Socialist Party

Baathism: An Obituary

When Bashar Al Assad's government finally collapses in Syria, it will mean the end of a totalitarian ideology that thrived—and killed—for 70 years.

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One of the refrains of the French presidential campaign was the suggestion by Nicolas Sarkozy that the French presidency is not an office for the “normal” man his challenger François Hollande claimed to be. Indeed, it’s fair to say that Hollande won despite, not because of, the reputation he had cultivated as Socialist party leader for the previous eleven years.

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No sooner had Mitt Romney triumphed in the Michigan primary than Rick Santorum edged into his victory by succeeding in winning an equal number of delegates. Romney polled 3 percent higher than Santorum in the popular vote. But that meant nothing in the arcana of counting at the polls that will be translated into 15 delegates each at the Tampa convention in August.

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Another month, another EU Summit. And once again, markets are judging the compromise as, at best, incomplete—at worst, disastrously insufficient. On top of everything else, the new agreement has managed to formally isolate Britain from the other 26 EU member states. (British euroskeptics are applauding their country's newfound estrangement, but more considered commentators realize the situation is fraught.) So is Europe ultimately doomed to all that jazz about euro breakup and financial apocalypse? Not quite.

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The ghost of Theodore Roosevelt presided over President Obama's speech yesterday afternoon in Osawatomie, Kansas. Indeed, in the week leading up to the president’s Osawatomie address, the White House made clear that the President was deliberately courting analogies with Roosevelt. TR, after all, had traveled to the very same town nearly 100 years earlier to give his famous “New Nationalism” address, calling for the federal government to ensure that the prerogatives of private property did not trump the rights of the commonwealth.

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Dominique Strauss-Kahn will return to a very different France from the one he left. The country’s state TV network reported that his personal approval rating, which stood at 52 percent prior to his arrest, had plummeted to 28 percent by the time all the charges against him were dismissed this week. Yet the top echelon of the Socialist Party has greeted the news from New York as though dismissal were equivalent to acquittal.

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Love and Death

The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg Edited by Georg Adler, Peter Hudis, and Annelies Laschitza Translated by George Shriver (Verso, 609 pp., $39.95) Once upon a time there lived a Jewish lady, of modest stature and of a certain age, who walked with a limp and liked to sing to the birds. Through the bars on her window she would treat the titmice to a Mozart aria, and then await their call, the transcription of which she wished, as she wrote to a friend, to be the only adornment on her grave.

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John B. Judis has brought in a very interesting piece on the Japanese elections by Karel van Wolferen. Here is John’s description of van Wolferen: He is the author of The Enigma of Japanese Power, considered a classic on the exercise of power in Japan, and its history. Van Wolferen was the first author to point out that Japan lacked a center of political accountability, and that many of its problems must be seen in that light. He was initially reviled when the book appeared in 1989, but his analysis is now widely accepted in Japan.

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It's becoming more obvious each day that the conservative assault on Barack Obama's legislative agenda, including his incrementalist efforts towards universal health coverage, isn’t much about the details. It is, instead, a counter-revolutionary campaign to revive 1980s-era middle-class resentments of particular beneficiaries of government social programs.

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Exceptionalist

SEYMOUR MARTIN LIPSET, the distinguished political sociologist who died on December 31, 2006, tells the story in a memoir of how he shifted in City College (CCNY) from science—as a prelude to dentistry—to sociology. During the Depression, the only member of his family who prospered was a dentist uncle, and that seemed the road to security.

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