Sunday, May 5, 2024

Speaking of Which

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To which I, well, had to add:

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

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

More on Twitter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top story threads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel vs. world opinion:

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

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

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

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

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

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

Other stories:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Also worth reiterating this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some more samples:

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

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

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

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

This week's books:

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

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

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

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