Well, a minute ago I was trying to remember exactly what Chuck Hagel's business background had been before he got into politics. Showing my sophisticated search skills, I typed "chuck hagel wikipedia" into the Google search box. And what should I see?
The very first item in the search-results list, which is an ad and has a fine-print disclosure line (and very faint background tinting) to that effect, is from something called chuckhagel.com. And if you click on that link, you get the full anti-Hagel blast. It has a slideshow of shifting critiques of Hagel, mainly emphasizing the themes that he is Bad on Defense, Bad on Israel, and Overall Too Extreme. Here is a relatively polite sample:
And what's the source of this direct "Contact Your Senator" lobbying attempt to reject a Cabinet-level nominee? Is it the Republican party, from which Hagel became estranged when he criticized the Iraq war? Democratic activists, who would like a Democratic president to choose someone from his own party? GLBT groups, who have not forgiven Hagel for his anti-gay comments about ambassador James Hormel 15 years ago?
It was bad for US-Israel relations as a whole, not just relations between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations, that the sitting leader of one country appeared to so clearly desire so obviously plumped for the defeat of the other. [I'm talking about Netanyahu's apparent strong and open pro-Mitt Romney stance last year. But some people closer to the scene have argued that he was more careful than I think; thus this edit.] It is hard to see anything but further strain coming from a personalized campaign against a former Republican senator -- and current co-chair of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, who has been vouched-for by five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel and four former national security advisers plus a wide assortment of military and political figures, is a wounded combat veteran, etc. -- when that campaign is being led by a group called "the Emergency Committee for Israel." Suppose a campaign against a Treasury or Commerce nominee were being led by a group of Americans calling themselves "The Emergency Committee for China," or "The Emergency Committee for Germany" or the Emergency Committee for any place else. Or a campaign against John Kerry being led by "The Emergency Committee for Cuba," or maybe Russia. That would be madness, and so is this.
The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg -- who has previouslyargued that Hagel-style bluntness might be a plus for U.S.-Israel relations -- predicted today that AIPAC would wisely try its best to stay out of the middle of a partisan confirmation battle. This wisdom seems to have escaped the Emergency Committee. Let's hope they back off. Among other reasons: most of the time, even controversial nominees finally get confirmed. Let's suppose that Chuck Hagel is the most forgiving and thickest-skinned person imaginable. Even so, how would he be expected to feel about a group that had done its best to pronounce him unacceptable -- and had done so in the name of another country?
UPDATE Several people have written in to say that the "Emergency Committee for Israel" really doesn't represent anyone except its donors and its small staff. Therefore they say that its anti-Hagel campaign, though very prominent -- on Google and in a number of news outlets -- should not be given too much weight or taken as representing anything more than itself. Noted, and I will try to leave it there.
On the other hand, just now we have Elliott Abrams, whose wife is one of the three people listed as being on the Emergency Committee's board (along with Kristol and Gary Bauer), telling Melissa Block on NPR that Hagel is an outright anti-Semite. Listen for yourself, but this is how it sounded to me:
[Block asked, are you saying the Senate should reject Hagel?] Abrams: He has a chance at his confirmation hearing to show that he is not what he appears to be, which is frankly an anti-Semite. It's not just being anti-Israel. He's got a problem with what he calls "the Jews," the Jewish lobby. I think if If he can't satisfy people that he is not in fact bigoted against Jews, he certainly should not be confirmed....
[Block again: You are saying he is not just "anti-Israel," but in fact anti-Semitic?] Abrams: I think if you look at the statements by Hagel, and then you look at the statements by the Nebraska Jewish community, about his unresponsiveness to them ... I don't see how you can reach any other conclusion, that he seems to have some kind of problem with Jews.
James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne.
People labeled “smart” at a young age don’t deal well with being wrong. Life grows stagnant.
ASPEN, Colo.—At whatever agesmart people develop the idea that they are smart, they also tend to develop vulnerability around relinquishing that label. So the difference between telling a kid “You did a great job” and “You are smart” isn’t subtle. That is, at least, according to one growing movement in education and parenting that advocates for retirement of “the S word.”
The idea is that when we praise kids for being smart, those kids think: Oh good, I'm smart. And then later, when those kids mess up, which they will, they think: Oh no, I'm not smart after all. People will think I’m not smart after all. And that’s the worst. That’s a risk to avoid, they learn.“Smart” kids stand to become especially averse to making mistakes, which are critical to learning and succeeding.
The second episode of the new season was a slow burner with a dramatic twist.
Let’s start at the beginning, with Frank in bed with his wife, Jordan, discussing water stains on the ceiling and childhood entombments. I don’t know about you guys, but I found this whole bit slack and familiar. Maybe there was a two-minute scene in there, but five? Maybe a more charismatic actor could have pulled off that lengthy monologue. But Vince Vaughn is no Robert Shaw, and his childhood basement is no U.S.S. Indianapolis.
As sunny and smiley as gyms’ front-desk employees can be, they’re covering up a secret that keeps the industry going: Once you’ve signed up for a membership, they don’t want you to come in very often.
In fact, gyms are set up to entice the type of customer who will prepay for months or years and then rarely show up. In order to make money, private clubs need to bring in about 10 times as many members as their weight and cardio rooms can accommodate at any given time. This fact ends up shaping the way gyms are designed as physical spaces. In order to attract the type of people who will buy a membership but probably never work out with any regularity, designers give gyms sleek, hotel-like lobbies where membership paperwork is handled. Meanwhile, the intimidating equipment is kept in the back, out of sight—along with the sometimes intimidating brutes who grunt while using them.
The country's inability to pay its debt or reach a deal makes it the largest nation in history to be in arrears to the IMF.
What happens now?
Greece’s missed payment to the IMF is a milestone—it’s both the first time a developed country has missed such a payment, and the first time a Eurozone country has defaulted on its debt. (Or it’s “in arrears”—as Bouree Lam explains below, the IMF isn’t using consistent terminology.)
But that doesn’t mean automatic expulsion from the Eurozone. Yanis Varoufakis, the country’s finance minister, made the case on his blog three years ago that “a defaulted Greece can easily remain in the Eurozone,” and that in fact “Europe’s optimal strategy is to let Greece default.” The Lisbon Treaty, which forms the legal basis of the European Union, actually makes no provision for a member’s expulsion. A 2009 legal analysis by the ECB found that, “while perhaps feasible through indirect means, a Member State’s expulsion from the EU or EMU [the European Monetary Union], would be legally next to impossible.”
The social network learns more about its users than they might realize.
Facebook, you may have noticed, turned into a rainbow-drenched spectacle following the Supreme Court’s decision Friday that same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right.
By overlaying their profile photos with a rainbow filter, Facebook users began celebrating in a way we haven't seen since March 2013, when 3 million peoplechanged their profile images to a red equals sign—the logo of the Human Rights Campaign—as a way to support marriage equality. This time, Facebook provided a simple way to turn profile photos rainbow-colored. More than 1 million people changed their profile in the first few hours, according to the Facebook spokesperson William Nevius, and the number continues to grow.
“This is probably a Facebook experiment!” joked the MIT network scientist Cesar Hidalgo on Facebook yesterday. “This is one Facebook study I want to be included in!” wrote Stacy Blasiola, a communications Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois, when she changed her profile.
The star has been accused of having a “large blind spot” on issues of race—but testing the boundaries of jokes is part of the process of stand-up.
There’s a fine line in comedy between subversive and offensive, and with every meteoric rise from stand-up to film and television stardom these days, there tends to be controversy over whether or not that line has ever been crossed. Amy Schumer, whose Comedy Central sketch show Inside Amy Schumer has been dominating the Internet on a weekly basis since its third season debuted in April, and who stars in the upcoming Judd Apatow comedy Trainwreck, is the latest figure to experience the pitfalls of being under such sharp scrutiny. A recent profile of Schumer in The Guardian by Monica Heisey, although largely positive, criticizes the comedian for having a “shockingly large blind spot” on race—and cites some clunky jokes she’s made about Latinos as examples.
The question is at the center of the Greek crisis.
In 1961, the economist Robert Mundell published a paper laying out, per the title, “A Theory of Optimum Currency Areas.” In it, he inquired about the appropriate geographic extent of a shared unit of money. Was it the world? A country? Part of a country? A border-spanning region of, say, the western parts of the United States and Canada, with a separate currency circulating in the eastern parts of the two countries?
“It might seem at first that the question is purely academic,” he wrote, “since it hardly seems within the realm of political feasibility that national currencies would ever be abandoned in favor of any other arrangement.” But it was worth considering anyway, in part because “certain parts of the world are undergoing processes of economic integration and disintegration,” and an idea of what an “optimum currency area” would look like could help “clarify the meaning of these experiments.”
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
The power in the president’s eulogy for Clementa Pinckney came not from his singing, but from the silence that preceded it.
Coverage of the memorial service held for Reverend Clementa Pinckney in Charleston last week focused largely on the surprising moment when the leader of the free world broke into song. That song, of course, was “Amazing Grace” and the president sang it distinctly in the style of the black church.
For all the attention Obama’s unexpected performance received, though, it’s worth taking another look at the “Amazing Grace” clip, this time watching for the silence. His singing seems to be a release of the collective tension that had been building for a week after the Emanuel A.M.E. shooting. But the preceding pause seems to hold its hearers captive. Though he is frequently interrupted with cheers and amens throughout his eulogy for Reverend Pinckney, the pause he takes 35 minutes into the speech is easily the longest break from the text before him.
For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?
1. Youngstown, U.S.A.
The end of work is still just a futuristic concept for most of the United States, but it is something like a moment in history for Youngstown, Ohio, one its residents can cite with precision: September 19, 1977.
For much of the 20th century, Youngstown’s steel mills delivered such great prosperity that the city was a model of the American dream, boasting a median income and a homeownership rate that were among the nation’s highest. But as manufacturing shifted abroad after World War II, Youngstown steel suffered, and on that gray September afternoon in 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced the shuttering of its Campbell Works mill. Within five years, the city lost 50,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in manufacturing wages. The effect was so severe that a term was coined to describe the fallout: regional depression.