagement in it should be. The benefits of an international society — a law-bound international order marked by authoritative institutions and universally recognized traditions — may not be readily apparent to Americans. After all, systems of laws has little attraction for those with the…