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."

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