You are browsing the archive for 2017 December 31.

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The Year of Trump Has Laid Bare the U.S. Constitution’s Serious Flaws

December 31, 2017 in Blogs

By Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

Their inspirational vision needs an urgent update.

There’s a million things to love about Hamilton, the musical that has opened in London to reviews as glowing as those that greeted its debut on Broadway. The lyrics are so ingenious, so intricate and dexterous, that the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has a claim to be among the most exciting writers, in any medium, in the world today. Rarely have I seen an audience delight in the tricks and rhyming pyrotechnics of language the way I saw a preview audience react to Hamilton a fortnight ago.

As I say, there are countless other pleasures. The staging is inventive, the melodies memorable and, by having black and minority ethnic actors play Alexander Hamilton and his fellow founding fathers, the musical instantly offers a powerful new take on America’s tragic, enduring flaw: race. But it was the idealism of the show – which venerates Hamilton and George Washington and unabashedly romanticises the revolution that birthed the United States of America – that struck a particular chord for me.

In 2018, it will be 20 years since I published a book called Bring Home the Revolution. Begun when I was still in my 20s, it too was an essay in idealism, arguing that the American uprising of 1776 and the constitution that followed in 1787 were a rebellion against a system of government under which we Britons still laboured two centuries later – albeit with an overmighty, overcentralised government in place of the bewigged King George.

The American revolution, I argued, was our inheritance, a part of our patrimony mislaid across the Atlantic. From a written constitution to a system of radically devolved power to the replacement of monarchy with an elected head of state, it was time for us to bring home the revolution that we had made in America.

With impeccable timing, my hymn of praise for the US constitution appeared a matter of months before what looked a lot like a US constitutional crisis, with the <a target=_blank …read more


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The 10 Worst TV Shows of 2017, Ranked from Broken to Just Plain Bad

December 31, 2017 in Blogs

By Melanie McFarland, Salon

In a year filled with way too much TV, here are 10 we wish we could unsee.

Where there are lists of bests, there must be a tabulation of worsts. It’s a matter of maintaining balance in the universe or barring that, enjoying a few cleansing facepalms and sighs of relief at knowing that we’ve survived the various assaults upon good taste television never ceases to lob at us.

Of course, one person’s notion of “worst” is another person’s idea of greatness. It’s all a matter of opinion. That’s why this list runs in ascending (or descending, depending on how you see it) order from shows that are merely broken to ones that are simply irredeemable.

10. “The Orville,” Fox

Seth MacFarlane’s faithful probably take some offense at seeing this show on a worst list and some vindication at knowing that Fox has already given it a second season. (This is where I remind you that the same network granted several seasons to “The Cleveland Show,” and that was not exactly MacFarlane’s or the world’s most original idea.) “The Orville” isn’t a total atrocity, mind you, just a show that isn’t sure what it wants to be other than an homage to classic “Star Trek.” But even in that regard, the show barely matches the same quality level of its source material’s subpar episodes.

But these are signs of a broken series, not one that’s utterly busted and beyond redemption. It’s possible that between seasons 1 and 2 MacFarlane and fellow executive producer Brannon Braga will empower their writers to pop the hood and tinker with the parts that aren’t working.

9. “Twin Peaks: The Return,” Showtime

Another entry bound to inspire a few of you to skip to the comments and weigh in at how dopey and unrefined I am — be my guest — the revival of a series that ushered in television’s Golden Age was the source of boundless mystery and excitement for the months leading up to its May debut. The enchantment lasted until we got a few hours into the thing, and at that point viewers were either committed to succumbing to the …read more


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Did Trump’s First Year in Office Inspire Great Art?

December 31, 2017 in Blogs

By Max Cea, Salon

The first wave of Trump-inspired art has not been good.

In a December 1925 letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway famously referred to war as “the best subject of all” for the way it “groups the maximum of material and speeds up the action and brings out all sorts of stuff that normally you have to wait a lifetime to get.”

Though at the time Hemingway had not published much — on war or otherwise — war would indeed prove to be a ripe subject for the author. The things he experienced and witnessed as an ambulance driver for the Italian front in the first World War would inform much of his fiction — most notably, his 1929 novel, “A Farewell to Arms.” The novel, Hemingway’s second, was written from the perspective of Frederic Henry, an American expatriate who served as a lieutenant in the Italian Army’s ambulance corps, was wounded and carried on a love affair with one of his nurses. It was Hemingway’s first best-seller and a book that his biographer, Michael Reynolds, dubbed ”the premier American war novel from that debacle World War I.” Of course, Hemingway’s successes be damned — whether or not war is the “best subject” is entirely subjective and will eternally be up for debate. But by classifying it as such, Hemingway was arguably hitting on something bigger: that extraordinarily bad times are rich material for great art.

But what about Trump? The election of Donald Trump to the American presidency being both symbol and harbinger of bad times was the catalyst for Salon dedicating a series to the question of whether bad times make great art at the start of this year. Now, as we near the end of Year One of Trump — a year that saw the empowerment of white nationalists, sweeping deregulation and unprecedented mendacity — can we say whether these bad times make for great art?

On a macro level, probably not — or not yet, at least. Though I’ve written several timesabout how 2017 has felt like a particularly strong year for cinema, the truth is …read more


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At Least 81 Journalists Were Killed in 2017

December 31, 2017 in Blogs

By Al Jazeera

The imprisonment of dozens of journalists is deeply concerning.

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…read more


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Does the President Have Dementia? Trump’s Stubbornness Could Be a Sign of ‘Severe Cognitive Decline'

December 31, 2017 in Blogs

By David Ferguson, Raw Story

More than just grandiosity.

Esquire magazine political columnist Charles P. Pierce said that President Donald Trump’s rambling, repetitive, self-contradicting interview with the New York Times is more than a portrait of an eager authoritarian frustrated by the restrictions placed on his power.

Pierce said the truth is actually even more alarming.

“In my view, the interview is a clinical study of a man in severe cognitive decline, if not the early stages of outright dementia,” he wrote.

Pierce explained that his father and all of his father’s siblings have succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease over the last 30 years. The president’s speech patterns and his stubborn clinging to a few simple ideas remind Pierce of the same decline he saw in members of his family.

“In this interview, the president is only intermittently coherent. He talks in semi-sentences and is always groping for something that sounds familiar, even if it makes no sense whatsoever and even if it blatantly contradicts something he said two minutes earlier,” wrote Pierce.

“To my ears, anyway, this is more than the president’s well-known allergy to the truth. This is a classic coping mechanism employed when language skills are coming apart,” he explained, which is why Trump repetitively uses the same pairing of adjectives and nouns, as in “the failing New York Times” and “Crooked Hillary.”

“In addition, the president exhibits the kind of stubbornness you see in patients when you try to relieve them of their car keys—or, as one social worker in rural North Carolina told me, their shotguns,” Pierce said.

Trump’s reflexive anger when he is contradicted or feels threatened, Pierce said, is a sign of a brain struggling to impose order and familiar ideas on a world that he increasingly does not comprehend.

“For example, a discussion on healthcare goes completely off the rails when the president suddenly recalls that there is a widely held opinion that he knows very little about the issues confronting the nation,” Pierce said.

“But Michael, I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A.,” said Trump to the Times‘ Michael Schmidt. “I know the details of health care …read more


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Remembering Marc Raskin: A Progressive Leader Whose Legacy Outlives His Death

December 31, 2017 in Blogs

By Phyllis Bennis, FPIF Focal Points

With Marc gone, few are left of that extraordinary earlier generation.

With the sudden passing of the Institute for Policy Studies co-founder Marcus Raskin on Christmas Eve, we've lost a life that paralleled most of the important progressive movements of the last 60 years—and conceptualized some of their boldest ideas.

Marc left his position at the Kennedy White House in 1962, dismayed by that administration's aggressive war drives in Vietnam, Cuba, and nuclear weapons development. Along with Dick Barnet, who left the State Department at the same time, he created the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), the first-ever independent progressive think tank—designed to change the world from outside Washington's centers of power.

IPS's history from then on tracked the civil rights and Vietnam anti-war movements; the anti-nuclear movement; the early women's, environmental, and gay rights struggles; the movements against corporate globalization, South African apartheid, and the wars in Central America, right up through the post-9/11 anti-war mobilizations; and the racial and economic justice, immigrant rights, environmental, women's, and LGBTQ rights movements of today.

Marc's own history of activism is pretty amazing. Here was a former music prodigy, philosopher, lawyer, and government wonk, jumping into what would eventually be called the New Left before anything had that name. He welcomed SNCC activists and others to IPS for months-long seminars on how Washington worked, providing desperately needed respites for exhausted civil rights workers beaten down—literally—by police and Klan violence, and the massive political suppression that enabled it.

Marc organized early draft resistance that led to his indictment in the Boston Five conspiracy trial, and traveled back and forth to the Soviet Union building citizen diplomacy to counter the Cold War. (According to one—ahem—fellow traveler on one of those trips, Marc, a former Juillard student, got into a piano competition with their government minder, each trying to outdo the other in complex music. History doesn't record who won.) Decades later, Marc envisioned the plan that led to IPS creating the Cities for Peace movement in the run-up to the war in Iraq. His imagination never stopped.

But what is sometimes left unmentioned in the stacks …read more


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America Would Benefit from a Balance of Power in the Persian Gulf

December 31, 2017 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

President Donald Trump once was skeptical of the totalitarian
dictatorship commonly known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
He complained, correctly, that Saudis had funded terrorism against
America and wondered why the United States subsidized the
protection of a wealthy petro-state.

After taking office the president, perhaps affected by abundant
flattery judiciously employed by people highly skilled in the art,
acted like just another Westerner hired by the Saudi royals to do
their bidding. After his visit, highlighted by his uncomfortable
participation in the traditional Sword Dance, he added the KSA to
America’s pantheon of “special relationships.”
Riyadh’s wish seemingly became Washington’s command.
The result has been a steady assault on American interests and

The West’s relationship with the Kingdom always has been
transactional. Abdul Aziz ibn Saud forged the new Saudi nation
after the fortuitous collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I.
The kingdom mattered little until the discovery of oil in 1938.
Abundant petroleum won America’s “friendship,”
though in the 1970s the Saudis turned their resource into a weapon.
Successive presidents have celebrated the bilateral relationship,
sometimes with unseemly faux intimacy, even though the two
countries shared little other than a desire to keep the oil flowing
one way and dollars the other.

During the Cold War
Washington’s close embrace of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia made a
certain strategic sense, though the enthusiasm exhibited by
American policymakers never did. Today a far more limited,
arms-length relationship is needed.

The KSA belongs in another age. The country is an absolute, not
constitutional, monarchy. Nor is rule based on primogeniture.
Rather, until a couple years ago the crown was passed among an
ever-aging set of brothers who were sons of ibn Saud. That tended
to result in short and decrepit reigns, as well as collegial rule.
The benefits of a royal pedigree were substantial; by one count
around 7,000 princes shared the nation’s bounty.

The royals long ago made a deal with fundamentalist Wahhabist
clergy: the former would enforce social totalitarianism at home in
return for the latter teaching obedience to the royals. One result
was to create a state perhaps more hostile to Christianity and
other non-Muslim faiths than even North Korea. At least the latter
hosts a few official churches, presenting a thin veneer of
religious diversity.

However, low oil prices and youthful population created
increasing strain in the KSA. But hope for reform never was
satisfied. Elderly and infirm kings came and died, only to be
replaced by even more elderly and infirm rulers.

Now the United States is dealing with a very different
personality, the thirty-two-year-old crown prince (and de facto
sovereign) Mohammed bin Salman …read more

Source: OP-EDS