Max describes at some length just how badly the White House fumbled the Status of Forces Agreement negotiations that would have enabled our forces to stay in Iraq. The sticking point was the Iraqis’ refusal to grant legal immunity to U.S. forces, which Max points out was nothing new. Bahgdad had raised similar objections during the 2008 SOFA negotiations under President Bush, and the Bush administration had managed to persuade the Iraqis to grant immunity.
Posts For: October 27, 2011
The filmmaker Michael Moore was on Piers Morgan’s CNN show a couple of nights ago and was asked (via Twitter) how he squares the fact that he’s benefitted enormously from capitalism while turning into one of its leading critics. In the exchange that followed, Morgan asked (rhetorically, he thought), “You’re in the top one percent, right?” To which Moore replied, “I’m not in the top one percent. No.”
Now just for the record, the latest data shows that the top one percent means you’re a person with an adjusted gross income of roughly $380,000. Michael Moore’s net worth is estimated to be around $50 million. Which means he’s closer to being in the top one-tenth of one percent of earners in America. But no matter. Moore had a lie to tell, and tell it he did, and several more times. Piers Morgan, knowing Moore was misleading him and his audience, said, “I need you to admit the bleeding obvious. I need you to sit here and say, ‘I’m in the one percent.’ Because it’s important.” To which Moore said, “Well, I can’t. Because I’m not.”
Scott Olsen, an Iraq war veteran and “Occupy” activist, was seriously injured when he was reportedly struck in the head with a tear gas canister fired by police trying to disperse a mob of protesters. Olsen has become the latest rallying cry for the movement, which is working to “shut down the city” in his name next week:
“We mean nobody goes to work, nobody goes to school, we shut the city down,” organizer Cat Brooks said. “The only thing they seem to care about is money and they don’t understand that it’s our money they need. We don’t need them, they need us.” …
Brooks said a general strike was a “natural progression” following a crackdown by the city of Oakland early on Tuesday morning in which protesters were evicted from a plaza near City Hall and 85 people were arrested.
More evidence that Turkey’s neo-Ottoman campaign to isolate Israel is backfiring badly:
Cypriot media outlets reported last week that Israel was conducting Air Force exercises with its Greek Cypriot counterpart over the Mediterranean and Greek island. The exercise is being seen by some reports as a “message to Turkey,” which has repeatedly threatened both Israel and Cyprus over deep-sea drilling in the Mediterranean. Greek Daily Phileleftheros published a document detailing the Israeli-Cypriot exercise, which included mid-air refuelling of fighter jets and quick touchdown landings by Israel Air Force combat helicopters in Cyprus.
The transformation of Hillary Clinton’s public image during the past three years has been remarkable. After her own party rejected her back in 2008, few would have predicted she’d be polling higher than Obama in a 2012 matchup with Republicans:
Clinton would beat former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by 17 points, 55 percent-38 percent, according to Time magazine. And the former first lady would blow away Texas Gov. Rick Perry by 26 points, 58 percent-32 percent.
In contrast, that same poll shows that Obama leads Romney by only 3 percentage points and Perry by 12 points.
Amid all the media hoopla about a new way of war supposedly being born in Libya, it is sobering to take note of some new revelations which suggest there is precious little new about what has just happened.
In the first place, Qatar has now admitted that hundreds of its Special Forces were on the ground in Libya helping the rebels to train their forces and communicate with NATO. This was in addition to the previously disclosed presence of British and French Special Forces. In other words, just as in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, it took an outside contingent of troops to galvanize a scattered opposition and transform it into a militarily effective force.
Despite the devastation wrought by the 7.2 earthquake that struck the country’s southeast, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and his Islamist AKP ilk seemed determined over the weekend to reject Israeli disaster aid. The prefabbed houses and relief supplies being offered were, apparently, unacceptably Jewish. Then, facing significant domestic criticism over his government’s mishandling of the earthquake aftermath, Erdogan reversed himself. He acquiesced to assistance from the Jewish State, and the Israelis responded within hours.
But the Turkish government wants everyone to know that, aid or no aid, they still hate Israel:
Marco Rubio may be the victim in the Univision blackmail scandal, but his clash with the Spanish-language news station could actually end up hurting him if he’s looking to secure the VP nomination next year. Columnist Ruben Navarrette, who regularly advocates for more dialogue between Republicans and the Hispanic community, argues that the Rubio-Univision feud effectively shuts off a major channel of communication between the groups:
There’s a war going on between the GOP’s Hispanic golden boy and the Spanish-language television giant. Is Miami big enough for both of them?
The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?
I’m an optimist by nature, and a comic writer; all my novels, dark as they are, end with an uplift. I believe in sweetness and light. But there are some very good reasons to be direly pessimistic about the future of this country, which has come to feel like an amalgam of corporatocracy, fascist police state, and mini-mall. I feel by turns overwhelmed and angry and worried about the environment, the food industry, corporate greed, and the ballooning (in both senses) population. There are seemingly so many systemic failures that facing and fixing any of them, let alone all of them, feels impossible.
Where to start? Our great Constitution is simultaneously disregarded, on the one hand, in the fearmongering interest of “national security,” and on the other, iron-fistedly brought to bear on Supreme Court decisions that hinder necessary social progress. Monsanto is taking control of agriculture and the food industry with non-propagating seeds and genetically modified “Frankenplants.” Obesity already affects a third of our population, and will likely affect 50 percent of us by 2030. Our population itself is projected to reach 400 million by 2043, doubling in my lifetime. The pursuit of oil and natural gas to meet the energy needs of this growing population threatens what’s left of our environment. Weather patterns are changing in drastic and undeniable ways and, by all reputable accounts, it’s too late to stop them.
Public education is primarily concerned now with teaching kids how to pass multiple-choice tests. Health care and Social Security are unsustainable; we can no longer afford them. Our all-encompassing “culture industry” has proved Theodor Adorno right: popular art seems increasingly to exist primarily to feed market interests, and any potential counterculture is immediately enveloped by the market. Then there’s the growing disparity between rich and poor—when our only agency lies in the dollar, not the vote, only the rich have any power—the skyrocketing debt, the crumbling of basic infrastructures, and the toxic divisiveness of our political culture. Read More
In one of his typically remarkable posts at the American Interest, Walter Russell Mead reflects upon the story of Rajat K. Gupta, who was indicted yesterday on charges of insider trading. As head of the distinguished consulting group McKinsey & Co., Gupta was “privy to the most sensitive information in American corporate life,” Mead explains.
Gupta abused the trust of his clients in (allegedly) trading on the information to enrich himself. “If the government proves its case,” Mead says, “it will demonstrate that the American establishment has lost its ability to discern character and demand integrity”:
That a criminal could win the trust of so many of the “best and the brightest” in philanthropy and business chillingly demonstrates the moral and intellectual vacuum in the corporate world. Years of excessive payment for executives, okayed by go along to get along boards of directors, a culture of entitlement and a lack of personal character and strong moral codes have created a dead zone at the core of American life.
A haunting phrase — the dead zone at the core of American life. Success is now the measure of respectability throughout the culture; men and women of principle put themselves at a competitive disadvantage, and are roundly hooted at.
It is not merely “the corporate world” that is to blame, however. Where in American life is the living zone of personal character and strong moral codes? The churches? Perhaps in the more Evangelical ones (and in Mormon temples), but the mainline Protestant churches have abandoned their tradition of moral radicalism, according to the great novelist Marilynne Robinson:
What are called now the mainline churches were very much in the vanguard of the anti-slavery movement. They truly were radical in the terms of the time, and ahead of their time. . . . And I think that they are radical institutions in their deepest impulses, but that they have been stereotyped as the archetypal conservative institutions. . . .
They don’t like this characterization. They don’t think past it. And they’ve been very much intimidated by these kinds of things. I think that they would be very well positioned to assume an important place in contemporary culture. For them, the issue seems to be, “Should we imitate others?” and it never seems to be, “How can we be more fully ourselves?”
Kal v’homer, as the Jews say — how much more true of Reform and Conservative Judaism, which together account for 70 percent of American Jews. Much of the religious life in America is simply a lowered-voice rush to accommodate itself to the dead zone.
The universities? Don’t make me laugh. Even if the “best and brightest” in academe were not so keen to throw off the burden of the liberal arts — which were once the zone of strong moral codes in American life — the university has irretrievably lost its position as the training ground of personal character.
As a blogger at Ace of Spades HQ put it in asking whether education is the “root cause” of our current political dramas, “[A]n uber-expensive university system . . . encourages students to take on debts approaching a house mortgage yet leaves them ill-prepared to actually earn a living, much less pay back their loans.” Even the sharp-toothed Charles Krauthammer, liberally educated at McGill and Balliol College, Oxford, shares the same basic assumption about university education. In a recent column on Occupy Wall Street, he wrote:
These indignant indolents saddled with their $50,000 student loans and English degrees have decided that their lack of gainful employment is rooted in the malice of the millionaires on whose homes they are now marching —
and not in those worthless English degrees, I suppose, that left them ill-prepared to earn a living. The purpose of a university education, everyone now agrees, is to help you get ahead; not, as William James once said, underlining every word, to “help you to know a good man when you see him.”
That leaves literature. In preparing The Aspern Papers for a course on Henry James recently, I stumbled upon a 1995 article by Joseph Hynes in the South Atlantic Review. Now retired from the English department at the University of Oregon, Hynes is a scholar of postwar British fiction who wrote one book on Muriel Spark’s novels and edited another. He calls his essay “Morality and Fiction,” and he focuses largely upon James, because James reveals “something valuable about fiction” — in his own work and since then. James himself is a “highly sensitive moralist trying to find some roots for his conviction that responsible choices require attention to how we ought to live our lives,” Hynes writes.
But James was one of the last American novelists with any such conviction. “[S]ince James’s time, fiction-writers have written more and more painstakingly about less and less,” Hynes observes. Which brings us to our own time, and to what Hynes calls “the determined refusal, on display in contemporary fiction, to enter into conscious moral debate. . . .”
Religious men and women, scholars, writers — the company once known as humanists — suffered a failure of nerve. Scorned by “the corporate world” for principles and codes that seemed fully to explain their own economic shortcomings, confined to a zone of culture without power or influence, they were quick to capitulate. They preferred to imitate the standards of success. But the zone they abandoned is now dead, and the institutions that once made it possible for the fugitives to earn a living — the mainline churches, the research universities, the publishing trade — are not much better off. If a new zone of personal character and strong moral codes is to be created in American life, it will have to be the work of a counterculture.
The Washington Post has a story today on Marco Rubio–actually, correct that. The Washington Post has a story today about the Washington Post, which is pretty much all the Washington Post writes about these days.
More specifically, the Post story is an exploration of whether the Post’s earlier story on Rubio–in which they misleadingly claimed Rubio has been dishonest about his family history–will damage Rubio among Hispanic voters. The Post’s original story, which was all based on the reporter’s misunderstanding of the word “exile,” was amended after the Miami Herald effectively tore the story to shreds. But those reading today’s story will soon forget whether they are reading about Rubio, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Rick Perry, or any number of Republican politicians subjected to the same treatment.
The Occupy protest movement probably won’t disappear overnight, but there are growing signs the public’s nerves are wearing thin. Police have cleared out the protests in Oakland and Atlanta, and L.A. looks like it will be next. The latest problems seem to stem from the fact that homeless people, drug addicts and assorted violent criminals have – shockingly! – set up camp with the protesters, creating public safety and health hazards:
From coast to coast, there were signs Wednesday that the Occupy demonstrations, which began in a Lower Manhattan park to protest corporate greed and other economic issues, face a growing backlash over concerns ranging from issues such as noise and sanitation to public safety and general cleanliness.…
In a recent Weekly Standard piece, Jay Cost argues that without strong support from independents, Barack Obama has no chance of victory. The problem for the president is that his standing with independents has dropped 17 percentage points since Election Day 2008 (from 52 percent to 35 percent in the most recent Gallup poll). Here’s why that’s a frightening political fact for Obama and his team:
If 2012 turns out to be a good Republican year, then we might see a partisan spread similar to 2004, when the two parties were evenly matched among the electorate. If we do indeed find that kind of result, and the president wins just 35 percent of the independent vote, next year will be a blowout, the likes of which we have not seen in nearly a quarter century. The Republican candidate would win a 10-point nationwide victory, and pull in close to 400 electoral votes.
The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?
There is no sadder sight than an American pessimist. Americans—Jean de Crèvecoeur told us—are born a free and hopeful lot, “a new race of men,” blessed with a bounteous land and a moderate government. Lincoln called Americans an “almost chosen people,” a designation bound to leave many readers of this magazine wondering at the divine improbability of being selected not once, but twice. Optimism, by nearly all accounts, has been an integral part of our national DNA.
What, then, is one to think of opinion polls today showing that, by a margin of almost 4 to 1 (77 percent to 20 percent), the public considers the nation to be on the “wrong track”? Malaise of such Carteresque proportions might easily be interpreted to mean that Americans have lost faith in themselves and in the future.
I am not so sure. Contrary to initial impressions, the real pessimists today are probably to be found among the “right-trackers,” clinging stubbornly to the change they once believed in. Having put their dream team on the floor, under the leadership of one touted to be the greatest political talent of our era, these die-hards have little choice now but to put on a grim public mask of hopefulness. For two years (2009–2011), we enjoyed by their reckoning virtually unchecked government of the best, by the best, and according to the best theories. Read More