Showing posts with label 'The New Yorker'. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 'The New Yorker'. Show all posts

Thursday, January 26, 2017


After incorrect or unprovable statements made by Republican President Donald Trump and some White House aides, one truth is undeniable: Sales of George Orwell's 1984 are soaring.

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway coined an instant catchphrase Sunday when she called his claims about crowd size "alternative facts," bringing comparisons on social media to "1984".
Heh heh. We're back to Newspeak with another name, and Orwell's book is as relevant today as it ever was.

"Quotes from Orwell's 1984 :
“For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?”

"Reality exists in the human mind and nowhere else."
And now, for Donald Trump, reality exists only in his own mind and in the minds of his followers who choose to believe his reality.

UPDATE: Adam Gopnik's essay in The New Yorker on Orwell's 1984 is excellent.
"1984” seemed...too brutal, too atavistic, too limited in its imagination of the relation between authoritarian state and helpless citizens.

An unbidden apology rises to the lips, as Orwell’s book duly climbs high in the Amazon rankings: it was far better and smarter than good times past allowed us to think. What it took, of course, to change this view was the Presidency of Donald Trump. Because the single most striking thing about his matchlessly strange first week is how primitive, atavistic, and uncomplicatedly brutal Trump’s brand of authoritarianism is turning out to be. We have to go back to “1984” because, in effect, we have to go back to 1948 to get the flavor.

Meanwhile, the Republicans in Congress, thoroughly intimidated, fear shining from one eye and cupidity from the other, will exploit the “question” of voter fraud to pursue policies of actually suppressing minority voters. 

Friday, October 16, 2015


After reconsidering his first impression following a storm of disagreement from his readers, John Cassidy at The New Yorker still thinks Hillary Clinton won the Democratic debate. Clinton had the most to lose going into the debate, because her numbers were down due to the persistent media focus on the private email server "scandal". Her performance in the debate was stellar, and she came across as much more likable than in previous media appearances.

Bernie Sanders was Bernie Sanders, the same person we know (and love?) from his frequent speeches and media appearances, and few, if any of us, expected him to be other than the man we already know. He was himself, and he performed excellently in the debate.

My less than expert opinion is that neither of the two principal candidates won or lost, and both did very well. Sanders gave Clinton an enormous boost when he said:
 The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!
Martin O'Malley had several good moments in the debate, and his final statement was superb. In a few words, he summed up the difference between the candidates in the GOP and the Democratic candidates. I like having him on the stage as a foil for both Sanders and Clinton.

I'm not sure why Jim Webb and Lincoln Chaffee were on the stage, but neither gained from their inclusion in the debate.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


Credit: Andrew Whittuck
Lovely essay by Hannah Rosefield on attending a meeting of the Barbara Pym Society in Boston and a peek into Pym's novels.  I have them all, and I've read them more than once, always with delight in her fine prose style and smiles at her wit, which sometimes bites and at other times is tinged with rue.

As Rosefield says, 'Mildred is one of the “excellent women” of her novel’s title: efficient, virtuous and uncomplaining, expecting little and receiving little. Her clergyman father has died, and she lives in reduced circumstances in London, where she works part time for the Society for the Care of Distressed Gentlewomen (“a cause very near to my own heart, as I felt that I was just the kind of person who might one day become one”).'

Pym is quite often not generous to her male characters, as Rosefield says, "The very names of Pym’s male characters (Rockingham Napier, Alaric Lydgate) make it clear that they are better as romantic fantasies than as husbands." My favorite name is Everard Bone, the anthropologist, a character in "Excellent Women".

Rosefield describes the few of Pym's excellent women who marry, as opposed to the many who remain spinsters, as "married spinsters".

Monday, June 16, 2014


Dexter Filkins in a blog post in The New Yorker:
For many months, the Obama and Maliki governments talked about keeping a residual force of American troops in Iraq, which would act largely to train Iraq’s Army and to provide intelligence against Sunni insurgents. (It would almost certainly have been barred from fighting.) Those were important reasons to stay, but the most important went largely unstated: it was to continue to act as a restraint on Maliki’s sectarian impulses, at least until the Iraqi political system was strong enough to contain him on its own. The negotiations between Obama and Maliki fell apart, in no small measure because of a lack of engagement by the White House. Today,many Iraqis, including some close to Maliki, say that a small force of American soldiers—working in non-combat roles—would have provided a crucial stabilizing factor that is now Iraq. Sami al-Askari, a Maliki confidant, told me for my article this spring, “If you had a few hundred here, not even a few thousand, they would be coöperating with you, and theywould become your partners.” President Obama wanted the Americans to come home, and Maliki didn’t particularly want them to stay.
My comment in response to the post:
Dexter, years ago, I read your brilliant articles in the New York Times when you covered the Battle of Fallujah,  and I sent you emails commending you for your courage and honesty in reporting on the battle.  You answered my emails and we corresponded for a while.  I know you know Iraq far better than I do and that you came to care for the welfare of the Iraqi people while you reported from their war-torn country.

Still, I am shocked and surprised that you blame Obama's "disengagement" from Iraq for part of the killing and chaos we see today.  The president inherited a papered-over chaotic mess.  The Bush/Cheney administration wrecked the country, and there was no way Obama could have fixed the situation.  You'd have to make the case for me that a few hundred or even a few thousand US military left in the country would have made a difference.

You say:

Sami al-Askari, a Maliki confidant, told me for my article this spring, “If you had a few hundred here, not even a few thousand, they would be coöperating with you, and they would become your partners.”

Why would you take these words at face-value?  Maliki wanted us out, and we wanted out, so a very strong case would have had to be made to both sides to keep our military there.  Now it's all gone bad, and Maliki wants us back.  As others have already said, Iraq is three countries which were grouped into one geographical mass by foreign powers, and the movement now is strongly toward break-up.  I fail to understand how a small group of American military could make a difference, and I fail to see how the Obama administration is to blame.

When we send arms to Syria, we are not sure whom we are arming, nor are we certain where the arms will end up.  The same will be true in Iraq, and we end up arming opposing forces in both countries.

I wondered where the war-mongering neo-cons, who are now nipping at Obama's heels, got their talking points, and I thought it was pure made-up let's-get Obama-at-any-cost talk because an election approaches, but, to my great disappointment, I see one answer in this blog post, alas.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


There is a remarkable moment in Elena Ferrante’s novel "The Lost Daughter" when the narrator, a middle-aged professor of literature, recalls a scene from her married life. She has just quarrelled with her husband, and wants to run from the house, “forget it and forget everything.” Her two young daughters enter the kitchen. One of them, Bianca, picks up an orange and a knife, hands them to her mother, and asks her to peel the fruit. Make a snake, she says. The girls sit in front of their mother, quietly expectant. “I felt their gazes longing to tame me,” the narrator recalls...
From a book review in The New Yorker by James Wood of another book by Jenny Offill, titled Dept. of Speculation.  I'm not sure whether non-subscribers can read it in its entirety.

Although I wanted children very much, the reality of mothering came hard for me once the children arrived. I was not a natural, and, though I did my best, I always thought I fell short in many ways. And yes, there were times when I fantasized about running away.

When I read the words “I felt their gazes longing to tame me...”, I gasped, because they describe quite well a thread that runs throughout my entire life (from my perspective) of other people wanting to tame me.

This morning, I told Grandpère about my seemingly life-long resistance to taming.  He laughed, but I had the impression that he thought I needed taming, though he denied any attempts to tame me.  I guess it depends upon one's point of view, because I consider him to be the main tamer who tries to tame my inner lioness, at least since my children are grown.  Still, I admit the possibility that the old lioness is yet in need of taming.  I will buy the two books, because the writers seem like kindred spirits.