Showing posts from 2018

The retreat of liberalism goes on

As communism seemingly disappeared from view at the end of the 1980s, in a sudden and unexpected blow-out, there was plenty of triumphalism around in the west.The most infamous was perhaps that of Francis Fukuyama, a US state department career man turned historian.He got his publishing break with a book called “The End of History and the Last Man”.The end of communism, he suggested, meant that man’s ideological evolution, the very stuff of history, was over. Western liberalism had won.Nothing seemed to appear on the horizon to challenge its by then unquestioned dominance.
Francis Fukuyama has continued to publish books on the history he thought had ended but his original thesis looks more and more messy the further away we get from the 1990s. Here we are in March 2018 and the retreat of liberalism is pretty much full-on.The authoritarian march of Putin and Xi is matched by their less consequential peers and puppets, men such as Erdogan in Turkey, Assad in Syria, Maduro in Venezuelas.…

Trump's More Than Lewinsky Moment

It's always a busy time for the Donald.  Today alone he is defending his new tariff system and agreeing to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, where they will engage in personal diplomacy since Trump hasn't actually got any advisers who know anything about North Korea.

Despite the shrill insistency of news about Trump, it appears there is still space for porn star Stormy Daniels to keep popping up.  This is the person who Trump's lawyer allegedly paid $130,000 to in order to stop her revealing her liaison with Trump at the height of the 2016 election.

Republicans and evangelicals, once the very embodiment of moral outrage over Bill Clinton's tawdry affairs, have now accustomed themselves to the ways of the world.  This piece from Eugene Robinson on Real Clear Politics is a clear summary of the Daniels affair, and concludes with this robust, scathing and on point analysis:

"The personal lawyer of the president of the United States, days before the election, pa…

Amidst the turmoil, Trump can count major successes

From Dan Balz in the Washington Post today, this assessment of the credit side of President Trump's ledger makes for encouraging reading if you're a conservative, and should give you pause for thought if you're a liberal who thought that Trump's bizarre, maverick style might spell his doom:

"That’s not to say the president hasn’t had successes or made progress in changing the course of policy in the aftermath of the administration of President Barack Obama. He signed a huge tax cut. The economy is in good shape, unemployment is at a low level, and the stock market, despite some recent downs and ups, is well above what it was when he came into office. He has changed the enforcement of immigration laws, as he promised during the campaign. He has softened or reduced regulations on businesses. He has facilitated a conservative shift in the makeup of the federal judiciary. He has pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement and sought to shift U.S. trade…

Who's voting,for whom and where? US election analysis talk

The next concrete vote on Trump isn't until November, but pollsters and election wonks are all analysing the data furiously to see if the Democrats will ride a wave back to congressional power, or whether Trump and the Republicans will in fact be able to dig down further and secure a counter-cycle triumph.

This election analysis and discussion from Politico is fascinating and a must read for students of American politics.

Shooting Schoolkids and mis-using the Second Amendment

The wording of the famous Second Amendment to the US Constitution is this:

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed".

My students and I saw it just a few days ago, the faded writing on the Bill of Rights displayed in the National Archives still visible. I was puzzled for a while, as in the document this is actually the fourth amendment, but it turns out the first two weren't ratified, thus pushing the famous arms amendment up to number 2 in the ranks.

I've read it a number of times, and it still seems to me that the so-called right to bear arms is very dependent on the maintenance of a militia to defend the state.  It is not, thus, an individual right at all.  It is very much a concession granted in the interests of state defence.

So how has this seemingly obvious interpretation become so sullied that the second amendment now becomes synonymous with individual fre…

Republican Power and Evangelical Influence

1.  The Republicans have been accused of "turbo-charged" gerrymandering in order to hold on to their state and federal offices, and the two states which seem to critics to exemplify their approach are Pennsylvania and North  Carolina.  The New York Times provides, as might be expected, excoriating commentary on both situations, suggesting that Republicans are no longer just about holding power but about de-legitimising their opponents.

At stake are not just hundreds of state legislative seats, but also control of the House of Representatives, which Republicans currently hold by a 45-seat margin.

The most shocking case is playing out right now in Pennsylvania, where Republican lawmakers in 2011 created maps so skewed that when Democrats won a majority of the popular vote the following year, it translated into only five of the state’s 18 congressional seats.

But when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the districts, the Republicans were ready.  After their appeal to the U…

Dems still look good for mid-terms - WaPo

From the Washington Post's "Plumline" blog, some still optimistic points about the Democrats' chances in November:

* DEMS POUR MONEY INTO STATE LEGISLATIVE RACES: The New York Times reports that a Dem-aligned group led by former attorney general Eric Holder is set to pour big money into obscure state legislative races across the country in 2018: The group [is] determined to deny Republicans so-called trifectas in state governments — places where a single party controls the governorship and an entire legislature … The group’s list of high-priority states includes most of the critical states in presidential elections. Preventing total GOP control in as many states as possible could block lopsided pro-GOP congressional maps in the next decade and avoid a repeat of the last decade’s disaster. * DEMS GRAB ANOTHER SEAT IN DEEP RED TERRITORY: Last night, Democrat Mike Revis won a special election for a state legislative seat in Missouri. Reid Wilson explains: If Revis’s lead …

Let the Brexiteers in

The Sunday Times runs a piece today about the frustration of hard-Brexit minded Tory MPs, and their desire for a "dream team" of Johnson, Gove and - of course - Rees-Mogg, to come in and run things.

Remain minded Tories should probably consider the same thing.  As Theresa May's government lurches around trying to find a strategy, or a vision, or anything at all, it becomes increasingly apparent that there is no value to the Remainer wing in her continued leadership.

Mrs. May's poor negotiating situation can be put down to her need to have been more Brexit than the Brexiters initially, in order to convince that wing of the party that this quondam (admittedly lukewarm) Remainer really could be trusted.   Alex Wickham notes this point in his assessment of the depressed state of Brexiteers.

However, Mrs. May's own lack of vision for Brexit means she is caught between the two wings of her party.  For every Johnson, there's a  Hammond etc.  Given the lack of contro…

Lead or Go. Still discussing May

The conservative weekly "The Spectator" is influential - and widely read - in Conservative Party circles, so it can hardly be good news for May that its well-connected political editor, James Forsyth, has written the cover story under the stark demand that she "Lead or Go".

This debate doesn't seem to be getting any quieter, even as May is in China trying to secure trade deals.  The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg commented on the febrile atmosphere in Westminster on this morning's Today programme (here, go to 1:09:06 for Nick Robinson's start), noting that Tory MPs were daily changing their minds about May.

The problem for Tory MPs, as I noted below and here, is their risk-averse caution.  They don't want May but they hate the uncertainty of the alternative.  May's leadership is flawed from top to bottom, but the parliamentary part she leads is riven through and through with factional strife, resulting in a ghastly stasis that is tipping the party …

May survives another turbulent week. Again.

Like Mark Twain’s death, reports of Theresa May’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Unlike the legendary writer’s death rumours, however, these are more frequent and relentless. Quite how a person of little obvious political skill or charisma, and seemingly little personal support, has managed to soldier on in Britain’s highest political office during a period of more or less consistent crisis, will be as much a matter for political psychologists as historians in the future.

For now, it is enough to occupy ourselves with the return of that perennial British favourite, “Will Theresa Survive?” When she’s not dealing with a crisis of her own making, be it a misjudged election, a botched reshuffle, or the failure to call yet another errant minister to account, Britain’s accidental Prime Minister is usually to be found fire-fighting another round of leadership questions. Or not. The odd thing about these regular leadership issues is just how little we hear from the central figure, Mrs.…

May's political nihilism

If the New York Times piece from yesterday read like a pretty stunning indictment of Britain in its awkward Brexit negotiation phase, that's nothing to the ire that Philip Stephens has reserved for the prime minister's personal approach.  His Financial Times piece yesterday poured unmerry scorn upon her and her works. Most savage was his articulation of her broad political strategy - that she is working to overtun the current narrative of her as a deeply disastrous and accidental prime minister, by ensuring she presides over Britain's exit from the EU, whatever that exit looks like.  He goes on -

"Everything else — the nation’s prosperity and security or its standing in the world — is a second order question." 

As a destructive, nihilistic political strategy it beggars comparison. 

The whole piece is here.

Britain's Decline

The New York Times has published a searing piece by Peter Goodman outlining the case for Britain's increasing irrelevance and economic decline post-Brexit vote.  Quoting Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff that we are experiencing possibly the best moment for the global economy since the 1950s, Goodman then goes on to outline the economic outlook for Britain:

Britain stands out as one of the weaker performers. Its economy probably expanded by just 1.7 percent last year and is expected to grow by only 1.5 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. By contrast, the I.M.F. estimates that the United States economy will grow by 2.7 percent this year, and the 19 nations that share the euro currency will collectively expand by 2.2 percent. Britain’s weak performance is due in large part to market sentiments about Brexit. The vote sent the British pound plunging against both the dollar and the euro. Although the pound has recovered much ground since then, Britain has be…

May's underwhelming Davos presence

President Macron and Chancellor Merkel used their Davos platforms to address globalisation.  Theresa May, pursuing one of the biggest and most significant international projects of the generation, has chosen Facebook and Google as her targets.  Important, no doubt, but hardly areas of key influence for her.  She seems barely listened to in her own cabinet, so the idea that global hegemons like the afore-mentioned are going to much listen to her seems far-fetched.  Surely it would have been far better to address Brexit and place some clarity of the Great British Withdrawal Project. But that presupposes there is actually clarity and vision behind the project, and so far Mrs. May and her government have been remarkably effective in covering that up.

"The Sun's" Harry Cole claims May is close to having to defend her leadership in a party contest, with the number of letters being delivered to 1922 Chairman Graham Brady nearly at the tipping point of 48.  The issue for Tory ba…

Trump knows he won, right?

Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton for the presidency over a year ago, but he just can't seem to let her go.  Answering questions about whether he would be under oath in front of the Mueller Inquiry, his answer was to liken himself to his defeated opponent.  "You mean like Hillary was under oath?".  As he went on to reveal, Hillary wasn't under oath.  He sounded triumphant in telling reporters this nugget.  But then, Hillary wasn't president and wasn't being investigated for collusion with a foreign power.  And after a year of Trump, her email use really doesn't seem quite so significant compared to the traumas of the Twitter President.