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."

  • [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, preŽmptively 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.

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