Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: United States

A Critique of Sam Harris

Over at¬†Current Affairs, Nathan Robinson and Eli Massey have written¬†the critique of Sam Harris. Robinson offers a magisterial, detailed overview of the rhetorical sleights of hand Harris uses to give relatively weak, unoriginal positions the imprimatur of “science” and “reason”. I want to add something to this discussion–something Robinson touches on but which I want to stay with for a minute. There is a core problem with the way Harris thinks which necessarily generates bad takes on Islam and the Muslim world.

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The Supreme Court Post-Kavanaugh: A Grand Strategy for the Left

Now that it’s become clear that we’ve failed to stop Brett Kavanaugh, a fascinating debate is brewing about what the American left’s position ought to be with respect to the Supreme Court going forward. There are two big, radical proposals vying for people’s attention and support:

  1. Gather the senate supermajority necessary to impeach and convict Kavanaugh over the next several election cycles, then replace him with a Democratic Party nominee in 2021, 2023, or 2025.
  2. Gather a simple majority in the senate and a Democratic president and revive Franklin Roosevelt’s court-packing plan, increasing the number of Supreme Court justices until the court is forcibly shifted to the left.

I want to discuss the merits and demerits of both approaches and propose a long-term strategy that I think will be more effective than immediately picking up and running with either.

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It’s Not All Bad: The Political Upside to the Kavanaugh Confirmation

I’ve been picking at Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for a while now. I emphasised that if the midterms weren’t coming, the Republicans would have bailed on Kavanaugh long ago. I pointed out how Kavanaugh trafficked in emotional manipulation to survive his hearing. I noted that in the past, Americans would have been much less tolerant of the lies Kavanaugh told while under oath. But despite my efforts and the efforts of many other people, it seems just about certain that Kavanaugh will be confirmed tomorrow. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) has aligned herself with the Republican leadership, and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has followed suit. Many will write long lamentations about this. Others will rip Collins and Manchin for failing to align with us. You can read those pieces elsewhere. But I’ve been watching the numbers this past week, and I’ve come around to the view that in the long-run, the left will benefit from Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Here’s how.

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Remember When Americans Cared about Perjury?

My friend Nathan Robinson has written an excellent piece documenting with care and detail all the times Brett Kavanaugh appears to have committed perjury during the recent hearing. Robinson’s work is around 10,000 words long, because the number of instances of perjury or possible perjury is stunning. It’s almost as if Kavanaugh–a man attempting to be a Supreme Court justice–doesn’t think perjury matters. And it appears that to millions of Americans it doesn’t. Many still want Kavanaugh confirmed, and 11 senators voted to move Kavanaugh out of committee even after he repeatedly lied to their faces. This reminds me of another case in American history–the case of Alger Hiss.

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The Kavanaugh Hearings Encapsulate the Rampant Emotionalism of American Politics

The British have a visceral hatred for Donald Trump. It’s not because of his positions on immigration or tax policy–there are plenty of European politicians who are at least as far right as Trump is, substantively. No, it’s because of the way Trump presents himself. He’s combative, he gets angry, he makes flippant, emotional remarks. When British politicians show emotion it exposes them as weak, out of control, and unstable. If a British politician shouts or cries in public–especially in a formal setting–it’s embarrassing. It’s not proper behaviour. Everyone in Britain knows, from an early age, that this is just not how politicians are supposed to behave. They like their leaders calm, stoic, controlled. This is less true than it used to be–for a time, Tony Blair got away with wearing his heart on his sleeve. But there were always those who made fun of it, who thought it “un-British”. Whenever a British politician makes an emotional display and gets away with it, there is a chunk of British people who write nervous columns about creeping Americanisation. Having spent some years in the UK, I can spot the kind of American politics they hate a mile off. And it has never been so blatant, so in-your-face, as this senate hearing for Brett Kavanaugh.

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