Sunday, September 29, 2013

Catching Up

     So much has happened this year that, with professional commitments and the rapid pace of developments, it has proven impossible to comment on it all.

     In politics, it appears the gerrymandering of districts has created safe seats for partisans of both parties. Not surprisingly, such representatives see themselves as holders of a mandate not to compromise on principle. Nearly every political question can be reduced to an expression of principles, and so there is a hardening of partisanship.

     In morals, the consensus on ancient norms is changing—has changed. Whatever the merits of the underlying arguments, it’s clear the mores have changed when we see gay soldiers and Boy Scouts, legalized marijuana, and women in combat. Good or bad, these changes are stupefying in scope. As a member of the badly named Greatest Generation put it to me recently, “I never thought I’d see that.” The one consistency in the moral realm is the continuation of the judiciary’s practice of legislating morality from the bench. If the people of California amend their state constitution to define marriage as an arrangement between one man and one woman, well, we certainly can’t let them do that. After all, it’s…immoral.

     In fiscal policy, the continuing quantitative easing is at once politically predictable and deeply troubling. The recent moves of billionaire investors out of the American equities market may signal their skepticism of the viability of the American economy over the next few years. The enormous national debt, coupled with the increase of the money supply, may very well produce the toxic effects some pessimistic economists have predicted. Evidence of a recovery is welcome but mixed, and in any case fully consistent with the gloomiest out-year predictions.

     In foreign policy, we have seen the disturbing spectacle of an American president prepared to defy his own party, the electorate, the international community, and (in my view) the Constitution. That he appears to have been talked down from the edge only by Russian diplomacy is dizzying. The average voter probably knows only that the president told Syria chemical weapons were unacceptable; the president went to Russia; after his visit, the Russians procured the cooperation of Syria in giving up the weapons. It probably looks like a victory to the average voter—and may be so in fact, the howls of outrage from the Right notwithstanding.

     In religion, the Pope has apparently accepted well-behaved atheists into Heaven. (Whew!)

     Taken together, all this looks like a world turned upside down. And it is.


  1. Putin put Russia on the hook for Assad's brutality and wound up looking like a statesman in the process. Now the Russians own the problem. We should give Afghanistan back to them too. I think what's happening here (Iran may agree with this as well), is that AlQaeda has become an enemy of mankind, such that nearly all Muslim leaders in the Middle East, plus Russia, Israel and Europe, suddenly agree with the US that jihadism must come to an end.

  2. I wrote to my (D) senator about the Syrian issue the week before the "invasion" was called off. I told him I would work against his re-election if he voted for US military action in Syria. I referred him to a year-old article on the chemical weapons problem in the Middle East (there are Libyan weapons in AlQaeda hands all over the region). He answered me back: "I support the President" (in going to war, essentially). I send him another email after Putin stepped in, pointing out why Obama should take the Russian course (make Russia own the Syrian problem). By that time, Obama was handing off to Putin, well advised. Senator (D) answered me back again. "I support the President." I'm glad we're in such good hands.

    1. The cognitive dissonance for me was when the leading opponent of the Iraq war started channeling GWB on WMD. I forget whether there was a Roman god of Irony.