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Hillary Clinton may be sounding all the right notes on domestic policy, but her foreign policy instincts remain worse than terrible. Given that the former has much more to do with Congress’s makeup than with the president, and the latter is almost exclusively the president’s bailiwick, in a sane system Democrats would try to find someone with acceptable domestic policy views and a great track record on foreign policy. But that’s not going to happen, because leadershipocity from the president will make single payer law, everyone knows that. Unfortunately, Clinton’s reckless rhetoric and unwise over-promising will undoubtedly lead to needless (and politically damaging) conflict, but the Democratic Party as a whole seems to still think that winning over military family whites in the Deep South is more important than living in a peaceful world. Whatever you might say of Bernie Sanders, neither his words nor his record reflect this, which makes him (not only in this respect) the smarter choice.

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I have to admit, this uproar over Harper Lee giving her most famous fictional character the sorts of views and attitudes typical of a white man from early 20th century Alabama is highly amusing to me. I was utterly uninterested in the book until these starts of reactions started popping up, and now I’m actually planning on reading it. So far as I can tell from what media outlets are reporting, the main objection seems to be that Atticus Finch is no longer a hero because he holds racist views in the new book. But such a thing makes abundant sense historically, does not contradict the established character (plenty of racists like individual black people, many in fact framed segregation as a kind of loving act meant to help the negro, and the idea of a white supremacist who still nonetheless thinks that the guilty should be punished and the innocent set free is not theoretically impossible, even if it was hardly the norm in the pre-Civil Rights Act South), and most importantly it reflects an author that has something new to say, and is prepared to court controversy to make a vital point about racism that the public needs (though may not want) to hear. The timing could not be better. Ironically, the notion that Finch has racist views but still cares about justice being applied would indeed make him vastly superior to many of his white contemporaries, who had no issue with indiscriminate violence being done to blacks, even if they did not personally engage in such activities. But this doesn’t matter to the people who want to whitewash our history and forget about all that unpleasantness, because can’t we just be colorblind? Lee has already justified the release of the book just by starting this conversation, and I do think it needed to be justified, given the controversy over consent to publish it.

Also, a belief in heroes is one of those things that should die off when one becomes an adult, and learns about how, say, Oskar Schindler abandoned his family, or how Erin Brockovich became exactly the same kind of corporate lawyer she fought in the movie about her, or how Cinque from the Amistad story (most likely) became a slave trader. The quoted conversation at the link is perfectly ignorant: Finch was not “at the forefront of the civil rights movement” in To Kill A Mockingbird, he was merely a very scrupulous and principled lawyer. To believe otherwise is to invent a character rather than paying attention to the actual character Lee created. People are people, and even the ones who make extraordinary humanitarian gestures are no less self-interested and rationalizing than anyone else. Probably the only movie I can think of that really grasps this is Soderbergh’s The Informant, which is about an executive at ag-bus giant Archer Daniels Midland who exposes a price-fixing scheme to the authorities and in the process smashes some major corporate corruption, but it later comes out that his motives were mainly selfish and that he was no less corrupt than any of them, though vastly more naive, believing that his informing would lead not only to his being invited to run ADM, but also to his own malfeasance being ignored. The movie has some problems but it critiques this mindset very well (and it is quite funny), which makes one movie skeptical of heroes to thousands that are not I suppose. Even in something like A Beautiful Mind, it becomes this heroic story about a man concentrating away schizophrenia rather than the real story (as told in the book), which was that Nash’s remission was due entirely to luck, a very rare but not unprecedented remission of the disease. The more one looks for heroes, the more one realizes that there is no such thing. The belief that some people can simply rise above self-interest completely and permanently is flabby, sentimental thinking not borne out by the real world–human history is dominated by a strong strain of self-interest, with another distinct (though often weaker) strain of altruism. It’s one thing for kids to believe in heroes. Adults truly should know better. Bowie knows what’s going on:

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The dream is dead:

I largely agree with this and this. The whole “fretting over Iranian influence” thing is something I can never decide whether is cynical or just stupid. After all, Iran is poorly positioned to dominate the Arabic world. They’re the wrong ethnicity (not even Arabs!), they speak the wrong language, and they follow the wrong sect of Islam, not to mention a very different culture and history, just for starters. They’re also far from the greatest military power in the region. Ultimately, much of the case for their peerless villainy comes from the rhetoric of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which again brings up the question of cynical or evil, as conservatives have tried to convince us of the dangers of Venezuela in large part because of the deliberately inflammatory shit Hugo Chavez used to say. One wonders what other countries would think about us based on the ramblings of Donald Trump, who just about has about as much power as Ahmadinejad had. Is it because they’re simpletons who aren’t sophisticated enough to understand the difference between rhetoric for domestic consumption and actual power alignments, or because they understand it all too well but figure it’s useful to advance their views? I still have no idea. And I doubt it really matters.

At the same time, after a certain point it’s hard to blame the WWII generation for the pursuit of new Hitlers. The current power generation is a whole other breed from the WWII folks. The latter assuredly began our modern era of militarized national security policy, and mainly out of economic rather than defense-related motivations, but they at least seemed to understand the need for caution and restraint. Most of them were around when America wasn’t a world power, and didn’t take that for granted. The current power generation is all people who have known nothing else, who drew all sorts of dubious conclusions about militarism from the collapse of Communism and the Gulf War, and seem hellbent on pursuing the kind of impractical purity politics on an international stage that forms the antithesis of the older folks’ ideas of how to proceed. Perhaps this is unsurprising, as this sort of generational reaction is nothing new: as The Sleepwalkers argues, much of the WWI-era leaders in Europe were self-consciously “tough” and “manly” due to the earlier generation of supple schemers like Bismarck. Guess we just have to wait for already useless fossils like Samantha Power and Bill Kristol to retire or die off, and get replaced by people raised on the sheer pointlessness of Iraq and Obama’s less-destructive but just as hopeless attempts to steer Middle Eastern politics, before we can hope for balance of any sort.

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Mmmm….lying to voters, wrecking the education system, and…leaving the toilet seat up?

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This is interesting, though hardly shocking. The past decade or so of European history has shown that the boundary between the far left and far right is a lot more porous than one might think, particularly in the UK and France, where right-wing movements have had huge success in penetrating former leftist strongholds. Both have the same enemies and often the same attitude. I don’t think it’ll help much, though, as those places don’t have the whole race thing that we have here. Obviously they have racial issues there as everyone does, but not ones as historical and politicized as ours.

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I think we can now get a glimpse of Jeb Bush’s prospective general election campaign: the recession is over, and now I’m going to deliver the greatest prosperity of all time, with supercharged 4% growth. It’s going to be like just after WWII again, you’ll see! And all those pointyheads who say we can’t do it are defeatists, because America is exceptional! You’ll work more hours, we’ll deregulate and cut taxes (mostly for the rich, but don’t say that bit). Optimism! Greatness!

It’s not that this couldn’t work, though Bush is the absolute wrong messenger considering the fool who caused the recession was his brother and the cause was the “ownership society” he cherished. And he’ll be running against the wife of the only president who saw broadly shared economic gains in most voters’ lifetimes. But get ready, because it’s coming.

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Leave it to bargain-bin conservative pundit Marc Thiessen: he could have read up and offered an informed take on how the racist killings in Charleston led to a movement to re-evaluate Confederate symbolism in America, or he could have just made a bunch of shit up–arguments nobody is arguing, demands nobody is demanding–and then just asserted that this is what it’s all about. Guess which one he did? It’s a piece of shoddy work even by the Post‘s nonexistent op-ed standards, and probably should get the guy fired, but if we know anything it’s that no amount of bad writing and trivial pageviews will get a conservative fired from the Post, while no amount of healthy pageviews or quality writing will save a liberal. It’s just business, you see. Can’t ignore that large group of Tea Partiers who just devour the Post, along with other mainstream outlets.

Incidentally, I think this piece about Bill Kristol’s halfhearted Confederate defense–in service of a wholehearted trolling job–misses the key point. Heer’s historical perspective of neoconservatism is interesting, but I’m not so sure I’d give Kristol the benefit of the doubt of having much to do with any of that just because his father was involved with it. Kristol may buy into the precepts of neoconservatism, but he’s no intellectual, merely a party-hack troll who has, for reasons unclear to me, managed to amass a tremendous amount of power in the Republican Party, to the point of being a legitimate leader within it. This is despite his having no real talent or vision, and a long history of blown calls and counterproductive tactics. One supposes it’s his ironclad reputation as a cultivator of Republican talent: I’m sure Tom Cotton’s near-certain Vice Presidential nomination next year will accomplish what Sarah Palin couldn’t!

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