United States

Umberto Eco, who spent his early years in fascist Italy, once wrote, “Mussolini did not have any philosophy: he had only rhetoric.” This is, perhaps, the most fundamentally apposite statement of the politics of Donald Trump. He has no philosophy beyond the grumpy natterings common to superannuated white men: raging against the dying of the light with the noontide of white privilege only barely receding. He has only bluster and threats and the lugubrious schmooze of the inveterate speculator. (More…)

Imagine a quickly assembled militia, with legally purchased firearms and military-like training, having a standoff with US Border Patrol over the family separations that have occurred at the border of the United States and Mexico. This imaginary armed group says that the law enforcement agency has unjustly violated the sovereignty of these families, and while US law says differently, the group maintains that the borders were drawn fictitiously and enforced by an undemocratic government. Bullets are exchanged. A few people on both sides are killed. (More…)

As I stood there in the brutal midday sun, I had a decision to make. Should I go back inside and leave the man trying to repair our air conditioning unit to do his work in silence? Or would it be more respectful to stand there and suffer with him? In the end, I stayed. He seemed happy to have the company. And I was, too. (More…)

The SCOTUS has now affirmed the legality of Mr. Trump’s travel ban.  The ban itself is odious. It is unapologetically racist and erodes the standing of the United States in the world without, it must be said, standing the slightest chance of preventing actual acts of terrorism. (More…)

In 2017 American liberals could still laugh. The Trump Administration was plagued with resignations, firings, court rulings against White House edicts, a failure to overturn ObamaCare in Congress and a president who sometimes couldn’t even make up his own mind on controversial policies – liberals could still take comfort in the idea that they were dealing with “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight”. (More…)

When US Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited Paul, who wrote Philippians from prison, in support of imprisoning migrant children, the irony was hideous. Immediately after Sessions and White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders used the Bible to defend Trump Administration policy, the Internet was flooded with religious progressives — and some conservative clergy as well — providing counter-interpretations. (More…)

It is a sad fact of our current situation that great literature no longer carries the weight that it used to. This is no simply a matter of postmodernism knocking the wind out of linear novelistic narratives. In some cases, it is a matter of what was barely thinkable becoming commonplace. (More…)

I have two preferred cafés. The first, near our home in Phoenix, is independently owned, with a wide porch looking out over an artificial lake. The owners are a Greek family and they make sure that there is baklava available.  (More…)

In Moby Dick, Herman Melville famously wrote of the “fast-fish and loose-fish” doctrine. A dead whale connected to an occupied boat or marked with a distinctive symbol – “waifed” – was a recognized possession, a fast-fish. Any other whale found floating was a loose-fish. His narrator Ishmael uses these two principles of the whaling community as the basis for an inquiry into the relationship between freedom and power. (More…)

As an American with numerous friends in foreign countries, it often falls to one to be the interpreter (not to say justifier) of what goes on in American public life. In part, this is simply the normal interplay of people seeking to understand cultures and mores foreign to their own, and it is the subject of a literature has a long provenance, from Xenophon and Julius Caesar to Tocqueville and Twain, to Alastair Cooke (to name only a few). (More…)

Congressional Republicans have a Trump problem. Mr. Trump has made himself so toxic, conventional wisdom has it, that the losses normally suffered by the party that holds the White House in an off-year election will be so catastrophic as to rock the foundations of Republican hegemony. (More…)

You can sense them building up, like storm runoff at a dam. It’s possible that the worst won’t happen this time. But one day they will become impossible to contain. The excuses, I mean. Although Donald Trump may wildly overstate his prowess in many areas, there is no doubt that he makes them with the aplomb of a world-class con artist and, more importantly, also makes them stick. (More…)