Tuesday, Sep 2, 2014, 9:00 AM

Is “Hashtag Feminism” Inevitable?

In the new book Feminism Unfinished, Astrid Henry labels the latest generation of the women’s rights movement, active since the 1990s, “hashtag feminism.” Elaine Showalter, in a review, worries about its fragmenting effect on the movement:

…Henry also admits that “the most defining feature of this generation of feminists is its inability to be defined by any single political goal, ideological perspective, or way of being feminist.” Hashtag feminism “runs the risk of being merely an identity to claim without any political content.” Perhaps, Henry suggests, the diversity and flexibility of “a million little grass-roots movements” are stronger than “one singular vision for social change.” She points to demonstrations, foundations and fundraising as examples of 21st-century feminist activism. Still, she acknowledges concerns that “feminism as a concept is now so watered-down as to be meaningless.”

I share that concern. In my view, a mass movement requires a clear goal, compelling enough to unite people across the dividing lines of race, class, age, religion, sexual orientation and ethnicity, and to persuade them to work collectively to achieve it. The goal must be concrete and attainable, even if its ideological underpinnings are complex or contradictory.

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Friday, Aug 29, 2014, 8:00 AM

Friday Round-up: Climate Accord Edition

Life in the Obama Administration means facing up to two facts. First, climate change is no typical “legacy issue,” of the sort that preoccupy second-term presidents. It’s one of the greatest threats humanity has ever faced. Second, congressional Republicans could really care less, and even if they acknowledge that the problem exists, they’ll use every means at their disposal to stifle any attempt to address it. To navigate this dilemma, the New York Times reports, the White House is considering “a proposal to blend legally binding conditions from an existing 1992 treaty with new voluntary pledges,” a “‘politically binding’ deal” designed to exert pressure on countries (by shame, if necessary) to reduce emissions.

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Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014, 1:15 PM

The Conservative Ideas Buildup

Over at the U.S. Intellectual History blog, Sara Mayeux has a smart post analyzing different explanations for the emergence and influence of the “law and economics” approach to legal scholarship. In one form, law and economics scholarship is explanatory and historical—as Mayeux notes, it explains “why the law is the way it is.” But it can also serve as a method for normative analysis: “how the law should be.” As Mayeux writes, law and economics is not a uniformly conservative approach to scholarship, but it’s interesting to note that its emergence in the 1960s does overlap with the birth of the modern conservative movement. And the connections don’t end there.

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Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014, 8:30 AM

Does Salon Have Any Idea What’s Ailing the Obama Presidency?

Thomas Frank’s new interview with Cornel West in Salon harnesses West’s quotability for a grabby headline: Obama “posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit.” That idea—of Obama, the counterfeit progressive—clearly resonates with many on the left, Frank included. To the extent that he guides the interview at all, it’s by nodding along with West and teeing him up for easy critiques: “What on earth ails the man? Why can’t he fight the Republicans?” The end result is unfortunate, because a more demanding interviewer might have achieved what I take to be the piece’s goal: helping readers understand the failure of a more aggressive left-wing agenda in the Obama years. What the piece reveals instead, presumably by accident, are the failures of the left’s critique of Obama.

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Friday, Aug 22, 2014, 9:00 AM

Friday Round-up: Ferguson Edition

More than ten days have passed since the first protests in Ferguson, Missouri over the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson. The case has expanded into a broader controversy about the relationship of the police to protestors, racial minorities, and the media. That’s because of the response of local police forces to the angry residents of Missouri - a response which lurched from one extreme to the other, as authorities seemed genuinely unsure of how to manage the protests without rubber bullets, tear gas, heavy weapons, violent threats against unarmed civilians, and the abuse and detention of journalists.

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Thursday, Aug 21, 2014, 9:00 AM

ISIS Has to Be Defeated Politically, Too

The United States carried out 14 more airstrikes against ISIS on Wednesday, shortly after the militant group released a video showing the beheading of captured American journalist James Foley. Noting that the militant group, which claims to have another American journalist in captivity, can’t simply be destroyed through a bombing campaign, Zack Beauchamp argues that President Obama now must decide whether more drastic steps against ISIS would merely play into the group’s hands:

The basic problem is that the US can’t destroy ISIS from the air. ISIS’ strength comes from (1) support from the Sunni population in northern Iraq and (2) well-equipped, battle-trained ground forces that can be based in cities or Syrian bases. […] Given how unpopular the US remains among Iraq’s Sunnis after the 2003 war, an ill-targeted US campaign could bolster ISIS’ most critical base of support.

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Friday, Aug 8, 2014, 9:30 AM

Friday Round-up: Intervention Edition

An emerging humanitarian catastrophe in Northern Iraq sparked U.S. intervention Thursday night. Islamic State, the radical group (previously called ISIS) that has been seizing territory across Northern Iraq, recently overwhelmed the Kurdish peshmerga forces defending Sinjar, a city home to hundreds of thousands of Yazidi—a religious minority considered by the militants to be devil-worshippers. In the last few days, around 200,000 Yazidis have fled Sinjar. Around 40,000 took desperate flight into the mountains, where they are now surrounded by heavily armed Islamic State fighters. Trapped in the desert, they have begun to die of thirst—including an unknown, but surely growing, number of children. Last night, the President announced that the United States was dropping food and water to the Yazidis stranded on the mountaintop. This morning, news broke that the U.S. had also bombed Islamic State artillery positions just outside the Kurdish capital of Erbil, where the radical fighters advanced late this week.

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