Adam Serwer

Bloggingheads: Non-Glibertarian Edition

I talk debt ceiling, Obama's poor negotiation skills, and gay rights with Reason 's Katherine Mangu-Ward: One thing I forgot to mention: Shariah panic seems fringy, and if it really were just Herman Cain, it might not be a problem worth worrying about. But the Homeland Security Committee chairman is at least a partial believer .

Bat Privilege

Chris Simms ponders the relationship between Batman and Superman, the "World's Finest Friendship." Stories where Batman rails against Superman for being able to fly above it all and have bullets bounce of his chest while sitting in his billion-dollar stealth jet, nestled snugly in his kevlar armor, both of which were prepared for the evening by his combat trained butler , are among the dumbest things that have ever seen print. Yes, Batman struggled and trained, and that's a very important aspect of his character, but you know how he traveled around the world to become a ninja and stocked his utility belt with grappling hooks and pointy metal logos? He used the vast fortune he inherited from his parents through no effort of his own , and having that much money is the closest thing we have in the real world to super-powers. Ragging on Superman for "inheriting" powers -- powers he uses exclusively to help other people -- rather than being a self-made man isn't just being a dick, it's...

The Abdo Arrest

The debt ceiling is dominating national media coverage right now, but the arrest of Private Naser Jason Abdo on suspicion of planning a second attack on Fort Hood is going to become focus in the next few weeks. In the aftermath of Nidal Malik Hasan's rampage that killed 13 people in 2009, Republicans argued that "political correctness" was hampering the government's ability to identify extremists before they acted. Conservatives were already furious that Abdo had obtained conscientious-objector status based on his religious belief that he was prohibited from killing other Muslims, and they're likely to argue that the same problem was at work here, that Abdo's beliefs were obvious evidence of extremism, and that it was only fortune that stopped a second tragedy. Erik Vasys, a spokesman for the FBI’s San Antonio field office, said police in Killeen arrested Abdo after “concerned citizens” reported suspicious activity. After police determined that Abdo was wanted on the child pornography...

The End Of The Republican Foreign-Policy Consensus?

Eli Lake writes that the Republican foreign-policy consensus has collapsed, but I'm actually not so sure it has. As the last paragraph of his piece suggests, it's merely shifted from the ideological clarity of neoconservatism to a far more ... flexible principle: And so, it’s hard to know for sure how Perry or anyone else would conduct themselves once in office. Moreover, it is important not to exaggerate the differences between the major GOP candidates. There are some things they do agree on. All are staunch supporters of Israel. And all seem eager to contrast their own patriotic rhetoric with what they see as Obama’s self-effacing style of speaking about America. Romney captures this idea in his book No Apology, when he writes, “President Obama, always the skillful politician, will throw in compliments about America here and there. But what makes his speeches jump out at his audience are the steady stream of criticisms, put downs, and jabs directed at the nation he was elected to...

Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories I Can Get Down With

Brian Tashman pokes fun at a conservative columnist who concludes that the Founding Fathers were a key element of the liberal fascist conspiracy: Under the Articles of Confederation, the central government of America was very weak – which was a good thing. It was true then, and it's true now: You can have a strong government and a weak people, or a strong people and a weak government – but you cannot have both. Today, we have a draconian, out-of-control government and a very weak people. Arguably, democracy in this country started to break down in 1787 when the Constitution created a strong federal government. It got worse – much worse – under the fascist policies of Woodrow Wilson's reign from 1912 to 1920. Then, beginning in 1932, FDR's failed socialist policies took away even more individual freedom from American citizens. And the final disintegration of true democracy in the U.S. was catalyzed by the left-wing revolutionaries of the '60s. I mean, sure this is funny, but only in...

The History Of The Racial Wealth Gap

I want to co-sign Ta-Nehisi Coates' approval of Melissa Harris-Perry properly contextualizing the history of the wealth gap between whites and nonwhites while subbing for Rachel Maddow: Visit msnbc.com for breaking news , world news , and news about the economy I would have gone farther than Harris-Perry, though. During the so-called age of liberal consensus, the massive engine of the federal government was devoted to creating an American middle class, but that was only possible because of the Faustian bargain made between Southern segregationists and liberals to ensure that black people were cut off from the opportunities being created. One of the most powerful and devastating historical myths is that the economic and social asymmetry that resulted had nothing to do with government and everything to do with one group of people being culturally inferior to the group that supposedly pulled itself up by its bootstraps. That myth is key to rationalizing the idea that government lacks the...

Is Al-Qaeda On The Ropes?

I meant to respond to this earlier this week, but I think the notion that al-Qaeda is on the verge of defeat would best be taken with more than a grain of salt. As Daveed Gartenstein-Ross points out, we've heard this before -- government officials have been periodically writing al-Qaeda's obituary since 2003: President Bush claimed in September 2003 that al-Qaeda was on the ropes. As Time reported, he told the nation that up to two-thirds of the group’s known leadership was captured or killed; the same Time story said that “its training camps in Afghanistan have been destroyed and the relentless worldwide campaign [against it] has denied it new sanctuaries.” In April 2006, the consensus of the intelligence community was that al-Qaeda had in fact been defeated as an organization. The National Intelligence Estimate released that month said that “the global jihadist movement is decentralized, lacks a coherent strategy, and is becoming more diffuse.” The following month, President Bush...

Fallout

The problem with Smurfette . Everyone loves Cathy Lanier. A Planned Parenthood in Texas that was firebombed doesn't actually provide abortions. Gaza's economic mirage .

Austerity As Medieval Medicine

My post at Greg's today, about that fact that both parties' austerity plans will likely hurt the economy: From the point of view of helping the economy recover, this is idiotic. For Republicans, of course, increased unemployment and lower GDP increase the possibility of Obama being a one term president. The reason few people are stating the obvious — that there’s something oddly masochistic about harming the economy at time when so many are unemployed — is that both sides are pushing plans that could damage the recovery. That’s because we’re trapped in a Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop, where no one’s talking about unemployment and everyone’s talking about the deficit. It’s no surprise then, that the American public is increasingly confused about the impact of spending cuts — indeed, there’s been a big swing in favor of the idea that cuts create jobs, rather than the other way around. With both parties competing for the mantle of austerity, they’re acting a bit like two crazed medeival...

Frank Gaffney Loses It

The Shariah panic folks are taking hard the news that the alleged Oslo terrorist was a white anti-Muslim extremist who shared their views in a variety of ways. But I'm not sure anyone is having as much trouble as the Center for Security Policy's Frank Gaffney, whose website summarized yesterday's show thusly: In his 1,500 page manifesto, Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik outlined his desire for partnerships with jihadists, as well as singled out those people he felt unjustly persecuted his fellow extremists. One of the people blamed in his declaration for the oppression of Muslims was Robert Spencer, a prominent author and the director of Jihad Watch. Robert joins Frank to discuss how the media continues to insist that his resistance to jihadist activities fuels anti-Muslim sentiments. Many anti-Muslim activists and writers are beside themselves over being cited by Breivik, but Gaffney is the only one who seems to have constructed an alternate universe. Breivik doesn't so much "blame...

Admin Defends Handling Of Warsame Case To Senate Republicans

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper sent a letter to Senate Republicans defending their decision to transfer alleged al Shabaab member Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame to U.S. soil for trial in federal court. Among the reasons cited is that establishing jurisdiction in the military commissions system would require disclosure of classified evidence that wouldn't be necessary in civilian court. Because of legal restrictions, Warsame wouldn't be able to simply be tried by military commission, prosecutors would have to prove that he's eligible to be tried in that forum. In a House Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this week, University of Texas Law Professor Robert Chesney made that exact point, only to be curtly rebutted by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who pointed out that a list of unindicted coconspirators was revealed during the 1993...

Rick Perry Abandons Marriage Equality Federalism

Well that was quick : "I probably needed to add a few words after that 'it's fine with me' and that it's fine with me that a state is using their sovereign rights to decide an issue," he said. "Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn't changed." Perry said he supported changing the Constitution in order to ban gay marriage, a position that he characterized as supportive of states' rights even as it would overrule New York's own decision on the matter. So Perry is okay with states deciding marriage issues on their own, up until the Constitution can be amended in order to prevent consenting adults in love with each other from forming marriage pacts recognized by the state. This is consistent from a federalist point of view but morally reprehensible in the sense that Perry supports amending the Constitution in order to reflect his personal prejudices about who is entitled to what fundamental rights. But I suppose you couldn't expect much from the kind of person who...

A Second Fort Hood Attack?

Private Nasser Jason Abdo, a Muslim soldier who recently applied for conscientious objector status because he said his religion prohibited him from killing other Muslims, was arrested on allegations of planning a second attack on Fort Hood. He was reportedly found with explosives in his car.

Bill Nye, Liberal Propagandist

Bill Nye the Science Guy schools a Fox News anchor who tries to use Moon volcanoes to disprove climate change on Earth: He's so reasonable about it, despite the brief, annoyed crinkle in his forehead.

The Gripers And Groaners

Ta-Nehisi Coates takes on the Obama administration's disdain for the "professional left." Obama has been much praised for the magnanimity he shows his opposition. But such empathy, unburdened by actual expectations, comes easy. More challenging is the work of coping with those who have the disagreeable habit of taking the president, and his talk of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America” seriously. In that business, Obama would do well to understand that while democracy depends on intelligent compromise, it also depends on the ill-tempered gripers and groaners out in the street. The Party of Lincoln, whatever its present designs, has not forgotten this. I think it's really easy to say the president has forgotten this because, obviously, he doesn't like to be criticized. But I think the left in general would benefit as much from a larger recognition that democracy depends on "the ill-tempered gripers and groaners out in the street." Part of the reason the GOP...

Pages