The Long View 2003-06-04: Alternative History

In this post, John discusses two books with the same title: Empire. As I noted, imperialism was a fascination with John, so this should not be surprising. What really made this post was the authors of the two books were put together into one interview on NPR. Regrettably, this combination did not nick.

Eventually, John was able to add a third book review for a book named Empire to his site. The third one was a lackluster effort by Orson Scott Card, detailing an American civil war in the time of troubles leading up to the formation of the universal state. We won't get to that one for a few years yet.

Alternative History
The exchange did not sparkle. Ferguson confined himself to talking about history. He confessed that he found the Hardt & Negri book difficult to understand. The interesting thing was that Hardt apparently did so, too, though the book's thesis is so elusive that maybe he did not think it worthwhile to try to explain in a 45-minute segment. In any case, as far as I know, Hardt never claimed to have been much more than Negri's translator.
Neither mentioned Toynbee, by the way. Not once.
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SimpsonsNew York Times Sunday MagazineWeimar Whiners
Have you heard that it's 1933 in America? God knows I have. Three times in the last few weeks I have been told -- by a novelist, an art historian and a professor of classics at Harvard, none of them ideologues or cranks -- that the erosion of civil liberties under the Bush administration constitutes an early stage, or at least a precursor, to the kind of fascism Hitler brought to Germany. I first heard the 1933 analogy a few months back, when one of the nation's leading scholars of international law suggested at a meeting of diplomats that Bush's advisers were probably plotting to suspend the election of 2004.
The piece goes on to itemize the several reasons this is nonsense, and ends with the ringing endorsement of democracy: "When will the left learn that this is not simply a nation of dimwitted yahoos?" This is all well enough, but I suspect that the Bush Administration's most ardent opponents don't believe those things literally. That's why they are so angry; they are just losing policy debate after policy debate, and they don't know how to stop losing. The anti-Bush sentiment does have real effects, however, in that it leads those who suffer from it to jump to the worse possible conclusion about anything the Administration does, long before the evidence is in. This is, in fact, part of the secret to the Administration's success: the opposition often appears unbalanced.
We are seeing some of this effect in connection with the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In the course of just a few days, it seems, the consensus in the prestige media has become that there has been no Iraqi WMD program since 1991, and that the Administration knew this perfectly well. Some of the more foolish members of Congress are insisting on hearings. The odds are that those hearings will find themselves reviewing newly discovered evidence of an extensive WMD program, one that was designed to be invisible to any inspection the UN could do.
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Times Sunday MagazineHow I Learned to Love Quotas
If the Supreme Court bans affirmative action, the political pressure to achieve racial diversity will force universities to lower academic standards across the board, damaging the schools more than affirmative action could.
The New York TimesTimesTimes
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For Want of a NailVirtual History
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