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Category: Contemporary Life

From the historian who brought us ‘Ordinary Men’

“But Hitler was a fixated ideologue with a strong party organization, while Trump is an opportunistic narcissist driven above all by the need for adulation. Hitler was the ‘little corporal,’ the man of the people, who feigned austerity, while Trump is a billionaire who flaunts his wealth and luxurious life-style. Ultimately, Trump seems far more a hybrid of Berlusconi and Putin, potentially merging kleptocracy and autocracy, than the reincarnation of an ideologically driven, war-mongering, and genocidal dictator.” “I would suggest that a major source of our unease — beyond Trump’s… Read more From the historian who brought us ‘Ordinary Men’

Gaslighting

I have been learning new terms these past months. Today it was “alternative facts,” which goes together with an older term, apparently repurposed for our current political and cultural moment—“gaslighting.” I saw the latter term on a protest sign at the Women’s March yesterday.

Automation

I was standing near the driver in my bus yesterday, waiting for the light to change so I could get off. When the light turned green, but the car in front of us didn’t move, the driver beeped his horn. I said, “People need to get off their phones,” which earned a laugh from the driver. Then he added something I hadn’t recognized about the situation: “Uber drivers are the worst. I thought taxi drivers were bad . . .” I almost quipped something about how automation will soon take care… Read more Automation

‘Black Man Driving’

A woman I met way back when my son and her daughter were still in kindergarten or the first grade has written a piece that drives home the unfortunate contradictions in what passes for a national conversation in these United States. It’s not preachy or partisan, just personal, the kind of thing that can make you think, even if you don’t happen to know the man in question.

My husband of twenty-seven years is a police officer. He’s a decent man, a kind man, the kind of police officer you’d want if you were in trouble. He’s also a black man. A black man who I worry about more when he is out of uniform than when he is wearing one.

Read the whole piece: Black Man Driving

Authors of Interrogation Handbook Abuse Their Sources

In a piece called “Mind Games: Remembering Brainwashing” from today’s New York Times, Tim Wiener points to one of the more irresponsible uses of historical documents that I have seen this summer. Apparently “American military and intelligence officers” (he is not more specific) decided in 2002 to examine Cold War CIA studies of Chinese interrogation methods during the Korean War. After all, these Communists were the supposed masters who fed the kinds of fears that later gave rise to a movie like “The Manchurian Candidate.” In one major study the… Read more Authors of Interrogation Handbook Abuse Their Sources

Outsourcing Revisited: Doonesbury at War

Checking out his email in the kitchen and talking to Reverend Sloan, B.D. says:

Man, does Ray seem down lately. He keeps asking if people at home still support the troops—as if most Americans actually had a personal stake. Emotionally, we outsourced this war—to a professional class that mainstream America has almost no contact with. Most people are completely baffled why anyone would serve. Ray has no idea how isolated he really is.

Zonker sits down and says, “Boy B.D., when you’re right, you’re right.” Boopsie, B.D.’s wife, agrees and asks, “Should we send Ray something to show we’re thinking of him. Zonker suggests a box of medals. “Don’t soldiers like medals?” Enthusiastic, Boopsie replies, “I know B.D. does. Good thought!”

Meanwhile, B.D. is covering his face with his left hand and looking down in disbelief, disgust, or despair, while the reverend tells him, “You can rest your case.”

Outsourcing Military Tasks

There has been much scrutiny in the press recently about the U.S. outsourcing military missions to private companies like Blackwater. P.W. Singer pointed out many problems with this trend in yesterday’s Washington Post. The most important from my point of view is the weak link between the American people and warmaking: Since the end of the Vietnam War, the United States has sought to ensure that there’s a link between the public and the costs of war, so that good decisions will be made and an ethos of responsibility fostered.… Read more Outsourcing Military Tasks