Donald and Bernie, America’s Davidic Redeemers

Recently, we’ve seen a spate of articles suggesting that Donald Trump may be the face of a new American fascism. Somewhat surprisingly, these have come from both the left and the right. Conor Lynch, a writer for Salon, argues that Trump brings out the GOP’s “family resemblance” to fascism by heightening its racism, its emphasis on tradition, and its militarism. Libertarian writer Jeffrey Tucker points to Trump’s supposed mercantilism as the core element of his would-be tyranny. In a more rigorous piece, political theorist Justin Mueller draws on Robert Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism to analyze Trump’s success in “mobilizing passions” through nationalist, racially charged rhetoric. While some of these analyses (particularly Mueller’s) are compelling, I would say all of them overstate the novelty of Trump’s campaign. Continue reading

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Liberal Arts Education as Vocational Training

In retrospect, my expectations for Fareed Zakaria’s In Defense of a Liberal Education were pretty unrealistic. Considering his support for the WTO, the initial invasion of Iraq, and various other things I find rather objectionable, I probably should have expected that his views on higher education might also clash with my own. Still, Zakaria’s recent book is marketed as defending the liberal arts on the basis that “the university is much more than a vocational school.” With that in mind, I was a little alarmed to find that a staggering proportion of Zakaria’s defense of liberal arts education hinges on how well it prepares students for the job market. Continue reading

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Bernie 2: Immigration Boogaloo

Okay, we need to talk about Bernie Sanders’s recent comments on immigration, and specifically how they counter the most common left-wing apologetic for his campaign. The usual defense of Bernie from otherwise jaded leftists is something like, “Sure, he’s no Eugene Debs, but you can’t deny that he’s popularizing socialism and helping point the American left in a more radical direction!” Sanders’s statements about immigration, though, provide pretty provocative evidence that (a) he’s not popularizing socialism, just redefining it, and (b) if he’s really moving the left in any sort of direction, it’s toward a familiar populist dead-end. The key thing to understand is that Bernie’s anti-immigration position isn’t some conservative aberration in his politics. It’s either a natural outgrowth of what could very well be Sanders’s deep-seated neoliberalism, or it’s a key element of his explicitly nationalist brand of pseudo-socialism. Or it’s some combination of the two. In any case, Sanders is someone the left should be wary of. Continue reading

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On the Cascadian Megadeathquake

I’d like to talk a little bit about that recent New Yorker piece about how screwed Seattle and Portland are going to be when the next earthquake along the Cascadian subduction zone hits. According to the article, seismologists predict an extended, magnitude ~9.0 earthquake that will extend from northern California to southern British Columbia. Stephen Peterson, my friendly neighborhood skeptic, has already written a pretty thorough point-by-point response to the piece, but I have a couple points to raise myself. Continue reading

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This Political Correctness Is Makin’ Me Thirsty!

Jerry Seinfeld piped up a couple weeks ago with some complaints about “political correctness,” which were widely hailed as groundbreaking because apparently it’s still 1997. Seinfeld’s main target was college students. He noted that a lot of his comedian friends tell him to stay away from colleges because the audiences are “so PC.” The stakes are high for Seinfeld and other comics because, as Seinfeld has said elsewhere, if people get offended now, they don’t just complain––they try to ruin your career. In the wake of that recent Vox article by “Edward Schlosser,” Seinfeld’s comments have a sort of cultural resonance, and this means that the term “political correctness” has, I’m sorry to say, burst back into the national vernacular. Continue reading

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Can Bernie Sanders Succeed? No. I Do Not Think He Can.

Bernie Sanders has garnered a lot of enthusiasm among socialists (and even some anarchists, from what I’ve seen) over the past few months, and I still can’t figure out why. There’s a clear reason for socialists not to be thrilled about Bernie Sanders’s presidential run. It’s not that Sanders’s campaign is doomed to failure (although it is). It’s not that electoral politics isn’t a viable avenue for radical, systemic change (although it isn’t). It’s that, simply put, Bernie Sanders is not a socialist. Continue reading

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The Passion of Edward Schlosser: Why “Liberal Students” Aren’t the Problem

Don’t you hate how America’s universities have curdled into cesspools of liberal, “politically correct” groupthink? Edward Schlosser (a pseudonym) knows how you feel––and he’s a liberal! In his recent Vox article entitled “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me,” Professor Schlosser explains the problem with higher education. Time was that a professor could rebut student complaints, but now, student complaints are accepted as gospel. This is because kids these days no longer levy complaints based on professors’ actions, but based on how professors affect their emotional states. Since emotional claims can’t be debated, they’re more likely to be taken seriously, and professors are more likely to be penalized. This creates an environment in which professors opt not to teach controversial material for fear of getting student complaints and losing their jobs. The source of this problem? Liberal students have started buying into a “totalizing, simplistic, unworkable, and ultimately stifling conception of social justice.” It seems that, not content with ruining video games, the SJWs have moved on to academia. Continue reading

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