janan.ganesh@ft.com on The Primacy of ‘Democracy’ when confronting Trump. Old Socialist comments

Somehow I missed this Ganesh essay. It is a cliche a ridden exercise of a kind of defense of the American Republic, that was simply swallowed whole by the imperatives of the National Security State apparatus. The F.I.S.A. Court, the product of the political conformity, not to speak of the cowardice of Senator Church, passed in 1978.

F.I.S.A. was representative of a two tiered ‘Justice System’, the simulacrum of ‘Justice’. This betrayal of American Constitutionalism and the Bill of Rights, rendered the Republic a dead letter.  Should I call this the republican remainder or just window dressing ?  Secret evidence , indictments, trials, aided by secret National Security Letters, the tools of an utterly corrupt National Security State Apparatus: the utterly incompetent FBI, CIA, NSA, etc., are just further evidence of the political/ethical destruction of the Republic, and its central value of freedom, that comes into conflict with the ever expanding Empire, that has become a political/ethical pathology.

The crimes of American Imperialism almost begins in 1823 with the Monroe Doctrine, although the genocide against Native Peoples and Slavery were the cornerstones of  that Republic. That Doctrine made the Western Hemisphere the protectorate of American violent paternalism.

Ignoring historical context of the expunged Republicanism,  Mr. Ganesh analysis operates on the most superficial level of the Nixon and Clinton cases. His essay’s celerity and argumentative coherence are apparent, but is lacking in historical depth. A strategy of obfuscation, that operates as an apologetic for an Empire. That is now being led by a Know-Nothing who captured the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote by four million votes.

Democracy, as the political singularity in Ganesh’ s essay has to contend with the reality of  ‘Shelby County v. Holder’ that eviscerated the ‘pre-clearance clause’ from the Voting Rights Act. The States that comprised The Solid South are no longer compelled to seek the approval of the Court, to any change in their voting laws. Those states controlled by Republicans steeped in Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’ are the 21st Century’s  Dixiecrats.

The ‘Democracy’ that Ganesh celebrates is in fact, an idea and practice, under siege from the Neo-Confederate/ Originalists quartet on the Supreme Court. And their fellow traveler Anthony Kennedy, soon to be replaced by a jurist in the mold of the political romantic Bork.

Old Socialist



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The López Obrador victory as reported by The Financial Times, with some thoughts on Macri’s failing Neo-Liberalism Lite & on Lenin Moreno. Old Socialist comments

This news story wasn’t the usual screeching Anti-Leftist  hysterics by Financial Times’ hireling Jude Webber, he had the help of ‘Luis Rubio of the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations, ‘Ryan Dimas, chief investment strategist at Chicago-based asset manager William Blair’ and ‘Michael Camuñez, a former US assistant secretary of commerce for market access.’ Mr. Webber did a workman like job of stitching this bricolage together: in fact this ‘news story’ almost writes itself. Or is this evidence of Mr. Webber’s expertise in constructing plausible propaganda?

“I don’t think there’s a plan,” said Luis Rubio, head of the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations. “He can deliver as long as he finds a way to advance his agenda that are compatible with reality. But he has this phrase ‘I’m always the same, but I act according to the circumstances’. He is absolutely pragmatic.”

“In practice, establishing a better fiscal and governance foundation entails significant deceleration in economic activity: investment slows while both private sector and government officials adjust to changing rules and practices,” said Ryan Dimas, chief investment strategist at Chicago-based asset manager William Blair.

“Keeping electoral promises is likely to entail a looser fiscal stance, which may not be rewarded by the markets. It is worth remembering that 60 per cent of Mexico’s government bonds are owned by foreigners,” he added.

“I don’t think there will be an immediate impact on bilateral relations,” said Michael Camuñez, a former US assistant secretary of commerce for market access. “He has made clear he is committed to the Nafta relationship.”

“He comes into office very, very empowered. Trump does seem to respect strong men,” Mr Camuñez said.


While Macri’s Neo-Liberalism Lite, whose Social/Political Engineering seems to be what?

Headline: Argentine peso sinks to record low

This report of June 29, 2018 in The Financial Times by Pan Kwan Yuk reports on that failing attempt to rescue Argentina from the benighted de Kirchner era. Even after Macri’s agreement with the IMF, in the less than 18 months of his election.

Sentiment for Latin America’s third-largest economy has soured substantially over the past two months. Soaring inflation and a free-falling currency prompted the central bank to unexpectedly raise rates to 40 per cent last month. An agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a $50bn bailout and the country’s recovery of its emerging markets status provided a brief respite from the sell-off.

More telling quotes from this essay:

“Further strikes could force President Macri into wage concessions, slowing progress in bringing down inflation and the budget deficit,” noted analysts at Capital Economics.

Siobhan Morden, head of LatAm fixed income strategy at Nomura said President Macri has “no other alternative” other than to push ahead with his reform agenda.

“It’ll be important that the economic team delivers on a successful adjustment over the next few months to reinforce a higher conviction from the overweight real money investors and discourage against risk reduction,” she said.

It’s not just the Argentine peso that has been feeling the heat. The 100-year bond issued by the country just a year ago is now trading at a new low of 77 cents on the dollar. The Merval stock market is down 45 per cent year-to-date while the peso now holds the infamous status as the world’s worst-performing emerging markets currency after shedding about 56 per cent this year.


And what can the reader of these two FT news stories make of these two ‘news items’ ? When she is confronted with this essay about Ecuador’s 2017 election of  Lenin Moreno:

Headline: Lenin Moreno Steers Ecuador Rightward and Betrays the Revolution that Elected Him

Rafael Correa’s government achieved massive poverty reduction, a huge drop in crime, and greatly improved public infrastructure. The key to this success was a firm rejection of the neoliberal policy menu. It’s hardly surprising that Moreno and others would attach themselves to a popular political project and pledge their support, but the achievements required courageous leadership. It meant confronting the fierce opposition of Ecuador’s traditional elite and its private media.

Very soon after the votes were counted in April, Moreno turned on Correa completely and began trying to give Ecuador’s traditional elites everything they were unable to get during Correa’s ten years in office. A big part of what they want is an all-out assault on the achievements of Correa’s government.  They want those years sullied and discredited as years of excessive public spending that resulted in debt and corruption. That’s a crucial first step for returning Ecuador to neoliberalism. Moreno has tried to deliver for the people he ran against with breathtaking speed and cynicism. Recently it was revealed that Moreno even held a secret meeting in early-May with Trump envoy Paul Manafort.


The very source of this essay will, of course ,  grate against to political sensibilities/beliefs of the FT reader. Yet the dawning realization that American Power, its NGO’s and indigenous political allies, in the various autonomous states of ‘Latin America’,will make and remake their history: no matter the economic/political might of the American Empire, and its status as a hegemon under siege, on a multiplicity of fronts, all of its own making.

Old Socialist




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Ross Douthat in High Dungeon, Episode MCXXXI: On Anthony Kennedy. American Writer comments

The first paragraph of Mr. Douthat’s unrelenting attack on Justice Kennedy, begins an indictment of Kennedy for not being like Scalia. Mr. Douthat in high dungeon is compelling, in his ricocheting polemic, that almost hits its target, except Mr. Douthat’s caustic assessment of Kennedy gets in his argumentative way.

In the American republic’s slow transformation into a judicial-executive dyarchy, with a vestigial legislature that lets the major controversies get settled by imperial presidents and jurists, Anthony Kennedy occupied a particularly important role. He was appointed to the Supreme Court at a time when the Republican Party was officially interested in curbing judicial activism and restoring power to the elected branches of government. As the court’s swing vote, though, he instead consolidated the judiciary’s imperial role — taking the expansive powers claimed by judicial liberals in the Warren era and turning them to his own purposes, his own vision of the common good.

Did Mr. Douthat copy this from a Federalist Society address by Scalia?  The   ‘judicial-executive dyarchy’ that Douthat refers to began with Brown I and II: when the NAACP , Thurgood Marshall,  took the practice of School Segregation to the Supreme Court. The ‘why’ of that strategy was that the legislatures in the states that practiced Segregation were never going to redress the grievance of that Segregation.

Thus was born the Neo-Confederate/Originalist Myth of ‘Judicial Activism’ The propaganda assault on the very notion and practice of redress of grievances, as part of our Constitutional system. Douthat lacks the intellectual integrity to broach this subject, his status as respectable bourgeois Conservative at The Paper of Record could be placed in jeopardy. His  blistering polemic needed a carefully executed argumentative stealth, although it misses that standard,  but does quality as eviscerating political polemic.

The word ‘imperial’ appears four times in this essay. Douthat as ‘Leftist’? And Ruth Bader Ginsburg appears as ‘Notorious RBG’. Its evident that Douthat didn’t read, or is simply ignoring as a political inconvenience of Ginsburg’s dissent in Shelby County v. Holder, that eviscerated the rationale of striking down the  ‘pre-clearance clause’ of the Voting Rights Act based on compelling empirical evidence, rather than mere assertion about ‘change‘. The majority opinion, that ‘things have changed’ offered by Roberts, with the addition of Scalia’s dull-witted obfuscatory redhead rhetorical malapropism.

Mr. Douthat opines on one specific Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey :

Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992),[1] was a landmarkUnited States Supreme Court case in which the constitutionality of several Pennsylvaniastate statutory provisions regarding abortion was challenged. The Court’s plurality opinion reaffirmed the central holding of Roe v. Wade[2] stating that “matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.”[3] The Court’s plurality opinion upheld the constitutional right to have an abortion while altering the standard for analyzing restrictions on that right, crafting the “undue burden” standard for abortion restrictions. Planned Parenthood v. Casey differs from Roe, however, because under Roe the state could not regulate abortions in the first trimester whereas under Planned Parenthood v. Casey the state can regulate abortions in the first trimester, or any point before the point of viability, and beyond as long as that regulation does not pose an undue burden on an abortion. Applying this new standard of review, the Court upheld four regulations and invalidated the requirement of spousal notification.


Like his judicial hero Scalia, Douthat sees Casey and its precursor Roe v. Wade as a frontal attack on the deeply held Patriarchal view that ‘women’ are by nature incomplete beings: incapable of exercising full existential autonomy without male tutelage. Kant’s imperative be dammed!

Douthat has the habit of patrolling the sexual/reproductive decision making of women predicated upon that ‘as if‘ of feminine dependency on an indispensable male tutelage.:

If his constitutional theory was somewhat lacking, though, his guiding ideals were clear. Without being a completely consistent libertarian, he was a general champion of freedom — “the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life,” as his Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision famously put it — across both social and economic spheres. To borrow an overused but still useful word, Kennedy was the modern court’s most “neoliberal” justice, embracing corporate freedom and sexual freedom as a kind of unity, attacking restraints on campaign spending and mandates to buy health insurance in the same spirit as restrictions on pornography or flag-burning or abortion.

I was not a great admirer, as you can no doubt tell. Like most conservatives, I favor a more limited role for our robed archons, I admired Scalia’s originalism precisely because it establishes plausible (if, of course, debatable) limits on judicial activism, and I regard Kennedy’s Casey ruling as a vapid Emersonian effusion, whose paean to individualism was really a license to kill inconvenient innocents. Even when he was right on the merits of an issue, he was still too aggrandizing, too eager to impose his own judgment, too quick to short-circuit legislative debates.

Douthat’s admiration for Scalia’s ‘Originalism’  ‘…because it establishes plausible (if, of course, debatable) limits on judicial activism,.. Call Mr. Douthat’s admiration for Scalia the political propinquity of one hyper-reactionary for anther of member of this species.  Mr. Douthat and his confreres defend the right to life of the  ‘unborn’ with a unslakable ferocity, yet make unrelenting war against  the ‘living’ with that same moralizing ferocity!

Douthat describes Kennedy as ‘neoliberal’:

To borrow an overused but still useful word, Kennedy was the modern court’s most “neoliberal” justice, embracing corporate freedom and sexual freedom as a kind of unity, attacking restraints on campaign spending and mandates to buy health insurance in the same spirit as restrictions on pornography or flag-burning or abortion.

A more apt descriptor of Kennedy’s jurisprudence, as Neo-Confederate Originalist fellow traveler,  is opportunism rather that ‘neoliberalism’.

A final quotation from the Douthat polemic to end my comment , although there is more to say, my patience with Douthat’s tedious moralizing chatter has reached it limits.

Here it may be that John Roberts, Kennedy’s likely successor as our First Archon, is better suited than his predecessor to the imperial task. We know that Roberts is more temperamentally cautious than Kennedy, more interested in limited rulings than in sweeping ones. We also know that he’s both more friendly to religious conservatism (witness his Obergefell vote) and more willing to let social-democratic policymaking stand (witness his vote to save Obamacare).

American Writer




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@JananGanesh on ‘Franzenism’: American Writer comments

The reader of Mr. Ganesh’s purely speculative ‘life report’ on the career of Mr. Franzen, which ends not with praise for Franzen the writer, but presents this author as an ‘anti-left crusader’, in sum, a ‘political elitist’. Not quite in the mold of Bellow, whose admiration and enthusiasm for Bloom’s paranoid hysteric , ‘The Closing of The American Mind’  about the the ‘Left’ of another decade , demonstrates that we are not reading V.S. Pritchett. This reader can think of no other literary critic to match the insights offered by Pritchett, even the redoubtable James Wood,  lacks the precision, brevity and insights offered even in Pritchett’s briefest of reviews.

According to Mr. Ganesh, Franzen, as writer, will not meet with the success that his concept of ‘Franzenism’, another name for the perennial critical hysterics about the ‘Left’, that is the argumentative mainstay of this elitist newspaper.

But Mr. Franzen has a decided rival in Jordan Peterson whose blend of culture bound psychology, Jungian Archetypes and campaign against the Post-Modernists, ‘the cultural Left’, Derrida among them: these villains, whose cultural,political,relativism and its ascendancy in an American context, is chronicled in  French Theory by François Cusset. And for the French  philosophical,intellectual and political context of ‘Post-Modernism’ read ‘French Philosophy of the Sixties, an Essay in Antihumanism ‘ by Ferry and Renaut. Mr. Peterson,  attacks the ghosts of ‘Post-Modernism’ as part of his strategic attack on the ‘Left’. 

Mr. Ganesh provides , as a matter of argumentative convenience, a narrow rhetorical frame for his defense of ‘elitism‘.  The larger political picture of the Defense of Elitism and its detractors like the ‘Left’ and the threat of the ‘Relativists’  is a cornerstone of ‘Conservatism’,  in its contemporary iteration. That political present is presented as an expression of an inevitability, that is the product of the leadership of an ‘elite’. The Neo-Liberal Project, that led to economic and political catastrophe, is the project of an ‘elite’s’ economic,political, social engineering. The very concept of the evils of  ‘social engineering’ was once one of the key arguments against the ‘Left’, yet the Neo-Liberals were as dedicated practitioners of that form of enforced social control as the ‘Left’

Final thought: it’s hard to realize, even to conceive, that Franzen had translated Karl Kraus, such is his American provincialism.   

American Writer




@A.J. Maher @StephenKMackSD

Thank you for your thoughtful comment.  I first read Gore Vidal in a Bantam paperback titled Sex,Death and Money published in 1968.  In it was an essay titled ‘French Letters: Theories of The New Novel’  that criticised the work of Robbe-Grillet, Sarraute, Butor, Simon and Pinget. Vidal’s wide ranging interests and his literary sophistication were a revelation of a kind: I was not quite ready, or more likely simply unable to comprehend. It wasn’t long before Vidal had engaged with the work Writing Degree Zero of Barthes.

Yet subsequently I read Rorty’s ‘Philosophy as a Kind of Writing’ An Essay on Derrida. The reader can decipher this essay as an advocacy of Derrida, but also as a defense of his own ‘Philosophizing’ as conscious exercise of philosophy as a literary genre.  After his Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. I had also read  John Sturrock’s ‘The Word from Paris’ and his insightful essay on Derrida in the London review of Books titled Sabotage.


There are many more Sturrock essays in the archive of the LRB on the subject of ‘Post- Structuralism’ . He was both an advocate and a unsparing critic of Derrida. I also have read Frederick Crews ‘Follies of the Wise’ the chapter titled ‘The End of the Post-Structuralist Era’ that identifies its nihilism as intellectually corrosive.

As you can tell , my engagement with Derrida and the Post-Structuralists, and their critics is of long duration.  The provincial Mr. Peterson is at war with the ghosts of Derrida and his epigones. It has escaped Peterson’s notice that Derrida and his acolytes  have simply faded from the intellectual scene. Derrida serves the important function of being  Peterson’s straw man.




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Andy Divine on Kennedy’s ‘True American Conservatism’ . American Writer comments


The opening paragraphs of Mr. Divine’s political funeral oration for Anthony Kennedy is worthy of full quotation:

The retirement of Anthony Kennedy is an obituary for conservatism in America.

Kennedy’s pragmatic libertarianism — his belief in limited government, pluralism, moderation, and social cohesion — didn’t fit into either of our two political tribes’ worldview. He favored marriage equality but also the religious freedom of fundamentalists; he opposed racial preferences but found a way to accommodate some version of affirmative action; he believed in free markets but saw a role for government in preventing climate change; he sided with the conservatives on the court much of the time (including in his final term) but defended the habeas corpus rights of Gitmo prisoners, ended the death penalty for the mentally ill and minors, protected the right to burn the flag, and when push came to shove, defended Roe. For all this, he frustrated a lot of people, in both tribes. Many Republicans loathed what his rulings meant for gay equality, affirmative action, abortion, and his refusal to be an Antonin Scalia clone. They mocked his rhetoric for its highfalutin vagueness. Many Democrats expressed their contempt for him as he left, decried his consistent federalism, and simply couldn’t grasp how a social moderate could also favor defending the rights of fundamentalists unfairly treated by the state government or of big money in politics because of the First Amendment.

In sum Kennedy was the exemplar of how Mr. Divine conceives ‘Conservatism’ . But in fact Divine’s apologetic is awash in the praise of what Kennedy was, the swing vote on a Supreme Court colonized by Neo-Confederate/Originalists. Who was a de facto member of that quartet, when it suited him.

The historical watershed of Brown I and II is the very genesis of The Federalist Society’s and its ‘Strict Constructionists’ as successor to the Dixiecrats, not to speak of the White Citizens Council. The quartet of Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch are, if not members of this organization, they share it in its racial and political hysterics .  Mr. Divine’s belief in the natural inferiority of black people, his enthusiasm for ‘The Bell Curve’ is unabated . Where does all this place Thomas?  Indeed a vexing question yet to be fathomed or even comprehended.

Kennedy and his ‘Citizens United’  decision maladroitly  orchestrated by Roberts to protect his reputation,  took the legal fiction of corporate personhood from its status as a  pragmatic  legal definition to an existential fact., that embraced the notion that money now enjoys a special political status. Further evidence of the Neo-Confederate/Originalist Quartet  had a reliable fellow traveler in Kennedy. This is the evidence of the  Plantation Mentality of this coterie.

Look to the latests Supreme Court  decision on Trump’s Muslim Ban , that took the opportunity to white -wash its obvious Islamaphobia by the overturning the utterly notorious Korematsu decision with this:

… “whatever rhetorical advantage the dissent may see in doing so, Korematsu has nothing to do with this case,” …

Mr. Divines praise for Kennedy  is a nearly bottomless well, framed as always by his copious  narcissism, aided by telling quotes and references to his political allies. Rhetorical brevity and concision are not virtues that Mr. Divine believes in nor practices, he favors the tedious political meander as demonstrative of his gasp of the political present: he is our self-appointed Platonic Guardian.

American Writer


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( jrosen@law.gwu.edu ) Jeffrey Rosen’s praise for Anthony Kennedy: Political Observer comments

It no surprise that the Corporatist Press should outdo themselves in praise of Anthony Kennedy. Mr. Rosen’s credentials are stellar in the Neo-Liberal terms of Market Fetishism wedded to Academic status:

Jeffrey Rosen is a contributing editor for The Atlantic. He is the president and CEO of the National Constitution Center and a professor of law at the George Washington University.

In the Age of Trump even the Republican Leadership almost looks ‘reasonable’. But elided from Mr. Rosen’s embarrassing hagiography is  Kennedy’s ‘Citizens United’ decision.

As the in-order-too of not looking like the lair he is/was before the Senate Judiciary Committee, John Robert’s appointed Kennedy as the lead in ‘Citizens United‘ case. The fact of Robert’s, not just praise but fealty, toward stare decisis  as part of his self-presentation before the senators is a lie that he acted upon, when the memory of his pronouncement had past into the oblivion of inconvenient history.  An utter inconvenience to Rosen’s kow-towing to Kennedy, as some kind of answer to the specter of Robert Bork.  But the pièce de résistance is this:

The law professor Akhil Amar has called the sunny Californian a combination of Jimmy Stewart, Ronald Reagan, and Earl Warren, whom Kennedy knew as a child.

I once saw a video where Mr. Amar referred to Kennedy as ‘Tony’. Friendship with the powerful can corrupt the faculty of judgement!

The concluding paragraph of Mr. Rosen’s essay is a model of the kind of praise reserved for the reputation of a public servant, or more realistically a Platonic Guardian,  in need of  a fresh application of white wash.

There will be plenty of time to assess the impact of Kennedy’s successor on the Constitution and the law. On the day of his retirement, Kennedy deserves America’s thanks for believing that all citizens, regardless of party or faction, can unite around the ideals Americans share, rooted in the U.S. Constitution.

See the repeal of Korematsu, as reported in The New York Times, which refers to Sotomayor’s dissent:

The court’s liberals denounced the decision. In a passionate and searing dissent from the bench, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the decision was no better than Korematsu v. United States, the 1944 decision that endorsed the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

The court’s liberals denounced the decision. In a passionate and searing dissent from the bench, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the decision was no better than Korematsu v. United States, the 1944 decision that endorsed the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Here is how the majority attempted to ‘explain’  the Korematsu decision:

… “whatever rhetorical advantage the dissent may see in doing so, Korematsu has nothing to do with this case,” …

Political Observer


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Peter Hitchens on Mrs. Thatcher’s ‘noble failure’. Political Observer comments

Peter Hitchens on ‘the noble failure’ of Thatcher The Milk Snatcher. The reader almost reaches the point of feeling sorry for the utterly disillusioned Mr. Hitchens! (If only Peter had the literary gifts that Christopher possessed.)

Mr. Hitchens repeats, with a misbegotten nostalgia, the Conservative catechism against the political present, ruled by the shibboleths of institutionalized ‘Leftism’, and a political leader who failed so miserably to effect a lasting change. That would have made impossible that ‘institutionalized Leftism’ that he agonizes about. Is Hitchens advocating a ‘Conservative permanent revolution’?

Which is the greater wrong, that triumphant ‘Leftism’ or The Iron Lady’s failure? Perhaps Mrs. Thatcher should have spent less time handing out copies of ‘Road to Serfdom‘ like party favors, and arguing/belittling her male Cabinet Ministers ,and political handlers.

What escapes Mr. Hithchens’ political attention, as he gives full reign to his nostalgia, tinctured in disillusion, is that the Labour Party is now being led by Mr. Corbyn. Certainly, in the political estimation of Peter Hitchens, an utter throwback to the Labour Party long before the New Labour of  Tony Blair. And that Mrs. May’s leadership can’t even compare to that of the Iron Lady’s. In fact, Mrs. May demonstrates a kind of astounding political incompetence. Is Mr. Hitchens’ political nostalgia, in a minor key, related to May’s failed leadership?

Political Observer


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