The dismal record on Charter Schools!


Another Ohio Charter School Scandal–Becoming Routine 




On the utter bankruptcy of Neo-Libralism i.e. the collapsed fiction of The Free Market:

Undoing the Demos, Neo-Liberalism’s Stealth Revolution by Wendy Brown:

Hayek: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly


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Les Gelb on Vietnam, a comment by Political Reporter

Ironic: Vietnam decision-making system worked

‘Les Gelb, a former Brookings fellow and co-author of the 1979 Brookings Institution Press book The Irony of Vietnam: The System Worked—which is being re-released this month as a Brookings Classic—discusses the influence the Vietnam War has had on how the U.S. handles wars and the need for American pragmatism in foreign policy decision-making today. “What made this country great was Americans using their pragmatism, solving problems, and realizing there were certain problems they couldn’t solve–at least, not solve them right away,” Gelb says.’


Listen to this brief podcast and wonder at the above quote about American pragmatism, problem solving etc. It was Daniel Elsberg who leaked the Pentagon Papers, not Les Gelb who supervised the Pentagon Papers project, who stood by, who did nothing like the good,loyal technocrat: he assures the listener that he is not infected by politics. Except for his unstinting advocacy for Mrs. Clinton when he worked for The Daily Beast, I regularly read his essays.

There is no Irony here, but plenty of self-apologetics in the guise of the musings of an old policy hand. Here an example of Mr. Gelb’s irony & pragmatism in another key:

4 decades after war ended, Agent Orange still ravaging Vietnamese

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Air Force sprayed more than 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides over parts of southern Vietnam and along the borders of neighboring Laos and Cambodia. The herbicides were contaminated with dioxin, a deadly compound that remains toxic for decades and causes birth defects, cancer and other illnesses. To this day, dioxin continues to poison the land and the people. The U.S. has never accepted responsibility for these victims, and it’s unclear when this chain of misery will end.


Political Reporter









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On the emerging New Democratic Party Line: a comment by Political Reporter

The emerging Party Line for the New Democrats is that ‘we’ must unite behind the Neo-Conservative, in all but name, Hillary Clinton. To fight the Fascist menace of Trump. But before the celebration of unity begins:

Clinton’s Hawk-in-Waiting

If Hillary wins the White House, expect Victoria Nuland to be at her side.


And don’t forget that Ms. Nuland’s husband, Robert Kagan, has some thoughts on the Trump phenomenon:

This is how fascism comes to America


To identify the Nuland/Kagan alliance as pernicious, poisonous, or even the more descriptive murderous, can only be characterized as the exercise of a demand for honesty. A something utterly absent from American political discourse, especially in the festering political moment of a presidential campaign.

Political Reporter

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Timothy Garton Ash: Isaiah Berlin apologist, a comment by Political Cynic

One has to wonder out loud as to where Mr. Garton Ash has been. David Caute’s book Isaac and Isaiah: The Covert Punishment of a Cold War Heretic’ was published in July of 2015. Which is a searching historical case study of the how of Mr. Berlin’s practice of tolerance was exercised in reality. Note that Mr. Garton Ash compares the Great Man to the  tattered Mr. Hitchens. Rhetorically canny this  comparison of a very rare sort: ‘…Hitchens exemplified courage; Berlin, tolerance.’  The ability of The Berlin acolyte to perceive with clarity ?  But just sample the rhetoric of Mr. Garton Ash on Berlin (Not quite in the category of the worshipful Michael Ignatieff!):

‘Rather, it is a matter of temperament, character, habits of the heart.’

‘Yet Berlin was one of the most eloquent, consistent defenders of a liberal­ism which creates and defends the spaces in which people subscribing to dif­ferent values, holding incompatible views, pursuing irreconcilable political projects —…’

‘Berlin personified not merely tolerance but also an extraordinary gift for empathy, that ability to get inside very different heads and hearts which is a distinguishing mark of the liberal imagination.’

‘It takes a certain quiet fortitude to maintain your intellectual independence when all about you are becoming partisan.’

Note the quotation of Judge Learned Hand that Mr. Garton Ash makes use of later in his essay:

‘In a speech delivered in 1944, explaining what the United States was fighting for in the Second World War, to an audience that included many newly created American citizens, Judge Learned Hand declared: “What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias.”

The same Learned Hand that attacked the Brown v. Board Supreme Court decision:



I find Judge Hand’s argument for ‘Judicial Restraint’ unconvincing, or more pointedly a defense of Jim Crow i.e. Separate but Equal ! But his opinion helped to shape the coming resurgence of States Rights, under the more moderate sounding idea of Originalism. And the formation of the Federalist Society as  a professional organization of Conservative Jurisprudence, that specialized in the manufacture of Anti-Warren Court political hysterics. The Party Line on Brown v. Board constructed by the Federalist Society was that the decision represented Sociology rather than Law, an act of political de-legitimization on the nine to nothing decision. That party line also paved the way for Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito. Five names synonymous with liberty.

Mr. Garton Ash continues, given the Hand pronouncement on the spirit of liberty:

Who can doubt that Berlin was filled with that spirit of liberty? But Hitchens was filled with a spirit of liberty too.Though they tend to distrust, even to despise each other, both these spirits are indispensable. Each has its characteristic fault. A world composed entirely of Hitchenses would tend to intolerance. It would be a permanent, if often amusing, shouting match, one in which there would be neither time nor space to understand — in the deepest sense of understanding, involving profound study, calm reflection, and imaginative sympathy — where the other person was coming from. A world composed entirely of Berlins would tend to relativism and excessive tolerance for the sworn enemies of tolerance.

Mr. Garton Ash’s self-willed ignorance of Mr. Berlin’s unsavory record of intolerance leads him to this overstatement:

A world composed entirely of Berlins would tend to relativism and excessive tolerance for the sworn enemies of tolerance.

At this point Mr. Garton Ash’s essay, or more accurately his two man melodrama, becomes intellectually more palatable, even interesting in the postulation offered by Ralf Dahrendorf’s idea of Erasmians, Mr. Berlin being one of this noble breed of thinkers/actors/advocates. Again the melodrama becomes heightened with the replacement of the Berlin and Hitchens protagonists,  with the more historically suggestive protagonistic relation of Erasmus and Luther. Does the blackballing of Isaac Deutscher by Isaiah Berlin rise to the level of the actual historical drama of the conflict between Erasmus and Luther? As suggestive as this might appear, in terms of producing dramatic interest, rather than the exercise of an historically based honesty about the conduct of Berlin – the reader is at an impasse! Mr. Garton Ash has produced an apologia for Mr. Berlin and this re-description adds an ersatz metaphysical weight to the ideological pettiness exercised by Berlin. The exercise of candor demands that the reader recognizes Mr. Garton Ash’s intent, no matter how intellectually beguiling his subterfuge.

The description of Mr. Berlin provided by Mr. Garton Ash:

Berlin was not notable for his courage. This was a weakness he struggled with. In a letter to a close friend, written when he was already a highly re­spected, middle-aged man, he wrote, “I wish I had not inherited my father’s timorous, rabbity nature! I can be brave, but oh what appallingly superhuman struggles with cowardice!” And in an essay on his beloved Turgenev, he evokes “the small, hesitant, self-critical, not always very brave, band of men who oc­cupy a position somewhere to the left of center, and are morally repelled both by the hard faces to their right and the hysteria and mindless violence and demagoguery on their left. … “

Mr. Hitchens is Mr. Garton Ash’s perfect antagonist, malicious and politically self-serving, while David Caute, a colleague of Berlin at All Souls College, Oxford, provides a more historically objective perspective on the conduct of Mr. Berlin in situ. 

Political Cynic


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At The Financial Times: John Paul Rathbone on the demise of Brazilian leftism, a comment By Political Cynic

Should a regular reader of the Financial Times be at all surprised by the the title of John Paul Rathbone’s essay ‘Demise of Brazilian leftism will reverberate across the Americas’ or the sub-headline: ‘Latin Americans no longer tolerate corruption as they once did’ ?  Mr. Rathbone doesn’t offer ‘Global Insight’, but the usual Financial Times’ party line of the dangers of ‘Leftism’ real, imagined, conjured out of an abundance of imagination/magical thinking! But consider this line of argument as a functional apologetic for the eighth year after the financial collapse of 2008, and the various failed iterations of Austerity.  But what does the Economist, a once sister publication to the FT, have to say about the issue of the impeachment of Rousseff, some selective quotes:

How she exits the Planalto, the presidential palace, matters greatly. We continue to believe that, in the absence of proof of criminality, Ms Rousseff’s impeachment is unwarranted. The proceeding against her in Congress is based on unproven allegations that she used accounting trickery to hide the true size of the budget deficit in 2015. This looks like a pretext for ousting an unpopular president. The idea, put forward by the head of the impeachment committee, that congressmen deliberating Ms Rousseff’s fate will listen to “the street”, would set a worrying precedent. Representative democracies should not be governed by protests and opinion polls.


The failure is not only of Ms Rousseff’s making. The entire political class has let the country down through a mix of negligence and corruption. Brazil’s leaders will not win back the respect of its citizens or overcome the economy’s problems unless there is a thorough clean-up.


The Economist argues that the corruption of Brazilian politics is real and needs to be addressed, but that the impeachment is not the proper political vehicle to address the pervasive problem. I have relied here on Glenn Greenwald’s essay from the Intercept :


Mr. Greenwald has lived in Brazil for eleven years, while Mr. Rathbone files his report from Miami. Mr. Rathbone, as he widens his political perspective including other  Western hemisphere nations, and quotes from  Kevin Casas-Zamora of the Inter-American dialogue, a Washington think-tank:

Michelle Bachelet (Co-Chair, Chile), Carla A. Hills (Co-Chair, United States), Enrique V. Iglesias (Co-Vice Chair, Uruguay), Thomas F. McLarty III (Co-Vice Chair, United States), David de Ferranti (Treasurer, United States), Peter D. Bell (Chair Emeritus, United States), Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Chair Emeritus, Brazil), Ricardo Lagos (Chair Emeritus, Chile), Alicia Bárcena (Mexico), Brian O’Neill (United States), Francis Fukuyama (United States), Pierre Pettigrew (Canada), L. Enrique García (Bolivia), Jorge Quiroga (Bolivia), Donna J. Hrinak (United States), Marta Lucía Ramírez (Colombia), Marcos Jank (Brazil), Arturo Sarukhan (Mexico), Jim Kolbe (United States), Eduardo Stein (Guatemala), Thomas J. Mackell Jr. (United States), Martín Torrijos (Panama), M. Peter McPherson (United States), Elena Viyella de Paliza (Dominican Republic), Billie Miller (Barbados), Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico)


A very distinguished assortment of respectable of politicians, Neo-Liberal and otherwise, Business people, academics and even the utterly notorious Straussian Mr. Fukuyama.

The strategy here is to enumerate the sins, indeed misdeeds of a Leftist government, and then widen the focus to include the other failed or failing states, as object lessons. All this designed to appeal to a readership who are in the thrall of the Hayek/Mises/Friedman Neo-Liberalism, heavily garnished with the literary/political chatter of sociopath Ayn Rand: it is a reliable formula!

Political Cynic


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Janan Ganesh defends inequality, a comment by American Writer

You have to find something quite arresting about Mr. Ganesh’s latest essay. It sounds like some old club-man complaining, or better yet grousing, to his fellows in the wainscoted interior of an exclusive club in some bad old Hollywood movie. Please note the irony, that a club in that world would have been off limits to Mr. Ganesh, except as unseen cleaning staff.

Mr. Ganesh defends inequality in the mode of the political cynicism of the Karl Rove/ Lynton Crosby technocrat, that has become the position of the defenders of the political present even though it  ‘locks newspaper columnists in their thirties out of the propertied classes’. A case of special pleading?

One can see with a startling clarity that the Conservatism of Disraeli, based in the exercise of a benign political paternalism, of a landed aristocracy, has been discarded for the highly garnished dog eat dog of the Free Market Utopianism, even as it continues to fail. Such an uncomfortable truth doesn’t intrude in Mr. Ganesh’s almost reverie on the ‘globe-dazzling city’. Compare that with Carlos Fuentes’ comment on ‘the great rotting meat pie of Madrid ‘.

American Writer



My reply to PeninsulaCat

PeninsulaCat, thank you for your comment.

@StephenKMackSD That’s a really stupid comment and quite derogatory.

My comment is directed at Mr. Ganesh’s belief that he somehow belongs within the Conservative fold. And I chose quite carefully to place my argument within a satiric context.In fact, Ganesh seems, at times, to inhabit and

extemporize on the cartoon character Colonel Blimp. But more to the point here is an Economist essay by Bagehot from March 1, 2012 on the question framed by the editors of that publication as: ‘David Cameron’s race problem’


‘Last autumn the Runnymede Trust, a research body, published the largest-ever survey of British voting by ethnic background. In 2010, this showed, only 16% of ethnic minorities voted Conservative, compared with 37% of whites. Mr Cameron’s party did best among voters with Indian roots, of whom one in four voted Tory. It did best of all among Asians such as Mr Uppal whose families fled persecution in east Africa four decades ago.

But overall, Labour enjoyed a crushing dominance among ethnic-minority voters—even among British blacks and Asians whose affluence, or robust views on crime and public spending, might make them natural Conservative voters. Or even their views on immigration: in Tory-sponsored focus groups, researchers find minority voters frankly ferocious towards asylum seekers on benefits or eastern Europeans “stealing British jobs”.

Conservative strategists know that seemingly overlapping political beliefs can be trumped by deeper clashes of values. They have studied the cautionary tale of Republicans in America and their wooing of devout, family-minded, hard-working Hispanics (who are Republicans but “just don’t know it”, in the words of Ronald Reagan). In the 2004 presidential election some 40% of Hispanics voted for George Bush junior, a man with rather liberal views on immigration. That support collapsed when Republican policies took an angrily nativist turn.

Some clashes look similarly intractable for British Conservatives: disagreements with some Muslims over the threat posed by radical Islam, for instance, or with those blacks who tell researchers that the police are their enemy.

The Conservative Party was at 16% of British ethnic minority voters as of 2012.

The remainder of your argument on inequality, is just that your argument, that does not even touch the made to measure political fatalism of Mr. Ganesh, by way of the Rove/ Crosby technocratic chatter that exalts ‘winners’ over ‘losers’, ‘producers’ over ‘drones’ etc. Yours is a fatalism born from your experience and your acceptance of what you cannot change. Ganesh doesn’t just accept that political fatalism, he revels in it, as an acceptance of one of the cornerstones of an utterly amoral, politically nihilistic  Neo-Liberalism.



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Pankaj Mishra on the Khan victory, a comment by Political Observer

As compelling as I found Mr. Mishra’s essay to be, in his celebratory mood, he has missed some  very important points about Mayor Khan’s victory: Khan has very pointedly, in this essay at the Guardian,  pronounced himself as New Labour, and made plain that the insurgent Jeremy Corbyn is not his political ally. Political ambition rules Mayor Khan and his road to higher office is conformity to the New Labour Party Line, which is synonymous with the Financial Times’ political slogan of The Rebellion Against The Elites.

Labour has to be a big tent that appeals to everyone – not just its activists. Campaigns that deliberately turn their back on particular groups are doomed to fail. Just like in London, so-called natural Labour voters alone will never be enough to win a general election. We must be able to persuade people who previously voted Conservative that Labour can be trusted with the economy and security, as well as improving public services and creating a fairer society.


And on the manufactured ‘Antisemitism Crisis’ of Labour, here is an interview with Norman Finkelstein on that subject. Two revelatory excerpts:

Last month, Naz Shah MP became one of the most high-profile cases to date in the ‘antisemitism’ scandal still shaking the Labour leadership. Shah was suspended from the Labour party for, among other things, reposting an image on Facebook that was alleged to be antisemitic. The image depicted a map of the United States with Israel superimposed, and suggested resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict by relocating Israel into the United States. It has been reported that Shah got the image from Finkelstein’s website. I spoke with Finkelstein about why he posted the image, and what he thinks of allegations that the Labour party has a ‘Jewish problem’.

Last week, Ken Livingstone took to the airwaves to defend Naz Shah, but what he said wound up getting him suspended from the Labour party. His most incendiary remark contended that Hitler at one point supported Zionism. This was condemned as antisemitic, and Labour MP John Mann accused Livingstone of being a ‘Nazi apologist’. What do you make of these accusations?

Livingstone maybe wasn’t precise enough, and lacked nuance. But he does know something about that dark chapter in history. It has been speculated that Hitler’s thinking on how to solve the ‘Jewish Question’ (as it was called back then) evolved, as circumstances changed and new possibilities opened up. Hitler wasn’t wholly hostile to the Zionist project at the outset. That’s why so many German Jews managed to survive after Hitler came to power by emigrating to Palestine. But, then, Hitler came to fear that a Jewish state might strengthen the hand of ‘international Jewry’, so he suspended contact with the Zionists. Later, Hitler perhaps contemplated a ‘territorial solution’ for the Jews. The Nazis considered many ‘resettlement’ schemes – the Jews wouldn’t have physically survived most of them in the long run – before they embarked on an outright exterminatory process. Livingstone is more or less accurate about this – or, as accurate as might be expected from a politician speaking off the cuff.

He’s also accurate that a degree of ideological affinity existed between the Nazis and Zionists. On one critical question, which raged in the U.K. during the period when the Balfour Declaration (1917) was being cobbled together, antisemites and Zionists agreed: could a Jew be an Englishman? Ironically, in light of the current hysteria in the UK, the most vociferous and vehement opponents of the Balfour Declaration were not the Arabs, about whom almost nobody gave a darn, but the upper reaches of British Jewry.

Let’s zoom out a bit. You’ve written a great deal about how antisemitism accusations have been used to discredit and distract from criticism of Israel. Should we see the current campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Left more generally as the latest episode in that history? 

These campaigns occur at regular intervals, correlating with Israel’s periodic massacres and consequent political isolation. If you search your nearest library catalogue for ‘new antisemitism’, you’ll come up with titles from the 1970s proclaiming a ‘new antisemitism’, titles from the 1980s proclaiming a ‘new antisemitism’, titles from the 1990s proclaiming a ‘new antisemitism’, and then a huge uptick, including from British writers, during the so-called Second Intifada from 2001. Let’s not forget, just last year there was a hysteria in the UK over antisemitism. A couple of ridiculous polls purported to find that nearly half of Britons held an antisemitic belief and that most British Jews feared for their future in the UK. Although these polls were dismissed by specialists, they triggered the usual media feeding frenzy, as the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Independent hyperventilated about this ‘rampant’ ‘new antisemitism’. It was exposed as complete nonsense when, in April 2015, a reputable poll by Pew found that the level of antisemitism in the UK had remained stable, at an underwhelming seven percent.


One only had to read the pre-election political hysterics at The Financial Times which featured thirteen ‘new stories’ about this manufactured crisis, that remained in place for almost a week before the election.

Political Observer


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