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  • feedwordpress 09:01:38 on 2018/12/11 Permalink
    Tags: Batu Khan, cliche, , , Mongol, politics, , rhetoric,   

    “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity”*… 

     

    elephant-abley (1)

     

    For the powerful, the repetition of stock phrases can be a valuable tactic. These phrases serve to fortify rhetorical armour, deflecting all attack. The armour often brings clichés and abstract words together in a metallic professional embrace. Consider this, from an article on the website of the British government: “The Prime Minister emphasised her desire to listen to the views of businesses, to channel their experience and to share with them the government’s vision for a successful Brexit and a country in which growth and opportunity is shared by everyone across the whole of the UK.” Or this, from a speech by the ceo of Exxon Mobil: “Our job is to compete and succeed in any market, regardless of conditions or price. To do this, we must produce and deliver the highest-value products at the lowest possible cost through the most attractive channels in all operating environments.”

    To quote neither the Bible nor William Shakespeare: yada yada yada… Listeners can be lulled into smiling submission.

    Or they can be roused to a condition of prefabricated outrage…

    How prefabricated language helps everybody from politicians to CEOs disguise what they really want to say: “Clichés As a Political Tool.”

    * “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.  When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns…to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.” George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language.”

    ###

    As we search for meaning, we might recall that today is the anniversary of the day, in 1241, that “most changed history” (per Yale’s Timothy Snyder):

    The Mongol warrior Batu Khan [grandson of Genghis Khan] was poised to take Vienna and destroy the Holy Roman Empire. No European force could have kept his armies from reaching the Atlantic. But the death of Ögedei Khan, the second Great Khan of the Mongol empire, forced Batu Khan to return to Mongolia to discuss the succession. Had Ögedei Khan died a few years later, European history as we know it would not have happened…

    Batu Khan

    Batu Khan on the throne of the Golden Horde  (source)

     
  • feedwordpress 15:50:18 on 2018/12/05 Permalink
    Tags: Catiline Oration, , envy, , , politics, René Girard, ,   

    “The one who believes he can control violence by setting up defenses is in fact controlled by violence”*… 

     

    Envy_Invidia

    Pieter Beugel, “Envy” (source)

     

    René Girard (1923–2015) was one of the last of that race of Titans who dominated the human sciences in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with their grand, synthetic theories about history, society, psychology, and aesthetics. That race has since given way to a more cautious breed of “researchers” who prefer to look at things up close, to see their fine grain rather than their larger patterns. Yet the times certainly seem to attest to the enduring relevance of Girard’s thought to our social and political realities. Not only are his ideas about mimetic desire and human violence as far-reaching as Marx’s theories of political economy or Freud’s claims about the Oedipus complex, but the explosion of social media, the resurgence of populism, and the increasing virulence of reciprocal violence all suggest that the contemporary world is becoming more and more recognizably “Girardian” in its behavior…

    Stanford’s Robert Pogue Harrison on Girard’s life, work… and its cautionary relevance to our time: “The Prophet of Envy.”

    * René Girard

    ###

    As we deconstruct desire, we might recall that it was on this date in 63 BCE that famed Roman orator (and Consul) Cicero gave the fourth and final Catiline Oration., an accusation that Senator Lucius Sergius Catilina (Catiline) had led a plot to overthrow the Roman government.  At Cicero’s urging (and over the the more moderate wishes of some other senators), Catiline was convicted and sentenced to death.

    Some modern historians, and ancient sources like Sallust, suggest that Catiline was a more complex and sympathetic character than Cicero’s argument declares, and that Cicero, a career politician, was driven by a desire to establish decisively a lasting reputation as a great Roman patriot and statesman.

    In any case, most accounts of the events come from Cicero himself.  And as he was an accomplished self-promoter, this is one of the best, if not the very best, documented events surviving from the ancient world– one that presaged the series of political struggles throughout history that pit state security against civil liberties.

    cataline oration

    A fresco by Cesare Maccari (1840-1919 CE) depicting Cicero denouncing Catiline in the Roman senate.

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:40 on 2018/11/29 Permalink
    Tags: Axis Sally, , , Mildred Gillars, , politics, , , Rita Zucca, , ,   

    “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are”*… 

     

    machiavelli

    Niccolò Machiavelli has a bad reputation. Ever since the 16th century, when manuscript copies of his great work The Prince began to circulate in Europe, his family name has been used to describe a particularly nasty form of politics: calculating, cutthroat and self-interested. There are, to be sure, reasons for this. Machiavelli at one point advises a political leader who has recently annexed a new territory to make sure to eliminate the bloodline of the previous ruler lest they form a conspiracy to unseat him. He also praises the ‘cruelty … well-used’ by the mercenary captain Cesare Borgia in laying the foundations of his rule of the area around Rome. However, Machiavelli did not invent ‘Machiavellian politics’. Nor was his advocacy of force and fraud to acquire and maintain rule the cause of individual leaders using them. What then did Machiavelli do? What did he want to achieve?…

    Machiavelli’s  name has become synonymous with egotistic political scheming, yet his work is effectively democratic at heart; Catherine Heldt Zuckert explains: “The people’s Prince.”

    [image above: source— also worth a listen on this subject]

    * Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

    ###

    As we ponder power and presentation, we might send traitorous birthday greetings to Mildred Elizabeth Gillars; she was born on this date in 1900.  After failing to find a career in the theater, vaudeville, or music in New York City, she left the country, ending up in the 1930s in Berlin… where, in 1940, she became announcer for the Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft (RRG), German State Radio.  She broadcast English-language propaganda throughout World War II, earning (with her colleague Rita Zucca) the nickname “Axis Sally.”  She was captured after the war and convicted of treason by the United States in 1949.

    AxisSallyMugshot source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:00 on 2018/11/03 Permalink
    Tags: academic freedom, accidents, , Hanna Gray, , politics, , , universities   

    “The task of a university is the creation of the future, so far as rational thought and civilized modes of appreciation can affect the issue”*… 

     

    Saul-Alinsky

    Saul Alinsky speaking at the Symposium on Civil Disobedience in a Democratic Society, Oberlin College, December 1965

     

    Education is always political, but the politics and parties which it serves change… There was a twentieth-century party of the university, and that party held that the free humanistic-scientific pursuit of knowledge itself served a political purpose. It was not a purpose above or free from politics, but nor did it understand the university as the educational arm of a society devoted to the pursuit of a single moral vision. When the party of the university lost in Germany to the party of (im)moral education, its members fled to hospitable regimes in Britain and the U.S. These regimes did not understand the university as an organ of justice, but as an institution devoted to often amoral inquiry…

    Rita Koganzon on An Academic Life, the memoir Hanna Gray, the former President of the University of Chicago– and on it’s lessons for higher education and society as a whole in our time: “The Party of the University.”

    * Alfred North Whitehead

    ###

    As we we redouble our allegiance to learning, we might recall that it was on this date in 1848 that the two dominant political parties in the U.S. came to fatal blows:  two Eastern Railroad trains crashed head-on near Marblehead, outside Salem, Massachusetts.  The Salem-bound train had a delegation of Whigs aboard, and the Marblehead train had a party of Democrats. The presidential election was to take place on November 7, and several political meetings and torch-light parades occurred during the week before the election.  A total of 6 people were killed, and about 40 people were injured in the wreck.

    220px-Locomotive_at_Wenham_station,_January_1892

    An Eastern Railroad train of the era

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:00 on 2018/10/27 Permalink
    Tags: A Time for Choosing, , , political speeches, politics, resentment, , ,   

    “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”*… 

     

    victor

    One of dozens of definitions, from acrimony to wrath, that make up the language of resentment– “Glossary: Rivalry & Feud.”

    * Carrie Fisher

    ###

    As we slog through the swamp, we might recall that it was on this date in 1964 that Ronald Reagan delivered what is still considered one of the most effective political speeches ever made on behalf of a candidate, “A Time For Choosing,” an endorsement of Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign.  While Goldwater was roundly defeated the following month, the speech launched the political career of Reagan, who was, soon after, asked to run for Governor of California… and who carried the tag “the Great Communicator” for the rest of his life.

    A_Time_for_Choosing_by_Ronald_Reagan.ogv source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:48 on 2018/10/21 Permalink
    Tags: catholic Church, Catholics, Evangelicals, , , politics, Protestant Reformation, , Religious Right, ,   

    “The real novelty of our own time is not the prominence of the religious Right but the silence of the religious Left”*… 

    idea_sized-touchdown_jesus_at_notre_dame

    “The Word of Life” mural, otherwise known as the “Touchdown Jesus,” at the Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame University

     

    Catholics make up a disproportionate share of the intelligentsia of the religious Right in the United States. Although they constitute only a fifth of the US population (and white Catholics make up less than 12 per cent of the US population), they maintain a high profile among conservative think tanks, universities and professional organisations. On the US Supreme Court, four out of five Republican-appointed justices are Catholic, despite evangelicals making up a substantial portion of Republican Party support.

    To understand Catholic overrepresentation on the US Supreme Court, and how Catholics in some sense became the brains of American conservatism, we must look to the history of Catholic education in the US…

    When evangelicals mobilised politically in the 1970s and declared a ‘culture war’ against the menace of secularism, they put aside their longstanding anti-Catholicism and reached out to Catholic conservatives. Catholics proved to be perfect partners. Unlike evangelicals, conservative Catholics could draw on research universities, law schools, medical schools, business schools and other intellectual-producing institutions in the fight against secularism. Evangelicals’ suspicion of higher education since at least the days of the 1925 Scopes trial over teaching evolution meant that they had built few institutions of higher learning. Their bible colleges and seminaries were meant to create believers and converts, not intellectuals.  Evangelical law schools and PhD programmes remain extremely rare in the US. Ironically, a tradition so devoted to spreading literacy saw too much learning as a potential danger…

    Catholic intellectual life in the US is not solely conservative, and Catholic conservatism sometimes cuts across the Left-Right divide in the US (on immigration and the death penalty, for example). But it remains the case that Catholic intellectuals are overrepresented in the US conservative movement. By virtue of their 19th-century separationist anxieties and their investment in institutions of higher learning, Catholics have become the brains of the religious Right in the US…

    How the Catholic Church became the intellectual engine of the religious Right: “Evangelicals bring the votes, Catholics bring the brains.”

    * Alec Ryrie, Protestants: The Faith That Made the Modern World

    ###

    As we ruminate on religion, we might recall that it was on this date 1512 that Martin Luther joined the theological faculty of the University of Wittenberg… where, five years later, he wrote his famous Ninety-five Thesesand launched the Protestant Reformation.

    Portrait_of_Martin_Luther_as_an_Augustinian_Monk source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 05:01:02 on 2018/10/12 Permalink
    Tags: density, , electoral politics, , , International Moment of Frustration Scream Day, , politics, population density,   

    “Things on the whole are much faster in America; people don’t ‘stand for election’, they ‘run for office.’”*… 

     

    density

    If you want to find a Republican member of Congress, head out into the country. To find a Democrat, your best shot is in a city. But to find a competitive election this fall? Head to the suburbs, where control of the House of Representatives will likely be decided.

    More than 40 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives is composed of predominantly suburban districts, according to a new CityLab analysis that classifies all 435 U.S. House districts according to their densities. These seats are currently closely divided between Democrats and Republicans. But that balance could be washed away by a “blue wave” in November. There are 28 Republican-held suburban districts that are competitive1 this fall under FiveThirtyEight’s projections—close to 40 percent of Republicans’ 74 suburban seats. The number of suburban Democratic seats in play: 1 out of 90…

    The fascinating analysis in full at: “Density is Destiny.”

    * Jessica Mitford

    ###

    As we get out the vote, we might note that today is International Moment of Frustration Scream Day– one is encouraged to go outside at twelve hundred hours Greenwich Mean Time and scream for a solid thirty seconds.  The occasion was created by Ruth and Tom Roy, who have a long suit in this sort of thing.

    scream_21 source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:35 on 2018/09/14 Permalink
    Tags: 1968, counterculture, , Harper Valley PTA, Hey Jude, , , politics, , ,   

    “Take a sad song and make it better”*… 

     

    A rehearsal of the musical <i>Hair</i> at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, September 1968

    A rehearsal of Hair.  Premiered in late 1967; photo taken, 1968

     

    Certain years acquire an almost numinous quality in collective memory—1789, 1861, 1914. One of the more recent additions to the list is 1968. Its fiftieth anniversary has brought a flood of attempts to recapture it—local, national, and transnational histories, anthologies, memoirs, even performance art and musical theater. Immersion in this literature soon produces a feeling of déjà vu, particularly if one was politically conscious at the time (as I was).

    Up to a point, repetition is inevitable. Certain public figures and events are inescapable: the tormented Lyndon Johnson, enmeshed in an unpopular, unwinnable war and choosing to withdraw from the presidential stage; the antiwar candidacies of Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy; the intensifying moral challenges posed by Martin Luther King; the assassinations of King and Kennedy; the racially charged violence in most major cities; the police riot against antiwar protesters (and anyone else who got in their way) at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; the emergence of right-wing candidates—George Wallace, Richard Nixon—appealing to a “silent majority” whose silence was somehow construed as civic virtue. And the anticlimactic election: the narrow defeat of Hubert Humphrey by Nixon, who promised to “bring us together” without specifying how.

    What togetherness turned out to mean was an excruciating prolongation of the war in Vietnam, accompanied by an accelerating animosity toward dissent. The effort to satisfy the silent majority by exorcising the demons of 1968 would eventually lead to the resurgence of an interventionist military policy, the dismantling of what passed for a welfare state, and the prosecution of a “war on drugs” that would imprison more Americans than had ever been behind bars before.

    Revisiting this story is important and necessary. But difficulties arise when one tries to identify who those demons actually were…

    Rutgers professor Jackson Lear considers several attempts to distill the lessons of the late 60s: “Aquarius Rising.”

    Special bonus: film critic J. Hoberman on why, in 1968, an especially rich year for cinema, Night of the Living Dead was his pick for best movie.

    * The Beatles, “Hey Jude”

    ###

    As we Let The Sunshine In, we might recall that on this date in 1968, our post’s title source, “Hey Jude,” sat at #2 on the pop chart– just ahead of “1,2,3, Redlight” by the 1910 Fruitgum Co. at #3 and The Rascals’ “People Got To Be Free” at #4… and just behind that week’s #1, “Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Jeannie C. Riley.

    jeannie-c-riley-harper-valley-pta-1968-a source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:10 on 2018/07/11 Permalink
    Tags: , , , politics, Tijuana,   

    “I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong”*… 

     

    immigration

    U.S. IMMIGRATION BY ORIGIN AT BIRTH, 1830-2015

     

    From policy particulars to deep questions of morality, the issue of immigration in the United States has come up with fierce urgency in recent weeks.

    But today’s immigration battles take place within a long, slowly accruing history that is difficult to grasp in its sheer scale and complexity. Tens of millions of people who represent every corner of the globe have immigrated to the U.S. over the last two centuries. The picture that emerges over time can resembles a living organism, which inspired this graphic.

    Trees’ annual growth rings reflect varying environmental conditions, and these forms are not perfect circles or ellipses… Like countries, trees can be hundreds, even thousands, of years old. Cells grow slowly, and the pattern of growth influences the shape of the trunk. Just as these cells leave an informational mark in the tree, so too do incoming immigrants contribute to the country’s shape.

    These immigration “rings” expand during years when certain welcoming factors are prevalent, such as when American immigration policies become less restrictive and its economy offers greater opportunity. The “rings” tend to stay slim during years of war or economic upheaval.

    The origins of U.S. immigrant populations also transform from era to era. In the 1840s and 1880s, European immigrants came mainly from northern and western Europe, whereas the famous influx of  the early 1900s, symbolized by Ellis Island’s gateway, emanated mostly from southern and eastern Europe. Immigration from Asia rose between 1970 and 2000, while large-scale immigration from Latin America began in 1950 and lasted for half a century. Immigration from Africa only becomes visible in the 21st century, though early U.S. Census data omits populations of slaves and indigenous communities…

    More at: “200 Years of U.S. Immigration Looks Like the Rings of a Tree.”

    * George Washington

    ###

    As we muse on the melting pot, we might recall that it was on this date in 1889 that Tijuana, the largest Mexican city in Baja California was founded.  From the beginning Tijuana saw its future in tourism.  From the late 19th century to the first few decades of the 20th century, the city attracted large numbers of Californians coming for trade and entertainment. The California land boom of the 1880s led to the first big wave of tourists, who were called “excursionists” and came looking for echoes of the popular novel Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson.

    These days, while the city still attracts it share of visitors from El Norte (300,000 per day), Tijuana has also become a way station for Latin American and Haitian refugees hoping to find asylum in the U.S.

    275px-Zona_Rio_Tijuana source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:23 on 2018/07/02 Permalink
    Tags: diary, , , , , politics, , Rousseau,   

    “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”*… 

     

    During the eighties, a nameless Cold Warrior grew frustrated in his job for the Department of Defense and poured out his feelings in an unusual way. He was a midlevel (GS-11/GS-12) analyst working at the U.S. Army’s Combined Arms Center, at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Every GS-11/GS-12 in that era would have been given a government-issue desk calendar, and this Kansas scribe made the most of his. Like a monk, he labored over his document every day, adding carefully crafted letters and elaborate drawings to what became, over nine years, a remarkably full chronicle of the decade.

    There were outbursts of anger, often directed at senior officials of the U.S. government, and joyful moments of exultation, generally following victories for the University of Kansas basketball team. Events of worldly and even otherworldly significance were described in passing: the end of the Iranian hostage standoff, the Challenger disaster, small upticks and downticks in the tension of the Cold War. There were tender moments as well: memories of a friend, or an anniversary of a magical night long ago. He noted the riots in Poland and demonstrations in China and other places where the people were beginning to make themselves heard after decades of government suppression. The anonymous employee’s irrepressible spirit seems to follow a parallel course, delighting in the creation of a secret treasure trove of writings in no way approved by his superiors…

    More pages ripped from history at “A Disgruntled Federal Employee’s 1980s Desk Calendar.”

    * Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

    ###

    As we contemplate the chronicle, as we might spare a thought for Jean-Jacques Rousseau; he died on this date in 1778.  A central figure in te European Enlightenment, he was a novelist ( Emile, or On Education illustrated the importance of the education of the whole person for citizenship; Julie, or the New Heloise was seminal in the development of romanticism in fiction), a composer (perhaps most notably of several operas), and an autobiographer (his Confessions initiated the modern autobiography; his Reveries of a Solitary Walker exemplified the late 18th-century movement known as the Age of Sensibility, and featured an heightened subjectivity and introspection that later characterized modern writing).

    But it is as a philosopher that Rousseau was best known in his time and is best remembered.  His Discourse on Inequality and The Social Contract are cornerstones of modern political and social thought.  He was deeply controversial in his time: he was condemned from the pulpit by the Archbishop of Paris, his books were burned and warrants were issued for his arrest.  But during the period of the French Revolution, Rousseau was the most popular of the philosophes among members of the Jacobin Club. He was interred as a national hero in the Panthéon in Paris, in 1794, 16 years after his death.

    42307923884_4bc291b918_o source

     

     

     
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