Sunday, May 26, 2024


Speaking of Which

[Updated 2024-05-28. New sections and major edits flagged, like this.]

I woke up one morning last week flooded by what felt like deep thoughts. Of course, I never got around to writing them down, and most have proven fleeting, but one stuck with me as important enough to use an an introduction here. It's that, in negotiations, one should always try to do the right thing. In games, that means seeking out the maximum positive sum (or, if you are starting in deep trouble, as is often the case, the minimum negative sum).

You may have trouble quantizing, but any mutual gain will do, as would a mutual loss that doesn't seem disparate. They key is that both sides should feel some satisfaction, even if it's only relative to where one entered negotiations. This matters because not only does one have to solve a current problem, but one hopes to prevent a future recurrence. Any negotiation that ends with one side feeling aggrieved is likely to be rejoined later, when prospects become more favorable.

The simplest model I can think of here is what we might call the social contract. In unequal situations, one side may be able to dominate and take from the other, who being demeaned will be resentful and seek to redress the situation, possibly flipping roles only to be targeted again. Humans do not readily submit to other humans, so it takes extra effort not just to obtain but to maintain unequal ranks, while the rewards for doing so diminish. Hegel understood this well enough in theory, but he also had the real world example of American slavery to draw on.

Yet many people, especially in positions of power, still think they can use their power to force the submission of others, thereby preserving their advantages. They may get away with it for a fairly long time, but never without cost, and sometimes at great risk of revolt and revolution. This desire to dominate was long thought to be as essentially human as rebellion, but it can be tempered by reason if one is willing to think things through. Unfortunately, the sort of people who start and fight wars are sadly deficient in that respect.

Real world cases can be tricky. You need to sort out what really matters, and understand how various options will play out. On the other hand, you need to steer away from positions that will cause future resentment. A good rule of thumb here is that anything that exploits a power advantage or intends to preserve or develop one is likely to backfire. Unfortunately, most thinking by US and other powers is based on the assumption that power provides leverage for imposing unequal settlements. This delays negotiations, and leads to bad agreements.

Specifics vary from case to case. I write about Ukraine most weeks. The battleground is deadlocked, with both sides capable of extending the war indefinitely. Ukraine's maximalist goal of retaking all of its pre-2014 territory is unrealistic. Russia's goals and minimum requirements are less clear, in part because the US is fixated on weakening and degrading Russia on the theory (groundless as far as I can tell) that Putin is obsessed with expanding Russian territory and/or hegemony. I think it's more likely that Putin is concerned to halt or limit US/EU threats to Russia's security and economy, which have been manifested in NATO expansion, EU expansion, and sanctions against Russian business interests. If that's the case, there are opportunities to trade various chits for favors in Ukraine, especially ones that longer-term will reduce US-Russia tensions.

That doesn't mean that Putin will be willing to give up all of Ukraine. Crimea and Donbas had Russian ethnic majorities before the broke away in 2014, and given the chance would almost certainly have voted to join Russia. As a nationalist, Putin is concerned with the fate of Russian ethnic minorities beyond his borders -- such people had been secure in the Soviet Union, but became vulnerable when the SSRs broke away and themselves became more nationalist. Besides, having made the move into Ukraine, and having conquered and held additional territory (which is now also heavily Russian), he's very unlikely to walk away empty-handed.

All this suggests to me that a deal would be possible -- perhaps not win-win but one that lose-loses a lot less than continuing the war -- if we start looking for a more equal settlement, as opposed to the current strategy of hoping the next offensive adds some leverage while nearing the other side to exhaustion. Not only has that thinking failed both sides utterly, the prospect of an inequitable settlement would only serve to encourage future conflicts.

Same principles should apply elsewhere, and will inform my comments when I get to them.


I'm getting to where I really hate website redesigns, all of which are immediately disruptive, making it harder to find things. While you expect to get past that after a bit of learning curve, it often turns out to be a permanent condition. The Wichita Eagle changed to a more "web friendly" design recently, as opposed to their previous newspaper page scans (which they still have now, but buried in the back, behind lots of spurious junk). I suppose regular articles are a bit easier to read, and flipping past them is a bit faster, but still, I'm almost ready to quit them -- which would be a loss for Dion Leffler, and various restaurant and road openings and closings, but not much more.

One of my regular stops is Vox, and their redesign is so disruptive I'm bothering to mention it here. (They explain some of this here, but they merely assert that the "sleek, updated design [makes] it easier for you to discover and find all of the journalism you love." It doesn't.)


Posting this end-of-Sunday, not really complete, but there's quite a bit here. I'll add some more on Monday.

Initial count: 185 links, 11,242 words. Updated count [03-28]: 217 links, 14,446 words.

Local tags (these can be linked to directly): Louis Allday; Fred Kaplan; Sarah Jones; on music.


Top story threads:

Israel:

  • Mondoweiss:

  • Middle East Monitor: Live Updates: Famine imminent in northern Gaza amid Israel's closure of crossings, media office warns: Plus numerous other stories.

  • Wafa Aludaini: [05-25] The slaughter of Palestinian scholars in Gaza is a deliberate Israeli tactic.

  • Ruwaida Kamal Amer: [05-21] Cementing its military footprint, Israel is transforming Gaza's geography: "As Israel expands a buffer zone and erects army bases in the Strip, Palestinians fear the permanent loss of their homes and land."

  • Kavitha Chekuru: Hundreds of Palestinian doctors disappeared into Israeli detention.

  • Emma Graham-Harrison: [05-28] Tanks reach centre of Rafah as attacks mount and Israel's isolation grows.

  • Ryan Grim:

  • Tareq S Hajjaj: [05-27] Rafah massacre: how Israel bombs displaced Gazans in their tents: "The Israeli army bombed Gazans in their tents in the 'safe zone' where it told them to go. Eyewitnesses told Mondoweiss most of the dead were burned alive or decapitated and dismembered. Many of them were children." I don't want to pile on a late-breaking story, but:

  • Shatha Hanaysha: [05-23] Jenin resistance defiant as Israeli army kills 12 Palestinians in raid. I'm not much into celebrating resistance against a force as overwhelmingly powerful, insensitive and cruel as the IDF, but it is human nature to resist such force, by whatever means are available ("necessary," the term one first thinks of here, implies hope and purpose that aren't always easy to see).

  • Fred Kaplan: I included these links, meaning to write more about them, but ran out of time on Sunday, leaving them as stubs. Again growing weary on Tuesday, I'll add a couple brief notes, but there is much more I'd like to say. (Maybe you can find it elsewhere in this or previous weeks' posts? [PS: Ok, I wound up writing quite a bit anyway.])

    • [05-13] Why Israel and Hamas still do not have a cease-fire: "There are only three ways out of the war." Nothing very deep here. His three ways are universal rules for all wars: one side wins; both sides give up and settle; some more powerful third party gets fed up and threatens to knock heads, forcing a settlement. You can provide an easy list of examples, as long as you're willing to count lots of costs as some kind of win. The problem is that these scenarios assume you have war between two relatively autonomous sides, and that if victory is not possible, both sides are willing to accept the continued existence of the other.

      Those assumptions are simply wrong. There is no Hamas army, or Palestinian army. It is not even clear that Hamas exists, at least beyond some public figures outside of Gaza, their assertion that they hold a small number of Israelis, and occasional bursts of small arms fire and the occasional rocket, which are no threat, and evidently no inhibition, to Israel. That Hamas only exists to give Israel an excuse -- one that at least its still-gullible allies in the US and elsewhere will cling to -- for its systematic demolition and depopulation of Gaza. In other words, this isn't a war. It just looks like one because Israel is fighting it with advanced weapons of war, none of which Hamas or any other Palestinians possess: planes, missiles, drones, heavy artillery, tanks, ships, surveillance, AI-based targeting, a huge number of trained fighters, an advanced military-industrial complex, and a steady stream of billions of dollars of reinforcements from the US, and if all that fails they still have a nuclear arsenal.

      If Hamas had those things, you could legitimately call this a war, and you'd find that Israel suddenly has reasons for wanting it to end. That's when the risks to both sides are high enough that they start negotiating. However, when it's just Israel shooting fish in a barrel, why should Israel negotiate? Worst case scenario is you run out of fish, but that's not something Israelis have ever had to worry about. And no matter how much we decry their intents and practices as genocidal, Israelis are very different from the Nazis who set the standard for genocide. Israelis may think they were chosen by God -- some do, some don't, the difference scarcely matters -- they don't see themselves as a master race, and don't seek to drive others into slavery. They see themselves as eternal victims, so the best they can hope for isn't a Final Solution -- it's simply to drive the others away, to push them back and out from their safe fortress (their Iron Wall, Iron Dome, etc.). Nor do they worry that they are training others to hate them, to come back and seek revenge, because they know deep down that others will hate them anyway, that this condition is eternal, as is their struggle to defend themselves.

      We can kick around various hypotheticals, but the bottom line is that this war only ends when Israel decides to stop prosecuting it, either because the costs exceed what they're willing to pay, or because they grow sick and tired, and ashamed, of the slaughter. Neither of those are likely to happen as long as the US is willing to foot the bills and run diplomatic interference. If the US and Europe were to seriously threaten to flip against Israel, they might decide that the conflict isn't worth the trouble, and start to make amends. That's probably the best-case scenario: nothing less will get Israel's attention. Nothing more is practically possible -- no nation, regardless of how powerful they think they are, is going to overthrow Israel by arms. (The US tried that with Afghanistan and Iraq, and failed. Russia tried that with Ukraine, and failed. China tried that with Vietnam, and failed. Every case is slightly different, but none of those had the nuclear weapons Israel has. And while the US has pushed sanctions to their limit against North Korea, they've thought better than starting a major war.)

      Israelis may not mind being sanctioned back into a shell, like North Korea has endured. They're certainly psychologically prepared for it. But they've also been living la dolce vita for many decades, largely on the American taxpayer's dime, so may be they will see that they have real choices to make, and being ostensibly a democracy, they may even be able to make their own.

    • [05-21] Why Netanyahu's war cabinet is existentially divided: "The Israeli prime minister refuses to plan for life after the war in Gaza."

    • The simplest explanation is that he doesn't want the war to end, ever. Israel has fought continuously since 1948 (or really since 1937), along the way building up a military, a police and spy system, courts, and a civil society that knows how to do nothing else. They've cultivated a psyche that is hardened by fear and hate, one that only experiences pleasure in inflicting pain on others. They need those others. If they didn't exist, they'd have to hate them -- and in many case they have. If they didn't have those others, they'd turn their hate on each other, because that's what the psyche demands. If Hamas still exists today, that's because Israel needs Hamas as its pretext for fighting Palestinians in Gaza. And if Israel is slow-rolling the genocide in Gaza, it's because it gives them cover for ethnic cleaning in the West Bank. Hitler set an impossible standard in thinking he could reach a Final Solution. Netanyahu wants something far deadlier, which is Permanent Revolution. But we still call it genocide, because to the victims it looks much the same.

  • Ken Klippenstein/Daniel Boguslaw: [04-20] Israel attack on Iran is what World War III looks like: "Like countless other hostilities, the stealthy Israeli missile and drone strike on Iran doesn't risk war. It is war."

  • Akela Lacy: The AIPAC donor funnels millions to an IDF unit accused of violating human rights: "The battalion has a dedicated US nonprofit to support its operations -- whose president is supporting AIPAC's political agenda."

  • Haggai Matar: [05-20] Israeli military censor bans highest number of articles in over a decade: "The sharp rise in media censorship in 2023 comes as the Israeli government further undermines press freedoms, especially amid the Gaza war."

  • Loveday Morris: [05-26] Far-right Israeli settlers step up attacks on aid trucks bound for Gaza.

  • Orly Noy: [05-23] Why Israel is more divided than ever. I wish, but I doubt it. Author is chair of B'Tselem, a group that has done heroic work in documenting the human rights abuses of the occupation.

  • Jonathan Ofir: [05-27] Netanyahu's response to the ICC invokes another genocidal biblical reference: "Netanyahu's rant against the ICC quoted a biblical verse that warns against the dangers of not completely wiping out your enemy's society. It doesn't take much to figure out what this means for Israel's genocidal war on Gaza."

  • Prem Thakker: The State Department says Israel isn't blocking aid. Videos show the opposite.

America's Israel (and Israel's America): The Biden administration, despite occasional misgivings, is fully complicit in Israel's genocide. Republicans only wish to intensify it -- after all, they figure racism and militarism are their things.

Israel vs. world opinion: From demonstrations to ICC indictments, and backlash again.

  • Nasser Abourarme: [05-25] The student uprising is fighting for all of us: "Palestine has ignited our planetary consciousness once again, and it is the student movement that refuses to let genocide become our new normal.".

  • Louis Allday: [05-24] Four points on solidarity after the Gaza genocide: I don't agree with this, and I'm rather disappointed that Mondoweiss would print it. Allday writes: "We must support the struggle of the Palestinian people to abolish Zionism, no matter the means they choose to do it." I'm inclined to be cautious about articulating what other people think and feel, but I object to every clause in that sentence, and to each of the four points the author goes on to make -- "Palestinians have a right to armed resistance"; "Zionism is irredeemable"; "we will not police our slogans"; and "'Israel' must come to an end." The problems here are grammatical, logical, moral, and political. I hate to trot out Lenin, not least because I never actually read his book, but this reminds me of a style of thought he dismissed as "an infantile disorder."

    To go back to the sentence: "the Palestinian people" assumes a unity that does not exist and therefore cannot be supported without contradiction; "abolish Zionism" is a category disorder (you can do lots of things to Zionism, like reform or reject or ridicule it, but you cannot abolish it); and it always matters what means you use, because your means define you as much as your ends. As for the points:

    1. "Palestinians have a right to armed resistance": I believe that people should have both negative ("freedom from") and positive ("freedom to") rights, but armed resistance is neither. The best you can say for it is that it's a bad habit humans have picked up over the ages, made only worse by advanced technology. I can see why some people may feel they have no better option than to resort to it, and I can see why some Palestinians think that, and I see little point in condemning them when they have no better options, and I can't see that Israel has closed or frustrated all other options. So I see little point in blaming Hamas for their violent uprising, as it mostly reflects Israel's responsibility for the conditions. But I refuse to dignify it by calling it a right. For the same reasons, I deny that Israel has a "right to defend itself" -- if anything, Israel's claim is worse, because they do have other less destructive options. Self-defense may get you an acquittal or pardon in court, but we don't have to pretend it's some kind of right to justify that. It could just be grounds for mercy. No one has a right to mercy, but some powers, especially when concerned with their own legitimacy, grant it anyway. By the way, it's fine with me if you reject armed resistance on purely moral grounds. My view here is a bit more nuanced, but in some book I read a pretty emphatic "thou shalt not kill," and that sounds to me like a pretty sound rule to live by.
    2. "Zionism is irredeemable": I'm pretty well convinced that the way Israelis are behaving today flows quite logically from the way Zionism was originally articulated by Pinsker and Herzl and rendered into political form by Ben-Gurion, Jabotinsky, and Kook (each of those, plus a dozen lesser known figures, has a chapter in Shlomo Avineri's The Making of Modern Zionism. So I would be inclined to chuck the whole conceptual legacy out, but that doesn't mean that it cannot be reformed. While I have no personal investment in Zionism, there are other isms I can imagine recovering from their tarnished pasts. And in any case I'd never say that any group of people, including fascists and white supremacists (mentioned here because they appear in the text), who are absolutely irredeemable.
    3. "We will not police our slogans": This one is probably what got me thinking of Lenin. If you can't police yourself, you certainly don't deserve to police anyone else.
    4. "'Israel' must come to an end": I don't technically disagree with "the Zionist entity commonly known as Israel is a settler colonial project sustained by U.S. imperialism for its own purposes," but I would never put it in those terms, because I don't want people to take me for a moron. I hardly know where to start here, but in any case I'll wind up with a political point, which is that this isn't going to happen, not even close, isn't even desirable, and any efforts to bring it about will only make you look stupid and cruel, reflecting adversely on any decent thing you might reasonably aim at.

    I suppose I've known all along that this kind of "thinking" exists, but so far I've only run across rough sketches of it in obvious Israeli propaganda, so I've been reluctant to credit it at all. (Could this be a plant? That's always been a suspicion with "Palestinian" resistance literature, because "false flag" operations run as deep in Israeli history as tactical hasbara.) I've occasionally thought of writing a piece on "Why I've never identified as pro-Palestinian (but don't care if you do)," which would review the checkered history of Palestinian nationalism, including the oft-repeated arguments that Jews can and should be expatriated from Israel, and explain why I find them every bit as reprehensible as Israel's not-merely-rhetorical efforts to control, incarcerate, expel, and/or kill Palestinians. One could include charts to show how much of each both sides have done, and how they stack up. (Palestinians aren't innocents in this regard, but the ratios are pretty sobering.) It's quite possible to describe yourself as pro-Palestinian and not buy into all of the dead baggage of the nationalists, so I don't assume that identifying yourself as that implies that you're simply out to flip the tables. But that's not a linkage I make for myself.

    What I'd like to see is everyone live wherever they want, with equal rights, law, and order for all within whatever state they live in (one, two, many?). Also, as a safety valve, with a right to exile, both for Israelis and Palestinians (and ideally for everyone else). I imagine that if given the chance most Palestinians (though maybe not the leaders of Hamas or Fatah) would welcome such a world, but most Israelis are still wedded to their dreams of self-rule achieved through forever war against the antisemitic hordes, so they will reject it as long as they can. And no one can force Israel to change, so the best we can do is negotiate a bit, appeal to what's left of their humanity, shame them for their obvious crimes, negotiate a bit more, find "do the right thing" compromises that give and take a little but in the right direction. They're not crazy, and they're not stupid. (Although I'm not so sure about some of the Americans.) They have some legitimate concerns, which deserve respect, but we also have to be firm that we will not let them con us (as they try to do incessantly, and have often gotten away with). This is a noble task that will require diligence and sensitivity and skill -- traits the author here, and anyone anywhere near his wavelength, manifestly lacks.

    One more point: "solidarity" doesn't mean you should follow the other lemmings into the abyss. It means you should look for common themes between your complaints and the complaints of others, to see if you can join forces in ways that help you both. Chances are, you share opponents who are already at work keeping you divided and conquered, and you can improve your tactics based on your shared experiences.

    "Empathy" is a much rawer emotion, where you experience some other's plight as impacting yourself. While it's good to be able to imagine how other people feel, the emotion can sometimes overwhelm, leading you to sympathize with counterproductive rhetoric and tactics. Empathy can motivate commitment, which is one reason movement put so much effort into garnering it, but solidarity requires thinking, analysis, deliberation, and calculated action. Empathy can lash out, and temporarily make you feel good, but it rarely works, especially against opponents who are practiced in dealing with it. On the other hand, solidarity can work.

  • Linah Alsaafin: [05-23] Why students everywhere have been jolted awake by Israel's brutality.

  • Michael Arria:

  • Ramzy Baroud: [05-23] With Biden's bear hug of Israeli atrocities, world's view of American democracy craters.

  • M Reza Benham: [05-24] Lifting the veil: Demystifying Israel: Recalls a movie, The Truman Show, where the lead character was trapped and filmed in a stage set he took to be the real world, until he discovered otherwise.

  • Ghousoon Bisharat: [05-24] 'The international legal order needs repair -- and Gaza is a part of this': "Al Mezan director Issam Younis explains the obstacles and opportunities for Palestinians following major interventions from the world's top courts."

  • Juan Cole:

  • Jonathan Cook: [05-24] The message of Israel's torture chambers is directed at all of us, not just Palestinians: "'Black sites' are about reminding those who have been colonised and enslaved of a simple lesson: resistance is futile."

  • Owen Dahlkamp: [05-24] Inside the latest congressional hearing on campus antisemitism: "Students for Justice in Palestine called the hearing 'a manufactured attack on higher education' as Republicans criticized universities for negotiating with protesters."

  • Harry Davies/Bethan McKiernan/Yuval Abraham/Meron Rapoport: [05-28] Spying, hacking and intimidation: Israel's nine-year 'war' on the ICC exposed. This is a major article. Should be a big story. Davies also wrote:

  • Moira Donegan: [05-24] Congress's latest 'antisemitism' hearing was an ugly attack on Palestinian rights: "The real purpose of this nasty political farce is to pressure US universities to crack down on criticism of Israel."

  • Richard Falk: [05-22] Why ICC bid for arrest warrants is a bold and historic move: "Unsurprisingly, the announcement has fuelled a misplaced rhetoric of outrage from Israel and its allies."

  • Michael Gasser: [05-22] A tale of two commencements: How Gaza solidarity encampments are changing the way we see university education: "Indiana University's 'Liberation Commencement' was a celebration of the students' brave commitment to fighting powerful institutions and their involvement in challenging Zionism and the Palestinian genocide."

  • Amos Goldberg/Alon Confino: [05-21] How Israel twists antisemitism claims to project its own crimes onto Palestinians: "What Israel and its supporters accuse Palestinians of inciting, Israeli officials are openly declaring, and the Israeli army is prosecuting."

  • Murtaza Hussain: Can a US ally actually be held accountable for war crimes in the ICC?

  • Ellen Ioanes/Nicole Narea: [05-21] Why ICC arrest warrants matter, even if Israel and Hamas leaders evade them: "The role of the International Criminal Court and the limits to its authority, explained."

  • David Kattenburg: [05-24] UN expert: 'Very little hope' of Israel abiding by ICJ order to stop Rafah invasion.

  • Nichlas Kristof:

    • [05-24] Biden's chance to do the right thing in Gaza: "In a speech in Warsaw two years ago, President Biden declared that 'the great battle for freedom' is one 'between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force.' Now we'll see whether he meant it." No evidence of that yet. Previously wrote:

    • [05-18] Invading Rafah doesn't help Israel.

    • [04-19] What happened to the Joe Biden I knew? "During the Darfur genocide and humanitarian crisis two decades ago, then-Senator Joe Biden passionately denounced then-President George W Bush for failing to act decisively to ease suffering. Biden expressed outrage at China for selling weapons used to kill and maim civilians, and he urged me to write columns demanding the White House end needless wretchedness." As you may recall, "genocide in Darfur" was a big Israeli talking point at the time, as the Israelis never missed an opportunity to portray Arabs as mass killers, and Sudan counted as an enemy of Israel. Silly Kristof for thinking that Biden actually cared about humanity, when he was, as always, simply doing Israel's bidding.

    • [03-16] President Biden, you have leverage that can save lives in Gaza. Please use it.

  • Akela Lacy: October 7 survivors sue campus protesters, say students are "Hamas's propaganda division": Say what?

  • Natasha Lennard: University professors are losing their jobs over "New McCarthyism" on Gaza.

  • Eldar Mamedov: [05-22] More European countries recognize Palestine: "The moves by Ireland, Norway, and Spain point to a Europe-wide frustration with futility of the current process." It's hard to recognize a "nation" that doesn't legitimately exist, but these moves to at least Israel has lost all credibility to millions of people it has effectively rendered stateless and homeless.

  • Paul Rogers: [05-28] These inhumane attacks on Rafah are no accident. They're central to the IDF's brutal, losing strategy.

  • Imad Sabi: [05-22] In memory of an Israeli lawyer who never lost her moral purpose: "Tamar Pelleg-Sryck worked tirelessly to defend Palestinian detainees like me in a profoundly unjust system."

  • Bernie Sanders: [05-23] The ICC is doing its job.

  • Tali Shapiro: [05-20] Israel's extortion leaflets and NameCheap: How to do corporate accountability during a genocide: "Arizona-based internet domain company NameCheap ended all service to Russia over the invasion of Ukraine but has now registered an Israeli website targeting Palestinian children. Activists are calling out the company's complicity in war crimes." Psychological warfare has been around at least since WWII, but is rarely commented on. For instance, did you know this?

    On Friday Israel dropped another set of leaflets on Gaza. Israel's use of leaflets for its psychological torture of the besieged Palestinian population is well known in these genocidal days.

    Ominous, gloating, taunting, and sadistic messaging is the lingua franca of these leaflets, which Israel claims is a humanitarian effort to evacuate the civilian population. Some of the most common leaflet content are calls to contact Israel's secret service with information on Hamas or the Israeli hostages. The purpose of these particular leaflets is twofold: the coercion of protected civilians to obtain information (which is a violation of the law of armed conflict); but most of all, to undermine the trust and cohesion of a community under siege and annihilation.

    Friday's leaflets took the intel-gathering genre to another level, when the army included messaging of extortion and a list of children, among them toddlers as targets, with the threat to reveal personal information such as criminal records, extramarital affairs, and queer identities.

  • Abba Solomon/Norman Solomon: [05-26] The dead end of liberal American Zionism: "In 2024, the meaning of 'pro-Israel, pro-peace' is macabre: J Street supports US military aid to Israel as it carries out a genocide. Liberal American Zionism has revealed itself to only be a tool for the subjugation of the Palestinian people." The authors refer back to a 2014 article they wrote -- The blind alley of J Street and liberal American Zionism -- and they seem entitled to an "I told you so" today. Just as I've never described myself as pro-Palestinian, I've also never claimed to be pro-Israeli, but I can see where other people might wish to combine their pro-peace and pro-nationalist sentiments. The problem is that they have to make a complete break not just with the Netanyahu gang -- as undoubted pro-Israelis like Schumer and Pelosi have done -- but with the entire apartheid/militarist regime. I can imagine some people coming to that view purely from their sympathy and concern for Israel, because it's obvious to me that not just the genocide but the entire history of occupation is something that Israelis should be ashamed of and shunned for. Anyone like that, even with zero regard for suffering of Palestinians, wouldn't deserve to be called a "tool for the subjection of Palestinians." But if you see J Street as some kind of AIPAC-Lite, meant to promote a sanitized Israel for squeamish American liberals, its mission is dead now, because the fantasy Israel it tried to present has been irreversibly exposed.

  • Christopher Sprigman: [05-23] Why universities have started arresting student protesters. "Over the past couple of months, more than 2,000 students have been arrested at colleges and universities around the US for protesting Israel's bombardment of Gaza." For starters, "It isn't because today's pro-Palestinian students are particularly violent or disruptive." This article kicks around several theories, but the obvious one is that Israel doesn't have a rational defense of genocide, so they hope to bury the charges under a bogus story of antisemitism and stir up a bit of violence then can easily blame on Palestinians. Why university administrators would go along with this is a story that probably has a money trail.

  • Ishaan Tharoor:

  • Simon Tisdall: [05-25] Call to prosecute Benjamin Netanyahu for war crimes exposes the west's moral doublethink: Someone at the Guardian needs remedial help in writing headlines: the article criticizes Biden, Sunak, and others for their attempts to undermine and impugn the ICC, not the Court for doing its job (finally).

  • Marc Tracy: [05-23] Ari Emanuel condemns Netanyahu, drawing boos at Jewish group's gala.

Election notes:

The Libertarian Party: Not normally worth my attention, but they had a convention last week, and some ringers showed up (originally I filed these under Trump):

Trump, and other Republicans: Let's start off with another quote from Richard Slotkin's A Great Disorder: National Myth and the Battle for America (pp. 385-386):

MAGA-constituencies have therefore embraced extreme measures of voter suppression, gerrymandering, and legislative control of election certification. In this regard, MAGA is building on values and practices already rooted in the conservative movement. As political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have argue, since the 1990s the GOP has been "ideologically extreme, scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition." Its agenda has been formulated as a canon, most tenets of which predate Trump: Grover Norquist's No-Tax Pledge, the Kochs' No Climate Change Pledge, the NRA's absolute rejection of gun safety, Right to Life's rejection of abortion under any circumstances, the anti-immigration bloc's No Amnesty Pledge. Its "Southern Strategy" dealt in dog-whistle racism to rouse resistance to social welfare programs. It has generally opposed the extension of social welfare programs and voting rights.

Trump exaggerated those tendencies by an order of magnitude, and his cult of personality gave them shape, color, and the aura of insurgent populist heroism. Government was not just a problem to be minimized, but an administrative state to be deconstructed. Dog-whistle racism became explicit in the defamation of Mexican and Black people, and in the display of sympathy for White Power vigilantes. Climate change was not just a hoax, but a "Chinese hoax." Faced with global pandemic, inescapable evidence of dangerous climate change, a public outcry for racial and social justice, and defeat at the polls, Trump chose repression over recognition.

But Trump also shifted the focus of conservative politics from the neoliberal economic policies of Reagan and the two Bushes to the culture war policies of Pat Buchanan.

That paragraph goes on with Christopher Rufo and Ron DeSantis and the war against woke. One should note that Trump is no less neoliberal than Reagan or the Bushes: he'd just prefer to saddle Clinton, Obama, and Biden with blame for the side-effects of policies Republicans have consistently supported since Nixon. Granted, Trump is a bit heretical with the odd tariff, but the economic effects are trivial, the targets are jingoist, and the beneficiaries dovetail nicely with his graft.

By the way, I meant to include more from the end of Slotkin's book, but that will have to wait until next week.

Actual trial news is skimpy: the defense rested quickly (without Trump testifying), and the judge took the rest of the week off to prepare for final arguments and jury instructions on Monday. Still leads off here, followed by other articles:

  • Nia Prater: [05-21] What happened in the Trump trial today: The defense rests: I've been using this "running recap of the news" for much of the trial, but it's fallen off Intelligencer's front page for lack of an update. [PS: updated 4:57PM 05-28, now "Closing time."] Presumably it will get one when final arguments are given. Meanwhile, it's still a good backgrounder. Also (again, thin this week):

  • Eric Alterman: [05-17] How can this country possibly be electing Trump again? "How the media has failed, and what the Democrats need to do."

  • Jamelle Bouie: [05-24] Trump's taste for tyranny finds a target:

    Trump's signature promise, during the 2016 presidential election, was that he would build a wall on the US border with Mexico. His signature promise, this time around, is that he'll use his power as president to deport as many as 20 million people from the United States.

    "Following the Eisenhower model," he told a crowd in Iowa last September, "we will carry out the largest domestic deportation operation in American history."

    It cannot be overstated how Trump's deportation plan would surely rank as one of the worst crimes perpetrated by the federal government on the people of this country. Most of the millions of unauthorized and undocumented immigrants in the United States are essentially permanent residents. They raise families, own homes and businesses, pay taxes and contribute to their communities. For the most part, they are as embedded in the fabric of this nation as native-born and naturalized American citizens are.

    What Trump and his aide Stephen Miller hope to do is to tear those lives apart, rip those communities to shreds and fracture the entire country in the process.

  • Jonathan Chait: [05-23] Karl Rove frets RFK Jr. is stealing 'wacko' voters from Trump: Isn't that rather like Willie Sutton's rationale for robbing banks? Not much substance here, mostly just a chuckle as Chait is firmly Team Biden. But it occurs to me that if RFK Jr. really wanted to do some damage to Biden, what he has to do is flip 180 on Israel, and wrap that up with his anti-empire, anti-militarist views into a serious critique of the mostly-shared Biden/Trump geopolitics. The one thing a third-party candidate most needs is an urgent issue where the two major parties are joined at the hip, and that issue right now is genocide. (And sure, that won't help him with Trump voters, but he still has crazy for them.)

  • Callum Jones: [05-28] Vivek Ramaswamyu uses Buzzfeed stake to demand staff cuts, conservative hires.

  • Juliette Kayyem: [05-23] Trump's assassination fantasy has a darker purpose: "The ex-president's stories of his own victimization make violence by his supporters far more likely."

  • Ed Kilgore: [05-24] Trump guilty verdict would feed election-denial claims. Well, so would an acquittal, or a hung jury. That die was set when he was indicted. Trump certainly thinks that the indictments are proof of a vast conspiracy to get him, and millions of people are happy to believe whatever he says, which guarantees that charging him with anything will get turned into a political circus and raise all sorts of questions about impartial juries and free speech and the political inclinations and entanglements of judges, all of which are certain to be played to the hilt for Trump's political purposes. I could imagine prosecutors with good political instincts deciding that it's not worth all that much trouble to go after Trump, especially on the specific cases they have here.

    That they waited nearly three years after he left office before moving certainly suggests that they were reluctant to take on this fight. They didn't go after Nixon after he resigned -- Ford's peremptory pardon gave them a convenient excuse, but wasn't binding on state prosecutors, and could have been challenged in court. But Nixon never so much as hinted at running again, while Trump is. So, sure, the optics do suggest that he's being prosecuted to derail his campaign, but so is his defense designed to promote his campaign. I have no idea who's winning, or will win, this very strange game. From a purely political standpoint, I've never been sure it was good strategy. (I am pretty certain that the Ukraine impeachment was a bad move, but the Jan. 6 one was well-founded, and that McConnell missed an opportunity there to get Trump disqualified under the 14th amendment, precluding a 2024 run, and probably sparing Trump the indictments -- which all in all would have been a good deal for everyone.)

    Still, I understand that prosecutors like to (no, live to) prosecute, and I have no doubt that they have very strong legal cases. And I do like that in the courtroom, Trump has to come down from his high horse and show some submission to the court. It is one thing to say "nobody's above the law," but that Trump has to show up and shut up, even if he nods off and farts a lot, gives us a graphic illustration of the point. But as for Kilgore's point, the only thing that would stop feeding election-denial claims would be for media like himself to stop airing them.

  • Nicholas Liu: [05-23] Louisiana Republicans declare abortion pills a "dangerous substance," threaten prison and hard labor: "Under the proposed law, people found in possession of the pills could face up to five years behind bars."

  • Clarence Lusane: [05-19] Black MAGA is still MAGA: "Trump's racism and authoritarianism should be disqualifying."

  • Amanda Marcotte: [05-24] Trump's "Biden the assassin" fantasy is pure projection.

  • John Nichols: [05-24] The soulless hypocrisy of Nikki Haley: "Haley has abandoned her opposition to Trump for political expediency." Seriously, did you ever think for a minute that she would "never Trump"? Still, doesn't (yet) strike me as much of an endorsement. Sort of like me sheepishly admitting I'll vote for Biden, despite some really serious issues I have with him. Also see:

  • Timothy Noah: [05-23] Here's what Trump and the GOP really think about the working class.

  • Andrew Prokop: [05-21] Why Trump's running mate could be the most important VP pick of our time: I don't really buy this, but it would take another article to explain all the reasons why. VPs matter very little unless one gets promoted, in which case they're usually mediocre (Coolidge, Truman) to disastrous (Tyler, Andrew Johnson), the exceptions being Teddy Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson (who, like Coolidge and Truman, won a term in their own right). True that Trump's odds of finishing a second term are below-average, but he'd be hard pressed to pick a VP even worse than he is, or one much better.

  • Matthew Stevenson: [05-24] Trump's three penny media opera: The machinations of TMTG, the Trump Media shell corporation.

  • Robert Wright: [05-24] Why Trump is worse than Biden on Gaza (and maybe much worse).

  • The New Republic: What American Fascism would look like: "It can happen here. And if it does, here is what might become of the country." A weighty topic for a special issue, but how seriously can we take a publisher when all the art department could come up with is a bronze-tone Donald Trump head with a somewhat more tastefully clipped Hitler mustache? The articles:

    The first piece in this batch I read was the one by Brooks, partly because I found the title confusing -- do liberals really fantasize about the military? I mean, aside from herself? -- but she's actually pretty clear, if not especially satisfactory, in the article: the military won't rise up to hand Trump power, or otherwise instigate a coup, but if Trump does gain power more or less legitimately and issues clear orders, there is no reason to doubt that they will act on his behalf. The notion that they might act independently to stop Trump is what she dismisses as "liberal fantasy."

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Christopher Cadelago/Sallyl Goldenberg/Elena Schneider: [05-28] Dems in full-blown 'freakout' over Biden. Mostly seems to mean party operatives and fundraisers. I don't know if these reports are credible, but the writers are certainly freaking out:

    "The most diplomatic thing I hear from Democrats is, 'Oh my God, are these the choices we have for president?'"

  • Kate Conger/Ryan Mac: [05-24] Elon Musk ramps up anti-Biden posts on X. One of the authors also contributed to:

  • David Dayen: [05-21] Pelosi may back industry-friendly House crypto bill: "The industry has become a major spender in political campaigns, and the most prodigious fundraiser among Democrats is taking notice." I hate crypto, and this is one of the reasons. Democrats have to raise money just like Republicans do, but when they do they manage to look extra dirty, and nothing's dirtier than crypto.

  • Gabriel Debenedetti: [05-25] When Joe Biden plays pundit: "A close reading of what the president really thinks about 2024 -- at least what he's telling his donors." There's an old joke that Minnesota has two seasons: winter and road repair (which is really just recovering from and preparing for winter). Politicians also have two seasons: one, which never really ends, where they appeal to donors, and another, for several weeks leading up to an election, when they try to appeal to voters. Then, as soon as the votes are counted, it's back to the donors. Successful politicians may try to juggle both, but donors are more critical -- they basically decide who can run and be taken seriously, plus they're always in touch, whereas voters only get one shot, and even then can only choose among donor-approved candidates -- so they get most of the attention. Having wrapped up the nomination early, Biden has time to focus on the donors, raising his war chest. His anemic polls can wait until September, when the voters finally get their season.

  • Ed Kilgore:

    • [05-21] The Biden campaign has a Trump-fatigue problem. Don't we all have a Trump-fagigue problem? Come November, the big question on voters' minds should be what can I actually accomplish with my vote? In 2016, middle-of-the-road voters seized the opportunity to get rid of Hillary Clinton. This time, they have to seriously ask themselves whether they want to finally rid themselves of Donald Trump? Sure, lots of people love him, but they've never been close to a majority. Some people prefer him, but do they really want all the attention and scandal and agita and strife? And while he's sure to claim yet another election was stolen, how many times can he whine before people shrug and leave him to the wolf? Sure, he could threaten to run again, but even William Jennings Bryan was done after losing thrice. Plus he still has those indictments. He has to fight them in order to keep running, but if he gives up the run, it's almost certain he could plea bargain them for no jail time -- and really, how bad would house arrest, which is probably his worst-case scenario, at Mar-a-Lago be?

    • [05-24] Is Biden gambling everything on an early-debate bounce? My read is that the June debate is meant to show Democrats that he can still mount a credible campaign against Trump. If he can -- and a bounce would be nice but not necessary -- it will go a long way to quelling pressure to drop out and open the convention. If he can't, then sure, he'll have gambled and lost, and pressure will build. But at least it will give him a reference point that he has some actual control over -- unlike the polls, which still seem to have a lot of trouble taking him seriously.

  • Joan Walsh: [05-20] Biden fared well as Morehouse. So you didn't hear about it. The upshot seems to have been that the administrators as well as the protesters were on best behavior, and that Biden (unlike some politicians in recent memory) didn't make matters worse.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Economic matters:

  • Luke Goldstein: [05-22] The raiding of Red Lobster: "The bankrupt casual restaurant chain didn't fail because of Endless Shrimp. Its problems date back to monopolist seafood conglomerates and a private equity play." Isn't this always the case? Cue link to:

  • John Herrmann: [05-24] How Microsoft plans to squeeze cash out of AI: "The same way it always has with most everything else -- by leveraging our PCs."

  • Michael Hudson: [05-24] Some myths regarding the genesis of enterprise. Author has a series of books on economic development in antiquity, most recently The Collapse of Antiquity, as well as the forthcoming The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism or Socialism. Two pull quotes from the latter:

    The decline of the West is not necessary or historically inevitable. It is the result of choosing policies dictated by its rentier interests. . . . The threat posed to society by rentier interests is the great challenge of every nation today: whether its government can restrict the dynamics of finance capitalism and prevent an oligarchy from dominating the state and enriching itself by imposing austerity on labor and industry. So far, the West has not risen to this challenge.

    There are essentially two types of society: mixed economies with public checks and balances, and oligarchies that dismantle and privatize the state, taking over its monetary and credit system, the land and basic infrastructure to enrich themselves but choking the economy, not helping it grow.

Ukraine War and Russia:

  • Connor Echols: [05-24] Diplomacy Watch: Ukraine pushes for direct NATO involvement in war: "As Kyiv's battlefield position worsens, the West faces a dangerous choice." As I understand it, they're talking about providing trained NATO personnel to run defensive anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, which would counter the long-range bombing threat and stabilize the current stalemate. That doesn't sound like such a bad idea, as long as it is used to support a reasonable negotiation process. This war was always going to be resolved through negotiations, and has lasted so long only because both sides have unrealistic goals and are afraid of compromise. On the other hand, without a negotiation process, this would just be another hopeless escalation, threatening a wider and even more severe war.

  • Jonathan Chait: [05-23] Trump tells Putin to keep Wall Street Journal reporter hostage through election: "Putin 'will do that for me, but not for anyone else.'" As Chait notes, "by openly signaling to Putin that he does not want Gershkovich to be freed before the election, [Trump] is destroying whatever chances may exist to secure his release before then." As Robert Wright noted (op cit), Republican presidential candidates have a track record of back-channel diplomatic sabotage (Nixon in 1968, Reagan in 1980), but few have ever been so upfront and personal about it. One might even say "nonchalant": like his assertion that he alone could end the Ukraine war "in a day," this seems more like evidence of his own narcissism than political calculation. (Even if he were to placate Putin, Zelensky and his European fan base wouldn't fold immediately.) This got me looking for more pieces on Trump, Russia, and Ukraine:

    • Isaac Arnsdorf/Josh Dawsey/Michael Birnbaum: [04-07] Inside Donald Trump's secret, long-shot plan to end the war in Ukraine. For what it's worth, I think the land division is pretty much a given -- the notion that "to cede land would reward Putin" is just a rhetorical ploy to fight on endlessly, while the ruined, depopulated land is as much a burden as a reward -- but there is still much more that needs to be carefully negotiated, including refugee status, trade, sanctions, arms reduction, and future conflict resolution. I would like to see plebiscites to confirm the disposition of land, preferably 3-5 years down the line (well after refugees have returned or resettled; probably after Ukraine has joined the EU, allowing open migration there; allowing both sides to show what they can do to rebuild; but probably just confirming the present division -- as anything else would make both leaders look bad). Needless to say, Trump has no skills or vision to negotiate any such thing, as his "one day" boasts simply proves. Unfortunately, Biden hasn't shown any aptitude for negotiation, either.

    • Veronika Melkozerova: [04-18] Why Donald Trump 'hates Ukraine': "The once and possibly future president blames the country for his political woes."

    • Lynn Berry/Didi Tang/Jill Colvin/Ellen Knickmeyer: [05-09] Trump-affiliated group releases new national security book outlining possible second-term approach. The group calls itself the America First Policy Institute:

      The book blames Democratic President Joe Biden for the war and repeats Trump's claim that Putin never would have invaded if Trump had been in office. Its main argument in defense of that claim is that Putin saw Trump as strong and decisive. In fact, Trump cozied up to the Russian leader and was reluctant to challenge him.

      I wouldn't read too much into this. The group appears to be about 90% Blob, the rest just a waft of smoke to be blown up Trump's ass. Trump would probably approve of Teddy Roosevelt's foreign policy motto ("speak softly but carry a big stick"), but like everything else, his own personal twist -- a mix of sweet talk and bluster -- is much more peurile, and unaffected by reason and understanding, or even interests beyond his personal and political finances. North Korea is the perfect example, with Trump's full, ungrounded range of emotions accomplishing nothing at all, which was the Blob position all along. Same, really, for Ukraine. Regardless of his rants and raves, when pressed Trump will tow the line, as in [04-18] Donald Trump says Ukraine's survival is important to US.

    • Jeet Heer: Will Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu bless Donald Trump with an October Surprise? "Unlike Joe Biden, the former president benefits from international turmoil."

  • Joshua Keating: [05-22] How worried should we be about Russia putting a nuke in space? About as worried as we should be if the US or any other country did it.

America's empire and the world: I changed the heading here, combining two previous sections (with major cutouts above for Israel and Ukraine), as it's often difficult to separate world news from America's imagininary empire and its actual machinations.


Other stories:

Daniel Falcone: [05-24] In Memoriam: H Bruce Franklin (1934-2024): Historian (1934-2024), see Wikipedia for an overview of his work and life, including political activism starting with opposition to the Vietnam War. His books started with one on Melville, with others on science fiction, prison, fish, and most of all, war. His most recent book, Crash Course: From the Good War to the Forever War (2018; paperback 2024), looks especially interesting, as much as memoir as history. This reprints an interview from 2018. I also found for following by Franklin (several adapted from Crash Course):

  • H Bruce Franklin: [As are the following uncredited pieces.] [2022-08-31] Why talk about loans? Let's quote some of this:

    Vice President Agnew (not yet indicted for his own criminal activities) was even more explicit. Speaking at an Iowa Republican fund-raising dinner in April 1970, Agnew argued that there was too high a percentage of Black students in college and condemned "the violence emanating from Black student militancy." Declaring that "College, at one time considered a privilege, is considered to be a right today," he singled out open admissions as one of the main ways "by which unqualified students are being swept into college on the wave of the new socialism."

    Later in 1970, Roger Freeman -- a key educational adviser to Nixon then working for the reelection of California Governor Ronald Reagan -- spelled out quite precisely what the conservative counterattack was aimed at preventing:

    We are in danger of producing an educated proletariat. That's dynamite! We have to be selective on who we allow to go through higher education. If not, we will have a large number of highly trained and unemployed people.

    The two most menacing institutional sources of the danger described by Freeman were obviously those two great public university systems charging no tuition: the University of California and the City University of New York. Governor Reagan was able to wipe out free tuition at the University of California in 1970, but that left CUNY to menace American society. The vital task of crippling CUNY was to go on for six more years, outlasting the Nixon administration and falling to his appointed successor, Gerald Ford.

  • [2022-01-19] Ready for another game of Russian roulette?

  • [2021-12-03] Ocean winds: Bringing us renewable fish with renewable energy. One of his many books was The Most Important Fish in the Sea: Menhaden and America (2007).

  • [2020-08-14] August 12-22, 1945: Washington starts the Korean and Vietnam Wars. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan's surrender, "allied" troops (including British and French) entered and started their occupation.

  • [2020-08-06] How the Fascists won World War II.

  • [2019-09-20] How we launched our forever war in the Middle East: In July 1958 Eisenhower sent B-52s into Lebanon.

  • [2014-08-03] Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and American militarism: A review of Paul Ham: Hiroshima Nagasaki.

  • [2014-07-16] America's memory of the Vietnam War in the epoch of the forever war.

  • [2003-01-16] Our man in Saigon: A review of the film The Quiet American, based on the Graham Greene novel.

  • [2000] Vietnam: The antiwar movement we are supposed to forget.

  • [1991] The Vietnam War as American science fiction and fantasy.

  • [2022-09-01] H Bruce Franklin's most important books: Interview of Franklin with Doug Storm. When asked about "the Second World War as a good war," Franklin replied:

    No, unfortunately, we lost that war. We thought we were fighting against militarism, fascism, and imperialism. If so, we lost. We lost partly because of how we fought that war, using air attacks on civilian populations as a main strategy. This strategy climaxed with us exploding nuclear bombs on the civilian population of two Japanese cities. That is how we lost the good war.

Connor Freeman: [05-21] The passing of a Republican anti-war, anti-AIPAC fighter: "A veteran himself, Rep. Pete McCoskey railed against the Vietnam War, and continued to question US interventions until his death on May 8."

Sarah Jones:

Max Moran: [05-19] I don't think Jonathan Chait read the book on 'Solidarity' he reviewed: "The New York Magazine pundit spent 2,900 words criticizing a book with no resemblance to the one which prompted his piece." I previously wrote about the Chait piece here.

Virtually none of [Solidarity] is about how liberals need to pipe down and praise leftists more. I don't think intra-elite discursive norms come up at all, except in passing. As far as I can tell, Chait only got the idea that the book's "core tenet" is liberal-policing from one-half of one paragraph of a Washington Post feature about the book, in which Hunt-Hendrix mentions Chait and his contemporary Matt Yglesias as examples of public figures whom she hopes read the book's fourth chapter on conservatives' "divide-and-conquer strategy." That chapter mostly discusses organized right-wing efforts like the Southern Strategy, not the topic preferences of contemporary pundits.

This may come as a shock to Chait, but I don't think that Hunt-Hendrix or Taylor think about him -- or figures like him -- very much at all. Their book's actual argument is that individuals, and even groups of individuals cohered around a common identity, are not the protagonists of history. To Hunt-Hendrix and Taylor, it's only when dedicated groups of people stand up, sacrifice, and risk blood and teeth for other dedicated groups of people, who then return the favor, that society advances and complex problems can be solved. The point is mutual interdependence, in all its messiness and beauty. By contrast, Chait's singular focus on the nobility of liberals standing up to leftists not only has nothing to do with the book's argument, it's self-centered in a way directly opposed to the real thesis of Solidarity. Chait doesn't seem to realize this.

By the way, Jonathan Chait has a new piece that is even more at odds with reality and common sense: [05-28] Anti-Israel protesters want to elect Trump, who promises to crush protesters: "Why Rashida Tlaib is joining the one-state horseshoe alliance." I'm not up for debunking or even debugging this concoction, where even the facts that aren't wrong -- very clearly Trump would be even worse for peace than Biden; most likely if Tlaib "called for the voters to punish Joe Biden at the ballot box" she meant in Democratic primaries, not by voting for Trump, which would be self-punishment -- they are assembled in ways that are utterly disingenuous. I did try looking up "one-state horseshoe alliance," but all I found was a theory, which looks rather like an EKG of Chait's brain.

Anna North: [05-24] Birth control is good, actually.

Christian Paz: [05-24] 3 theories for America's anti-immigrant shift: "A recent poll suggests a reversal in a decades-long trend of the public warming to immigrants. What's causing the shift?" The theories are:

  1. It's the politicians
  2. It's the economy
  3. It's the "law-and-order" mindset

In other words, it's the politicians, who sometimes try to deflect attention to the other bullshit points. And it's only certain politicians, although they have relatively a free run, because it's an issue without a strong countervailing lobby. A lot of us aren't bothered by immigration, but wouldn't mind slowing it down, especially if that shut up the Republicans. Of course, nothing will, because the split is precisely the kind Republicans can exploit, and thereby put less committed Democrats on the defensive. Needless to add, but Republicans couldn't get away with this if the media wasn't helping them at every step.

Rick Perlstein: [05-22] Influencers against influencers: "The TikTok generation finds its voice."

Jeffrey St Clair:

Liz Theoharis/Shailly Gupta Barnes: [05-21] Don't grind the faces of the poor: "The moral response to homelessness."

Also, some writing on music:

Dan Weiss:

  • [05-20] What was it made for? The problem with Billie Eilish's Hit Me Hard and Soft: "She's overwrought and over you."

  • [05-26] Take my money, wreck my Sundays: The 30 best albums of 2024 so far (#30-21): First sign I've seen of "so far" season, with two sets of allegedly better albums coming later in the week: 3 here I haven't heard yet, 1 of those still unreleased; Lafandar (22) currently my number 1 non-jazz, but only 1 more album on my A-list (Maggie Rogers), and some well below (Still House Plants at B-), but 3 more on Christgau's A-list that I shortchanged (Rosie Tucker, Yard Act, Vampire Weekend). I hope the author here ("RIOTRIOT," aka Iris Demento, aka Dan Ex Machina, not to be confused with either of the same-named drummers) won't charge me with deadnaming again.


Phil Freeman posted this on Facebook:

Was interviewing an artist roughly my own age yesterday and at one point one of us said to the other, "If you think America is the most divided it's ever been right now, all that tells me is that you weren't alive in the Seventies, when you had all the chaos of the Sixties but none of the hope."

Several interesting comments followed, including:

  • Chuck Eddy: I was born in 1960, and I definitely can. I guess I'm mainly going with my gut here -- the '70s definitely didn't *feel* anywhere near as verging on Civil War to me as current times do. Could be that's just a byproduct of being much older now, combined with where I was then vs now, but I don't think so. (As for Reagan, I mainly associate him with the '80s, but then again I never lived in California. That terrorist acts seemed to largely come from the Left then rather than the Right might play into my gut feelings as well.)

  • James Keepnews: And yet, how quickly Nixon's support evaporated when it became clear he would be impeached, whereupon he resigned in advance of that happening (the House still voted to impeach him after he left office). Two impeachments in and some criminal convictions to come, and Trump's supporters are only more rabidly supportive of him, and at least poll as a majority of American voters -- that's extremely different from anything that occurred during the 60's/70's in the US.

  • Sean Sonderegger: Nixon was terrible but he also created the EPA. Reagan was much worse but doesn't really come close to Trump.

  • Jeff Tamarkin: I was in my 20s throughout most of the '70s and I despised Nixon, as most people my age did. I despised the right-wingers who voted for him and what they stood for. But never once did I think of Nixon as the leader of a gigantic cult or of his voters as cult members who would support him regardless of what he did or said. I never thought Nixon could destroy democracy and the United States itself, with the blind support of millions. Trump is the most dangerous president we've ever had and the greatest threat to our future. The way he's stuffed the Supreme Court with radical maniacs alone is threatening as hell as hell. I'll take a breath of relief the day he finally keels over from stuffing too many cheeseburgers down his orange face.

I finally wrote my own comment:

I don't remember the '70s as being devoid of hope. I thought we won most of the big issues -- if not all the elections, at least most of the hearts and minds. Nixon signed the EPA not because he wanted to but because he realized that fighting it was a losing proposition, and Nixon would do almost anything to not lose. The conservative movement that gained ground in the '80s was mostly clandestine in the '70s. The late '60s, on the other hand, felt more desperate. Of course, it was easier to be hopeful (or desperate) in your 20s than in your 70s. Objectively, Trump may be worse than his antecedents, but they're the ones that prepared the ground he thrives on -- such direct links as Roger Stone and Roy Cohn not only tie Trump to their history but to the very worst characteristics in that history. But those characters have always existed, and done as much harm as they were allowed to do. The nation has been perilously divided before -- you know about the 1850s, but divides were as sharp in the 1930s, 1890s, and 1790s as in the 1960-70s. You can make a case that the right is more ominous now then ever -- the secession of 1861 was more militarized, but was essentially defensive, while the right today seeks total domination everywhere -- but I can still counter with reasoned hope. The future isn't done yet.

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