From Via Media: ‘Turkey Signs Three Trade Deals with Iran’

Full post here.

‘Is this the product of an ongoing drift in U.S.-Turkey relations? Or are these the wages of what is widely perceived as a rudderless U.S. policy in the Middle East? Probably a healthy dose of both.’

That’s putting our current ruddering mildly.

-Dexter Filkins on Iran here.

-Scowcroft and Brzezinski may be offering plans: ‘George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’ What About Foreign Policy (R)ealism?-From The Center For Islamic Pluralism: ‘Turkey Rises Against Islamist Rule’

Who Needs A Growing Economy, When You’ve Got Solidarity?-Michael Moynihan At The Daily Beast: ‘The Death Of Stalin’s Songbird’

Full piece here.

I was hoping for a piece that would note Pete Seeger’s songwriting talents and decency in dealing with people, but push back against the current hagiography and highlight, you know, the communism.

‘Seeger never really did abandon the dream of communism, despite the inconvenient fact that it had long since (starting around 1918) transformed into a pitiful nightmare. So it was unsurprising that in 1995 he would provide an effusive blurb for a book of poetry written by Tomas Borge, the brutal secret police chief and interior minister of Sandinista Nicaragua (“An extraordinary collection of poems and prose”).’

All together now, 1, 2, and a 1.2, 3, 4…

Wait a minute, wasn’t Bill de Blasio sympathetic to the Sandinistas?

You know, I remember reading a piece at the NY Times about Trotsky’s great-grandaughter, the neuroscientist Nora Volkow:

‘Dr. Volkow generally forswears any interest in politics per se, but midway through a long day of meetings last month she sighed and acknowledged, “science and politics are intertwined.” We think we have free will, she continued, but we are foiled at every turn. First our biology conspires against us with brains that are hard-wired to increase pleasure and decrease pain. Meanwhile, we are so gregarious that social systems — whether you call them peer pressure or politics — reliably dwarf us as individuals. “There is no way you can escape.”

This brought me back to Frenchman of The Left Bernhard Henri-Levy’s piece before the 2008 election:

“And one of the reasons I am so much in favor of [Senator Barack] Obama is that his election might be, will be—because I think he will be elected—a real end to this tide of competition of victimhood, and especially on the specific ground of the two communities, Jews and African Americans, who were so close in the 1960s”

…”The Obama election would reconstitute the grand alliance.”

Hail the grand alliance!

Samuel Bronkowitz may have gotten there first to celebrate the black-Jewish Leftist alliance in Hollywood:

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So, this is just liberalism, right?  It’s not race, it’s class.  It’s not ideology, it’s only science.  Look at all this equality!

See Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s… for a rich account of the times

Related On This Site: What about black people held in bondage by the laws..the liberation theology of Rev Wright…the progressive vision and the folks over at the Nation gathered piously around John Brown’s body?: Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

From FIRE.org-’Federal Government Mandates Unconstitutional Speech Codes At Colleges And Universities Nationwide’

Greg Lukianoff At FIRE.Org: ‘Emily Bazelon And The Danger Of Bringing “Anti-Bullying” Laws To Campus’

Two Wednesday Obamacare Links

Reasonable people can agree that health-care and education are among the most vital interests in our society, and to individuals within it. But reasonable people can also agree that some folks seeking to control health-care and education are guided by unsustainable ideals.  They bring with them political coalitions and interests that often end-up free-riding on the public good, and make promises to individuals which can’t be kept.  They often succeed by directing as much public money as possible towards their own coalitions while keeping political power close, punishing political enemies, and bending as much public sentiment as possible toward their ideals.

We now have an enormous, hastily-passed, partisan bill seeking to further entrench many of the unsustainable portions of our health-delivery system, while adding many layers of interests, bureaucrats, and politics atop that.

At what price inclusion of some previous groups and peoples into the ‘greatness’ vision of America and its institutions?

Yes, it’s an anecdote-Walter Russell Mead: ‘I’m Calling It Kafkacare: One Reader’s Obamacare Experience

‘Short version: We met with our broker the second week in October. It’s nearly February. We still don’t have our coverage figured out. From now on, I’m calling it Kafkacare.’

Mead publishes a pro-Obamacare reader response.

You’ve got to get the incentives right. From The Apothecary: ‘Surprise, Massachusetts is Home To America’s Worst Performing Obamacare Exchange:’

‘Connector staff members have admitted privately that the generous flow of federal dollars was the primary motivation to rebuild the entire website. The federal government was requiring additional functionality of the site under the ACA, but it is unclear if the Connector could have saved taxpayers millions by simply building off the foundation they already had in place.’

Politically and ideologically, money and career-wise. some folks will keep pushing until it sticks.

Still Looking For Alternatives-Charlie Martin At PJ Media: ‘Obamacare vs. Arithmetic’

Avik Roy At Forbes: ‘Democrats’ New Argument: It’s A Good Thing That Obamacare Doubles Individual Health Insurance Premiums’Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Health-Care Costs Are Driven By Technology, Not Presidents’

The West And Beyond-Three Tuesday Links

Anne Applebaum At The Washington Post: ‘Ukraine Shows The ‘Color Revolution’ Model Is Dead:

It’s getting quite serious:

In fact, corrupt oligarchs, backed by Russian money and Russian political technology, are a lot stronger than anyone ever expected them to be. They have the cash to bribe a parliament’s worth of elected officials. They have the cynicism to revive the old Soviet technique of selective violence: One or two murders are enough to scare off many thousands of demonstrators; one or two arrests will suffice to remind businessmen who is boss.’

With an anemic European Union, and a recalibrating, withdrawing U.S. at the moment, the presumed universality of Western secular humanist ideas looks a little more doubtful.  Or at least, secular humanists and idealists perhaps need to be reminded that military power is a crucial component to the presumed universality of Western secular humanist ideals.

It’s rough out there.

Over to Iraq: From Via Media: ‘What You Need To Know About Kurdish Oil Ambitions:

‘For more than a month, Iraqi Kurdistan has been piping oil across its northern border to Turkey, against the wishes of the central Iraqi government.’

See previous posts on this site: Independent Kurdistan?-Ofra Bengio At The American Interest: ‘The Elephant In The Room’ Longer odds, lots of risk: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

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And further beyond, to the Far East, there is a hothouse of history to keep in mind, and greater conflict potentially arising:

From Business Insider: ‘Someone Just Said Something About The Japan-China Conflict That Scared The Crap Out Of Everyone:’

‘The Chinese professional acknowledged that if China asserted control over the disputed islands by attacking Japan, America would have to stand with Japan. And he acknowledged that China did not want to provoke America.

But then he said that many in China believe that China can accomplish its goals — smacking down Japan, demonstrating its military superiority in the region, and establishing full control over the symbolic islands — with a surgical invasion’

We need to attach our power and interests to new currents, and sail ahead with a larger strategy.

Michael Totten In Cuba: ‘The Lost World, Part II’

Full piece here.

Totten visits Trinidad, in central Cuba, and finds well-maintained Spanish colonial architecture:

‘The streets are made of stone, the roofs beautifully tiled. All the buildings and houses are colorfully painted. Every visible structure in every direction pre-dates the Industrial Revolution. The city is a living museum piece, not just of Cuba before communist rule, but of Latin America during the Conquistador era, of the world before industry and machines, before globalization and standardization and the mass society changed politics and culture for everybody forever.’

The Cuban people, like all others unfortunate enough to have undergone Communist revolution, live in a time-warp, frozen-in-place by a failed industrial-age theory of history, frozen further still to year-zero of their own revolution. Most Cubans live not only without basic modern conveniences like cars, cell-phones, and computers, but also without the health-care and education promised them but never delivered.  Many also live without much vision for the future, Cuban leaders strolling the deck of a rotten, totalitarian police-state above them, everyone listing to and fro on unforgiving Caribbean currents.

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Once Great Havana’

Gloria Estefan offers a window into Cuban culture, music, honor, and immigration as it mixes with American culture.

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Some light humor:

Michael Moynihan reviewed Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ which praised the Cuban Health Care System.

Christopher Hitchens took a helicopter ride with Sean Penn, and that tracksuit-wearing strongman of the people, Hugo Chavez-Hugo Boss:

It’s a long way out of socialist and revolutionary solidarity, which continually occupies the South American mind. One more revolution: Adam Kirsch takes a look at Mario Vargas Llosa. The Dream Of The Peruvian.

How’s that Russian reset going?:

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What about value pluralism…positive and negative liberty?: The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

The End Of History? –Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Related On This Site:  What Will De Blasio’s New York Look Like?-Some LinksSandinistas At The NY Times: ‘A Mayoral Hopeful Now, de Blasio Was Once a Young Leftist’Two Links On Diane Ravitch & School Reform

From io9: ‘Real-Life Locations That Would Make Badass Supervillain Lairs’

Full post here.

You know you’ve imagined all kinds of structures, buildings, and towers, and maybe what it’d be like to live in them.

Stephen Fry toured America and stopped in to visit some empty-nesters living in a old nuclear launch site:

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A structure in the desert…not even a city.  Land Art:  Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public

In working towards a theme, check out Buzludzha, the abandoned communist monument in Bulgaria’s Balkan mountains, which still draws up to 50,000 Bulgarian Socialists for a yearly pilgrimage.  Human Planet’s Timothy Allen visited the structure in the snow and took some haunting photos.  You will think you’ve stepped into a Bond film and one of Blofeld’s modernist lairs, but with somewhat Eastern Orthodox tile frescos of Lenin and Marx gazing out at you, abandoned to time, the elements and to nature.

Related On This Site:  No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest-‘Part 2: Syria Policy, Up Close & Ugly’

Full piece here.

‘Now, the process of watching the President go from red line to red line to congressional ploy to Russian diplomatic life-preserver (an idea that was not as impromptu as the Administration made it seem at the time) was painful in the extreme. The new NSC Advisor, Susan Rice, was shown to be essentially incompetent as she presided over, or tried to chase, the most embarrassing excuse for a foreign policy decision process I have ever seen.’

Here we are, drifting along with events, backing into potentially serious problems, and being guided by foreign policy ideals far enough Left that the President seems wary of the U.S. military almost on principle, even if the U.N. Security Council was able to do virtually nothing for three years in Syria.

Obama does seem to have been listening to some seasoned officials at State and liberal internationalist strategists, but all the while he’s been promoting a younger, pliant B team and I’m guessing has never lost sight of elections, nor the anti-establishment, further Left base and coalitions at home.

We’ve never had good options in Syria, but in the wake of Libya, and looking at Iran, it’s not clear we have a larger strategy able to meet our objectives, nor the leadership to meet them even if we did.

Even some folks at NPR may be pining for the days of Clintonesque humanitarian intervention, as they bring in some analysts to compare the mess in Syria to the former Yugoslavia.

***A pretty damned good overview of Syria for the non-initiated, including what’s been going on since 2011 and the backstory at the thehowardbealeshow. Recommended. Really.

Related On This SiteMore Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’A Few More Syria Links-’Unmitigated Clusterf**k?’

From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’…Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

For Commerce And Contemplation-From David Thompson: ‘The Humble Among Us:’

Let’s face it, some people claiming to speak for the arts, or all artists, or all of the public who would benefit from the arts, are quite obviously speaking for themselves, their own interests, and/or ideas that will never speak for all artists nor all of the public.

In the worst cases, they can be speaking for ideas which seek to deploy the arts as propaganda.

Usually, though, after the humor dies down, such thinking tends to lead to more foundations, arts councils and programs, not necessarily better art:

‘As a member of our creative caste, Ms Delaney wants to capture the buzz and thrum of city life. She wants to inspire “recognition” and, above all, “empathy.” It’s just that she’d prefer not to empathise too much with those non-creative people. Say, by working for a living and paying her own bills’

For those interested, here are a few central questions I’ve gleaned from many discussions and debates of my own:

Who decides what is good and not good art, and what the public ‘ought’ to be viewing?‘

’Should artists of ambition, some talent and potential genius be supported, and if so, how?  Does this support always incentivize them to make better art?

Does institutionalization lead to the easier appropriation of art by the religious, the politicians, the speculators and patrons, the culture vultures and various other ideological interests?

From The New Criterion: ‘The Special Relationship: Past, Present, & Future’

Full piece here.

What are some goals the American and British governments share beyond the gamesmanship of diplomacy and pursuit of their respective national interests on the world stage?

Kissinger:

‘One of the great acts of statesmanship is Churchill’s decision, or the recognition, during the war that Britain could no longer be a world power by itself. For the country that had been the dominant nation for a century, whose sacrifices had made it possible to win two wars, and whose endurance in 1940 saved the future of freedom, that was a very difficult recognition’

and we took over a lot of British interests after WWII:

‘I used to joke that the French try to deal with us by making us feel foolish, to prove to us that we didn’t have the brain power to follow them; the British dealt with us by making us feel guilty that we had let them down. They built themselves into our decision-making process in a manner that made them in many ways indispensable’

After some discussion of our objective in Iran as he sees them (will Iran get rid of its fissile material or not?), he argues for a return to a Reagan/Thatcheresque vision of the relationship:

But I don’t want to go so much into the details as to stress the fact that it’s absolutely imperative for the West to develop a common approach; and that this makes a Special Relationship at this moment more important even than it was historically. And on the American side, this makes it necessary that our foreign policy reflect an understanding of the history and of the national purposes of our friends, and again, very much, of Britain.’

Or at least he’s arguing for a more commonly shared Western strategy with more realism involved, if I’m not mistaken. Whether or not you think peace is a worthwhile long-term goal, more shrewdness and effective strategy probably couldn’t hurt at the moment.

Definitely worth a read.

George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

Thursday Quotations: Henry Kissinger

Class Warfare And All That-Some Monday Links

The view from the neo-liberal summit?-From The Economist, ‘The Onrushing Wave,’ (registration required).

There is genuine progress and technological change going on all around us, but will there necessarily more jobs for more people?  As the article points out, the last time there was such serious dislocation going-on was during the Industrial Revolution.  Many ideas and thinkers emerged which are still with us today (Adam Smith and Karl Marx, for example).

Walter Russell Mead:  ‘Hipster Idealists Lose Faith In The Valley

‘Today, Silicon Valley is rediscovering the importance of a strong relationship with a strong state power. Communication companies like Google need the US to defend their position in cyberspace against the attempts of EU-, Russia- and China-based companies, among others, to remake the digital world in their own interests. Government, in return, is intensely interested in the information that the tech companies carry and in both the software and the hardware they build. The frontier of national power today is closely related to the development of high tech, and the security and prosperity of big tech companies is bound up in the policies and the power of the state’

But don’t forget even if tech companies are no longer hip and cool, they’ve still driven-down the price of that device in your pocket.

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David Brooks tries to rein-in all that class resentment that’s been whipped-up in America during this progressive period in our politics. Columnists are always looking for middle-ground.  Worth a read:

‘Some on the left have always tried to introduce a more class-conscious style of politics. These efforts never pan out. America has always done better, liberals have always done better, when we are all focused on opportunity and mobility, not inequality, on individual and family aspiration, not class-consciousness.

If we’re going to mobilize a policy revolution, we should focus on the real concrete issues: bad schools, no jobs for young men, broken families, neighborhoods without mediating institutions. We should not be focusing on a secondary issue and a statistical byproduct’

He may be a youthfully reformed social democrat with conservative tendencies, but he makes some good points.

You know, it’s entirely possible to appreciate the liberal arts, high ‘culture,’ literature and cartoons (as the New Yorker is wont to do), without necessarily signing-on to the ‘social democratic’ political philosophy, nor the postmodern drift into in-group/out-group liberal-Left collectivism.

David Remnick at the New Yorker tags along with Obama:

There are mysteries afoot:

‘One of the enduring mysteries of the Obama years is that so many members of the hyper-deluxe economy—corporate C.E.O.s and Wall Street bankers—have abandoned him’

Hyper-deluxe!  It couldn’t have anything to do with his policy failures:

‘Obama bruised some feelings once or twice with remarks about “fat-cat bankers” and “reckless behavior and unchecked excess,” but, in general, he dares not offend. In 2011, at an annual dinner he holds at the White House with American historians, he asked the group to help him find a language in which he could address the problem of growing inequality without being accused of class ‘warfare.

How do you extract money from your donors, favoring their interests and creating a very uneven economic and political landscape, while at the same time using rhetoric far enough Left as to keep your coalitions active, thus potentially denigrating your donors?

A thorny problem.

‘The President of the United States cannot remake our society, and that’s probably a good thing.” He paused yet again, always self-editing. “Not ‘probably,’ ” he said. “It’s definitely a good thing.’

Better late than never, I suppose, even sane, skeptical people judged politicians by what they say, rather than what they do.

Addition: Surely, if Obama had the policy success to match his idealism, inexperience, and the demands his political coalitions place upon the rest of us, he would still be so very appreciative of the constraints upon the power of the Presidency.  Surely

Maybe it’s better to have folks over at the New Yorker step back from the ledge of solidarity with some pride intact.

Happy MLK day.