Orwell's Handkerchief

"George Orwell could not blow his nose without moralising on conditions in the handkerchief industry." – Cyril Connolly

House Committee On Foreign Affairs Convenes to Discuss North Korea’s Recent Failed Rocket Launch and New Leader

Earlier this week, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing with a panel of four expert witnesses to hear statements and field questions relating to current relations between Pyongyang and the United States, particularly in light of North Korea’s recent failed missile launch that was purported to merely be an attempt to put a new weather satellite into orbit but was widely viewed as a flagrant test of ICBM missile technology.

The committee’s expert panel consisted of Frederick Fleitz, managing editor of the Langley Intelligence Group Network (LIGNET) and former senior CIA analyst, Michael Green, former Senior Asian Affairs Director of the National Security Council, Scott Snyder, the US – North Korea policy director on the Council for Foreign Affairs, and Patrick Cronin of the Council for New American Security.

The hearing opened with statements from a few of the committee members, including a statement from ranking committee member Howard Berman (D-CA) who emphasized China’s continuing propping up of the North Korean regime within the context of China’s own rather poor international record of human rights violations. Representative Ed Royce (R-CA) went into detail to explain the role of the funding of hard currency in Pyongyang’s dealings, highlighting the fact that North Korean’s poverty even at the governmental level evinces a thinly veiled, illicit subsidy effort on  the part of China that he sees as the only reality that made the recent failed rocket launch possible. He cites the testimony from a defected propagandist who stated the top priority within the North Korean government is the collection of hard currency with which to further nuclear ambitions and effective ICBM technology. His summary point was that the most promising avenue to diplomatic pressure would to be to find ways to pinch such funding, nearly all of which is illicit under current international law and existing sanctions.

Rounding out the committee’s opening statements was a short rant by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) who only offered even passing reference to North Korea as he spent his allotted time rather ambiguously rebuking President Barack Obama’s entire foreign policy approach of engagement. His implication seemed to be that anything short of immediate forceful intervention was playing pat to the current situation not only with North Korea but with Iran and Syria. When the hearing eventually passed into the Q&A portion, Rep. Chabot put no questions to the panel and offered no further comment.

The first to offer his five-minute, condensed expert statement, Frederick Feitz opined that the failed rocket launch last week was simultaneously a test of the NPRK’s ICBM capability as well as an ostensible test of American diplomatic resolve by a regime that seeks to gauge how distracted the US has grown by Afghanistan, Iran, and Syria–all of which has become characteristic of North Korea’s provocation-based diplomacy. Coming after the so-called ‘Leap Day’ food aid deal, Pyongyang historically engages in a patter of behavior of such provocations after gaining some ground in international negotiations that is then responded to by further negotiations where the regime often finds itself talking to Western diplomats prepared to offer even further concessions as long as the North Korean’s posturing will quiet down; when they have continuously failed to adhere, the cycle begins all over again.

Fleitz decried the international response to the launch as ‘weak’, the UN particular continuing to find itself essentially crippled of any genuine pressure due to veto power by China and Russia, always used to keep the DPRK and a geopolitical arm’s length. He went on to say the evidence seems to suggest that the young successor, Kim Jong-un, has consolidated full leadership (military backing in particular, potentially troublesome generals having long ago been liquidated by his late father) and inherited a robust and varied cache of WMD projects. The available intelligence, according to Fleitz, suggests that the Kim Jong-un regime is in possession of an amount of plutonium to allow for a minimum of six nuclear warheads to be produced and that their pursuit of highly-enriched uranium almost certainly continues. He concluded by saying that the diplomacy of US relations with both Iran and North Korea, considering their shared ambitions toward armed, intimidating sovereignty, are justly intertwined, and how the US deals with one will effect negotiations with the others–his comments coming after initial international talks with Iran opened earlier this month.

Michael Green quickly dismissed any notion that there was any semblance of ‘breathing room’ in tensions after the North Korean rocket disintegrated shortly after takeoff, surely embarrassing the new regime and evincing just how hollow their posturing tends to be. He referenced a very reliable historical record that predicts a fresh underground nuclear test is almost assured to come in the near future. He also stated that one of the most pressing threats of the DPRK’s progress in nuclear technology is a repeat of their past history of enabling third-party transfer to various sympathetic Middle Eastern tyrannies. Green cited traced evidence in stockpiles from Libya and Syria as proof of previous transfers, with no sign that Kim Jong-un would think twice about doing so again, with Iran and Burma as likely recipients.  In his opinion the US should proceed with stern, refreshingly consistent pressure in the form of more financially effective sanctions and a renewed effort to interdict the threat of third-party WMD materiel transfer.

Scott Snyder outlined several building blocks to what he perceived to be an effective diplomatic path with North Korea. Like the rest of the panel, he repeatedly emphasized a need for stronger international response to North Korea’s hostile posturing. He said he was troubled by the degree of reliance on China as something of a diplomatic proxy in even having working knowledge of North Korean leadership at the highest level, and stated that while the US should continue to work with China on a smaller scale, the US must find a way to deal more directly with upper echelons of Pyongyang. He also criticized the current sanctions, saying that while they effectively close the front door, China leaves the backdoor open and that North Korea continues to mass hard currency through a broad range of illicit activities, much of which is channeled through the support of the Chinese government’s quiet refusal to enforce almost any of the current sanctions. He supports the others’ advice to target sanctions and other political pressure on Chinese banks as a means of pressuring Kim Jong-un in a real way. Finally, Snyder outlined the role of an increased information channel with the North Korean people, some manner of, as he put it, “Long-range education and socialization with Western thinking to help in inducing internal change”.

Patrick Cronin largely re-emphasized the need to wean the US off of second-hand information and engagement, echoing calls for more direct communication channels with the highest level of the North Korean government and an opening up of the cocoon surrounding the North Korean people, saying they’re in terrible need of knowing that there’s an alternative to the desperation and starvation that most North Koreans endure.

As the hearing progressed into the Q&A phase, Rep. Berman put forth several questions probing whether or not there was much hope to be found that China, with what he called a ‘very different security calculus than [the US]’, would be altering its current diplomatic stance towards relation surrounding the DPRK, described as a ‘stability-first’, largely hands-off approach. Fleitz responded that China would most likely be encouraging of further international talks and is probably at work to set such talks up, that there’s no evidence to believe that they’ll be amicable to more stout pressure, and would work to veto any fresh sanctions.

Much of the impassioned discussion during the concluding portion of the hearing came to center on the humanitarian aspect of the North Korean mess, with complicated and somewhat differing opinions on the subject of food aid. All of the expert panel and most of the present committee members seemed to agree that the food aid was a noble and justified expense and gesture to the North Korean people, though there’s a challenging path to walk between attempting to keep millions of North Koreans from starving to death while still pressuring the government effectively. Fleitz in particular voiced the opinion that any food aid programs should be independent of negotiations with the government, as the people should not be punished for the impudent gestures of a government that is arguably the least representative and democratic in the entire world. He did agree that the programs, however, are largely ineffective in any capacity as long as their continue to be no provisions attached to them that ensure the food actually gets to the North Korean people. Rep. Royce agreed on the importance of such provisions, referring to reports that the large majority of the food was kept in the possession of the regime and sold on the Pyongyang food markets as yet another way to pull in the currency needed to fuel WMD research and production. The $800-plus million that was the estimated cost of the recent rocket launch, for instance, could have instead gone to feed millions of the DPRK’s starved and literally stunted populace.

One member of the committee however was less willing to entertain even a nuanced discussion of the history of food aid programs; Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) denounced the programs as categorically ineffective, stated that it was ‘insane and silly’ to send over millions of dollars worth of aid for ‘the nutrition of the North Korean people’, aid that is, in his words, not the US’s responsibility.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) agreed that the US and its diplomatic allies can no longer sideline the humanitarian front to focus on the nuclear one, and  also stated the importance of continued efforts to get information into the propaganda bubble and inform the North Korean people of their plight, a difficult task for a country who has literally now seen generations raised entirely within such a cloistered existence.

As the hearing wrapped up, Michael Green offered a bit of hope, stating that the geopolitical climate — taking into consideration fresh, sympathetic leadership in South Korea, France, Britain — was more conducive than ever to a multilateral approach to engaging North Korea’s deplorable humanitarian catastrophe, in particular the vile practice by China of ‘forced repatriation’ of those few refugees that manage to escape across the border from North Korea.

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Center for Strategic and International Studies Hosts Discussion on Iran, Turkey, and Russia

This past week the Center of Strategic and International Studies, a public policy research institute headquartered in D.C., hosted an in-depth discussion on the state of affairs surrounding the United States, Turkey, Iran, and Russia. The eminently knowledgable panel consisted of two former presidential national security advisors: Brent Snowcraft, who served under both Gerald Ford as well as George H. W. Bush and Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served under the Carter administration.

The men more or less shared common ground on most of the discussion points, and the escalating tensions with Iran and Syria came into the conversation often, as one might have expected. There was some bit of discussion on the often mysterious and always strange Putin’s Russia, but most of the compelling facets of Russia’s geopolitical place seemed to consist of Russia’s seemingly unflinching alignment with  China in resistance to essentially anything the US attempts to rouse NATO to do, particularly in regards to especially harsh sanctions and humanitarian intervention measures (see: Libya et al).

Both men agreed that Turkey’s growing confidence in their own independence is generally a good thing for the West, because while such an increasing degree of independent separation might make the West a bit uneasy, it’s all a direct result of qualities we’ve been pushing in Turkey for so long, namely democratization and a more intense pursuit of modernity. Turkey’s alignment, for lack of a better term, is still much in our favor–riled in no small part by recent firings across its border by pro-government Syrian forces aiming at a refugee camp–the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has joined his voice with those that call for nothing less than for al-Assad to step down immediately. Brzezinski emphasized that further troubles in Syria as well as the potential for violent conflict in Iran are the most severe threats Turkey’s increasingly modern, Western-friendly government faces.

Brzezinski proceeded at length to distill the palpable contrast as he saw it between the Libyan uprising and the bursts of Syrian violence seen throughout the last year, citing the thinly spread and fractured nature of the Syrian opposition as the biggest obstacle to the relatively easy and clean intervention that was effected in Libya, where the metaphorical battle lines were more clearly delineated and the rebel forces more numerous, organized, and armed from the beginning.

Despite continually alarming reports of civilian massacres and other human-rights violations being perpetrated daily, even now as the country labors under a feebly held ceasefire, both men urged caution in more direct intervention in Syria as they viewed it as a quagmire in the making that would clearly further destabilize the region.

They took much the same tact in regards to Iran, and it was clear to your faithful correspondent that whatever the humanitarian climate in Syria or perceived threat of a nuclear Iran may be, that the US in particular would be best served by a softer hand in dealing with them. Snowcraft made the obvious point that China and Russia continue to be resistant to UN votes that implicitly or otherwise set a path in such troubled states toward regime change because regime change as an abstract is a threat to both of them at home, if only slightly so by comparison. He wondered aloud what the situation would look like if they supported such measures and then at some point China were to face a genuine uprising in Tibet, an uprising it would no doubt put down swiftly and harshly.

Both men again agreed that the Chinese ‘hands-off’ approach to Syria in particular is the more prudent model amidst these tensions, and while I do think they are astute to contrast situations like those of Libya and Syria, they’re engaging in a kind of moral and political calculus and are quitting the whole process just because the Syrian equations is notably more difficult than what Libya presented. Syria is already a quagmire, and regime change seems rather inevitable at this point. I understand the scope of the risks involved–that encouraging instability as an unavoidable byproduct of intervention could cause other situations to escalate dramatically and cause untold numbers of civilian casualties–but that only suggests tremendous discretion, planning, transparency, and basically everything that went missing in so many other recent US interventions. The Syrian people still need help that only the West can feasibly provide, and one couldn’t ask for a more just cause. President Barack Obama has stated in moving terms that wherever innocent people  cry out for help and support in moving their country away from violent autocrats like Assad, that the US stands with them. We should stand more firmly with Syria, but we absolutely should do it as intelligently as possible. There may be no way to effectively intervene with any kind of military presence in Syria, but it seems a bit early to make that judgment–these two men want to brush it away without due consideration. Snowcraft seems to sidestep the obvious point that China’s hands-off approach is seemingly inspired far less by some more sophisticated statecraft than it is by its own troubles at home with human-rights violations and unrest, however quietly it is wrangled from within.

Brzezinski takes more or less the same line in regards to Iran, seeming a bit sympathetic in saying that while it’s fair to hold Iran accountable along the lines of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, that the US is strangling Iran towards an end that is needlessly humiliating, ‘putting Iran in a cage’, to use his phrase. He emphasizes Iran’s long and prideful political history in this regard, but I didn’t feel he gave adequate acknowledgement to just how responsible Iran has been in bringing such harsh dealings on their own shoulders with the kind of rhetoric and action they’ve been flaunting in front of the UN’s face for years now.

Overall, these two men hold a great deal of experience and expertise between them–it feels difficult to critique their suggestions too harshly, but I simply couldn’t shake the feeling that they had relaxed too far away from the kind of urgent action needed, particularly in Syria. Like the US citizenry, they seem dogged by the mere mention of intervention, having grown tired and wounded as we all have by more than a decade now of military engagement in the Middle East. The American public has become as weary and cynical toward such measures as any time in contemporary politics that I can recall. But having made mistakes, wouldn’t it be better to learn from where we’ve made such grave errors, also acknowledging the success of the Libyan project? Watch the brutal videos recorded by immensely brave citizen journalists in Syrian funeral crowds being fired upon by pro-Assad forces; read the dispatches of the journalists that have been killed there, often almost explicitly with intention. We shouldn’t rush a single step of the process of intervention, but the UN should be ashamed as it continues to duck what is a necessary, justified engagement. We might be tired of such fights, but  those on the other side are absolutely not done with us and we can’t let them off so easily.

The Great Rick Santorum Circus Finally Concedes Defeat

At the time of this writing, Rick Santorum is about to suspend his presidential campaign at a press conference in Pennsylvania.

This doesn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone–GOP pundits and even remaining presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich have admitted that the inevitability of Romney’s nomination is nearly beyond scrutiny at this point. Santorum’s own campaign had essentially admitted in recent days that the looming primary in Pennsylvania–Santorum’s home state–was a must-win contest and that the admittedly marginal ‘path forward’ fro him required as much. It wasn’t that long ago, though, post-Wisconsin that Santorum uttered his now famous ‘halftime’ comments.

It would seem that a combination of his campaign’s estimates of his legitimate chances in Pennsylvania and possibly a recent minor medical scare with his daughter might have finally caused Santorum to decide now was the most graceful moment to exit. Whatever the stated reasons, they’re more or less moot compared to what I think the feeble support for Santorum evinces about the broader American electorate.

More telling to the more abstract political and cultural climate, though, is just how weak Santorum’s support as been throughout the primary calendar with regards to the larger American audience. Almost all of his coverage can be linked to various controversial statements about the queer community, contraception, and women’s rights in general. Much of the growing conversation about the GOP’s so-called ‘war on women’ is grounded in the Santorum camp’s many platforms.

I think this is warm news and very telling about just how receptive the average American is to the kind of hyper social conservatism Santorum waved the banner for. His biggest weapon against the oily Mitt Romney machine has continued to be his drawing up of himself as a ‘real conservative’ in contrast to Romney’s perceived moderateness. I think it’s a relatively accurate distinction, and as women in particular look to be turning in greater numbers against the GOP in general and Romney in particular, my impression is that Santorum’s claim that ‘the people’ want a real conservative is ringing more and more hollow–it doesn’t even seem they want a sometimes-conservative in Mitt Romney. I think those that want to make the claim that the general American culture is moving in increasingly progressive directions is seeing all the evidence they need to feel justified on days like today.

Is the US Desensitized to Actual Political Violence or Just the Idea of it?

Over the past several days I’ve found myself revisiting the reports from earlier this year–February 22nd, to be precise, which also happens to be my birthday–that chronicled the gruesome, terribly sad deaths of American reporter Marie Colvin and the young, immensely talented French photojournalist Rémi Ochlik. They were killed while in the Syrian city of Homs where they were covering the current uprisings; the hotel-turned-unofficial-media-camp having been bombarded by pro-government forces. There seems to be ample evidence to suspect, even without the kind of gross volume of cynicism I’m often equipped with, that the targeting of journalists had been intentional, and that the bombardment was even the result of having tracked the satellite phone signals of journalists in the building.

I’ve spent hours pouring back over the photography of Ochlik, who despite his age had become infamous for fearlessly covering violent conflicts from very close quarters. In 2012 he won the World Press Photo contest for his coverage in Libya.

What began to strike me after allowing myself to become engrossed by Ochlik’s work was that I think the zeitgeisty cliché of the desensitized Western viewer/reader is rather inaccurate. Whether lazy, tired discussion of the violence-saturated productions of Hollywood and the video games industry or complaints by those worn down by that they see is a news media obsessed with the terrible and bloody, we’re all more than familiar with this idea. American audiences in particular simply cannot be shocked or unsettled anymore by the terrible incidents of the world, Mortal Kombat and the looped collisions of 9/11 have worn down our ability to empathize and ponder in a genuine way–at least that’s what this kind of rhetoric would have you believe.

Having spent most of my life playing video games and watching movies, including the more violent ones, I can speak to my own jarred experience when touched by encounters of real violence–such as Ochlik’s gritty work–and I don’t think I’m at all alone.

While it’s absolutely true that our media-infused culture has made us increasing less aware of how generally saturated and influenced we are by it all, I think we sell our society short in forgetting that it’s impossible that we haven’t also picked up a certain attunement along the way. I would argue that most of us have developed a sense of what is real and what is staged, and that our perception of ourselves as having become desensitized to violence is only a real phenomenon to a small extent.

The notion isn’t entirely without merit, I simply think it’s a bit off the mark. I do think we’ve lost a certain sense of empathy and sensitivity to the horrors of violence as a general idea–that is to say, a news anchor rattling off body counts day after day quickly loses its unsettling effect. We take it for granted. We know it’s terrible, we say so, and we mean it, but the gasping of the audience has long since faded.

Stop and ask yourself: when was the last time you saw uncensored footage of such a blast? You probably don’t remember. I don’t either. I don’t really remember the last time I saw a dead body on the nightly news. I think on one hand this myth of the desensitized audience remains pervasive even while our actual news coverage remains sanitized into family-friendliness.

I’m not completely ready to argue that CNN should begin giving us camera pans of bloody limbs and dead children every time al-Assad’s forces bombard another village, but I don’t think we’d be worse off for doing so. I think it would shatter this myth overnight and perhaps rekindle a legitimately empathetic reaction to the tragedies going on a world away. We’ve become desensitized to such events because by the time they’re filtered into our news broadcasts they’re simmered down into the white-washed anchorman monotone of objectivity and stock footage of what could be the same small group of angry rebels waving their Kalashnikovs in the air. The fact that such footage would be terribly hard to watch only proves the necessity of airing it. We can’t expect our children or even ourselves to maintain a realistic perception of the monstrosities going on around the world of the monstrous part of it well gone by the time it hits our screens. If we don’t feel the horror of what is happening, how can we ever truly work against it?

This is why the work of relentlessly brave correspondents is so important, and the tragedy of February 22nd is a grim reminder of the ends they must so often pursue in order to try to keep our perspectives informed and useful. What are they working for if the reality of what they see and report is so often almost entirely lost on us? We aren’t overwhelmed and acclimated to violence, we’re starved for its true nature.

Remi Ochlik’s official website (with several stunning galleries of work) can be found here.

Indiana One of the Worst States In the Country to Be A Woman

Sobering reports about a recent study out of Indiana University are starting to populate the Hoosier news media and, rightfully so, the reaction so far seems to consist of  horror and curiosity.

Specifically, the survey–conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–found that of high-school age girls surveyed, 17.3% reported that they had been violated forcefully, compared to the national average of 10.5%. Considering estimates that as high as half of all rape cases are never reported and one might safely assume that on average high-school age girls would have an even higher rate, these already alarming results become staggering.

This follows a report last August from Indiana Public Media revealing that Indiana now also ranks second in the country (high ranking = bad) in rates of teen dating abuse. The article goes on to say that “the center saw about 100 more calls per month than it did last year; shelter stays have increased by an average of five days”.

While such connections are complex and shouldn’t be considered in reductive terms, it seems pertinent to note that accounting for a slight variance depending upon which rankings one cites, Indiana ranks nearly dead last in the nation in terms of women’s rights in general–approximately 44th.

Looking at Indiana University’s flagship campus in Bloomington, the male-to-female ratio for undergraduates as of the Spring 2012 semester sits at an even 50%, while the national student body has hovered at 57% female for a few years now. Indiana currently has no female representation in Congress, has never elected a female senator nor a female governor. Indiana is one of only three states that is not required to report sexually violent crimes to the FBI. Let us all also collectively facepalm at state Rep. Bob Morris’s now infamous ranting letter to fellow Republicans in which he comprehensively demonized the Girl Scouts–linking them to Planned Parenthood without any basis for doing so and decrying the Girl Scouts for ‘sexualizing’ young girls.

It boggles to mind to know that such attitudes exist, no matter how fringe they might be, in regards to one of the painfully few frameworks available to young girls that offer them concepts of independence, strength, and confidence. Indiana’s track record on how it helps to cultivate these qualities seems increasingly stark. When young girls in our state look towards the positions of power in general, they will see so few women to whom they might be inspired by or look to as role models. When they look closer to home, at the positions of power at the state level, it seems they are likely to see literally no-one.

Between July of 2010 and June of 2011, the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported that approximately 6,200 female victims of domestic violence had been served at emergency shelters, with another approximately 5,000 being turned away; the same report cites nearly 66,000 crisis hotline calls.

This all returns to the fact that Indiana is one of the least friendly states in what appears to be literally every conceivable category when it comes to women, specifically young girls. To say that these new statistics are a call to action almost feels likes an insult. If you’re a woman in your formative years, Indiana is only one slot away in two of the most telling statistical categories from being the worst state in the country for you to be growing up. Appalling doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Putting Your Head in the Sand Does Indeed Make You Blind: Matthew Hutson and Magical Thinking

It is hardly a revelatory proposition that often what one can most learn from sifting through the New York Times editorial pages is how little one can get away with saying and still be featured. I do feel one can more often find rather insightful conversations there, which only makes it all the more disappointing when some fluffy, same-old-thing dust gets blown in through the door.

On April 6th, the Times published a piece by  Matthew Hutson, ostensibly a lengthy self-blurb for his new book The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking, a book whose title and website seem as refreshing and compelling as its premise. When I say ‘fluffy’, I mean precisely that–I feel a bit baffled as to why someone like Hutson, a self-proclaimed atheist who has a strong background in neuroscience, would spend his intellect and energy on such a project. This isn’t to say, actually, that the initial premise is wrong; Hutson puts forth that even the most stridently skeptical of us fall prey to small, even unconscious episodes of wishful or otherwise irrational belief and that one need not feel shame over this as it is simply part of our nature. There’s nothing to really contend with here, it seems more or less self-evident to my mind, which makes this particular line of discourse feel hollow and fruitless to me. I don’t know of anyone making a counter-argument to this claim. The cliché response feels warranted: and the sky is blue, Mr. Hutson, so what?

There’s a bit more to pick at in what follows that first ‘theory’, which is simply that such irrationality is part of the universal human experience because it is so unerringly effective at offering comfort, meaning, and the feeling (he avoids the pejorative but entirely justified term ‘illusion’, here) of control. Again, very little controversy here–he implies in the Times piece and states explicitly on the book’s website his reliance on ideas from social and evolutionary biology, and this is rather well-tread ground; one can find evolutionary biologists among others casually making the same points about the evolutionary advantage in things such as perceiving oneself as smarter or more attractive than one perhaps is. Another example one could offer is the sometimes obnoxious extent to which parents cherish their children not only out of love but out of a skewed perspective that their children are the smartest, most unique, etc. as evolutionary mechanisms tied into motivations to support and protect one’s offspring. Well, fine, the sky continues to be blue Mr. Hutson, so what?

Hutson’s main premise however holds far less water in my opinion. He seems to be saying that magical thinking does this not only universally (at least, again, in small doses for we relentless skeptics) but that it is the foundation of a ‘happy and sane’ human experience. It feels strange to me to read an avowed atheist making a claim that is tired the defense of so many theists, which is that no matter how well science informs our understanding of the world and our place in it, there’s an eternal line after which one must merely, despite any contrary evidence, fall upon wishful thinking as a means to feel comforted, fulfilled, and to lead a meaningful life. Hutson appears to want to get away with some sleight of hand here–essentially talking light-heartedly about such examples as college students who to some extent perhaps feel they have an effect on a football game just by watching it before shifting to moments of self-deception that are much less superficial, yet he looks to carry between both ends of the spectrum while drawing the same conclusions: that wishful thinking and its corollary feelings of comfort and control are all okay because, well, we’re human and we just can’t get on any other way. This seems to simultaneously accomplish narrowing our opinions of ourselves and what I suppose I’d call our existential maturity while also neglecting to give weight to the negative repercussions of emotionally and intellectually short-cutting our way to these positive feelings.

Hutson–and most people in general, all of us at some point, actually, per his agreeable initial premise–gets away with this sleight of hand largely because most of these moments are largely casual; believing vaguely that wearing one particular White Sox cap is ‘good luck’ when watching a game, half-jokingly rapping on wood for good luck, etc. But at its core, the act of self-delusion on any level, no matter how good we feel or how much meaning it imparts or how terrible our tragedies, is a form of self-sabotage that hinders our ability to engage with the concrete reality of our situations. I find myself reminded of Sam Harris’ recent discourses on lying and most recently on free will. The pseudo-logic behind Hutson’s claims are the same surrounding ‘white lies’–they’re small, mostly meaningless moments, but not entirely meaningless and their repercussions can often be large, if so subtle we almost never have to notice them directly. If to any degree whatever I feel knocking on a wooden desk on my way to a job interview genuinely grants me a bit of control over a nervous situation, I’m failing to accurately gauge and interact with the situation. To say that such wishful thinking is what keeps us from being debilitated by our lives is to deny our potential and agency to actually engage with our lives without such thoughts, no matter how rare or casual they may be.

It’s vitally important to also realize how rarely such thinking actually is rare or casual. The fight of secularism and rational thought is very much still an overwhelming struggle by a very vocal but very minor segment of human society against the institutionalized mechanisms of wishful thinking and self-deception on legitimately ubiquitous scales. If you spend several evenings praying about an upcoming job interview as opposed to preparing for it you absolutely might feel more confident and less nervous, but you are not only not better equipped to do well in the interview, you’re sabotaging your own success. Put logically, if you are feeling fulfilled or sane or in control by means of irrational thinking, by definition it means you’re not any of those things and are actually working against your own best interests. Again one thinks of the white lie, with its short-term benefits of avoiding awkwardness or hurt feelings while neglecting the longer-term, more complex prices one pays for being dishonest on even the most minute scale. While Harris was talking about dishonesty with others, every bit of the philosophical arguments he constructs would seem to apply in regards to one lying to oneself. Along the same lines, his discussions on the illusory nature of free will seem applicable here. Grappling with the idea that free will is an illusion might run counter to almost every bit of cultural understanding we have about ourselves, but that contextual dissonance doesn’t make it more true. In actuality, Harris argues, understanding that it’s indeed an illusion frees us up to more enlightened (if more unwieldy) thinking on our own lives as well as how we treat others.

After Viewing ‘Miss Representation’: Some Thoughts on the Media’s Portrayal of Women

I found myself exceedingly excited yesterday after happening upon a small blurb in The South Bend Tribune a few days prior noting that the University of Notre Dame, my somewhat beloved alma mater, would be hosting a screening of the brilliant documentary Miss Representation with proceeds going to the Boys & Girls Club of South Bend and a short panel discussion afterword.  As the title cleverly suggests, the documentary is look at the continued, often boggling (hopefully it boggles you, anyway) disparity in the United States between men and women in, ostensibly, every facet of society; then it moves with more insight to spend most of its running time considering the ways in which the portrayal of women in the media is both a symptom of the disease of disparity as well as arguably the most powerful enabler of its continuation. The documentary intelligently eyes not only the Hollywood and Beer Commercial sectors of media, but the (occasionally) more subtle and insidious ways that sexism so often creeps into the news by way of how female politicians are covered as well as how female journalists themselves are treated.

To be honest, I wasn’t quite prepared to be as surprise by this documentary as I was. These are the type of issues I like to think I’m not only relatively well-informed about but often angry and passionate about discussing and trying to change in my own attitudes. I still wasn’t exactly shocked by anything here, hopefully a testament to what I prefer to think about myself, but one cannot be reminded or inspired into action often enough. Sometimes, I also think, it’s remarkably easy even for the most enlightened and sensitive and passionate to forget just how bad things really are for women in this country, particularly when it comes to positions of influence and a healthy, fair-minded zeitgeist no matter what route they choose in life. The documentary struck a compelling ratio of hard statistics to delineate concrete realities in politics and other realms alongside interviews with brilliant, influential women and men talking about their own experiences and insights–I found Gloria Steinum and Rachel Maddow particularly moving.

So, there’s been healthy discussion about the documentary itself without my rehashing too much of it, but I had a couple very slight criticisms to mention before moving on.

First, the only attitude that troubled me throughout, and it was incredibly minute I’m glad to report, came from the use of one video segment of a democratic Congresswoman (her name escapes me, the clip was brief) that was hammering on this applause-line idea that if we could just get all the men in Congress to go home for a weekend, well the women would pound out a debt-ceiling crisis solution without breaking a sweat. I think this speaks to a tired and irresponsible notion that because patriarchy is bad, simply replacing it with matriarchy would fix all the problems, there’ d be no wars and everything would be golden-rainbow perfection. I feel fairly certain that every other woman interviewed or shown in the documentary would agree that this concept, taken with any real seriousness, is astoundingly problematic. The problem isn’t patriarchy in and of itself, the problem in every way one can think about these issues is disparity and oppression. The voice of women is far too quiet, but the idea of giving them voice by taking voice completely away from men just shifts the problem. We need balance. The debt-ceiling crisis wasn’t a crisis because a bunch of men couldn’t get their shit straight, though sure it was that too, to an extent. It was a crisis because it and issues like it are almost ungraspably complicated and charged with political grandstanding. Would balance have helped? Absolutely, and I was thrilled today to see comments from President Barack Obama’s forum at the White House on women and the economy that highlighted his opinion that more empowered women both in government and outside of it make everything work better not only for women, but for all of us.

Again, this was one short clip that represented an attitude I didn’t see emphasized anywhere else in the documentary, so I don’t want to rail against it too often, but it is something one still encounters in discourse about women in society so I wanted to take a moment to talk about it.

Putting aside my opinions on the Twilight series as literature, I do have to mention I was a little put off by the inclusion of director Catherine Hardwicke. I think she had some insightful comments on the way female directors are treated in Hollywood (to summarize, she points out it’s commonplace for men to be picked to direct ‘chick flicks’ by and large, yet it’s broadly inconceivable that women could direct ‘manly movies’–or anything else, really) but I can’t get over what I can only call the hypocritical choice to direct the first Twilight film, considering that I’m not sure I know of any mega-popular female characters in recent memory that could less embody the qualities of an empowered woman than Bella. Let’s please talk as much as possible about how idolizing the Kardashians and Paris Hilton isn’t exactly healthy for young women today, but don’t overlook women who perpetuate ‘traditional’ female roles outside of the process of objectification in a way that should, I would think, prove worrisome.

My only other criticism is slight, and that is I wasn’t compelled at all by the fairly schmaltzy segments of narration by Jennifer Siebel Newsom. I’d trade those fifteen minutes or so for another few interview segments in a heartbeat.

Now, I wanted to touch on a couple of things I found myself thinking about at length after viewing the documentary and somewhat enjoying the panel afterward. The topic of modesty came up rather quickly during the panel discussion when one of the two younger (high-school age) panelists stated that she felt she hadn’t been affected rather much by the media’s exploitation and oppression of women because she had been raised as a Muslim and had been taught about self-respect and modesty.

Now, I’m trying to restrain myself a bit because the girl was much younger than myself and while she conducted herself on the panel fairly well she seemed  nervous and during the Q&A I felt uncomfortable addressing her statement because, simply put, I felt like I’d be bullying her with something I feel so strongly about. But I do think it raises several very problematic ideas; first, that any amount intelligent, sensitive upbringing inoculates anyone against the influence of media. The smartest and most critical among us are influenced, there’s no escaping it; second, being raised with religious faith (any in particular) does absolutely nothing about the extent of one’s ‘inoculation’, nor does it necessarily say anything about one’s sense of modesty. It’s a symptom of its own much larger phenomenon, but I’m so over the short-cutting and code-wording of religious faith to positive qualities–not only that an expression of faith automatically means someone is trustworthy and so on, but that one must have faith to embody the gamut of positive traits. If you were raised based on whatever justifications to respect yourself and others, isn’t it enough to just say so?

More importantly, I think, this young woman’s comment lead me down my own thoughtful path to really rest on the concept of ‘modesty’. It didn’t take long to realize that it’s a concept that is completely gendered toward women. When is the last time you encountered the concept of modesty that in any way was related to a man? If Katie Couric wears heels or shows a bit of leg when she anchors, is she being immodest? What would Dan Rather have to do in order to draw the same childish discussion? One puzzles at a culture that simultaneously communicates modesty as an admirable quality while also communicating to women that most of if not all of their worth in society is ostensibly founded in their fuckability or ability otherwise to get a man (or, via cannibalism, to tear other women down and -then- get the man). A bit more abstractly, I’m troubled by the assignment of inherent empowerment to one end of the spectrum but not the other–that is, that only modest women are or can be empowered, that if you’re a supermodel or a stripper that you’re a pawn in the game. The empowerment of women, to my mind, speaks simply to choice. Choice over their body and what to do with it, when to have children if at all, and so on without being judged; the lack of judgment must stretch in both directions.

Thinking more on this, I am a bit troubled there was zero exposure in the documentary to religion’s track record on the role of women in society, to which ‘abysmal’ is an understatement. Religion pervades media as much as nearly anything else, one would think it might have come up (there was one quote from Pat Robertson on feminism that I remember, so it -was- on the radar at least a little bit). While the young woman on this panel did not veil her face, she absolutely has sister Muslims in places like Tehran wrapped in sacks, being beaten, tortured, and killed for wanting to show their face or even learn to read. It is dangerous and ignorant to ignore not only the way ‘modesty’ is often coded as a way to oppress the free expression of women, but the way that fundamentalist religious groups seem to universally instill it as a mechanism of absolutely brutal totalitarianism.

The other really big thought that I had, inspired very smartly by the film, was that the real locus of power and change for women’s rights issues sits more heavily in our power as consumers with money to spend than as citizens with a vote to cast. This is a very sad thought, but it has been undeniable for an immensely long time. After all, do we continue to get completely objectified women riddling every movie and commercial simply because most advertising folks are men aged 18-34? No, actually, it’s because apparently the annoying axiom that ‘sex sells’ is most annoying because it’s true. The real bug in the system here is free-market capitalism, and the bottom line. If breasts didn’t sell beer and cars and movie tickets, we wouldn’t see anything like what we do in media today. I am entirely convinced that there’s no secret patriarchical mass media conglomerate council that meets in smoke-filled rooms filled with golden wheelie chairs hell-bent on keeping women out of being involved with responsible marketing campaigns. These marketing people are simply doing their job. This doesn’t make it right or absolve them of doing wrong, but we need to bear in mind why it keeps going on. If Budweiser saw a 20% increase in sales if they replaced every scantily-clad woman in their ads with an articulate woman in a business suit discussing the latest Republican primary debate, we’d never see another bikini again. They do it because the culture responds to it. We have voted with our wallets to say, please, keep giving us nothing but mindless boob commercials.

In a discussion I had after the documentary I voiced my complaint that those commercials annoy the fuck out of me too, they’re (almost) as dehumanizing to the men in the commercial as well as the implied male consumer viewing the commercial: all we are are mindless horny beasts who drool and jump at the first sight of cleavage, or we really think driving a Hummer will get us women when driving a Prius means we’re weak or gay (which is only an insult if you let it be, but that’s another blog post) or whatever. Women are getting the worst end of the stick on this, no argument, but men are getting shit on too. it’s so important to realize that every single person is worse off for this stuff, no one is really winning except the ad executive and the stockholder, and they’re only winning because we keep spending and telling them to keep going, and go further.

So, the real point I’m getting at is the biggest takeaway for me as a viewer and thinker as far as how change is actually cultivated is to forget the entire battleground around regulation or any other means by which to directly keep certain commercials off the air. The documentary spent some time talking about how television in this way has basically been deregulated for the past 30 years. It’s an interesting point, but I would contend it just doesn’t matter. It’s not the right fight to pick, especially considering the current political climate. Regulation is a naughty word right now, we’re seeing more and more heated debate about the protection of the free market, and even hinting at slight regulatory changes in this way would be met with overwhelming backlash about hurting business in what’s already a recession, censorship and free speech (rightfully so, to be honest) and so on — it’s not winnable, and even more it’s not what or where we’d really like to win anyway. I say write this off completely.

The real power is the voice we have as consumers. Women hold the vast majority of spending money in our country. The film makes it a point to ponder what would happen if there was a more conscious process when it came to spending it. Choice and expression is still important here–if a woman enjoys buying lots of expensive makeup then she shouldn’t feel guilty about that, but what about the woman who is guilted into spending almost as much time worrying over her value as an object as a man might do? Nor should anyone suddenly feel guilty about subscribing to Glamour or Maxim but what if there was more consciousness about what that money means to their advertisers? If you see unabashed fat-shaming and write a letter or cancel a subscription, it helps contribute to changing the zeitgeist. Done on a large enough scale, change is inevitable. These sponsors of TV shows and so on aren’t going to become more responsible in this way by themselves. They’re only going to listen if enough dollars tell them that what they’re doing is wrong. They aren’t in the business of being responsible in this way–they’d still be selling young children on smoking if they could get away with it. And none of this means your vote doesn’t matter, it just means it’s only pragmatic to recognize that your spending matters even more, and to think about issues of efficacy accordingly.

I keep rounding back around to the idea of expression and choice, and I really think it’s a big deal. It goes both ways–it’s absolutely imperative we create a culture that raises young girls to feel they’re just as able to become a doctor or the president as any boy, but we should also be as welcoming and non-judgmental to the girl who genuinely desires the path of the housewife or the sexy-action-movie-star-actress. The idea shouldn’t be that we need to turn every woman into a politician or CEO, but that every girl (and boy) can feel like they can make their own choice.

One quick, ending note: I found it really interesting that when it comes to news coverage, the oppressive rhetoric doesn’t break neatly across party lines. It’s certainly not equal either, but the documentary had almost as many CNN/MSNBC culprits to show as it did Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. The GOP has the greater problem, which we’re seeing increasingly taking the spotlight as the GOP continues to lose notable chunks of the female electorate nationwide, but it’s far from black and white, and even the most liberal of journalists and pundits frequently express views and language that are misogynistic. Apathy and intellectual / journalistic laziness is usually the culprit, and is probably the most insidious culprit to fight. We must hold ourselves and our media to a higher standard. Not just because it’s right, but because we all benefit from it, regardless of gender.

Review: ‘The Enemy’, by Christopher Hitchens

The Enemy (Kindle Single)The Enemy by Christopher Hitchens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Christopher Hitchens’ well-honed and well-worn blade has been put to many individuals throughout his extensive (though, now we must realize, always too short) career, and now one can say it has been put to no one more justified, at least in the popular mindset. While facing controversy that was his homestead in scorching, well-researched books against Mother Teresa among others, little of such would understandably be expected here. It cannot be an understatement to say that few individuals have shaped American culture and politics in the last fifty years, at least, as Osama bin Laden.

This compact e-book ‘single’, something we might call a long essay, does concise yet thorough work of grasping the presence of bin Laden both in his vile, formative work before September 11th as well as in the American zeitgeist after. While there was neither room nor need to delve into anything that might terribly surprise the average reader in this piece, I do think Hitchens succeeds in his usual brilliant way on two very key issues that Americans (and the rest of the world) should carefully bear in mind int he wake of bin Laden’s death, woven through as it is with cliches about chapters and eras coming to a close.

First, Hitchens quickly but surgically dismantles any notions, arguably fringe as they may be, that percolate (I’m tempted to say ‘infest) the left in particular from thinkers that like to make either clumsily imply or recklessly, thoughtlessly proclaim outright that bin Laden, in so many words, isn’t such a bad guy and is merely acting in justified, even admirable retaliation against the imperialistic bullying of the United States. One can hear the same disjointed harmonies at work in the words of Ron Paul and others, even within the last week, in regards to Iran in particular. Hitchens offers more of the few pages here than these notions deserve, and promptly reminds the reader of the reasoning behind bin Laden’s body of work–9/11 included–that show the ultimate desire of returning the region to an Islamic caliphate that then grows to encompass the world. No imperialism here, right? While he only very passingly gives nod to the very morally robust position of humanitarian intervention against accusations of imperialism, he’s written on it extensively elsewhere and anyone needing to guess at his thoughts on this facet of the argument would be insulting him.

The other key point, larger and more important, I would argue, is the overarching reminder that the war against terrorism–against totalarian rule, theocratic or otherwise–is quite genuinely and endless one, which might be something of a defeatist were it not so eminently (and imminently) true as well as being the most justified war there is, the one most worth fighting and so necessary (and available) to fight at every turn. This idea permeates this short text–that while perhaps we can agree a specific chapter has ended, one spectre of many put to dust, the book won’t ever end we cannot become complacent in fighting it. It feels too tempting to not let Hitchens speak for this point himself; he ends ‘The Enemy’ with the following:

“But it is in this struggle that we develop the muscles and sinews that enable us to defend civilization, and the moral courage to name it as something worth fighting for. As the cleansing ocean washes over bin Laden’s carcass, may the earth lie lightly on the countless graves of this he sentenced without compunction to be burned alive or dismembered in the street.”

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Debate Double-Header Aftermath

It’s par for the course after the bigger political debates to open along the lines of, “As the dust settles…”, but what remains of the current GOP field mostly chose not to kick up much dust in the two debates this past weekend in New Hampshire–at least not much dust in the direction of Mitt Romney’s continued march toward the nomination. Aside from the first 15 minutes of Sunday morning’s debate, when moderater David Gregory of NBC’s Meet the Press gift-wrapped an opening salvo to the non-Romneys by asking everyone why he should not be the nominee, the in-fighting seemed to entirely be among those looking for second-place prominence. An observer might have inched a bit toward the edge of their seat watching the swings beginning to rain in from one podium to the next, but the excitement and higher expectations after a rather dull debate Saturday night was short lived.

While the other candidates muddied up the waters around one another, Romney walked out of the weekend’s rhetorical blitzkrieg almost entirely unscathed, having deflected most attacks with his usual if unadorned calm, and absorbing a couple of others that will continue to plague him (his actual efficacy at Bain as a ‘job creator’, his tin ear for the concerns of the middle or lower classes) but only enough to keep him from ever becoming the GOP darling–the party’s nomination continues to be his to lose.

The real bombshell in my view came from this astonishing remark by Newt Gingrich from Saturday night’s debate, in which he literally proclaims that the ‘secular bigotry’ (gone, as everything else Newt cares about, with zero coverage by the liberal media) in this country amounts to there being more anti-Christian bigotry than ‘what concerns the other side’, in reference to what seems to be both the secular and LGBT communities. While we can always count on Newt to be Newt, the linked clip cuts out directly before Romney states he’s in categorical agreement with Newt’s sentiments. Mitt might have just been a little confused of course, as he continues to oppose gay marriage even though Sunday morning he stated that the LGBT community should have ‘full rights in this country’.

This is a proclamation of criminally privileged and ignorant proportions–one would think that Newt, fond of citing his being a historian (as well, apparently, as an ‘amateur paleontologist‘) would have a more informed and nuanced grasp of the contemporary landscape of bigotry in this country. One cannot help but passingly see more truth in the corollary Gingrich gets giddy about implicitly drawing between himself and Stephen Douglas, who argued against the abolishment of slavery in the famed debates.

While I never waste an opportunity to point out the way those in power time and time again show their insecurity in untoward, unwarranted, overly-telling defensiveness, this example might be the most mind-numbing in the campaign thus far. One wishes the moderators had pressed this point, and I’m sad to see that the media (as biased as it is in favor of this ‘bigotry’) has let it mostly fly without any of the scathing scrutiny it absolutely deserves. One wants to know about how, say, Christians cannot get married in this country. Or perhaps Newt could cite us examples of Christian children bullied into suicide because of their beliefs? Much like statements by Perry, Bachmann, and others that they are unashamed and unapologetic Christians (ashamed at whose discretion? who demands of them an apology, in this country?) it goes to show the continued stance that by granting basic equality in this country, Christians are indeed without a shred of shame in declaring such moves trample on their rights. Which rights, precisely? The only answer can be the right to continue their faith-based, bigoted oppression of anyone to whom their backwards, iron-age magic books give them license.

New Hampshire Debate Blitz Last Real Chance to Derail Romney

Saturday night’s GOP debate in New Hampshire is looking increasingly like the most important so far and will go a long way in etching the positions of the remaining contenders into stone. While the New Hampshire race itself is all but decided, with Mitt Romney continuing his frontrunner status with a  20-point lead over Ron Paul, who finished third in Iowa–but the two debates this weekend, a mere ten hours apart, will offer a crucial opportunity not only in the looming contest in the social-conservative stronghold of South Carolina, but the rest of the primary season. That opportunity is to throw a boulder onto the tracks of the Romney campaign, which may lack much luster but persists on towards the candidacy with an unflappable calm that may be Romney’s largest asset at this point.

With the debates falling only two days before the New Hampshire contest, and South Carolina eleven days later, there will be little to no chance to mitigate any damage should  scathing rhetorical attacks or gaffes pop up on the center stage.

Mitt Romney’s primary goal will be to keep the ship steady. His persistence rests in both the moderate conservatism that the other candidates continue to attack, and his presidential demeanor. While he doesn’t flash in the debates, he’s managed to deflect or absorb most attacks without stumbling over his own feet, and that’s all he needs to do tonight and tomorrow. Romney can even afford to take a few shots across the bow–his lead is large enough that all he needs to do is avoid any critical hits, probably coming from the direction of Newt Gingrich, and he’ll waltz through the upcoming contests, probably wrapping up the GOP season by February.

Rick Santorum is enjoying a bit of a surge out of his narrow second-place showing in Iowa, though one should consider how impressive it really is for a hard-line social conservative to do so. While Santorum is finally receiving his turn at the not-Romney slot in the field and the accompanying increase in exposure, he’s also suffering from it–his support for extreme Catholic moral positions, such as the idea that contraception is destroying the country and that gay marriage will utterly rend the fabric of the family unit, will continue to isolate him not only in the larger GOP climate but will forever bode ill for his appeal in the general election that he’ll never see. His appeal will see a bit more cheering in South Carolina, but other than that his moment in the limelight appears that it’ll be as short as the other flavor-of-the month surges.

Much has been made about what we might see out of Newt Gingrich, whose debate performances have all but defined his various surges up to this point. There’s no questioning his political experience and rhetorical shrewdness will pay some dividends yet again coming out these debates, but he more than anyone needs to walk a fine line in targeting Romney. If Newt comes out swinging too hard, he’ll score the appropriate blows, but risks sacrificing a similar Romney-esque appeal of a sort of relaxed confidence; if he comes across as desperate or rabid he’ll net a loss and will have missed his last real chance to return to the elite tier of the current GOP spread.

Ron Paul looks to continue in his usual role of what I’ve termed ‘distant prominence’–it allows him the luxury of some time in the spotlight and his share of applause, but he doesn’t look to have much opportunity in these debates or the near future to gain much more support. While much is being said about Romney’s apparent ceiling among GOP voters, Ron Paul has essentially made a career out of campaigning from an even lower one. This offers him a bit of luxury–he’s more safely positioned than anyone to really target Romney and Santorum with every scathing bit of the arsenal he has at hand. It’d be interesting to see him pull ammunition from his libertarian stances and take apart Santorum’s dogmatic treatment  of certain personal liberties, though I doubt we’ll see much of this, as Paul knows this would detrimental, to some extent, to his own base. He’s wise to consolidate discourse around his main applause-points and take what swipes he can along different lines.

Rick Perry  faces a daunting situation–after a confusing (confused?) turn-around after Iowa, where he stated he was returning to Texas to ‘reassess’ his campaign, he came out less than 12 hours later to say the fight was back on. He shows no more than the most minimal support in any of the upcoming primaries and with two rapid-fire debates standing as the last real opportunity to recharge the various campaigns, Perry faces a spotlight that has been very unkind to him, with several poor performances and gaffes dissolving his previous surging support almost literally overnight.

Jon Huntsman has staked nearly everything in New Hampshire, and last I read he’s going to be lucky to break into double-digit results. While at times awkward and baffling, Huntsman has also offered some of the most reasoned and coherent thoughts on both the economy and foreign policy. One sort of feels that this is simply too young in his political career to be attempting a serious run at the candidacy–he simply isn’t known. His assured, relatively poor showing in New Hampshire would seem to all but end his campaign, which I think will be to the detriment of the rest of the season and the remaining debates, as I think he offers a certain freshness and balance. I would expect we’ll see Huntsman again in 2016 and with a much more prominent showing.