Ghazala Khan: Trump criticized my silence. He knows nothing about true sacrifice

Ghazala Khan in the Washington Post:

Ghazala-khan-fires-back-at-trump-shares-story-of-losing-her-son-to-warDonald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said hewould like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart.

Donald Trump said I had nothing to say. I do. My son Humayun Khan, an Army captain, died 12 years ago in Iraq. He loved America, where we moved when he was 2 years old. He had volunteered to help his country, signing up for the ROTC at the University of Virginia. This was before the attack of Sept. 11, 2001. He didn’t have to do this, but he wanted to.

When Humayun was sent to Iraq, my husband and I worried about his safety. I had already been through one war, in Pakistan in 1965, when I was just a high school student. So I was very scared. You can sacrifice yourself, but you cannot take it that your kids will do this.

More here.

Why Growth Will Fall

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William D. Nordhaus reviews Robert J. Gordon's The Rise and Fall of American Growth in The New York Review of Books:

Robert Gordon has written a magnificent book on the economic history of the United States over the last one and a half centuries. His study focuses on what he calls the “special century” from 1870 to 1970—in which living standards increased more rapidly than at any time before or after. The book is without peer in providing a statistical analysis of the uneven pace of growth and technological change, in describing the technologies that led to the remarkable progress during the special century, and in concluding with a provocative hypothesis that the future is unlikely to bring anything approaching the economic gains of the earlier period.

The message of Rise and Fall is this. For most of human history, economic progress moved at a crawl. According to the economic historian Bradford DeLong, from the first rock tools used by humanoids three million years ago, to the earliest cities ten thousand years ago, through the Middle Ages, to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution around 1800, living standards doubled (with a growth of 0.00002 percent per year). Another doubling took place over the subsequent period to 1870. Then, according to standard calculations, the world economy took off.

Gordon focuses on growth in the United States. Living standards, as measured by GDPper capita or real wages, accelerated after 1870. The growth rate looks like an inverted U. Productivity growth rose from the late nineteenth century and peaked in the 1950s, but has slowed to a crawl since 1970. In designating 1870–1970 as the special century, Gordon emphasizes that the period since 1970 has been less special. He argues that the pace of innovation has slowed since 1970 (a point that will surprise many people), and furthermore that the gains from technological improvement have been shared less broadly (a point that is widely appreciated and true).

A central aspect of Gordon’s thesis is that the conventional measures of economic growth omit some of the largest gains in living standards and therefore underestimate economic progress. A point that is little appreciated is that the standard measures of economic progress do not include gains in health and life expectancy. Nor do they include the impact of revolutionary technological improvements such as the introduction of electricity or telephones or automobiles. Most of the book is devoted to describing many of history’s crucial technological revolutions, which in Gordon’s view took place in the special century. Moreover, he argues that the innovations of today are much narrower and contribute much less to improvements in living standards than did the innovations of the special century.

More here.

In praise of Dewey

Dewey

Nicholas Tampio in Aeon:

Did you attend a public school in the United States and perform in a school play, take field trips, or compete on a sports team? Did you have a favourite teacher who designed their own curriculum, say, about the Civil War, or helped you find your particular passions and interests? Did you take classes that were not academic per se but that still opened your eyes to different aspects of human experience such as fixing cars? Did you do projects that required planning and creativity? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you are the beneficiary of John Dewey’s pedagogical revolution.

Dewey put forth the philosophy of education that would change the world inDemocracy and Education, a book that turns 100 this year. Dewey’s influence is far-reaching, but his pedagogy has been under assault for at least a generation. The United States Department of Education report A Nation at Risk (1983) signalled the rise of the anti-Dewey front, under the somewhat misleading name of the ‘education reform’ movement. The report warns that other countries will soon surpass the US in wealth and power because ‘a rising tide of mediocrity’ engulfs schools in the US. The problem, according to the report, is that US education is ‘an often incoherent, outdated patchwork quilt’. The education reform movement aims to replace that ‘patchwork quilt’ – mostly made by local school boards, teachers and parents – with a more uniform system based on national standards.

The political right has often led the charge against Dewey’s legacy. In 1897, Dewey described his ‘pedagogic creed’ as ‘individualistic’ and ‘socialistic’ because it sees the need to nurture each child’s unique talents and interests in a supportive community. For both the business community and traditional-values conservatives, Dewey’s pedagogy fails to train workers, and inculcates liberal, even socialistic values.

More here.

Noise Is a Drug and New York Is Full of Addicts

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Susie Neilson in Nautilus:

What am I detoxing from? Noise. I live in the East Village, which is very noisy—illegally noisy. Last year, Jackie Le and Matthew Palmer, acoustics engineering students at Cooper Union, decided to investigate the noise levels of the area near their school for their senior project. Le and Palmer went to various apartments around this neighborhood and, using a decibel meter, calculated the average level of volume coming in through the open windows of multiple apartments, and compared them with “safe” levels defined by New York City’s recently-revised noise code. “In every instance, we found the noise coming into these people’s apartments was above code,” Le says.

I can vouch for this. I’ve spent this whole year telling anyone who will listen that the hundreds of nights I’ve spent trying to fall asleep in my apartment constitute a Sisyphean Hell of endurance: the iterating, irritating garbage trucks, the construction that starts at promptly 6 a.m. and continues into evening. I make a lot of noise about the noise, and I’m not the only one. Noise is the single greatest quality-of-life complaint New Yorkers have (we lodged 18,000 phone complaints with the Department of Environmental Protection last July alone). We all love to hate the noise. And yet sitting in silence, I do not feel as if I’ve found an escape from pain: I have simply traded it for a new variety. Shockingly, I realize I want to trade back.

In this city of complainers, who could admit to loving something so easy to complain about? Lewis Black, a comedian, couches his praise of noise in a cynical one-liner, noting dryly, “The reason I live in New York City is because it’s the loudest city on the planet Earth. It’s so loud I never have to listen to any of the shit that’s going on in my own head.”

Black might be on to something. Noise can cause us distress and pain, but it can also help us think, perceive, remember, and be more creative. It turns out that it’s even necessary for our physiological and mental functioning. If it’s a drug, then it’s a performance drug. And New York is full of addicts.

More here.

The Spanish Civil War, 80 years after

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Julián Casanova in Eurozine:

In the first few months of 1936, Spanish society was highly fragmented. There was uneasiness between factions and, as was happening all over Europe with the possible exception of the United Kingdom, the rejection of liberal democracy in favour of authoritarianism was rife. None of this need have led to a civil war. The war began because a military uprising against the Republic undermined the ability of the State and the Republican government to maintain order. The division of the army and security forces thwarted the victory of the military rebellion, as well as their main objective: the rapid seizure of power. But by undermining the government's ability to keep order, this coup d'état transformed into the unprecedented open violence employed by the groups that supported and those that opposed it. It was July 1936 and thus began the Spanish Civil War.

The civil war came about because the military coup d'état failed to achieve its basic objective at the outset, which was to seize power and overthrow the republican regime, and because, unlike the events in other republics of the time, there was comprehensive resistance, both military and civil, to counter any attempt at imposing an authoritarian system. Had it not been for this combination of coup d'état, division of the armed forces and resistance, there would never have been a civil war.

This coup d'état met resistance because the Spanish society of 1936 was not the same as that of 1923, when the September uprising led by General Miguel Primo de Rivera was favoured by the general abstention of the army, the weakness of the government, the apathy of public opinion and above all, the consent of King Alfonso XIII.

In 1936 there was a Republic in Spain, whose laws and measures had given it the historical opportunity to solve insurmountable problems, but it had also come across, and caused, major factors of instability, which successive governments could not provide the proper resources to counteract. Against such a widespread level of political and social mobilization as had been set in motion by the Republican regime, the coup d'état could not end, as had occurred so many times in Spain's history, in a mere return to the old order, based on traditional values. To overthrow the Republic, what was needed was a new, violent, antidemocratic and antisocialist order, such as had previously been established elsewhere in Europe, to end the crisis and repair all the fissures that had been opened, or widened, by the Republican regime.

More here.

100 best nonfiction books: Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin (1955)

Robert McCrum in The Guardian:

BaldIn the spring of 1820, Thomas Jefferson, who, in an early draft of the Declaration of Independence, had launched a withering assault on slavery, confessed to an associate that the plight of the American negro was a momentous question, which, “like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror”. Race, still the greatest of the unresolved issues within America, has already inspired one entry on this list – No 5, Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama. With James Baldwin, African-American literature reaches one of its 20th-century masters in fiction (Go Tell It on the Mountain and Giovanni’s Room), a name to stand alongside Langston Hughes, Richard Wright and, most recently, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. Baldwin is also the author of some important nonfiction, several landmark essays of great power and beauty on the place of the black writer in white America. In this genre, Notes of a Native Son is a recent classic. For Henry Louis Gates Jr, it was Baldwin who “named for me the things you feel but couldn’t utter… articulated for the first time to white America what it meant to be American and a black American at the same time”. The 10 essays collected in Notes of a Native Son – on subjects ranging from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to 1940s Harlem – distil Baldwin’s thinking. It is a source book for a subject that Langston Hughes described in a review of Notes as “the troubled problems of this troubled Earth”.

…Throughout his writing, Baldwin never shies away from a frank and disquieting acknowledgement of feelings: “There is no negro living in America who has not felt, briefly or for long periods… naked and unanswerable hatred; who has not wanted to smash any white face he may encounter; to violate, out of motives of cruellest vengeance, their women, to break the bodies of all white people…” Despite this admission of rage, Baldwin can also be entertainingly satirical, as in his essay on Carmen Jones: “Hollywood’s peculiar ability to milk, so to speak, the cow and the goat at the same time – and then to peddle the results as ginger ale – has seldom produced anything more arresting than the 1955 production of Carmen Jones.”

All of the foregoing culminates in the title essay, Baldwin’s declaration of independence. Speaking of his struggle to vindicate himself as an artist, he writes: “This fight begins, however, in the heart and it has now been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair.”

More here.

Sunday Poem

—After “E. 1999 Eternal” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony

Of Darker Ceremonies

Dear god of armed robberies and puff-puff-pass,
a chalk outline unpeels from the street, smashes
every windshield, and leaves florid temples of crack
on porches. Burnt-black pleats of   joint-pressed lips
prophesied your return. Please accept these nickel bags
as offerings. Brick bastions of piss-stench thresholds
and boarded windows require a weekly sacrifice.
Is there a Tarot card called “The Corner,” a shrike
shown lifting a corpse from the pike of a middle finger?
Children speak to their murdered brothers with a cereal box
and construction paper cut into a Ouija’s tongue that licks
yes when asked if   liquor could polish a skull in a way
pleasing to the dead, licks no when asked for a name.
.

by Phillip B. Williams
from Poetry -Nov. 2013
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On Political Fiction

Editorial in The Point:

ScreenHunter_2132 Jul. 31 00.19In May of this year, more than 450 American novelists, poets and literary critics signed an “Open Letter to the American People” opposing Donald Trump’s candidacy for president. The letter, initially posted on the literary website Lit Hub, takes the form of a list:

Because we believe that any democracy worthy of the name rests on pluralism, welcomes principled disagreement, and achieves consensus through reasoned debate;

Because American history, despite periods of nativism and bigotry, has from the first been a grand experiment in bringing people of different backgrounds together, not pitting them against one another;

Because the history of dictatorship is the history of manipulation and division, demagoguery and lies;

Because neither wealth nor celebrity qualifies anyone to speak for the United States …

Following a few more bullet points, the letter concludes by stating that Trump “appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society,” and that his candidacy therefore demands an “immediate and forceful response” from each one of us. The letter is meant, presumably, to constitute such a response.

About a week after the letter was posted, the novelist Aleksandar Hemon published a response, also on Lit Hub, explaining why he had declined to sign, despite his opposition to Trump. He began by addressing the letter’s contradictory approach to the democratic process. The letter’s authors imply that Trump is trying to become president based on his “wealth” and “celebrity”; in fact, Hemon pointed out, if one believes in the legitimacy of our democratic system, then the only way Trump or anyone else can become president is to win the most votes. The letter’s authors are surely right that “the history of dictatorship is the history of manipulation and division, demagoguery and lies,” but, as Hemon put it, “Trump is presently abiding by the rules of democratic election … Horrifying as that may seem, that’s how the system works—the election is the job interview.”

More here.

Polarized: Making Sense of a Divided America

Polarized

The introduction to James Campbell's new book over at Princeton University Press:

Voters are not fools.

—V. O. Key, Jr. The Responsible Electorate

America is polarized. Our political parties are highly polarized and the American electorate is highly polarized. By highly polarized, I mean there are substantial differences in political perspectives across a single ideological dimension. Liberals versus conservatives. Fundamental political differences slice through broad segments of the American electorate and separate the political parties on a wide range of important issues. The polarization of the American electorate is real and widespread. It is not an artifact manufactured by polarized political parties, manipulative politicians, rabble-rousing talking heads, myopic interest groups, or mischievous gerrymanders. It is not limited to rarified groups of political leaders or zealous activists, or even the politically engaged. Nor is it constrained to only a few contentious, hot-button issues. It is not an illusion formed by forced choices in elections or geographic clusterings of the like-minded. Political divisions in American politics are now deep and real.

Despite this reality, the idea persists that America is a moderate nation and that most Americans are moderates. That is a myth. Most Americans are not moderates. Not even a slim majority of Americans voting in recent elections are moderates. Some are to the left, some to the right, and together they outnumber those in the middle. America is a politically divided nation, it has been so for some time, and has become more so in recent decades.

While the American electorate and its political parties are quite polarized, the extent of polarization should not be exaggerated. Though a majority of voters are not moderates, moderates are still a large and important minority. And even among the majority of the electorate who are not moderates, few could properly be called extremists. We are substantially polarized, but we are not a bimodal nation with half of the electorate at the leftist outer edge of the political universe and the other half on the extreme right wing. We are highly polarized between liberals and conservatives, not between totalitarians and anarchists.

More here.

Thinking About “Premature Deindustrialization”: An Intellectual Toolkit I

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Brad De Long over at his website:

Let me back up and quickly sketch the argument that manufacturing matters, and manufacturing exports matter a lot for industrialization and economic development in the Global South. And let me make the argument in what I regard as the proper way–that is, dropping far back in time and running through the economic history…

I do not, all thing considered, think that, absent the luck and randomness that gave us the British Industrial Revolution, a permanent or semi-permanent “Gunpowder Empires”scenario was the third-millennium likely historical destiny of the Sociable Language-Using Tool-Making Big-Brained East African Plains Ape.

However, this does not mean that the historical destiny looking forward from 1750 or so in the Global South was bright. World population had quintupled in the 2000 years to 1750, carrying with it a notional five-fold shrinkage in average farm sizes, or at least in the amount of land supporting the typical family. The slow pace of technological progress from -250 to 1750 had made up for–indeed, had caused–this rise in population. And the biotechnologies of agriculture were indeed mighty: to 1750 we have the creation and diffusion of maize, of double-crop wet rice, of the combination of the iron axe and the moldboard plow that could turn northern temperate forests into farms, of domesticated cotton, of the merino sheep, and of the potato.

But a human population growing at 10% per generation required more such innovations, lest living standards fall in order to curb population growth via children so malnourished to have compromised immune systems, women who were too thin to ovulate, or increased female infanticide. People in 1750 were as well fed and clothed as they had been in -250. But what would have been the next agricultural miracles? You would have needed a number of them to attain continued total factor productivity growth at 0.02%/year to compensate for the further quartering of farm sizes that would have been inevitable for population growth to continue and human numbers topped 3 billion by 2050. Draft animals are not that much help in a densely populated near-subsistence society: they have large appetites, and the land their foodstuffs grow on is subtracted from that available for people. Only a relatively rich society can afford to replace human backs and thighs with those of horses and oxen.

More here.

The Radical Transformation of Patricia Hearst

27BOOKTOOBIN1-master315Janet Maslin at The New York Times:

One of the few unassailable facts is that Ms. Hearst was kidnapped and thrown into a car trunk at 9:17 p.m. on Feb. 4, 1974, by people calling themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army. She had been at home with her fiancé, Steven Weed, whose response to the attackers was to exclaim, “Take anything you want!” They did.

Amazingly, almost every detail from this point on remains open to interpretation. How badly was the kidnapping victim treated? It’s true she was confined to a walk-in closet that locked from the outside and that she went through extreme sensory deprivation. But would this become the basis for brainwashing?

Or were her captors, about whom Mr. Toobin has a lot of background information, partly stalling as they figured out what to do with her? Of Donald DeFreeze, the leader who became briefly ubiquitous as Cinque, the Symbionese Liberation Army’s general field marshal, and whose planning skills were hugely problematic, Mr. Toobin writes: “DeFreeze was almost the opposite of a master criminal; he was most inventive in finding ways to get caught.”

more here.

at the DNC

Screen-Shot-2016-07-29-at-7.37.37-PMNikil Saval at n+1:

One of the things the Clinton Democrats lorded over the Sanders supporters, and indeed over Trump, was their superior and more committed chauvinism. It was a sign of their adulthood, which they blared in alternately childlike and violent phraseology. America was already great, it was the greatest country on this planet. “This is the greatest nation on earth, a nation that so many are willing to die defending,” said Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois congresswoman and a candidate for Senate there. The Democrats would secure Israel’s future, they would destroy ISIS, they would honor and strengthen our commitment to our allies.

But it would all be moral. Our armed forces, General John Allen said, “will not be ordered to engage in murder,” a statement that will be falsified the moment Clinton orders her first drone strike. During his speech, in a spirit of savagery equal to anything at the Republican National Convention, pro-Clinton delegates shouted “U-S-A” at protesters holding up their fingers in peace signs. I saw one man in the Florida delegation get up on his chair to get in better chanting position, prompting his antagonist to get up as well, before they were both gently pulled down by friends. And this was for the candidate who had protested the Vietnam War and campaigned for Eugene McCarthy. Even the searing dignity of Khizr Khan’s speech memorializing his son, Humayun Khan, in which he called Hillary Clinton “the healer,” obscured the uncomfortable fact that Humayun had been killed while serving in the occupation of Iraq, the most consequential and terrible vote Clinton had ever cast.

more here.