June 6, 2012, 11:07 am
(JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images via Flickr/CC/ProgressOhio)
In each administration, there emerges something to mock, caricaturize, and stereotype. With Bill Clinton, it was his sex addiction and bulbous nose—both issues he has written about or commented on in the press. With Jimmy Carter, it was peanut farming, and with George W. Bush the list is long: reading children’s books turned upside down, political stunts on aircraft carriers, and the misguided invasion of Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction. So, caricaturizing Obama’s wide-extending ears or even how his administration rolled out health care reform fits with prior discourse. These are the shots politicians take as presidents.
Yet, noticeably, this administration has been the subject of more pronounced and pernicious…
October 1, 2011, 12:42 pm
I just read a sad, scary, important book: Three Famines: Starvation and Politics, by Thomas Kenneally. It’s a study of famine generally and of three in particular: the Irish potato famine (which started in 1845), the Bengal famine (1943-44), and the Ethiopian famines of the 1970s and 1980s.
It’s painful reading, especially when detailing the actual anatomical, physiological, and behavioral consequences of starving to death, but all the more necessary for those of us who have almost certainly been hungry but never experienced genuine, chronic hunger. And it’s important because of the connections established between famine and ideology, specifically how the above three famines were not acts of God or nature, but rather, of politics.
Indeed, much as I am convinced that there are way too damned many people on this planet, Keneally is also convincing about his thesis that…
August 5, 2011, 5:55 pm
Americans who talk to pollsters are a sadly confused bunch. Here’s Finding #1, from today’s New York Times:
The Republicans compromised too little, a majority of those polled [by NYT/CBS] said. All told, 72 percent disapproved of the way Republicans in Congress handled the negotiations, while 66 percent disapproved of the way Democrats in Congress handled negotiations.
So, by a small margin, those polled prefer the Democratic approach to the debt-ceiling talks to the Republican. They run 50-50 on Obama’s approach. As for the Tea Party, (Finding #2), it
is now viewed unfavorably by 40 percent of the public and favorably by just 20 percent, according to the poll. In mid-April 29 percent of those polled viewed the movement unfavorably, while 26 percent viewed it favorably. And 43 percent of Americans now think the Tea Party has too much influence on the Republican Party, up from …
August 5, 2011, 10:56 am
When I first moved to Washington, D.C., exactly four years ago today, I wondered about the types of things I would be discussing at dinner parties with my new-found Beltway insider chums.
The answer to that question, surprisingly, hasn’t turned out to be “politics.” People in politics, be they members of the administration, the opposition party, diplomats, journalists, or policy analysts, don’t really like to discuss politics at dinner. It’s too 9-to-5, too combustible, and who knows if it will leak, and so forth.
Which is why one conversation I recall was unusual in its subject and candor. It was a semi-drunken rant given by a Clintonista, a Philippic delivered to a mixed audience of Democrats and Republicans (what is known in D.C. as a “multicultural audience”), all of whom were inebriated. The subject was yet another Obama cave-in, this time on the Bush tax cuts.
July 14, 2011, 11:00 pm
It’s not often that I am enlightened by an article in a refereed scholarly publication–I am one of those curmudgeons who sees the proliferation of academic journals as the surest sign of the impending intellectual apocalypse–but I read a piece this morning which really clarified some dilemmas.
The article is entitled “Jerry Falwell’s Sunbelt Politics: The Regional Origins of the Moral Majority,”* by Professor Daniel Williams of the University of West Georgia.
It starts by calling attention to a well-known conundrum in the study of Religion and Politics in the United States. In 1980, with Jerry Falwell riding herd, Evangelicals and Fundamentalists decamped for the GOP. Few expected that they would last long among the secular Republican party they were joining (yes, you read that right, the secular Republican party).
Yet the truth of the matter is that this was one of the most…
March 22, 2011, 9:28 pm
When I read Professor Ruse’s recent Brainstorm post equating the Tea Party with the New Atheists I was overcome by feelings of anger, surprise, and resentment.
That’s because he beat me to the punch.
I had been test-marketing the exact same analogy in lectures and in drafts over the past month. With a few caveats (to be discussed below) the equation struck me as plausible and kind of funny in a variety of ways.
In any case, Professor Ruse got there first. To him belongs the glory.
For his efforts, naturally, he was subjected to the predictable snark of New Atheist trolls. For those not familiar with their world-view, let me help you understand their central and timeless insight: Unless you as an atheist are willing to disparage all religious people, describe them all as imbeciles and creeps, mock every text and thinker they have ever produced, then you must be some sort of …
March 20, 2011, 8:07 pm
I have always had a high regard for the opinions and ideas of Michael Ruse, even as I have on occasion disagreed with them. But I must note that I was positively gobsmacked (to employ an appropriate Britishism) by his recent Brainstorm assertion that the New Atheists constitute a “disaster comparable to the Tea Party.” Michael, Michael, Michael: Do you really believe this?
The Tea Party has an array of specific public-policy objectives, all of them to my mind immensely hurtful to the public weal, including but not limited to reducing if not eliminating public funding for foreign aid, slashing women’s reproductive rights, gutting public education and public broadcasting, rejecting efforts to fight global heating or to defend the environment more generally, refusing to support renewable energy and rolling back anything even remotely approaching national health care … the latter …