SEMI PARTISAN SUMMARY

CULTURE

Pamela Haag, writing at Slate, has had enough of the “mommy” prefix being applied to everything from jeans to porn to jobs to blogs. In an interesting piece, she goes on to argue that the effect of these mommy-isms is to diminish the work or activities outside motherhood that women engage in.

The Economist ponders the recent death of author Gore Vidal and laments that it marks the passing of an age when politics was less…dumbed down. Recalling Vidal’s famous televised altercation with William F. Buckley Jr., they note: “It is hard to imagine men like Vidal and Buckley, two snobbish East Coast intellectuals with lockjaw patrician accents, being invited onto prime-time television now to opine on the hot-button issues of the day. Vidal’s death earlier this week, at age 86, marks not only the loss of a provocative novelist and political thinker, but also the demise of a brand of public discourse. It seems there is no longer a place for the erudite and witty public intellectual in America. Instead of learned allusions to classical literature, public figures, including the president of the United States, are now expected to drop their G’s and speak knowledgeably about the cast of The Jersey Shore”. Indeed.

 

BRITISH POLITICS

NPR gazes at Britain from across the pond and raises an eyebrow at the marked uptick in explicit British patriotism that has been observed in this jubilee and Olympic year. I think that they do British national pride a disservice saying things such as: “Never before have British sports fans sung the national anthem, or flourished their (proliferating) red-white-and-blue Union flags, with such gusto. Never before have British commentators yelled so loudly at the slightest sign that their one of their countryfolk may secure a medal”. After all, national pride can be expressed in many ways, not all of which require flying a massive flag above a car dealership. But nonetheless, they do have a point. NPR go on to ponder the likely impact of this new-found patriotic expression on the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum.

A really interesting article by Damian McBride, detailing the first 24 hours of the 2007 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Surrey, and the then newly-appointed Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s reaction to it. Lord knows I am no fan of Gordon Brown’s – given a few seconds of silence in any social gathering I am liable to launch into my anti GB diatribe – but I must admit that he did have his good qualities (earnestness, attention to detail) as well as the bad. McBride notes: “At the end of those 24 hours, even before we were clear how serious the outbreak was, there was no question – whether you were a government official, a political journalist or a punter watching the TV – that the PM was in control of this crisis and was personally directing every aspect of how it would be dealt with.” This article humanises Brown, and reminds me that no matter my stark disagreements with him on policy, he worked very hard – albeit egotistically and misguidedly – in service to the country.

 

AMERICAN POLITICS

Washington “elites” are more out of touch than ever with the rest of the country, and far more tolerant of persistent mass unemployment, argues Jonathan Chait, writing in New York Magazine. For those like him, Chait writes, the great recession “…is more akin to a famine in Africa. For millions and millions of Americans, the economic crisis is the worst event of their lives. They have lost jobs, homes, health insurance, opportunities for their children, seen their skills deteriorate, and lost their sense of self-worth. But from the perspective of those in a position to alleviate their suffering, the crisis is merely a sad and distant tragedy.”

Place your bets now. Mitt Romney is beginning to meet with and “audition” the various Republican contenders to take the Vice Presidential spot on his ticket. Some options are more palatable than others, but whether Romney picks a “boring”, safe candidate or takes a risk with an unconventional bold choice will say a lot about how confident his campaign is of victory, or conversely how worried they are about their prospects and are looking for another game-changer.

Charles Krauthammer was obviously watching a different foreign trip than the one the rest of us witnessed as Romney embarked on his overseas tour. Using his Washington Post column to declare the trip an unbridled success, Krauthammer has convinced himself that Romney’s undercutting of the official US position on Jerusalem and criticism of Palestinian culture were somehow smart diplomacy. Others might argue that these actions were contrary to his earlier promises (and standard convention) to avoid criticising US policy while a presidential candidate on foreign soil, and that regardless of ones views on the Middle East peace process, it might be a good idea to avoid enraging one of the two sides before you have even won election.

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