- Cullman, Alabama


April 5, 2013

COMMENTARY: Who's to blame for our politics? Don't ask

There is a classic "Doonesbury" cartoon, published soon after the Vietnam War ended, in which the antiwar activist Mark Slackmeyer is arguing with his pro-war father. They go back and forth, each blaming the other's politics for everything that's wrong in Southeast Asia, when they finally reach the Cambodian genocide.

They stare at each other in perplexity until one mutters, "Whose fault did that turn out to be?"

That ironic bit of commentary came to mind as I read various accusatory accounts of Secretary of State John Kerry's recent visit to Baghdad, where he essentially begged — really, there is no other word — the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to halt the pipeline of arms from Iran to President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria, a flow of weaponry that runs directly over Iraqi airspace. Maliki, for his part, promised to take the matter under advisement — although it is clear that, like Herman Melville's Bartleby, he would prefer not to.

Back in the United States, meanwhile, politicians and pundits have been doing what nowadays they seem to do best: placing blame. Politics ought to be about solving problems. Increasingly, however, U.S. politics consists of fault-finding, explaining to voters as well as readers and listeners where responsibility lies for whatever the current mess. We may not be able to fix many problems, but we sure know how to wash our hands of them.

Consider again the issue of Kerry's failed mission. There's a Republican narrative in which Maliki's intransigence stems from President Obama's decision to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq in 2011. There's a Democratic narrative in which the problem is the 2003 invasion itself, either because it overthrew Saddam Hussein (who, for all his unquestioned cruelties, was a bulwark against Iran's ambitions) or because it led to the more general instability in the region.

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  • Commentary: Why your Facebook friends are so gullible

    These stories aren't real. They're the work of the New Yorker's not-particularly-funny online satirist Andy Borowitz, but many people, not just your gullible Facebook friends, invariably believe them. Sometimes the official state news agencies of global superpowers believe them.

    March 19, 2014

  • OPINION: Who belongs in the delivery room?

    Should a father be allowed in the delivery room for the birth of his child, over the mother's objections? A New Jersey judge said no last November, in a ruling that was released in writing earlier this week.

    March 13, 2014

  • SLATE COMMENTARY: Should Detroit be allowed to issue its own visas to immigrants?

    Under the plan, immigrants coming to the U.S. under visas aimed at those with "advanced degrees or exceptional abilities in science, business or the arts" would be "required to live and work in Detroit, a city that has fallen to 700,000 residents from 1.8 million in the 1950s."

    January 29, 2014

  • COMMENTARY: Rules for babies in restaurants

    "Maybe Don't Bring Your Baby to a 3-Star Restaurant," Jezebel suggests, in response to a kerfuffle over a Chicago couple bringing their 8-month-old to the ultraexclusive restaurant Alinea because their babysitter canceled.

    January 17, 2014

  • WORKOUT-WEAR2.jpg COMMENTARY: Workout Wear Friday? No sweat, boss!

    People in fitness gear are more likely to exercise — or at least to think about it. So let's get everyone in comfortable, moisture-wicking outfits once a week to demonstrate our commitment to physical activity.

    January 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • The Undead and the Unborn

    In this season of ghosts and ghouls, we seem to respect the undead more than the unborn. How unfortunate. Witness the popularity of television programs featuring blood sucking vampires and walking corpses, while in Texas, a new provision making it difficult for women to get an abortion is immensely unpopular. How unbelievable.

    November 28, 2013

  • Google Is Google wrecking our memory?

    Is the Internet ruining our ability to remember facts? If you've ever lunged for your smartphone during a bar argument, then you've no doubt felt the nagging fear that your in-brain memory is slowly draining away.

    September 27, 2013 1 Photo

  • Why shopping malls are attractive targets for terrorists

    At the time, they reported that there had been over 60 terrorist attacks against shopping centers in 21 countries since 1998.

    September 25, 2013

  • Considering the Many Benefits of Chamber Membership

    The Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce has kicked off its first Total Resource Campaign. It is my pleasure to serve as this year’s chair of that campaign.

    September 1, 2013

  • g3202580000000000003ea46a0ca976951fc9024b2de508e34ec91e0297.jpg COMMENTARY: The case against the annual checkup

    We're now in the evidence-based era of medicine, and there's little evidence that annual exams provide any benefit. So here's a free bit of advice: If you're not sick, don't go to the doctor.

    August 21, 2013 1 Photo