Category Archives: Politics & Society

‘Bush intends to attack Iran before the end of his term’

According to this May 20, 2008 Jerusalem Post report, the US may be planning to attack Iran before Cheney leaves office.

If you’ve read up on Dick Cheney, and read up on the Iraq invasion’s real winner (Iran), its difficult (and not cynical at all) to imagine that an attack on Iran isn’t waiting in the wings, probably during the month before the US presidential election. October Surprise! The US invasion of Iraq has strategically set Iran ahead in so many respects, and now, strangely, some of Iran’s interests are in alignment with US interests (such as Iraqi stability, which, as it develops, continues to serves Iran’s interests). The problem is that everything that the US has done in Iraq since 2003 has served to empower and embolden Iran’s influence in the region, while simultaneously putting US soldiers to the east and west of its borders. Of course Iran is on the defense with its nuclear ambitions and rhetoric, but it is strategically also in an offensive position, able to make things difficult for the US. In the end, an empowered Iran is NOT a Cheney/Bush interest, and will likely cause Hawks like them to conclude that their patriotic duty will be to deal with Iran militarily before they leave office, convinced that a Democratic president won’t. That military action will escalate, and Iran can make things very difficult in the region, for Iraq, for oil tanker traffic, and for Israel. If a much larger escalation of the situation in the middle east doesn’t start to boil before inauguration day, we can continue to hope it never will. But prepare yourself for an October Surprise.

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Recommended Podcast: Stanford Technology Ventures Program Entrepreneurial Thought Leader Lecture Series

I’m a big fan of podcasts. When you see me walking my dog, Sam, in Stockholm, I’m not listening to music. I’m listening to podcast lectures on current events, politics, art, books, etc.

Check out this recent podcast lecture from Stanford’s Technology Ventures Forum Entrepreneurial Thought Leader Lecture Series . The lecturer, David Rothkopf, is the author of SUPERCLASS: The Global Power Elite and the World They are Making. It’s a fascinating insight into the few people who hold nearly all of the world’s power and how they’re using it.

I’m not posting it with any leftist political agenda in mind — it’s just INTERESTING.

I just added the podcast to Rothkopf’s bio on Wikipedia.

If I voted with my mind and my heart, I’d have to vote for Obama…

The Political Scene
The Relaunch
Can Barack Obama catch Hillary Clinton?
by Ryan Lizza November 26, 2007

How could my favorite candidate for president end up with a name that sounds like Osama (Obama), a middle name, Hussein, shared with Saddam, and a charisma, intelligence, rationalness, and integrity that historically in our society ends up tragically in assassination (RFK, MLK, JFK, etc.)? We can hope otherwise. I always guess that I’m voting for Hillary because I assume when general election comes around that she will be the choice. But I’m never sure WHY I’m voting for Hillary. This article gives an insight into the person I’d rather vote for, but I won’t be in the states for the primaries anyway to vote for him. The author of this article, Ryan Lizza, is a great writer, too.

The Economist: The new wars of religion

Nov 1st 2007
From The Economist print edition

Here’s an interesting article about the impact of religious conflict on global politics and economics. This article is part of a larger series of articles in the November 1 issue. All of the articles are available online.

I’ve always wondered . . .
Does anyone know why the Economist never acknowledges the authors of their articles? What’s the journalistic thinking behind that? I’ve always wondered — and now I know! Here’s what Wikipedia’s listing for the Economist shows today:

“The Economist does not print by-lines identifying the authors of articles other than survey articles and articles written by outsiders “By Invitation”. In their own words: “It is written anonymously, because it is a paper whose collective voice and personality matter more than the identities of individual journalists.”[19] Where needed, references to the author within the article are made as “your correspondent.” Rare exceptions to this rule occur where there might otherwise be a conflict of interest such as when reviewing a book written by someone connected with The Economist.”

There is it.

Hillary’s biggest problem? Hendrik Hertzberg in this week’s “The New Yorker” reviews the history of dynastic families in American politics . . .

Comment
Dynastic Voyage
by Hendrik Hertzberg
October 29, 2007

Great conclusion:
“Bush’s failure to learn much of anything for the past six years suggests a deficit of character, not of experience; his unwillingness to employ his father’s skills and advice on behalf of the nation shows a disrespectful disregard for a dynast’s biggest advantage. He has given both freshness and family a bad name.”

Hertzberg is a frequent columnist for The New Yorker’s ‘Talk of the Town’ section.

The Atlantic’s 150 Year Anniversary Issue – David Foster Wallace asks how much our security should cost

The new issue of The Atlantic (the 150th Anniversary issue) has reached me in Stockholm. If you don’t subscribe, pick it up at newstands. It’s a terrific issue, with nearly 50 of American’s great minds and writers speculating on the “future of the American idea”. Since The Atlantic won’t let ANYONE read their articles without being paid subscribers, I’ll republish just one of the 50 essays here and see if they get all worked up about it. This was the article that had the greatest impact on my thinking, giving me new perspective and providing clear delineation where I was otherwise a little fuzzy.

The Future of the American Idea
November 2007
Atlantic Monthly
by David Foster Wallace
Just Asking

Are some things still worth dying for? Is the American idea* one such thing? Are you up for a thought experiment? What if we chose to regard the 2,973 innocents killed in the atrocities of 9/11 not as victims but as democratic martyrs, “sacrifices on the altar of freedom”?* In other words, what if we decided that a certain baseline vulnerability to terrorism is part of the price of the American idea? And, thus, that ours is a generation of Americans called to make great sacrifices in order to preserve our democratic way of life—sacrifices not just of our soldiers and money but of our personal safety and comfort?

In still other words, what if we chose to accept the fact that every few years, despite all reasonable precautions, some hundreds or thousands of us may die in the sort of ghastly terrorist attack that a democratic republic cannot 100-percent protect itself from without subverting the very principles that make it worth protecting?

Is this thought experiment monstrous? Would it be monstrous to refer to the 40,000-plus domestic highway deaths we accept each year because the mobility and autonomy of the car are evidently worth that high price? Is monstrousness why no serious public figure now will speak of the delusory trade-off of liberty for safety that Ben Franklin warned about more than 200 years ago? What exactly has changed between Franklin’s time and ours? Why now can we not have a serious national conversation about sacrifice, the inevitability of sacrifice—either of (a) some portion of safety or (b) some portion of the rights and protections that make the American idea so incalculably precious?

In the absence of such a conversation, can we trust our elected leaders to value and protect the American idea as they act to secure the homeland? What are the effects on the American idea of Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Patriot Acts I and II, warrantless surveillance, Executive Order 13233, corporate contractors performing military functions, the Military Commissions Act, NSPD 51, etc., etc.? Assume for a moment that some of these measures really have helped make our persons and property safer—are they worth it? Where and when was the public debate on whether they’re worth it? Was there no such debate because we’re not capable of having or demanding one? Why not? Have we actually become so selfish and scared that we don’t even want to consider whether some things trump safety? What kind of future does that augur?

FOOTNOTES:
1. Given the strict Gramm-Rudmanewque space limit here, let’s just please all agree that we generally know what this term connotes—an open society, consent of the governed, enumerated powers, Federalist 10, pluralism, due process, transparency … the whole democratic roil.

2. (This phrase is Lincoln’s, more or less)

David Foster Wallace is the author of several books, including Infinite Jest (1996), A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (1997), and Consider the Lobster (2005).

Paul Krugman’s new book: “The Conscience of a Liberal”

The Diane Rehm Show
Monday October 15, 2007
Paul Krugman, professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University and award-winning columnist for the “New York Times”, weaves three generations of history with political, social, and economic analysis in a manifesto for a new progressive movement. Hear him interviewed here on The Diane Rehm Show. He’s probably a little more of a screeching liberal than I prefer, but his ideas are healthy to ponder. Listen to the podcast of the interview here. Buy the audio book and download it to your computer at Audible.com.