Tag Archives: politics

When Extreme Left Meets Extreme Right…

…it’s always rather horrifying. One place they meet is anti-Semitism. Another — and I’m noticing it a lot during this American election campaign — is the spot at which dwell these very bizarre Vladimir Putin/Aggressive Russia apologists.

I suspect the leftists who make excuses for Russia these days miss what they view as the halcyon days of the USSR (I think of Stephen Cohen here); those on the right? Maybe they just like strong-arm tactics.

At any rate, this American election cycle is massively depressing.

Hobson’s Choice

A number of people on social media — as well as in some newspaper columns — have called the U.S. election this year a “Hobson’s Choice.” It is not. A Hobson’s Choice is a take-it-or-leave-it scenario, not a situation where there are two unsavoury options. That would be “a dilemma.” I guess it could also be called a “Sophie’s Choice,” but I don’t like that expression for two reasons: 1) it brings up images of Nazis killing children, and 2) it makes me think of the book (and the movie) of the same name, both of which were tinged with anti-Semitism.

On a brighter note, here is a clip from the brilliant David Lean film, Hobson’s Choice, with Charles Laughton in the lead role. And yes, the title character is given a Hobson’s Choice at the end of the story.

Post-Brexit Hysteria

There has been a lot of crazed commentary from leftists and elitists (but I repeat myself) and even the occasional sane person (Niall Ferguson comes to mind for that category), since last week’s vote. Yes, it is a big deal. Yes, it was unexpected. But the idea that all “Leave” voters are frightened bigots and the idea that the UK’s economic future is surely at risk as a result are both absurd ideas.

Megan McArdle provides an eminently sane analysis here, Matt Ridley another here.

One of the British Tories I most admire is Daniel Hannan (boy, I would love to see him be leader of the UK Conservatives). Of note, he wrote a short book called “Why Vote Leave,” which is most definitely worth a read if you want to understand the issues at hand beyond the unfair media characterizations. I mention him not merely in order to link to his book, but also as a lead-in to this video of him being “interviewed” (i.e., bullied) by leftist and elitist (but I repeat myself) Christiane Amanpour. He does not let her get away with nonsense, and you can tell it makes her apoplectic.

What I find most infuriating about this “interview” is when she shows three obviously carefully-picked sound-bites from bigoted “Leave” voters and tries to suggest that somehow they are representative of every “Leave” voter. Again, he doesn’t fall for it, and she does not like that. (Sadly, I remember when she was a good journalist, over 20 years ago – in particular, her reporting from the former Yugoslavia was compelling. Those days are long gone.)

Behold Daniel Hannan, an extremely smart and decent man dealing very patiently with a nasty fool.

Munk Debate

My plan was to write about the Munk Debate on my HuffPost page, but alas, I never got around to it and now it feels too late. So I’ll just post a few thoughts/links here now. I brought my sister with me to see the debate – she had a particular interest in the topic as she has worked with refugees in the past. Further, she is knowledgeable and serious about the Middle East and about the difficulties we face in trying to be humane all while doing our best to not be stupid about our own security.

First of all, some links: Steve Paikin sums up how I viewed the evening, for the most part, and — with considerably more edge — so does Kathy Shaidle (I wish I could write like her!). Barbara Kay and Nicholas Nazar are also worth your time.

I went expecting to like Simon Schama and Mark Steyn and not knowing much about the other two speakers, Louise Arbour and Nigel Farage, other than that Arbour worked for the UN and therefore pleases my Annex-nik neighbours here in Toronto (and Farage decidedly does not). Now, it might seem odd that I attended with the expectation that both Schama and Steyn would impress me, but it shouldn’t. Schama is one of the few literati leftists who supports Israel and his Story of the Jews is quite a treat. And Steyn is, well, he’s Steyn — Sinatra, cats, politics, books, Broadway.

By the end of the evening, I found Arbour to be what my mother would have called “a pill,” and Farage to have been quite reasonable and serious. He and Steyn both showed up armed with statistics, facts, ideals and arguments based on an understanding of events and of history. I had expected the same from Schama, but I was disappointed. Other than his choice of very stylish footwear for the evening, he appeared to be phoning everything in, right down to his closing statement, which consisted of him reading John Donne’s Meditation XVII. The latter is a magnificent poem, but really, Simon Schama, that is your closing argument? It was as though both Schama and Arbour felt it was enough to get up there and say “we should be nice.” Well yes, we should be. I have not a doubt the opposing team agreed with that sentiment. But if we’re blind in our niceness, we will be incapable of helping anyone down the line, which is what Steyn pointed out in his closing argument (which was actually an argument).

There was a smugness in how the pro-side approached the debate, and I think that it was, in large part, why they lost. There was kind of a disbelief — particularly from Arbour — that the audience could possibly do anything other than support her statements. She became quite snarky and snide when she felt any change in the crowd’s mood, any sway in a different direction.

In a way, I don’t blame her for that attitude: I’ve been to many Munk Debates and it is generally a pretty Annex-nik audience (or “Trudeau-pian,” as Steyn called it on his website). Schama, for his part, kept mentioning that he “didn’t disagree” with Steyn and Farage about certain things. I couldn’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t have felt more comfortable on the opposing team (particularly given Arbour’s, er, past attitudes about Israel), but couldn’t bring himself to admit it.

I don’t get out much, because I simply prefer to stay home, but I was glad I made the effort. Thanks to my sister, who really provided the impetus, coming from out of town to attend. If you click the link here, you can watch the debate (though you may have to sign in or register or something).

Another Great Bernie Ad

He is wrong about many, many things. But man, does his team make great ads! This is another goosebump-inducer, rather like this one. I would challenge much of what he says here about “rights,” and also, I wonder what he means when he says the U.S. is the only “major” country that doesn’t guarantee healthcare as a “right.” What is “major,” first of all? There’s more I would challenge (particularly about unions and “dignity”), but man, why bother with the facts? Just enjoy! As my late brother used to say, there will be tears!

A(nother) great Nick Cohen Column

The column in question is ostensibly about why we should all become Jews. Of course, Cohen isn’t really suggesting we should, although Significant Other and I often say that we will have to join the Israel Army one of these days…if they would have two middle-aged out of shape folks.

It’s a column about the pathology of anti-Semitism and how far it is spreading, in particular its grip on much of the political left.

But consider how many leftwing activists, institutions or academics would agree with a politer version [of blatant anti-Semitism].

Western governments are the main source of the ills of the world. The “Israel lobby” controls western foreign policy. Israel itself is the “root cause” of all the terrors of the Middle East, from the Iraq war to Islamic State. Polite racism turns the Jews, once again, into demons with the supernatural power to manipulate and destroy nations. Or as the Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallström, who sees herself as a feminist rather than a racial conspiracist, explained recently, Islamist attacks in Paris were the fault of Israeli occupiers in the West Bank.

(Oh man, I know so many people — some to whom I am related — who buy such nonsense. Depressing. As my late brother used to say, “the ’60s have a lot for which to answer.”)

Cohen writes of his own experiences (his father was Jewish, not his mother) growing up with a Jewish name and in particular of the temptation — which he resisted — to become a self-loathing Jew.

He does suggest one pretend to be Jewish to see how people’s reactions to you change. It’s fascinating, because when I was in Italy in 2014, there was this awful woman who was always very mean to me and I remember one day she asked me if I was Jewish. I just knew that if I answered “yes,” she would have hated me even more, but I thought the fact that she suspected it (as though it were a crime) was revealing.