Political commentary and media coverage of the situation in Afghanistan have been dreadful of late. There’s a kneejerk desire for a simple narrative rather than one that takes a few minutes to break down. That tendency adds confusion to a situation that isn’t all that hard to understand, as is laid out below. By all means, join the debate, but at least know a little bit about what’s going on.

So, here’s a simple primer on the last chapter of this dreadful war.

1. Trump wanted to pull out of Afghanistan for wise geopolitical reasons, cheap political reasons, or a…


As you parse the end of the Operation: Enduring Freedom, as it was dubbed by the PR office of the Pentagon, you should remember two quotes. The first comes from one of Dubya’s senior aides, widely believed to be Karl Rove, as recorded in an interview by Ron Suskind:

“The aide said that guys like me (Suskind) were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality . . . That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when…


I have precious few points of commonality with Simone Biles. In all the ways she is extraordinary, I am, at best, ordinary — and so when I see one small point where our experiences crossover, I like to call it out. Today I noted such an overlap, and it makes me even more proud of her — as a fellow human being — than I was before.

In the summer of 1998, I was in Greece. I was climbing Mount Olympus — literally. It’s a 10,000-foot rise that started the moment I stepped off the Athens to Thessoliniki train in…


Cuban Protestors in Havana, July 2021

The protests in Cuba — and potentially the revolution in Cuba — are eleven million different stories, each with between sixty and five hundred years of history informing their independent trajectories, but they are pointing in the same direction: People can become hungry enough, and tired enough to take on monsters. I can’t speak to the level of suffering that has driven Cubans to the streets, but I am already cringing from the spectators’ reactions up north, where ideologies will guide much of the parsing.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio will see all of the Fidelista brutality, and none of…


Sometimes a pawn sacrifice changes the game.

For a few years back in high school, I made a feint at becoming a chess whiz. It was unsuccessful, though I did manage to become a grandmaster of Cheez Whiz, so that’s sort of the same thing.

I was on the high school chess club but never made it above the fourth chair. I played in a few local tournaments and did okay, but never threatened the finals, or the semifinals, or the quarter-finals. I’d win a game, maybe two. I’d draw a few and lose a few. I think my highest rating was somewhere around 1100 — which…


Senator Krysten Sinema, (D-AZ)

“It is time for the Senate to debate the legislative filibuster, so senators and our constituents can hear and fully consider the concerns and consequences.”

That line is the one interesting pull from Senator Sinema’s WaPo Op-Ed in what is otherwise a rerun of her previous statements in support for the filibuster. She warns against riffing back and forth between extremes when the Senate changes hands. She lauds the spirit of cooperation, as evidenced by the (stalled) bipartisan working groups on infrastructure and police reform. She positions herself as an independent voice for Arizona — a swing-state of swing states…


We’re a few minutes into America’s first federally recognized, National Juneteenth holiday, and I’m wondering how exactly to celebrate — if that’s even the right word, given my history with the history. It’s odd, as a privileged white man, to confront the day. It’s odder still as a white man who taught history for thirteen years at a public high school in Brooklyn, and yet never once did a full lesson on that particular expression of Jubilee. I mentioned it, for sure, but never did I even dedicate a single forty-five-minute class to the history of the first Juneteenth, a…


The GOP Eyes Rep. Elizabeth Cheney

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has scheduled the public flogging of Liz Cheney for sometime tomorrow afternoon. Congresswoman Cheney (R-WY), is expected to be driven from her position as the third-ranking Republican in the House for the Great Apostasy of Truth: She won’t embrace the Big Lie that unites the Republican Party in these waning days of Donald Trump.

You all know the story, for sure: After having gutted most foundational conservative policy positions, the only remaining power center in the Republican Party is the Phantom of Mar-a-Lago. His entire focus, being an ex-President and all, is how unjustly the…


Reporting around H.R.-1, also known as the For the People Act, has been simply terrible, but that’s not entirely the fault of the journalists trying to cover the fight. Very few of them think like historians or lawyers; and even those who do would have trouble parsing the argument in a way that would make sense to their viewers or readers in quick soundbites or 500-wordcount limits from editors.

Fortunately, we’ve got the time, and the space, to unfold it all here.

First, what is it? What is H.R.-1?

Well, it is also S-1. Both the House and the Senate…


The Captain of Compromise — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)

Dear President Biden,

Last night, Joe Manchin wrote an op-ed saying that compromise in the Senate is still possible under the current filibuster rules, and that he’s committed to crafting bipartisan legislation the whole nation might support.

To my mind, that is like suggesting we build a concrete airplane to the future, but Manchin says it can be done. He says he see the way forward. So here’s my humble suggestion: Hire him, very publicly, as your pilot. In fact, you should go even further. Hire Joe Manchin as your legislative pilot, and book his whole family tickets in First…

Michael Tallon

Once a history teacher in Brooklyn, Mike took a sabbatical in 2004 to travel through Latin America. He never returned. He lives and works in Guatemala.

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