From the monthly archives:

August 2017

The Origins of Glibertarianism

by Henry on August 31, 2017

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been involved in an on-and-off floating argument over Nancy MacLean’s book on James Buchanan and public choice, Democracy in Chains. This essay, with Steve Teles, lays out the problems we see with the book. The book makes very big claims e.g. that Buchanan provided the political strategies that made Pinochet’s Chile what it was, and galvanized an American right that had been in disarray before his decisive intervention. But the evidence that MacLean provides for these claims is problematic – key documents simply don’t say what MacLean thinks they do. MacLean describes Buchanan as an inventive creator of dastardly political ploys, using terms such as ‘evil genius’ and ‘wicked genius,’ but economists, no more than political scientists, make for good competent political strategists – the median is closer to Professor Pippy P. Poopypants than Svengali. [click to continue…]

Review of Betts and Collier on refugees

by Chris Bertram on August 30, 2017

I have [a review](https://newhumanist.org.uk/articles/5224/reforming-refuge) of Andrew Betts and Paul Collier, Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System (Allen Lane) in The New Humanist. It is a curious book, with some interesting and serious parts, but the whole is marred by an arrogant rhetoric and it risks serving as an alibi for some very bad policies indeed.

Brad White, a friend of Crooked Timber, was home in Salt Lake City recently. His mother, Jackie White had suddenly died. It was a good death, as they go; Jackie went just as she raised a rather large G&T to her many friends.

As Brad tidied and settled Jackie’s affairs, he found stuffed at the back of a drawer an article she’d written. Going by the other documents it was with, he reckons it was written in the late 1960s or early 1970s. As far as we can tell, it was never published.

Here is some clear-eyed advice advice written for American women in the workplace, not long after the Mad Men era. Almost fifty years on, the gist of it is still relevant to many women in many more places. [click to continue…]

Jack Kirby was born on August 28, 1917.

I celebrated his birthday by rereading a bunch of old Jack Kirby comics. [click to continue…]

What Music Are You listening to This Week

by Belle Waring on August 29, 2017

The recurring series that’s actually pretty popular, dammit. Also I get sweet music recs every time. Otpup pointed out that the new LCD Soundsystem is great, and although they have only released three of the songs off the new album, I have been listening to them on repeat as I do my morning 1-hour hike that I do before the sun comes up because I am a person of unusual virtue and my life has changed and now I am up from the front end instead of from the other end if you see what I mean. Also it’s really hot when the sun comes up in Singapore. Of course, it’s so muggy before the sun comes up that I come home in a lather of sweat anyway, but hey. I see lots of old people doing tai chi in the park, and occasionally monkeys. Not doing tai chi, as far as I can tell. Otpup posted “Call The Police”, so here’s “Tonite.”

I’m not 1000% sold on The War on Drugs, but I’m warming up to it. And this song is great. Damn this dude must do a good Dylan cover though.

This is one of my favorite songs from The Clash’s Sandinista:

It’s strange in a way how like this the towers of Singapores HDB blocks look, in huge clusters, but neatly painted with graded hues on the brick ends, some blues, some reds, some yellows, all planted around with tidy gardens, all surrounded with new cars.
My Neighbors
Sorry, there were much better photos but they maxed out the side of the blog. Anyway, this is in my neighborhood, so there’s that.

I have the Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox that appears in the video at 4:17 and carried it as a purse for a number of years, a choice I now regard as dubious.

Is there a name for the songwriting device of setting up an obvious rhyme and then not using it? Pavement is particularly inclined to this but there’s an example in LCD Soundsystem’s “Tonite” also:

Sure enemies haunt you with spit and derision
But friends are the ones who can put you in exile

You are expecting “prison” at that point, oder?

I Hope If You’re In Houston You’re OK

by John Holbo on August 28, 2017

That’s all I have to say. Stay safe and stay as dry as you can.

Sunday Photoblogging: flowers

by Ingrid Robeyns on August 27, 2017

Longtime readers of our blog know that my oldest son Aaron (now 11) developed an interest in flower-arranging. It is wonderful to see how he has this talent that neither of his parents knew he had, nor did we do anything to help him discover this talent: he did it all by himself initially, with the help of some youtube demonstrations by Japanese flower artists. When we discovered what he could make, some local flower sellers started to support him, and he was lucky that my sister Kristin has a degree in flower arranging and hence could learn him some techniques. [click to continue…]

The Temptation of St. Anthony

by John Holbo on August 27, 2017

Today I read Gustave Flaubert’s novel, The Temptation of St. Anthony in the Lafcadio Hearn translation. It’s a bit different from, say, Madame Bovary. I don’t think it’s just Hearn’s translation that seems to be aimed at the Weird Tales market. [click to continue…]

When Political Scientists Legitimate Torturers

by Corey Robin on August 25, 2017

The American Political Science Association, which will be meeting next week in San Francisco, will be featuring John Yoo on two panels. Many political scientists are protesting this decision, and will be protesting Yoo at his panels. I am not attending the conference this year, but I wrote the following letter to the two program chairs of the conference.

Dear Professors Jamal and Hyde:

In his celebrated diary of daily life in the Third Reich, Victor Klemperer writes:

If one day the situation were reversed and the fate of the vanquished lay in my hands, then I would let all the ordinary folk go and even some of the leaders, who might perhaps after all have had honourable intentions and not known what they were doing. But I would have all the intellectuals strung up, and the professors three feet higher than the rest; they would be left hanging from the lamp posts for as long as was compatible with hygiene.

The reason Klemperer reserved such special contempt for the professors and intellectuals of the 1920s and 1930s was that professors and intellectuals played a special role in bringing on the horrors of the Nazi regime, as Claudia Koonz and other historians have documented. Not only did those professors and intellectuals provide some of the leading arguments for the rise of that regime, but they also served in that regime: as doctors, population experts, engineers, propagandists. And lawyers.

We now come to the matter of John Yoo, Emmanuel S. Heller Professor of Law at UC Berkeley, who has been invited to address the annual conference of the American Political Science Association, which will be meeting in San Francisco next week, and whose speech acts while serving as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Bush administration did so much to bring about the torture regime of that era. While there is no need to rehearse all of those speech acts, we might recall that in his lengthy memo of 2003, Yoo claimed that detainees of the US military could be legally stripped of their clothing “for a period of time” and interrogated naked. If you have trouble visualizing what that might mean, have a look at these photographs from Abu Ghraib. In that same memo, Yoo mooted the possibility that actions ordinarily considered illegal—including gouging an eye, dousing a prisoner with “scalding water, corrosive acid, or caustic substance,” or biting—might well be legal in time of war: the president’s powers as commander in chief were that broad.

When it comes to torture, our minds often drift to the torturer or his higher-ups in the Pentagon and the CIA. But as Jane Mayer documented in The Dark Side, the torture regime of George W. Bush was very much a lawyers’ regime. As one of Yoo’s colleagues told Mayer, “It’s incredible, but John Yoo and David Addington were running the war on terror almost on their own.” Yoo’s memos were not the idle speculations of a cloistered academic; stamped with the seal of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the Justice Department, they had the force of law, issuing binding interpretations of existing statutes that could only be overturned by the Attorney General. As Mayer explains, “For Yoo’s allies in the White House, his position at OLC was a political bonanza. It was like having a personal friend who could write medical prescriptions.” Harvard Law Professor Jack Goldsmith, who headed the OLC in 2003, adds that Yoo-type memos were essentially “get-out-of-jail-free cards.” That is why former CIA head George Tenet has written:

Despite what Hollywood might have you believe, in situations like these [the capture, interrogation, and torture of Al Qaeda logistics chief Abu Zubayda] you don’t call in the tough guys; you call in the lawyers.

That’s how powerful John Yoo was.

Since the election of Donald Trump, we have heard much from our profession about “norm erosion” and the ways in which an ostensibly democratic society like our own can devolve into an authoritarian or even fascist society. While the history of the Trump ascendancy has yet to be written, it will be difficult, when the time comes, for future historians to neglect the role of John Yoo in preparing the way for that devolution. As Duke Law Professor Walter Dellinger, who headed the OLC under Bill Clinton, said of the vision of “the embodiment of power for the executive” that lay at the heart of Yoo’s memos: “it’s like Mussolini in 1930.”

I fear that with this invitation to Yoo to address our profession, as if he were simply the author of controversial and heterodox opinions rather than the architect of a regime of torture and barbarity, the American Political Science Association has written itself a chapter in those future histories.

Sincerely,

Corey Robin

Professor of Political Science

Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center

Sir Viv Stanshall Day

by Harry on August 24, 2017

Depending on how you count, this is the first Sir [1] Viv Stanshall Day of 2018, or the 216th Sir Viv Stanshall Day of the new Presidential era. Time to enjoy these lovely videos, and help me with a suggestion.

Now the suggestion. My football-mad 10-year-old is a not-bad singer, and needs a song for his next recital which has a 60s theme (his sister is performing Monkees songs, unsurprisingly). So… A Bonzo song that a 10-year old boy can sing?

[1] Sir? Well if Mr Trump can be President, surely Viv can be a mere knight. I conferred on behalf of the CT collective. I probably should have consulted with them, now I think of it. I am convinced that if the Queen Mother had ever met Viv he’d have been knighted properly, anyway.

I have a piece in The Guardian on the meaning of Steve Bannon’s departure from the White House:

Once upon a time, conservatives plotted a path that began with the magazines and ended in the White House. With Steve Bannon’s departure from the Trump administration on Friday to head the Breitbart News Network, we seem to be witnessing the reverse: an unspooling of history that begins in power and ends in print.

In 1955, William F Buckley launched National Review, declaring war against liberalism and the Democratic party but also, and more immediately, a civil war on the right.

Since Charlottesville, pundits and historians have wondered whether we’re headed for a civil war. With Bannon’s exit, it’s clear that we are. Only it won’t be between North and South or right and left. It will be within the Republican party itself.

The question is: will it be like the war Buckley launched, a purgative struggle as a prelude to a new era of conservative power and rule? Or will it mark the end of the Reagan regime, unveiling a conservative movement in terminal crisis as it strives to reconcile the irreconcilable?

In the wake of the Charlottesville controversy, Bannon laughed at liberals and leftists who called for taking down Confederate statues. “Just give me more,” he told the New York Times. “Tear down more statues. Say the revolution is coming. I can’t get enough of it.”

As he explained to the American Prospect, “the longer [the Democrats] talk about identity politics, I got ‘em. I want them to take about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

Ironically, as the Republicans flounder in their attempt to get anything done – much less enact a program of economic nationalism – Trump emits tweet after plangent tweet about “the removal of our beautiful statues.” It is the Republicans, in other words, and not the Democrats, who are saddled with identity issues, while their economic program (on healthcare, the debt, and taxes) remains stalled.

Before he left, Bannon’s parting words to Trump were to resist the siren calls of so-called moderates, who were pushing him to soften his stance on things like Charlottesville. Moderation would never win over Democrats or independents. The best thing was to appeal to the base: “You’ve got the base,” Bannon said. “And you grow the base by getting” things done.

But appealing to that base is precisely what is preventing things from getting done. As one top Republican strategist told the Wall Street Journal: “By not speak out against” Charlottesville and the white supremacy of the Republican party, “it is bleeding into the party, and that is going to make it far more difficult to pass anything.”

The right-wing racial populism that once served the conservative cause so well is now, as even the most conservative Republicans are acknowledging, getting in its way. Whatever the outcome of the civil war Bannon intends to fight, it’ll be waged against the backdrop of a declining rather than an ascendant movement, with the tools of yesterday rather than tomorrow.

That is why, having had seven months in the White House to prosecute his populist war on the Republican establishment – something Buckley and his minions could only dream of in 1955 – Bannon now finds himself staring into the abyss of a website, hoping to find there a power he couldn’t find in the most powerful office of the world.

And don’t forget to buy the second edition of The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Donald Trump (yes, you read that subtitle correctly), now available for pre-order on Amazon.

What Music Are You Listening To This Week?

by Belle Waring on August 22, 2017

In my last music post commenter Fats Durston recommended the Weakerthans “Plea From a Cat Named Virtue,” and it is totally awesome. Thanks, bro!

“I’m tired of this piece of string.”
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart sometimes do a The Smiths thing, but here I would say it’s more about The Only Ones. Or a combo? His voice is very like Peter Perett’s.

Sometimes I feel like bustin’ loose with Chuck Brown, Godfather of Go-Go.

Car Seat Headrest’s releae from earlier this year is still rocking me all the time, and further proves that literally anything can be a band name. Like, anything. (Plus fan-made video!) I feel that the outro is very early Brian Eno. Best quote “last week I took acid and mushrooms/I did not transcend, I felt like a walking piece of shit/in a stupid-looking jacket.” #relatable

What about y’all? You always have amazing suggestions and I listen to them all.
UPDATE: German punk band Slime’s “Viva La Muerte” is about the conquest of the Americas and it is so good.

Although maybe this anti-fascist song is more appropriate to the moment:

Good Grief

by John Holbo on August 21, 2017

The Federalist has gotten weirder. If you feel this way about Charlie Brown, just think what you would think if you ever met that Ur-Lucy, Socrates. Perhaps Cornford said it best: [click to continue…]

Sunday Photoblogging: view from another walk

by Ingrid Robeyns on August 20, 2017

We encountered this funny sight recently at the outskirts of Spa, where we were enjoying walking along the GR5. (More fans of the GRs out there?)

I’m glad the owners of the (former) fence decided not to cut the tree, and obviously not because there aren’t enough trees in the area!

That post of mine, below – one theme of which is that groupishness is next to underdogliness, in potentially problematic ways – is too long. For the less literate CT reader, then, the present post provides an opportunity to track attitudes towards patently superfluous Confederate statuary, going back. It’s interesting that the joke is: we are perversely proud of failure, including moral failure. (But it would be indelicate to indicate the actual, main moral failure of the Confederacy in such a connection.) In general (no pun intended), it’s hard to pin down how much the romance of the Lost Cause has always been not just an attempt to sublimate the stain of slavery into a nimbus of state’s rights, but a kind of romantic antiheroism. Who doesn’t love a good antihero, after all?