David Gardner on the moral test for the west. Political Observer comments

Headline: The assault on Aleppo is a moral test for the west

Sub-headline: Will anyone stop Russia turning the city into another Grozny, asks David Gardner

A perfectly executed piece of propaganda, with the central character being Putin The Terrible. And judging from Mr. Gardner’s very impressive CV, his credibility to be a ‘Moral Judge’ about ‘Western Responsibility’ for the carnage in the ‘Middle East’ i.e. Syria, should be un-challegable?

The history of Western Imperialism that predates from well before Sykes-Picot, the Americans being the latest fellow travelers of that mendacious and self-serving exercise in Western Paternalism, leaves no doubt as to the motives of the R2P (Responsibility to Protect) zealots, and their political propinquity with the Neo-Conservatives, and their abject worship of Mars. To put it in Pascalian terms Mr. Gardner places his wager on this misbegotten alliance.

But the rhetorical frame must, of necessity, be framed in moral terms for the ‘Western Reader’: suffering from a debilitating fatigue, the root of which is that The War on Terror is now thirteen years old, and its adjunct the Drone War have fostered the  growth of ISIS, and the Caliphate, as credible answer to an utterly pernicious and destructive Western interventionism. What Mr. Gardner and his allies miss and or elide from their narrative is that ISIS and its precursors are anti-imperial in nature.

Samuel P. Huntington’s prescient rhetorical intervention of 1993, framed it as a ‘Clash of Civilizations’, he was subject to his own WASP paranoia of the Other, which dovetailed with his status as operative and defender of the American National Security State. Not seeing that Islam is an integral part of the Abrahamic Tradition: meaning that the ‘they’ that he points to is really a part of the ‘us’ and not in least ‘alien’.  Huntington’s ‘Clash’ was the Cold War projected onto the world i.e. everyone was not just a potential enemy.

Political Observer




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Edward Luce & Political Manichaeism, Philosophical Apprentice comments

Headline:The war for America’s conservative soul

Sub-headline: The leadership crisis afflicting the Republicans is a broader problem across the west

The reader is inclined to muse, or even be mildly amused, over the political theology of the ‘conservative soul’ in America being subject to a ‘war’ from within, it echoes in its own cartoonish way, what my brothers and sisters used to sing about at Youth Night, at the local Baptist Church, in the benighted 1950’s :that standard of America’s ‘Old Time Religion’ of Onward Christian Soldiers. It is suggestive of a mentality and world view popular in American life: the melding of reactionary politics and Fundamentalist Religion. The glaring contradiction of Christ throwing the money changers out of the temple, only sharpens the telling contradiction, that Randians like Paul Ryan now lead the ‘Legitimists Faction’ against the Trump Political Nihilists. The Republicans are destroying themselves from within. Which leads to the question: what ever happened to that expression of solidarity, that acted as a political imperative, used as a rhetorical cudgel by Reagan of the 11th Commandment? never speak ill of another Republican.

What is left out of the thesis that Mr. Luce presents is that of the collapse of the Neo-Liberal policies that came into vogue in the Thatcher/Reagan era, and then were codified under New Democrat Bill Clinton, that have had catastrophic effects on the American economy. And that the economic collapse of 2008, and the failure to right the economy in the ensuing years, are the proximate cause of the rise of The Rebellion Against the Elites, the favorite  Financial Times cliche, that Trump and his followers embody. But that 2008 Collapse engulfed Europe as well. All this evidence of the collective economic misery remains outside Mr. Luce’s descriptive rhetoric, it being utterly inconvenient to his ‘History Made to Measure’. What the reader gets is tawdry political/theological melodrama, in place of anything resembling actual confrontation with the readily available empirical evidence.

After this protracted exercise in political cliche, Mr. Luce turns his attention to political gossip and pointless speculation, which does offer some meager insights, expressed as possibilities, freighted with Political Manichaeism.

Philosophical Apprentice


My reply:

@camus_deferral @StephenKMackSD

Thank you for your comment. I must say I’m taken aback by your one dimensional view of ‘Mr. Luce  et al’ as some variety of  cynics, who take their responsibility as keepers of  the current Political Orthodoxy as somehow trivial. Or as a costume they don and take off at the end of their work day. Also I’m struck by your highfalutin screen name, that expresses a kind of intellectual/literary sophistication, that looks like a mirage given your nearly trivial reply. Luce and the other apologists for a Capital in its current 1%/99% asymmetry has proven itself untenable. That is understatement. To engage in reductivism that is an explanation for the rise of Trump and the European Populists. The rhetorical monument to Bourgeois Political Respectability that is the Financial Times is not in the least interested in the comments of its readers. But yet the comments section remains, perhaps for the reason that the comments are more informative and insightful than the essays that are commented upon. That being one of the reasons I still subscribe. I will say that a great deal of the time my posted response to FT columnists and editorials is about my own explanation to myself as to the what,why and wherefore of those essays. And also it is an exercise for me in attempting to be succinct about telling a story framed in a polemic style. The Financial Times and its writers consider themselves to be both the authors and guardians of rational civic discourse. Call what is written here by its real name, propaganda.

Reply number 2

@camus_deferral @StephenKMackSD

Thank you for your comment and your armchair psychological analysis. You echo the Freudians of not so many decades ago, who are now out of fashion thanks to many writers and thinkers, like Frederick Cruz.  And his polemics in the New York Review of Books, that  critically examined the claims of  ‘Psychoanalytic Science’ and forced his defenders to a new claim of Psychoanalytic Metaphysics.

I’m 71 so my ‘alienation’ is a fact for many reasons, yet existentially my writing is the ‘cure’ that keeps the prospect of, and even the reality of your proffered ‘paranoia’, at arms length: it is my creative outlet no matter its shortcomings. No matter what these publications and their owners may think of me, and the others who post comments, like yourself, I model myself after Karl Kraus as told  by Paul Reitter, not to speak of my  reading that started in the 1970’s with Wittgenstein’s Vienna, while at university :


Speaking of ‘highfalutin’! The critique of the Popular Press using its articles, editorials and columnists as sources of the ever evolving, mutating Political Orthodoxy was/is the practice of both Kraus and Chomsky.

Best regards from your ‘almost paranoid’


Reply number 3

@RealNga4Life @StephenKMackSD

Thank you for your comment. The political world is complex, and the job of the critic is to examine that complexity to the best of her/his ability. This seems like an elementary point, but is the central to the duty of the critic. So the ‘density’ of my comment tries to tease out of Luce’s reductivism, something like a cogent critical reply. Foucault’s insights were framed by an ideological claim, as far as I can interpret from having read his essay  ‘What is Enlightenment’ and few of the lectures.

Also of great help to me as reader was/is Gary Gutting’s ‘Thinking the Impossible: French Philosophy Since 1960’ and Ferry and Renaut’s ‘French Philosophy of the Sixties, An Essay in Antihumanism’ all the above must confirm your opinion of my Foucauldian ‘density’. See my comments to @camus_deferral. To quote Sammy Davis Jr. I gotta be me!



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Janan Ganesh confronts a nascent Global Domestic Politics, a comment by Political Reporter

All the hallmarks of the the Ganesh World View are present in his latest essay, yet his reactionary politics, of a radical nostalgia for his re-imagined  glories of a British Past, are obscured by another of his mainstays, his free flowing bile and contempt for those lesser being, who are not Janan Ganesh.

Mr. Ganesh scolds the ‘British elite’ for its interest in American politics, and then proclaims that the interest of that elite is somehow deficient, because these followers of that politics do not follow, with equal interest, the Chinese political scene. That propinquity comes from the fact that America is Britain’s child, or has that salient point been lost in the haze of his expression of bile and contempt? Certainly not from historical ignorance?

The British elite’s passion for American politics manages to be self-abasing and weirdly proprietorial at the same time. It betrays both national decline (in the acceptance that America, not Britain, is the metropole) and delusions of grandeur (in the conceit that we, like Greeks to the Romans, uniquely understand this offshoot republic).

It cannot be passed off as a global perspective. You do not see these people pore over Chinese politics as studiously. They are not steeped in the interior workings of an EU that is about to decide this country’s terms of access to its colossal market. It is just clingy ex-lover behaviour, only less becoming.

Let me recommend to Mr. Ganesh and his readers Ulrich Beck’s book ‘Twenty Observations On A World In Turmoil’ chapter 19 ‘What Is Meant By  Global Domestic Politics ?’ Mr. Beck extemporizes on a idea/theme from Marshall McLuhan of the Global Village, that once seemed more obscure, in a time before the internet, but has become a focused idea in Beck’s idea of Global Domestic Politics. And the evolution of an idea and reality of an interconnected world, no matter how imperfectly realized in the present i.e. the British elite’s interest if American rather than Chinese politics.



Political Reporter



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At The New York Times: Political Cynic reads ©BrooksMerde: ‘How to Repair Moral Capital’

At first the reader is not informed what ‘Moral Capital’ is, the what of its meaning is and remains suggestive, but just out of comprehension’s reach. Mr. Brooks assumes, that the reader knows by some process, what this phantom idea is! Framed in the Neo-Liberal jargon of The Market. Yet it simply looks like a catch phrase in lieu of actual thought, in sum, a cliche that stands on its own, yet expresses a useful capaciousness. There and not there, at the same moment. Brooks plays with that ambiguity. The question of the how of the ‘repair’ of ‘Moral Capital’ is, as I read it never addressed  A selection of  sentences from the Brooks essay helps the reader locate and define his propaganda, sans the ersatz and windy rhetorical garnish.

Clinton gave three masterful answers in the debate Wednesday night that were tonally different from her normal clichés.

Clinton’s answers were given in a slow and understated manner, but they were marked by moral passion, clarity and quiet contempt.

They were spoken from the point of view of a parent, which is the point of view Michelle Obama frequently uses.

The politician is focused on individual interest, but the parent is interested in the shared social, economic and moral environment.

It’s becoming ever clearer that the nation’s moral capital is being decimated, and the urgent challenge is to name that decimation and reverse it.

Mr. Brooks and Mrs. Clinton are paternalists, yet the contradiction that Neo-Liberals face is that the Market is the only real knowledge worthy of consideration, in a world made up of entrepreneurs, so morality and any other belief not consonant with that Market Theology is null set, as the mathematicians say. Or more pointedly heretical.

What the reader has been waiting for that elusive definition of ‘Moral Capital’:

Moral capital is the set of shared habits, norms, institutions and values that make common life possible. Left to our own, we human beings have an impressive capacity for selfishness. Unadorned, the struggle for power has a tendency to become barbaric. So people in decent societies agree on a million informal restraints — codes of politeness, humility and mutual respect that girdle selfishness and steer us toward reconciliation.

In sum, Mr. Brooks is a Calvinist of a very particular Neo-Conservative/Neo-Liberal kind. The above could and would be called Ethics and Morality, in a setting and in a ‘thinker’ not hobbled by the reductivism codified by the Mont Pelerin Society nihilists!

‘This year Trump is dismantling those restraints one by one.’

How is it possible for one man to dismantle an over two thousand year old moral/ethical Tradition? It is the purest hyperbole!

By lying more or less all the time, he dismantles the fealty to truth without which conversation is impossible.

More hyperbole, the as if being that Trump ‘dismantles fealty to truth’. Call this preposterous. We are political/moral actors, and Trump does not determine how we live and interact in our shared civic space!  We live in the Commonwealth not The Market.

Mr. Brooks loathes Trump and designates Mrs. Clinton the paternalist of choice.

Two final considerations:

The sad fact is that in the realm of common life, gnats can undo the work of giants. “Moral communities are fragile things, hard to build and easy to destroy,” Jonathan Haidt writes in his book “The Righteous Mind.” “When we think about very large communities such as nations, the challenge is extraordinary and the threat of moral entropy is intense.”

On the question of Mr. Haidt’s  ‘The Righteous Mind’, see Chris Hedges’ review of that book at truthdig:  Mr. Hedges is blunt about what Mr. Brooks finds admirable in Haidt:

Haidt, although he has a refreshing disdain for the Enlightenment dream of a rational world, fares no better than other systematizers before him. He too repeatedly departs from legitimate science, including social science, into the simplification and corruption of science and scientific terms to promote a unified theory of human behavior that has no empirical basis. He is stunningly naive about power, especially corporate power, and often exhibits a disturbing indifference to the weak and oppressed. He is, in short, a Social Darwinian in analyst’s clothing. Haidt ignores the wisdom of all the great moral and religious writings on the ethical life, from the biblical prophets to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, to the Sermon on the Mount, to the Quran and the Bhagavad Gita, which understand that moral behavior is determined by our treatment of the weakest and most vulnerable among us. It is easy to be decent to your peers and those within your tribe. It is difficult to be decent to the oppressed and those who are branded as the enemy.

Haidt, who is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business, is an heir of Herbert Spencer, who coined the term “survival of the fittest” and who also attempted to use evolution to explain human behavior, sociology, politics and ethics. Haidt, like Spencer, is dismissive of those he refers to as “slackers,” “leeches,” “free riders,” “cheaters” or “anyone else who ‘drinks the water’ rather than carries it for the group.” They are parasites who should be denied social assistance in the name of fair play. The failure of liberals, Haidt writes, to embrace this elemental form of justice, which he says we are hard-wired to adopt, leaves them despised by those who are more advanced as moral human beings. He chastises liberals, whom he sees as morally underdeveloped, for going “beyond the equality of rights to pursue equality of outcomes, which cannot be obtained in a capitalist system.”


It appears that Haidt and Brooks are of like minds on the question of “slackers,” “leeches,” “free riders,” “cheaters” or “anyone else who ‘drinks the water’ rather than carries it for the group.” Call them both Randians, after Ayn Rand!

What follows is the Brooks view on what the future of America might be politically:

In other words, it should be possible to be conservative on macroeconomics, liberal on immigration policy, traditionalist on moral and civic matters, Swedish on welfare state policies, and Reaganesque on America’s role in the world.

Political Cynic


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At The Daily Beast: political grifter @michaeldweiss, and his minions, report on imagined Russian skulduggery via Reuters. Political Reporter comments


U.S. officials have warned that Russia may try to undermine the upcoming U.S. presidential election by spreading faked evidence of voter fraud, Reuters reported Thursday. Speaking on condition of anonymity, several intelligence officials said hackers may post photographs online purporting to prove the election was rigged with the help of voter fraud. They said they did not have any specific evidence to prove this would happen, but they have been warned about such attempts. (bold&italics my own,editor)


Anonymous sources ‘reporting’ on a non-existent ‘news story’ ! We are in very familiar Daily Beast territory: Yellow Journalism in service to The New Cold War !

Political Reporter

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Putin The Terrible, at The Economist, a comment by Old Socialist

The opening gambit of this editorial travesty, begins with the depiction of Putin as looming black monster, with red eyes in the shape of fighter jets, on the cover of the utterly staid ‘newspaper’ The Economist. One can only wonder at where anything like editorial standards reside at this newspaper! After all this screeching anti-Putin Hysteria  on the cover, the reader is barraged in rhetoric awash in the cliches of the current political orthodoxy.The Oxbridger Brain Trust’s desperate bid for attention, with that cartoonish cover, have now recovered a fragment of their sang-froid, and managed to conceive this telling question, with the addition of some almost insightful speculation:

What should the West do? Time is on its side. A declining power needs containing until it is eventually overrun by its own contradictions—even as the urge to lash out remains.

What those Brain Trusters now offers looks like what those Old Cold Warriors, like George F. Kennan, who eventually settled upon in terms of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear miscalculation would be the worst kind of all. Hence the talks need to include nuclear-arms control as well as improved military-to-military relations, in the hope that nuclear weapons can be kept separate from other issues, as they were in Soviet times. That will be hard because, as Russia declines, it will see its nuclear arsenal as an enduring advantage.

But this next paragraph is in line with the unslakable bellicosity of Hillary Clinton, and her coterie of Neo-Conservative acolytes:

Another area of dispute will be Russia’s near abroad. Ukraine shows how Mr Putin seeks to destabilise countries as a way to stop them drifting out of Russia’s orbit (see article). America’s next president must declare that, contrary to what Mr Trump has said, if Russia uses such tactics against a NATO member, such as Latvia or Estonia, the alliance will treat it as an attack on them all. Separately the West needs to make it clear that, if Russia engages in large-scale aggression against non-NATO allies, such as Georgia and Ukraine, it reserves the right to arm them.

An alternative view on ‘Russian revanchism’ from July 7, 2016

Headline: The United States and NATO Are Preparing for a Major War With Russia

Sub-headline : Massive military exercises and a troop buildup on NATO’s eastern flank reflect a dangerous new strategy.

For the first time in a quarter-century, the prospect of war—real war, war between the major powers—will be on the agenda of Western leaders when they meet at the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland, on July 8 and 9. Dominating the agenda in Warsaw (aside, of course, from the “Brexit” vote in the UK) will be discussion of plans to reinforce NATO’s “eastern flank”—the arc of former Soviet partners stretching from the Baltic states to the Black Sea that are now allied with the West but fear military assault by Moscow. Until recently, the prospect of such an attack was given little credence in strategic circles, but now many in NATO believe a major war is possible and that robust defensive measures are required.

The United States, of course, is deeply involved in these initiatives. Not only will it supply many of the troops for the four multinational battalions, but it is also taking many steps of its own to bolster NATO’s eastern flank. Spending on the Pentagon’s “European Reassurance Initiative” will quadruple, climbing from $789 million in 2016 to $3.4 billion in 2017. Much of this additional funding will go to the deployment, on a rotating basis, of an additional armored-brigade combat team in northern Europe.

As a further indication of US and NATO determination to prepare for a possible war with Russia, the alliance recently conducted the largest war games in Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War. Known as Anakonda 2016, the exercise involved some 31,000 troops (about half of them Americans) and thousands of combat vehicles from 24 nations in simulated battle maneuvers across the breadth of Poland. A parallel naval exercise, BALTOPS 16, simulated “high-end maritime warfighting” in the Baltic Sea, including in waters near Kaliningrad, a heavily defended Russian enclave wedged between Poland and Lithuania.


Then comes this utterly specious admonition: Above all the West needs to keep its head. The editors of this publication should have follower their own advice.

Above all the West needs to keep its head. Russian interference in America’s presidential election merits measured retaliation. But the West can withstand such “active measures”. Russia does not pretend to offer the world an attractive ideology or vision. Instead its propaganda aims to discredit and erode universal liberal values by nurturing the idea that the West is just as corrupt as Russia, and that its political system is just as rigged. It wants to create a divided West that has lost faith in its ability to shape the world. In response, the West should be united and firm.

Then comes another astounding assertion: Russian interference in America’s presidential election merits measured retaliation. It is an American Tradition to interfere in the ‘domestic political affairs’ of any nation within the Western Hemisphere, as a defense against foreign interference, within the purview of the American Nation State, since the promulgation of the 1823 Monroe Doctrine: call this hubris! Another monument to American ‘interference’ is the Ukrainian Coup of 2014, another inconvenience to the committee that crafted this ‘editorial’.  What the Russians might have done, is the  construction of the desperate defenders of the political status quo: Obama and his anointed successor Hillary Clinton and their New Cold War, now reaching another denouement. This ‘editorial’ is both execrable and amateurish, which leads me to amend my thought about the Oxbridgers being it’s authors, they have a way of reminding we lesser beings, of our natural intellectual inferiority, by larding their essays with apposite quotation and paraphrase. That rhetorical absence leads this reader to the conclusion that an American must have written this essay. That is composed of flat declarative sentences without a trace of anything resembling verve or style!

Old Socialist


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Robert Zoellick as the natural inheritor of Sykes-Picot. Political Observer comments

Headline: After Obama: The future of US foreign policy

Sub-headline: Robert Zoellick on the key strategic decisions facing the next president

Mr. Zoellick is described by The Financial Times as ‘The author served as US trade representative and US deputy secretary of state during Republican administrations, as well as president of the World Bank’ Yet there is more to it than that, this well footnoted entry from Wikipedia clarifies his politics as Neo-Conservative, and his being the past president of The Wold Bank, establishes his economics as Neo-Liberal :

In a January 2000 Foreign Affairs essay entitled “Campaign 2000: A Republican Foreign Policy,” he was one of the first of those now associated with Bush’s foreign policy to invoke the notion of “evil,” writing: “[T]here is still evil in the world—people who hate America and the ideas for which it stands. Today, we face enemies who are hard at work to develop nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, along with the missiles to deliver them. The United States must remain vigilant and have the strength to defeat its enemies. People driven by enmity or by a need to dominate will not respond to reason or goodwill. They will manipulate civilized rules for uncivilized ends.”[40] The same essay praises the “idealism” of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.[citation needed] Two years earlier, Zoellick was one of the signatories (who also included Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, Zalmay Khalilzad, John R. Bolton, Richard Armitage, and Bill Kristol) of a January 26, 1998 letter to President Bill Clinton drafted by the Project for the New American Century calling for “removing Saddam [Hussein]‘s regime from power.”[12]


Mr. Zoellick strikes a more measured tone of the technocrat/oligarch with long experience in positions of power. He cultivates, in his rhetoric, bourgeois political respectability, as the primary function of his seriousness as political/economic actor, or in the Neo-Liberal jargon as policy entrepreneur. Mr. Zoellick is measured and historically sophisticated, more so than Mr. Rachman:


As he is allotted more space in which to make his arguments, and polling numbers are central to those opening arguments. Here is his diagnosis in two succinct paragraphs:

The US public may be distilling impressions that pose a strategic challenge for the next president. The 70-year-old security and economic order that the US helped establish after the second world war — and adapted in the years that followed — is fracturing under stress. After a long era of great-power peace and improved economic fortunes, many have taken the international system for granted.

A century-old order in the Middle East has broken down into a brutal struggle for power between tribes and sects. Arabs, Iranians and Turks manipulate the warring factions as they strive for local hegemony. Countries across the region have stumbled repeatedly as they have tried to establish modern market economies.


Begin an analysis with this sentence fragment: A century-old order in the Middle East has broken down… Mr. Zoellick is utterly ignorant of the Sykes-Picot Agreement? as part of Western European political meddling in the region named ‘The Middle East’ by those imperialists ?


The root cause of that break down of ‘century-old order’ is that very agreement, in its utter ignorance of the history and makeup of that ‘region’ as exercised by corrupt self-seeking Western Imperialism. In fact consider policy technocrat Zoellick as the natural inheritor of Sykes-Picot in the political present. Also, is the destiny of all persons, all nations to be a part of a ‘modern market economies’? Those economies  have utterly failed in ‘The West‘ but Zoellick soldiers on as a former World Bank President must!

Mr. Zoellick then turns his attention to these other pressing questions that he extemporizes upon at length:

Clinton’s appointments

Admirer of ‘strongmen’

Europe left to the Europeans

Careful what you say

There is so much more to be said, on this essay, that seeks to answer so many more questions of import. I have tried to address just one facet of this capacious exercise in technocratic chatter: a reader can see clearly that this could have been published in the pages of Foreign Policy or Foreign Affairs.

Political Observer







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