Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
Adam Gopnik writes in the New Yorker:
The best show in New York right now may be the Guggenheim’s retrospective of the work of László Moholy-Nagy (pronounced “nadge,” not “nadgy,” a lesson hard learned). Born to a Jewish family in Hungary in 1895, he assimilated all the advances and visual novelties of the early part of the twentieth century, from Russia and Paris alike, and turned them into an adaptable graphic manner that made him one of the indispensable teachers at the Bauhaus, in Dessau, Germany, in the nineteen-twenties, under Walter Gropius. When Hitler came to power, this citizen of cosmopolitanism then emigrated—heading first to Britain, where he made wonderful posters for the London Underground, and eventually and happily to Chicago, where he became one of the key figures in implementing the lessons of modern design that made Chicago a city of such architectural excitement in the mid-century. (Though how much pain and anxiety and sheer disrupted existence are covered over in the words “then emigrated”!)
Two thoughts, not strictly political but social, come to mind as one exits the museum: First, that the Weimar Republic gets a very bad rap for how it ended and insufficient credit for how much creative ferment and intelligent thought it contained. The notion that it was above all, or unusually, decadent was a creation of its enemies, who defined the creative energies of cosmopolitanism in that way. All republics are fragile; the German one, like the Third French Republic it paralleled, did not commit suicide—it was killed, by many murderers, not least by those who thought they could contain an authoritarian thirsting for power. And, second, that the United States has been the ultimate home of so many cosmopolitan citizens rejected by Europe. People expelled by hate from Europe wanted desperately to get to the American Midwest, to cities like Chicago—and, no doubt, to Cleveland, where the Republican Party holds its Convention next week. Cosmopolitanism is not a tribal trait; it is a virtue, as much as courage or honesty or compassion. Almost without exception, the periods of human civilization that we admire as we look back have been cosmopolitan in practice; even those, like the Bronze Age, that we imagine as monolithic and traditional turn out to be shaped by trade and exchange and multiple identity.
We walk out of the beautiful museum and find ourselves back in a uniquely frightening moment in American life. A candidate for President who is the announced enemy of the openness that America has traditionally stood for and that drew persecuted émigrés like Moholy-Nagy to America as to a golden land, a candidate who embraces the mottos and rhetoric of the pro-fascist groups of that same wretched time, has taken over one of our most venerable political parties, and he seems still in the ascendancy. His language remains not merely sloppy or incendiary but openly hostile to the simplest standards of truth and decency that have governed American politics. Most recently, just this week, he has repeated the lie that there has been a call for “a moment of silence” in honor of the murderer of five policemen in Dallas.
This ought to be, as people said quaintly just four or five months ago, “disqualifying.” Nonetheless, his takeover of the Republican Party is complete, and, in various postures of spinelessness, its authorities accede to his authority, or else opportunistically posture for a place in the wake of it. Many of them doubtless assume that he will lose and are hoping for a better position afterward—still, the very small show of backbone that would be required to resist his takeover seems unavailable. Even those who clearly fear and despise him, like the Bush family, seem able to register their opposition only in veiled language and cautiously equivocal formulations; Jeb Bush knows what Trump is, but still feels obliged to say that he would “feel sad” if Trump lost.
What is genuinely alarming is the urge, however human it may be, to normalize the abnormal by turning toward emotions and attitudes that are familiar. . .
Amy Davidson has a good column in the New Yorker which is worth reading. From the column:
The final self-inflicted blow, by May’s last-standing rival, the Energy Minister, Andrea Leadsom, was what might be called Mum-gate. It started when the Times of London ran an interview with Leadsom on Friday with the headline:
BEING A MOTHER GIVES ME EDGE ON MAY—LEADSOM
Tory minister says she will be better leader because childless home secretary lacks ‘stake in future’
It went on to quote Leadsom, who often included the phrase “as a mum” in her pro-Leave statements, as saying that May “possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people. But I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next.” This, she said, set her apart from May as a potential leader. She added, “I am sure Theresa will be really sad she doesn’t have children, so I don’t want this to be ‘Andrea has children, Theresa hasn’t,’ because I think that would be really horrible.” But, she went on, “genuinely I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake.” In other words, Andrea has children; Theresa hasn’t.
As a matter of logic, this disparagement of childless leaders is ludicrous. There are good and bad leaders with and without children, and one can just as glibly argue that the focus on one’s own children’s fortunes can be distracting for a politician. Among the more incoherent elements in Leadsom’s remarks to theTimes was that May might think about the long-term state of the economy, while she herself would be properly focussed on her children’s more immediate job prospects. It is all the more strange for a spokesperson for Leave, a campaign built around the irrational power of patriotism, to assume that abstract love of country would not be motive enough. And, as a matter of politics, Leadsom’s comments were a wreck. She insulted the childless, and she seemed personally cruel to May, who has quietly said in the past that she is, indeed, sad about having never had children. (May, who is fifty-nine, has been married to her husband, a banker she met when they were both students at Oxford, for thirty-five years.)
Interesting question, eh? Robert Parkinson writes in the NY Times:
FOR more than two centuries, we have been reading the Declaration of Independence wrong. Or rather, we’ve been celebrating the Declaration as people in the 19th and 20th centuries have told us we should, but not the Declaration as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams wrote it. To them, separation from Britain was as much, if not more, about racial fear and exclusion as it was about inalienable rights.
The Declaration’s beautiful preamble distracts us from the heart of the document, the 27 accusations against King George III over which its authors wrangled and debated, trying to get the wording just right. The very last one — the ultimate deal-breaker — was the most important for them, and it is for us: “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” In the context of the 18th century, “domestic insurrections” refers to rebellious slaves. “Merciless Indian savages” doesn’t need much explanation.
In fact, Jefferson had originally included an extended attack on the king for forcing slavery upon unwitting colonists. Had it stood, it would have been the patriots’ most powerful critique of slavery. The Continental Congress cut out all references to slavery as “piratical warfare” and an “assemblage of horrors,” and left only the sentiment that King George was “now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us.” The Declaration could have been what we yearn for it to be, a statement of universal rights, but it wasn’t. What became the official version was one marked by division.
Upon hearing the news that the Congress had just declared American independence, a group of people gathered in the tiny village of Huntington, N.Y., to observe the occasion by creating an effigy of King George. But before torching the tyrant, the Long Islanders did something odd, at least to us. According to a report in a New York City newspaper, first they blackened his face, and then, alongside his wooden crown, they stuck his head “full of feathers” like “savages,” wrapped his body in the Union Jack, lined it with gunpowder and then set it ablaze.
The 27th and final grievance was at the Declaration’s heart (and on Long Islanders’ minds) because in the 15 months between the Battles of Lexington and Concord and independence, reports about the role African-Americans and Indians would play in the coming conflict was the most widely discussed news. And British officials all over North America did seek the aid of slaves and Indians to quell the rebellion.
A few months before Jefferson wrote the Declaration, the Continental Congress received a letter from an army commander that contained a shocking revelation: Two British officials, Guy Carleton and Guy Johnson, had gathered a number of Indians and begged them to “feast on a Bostonian and drink his blood.” Seizing this as proof that the British were utterly despicable, Congress ordered this letter printed in newspapers from Massachusetts to Virginia.
At the same time, patriot leaders had publicized so many notices attacking the November 1775 emancipation proclamation by the governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, that, by year’s end, a Philadelphia newspaper reported a striking encounter on that city’s streets. A white woman was appalled when an African-American man refused to make way for her on the sidewalk, to which he responded, “Stay, you damned white bitch, till Lord Dunmore and his black regiment come, and then we will see who is to take the wall.”
His expectation, that redemption day was imminent, shows how much those sponsored newspaper articles had soaked into everyday conversation. Adams, Franklin and Jefferson were essential in broadcasting these accounts as loudly as they could. They highlighted any efforts of British agents like Dunmore, Carleton and Johnson to involve African-Americans and Indians in defeating the Revolution.
Even though the black Philadelphian saw this as wonderful news, the founders intended those stories to stoke American outrage. It was a very rare week in 1775 and 1776 in which Americans would open their local paper without reading at least one article about British officials “whispering” to Indians or “tampering” with slave plantations.
So when the crowd in Huntington blackened the effigy’s face and stuffed its head with feathers before setting it on fire, they were indeed celebrating an independent America, but one defined by racial fear and exclusion. Their burning of the king and his enslaved and native supporters together signified the opposite of what we think of as America. The effigy represented a collection of enemies who were all excluded from the republic born on July 4, 1776.
This idea — that some people belong as proper Americans and others do not — has marked American history ever since. . .
They have to make a profit, after all, and they are willing to use any means at all to increase those profits. Lee Fang reports in The Intercept.
Well worth reading. Robert Mackey’s article in The Intercept begins:
Until Thursday, the political wrangling in Britain over how, or whether, to withdraw from the European Union — a move supported by a narrow majority of the voters in last week’s referendum, but opposed by 75 percent of the members of Parliament elected just last year — seemed likely to trigger a new general election.
Although the ruling Conservative Party is not required to call an election until 2020, most political observers expected Prime Minister David Cameron to be replaced by the leader of the campaign for a British exit from the EU, Boris Johnson, who would then want a fresh mandate from the public.
That was the thinking, anyway, until an extraordinary sequence of events unfolded, starting with an announcement from Michael Gove, the Leave campaign’s ideologue, who was expected to run Johnson’s campaign to become the new leader of the Conservatives, and hence prime minister. Gove, the justice secretary, released a statement on Thursday saying that he did not think Johnson, his ally in the Leave campaign, was up for the job of running the country, and he wanted to be prime minister himself.
If you don’t have time for the full ‘Gove and Boris’ story, basically Gove is the penguin on the rightpic.twitter.com/beUDuA7hUB
— Gaby Hinsliff (@gabyhinsliff) June 30, 2016 [and do click that link – LG]
Gove’s surprise move undermined Johnson’s chances of winning the internal party vote to be leader, but also seemed to make it unlikely that he could succeed either, given how many bitter accusations of betrayal it prompted from fellow Conservatives.
Fury among some Boris backers. ‘I’d rather vote for Pol Pot than Gove’ says one new May supporter. ‘Treachery’ says another.
— Ben Wright (@BBCBenWright) June 30, 2016
Tory MP: Gove is f@cked. It was the most monumentally stupid thing to do. From now onwards disloyalty will be simply called ‘Doing a Gove’
— Chris Ship (@chrisshipitv) June 30, 2016
With the anti-EU faction of his party suddenly split, and rumors that his candidacy was opposed by the men who run Britain’s most influential right-wing tabloids, Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre, Johnson turned up late for the speech in which he was expected to announce his leadership bid and revealed that he would not take part in the race. . .
Given that it was widely believed that Johnson had only joined the Leave campaign as a way to increase his popularity and make it more likely that he could become prime minister, this shocking turn of events earned him widespread derision online from Britons who see departure from the EU as a disaster for the country. . .