Speaking of * [0 - 9]

Monday, May 13, 2024

Speaking of Which

Started this mid-week, but spent most of two days working on that stupid DownBeat Jazz Critics Poll, so I'm picking it up again Saturday afternoon.

Late Sunday evening I pretty much completed my rounds, but still wanted to circle back and write something about Jonathan Chait and "punching left," so figured that could wait for Monday. That'll probably push Music Week back another day, but in times like these, who care about that? (With a normal cutoff, rated count would have been +52.)

One thing I did manage to do was to spend some time reviewing, ostensibly to catch accumulated formatting errors, but the exercise let me write some section intros and identify some places where I should seek out more reports. I'm always in such a rush to get this over and done with that I rarely consider how much better it could be with a little editing.

I wound up spending much of Monday on the long Chait comment. That lead to a couple other section, but no time for a significant review. On to Music Week tomorrow. Perhaps there will be a few minor updates here as well, but don't expect much next week.

Initial count: 228 links, 11661 words. Updated count [03-15]: 238 links, 12105 words.

Top story threads:


Israel and America: The relationship got rockier as Israel rejected a cease-fire/hostage deal Biden was banking on, and insisted on going through with their ground operations in Rafah, where many refuges from elsewhere in Gaza had fled. Biden, in turn, held back certain arms shipments, leading Israel to turn up domestic pressure on American politicians.

Israel vs. world opinion: Includes reports on US campus protests/encampments, sometimes met with police violence as Israel would rather suppress dissent than to face criticism.

Antisemitism: Looks like we have enough this week to break this out separately, especially the notion that any criticism of Israel, even for crimes against humanity as grave as genocide, should be rejected as promoting anti-semitism. So says a bill passed a week ago by the House, a view that Biden embraced in his big Holocaust Museum speech.

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

Other stories:

Alex Abad-Santos: [05-08] Eurovision is supposed to be fun and silly. This year is different. "Eurovision doesn't want to be about Israel-Palestine, but amid protests and boycotts, it might not have a choice."

Sam Adler-Bell: [05-06] Between victory and defeat: "How can the left escape burnout?" Review of Hannah Proctor: Burnout: The Emotional Experience of Political Defeat.

Perry Bacon Jr/Kate Cohen/Shadi Hamid: [05-09] Are politics replacing religion in American life? "And what is gained and lost as our country stops going to churches, synagogues and mosques?"

Claire Biddles: [05-10] Steve Albini believed in a democratic music industry: Albini (1962-2024), who was best known as an engineer and rock producer, died last week. Here's a discogrpaphy.

Jonathan Chait: [05-10] In defense of punching left: The problem with 'Solidarity': Less a review of than a polemic against the recent book by Leah Hunt-Hendrix & Astra Taylor: Solidarity: The Past, Present, and Future of a World-Changing Idea. I bought the book, and will get to it in due course, but I hardly needed them to caution me against "punching left" or especially to point out that Chait is a prime example of a liberal pundit who seems to show much more passion and take much more delight in not merely criticizing but flat-out attacking the left than he ever shows when he reacts to the right. He's far from alone in this regard, and he's nowhere near the worst, but I've had to call him on it numerous times of late. It happens often enough I could probably collect the cases and turn them into a full essay like the Anti-Dühring.

I don't have the appetite to attempt that here, but can't help but leave a few scattered notes. First thing to point out is that here, at least, he is careful to present well-organized and respectable arguments. He is very clear on what he believes. Even where I disagree, I find no reason to doubt his sincerity or integrity. I do have some doubts about his characterization of the book and of the left in general. I haven't read this one, but I've read most of Taylor's books, and have rarely found fault in them, and often been impressed by her brilliance. As for the rest of the left, there is a wide range of reasonable opinion, especially as you move away from the core principle, which is that we favor equality and mutual aid, and oppose hierarchy and forced order.

A personal aside may be in order here. My politics firmed up in the late 1960s when, largely driven by opposition to the Vietnam War, I discovered the New Left -- which had no truck with the old left, but still embraced core left principles, and came equipped with a sophisticated critique of capitalism, its liberal ideology, its conservative detritus, and its fascist activists. Within the New Left, I was relatively sympathetic to anarcho-libertarians (probably because I had absorbed some of the hyper-individualism and anti-statism that ran deep in the American West) but I also had a keen sense of the value of unions and solidarity (my father was in the union, although he was not very heroic about it). I've been pretty consistent in those views for more than fifty years, but I've evolved in several respects. The most relevant here is that I've become more tolerant of well-intentioned liberals -- except when they go to work for the war party (as Chait did in endorsing the Bush war in Iraq).

One suspicious thing Chait writes here is this:

One important distinction between the two tendencies is that liberals tend to understand policy as a search for truth and politics as a struggle to bring a majority around to their position, while leftists understand politics as a conflict to mobilize the political willpower to implement the objective interests of the oppressed.

Leaving the first clause aside for the moment, the second is equally true of conservatives if you replace "oppressed" with "rich and powerful." It's less clear what the replacement would be for liberals, but it's probably something more self-interested than "truth." Historically, liberals fought against aristocracy by appealing to universal benefits as rights -- probably what Chait meant by "truth" back there -- but as they gained power, they started to find they had more common bonds with the owners, who tempted them to turn on the workers. This habit of "punching left" emerged as early as the revolutions of 1848, where workers supported liberal challenges to aristocracy and autocracy, only to be betrayed.

The left is no less concerned with truth than liberals think they are, but we do have cause to be wary of people who spout high-minded rhetoric but don't deliver results beyond their own elite aspirations. We don't deplore "punching left" because we're thin-skinned and unwilling to debate reason, but because we see it as a signal to the right that liberals are happy to serve the right by marginalizing and controlling the left.

And please note here that under "punching left" I'm not talking about airing out differences over tactics -- the ever-roiling debates over when to compromise on what and with whom -- or even over principles. I'm talking about cases where liberals like Chait deliberately distort arguments to support right-wing programs and to impugn the integrity and principles (and sometimes even sanity) of the left. For example, Chait writes:

An additional problem is that each activist issue-group can itself be pulled left quickly by its most committed members. (The stakes for staying on good terms with the left on Israel have quickly escalated from opposing the occupation to opposing Israel's existence in any form to, increasingly, refusing to condemn the murder of Israeli civilians). The dynamic is magnified when every component of the left is expected to endorse the demands of every other.

The parenthetical is essential here, as a cascading series of ridiculous assertions backed by nothing more than the escalating torrent of rhetoric. As someone, typically of people on the left, opposed to war, I certainly condemn the murder of Israeli citizens; likewise, I have no problem whatsoever with an Israel that provides equal rights to everyone who lives there (or for that matter who has a reasonable claim to return there); and my one complaint on the occupation is that it deprives people of those equal rights -- one might imagine a counterfactual where occupation of the West Bank might have afforded Palestinians more equitable rights than they enjoyed under the Jordanian monarchy, but that is not what Israel did ever since the 1967 war.

The before and after sentences are simply Chait's way of complaining that extreme-leftists use "solidarity" as a means of ever-radicalizing thought control, driving them away from the "truth" and "enlightenment" of his pristine liberalism. That he refuses to be bullied like that is, well, respectable, but that he thinks that's what is happening is paranoid and more than a little vile. Maybe the old CP had that kind of disciplined followers, but today's left is as scattered and unorganizable as Will Rogers' Democrats. I take it that the point of Solidarity (the book) is to try to convince people that a little effort at coherence would be of practical value, but I find it impossible to believe that veterans of Occupy Wall Street open democracy meetings -- David Graeber wrote about them in The Democracy Project -- can fancy themselves as the new bolsheviks. (The only "new bolsheviks" are whoever's crafting right-wing talking points these days -- it used to be Grover Norquist's weekly roundtable -- which are then picked up and dutifully repeated by Fox News, politicians, social media, and whoever else is on the party line.)

PS: Even before I finished the above, Chait attacked again: [05-13] No, your pet issue is not making Biden lose: "It's inflation, not Israel or class warfare." Chait and Ed Kilgore (see his article above) are like tag-team wrestlers, jumping in one after another with their assertions that hardly anyone really cares about genocide in Gaza, so, like, nothing to look at here, just "the desire of a tiny number of left-wing activists to leverage the issue," and that "siding with the unpopular protesters would not address the source of Biden's unpopularity." (Bill Scher is another one, over at Washington Monthly.)

The question of why Biden is so unpopular is complicated and, as far as I can tell, poorly understood by anyone (myself included). But I can tell you two things of which I am fairly certain.

One is that even being proximate to a disaster leaves you with an odor that is hard to shake, and there is no way to spin any possible outcome of Israel/Gaza as anything but a disaster. Everyone involved looks bad, some for what they did, some for what they didn't do, some for just witnessing, the rest for ignoring the obvious. Israel has set impossible goals for itself, and even if they could achieve those goals, they wouldn't solve their problem, which is ultimately that they've turned their whole country, and everyone associated with them, into a colossal embarrassment. It's going to take decades, and that means decades of new people, to recover. Biden will never erase this stain from his reputation. All he can do now is to change course, and start to make amends.

The other thing is that, unlike inflation or class warfare, Israel is something he can actually do something about. Israel cannot afford to continue this war, at this level, without American support, and Biden can stop that. Netanyahu has a very weak hold on power, and Biden can nudge him down and out. Israel's leadership may be evil, but they're not stupid. They can see there's no way out of this. They're just playing on borrowed time, because no one has stepped in to put an end to this insanely horrible war. But Biden can do that. And the real problem with Chait, Kilgore, et al., is that they're trying to give Biden cover, allowing him to waste time and dig himself an ever deeper grave. This has turned into the world's deadliest "Emperor's New Clothes" parable. If you can't see that, all I can do is pity you.

And while writing these last paragraphs, this tweet came in:

  • David Klion: Speaking for myself at least, I am not happy about this. I do not want Trump to be president again, and I do believe he would be worse in all respects including on Palestine. That's why I've been sounding the alarm about Biden's indefensible approach to Palestine for 7 months.

Steve Chawkins/Hailey Branson-Potts: [05-08] Pete McCloskey, antiwar candidate who took on Nixon, dies at 96. I remember when he was first elected to the House, and quickly established himself as one of the Republicans' firmest opponents of the Vietnam War.

Bryce Covert: [04-09] The toxic culture at Tesla: "The factory floors at America's top seller of electric vehicles are rife with racial harassment, sexual abuse, and injuries on the job."

Thomas B Edsall: [05-08] The happiness gap between left and right isn't closing: "Why is it that a substantial body of social science research finds that conservatives are happier than liberals?" This isn't a new discovery (or should I say conceit, as it's invariably advanced by conservatives?): the article here links back to a 2012 piece by Arthur C Brooks: Why conservatives are happier than liberals, and more recently to Ross Douthat: [04-06] Can the left be happy?. (Liberals and leftists may well concede the point as individuals but point to studies of whole societies, which always show that more people are happier in more equitable societies.) Steve M asks the key question on the Edsall piece: If right-wingers are happy, why are they so angry?

Edsall devotes most of his lengthy column to the question of whether liberals are miserable because they think the world treats certain groups poorly. He seems to agree that that's the case.

He points out that conservatives also have problems with the world as it is. However, they don't turn sad -- they just get angry: [examples]

So research suggests that they're angrier than liberals, but they're also happier than liberals. Edsall seems to accept the notion it's possible to stew in anger while feeling quite happy.

So, why not? Don't people get some kind of adrenalin rush out of fighting? Even I got some kind of charge as the anti-genocide demonstrations turned more confrontational. And while I perhaps should be worried about the repression, it mostly just makes me want to fight back. It's not that I don't understand the dialectics of violence and non-violence well enough, but one does get sick and tired of being lectured that "when they go low, we go high." That doesn't seem fair.

Right-wingers seem to be able to escape the inhibitions of reason and taste, and just indulge their passions. They've found a way to take pleasure in other people's pain. We're not like that. We can anticipate, and rue, consequences of our actions. We see problems before they're widely acknowledged, and sure, that makes us sad -- especially given the blissful ignorance of those who fancy themselves as conservatives (or, back when I was growing up, as establishment liberals) -- but it also makes us determined, and that requires us to temper the anger that comes with recognizing injustice. But humans are wired to pursue happiness, so sometimes we do that too. And when that does happen, forgive us. We mean well, and would do better if only we weren't so often confronted with happy-angry mobs who hate us and most everyone else.

Abdallah Fayyad: [05-06] America's prison system is turning into a de facto nursing home: "Why are more and more older people spending their dying years behind bars?"

Jacqui Germain: [05-13] Student debt stories: High interest, debt strikes, generational debt, and more.

Constance Grady: [05-07] Why the Met Gala still matters: "Turns out the first Monday in May is the perfect value for celebrity image-making." I generally like Vox's "explainers," not least because they offer a suitably balanced hook upon which to hang more specific articles. But whatever degree of wry amusement this hideous event may have held for me in the past, that moment has long passed.< By the way:/p>

Aljean Harmetz: [05-12] Roger Corman, 98, dies; prolific master of low-budget cinema.

John Herrman: [05-05] Google is staring down its first serious threats in years. Subheds: A monopoly at risk; The AI search dilemma; Search is a nightmare now.

Harold Meyerson: [05-06] Who created the Israel-Palestine conflict? "It wasn't really Jews or Palestinians. It was the US Congress, which closed American borders 100 years ago this month." Blaming the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 is kind of a cheap shot, but bear with him. Before 1914, 85% of Jewish emigres moved to the US, vs. 3% to Palestine. After 1924, the number of Jewish immigrants to the US fell, as the bill designed, to a trickle.

Nicole Narea: [05-12] America's misunderstood border crisis, in 8 charts: "For all the attention on the border, the root causes of migration and the most promising solutions to the US's broken immigration system are often overlooked."

By the way, this is just a stray thought that occurred to me and seemed worth jotting down -- although I can't begin to do it justice here. The US immigration system covers two distinct cases, and their mix does much to confuse the issue. On the one hand, we have immigrants seeking opportunities (mostly economic), coming from stable and even wealthy nations as well as more troubled ones (from which the advantages may seem more obvious). On the other, we have refugees seeking asylum. In theory, the latter could be just as happy somewhere (anywhere?) else. As one of the charts here shows, applications for asylum have trended up since 2014 (except for a 2020-21 Covid dip, but sharply thereafter), so they're a bit part of why immigration (especially "the border") has become a hot blowback issue.

If we actually had, or wanted, some kind of "rules-based international order," a pretty simple way of dealing with the global refugee problem would be to implement a "pay-or-play" scheme, where rich countries could pay poorer countries -- presumably that's the way it would actually work -- to provide sanctuary as needed. Refugees would have rights, including an option of applying for legal immigration to any country willing to consider them. The expense would provide some motivation to negotiate terms for returning refugees, and for curtailing the wars and discriminatory processes that generate most refugees, as well as economic and climate impacts. If we do nothing to better manage migration, the latter will almost certainly make the current crisis even worse.

I'm not a big fan of "pay-or-play" schemes, but they're relatively flexible, easy to implement, minimally intrusive. It could partly be funded by imposing taxes on trade and/or currency of countries producing refugees, which would give them incentive to treat their people better and stop driving them away. This would also be a start toward a much needed system of capital transfers from rich to poor countries, and could provide a framework for equalizing labor markets -- the EU has been a pioneer in both -- but wouldn't require buy in from the start.

I should also mention that I've long been pushing the idea of a "right to exile," which would provide a safety valve for people in countries that are prone to mistreating their people. That would allow anyone who is being incarcerated or punished to appeal to go into exile, provided there is another country willing to accept that person. Again, many details need to be hashed out, and universal agreement will be take some work -- e.g., such a right would almost certainly empty Guantanamo; the US regularly complains about people it thinks are being detained unjustifiably, but also practices what it preaches against.

Nathan J Robinson:

Kenny Torrella:

Dan Weiss: [05-06] The definitive guide to hating Drake: "Enjoy the rap battle of the century, because we've never seen anything like this before." I don't doubt that he's right, but I've never ran across a rap feud I couldn't ignore before, and it saddens me should prove the exception. I am minimally aware that many critics dislike Drake (with at least some sinking into hate). I've heard most of his records, though his early ones sounded promising, his later ones not so much, but I've never heard reason to rail against him. Part of that may be because I'm pretty oblivious to popular success, and barely cognizant of celebrity gossip press -- I gather he's had quite a bit of both.

Colin Woodard: [04-06] Disordering our national myths: "The Founders, the Pioneers, the Movement, the Lost Cause -- the more driving myths one identifies, the more our true national character is obscured." Review of Richard Slotkin: A Great Disorder: National Myth and the Battle for America.

I'm midway through this book, and thus far I'm very impressed and pleased with what I've read on subjects I've read a lot on recently (as well as long ago). As for the reviewer's complaints, I'll have to withhold judgment, but for now I'm very skeptical of the notion that there is any such thing as "our true national character": these states may be united, but never without dissent, and many countercurrents run deep, mythologized or not. But intuitively, trying to understand current politics through its mythic dimensions makes a lot of sense to me.

PS: Reading further, I see that Woodard's unhappiness derives in large part from his own competing theory, which he lays out in his own book Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, where his "different paradigm" reduces the story to "a struggle between two national myths," so between uplifting faith in liberal democracy and the dead weight of slavery, racism, and authoritarianism. (Here's a review by David W Blight.) Slotkin's "disorder" is due to his attempt to trace more mythic threads, and show how they're used by later politicians (Trump, of course, but also Obama) like a readymade toolkit.

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Sunday, May 5, 2024

Speaking of Which

Opened draft file on Thursday. First thing I thought I'd note was some weather stats here in Wichita, KS. High Wednesday was 89°F, which was 17° above "normal" but still 2° below the record high (from 1959; wild temperature swings from year to year are common here). Should be cooler on Thursday, but above average for the rest of the forecast.

Year-to-date precipitation is 5.48 in (well below 7.50 normal; average annual is 34.31, with May and June accounting for 10.10, so almost a third of that; last year was 3.29 at this point, finishing at 30.8). Year totals seem to vary widely: from 2010, the low was 25.0 (2012), the high 50.6 (2016), where the median is closer to 30 than to 35.

Growing degree days currently stands at 435, which is way up from "normal" of 190. That's a pretty good measure of how warm spring has been here. As I recall, last year was way up too, but the summer didn't get real hot until August. The global warming scenario predicts hotter and dryer. I figure every year we dodge that, we just got lucky. The more significant effect so far is that winters have gotten reliably milder (although we still seem to have at least one real cold snap), and that we're less likely to have tornados (which seem to have moved east and maybe south -- Oklahoma still gets quite a few).

I started to write up some thoughts about global warming, but got sidetracked on nuclear war: my initial stimulus was George Marshall's 2014 book, Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, but when I groped for a title, all I came up with was Herman Kahn's "Thinking About the Unthinkable," so I did. I got eight pretty decent paragraphs in, without finding a way to approach my point.

The next thing I thought I'd do was construct a list of the books I had read on climate change, going over how each contributed to the evolution of my thought. But that proved harder than expected, and worse still, I found my thinking changing yet again. So I took a break. I went out back and planted some pole beans. My parents were displaced farmers, so they always kept a garden, and I remember their Kentucky Wonders as much better than any grocery store green beans. So I've had the model idea forever, but never acted on it before. No real idea what I'm doing, but when it's 89° on May 1, I'm certainly not planting too early.

I should have felt like I accomplished something, but I came back in feeling tired, frustrated, and depressed. I decided to give up on the global warming piece, and spent most of the rest of the day with the jigsaw puzzle and TV. Hearing that Congress passed a law banning criticism of Israel as antisemitic added to my gloom, as I contemplated having to take my blog down, as I can't imagine anything as trivial as publishing my thoughts being worth going to jail over.

But for the moment, I guess I can still publish the one new thought I did have about global warming, or more specifically about how people think about global warming. I've always meant to have a section on it in the political book -- it would be one of 5-8 topics I would examine as real problems. I'm constantly juggling the list, but it usually starts with technological change, which is the principal driver of change independent of politics, then on to macroeconomics, inequality, market failures (health care, education, monopolies), externalities (waste byproducts, not just climate change), something about justice issues (fraud, crime, freedom), and war (of course).

The purpose of the book isn't to solve all the world's problems. It's simply to help people think about one very limited problem, which is how to vote in a system where Democrats alone are held responsible for policy failures, and therefore need to deliver positive results. (Republicans seem to be exempt because they believe that government can only increase harm, whereas Democrats claim that government can and should do things to help people. Earlier parts of the book should explain this and other asymmetries between the parties.)

Anyhow, my new insight, which Marshall's book provides considerable support for without fully arriving at, is that climate change is not just a "wicked issue" (Marshall's term) but one that is impossible to campaign on. That's largely because the "hair suit" solutions are so broadly unappealing, but also because they are so inadequate it's hard to see how they can make any real difference. Rather, what Democrats have to run on is realism, care, respect, and trust.

Which, as should be obvious by now, is the exact opposite of what Republicans think and say and do. Showing that Republicans are acting in bad faith should be easy. What's difficult is offering alternatives that are effective but that don't generate resistance that makes their advocacy counterproductive -- especially given that the people who know and care most about this issue are the ones most into moralizing and doomsaying, while other Democrats are so locked into being pro-business that they'll fall for any promising business plan.

Obviously, there is a lot more to say on this subject -- probably much more than I can squeeze into a single chapter, let alone hint at here.

PS: Well after I wrote the above, but before posting Sunday evening, I find this: 40 million at risk of severe storms, "intense" tornadoes possible Monday. The red bullseye is just southwest of here, which is the direction tornadoes almost invariably come from. I'm not much worried about a tornado right here, but it's pretty certain there will be some somewhere, and that we'll get hit by a storm front with some serious wind and hail.

I'm also seeing this in the latest news feed: Wide gaps put Israel-Hamas hostage deal talks at risk of collapse, which is no big surprise since Netanyahu is making a deal as difficult as possible. Little doubt that he still rues that Israel didn't kill all the hostages before Hamas could sweep them away, as they've never been the slightest concern for him, despite the agitation of the families and media.

I saw a meme that a Facebook friend posted: "If you object to occupying buildings as a form of protest, it's because you disagree with the substance of the protest." He added the comment: "No, you don't have some rock-solid principle that setting up tents on grass is unacceptably disruptive to academic life. You just want people to continue giving money to Israel." I added this comment:

Not necessarily, but it does suggest that you do not appreciate the urgency and enormity of the problem, or that university administrators, who have a small but real power to add their voices to the calls for ceasefire, have resisted or at least ignored all less-disruptive efforts to impress on them the importance of opposing genocide and apartheid. This has, in its current red-hot phase, been going on for six months, during which many of us have been protesting as gently and respectfully as possible, as the situation has only grown ever more dire.

I was surprised to see the following response from the "friend":

Wait, what? It sounds like we're on the same side of this one. My post just points out that people critiquing the protest methods don't actually care about that and just oppose the actual goals of the protests.

To which I, well, had to add:

Sounds like we do, which shouldn't have come as a surprise had you read any of the thousands of words I've written on this in every weekly Speaking of Which I've posted since Oct. 7, on top of much more volume going back to my first blogging in 2001. I've never thought of myself as an activist, but I took part in antiwar protests in the 1960s and later, and have long been sympathetic to the dissents and protests of people struggling against injustice, even ones that run astray of the law -- going back to the Boston Tea Party, and sometimes even sympathizing with activists whose tactics I can't quite approve of, like John Brown (a distant relative, I've heard). While it would be nice to think of law as a system to ensure justice, it has often been a tool for oppression. Israel, for instance, adopted the whole of British colonial law so they could continue to use it to control Palestinians, while cloaking themselves in its supposed legitimacy (something that few other former British colonies, including the US, recognized). Now their lobbyists and cronies, as well as our homegrown authoritarians, are demanding that Americans suppress dissent as Israel has done since the intifada (or really since the first collective punishment raids into Gaza and the West Bank in 1951). Hopefully, Americans will retain a sufficient sense of decency to resist those demands. A first step would be to accept that the protesters are right, then forgive them for being right first. I'm always amused by the designation of leftist Americans in the 1930s as "premature antifascists." We should celebrate them, as we now celebrate revolutionary patriots, abolitionists, and suffragists, for showing us the way.

In another Facebook post, I see the quote: "Professional, external actors are involved in these protests and demonstrations. These individuals are not university students, and they are working to escalate the situation." This is NYPD commissioner Edward Caban, and is accurate as long as we understand he is describing the police. The posts pairs this quote with one from Gov. Jim Rhodes in 1970: "These people move from one campus to the other, and terrorize a community. They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America. These people causing the trouble are not all students of Kent State University." As I recall, the ones with guns, shooting people, were Ohio National Guard, sent into action by Gov. Rhodes.

More on Twitter:

  • Tony Karon: Israel's ban of Al Jazeera is 2nd time I've been part of a media organization banned by an apartheid regime. (1st was SA '88) I'm so proud of that! It's a sign of panic by those regimes at the their crimes being exposed, a whiff of the rot at the heart of their systems . . .

  • Jodi Jacobson: [Replying to a tweet that quotes Netanyahu: "if we don't protect ourselves, no one will . . . we cannot trust the promises of gentiles."] For the 1,000th time: Netanyahu Does. Not. Care. About. The. Hostages.
    He never did. They said so at the outset.
    He wants to continue this genocide and continue the war because without it, he will be out on his ass, and (hopefully) tried for war crimes.

  • Joshua Landis: Blinken and Romney explain that Congress's banning of TikTok was spurred by the desire to protect #Israel from the horrifying Gaza photos reaching America's youth that has been "changing the narrative."
    [Reply to a tweet with video and quote: "Why has the PR been so awful? . . . typically the Israelis are good at PR -- what's happened here, how have they and we been so ineffective at communicating the realities and our POV? . . . some wonder why there was such overwhelming support for us to shut down potentially TikTok."]

  • Nathan J Robinson: [Also reacting to the same Romney quote}: In this conversation, Romney also expresses puzzlement that people are directing calls for a cease-fire toward Israel rather than Hamas. He says people don't realize Hamas is rejecting deals. In fact, it's because people know full well that Israel refuses to agree to end the war.

    There's an incredibly unpersuasive effort to portray Hamas as "rejecting a ceasefire." When you read the actual articles, inevitably they say Hamas is rejecting deals that wouldn't end the war, and Israel refuses to budge on its determination to continue the war and destroy Hamas

    What Romney is really wondering, then, is how come Americans aren't stupid enough to swallow government propaganda. He thinks the public is supposed to believe whatever they're told to believe and is mystified that they are aware of reality.

  • Jarad Yates Sexton: [Reposted by Robinson, citing same Romney/Blinken confab]: This is an absolutely incredible, must-watch, all-timer of a clip.
    The Secretary of State admits social media has made it almost impossible to hide atrocities and a sitting senator agrees by saying outloud that was a factor in leveraging the power of the state against TikTok.

  • Yanis Varoufakis: Israel's banning of Al Jazeera is one aspect of its War On Truth. It aims at preventing Israelis from knowing that what goes on in Gaza, in their name, which is no self defence but an all out massacre. An industrial strength pogrom. Genocide. The West's determination to aid & abet Israel is a clear and present danger to freedoms and rights in our own communities. We need to rise up to defend them. In Israel, in our countries, everywhere!

    [PS: Varoufakis also pinned this tweet promoting his recent book, Technofeudalism, with a 17:20 video.]

Initial count: 192 links, 11,072 words. Updated count [05-06]: 208 links, 12,085 words.

Top story threads:

Israel: Before last October 7, a date hardly in need of identification here, I often had a section of links on Israel, usually after Ukraine/Russia and before the World catchall. Perhaps not every week, but most had several stories on Israel that seemed noteworthy, and the case is rather unique: intimately related to American foreign policy, but independent, and in many ways the dog wagging the American tail.

Oct. 7 pushed the section to the top of the list, where it has not only remained but metastasized. When South Africa filed its genocide charges, that produced a flurry of articles that needed their own section. It was clear by then that Israel is waging a worldwide propaganda war, mostly aimed at keeping the US in line, and that there was a major disconnect between what was happening in Gaza/Israel and what was being said in the UN, US, and Europe, so I started putting the latter stories into a section I called Israel vs. World Opinion (at first, it was probably just Genocide -- Robert Wright notes in a piece linked below that he is still reluctant to use the word, but I adopted it almost immediately, possibly because I had seriously considered the question twenty-or-so years ago, and while I had rejected it then, I had some idea of what changes might meet the definition).

I then added a section on America and the Middle East, which dealt with Israel's other "fronts" -- Iran and what were alleged to be Iranian proxies -- in what seemed to be an attempt to lure the US into broader military action in the Middle East, the ultimate goal of which might be a Persian Gulf war between the US and Iran, which would be great cover for Israel's primary objective, which is to kill or expel Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. (Israel's enmity with Iran has always had much more to do with manipulating American foreign policy than with their own direct concerns -- Trita Parsi's book, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States explained this quite adequately in 2007. The only development since then is that the Saudis have joined the game of using America's Iran-phobia for leverage on America.) As threats there waxed and waned, I wound up renaming the section America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire, adding more stories on military misdeeds from elsewhere that would previously have fallen under Ukraine or World.

Now campus demonstrations have their own section, a spin-off but more properly a subset of genocide/world opinion. Needless to say, it's hard for me to keep these bins straight, especially when we have writers dropping one piece here, another there. So expect pieces to be scattered, especially where I've tried to keep together multiple pieces by the same author.

Also note that TomDispatch just dusted off a piece from 2010: Noam Chomsky: Eyeless in Gaza.

Anti-genocide demonstrations: in the US (and elsewhere), and how Israel's cronies and flaks are reacting:

Israel vs. world opinion:

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

  • Stan Cox: [04-28] Eco-collapse hasn't happened yet, but you can see it coming: "Degrowth is the only sane survival plan." Author of a couple books: The Green New Deal and Beyond: Ending the Climate Emergency While We Still Can (2020, pictured, foreword by Noam Chomsky), and The Path to a Livable Future: A New Politics to Fight Climate Change, Racism, and the Next Pandemic (2021). I'm sympathetic to degrowth arguments, but liberals/progressives have long taken as axiomatic that the only path to equality is through focusing on growth, so the mental shift required is massive. Still, as Cox points out, there is a lot of thinking on degrowth. I'll also add isn't necessarily a conscious decision: every disaster is a dose of degrowth, and there are going to be plenty of those. What we need is a cultural shift that looks to rebuild smarter (smaller, less wasteful, more robust). Growth has been the political tonic for quite a while now, it's always produced discontents, which we can and should learn from.

  • Jan Dutkiewicz: [05-02] How rioting farmers unraveled Europe's ambitious climate plan: "Road-clogging, manure-dumping farmers reveal the paradox at the heart of EU agriculture."

  • Umair Irfan: [05-01] How La Niña will shape heat and hurricanes this year: "The current El Niño is among the strongest humans have ever experienced," leading to its counterpart, which while generally less hot can generate even more Atlantic hurricanes. To recap, 2023 experienced record-high ocean temperatures, and an above-average number of hurricanes, but fewer impacts, as most of the storms steered well out into the Atlantic. The one storm that did rise up in the Gulf of Mexico was Idalia, which actually started in the Pacific, crossed Central America, reorganized, then developed rapidly into a Category 4 storm before landing north of Tampa. The oceans are even hotter this year.

  • Mike Soraghan: [05-05] 'Everything's on fire': Inside the nation's failure to safeguard toxic pipelines.

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

Other stories:

Michelle Alexander: [03-08] Only revolutionary love can save us now: "Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1967 speech condemning the Vietnam War offers a powerful moral compass as we face the challenges of out time."

Maria Farrell/Robin Berjon: [04-16] We need to rewild the internet: "The internet has become an extractive and fragile monoculture. But we can revitalize it using lessons learned by ecologists." Further discussion:

Steven Hahn: [05-04] The deep, tangled roots of American illiberalism: An introduction or synopsis of the author's new book, Illiberal America: A History. (I noted the book in my latest Book Roundup, and thought it important enough to order a copy, but haven't gotten to it yet.) Alfred Soto wrote about the book here and here (Soto also mentions Manisha Sinha: The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic: Reconstruction, 1860-1920, and Tom Schaller/Paul Waldman: Whire Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy). Also see:

John Herrman: [05-05] Google is staring down its first serious threats in years: "The search giant now faces three simultaneous challenges: government regulators, real competition, and itself."

Sean Illing: [04-28] Everything's a cult now: Interview with Derek Thompson "on what the end of monoculture could mean for American democracy." This strikes me as a pretty lousy definition:

I think of a cult as a nascent movement outside the mainstream that often criticizes the mainstream and organizes itself around the idea that the mainstream is bad or broken in some way. So I suppose when I think about a cult, I'm not just thinking about a small movement with a lot of people who believe something fiercely. I'm also interested in the modern idea of cults being oriented against the mainstream. They form as a criticism of what the people in that cult understand to be the mainstream.

Given that "cult" starts as a term with implied approbation, this view amounts to nostalgia for conformism and deprecation of dissent, which was the dominant ("mainstream") view back during the 1950s, when most Americans were subject to a mass culture ("monoculture," like a single-crop farm field, as opposed to he diversity of nature). Thompson goes on to castigate cults as "extreme" and "radical" before he hits on a point that finally gets somewhere: they "tend to have really high social costs to belonging to them."

I'd try to define cults as more like: a distinct social group that follows a closed, self-referential system of thought, which may or may not be instantiated in a charismatic leader. One might differentiate between cults based on ideas or leaders, but they work much the same way -- cults based on leaders are easier, as they require less thinking, but even cults based on ideas are usually represented by proxy-leaders, like priests.

By my definition, most religions start out as cults, although over time they may turn into more tolerant communities. Marxism, on the other hand, is not a cult, because it offers a system of thought that is open, critical, and anti-authoritarian, although some ideas associated with it may be developed as cults (like "dictatorship of the proletariat"), and all leaders should be suspect (Lenin, Stalin, and Mao providing obvious examples). Nor is liberalism fertile ground for cults, nor should conservatism be, except for the latter's Führersprinzip complex.

Since the 1950s mass monoculture has fragmented into thousands of niche interests that may be as obscure as cults but are rarely as rigid and self-isolating, and even then are rarely threats to democracy. The latter should be recognized as such, and opposed on principles that directly address the threats. But as for the conformism nostalgia, I'd say "good riddance." One may still wish for the slightly more egalitarian and community-minded feelings of that era, but not at the price of such thought control.

Whizy Kim: [05-03] Boeing's problems were as bad as you thought: I've posted this before, but it's been updated to reflect the death of a second whistleblower.

  • Annika Merrilees/Jacob Barker: [05-05] Why Boeing had to buy back a Missouri supplier it sold off in 2001: So, Spirit wasn't the only deal where Boeing outsmarted themselves? "Meanwhile, President Joe Biden's administration is pushing an $18 billion deal with Israel for up to 50 F-15EX fighter jets, one of the largest arms deals with the country in years." (And guess who's paying Israel to pay Boeing to clean up one of their messes?)

Rick Perlstein: [05-01] A republic, if we can keep it.

Nathan J Robinson: Catching up with his articles and interviews, plus some extra from his Current Events:

  • [04-09] Gated knowledge is making research harder than it needs to be: "Tracking down facts requires navigating a labyrinth of paywalls and broken links." Tell me about it. Specific examples come from Robinson writing an afterword to a forthcoming Noam Chomsky book, The Myth of American Idealism: How U.S. Foreign Policy Endangers the World. He also cites an earlier article of his own: [2020-08-02] The truth is paywalled but the lies are free: "The political economy of bullshit." Actually, lots of lies are paywalled too. Few clichés are more readily disprove than "you get what you pay for."

  • [04-11] Can philosophy be justified in a time of crisis? "It is morally acceptable to be apolitical? Is there something wrong with the pursuit of 'knowledge for knowledge's sake'?" Talks about Bertrand Russell and Noam Chomsky, as distinguished academics who in their later years -- which given their longevity turned out to be most of their lives -- increasingly devoted themselves to antiwar work, and to Aaron Bushnell, who took the same question so seriously he didn't live long at all.

  • [04-16] What everyone should know about the 'security dilemma':

    The security dilemma makes aspects of the Cold War look absurd and tragic in retrospect. From the historical record, we know that after World War II, the Soviet Union did not intend to attack the United States, and the United States did not intend to attack the Soviet Union. But both ended up pointing thousands of nuclear weapons at each other, on hair-trigger alert, and coming terrifyingly close to outright civilization-ending armageddon, because each perceived the other as a threat.

    Some people still think that deterrence was what kept the Cold War cold, but it wasn't fear that prevented war. It was not wanting war in the first place, a default setting that was if anything sorely tried by threat and fear. If either country actually wants war, deterrence is more likely to provoke and enable.

  • [04-18] The victories of the 20th century feminist movement are under constant threat: Interview with Josie Cox, author of Women Money Power: The Rise and Fall of Economic Equality.

  • [04-19] Palestine protests are a test of whether this is a free country.

  • [04-23] You don't have to publish every point of view: "It's indefensible for the New York Times to publish an argument against women's basic human rights." Which is what they did when they published an op-ed by Mike Pence.

  • [04-26] We live in the age of "vulture capitalism": Interview with Grace Blakely, author of Vulture Capitalism: Corporate Crimes, Backdoor Bailouts, and the Death of Freedom. Evidently Boeing figures significantly in the book.

  • [05-02] The Nicholas Kristof theory of social change: "The New York Times columnist encourages protesters to stop atrocities by, uh, studying abroad." This is pretty scathing, admitting that Kristof seems to recognize that what's happening in Gaza is horrific, but with no clue of how it got this way or how to stop it. Robinson writes:

    Actually, I'm giving him too much credit here by suggesting he actually has a theory of change. For the most part, he doesn't even offer a theory for how his proposed actions are supposed to make a difference in policy, even as he patronizingly chides protesters for their ineffectiveness. He doesn't even try to formulate a hypothetical link between studying abroad in the West Bank and the end of Israel's occupation, even as he says university divestment from Israel will do nothing. (He seems to demonstrate no appreciation of how a plan to try to isolate Israel economically resembles the strategy of boycotts and sanctions against South Africa, which was important in the struggle against that regime's apartheid. But divestment from Israel will only, he warns, "mean lower returns for endowments.") He pretends to offer them more pragmatic and effective avenues, while in fact offering them absolutely nothing of any use. (The words "pragmatism" and "realism" are often used in American politics to mean "changing nothing.")

    Also worth reiterating this:

    In fact, far from being un-pragmatic, the student Gaza protesters have a pretty good theory of power. If you can disrupt university activity, the university administration will have an interest in negotiating with you to get you to stop. (Brown University administrators did, although I suspect they actually got the protesters to accept a meaningless concession.) If you can trigger repressive responses that show the public clearly who the fascists are, you can arouse public sympathy for your cause. (The civil rights movement, by getting the Southern sheriffs to bring out hoses and dogs, exposed the hideous nature of the Jim Crow state and in doing so won public sympathy.) It's also the case that if protesters can make it politically difficult for Joe Biden to continue his pro-genocide policies without losing support in an election year, he may have to modify those policies. Politicians respond to pressure far more than appeals to principle. . . .

    The protesters are doing a noble and moral thing by demonstrating solidarity with Gaza and putting themselves at risk. Because Israel is currently threatening to invade the Gazan city of Rafah, where well over a million Palestinians are sheltering, it's crucially important that protesters keep up the pressure on the U.S. government to stop Israel from carrying out its plans. Given the Palestinian lives at stake, I would argue that one of the most virtuous things anyone, especially in the United States, can do right now is engage in civil disobedience in support of the Gaza solidarity movement. And correspondingly, I would argue that one of the worst things one can do right now is to do what Nicholas Kristof is doing, which is to undermine that movement by lying about it and trying to convince people that the activists are foolish and misguided.

  • [05-03] The ban on "lab-grown" meat is both reprehensible and stupid: I must have skipped over previous reports on the bill that DeSantis signed in a fit of performative culture warring, and only mention it here thanks to Robinson, even though I dislike his article, disagree with his assertion that "factory farming is a moral atrocity," and generally deplore the politically moralized veganism he seems to subscribe to. (Should-be unnecessary disclaimer here: I don't care that he thinks that, but think it's bad politics to try to impose those ideas on others, even if just by shaming -- and I'm not totally against shaming, but would prefer to reserve it for cases that really matter, like people who support genocide.) But sure, the law is "both reprehensible and stupid." [PS: Steve M has a post on John Fetterman (D-PA) endorsing the DeSantis stunt. I've noticed, but paid little heed to, a lot of criticism directed at Fetterman recently. This also notes Tulsi Gabbard's new book. I'm not so bothered by her abandoning the Democratic Party, but getting her book published by Regnery crosses a red line. Steve M also has a post on Marco Rubio's VP prospects. I've always been very skeptical that Trump would pick a woman, as most of the media handicappers would have him do, nor do I see him opting for Tim Scott. I don't see Rubio either, but no need to go into that.]

  • Alex Skopic/Lily Sánchez/Nathan J Robinson: [04-24] The bourgeois morality of 'The Ethicist': "The New York Times advice column, where snitching liberal busybodies come to seek absolution, is more than a mere annoyance. In limiting our ethical considerations to tricky personal situations and dilemmas, it directs our thinking away from the larger structural injustices of our time." I'm sure there's a serious point in here somewhere, but it's pretty obvious how much fun the authors had making fun of everyone involved here.

Jeffrey St Clair: [05-03] Roaming Charges: Tin cops and Biden coming . . . "As America's liberal elites declare open warfare on their own kids, it's easy to see why they've shown no empathy at all for the murdered, maimed and orphaned children of Gaza. Back-of-the-head shots to 8-year-olds seem like a legitimate thing to protest in about the most vociferous way possible . . . But, as Dylan once sang, maybe I'm too sensitive or else I'm getting soft." I personally have a more nuanced view of Biden, but I'm not going to go crosswise and let myself get distracted when people who are basically right in their hearts let their rhetoric get a bit out of hand.

After citing Biden's tweet -- "Destroying property is not a peaceful protest. It is against the law. Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduations, none of this is a peaceful protest." -- he quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter From a Birmingham Jail.":

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."

I think it's safe to say that no protester wants to break the law, to be arrested, to go to jail, to sacrifice their lives for others. What protesters do want is to be heard, to have their points taken seriously, for the authorities to take corrective action. Protest implies faith and hope that the system may still reform and redeem itself. Otherwise, you're just risking martyrdom, and the chance that the system will turn even more vindictive (as Israel's has shown to a near-absolute degree). We all struggle with the variables in this equation, but the one we have least control over is what the powers choose to do. As such, whether protests are legal or deemed not, whether they turn destructive, whether they involve violence, is almost exclusively the choice of the governing party. And in that choice, they show us their true nature.

Some more samples:

  • Columbia University has an endowment of $13.6 billion and still charges students $60-70,000 a year to attend what has become an academic panopticon and debt trap, where every political statement is monitored, every threat to the ever-swelling endowment punished.

  • Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich: "We must obliterate Rafah, Deir al-Balah, and Nuseirat. The memory of the Amalekites must be erased. No partial destruction will suffice; only absolute and complete devastation." While chastizing college students for calling their campaign an "intifada," Biden is shipping Israel the weapons to carry out Smotrich's putsch into Rafah . . .

  • The pro-Israel fanatics who attacked UCLA students Tuesday night with clubs and bottle rockets, as campus security cowered inside a building like deputies of the Ulvade police force, shouted out it's time for a "Second Nakba!" Don't wait for Biden or CNN to condemn this eliminationist rhetoric and violence.

  • In the last 10 years, the number of people shot in road rage incidents quadrupled. Two of the three cities with the highest [number] of incidents are in Texas, Houston and San Antonio.

This week's books:

Michael Tatum: [05-04] Books read (and not read): Looks like more fiction this time.

David Zipper: [04-28] The reckless policies that helped fill our streets with ridiculously large cars: "Dangerous, polluting SUVs and pickups took over America. Lawmakers are partly to blame."

Li Zhou: [05-01] Marijuana could be classified as a lower-risk drug. Here's what that means.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Speaking of Which

I started working on this around Wednesday, April 17, anticipating another long and arduous week. But I thought I'd be able to get in a Book Roundup before posting, so I numbered my draft files accordingly. When that didn't happen (which was like the second or third week in a row), I decided to hold back Speaking of Which and Music Week until I posted the Book Roundup. That turned out to be Thursday, April 25. This draft has picked up a few new pieces along the way, but I'm only getting back to it in earnest on April 26.

I thought then I might try to wrap it up in a day, but was soon overwhelmed by all the new material I had missed. So now it's slipped to Sunday, making this a two-week compilation, but at least putting me back on the usual schedule. Another thought I had on resuming was that I should write an introduction to summarize my main points. Probably too late to do anything like that this week, but over the last couple days, I've expanded on many of these pieces where the articles seemed to call for it. So I'll leave it to you to fish out the essential summaries.

I decided to push this out Sunday evening, even though I didn't quite manage to hit all the sources I wanted. Perhaps I'll catch some misses on Monday, while I'm working on the also delayed Music Week. They'll be flagged, as usual, like this paragraph. (Note that my initial counts are about double typical weeks, which makes this easily the longest Speaking of Which ever. So while I've been slow posting, I haven't been slacking off.)

A few noted tweets:

  • Tanisha Long: Nothing radicalizes a generation of debt burdened young people like sending 26 billion dollars to fund a genocidal terror state.
    [To which, The Debt Collective added]: Telling generations of young people that there isn't enough money for free college or free healthcare and then spending billions to commit the gravest assault on Gaza really does elicit a very particular type of rage.

  • Robert Wright: [Reacting to headline: Democrats Upbeat After Sudden Wins on Ukraine and Auto Worker] This is naive. The only way the Ukraine funding becomes a political asset for Biden is if there's a peace deal before November. Otherwise Trump has him right where he wants him: spending tax dollars on an endless war.

  • Tony Karon: [Commenting on a Jewish Voice for Peace tweet] Shkoyach! It's actually anti-Semitic to conflate Jews with Israel - all my adult life I've been an anti-Zionist Jew, because I want no part of an apartheid state whose existence is based on sustained racist violence on the people it displaced and subordinated.

    Some who've been raised to put a blue-and-white calf above Jewish values now dread Israel being recognized as a genocidal apartheid state. They're not unsafe, they're uncomfortable. But 10000s of Jews stand up for Palestinian freedom - because it's the Jewish thing to do.

    [Tweet links to their statement: We're fighting to stop a genocide. Slanders against our movements are a distraction.]

  • Nathan J Robinson: Joe Biden might want to read about what happened to one of his Democratic predecessors who also presided over a war unpopular with young people and had a party convention scheduled in Chicago.

  • Max Blumenthal: Genocide friendly gentile gov Greg Abbott swore allegiance to a foreign apartheid state
    UT students are under occupation
    [photo of Abbott in wheelchair with kippah prostrating himself to the temple wall is emblematic of America's political class; I still have to ask, why does this play so well to basically antisemitic Christian nationalists?]

  • Greg Sargent: Agree with this from @lionel_trolling: Trump's trial "cuts him down to size" and reveals him as "a common, banal criminal."
    FWIW, we did a pod episode with polling on how the trial makes Trump look "grubby" and "small" and why this wrecks his aura.

    In the criminal trial in Manhattan and the Supreme Court oral arguments, the two different sides of Donald Trump are fully on display. On the one hand, in Alvin Bragg's criminal trial, we have Trump-in-himself: he's a petty conman, a quasi-gangster, who lives in a world of pornstars and pay offs to tabloids. There he's an old man who is falling asleep in court. And maybe not because he's aging either: the Trump trial is actually kind of boring; it's quotidian sleaze that can't break through the news about Gaza and the student protests. People have criticized Bragg's decision to prosecute Trump, but it occurred to me that maybe there's a quiet brilliance in the move; it cuts Trump down to size and shows him to the world to be just what he is: a common, banal criminal. It even made me wonder at the wisdom of my insistence on Trump's fascistic qualilties. Does not that just add to his myth? Perhaps he is just kind of a nothing.

    There is no reason to think Trump's trial helps him outside his MAGA base.
    "He is not the alpha. He is falling asleep. HE is subjected to censure," says @anatosaurus. He looks "small" and his conempt for the law . . .

  • Ryan Grim: [commenting on an Ari Fleischer counterfactual that "If Students for Trump launched encampments at colleges . . . every student would be immediately arrested, discipline and the camps torn down"] If cops started beating up and arresting a bunch of college Trump supporters the left would probably chuckle at the irony but oppose the abuse and defend their basic rights. I certainly would do both, and that's ok.

Greg Magarian reports from Washington University, St. Louis:

If you've been wondering about the content of pro-Palestinian campus protests, I just got back from one. Things I did NOT hear or see: (1) Even the barest aspersion cast on Jewish people or any Jewish person. The only appearance of the word "Jew" or any variation thereon was as a self-identifier (e.g., "Jews Against Genocide"). (2) Even the barest deviation from peacefulness and good order. If you haven't been to a public protest, I can tell you that protest organizers know their work well. They're way too disciplined to indulge "rioting." (3) Anything that a reasonable person could construe as a call for violence against Israeli civilians. Resistance to occupation, Palestinian self-determination, anti-Zionism? Sure. Every human being has the right to speak up and out for their own aspirations. This movement is about equal Palestinian humanity -- no more, no less.

Magarian also posted this video and comment:

This is what my university did today. It was a peaceful protest. The university administration decided to respond with violence. Wash U's support for Israel has gotten much easier to understand: institutions that believe might makes right, that have no problem stomping on anyone who gets in their way, have to stick together.

Also see this post on St. Louis by Tinus Ritmeester (not sure how I got into the "with others" list, but thanks), which also includes a longer report from Megan-Ellyia Green.

Also, note this protest sign: "Over 200 zip-tied Palestinians found executed in a hospital & you are upset at our protest???"

A Howard Zinn quote is making the rounds again: "They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war."

Initial count: 317 links, 15,302 words. Updated count [05-01]: 328 links, 16,177 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. Iran:

Israel vs. world opinion: First, let's break out stories on the rising tide of anti-genocide protests on American university campuses:

  • Spencer Ackerman: [04-25] Now the students are "terrorists": "Politicians and administrators are playing the 9/11 Era hits against students protesting a genocide -- and want to badly to kill them."

  • Michael Arria:

  • Narek Boyajian/Jadelyn Zhang: [04-25] We are occupying Emory University to demand immediate divestment from Israel and Cop City.

  • Nandika Chatterjee: [04-16] Republican Senator Tom Cotton urges followers to attack pro-Palestine protesters who block traffic.

  • Fabiola Cineas: [04-18] Why USC canceled its pro-Palestinian valedictorian: "As the school year winds down, colleges are still grappling with student speech."

  • Julian Epp: [04-16] Campus protests for Gaza are proliferating -- and so is the repression.

  • Henry Giroux: [04-26] Poisoning the American mind: Student protests in the age of the new McCarthyism.

  • Luke Goldstein: [04-26] Pro-Israel groups pushed for warrantless spying on protesters.

  • Chris Hedges: [04-25] Revolt in the universities: Also note: [04-25] Princeton U. police stop Chris Hedges' speech on Gaza.

  • Caitlin Johnstone: [04-26] Will quashing university protests and banning TikTok make kids love Israel?

  • Sarah Jones:

  • Ed Kilgore: [04-26] The GOP is making campus protests a 2024 law-and-order issue: At last they've finally found a law that they want to enforce. And they sure aren't afraid of looking like authoritarian thugs in doing so. That's the rep they want to own.

  • Branko Marcetic: [04-24] Why they're calling student protesters antisemites: "They want us talking about anything other than the genocide in Gaza."

  • James North: [04-20] The media is advancing a false narrative of 'rising antisemitism' on campus by ignoring Jewish protesters.

  • Nushrat Nur: [04-20] Long live the student resistance: "University administrators fail to understand that student activists have glimpsed a remarkable future in which Palestinian liberation is possible. The Gaza Solidarity Encampment at Columbia University is an inspiration to stay the course." Or maybe they do understand, and just don't want to see it happen?

  • Andrew O'Hehir: [04-28] Columbia crisis: Another massive failure of liberalism: "Columbia's president capitulated to the right-wing witch hunt -- and only made things worse."

    I intend to work my way back around to the instructive case of Columbia president Minouche Shafik, who apparently believed she could galaxy-brain her way around the protest crisis -- and avoid the fate of ousted Harvard president Claudine Gay, among others -- by capitulating in advance to the House Republicans' witch-trial caucus, taking a hard line against alleged or actual antisemitism, and finally calling the cops on her own students. Spoiler alert: None of that was a good idea, and she probably didn't save her job anyway.

    When he returns to Shafik, he nominates her "if you wanted to choose one individual as the face of 'neoliberalism' for an encyclopedia netry." But more important is this:

    First of all, it's more accurate to say that the media-consuming public is riveted by the contentious political drama surrounding those scenes of campus discord than by the protests themselves, which are a striking sign of the times but hardly a brand new phenomenon. . . . It's also worth noting that America's extraordinary narcissism -- another quality shared across the political spectrum -- creates a global distortion effect whereby the deaths of at least 34,000 people in a conflict on the other side of the world are transformed into a domestic political and cultural crisis. Nobody actually dies in this domestic crisis, but everyone feels injured: Public discourse is boiled down to idiotic clichés and identity politics is reduced to its dumbest possible self-caricature.

    I hate the both-sides-ism here: I don't doubt the shared narcissism and symbol-mongering, but "on the other side of the world" a nation with a long history of racial/ethnic discrimination and repression has advanced to the systematic destruction of a large segment of its people -- the applicable legal term here is "genocide" on a level with few historical analogues. So the dividing line -- opposing the practice of genocide, or supporting it mostly by trying to obscure the issue -- is very real and very serious, even if none of the American protesters are living in terror of their own homes, food sources, and hospitals being bombed. Moreover, while Israel/Gaza may be literally as distant as Congo, Myanmar, or Ukraine, it is a lot closer emotionally, especially for American Jews, who are most sharply divided, but also for any American who believes in equal rights, in freedom and justice for all -- people who would normally support the Democratic Party, but now find themselves torn and ashamed by a President who seems aligned and complicit with the forces committing genocide.

  • Katherine Rosman: [04-26] Student protest leader at Columbia: 'Zionists don't deserve to live': "After video surfaced on social media, the student said on Friday that his comments were wrong." I dropped the name, because after the retraction, why should he have to live in Google fame forever just for a casual remark? But the New York Times considers this news, because it fits their mission as purveyors of Israeli lines, especially larded with further comments like "it's one of the more blatant examples of antisemitism and, just, rhetoric that is inconsistent with the values that we have at Columbia" and "there's a danger for all students to have somebody using that type of rhetoric on campus." Doesn't that just echo the official rationale for having all those students arrested?

    Personally, I would never think such a thing, much less say it, nor would most of the people offended enough by genocide to show up at a protest, but really who are we to make a major issue out of such sentiments? There's a Todd Snider lyric that captured a very common, if not quite ubiquitous, credo, which is "in America, we like our bad guys dead."

    If some guy goes berserk and starts shooting up a school or church, then is shot himself, we rarely count him among the victims. We have presidents who go order the assassination of prominent political figures, then go on TV and brag about their feats, expecting a bump in the polls. As for Israelis, they're clearly even more bloodthirsty than we are. But we should all drop whatever we're doing and condemn some guy who fails to empathize with people who are furthering genocide?

    We're fortunate so far that few people who oppose what Israel has been doing view its architects and enablers and fair-weather friends with anything remotely resembling the fear, loathing, and malice Israel has mustered. That's especially true in America, where so few of us are directly impacted, leaving us free to moralize as we may. But human nature suggests such luck won't hold. The longer this war, which is purely a matter of Netanyahu's choice, goes on, the more desperate become, the more despicable Israelis will appear, the more the violence they've unleashed, the more hatred will wash back on them. And when it does, sure, decry and lament those who fight back and their victims, but never forget who started this, who sustained it, and who could have stopped it at any point and started to make amends. (And surely I don't need to add that the bomb started ticking long before Oct. 7.)

  • James Schamus: [04-23] A note to fellow Columbia faculty on the current panic: "The current 'antisemitism panic' at Columbia University is manufactured hysteria weaponized to quell legitimate political speech on campus and give cover to the larger project of ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and, now, of course, Gaza."

  • Bill Scher: [04-25] The divestment encampments don't make any sense: "The demand that universities unload any investments having to do with Israel is half-baked and bound to fail." Really? Granted, the investment money at stake isn't enough to cause Israel to flinch, but the very idea that anyone -- much less elite institutions in Israel's most loyal ally -- would choose to dissociate itself from Israel on moral grounds is likely to sow doubt elsewhere. Otherwise, why would Israelis go into such a tizzy any time they hear "BDS"? But more importantly, divestment is a direct tie between the university and Israel, and one that can be discretely severed by university administrators who discover that doing so is in their best interest. Divestment gives protesters a tangible demand, and it is one that universities can easily afford, so it offers a chance for a win. Moreover, the dynamic is pretty easy to understand, because we've done this sort of thing before. The odds of success here are much better than anything you might get from trying to lobby your representative, or for boycotting a store that sells Israeli hummus. Also, this shows that students are still organizable (and on long-term, relatively altruistic grounds), probably more so than any other segment of society, despite generally successful efforts to reduce higher education to crass carreerism. Despite the dumb pitch, the article's back story on South Africa gives me hope. Sure, this generation of Israeli leaders is more Botha than De Klerk, but so was De Klerk until he realized that a better path was possible. That's going to be harder with Israel, mostly because they still think that what they're doing is working. The protests show otherwise, and the more successful they are, the better for everyone.

    [PS: Per this tweet, the philosophy department chair at Emory University says, "Students are the conscience of our culture."]

  • Matt Stieb/Chas Danner: [04-28] University protests: the latest at colleges beyond Columbia.

More on the Israel's propaganda front, struggling as ever to mute and suppress the world's horror at the genocide in Gaza and to Israel's escalation elsewhere from apartheid to state/vigilante terror.

  • Michael Arria:

  • Zack Beauchamp: [04-16] Tucker Carlson went after Israel -- and his fellow conservatives are furious: "Carlson mainstreamed antisemitism for a long time, and conservatives seemed not to care. Then he set his sights on Israel." When it comes to dunking on Carlson, I don't much care who does it:

    • Daniel Beaumont: [04-26] The Big Bang: Israel's path to self-destruction.

    • M Reza Benham: [04-26] Manipulation politics: Israeli gaslighting in the United States: "A country does not become cruel overnight. It takes intent, years of practice and strategies to effectively hide the cruelty." Dozens of examples follow, especially on Israel's master of American politicians. "Israeli gaslighting has reached into and exerted influence in almost every segment of American society. Consequently, Israel has grown into an entity unbound by borders, exempt from international law and able to commit genocide with impunity." Also note: "And while Israel continues its intense bombing in Gaza, Biden signed legislation on 24 April allocating another $26.4 billion for Tel Aviv to continue its atrocities."

    • Ronen Bregman/Patrick Kingsley: [04-28] Israeli officials believe ICC is preparing arrest warrants over war: "The Israeli and foreign officials also believe the court is weighing arrest warrants for leaders from Hamas." That would be consistent with past efforts to charge both sides with war crimes, but it opens up an interesting possibility, which would be for Hamas leaders to surrender to the ICC for trial, which would presumably protect them from Israeli assassination, and would largely satisfy Israel's demands that Hamas's leadership in Gaza be dismantled. It would also give them a chance to defend themselves in public court, where they could make lots of interesting cases. It would show respect for international law, even if it demands sacrifice. And it would put Israel on the spot to do the same. I'd like to see that.

    • Jonathan Chait: [04-17] Conservatives suddenly realize Tucker Carlson is a lying Russian dupe: "What changed?" I don't quite buy the idea that Carlson is a "Russian dupe" but he has so little redeeming social value that I don't care what you call him. Still, you have to wonder, when Israel starts losing the antisemites, what will they have left?

  • Jonathan Cook: [04-26] How an 'antisemitism hoax' drowned out the discovery of mass graves in Gaza.

  • Dave DeCamp:

  • Connor Echols: [04-24] Israel violating US and international law, ex officials say: "An independent task force has given a detailed report of alleged Israeli war crimes to the Biden administration."

  • Thomas L Friedman:

    • [04-26] Israel has a choice to make: Rafah or Riyadh: I suspect that most Israelis regard Friedman as nothing more than a "useful idiot," which is to say he's useful when he says what he's supposed to -- as when he repeated their "six front" theory in an attempt to entice Biden into launching a war of distraction with Iran -- and an idiot when he tries to think for himself and to offer them advice. [Cue famous Moshe Dayan quote.] This is an example of the latter, though you can hardly blame Friedman, since this is based on things he was told to think. Some day the relevant secrets will be revealed, and we'll all have a good laugh over how Trump and Biden got played over the Abraham Accords -- or how Kushner played everyone, since he wound up with billions of Saudi money for a deal that never had to happen. Israel never cared the least bit for any of them, but went along with Qatar and Morocco because they were totally harmless deals that cost them nothing and helped manipulate the Americans (much like their phony war with Iran, which the deals propose to turn into some grand alliance).

      The Saudis couldn't quite stoop that low because they still have some self-respect -- they are, after all, the trustees of Mecca and Medina -- but strung Kushner along with cash, and more generally the Americans with potentially lucrative arms deals. But if Friedman's choice is real, Israel would much rather demolish the last Palestinian city in Gaza, rendering it uninhabitable for whoever manages not to be killed in the process, than have a chance to play footsie with the decadent but despised Saudis. But they may also suspect it isn't really real, because it's always been so easy to manipulate the Americans and their Arab friends, who've always proved eager to accommodate whatever Israel wants.

    • [04-16] How to be pro-Palestinian, pro-Israeli and pro-Iranian. While the title suggests that Friedman might be capable of thinking creatively, searching out some kind of mutually beneficial win-win-win solution, pinch yourself. By "pro-Iranian" he means anti-Ayatollah, which is to say he's no more prepared to deal with the real Iran than Netanyahu and Biden are. And by "pro-Palestinian" he means totally domesticated under a fully compliant Palestinian Authority, as separate-and-unequal as any imaginary reservation. Sure, by "pro-Israeli" he probably means free of Netanyahu, but he'd be less of a stickler on that point.

  • Binoy Kampmark: [04-28] Israel's anti-UNRWA campaign falls flat.

  • Naomi Klein: [04-24] We need an exodus from Zionism: "This Passover, we don't need or want the false idol of Zionism. We want freedom from the project that commits genocide in our name." Klein spoke at a Passover seder in Brooklyn:

  • Alan J Kuperman: [04-16] Civilian deaths in Gaza rival those of Darfur -- which the US called a 'genocide'.

  • Judith Levine: [04-25] Why we need to stop using 'pro-Palestine' and 'pro-Israel': "The safety and security of Palestinians and Jews are interdependent, so we should use language carefully." Good luck with that. I know I try to be precise and respectful in my terminology, but it's always a struggle: we are necessarily talking about groups of people, despite every grouping, whether self- or other-identified, having exceptions and individual variations that undermine every attempt to generalize. At some point, you have to concede the impossibility of the task, and admit not just that the terms are imprecise but that we shouldn't put so much weight on them.

    I've considered writing an article on this: "Why I've never called myself 'pro-Palestinian,' but I don't care if you do." Part of what I feel here is that Palestinian nationalist groups, even ones nominally on the left, have a sorry history of ambition and exclusion which I've never approved of in principle, and have found to be counterproductive politically. But mostly, I don't trust any nationalism, even one that would presume to include me among the elect. (Although I've found that people who would divide us into nations will continue to subdivide so that only their own clique comes out on top, which somehow never saw me as fit for their supremacy.)

    On the other hand, I've never doubted that Palestinians should enjoy the same human rights as everyone else, provided they accord the same rights to others. But most people who describe themselves as pro-Palestinian believe exactly that. Their self-label is meant to convey solidarity with people they rightly see as oppressed, people they hope to advance not to dominance but to equal rights. I don't think that this is the clearest way of expressing their support, but who am I to object to such tactical quibbles? I felt much the same way when Stokely Carmichael started talking about Black Power. Sure, like all power, that could be abused, but for now the deficit was so great one had little to worry about. And the trust expressed would only help to build the solidarity the movement needed.

    By the way, see the Robert Wright article below for a story along these lines, where Norman Finkelstein suggests that when saying "From the river to the sea," it would be clearer and safer to say "Palestinians" will be free" instead of "Palestine." That makes sense to me, but as Wright noted, he was immediately followed by another speaker, who repeated the standard line and got bigger applause. I could see giving up after that, but isn't that the worst of all scenarios?

  • Sania Mahyou: [04-26] Inside the first French university encampment for Palestine at Sciences Po Paris.

  • Stefan Moore: [04-23] Israel's architect of ethnic cleansing: "The spectre of Yosef Weitz lives on." Now there's a name I know, but haven't heard of in a while. Weitz was head of the Land Settlement Department for the Jewish National Fund, which was the Zionist entity charged with buying up parcels of Palestinian land as Jewish immigrants sought to take over the country. In 1937, after the Peel Commission recommended that Palestine be partitioned with forced transfer, Weitz became head of the Jewish Agency's Population Transfer Committee, so he was the original bureaucratic planner of what became the Nakba.

  • Colleen Murrell: [04-26] How the Israeli government manages to censor the journalists covering the war on Gaza.

  • James North: [04-15] A secret internal 'NYTimes' memo reveals the paper's anti-Palestinian bias is even worse than we thought. North has been documenting reporting bias and outright propaganda in the NY Times long enough he can't possibly be as surprised, let alone shocked, as says. NY Times, regardless of pretensions to high-minded objectivity, has always been a party-line organ. Still, it's nice to be able to see explicit directions and reasoning on terminology, rather than just having to sniff out the distortions. For more on this, see the original leak story, and more:

  • Kareena Pannu: [04-17] How the UK media devalues Palestinian lives: "The UK media's coverage of the killing of World Central Kitchen workers shows how much Palestinian life is devalued."

  • Vijay Prashad: [04-24] Elites afraid to talk about Palestine: "The Western political class has used all tools at its disposal to support Israel's genocide while criminalizing solidarity."

  • Fadi Quran/Fathi Nimer/Tariq Kenney-Shawa/Yawa Hawari: [04-17] Palestinian perspectives on escalating Iran-Israel relations. Many interesting points here; e.g., from Kenney-Shawa:

    Iran's highly-choreographed attack achieved exactly what it intended, gaining valuable intel on Israeli, American, and regional air defense capabilities, costing Israel and its US benefactors over $1 billion in a single night, proving Israel's dependency on the US, and further eroding Israel's image of military invincibility. In doing so, Iran also sent a clear message that its drones and missiles could cause significantly more damage if launched without warning, while still preserving a window for de-escalation.

    Also, from Hawari:

    For Netanyahu, picking a fight with Iran was the only thing that could save him from near-certain political demise. As the Gaza genocide rages on, the Israeli military remains unable to secure its stated objective: the eradication of Hamas and the return of the hostages. This, in addition to the fact that he faces major corruption charges and overwhelming domestic opposition to his leadership, makes Netanyahu at his most dangerous.

    The Israeli prime minister has, for years, built his political career on arousing fear of Iran and its nuclear capabilities among the Israeli public. Internationally, the Israeli regime has long positioned itself as a Western bulwark against Iran and tied its security to that of Western civilization itself. Netanyahu has also exploited Palestine-Iran relations to justify Israel's continued oppression of the Palestinian people as a whole. This is a narrative that has particularly taken hold during since the start of the current genocide.

    This was published by Al-Shabaka, which bills itself as "the Palestinian Policy Network." Some other recent posts:

  • Balakrishnan Rajagopal: [01-29] Domicide: The mass destruction of homes should be a crime against humanity.

  • Jodi Rudoren: [04-05] Why an immediate ceasefire is a moral imperative -- and the best thing for Israel. Editor-in-chief of Forward, she's made some progress since her October 9, 2023 column, where she wrote: "The coming days and weeks will be awful. Israel has no good options." I don't mean to rub it in, but there was one good option back then. Give her credit for finding it eventually. Too many others are still pretending they can't do otherwise.

  • Robert Tait: [04-27] Sanders hits back at Netanyahu: 'It is not antisemitic to hold you accountable'. His own piece:

  • Philip Weiss:

  • Robert Wright: [04-26] This feels like Vietnam: I mentioned this piece under Levine above, for its discussion of language. The analogy to the Vietnam War protests has been noted elsewhere but is still has a long ways to go:

    The last two weeks have been more reminiscent of the Vietnam War era than any two weeks since . . . the Vietnam War era. After the mass arrest of students at Columbia University failed to squelch their anti-war protest encampment, the attendant publicity helped inspire protests, and encampments, at campuses across the country.

    We're nowhere near peak Vietnam. As someone old enough to dimly remember the protests of the late 1960s (if not old enough to have participated in them), I can assure you that college students are capable of getting way more unruly than college students have gotten lately.

    I can't do this subject justice here, so will limit myself to two points. One is that thanks to the AIPAC-dominated political culture in Washington, both parties are totally aligned with Israel, although few in either party did so from core beliefs. This matters little on the Republican side (where core beliefs tend to be racist, violent, and repressive), but leave Democrats more open to doubt and persuasion. Lacking any better political base, that's what demonstrations are good for, and why there's hope they may be effective. It's also worth noting that Occupy Wall Street, which was pretty explicitly anti-Obama but not in any way that could benefit the Republicans, had at least two major successes: one was popularizing the "1%" line to highlight inequality; the other was in making student debt relief a tangible political issue -- one that Biden has finally embraced.

    The other point is that it will be important both to the protesters and to the Democrats to keep the demonstrations focused and not allow the sort of descent into chaos that Republicans exploited with Vietnam. (And which, as we've already seen with Abbott in Texas, and with the recent anti-BLM police riots, they are super-psyched to exacerbate now.) I'm reminded here of Ben-Gurion's famous "we will fight the White Paper as if there is no war, and fight the war as if there is no White Paper." His tact allowed him to win both fights, which is to say he fared much better than Johnson and Daley did in 1968.

    Needless to say, there will be more pieces like this coming our way:

  • Dave Zirin: [04-26] How the US media failed to tell the story of the occupation of Palestine: Interview with Sut Jhally.

PS: For some reason I no longer recall, I happened to have had a tab open to a piece from Spiked, so I took a look at their home page. It seems to be a right-wing UK site -- Wikipedia traces its roots to "Living Marxism," but also also notes support from Charles Koch -- but whatever it's clearly in the bag for Israel now, with articles on: "Iran, not Israel, is escalating this war"; "Is it now a crime to be a Jew in London?"; "Hamas apologism has taken Australia by storm"; "The Islamo-left must be confronted"; as well as a lot of articles about "gender ideology" and "woke capitalism" and one on "Why humanity is good for the natural world." Right-wingers seem to be inexorably drawn to Israel.

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Trump, and other Republicans: Trump's New York porn-star hush-money trial has started, so let's go there first:

More Republicans in the news (including more Trumps):

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Charles M Blow: [04-17] The Kamala Harris moment has arrived.

  • Gerard Edic: [04-23] Why is the Biden administration completing so many regulations? "The answer is the Congressional Review Act, which Republicans in a second Tumpp presidency could use to further attack the administrative state. Finalizing rules early protects them from this fate."

  • Jordan Haedtler/Kenny Stancil: [04-16] Democrats must start to distinguish themselves on insurance policy: "Amid a crisis for homeowners, Democrats have done little while Republicans pursue an agenda of bailouts and deregulation." I think, and not just due to climate change, insurance will become the number one political issue in America, as private industry is no longer able to charge enough to cover the necessary payouts (and still make the profits they expect).

  • Ed Kilgore: [03-18] This year's Democratic Convention won't be a replay of 1968: Didn't I say as much last week?

  • Paul Krugman:

    • [04-09] Stumbling into Goldilocks.

    • [04-23] Ukraine aid in the light of history: Compares the current vote to Lend-Lease in 1941, which most Republicans opposed before Pearl Harbor rallied them to war. Doesn't allow that they might have had good reasons for doing so, and accepts uncritically that Lend-Lease proved to be the right thing to do in 1941, implying that reasons then and there are still valid here and now. That case is pretty weak on almost every account, not that history between such unlike cases offers much guidance anyway.

    • [04-25] Can Biden revive the fortunes of American workers?: "He's the most pro-labor president since Harry Truman." I had to laugh at that one. Truman was very anti-union after the war ended in 1945, and his threats against strikers probably contributed to the debacle of 1946, which gave Republicans a majority in Congress, which (with racist southern Democrats) they used to pass Taft-Hartley over his veto. He recovered a bit after that, but no subsequent Democat made any serious efforts -- even when Johnson seemed to have a favorable Congress -- to reverse the damage. I'm not sure Krugman is technically wrong, but he's talking about slim margins at both ends.

  • Harold Meyerson: [04-15] Biden's Gaza policy could create a replay of Chicago '68: If Israel is still committing genocide in Gaza, Biden will certainly face (and deserve) protests, but will Chicago police riot again? -- that was, after all, the real story in 1968, and much of the blame there goes directly to Mayor Richard Daley.

  • Ahmed Moor: [04-17] As a Palestinian American, I can't vote for Joe Biden any more. And I am not alone: "The president's moral failure in Gaza has taken on historic proportions, like Lyndon Johnson's in Vietnam before him." I understand the sentiment, and I think Biden's team should take the threat of defections like this one -- and it's not just Palestinians who are thinking like that -- and get their act together. But come November, no one's just pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli or any other single thing. Politics is complicated, and ideal choices are hard to come by.

  • Timothy Noah: Yes, Joe Biden can win the working-class vote.

  • David Smith: [04-28] 'Stormy weather': Biden skewers Trump at White House correspondents' dinner: One of the few favorable things I had to say about Trump's presidency is that he sidelined this annual charade of chumminess. And it's not like the White House press has been doing Biden many favors over the last three years. But I guess the material writers came up with this year was too good to miss?

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Russia/Ukraine War:

Around the world:

Taylor Swift: New album dropped, presumably a major event. I've been too busy to focus on it, but will get to it sooner or later.

Other stories:

Daniel Brown: [04-19] Oldest MLB player turns 100: Roomed with Yogi Berra, stymied Ted Williams: I clicked on this because I had to see who, after having noted the deaths of Carl Erskine (97) and Whitey Herzog (93) earlier in the week. And the answer is . . . Art Schallock! Not a name I recall, and I thought I knew them all (especially all the 1951-55 Yankees, although 1957 was the first year that actually stuck in my memory) Previous oldest MLB player was George Elder, and second oldest now is Bill Greason -- neither of them rings a bell either, but the next one sure does: Bobby Shantz!

Robert Christgau: [04-17] Xgau Sez: April, 2024: Perhaps because I'm disappointed I get so few questions my way, I thought I'd add a couple personal notes to his answers:

  1. I haven't actually read more Marx than Bob admits to here (at least not much more, and virtually nothing since I shifted focus circa 1975), so like him I'd refer inquisitive readers to the now quite long and deep tradition -- although at this point I'm not exactly sure where I'd start. (I started with historians like Eugene Genovese, art critics like John Berger, and economists like Paul Sweezy, followed by a lot of Frankfurt School, especially Walter Benjamin.) But his recommendation of Marshall Berman's Adventures in Marxism has me intrigued, so I think I'll order a copy. I have, but have never read, Berman's All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, which came out after I lost interest (long story, that), but has always struck me as the probably closest analogue to the book I sometimes imagined writing on Marx (had my career gone that direction: working title was Secret Agents, after a Benjamin quip about Baudellaire). But I did read, and much admired, Berman's first book, The Politics of Authenticity: Radical Individualism and the Emergence of Modern Society, which gets us at least half way there. (By the way, while I largely blanked out on Marxism after 1975, I broke the ice recently with China Miéville's A Spectre Haunting, which was like meeting up with an old friend.)

  2. Bob didn't search very hard for an answer to the question about "immediate astonishment" -- he checked off several 2023 records, then remembered two formative experiences from from sixty years earlier -- but had he consulted me, I could have reminded him of one: I was present when he opened and immediately played Marquee Moon, and I was even more impressed by the intensity of his reaction than I was by the music I was hearing. Although I had read much in the Voice about Television, I had never heard anything by them, so for me it took time to adjust.

    For me, the most obvious answer was another record I first heard in Bob's apartment: Ornette Coleman's Dancing in Your Head, which was an even more obviously perfect title than The Shape of Jazz to Come. As for real early records, which for me started around 1963, everything I bought was already baited with singles I already loved, but the first album side I really got into was on my fourth purchase, Having a Rave-Up With the Yardbirds -- the hits were on the first side, but I came to like the raves on the second side even more (above all the cover of "Respectable"). But I couldn't tell you if that was "instantaneous." I did buy Sgt. Pepper when it came out, with much hype but no presold singles, and I quickly came to love it as much as anyone else did.

  3. We didn't go to the 1994 Rhode Island festival, but Bob and Carola stayed with us in Boston before and after, so we were among the first to hear their unmediated reaction before it was sanitized for print. I've heard the Richie Havens dis so many times, both from Bob and from Laura Tillem, that I wondered whether they had shared the same traumatic concert experience, but she says not.

Tom Engelhardt: [04-21] A story of the decline and fall of it all. The editor-first, writer-as-the-occasion-arises, who has done more than anyone else over the last twenty years to help us realize that the American Empire is failing and floundering and never was all that useful let alone virtuous in the first place, has entered his 80s, feeling his own powers also dwindling, and growing more morose, as so many of us do. I'm tempted to quote large swathes of this article, but instead, let me do some editing (almost all his own words, but streamlined):

If Osama Bin Laden were still alive today, I suspect he would be pleased. He managed to outmaneuver and outplay what was then the greatest power on Planet Earth, drawing it into an endless war against "terrorism" and, in the process, turning it into an increasingly terrorized country, whose inhabitants are now at each other's throats.

As was true of the Soviet Union until almost the moment it collapsed in a heap, the U.S. still appears to be an imperial power of the first order. It has perhaps 750 military bases scattered around the globe and continues to act like a power of one on a planet that itself seems distinctly in crisis: a planet that itself looks as if it might be going to hell, amid record heat, fires, storms, and the like, while its leaders preoccupy themselves with organizing alliances and arming them for Armageddon.

It's strange to think about just how distant the America I grew up in -- the one that emerged from World War II as the global powerhouse -- now seems. Yet today, the greatest country on Earth (or so its leaders still like to believe), the one that continues to pour taxpayer dollars into a military funded like no other, or even combination of others, the one that has been unable to win any war of significance since 1945, seems to be coming apart at the seams, heading for a decline and fall almost beyond imagining.

I'm reminded here that Tom Carson, reviewing 1945 from the cusp of 2000, declared that the worst thing that ever happened to America was winning World War II. He might well have added that the second worst thing was the collapse of the Soviet Union: the essential ally in winning WWII, the opponent that allowed the Cold War to remain stable, and the void the US has spent thirty-plus years trying to fill in, and ultimately resurrect, with fantasies of imperial glory. I'd add that the third worst thing is the genocide in Gaza, where the Holocaust has returned in the form of America's spoiled, even more brattish and brutish Mini-Me.

Like Engelhardt, I've been fortunate to have lived my whole life in, and mostly conscious of, this arc. I'm a bit younger: I was born the week China entered the Korean War, ending the American advance and hopes of swift victory, so it was perhaps a bit easier for me to see that the remainder was all downhill. I was struck early on by the arrogance of power -- a familiar phrase even before William Fullbright used it as a book title -- and even earlier by the hypocrisy of the powerful. One of the first maxims I learned was "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." I was an introspective child, cursed with the ability to see deep into myself, and to approximate what others see, even over vast time and space. I was schizophrenic. I embraced radicalism, searching for roots, and found reason, a way of constructing frameworks for understanding. As a method, it was so incisive, so clear, so aware, that I had to put it aside for decades just to try to live a life, but it never left me, nor I it, as two decades of notebooks (most reorganized here) should attest.

Céline Gounder/Craig Spencer: [04-16] The decline in American life expectancy harms more than our health. Related:

  • Michael Hiltzik: [2023-04-05] America's decline in life expectancy speaks volumes about our problems. I may have cited this article before. The county map looks familiar. On a state level, lower average age of death lines up pretty close to Republican votes, although within those states, powerless Democratic enclaves (e.g., in Mississippi and South Dakota) are hit worst of all.

Constance Grady: [04-11] Why we never stopped talking about OJ Simpson.

John Herrman: [04-19] How product recommendations broke Google: "And ate the internet in the process." A long time ago, I put a fair amount of thought into what sort of aggregate information modeling might be possible with everyone having internet connections. Needless to say, nothing much that I anticipated actually happened, since business corruption crept into every facet of the process, making it impossible to ever trust anyone. It may look like the internet made us shallow and venal and paranoid, but that's mostly because those were the motivations of the people who rushed to take it over.

Jonathan Kandell: [04-19] Daniel C Dennett, widely read and fiercely debated philosopher, dies at 82: "Espousing his ideas in best sellers, he insisted that religion was an illusion, free will was a fantasy and evolution could only be explained by natural selection."

Whizy Kim: [04-17] Boeing's problems were as bad as you thought: "Experts and whistleblowers testified before Congress today. The upshot? "It was all about money."

Eric Levitz: I originally had these scattered about, but the sheer number and range suggested grouping them here.

  • [04-12] What the evidence really says about social media's impact on teens' mental health: "Did smartphones actually 'destroy' a generation?" Reviews Jonathan Haidt's book, The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness. Hard to say without not just having read the book but doing some extra evidence. Haidt seems like a guy who tries to look reasonable so he can sneak a conservative viewpoint in without it being dismissed out of hand. Levitz seems like a smart guy who's a bit too eager to split disputes down the middle. I suspect there are other factors at work that don't fit anyone's agenda.

  • [04-13] Don't sneer at white rural voters -- or delude yourself about their politics: "What the debate over "white rural rage" misses." Refers to the Tom Schaller/Paul Waldman book, White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy, which has been much reviewed, including a piece cited here by Tyler Austin Harper: An utterly misleading book about rural America. Levitz makes good points, nicely summed up by subheds:

    1. Rural white people are more supportive of right-wing authoritarianism than are urban or suburban ones
    2. Millions of rural white Americans support the Democratic Party
    3. Rural white Republicans are not New Deal Democrats who got confused
    4. The economic challenges facing many rural areas are inherently difficult to solve.
    5. Most people inherit the politics of their families and communities

    Further reading here:

  • [04-19] Tell the truth about Biden's economy: "Exaggering the harms of inflation doesn't help working people."

  • [04-23] The "feminist" case against having sex for fun: "American conservatives are cozying up to British feminists who argue that the sexual revolution has hurt women."

  • [04-24] Trump's team keeps promising to increase inflation: "Voters trust Trump to lower prices, even as his advisers put forward plans for increasing Americans' cost of living." Four steps:

    1. Reduce the value of the US dollar
    2. Apply a 10 percent tariff on all foreign imports
    3. Enact massive, deficit-financed tax cuts
    4. Shrink the American labor force

Rick Perlstein:

  • [04-17] The implausible Mr Buckley: "A new PBS documentary whitewashes the conservative founder of National Review." Hard to imagine them rendering him even more white. Also on Buckley:

  • [04-24] My dinner with Andreessen: "Billionaires I have known." First of a promised three-part series, "because you really need to know how deeply twisted some of these plutocrats who run our society truly are." Then after sharing the story of their meeting, he concludes: "There is something very, very wrong with us, that our society affords so much pwoer to people like this."

Jeffrey St Clair: [04-19] Roaming Charges: How to kill a wolf in society.

Michael Tatum: Books read (and not read): First post on the author's new blog, "Michael on Everything." Nice supplement to my own last week Book Roundup, especially as he catches books I missed, and writes about them with much more care.

Astra Taylor/Leah Hunt-Hendrix: [03-12] What is solidarity and how does it work?: Introduction to the authors' book, Solidarity: The Past, Present, and Future of a World-Changing Idea. Related:

Li Yuan:

  • [04-08] What Chinese outrage over '3 Body Problem' says about China: "Instead of demonstrating pride, social media is condemning it." The review also inadvertently says much about America, like how we insist on cartoonishly simple framing of Chinese history, and how we insert more westerners into a Chinese story to make it more "relatable" and still expect them to be thankful for their leftovers. I'm critical enough of America's own chauvinists and sanitizers of history that I disapprove of the same things in other countries -- e.g., the Turkish taboo against so much as mentioning the Armenian genocide -- and I don't doubt that there is some of this same spirit in much of the Chinese reaction. But that hardly give us the right to dictate how they should view their own history, especially as we have so little sense of it.

  • [02-29] China has thousands of Navalnys, hidden from the public. Of this I have no doubt. Every political system, no matter how coercive, breeds its own dissent. Countries that tolerate and even encourage dissent are often better off, and tend to look down their noses at those who don't, but all countries adjust as they see fit. Unfortunately, many think they can solve their problems through repression, and we have no shortage of people who think like that in America.

Li Zhou: [04-18] Jontay Porter's lifetime NBA ban highlights the risks of sports gambling. Also, evidently, the lure. Jeffrey St Clair says: "People who watch NBA or NHL games are hit with as many as three gambling ads per minute."

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Speaking of Which

My company left Saturday afternoon, so I didn't really get started on this until then. Sunday I started feeling sick, and ran out of energy. No idea whether Monday will be better or worse, so I figured I might as well post this while I can. Maybe I'll circle back later. Big news stories are pretty much the same as they've been of late, so you pretty much know where I stand on them.

Not a lot of music this week, but if I'm up to it, I'll try to post what I have sometime Monday. Another pending problem is that I'm unable to send email, and Cox doesn't seem to have anyone competent to work on the problem until Monday.

Notable tweets:

  • Yousef Munayyer [04-03]: Joe Biden knows backing Israel's genocide in Gaza could cost him the election he says American democracy depends on.
    Joe Biden doesn't care.
    Imagine hating Palestinians so much as a US president that you'd throw away American democracy for it.

  • Steve Hoffman [04-10]: [meme]: Christians warn us about the anti-Christ for 2,000 years, and when he finally shows up, they buy a bible from him.

  • Rick Perlstein [04-10]: I mean, protecting criminal presidents from accountability actually is perfectly on-brand for an organization devoted to the legacy of Gerald Ford. [link: Famed photographer quits Ford over Liz Cheney snub]

Initial count: 188 links, 6,611 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. Iran:

Israel vs. world opinion:

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Robert F Kennedy Jr: And suddenly we have a cluster of stories on the third-party candidate:

Trump, and other Republicans: But first, let's open up some space to talk about abortion politics:

We can also group several stories on Trump's court date on Monday in New York:

That hardly exhausts their capacity for senseless cruelty, starting with their Fearless Führer:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Jonathan Chait:

  • David Dayen: [04-10] TSMC chips deal promotes the logic of Biden's industrial policy.

  • John Nichols: [04-05] More than half a million Democratic voters have told Biden: Save Gaza! "The campaign to use 'uncommitted' primary votes to send a message to Biden has won two dozen delegates, and it keeps growing." I'm sorry, but these are not impressive numbers. And it is telling that you don't actually have a candidate -- one more credible than the underappreciated Marianne Williamson, that is -- leading the challenge (as Eugene McCarthy did in 1968). The obvious difference is that Americans were more directly impacted by war in Vietnam than they are now in Gaza: even though many of us are immensely alarmed by Israel's genocide, its impact on our everyday life is very marginal. Also, Biden is widely seen by Democrats (if rarely by anyone else) as the safe option to defend against Trump, who most Democrats do regard as a clear and present danger. The main reason there is that the all-important donor class seems to be satisfied with Biden, but would surely throw a fit (as Bloomberg did in 2020) if anyone like Sanders or Warren made a serious run for the nomination. Also, perhaps, that back in 1968, few people really understood how bad throwing the election to a Republican would turn out to be.

  • Evan Osnos: [04-06] Joe Biden and US policy toward Israel.

  • Matt Stieb: [04-11] Biden's leverage campaign against Bibi isn't producing dramatic results.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

  • Connor Echols: [04-12] Diplomacy Watch: Ukraine risks losing the war -- and the peace: "It's now unclear if the US Congress will ever manage to send more aid to Kyiv."

  • Dave DeCamp:

  • John Mueller: [04-09] Ukraine war ceasefire may require accepting a partition: "Kyiv wound likely see significant economic and political benefits -- and move closer to the West -- from a cessation of hostilities." This has become obvious a year ago, but after Ukraine recovered territory along the northeast and southwest fronts in late 2022, they held out big hopes for their much-hyped "spring offensive" of 2023. Nine months later, the "gains" were slightly negative. Since then, most of the action has been away from the unmovable front: notably drone attacks on Russian oil refineries and on Ukrainian power plants. Which is to say, punitive terror attacks, reminders of the ongoing cost of war that have no bearing on its conclusion. Before the war, there were two basic options: one was the Minsk agreements, which would have unified Ukraine but given Russian minority rights that could have kept western Ukraine from moving toward economic integration with Europe; the other was to allow secession following fair referendums, which would almost certainly have validated the secessionists in Crimea and Donbas (but probably not elsewhere). In a divided Ukraine, the west could more easily align with Europe, while the east could keep its Russian ties. Either of these would have been much preferable to the war that maximalists on both sides insisted on.

  • John Quiggin: [04-03] Navies are obsolete, but no one will admit it: Examples here start with Russia's Black Sea Fleet, which seems to have provided little beyond Ukrainian drone target practice, and the US Navy in the Red Sea, which hasn't been able to thwart Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping (Suez Canal traffic is down 70%).

Around the world:


OJ Simpson: Famous football player, broadcaster, convicted criminal (but famously acquitted on murder charges), dead at 76. I'm not inclined to care about any of this, but he did elicit another round of articles:

Other stories:

William J Astore: [04-11] There is only one spaceship earth: "Freeing the world from the deadly shadow of genocide and ecocide."

Charlotte Barnett: [04-10] Declutter, haul, restock, repeat: "The content creators making a living by cleaning one purs tower, acrylic plastic box, and egg organizer at a time."

Emmeline Clein: [04-12] How capitalism disordered our eating: "From Weight Watchers to Ozempic, big business profits off eating disorders and their treatments."

Russell Arben Fox: [04-10] Thinking about Wendell Berry's leftist lament (and more). The Berry book is The Need to Be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice. Also segues into a discussion of Ian Angus: The War Against the Commons: Dispossession and Resistance in the Making of Capitalism. The destruction of the commons is a major theme in Astra Taylor's The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as Things Fall Apart, including a critique of the famous "tragedy of the commons" theory that I was unaware of but long needed. Scrolling down in Fox's blog, I see a couple pieces I had read in the Wichita Eagle. (He teaches here in Wichita, and I believe we have mutual friends, but as far as I know he's not aware of me.)

Robert Kuttner: [04-09] The political economy of exile: Searching for safe havens from Trumpism, or escaping from "shithole countries" if you're rich enough.

Michael Ledger-Lomas: [04-14] The outsize influence of small wars: Review of Laurie Benton's book, They Called It Peace: Worlds of Imperial Violence. These "small wars" were mostly directed by European powers against their would-be colonies, most fought with a huge technological edge which complemented their legal scheming, distinguishing them from the large wars Europeans fought against each other. That's pretty much the same definition Max Boot used in his book, The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power.

Walter G Moss: [04-14] 2024 US anxieties and Hitler 1933: "Here is a friendly reminder that all it would take for Trump to be elected is a series of mistakes by the electorate -- many of them not especially earthshaking." I figured this was a bit far-fetched to include in the section on Trump, the Republicans, and their more mundane crime interests, but Hitler-Trump comparisons are a parlor game of some interest for those who know more than a little about both. Speaking of parlor games for history buffs, Moss previously wrote:

Yasmin Nair: [03-27] What really happened at Current Affairs? This looks to be way too long, pained, deep, and trivial to actually read, but maybe some day. And having thrown a tantrum or two of my own way back in the days when I slaved for someone else's parochially leftist journal, it may even hit close to home. From my vantage point, Nathan J Robinson is a smart, sensible, and prodigious critic, and Current Affairs is one of my more reliably insightful sources as I go about my weekly chores. That such qualities can go hand-in-hand with less admirable traits is, well, not something I feel secure enough to cast stones over.

John Quiggin: [03-29] Daniel Kahneman has died.

Ingrid Robeyns: [04-13] Limitarianism update: Author of the recent book, Limitarianism: The Case Against Extreme Wealth, with links to reviews, interviews, etc. Comments suggest that the concept is better than the title.

Luke Savage: [04-13] The rich: On top of the world and very anxious about it: "The small handful of ultrawealthy winners are firmly ensconced in their positions of privilege in power. Yet so many of them seem haunted by the possibility that maybe they don't deserve it."

Robert Wright: [04-12] Marc Andreessen's mindless techno-optimism.

Li Zhou: [04-10] The Vatican's new statement on trans rights undercuts its attempts at inclusion.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Speaking of Which

I don't have much time to work with this week. Writing this on Friday, I expect that the links below will be spotty. I also doubt that I'll have many records in the next Music Week, although that can run if I have any at all.

My company left Saturday morning, headed to Arkansas for a better view of the eclipse on Monday, so I finally got a bit of time to work on this. I collected a few links to get going, then spent most of Sunday writing my "one point here" introduction, and adding a few more links. I got a little over half way through my usual source tabs before I had to call it a day. On Monday, I tried to pick up where I had left off -- not going back to the tabs I had hit on Sunday, but picking up the occasional Monday post as I went along. Wound up with a pretty full post, dated Monday. I marked this paragraph as an add, because it's a revision to my original intro.

This should go up before I go to bed Monday night. Music Week will follow later Tuesday. Very little in it from before Saturday, but I've found a few interesting records while working on this.

But I do want to make one point here, which is something I've been thinking about for a while now.

I've come to conclude that many of us made a fundamental error in the immediate aftermath of October 7 in blaming Hamas (or more generally, Palestinians) for the outbreak of violence. Even those of us who immediately feared that Israel would strike back with a massive escalation somehow felt like we had to credit Hamas with agency and moral responsibility -- if not for the retaliation, at least for their own acts. But what choice did they have? What else could they have done?

But there is an alternate view, which is that violent resistance is an inevitable consequence of systematic marginalization, where nonviolent remedies are excluded, and order is violently enforced. How can we expect anyone to suffer oppression without fighting back? So why don't we recognize blowback as intrinsic to the context, and therefore effectively the responsibility of the oppressor? I don't doubt that Israelis were terrified on October 7. They were, after all, looking at a mirror of their own violence.

It's pretty obvious why Israel's leaders wanted to genocide. The Zionist movement was born in a world that was racist, nationalist, and imperialist -- traits that Zionists embraced, hoping to forge them into a defensive shield, which worked just as well as a cudgel to impose their will on others. What distinguishes them from Nazis is that they're less driven to enslave or exterminate enemy races, but that mostly means they see no use for others. In theory, they'd be satisfied just to drive the others out -- as they did with the Nakba -- but in practice their horizons expand as the settlements grow.

The question isn't: why genocide? That's been baked in from the beginning. The question is why they didn't do it before, and why they think they can get away with it now. The "why not" is bound to be speculative, and I don't want to delve very deep here, but I can imagine trying to sort it out on two axes, one for the people, the other for the cutting-edge political leaders. For the people, the scale runs from respect for one's humanity, and dehumanizing others. Most Israelis used to take pride in their high morality, but war and militarism broke that down (with ultra-orthodoxy and capitalism also taking a toll). As for the leaders, the scale is based on power: the desire to push the envelope of possibility, balanced off by the need to maintain good will with allies.

Ben Gurion was a master at both: a guy who took as much as he could (even overreaching in 1956 and having to retreat), and was always plotting ahead to take even more (as his followers did in 1967, meeting less resistance from Johnson). Begin pushed even further, although he too had to retreat from Lebanon under Carter before he found a more compliant Reagan. Netanyahu is another one who constantly tested the limits of American allowance, only to find that Trump and Biden were pushovers, offering no resistance at all. Genocide only became possible as Palestinians came to be viewed by most Israelis as subhuman, while Netanyahu found his power to be unlimited by American sensitivity.

So, while Israel has always been at risk of turning genocidal, what's really changed is America, turning from the "good neighbor" FDR promised to Eisenhower's "leader of the free world" to Reagan's capitalist scam artists to Bush's "global war on terror" to the Trump-Biden cha-cha. I chalk this up to several things. The drift to the right made Americans meaner and politicians more cynical and corrupt. The neocons came to dominate foreign policy, with their cult for power that could be rapidly and arbitrarily deployed anywhere -- as Israel did in their small region, Bush would around the globe. The counter-intifada in Israel and the US wars on terror drove both countries further into the grip of dehumanizing militarism, opening up an opportunity for Netanyahu to forge a right-wing alliance with America, while AIPAC held Democrats like Obama and Biden in check. Trump automatically rubber-stamped anything Netanyahu wanted, and Biden had no will power to do anything but.

By the time October 7 came around, Americans couldn't so much as articulate a national interest in peace and social justice. But there was also one specific thing that kept Americans from seeing genocide as such: we had totally bought into the idea that Hamas, as exemplary terrorists, were intrinsically evil, could never be negotiated with, and therefore all you could do to stop them is to kill as many as you can. It wasn't a novel idea. America has a sordid history of assassination plots until the mid-1970s, when the Church Committee exposed that history and forced reforms. But Israel's own assassination programs expanded continuously from the 1980s on, and American neocons envied Israel's prowess. Under Bush, "high value targets" became currency, and Obama not only followed suit, he upped the game -- most notably bagging Osama Bin Laden.

There's a Todd Snider line: "In America, we like our bad guys dead." That's an understatement. Dead has become the only way we can imagine their stories ending. We long ago gave up on the notion that enemies can be rehabilitated. In large part, this reflects a loss of faith in justice, replaced by sheer power, the belief that we are right because we have the might to force them to tow the line. That was the attitude that Europe took to the South in the 19th century. That was the attitude Germany and Japan made World War with.

That attitude was discredited -- Germany and Japan were allowed to recover as free and peaceful nations; Africa and Asia decolonized; the capitalist world integrated, first with a stable divide from the communists, then by further engagement. There were problems. The US was magnanimous to defeated Germany and Japan, but in turning against the Soviet Union, and in assuming security responsibility for the former European colonies, and in maintaining capitalist hegemony over them, Americans lost their faith in democracy and justice, and embraced power for its own sake. And when that failed, they turned vindictive toward Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and elsewhere.

The Israelis were adept students of power. They learned directly from the British colonial system, with its divide-and-conquer politics, and its use of collective punishment. They worked with the British to defeat the Palestinian revolt of 1937-39, and against the British in 1947-48. They drew lessons from the Nazis. They learned to play games with the world powers, especially with the US. Trita Parsi's book, Treacherous Alliance, is a case study of how they played Iran off for leverage elsewhere, especially with the US. The neocons, with their Israel envy, were especially easy to play.

So when October 7 happened, all the necessary prejudices and reflexive operators were aligned. Hamas were the perfect villains: they had their roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, which qualified them as Islamists, close enough to the Salafis and Deobandis who Americans had branded as terrorists even before 9/11; they had become rivals with the secular PLO within the Occupied Territories, especially after Israel facilitated Arafat's return under the Oslo Accords -- a rivalry which led them to become more militant against Israel, which Israel intensified by assassinating their leaders; when they finally did decide to run for elections, they won but the results were disallowed, leading to them seizing power in Gaza, which Israel then blockaded, "put on a diet," and "mowed the grass" in a series of punishing sieges and incursions; along the way, Hamas managed to get a small amount of aid from Iran, so found themselves branded as an Iranian proxy, like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen -- Israel knew that any hint of Iranian influence would drive the Americans crazy.

Not only was Hamas the perfect enemy, Israel and the United States had come to believe that terrorists were irrational and fanatical, that they could never be negotiated with, and that the only way to deal with them was by systematically killing off their cadres and especially their leaders until they were reduced to utter insignificance. The phrase Israelis used was that their goal was to make Palestinians realize that they were "an utterly defeated people." When I first heard that phrase, a picture came to mind, of the last days of the American Indian campaigns, when the last Sioux and Apache surrendered to be kept as helpless dependents on wasteland reservations.

On its founding, Israel kept a British legal system that was designed to subjugate native populations, to surveil them, and to arbitrarily arrest and punish anyone they suspected of disloyalty. They discriminated legally against natives, limiting their economic prospects, curtailing their freedom, and punishing them harshly, including collective punishments -- a system which instilled fear of each against the other, where every disobedient act became an excuse for harsher and more sweeping mistreatment.

After Hamas took control of Gaza, those punishments were often delivered by aircraft, wielding 2,000-pound bombs that could flatten whole buildings. Hamas responded with small, imprecise rockets, of no military significance but symbolic of defiance, a way of saying we can still reach beyond your walls. Israel always responded with more shelling and bombing, a dynamic that repeatedly escalated until the horror started to turn world opinion against Israel. Having made their point, Israel could then ease off, until the next opportunity or provocation sent them on the warpath again.

The October 7 "attack" -- at the time, I characterized it, quite accurately I still think, as a jail break followed by a brief crime spree. In short order, Israel killed most of the "attackers," and resealed the border. The scale, in terms of the numbers of Israelis killed or captured was much larger than anything Palestinians had previously managed, and the speed was even more striking, but the overall effect was mostly symbolic, and the threat of more violence coming from Gaza dissipated almost immediately. Israel had no real need to counterattack. They could have easily negotiated a prisoner swap -- Israel had many times more Palestinians in jail than Hamas took as hostages, and had almost unlimited power to add to their numbers. But Israel's leaders didn't want peace. They wanted to reduce Palestinians to "an utterly defeated people." And since there was no way to do that other than to kill most of them and drive the rest into exile -- basically a rerun of the Nakba, only more intense, because having learned that lesson, Palestinians would cling even more tenaciously to their homeland.

That's why the immediate reaction of Israel's leaders was to declare their intent to commit genocide. The problem with that idea was that since the Holocaust, any degree of genocide had become universally abhorrent. To proceed, Israel had to keep the war going, and to keep it going, they had to keep their ideal enemy alive, long enough to do major devastation, making Gaza unlivable for anywhere near the 2.3 million people who managed to live through decades of hardships there, with starvation playing a major role in decimating the population.

In order to commit genocide, Israel had to supplement its killing machinery with a major propaganda offensive, because they remembered that what finally stopped their major wars of 1948-49, 1956, 1967, and 1973, and their periodic assaults on Lebanon and Gaza, was public opinion, especially in America. But Netanyahu knew how to push America's buttons. He declared that the only thing Israel could do to protect itself -- the one thing Israel had to do in order to keep this mini-Holocaust from ever happening again -- was to literally kill everyone in Hamas.

And Americans fell for that line, completely. They believed that Hamas were intractably evil terrorists, and they knew that terrorists cannot be appeased or even negotiated with. And they trusted that Israelis knew what they were doing and how best to do it, so all they really had to do was to provide support and diplomatic cover, giving Israel the time and tools to do the job as best they saw fit. And sure, there would be some collateral damage, because Hamas uses civilians as human shields -- it never really occurring to Americans that those super-smart, super-moral Israelis can't actually tell the difference between Hamas and civilians even if they wanted to, which most certainly they do not. And if anything does look bad, Israel can always come up with a cover story good enough for Americans to believe. After all, Americans have a lot of practice believing their own atrocity cover up stories.

The hostage situation turned out to be really useful for keeping the spectre of Hamas alive. There is no real way for Americans to evaluate how much armed defense Hamas is still capable of in Gaza -- their capability to attack beyond the walls was depleted instantly as they shot their wad on October 7 -- so the only reliable "proof of existence" of Hamas is when their allies show up for meetings in Qatar and Cairo. And there's no chance of agreement, as the only terms Israel is offering is give up all the hostages, surrender, and die. But by showing up, they affirm that Hamas still exists, and by refusing to surrender, they remind the Americans that the only way this can end is by killing them all.

And while that charade is going on, Israel continues to kill indiscriminately, to destroy everything, to starve, to render Gaza unlivable. And they will continue to do so, until enough of us recognize their real plan is genocide, and we shame them into stopping. We are making progress in that direction, as we can see as Biden starts to waver in his less and less enthusiastic support, but we still have a long ways to go.

The key to making more progress will be to break down several of the myths Israel has spun. In particular, we have to abandon the belief that we can solve all our problems by killing everyone who disagrees with us. Second, we need to understand that killing or otherwise harming people only causes further resentment and resistance. People drunk on power tend to ignore this, but it's really not a difficult or novel idea: as Rabbi Hillel put it, "That which is hateful unto you, do not do to your neighbor."

Moreover, we need to understand that negotiated agreement between responsible parties is much preferable to the diktat of a single party, no matter how powerful that party is. It's not clear to me that Israel needs to negotiate an agreement with Hamas, because it's not clear to me that Hamas is the real and trusted agent of the people of Palestine or Gaza, but some group needs to emerge as the responsible party, and the more solid their footing, the better partner they can be.

Israel, like the British before them, has always insisted on picking its favored Palestinian representatives, while making them look foolish, corrupt, and/or ineffective. Arafat may only have been the latter, but by not allowing him to accomplish anything, Israel opened up the void that Hamas tried to fill. But Hamas has only had the power it was able to seize by force, and even then was severely limited by what Israel would allow, in a perverse symbiotic relationship that we could spend a lot of time on -- Israel has often found Hamas to be very useful, so their current view that Hamas has to be exterminated seems more like a line to be fed to the Americans, who tend to take good vs. evil ever so literally.

Initial count: 217 links, 12,552 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world opinion:

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes: There were presidential primaries on April 2, all won as expected by Biden and Trump: Connecticut: Trump 77.9%, Biden 84.9%; New York: Trump 82.1%, Biden 91.5%; Rhode Island: Trump 84.5%, Biden 82.6%; Wisconsin: Trump 79.2%, Biden 88.6%; also Delaware has no vote totals, but gave all delegates to Trump and Biden. The next primary will be in Pennsylvania on April 23.

Trump, and other Republicans:

I've been reading Tricia Romano's oral history of The Village Voice, The Freaks Came Out to Write, and ran into a section on Wayne Barrett, who started reporting on Trump in the 1970s, and published the first serious book on Trump in 1992. The discussion there is worth quoting at some length (pp. 522-524):

TOM ROBBINS: Wayne appreciated the fact that Trump could be a serious player, given his willingness to play the race card, which was clear from his debut speech that he was gonna go after illegal immigrants and Mexicans. As long as you're going to outwardly play the race card in the Republican primary, you can actually command a lot. And Wayne understood that. He was surprised as the rest of us the way that Trump just mowed down the rest of the opposition and that nobody could stand up to him.

WILLIAM BASTONE: He knew that Trump was appealing to something that was going to have traction with people and that wasn't just a passing thing. I said, "Wayne, don't you think people see through this and they understand that he's really just a con man and a huckster and a racist?" The stuff goes back, at that point, almost thirty years with his father and avoiding renting apartments to Black families in Brooklyn.

And he was like, "No, that's gonna be a plus for him, for the people that he's going to end up attracting." I was like, "You're crazy, Wayne. You're crazy."

There was talk that he may have used racially charged or racist remarks when he was doing The Apprentice. And I said, "So Wayne, if it ever came out that Trump used those words or used the N-word?" And Wayne said, "That would be good for him." He was totally right. And then nine months later, he's talking about shooting people on Fifth Avenue. Trump understood that "there's really nothing I can do [wrong] because these people hate the people I hate, and we're all gonna be together."

TOM ROBBINS: When I was at the Observer, I had a column in there called Wise Guys. And at that point, Trump was talking about running for president. This was 1987, that was thirty years before he actually ran, almost. He was focused on this from the very beginning. And none of us took him seriously. . . .

As someone who worked with the tabloid press for a long time, the people who invented Trump were all those tabloid gossip reporters who dined out from all of his items over the years and who reported them right up until the time he ran for president. This is one of the great unrecognized crimes of the press. We in the tabloid press created Trump; it wasn't Wayne. Wayne was going after him.

JONATHAN Z. LARSEN: This is the media's Frankenstein's monster. Trump would call, using a fake name, saying, "I'm the PR guy for Donald Trump. I really shouldn't be telling you this, but he's about to get divorced, and he's got three women he's looking at. There's Marla Maples. There's so-and-so." Very often the people that he was speaking to recognized his voice. They loved it. It was free copy.

Barrett really did have some incredibly good information on Trump, how he built Trump Tower. The head of the concrete union was mobbed up. There was this crazy woman who bought the apartment just underneath Donald Trump's because she was sleeping with the concrete guy, and she wanted to install a pool. It's astonishing, the stuff he got. It's a national treasure now that we have Wayne Barrett's reporting. As soon as Trump became president, everybody was picking through all of Wayne's files.

The ellipsis covers a section on Barrett's Trump book, and stopped before a section on Barrett's horror watching the 2016 returns. By then Barrett was terminably ill, and he died just before Trump's inauguration. I remember reading about Trump in the Voice back in the 1970s, so I was aware of him as a major scumbag, but I took no special interest in him otherwise. Anything I did notice simply added to my initial impression.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Aaron Blake: [04-05] Gaza increasingly threatens Democrats' Trump-era unity.

  • Ben Burgis: [04-04] Democratic voters are furious about US support of Israel.

  • Rachel M Cohen: [04-01] You can't afford to buy a house. Biden knows that.

  • Page S Gardner/Stanley B Greenberg: [03-15] They don't want Trump OR Biden. Here's how they still can elect Biden. "Our new survey of these voters shows the president can still win their support."

  • Robert Kuttner: [04-04] Liberals need to be radicals: "The agenda for Biden's next term must go deeper to restore the American dream." The substance here is fine, but why resort to clichés? The "American dream" was never more than a dream. One can argue that we should dream again, and work to realize those dreams for everyone. Back in the 1960s, the first real political book I bought was an anthology called The New Radicals, edited by Paul Jacobs and Saul Landau, and I immediately saw the appeal of the word "radical" for those who seek deep roots of social problems, but nowadays the word is mostly used as a synonym for "extremist." But perhaps more importantly, I've cooled on the desirability for deep solutions (revolutions) and come to appreciate more superficial reforms. I would refashioned the title to say that "liberals need to be leftists," because the liberal dream of freedom can only be universalized through solidarity with others, and is of little value if limited to self-isolating individuals.

  • Tim Miller: [04-05] Joe Biden is not a "genocidal maniac": "And it's not just wrong but reckless and irresponsible to say he is." I agree with the title, but I disagree with the subhed. Genocide wasn't his idea, nor is it something he craves maniacally. But he is complicit in genocide, and not just passively so. He has said things that have encouraged Israel, and he has done things that have materially supported genocide. He has shielded them in the UN, with "allies," and in the media. I've thought a lot about morality lately, and I've come to think that it (and therefore immorality) can only be considered among people who have the freedom to decide on their own what to say and do. Many people are severely limited in their autonomy, but as president of the United States, Biden does have a lot of leeway, and should be judged accordingly.

    I realize that one might argue that morality is subordinate to politics -- that sometimes actual political considerations convince one to do things that normally regard as immoral (like going to war against Nazi Germany, or nuking Hiroshima) -- but the fundamentals remain the same: is the politician free to choose? One might argue that Biden's initial blind support for Israel was purely reflexive -- lessons he had learned over fifty years in AIPAC-dominated Washington, a reflex shared by nearly every other politician so conditioned -- but even so, as president Biden had access to information and a lot of leeway to act, and therefore should be held responsible for his political, as well as moral, decisions.

    Miller goes on to upbraid people for saying "Genocide Joe." He makes fair points, but hey, given the conditions, that's going to happen. Most of us have very little power to influence someone like Biden -- compared to big-time donors, colleagues, and pundits, all of whom are still pretty limited -- so trying to shame him with a colorful nickname is one of the few things one can try. In a similar vein, we used to taunt: "Hey, hey, LBJ; how many kids did you kill today?" And sure, LBJ was more directly responsible for the slaughter in Vietnam than Biden is in Gaza, but both earned the blame. Biden, at least, still has a chance to change course. If he fails, he, and he alone, sealed his fate.

  • Elena Schneider/Jeff Coltin: [03-29] Pro-Palestinian protesters interrupted Biden's glitzy New York fundraiser: "The event padded Biden's cash advantage, but laid bare one of his biggest weaknesses." The Biden campaign's response seems to be to try to exclude potential protesters:

    • Lisa Lerer/Reid J Epstein/Katie Glueck: [04-07] How Gaza protesters are challenging Democratic leaders: "From President Biden to the mayors of small cities, Democrats have been trailed by demonstrators who are complicating the party's ability to campaign in an election year." By the way, better term here than in the Politico piece: you don't have to be "pro-Palestinian" to be appalled by genocide. You can even be consciously pro-Israel, someone who cares so much for Israel that your most fervent desire is to spare them the shame of the path Netanyahu et al. have set out on.

  • Washington Monthly: [04-07] Trump vs. Biden: Who got more done? The print edition has a series of "accomplishment index" articles comparing the records of the two presidents. You can probably guess the results, especially if you don't count corruption and vandalism, the main drivers of the Trump administration, as accomplishments:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

The bridge:

Beyoncé: Cowboy Carter: I played the album (twice), and will present my thoughts in the next Music Week. I figured I was pretty much done with it before I started collecting these, but thought it might be interesting to note them:

Other stories:

Hannah Goldfield: [04-08] In the kitchen with the grand dame of Jewish cooking: Gnoshing with Joan Nathan.

Luke Goldstein: [04-02] The in-flight magazine for corporate jets: "The Economist has channeled the concerns of elites for decades. It sees the Biden administration as a threat."

Stephen Holmes: [04-04] Radical mismatch: A review of Samuel Moyn: Liberalism Against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times.

David Cay Johnston: [04-05] Antitax nation: Review of Michael J Graetz: The Power to Destroy: How the Antitax Movement Hijacked America, explaining "how clever marketing duped America into shoveling more tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations."

Sarah Jones:

Natalie Korach/Ross A Lincoln: [04-05] Meta blocks Kansas Reflector and MSNBC columnist over op-ed criticizing Facebook: "The company says Friday afternoon that the blocks, which falsely labeled the links as spam, were due to 'a security error.'" A Wichita columnist also wrote on this:

Orlando Mayorquin/Amanda Holpuch: [04-07] Southwest plane makes emergency landing after Boeing engine cover falls off. And just when I thought I'd get through a week with no Boeing stories. Then I noticed I had two more waiting:

Rick Perlstein: [04-03] Joe Lieberman not only backed Bush's war; he also helped make Bush president: "A remembrance of this most feckless of Democrats."

Nathan J Robinson: And other recent pieces from his zine, Current Affairs:

Jeffrey St Clair: [04-04] The day John Sinclair died: "The poet, musician, writer, pot liberator, raconteur, Tigers fan, jazzbo, political radical, producer of MC5, founder of the White Panthers and occasional CounterPunch, John Sinclair died this week at 82."

Michael Stavola: [04-03] Wichitan involved in deadly swatting arrested after reportedly doing donuts in Old Town: This story, where Wichita Police murdered Andrew Finch, keeps getting sicker. The trigger man not only got off, he's since been promoted, even after the city agreed to pay $5 million to the victim's family, while they managed to pin blame on three other pranksters. There's plenty of blame to go around. Not even mentioned here is the gun lobby and their Republican stooges who did so much to create an atmosphere where dozens of trigger-happy cops are dispatched to deal with an anonymous complaint, totally convinced that everyone they encounter is at likely to be armed and shoot as they are.

Carl Wilson: [03-25] Sweeping up kernels from Pop Con 2024. Includes links to key presentations by Robert Christgau, Michaelangelo Matos, Glenn McDonald, De Angela L Duff, Alfred Soto, and Ned Raggett.

I scribbled this down from a Nathan J Robinson tweet: "very interesting discussion of how, during World War I, attrocities attributed to German soldiers were used to whip people into a frenzy and create an image of a monstrous, inhuman enemy -- atrocities that later turned out to be dubious/exaggerated, well after the fighting stopped." That was followed by a scan from an unidentified book:

. . . stated that the Germans had systematically murdered, outraged, and violated innocent men, women, and children in Belgium. "Murder, lust, and pillage," the report said, "prevailed over many parts of Belgium on a scale unparalleled in any war between civilised nations during the last three centuries." The report gave titillating details of how German officers and men had publicly raped twenty Belgian girls in the market place at Liège, how eight German soldiers had bayoneted a two-year-old child, and how another had sliced off a peasant girl's breasts in Malilnes. Bryce's signature added considerable weight to the report, and it was not until after the war that several unsatisfactory aspects of the Bryce committee's activities emerged. The committee had not personally interviewed a single witness. The report was based on 1,200 depositions, mostly from Belgian refugees, taken by twenty-two barristers in Britain. None of the witnesses were placed on oath, their names were omitted (to prevent reprisals against their relatives), and hearsay evidence was accepted at full value. Most disturbing of all was the fact that, although the depositions should have been filed at the Home Office, they had mysteriously disappeared, and no trace of them has been found to this day. Finally, a Belgian commission of enquiry in 1922, when passions had cooled, failed markedly to corroborate a single major allegation in the Bryce report. By then, of course, the report had served its purpose. Its success in arousing hatred and condemnation of Germany makes it one of the most successful propaganda pieces of the war.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Speaking of Which

This is another week where I ran out of time before I ran out of things I needed to look up. Further updates are possible, although as I'm writing this, I'm pretty exhausted, so I'm tempted to call it done.

First thing to add on Monday is: Jonathan Swan: [04-01] Trump's call for Israel to 'finish up' war alarms some on the right: Assuming this isn't an April Fool, as Israeli journalist Ariel Kahana puts it, "Trump effectively bypassed Biden from the left, when he expressed willingness to stop this war and get back to being the great country you once were." As Trump put it, "You have to finish up your war. You have to get it done. We have to get to peace. We can't have this going on." Kahana continued:

"There's no way to beautify, minimize or cover up that problematic message."

Trump aides insisted this was a misinterpretation. A campaign spokeswoman, Karoline Leavitt, said that Mr. Trump "fully supports Israel's right to defend itself and eliminate the terrorist threat," but that Israel's interests would be "best served by completing this mission as quickly, decisively and humanely as possible so that the region can return to peace and stability."

Trump wants it both ways: he wants to be seen as tough as possible -- there is no indication that "finish it" couldn't include simply killing everyone, but he recognizes that free time to do whatever Israel wants is in limited supply. So is American patience, because it is finally sinking in that this genocide is bad for America's relationships with the world, not just for Israel.

The article includes a good deal about and from David M. Friedman, who was Trump's ambassador to Israel, but could just as well be viewed as Netanyahu's mole in the Trump administration.

Mr. Friedman has gone much further than Mr. Kushner, who seemed to be only musing. Mr. Friedman has developed a proposal for Israel to claim full sovereignty over the West Bank -- definitively ending the possibility of a two-state solution. West Bank Palestinians who have been living under Israeli military occupation since 1967 would not be given Israeli citizenship under the plan, Mr. Friedman confirmed in the interview.

Of course, Trump wouldn't put it that way -- he'd never admit to going to the left of any "radical left Democrat," although he has occasionally scored points by avoiding extreme right Republican positions (like demolishing Social Security and Medicare). But peace isn't a position exclusive to the left. The trick for Trump, following Nixon in 1968, is to convince people that the tough guy is the best option for "peace with honor." It's hard to see how Trump can sustain that illusion, especially given that he has zero comprehension of the problem, and nothing but counterproductive reflexes. (Nixon didn't deliver either.)

Nathan Robinson tweeted on this piece, adding:

I have this wild notion that Trump might conceivably run to Biden's left on Israel-Palestine in the general election, like he did with Hillary and Iraq.

Elsewhere, Robinson noted:

Trump has always understood that the American people don't care for war. That was crucial to his successful campaign against Hillary in 2016. He's been unusually quiet for a Republican on Israel-Palestine, probably in the hopes it will be a big disaster for Biden.

I figured I'd add more to this post, but got bogged down with Music Week, then other things, so this will have to do. I doubt I'll get much done over the next two or three weeks, as we have various company coming and going. Not that there won't be lots to write about, as Tuesday's Mondoweiss daily title makes clear: [04-02] Israel kills 7 international aid workers in central Gaza, passes law banning Al Jazeera.

Initial count is actually pretty substantial: 183 links, 9,891 words. Updated count [04-02]: 196 links, 11,509 words.

Top story threads:


  • Mondoweiss:

  • AlJazeera: For quite some time I've been leading off with the daily logs published by Mondoweiss, but they didn't appear on Saturday and Sunday, so let these fill in. You can search for other possible daily updates, which Google suggests includes: Palestine Chronicle, Haaretz, IMEMC, Al Mayadeen, Palestine Chronicle, Times of Israel, Roya News, TASS, Jerusalem Post, Al-Manar TV Lebanon, UNRWA. Other news organizations that provide live updates include: AlJazeera, CNN, Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times, ABC, I24News, CNBC, Middle East Monitor.

    • [03-30] Day 176: List of key events: "Israeli attacks kill dozens of Palestinians including 15 people at a sport centre where war-displaced people were sheltering."

    • [03-31] Day 177: List of key events: "Gaza's Media Office says Israel has committed 'a new massacre' by bombing inside the walls of a hospital in Deir el-Balah."

  • Kaamil Ahmed/Damien Gayle/Aseel Mousa: [03-29] 'Ecocide in Gaza': does scale of environmental destruction amount to a war crime?: "Satellite analysis revealed to the Guardian shows farms devastated and nearly half of the territory's trees razed. Alongside mounting air and water pollution, experts say Israel's onslaught on Gaza's ecosystems has made the area unlivable." Let's say this loud: This is one of the most significant pieces of reporting yet on the war. War crime? Sure, but specifically this is compelling proof of intent, as well as fact, of genocide. The purpose of ecocide is to kill, perhaps less directly than bombs but more systematically, more completely. And driving people away? Sure, Israel will settle for that, especially as they're making it impossible for people who flee to return.

    Before this war, I must admit that I pictured Gaza as this chunk of desert totally covered by urban sprawl: you know, Manhattan's population in an area only slightly larger. Ever since the Nakba swept a couple hundred thousand Palestinians into refugee camps there, Gaza has had to import food. But any food they struggled to produce locally helped, especially as the population grew, and as Israel, as they liked to boast, "put Gaza on a diet." So small farms helped, and greenhouses even more. Israel has gone way out of their way to destroy food sources, much as they've destroyed utilities, hospitals, housing. While the news focuses on the top line deaths figure -- well over 30,000 but still, I'm sure, quite seriously undercounted -- Israel has shifted focus to long-term devastation.

  • Ammiel Alcalay: [03-26] Israel's lethal charade hides its real goals in plain sight: "Forget Israel's stated goals about destroying Hamas. Its real, undeclared goal has always been to make Gaza uninhabitable and destroy as many traces of Palestinian life as possible."

  • Nada Almadhoun: [03-26] A volunteer doctor in Gaza faces her patients' traumas along with her own: "I am in my final year in medical school and have seen hundreds of critical cases as a volunteer doctor during Israel's genocidal assault on Gaza. The traumas I have seen in my patients are no different from those I have experienced myself."

  • Zack Beauchamp: [03-29] The crisis that could bring down Benjamin Netantyahu, explained: "Netanyahu has till Sunday evening to present a fix to Israel's controversial conscription law. If he fails, his government likely fails with him." Genocide isn't controversial, but this [drafting yeshiva students] is? Actually, special status for ultra-orthodox Jews has been a fault line in Israeli politics ever since 1948 -- arguably Ben-Gurion's biggest mistake was bringing them into his government. But the stakes over conscription has grown over time, and are especially acute in times of high mobilization, like now.

  • Sheera Frenkel: [03-27] Israel deploys expansive facial recognition program in Gaza. They've been doing this in the West Bank for some time. Israel is also developing an export business for surveillance technology, handy for authoritarian regimes everywhere. Some earlier reports on this:

  • Tareq S Hajjaj: [03-25] The story of Yazan Kafarneh, the boy who starved to death in Gaza.

  • Ghada Hania: [03-30] 'No, dear. I will never leave Gaza.'

  • Ellen Ioanes/Nicole Narea: [03-25] Gaza's risk of famine is accelerating faster than anything we've seen in this century: "Everyone in Gaza is facing crisis levels of hunger. It's entirely preventable." In case you're wondering where he ever got such idea, Israel negotiated the exile of PLO members from Beirut, putting them on ships, most heading to Tunisia. Before that, British ships transferred large number of Palestinians from Jaffa to Beirut. So that's one thing the pier could be used for -- if the US can line up anywhere to deposit the refugees.

  • Chris Hedges: [03-18] Israel's Trojan Horse: "The 'temporary pier' being built on the Mediterranean coast of Gaza is not there to alleviate the famine, but to herd Palestinians onto ships and into permanent exile."

  • Ameer Makhoul: [03-25] While eyes are on Rafah, Israel is cementing control of northern Gaza: "Israel is building infrastructure to carve up Gaza, prevent the return of displaced Palestinians, and change the geographical and demographic facts on the ground."

  • Orly Noy: [03-23] Hebrew University's faculty of repressive science: "The suspension of Palestinian professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian empties all meaning from the university's proclaimed values of pluralism and equality."

  • Jonathan Ofir: [03-26] Another Israeli soldier admits to implementing the 'Hannibal Directive' on October 7: "Captain Bar Zonshein recounts firing tank shells on vehicles carrying Israeli civilians on October 7. 'I decide that this is the right decision, that it's better to stop the abduction and that they not be taken,' he told Israeli media outlets."

  • Meron Rapoport: [03-29] Why do Israelis feel so threatened by a ceasefire? "Halting the Gaza war means recognizing that Israel's military goals were unrealistic -- and that it cannot escape a political process with the Palestinians."

Israel vs. world opinion:

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Trump, and other Republicans:

  • Zack Beauchamp: [03-28] How MAGA broke the media.

  • Jonathan Chait: [03-30] Republican billionaires no longer upset about insurrection: "The absurd rationalizations of Trump's oligarchs."

  • Chas Danner: [03-30] Trump is into kidnapped Biden shibari: Refers to "a truck tailgate meme about kidnapping President Joe Biden, tying him up with rope, and tossing him in the back of a pickup." Trump seems to approve.

  • Igor Derysh:

  • Tim Dickinson: [03-25] 'Bloodbath,' 'vermin,' 'dictator' for a day: A guide to Trump's fascist rhetoric.

  • Liza Featherstone: Donald Trump's crusade against electric vehicles is getting racist.

  • Francesca Fiorentini: [03-29] Handmaids of the patriarchy: "Republicans offer a lesson in how not to win women back to their party."

  • Shane Goldmacher/Maggie Haberman: [03-26] Trump isn't reaching out to Haley and her voters. Will it matter? Link to this article was more explicit, quoting Steve Bannon: "Screw Nikki Haley -- we don't need her endorsement." But as the article notes, many Republicans who once grumbled about Trump wound up "bending the knee."

  • Sarah Jones: [03-29] The time Trump wished everyone a 'Happy Good Friday': "Trump doesn't have to be pious. He doesn't have to understand what holy days mean to his supposed co-religionists. He just has to infuriate their enemies -- and he's good at that."

  • Robert Kuttner: [03-27] The corrupt trifecta of Yass, Trump, and Netanyahu: "Yass's payoffs to Trump are part of his efforts to destroy democracy in the US and Israel, while helping China."

  • Adam Lashinsky: [03-25] Trump's new stock deal is just another pig in a poke:

    I don't give investment advice. But I assure you that a company with $3.4 million in revenue and $49 million in losses over the past nine months is not worth $5 billion. Buy into shares of any company with those numbers and you are certain to be taken for a sucker.

    That Donald Trump will be the one doing the bamboozling means that investors in his public media company might as well be making a political donation to his campaign or contributing to a Trump legal defense fund instead.

  • Julianne Malveaux: [03-31] Those ridiculous retiring Republicans: Four Republican Reps have resigned this year -- Kevin McCarthy (CA), Bill Johnson (OH), Ken Buck (CO), and Mike Gallagher (WS) -- unable to cope with a party that eats its own.

  • Andrew Marantz: [03-27] Why we can't stop arguing about whether Trump is a fascist: Review of a new book on the question, Did It Happen Here? Perspectives on Fascism and America, edited by Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins. Without having read the book, I can probably rattle off a dozen arguments for and against, but to matter, you not only have to have some historical background but also an interest in certain possible political dynamics and outcomes -- which makes it a question those on the left are both inclined to ask and answer affirmatively: from where we stand, knowing what we know, Trump and his movement are indeed very fascist, at least inasmuch as they hate us and wish to see us destroyed, as have all fascists before them. However, that's mostly useful just to us, to whom labeling someone a fascist suffices as a sophisticated and damning critique. Others' mileage may vary, depending on what other questions they are concerned with, and how Trump aligns or differs from his fascist forebears. One such question is does knowing whether Trump is a fascist help you to oppose him? It probably does within the left, but not so much with others.

  • Amanda Marcotte: [03-26] Trump loves to play the victim -- NY appeals court bailout shows he's the most coddled person alive: "There appears to be no end of breaks for a spoiled rich boy who has never done a decent thing in his 77 years."

  • Dana Milbank: [03-29] Trump can't remember much. He hopes you won't be able to, either. Too bad Trump's opponent doesn't seem to have the recall and articulation to remind people.

  • Ruth Murai: [03-30] Donald Trump stoops to lowest low yet with violent post of Biden: "Let's call it what it is: stochastic terrorism."

  • Timothy Noah: Trump's unbearable temptation to dump his Truth Social stock: "Would he really screw over MAGA investors to cover his gargantuan legal debts? Don't bet against it."

  • Rick Perlstein: [03-27] The Swamp; or, inside the mind of Donald Trump: "His orations about migrants are a pastiche of others' golden oldies. Exhibit A: the lie that migrants are sent from prisons and mental institutions."

  • Catherine Rampell:

    • [03-25] Two myths about Trump's civil fraud trial: So, after a judge cut down and postponed the full bond requirement that every other defendant has had to live with, Trump "shall live to grift another day." The myths?

      First, that Trump's white-collar cases are "victimless" and therefore not worth enforcement. And second, that every lawsuit and charge against him plays into his persecution narrative, thereby strengthening him as a presidential candidate.

      Both criticisms are off-base, at least in a society that values rule of law.

    • [03-29] The internet was supposed to make humanity smarter. It's failing. I wasn't sure where to file this, but a quick look at her examples of internet stupidity led me to the simplest conclusion, which is under her other article on Trump. But I'm tempted to argue that the problem is less the internet than who "we" are. I personally haven't the faintest sense that the internet has made me dumber. I use it to fact check myself dozens of times each week, which I couldn't have done before it. This very column is ample evidence of the internet's ability to make extraordinary amount of information widely available. I couldn't do what I do without it. Indeed, I couldn't know what I know. There are problems, of course. The internet is an accelerator of all kinds of information, right and wrong, good and bad, or just plain frivolous. It's also a great diffuser, scattering information so widely that few people have common references. (Unlike when I was growing up, and everyone knew Edward Murrow, and a few of us even knew I.F. Stone.) Of course, those properties sound more neutral than they are. The internet can be viewed as a market, which has been severely skewed to favor private interests over public ones. That's something we need to work on.

  • Eugene Robinson: [03-28] Trump's Bible grift is going to backfire: I think his reasoning -- "some of them might actually read it" is way off base. I mean, who actually reads the Bible? I never did. I'm not sure I knew anyone who did. I remember being shocked when I found out it was included in the list of the "Great Books" curriculum: the very idea that you could just sit down or curl up and read it through, like Plato's Republic and Dante's Inferno. All we ever did was hunt for quotes -- preferably short ones -- that we could use as an authority, because that's what everyone used the Bible for. And even if your quote-hunting goes long and deep, it's not like you're open to discovery; it's usually just confirmation bias. So no, I don't think there's any reason to think that people fool enough to buy a Bible from Trump are going to wise up. The best I'm hoping for is that they become embarrassed at having fallen for such an obvious con.

  • Jennifer Rubin:

    • [03-20] We ignore Trump's defects at our peril: An obvious point, but not just the defects -- the whole package is profoundly disturbing. I included this column for the title, but it's mostly a q&a, starting with one about the Schumer speech calling for new elections in Israel, which she answers with a real howler: "The United States and Israel generally avoid influencing each other's domestic politics, so this was quite a shock to some." Ever hear of Sheldon Adelson? Granted, it's mostly Israel interfering with America -- maybe AIPAC has American figureheads, but they always march to the orders of whoever's in power in Israel -- but I can think of examples, even if they're mostly more subtle than Schumer.

    • [03-24] Other than Trump, virtually no one was doing better four years ago. By the way, this is a bullshit metric. It was pushed hard by Reagan in 1984, knowing that America had been mired in a Fed-induced recession in 1980, but was then rebounding as interest rates dropped. Carter wasn't blameless for the recession -- he had, after all, appointed Volcker -- and Reagan did goose the recovery with his budget-busting tax cuts and military spending, but that's overly simplistic. Same today, although the depths of the 2020 recession were so severe that Biden couldn't help but look good in comparison. That, as Rubin notes, some people can't see that is a problem, potentially a big one if amnesia and delusion lead to a second Trump term. So yeah, Democrats need to remind us of Trump's massive failures, and real things accomplished under Biden (even though many of them, like infrastructure, haven't had much impact yet).

      But we should be aware of two flaws in the argument: one is that it takes a long time to fully understand the impact of a presidency; the other is that one's personal effect is often misleading. Personally, I did great during the Reagan years, but maybe being 30-38 had something to do with that? But we now know that the most significant political change was the uncoupling of wages and productivity increases -- something that was made possible by a major shift of leverage from labor to business -- which more than any other factor (including tax cuts and growing trade deficits) massively increased inequality. I didn't fully understand that at the time, but I did detect that something had gone terribly wrong, when I would quip that America's only growth industry was fraud. While I could point to a number of examples at the time, it took longer to realize that Bill Clinton was one of them -- a point that many Democrats still haven't wised up to. But even today, some people can't even see the fraud Trump peddles.

  • Margaret Sullivan:

  • Sophia Tesfaye: [03-31] Trump unloads on Republican "cowards and weaklings" in Easter Sunday meltdown.

  • Katrina vanden Heuvel: [02-27] If Trump wins, he'll be a vessel for the most regressive figures in US politics: "A Trump presidency would usher in dark consortium dedicated to stripping millions of Americans of our freedoms."

  • Amy B Wang/Marianne LeVine: [03-27] Trump has sold $60 bibles, $399 sneakers and more since leaving office.

  • George F Will: [03-29] These two GOP Senate candidates exemplify today's political squalor: Kari Lake (AZ) and Bernie Moreno (OH). This is a tough read, and I'm not sure it's all that rewarding -- e.g., he refers to Moreno's opponent, Sherrod Brown, as "a progressive reliably wrong -- and indistinguishable from Trump," as he tries to find the most extremely right-wing vantage point possible from which to attack Republicans like Trump who aren't pure enough. But at least from that perspective, Will doesn't imagine pro-business Democrats to be "radical communists."

    For what it's worth, I regard Will as the most despicable of all the Washington Post columnists -- a group that once included Charles Krauthammer and still gives space to Marc Thiessen -- his interest in baseball has always been genuine and occasionally thoughtful. I'm not up for this at the moment, but if you're so inclined: You can't get thrown out for thinking, so take a swing at George Will's baseball quiz. (I might have once, but question 2 offers as an option a player I've never heard of: Adam Dunn, who it turns out hit 462 home runs, but clearly isn't the answer. Despite that bit of ignorance, I'm pretty sure I would have gotten that question right. I suspect I could figure out most of the combinations, but most of the rest are too obscure even for me in my prime.)

  • Amanda Yen: [03-31] Trump just won't stop attacking hush-money judge's daughter: "It's the fourth time he's gone after Judge Juan Merchan's daughter in the past week."

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

  • Dean Baker: Sorry for the bits, here and elsewhere, where sentences tend to tumble down hills as each clause reveals a premise that you should know but probably don't, hence requiring another and another. I know that proper form is to start from the premises and build your way up, but that's a lot of work, often winding up with many more points than the one you wanted to make. I do that a lot, but two examples here are especially egregious: each could be turned into a substantial essay (but who wants to read, much less write, one of those?).

    • [03-26] Relitigating the pandemic: School closings and vaccine sharing. There's been a constant refrain about how school closings have irrevocably stunted the intellectual growth of children. Baker mostly checks their math, rather than taking on the bigger issue of whether the nose-to-the-grindstone cult that took over policy control under the guise of "No Child Left Behind" (which, sure, wasn't all that different from the "rote learning" that dominated the first century of mass education, and like all test-driven regimes was all about leaving children behind, at least once their basic indoctrination has been accomplished -- the whole point of mass education in the first point [see Michael B Katz: The Irony of Early School Reform]).

      At some point, I should write more about education, including how hard I find it to reconcile my political belief in universal free education with my grim view of what we might call our actually-existing system. For now, I'll just point out that Astra Taylor's brilliant section on curiosity in her book The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as Things Fall Apart. Fifty-some years ago, I tried to figure out why my own educational experience had been so disastrous, which led me through books like those by Katz (op. cit.), Paul Goodman (Compulsory Mis-Education and the Community of Scholars), Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed), and Charles Weingarten and Neal Postman's Teaching as a Subversive Activity.

      Baker then goes on to talk about America's peculiar system for developing vaccines against Covid-19, which was to focus on the most expensive, most technically sophisticated, and (to a handful of private investors) most profitable system possible, making it unlikely that the world could share the benefits. It is some kind of irony that America ultimately suffered more from the pandemic than any other "developed" nation -- other aspects of our highly politicized profit-driven health care system saw to that, but it was by design that in every segment the poor would suffer worst, in health, and indeed in education.

    • [03-27] There ain't no libertarians, just politicians who want to give all the money to the rich. Responding to the Wallace-Wells column on Argentina's new president, Javier Milei -- you may recall that before he was elected, I predicted he'd quickly become the worst president anywhere in the world; let's just say he's still on that trajectory, although he's been slowed down a bit by the gravity of reality, so he's not yet as bad as he would be if he had more power (a phenomenon I trust you observed close enough with Donald Trump):

      Baker explains:

      The piece talked about how Milei calls himself as an anarchist, with the government just doing basic functions, like defending the country and running the criminal justice system. Otherwise, Milei would eliminate any role for government, if he had his choice.

      It is humorous to hear politicians make declarations like this. As a practical matter, almost all of these self-described anarchists would have a very large role for the government. What they want to do is to write the rules in ways that sends income upwards and then just pretend it is the natural order of things.

      The "natural order of things" is what conservatives are all about, as long as they're the ones on top of the totem pole. The more common word used for Milei is libertarian, which is how people on top like to think of themselves as being free (they turn conservative when they look down, and realize that their freedom depends on repressing, even enslaving, others). Michael Lind was onto something when he said that libertarianism had actually been tested historically; we tend to forget that, because the term at the time was feudalism. Charles Koch is the great American libertarian -- I know more about his fantasy world than most, because I used to typset books for him during his Murray Rothbard period -- and no one more exemplifies a feudal lord.

      Baker goes on to reiterate his usual shtick starting with patents, continuing on to a pitch for his book, Rigged (free online, and worth the time).

    • [03-28] Profits are still rising, why is the Fed worried about wage growth?

    • [03-29] Social Security retirement age has already been raised to 67.

    • [03-31] Do we need to have a Cold War with China?: Responds to a Paul Krugman column -- Bidenomics is making China angry. That's okay. -- that I didn't see much point of including on its own. Much more detail here worth reading, but here's the end:

      The basic point here is that we should care a lot about our relations with China. That doesn't mean we should structure our economy to make its leaders happy. We need to implement policies that support the prosperity and well-being of people in the United States. But we also need to try to find ways to cooperate with China in areas where it is mutually beneficial, and we certainly should not be looking for ways to put a finger in their eye.

  • Ryan Cooper: [02-07] Why were inflation hawks wrong? "Economists like Larry Summers predicted that bringing inflation down would require a large increase in unemployment. It didn't."

  • Inequality.org: [03-24] Total US billionaire wealth is up 88 percent over four years.

  • David Moscrop: [03-29] Welcome to a brave new world of price gouging: "Sellers have always had access to more information than buyers, and 'dynamic pricing,' which harnesses the power of algorithms and big data, is supercharging this asymmetry."

  • Alex Moss/Timi Iwayemi: [03-29] Senators' latest attempt to enrich Big Pharma must not prevail: "Patents are meant to encourage actual innovation, not monster corporate profits." Given how little bearing patents have on actual innovation, you'd think that argument would have dropped by the wayside, but the profits are so big those who seek them will say anything.

  • Kenny Stancil: [03-27] Jerome Powell's fingerprints are on the next banking crisis: "Not only did Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell's post-2016 regulatory rollbacks and supervisory blunders contribute significantly to the 2023 banking crisis, his current opposition to stronger capital requirements is setting the stage for the next crisis."

  • Yanis Varoufakis: [03-28] "Debt is to capitalism what Hell is to Christianity": Interview by David Broder with the Greek economist, who has a new film series where he explains "how elites used the financial crisis to terrorize Europe's populations into submission."

Ukraine War: Further details, blame, and other ruminations about the Moscow theatre terror attack have been moved to a following section. Worth noting here that if you're a war architect in Kyiv or Moscow (or Washington), the terror attack is bound to look like a second front, even if the two are unconnected. With the war hopelessly stalemated, both sides are looking for openings away from the front: Russia has increased drone attacks in Ukrainian cities far from the front (in one case, infringing on Polish air space); Ukraine has also sent drones over the Russian border, as well as picked off targets in Crimea and the Black Sea, and seems to have some capacity for clandestine operations within Russia. The result has been a dangerous bluring of respect for "red lines," which could quickly turn catastrophic (nuclear weapons and power plants are the obvious threats, but lesser-scale disasters are possible, and could quickly turn into chain reactions).

The only possible answer has always been to negotiate a truce which both sides can live with, preferably consistent with the wishes of the people most directly affected (which in the case of Crimea and most of Donbas means ethnic Russians who had long opposed Ukraine's drift to the West). Also, the Biden administration needs to discover where America's real interests lie, which is in peace and cooperation with all nations. The idea that the US benefits by degrading and isolating Russia is extremely short-sighted. (Ditto for China, Iran, and many others the self-appointed hyper-super-duper-power thinks it's entitled to bully.)

  • Connor Echols: [03-29] Diplomacy Watch: NATO, Russia inch closer to confrontation.

  • David Ignatius:

    • [03-29] Zelensky: 'We are trying to find some way not to retreat'. Even with the most sympathetic interviewer in the world, he's starting to sound pathetic. For another example of Ignatius trying to champion a loser, see:

    • [03-19] Liz Cheney still plays to make a difference in the election. Sorry for the disrespect -- I do have some, for Zelensky and Cheney (though maybe not for Ignatius), but I couldn't resist the line. Both have maneuvered themselves into positions that appear principled but are untenable, with their options limited on both ends. Zelensky's matters much more. When he was elected, he had to make a choice, either to try to lead a reduced but still substantial nation into Europe and peace, or fight to regain territories that had always opposed the European pivot. He chose the latter, and failed: the chances of him winning any substantial amount of territory back are very slim, while the costs of continuing the war are daunting (even if the US and Europe can continue to support him, which is becoming less certain). But if he's willing to cut his losses, the deal to end the war is distasteful but pretty straightforward. And so is the entry of the Ukraine that he still controls into Europe. Of course, doing so will disappoint the war party (especially Ignatius, and count Cheney in there, too). As for Cheney, I don't see any options. She has no popular support to maneuver, and no real moral authority either.

  • Robert Kagan: [03-28] Trump's anti-Ukraine view dates to the 1930s. America rejected it then. Will we now? The dean of neocon warmongers tries to pull a fast one on you. While there is some similarity between Trump's MAGA minions and Nazi sympathizers of the late 1930s -- still not as obvious as the direct line between Fred and Donald Trump -- the much derided "isolationists" of the pre-WWII period spanned the whole political spectrum, as they were rooted in the traditional American distrust of standing armies and foreign entanglements, along with hardly-isolationist ideas like the Monroe Doctrine and the Open Door Policy.

    Such views weren't rejected: even Roosevelt respected them until Japan and Germany declared war, forcing the US to join WWII. As the war turned, some highly-placed Americans saw the opportunity (or in some cases the necessity) of extending military and economic power around the globe, especially seeing as how Europe would no longer be able to dominate Africa and Asia, especially with communists, who had taken the lead in fighting the Axis powers, spearheading national liberation movements.

    The elites who promoted American hegemony had first to win the political argument at home. They did this by branding those who had rejected Wilson's League of Nations as "isolationists," the implication being that their opposition was responsible for World War's return, and by stirring up a "red scare," which played the partition of Europe, the revolution in China, and the Korean War into a colossal Cold War struggle, while also helping right-wingers at home demolish the labor movement, and turning American foreign policy into a perpetual warmaking machine. Kagan, like his father and his wife, is a major cog in that machine, as should be obvious here.

  • Joshua Keating: [03-28] Therer's a shadow fleet sneaking Russian oil around the world. It's an ecological disaster waiting to happen. "The world's next big maritime catastrophe could involve sanctions-dodging rustbuckets." Not something the Ukraine hawks will ever think to worry about, but sounds to me like another good reason to settle real soon now.

  • Blaise Malley: [03-25] Would House approve 'loaning' rather than giving Ukraine aid?: "There's a new plan afoot to do just that, even if Kyiv cannot repay it."

  • Jeffrey Sachs: [03-25] Crude rhetoric can lead us to war: "The US, Russia, and China must engage in serious diplomacy now. Name calling and personal insults do nothing for the peace effort. They only bring us closer to war."

Putin and Bush shared a common bond, and a temporary alliance, in the early 2000s, as both were struck by "terror attacks" from Islamic groups, blowback to their nations' long historical efforts to dominate and/or exploit Muslims (which for Russia goes back to wars against Turks and Mongols, extending to Russia's conquest of the Caucusus and Central Asia, their Great Game with the UK, later replaced by the US; for Americans it's mostly been driven by oil and Israel since WWII, although the legacy of the Crusades still pops up here and there). In recent years, Russia's "war on terror" has taken a back seat to its war in Ukraine, but the problem flared up again when gunmen killed 143 concert-goers at Moscow's Crocus City Hall.

We shouldn't be surprised that when a historically imperialist ruler takes a nationalist turn, as Putin did in going to war to reassert Russian hegemony over Ukraine, that its other minority subjects should get nervous, defensive, and as is so much the fashion these days, preëmptively strike out.

The attack was claimed by ISIS-K, and Russia has since arrested four Tajiks in connection with the crime. One should not forget that in the 1980s, the US was very keen not only on arming mujahideen to fight in Afghanistan against Russia but on extending the Islamist revolt deep into the Soviet Union (Tajikistan).

  • Francesca Ebel: [03-27] As death toll in Moscow attack rises to 143, migrants face fury and raids.

  • Richard Foltz: [03-26] Why Russia fears the emergence of Tajik terrorists.

  • Sarah Harmouch/Amira Jadoon: [03-25] How Moscow terror attack fits ISIL-K strategy to widen agenda against perceived enemies.

  • Ellen Ioanes: [03-28] ISIS-K, the group linked to Moscow's terror attack, explained.

  • Ishaan Tharoor: [03-27] Putin sees Kyiv in Moscow terrorist attack. But ISIS is its own story. I'm reminded here of something in the afterword to Gilles Kepel's Jihad: The Trial of Political Islam -- a book that appeared in English in 2003, but had been written and published in French, I think before 9/11 -- about how political Islam (including Al-Qaeda) was in serious decline after 2000, and 9/11 was initially a desperate ploy for attention and relevance (what American footballers call a "hail Mary pass").

    By the way, the first thing I did after 9/11 -- I was visiting friends in Brooklyn on that date, and one was actually killed in WTC, so it hit pretty close to home -- was to go to a bookstore and scrounge around for something relevant to read that would give me some historical context. The book that I found that came closest (but not very close) to satisfying my urge was Barbara Crossette's The Great Hill Stations of Asia, probably due to my intuition that the terror attacks were deeply rooted in the imperialist (and racist) past, but that specific story was too far in the past to be of much help. The book I really wanted to find was Kepel's, which told me everything I needed to know. So yeah, I find it plausible that ISIS-K wanted to kick Russia just to remind them that they have unfinished business. I don't doubt that Hamas wanted to kick Israel in the same way -- also reminding Saudi Arabia who they were about to get in bed with. Terrorists aren't very good at calibrating those kicks, so sometimes they get more reaction than they really wanted. But do they really care? Overreaction is often the worst possible thing an offended power can do, as 9/11 and 10/7 have so painfully demonstrated.

Around the world:

  • Caroline Houck: [03-29] A very bad year for press freedom: Playing up the year-and-counting detention of Evan Gershkovich in Russia, but there are other examples, including many journalists killed by Israel not just recently but "over the last two decades." On Gershkovich, see:

  • Vijay Prashad: [03-26] Europe sleepwalks through its own dilemmas: With the episodic rise of the right in America, where each fitful advance has tattered and in some cases shredded not just the social welfare state but our entire sense of democracy, solidarity, cohesion, and commonwealth, lots of Americans have come to admire Europe, where social democracy for the most part remains intact. On the other hand, what we see in European politics, at least for those of us who see anything at all, is often bewildering and unnerving. Don't these people realize how fortunate they have been? Yet in many areas, as Prashad notes here, they seem to be blind and dumb, just following whatever the direction is coming from Washington and Davos, despite repeated failures.

  • David Smilde: [03-22] Candidate registration is becoming a purge of Maduro's opposition.

The bridge:


Other stories:

Joshua Frank: [03-28] As the rich speed off in their Teslas: Of life and lithium.

Sam Levin: [03-27] Joe Lieberman, former US senator and vice-presidential nominee, dies at 82. More on Lieberman:

Gideon Lewis-Kraus: [03-25] You say you want a revolution. Do you know what you mean by that? Reviews two books: Fareed Zakaria: Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash from 1600 to the Present; and Nathan Perl-Rosenthal: The Age of Revolutions: And the Generations Who Made It, which is more focused on the years 1760-1825.

Jeffrey St Clair: [03-29] Roaming Charges: Nowhere men: Remembering Joe Lieberman, then onto the bridge and other disasters.

Mari Uyehara: [03-25] The many faces of Viet Thanh Nguyen: "The Vietnamese American writer's leap to the mainstream comes at a moment that demands his anti-colonialist perspective."

I've cited this article before, but my wife reminded me of it yesterday and went on to read me several chunks. The article is by Pankaj Mishra: The Shoah after Gaza. It's worth reading in whole, but for now let me just pull a couple paragraphs out from the middle:

One of the great dangers today is the hardening of the colour line into a new Maginot Line. For most people outside the West, whose primordial experience of European civilisation was to be brutally colonised by its representatives, the Shoah did not appear as an unprecedented atrocity. Recovering from the ravages of imperialism in their own countries, most non-Western people were in no position to appreciate the magnitude of the horror the radical twin of that imperialism inflicted on Jews in Europe. So when Israel's leaders compare Hamas to Nazis, and Israeli diplomats wear yellow stars at the UN, their audience is almost exclusively Western. Most of the world doesn't carry the burden of Christian European guilt over the Shoah, and does not regard the creation of Israel as a moral necessity to absolve the sins of 20th-century Europeans. For more than seven decades now, the argument among the 'darker peoples' has remained the same: why should Palestinians be dispossessed and punished for crimes in which only Europeans were complicit? And they can only recoil with disgust from the implicit claim that Israel has the right to slaughter 13,000 children not only as a matter of self-defence but because it is a state born out of the Shoah.

In 2006, Tony Judt was already warning that 'the Holocaust can no longer be instrumentalised to excuse Israel's behaviour' because a growing number of people 'simply cannot understand how the horrors of the last European war can be invoked to license or condone unacceptable behaviour in another time and place'. Israel's 'long-cultivated persecution mania -- "everyone's out to get us" -- no longer elicits sympathy', he warned, and prophecies of universal antisemitism risk 'becoming a self-fulfilling assertion': 'Israel's reckless behaviour and insistent identification of all criticism with antisemitism is now the leading source of anti-Jewish sentiment in Western Europe and much of Asia.' Israel's most devout friends today are inflaming this situation. As the Israeli journalist and documentary maker Yuval Abraham put it, the 'appalling misuse' of the accusation of antisemitism by Germans empties it of meaning and 'thus endangers Jews all over the world'. Biden keeps making the treacherous argument that the safety of the Jewish population worldwide depends on Israel. As the New York Times columnist Ezra Klein put it recently, 'I'm a Jewish person. Do I feel safer? Do I feel like there's less antisemitism in the world right now because of what is happening there, or does it seem to me that there's a huge upsurge of antisemitism, and that even Jews in places that are not Israel are vulnerable to what happens in Israel?'

One thing I want to add here is that liberal- and left-democrats often take great pains to make clear that their criticism of Israeli government policy, and of the people who evidently support those policies, does not reflect or imply any criticism of Jews in America, who are not represented by the Israeli government, even if they are deeply sympathetic to Israel. We are also very quick to point out that many of those most critical of Israel, both in the US and in Israel itself, are Jewish, and often do so out of principles that they believe are deeply rooted in Judaism.

We do this because our fundamental position is that we support free and equal rights for all people, regardless of whose human rights are being asserted or denied. But we're particularly sensitive on this point, because we know that many of our number are Jewish, so we are extra aware of when their rights have been abused, and of their solidarity in defending the rights of others.

So we regard as scurrilous this whole propaganda line that accuses anyone who in any way disagrees with Israeli policy with antisemitism. We are precisely the least antisemitic people in America. Meanwhile, the propaganda line seems to be aimed at promoting antisemitism in several ways: it tells people who don't know better to blame all Jews for the human rights abuses of Israel; it also reassures people who really are antisemites that their sins are forgiven if they support Israel; and it reaffirms the classic Zionist argument that all Jews must flee the diaspora and resettle in Israel -- the only safe haven in a world full of antisemitism. (It is no coincidence that many of Zionism's biggest supporters have been, and in many cases still are, antisemites. Balfour and Lloyd George were notorious antisemites. Hitler himself approved the transfer of hundreds of thousands of German Jews to Palestine.)

While none of this is hard to understand, many people don't and won't, so it's very likely that some will take their fear and anger over genocide out on Jews. We will denounce any such acts, as we have always done. And as we have, and will continue to, heinous acts by Israel. But we should be aware that what's driving this seemingly inevitable uptick in "antisemitism" is this false propaganda line, perpetrated by Israel and its very well heeled support network -- including most mainstream media outlets, and virtually the entire American political elite. So when people insist you step up and denounce antisemitism, do so. But don't forget to include the real driving force behind antisemitism these days: the leaders of Israel.

While I was looking for a quote to wrap up this post, I ran across a Richard Silverstein tweet that fits nicely here:

Genocide is an unpardonable sin before God in Judaism, regardless of who are the victims or the perpetrators. Israel's crimes are not in my name as a Jew, nor in the name of Judaism as millions of my fellow Diaspora Jews know it.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Speaking of Which

I was struck by this meme: "If Israelis stop fighting there will be peace. If Palestinians stop fighting there will be no more Palestinians." The first line is certainly true. This latest war has been so devastating that it's hard to imagine any fight left -- at least of the sort that would strike out at Israelis beyond their wall. The other obvious point is that there's no risk in trying. If Hamas does attack again, Israel can always strike back, and that reaction will be better understood than the systematic, genocidal war Israel is waging.

The second is less obvious, depending on what you mean by "stop fighting." Hamas has never had the capability of fighting Israel like Israel fights Gaza. Hamas has no air force, no navy, no submarines, no tanks, no heavy artillery, no anti-aircraft or anti-missile defenses, no drones. Their rockets are small and unguided, and have never produced more than accidental damage. Aside from the Oct. 7 jailbreak, the only way an Israeli gets hurt is by entering Gaza, and even then the ratio of Palestinian-to-Israeli casualties is 50-to-1 or more. That's not much of a fight.

However, the second line could be rewritten in terms that both sides will agree with, if not agree on: "Palestinians will [only] stop fighting when there are no more Palestinians." An army may sensibly surrender to a more imposing power, but this will only happen if one has hope of surviving and eventually recovering from surrender. Germany and Japan surrendered to the US to end WWII, but only because they believed that they would be given a chance to return to running their own lives. (See John Dower's Embracing Defeat for more on how Japan dealt with this. Japan is a better example than Germany, because its government was still intact when it surrendered, whereas Germany's was in tatters after Hitler's suicide.) A number of American Indian tribes surrendered with similar hopes, even though the US had given them little reason for such hope.

But Israel's current demands for ceasefire terms, following the genocidal threats of Israel's leaders, and the genocidal methodology they've practiced in this war, offer little or no hope to any Palestinian that surrender is anything but suicide. Israelis demand absolute servility, but know that they'll never get everyone to submit, that there will always be resistance of some sort, and as such their security will always be at risk. This presents them with an existential dilemma, to which there are only three solutions: equal rights, separation, or annihilation.

They have long refused to consider equal rights. (Lots of reasons we needn't consider here, like racism and demography.) They've considered separation, at least within certain bounds, but it's naturally a formula for war, so they've insisted on being the dominant power, both by building up a huge military advantage and by preventing Palestinians from ever developing their own popular leadership. But the solution they've always craved was annihilation. The problem there has been finding a time when they could get away with it. Oct. 7 was the excuse they were waiting for, dramatic enough that few of their allies grasped immediately how they had goaded Hamas into action.

Even so, Israel has always had a numbers problem. America was able to reduce its native population to levels where they became politically and economically irrelevant, after which annihilation no longer mattered, and some reconciliation was possible. But for Israel, there were always too many Palestinians, too close by, too economically developed and culturally sophisticated. For just these reasons, colonizers eventually gave up on Algeria and South Africa, but only after extraordinary brutality. Israel is the last to believe they're strong enough to beat down any and all resistance. And that's really because they have few if any scruples against killing every last Palestinian.

And don't for a moment think that Palestinians don't understand this. They've lived through it for decades, and while often beaten down, often severely, they've survived to resist again. They'll survive this, too, and will continue to resist, as peacefully as Israel will allow, or as violently as they can muster.

Looking further down my twitter feed:

From Rami Jarrah: Picture of an adult Palestinian male seated on a couch, surrounded 14 children (a couple into their teens). Text: "Nobody in this photo is alive. Israel's right to self defence."

From Kayla Bennett: Chart image. Text: "One of the most horrifying graphics ever." I looked for an article including the chart, and came up with:

From Ryan Heuser: A link to the website for The New York War Crimes, reporting on propaganda published by The New York Times (motto: "All the Consent That's Fit to Manufacture"). I haven't figured out yet where the illustrations come from.

From Yousef Munayer retweeted Heuser, adding: "A new poll found that even though some 30,000 more Palestinians have been killed than Israelis since October, half of Americans didn't know which side has lost more lives. This has a lot to do with it."

From Etan Nechin retweeted Chris Olley: "[Pennsylvania]'s richest person Jeff Yass is buying Truth Social for $3 Billion so Trump can pay off his $450 Million judgment in return for Trump doing a 180 on his Tiktok and China stance to preserve Yass's $30 Billion-with-a-B stake in Tiktok. We call this oligarchy' when it's elsewhere." Nechin adds: "Notably, Jeff Yass was the main financier of Kohelet Forum, the shadowy organization behind Israel's attempted judicial coup that was championed by the settler far right. These oligarchs care little for democracy, only market interests." The Wikipedia page for Yass is here, which documents all this and more.

From Daniel Denvir: "Truth Social has roughly twice the monthly app users as my niche left-wing intellectual podcast has monthly downloads. The Dig's own healthy but rather modest financial situation suggests to me that this company is not worth nearly $6 billion."

From Paul Krugman: "So, did the ACA bend the cost curve? Call it coincidence, but excess cost growth -- health spending growing faster than GDP -- basically ended when it passed." See chart:

I'm reminded that Switzerland long had the world's second most expensive health care system, with costs increasing in tandem with US costs, until they adopted a universal non-profit insurance scheme. While this was still much more expensive than systems in UK, Germany, and France, it halted the increase, while US costs continue to rise. ACA hasn't worked as well as Switzerland's system -- by design, it isn't universal, and still allows (and sometimes encourages) profit-seeking -- but it was a step in the right direction.

Initial count: 227 links, 9,825 words. Not really finished when posted late Sunday night, so some Monday updates have been added. While sections are marked (like this), minor edits (like the last paragraph above) are not. (Seems like there should be a finer-grained way to do this, but I haven't figured one out yet.

Updated count [03-25]: 259 links, 11,559 words.

Several breaking stories on Monday [03-25] are not reported or reacted to below, but should be significant next week: Here's the "heads up":

  • Luisa Loveluck/Karen DeYoung/Missy Ryan/Michael Birnbaum: [03-25] Netanyahu cancels delegation after US does not block UN cease-fire call: The US, for the first time since Israel attacked Gaza after the Oct. 7 attacks, abstained from and didn't veto a cease-fire resolution, allowing it to pass 14-0. This is the first concrete step that the Biden administration is developing a conscience over Israel's genocide. A stronger signal would have been to vote for the resolution. Stronger still would be to withhold aid (especially munitions) until the cease-fire has been implemented (at which point Israel won't need the arms). So Biden still has a long ways to go, but at least he has found a new direction. Next step will be to show Netanyahu that his tantrum is for naught, and that his conceit that he actually runs Washington -- which, by the way, is a big part of his political capital in Israel -- is no longer true.

    PS: Yousef Munayyer tweeted after this: "The US abstention at the UNSC today as well as Netanyahu's reaction to it should be seen as each leader's attempt to manage domestic audiences. What matters is Biden signed off on $4billion more in weapons for Israel to further the genocide. Keep your eye on the ball."

  • Mark Berman/Jonathan O'Connell/Shayna Jacobs: [03-25] Trump wins partial stay of fraud judgment, allowed to post $175 million: This postpones foreclosure on Trump properties, for ten days at least (the time allowed to post the bond).

  • Shayna Jacobs/Devlin Barrett: [03-25] NY judge sets firm April 15 trial date in Trump's historic hush money case.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world opinion:

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes: After Super Tuesday, this is turning into a category with not much happening, or at least not much people are bothering to write against. March 19 saw presidential primaries in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, and Ohio. Biden's been winning the Democratic side by a bit over 80%, which isn't great for an incumbent, but also isn't disastrous. Trump wins as easily, but rarely hits 80% -- also not great considering no one is actively running against him. (In Arizona, the figures were 89.3% Biden, 78.8% Trump; in Florida, 81.2% Trump; in Illinois, 91.5% Biden, 80.6% Trump; in Kansas 83.8% Biden, 75.5% Trump; in Ohio, 87.1% Biden, 79.2% Trump; in Louisiana, 86.1% Biden, 89.8% Trump. Missouri had a caucus, where Trump got 100% of 924 votes.

  • Paul Krugman: [03-21] What's the matter with Ohio?

  • Nia Prater: [03-22] The Republican Party is too embarrassing for George Santos: So he's going to run as an independent in Nick LaLota's (R-NY) House district. Most people run as independents because they think they are, but the big advantage for Santos is that he can keep his campaign finance scam going all the way to November, instead of getting wiped out in the primary. So pretty much the same reason Bob Menendez is running as an independent to keep his Senate seat in New Jersey.

Trump, and other Republicans: Salon picks up some substantial pieces, but they also do a lot of stuff that basically amounts to Trump trolling. I usually skip past them, but this week they especially spoke to me, so quite a few got crammed in here this week. I can also give you some author indexes, in case you want to dig deeper (just scanning the titles is often a hoot):

This week's links on all things Republican (the Trumpier the better, but the real evil lies in the billionaire-funded think tanks):

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Perry Bacon Jr: [03-19] Voters of color are shifting right. Are Democrats doomed?

  • Hannah Story Brown: [03-25] Tim Ryan's natural gas advocacy makes a mockery of public service: Ex-Representative (D-OH), ran for Senate and lost, now "leveraging his prior career for a group backed by fossil fuel and petrochemical players." Why do you suppose he couldn't convince voters he'd serve them better than a Republican?

  • Gail C Christopher: [03-22] Stop ageism: A call for action: "It's one of the last socially acceptable forms of prejudice, and it needs to come to an end in society and this presidential campaign." Really, you think this is going to work? Or even help? Believe me, I know it happens, often in cases where it is inappropriate, but unlike many prejudices, there is also something substantive at root here, and finding the right combination of respect and care and understanding in each distinct case is going to take some work, and not just a bumper sticker slogan.

  • Ryan Cooper: [03-11] Democrats need a party publication: "The New York Times is not going to get Biden's campaign message before voters." Pull quote: "There is a giant right-wing propaganda apparatus blasting Republican messaging into tens of millions of homes every day, which Democrats do not have." Also: "You could do quite a lot of journalism for a tiny, tiny fraction of what the Democrats are going to spend on the 2024 campaign." I figured the line about the New York Times was some kind of joke, but here's the unfunny part:

    A recent speech from New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger makes clear that he -- perhaps unsurprisingly for a scion of multigenerational inherited wealth -- is proud of his paper's ludicrously anti-Biden slant and virulent transphobia, and will keep doing it. If it's up to him, this campaign will center around Biden's age, while Trump's numerous extreme scandals and outright criminality -- as well as his own advanced age and dissolving brain -- will be carefully downplayed. If I were Biden and the Democrats, who implicitly elevate the Times as their counterpoint to Fox, I'd be looking to change that, and quick.

  • James Downie: [03-23] House Republicans just gave Biden the biggest possible gift: "When it comes to Social Security and Medicare, Republicans just can't help themselves." I could have filed this under Republicans, but didn't want this piece to get lost among this week's Trump scuzziness. Trump is a problem, but he's merely cosmetic compared to the deep Republican mindset, which remains set on destroying the institutions that at least minimally protect us from the most predatory practices of capitalism, supposedly in favor of an entrepreneurial utopia. I was pointed to this piece by an Astra Taylor tweet (link just vanished), possibly because the piece itself cites her The Age of Insecurity.

  • Robert Kuttner:

    • [03-18] Man of steel: "President Biden's blockage of the proposed purchase of US Steel by Japan's Nippon Steel is unprecedented and magnificently pro-union."

    • [03-22] The promise of Biden's second term: "And the exemplary effects of his green jobs creation programs in his first term."

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

  • Stephen Lezak: [03-22] Scientists just gave humanity an overdue reality check. The world will be better for it. This follows on [03-20] Geologists make it official: we're not in an 'anthropocene' epoch. For geologists, it's a fairly technical question, and given the ways geologists think about time, I'm not surprised that they don't see need for another division. The Holocene only starts with the retreat of the Wisconsin Ice Age -- the fifth major glacial advance of the Pleistocene, itself an arguably premature designation. (The factors that drove ice ages during the period have are presumably still in place -- certainly the continents haven't moved much, nor has the earth orbit changed, or solar output -- but the atmosphere has been altered enough to make renascent glaciation very unlikely.) Humans started leaving their mark on the Earth's surface as the Holocene started some 11,700 years ago, so the whole epoch could have been named the Anthropocene. Perhaps that seemed presumptuous when first named, and maybe even now, but using 1952 as an convenient dividing line is simply arbitrary.

  • Delaney Nolan: The EPA is backing down from environmental justice cases nationwide.

  • Cassady Rosenblum: [03-23] Blocking Burning Man and vandalizing Van Gogh: Climate activists are done playing nice: This is indicative of what happens with those in power deny, dissemble, and ultimately fail at problems that have become overwhelmingly obvious. Those in power should see protests -- orderly of course, but also disruptive and destructive -- as symptoms of underlying issues that require their attention.

    But most often, they think they can get away with suppressing protests, which by aggravating the protesters while ignoring the problems only makes future protests more desperate, and dangerous. As noted here, "something desperate and defiant is stirring in the climate movement." Signs of escalating tactics are as easily measured as the increasing ppm of greenhouse gases. The tipping points of catastrophic inflections are harder to guess, but their odds are approaching inevitable, as we have observed stressed humans do many times before, in many comparable situations.

  • David Wallace-Wells: [03-20] When we see the climate more clearly, what will we do? There is not a satellite designed to locate methane leeks.

Business/economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

  • Connor Echols: [03-20] US 'prepared to deploy troops to Haiti if necessary. If Biden goes along with this, I dare say it would be political suicide. For Trump, as for most US presidents going back to Thomas Jefferson, Haiti is the quintessential "shithole country." Right-thinking Americans would bristle at the idea of doing anything to help there. Realistic Americans would realize that the US military is not capable of helping, and that its entrance would make matters worse. The left should be pushing back against Biden's warmaking on all fronts. And nobody wants another costly quagmire.

  • Sam Knight: [03-25] What have fourteen years of Conservative rule done to Britain? "Living standards have fallen. The country is exhausted by constant drama. But the UK can't move on from the Tories without facing up tot he damage that has occurred."

  • Robert Kuttner: [03-13] WTO, RIP: "The annual World Trade Organization meeting came to an ignominious end last week with no 'progress' on major issues. That is a form of progress."

  • Emily Tamkin: Slovakia's presidential election is a warning to America: "What to see what the United States would look like under a reelected Trump?"

Other stories:

Laura Bult: [03-21] Why it's so hard for Americans to retire: "There's a reason so many of us don't have enough retirement savings." Video piece, but links to Teresa Ghilarducci's book, Work, Retire, Repeat: The Uncertainty of Retirement in the New Economy. Probably good, but Astra Taylor covers the key point in her The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as Things Fall Apart.

Stephanie Burt: Lucy Sante and the solitude and solidarity of transitioning: "In her new memoir, I Heard Her Call My Name, Sante dissects her past in order to understand her future."

David Dayen: [01-29] America is not a democracy. Long piece from the print magazine. Seems like I should have noticed it before. Too much to get into just now.

Sarah Jones: The exvangelicals searching for political change. Self-evident neologism is from the book reviewed herein, The Exvangelicals: Loving, Living, and Leaving the White Evangelical Church, by Sarah McCammon. Related here:

  • Carlene Bauer: [03-12] She trusted God and science. They both failed her. Review of Devout: A Memoir of Doubt, by Anna Gazmarian, "an author who grew up in the evangelical church recounts her struggle to find spiritual and psychological well-being after a mental health challenge."

Rich Juzwiak: [03-12] A biography of a feminist porn pioneer bares all: "In Candida Royalle and the Sexual Revolution, the historian Jane Kamensky presents a raw personal -- and cultural -- history." Another review:

Keren Landman: [03-20] Abortion influences everything: "By inhibiting drug development, economic growth, and military recruitment, as well as driving doctors away from the places they're needed most, bans almost certainly harm you -- yes, you."

Katie Moore: [03-17] When Kansas police kill people, the public often can't see bodycam footage. Here's why.

Marcus J Moore: [03-21] The visions of Alice Coltrane: "In the years after her husband John's death, the harpist discovered a sound all her own, a jazz rooted in acts of spirit and will." I'll say something about this in Music Week. Meanwhile:

Rick Perlstein: [03-20] 'Stay strapped or get clapped': "How the media misses the story of companies seeking profit by keeping traumatized veterans armed and enraged."

Andrew Prokop: [03-21] The political battle over Laken Riley's murder, explained: Riley was a 22-year-old student in Georgia who was murdered, allegedly by an "illegal immigrant," an event seized upon by right-wing agitators, like the guy who tweeted: "If only people went to the streets to demand change in the name of Laken Riley, like they did for George Floyd." Article provides more details. While the murders as isolated events were equivalent, the policy considerations are very different, starting with responsibility for enabling the killers, and regarding the more general context.

One not even mentioned here is the effect of the sanctions and isolation policy toward Venezuela -- mostly but not exclusively Trump's work -- and how that has driven many, including Riley's alleged killer, to migrate to the US. Prokop: "But reality is also more complicated than Trump's promises that he'll fix everything by getting tougher once he's president."

Brian Resnick: [03-22] The total solar eclipse is returning to the United States -- better than before: "This will be the last total solar eclipse over the contiguous United States for 21 years." I find myself with zero interest in looking up, much less traveling to do so, but family and friends in Arkansas are lobbying for visitors, and I know some people who are going. April 8 is the date.

Dylan Scott: [03-22] Kate Middleton's cancer diagnosis is part of a frightening global trend: "More and more young people are getting cancer." I have zero interest in her, or in any of "those ridiculous people" (John Oliver's apt turn of phrase), and so I've ignored dozens of pieces on them recently, but there's something more going on here. Every category of cancer they used is more common among ages 14-49 than it was in 1990. My wife swears it's environmental, and while I can think of statistical variations, I'm inclined to agree.

Jeffrey St Clair: [03-22] Roaming Charges: L'état sans merci. "Willie Pye is dead and Georgia is back in the execution business." This introduces a long section on what passes for justice in America. Much more, of course. For more on Pye, see:

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins: [03-20] The problematic past, present, and future of inequality studies: Interview with Branko Milanovic, whose lates book is Visions of Inequality: From the French Revolution to the End of the Cold War.

Dodai Stewart: [03-16] You're not being gaslit, says a new book. (Or are you?) Review of Kate Abramson: On Gaslighting. Demands precision of a phenomenon that is deliberately imprecise ("all kinds of interactions -- lying, guilt-tripping, manipulation"; "a multi-dimensional horror show"). Cites Harry G Frankfurt's On Bullshit (2005) as a "spiritual forebear."

Astra Taylor/Leah Hunt-Hendrix: [03-21] The one idea that could save American democracy: Tied to the authors' new book, Solidarity: The Past, Present, and Future of a World-Changing Idea. Also:

By the way, I just found a link to audio for Astra Taylor: [2023-11-17] The Age of Insecurity: 2023 CBC Massey Lectures, with five hour-long lectures corresponding to the book I just read, and recommend as highly as possible -- I'd go so far as to say that she's the smartest person writing on the left these days. I was pointed to the lectures by a daanis tweet: "I finally listened to @astradisastra Massey Lectures on my way to Boston, just mainlined them one after another straight into my brain, and added her language about precarity and insecurity into my own remarks about surviving together by becoming kin."

Maureen Tkacik: [03-11] 'Return what you stole and be a man with dignity': "Doctors didn't think it was possible to loathe the world's biggest health care profiter any more. Then came the hack that set half their bookkeeping systems on fire." About the ransomware outage at Change Healthcare, which is owned by UnitedHealth ("the nation's fifth-largest company").

Bryan Walsh: [03-22] Baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani has been caught up in a gambling controversy. He won't be the last. One of the biggest changes in my lifetime has been the changed attitude toward gambling, which in my mother's day was a degenerative sin indulged by lowlifes, much to the profit of mobsters. Today the mobsters have turned into Republican billionaires -- hard to say whether that's a step up or down ethically -- and their rackets have moved out into the open. For a long time, the shame of the Black Sox kept the lid on sports gambling, but that's been totally blown open in the recent years. I hate it, which doesn't mean I want to try to ban it, but those involved are no better than criminals, and should be reminded of it as often as possible.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Speaking of Which

Well, another week, with a few minor variations, but mostly the same old stories:

  • Israel is continuing its genocidal war on Gaza, with well over 30,000 direct kills, the destruction of most housing and infrastructure, and the imposition of mass starvation. This war is likely to escalate significantly next week, as Netanyahu has vowed to invade Rafah, which has until now been a relatively safe haven for over one million refugees from northern parts of the Gaza strip. Israel is also orchestrating increased violence in the occupied West Bank and along the Lebanon border, which risks drawing the US into the conflict (as has already happened in the Red Sea).

  • The United States remains supportive of and complicit in Israeli genocide, although we're beginning to see signs that the Biden administration is uncomfortable with such extremism. Public opinion favor an immediate cease-fire, which Israel and its fan club have been working frantically to dispel and deny.

  • Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine continues to be stalemated, with increasingly desperate and dangerous drone attacks. Putin is up for reelection this weekend, and is expected to win easily, against token opposition that also supports Russia's war, so any hopes for regime change there are very slim. On the other hand, the war is becoming increasingly unpopular in the US, where thus far Biden has been unable to pass his latest arms aid request. The only way out of this destructive and debilitating war is to open negotiations, where the obvious solution is some formalization of the status quo, but thus far Biden and Zelensky have refused to consider the need.

  • Biden's has secured the Democratic nomination for a second term, but he remains deeply unpopular, due to gross Republican slanders, his own peculiar personal weaknesses, and legitimate worry over wars he has shown little concern and/or competency at ending.

  • Meanwhile, Trump has secured the Republican nomination, but is mostly distracted by the numerous civil and criminal cases he has blundered into. He's lost two civil cases, bringing fines of over $500 million, but he has thus far managed to postpone trial in the four criminal cases, and he had several minor victories on that front last week. Meanwhile, the Republican Party is remaking itself in his image, defending crime and corruption, spreading hate, and aspiring to dictatorship. (At some point, I should go into more depth on how, while the Democrats remain pretty inept at defending democracy, the Republicans have gone way out of their way to impress on us what the destruction of democracy has in store for us.)

Due to various factors I don't want to go into, I got a late start on this, and lost essentially all of Saturday, so I expect the final Sunday wrap-up to be even more haphazard than usual.

Sorry I didn't mention this earlier, but we were saddened to hear of the recent death of Jim Lynch. He was one of the Wichita area's most steadfast peace supporters, and he will be missed.

Except, of course, that I didn't manage to wrap up on Sunday, so this picks up an extra day -- not thoroughly researched, but I am including some Monday pieces.

Initial count: 183 links, 9,145 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. Biden: Israelis like to talk about the "multi-front war" they're besieged with, but for all the talk of Iranian proxies, they rarely point out that their main struggle since Oct. 7 has been with world opinion, especially as it became obvious that they had both the intent and means to commit genocide. For a long time, Biden and virtually the entire American political establishment were completely subservient to Israeli dictates, but that seems to be shifting slightly -- maybe those taunts of "Genocide Joe" are registering? -- so much so that Israel can add the US to its array of threats. Not a done deal, but increasingly a subject of discussion.

  • Daniel Boguslaw: FBI warns Gaza War will stoke domestic radicalization "for years to come".

  • Connor Echols: [03-13] Bombs, guns, treasure: What Israel wants, the US gives.

  • Liz Goodwin: [03-14] Schumer calls for 'new election' in Israel in scathing speech on Netanyahu: I'd be among the first to point out that's none of his business, just as it's none of Netanyahu's business to weigh in on American elections -- as he's done both personally and through donors like the Abelsons and lobbying groups like AIPAC. On the other hand, if Schumer wanted to cut off military aid and diplomatic support for genocide, that would clearly be his right. More on Schumer:

    • Jonathan Chait: [03-16] Why Chuck Schumer's Israel speech marks a turning point: "He tried to escape the cycle of violence and hate between one-staters of the left and right." That's a very peculiar turn of phrase -- one designed to depict "two-staters" as innocent peace-seekers who have been pushed aside by extremists, each intent on dominating the other. But the very idea of "two states" was a British colonial construct, designed initially to divide-and-rule (as the British did everywhere they gained power), and when they inevitably failed, to foment civil wars in their wake. (Ireland and India/Pakistan are the other prime examples, although there are many others.) The "two-state solution" isn't some long deferred dream. It is the generator and actual state of the conflict. Sure, it doesn't look like the "two states" of American propaganda -- a fantasy Israelis sometimes give lip-service to but more often subvert -- due to the extreme asymmetry of power between the highly efficient and brutal Israeli state and the emaciated chaos of Palestinian leadership (to which the PA is mere window dressing, as was much earlier the British-appointed "Mufti of Jerusalem"). The only left solution is a state built on equal rights of all who live there.

      Borders may be abitrary, and one could designate one, two, or N states in the region, with various ethnic mixes, but for the left, and for peace and justice, each must offer equal rights to its inhabitants. It is true that some on the left were willing to entertain the two-state prospect, but that was only because we realized that Israel is dead set against equal rights, and saw their security requiring that most Palestinians be excluded. We expected that a Palestinian majority, left to its own devices, would organize a state of equal rights democratically. Meanwhile, an Israel more secure in its Jewish majority might moderate, as indeed Israel had done before the 1967 war, the revival of military rule, the settler movement, the debasement and destruction of the Labor Party, and the extreme right-wing drive of the Netanyahu regimes.

      That the actually-existing Zionist state has become an embarrassment to someone as devoted to Israel as Schumer may indeed be a turning point. But heaping scorn on "left one-staters" while trying to revive the "two-state solution," with its implied "separate but equal" air on top of vast differences in power, is less a step forward than a desperate attempt to salvage the past.

    • EJ Dionne Jr: [03-16] Schumer said out loud what many of Israel's friends are thinking.

    • Murtaza Hussain: Outrage at Chuck Schumer's speech: The pro-Israel right wants to eat its cake too.

    • Fred Kaplan: [03-14] Why Chuck Schumer's break with Netanyahu seems like a turning point in the US relationship with Israel.

    • Halie Soifer: [03-15] Schumer spoke for the majority of American Jews: "Only 31% of American Jewish voters have a favorable view of the Israeli prime minister."

  • Caitlin Johnstone: [03-15] If Israel wants to be an 'independent nation,' let it be: "Israel knows it's fully dependent on the US and cannot sustain its nonstop violence without the backing of the US war machine."

  • Fred Kaplan: [03-15] There's a cease-fire deal on the table. Hamas is the one rejecting it. Israel doesn't need to negotiate with Hamas for a cease-fire. They can do that by themselves. You say that wouldn't get the hostages back? Someone else -- say whoever wants to run food and supplies into Gaza? -- can deal with that. The hostages are relatively useless just to swap for other hostages. Their real value to Hamas is to the extent they inhibit Israel from the final, absolute destruction of Gaza and everyone stuck there. Admittedly, that hasn't worked out so well, but trading them for time only helps if the international community uses that time to get Israel to give up on their Final Solution. Meanwhile, what Israel likes about negotiating with Hamas is they never have to agree to anything, because the one thing Hamas wants is off the table. And because Israel is very skilled at shifting blame to Hamas. They even have Kaplan fooled. I mean, consider this:

    Netanyahu has rejected these conditions as "delusional." On this point, he is right. A complete withdrawal of troops and a committed end to the war would leave Israel without the means to enforce the release of hostages. It would also allow Hamas to rebuild its military and resume attacking Israel, whether with rocket fire or another attempted incursion.

    But isn't the point of negotiation to get both sides to do what they committed. Why does Israel need a residual force to "enforce the release of hostages"? If Hamas failed to honor its side of the deal, Israel could always attack again. Can't we admit that would be a sufficiently credible Plan B? And how the hell is Hamas going "to rebuild its military and resume attacking Israel"? They never had a real military, and Gaza never had the resources and tech to build serious arms, and what little they did have has been almost completely demolished. I could see Hamas worrying that Israel could use truce time to bulk up so they could hit Gaza even harder, but the opposite isn't even projection; it's just plain ridiculous.

  • Joshua Keating: [03-14] How Biden could dial up the pressure on Israel -- if he really wanted to.

  • Mitchell Plitnick: [03-15] It isn't Netanyahu who is acting against the will of his people, it's Biden.

  • Richard Silverstein:

  • Adam Taylor/Shira Rubin: [03-14] Biden administration imposes first sanctions on West Bank settler outposts.

  • Kelley Beaucar Vlahos:

  • Philip Weiss: [03-17] Weekly Briefing: Now everyone hates Israel: "The unbelievable onslaught on a captive people in Gaza has at last cracked the conscience of the American Jewish community and sent American Zionists into complete crisis." Picture of Schumer, followed by Jonathan Glazer at the Oscars.

Israel vs. world opinion:

  • Michael Arria: [03-14] The Shift: Jonathan Glazer smeared by pro-Israel voices over Oscar speech: The director of the film The Zone of Interest said this during his acceptance speech after winning the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film:

    All our choices we made to reflect and confront us in the present. Not to say 'look what they did then' -- rather, 'look what we do now.' Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst. It shaped all of our past and present.

    Right now, we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people. Whether the victims of October 7 in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza -- all the victims of this dehumanization, how do we resist?


  • Khalil Barhoum: [03-09] The real reason 'from the river to the sea' has garnered so much condemnation: "The false labeling of Palestinian liberation slogans like 'from the river to the sea' as calls for the elimination of Jews reveals an Israeli anxiety over its dispossession of the Palestinians from their land."

  • Daniel Beaumont: [03-15] Smoke and mirrors: How Israeli agitprop lies become fact.

  • Jonathan Cook:

  • Feminist Solidarity Network for Palestine: [03-11] Here's what Pramila Patten's UN report on Oct 7 sexual violence actually said: "The UN report on sexual violence on October 7 has found no evidence of systematic rape by Hamas or any other Palestinian group, despite widespread media reporting to the contrary. But there are deeper problems with the report's credibility."

  • Luke Goldstein: [03-14] AIPAC talking points revealed: "Documents show that the powerful lobby is spreading its influence on Capitol Hill by calling for unconditional military aid to Israel and hyping up threats from Iran."

  • David Hearst: [03-14] All signs point to a strategic defeat for Israel.

  • Kathy Kelly: [03-15] When starvation is a weapon, the harvest is shame.

  • Tariq Kenney-Shawa: [03-14] Israel Partisans' use of disinformation.

  • Jonathan Ofir: [03-12] Human rights groups sue Denmark for weapons export to Israel.

  • Roy Peled: [03-08] Judith Butler is intentionally giving Hamas' terror legitimacy: "In recent comments, the American Jewish gender theorist labeled the Oct. 7 attack as 'armed resistance.'" This is where I entered a cluster of related articles:

    There's an element of talking past each other here, and especially of assuming X implies Y when it quite possibly doesn't. "Armed resistance" is not in inaccurate description of what Hamas is doing in Gaza. Especially when they're firing back at invading IDF soldiers, one could even say that they're engaged in "self defense" (to borrow a term that Israelis claim as exclusively theirs). The left has some history of celebrating "armed resistance," but that's mostly from times and places where no better option presented itself. But the struggle for equal rights (which is the very definition of what the left is about) has a natural preference for democracy, nudged on by occasional nonviolent civil resistance -- a realization that has been encouraged by occasional success, but also by the insight that some acts of violence are self-damaging and self-defeating.

    Oct. 7 is certainly an example of this. I think it's safe to say that most people who supported equal rights for Palestinians have condemned the Oct. 7 attackers, most often as immoral but also as bad political strategy. Why Hamas chose to launch that particular attack can be explained in various ways -- and please don't jump to the conclusion, which seems to be ordained in the Hasbara Handbook, that explaining = justifying = supporting = celebrating. The most likely is that Hamas felt that no other option was open, perhaps by long observation of other Palestinians pleading and protesting non-violently, only to find Israelis more recalcitrant than ever. Or one might argue that Hamas aren't a left group at all, but like the Zionists are dominating and reducing their enemies, and as such are enamored with violence, like the right-wing fascists of yore. Or you could imagine a conspiracy, where Hamas and Netanyahu have some kind of bizarre symbiotic relationship, where each uses the other as a wedge against their near enemies. (Even without an actual conspiracy, that does describe much of the dynamic.)

    Still, there is another way of looking at "armed resistance," which is that it is the inevitable result of armed occupation, oppression, and repression -- something which Israel is uniquely responsible for. And because it's inevitable, it doesn't matter who is doing it, nor does it do any good to chastise them. The only way to end resistance is to end the occupation that causes it. So while we shouldn't celebrate armed resistance, we also shouldn't flinch from recognizing it as such, because we have to in order to clearly see the force it is resisting.

  • Andrew Perez/Nikki McCann Ramirez: [03-14] Israel lobby pushes lie that people are not starving in Gaza.

  • Reuters: [03-17] UE's Von Der Leyen says Gaza facing famine, ceasefire needed rapidly.

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

War in Ukraine, an election in Russia:

Around the world:


TikTok: A bill to force, under threat of being banned, the Chinese owners of TikTok to sell the company has passed the House, with substantial bipartisan support. Despite the many links here, I have no personal interest in the issue, although I do worry about gratuitous China-bashing, and I'm not a big fan of any social media companies or their business models.

Other stories:

Andrea Long Chu: [03-11] Freedom of sex: The moral case for letting trans kids change their bodies. I'm in no mood to wade into this issue, but note the article, which makes an honest and serious point, and backs it up with considerable evidence and thought. Also note the response:

  • Jonathan Chait: [03-16] Freedom of sex: A liberal response. Oh great, another epithet: TARL (trans-agnostic reactionary liberal), which Chait seizes on, probably because he's the very model of a "reactionary liberal" -- a term he's encountered in many other contexts, and not undeservedly (need we mention Iraq again?).

TJ Coles: [03-08] The new atheism at 20: How an intellectual movement exploited rationalism to promote war: The Sam Harris book, The End of Faith, came out in 2004, soon to be grouped with Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell), Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), and Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great). While critical of all religions, they held a particular animus for Islam, at a time when doing so was most useful for promoting the American and Israeli wars on terror. Coles has a whole book on them: The New Atheism Hoax: Exposing the Politics of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens. Coles is a British psychologist with a lot of recent books attacking media domination by special interests; e.g.:

  • President Trump, Inc.: How Big Business and Neoliberalism Empower Populism and the Far-Right (2017)
  • Real Fake News: Techniques of Propaganda and Deception-Based Mind Control, From Ancient Babylon to Internet Algorithms (2018)
  • Manufacturing Terrorism: When Governments Use Fear to Justify Foreign Wars and Control Society (2019)
  • Privatized Planet: Free Trade as a Weapon Against Democracy, Healthcare and the Environment (2019)
  • The War on You (2020)
  • We'll Tell You What to Think: Wikipedia, Propaganda and the Making of Liberal Consensus (2021)
  • Biofascism: The Tech-Pharma Complex and the End of Democracy (2022)
  • Militarizing Cancel Culture: How Censorship and Deplatforming Became a Weapon of the US Empire (2023)

Matt Kennard: [03-16] Last days of Julilan Assange in the United States: "The WikiLeaks publisher may soon be on the way to the US to face trial for revealing war crimes. What he would face there is terrifying beyond words."

Rick Perlstein: [03-13] Social distortion: "On the fourth anniversary of the pandemic, a look at how America pulled apart as the rest of the world pulled together." Reviews Eric Klinenberg: 2020: One City, Seven People, and the Year That Changed Everything.

Scott Remer: [03-15] Pessimism of the intellect, pessimism of the will: Title is an obvious play on Gramsci, who even facing death in prison preferred "optimism of the will." But no mention of Gramsci here. The subject is self-proclaimed progressivism, keyed to this quote from Robert LaFollette: "the Progressive Movement is the only political medium in our country today which can provide government in the interests of all classes of the people. We are unalterably opposed to any class government, whether it be the existing dictatorship of the plutocracy or the dictatorship of the proletariat." (Presumably that was from 1924, when the Soviet Union was newly established.) That leads to this:

All this should sound familiar. It describes bien-pensant liberals of the Obama-Clinton-Biden persuasion to a tee: their aestheticization of politics, their fetishization of entrepreneurialism and expertise; their studied avoidance of polarization, partisanship, and partiality; their distaste for class conflict; their elevation of technocracy and science as beacons of reason; their belief in the pretense that politics can be reduced to interest-group bargaining and consensus seeking; their desire to keep the labor movement at a distance; their continued fealty to American exceptionalism even when looking to European models would be exceptionally edifying; and their general attitude of deference towards big business. Neoliberals' demography -- disproportionately white, upper middle class, professional, and college-educated -- also parallels the original Progressives.

I like bien-pensant here, as it's open to translations ranging from "right-thinking" to "lackadaisically blissful," each a facet of the general mental construct. The easiest way to understand politics in America is to recognize that there are two classes: donors and voters. Voters decide who wins, but only after donors decide who can run -- which they can do because it takes lots of money to run, and they're the ones with that kind of money. Republicans have a big advantage in this system: they offer businesses pretty much everything they want, and ask little of them beyond acceding to their singular fetishes (mostly guns and religion).

Democrats have a much tougher problem: voters would flock to them because Republicans cause them harm, but the only Democrats who can run are those backed by donors, who severely limit what Democrats can do for their voters. The Clinton-Obama types tried to square this circle by appealing to more liberal-minded business segments, especially high-growth sectors like tech, finance and entertainment. They were fairly successful at raising money, and they won several elections, but ultimately failed to make much headway with the problems they campaigned on fixing.

At present, both parties have backed themselves into corners where they are bound to fail. With ever-increasing inequality, the donor class is ever more estranged from the voting public. Normally, you would expect that when the pendulum swings too far left or right, it would swing back toward the middle, but the nature of capitalism is such that donors can never be satisfied, so will always push for more and more. But the policies they want only exacerbate the problems that most people feel, sooner or later leading to disastrous breakdowns (for Republicans) or severe dissolution (for Democrats, who while incapable of fixing things are at least more adept at delaying and/or mitigating their disasters).

Nathan J Robinson:

  • [03-12] Overwhelmed by feelings of complicity and paralysis: "In a world filled with horrors, where our actions feel useless, it can be hard to muster the energy to press on." This paragraph hit close to home:

    As Americans see tens of thousands of Palestinians die, we know that our own government is responsible, through providing the weapons and blocking UN action to stop the war. But how can we actually affect government policy? Later this year, there will be an election, but the choices in that election will be between the intolerable status quo (Joe Biden) and a likely even more rabidly pro-Israel president (Donald Trump). I don't know how it felt to oppose the Vietnam war in 1967-68, but I suspect it must have felt similarly frustrating, with the Democratic incumbent responsible for the war and any Republican likely to escalate it further.

    I do remember 1967-68, which spans the period from when my next door neighbor came home from Vietnam in a box to the government's first efforts to send me to the same fate. I knew people who went quite literally crazy back then. (Fortunately, I was already crazy then, and the Army decided they'd be better off without me.) So one thing I learned was to be fairly tolerant of people I don't agree with. Nearly everything is out of our control, so the only real task most of us face is just coping with it.

    Also the section on critiquing political books ("I have never felt more ineffectual than at this moment"). Here's a bit:

    Today, our public discourse seems to have gone off the rails entirely, and this sometimes makes me question what my approach should be as a political writer. Look, for example, though the top-selling political commentary books. No.1 at the moment is a book by Abigail Shrier, whose terrible polemic about trans kids I reviewed a while back. This one is about how we're ruining children by coddling them and is a broadside against mainstream psychology. I suspect its claims are just as dubious as those in the last book. Should I bother to go through and refute them? Will anybody care if I do?

    What else do we have in the political commentary section? More stuff about how the left is crazy, from Jesse Watters, Christopher Rufo, Douglas Murray, Coleman Hughes, Alex Jones, Candace Owens, Ted Cruz, etc. Books about how there's a war on Christian America, a war on the West, and a battle to "cancel" the American mind. Most of the bestsellers are right-wing, and the ones that are liberal are mostly just attacks on Trump.

    That list is generated by sales, so it's likely changed a bit since Robinson linked to it. One new add is Alan Dershowitz: War Against the Jews: How to End Hamas Barbarism. Aside from Jonathan Karl's Tired of Winning, the top-rated Trump book is also by Dershowitz, but defending him. The only remotely liberal (never mind left) book is Heather Cox Richardson's Democracy Awakening, where she is astonishingly naïve and blasé about the real effects of Biden's foreign policy.

  • [03-08] Why we need "degrowth": Interview with Kohei Saito, author of Slow Down: The Degrowth Manifesto.

  • [03-01] Why factory farming is a moral atrocity: Interview with Lewis Bollard, of Open Philanthrophy's farm animal program.

  • [02-26] It's time to break up with capitalism: Interview with Malaika Jabali, author of It's Not You, It's Capitalism: Why It's Time to Break Up and How to Move On, "reviewed here by Matt McManus."

  • [02-02] Astra Taylor on what 'security' really means: I'm pretty sure I've linked to this before, but I've nearly finished reading the book -- which, not for the first time, is very good, especially the section on education and curiosity -- so could use a review.

Aja Romano:

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Speaking of Which

Once again, started early in the week, spent most of my time here, didn't get to everything I usually cover. Late Sunday night, figured I should go ahead and kick this out. Monday updates possible.

Indeed, I wasted most of Monday adding things, some of which, contrary to my usual update discipline, only appeared on Monday. The most interesting I'll go ahead and mention here:

  • Alexander Ward/Jonathan Lemire: [03-11] If Israel invades Rafah, Biden will consider conditioning military aid to Israel. There are several articles below suggesting that the Biden administration is starting to show some discomfort with its Israeli masters. I've generally made light of such signals, as they've never threatened consequences or even been unambiguously uttered in public. I've seen several more suggesting that the long promised invasion of Rafah -- the last corner of Gaza where some two million people have been driven into -- could cross some kind of "red line."

    I am willing to believe that "Genocide Joe" is a bit unfair: that while he's not willing to stand up to Netanyahu, he's not really comfortable with the unbounded slaughter and mass destruction Israel is inflicting. I characterize his pier project below as "passive-aggressive." I think he's somehow trying (but way too subtly) to make Israel's leaders realize that their dream of killing and/or expelling everyone from Gaza isn't going to be allowed, so at some point they're going to have to relent, and come up with some way of living with the survivors.

I don't recall where, but I think I've seen some constructive reaction from Biden to the "uncommitted" campaign that took 13% of Michigan and 18% of Minnesota votes. So it's possible that the message is getting through even if the raw numbers are still far short of overwhelming. The Israel Lobby has so warped political space in Washington that few politicians can as much as imagine how out of touch and tone-deaf they've become on this issue.

Still, Biden has a lot of fence-mending to do.

I'll try not to add more, but next week will surely come around, bringing more with it.

Initial count: 181 links, 7,582 words. Updated count [03-11]: 207 links, 9,444 words.

Top story threads:

Not sure where to put this, so how about here?

  • Jacob Bogage: [03-08] Government shutdown averted as Senate passes $459 billion funding bill: In other words, Republicans once again waited until the last possible moment, then decided not to pull the trigger in their Russian roulette game over the budget. It seems be an unwritten rule that in electing Mike Johnson as Speaker, the extreme-right gets support for everything except shutting down the government.


Israel vs. world opinion: Note that Biden's relief scheme for Gaza, announced in his State of the Union address, has been moved into its own sandbox, farther down, next to other Biden/SOTU pieces.

  • Kyle Anzalone: [03-07] South Africa urges ICJ for emergency order as famine looms over Gaza.

  • James Bamford: [03-06] Time is running out to stop the carnage in Gaza: "Given the toll from bombing and starvation, Gaza will soon become the world's largest unmarked grave." Actually, time ran out sometime in the first week after Oct. 7, when most Americans -- even many on the left who had become critical of Israeli apartheid -- were too busy competing in their denunciations of Hamas to notice how the Netanyahu government was clearly intent to commit genocide. At this point, the carnage is undeniable -- perhaps the only question is when the majority of the killing will shift (or has shifted) from arms to environmental factors (including starvation), because the latter are relatively hard to count (or are even more likely to be undercounted). Of course, stopping the killing is urgent, no matter how many days we fail.

  • Greer Fay Cashman: [03-07] President Herzog faces calls for arrest on upcoming Netherlands visit.

  • Jonathan Cook: [03-07] How the 'fight against antisemitism' became a shield for Israel's genocide.

  • Richard Falk: [02-25] In Gaza, the west is enabling the most transparent genocide in human history.

  • Noah Feldman: [03-05] How Oct. 7 is forcing Jews to reckon with Israel. Excerpt from his new book, To Be a Jew Today: A New Guide to God, Israel, and the Jewish People.

  • Daniel Finn: [03-07] Slaughter in Gaza has discredited Britain's political class.

  • Fred Kaplan: [03-06] Four things that will have to happen for the Israel-Hamas war to end: I have a lot of respect for Kaplan as an analyst of such matters, but the minimal solution he's created is impossible. His four things?

    1. The Hamas leadership has to surrender or go into exile. ("Qatar will have to crack down on Hamas, or perhaps provide its military leaders refuge in exchange for their departure from Gaza.")
    2. "Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Sunni powers in the region will have to help rebuild Gaza and foster new, more moderate political leaders."
    3. "Israel will at least have to say that it favors the creation of a Palestinian state and to take at least a small movement in that direction." Why anyone should believe Israel in this isn't explained.
    4. "The United States will have to serve as some sort of guarantor to all of this -- and not only for Israel."

    In other words, every nation in the region has to bend to Israel's stubborn insistence that they have to maintain control over every inch of Gaza, even though they've made it clear they'd prefer for everyone living there to depart or die. In any such scenario, it is inevitable that resistance will resurface to again threaten Israel's security, no matter how many layers of proxies are inserted, and no matter how systematically Israel culls its "militants." Short of a major sea change in Israeli opinion -- which is a prospect impossible to take seriously, at least in the short term -- there is only one real solution possible, which is for Israel to disown Gaza. Israel can continue to maintain its borders, its Iron Walls and Iron Domes, and can threaten massive retaliation if anyone on the Gaza side of the border attacks them. (This can even include nuclear, if that's the kind of people they are.) But Israel no longer gets any say in how the people of Gaza live. From that point, Israel is out of the picture, and Gaza has no reason to risk self-destruction by making symbolic gestures.

    That still leaves Gaza with a big problem -- just not an Israel problem. That is because Israel has rendered Gaza uninhabitable, at least for the two million people still stuck there. Those people need massive aid, and even so many of them probably need to move elsewhere, at least temporarily. Without Israel to fight, Hamas instantly becomes useless. They will release their hostages, and disband. Some may go into exile. The rest may join in rebuilding, ultimately organized under a local democracy, which would have no desire let alone capability to threaten Israel. This is actually very simple, as long as outside powers don't try to corrupt the process by recruiting local cronies (a big problem in the region, with the US, its Sunni allies, Iran, its Shiite friends, Turkey, and possibly others serial offenders).

    Sure, this would leave Israel with a residual Palestinian problem elsewhere: both with its second- and lesser-class citizens and wards, and with its still numerous external refugees. But that problem has not yet turned genocidal (although it's getting close, and is clearly possible as long as Smotrich and Ben-Gvir are part of Israel's ruling coalition). But there is time to work on that, especially once Israel is freed from the burden and horror of genocide in Gaza. There are lots of ideas that could work as solutions, but they all ultimately to accepting that everyone, regardless of where they live, should enjoy equal rights and opportunities. That will be a tough pill for many Israelis to swallow, but is the only one that will ultimately free them from the internecine struggle Israelis and Palestinians have been stuck with for most of a century. There's scant evidence that most Israelis want that kind of security, so people elsewhere will need to continue with BDS-like strategies of persuasion. But failure to make progress will just expose Israelis to revolts like they experienced on Oct. 7, and Palestinians to the immiseration and gloom they've suffered so often over many decades decades.

  • Colbert I King: [03-08] The United States cannot afford to be complicit in Gaza's tragedy: True or not, isn't it a bit late to think of this?

  • Nicholas Kristof: [03-19] 'People are hoping that Israel nukes us so we get rid of this pain': Texts with a Gazan acquaintance named Esa Alshannat, not Hamas, but after Israeli soldiers left an area, found "dead, rotten and half eaten by wild dogs." Kristof explains: "Roughly 1 percent of Gaza's people today are Hamas fighters. To understand what the other 99 percent are enduring, as the United States supplies weapons for this war and vetoes cease-fire resolutions at the United Nations, think of Alshannat and multiply him by two million."

  • Debbie Nathan:

  • Vivian Nereim: [03-10] As Israel's ties to Arab countries fray, a stained lifeline remains: The United Arab Emirates is still on speaking terms with Israel, but doesn't have much to show for their solicitude.

  • Ilan Pappé: [02-01] It is dark before the dawn, but Israeli settler colonialism is at an end.

  • Mitchell Plitnick: [03-07] Replacing Netanyahu with Gantz won't fix the problem.

  • Rebecca Lee Sanchez: [03-06] Gaza's miracle of the manna: Aid and the American God complex.

  • Philip Weiss:

  • Brett Wilkins: [03-06] AIPAC's dark money arm unleashes $100 million: "Amid the Netanyahu government's assault on Gaza and intensifying repression in the West Bank, AIPAC is showing zero tolerance for even the mildest criticism of Israel during the 2024 US elections."

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire: I started this section to separate out stories on how the US was expanding its operations in the Middle East, ostensibly to deter regional adversaries from attacking Israel while Israel was busy with its genocide in Gaza. At the time, it seemed like Israel was actively trying to promote a broader war, partly to provide a distraction from its own focus (much as WWII served to shield the Holocaust), and partly to give the Americans something else to focus on. Israel tried selling this as a "seven-front war" -- a line that Thomas Friedman readily swallowed, quickly recovering from his initial shock at Israel's overreaction in Gaza -- but with neither Iran nor the US relishing what Israel imagined to be the main event, thus far only the Houthis in Yemen took the bait (where US/UK reprisals aren't much of a change from what the Saudis had been doing, with US help, for years). So this section has gradually been taken over by more general articles on America's imperial posture (with carve outs for the still-raging wars in Israel/Gaza and Ukraine/Russia.

  • Ramzy Baroud:

    • [03-04] To defend Israel's actions, the US is destroying the int'l legal system it once constructed: I'm not sure that the US ever supported any sort of international justice system. The post-WWII trials in Japan and Germany were rigged to impose "victor's justice." The UN started as a victors' club, with Germany and Japan excluded, and the Security Council was designed so small states couldn't gang up on the powers. And when Soviet vetoes precluded using the UN as a cold war tool, the US invented various "coalitions of the willing" to rubber-stamp policy. The US never recognized independent initiatives like the ICJ, although the US supports using the ICJ where it's convenient, like against Russia in Ukraine. The only "rules-based order" the US supports is its own, and even there its blind support for Israel arbitrary and capricious -- subject to no rules at all, only the whims of Netanyahu.

    • [03-08] On solidarity and Kushner's shame: How Gaza defeated US strategem, again.

  • Mac William Bishop: [02-23] American idiots kill the American century: "After decades of foreign-policy bungling and strategic defeats, the US has never seemed weaker -- and dictators around the world know it."

  • Christopher Caldwell: [03-09] This prophetic academic now foresees the West's defeat: On French historian/political essayist Emmanuel Todd, who claims to have been the first to predict the demise of the Soviet Union (see his The Final Fall: An Essay on the Decomposition of the Soviet Sphere, from 1976), has a new book called La Défaite de l'Occident. Caldwell, who has a book called The Age of Entitlement, seems to be an unconventional conservative, so even when he has seeming insights it's hard to trust them. Even harder to get a read on Todd. (The NYTimes' insistence on "Mr." at every turn has never been more annoying.) But their skepticism of Biden et al. on Ukraine/Russia is certainly warranted. By the way, here are some old Caldwell pieces:

  • Brian Concannon: [03-08] US should let Haiti reclaim its democracy.

  • Gregory Elich: [03-08] How Madeleine Albright got the war the US wanted: NATO goes on the warpath, initially in Yugoslavia, then . . . "the opportunity to expand Western domination over other nations."

  • Tom Engelhardt: [03-05] A big-time war on terror: Living on the wrong world: "A planetary cease fire is desperately needed."

  • Connor Freeman: [03-07] Biden's unpopular wars reap mass death and nuclear brinkmanship.

  • Marc Martorell Junyent: [03-07] Tempest in a teapot: British illusions and American hegemony from Iraq to Yemen. Review of Tom Stevenson's book, Someone Else's Empire: British Illusions and American Hegemony.

  • Joshua Keating: [03-09] The Houthis have the world's attention -- and they won't give it up: "What do Yemen's suddenly world-famous rebels really want, and what will make them stop?" One lesson here is that deterrence only works if it threatens a radical break from the status quo. The Saudis, with American support, have been bombing the Houthis for more than a decade now, causing great hardship for the Yemeni people, but hardly moving the needle on Houthi political power. So how much worse would it get if they picked a fight with Israel's proxy navy? Moreover, by standing up to Israel and its unwitting allies, they gain street cred and a claim to the moral high ground. For similar reasons, sanctions are more likely to threaten nations that aren't used to them. Once you're under sanctions, which with the US tends to be a life sentence, what difference does a few more make? It's too late for mere threats to change the behavior of Yemen, Iran, North Korea, and/or Russia -- though maybe not to affect powers whose misbehaviors have thus far escaped American sanctions, like Israel and Saudi Arabia. But for the rest, to effect change, you need to do something positive, to give them some motivation and opportunity to change. In many cases, that shouldn't even be hard. Just try to do the right thing. Respect the independence of others. Look for mutual benefits, like in trade. Help them help their own people. And stop defending genocide.

  • Nan Levinson: [03-07] The enticements of war (and peace).

  • Blaise Malley: [03-06] Opportunity calls as Cold War warriors exit the stage: "Will Mitch McConnell's replacement represent the old or new guard in his party's foreign policy?"

  • Paul R Pillar: [03-06] Why Netanyahu is laughing all the way to the bank: "David Petraeus said recently that US leverage on Israel to do the right thing in Gaza is 'overestimated' -- that's just not true."

  • Robert Wright: [03-08] The real problem with the Trump-Biden choice: This piece is far-reaching enough I could have slotted it anywhere, but it has the most bearing here: the problem is how much Trump and Biden have in common, especially where it comes to foreign affairs: "America First" may seem like a different approach from Biden's, but the latter is just a slightly more generous and less intemperate variation, as both start from the assumption that America is and must be the leader, and everyone else needs to follow in line. Trump thinks he can demand the other pay tribute; Biden possibly knows better, but his pursuit of arms deals makes me wonder. Wright cites a piece by Adam Tooze I can't afford or find, quoting it only up to the all-important "but" after which the Trump-Biden gap narrows. While I'm sure Tooze has interesting things to say, Wright's efforts to steer foreign policy thinking away from the zero-sum confrontations of the Metternich-to-Kissinger era are the points to consider.

  • Fareed Zakaria: [03-08] Amid the horror in Gaza, it's easy to miss that the Middle East has changed.

Election notes: Sixteen states and territories voted for president on Super Tuesday, mostly confirming what we already knew. Biden won everywhere (except American Samoa), even over "uncommitted" (which mostly got a push from those most seriously upset over his support for Israeli genocide). Trump won everywhere -- except in Vermont, narrowly to Nikki Haley, who nonetheless shuttered her campaign (but hasn't yet endorsed Trump). Dean Phillips dropped out of the Democratic race after getting 8% in his home state of Minnesota and 9% in Oklahoma. He endorsed Biden. I'm not very happy with any of the news summaries I've seen, but here are a few to skim through: 538; AP; Ballotpedia; CBS News; CNBC; CNN; Guardian; NBC News; New York Times; Politico; USA Today; Washington Post. One quote I noticed (from CNN) was from a "reluctant Democrat" in Arizona: "It's hard to vote for someone with multiple felony charges; and it's also very hard to vote for someone that is pro-genocide."

  • Michael C Bender: [03-06] How Trump's crushing primary triumph masked quiet weaknesses: "Even though he easily defeated Nikki Haley, the primary results suggested that he still has long-term problems with suburban voters, moderates, and independents."

  • Aaron Blake: [03-08] The Texas GOP purge and other below-the-radar Super Tuesday nuggets.

  • Nate Cohn: [03-07] Where Nikki Haley won and what it means: Inside the Beltway (61%), Home base and Mountain West cities (57%), Vermont (56%), University towns (56%), Resort towns (55%): In other words, the sorts of places that would automatically disqualify one as a Real Republican.

  • Antonia Hitchens: [03-06] Watching Super Tuesday returns at Mar-a-Lago.

  • Ro Khanna: [03-07] The message from Michigan couldn't be more clear: Actually, these figures (see Nichols below) are hardly enough for a bump in the road to Biden's reelection -- unlike, say, Eugene McCarthy's New Hampshire showing in 1968, where Lyndon Johnson got the message clearly enough to give up his campaign. What they do show is that the near-unanimity of Democratic politicians in support of Israel is not shared by the rank and file.

  • Adam Nagourney/Shane Goldmacher: [03-09] The Biden-Trump rerun: A nation craving change gets more of the same: I bypassed this first time around, but maybe we should offer some kind of reward for the week's most inane opinion piece. Wasn't Nagourney a finalist in one of those hack journalists playoffs? (If memory serves -- why the hell can't I just google this? -- he finished runner-up to Karen Tumulty.)

  • John Nichols: [03-05] Gaza is on the ballot all over America: "Inspired by Michigan's unexpectedly high 'uncommitted' vote, activists across the country are now mounting campaigns to send Biden a pro-cease-fire message." Uncommitted slate votes thus far (from NYTimes link, above): Minnesota: 18.9%; Michigan: 13.2%; North Carolina: 12.7%; Massachusetts: 9.4%; Colorado: 8.1%; Tennessee: 7.9%; Alabama: 6.0%; Iowa: 3.9%.

  • Alexander Sammon:

    • [03-09] Katie Porter said her Senate primary was "rigged." Let's discuss! "Her complaint was kind of MAGA-coded. But it wasn't entirely wrong." Adam Schiff had a huge fundraising advantage over Porter, as Porter did over the worthier still Barbara Lee. This is one of the few pieces I've found that looks into where that money came from (AIPAC chipped in $5 million; a crypto-backed PAC doubled that), and how it was used, explained in more depth in the following:

    • [03-05] Democrats have turned to odd, cynical tactics to beat one another in California's Senate race. Schiff wound up spending a lot of money not trying to win Democrats over from Porter and Lee -- something that might require explaining why he supported the Iraq War (which itself partly explains why he got all that AIPAC money) -- but instead spent millions raising Republican Steve Garvey's profile. In the end, Schiff was so successful he lost first place to Garvey (on one but not both of the contests: one to finish Feinstein's term, one for the six year term that follows), but at least he got past Porter and Lee, turning the open primary into a traditional R-D contest (almost certainly D in California).

  • Michael Scherer: [03-08] Inside No Labels decision to plow ahead with choosing presidential candidates: "The group announced on a call with supporters Friday plans to announce a selection process for their third-party presidential ticket on March 14 with a nomination by April." More No Labels:

  • Li Zhou: [03-06] Jason Palmer, the guy who beat Biden in American Samoa, briefly explained.

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden's band-aid folly: Unveiled in Biden's State of the Union address, q.v., but for this week, let's give it its own section:

  • Alex Horton: [03-08] How the US military will use a floating pier to deliver Gaza aid: "Construction will take up to two months and require 1,000 US troops who will remain off shore, officials say. Once complete, it will enable delivery of 2 million meals daily."

  • Jonathan Cook: [03-10] Biden's pier-for-Gaza is hollow gesture.

  • Kareem Fahim/Hazem Balousha: [03-08] Biden plan to build Gaza port, deliver aid by sea draws skepticism, ridicule. Sounds like they had a contest to come up with the most expensive, least efficient method possible to trickle life-sustaining aid into Gaza, without in any way inhibiting Israel's systematic slaughter.

  • Miriam Berger/Sufian Taha/Heidi Levine/Loveday Morris: [03-05] The improbable US plan for a revitalized Palestinian security force: Because the US did such a great job of training the Afghan security force?

  • Noga Tarnopolsky: [03-09] The Biden plan to ditch Netanyahu: "The 'come to Jesus moment' is already here, according to Israeli and US sources." I don't give this report much credit, but it stands to reason that eventually Biden will tire of Netanyahu jerking him around just so he can further embarrass both countries with what is both in intent and effect genocide. I do see ways in which Biden's initial subservience is evolving into some kind of passive-aggressive resistance. Rather than denounce Israel for making reasonable aid possible, Biden has challenged Israel to spell out what they would allow, and agreed even as these schemes are patently ridiculous. It's only a matter of time until Israel starts attacking American aid providers. For another piece:

  • Zack Beauchamp: [03-08] Are Biden and the Democrats finally turning on Israel? "Biden's new plan to build a pier on the Gaza coast seems to say yes. The continued military aid to Israel says otherwise."

Biden's State of the Union speech: A section for everything else related, including official and unofficial Republican responses:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

  • Elie Honig: [03-08] Biden's looming nightmare pardons: Ever since this "former federal and state prosecutor" started writing for Intelligencer, his pieces have sounded like stealth briefs from the Trump legal team, even if not things they would actually want to own. This one at least assumes things not yet in evidence: that Trump is actually tried and convicted and sentenced to jail time -- the power may be to pardon, but all he's asking for is commutation of prison time, not full pardons. As that's increasingly unlikely before November, the assumption may also be that Biden wins then, so has some breathing room before having to consider the issue, which would leave plenty of time for this discussion, unlike now.

  • Josh Kovensky: [03-05] Feds slap 12 new counts on Bob 'Gold Bars' Menendez: Senator (D-NJ).

  • Ian Millhiser: [03-10] Do Americans still have a right to privacy? "With courts coming for abortion and IVF, it's hard not to wonder what the Supreme Court will go after next."

Climate, environment, and energy:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

Other stories:

Michelle Alexander: [03-08] Only revolutionary love can save us now: "Martin Luther King Jr's 1967 speech condemning the Vietnam War offers a powerful moral compass as we face the challenges of our time."

Indivar Dutta-Gupta/Korian Warren: [03-04] The war on poverty wasn't enough: "While Lyndon B Johnson's effort made some lasting impacts, the United States still has some of the highest rates of nonelderly poverty among wealthy nations." As the article notes, Johnson's programs brought big improvements, but the Vietnam War hurt him politically, and his successors lost interest: e.g., Nixon's appointment of Donald Rumsfeld to run the Office of Economic Opportunity. And while Republicans deserve much of the blame, Democrats like Daniel Moynahan and Bill Clinton were often as bad, sometimes worse.

Henry Farrell: [02-27] Dr. Pangloss's Panopticon: A very thoughtful critique of Noah Smith's "quite negative review of a recent book by Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson, Power and Progress: Our 1000-Year Struggle Over Technology & Prosperity. There are complex issues at dispute here, many much more interesting than those that dominate this (and all recent) posts. Dr. Pangloss (from Voltaire) stands in for techno-optimism: the idea that unfettered innovation, accelerated as it is through modern venture capitalism, promises to deliver ever-improving worlds. Panopticon (from Jeremy Bentham) is an early form of mass surveillance, a capability that technology has done much to develop recently, with AI promising a breakthrough to the bottleneck problem (the time and people you need to surveil other people).

Luke Goldstein: [02-23] Crunch time for government spying: "Congress has a few weeks left until a key spying provision sunsets. Both reformers and intelligence hawks are plotting their strategies."

Oshan Jarow: [03-08] The world's mental health is in rough shape -- and not getting any better: "Guess where the US ranks?"

Sarah Kaplan: [03-06] Are we living in an 'Age of Humans'? Geologists say no. A recent proposal for delineating a stratigraphic boundary for the Anthropocene, based on "a plume of radioactive plutonium that circled around the world" in 1952, was proposed recently and, at least for now, voted down. More:

Alvaro Lopez: [03-08] The making of Frantz Fanon: Review of Adam Shatz's new book, The Rebel's Clinic: The Revolutionary Lives of Frantz Fanon. Also:

Rick Perlstein: [03-06] The spectacle of policing: "'Swatting' innocent people is the latest incarnation of the decades-long gestation of an infrastructure of fear."

Dave Phillipps: [03-06] Profound damage found in Maine gunman's brain, possibly from blasts: "A laboratory found a pattern of cell damage that has been seen in veterans exposed to weapons blasts, and said it probably played a role in symptoms the gunman displayed before the shooting." Robert Card was a grenade instructor in the Army Reserve for eight years. He went on to shoot and kill 18 people and himself. Something not yet factored into the "Costs of War" accounting. Another report:

Jeffrey St Clair: [03-08] Roaming Charges: Too obvious to be real.

I ran across a link to this David Brooks [02-08]: Trump came for their party but took over their souls. A normal person would have little trouble writing a column under that headline. Even Brooks hits some obvious points, like: "Democracy is for suckers"; "Entertainment over governance"; and "Lying is normal." But the one that really upsets Brooks is: "America would be better off in a post-American world." The other maxim that Brooks castigates Trump for is "Foreigners don't matter." This leads to his rant against "isolationism," which inevitably devolves into invoking the spectre of Neville Chamberlain.

Brooks celebrates the triumph of Eisenhower over Taft in 1952, when "the GOP became an internationalist party and largely remained that way for six decades" -- glorious years that spread capitalist exploitation to the far corners of the globe, transforming colonies into cronies ruled by debt penury, policed by "forever wars" and, wherever the occasion arose, ruthless counterrevolutions and civil wars.

Meanwhile, instead of enjoying the wealth this foreign policy generated, America's middle class -- the solid burghers and union workers who, as Harry Truman put it, "voted Democratic to live like Republicans" -- got ground down into their own penury. The Cold War was always as much about fighting democracy at home as it was about denying socialism abroad, much as the "war on terror" was mostly just an authoritarian tantrum directed against anyone who failed to submit to America's globe-spanning military colossus.

Sure, it is an irony that blows Brooks' mind that it now seems to be the Republicans -- the party that most celebrates rapacious capitalism, is most devoutly committed to authoritarian rule, and whose people are most callously indifferent to the cries of those harmed by their greed -- should be the first give up on the game.

Of course, they weren't. The left, or "premature antifascists" (as the OSS referred to us in the 1940s, before "communists and fellow travelers" proved to be a more effective slur), knew this all along, but that insight came from caring about what happens to others, and solidarity in what we sensed was a common struggle. It took Republicans much longer to realize that globalized capitalism, under the aegis of American military power, not only didn't work for them personally, but that it directly led to jobs moving overseas, and all kinds of foreigners flooding America. And since Republicans had put so much propaganda effort into stoking racism and reaction, not least by blaming Democrats (with their "open borders" and focus on wars as "humanitarian") for loving foreigners more than their own people.

I was pointed to Brooks' piece by a pair of tweets: Simon Schama linked, adding: "Heartfelt obituary by David Brooks for the expiring of last vestiges of the Republican Party. No longer has supporters but 'an audience.' Lying normalised. Total abandonment of internationalism." To which, Sam Hasselby added:

People have really memory-holed the whole Iraq catastrophe which is in fact what normalized a new scale of lying and impunity in American politics. It was also a lie which cost $7 trillion dollars, killed one million innocent Iraqis, and displaced 37 million people.

Yet Iraq War boosters like Brooks still have major mainstream media gigs, while Adam Schiff trounced Barbara Lee (the only member of Congress to vote against the whole War on Terror) in a Democratic primary, and Joe Biden became president -- finally giving up the 20-year disaster in Afghanistan, only to wholeheartedly embrace new, but already even more disastrous, wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Speaking of Which

I started this early, on Wednesday, maybe even Tuesday, as I couldn't bring myself to work on anything else. There's a rhythm here: I have twenty-some tabs open to my usual sources, and just cycle through them, picking out stories, noting them, sometimes adding a comment, some potentially long. By Friday night, I had so much, I thought of posting early: leaving the date set for Sunday, when I could do a bit of update.

I didn't get the early post done. Sunday, my wife invited some friends over to watch a movie. I volunteered to make dinner, and that (plus the movie) killed the rest of the day. Nothing fancy: I keep all the fixings for pad thai on hand, so I can knock off a pretty decent one-dish meal in little more than an hour. And I had been thinking about making hot and sour soup since noticing a long-neglected package of dried lily buds, so I made that too. First actual cooking I had done in at least a month, so that felt nice and productive.

This, of course, feels totally scattered. I'm unsure of the groupings, and it's hard for me to keep track of the redundancies and contradictions. And once again, I didn't manage to finish my rounds. Perhaps I'll add a bit more after initially posting it late Sunday night. But at the moment, I'm exhausted.

My wife mentioned an article to me that I should have tracked down earlier, but can only mention here: Pankaj Mishra: [03-07] The Shoah after Gaza. Mishra grew up in a "family of upper-caste Hindu nationalists in India," deeply sympathetic to Israel, so his piece offers a slightly distant parallel to what many of us who started sympathetic only to become dismayed and ultimately appalled by what Israel has turned into. Beyond that, the piece is valuable as a history of how the Nazi Judeocide -- to borrow Arno Mayer's more plainly factual term in lieu of Holocaust or Shoah -- has been forged into a cudgel for beating down anyone who so much as questions let alone challenges the supremacy of Israeli power.

There is also a YouTube video of Mishra's piece.

On Facebook, I ran across this quote attributed to Carolina Landsmann in Haaretz:

We (Israelis) continue to approach the world from the position of victim, ignoring the 30,000 dead in Gaza, including 12,000 children, assuming that the world is still captive to its historic guilt toward Israel without understanding that this is over. The era of the Holocaust has ended. The Palestinians are now the wretched of the earth.

It's impossible to go back to the pre-Oct 7 world. To the blame economy between the Jews and the world, which gave the former moral immunity. Enough; it's over. Every era draws to a close. The time has come to grow up.

There was a time, and not that long ago, when I still thought that the experience of victimhood would still temper the exercise of Israeli power: sure, Israel was systematically oppressive, and Israeli society was riddled with the ethnocentrism we Americans understand as racism, but surely they still had enough of a grip on their humanity to stop short of genocide. That's all changed now, and it's coming as quite a shock -- no doubt to many Israelis as they look at their neighbors, but even more so to Americans (not just Jews but also many liberals who have long counted on Jews as allies).

It's hard to know what to do these days, beyond the call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, and the constant need to remind anyone who's still echoing the Israeli hasbara that it's genocide, and by not opposing it, they're complicit. It may be unfair to go so far as to make placards about "Genocide Joe" -- he's just in thrall, having fully adapted to the peculiar gravity of the Israel lobby when he arrived in Washington fifty years ago -- as there is still a difference (maybe not practical, but certainly in spirit) between him and the people in Israel (and some Republicans in Congress) who really are committed to genocide. But in times like this, nice sentiments don't count for much.

Another important piece I noticed but skipped over on Sunday: Aaron Gell: [03-03] Has Zionism lost the argument? "American Jews' long-standing consensus about Israel has fractured. There may be no going back." There is a lot to unpack here. It's worth your time to read the interview with Ruth Wisse, with her absolutist defense of Israel, then the digression where the author considers the charge that Jews who doubt Israel are becoming non-Jews, ending in a reference to the Mishnah, specifically "by far the hardest to answer: If I am only for myself, who am I? Many Zionists long justified their project as providing a haven from anti-semitism, but their exclusive focus on their own issues, turning into indifference or worse towards everyone else, has finally turned Israel into the world's leading generator of anti-semitism.

Wisse insists that "the creation of the state changes the entire picture, because now to be anti-Zionist is a genocidal concept. If you're an anti-Zionist, you're against the existence of Israel . . . the realized homeland of nine million people." But later on, Gell notes: "I've spoken to dozens of anti-Zionists over the past few months, and not a single one thought Israel should cease to exist." They have various ideas of how this could be done, in part because they've seen it work here:

American Jews are justifiably proud to live in a successful multiethnic democracy, imperfect though it is. As citizens of a nation in which Jews are a distinct minority, we owe our well-being, our prosperity, and, yes, perhaps our existence to the tolerance, openness, and egalitarianism of our system of government and our neighbors. No wonder we shudder at Israel's chauvinism, its exclusionary nationalism, its oppression. It's all too obvious how we'd fare if the United States followed Israel's lead in reserving power for an ethnic or religious majority. Seen in this light, what's surprising isn't that some American Jews are anti-Zionists; it's that many more aren't.

I've been reading Shlomo Avineri's 1981 book (paperback updated with a new preface and epilogue 2017), The Making of Modern Zionism: The Intellectual Origins of the Jewish State, which offers a highly sympathetic survey of most of the reasons people have come up with to justify and promote Zionism. I'm still in the last profile chapter, on David Ben Gurion, before the initial epilogue, "Zionism as a Permanent Revolution." Immediately previous were chapters on Jabotinsky (who built a cult of power based on fascist models and used it to flip the script on race, promoting Jews as the superior one) and Rabbi Kook (who reformulated Zionism as God's will).

Ben Gurion's major contribution was the doctrine of "Hebrew labor," where Jews would fill all economic niches in the economy, leaving native Palestinians excluded and powerless. This was a significant change from the usual practice of settler colonialism, which everywhere else depended on impoverished locals for labor. Ben Gurion's union bound Jews into a coherent, self-contained, mutual help society, including its own militia, well before it was possible to call itself a state. But in doing so, he excluded the Palestinians, and plotted their expulsion -- his endorsement of the 1937 Peel Commission plan, his campaign for the UN partition plan, and finally his "War of Independence," remembered by Palestinians as the Nakba.

Ben Gurion was an enormously talented political figure, and his establishment of Israel through the 1950 armistices, the citizenship act, and the law of return, was a remarkable achievement against very stiff odds. He might have gotten away with it, but he couldn't leave well enough alone. He always wanted more, and he cultivated that trait in his followers. And while he feared the 1967 war, his followers launched it anyway, and in the end -- even as his fears had proven well founded -- he delighted in it. Like Mao, he so loved his revolution he kept revitalizing it, oblivious to the tragedy it caused. I expect the book, with its "permanent revolution" epilogues, will end on that note.

There is a lot of wishful thinking in the early parts of Avineri's book -- most obviously, Herzl's fairy-tale liberalism, but also the socialism of Syrkin and Borochov, which could have been developed further in later years, but it's appropriate to end as it does, with the real Israeli state. Great as he was, Ben Gurion made mistakes, and in the end the most fateful was allowing Jabotinsky and Kook, or more precisely their followers, into the inner sanctumm, from which they eventually prevailed in shaping Israel into the genocidal juggernaut it has become. The path from Jabotinsky to Netanyahu is remarkably short, passing straight through the former's secretary, the same as the latter's father. The other intermediaries were Ben Gurion's rivals of 1948, Begin and Shamir, who became favored tools in driving the Palestinians into exile, and future prime ministers.

Less obvious was Ben Gurion's decision to invite the Kookists into government, but what politician doesn't want to be reassured that God is on his side? Rabbi Kook was succeeded by his son, Zvi Yehuda Kook, whose Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) was the driving force behind the West Bank settlements, leading directly to Smotrich and Ben Gvir. The first casualty in Ben Gurion's schemes was the socialism that unified the Yishuv in the first place. That was what gave Israel its foundational sense of justice, a reputation that is now nothing but ruins.

Initial count: 174 links, 8,842 words. Updated count [03-05]: 193 links, 10,883 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world (including American) opinion: This week we lead off with a singular act of self-sacrifice, by an American, an active duty serviceman, Aaron Bushnell, in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington. I feel like I should add an opinion, but I don't really have one. My inclination is to view him as just another casualty of the more general madness, so not a hero or martyr or even a fool, but I'm also not so callous as to look the other way -- especially when so many people do have things to say.

Other stories:

  • Spencer Ackerman: [03-28] The anti-Palestinian origins of the War on Terror: Interview with Darryl Li, who wrote the report Anti-Palestinian at the core: The origins and growing dangers of US anti-terrorism law.

  • Ammiel Alcalay: [02-28] War on Gaza: How the US is buying time for Israel's genocide: "As the US ambassador to the UN recently made clear in a rare moment of honesty, Washington is fully committed to facilitating Israel's destruction of the Palestinians."

  • Kyle Anzalone: [03-01] US vetoes UN resolution condemning Israel for flour massacre.

  • Muhannad Ayyash: [02-26] Boycotting Israel could stop the genocide: At this point, this is probably just wishful thinking: "the world must ensure Tel Aviv's legal, economic and political isolation." The nice thing about BDS was that it provided a forum for grass-roots organizing against the apartheid regime in Israel: something that individuals could start and grow, and eventually recruit more powerful organizations, while ultimately appealing to the better consciences within Israel itself. That it worked with South Africa was encouraging.

    But it was always going to be a much more difficult reach in Israel -- I could insert a half-dozen reasons here -- and it never came close to gathering the collective moral, let alone financial, force it had with South Africa. Now, about all you can say for it is that it allowed people of good will to express their disapproval without promoting even more violence. I would even agree that it's still worth doing -- Israel deserves to be shamed and shunned for what it's doing, now more than ever. And, as we witness what Israel is doing, many more people, indeed whole nations, may join us.

    But will boycotting stop the genocide now? Maybe if the US and NATO banded together and put some serious teeth in their threats, some Israelis might reconsider. But sanctions usually just push countries deeper into corners, from which they're more likely to strike back than to fold. I'm not about to blame BDS for Israel's rampant right-wing -- their racism dates back further than any outsider noticed -- but they would claim their ascent as the way of fighting back against foreign moralizers. Even if we could count on eventually forcing some kind of reconciliation, the people in power in Israel right now are more likely to double down on genocide. It's not like anyone in the Nazi hierarchy saw the writing on the wall after Stalingrad and decided they should call the Judeocide off, lest they eventually put on trial. They simply sped up the extermination, figuring it would be their enduring contribution to Aryan civilization.

    • Jo-Ann Mort: [02-28] BDS is counter-productive. We need to crack down on Israeli settlements instead: "A future peace depends on drawing a line between Israel proper and the illegal settlements in Palestinian territory." This article is so silly I only linked to it after the Ayyash piece above. It does provide some explanation why BDS failed, but it doesn't come close to offering an alternative. Israel has been continuously blurring and outright erasing the Green Line ever since 1967. (It started with he demolition of the neighborhood next to the Al-Aqsa Mosque's western wall, just days after the 7-day war ended.) There is no way to force Israel to do much of anything, but few things are harder to imagine them acceding to is a return to what from 1950-67 were often decried as "Auschwitz borders."

  • Phyllis Bennis:

  • Amena ElAshkar: [02-28] Gaza ceasefire: Talk of an imminent deal is psychological warfare. I haven't bothered linking to numerous articles about an imminent ceasefire deal because, quite frankly, possible deals have never been more than temporarily expedient propaganda, mostly meant to humor the hostage relatives and the Americans. If Israel wanted peace, they could ceasefire unilaterally, and having satisfied themselves that they had inflicted sufficient damage to restore their Iron Wall deterrence, leave the rubble to others to deal with. The hostages would cease to be a bargaining chip, except inasmuch as not freeing them would keep much needed international aid away. So why is Netanyahu negotiating with Hamas? Mostly to squirrel the deal, while he continues implementing his plan to totally depopulate/destroy Gaza.

  • Paul Elle: [02-26] The Vatican and the war in Gaza: "A rhetorical dispute the Church and the Israeli government shows the limits -- and the possibilities -- of the Pope's role in times of conflict." On the other hand, if you look at the Pope's recent comments on "gender theory," you'll realize that he has very little to offer humanity, and that a Church that follows him could be very ominous. (For example, see [03-02] Pope says gender theory is 'ugly ideology' that threatens humanity.) Sometimes I'm tempted to take heart in that the Catholic Church is one of the few extant organizations to predate, and therefore remain somewhat free of, capitalism. But in it the spirit of Inquisition runs even deeper.

  • Madeline Hall: [02-28] Israeli genocide is a bad investment: For one thing, Norway has divested its holdings of Israeli bonds.

  • James North:

  • Peter Oborne: [02-27] These ruthless, bigoted Tories would have Enoch Powell smiling from his grave: "The recent spate of vile anti-Muslim rhetoric from the Tories shows they have decided that stoking hatred against minorities is their only way to avoid electoral annihilation." Also in UK:

  • Charles P Pierce: [02-29] The US has enabled Netanyahu long enough: "Two democracies, hijacked for alibis."

  • Vijay Prashad: [02-14] There is no place for the Palestinians of Gaza to go.

  • Barnett R Rubin: [03-02] Redemption through genocide: "The ICJ ruled that Israel's Gaza campaign poses a plausible and urgent threat of genocide. Future historians of Jewish messianism may recount how in 2024 "redemption through sin" became "redemption through genocide," with unconditional US support."

  • Sarang Shidore/Dan M Ford: [02-29] At the Hague, US more isolated than ever on Israel-Palestine.

  • Adam Taylor: [02-29] Democrats grew more divided on Israeli-Palestinian conflict, poll shows. Interesting that the Democratic split has always favored "take neither side," from a peak of 82% down to 74% before Gaza blew up -- the 12% drop since looks to be evenly split. Republicans, on the other hand, never had any sympathy for Palestinians, and became more pro-Israeli since (56% would "take Israel's side," vs. 19% for Democrats).

  • Philip Weiss: [02-28] PBS and NPR leave out key facts in their Israel stories: "Pundits and reporters in the mainstream media have a double standard when it comes to Israel and all but lie about apartheid, Jewish nationalism, and the role of the Israel lobby."

America's empire of bases and proxy conflicts, increasingly stressed by Israel's multifront war games:

  • Juan Cole: [03-03] How Washington's anti-Iranian campaign failed, big time.

  • Dave DeCamp: [02-29] US officials expect Israel to launch ground invasion of Lebanon: "Administration officials tell CNN they expect a ground incursion in late spring or early summer." The logic here is pretty ridiculous, and if it's believed in Washington, you have to wonder about them, too. Israel had a lot of fun bombing Lebanon in 2006, but their ground incursion was a pure disaster. There's no possible upside to trying it again. The argument that Netanyahu will, for political expediency, enlarge the war in order to keep it going "after Gaza," overlooks their obvious desire to "finish the job" by doing the same to Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank.

  • Sasha Filippova/Kristina Fried/Brian Concannon: [03-01] From coup to chaos: 20 years after the US ousted Haiti's president.

  • Jim Lobe: [03-01] Neocon Iraq war architects want a redo in Gaza: "Post-conflict plan would put Western mercenaries and Israel military into the mix, with handpicked countries in charge of a governing 'Trust.'" Pic is of Elliott Abrams, who was the one in charge of US Israel policy under Bush, and who pushed Sharon's unilateral withdrawal of settlements from Gaza, so that Gaza could be blockaded and bombed more effectively. That directly led to Hamas seizing power in Gaza, so one could argue that Abrams already had his "redo in Gaza."

The Michigan primaries: Of minor interest to both party frontrunners, so let's get them out of the way first. Trump won the Republican primary with 68.1% of the votes, vs. 26.6% for Nikki Haley, splitting the delegates 12-4 (39 more delegates will be decided later). Biden won the Democratic primary with 81.1% of the vote, vs. 13.2% for an uncommitted slate, which was promoted by Arab-Americans and others as a protest vote against Biden's support for Israel's genocide in Gaza. Marianne Williamson got 3%, and Dean Phillips 2.7%. Everyone's trying to spin the results as much as possible, but I doubt they mean much.

Next up is "Super Tuesday," so here's a bit of preview:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Mitch McConnell, 82, announced he will step down as Republican Leader in the Senate in November. This led to some, uh, appreciation?

  • Ryan Cooper: [02-29] Mitch McConnell, Senate arsonist.

  • Jack Hunter: [02-29] Sorry AP: Mitch McConnell is no Ronald Reagan: "The paper deploys the usual neoconservative trope that their foreign policies are the same. They are not." Still, I hate it when critics think they're being so clever in claiming that old Republicans were so sensible compared to the new ones. Reagan's "willingness to talk to America's enemies" didn't extend much beyond Russia, and that only after the door had been opened by Gorbachev. He left nothing but disasters all over Latin America and the Middle East through Iran and Afghanistan.

  • Ed Kilgore: [02-29] Mitch McConnell's power trip finally comes to an end.

  • Ian Millhiser: [02-29] How Mitch McConnell broke Congress.

  • John Nichols: [02-29] Good riddance to Mitch McConnell, an enemy of democracy: Sorry to have to break this to you, but he isn't going anywhere. He'll serve out the rest of his six-year term. He's not giving up his leadership post out of a sudden attack of conscience. He's doing it so some other Republican can take over, and possibly do even worse things than he would have done. By holding out until November, he's giving Trump the prerogative of hand-picking his successor -- assuming Trump wins, of course.

  • David A Graham: Mitch McConnell surrenders to Trump: That's more like it, but at least he's given himself some time. If Trump wins in November, there'll be no fighting him. And if Trump loses, why should he want to be the one stuck cleaning up the mess?

  • Andrew Prokop: [02-28] How Mitch McConnell lost by winning.

  • Jane Mayer: [2020-04-12] How Mitch McConnell became Trump's enabler-in-chief: Sometimes an old piece is the best reminder. Had McConnell a bit more foresight and backbone, he could have swung enough Republican votes to convict Trump over Jan. 6, and followed that with a resolution declaring Trump ineligible to run again, according to the 14th Amendment -- such a resolution was discussed at the time, and would undoubtedly be upheld. Sure, it would have been unpopular among Republicans at the time, but popular will has almost never entered into McConnell's political calculus.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Zack Beauchamp: [02-27] Biden has been bad for Palestinians. Trump would be worse. "On Israel, the two are not the same." Probably true, but this really isn't much comfort. Biden is effectively an Israeli puppet, with no independent will, or even willingness to caution Netanyahu in public, and as such has had no effect on moderating Israel's vendetta -- and may reasonably be charged with not just supporting but accelerating it. For instance, Biden did not have to send aircraft carriers into the region, threatening Iran and provoking Yemen and Lebanon. Nor did he have to accelerate arms deliveries when a ceasefire was obviously called for. As for Trump, sure, he doesn't even know the meaning of "caution." He is largely responsible for Netanyahu believing that he can get away with anything.

    • Dave DeCamp: [03-03] Poll: Majority of Democrats want a presidential candidate who opposes military aid to Israel: With Marianne Williamson unsuspending her campaign, there actually is one, but will anyone find out?

    • Isaac Chotiner: [02-28] Does the Biden administration want a long-lasting ceasefire in Gaza? Interview with John Kirby, Biden's National Security Council spokesman, explaining that Biden only wants whatever Netanyahu tells him to want. It's like a form of hypnosis, where Hamas is the shiny object that so captures America's gaze that it will support Israel doing anything to it wants as long as it's saying it's meant to eliminate Hamas. Sure, Biden understands that Palestinians are suffering, and he implores Netanyahu to make them suffer less, but he can't question his orders.

      The key to this is that he buys the line that Hamas is a cancer that can be excised from the Palestinian body politic, allowing Israel to regain its security. I hesitate to call that the Israeli line: sure, they developed it with their targeted assassinations (they go back at least as far as Abu Jihad in 1988), but Israelis never claimed one strike would suffice -- they tended to use metaphors like "mowing the grass"). It was only the Americans, with their romantic conceits about their own goodness and the innate innocence of ignorant savages, that turned this systematic slaughter into magical thinking. Israelis don't think like that. They understand that Hamas (or some other form of militant backlash) is the inevitable result of their harsh occupation. And, their consciences hardened by constant struggle (including their carefully cultivated memory of the Holocaust), they're willing to live with that brutality.

      If they can't distinguish Hamas from the mass of people they've emerged from, they see no reason to discipline their killing. They figure if they destroy enough, the problem will subside. Even if it inevitably erupts again, that's later, and they'll remain eternally vigilant. There are no solutions, because they don't want to accept the only possible one, which is peaceful coexistence. But silly Americans, they need to be told stories, and it's amazing what they'll swallow.

    • Mitchell Plitnick: [03-01] Biden memos show Palestine advocacy is working: "Two recent presidential orders show the Biden administration is feeling the heat from months of protests against his support for Israel's genocide in Gaza."

    • Alexander Ward: [03-01] 'We look 100 percent weak': US airdrops in Gaza expose limit to Biden's Israel policy.

    • Fareed Zakaria: [03-01] Biden needs to tell Israel some difficult truths. Only he can do it.

    • Erica L Green: [03-03] Kamala Harris calls for an 'immediate cease-fire' in Gaza: Promising title, but fine print reveals it's only the "six-week cease-fire proposal currently on the table," and that she's calling on Hamas, not Israel, the ones who are actually doing all of the firing, and who have already broken off talks on that particular proposal. A cease fire, especially where the war is so one-sided, doesn't need to be negotiated: just do it (perhaps daring the other side to violate it, but the longer it lasts, the better). Sure, prisoner exchanges have to be negotiated, but not cease-fire, which is just common sense.

  • Frank Bruni: [03-03] How Democrats can win anywhere and everywhere.

  • Michelle Goldberg: [03-01] The Democrat showing Biden how it's done: Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan. This follows on recent columns by Goldberg:

  • Ezra Klein: [02-16] Democrats have a better option than Biden: Starts by heaping considerable praise on Biden and his accomplishments of the last three-plus years, then lowers the boom and insists that he should step aside, not so much because one reasonably doubts that he can do the job for more years, but that he's no longer competent as a candidate. (Never mind that Trump is far from competent, in any sense of the term. He's a Republican, and one of our many double standards, we don't expect competency from Republicans, or for that matter caring, or even much coherence.) He goes into how conventions work, and offers a bunch of plausible candidates. It's a long and thorough piece, and makes the case as credibly as I've seen (albeit much less critically of Biden than I might do myself).

    Klein's columns are styled as "The Ezra Klein Show," which are usually just interviews, but this one is monologue, with multiple references to other conversations. He's had a few other interviews recently with political operatives, a couple adding to his insight into Democratic prospects, plus a couple more I'll include here. (Also see the pieces I listed under Ukraine.)

  • Paul Musgrave: [03-03] An inside look at how Biden's team rebuilt foreign policy after Trump: Review of Alexander Ward: The Internationalists: The Fight to Restore American Foreign Policy After Trump.

  • Bill Scher: [02-29] "Nightmare in America": How Biden's ad team should attack Trump: "In 1984, Ronald Reagan's reelection campaign ran a series of ads that evoked how different life felt in America compared to under his opponent's administration four years prior. Today, Joe Biden should do the same." Sure, there's something to be said here, if you can figure out how to say it. But Trump's going to be pushing the opposite spin, in many cases on the same set of facts, all the while pointing out the extraordinary efforts his/your enemies took to hobnob his administration and persecute him since he was pushed out of office. He's just as likely to embrace the Left's notion of him as their worst nightmare. Note that page includes a link to a 2020 article, which also cites Reagan: Nancy LeTourneau: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

  • John E Schwarz: [03-01] Democratic presidents have better economic performances than Republican ones.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Ukraine War:

  • Connor Echols: [03-01] Diplomacy Watch: Russia could be invited to Ukraine-led peace talks. I don't really buy that "Ukraine's shift is a sign of just how dire the situation is becoming for its armed forces," but I do believe that Russia can more/less hold its position indefinitely, that it can continue to exact high (and eventually crippling) costs from Ukraine indefinitely, and that it can survive the sanctions regime (which the US is unlikely to loosen even in an armistice. All of this suggests to me that Zelensky needs to approach some realistic terms for ending the war, then sell them as hard to his "allies" as to Putin, and to the rest of the world.

  • Anatol Lieven/George Beebe: [02-28] Europeans' last ditch clutch at Ukrainian victory: "France's Macron raised the idea of Western troops entering the fray, others want to send longer range missiles."

  • Olena Melnyhk/Sera Koulabdara: [02-29] Ukraine's vaunted 'bread basket' soil is now toxic: "Two years of war has left roughly one-third of its territory polluted, with dire potential consequences for the world's food supply."

  • Will Porter: [02-28] Russia claims first Abrams tank kill in Ukraine.

  • Ted Snider: [03-01] How the West provoked an unprovoked war in Ukraine. The ironies in the title at least merit quotes around "unprovoked." The important part of the story is the relatively underreported period from March, 2021 when Biden added $125 million of "defensive lethal weapons" on top of $150 million previously allocated under Trump, up to the eve of the March 2022 invasion, when "Putin called Ukraine 'a knife to the throat of Russia' and worried that 'Ukraine will serve as an advanced bridgehead' for a pre-emptive US strike against Russia." It is unlikely the US would ever launch such a strike, but Ukraine had by then given up on the Minsk accords and was preparing to take back Donbas. Had they succeeded, Crimea would be next, and that (plus excessive confidence in his own military) was enough for Putin to launch his own pre-emptive attack.

  • Marcus Stanley: [02-28] Biden officials want Russian frozen assets to fund Ukraine war: "Not only will this prolong the conflict, but rock confidence in the Western-led world economic system."

  • Ishaan Tharoor: [02-28] Foreign troops in Ukraine? They're already there.

  • Ezra Klein:

  • [2022-03-01] Can the West stop Russia by strangling its economy? Transcript of an interview with Adam Tooze, doesn't really answer the title question but does provide a pretty deep survey of Russia's economy at the start of Putin's invasion of Ukraine. One minor note: I think Tooze said "Kremlinologists" where you read "the criminologists of the modern day have five, six, seven, eight different groups now that they see operating around Putin."

    PS: Unrelated to Russia, but for another Klein interview with Tooze, see: [2022-10-07] How the Fed is "shaking the entire system".

Around the world:

Other stories:

Lori Aratani: [03-01] Boeing in talks to reacquire key 737 Max supplier Spirit AeroSystems: Boeing spun the company off in 2005, including the Wichita factory my father and brother worked at for decades.

Marina Bolotnikova/Kenny Torrella: [02-26] 9 charts that show US factory farming is even bigger than you realize: "Factory farms are now so big that we need a new word for them." Related here:

Rosa Brooks: [02-20] One hundred years of dictatorship worship: A review of a new book by Jacob Heilbrunn: America Last: The Right's Century-Long Romance With Foreign Dictators [note: cover has it "America First" in large white type, then overprints "Last" in blockier red].

Daniel Denvir: [02-28] The libertarians who dream of a world without democracy: Interview with Quinn Slobodian, who wrote the 2018 book Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, and most recently, Crack-Up Capitalism: Market Radicals and the Dream of a World Without Democracy.

Adam Gopnik: [02-19] Did the year 2020 change us forever? "The COVID-19 pandemic affected us in millions of ways. But it evades the meanings we want it to bear." A review, which I haven't finished (and may never) of the emerging, evolving literature on 2020.

Sean Illing: [03-03] Are we in the middle of an extinction panic? "How doomsday proclamations about AI echo existential anxieties of the past." Interview with Tyler Austin Harper, who wrote about this in the New York Times: The 100-year extinction panic is back, right on schedule. I could write a lot more on this, especially if I referred back to the extinction controversies paleontologists have been debating all along, but suffice it to say:

  • Short of the Sun exploding, there is zero chance of humans going extinct in the foreseeable future. People are too numerous, widespread, and flexible for anything to get all of us. (Side note: the effective altruist focus on preventing extinction events is misguided.)
  • Human population is, however, precariously balanced on a mix of technological, economic, political, and cultural factors which are increasingly fragile, and as such subject to sabotage and other disruptions (not least because they are often poorly understood). Any major breakdown could be catastrophic on a level that affects millions (though probably not billions) of people.
  • Catastrophes produce psychological shocks that can compound the damage. By far the greatest risk here is war, not just for its immediate destruction but because it makes recovery more difficult.
  • People are not very good at evaluating these risks, erring often both in exaggeration and denial.

The Times piece led to some others of interest here:

Chris Lehman: [03-01] Border hysteria is a bipartisan delusion: "Yesterday, both President Biden and Donald Trump visited Texas to promise harsher immigration policies."

Andrea Mazzarino: [02-27] War's cost is unfathomable. I mentioned this in an update last week, but it's worth mentioning again. She starts by referring to "The October 7th America has forgotten," which was 2001, when the US first bombed Afghanistan, following the Al-Qaeda attacks of that September 11. In 2010, Mazzarino founded the Cost of War Project, which, as economists are wont to do, started adding up whatever they could of the quantifiable costs of America's Global War on Terror and its spawn. Still, their figures (at least $8 trillion and counting, and with debt compounding) miss much of the real human (and environmental) costs, especially those that are primarily psychic.

For instance, would we have the gun problem that we have had we not been continuously at war for over two decades? Would our politics have turned so desperately war-like? Certainly, there would have been much less pressure to immigrate, given that war is the leading producer of refugees. Without constant jostling for military leverage, might we not have made more progress in dealing with problems like climate change? The list only grows from there.

One constant theme of every Speaking of Which is the need to put aside the pursuit of power over and against others and find mutual grounds that will allow us to work together cooperatively to deal with pressing problems. There are lots of reasons why this is true, starting with the basic fact that we could not exist in such numbers if not for a level of technology that is complex beyond most of our understandings and fragile, especially vulnerable to the people who feel most unjustly treated. Our very lives depend on experts who can be trusted, and their ability to work free of sabotage. You can derive all the politics you need from this insight.

Michelle Orange: [03-01] How the Village Voice met its moment: A review of Tricia Romano's The Freaks Came Out to Write, a new "oral history" (i.e., history presented in interview quotes). I rushed out and bought a copy, and should probably write my own review, even if only because she left me out. More:

Rick Perlstein: [02-28] Kissinger revisited: "The former secretary of state is responsible for virtually every American geopolitical disaster of the past half-century."

Deanne Stillman: [02-21] Mothers, sons, and guns: Author wrote a book about Lee Harvey Oswald and his mother, recounted here, in light of high school shooter Ethan Crumbley and his mother, Jennifer Crumbley, who was convicted for her role leading up to the shootings.

David Zipper: [03-01] Driving at ridiculous speeds should be physically impossible: As someone who grew up with a great love of auto racing, I'd argue that driving at ridiculous speeds has always been physically impossible, even as limits have expanded with better technology. Of course, "ridiculous" can mean many different things, but I'd say that's a reason not to try to legislate it. I've long thought that the 55 mph speed limit was the biggest political blunder the Democrats made, at least in my lifetime. (Aside from Vietnam.) Not only did it impose on personal freedom -- in a way that, say, European levels of gasoline taxes wouldn't have done -- but it induced some kind of brain rot in American auto engineering, from which Detroit may never have recovered. (I can't really say. After several bad experiences, I stopped buying their wares.)

Ironically, this political push for mandating "speed limiters" (even more euphemistically, "Intelligent Speed Assistance") on new cars is coming from tech businesses, who see surveillance of driving as a growth area for revenue. This fits in with much broader plans to increase surveillance -- mostly government, but it doesn't end there -- over every aspect of our lives. Supposedly, this will save lives, although the relationship between speeding and auto carnage has never been straightforward, and much more plausible arguments (e.g., on guns) go nowhere. My great fear here is that Democrats will rally to this as a public health and safety measure, inviting a backlash we can ill afford (as with the 55 mph speed limit, which helped elect Reagan).

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