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Links 1 through 10 of 460 by Shaun Green tagged politics

When the signal faded I switched over to AM and found the right-wing talk-show host Laura Ingraham asking Donald Rumsfeld whether it was possible that the country was on the verge of another five decades of domination by the Democratic Party, as had been the case from the 1930s until 1980, when Ronald Reagan restored normality and routed the commies. Rumsfeld had for the past week been ubiquitous in the American media, hawking a phone app he had helped devise called Churchill Solitaire, based on a card game taught to him by another diplomat during his stint as US ambassador to Nato and supposedly a favoured pastime of its namesake. He wasn’t as agitated as Ingraham but he said that if 84 per cent of Iowan Democrats under the age of thirty were supporting a self-declared socialist it was a sign that American high schools weren’t teaching economics properly.

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The UK state – its economy, its culture, its fractured identities and party system – is in a much deeper crisis than many want to accept. Its governors, at least in public, remain in semi-denial. English politicians assumed that the threat to the unitary state had been seen off after they got the result they wanted in the Scottish independence referendum. The results of last year’s general election suggested otherwise. The SNP now exercises a virtual monopoly of Scottish representation in the House of Commons and most opinion polls indicate a small majority in favour of Scottish independence. The impact of this on the crisis of Labourism, old and new, should not be underestimated. It is the most dramatic change in the UK party system since the foundation of the Labour Party itself.

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Myth is a story that can be retold by anyone, with infinite variation, and still be recognisable as itself. The outline of surviving myth is re-recognised in the lives of each generation. It’s an instrument by which people simplify, rationalise and retell social complexities. It’s a means to haul the abstract, the global and the relative into the realm of the concrete, the local and the absolute. It’s a way to lay claim to faith in certain values. If those who attempt to interpret the world do so only through the prism of professional thinkers, and ignore the persistence of myth in everyday thought and speech, the interpretations will be deficient. This is the importance of the Robin Hood myth. It’s the first and often the only political-economic fable we learn. It’s not a children’s story, although it is childlike. It contains the three essential ingredients of grown-up narrative – love, death and money – without being a love story, a tragedy or a comedy.

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Because online abuse is real and often very damaging, it can be used to allow those who are actually perpetrating violence to claim the mantle of victimhood. In this upended moral cosmology, calling someone names online is a significantly greater sin than starting a war, and only slightly less egregious than holding your wine glass by the bowl.

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Indeed, Bourke shows that during the crisis years leading up to the declaration of American independence in 1776, the main thrust of Burke’s central critique of the British regime’s mishandling of colonial affairs was that it lacked a theory of empire. British policymakers were short of the sensitivity and pragmatism required to conciliate the colonists precisely because they were attempting to muddle through in the absence of a clear vision of how the empire functioned. As Bourke puts it, ‘misconstruing’ notional sovereignty within a loose, informal empire as practical executive power after the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763 had resulted in disastrous imperial overstretch.

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This is what it looks like from the West. A post-Soviet republic holds a presidential election which a candidate from the east of the country with criminal backing attempts to steal, provoking a popular uprising, a rerun of the election and the victory of his opponent. Six years later the eastern candidate wins the presidency against a divided opposition, jails his main opponent on trumped up charges, moves members of his clan into key positions, and amasses a huge fortune. [...] This is how they see it from the other side. Following a disputed election result, a pre-planned uprising backed by Western intelligence in a former part of the Soviet Union forces the judiciary to rerun an election. The winner presides over a factious and sectarian administration, every bit as corrupt as its predecessor, and it’s no surprise that the previously ousted winner is properly re-elected six years later.

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A fundamental insight of psychoanalysis is that we never grow out of our childhood. It is not a particularly difficult thought; does anyone remember a clear moment in their lives when they qualitatively stopped being children? When they experienced themselves as somehow distinct from how they experienced themselves as children? When they stopped being tired, hyperactive, confused, excited, desirous, angry, jealous, insecure, and arrogant? The wager of psychoanalysis is that we never grow out of childhood, but only that we come to think that we have. As soon as we’ve done that, we close ourselves off to many possibilities and many of our own wishes. We become efficient but numb, perhaps even unhappy. It is at this point we might undergo therapy – to enter into a conversation with a trained analyst that might allow us to have a more honest and rich conversation with ourselves, our wishes, our pasts and our futures.

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The formation of a new party called Podemos was announced at a meeting in a small neighbourhood theatre in Madrid on 17 January 2014. It had come about through an unlikely pact between Iglesias and the Trotskyist group Izquierda Anticapitalista (Anticapitalist Left), which was tiny but had the national structure in place that provided an organisational base for the Complutense set. Iglesias announced that he would stand for Podemos in the European elections if fifty thousand people signed up on its website: the target was achieved within two days. The party’s grassroots set up assembly-style círculos, or circles, a network of groups convened online or in person, defined either by geography or by area of interest or identity: science, sport, LBGT etc. This ‘distributed network’ model replicated the methods of both the indignados and the phenomenally successful housing activist group PAH, whose former spokesperson Ada Colau was elected mayor of Barcelona in May.

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In July Habermas told the Guardian that Schäuble and his SPD allies had ‘gambled away in one night all the political capital that a better Germany had accumulated in half a century – and by “better” I mean a Germany characterised by greater political sensitivity and a post-national mentality.’ But as Winkler has said more clearly than anyone else, the EU has never been conceived as a post-national project for Germany. It is rather a frame within which German national history can be realised. For Winkler, as for Schäuble, this certainly involves a commitment to democracy. But their conception of pluralism has always been tempered. Despite the prominent position of figures such as Habermas and the tolerance extended to fringe parties like Syriza or Die Linke, the dominant strand in Europe’s postwar history has never offered space for the realisation of a radical alternative politics. Under normal circumstances the neoliberal logic of discipline is enough to enforce these ground rules. But conditions since 2008 have been far from normal. And far from manifesting a forgetting of history, as Habermas suggests, the active politics of containment pursued by Schäuble reflects the continuing power of the conservative impulses that derived from the disasters of the first half of the 20th century.

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Thatcher pounced. She used her conference speech to excoriate Kinnock for his pusillanimity. A future Labour government had waved the white flag before it had even arrived in office: ‘Exposed to the threat of nuclear blackmail,’ she told the conference, ‘there would be no option but surrender.’ She contrasted the weakness of Kinnock’s position with that of more robust Labour politicians of an earlier generation – Gaitskell, Bevan – who had defied their party’s wishful thinking on matters of national defence. They had been patriots. Kinnock, by implication, was not. The Tory high command no longer needed to come up with a fresh campaign blueprint for the election it hoped to call the following year. It had this one on standby, just waiting for the occasion.

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