Political Asylum

Political Asylum — September 7, 2012, 5:16 pm

The Path to Genuine Political Change

President Barack Obama’s speech to the 2012 Democratic Convention was one of the best he has given, and one of the best in recent history. It was an almost word-perfect defense of the liberal idea and American exceptionalism. I just wish he’d meant half of it. The grudging early praise for the speech from the commentariat has been picayune, even silly. President Obama’s speech was not only brilliantly conceived and written, and delivered with impeccable timing, it accomplished something, which is a very rare thing indeed for a speech to do. What the president’s address—what the whole evening of Democratic …

Political Asylum — September 6, 2012, 2:09 pm

The Clinton Show

Just as it was for the Republicans, Day Two of the Democratic Party’s convention was a serious work day, one in which speaker after speaker went about making the case for the party, stomping out brushfires, and rebutting the opposition’s lines of assault. All day and far into the night, they rose to rip into the G.O.P. and defend President Obama. The biggest gun, of course, was the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who was very hoarse and typically apt to ramble, but who nonetheless gave a masterful speech that got better as it went along. Speaking deliberately, blithely exerting …

Political Asylum — September 6, 2012, 1:22 pm

On Booing God at a Political Convention

For political hacks at modern party conventions, the answer to the Reagan Question—Are you better off than you were four years ago?—should be knee-jerk, no matter the party, no matter the year. This year? Any comatose Republican will say the answer is no. Any Democrat should involuntarily say, as Dick Harpootlian—the scabrous South Carolina Democrat, said to me: “Absofuckinglutely.” Yet, there was Maryland governor Martin O’Malley on CBS, saying, “No, but that’s not the question of this convention.” And David Axelrod, emptying a clip of blanks on Fox News: “Here’s what I can say, we’re in a better position . . .” On …

Political Asylum — September 5, 2012, 2:06 pm

Michelle Obama and the DeGeneres Vote

For the last four years, it has been painful watching Democrats struggle to coordinate a single message amid the millions of tiny medialets misting around us. Typically, watching a Democrat on television is like seeing a small child on rollerskates wobble along until an inevitable and ugly face plant. Last night, though, Democrats schooled Republicans on how the accumulating speeches of speakers both soft and hard can create an overarching narrative at a convention. Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland showed current New Jersey governor Chris Christie how you strip the bark off your candidate’s opponent: “If Mitt was Santa Claus, …

Political Asylum — September 5, 2012, 2:00 pm

Courting Disappointment in Charlotte

The delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, are absolutely delightful. Taken all together, they make the Republican convention look like a convocation of especially dreary MBAs. Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats here come in all shapes and sizes, colors and ages, professions and faiths. They look like America, only prettier. And last night they were rocking, secure in their candidate and their beliefs, confident of victory in November. They are also some of the most delusional people I have ever met. Last night, as Michelle Obama rocked the house, and one speaker after another scored the …

Political Asylum — September 4, 2012, 1:20 pm

The Republican Claim on Hope

One irreducible fact to come out of the towering slagheap of falsehoods that was the Republican convention is that Mitt Romney can win, and is likely to do so, if Barack Obama and the Democrats do not continue to attack him directly and repeatedly, with everything at their disposal, from the very moment their convention gavels into session today in Charlotte. Even worse, a Romney win could easily usher in a right-wing era more extreme and extended than the one generated by the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. It has become holy writ among some of my friends and …

Political Asylum — September 2, 2012, 12:54 pm

The Imposed Culture

I hate to ever mention the name Donald Trump. But I feel obliged to do so now, following his recent near-descent upon Tampa, Florida, and the Republican National Convention. Like Hurricane Isaac, Trump passed perilously close to Tampa Bay before veering off to parts elsewhere, loosening days of sickly warm, noxious expectorations and ponderous thunderclouds upon us in his passing. In the area to accept some phony award as “Statesman of the Year,” he seized the opportunity to flog his secondhand fixation upon President Obama’s birth records—an obsession that most of the working press realizes is another advertisement for himself, …

Political Asylum — August 31, 2012, 11:31 am

John McCain’s Road Map to Eternal War

“The bullshit piled up so fast in Vietnam, you needed wings to stay above it.”—Apocalypse Now We wrote about all of the outrageous lies perpetrated by Republican speakers on the second night of the convention. But none of these prevarications—and none of the speakers on the second night of the convention—not even the smirking nonentity that is Tim Pawlenty, nor the megalomaniacal governor of New Mexico, Susana “The little children vie to touch the hem of my garment” Martinez—approached the wild disingenuousness and genuine menace inherent to Senator John McCain’s address to the convention. Following a serious work night for …

Political Asylum — August 31, 2012, 10:26 am

Spend, Baby, Spend

Now that the Republican Convention has ended, can we move on to the one bedrock but unspoken truth underlying all the accepted distortions of closed factories and $716 billion cuts and all the standing O’s on behalf of tax and spending cuts? We will be getting a stimulus program next year, no matter who wins. Last night, Mitt Romney gave us a sense of how that will work. First, all four candidates have articulated arguments in favor of stimulus spending, including both Romney and Ryan. In 2009, Mitt was unambiguous about his preference for a Keynesian plan: “I think there …

Political Asylum — August 30, 2012, 1:31 pm

Lies On Parade

How do I lie to thee? Let me count the ways. There were so many last night at the Republican National Convention—and I don’t mean just the usual convenient, half-apologetic, hey-what-do-you-expect-it’s-politics lies that conventions have been delivering by the bushel ever since the Anti-Mason Party convened the very first national political convention in America in 1831 (to nominate William Wirt, a Mason). Nor do I mean the sort of standard, jingoistic, chest-thumping lies that all powerful nations have to feed themselves to keep the dreadful business of nationalism staggering forward until it collapses in a heap of Soviet-style self-contradictions and …

Political Asylum — August 30, 2012, 1:28 pm

Obama Derangement Syndrome

The real sea change in Wednesday night’s convention lay not in the depth and reach of the deliberate distortions, which were admittedly breathtaking. Rather, it was that all the Republicans speakers—not just political consultants whispering to favored columnists—have now shifted so far out of the reality-based community that pretty much every media organ, including Fox and even, implicitly, the Drudge Report, have criticized Ryan’s speech for its laundry list of distortions and hypocrisies. Fact-checking pieces headline all the major morning outlets, from the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/paul-ryan-fails—-the-truth/2012/08/29/bbfe1eac-f254-11e1-b74c-84ed55e0300b_blog.html and http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/08/30/the-true-the-false-and-the-misleading-grading-paul-ryans-convention-speech/ to FactCheck.org: http://qvga.factcheck.org/2012/08/republican-retreads-from-tampa/ to The New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/08/the-paul-ryan-speech-five-fibs.html#ixzz252NttPlG to CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/30/politics/pol-fact-check-ryan-gm/index.html to …

Political Asylum — August 30, 2012, 11:52 am

In Search of the RNC Cocktail Lounge

The Texas delegation, which in 2004 distinguished itself by wearing Band-Aids with inked-in hearts on them to mock John Kerry’s service to his country—in the cause of a man who went permanently AWOL from the Air National Guard—was wearing not only the plastic cowboy hats they always favor, but little, red-and-blue matching uniform tops yesterday. They sat together on the campaign floor, looking less like the pep squad at a high school basketball jamboree I’d initially thought than like a brilliant costuming idea thought up by Corky St. Clair. This Republican convention seems strangely down-at-the-mouth compared to the one in …

Political Asylum — August 30, 2012, 9:41 am

In Search of the RNC Dissenters

At first I thought the quote of the day had to go to John Boehner, who explained to a gathering of Republicans at breakfast the controversy of his name: “People have trouble with my name. Is it Bainer? Bonner? Boner? . . . At least it’s not Weiner!” But probably it should go to Jim Bunning, the former senator from Kentucky who, when asked if he missed Capitol Hill and the current political scene, reached for a nearby metaphor and said, “Yeah, I miss it. I miss it like cancer of the rectum.” I continued, along with Kevin, to search for the massive …

Political Asylum — August 29, 2012, 3:25 pm

After Rick Santorum, Ann Romney, and Chris Christie

Jack: At home, on TV, a convention is a giant show—colorful swag, barn-burning speakers, big funny hats. When you are amid the scrum, though, you can see just how much goes into controlling the message and whisk-brooming away anything that might disturb the expensive, highly groomed narrative. (This goes for either party, by the way.) Here in Tampa, that control is intense. The extremely weird moment yesterday—when anti-Paulites yelling “U.S.A.!” at least momentarily appeared to be shouting down the Latina speaker—was overshadowed not long afterward by reports that some Republican attendee threw peanuts at a black CNN camerawoman and said, …

Political Asylum — August 29, 2012, 10:25 am

Alternate Roll Call

An exchange from last night in Tampa, where, after an eternity of keeping Mitt Romney at arm’s length, the G.O.P finally nominated him as its standard-bearer against Barack Obama. As always, there was a feather-preening roll call, during which each state introduced itself and cast its votes. Jack: Kevin, don’t you wish sometimes that when the states introduced themselves, they’d dispense with the Chamber of Commerce pablum? Florida, “the Lightning Capital of the World,” where more people are injured by God’s wrath than all the other states combined! The state that specifically outlaws sex with porcupines, and whose governor is …

Political Asylum — August 28, 2012, 5:25 pm

No Apology: Bad Book, Worse Premise

August 28, 3:37 p.m. Tucked away in the RNC’s media swag bag, alongside a pack of complimentary CSX peppermint breath mints (“Feel that good, minty breath/ Like a freight train comin’…”) and a huge fashion shopper featuring a young faux-delegate male cover model designed to melt the heart of every Wide Stance Republican in town—is a copy of Mitt Romney’s campaign autobiography, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. Typical of its recent Republican kind, the volume is intellectually and grammatically (“British warships laid siege on Boston…”) sloppy, as well as pretentious, disingenuous, and self-referential. It is also filled with …

Political Asylum — August 28, 2012, 5:07 pm

Reading the Bay Leaves

I had a talk with Bay Buchanan on the convention floor Monday. Remember her? She’s Pat Buchanan’s sister. Back in the 1990s, when Pat was leading the torch-and-pitchfork crowd, she was known as his behind-the-scenes fixer, her name frequently mentioned alongside epithets like “dragon lady” and other phrases one can now pull up using the search term “Hillary.” On the floor, Bay was perfectly cordial. People as deep inside political circles as she is tend to speak in rigid, protected tones. Initially, nothing I asked cracked the rhetorical wall of “Mitt has the opportunity to talk directly to the American …

Political Asylum — August 28, 2012, 4:23 pm

A Troubling Chant on the Convention Floor

We’ve received an overwhelming response to this blog post, which was written from the convention floor on Tuesday. As the post states, I saw delegates chanting “U.S.A.!” and silencing Puerto Rican committee chair Zoraida Fonelladas, who was trying to speak. It appeared to me and to those around me that the chant was being directed at her. Since the post was published, the Republican National Committee has stated that the chant had to do with a protest by Ron Paul supporters, and “not the Puerto Rico National Committeewoman.” I also received a letter from one of the delegates who said …

Political Asylum — August 28, 2012, 2:43 pm

We Can’t Be Zeros

There is talk at the convention about the lack of a Republican minority vote, and of course almost no visible minorities can be found on the floor, which appears instead to be a stimulus program for bow tie shops and purveyors of seersucker fabric. One stat you hear, but no one laughs about, is that according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Mitt Romney is losing the African-American vote by a margin of 94 percent to 0 percent. Statistically speaking, Romney is pulling a zero. (John McCain earned 4 percent of the African-American vote, George W. Bush 9 percent.) So, …

Political Asylum — August 28, 2012, 2:16 pm

Security Theatre, Act II

August 28, 9:39 a.m. Another piece of what Jack likes to call Security Theatre last night in Ybor City: We were drinking and playing pool with my cousin and her boyfriend at a friendly bikers’ bar called the Dirty Shame around midnight, when suddenly we noticed that outside, one of the roaming herds of brown-shirted police had metamorphosed into a line that was retreating slowly up Seventh Avenue. My first thought was that they had simply decided to try a new formation during their lonely ramblings—that out in the middle of the peaceful, humid Florida night they were making up …

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada



October 2014

Cassandra Among the

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

PBS Self-Destructs

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Monkey Did It

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content


Rebecca Solnit on silencing women, a Marine commander returns to Iraq, the decline of PBS, and more
Cassandra Among the Creeps·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On silencing women
“The old framework of feminine mendacity and murky-mindedness is still routinely trotted out, and we should learn to recognize it for what it is.”
Photograph © Sallie Dean Shatz
Ending College Sexual Assault·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“This is not a fable about a young woman whose dreams were dashed by a sexual predator. Maya’s narrative is one of institutional failure at a school desperately trying to adapt.”
Photograph © AP/Josh Reynolds
"Clothes are a bit like eating: you have to dress yourself. You have to eat, and even if you eat pizza all day long, that’s still a choice."
Photograph © G Powell
“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Iraq has every disease there is; its mind is deranged with too many voices, its organs corrupted, its limbs only long enough to tear at its own body.”
Photograph by Benjamin Busch

Amount by which the total wealth of all American households declined last year:


A study concluded that commercial fish stocks may be gone by 2050 as a result of overfishing, pollution, and global climate change.

“All I saw,” said a 12-year-old neighbor of visits to the man’s house, “was just cats in little diapers.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


In Praise of Idleness


I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today