Michael Wolraich's picture

    Ken Burns and the Myth of Theodore Roosevelt

    The Roosevelts, a new PBS documentary by director Ken Burns, presents President Theodore Roosevelt as a political superhero. In photo after photo, Burns’s famous pan-and-zoom effect magnifies Roosevelt’s flashing teeth and upraised fist. The reverential narrator hails his fighting spirit and credits him with transforming the role of American government through sheer willpower. “I attack,” an actor blusters, imitating Roosevelt’s patrician cadence, “I attack iniquities.”

    Though exciting to watch, Burns’s cinematic homage muddles the history. Roosevelt was a great president and brilliant politician, but he was not the progressive visionary and fearless warrior that Burns lionizes. He governed as a pragmatic centrist and a mediator who preferred backroom deal-making to open warfare. At the time, many of his progressive contemporaries criticized him for excessive caution. The “I attack” quote, for example, came from a 1915 interview in which Roosevelt defended himself from accusations that he had been too conciliatory.

    Read the full article at New York Magazine's culture website, Vulture.com

    Hal Ginsberg's picture

    The Case of Steven Salaita

    Generally, I am skeptical of claims of anti-semitism in the academy. I think that people for a variety of reasons confuse legitimate criticism of Israel with anti-semitism. Accordingly, I was inclined to side with former University of Illinois Professor Steven Salaita and CUNY-Brooklyn Professor Corey Robin who claim that Salaita was wrongly terminated from the University of Illinois because he tweeted critically of Israel.

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    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Who Lost Scotland?

    Today Scotland votes on independence: a fifty-fifty referendum on leaving the United Kingdom. It's gone from a long shot to a statistical dead heat, and nobody can say for sure how the vote will go. But what's certain is that Scotland's old relationship with the rest of Britain is finished. The Scottish independence movement will not just go away if they come up a couple percent short; they're never going to give up now that they've gotten this close. And if a united United Kingdom squeaks by, Scotland will expect to be given much more autonomy than it's had so far.

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    Ramona's picture

    Making Excuses For Spanking: Adding Insult To Injury

    Every few months--sometimes less--a story about child abuse hits the airwaves and everyone takes it to the top and talks about it.  Everyone agrees that child abuse is bad.  How could they not?  Child abuse IS bad.  This time it's

    Michael Maiello's picture

    Friday Deep Thoughts (Open Thread!)

    When U.S. trade policies wreck entire industries and cause unemployment, our answer is "train the workers."

    When U.S. foreign policies wreck entire regions, sending them into a tailspin of ethnic, religious and economic violence and chaos our answer is "train the local armies to deal with it."

    I think we need to combine these two things to turn the unemployed into the world's most effective killing machine.  I mean, it's just synergy, right?

    **End of Week Open Thread!**

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Attack on ISIS (Watch Your Wallet)

    As I somewhat expected, the military hawks have won over American public opinion regarding Syria/Iraq/ISIS, though what they get for that is tempered by Obama's pru

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    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Obama's Mission

    Barack Obama was elected because the American people were tired of being bogged down in unwinnable foreign wars. He was elected because a majority of American voters had come to view the Iraq war as a mistake. This is a basic, bottom-line political fact. Therefore, it is not (and cannot be) Official Beltway Wisdom.

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    Ramona's picture

    He Hit Her. And She Went Down

    The big domestic story this week is the suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice after a video surfaced showing him inside an elevator punching his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, so hard he knocks her out cold.  She falls on the floor, unconscious, and when the elevator door opens he is seen dragging her out of the elevator, kicking her to get her dead weight away from the doors, never once seeming to worry about the fact that she is not moving.

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Half-Assed: Why America Cannot Stop the Slaughter in Iraq

    As ISIS pursues its genocidal dreams in Syria and Iraq, Bruce Levine asks, "whether we as human beings living in the most powerful nation in the world can stand by yet again and do nothing -- as thousands or tens of thousands of innocent human beings  are slaughtered."

    The question conceals a heavy premise: that we have the power to stop the slaughter if we choose to exercise it.

    I do not deny the premise, at least in principle. If we unleash our full military and economic might, we can surely defeat ISIS forces and build stable, peaceful states in Iraq and Syria. But full mobilization and massive nation-building projects are not realistic options in the current political environment. We may muster the will for limited military operations in Iraq, but we're unwilling to do what it takes to succeed. Consequently, our efforts to stop the slaughter are doomed to fail and may make the situation even worse.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    What If The People Who Want To Go To War In Syria Are Fantasists?

    This Foreign Affairs article by Kenneth M. Pollack is a sight to behold. In it, the Brookings Senior Fellow and oft-quoted historian of military history in the Middle East, suggests that the United States should recruit, train, fund and equip a new Syrian army capable of defeating ISIS and deposing Bashar al-Assad at the same time.

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