Speaking of* [0 - 9]
Sunday, December 3, 2023
Speaking of Which
I spent some time today crafting a
Q&A on "two
fundamental flaws in your thinking" about Hamas, Palestine,
and Israel. It draws on my comment to the De Luca/Cavazuti
piece on Hamas, below. There is, of course, zero chance that
Biden's going to tell Netanyahu: hey, maybe Hamas has a point
after all, so let's talk about it a bit, before we get too
carried away with this war thing.
Like I said, zero chance.
Which leads me to ask an even deeper question: what's the
use of having all this wealth and power if it just locks you
into doing senseless things that are stupid and cruel? I can
see where Hamas might use their power to do something so
self-destructive, because they don't have enough power to
get noticed otherwise. But Israel and the United States
have so much wealth and power, they could actually put it
to some good, and people would love it. Instead, they just
blow things up and kill and starve people. And maybe they
wonder a bit why so many people despise them, but not so
much really, because no one else has the power (or the
death wish) to stop them.
Top story threads:
Israel: The "pause" for exchanging prisoners (aka hostages)
ended on Friday, with Israel immediately resuming its bombardment of
Gaza. The number of Palestinians confirmed killed and the number of
displaced passed the total levels of the 1948-50 war (aka Nakba) --
although the displaced are still locked in besieged Gaza, instead
of scattered in the exile Israel is working so hard to promote.
The euphemism "ethnic cleansing" has become a common term for the
forced expulsion of people from their homes (in Gaza, many of which
were already refugee encampments, set up as temporary during the
1948-50 war). But the more formal legal term is "genocide," which
is still the most accurate description of the war Israel is waging,
and of the professed intentions behind this war. The whole world
should find this alarming, especially those in the democracies that
have long given Israel their support, even in its project to turn
a haven for oppressed Jews into a fortress of ethnic supremacy.
Yuval Abraham: [11-30]
'A mass assassination factory': Inside Israel's calculated bombing
of Gaza: "Permissive airstrikes on non-military targets and the
use of an artificial intelligence system have enabled the Israeli
army to carry out its deadliest war on Gaza."
Aja Arnold: [12-01]
The case against the Merrimack Three is an attack on the Palestine
movement as a whole: "Three activists are facing possible
decades in prison for taking non-violent direct action against
an Israeli military company."
Jaclynn Ashly: [11-28]
The grim reality of Israel's corpse politics: "Israel is the
only country in the world that has a policy of confiscating and
withholding human remains, which is a violation of international
humanitarian and human rights law."
James Bamford: [11-17]
Israel's war on American student activists: "For years the
Israel on Campus Coalition -- a little known organization with
links to Israeli intelligence -- has used student informants to
spy on pro-Palestinian campus groups."
Ross Barken: [11-30]
The pro-Palestinian left is booming: Not a term I'm happy with.
Pro-Palestinian can mean several different things, and not all (or
even most) of them align with the left. You can be on the left and
not give a toss about any nationalist movement. On the other hand,
some people on the left do identify as pro-Palestinian, primarily
because they believe in solidarity with the oppressed, and hardly
anyone is more oppressed than Palestinians these days. But no one
on the left wants to pick sides in a war. We want peace, and with
peace, equality and freedom. Describing that as pro-Palestinian,
or even as anti-Israeli, really misses the point.
Barkan continues his effort to muddy the waters with this:
"The left is split over what it wants to see in the region: One
or two states." That's a false dichotomy, imposed by powers with
ulterior motives. What we on the left want is equal rights for
all people in whatever nations exist. As for how this relates
for forming viable electoral coalitions in America, it probably
doesn't. Here, too, the left faces the problem of achieving more
Daniel Brumberg: [11-30]
How Hamas has made life harder for Iran and its allies: "The
October 7 assault has shaken the assumptions of every player in
the Middle East, including Tehran."
Jessica Buxbaum: [11-30]
'Erase Gaza': How genocidal rhetoric became normalised in Israel.
Samantha Chery: [12-02]
Julianna Margulies apologizes for saying Black, LGBTQ people hate
Jews: That's nice, and no doubt sincere, but it does rather
prove the point, which is that when atrocities occur, not everyone
has the presence of mind, let alone the tact, to say precisely and
clearly the right things first. Actually, that's quite rare, which
is why one should be generous enough not to try to hang people for
their rash, out-of-context quotes. There is another example in this
piece, a quote from Susan Sarandon that is bad on several counts,
for which she, too, has sincerely apologized. I could point out a
few differences, like that consequences (at least in America) seem
to be more more severe for insensitivity and disrespect to Jews than
to Palestinians, and that many of the people (not just Jews, and not
only Jews) who are so quick to remind us of the evil of antisemitism
have shown similar concern for Palestinians, despite (how shall we
put this?) ample evidence on numerous occasions in the 75 years since
Thalif Deen: [11-27]
How the US made Israel's military what it is today: "Washington
has provided over $130 billion in unrestricted aid and weapons to
Tel Aviv, more than any other country, ever."
Dan De Luca/Lisa Cavazuti: [10-25]
Gaza is plagued by poverty, but Hamas has no shortage of cash. Where
does it come from? "Hamas has an investment portfolio of real
estate and other assets worth $500 million, say experts, and an
annual military budget of as much as $350 million." I found this
piece when I was looking for some backup reference for a reader's
assertion that "at its core Hamas is essentially a criminal enterprise
which made nearly a billion in the last few years. Pornography, drugs
and human trafficking." (Also: "Hamas merely acts as a beard for
Iran.") This piece provides some support for those assertions, but
even here the headline gets trimmed down pretty fast: "Estimates
for its annual military budget range from $100 million to $350
million, according to
Israeli and Palestinian sources." (Article says $100 million,
of which $40 million "goes to terror group's tunnel digging work."
The "Palestinian sources do not include Hamas.)
to react to such numbers by thinking they're huge (and wasteful,
and a shade demonic), but are they really? Israel's military budget
is more than $23 billion (and they're spending at a much higher
rate right now -- the $14 billion Biden requested gives you an idea
how much), so even by these lavish estimates, Hamas is spending at
most 1% as much as Israel, probably less than 0.5%. Moreover, while
labor costs may be cheap in Gaza, the cost of goods must be very
dear, as they have to be purchased illicitly, then smuggled into
As for all that cash, the article points out that Qatar is a
major source, but all Qatari cash passes through Israel, with its
safeguards against redirection to Hamas. The US and others have
been sanctioning Hamas for years. While that never seems to work
100%, it does strain credibility to think that Hamas leaders are
sitting on huge cash reserves in foreign resorts. And if they
were living so high on the hog, why did they blow it all up by
launching that Oct. 7 revolt?
Connor Echols: [11-30]
The myth of the 'surgical' war: Interview with Sam Moyn "about
what international law really means."
Rabea Eghbariah: [11-21]
The Harvard Law Review refused to run this piece about genocide
Thomas L Friedman: [12-01]
I'm not going to try to argue the points, but this is basically similar
to the Gaza separation proposal I've been pushing since the war started
(and, effectively, for many years prior). Not exactly the same: it's
meaner-spirited, and more petulant (renewing the post-Munich assassination
teams). But he's got a good lede, quoting Confucius: "'Before you embark
on a journey of revenge, dig two graves' -- one for your enemy and one
for yourself." Israel has no solution for Gaza, nor even any help. Just
ever-renewing problems, not least for itself.
Melvin Goodman: [12-01]
Mainstream media largely ignore Israel's duplicity and deceit:
Examples go all the way back to 1948.
Bassam Haddad/Sinan Antoon: [11-28]
This open license must be revoked: The "license" refers to the
charge of "antisemitism against any and all critics of Israel."
Who granted it, and how it can be "revoked" aren't clear. But its
use to defend Israel is at best confusing. (So, the people against
genocide are the antisemites? And the people who support Israel's
militarized apartheid state aren't antisemites? Even the ones who
sound so much like antisemites of yore?) And in the long run, it's
likely to backfire, either by making antisemitism seem like not
such a bad thing, or turning it into a badge of honor.
Tareq S Hajjaj: [11-30]
'They shot her son in her arms and forced her to throw his body':
testimonies from the death march on Salah al-Din Street.
Imad Abu Hawash: [11-22]
'If you don't leave, we'll kill you': Hundreds flee Israeli settler
violence in Hebron area.
Noah Hurowitz: [11-27]
Not in Their Name: "Jewish Voice for Peace doesn't just oppose
the war; it challenges the link between Jewish identity and support
Ellen Ioanes: [12-02]
Israel moves into southern Gaza after a week-long truce -- and its
goals are murkier than ever.
Hebh Jamal: [11-30]
How Israel's war is deliberately making Gaza uninhabitable.
Nadim Khoury: [11-30]
Israel-Palestine war: Why the West can't conceive of a Palestinian
right to security.
Menachem Klein: [11-28]
Israeli arrogance thwarted a Palestinian political path. October 7
revealed the cost: Explains a 2021 Fatah-Hamas agreement, which
"offered a different political horizon," but was quashed by Israel
and the US, refusing to allow Palestinians to elect new leaders to
represent them in talks with Israel.
Joe Biden moves to lift nearly every restriction on Israel's access
to U.S. weapons stockpile.
Dan Lamothe/Alex Horton: [11-27]
Thousands leave behind American lives to join Israel's war in Gaza.
Zach Levitt/Amy Schoenfeld Walker: [12-02]
What the scale of displacement in Gaza looks like.
Eric Levitz: [11-28]
In Bibi's Israel, Musk's brand of antisemitism is kosher. This
article touches on a number of important points -- more than I feel
up to unpacking at the moment: the decline and resurfacing (largely
after Trump encouraged the crypto-nazis to pop up) of antisemitism
in America; the historic pact of convenience between antisemites
and Zionists, who before Israel were opposed by left and orthodox
Jews, and ignored by the masses who preferred emigration to America;
the hardening of Israel as a racist colonial project, with alliances
to right-wing political movements around the world; the propaganda
war that seeks to discredit opposition to Israel's apartheid and
emergent genocide by branding critics as antisemitic. But for now,
here's a paragraph to mull over:
There is no inherent conflict between the interests of Jews in Israel
and those who live everywhere else. Yet there is an inescapable
contradiction between the values of Israel's far-right government
and those that best serve the Jewish diaspora. As minority populations,
diasporic Jewish communities have an interest in pluralism, egalitarianism,
and inviolable human-rights protections. By contrast, as the vanguard of
a Jewish supremacist project that aims to either ethnically cleanse
Palestinians in the occupied territories or subject them to unending
apartheid, the current Israeli government is hostile to all of those
values. Therefore, its search for allies abroad inevitably leads it
into the arms of parties and political figures who are bad for the
Charisma Madarang: [11-30]
Israel knew Hamas' attack plan a year before Oct. 7: Report.
Draws on Ronen Bergman/Adam Goldman: [11-30]
Israel knew Hamas's attack plan more than a year ago: "Israeli
officials dismissed it as aspirational and ignored specific warnings."
Joseph Massad: [11-30]
Why Israeli claims have no credibility outside of the West.
Nicole Narea: [11-22]
The many, many times Israelis and Palestinians tried to make peace --
and failed. Useful checklist, but the reason all these "tries"
fell through is almost always Israel refused or reneged. For another
piece on the same subject, see Jon Schwarz: [11-28]
All the times Israel has rejected peace with Palestinians.
Jonathan Ofir: [12-01]
Israel's Gaza onslaught is the next stage of the Dahiya Doctrine:
Dahiya Doctrine was coined by current Minister Gadi Eisenkot when
he was Chief of Northern Command in 2008. The military doctrine, named
after the Dahiya quarter of Beirut that Israel targeted and leveled
during the 2006 war, outlines 'what will happen' to any enemy that
dares attack Israel." In other words, it calls for massive collective
punishment of any neighborhood where anyone defies Israel.
Yumna Patel: [11-30]
Israel has a long history of taking Palestinian children captive.
Mitchell Plitnick: [12-02]
Biden works to create plausible deniability as he backs Israel's
assault on Gaza. With their leaked notes advising caution and
prudence, it's almost as if they're seeding their defense brief
for eventual trial in The Hague.
Maria Rashed: [11-29]
UK protests expose wide gulf between gov't and public on Palestine.
Dan Sabbagh: [12-01]
Israel's military strategy threatens to make a desperate situation
Israel's insidious narrative about Palestinian prisoners.
Areeba Shah: [11-24]
"Powerful influence of wealthy lobbyists": Right-wing group pressures
lawmakers on pro-Israel bills: "ALEC, the group behind a wave of
bills to crack down on Israel boycotts, urges states to unconditionally
Language, social media, and the Gaza information war: "Mainstream
media no longer dominate battle for hearts and minds in Gaza war."
IDF efforts to eliminate Hamas have failed: Much ado about body
Israeli claims of Hamas sexual assaults lay its credulity on the
line. I usually find Silverstein to be pretty credible in his
detailed pieces about how Israel operates, but will note here that
Eric Levitz is now saying "there is no excuse for denial now,"
this article. While I'm sure any rapes were horrific, as indeed
was the mere appearance of armed Palestinian intruders in any Israeli
home, this strikes me as a small matter in the broad scheme of things.
It is, however, the sort of detail that propagandists love to pounce
[PS: In a later
tweet, Levitz backs down a bit, admitting the
article he cites is a bit fishy. In the meantime, I was reading the
part in Viet Tanh Nguyen's Nothing Ever Dies where he talks
about the inevitability of rape in war, in much the same terms
Levitz uses. As a general rule, sure, but do the rapes really
start on the first day of a war (which for Hamas was the only
day out of their cage, where they had potential victims, at a
time when their position was so precarious that most were bound
to die)? My impression is that war rapes mostly happen after
the war has ground down, in secure but still alien territory,
with the complicity of your fellow troops.]
[PPS: Mondoweiss also has
a piece debunking the rape reports.]
Netanyahu plan to "thin out" Gaza population to "bare minimum":
"Israel claims it is not ethnic cleansing, but a humanitarian
As Israel plans Gaza ethnic cleansing, US says no.
Israeli MKs, messianic evangelicals lobby Congress for ethnic
Margaret Sullivan: [11-28]
The Israel-Hamas war is deadly for journalists. Lives are being lost,
and truth: "At least 53 journalists have been killed since 7
October, the deadliest figure in the 30 years of keeping these
Philip Weiss: [11-29]
Biden became 'Genocide Joe' thanks to the Israel lobby.
Sammy Westfall/Helier Cheung: [11-30]
Here are the hostages released by Hamas and those remaining in
Jason Willick: [12-01]
What Chuck Schumer gets wrong about antisemitism on the left:
This piece has been bugging me, and it's probably not worth the
trouble trying to figure out why. Obvious first point is that
anyone who talks about antisemitism in the left doesn't know
the most basic definitions. If you're on the left, you believe
that all people deserve the same rights and respect, and there's
no reconciling that belief with discrimination on race, ethnic
group, religion, creed, sex, or any other arbitrary division.
But also, and this is the part that right can't wrap their minds
around, you also don't believe that people who have been oppressed
should have the right to oppress others.
Schumer and Willick are slightly at odds here, but Willick is
reluctant to attack such a reliable mouthpiece for Israeli interests.
His own views are more clear from his recent columns:
The latter is most relevant here, as it confuses the left with
the Democratic Party, echoing a common (mostly from centrist elites)
complaint about intersectional coalition building. Also note a
better critique of Schumer's speech:
Trump, and other Republicans:
Zack Beauchamp: [11-29]
Nikki Haley's "rise" and the Republican flight from reality:
The Koch political arm, Americans for Prosperity Action, endorsed
Haley. Given the current polls, Beauchamp thinks this utter folly.
But there is still a non-trivial chance that Trump's candidacy
could simply implode, leading to a desperate search for any kind
of replacement. The current Republican field screams "none of the
above" -- the obvious contenders from 2016 chose to sit this one
out, leaving it to a few perishables and extreme longshots. But
of the field, Haley is the one who's managed to get serious press
support, and without compromising her stake on evil. So I'm not
sure this is such a bad bet (except for America, of course).
Speaking of Haley, here's some of the latest:
Kyle Cheney/Josh Gerstein: [12-01]
Trump may be sued over Jan. 6 incitement claims, appeals court panel
Chauncey DeVega: [12-01]
The violence is Trump's goal: "It is both the means as well
as the goal of Trump's fascist political project."
Hailey Fuchs/Heidi Przybyla: [11-28]
Leonard Leo firm received $21M from Leo-linked group.
Robert Kagan: [11-30]
A Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop
pretending. Long, serious piece, but yes, that Robert Kagan,
so just noted in passing, without the scrutiny to root out its
rotten core. Seriously, warmongers like Kagan make Trump look
not so bad (but then he hires ones like McMaster, Pompeo, and
Bolton, and screws up even worse).
Paul Krugman: [11-30]
Donald Trump still wants to kill Obamacare. Why? Probably just
because people still call it Obamacare. He could just pass the same
law again, maybe with a couple extra loopholes for graft, and call
it Trumpcare, and he'd be peachy keen. (That's basically what
happened when NAFTA became USMCA.) Also:
Heather Digby Parton: [12-01]
Newsom humiliates DeSantis on Fox News.
Amanda Marcotte: [11-30]
Students for Trump founder said guns made "women equal" -- before
allegedly pistol-whipping a woman: "Ryan Fournier repeatedly
said MAGA are women's true protectors -- he's under arrest for
hitting his girlfriend."
Donald P Moynihan: [11-27]
Trump has a master plan for destroying the 'deep state': I.e.,
the "administrative state," the professional civil servants, who
work to serve the public, according to the laws they are sworn to
uphold, regardless of the political interests of the president.
The GOP showed again how anti-worker it really is.
Christian Paz: [12-01]
Can the party of Trump really become a multiracial coalition?
Patrick Ruffini is pushing that line, especially in his book,
Party of the People: Inside the Multiracial Populist Coalition
Remaking the GOP.
Beth Reinhard/Manuel Roig-Franzia/Clara Ence Morse: [12-02]
Trump pardoned them. Now they're helping him return to power.
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Legal matters and other crimes:
Gabrielle Gurley: [11-30]
Abortion confusion in Texas: "State courts must now decide how
to handle life-threatening pregnancy issues that state attorneys,
lawmakers, and medical officials refuse to clear up."
Cristian Farias: [12-02]
The Supreme Court Sandra Day O'Connor left behind is dead, too:
"Her successors abandoned the principles of pragmatism and compromise
she represented." She just
died, at 93. Just think: if she hadn't
resigned, we wouldn't have gotten Samuel Alito, and Biden would be
able to appoint her successor. But she was a Republican partisan,
a Reagan appointee, who proved her bona fides in throwing the 2000
election to GW Bush. Our friend Liz Fink was always a shrewd judge
of Supreme Court justices -- she was the first I knew who suggested
that David Souter might not turn out to be so bad -- had this take
on O'Connor: that while she would allow states to hassle women
seeking abortions, she would never rule against that right of
well-to-do white women, like herself. She never did, but she did
pave the way for her Party to take away your rights.
Stephen I Vladeck: [11-28]
The Fifth Circuit is making the Supreme Court look reasonable.
Climate and environment:
COP 28 Climate Summit: Updates on the global warming talks.
More on COP 28:
Kevin Crowe/Brady Dennis: [11-30]
Extreme weather helped fuel surge in malaria cases last year.
Scott Dance: [11-30]
This year will be Earth's hottest in human history, report
William B Davis/Judson Jones: [12-02]
2023 hurricane season ends, marked by storms that 'really rapidly
intensified'. Somehow, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean
got spared (aside from Idalia), despite record warm temperatures,
with a lot of storms turning north far out in the Atlantic. But
also there were a lot of storms in the eastern Pacific -- and,
though not detailed there, in the western Pacific, and for that
matter in the Indian Ocean.
Oliver Milman: [11-27]
US oil and gass production set to break record in 2023 despite UN
climate goals: 12.9m barrels of crude oil. That's more than
double since 2009, when Obama became president, after 8 years of
declining production and soaring prices under GW Bush.
Around the world:
Henry Kissinger: He died, a nice round 100 years old,
elites sucking up to him to the very end. Which raises the question:
who is the new worst person in the world? (Here's a
reddit thread, which still needs some work -- although I'd keep
Murdoch and Netanyahu for the short list, maybe Putin too. More fun
is who Kissinger succeeded? If not his partner-in-crime, Nixon, I'd
nominate Winston Churchill, who exceeded Kissinger not only in the
amount of damage he caused, but also in the amount of praise -- if
not necessarily money -- he collected along the way. One difference
was that people kept forgetting Churchill's disasters, allowing him
more chances, whereas Kissinger's crimes were studiously documented
(as will be evident below), even though people in power never seemed
Dylan Matthews: [11-30]
What Henry Kissinger wrought. The bullet points (subheds):
- Henry Kissinger supported Pakistan's genocide in Bangladesh
- Henry Kissinger supported Indonesia's bloody invasion of East Timor
- Henry Kissinger backed brutal bombing raids in Cambodia
- Henry Kissinger sabotaged peace talks with Vietnam
- Henry Kissinger supported military coups against democratic
leaders in Chile and Argentina
- Henry Kissinger's good deed: opening China
Spencer Ackerman: [11-29]
Henry Kissinger, war criminal beloved by America's ruling class,
John Bartlett/Uki Goñi/Julian Borger: [11-30]
Latin America remembers Kissinger's 'profound moral wretchedness'.
Daniel Boguslaw: [11-30]
Members of Israel's ruling Likud Party once planned to assassinate
Henry Kissinger: This was in 1977, "according to a news report
from the time." One should recall that in 1948 Lehi, led by future
Likud Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, assassinated UN mediator Count
Grandin previously (2015) wrote:
Shadow: The Long Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman.
He also wrote the introduction to a Jacobin book expected to
ship later this month:
Good Die Young: The Verdict on Henry Kissinger.
Jonathan Guyer: [12-01]
The 4 final acts of Henry Kissinger: "Accountability never came,
only more birthday cake." Many good lines here, like: "He said a lot
of words and told anecdotes that in the moment riveted the room, but
there was no great substance about how to solve perennial problems
that would explode again in less than 48 hours."
Brian Karem: [12-01]
My conversations with Henry Kissinger, a man I abhorred.
Henry Kissinger only cared about one thing: "All of the death and
misery he left in his wake was a mere by-product of his single-minded
pursuit of elite power."
Charisma Madarang: [11-30]
Media, conservatives team up to lionize war criminal Henry Kissinger.
Joseph Massad: [11-30]
The murderous legacy of Henry Kissinger.
Tom McKenna: [11-30]
Scathing obituaries of Henry Kissinger don't mince words about his
Ben Rhodes: [11-30]
Henry Kissinger, the hypocrite.
On top of everything else, Henry Kissinger prevented peace in the
Choire Sicha: [11-29]
Henry Kissinger, the devil at the dinner party: "His long final
act -- after Harvard and D.C. and Cambodia -- was spent at New York's
more rarefied tables."
Norman Solomon: [11-30]
Henry Kissinger was the definition of elite impunity.
Tatyana Tandanpolie: [11-30]
"Murderous scumbag": Anthony Bourdain's brutal takedown of "war
criminal" Henry Kissinger goes viral.
Nick Turse: [12-01]
Ask brutalized Cambodians what they think of Kissinger.
Travis Waldron/George Zornick: [11-29]
Henry Kissinger, America's most notorious war criminal, dies at 100:
"The titan of American foreign policy was complicit in millions of
deaths -- and never showed remorse for his decisions."
- Politico Magazine: [11-30]
'My mother told me not to speak ill of the dead': Political experts
on Henry Kissinger's legacy. They consulted ten "experts," and
took the title from Rosa Brooks, who added, "which pretty much
precludes me from saying anything at all about Henry Kissinger."
Even the ones who try to say something nice have trouble conveying
Responsible Statecraft: [12-01]
Symposium: Peace or destruction -- what was Kissinger's impact?:
"Wide range of experts and commentators weigh in on the conflicted
legacy of an American statesman." George Beebe is one of the few to
applaud Kissinger, in terms that Tom Blanton immediately punctures
in the next entry:
The declassified legacy of Henry Kissinger undermines the triumphant
narrative he labored so hard to build, even for his successes. The
opening to China, for example, turns out to be Mao's idea with Nixon's
receptiveness, initially dissed by Kissinger. His shuttle diplomacy
in the Middle East did reduce violence but it took Anwar Sadat and
then Jimmy Carter to make the peace that Kissinger failed to accomplish.
The 1973 Vietnam settlement was actually available in 1969, but Kissinger
mistakenly believed he could do better by going through Moscow or
Beijing. Meanwhile, Kissinger's callousness about the human cost runs
through all the documents.
Tim Alberta: [12-01]
The bogus historians who teach evangelicals they live in a theocracy:
"A new book on the Christian right reveals how a series of unscrupulous
leaders turned politics in to a powerful and lucrative gospel." That
would be Alberta's own book: The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory:
American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism.
Jeremy Barr: [11-30]
MSNBC draws backlash for canceling Mehdi Hasan show.
Chas Danner/Nia Prater: [12-01]
George Santos has been expelled from Congress: Live updates. The
House vote was
311-114: Democrats voted 206-2 (2 present) to expel; Republicans
112-105 to not expel. The measure required a two-thirds supermajority
(282 votes). Five Republicans (including Kevin McCarthy) and three
Democrats (including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) did not vote.
Silvia Foster-Frau/N Kirkpatrick/Arelia R Hernández: [11-16]
Terror on Repeat: "A rare look at the devastation caused by AR-15
Penelope Green: [11-30]
Larry Fink, whose photographs were 'political, not polemical,' dies
at 82. I noted Larry's death last week, and complained that the
New York Times didn't have an obituary up. (When his sister, Elizabeth
Fink, died a few years back, her obituary appeared, at least briefly,
above that of Yogi Berra.) Here it is, complete with a nice selection
of his photographs ("the chilly anomie of Manhattan's haute monde,
the strangeness of Hollywood royalty and the lively warmth of rural
Jeet Heer: [11-26]
Garry Wills and the real Kennedy curse: Unfortunately, this is
a 1:43:30 podcast with no transcript, so I can't imagine myself
slogging through it, but I want to at least note that my interest
was piqued by "our shared love for Garry Wills's The Kennedy
Imprisonment, a revelatory book about not just the Kennedy
family but also the nature of 'great man politics.'" I've read
a number of Wills's books, starting (long ago) with Nixon
Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-Made Man, which at the
time I saw as a brilliant dissection.
Anita Jain: [12-01]
How Franklin Roosevelt tamed Wall Street: Review of Diana B
Henriques: Taming the Street: The Old Guard, the New Deal, and
FDR's Fight to Regulate American Capitalism. Over the course
of American history, there have been few cases where presidential
leadership actually meant something, but the most brilliant of
all was Roosevelt's handling of the banking panic in the first
weeks of his administration. He ordered a "banking holiday" to
stop the withdrawals, and addressed the nation via radio, where
he explained in authoritative detail how banking worked, why it
was vulnerable to panics, and how they can be avoided with a
little patience. When he reopened the banks, the panic had
subsided, but he still moved quickly to pass a new law to make
sure such panics wouldn't happen again (as they had regularly
throughout American history). This law was the Carter-Glass
Act, which worked brilliantly -- especially federal deposit
insurance -- for 65 years, until Citibank got the Republican
Congress and Clinton to repeal it, a mere ten years before the
biggest banking crisis since 1933. This was the cornerstone of
Roosevelt's famous "100 days," which remains the "gold standard"
for what Democratic government can do with a large majority in
Congress and business back on their heels. (And yes, one of the
most important things they did was get rid of the gold standard,
which had become a dead weight on the world economy.)
A good book to read on this is Adam Cohen: Nothing to Fear:
FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern
America. As someone who was born in 1950, I grew up with
little sense of what Roosevelt accomplished, even though it was
all around me. Democrats were way too modest. This contrasts
starkly with the Republicans' systematic efforts to memorialize
Lincoln and Reagan.
Sarah Jones: [11-29]
The infidel turned Christian: "When Ayaan Hirsi Ali renounced
Islam for atheism, her conversion made her a global star." Now,
she's reinventing herself.
Ezra Klein: [12-03]
The books that explain where we are in 2023. A noble undertaking,
but a hard one for anyone to read enough to undertake. None here
that I've read, but half or so I've reported on. Still, isn't it
a bit strange that when he looks for a book on Israel, all he comes
up with is Ari Shavit's 10-year-old My Promised Land? I did
read a substantial extract from that book, where he describes in
considerable detail the
1948 expulsion of Palestinians from Lydda and Ramle -- we'd
call that "ethnic cleansing" these days -- and rationalizes it as
essential to the founding and glory of his beloved Israel.
I could complain that much more has been written on Israel/Palestine
since then, but the book I still most recommend came out in 2004:
Richard Ben Cramer's How Israel Lost: The Four Questions.
The most enduring of those questions is why Israel keeps pushing
the parameters of a peace settlement beyond what Palestinians
are willing to accept. But he also has some insights as to why
Palestinian leaders have proven so inept at negotiating with
More book lists/reviews:
Keren Landman: [11-29]
US life expectancy no longer catastrophic, now merely bad.
Clay Risen: [11-30]
Pablo Guzmán, Puerto Rican activist turned TV newsman, dies at 73:
A name I recognize from back in the 1970s, involved with a group
called the Young Lords.
Nathan J Robinson: [11-28]
Why you should primarily focus on your own country's crimes:
"Why don't U.S. activists focus on the crimes of the Chinese
government? Because we're responsible for what is done in our
name, and what we can most affect." Well, also because echoing
a moral critique by Americans in power is taken to ratify and
promote hostile foreign policies that often only make the
problems worse, and in any case are beyond what the US should
be doing abroad. And also because, regardless of how pure your
intentions are, you're not likely to be heard beyond the din
of American saber-rattling. As for other countries that are
allied with America (like Israel and Saudi Arabia), you have
no business interfering with them, but you can certainly
question why the US helps them oppress their own people.
Aja Romano: [11-17]
The Crown increasingly becomes a fantastical apologetic for the royal
Jeffrey St Clair: [12-01]
Roaming Charges: The Dr. Caligari of American Empire: Title
refers to Kissinger, the opening subject here, with much more to
Washington Monthly: [11-28]
Remembering Charlie Peters: A useful compendium of articles
and other tributes occasioned by the death of Washington
Monthly's founder and long-time editor. I cited James Fallows:
Why Charlile Peters matters last week. No need to list them all
here, since that's what this article is for, but let me point out:
Clinton Williamson: [11-23]
You have "the right to be lazy": "Paul Lafargue's anti-work manifesto
is newly relevant in a time when the very idea of labor is changing."
Lafargue (1842-1911) published his book in 1883.
The irony of conflating anti-zionism with antisemitism is that in the
beginning, zionism's most essential backers, the British government,
supported zionism because they were actively antisemitic and wanted
to make sure Jewish refugees from Russian pogroms didn't come to Britain
Eye for an eye is now twenty eyes for one eye. And ever trending up.
Gotta stop. Hamas' taking of the first eye was horrific. How much more
horror will Israel and the US now inflict in response? Gaza is being
vaporized. For what?
Ask a question, or send a comment.
Saturday, November 25, 2023
Speaking of Which
I started collecting this on Tuesday, mostly because I didn't want
to let the Stevenson piece go without comment. The Mishra, which could
still use some work, was also found in the Wichita Eagle that day.
I had much more to write about the Ryu Spaeth piece, only some of
which got tacked onto the footer section. Two points would have fit
only awkwardly, but let me take a brief stab at them here:
Most leftists are informed and defined by a core philosophical
principle -- that all people are fundamentally equal, and justice
demands that they be respected as such -- but the left isn't some
sort of religion or cult; it is a political tendency, effectively
a party, aiming to incrementally improving justice by recognizing
our fundamental equality. People who embrace this core principle
will join the left, but you don't have to adopt the right thinking
to align with the left. All you need is to find that your interests
would be better served by the advance of the left. That happens a
lot, especially with oppressed minorities. A bunch of things follow
from this (which I'd rather not have to spell out at the moment --
one of which is that Jews in America, where there is risk of
oppression, gravitate left, whereas in Israel, where they have
attained the power to oppress others, they trend to the right).
Most leftists in America have come to embrace nonviolence,
partly because we have come to realize that violence corrodes the
spirit and compounds the difficulties of furthering justice, but
also because it's more promising in our political system, which
in principle allows for popular reform -- even though the system
is heavily stacked against it. It is therefore tempting to raise
nonviolence as a moral absolute, to condemn all exceptions, and
to purge the left political movement of those who fall short of
our ideals. I am pretty close to being an absolute pacifist, but
even I have to admit that this would be self-defeating.
reasons: violence, especially in self-defense, is a universal
human instinct, one we may disapprove of and often regret, but
cannot totally deny, because in some circumstances it seems like
the only option for saving our humanity; throughout most history,
at least since the left became a distinct political force, the
only way change toward greater equality and justice could be
achieved was through violence (e.g., the great revolutions from
1776 to 1917); even where reforms have been achieved, they were
often conceded to hold back the threat of revolutionary violence.
Of course, we now more fully realize that our violence has a dark
side. But aren't there still situations where nonviolent change
is so completely closed off that only through violence can people
assert their humanity?
I don't think that we, in neurotic but still fundamentally liberal
America, can with certainty assert that people barely surviving in
Gaza have any real, viable options. Sure, one may still hope that nonviolent
means, like BDS, might persuade Israel to lessen its stifling grip over
its Palestinian subjects, but it may be that all the nonviolent protest
has achieved -- and it has been tried at least as often as violence --
has been to reaffirm the faith of right-wing Israelis that overwhelming
force will always prevail. Even before the rise of Smotrich and Ben-Gvir,
but accelerating at an alarming rate after they joined the Netanyahu
government, West Bank settlers had moved beyond their initial goal of
staking claim to land to terrorizing Palestinians, hoping to drive them
into exile. Israel's support for Azerbaijan's "ethnic cleansing" of
Nagorno-Karabakh sure looked like a dress rehearsal for Israel driving
Palestinians out of the West Bank.
While I personally believed that the revolt of Oct. 7 was
ill-considered, politically reckless, and morally hazardous,
their political and moral struggle was not mine to dictate or
to judge. So I saw no point in condemning what appeared to be
an act of desperation. Certainly not to make myself feel more
righteous in comparison. Even less so as it would lend comfort
to those who would take this act of violence and use as excuse
to strike back even harder. And that part took no imagination
on my part, as by the time I had heard the news, many Israelis
were already clamoring for massive revenge -- as could have been
expected, given that Israel's whole system of governing is based
on their capacity for inflicting overwhelming violence.
Similarly, I can hardly condemn Israelis for defending
themselves once the revolt broke out of Gaza. I would only point
out that the defense was complete, and should have ended, once
the attackers were rebuffed, and the border secured -- which
happened within 24 hours of the initial attacks. The war since
then, including some 40,000 tons of bombs Israel has dropped on
Gaza, cannot be considered self-defense. This bombardment is no
less than an act of systematic destruction and slaughter, an act
that can only be summed up in the word "genocide."
Israelis have disputed that word, but with independence in 1948
they established a formal caste system with distinct legal status
for Jews and Arabs, driving some 700,000 of the latter into exile,
expropriating their property, and forbidding their return. They've
also, building on the British model, regularly practiced collective
punishment, including indiscriminate killing. Those are two of the
three essential constituents of genocide. The third is the loss of
inhibition against killing, which has been happening continuously
since the 2000 Intifada and the 2006 loss of Gaza to Hamas, such
that the Oct. 7 revolt merely tipped the impulse into action, with
public statements to match. It is still possible that Israel's
leaders will come to second thoughts and rein their killing in,
but until they do, shying away from the term only encourages them
Much more I could write on this, but time to post on schedule
is running out.
Top story threads:
Israel: If you are at all unclear on how we got to the
revolt on Oct. 7 and the subsequent intensification of the Israeli
war against Gaza, start with this timeline:
Countdown to genocide: the year before October 7.
Ghada Ageel: [11-25]
While the world has abandoned Gaza, its doctors have done the opposite.
They are our heroes.
Michael Arria: [11-26]
Three Palestinian students shot in Vermont in apparent hate
Erin Banco/Nahal Toosi: [11-21]
US has sent Israel data on aid group locations to try to prevent
strikes: Which didn't exactly work, or did it?
Zack Beauchamp: [11-22]
The Israel-Hamas deal is not a real ceasefire.
Roger Cohen: [11-20]
Between Israelis and Palestinians, a lethal psychological chasm grows:
This "chasm" is real, but its symmetry is forced. One side has immensely
more power than the other to punish and/or to forgive, and as such has
responsibility for perpetuating the hostility.
Dave DeCamp: [11-22]
Biden admin worries the pause in Gaza will give journalists more access
to expose Israeli atrocities.
Richard Falk: [11-24]
When is 'a humanitarian pause' genocidal?
Abdallah Fayyad: [11-22]
Why Israel imprisons so many Palestinians: "150 Palestinian prisoners
are being released as part of Israel and Hamas's recent hostage deal. But
thousands more remain behind bars."
Joshua Frank: [11-19]
The dangers only multiply: "Could Israel's war on Gaza go
nuclear?" No surprise that at least one of Israel's more sociopathic
politicians suggested that it should, but common sense argues that
it won't: mostly because the target is too close to risk the nuclear
fallout. On the other hand, it's sobering to read this line: "Indeed,
25,000 tons of bombs had already been dropped on Gaza by early
November, the equivalent of two Hiroshima-style nukes (without the
radiation)." One thing that's not stopping Israel is scruples about
Sophia Goodfriend: [11-24]
Israel's 'thought police' law ramps up dangers for Palestinian social
media users. The amendment was first drafted a year-and-a-half
ago, but only passed in the current panic.
Jonathan Guyer: [11-22]
The Israel-Hamas hostage deal, explained: "This is a deal that
has essentially been on the table for about a month," i.e., well
before Israel's ground offensive.
Tareq S Hajjaj: [11-25]
A 'temporary ceasefire' means realizing how much we've lost.
Sam Hamad: [11-18]
Understanding Hasbara: Israel's propaganda machine.
Benjamin Hart: [11-22]
How long could the Israel-Hamas ceasefire last? Interview with
Gershon Baskin ("an Israeli peace activist who played a key role in
the freeing of Gilad Shalit" in 2006), who plainly states: "There is
no scenario where the war ends with Hamas in control of Gaza."
Ellen Ioanes: [11-24]
The controversial phrase "from the river to the sea," explained.
Amira Jarmakani: [11-20]
The ADL is leading the attack against free speech on Palestine.
Caitlin Johnstone: [11-13]
Israelis keep hurting their own PR interests by talking.
Fred Kaplan: [11-22]
One factor behind the Gaza cease-fire deal: A massive shift in the US
relationship with Israel.
Kathy Kelly: [11-24]
Tunnels for safety and tunnels for death.
Jen Kirby: [11-22]
How Qatar became a key broker in the Israel-Hamas deal.
Daniel Larison: [11-22]
The warfare of starvation: "The siege will kill Palestinian
civilians and by doing nothing, the US is supporting it."
Lauren Leatherby: [11-25]
Gaza civilians, under Israeli barrage, are being killed at historic
pace: "In less than two months, more than twice as many women and
children have been reported killed in Gaza than in Ukraine after two
years of war." Also see the Corey Robin tweets,
John Mueller: [11-21]
What if Israel didn't set out to 'destroy Hamas'? "The case for a
limited response after the October 7 attacks."
Orly Noy: [11-23]
What Israelis won't be asking about the Palestinians released for
hostages: "The list of Palestinians slated to be exchanged for
Israelis should provoke reflection over the role of mass imprisonment
in the occupation."
Taha Ozhan: [11-25]
The West will pay a heavy price for expending its credibility on
Matthew Petti: [11-20]
Media amplified US, Israeli narrative on Palestinian deaths:
"Following senior officials' lead, many prominent Western news
outlets started linking Hamas to hospitals in Gaza."
Mitchell Plitnick: [11-24]
Israel wants to pull the U.S. into a regional confrontation, but
Biden remains reluctant.
Mouin Rabbani: Two pieces that Norman Finkelstein
Thoughts on the truce; and
Israel has lost the plot: This provides a cogent explanation of
why "the elimination of Hamas is unattainable" -- not exactly the one
I was thinking of, but good enough for all practical purposes. Given
that the root-and-branch elimination of Hamas is doomed to failure,
serious thought should be given to how to turn Hamas into a force for
reform: basically, how to domesticate it. Israel has long complained
about not having a "partner for peace," but Israel never wanted one
(else they would have made an effort). Also see this [11-07] discussion
between Rabbani and Finkelstein:
Gaza one month later.
Mohannad Sabry: [11-22]
Israel's killing of journalists and denial can't hide the horrific
toll in Gaza.
Tom Suarez: [11-26]
The masterful propaganda of 'deadliest day for Jews since the
Holocaust': "Israel and its supporters are engaging in Holocaust
revisionism to justify its genocidal attack on Gaza."
Jeffrey St Clair:
Struan Stevenson: [11-20]
Iran's 'axis of resistance' to Israel begins to crack. Author
is a former member of the European Parliament (from Scotland), and
a former chairman of a group called Friends of a Free Iran. This
piece, like his previous [10-17]
Iran's tyrannical mullahs created the Hamas monster, is vivid
and vitriolic propaganda aimed at pinning the Oct. 7 Gaza revolt
on Iran, for reasons known only to the diabolical mullahs. Much of
what Stevenson writes is patently false, and much more is simply
hard to believe. Iran didn't invent Hamas, and had essentially no
interest in the Palestinian struggle until the 1990s, when Israel
turned on Iran, figuring that Iraq could no longer be painted as
an existential threat, and that Iran would play better with the
Americans, who still nursed a grudge over the 1980 hostage thing.
Even so, there's no credible accounting of how much support Iran
has ever provided to Hamas. Stevenson's claim that "the mullahs
have provided hundreds of millions of dollars annually to Hamas"
is especially mind-boggling. (That's more like the levels of arms
the US supplies to Ukraine and Israel.) Even if Iran is using its
"proxies" just to stir up trouble, it would be much easier and
cheaper to negotiate some kind of détente, or better still a
normalization of relations, which would allow them (and others)
the opportunity to enjoy peace, instead of just beating them
with sticks like like Mojahedin-e Khalq (the Israel-supported
terrorist group Stevenson is allied with).
Philip Weiss: [11-26]
Weekly Briefing: The Israeli perspective -- on genocide -- dominates
Oren Ziv/Yotam Ronen: [11-22]
Carrying the pain of loss on October 7, these families are pleading
for peace: That the families of hostages have been the loudest
and most visible opponents of the war against Gaza reflects, I think,
two deeper truths. One is that sympathy gives them a forum to speak
publicly where most Israelis (and all Palestinians) are intimidated
into silence. The other is that they realize that Israel will gain
nothing by prosecuting the war, while they stand to lose their
families for no good reason.
Trump, and other Republicans:
Thomas B Edsall: [11-22]
The roots of Trump's rage.
Eric Levitz: [11-24]
Trump as a plan for massively increasing inflation. Clever to
note that while Republicans hammer away at Biden for inflation --
when he wasn't threatening to beat up Teamsters, Markwayne Mullin
was lying about diesel prices (see [11-22]
GOP Senator swiftly fact-checked after whining about gas prices
for his massive truck) -- aren't solutions, and in many ways
only make the problem worse. Still I'm not convinced that Trump's
10% across-the-board tariff idea is such a bad one: true it will
raise consumer prices, and it may not stimulate much new domestic
production, but it should reduce the trade deficit (which I've
long taken to be a bad thing, although economists tend to argue
otherwise). I also doubt that another round of Trump tax cuts will
have much effect on consumer price inflation -- although it will
undoubtedly lead to inflated asset values (something economists
refuse to count as inflation). On the other hand, no mention here
of antitrust (which Trump will presumably cripple, unless he can
use it vindictively to attack his political enemies), which if
enforced should push prices down, and if neglected will allow
companies to become more predatory. Or of more deregulation,
which helps unscrupulous companies increas profits both through
higher prices and by passing costs on to the public (pollution,
which includes the effects of global warming, is the most famous
of these externalities). Still, Republicans do have one effective
tool to quell inflation: recession. That's cure much worse than
the disease it claims to treat. It's also the end-state of the
last three Republican presidencies. Whereas this and the last two
Democratic presidents (but not Carter) ended up with sustained
economic growth, and (more modest) wage growth. Maybe a little
inflation isn't such a bad thing.
Zachary Petrizzo: [11-16]
Trumpworld is already at war over staffing a new Trump White House.
Peter Wade: [11-26]
Christie blames Trump for increasing antisemitism and Islamophobia:
To quote him: "Intolerance toward anyone encourages intolerance toward
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Branko Marcetic: [11-22]
Voters are leaving Joe Biden in droves over his support for Israel.
Harold Meyerson: [11-20]
Can Biden and the Democrats survive their divisions on Israel-Palestine?
He offers some suggestions, mostly referring back to the 1968 rift
over the Vietnam war, which isn't terribly relevant. Johnson's big
liability in 1968 was that he and his administration had repeatedly
lied about the war, falling way short of their promises, inspiring
no confidence in their future, in a war that had enormous personal
impact on millions of Americans. Consequently, Johnson/Humphrey were
opposed by prominent Democrats. On the other hand, no major Democrat
is going to stand up against Biden, especially not for showing
excessive fealty to Israel. Maybe there's an enthusiasm slump as
the gap between the Democratic Party leadership and base expands,
but party regulars are almost certain to rally against Trump. The
volatile center, on the other hand, may not be able to articulate
the problem with Biden's wars in Ukraine, Gaza, and (heaven forbid)
Taiwan, but the bad vibes could sink him.
Steven Shepard: [11-25]
The polls keep getting worse for Biden.
Daniel Denvir on points above:
If Democrats are suddenly worried that Biden will lose to Trump --
as they should be -- the rational thing to do would be to 1) make
another, more popular Dem the nominee and 2) move the party away
from its pro-genocide position. Blaming the left for saying genocide
is bad won't work
Also from Nathan J
I'm interested in the theory of how Biden is supposed to turn his
numbers around, given that:
(1) The main issue is his age and he gets older every day, and
(2) Humanitarian crisis in Gaza will worsen as disease and starvation
set in, and it is causing young Dems to hate him
Legal matters and other crimes:
Around the world:
Eileen Crist/Judith Lipton/David Barash: [11-24]
End the insanity: For nuclear disarmament and global demilitarization.
Tom Engelhardt: [11-26]
A slow-motion Gaza: But isn't it a little soon to turn "Gaza"
into a metaphor for the "hell on Earth" that global warming is
James Fallows: [11-23]
Why Charlie Peters matters: The founder and editor-in-chief of
Washington Monthly for 30 years (1969-2000) has died, at 96.
I subscribed to the journal for several years early on, possibly
from its inception, and found it to be seriously informative and
generally sensible about policy workings in Washington. I was rather
dismayed later on to find that Peters had coined the "neoliberal"
term, though there may be an argument that what Peters had in mind
differed significantly from the disparaging use of the term lately --
see Paul Glastris: [01-08]
Need a new economic vision? Gotcha covered. Last thing I recall
reading by Peters was a sad lament about his home state of West
Virginia flipping Republican.
Eric Levitz: [11-22]
OpenAI was never going to save us from the robot apocalypse.
Robert Lipsyte: [11-21]
Farewell to the New York Times sports department: "Or should
it be good riddance?"
Pankaj Mishra: [11-18]
The west never had a chance at winning over the world: Talks
about the phrase "the global south," and how it's come to the fore
since Russia's invasion of Ukraine tightened the bond between the
US and Europe, while estranging both from the rest of the world
(now known as, the Global South). It surely can't be a surprise
that the renewed and militant union of Europe and the US (aka, the
West) would be viewed suspiciously by the Global South? Mishra notes
that "the Biden administration failed to enlist any major country of
the Global South in its cause," i.e., economic war against Russia,
ostensibly to defend Ukraine. He adds: "Even worse, the conflict in
Gaza may now have mortally damaged Western power and credibility in
the Global South."
Olivia Nuzzi: [11-22]
The mind-bending politics of RFK Jr.'s spoiler campaign.
He's having a moment as a free agent presidential candidate,
partly because he might appeal to scattered, disaffected groups
that otherwise are stuck in the two-party straitjacket; possibly
also on the 60th anniversary of the assassination that turned
his family into a cult memory project. Most of his appeal will
probably blow over, because the one group he has no appeal for
is moderate-tempered centrists. That leaves extremists who hate
both parties, and who don't care who wins. How many of them are
However, note that a recent a recent
Harvard/Harris Poll, which shows Trump over Biden by 6% in a
two-way matchup, gives Kennedy 21% of the vote in a three-way,
increasing Biden's deficit to 8%. In a five-way with West (3%)
and Stein (2%), Trump loses 1%, Biden loses 2%, Kennedy 3%.
St Clair (link above) comments: "If your Lesser Evil countenances
the bombing of hospitals and the slaughter of nearly 6000 children
in a few weeks, don't you know that you can count me out."
Andrew O'Hehir: [11-26]
My mother, the debutante Communist: An American family story of love,
loss and J. Edgar Hoover.
Nathan J Robinson: [11-21]
Can the left reclaim "security"? A review of Astra Taylor's new
book, The Age of Insecurity.
Douglas Rushkoff: [11-25]
'We will coup whoever we want!': The unbearable hubris of Musk and
the billionaire tech bros. Reviews some books, starting with
Walter Isaacson's Musk.
Anya Schiffrin: [10-13]
Fixing disinformation online: "What will it take to regulate the
abuses of Big Tech without undermining free speech?"
Katharine Q Seelye: [11-19]
Rosalyn Carter, first lady and a political partner, dies at 96:
I don't really have anything to say about her, good or bad, but
thought I should note her passing in the plainest way possible.
While trawling through the NY Times obituaries, I also noticed:
I was surprised not to find an obituary there for the late
Larry Fink (82, Mar. 11, 1941-Nov. 25). For some images, start
Ryu Spaeth: [11-20]
Israel, Gaza, and the fracturing of the intellectual left.
Title makes this seem like a big deal, but it's really just comes
down to a couple pieces in Dissent between Joshua Leifer
and Gabriel Winant, with side glances to a couple more journals
(n+1, Jewish Currents). This sort of thing happens
every now and then, usually when someone who has long identified
with the left freaks out and turns on his former comrades. Back
in 1967, I used to read a journal called The Minority of One,
which was very strongly opposed to the American war in Vietnam . . .
until June 1967, when the editor flipped to support Israel in its
Six-Day War, and forgot about everything else. Something similar
happened with Paul Berman after 9/11. There have been other cases
of leftists turning hard right, but these two (presumably Leifer,
too) insisted that they were being consistent, and others in the
left had gone haywire. They created some noise, but had little if
any impact on the left, which always recovered with a principled
examination of the facts.
This article quotes Arielle Angel (Jewish Currents):
"What we are watching is a full reactionary moment among many
Jews, even some left-wing Jews, because they feel there was no
space on the left for their grief." That doesn't seem like too
much to ask. The left is fueled by indignity over injustice,
and injustice is often first experienced as grief. But few on
the left would grant anyone, even Jews (whose suffering has left
an indelible mark on most Euroamerican leftists), an exclusive
right to grieve, let alone a license to channel that grief into
a force that strikes out at and inflicts grief on others.
Most of us realized immediately that's exactly what Israel's
leaders had in mind. They saw the Oct. 7 revolt not as a tragic
human loss but as an affront to their power, and they immediately
moved to reassert their power, with scarcely any regard for more
human losses (even on their own side). Over six weeks later, as
threats of genocide were turned into practice, we need hardly
debate that point.
Glenn Thrush/Serge F Kovaleski: [11-25]
Stabbing of Derek Chauvin raises questions about inmate safety.
Weren't there already questions? If not, why do police interrogators
brag about how treacherous life in prison will be?
Jen Wieczner: [11-22]
Behold the utter destruction of crypto's biggest names.
Here are a series of tweets from
Corey Robin (I'm copying them down because the original format
is so annoying; the chart matches the Leatherby piece above, so
that is probably the uncited source here):
1/ "Israel's assault is different. Experts say that even a
conservative reading of the casualty figures reported from Gaza show
that the pace of death during Israel's campaign has few precedents in
2/ "Conflict-casualty experts have been taken aback at just how
many people have been reported killed in Gaza -- most of them women and
children -- and how rapidly. It is not just the unrelenting scale of
the strikes . . . It is also the nature of the weaponry itself.
3/"'It's beyond anything that I've seen in my career,' said Marc
Garlasco, a former senior intelligence analyst at the Pentagon. To
find a historical comparison for so many large bombs in such a small
area, he said, we may 'have to go back to Vietnam, or the Second World
4/ "Modern international laws of war were developed largely in
response to the atrocities of World War II."
The comments range from stupid to facetious ("It is morally
appalling that Hamas decided to start a war with a country that
can mount such a powerful air assault, . . . All those tunnels
& not one bomb shelter").
Corey also offered a tweet on the Ryu Spaeth article I wrote
too much (but not enough) about above:
Everyone's pissed about this piece but I think it has two virtues. 1)
It gives a fair, full hearing to the anti-Zionist side. 2) It reveals,
inadvertently, the extent to which Zionist progressives depend on
debates from 100 years ago. I'll take the win.
One more point I might as well make here, as I didn't consider it
appropriate above, is that this article is only of interest to those
on the left who are in close proximity to people with a deep psychic
identity connection to the very old Zionist left (the romance of the
kibbutzim) and/or the trauma of the Holocaust. The Oct. 7 attack hit
these people so hard that they suspended their critical facilities,
losing track of the context, and therefore unable to foresee the
Most of us immediately recognized the context that led to the
revolt, and understood that the response of Israel's leaders would
be genocidal. Hence, no matter how much we may or may not have
grieved for the immediate victims of the revolt, we understood
that their deaths would soon be dwarfed by Israel's vindictive
reassertion of their overwhelming power.
It's worth noting that while such reactions are unusual on the
American left, they are very common in Israel. The best example
is the long-running Peace Now bloc, which formed after the 1982
war on Lebanon went sour. Ever since then, they have never failed
to support initial Israeli military outbursts (e.g., 2006 in Gaza
and Lebanon, and the many subsequent Operations in Gaza), although
they've almost always come to regret those wars. Israelis, even
ones with liberal and/or socialist temperaments, are conditioned
to rally under crisis to support the state's warriors, and the
national security state pulls their triggers whenever they want
to strike out. It's practically an involuntary reflex, even among
people who must know better.
It's great credit to
Jewish Voice for Peace that they didn't fall for this triggering.
Regarding Larry Fink, I posted the following comment on
I met Larry several times. Longest talk we had was mostly about jazz,
in the car on the way to a memorial "meeting" for his mother. He took
a lot of notable photographs of jazz musicians. Liz had one framed, of
Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald sitting together in a table in a
club somewhere. On 9/11, he called Liz, and told her he was thinking
about rounding up some fowl for a "chickens come home to roost" photo,
echoing the famous Malcolm X quote. He was living on a farm in PA at
the time, but I don't recall whether he had his own chickens, or
whether he ever took that photo. But of the myriad reactions to 9/11,
his was one of the smartest. (Or maybe I thought so because I was
already thinking about the same quote.)
Ask a question, or send a comment.
Sunday, November 19, 2023
Speaking of Which
I'm mostly working on the
Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll this week, and probably every week
until the first of January, so this weekly exercise is being demoted
to a part-time, background project, making it even more cryptic and
scattered than usual.
Still, let me say a few words up top -- or reiterate, as I've said
pretty much the same thing
in recent weeks. The main story is, again, Israel's war, which
is no longer just against Gaza, but has extended to the West Bank
and the border with Lebanon. Israel's leaders have always understood
themselves to be at war with the Palestinian people and the broader
Arab neighborhood, the purpose of which is to utterly dominate the
region, reducing Palestinians to an "utterly defeated people," out
of sight and out of mind, effectively dead. You can date their war
back to 1948, or earlier. You can find seeds in Herzl's 1896 The
Jewish State, which started growing in 1920 when Britain set up
its "Jewish homeland," playing its typical divide-and-conquer game.
But the idea is older still: at least since 1492, Europeans have
moved to new lands and immediately started plotting to subjugate,
or better still eliminate, the people they found there. So this
first point, that the war did not start on October 7, should be
too obvious to have to dwell on. Still, we may treat it as a new
phase or level, as the shock of the Oct. 7 revolt gave Israel an
excuse to implement the genocide that Zionism always implied.
The second point is that the Oct. 7 revolt, and the subsequent
retaliation and escalation by Israel, was not necessary, and could
easily have been prevented, at least by Israel's current and recent
leaders. (Most obviously Netanyahu, but it's hard to discern any
fundamental differences going back to, well, Ben-Gurion, with only
Sharett and Rabin offering vague and conflicted gestures that might
have pointed toward some form of peaceful co-existence.)
Israel -- by which I mean its political leaders, a group that
could have fit within a meeting room and/or a conference call, and
not the whole nation -- could simply have decided to contain the
damage of Oct. 7, and not to compound the damage by retaliating.
They didn't do so because they've locked themselves into a logic
that tries to solve all problems by asserting their power. They
may argue that their policies have worked well enough so far, so
will work well enough in the future, but they are wrong: they've
only appeared to have worked because they've never seriously
assayed the costs.
The revolt itself could have been prevented in either of two
ways. The specific people who organized and led the revolt -- for
lack of more precise names, we might as well follow everyone else
and call them Hamas, but we're talking about a small and isolated
subset of people affiliated with Hamas, and quite probably others
not in any way part of Hamas -- presumably had enough free will
(but do we really know this?) to have decided not to act. That
they did revolt suggests not malice so much as desperation, and
mere luck in the outcome.
The other way to prevent revolt is to create conditions where
Palestinians would have no compelling reason to revolt. There are
lots of things that can be done in this regard (and Israel has
even, on rare occasions, tried some, which worked as well as they
could, as long as they were in place). Almost all internal conflicts
end, or simply fade into oblivion, with some kind of accommodation.
Israel is peculiarly, but not inevitably, resistant to the idea,
but it's the only real path out of their quandry.
Given these percepts, I've laid out a fairly simple way to end
the war in Gaza, which gives Israel a free hand to implement when
they are ready, which is favorable enough to Israeli interests they
should be happy to accept, and which accords Palestinians in Gaza
a fair hope for respect and recovery. It does not attempt to solve
any issues beyond the Gaza front, so does not require Israel to
address its abuses of Palestinians within Israel and its other
occupied territories, or its border issues with other countries.
Very briefly, the steps are:
Israel withdraws its forces from Gaza, and ceases fire on Gaza,
except for reserving the right to retaliate within a limited period
of time (say, 12 hours) for any subsequent attack launched from Gaza.
The sooner the better, but no one can/will force Israel to withdraw,
so they can destroy as much as they can stomach, until they tire
and/or become too embarrassed to continue.
Israel cedes its claim to Gaza, its air space, and adjacent
sea, to the United Nations. The UN accepts, and sets up a temporary
governing authority. (Israel may continue to conduct air and sea
recognizance and interception until other arrangements are in place.)
The UN authority will control the dispensation of aid, which will
be allowed in only if all hostages are released and no resistance
There will be blanket amnesty for all Gazans, for all Israelis
engaged with Gaza, and for the government of Israel, for all acts up
to the cease fire date. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and any other armed
groups within Gaza, will cease to exist as organizations, and be banned
from reforming. Individual members of those groups will be covered by
the blanket amnesty. It is not necessary to disarm people, but a buy
back program for arms and munitions would be a good idea.
The UN will issue passports for Gaza, which will allow residents
to leave and return at any later date.
The UN will organize several levels of advisory councils, and
operate subject to their agreement. The easiest way to organize these
councils would be to select members at random, allowing anyone thus
selected to select another person in their place. This will lead to
elections in a year or two. In the meantime the UN will organize
competent administration, police, and courts, primarily employing
After a couple years, Gaza will be recognized as an independent
country, with normal full sovereignty, and will be able to renegotiate
its relations with the UN, and with any other countries. It should be
understood that its borders are permanently defined, and that it cannot
call itself Palestine (as that might imply extraterritorial ambitions).
Note that nothing here requires Israel to dismantle its apartheid
regime elsewhere, nor does it protect Israel from war crime and human
rights charges (except for Gaza up to the hand off). Nothing here keeps
world from showing its reservations over Israel, especially through BDS
programs. Israel will remain, for the time anyway, racist and militarist.
It just won't have Gaza to kick around any more. Given how much kicking
they've done, especially since 2006, that in itself should reduce the
conflict, and make other aspects of it easier to deal with, but that
ultimately depends on Israelis growing up and becoming responsible
citizens of the world, as opposed to their current preference as tyrants
over one small patch of it.
I'm pretty certain that, given the chance, a democratic Gaza will
not tolerate any attacks on Israel. Some Gazans may still decide to
join ISIS or other extremist groups, but they will have to go into
exile to do so, and will no longer be Gaza's responsibility. Plus,
there will be far fewer of them once Israel stops "mowing the grass."
Other topics could be added to this, but why complicate things?
I believe that there should be a right to exile, which would allow
Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails to leave the country. That
would be a better solution than simply trading hostages/prisoners.
My guiding rule for negotiations is to try to get to the right
answer, one that works for all sides, with a minimum of impacts, and
measure to increase trust and transparency. That may not always be
possible, in which case you should look for other ways to compensate
for perceived losses. (Gaza, in particular, is going to need a lot
Let's put this part in bold:
Once you get to peace and justice, lots of things become possible.
But it all starts with an Israeli cease-fire. That's all it takes
to stop the killing, to halt the destruction. And that will at least
slow down Israel's presently inexorable moral decay of into genocide --
and that of America, seeing as our leaders are currently in lockstep
with Israel. So demand it! For once, it's obvious what's best for
Top story threads:
Mondoweiss: I'm not up to dredging through the daily
New York Times reports on the war, but this heroic website gives you
a better accounting of the tragic consequences of senseless war, and
a lot less propaganda spin.
Spencer Ackerman: [11-17]
Gaza shows the difference between international law and the "rules-based
international order": "Adherence to US hegemony determines who does --
and does not -- get to violate the architecture restraining state
Hugo Albuquerque: [11-17]
Israeli Communist leader: The Netanyahu government has no answers:
Interview with Eli Gozansky.
Michael Arria: [11-16]
March for Israel: "Thousands gathered in Washington this week
to support Israel. The Israeli Consulate announced 290,000 people
attended, while estimates show they were off by about 265,000. Still,
support for Israel from elected officials was clear." Is there anything
less meaningful than organizing a public showing of support for the
powers that be?
M Reza Benham: [11-15]
The catastrophic roots of Zionism in Palestine: History back to
Herzl, plus a suggestion that "it is time for the Arab world to use
its formidable oil weapon to end the carnage." I don't see that
happening: the "weapon" is less formidable now than in the 1970s,
the political will is lacking (maybe the "Arab street" identifies
with Palestinians, but the sheiks don't), and it's only been used
of late to prop up sagging prices.
Nader Durgham: [11-16]
Do you want to understand the Gaza war? Look at the Beirut siege
Malay Firoz: [11-17]
The unforgivable hypocrisy of the American liberal.
Lev Grinberg: [11-15]
For all its military might, Israel succumbed to its most fatal weakness:
"The illusion that Israel could control Gaza endlessly is rooted in a
dysfunctional political system that is incapable of imagining an
Jonathan Guyer: [11-18]
Most of Israel's weapons imports come from the US. Now Biden is rushing
even more arms.
Yoav Haifawi: [11-18]
First Tel Aviv anti-war demonstration reveals the limits on protest
in today's Israel.
Tareq S Hajjaj: [11-16]
Rainfall on a destroyed Gaza could spell disaster.
Jeet Heer: [11-17]
Israel's ludicrous propaganda wins over the only audience that
counts: "Why make an effort to be credible if you're going to be
uncritically echoed by the White House and the Western press?"
Marc Owen Jones: [11-15]
Israel's comically bad disinfo proves they're losing the PR war.
Rashid Khalidi: [11-18]
A paradigm shift in the hundred years' war on Palestine?
Talia Lavin: [11-17]
These evangelicals are cheering the Gaza war as the end of the
world: "Some far-right Christian leaders believe the bloodshed
portends the second coming of Christ."
Eric Levitz: [11-16]
Sam Harris's fairy-tale account of the Israel-Hamas conflict:
Harris first gained attention as a rare guy who was evangelical
about atheism, which seemed like a refreshing twist, but turned
out to be just another bigoted bore. So no surprise that "on
questions of foreign policy, Harris's thinking can become nearly
as dogmatic and blinkered as that of the religious zealots he's
dedicated himself to discrediting."
Ruth Michaelson/Kaamil Ahmed: [11-19]
'It's basically hell on earth': Gaza City left totally bereft of
Mahmoud Mushtaha: [11-14]
Palestinians fear 'slow death' as hunger and thirst spread in Gaza.
Nicole Narea/Sigal Samuel: [11-13]
How to think through allegations of genocide in Gaza: This is a
long trawl through arguments I've dealt with extensively in recent
weeks. I don't have time to rehash them here, but my considered take
is pretty straightforward: the intent of Israel's leaders is clearly
genocidal; Israel's actions (bombing, armed incursions, blockades)
are indiscriminate, effectively aimed at the whole population; until
Israel halts those operations, they merit the charge of genocide;
if/when Israel ceases fire, withdraws, and allows third parties to
provide aid, we might consider reducing the charge, as only such a
end to hostilities can counter the charge. And, needless to say,
the longer they take, the less credible their excuses.
Jonathan Ofir/Yonathan Shapira/Ofer Neiman: [11-09]
Do not dismiss the Gaza genocide allegations: Starts by noting
an article by Eitay Mack in Harretz which tries to do just that.
Gareth Porter: [11-17]
Israeli deceit and the battle of Shifa Hospital: Also links to
updates, including: [11-16]
Israel searches for traces of Hamas in read of key Gaza hospital,
finding "no command centre, hostages, Hamas fighters."
Ali Rizk: [11-17]
How US, Hezbollah interests align amid Gaza war: "Both worry
about being dragged into a wider regional conflict." But both have
funny ways of showing that, because Israel is locked into warring
on Hezbollah, and the US is locked into blind support of Israel.
Aidan Simardone: [11-17]
Israeli weapons are common to the displacement in Nagorno-Karabakh
Reis Thebault: [11-18]
Palestinian Americans face fear, violence amid Israel's war in
Philip Weiss: [11-19]
Washington's approval of unending massacre is a 'stain upon our
souls'. I haven't been citing Weiss's "Weekly Briefing" posts,
but also see:
Robert Wright: [11-17]
The truth about Hamas: This pretty much matches my understanding,
at least from 2006. Israelis often complain about "not having a
partner for peace," but there's little evidence that they ever
wanted peace, and there's frequent evidence that they've pushed
Palestinians into more radical stands so they'd have an excuse
not to negotiate with them.
Li Zhou: [11-15]
The dire medical crisis in Gaza, explained.
Trump, and other Republicans:
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Joe Biden: [11-18]
The U.S. won't back down from the challenge of Putin and Hamas:
But will the U.S. even recognize the challenge of Netanyahu and
Zelensky? Like the proverbial hammer seeing everything else as a
nail, the most heavily armed nation in the world hardly requires
conscious thought to "stand up and fight."
Kyle Anzalone: [11-16]
Biden has 'productive discussion' with Xi, then slams Chinese leader as
'dictator'. Speaking "truth to power" may be overrated, given that
power is rarely open to truth, but going behind power's back just makes
you look petty.
Mark Murray: [11-19]
Poll: Biden's standing hits new lows amid Israel-Hamas war:
Washington loves a good war. The American people, not so much so.
Andrew O'Hehir: [11-18]
Joe Biden at history's crossroads: Is backing Bibi's Gaza war a fatal
Nathan J Robinson: [11-15]
Does democracy mainly mean voting for Democrats?: "Heather Cox
Richardson's narrative of Good Democrats and Bad Republicans lets
liberals off the hook for their political failures." I've read two
of her books on the Republican Party, and a few of her Substack
columns, all of which are well researched and sensibly written,
and I've put a lot of thought into writing a book exactly along
those lines, so I was a pretty good prospect to pick up her new
book, Democracy Awakening. But one thing that stopped me
cold was a column (or maybe just a tweet) praising Biden's great
accomplishments in foreign policy. I was surprised to find myself
being pleasantly surprised by many aspects of the Biden presidency,
but foreign policy has not been one of them.
Alexander Sammon: [11-15]
The Squad is about to fight for its political life: "AIPAC wants
to show progressives that 'no one is safe from their wrath.'"
Jeremy Scahill: [11-14]
Biden's legacy should be forever haunted by the names of Gaza's dead
children: "Biden's support for the terror bombing of Gaza continues
his long history as a steadfast supporter of Israel's greatest crimes."
Legal matters and other crimes:
Climate and environment:
Ukraine War and American Geopolitics: While the Ukraine
quagmire only deepens, other stories pop up that fit into the
broader domain of America's arms racket and imperial ambitions.
Around the world:
Liza Featherstone: [11-17]
Rich people in the US have been allowed to get way too rich.
Paul Rosenberg: [11-19]
When a liberal president goes to war: Lessons of the LBJ era are
Jeffrey St Clair: [11-17]
Roaming Charges: Politics of the lesser exterminators.
Gerald "Jerry" Paske: Obituary. I'm saddened to note the death of
my first philosophy professor, at 90. He taught the 101 intro course
at Wichita State University, a big lecture class, and immediately
turned us to reading Charles Sanders Peirce, the most interesting
of the American pragmatists, and a perhaps unknowing gateway into
the Marburg Neokantians. He always seemed like a decent, sensible
guy, but the event that most impressed me was when, immediately
after the Attica massacre, he put aside his prepared text and talked
extemporaneously about the contempt for humanity that stoked the
slaughter. After we returned to Wichita, he had retired, but every
now and then he would write letters to the Eagle, always insightful,
reliably decent. I found out then that he had written a short book,
Why the Fundamentalist Right Is So Fundamentally Wrong. I
tried to get in touch with him after my nephew Mike Hull finished
Betrayal at Attica,
but I never heard back.
[PS: In looking Paske up, I also found out that another of my
WSU philosophy professors,
Anthony Genova, died in 2010. I took
his course on logic, which was mostly symbolic, but the opening
section on informal fallacies was eye-opening. There are dozens
of examples in the pieces I cite every week.]
I also see that Jonathan David Mott, the author of the blog
Zandar Versus the Stupid, has passed away, at 48. I can't say
as I've ever read him, but got the tip from
No More Mister Nice Blog, who wrote: "He was always one of
the most perceptive bloggers out there, and I will miss hearing
from him as the world goes to hell."
I'm reminded that Norman G. Finkelstein published a book in 2018
called Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom, which seems a bit
premature at the moment, but no more so than it would have been to
write a book on how alarming you found Nazi anti-semitism after
Kristallnacht in 1938 (or after the
Nuremberg Laws in 1935, when the die was cast, but still
cloaked under the guise of law). Still, the book goes into great
detail on Operation Cast Lead, the Goldstone Report, the Mavi
Marmara, and Operation Protective Edge. The preface opens:
This book is not about Gaza. It is about what has been done to
Gaza. It is fashionable nowadays to speak of a victim's agency. But
one must be realistic about the constraints imposed on such agency by
objective circumstance. Frederick Douglass could reclaim his manhood
by striking back at a slave master who viciously abused him. Nelson
Mandela could retain his dignity in jail despite conditions calibrated
to humiliate and degrade him. Still, these were exceptional
individuals and exceptional circumstances, and anyhow, even if he
acquits himself with honor, the elemental decisions affecting the
daily life of a man held in bondage and the power to effect these
decisions remain outside his control. Gaza, as former British prime
minister David Cameron observed, is an "open-air prison." The Israeli
warden is in charge.
It's unfortunate that we keep resorting to Nazi Germany, Apartheid
South Africa, the Slave Power in the United States, to provide some
historical context for what Israel has done to Gaza, but those are by
far the most relevant examples we are mostly aware of. But that's
pretty much Israel's peer group. And I suppose those examples do offer
one small bit of hope: they offer a range of possible endings to the
still unfinished story of Israel and Gaza. In South Africa, reason and
decency dismantled Apartheid. The other two regimes were destroyed in
war, but not before the Nazis killed 6 million Jews, and lost 12 million
of their own. The slave states lost their war as badly, but recovered
to create a new system of oppression, which took another 100 years to
dismantle (and could still use some work).
Ask a question, or send a comment.
Sunday, November 12, 2023
Speaking of Which
I started this mid-week, way too early for what I rarely intend as
anything more than casual note-taking, but with elections on Tuesday
and the "kiddie-table debate" on Wednesday (credit the quote to SNL's
Trump personifier), the stories piled up fast. Most of the early ones
just got links, but some inevitably provoked one-liners, and soon
enough longer disquisitions ensued. But some of the most important
pieces are barely noted, like the Savage and Shafer pieces on Trump's
second-term ambitions. (Sure, they're not exactly new news, but the
new articles are more detailed and comprehensive.)
Still, mostly Israel this week, mostly rehashing points that were
obvious from the start of October 7. The story there is, as it's
always been, about power and resistance. As noted
last week, Gabriel Winant described Israel as "a machine for
the conversion of grief into power." That grief brings with it a
great deal of anger and righteousness, which goes a long ways to
explaining why Israeli power has been remarkably successful for
so long. But the problem is that power never quite works the way
you want it to. Every effort to exercise power, to impose your
will on other people, meets the resistance of what we might as
well call the human spirit. And that resistance takes a toll,
both physical and psychic, as despite the hubris of the powerful,
they too have human spirits.
So while the "Israel-Hamas War" since October 7, starting with
one spectacular day of rebellion followed by a month-and-counting
of relentless, methodical slaughter, has been an object lesson in
the massive superiority of Israeli military power, it doesn't feel
like a victory, least of all to the Israelis. For one thing, the
revolt punctured Israel's long-held belief that power makes them
invulnerable. For another, they're slowly coming to realize that
they can't kill and destroy enough to stamp out resistance, which
will return and flourish in their ruins. And finally, they're
beginning to suspect that any victory they can claim will prove
hollow. In this understanding, the world is moving way ahead of
its leaders, perhaps because the human spirit is concentrated
among the powerless, among those whose minds aren't corrupted by
their pursuit and cultivation of power.
Given this, calling for an immediate cease-fire should be the
easiest political decision ever. Even if your sympathies and/or
identity is fully with Israel, an immediate halt is the only way
to stop adding to the cumulative damage, not just to Palestinian
lives but to Israel's tarnished humanity. Because, and we should
be absolutely clear on this, what Israel has been doing for more
than a month now isn't self-defense, isn't deterrence, isn't even
retaliation: it is genocide. That is the intent, and that is the
effect of their tools and tactics. Genocide is a practice that
the whole world should, and eventually will, condemn. And while
the roots of the impulse run deep in Israel's political history,
down to the very core tenets of Zionism, we should understand
that the actions were conscious decisions of specific political
leaders, aided by key people who followed their orders, abetted
by political parties that bought into their mindset. While it is
very unlikely that even those leaders will ever be adequately
punished -- as if such a thing is even possible -- unwinding their
support will start to make amends.
It feels like I should keep going with this argument, but I'm
dead tired, and rather sick of the whole thing, so will leave it
I tossed this
tweet out on Thursday:
Re Biden's polls, this "wag the dog" effect doesn't seem to be working.
Rather than rallying behind the leader, it seems like he's getting
blamed for all wars, even when few object to his policy. Have folks
begun to realize all wars are preventable? So each reveals failure!
Top story threads:
Israel: The ground war, ostensibly against Hamas, as well as
the air war, really against all of Gaza, continues as it has since the
Oct. 7 prison break. This section quickly gets filled up with opinion
pieces, largely due to our vantage point far from the action, partly
due to our intimate involvement with the long-running conflict, and
the dire need to insist on a cease fire to put a stop to the mounting
destruction, and allow for some measure of recovery to begin. So the
actual day-to-day details tend to escape my interest. To obtain some
sense of that, I thought I'd just list the headlines in the New York
Times "updates" file(s):
- More patients die at major Gaza hospital amid fuel delivery
- Crisis heightens at Gaza's main hospital amid dispute over
desperately needed fuel.
- The U.S. carried out another round of airstrikes in Syria on
- Netanyahu says he sees no role for the Palestinian Authority
in Gaza, for now.
- Al-Quds Hospital halts operation as it runs out of fuel and
power, the Red Crescent says.
- The U.S. warns Israel to avoid fighting in hospitals.
- Over 100,000 march in France against antisemitism.
- A U.N. residential compound in southern Gaza came under fire,
- Demands grow for a pause in fighting as the humanitarian
- Chris Christie is the first Republican presidential candidate
to visit Israel since Oct. 7.
- Calls grow for Israel to pause fighting
- Demands grow for a pause in fighting as the humanitarian situation
- Gaza's main hospital struggles to keep patients alive
- Gaza's main hospital is without power and at a breaking point
as fighting closes in.
- Thousands of protesters in Tel Aviv called on Israel to prioritize
rescuing the hostages.
- Hezbollah's leader says his fighters will keep up pressure on
- Across Europe, thousands call for cease-fire in Gaza. [Photos of
demonstrations in Edinburgh, Barcelona, London, and Brussels.]
- Surrounded by Israeli troops, Palestinians evacuate a cluster of
hospitals in northern Gaza.
- Iran and Saudi Arabia, regional rivals, call for Gaza cease-fire
- Here's a map of the Gaza City hospitals Israel has been closing
- Life in Gaza City: Privation, rationing and desperate fear.
- The W.H.O. chief says more than 250 attacks on Gaza and West Bank
health care facilities have been verified.
- Israel lowers Oct. 7 death toll estimate to 1,200
- Israel has struggled to distinguish the remains of Oct. 7 victims
from those of attackers.
- 'These babies, these ladies, these old people': Macron mourns
civilian deaths and urges an Israeli cease-fire.
- Concerns grow for hospital patients and sheltering civilians.
- The W.H.O. chief says more than 250 attacks on Gaza and West Bank
health care facilities have been verified.
- Al-Shifa Hospital is increasingly a flashpoint in the war.
- Israel steps up airstrikes inside Lebanon following Hezbollah
drone and missile attacks.
- Israel is on high alert as regional threats from Iran-backed
- Israel's public defenders refuse to represent Oct. 7 attackers.
- America's top diplomat says 'far too many Palestinians have been
- Israel is considering a deal for Hamas to release all civilian
hostages in Gaza, officials say.
- Antisemitic hate crimes soared in New York City last month.
[E.g., "police are searching . . . vandals who scrawled 'Hamas' and
antisemitic graffiti on several Upper East Side apartment buildings
- The war has led to the deadliest month for journalists in at
least three decades.
- U.N. human rights chief says Israel should end bombardment
with heavy munitions.
- Intense protests again shut down Midtown Manhattan streets.
- The Israeli police detained Arab Israeli politicians preparing
a vigil against Gaza srikes, civic groups say.
- Israel expands daily combat pauses to let civilians flee, White House says
- Israel has agreed to put in place regular daily four-hour pauses for civilians to flee, the White House said.
- A day of fierce combat and diplomatic talks ends with a deal to try to help Gazans reach safety.
- Islamic Jihad releases a video of two Israeli hostages in Gaza.
- The war has taken a staggering toll on the Palestinian economy.
- Israeli police detained five Arab Israeli politicians who planned a vigil against Gaza strikes, civic groups say.
- The C.I.A. director and the Israeli intelligence chief met with Qatari officials to discuss a possible Hamas hostage deal.
- Intense protests again shut down Midtown Manhattan streets.
- Video offer glimpses of battle in Gaza.
- Casualties in Gaza may be 'even higher' than previously thought, a U.S. official told Congress.
- Palestinian officials say 18 are killed in the West Bank as violence spikes.
- Chickenpox, scabies and other diseases surge in Gaza, the W.H.O. says.
- Macron convenes an aid conference on worsening conditions in Gaza.
- Archaeologists look for traces of the missing in the ashes of Hamas's attack.
Maps: Tracking the Attacks in Israel and Gaza: Sections there:
- [11-09] Strikes hit hospitals, schools and other shelters for displaced
people in the Gaza Strip
- [11-07] A third of buildings in northern Gaza are damaged or destroyed,
- [11-05] Frequent fighting along the Israel-Lebanon border continues
as tensions mount
- [11-03] Where Israel's invasion has cut Gaza in two
- [11-02] Where Israeli forces are advancing toward Gaza City
- [10-31] At least a quarter of buildings in northern Gaza are
damaged, analysis estimates
- [10-30] Where Israeli troops are encircling Gaza City
- [10-29] A more detailed look at Israel's advance into northern
- [10-28] Where Israeli military videos show ground forces entering
- [10-26] A new look at where Israel has hit Gaza
- [10-23] Deadliest period for Palestinians in the West Bank in
The file goes on, including several entries on the Oct. 18 blast
at Ahli Arab Hospital, declaring the cause and death toll to be
unclear. In addition to maps, there is a lot of aerial photography
Some more news articles, mostly from the New York Times:
If you want something that reads less like Israeli Pravda,
Mondoweiss has a daily
Here are this week's batch of articles:
Paula Aceves: [11-07]
The corporate and cultural fallout from the Israel-Hamas war:
Updated, though with new outrages every day, they're falling behind.
Geoffrey Aronson: [11-09]
The ghost of Ariel Sharon hovers over the Gaza Strip.
Michael Arria: [11-10]
Columbia University suspends Students for Justice in Palestine and
Jewish Voice for Peace.
Bill Astore: [11-11]
When collateral damage is the strategy: "Buildings destroyed,
civilians killed, millions made refugees: mission accomplished."
Omer Bartov: [11-10]
What I believe as a historian of genocide: Author is "a professor
of Holocaust and genocide studies at Brown University," a job description
which suggests viewpoint as much as expertise, or if it doesn't to you,
just read his quibbles and hair-splitting.
The Holocaust was the ne plus
ultra of genocides. Nothing else comes remotely close in either the scale,
the speed, or the single-mindedness of the killing, but the impulse, the
intent, was hardly unique to Nazi Germany. That's why the generic term
was coined: not to describe specifically what Nazi Germany did -- Shoah
and Holocaust suffice for that -- but to identify comparable forces of
which Nazi Germany is one obvious example.
Bartov makes this clear when
he cites the UN definition of genocide: "the intent to destroy, in whole
or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such."
Immediately after Oct. 7, many prominent Israelis, including the Prime
Minister, were very explicit about their intent to commit genocide. The
subsequent bombing killed indiscriminately, and created conditions to
kill further. The scale of the destruction easily satisfies "in part."
And the destruction is continuing, with no end in sight. That sure
sounds like genocide to me.
Do we really have to wait until the last
Palestinian is killed? No one has tried to argue that since some Jews
survived in Auschwitz, the Nazis fell short of "the crime of crimes."
By the way, the line Bartov draws between "ethnic cleansing" (which
he defines as "aims to remove a population from a territory") and
real genocide is spurious -- the intent and practical effect is the
same, and the term itself is fraught (it was originally a Serbian
euphemism for mass killing, bound to notions of racial and/or ethnic
purity). I think it's caught on because older terms like "removal,"
"transfer," and "exile" seemed too sanitary, but they are all
instances of the same hideous mindset.
Of course, if Israel ceases its assault on Gaza, and behaves decently
in the aftermath (which minimally includes arresting the pogroms in the
West Bank), we might reduce the charge, granting that they weren't fully
intent on genocide. But right now is not the time to make excuses for
what they are doing. Also see:
Zack Beauchamp: [11-09]
In the West Bank, Israeli settlers are on an anti-Palestinian rampage:
"Since October 7, settler radicals have been attacking Palestinians at
an unprecedented rate -- uprooting entire communities and threatening
a wider war."
Jason Burke: [11-06]
'I could never dream such a nightmare': Gaza in grip of humanitarian
Isaac Chotiner: [11-11]
The extreme ambitions of West Bank settlers: Interview with Daniella
Weiss, a longtime leader of the settler movement and an ally of Bezalel
Smotrich ("the extremist minister of finance, who has said that the
Palestinian people do not exist and that Palestinian communities need
to be erased").
Sandhya Dirks: [10-23]
Palestinian Americans on the Israel-Hamas war: 'We're not even allowed
Thomas L Friedman: [11-09]
I have never been to this Israel before: For many decades, Israel's
number one fanboy, but lately he's been disturbed by the Netanyahu
government's far-right turn, especially the decision to restack the
courts against democracy, and he's even shown signs of sobriety in
the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks. However, with his return to Tel Aviv,
he's back in the fold, reprogrammed to parrot Israel's existential
fears, even if the "I love Bibi" module hasn't kicked in yet. He
outlines "three key reasons" why Israel is in "more danger than at
any other time since its War of Independence in 1948".
The first is an array of daunting enemies ("modern armies with
brigades, battalions, cybercapabilities, long-range rockets, drones
and technical support" -- mostly Iran-backed, "and now even the
openly Hamas-embracing Vladimir Putin"; "all of them seemed to
surface together like dragons during this conflict").
The second danger is that Israel's ability "to fight such a
difficult war with so many enemies" is critically dependant on
"unwavering partners abroad, led by the United States," including
"a coalition of U.S., European and moderate Arab partners," which
is tricky as long as Netanyahu's basic pitch is "help us defeat
Hamas in Gaza while we work to expand settlements, annex the West
Bank and build a Jewish supremacist state there" -- i.e., exactly
what Israel has been doing since the June 1967 war. So the third
danger is really just Netanyahu himself: "the worst leader in
[Israel's] history -- maybe in all of Jewish history -- who has
no will or ability to produce such an initiative."
Let's get real here. This is probably the worst case of threat
inflation since the run up to the 1967 war, where a government
that had absolute confidence in its ability to defeat its combined
enemies (which it did decisively in six days, and those enemies
really did have planes, tanks, and battalions) yet spent several
months scaring the daylights out of its own citizens to justify
its aggression. None of today's "enemies" have the wherewithal to
do any serious damage to Israel, let alone the desire to expose
themselves to retaliation that could include nuclear weapons. (Ok,
Hamas had the desire, but that was only because they were desperate
enough to mount what was effectively a suicide raid, but even that
threat is now spent.)
As for the alliance, while Israel always welcomes American arms
and money (and, as Moshe Dayan explained, ignores the advice that
comes with it), Israel needs no help containing Hamas, intimidating
Hezbollah, or beating up on Palestinians. And they could flip "the
Iran threat" in an instant if they just told Biden to make up with
Iran and let them buy some Boeing airliners. Israel's problem is
not that they need help fighting. It's that they need help calling
off the fight, which is the only thing they know how to do, the only
thing they've prepared for, but against such a weakened enemy looks
more and more like genocide, making them out to be monsters. Sure,
Biden hasn't turned on them yet, but all around the world it's
getting harder and harder to ignore that this war is Israel's true
self, fashioned over a century of continuous conflict.
Here's a quick rundown of Friedman's columns, showing how quickly
his initial caution gave way to the company line. One common thread
throughout is that there's never the slightest inkling of sympathy
for any Palestinians:
Inside the Israeli crackdown on speech.
How to maintain hope in an age of catastrophe: Interview with
Robert Jay Lifton. Gessen quotes from Lifton's book about Hiroshima,
Death in Life, which I read shortly after it came out in 1968:
"We are all survivors of Hiroshima, and, in our imaginations, of
future nuclear holocaust." Ever since then, I've been touched by
that same imagination, the ability to see oneself both as victim
and survivor, of the worst human tragedies, also the most mundane.
Farrah Hassen: [11-10]
Americans want a ceasefire; it's our politicians who are out of
touch. It's our politicians who are owned, with many of them
trapped in a belief system that sees war as a noble activity.
Yoav Haifawi: [11-11]
From the river to the sea: There is one Israeli dictatorship:
"How repression is deepening inside the Israeli dictatorship."
Ellen Ioanes: [11-11]
Israel's humanitarian pauses in Gaza, explained: Well, it's pretty
simple: Israel wants to drive Palestinains out of northern Gaza, so
they can complete its demolition while lessening the staggering number
of casualties they're inflicting. They also hope the southward tide
of refugees will empty out into Egypt, never to return. A cease fire
wouldn't help, as it would just encourage people to stay in or close
to their homes. But as long as more bombing is coming, people are
motivated to flee for their lives. That's basically how the Nakba
worked in 1948-49. The legal term for it today is genocide. Israeli
apologists may tell you it's just "ethnic cleansing," but that phrase
has never been anything but a euphemism. "Humanitarian" isn't even
Sarah Jones: [11-10]
Listen to dissenters on Israel.
Nicki Kattoura/Geo Maher: [11-09]
Why must Palestinians condemn themselves for daring to fight back?
Karim Khan: [11-10]
We are witnessing a pandemic of inhumanity: to halt the spread, we
must cling to the law: Author is chief prosecutor at ICC.
Jen Kirby: [11-11]
The Israel-Gaza war is exposing Europe's divisions.
Nicholas Kristof: [11-11]
'We cannot kill our way out of this endeavor'. He's never been
someone I look to for insight, but sometimes the simpleton is right.
Since I've listed Thomas Friedman's op-eds above, here are his (do
you suppose his job at the Times is to make up for Friedman's empathy
Eric Levitz: [11-09]
The two-state solution is still our only (distant) hope. Curiously,
there's no section here explaining what the much vaunted "two-state
solution" might look like these days. That hardly matters, because the
real stickler for Israelis is "solution": they've never wanted one,
and now that they have a clear war path, they sure don't want one now.
If they did, I have no doubt they could make something work. All it
really takes is some system that allows Palestinians to live where
they are now in some measure of peace and dignity. They could be
citizens of Israel ("one-state") or of some other entity ("two states"
or some kind of confederation or bination) or some combination of the
two. The problem is that no one can force them to allow peace/dignity,
and they've become too twisted to see that would be better for them
as well. Indeed, that's been a given for so long that the main selling
point behind "two states" was that it would allow Israel to exclude
most Palestinians from their apartheid state. Still, even that promise
wasn't good enough for Israel's leaders. They insisted not only on
separation but on distinct systems of law and order to maintain their
superiority and to punish and control the unchosen.
Louisa Loveluck: [11-09]
Settler violence is erasing Palestinian communities in the West Bank.
Which leads to Yasmeen Abutaleb: [11-10]
White House urges Israel to curtail settler violence in West Bank.
Which leads to, well, nothing.
Ruth Margalit: [11-11]
The long wait of the hostages' families. This shouldn't be a hard
problem. The way to save the hostages is to stop destroying Gaza. Given
that Israel has nothing to gain, and good will to lose, from further
destruction of Gaza, a long-term cease-fire the obvious first step.
After that, release of the hostages will depend more on whether the
people holding them can trust Israel not to break its cease-fire
than on any negotiated swaps.
Israel's own bad faith in this was shown by their immediate
efforts to scoop up hundreds or thousands of Palestinians, making
them hostages as well -- though our press simply calls them "prisoners."
Hostage negotiations are always nasty business, fraught with overtones
of extortion, feeding into the fear that each successful negotiation
will incentivize more hostage-taking. The real challenge is to find
the right thing to do regardless. That's often difficult, but here
it's remarkably easy: stop the genocide.
James North: [11-09]
"Hostages?" How the U.S. media is distorting the news from Palestine.
Orly Noy: [11-10]
The Israeli public has embraced the Smotrich doctrine: "The
internalization of the far-right minister's 'Decisive Plan' is evident
in the popular support for a new ultimatum for Gaza: emigration or
Yumna Patel: [11-09]
'Thought police': Israel passes law criminalizing 'consumption of
terrorist materials': By "materials" they mostly mean publications.
Samah Salaime: [11-06]
For Israeli leaders, every Palestinian citizen has a seat on the bus to
Sarah Salem: [11-09]
Palestinians in the U.S. are under attack.
Alex Shams: [11-10]
'They don't want people to know we exist': "Palestinians across the
West Bank describe what life has been like since October 7."
Jeffrey St Clair: [11-04]
An infinite distance [The scourging of Gaza: Diary of a genocidal war]:
Behind the paywall, a long list of bullet points like his "Roaming
Nahal Toosi: [11-06]
U.S. diplomats slam Israel policy in leaked memo.
Li Zhou: [11-09]
The House censure of Rashida Tlaib, explained. One of the charges
was her use of a slogan, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will
be free." For more on this terminology, see Jewish Currents editor
What does "From the river to the sea" really mean?, which
includes a reprint of a 2021 article by Yousef Munayyer. Also:
Tuesday's elections: Democrats came away with some bragging
rights, but none of these results were resounding wins:
- Kentucky governor: Andy Beshear (D) 52.5%, Daniel Cameron 47.5%
- Mississippi governor: Tate Reeves (R) 51.5%, Brandon Presley (D) 47.1%
- Virginia State Senate: 21 Democrats, 19 Republicans; State House:
51 Democrats, 48 Republicans, 1 undecided (R leading +228 votes)
- Ohio: reproductive rights amendment: 56.6% yes, 43.4% no;
legalize recreational marijuana: 57.0% yes, 43.0% no.
We had two signs up in front of our house. Our mayoral favorite lost
to the Koch money machine, but our school board pick won.
Andrew Prokop: [11-08]
3 winners and 1 loser from Election Day 2023: "Democrats had a good
night. So did abortion rights. Glenn Youngkin, not so much."
Jamelle Bouie: [11-10]
The GOP's culture war shtick is wearing thin with voters.
Sarah Jones: [11-08]
The anti-trans backlash failed last night.
Ed Kilgore: [11-09]
Are Democrats the party of low-turnout elections now? Too many
wrong takes here to work through, but the idea that low voter turnout
favored Republicans was largely established in 2010, when marginal
Democrats who had landslided for Obama in 2008 stayed home, giving
Republicans what seemed like an amazing rebound. Few people noticed
that the 2010 turnout was almost exactly the same as 2006, which
had been a huge Democratic wave, as Bush tanked post-Katrina, even
pre-recession. Since 2010, Democrats have tried hard to increase
voter turnout, and Republicans have worked even harder to suppress
it. The West Coast, with high voter turnout mostly due to mail order,
seemed to support the Democrats.
In general, people who don't feel they have much stake in the
system are the ones who don't vote, or don't vote regularly. Most
of these people should align better economically with Democrats,
but they often can't see that, and Democrats haven't worked very
hard at winning them back -- at least since the 1980s, the focus
has mainly been on raising money. Trump threw a monkey wrench into
this: a lot of low-info, low-concern people like him for what we'll
call aesthetic reasons, and that's boosted his vote totals, to
where in 2016 and 2020 he ran about three points better than the
"likely voter" polls, which got him way closer than he should have
been, and helped Republicans overperform elsewhere. But I believe
the underlying dynamic is a gradual shift from R-to-D, at least
among regular voters (and young voters who are increasingly seeing
voting as worth their time). This is being masked because Democrats
still aren't very good at getting people to vote economic interests
(although under Biden they've started to pay off), and Republicans
are still very effective at lying to people and scheming behind
their backs, and the media is way too generous to Republicans.
On the other hand, Republican voter suppression often backfires.
Philosophically, Democrats believe in high turnout, because they
believe in democracy, where Republicans only believe in winning.
So in most ways, the issue is probably a wash.
Dion Lefler: [11-08]
The $630,000 mayor: Can Lily Wu keep her boldest promises?
While Democrats were enjoying wins elsewhere, here in Kansas we
lost our mayor to a Koch-financed Republican dressed up as a
Libertarian, checking off a lot of diversity boxes no one has
come forward to brag about (female, non-white, immigrant from
Guatemala, but also non-hispanic). Although the elections were
technically non-partisan, Republicans claimed three seats --
with Wu, a majority -- on the Wichita City Council. Curiously
enough, the School Board seats shifted to Democrats, including
one at-large seat won by Melody McCrae-Miller.
Charles P Pierce: [11-08]
Ohio Republicans are already beefing with the will of the voters on
abortion and weed: One thing you'll never hear a Republican say
after a loss: "the people have spoken, and we have to heed their
Bill Scher: [11-08]
Glenn Youngkin's big fat 15-week abortion ban belly flop.
Li Zhou: [11-07]
Andy Beshear offers Democrats some lessons for how to win in Trump
country: "Here's how a Democrat won reelection in Kentucky."
The "third Republican presidential debate": We might as
well split this out from the general morass of Republicanism, even
though it did little more than exemplify it. I didn't watch, but
my wife did, so I overheard a segment on foreign policy that was
several orders of magnitude beyond bonkers.
Andrew Prokop: [11-08]
0 winners and 5 losers from the third Republican presidential debate:
"All the candidates failed, but they failed in different ways."
Zack Beauchamp: [11-08]
The Republican debate is fake.
Jim Geraghty: [11-09]
A sober GOP debate for serious times. Just as well Trump wasn't
there. By far the silliest take on the debate.
Ed Kilgore: [11-09]
Republican debaters want to go to war with everyone (except Trump):
Egged on by moderator Hugh Hewitt, a Navy-obsessed conservative pundit,
all five candidates called for a lot more defense spending even as they
railed against debts and deficits. To the extent they disagreed on
foreign policy, it was mostly about whether defending or defunding
Ukraine was the best tack for combating China. (Haley and Christie took
the former position, while DeSantis and Ramaswamy took the latter.)
Getting closer to home, there was total unanimity among the debaters
on the need to ignore climate change and frantically resume uninhibited
exploitation of fossil fuels. Haley called DeSantis a "liberal on the
environment," forcing him to defend his determination to frack and drill
until the icecaps fully melt.
Ramaswamy played his anti-neocon card by dubbing Haley as "Dick
Cheney in three-inch heels," then adding "we have two of them on
stage," lest DeSantis feel left out, but Ramaswamy was an eager for
war against China as any of them.
Natalie Allison: [11-12]
Tim Scott suspends his presidential campaign.
I generally hate it when people try to make a case by pointing
out how a person looks, but I've been having a lot of trouble in
following clips of Ramaswamy, not just because he's so nonsensical
but because he doesn't seem to have a face behind the mouth that
spouts such nonsense. Perhaps this is just something that happens
with age, but it's not a problem I see with the other candidates
(DeSantis has a face, although it's turned into a self-caricature,
a different problem), or most other people. I'm looking at Salon
as I write this, and even Ivanka (7 pictures) has some kind of
face-in-progress. Her father (8 pictures) has a face, even if it's
mostly buried in bronzer. Even Brian Kilmeade, staring as blankly
as his brain, has a face. But Ramaswamy doesn't.
Trump, and other Republicans:
Michelle Cottle: [11-08]
What voters want that Trump seems to have: She beats around the
bush a bit, but the ultimate point is that Republicans hate the other
half of America, and they realize that the most effective way to express
their hate is to restore Trump, given their understanding of how much
their targets fear and loathe Trump. Trump's entire campaign so far is
nothing but persecution complaints and revenge fantasies. No other
Republican candidate, no matter how evil, comes close to challenging
Trump in that regard.
PS: Ok, I just jumped on the idea of Cottle's piece. Dean Baker
read it and takes exception to the details: [11-08]
Michelle Cottle makes up facts to push the Trump case: "I guess
that New York Times columnists get to be condescending, out-of-touch
jerks when they want to make their case. If they insist that people
think the economy is awful, we can't let what people say get in the
SV Date: [11-11]
If progressives don't like Biden's Gaza position, wait till they learn
David Freedlander: [11-10]
Live with Rudy: "Indicted, isolated, and broke, Giuliani has one
comfort left: the sound of his own voice."
Marisa Iati/Isaac Arnsdorf: [11-11]
Trump's rivals seize on opportunities to challenge his acuity.
Laura Jedeed: [11-10]
Inside Mike Johnson's ties to a far-right movement to gut the
Ed Kilgore: [11-10]
Speaker Johnson has one weird plan for avoiding a shutdown.
Paul Krugman: [11-06]
Why does the right hate America? Fair question, one that occurred
to Krugman after reading Damon Linker's recent [11-04]
Get to know the influential conservative intellectuals who help explain
GOP extremism (which I cited last week, but mostly just took names).
A glib but not inaccurate answer is: "because they hate our freedom" --
which seemed silly as an explanation for Islamic terrorism, but with
these guys, their fear and loathing bleeds from every line. Sure, we
on the left are more conscious of the freedom we're still denied, but
any fair review of American history will remind us that everything in
our history that we take pride in, at least as far back as "all men
are created equal," came from the left, and was resisted by the right,
same as today.
Kelly McClure: [11-11]
Ted Cruz blames extreme left for rise in antisemitism: Cruz was
plugging his new book: Unwoke: How to Defeat Cultural Marxism in
America. Quite an accomplishment. It's really hard to put that
much stupid into such a short title.
Charlie Savage/Maggie Haberman/Jonathan Swan: [11-11]
Sweeping raids, giant camps and mass deportations: Inside Trump's 2025
Jack Shafer: [11-07]
Trump's recipe for a shockingly raw power grab. Starts with "plans
on the first day of his new administration to invoke the Insurrection
Act so he can dispatch the military to counter any demonstrations that
might resist his policies." (See:
Trump and allies plot revenge, Justice Department control in a second
Steven Shepard: [11-11]
The power grabs that will determine control of Congress: "Partisan
gerrymandering isn't new, but what's happening right now is far from
Michael Tomasky: [11-12]
It's official: With "vermin," Trump is now using straight-up Nazi talk.
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Jonathan Guyer: [11-09]
More than 500 Biden campaign alumni want a Gaza ceasefire.
Eric Levitz: [11-08]
Do Democrats need to get less 'globalist'? Fairly long piece
occasioned by the new John Judis/Ruy Teixeira book, Where Have
All the Democrats Gone? Probably worth some thought, but the
focus here is on trade (good for capitalists, not so much for
workers) and migration (one way workers try to catch up), while
skipping other aspects of international policy, such as war and
climate. For more on this book:
Carlos Lozada: [11-11]
A Trump-Biden rematch is the election we need.
Andrew Marantz: [11-02]
How Israel is splitting the Democrats. Isn't it basically between
the politicians, who are virtually all on the take, and the base, who
once again have every reason to suspect their leaders?
Andrew Prokop: [11-09]
Joe Manchin retires, making Democrats' brutal 2024 Senate map even
more brutal. On the other hand, Manchin is still a possible
presidential election spoiler, for which see Ed Kilgore: [11-09]
Joe Manchin announces end of Senate career, new 2024 threat.
Molly Redden: [11-09]
'The phone doesn't stop': Overwhelming demands for a cease-fire catch
Democrats off guard.
Legal matters and other crimes:
Climate and environment:
Alex Harris/Ashley Miznazi: [11-05]
King tide floods offer glimpse of Miami's soggy, salty future.
I saw this in the Wichita Eagle today, which led me to more pieces:
Nathan J Robinson: [11-10]
The climate crisis is slipping from the news right when it needs our
attention most. This is the kind of idea that gets in the way of
thinking, and for that matter communicating. It's not like climate
crisis hasn't gotten any ink this year. Various storm and fire disasters
have been front page a couple times each month, and statistical effects
have been written up -- I don't think we've had a single month this
year that wasn't among the hottest in history (usually number one),
plus there's all the melting ice caps, the record high tides, etc.
Sure, not enough is being done about it, and nowhere near fast enough,
but that's a bigger political and economic quagmire, one that needs
not just attention but a serious rethink. But how the hell's that
going to happen when we can't even think our way out of a stupid,
pointless, and extremely cruel war like Israel's?
Around the world:
Charles Hirschkind: [11-08]
Exterminate the brutes: "Beneath the veneer of a celebrated concern
for human rights, the racism that defined 19th century colonialism
continues to provide the dominant lens through which the West exercises
the subordination of non-Western populations." Another piece about
Israel, but I thought I should give it a little distance.
Matthew Hoh: [11-10]
Armistice Day and the empire: A name change and the catastrophe that
followed. It's now Veterans Day, November 11, signifying not the
arrival of peace (after WWI) but the endless waste of war.
Yarden Katz: [11-09]
Are Israelis Jews? Returning to Jewish minority life: Argues that
"Israel has erased the Jewish people and destroyed the possibilities
for Jews to live in Palestine as non-colonizers. 'Israeli' is a colonial
identity we should renounce, because it harms both Palestinians and
Jews." Interesting attempt to drive a wedge between identities Jewish
and Israeli, then flip them over. Nothing is quite that simple.
Jeremy Kuzmarov: [11-10]
How Bill Clinton set the groundwork for today's foreign policy
disasters. Co-author, with John Marciano, of a book I should
have noted when it appeared in 2018: The Russians Are Coming,
Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce;
also Obama's Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the
Permanent Warfare State (2019); and forthcoming: Warmonger:
How Clinton's Malign Foreign Policy Launched the US Trajectory
From Bush II to Biden.
Keren Landman: [11-09]
It's getting increasingly dangerous to be a newborn in the US.
A big part of this seems to be: Alice Miranda Ollstein: [11-07]
Congenital syphilis jumped tenfold over the last decade.[
Michaelangelo Matos: [11-05]
Documentary review: 'The War on Disco': I accidentally saw a bit
of this show, but didn't stick around long enough to evaluate Matos on
the subject (although I know him to be one of the best dance-oriented
critics around). I always thought the anti-disco rants in the 1970s
were more stupid than racist (although what finally shut them up were
disco hits by Blondie and New Order, so go figure).
Nathan J Robinson: [09-19]
Is Thomas Sowell a legendary "maverick" intellectual or a pseudo-scholarly
propagandist? Asking the question practically answers itself. One
more in a long series of profiles in right-wing mind-rot.
Aja Romano: [11-10]
What the Hasan Minhaj controversy says about the trouble with
Robert Sherrill: [1988-06-11]
William F. Buckley lived off evil as mold lives off garbage:
An archive piece, by one of my favorite journalists fifty years
ago, a review of John B Judis: William F Buckley, Jr: Patron
Saint of the Conservatives. Sherrill's title bears structural
resemblance to his book, Military Justice Is to Justice as
Military Music Is to Music.
Alissa Wilkinson: [11-09]
The long, long Hollywood strikes have ended.
Ask a question, or send a comment.
Monday, November 6, 2023
Speaking of Which
Again, I swore off working on this during the week, which turned
out to pose more than a few problems. Finally opened the file up on
Saturday evening. I figured I'd just collect links, and not bother
with any serious writing. The supply of inputs seemed endless, and
it got late Sunday before I considered tidying up and posting. But
I couldn't, due to a computer problem which took several hours to
diagnose and about a minute to fix once I recognized it (DHCP tripped
me up). By then it was too late, so my posts are shifted back a day
Starting up today, I didn't go back to website I had previously
visited, but I did have a few more to look up. I also remembered
the Gabriel Winant piece at the bottom, so I dug it up, and wasted
a couple hours thinking about those quotes, before I scrapped what
little I had written.
Top story threads:
Israel: With more patience, these could have been grouped
into a half-dozen (maybe 8-10) subcategories, of which genocide
(both actual and imagined) looms large, with significant growth
in cease-fire advocacy and repression of anyone favoring cease-fire.
The short category is actual military news: Israel has conducted
ground operations in northern Gaza for a week, but what they've
achieved (or for that matter attempted) isn't at all clear, while
Palestinian casualties are continuing to increase, but I haven't
made much sense out of the numbers.
It does appear that I underestimated the ability of Hamas to
continue fighting after their initial suicidal attack was beaten
back. Not by a lot, mind you, but they've continued to shoot
occasional rockets (nothing you could describe as a "flood,"
and Israel regularly boasts of shooting 80-90% of them down, so
the effect is likely near-zero), and they're offering some degree
of ground resistance. Still, a unilateral Israeli cease-fire would
almost certainly halt the war, the killing, the destruction. Given
that continued punishment just generates future violence, Israel's
unwillingness to call a halt to this genocide -- and that's still
the operative term, even if Netanyahu hasn't convened his Wannsee
Conference yet -- signals only the intent to fight to some kind of
Endlösung ("final solution"). I might be tempted to ditch the Nazi
references, but they are ones that Israelis understand clearly --
and, one hopes, uncomfortably.
Some of the more purely partisan digs wound up in the sections
on Republicans and Democrats. Given that the entire American political
establishment is totally in thrall to Israel and their right-wing
donor cabal, there's little (if any) substance in these pieces,
just a lot of chattering nonsense.
Yuval Abraham: [10-30]
Expel all Palestinians from Gaza, recommends Israeli gov't ministry.
Ray Acheson: [10-17]
We must end violence to end violence.
Paula Andres: [11-04]
Israel bombs ambulance convoy near Gaza's largest hospital.
Jeremy Appel: [11-03]
Israel rabbi describes settler rampages across West Bank.
Michael Arria: [11-05]
The largest Palestine protest in US history shut down the streets of
DC: "An estimated 300,000 demonstrators in the largest Palestine
protest in United States history, calling for a ceasefire and an end
to the genocide in Gaza." Also note:
James Bamford: [11-02]
Why Israel slept: I don't care much for the metaphor here. There
will be recriminations for Israel's security lapses on Oct. 7, because
it's easy to pick on exposed flaws, but Israel's containment of Gaza
has been vigilant and remarkably effective for many years, and their
response to the breach was swift and decisive, and the damage, while
far above what they were accustomed to, was really fairly minor. They
could just as well be congratulating themselves, but would rather
channel the outrage into a far greater assault. But this article is
actually about something else: "Netanyahu's war inside the United
States." More specifically, "Netanyahu's move to counter the protesters
with lots of money to buy political power in Washington to create laws
making it a crime to boycott Israel." It may seem paradoxical that as
Israel has been steadily losing public support in America and Europe,
they've been able to lock political elites into even more subservient
roles. Bamford takes the obvious tack here: follow the money.
Ramzy Baroud: [11-03]
'Turning Gaza into ashes': Israeli hasbara vs the world.
Nicolas Camut: [11-05]
Israel minister suspended after calling nuking Gaza an option:
"Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu's statements 'are not based in
reality,' Prime Minister Netanyahu says."
Christian Caryl/Damir Marusic: [11-02]
Should Israel agree to a ceasefire? Commentators weigh in.
Starts with Yossi Beilin, who was the only successful negotiator in
the Oslo Peace Process, disappoints with "a humanitarian pause, but
no more." He never negotiated with Hamas, and never will, which may
be why the deals he came "so close to" never materialized. If you
refuse to negotiate with your fiercest enemies, you'll never settle
James Jeffrey says no, insisting that Israel is fighting an
"existential war" with Hamas, placing it "within a larger struggle
involving its enemy Iran instigating conflicts in Lebanon, Syria
and Yemen as well as Gaza -- a world war scenario he sees as like
Yaakov Katz insists "a cease-fire would be a victory for Hamas."
That's hard to see, even if the ceasefire took place immediately
after Israel repelled the attacks and resealed the breach: Hamas
depleted most of their missile supply, and lost 1,000 or more of
their best fighters (about 2.5% of the highest estimate I've seen
of their force), in a surprise attack that will be many times harder
to repeat in the future. And that was before Israel killed another
10,000 Palestinians in fit of collective punishment, suggesting
their real intent is genocide.
Lawrence Freedman and Matt Duss have more doubts about what Israel
can do, and more worries for Israel's reputation, and a better grasp
of the larger picture. Palestinians Ahmed Alnaouq and Laila El-Haddad
are the only ones who actually sense the human dimensions of the
Isaac Chotiner: [11-01]
The Gaza-ification of the West Bank: Interview with Hagai El-Ad,
Fabiola Cineas: [10-31]
"History repeating itself": How the Israel-Hamas war is fueling hate
against Muslims and Jews: "There's a surge in reports of assaults,
vandalism, harassment, and intimidation." Two points that should be
stressed more: one is that Zionism has always been predicated on, and
fed by, antisemitism, and as such, Israel has often worked to incite
antisemitism to motivate Jews to immigrate (the pre-Israel Zionist
International negotiated with antisemites, especially in England, to
sponsor "a Jewish homeland," and with Nazi Germany to relieve them
of their Jews; after independence, Mossad ran various operations in
Arab countries to panic Jews into emigrating); in constantly blaming
any and all criticism of Israel on antisemitism, Israel is taunting
its critics into false generalizations. Author has a section called
"Antisemitism was already on the rise." This combines two different
things: the classic European prejudice (whether Christian or racist),
which became more public with Trump's election; and naive reaction
against Israel's inhumanity to Arabs (Jewish and/or leftist critics
of Israel are usually careful not to generalize Israelis or Zionists
with non-Israeli Jews). Neither is excusable. But it's much easier
to educate the naifs than to deprogram the Nazis. Also note that
most classic antisemites are enthusiastic supporters of Israel.
Steve Coll: [10-30]
The plight of the hostages and the rapidly escalating crisis in
Gaza: "Never before has Israel sought to rescue so many hostages
from a territory where it is also waging an unbridled aerial war."
Hostage negotiations are always fraught with overtones, but a big
factor here is that Israel's leaders are much more into the air
(and now ground) war, which they control, than the hostages, which
require some measure of empathy, tact and compromise (characteristics
they pride themselves in not showing, especially when geared up for
war). A hostage family member asks: "Why this offensive? There is
no rush. Hamas wasn't going anywhere." But any pause to the war
risks derailing it, letting the fever cool, and the madness be
reflected upon. They can't quite admit it, but Israel's leaders
would be happier if Hamas just killed all the hostages. That they
could spin into more war.
Jonathan Cook: [11-03]
Mounting evidence suggests Israel may be ready to 'cleanse' Gaza.
The "Greater Gaza" plan has been kicking around for a while, at least
since 2014, and the "Jordan is Palestine" idea goes way back.
Ryan Cooper: [11-03]
A one-state solution could work in Israel: "But the end of South
African apartheid demonstrates it would take an Israeli commitment to
peace that is nowhere in evidence." Could work, sure, but any chance
is long off, and receding as the right-wing has become more obviously
genocidal. One problem is numbers: shedding Gaza would help there, a
single-state for the rest is probably where you'd wind up, but it is
a long ways toward equal rights. The bigger problem is that Israel is
not just a garden-variety white (racist) settler state. It has a lot
of trauma-and-hubris-induced psychological baggage that will take ages
Alex De Waal: [11-03]
How the Israel-Hamas war is destabilizing the Horn of Africa.
Rajaa Elidrissi: [11-01]
The Gaza Strip blockade, explained.
Richard Falk: [11-03]
Israel-Palestine war: Israel's endgame is much more sinister than
Lynn Feinerman: [11-03]
The left as Israel's sacrificial lamb: "One of the tragic ironies
of this is the vast majority of the casualties were kibbutzim and the
people at this outdoor concert. And people who live in kibbutzim and
people who go to raves tend to be the more left-wing, secular Israelis
who oppose Netanyahu." But the dead are now martyrs for the far right,
which isn't just ironic. Socialism built Israel into a strong, cohesive
community, but the doctrine of "Hebrew Labor" was the rotten kernel at
their heart, which grew the apartheid war-state of today.
Gabriella Ferrigine: [11-01]
Graham declares "no limit" of Palestinian deaths would make him question
Laura Flanders: [10-30]
"Why I resigned from the State Department": Interview with Josh
Paul, who had worked in the section that oversees transfers of military
equipment and support.
[I cited another interview with Paul last week, from Politico. The
title bears repeating:
'There are options for Israel that do not involve killing thousands
Robert Givens: [11-02]
Block to block in Gaza: What will an Israeli invasion look like?
Michelle Goldberg: [11-04]
When it comes to Israel, who decides what you can and can't say?
Jonathan Guyer: [11-04]
Will an Israel-Hamas ceasefire happen? The reasons and roadblocks,
Benjamin Hart: [11-04]
Egypt's puzzling role in the Israel-Hamas war: "The country that
used to control the Gaza Strip is helping Palestinians -- but only
up to a point." Interview with Steven Cook, a Foreign Policy
Amira Hass: [11-01]
Amid the mourning, Israel's settlement enterprise celebrates a great
victory: "The soldiers are accompanying the settlers on their
raids -- or even finishing the job for them."
Michael Horton: [10-30]
Houthi missile launches at Israel risk reigniting war in Yemen.
Scott Horton/Connor Freeman: [10-31]
Netanyahu's support for Hamas has backfired: Nah! He's got Hamas
right where he wants them. If your goal is to destroy every last vestige
of Palestine, the first thing you have to do is to make Palestinians
unsympathetic. Israel never feared Palestinian violence, because that
they could meet in kind, plus an order of magnitude. Israel's great
fear was (and is) Palestinian civility.
Ellen Ioanes: [11-04]
Iran could determine how far the Israel-Hamas war spreads.
I rather doubt this. Since the revolution in 1979, Iran has attempted
to increase its political influence among Shiite factions in Arab
countries, with some success in Lebanon and Yemen, but not in Saudi
Arabia or the Persian Gulf states, nor in Iraq until the US busted
the country in 2003. But at least up to 1990, Iran maintained a cozy
relationship with Israel, having never shown any particular interest
in Palestinian groups (which were either too secular, or in Hamas,
too Sunni). It was Israel that pivoted to being anti-Iran, most
likely playing on American prejudices going back to the hostage
crisis. Since then, Iran has been a convenient whipping boy for
Israel, but despite all the nuclear talk, they never have been a
serious threat to each other. As for Hezbollah, Iran does support
them, but there's no reason to think Iran calls the shots. Even
if they did, attacking Israel makes little sense. The upshot of
the 2006 war was that Israel can do serious air damage to Lebanon,
well beyond Hezbollah's stronghold in the south, but Hezbollah can
still fend off a ground invasion. And Israel has better things to
do than that. Of course, if such a war was a serious consideration,
the simplest solution would be for the US to normalize relations
with Iran. But who in Washington can get Israel's permission to
do that? Also on Hezbollah:
Nicole Narea: [11-03]
Hezbollah's role in the Israel-Hamas war, explained. Key point
is that while Hezbollah was formed to fight Israel's occupation of
southern Lebanon (1982-2000), it has since become a mainstream
political party, with a stake in the government of Lebanon. While
part of their credibility is their ability to defend against Israel,
it would be silly to risk that by having to fight again. The option
of moving into mainstream politics has made Hezbollah less of a
terror threat. Hamas was denied that option: when they ran for
office, and won, they were denied recognition, so in Gaza they
fought back and took control, only to be blockaded. The result is
that the only way Hamas could act was by force, hence the military
wing took charge. And Israel did that deliberately, because they
don't fear Hamas militarily, but they do fear Hamas politically.
They want Palestinian "leaders" who will do their bidding, who
will keep their charges in line, and line their own pockets, and
let Israel do whatever Israelis want to do.
Ali Rizk: [10-31]
Why Hezbollah doesn't want a full-scale war. Yet.
Ellen Ioanes: [11-05]
Israel hits civilian infrastructure as ceasefire calls grow.
Arnold Isaacs: [11-02]
War in a post-fact world. Or: "War, crimes, truth, and denial:
unthinkable thoughts and false memories."
David D Kirkpatrick/Adam Rasgon: [10-30]
The Hamas propaganda war: "Across the Arab world, the group is
successfully selling its narrative of resistance." Hard for me to
gauge, as Hamas has no respect or legitimacy here -- even though a
narrative of devout patriots fighting back against overwhelmingly
powerful alien oppressors would strike chords many Americans would
sympathize with. (One might think of Red Dawn, or maybe just
Star Wars.) But elsewhere, the story is bound to resonate,
especially among people (and not just Arabs or Muslims) who have
directly felt the heavy hand of imperialism. Even if Israel is
amazingly successful in their campaign to obliterate Gaza, the
most likely future scenario is a return to 1970s-style terrorist
disruption (the desperation of a not-quite "utterly defeated
people" and a few others who romanticize their struggle).
Keren Landman: [11-01]
The death toll from Gaza, explained: Not very well, I'm afraid. The
link to Btselem's database says "Data updated until October 5."
The number of Palestinians killed is similar to the number killed
since Oct. 7. The number of Israelis killed is rather less than the
1,400 on or shortly after Oct. 7. I still haven't been able to find
a day-by-day accounting --
Wikipedia offers some totals to whenever the file was updated,
and some detail, especially on foreign nationals on the Israeli
side. Given that fighting outside Gaza ended by the second day --
Israel claimed to have killed all of the Palestinian attackers
(counting over 1,000), and the breach was resealed -- virtually
all subsequent deaths have been due to Israeli bombardment of
Chris Lehman: [11-02]
American evangelicals await the final battle in Gaza.
Louisa Loveluck/Susannah George/Michael Birnbaum: [11-05]
As Gaza death toll soars, secrecy shrouds Israel's targeting process.
Branko Marcetic: [11-03]
A tidal wave of state and private repression is targeting pro-Palestinian
voices. Probably enough on this for a whole section, but a cluster of
pieces landed here together:
Aaron Maté: [11-02]
In Gaza, Biden is an equal partner in Israel's mass murder.
Harold Meyerson: [11-02]
The co-dependency of Bibi and Hamas: Some false equivalency here,
followed by a plea for ye olde two-state solution that is certain to
fall on deaf ears. Sure, Netanyahu and Hamas are ideal enemies for each
other, especially relative to other factions in their constituencies.
But there is a big difference: Israel is winning, at least within the
narrow confines of war, while Hamas is losing -- and Israel hopes,
bad enough to sink all Palestinians.
Fintan O'Toole: [10-31]
No endgame in Gaza: "After weeks of bombardment and thousands of
deaths, what are Netanyahu's political and ethical limits?" I'll be
surprised if Netanyahu has any.
Paul R Pillar: [11-01]
With world's focus on Gaza, West Bank conflict brews: "Settlers
there appear freer than ever to commit violence against Palestinians,
risking a new intifada -- which was already a possibility before Hamas's
Oct. 7 attack."
Nathan J Robinson: [11-03]
What every American should know about Gaza: "We are complicit in
the bombing of Palestinian civilians and have an obligation to pressure
our government to push for a cease-fire."
Natasha Roth-Rowland: [10-28]
When 'never again' becomes a war cry: "In an Israeli war that
has been retrofitted onto a Holocaust template, it is obscene that
a plea to stop further killing is now read as moral failure."
Sigal Samuel: [11-01]
Israel's crackdown on dissent will only hurt it: "Silencing
criticism makes it harder for Israel's leaders to think clearly."
Note that most of the examples of repression are in America.
"America would have benefited from listening to dissenters after
9/11; instead, it silenced them."
Dahlia Scheindlin: [11-03]
Here's the least bad option for Gaza after the war ends:
"Reoccupation by Israel? Putting the Palestinian Authority in charge?
A Kosovo-style international intervention would be less bad than both
of those." This is similar to the scheme I wrote up
except mine offered a cleaner break from Israel -- which would, I think,
be better both for Gaza and for Israel, whereas Kosovo is still saddled
with Serbia's claim on the territory. (The same problem of competing
claims affects other de facto breakaway territories, especially in the
former Soviet Union.) The UN has (well, most plausibly) the legitimacy
and the skills to organize an interim government in Gaza, assuming no
significant party opposes them. Israel would initially have to agree
to this, and honor that (although I allowed them to retaliate for any
post-truce strikes, since they think they're entitled to do that anyway;
my guess is that if Israel is out of the picture, that scenario ends).
Then the "militants" in Gaza would have to agree to let the UN come in
and take over. I expect they would do that because: (a) doing so would
allow aid to flow in; (b) they couldn't be prosecuted for anything they
did before the truce; and (c) the intent would be for the UN-established
government to hold and honor democratic elections in short order. There
are more possible angles to this, but one advantage Gaza has over Kosovo
is that there is no internal ethnic or religious conflict to settle.
So, once Israel is willing to relinquish its claims and interests --
and let's face it, Israel has no good ideas of its own here -- this
sort of thing might not be so hard to do.
Tali Shapiro/Jonathan Ofir: [11-05]
Israeli doctors urge the bombing of Gaza hostpirals.
Oliver Stuenkel: 
The West can't defend international law while also supporting genocide:
I wasn't aware that the US took any interest in international law any
Liz Theoharis: [11-05]
A cycle of escalating violence.
Nahal Toosi: [11-04]
The U N is in disarray over the Israel-Hamas war.
Zeynep Tufecki: [10-31]
Past lies about war in the Middle East are getting in the way of the
truth today. Colin Powell is the poster boy here. Old news but
But if the U.S. response after Sept. 11 is a model, it is as a model
of what not to do.
After the attacks, the United States received deep global sympathy.
Many Muslims around the world were furious about this blemish upon
Islam, even if they opposed U.S. policies: Citizens held vigils,
politicians condemned the attacks and clerics repudiated them in
mosque sermons. (The idea that Muslims widely celebrated the attacks
has been repeatedly shown to be false or traces back to a few instances
of dubious clarity.)
But, instead of mobilizing that widespread global sympathy to try
to isolate the extremists, the United States chose to wage a reckless
and destructive war in Iraq, driven by an impulsive desire for vengeance
and justified by falsehoods about weapons of mass destruction.
Edward Wong/Patrick Kingsley: [11-05]
U.S. officials fear American guns ordered by Israel could fuel West
Oren Ziv: [10-31]
Risking arrest and assault, Israelis begin protesting Gaza war.
Mairav Zonszwin: [11-01]
Israel and Palestine's existential war: Given that "genocide" is
so actively bandied about, the existential risks for Palestinians are
obvious. For Israel, the threat is harder to gauge. Israel could have
done essentially nothing after the first day's repairs, and would still
be as secure as ever behind their "iron walls." What Hamas hurt was
their ego, their sense of power. But since they can kill and destroy
with impunity, that's reason enough for them. Nothing existential to
it, unless you think maybe they have a soul to lose?
Trump, and other Republicans:
Lauren Aratani: [11-04]
Trump family on trial: five takeaways from a week in the New York
Isaac Arnsdorf/Josh Dawsey/Devlin Barrett: [11-05]
Trump and allies plot revenge, Justice Department control in a second
term: "Advisers have also discussed deploying the military to quell
potential unrest on Inauguration Day."
Dan Froomkin: [10-26]
As Republicans embrace theocratic authoritarianism, the political
media is tongue-tied.
Greg Grandin: [11-01]
The Republicans who want to invade Mexico.
Sarah Jones: [11-02]
Republicans for war crimes.
Cameron Joseph: [11-03]
Is Tommy Tuberville the most ignorant man in DC?
Daniel Larison: [10-31]
Ron DeSantis's foreign policy speech was a real dud: "He wants to
invoke a weariness of war and anti-neocon sentiment, but ends up
promoting the policies of both." This sounds like garden-variety
Republican gibberish: Democrats weak and feckless, me tough, China
bad, but will cower when faced with real American resolve, and even
more ridiculous "defense" spending.
Michael E Mann: [11-05]
Trump 2.0: The climate cannot survive another Trump term.
Heather Digby Parton:
Robert Reich: [10-27]
No Labels is a front group for Donald Trump: I rarely bother with
Reich, but this title hit my extremely literal brain head on. Suppose
that's exactly what it is: a backup plan to put Trump on the ballot if
he doesn't get the Republican nomination. How else can Trump manage to
get on enough state ballots late in the cycle? The result would be a
bloodbath split with the official Republican nominee, much like 1912
between Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft, but Trump would see that
as a totally justifiable price if the Republicans betrayed him, and
could use it as a threat to keep it from happening.
Joseph Solis-Mullen: [10-23]
Republican solutions would destabilize Central America, not fix
Adriene Mahsa Varkiani: [11-03]
House Republicans introduce bill to expel Palestinians from the
Li Zhou: [11-02]
The House Israel aid bill is a reminder that Trump-aligned Republicans
are now in charge: "Now they've passed an aid package tailored to
their goals." For more on those goals, and more on their author:
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Nick French: [09-01]
If Democrats want to win elections, they should bring back the Covid
welfare state: "By many measures, Bidenomics is working great --
but most Americans are still down on the economy. That's in large
part because the U.S. government let its temporarily generous social
safety net unravel."
Melvin Goodman: [11-03]
Biden endorses the "indispensable nation" notion: Sorry, couldn't
help but edit that title a bit (for clarity, you understand). Biden's
words were: "American leadership is what holds the world together.
American alliances are what keep us, America, safe." Then he worked
in "beacon to the world" and explicitly cited "my friend Madeleine
Robert Kuttner: [11-01]
Biden's Nakba: "The catastrophic effects of the president's
indulgence of Netanyahu." This seems like a fair description of
Netanyahu's proposition (and its odds):
Netanyahu's notion that first Hamas can be destroyed at acceptable
cost, and then someone else can be found to govern Gaza, and then
some kind of regional settlement can be achieved is lunacy. This
has become Biden's war. Now it has to be Biden's peace, starting
with much tougher constraints on Israel.
Ahmed Moor: [11-01]
I can no longer justify voting for Joe Biden in 2024.
Holly Otterbein: [11-05]
Dem fears mount amid Biden's polling slump and Israel backlash:
I tried to ignore the chatter about Sunday's
New York Times/Sienna College Poll (which they've since played
updates and analysis, with more by
Nate Cohn), but I figured I could (and should) kick him again
over Israel. Also, while it's easy enough to explain this poll away,
some skeptics are using it to question the wisdom of "staying the
Now do you believe me?).
Pamela Paul: [11-02]
The Democrats are their own worst enemies: Lots of ways one can
play that title -- I'm tempted to quote a country song, "if you don't
stand for something, you'll fall for anything at all" -- but I don't
have time to sink here. Suffice it to note that this is a review of
the new John B Judis/Ruy Teixeira book, Where Have All the Democrats
Gone? You probably don't remember their 2002 book, The Emerging
Democratic Majority, which Paul initially remembers as "hugely
influential" then dismisses as "failed prophecy."
Legal matters and other crimes:
David Dayen: [10-18]
The NIH's 'how to become a billionaire' program: "An obscure company
affiliated with a former NIH employee is offered an exclusive license
for a government-funded cancer drug."
Ethan Iverson: [10-30]
Louis Armstrong's last word.
Paul Krugman: [10-31]
The military-industrial-complex: He has a chart arguing that as
a share of GDP, military spending is down since Eisenhower's speech,
a long-term trend with bumps for Vietnam, Reagan, and Iraq, as well
as blips when spending held steady while the economy crashed (2008,
2020). For a counterpoint, see William Hartung: [11-03]
What Paul Krugman gets wrong about the military industrial complex.
It seems to me that Eisenhower's concern wasn't the money per se, but
the evolution of arms industries from mere suppliers to a political
force that would make wars more (not less) likely.
Damon Linker: [11-04]
Get to know the influential conservative intellectuals who help explain
GOP extremism: Well, you don't really want to know them, but let's
drop a few names you can try to avoid:
Costin Alamariu ("Bronze Age Pervert"),
Michael Anton (The Flight 93 Election; The Stakes),
Patrick Deneen (Why Liberalism Failed; Regime Change),
Rod Dreher (Crunchy Cons; Live Not by Lies),
John Eastman (indicted Trump lawyer),
Stephen Wolfe (The Case for Christian Nationalism),
Curtis Yarvin ("Dark Enlightenment").
Also mentioned in passing:
Thomas Klingenstein (Claremont funder),
Patrick Ruffini: [11-04]
The emerging working-class Republican majority: "The coalition
that elected Donald Trump in 2016 was no one-off." No point filing
this in the top section on Republicans because no real Republicans
were involved in the spinning of this fantasy -- adapted from the
author's new book, Party of the People: Inside the Multiracial
Populist Coalition Remaking the GOP. Interesting that he takes
Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? as a pivot,
arguing that twenty years later "the villain of the story has
switched sides." But his evidence is thin, and doesn't remotely
approach policy: what's changed since Kansas is that the
gullible GOP base are demanding more blood in their red meat --
the diet of bigotry and fear-mongering the Party tempts them
with -- but on a practical level, Republicans are still every
bit as dedicated to serving oligarchy by rendering government
incompetent and corrupt. It's worth noting that in his later
books, Frank turned on Democratic supplicants to the rich --
especially in 2016's Listen, Liberal!, which was harsh
on the Clintons (but also Obama, Cuomo, Deval Patrick, etc.) --
but many (most?) Democrats shifted their policy priorities to
actually help and expand the middle class. Sure, Trump railed
against the corrosive jobs effect of trade deals, but Biden
came up with policies to build jobs, and to give workers the
leverage to get better pay. Trump talked infrastructure, but
Biden is building it. There is still much more to be done,
not least because Republicans -- no matter how populist they
claim to be -- are obstacles wherever they have any leverage.
The Republicans' only response is to ramp up the demagoguery
Jeffrey St Clair: [11-03]
Roaming Charges: Shrinkwrapped, how sham psychology fueled the Texas
Hadas Thier: [11-04]
Sam Bankman-Fried was guilty, and not even Michael Lewis could save
him. As someone who regards all of crypto as criminal conspiracy,
I was a bit surprised at how quickly and definitively this trial
turned, but here it is.
Sean Wilentz: [10-23]
The revolution within the American Revolution: "Supported and largely
led by slaveholders, the American Revolution was also, paradoxically, a
profound antislavery event."
Gabriel Winant: [10-13]
On mourning and statehood: A response to Joshua Leifer: "How to
grieve, what meaning to give those tears, is cruelly a political
question whether we like it or not." Leifer's original piece was
Toward a humane left, and he later wrote
A reply to Gabriel Winant. I'm not here to argue with Leifer
(nor with Eric Levitz, whose similar position elicited much more
of my thinking in recent weeks), other than to note again that
morality is a luxury most enjoyed from a distance, and can easily
be used as a cudgel against people who circumstance has deprived
of such options. But sure, no complaints here about making the
left even more humane (and not just the left, needless to say).
But I do want to quote some things Winant said, because I've had
similar thoughts but haven't quite found the words:
One way of understanding Israel that I think should not be controversial
is to say that it is a machine for the conversion of grief into power.
The Zionist dream, born initially from the flames of pogroms and the
romantic nationalist aspirations so common to the nineteenth century,
became real in the ashes of the Shoah, under the sign "never again."
Commemoration of horrific violence done to Jews, as we all know, is
central to what Israel means and the legitimacy that the state holds --
the sword and shield in the hands of the Jewish people against
reoccurrence. Anyone who has spent time in synagogues anywhere in
the world, much less been in Israel for Yom HaShoah or visited Yad
Vashem, can recognize this tight linkage between mourning and
This, on reflection, is a hideous fact. For what it means is that
it is not possible to publicly grieve an Israeli Jewish life lost to
violence without tithing ideologically to the IDF -- whether you like
it or not. . . . The state will do -- already is doing -- what it does
with Jewish grief: transmute it into violence. For the perpetrator,
the immediate psychic satisfactions of this maneuver are easy enough
to understand, although the long-term costs prove somewhat more
It is this context -- the already-political grief at the core of
the Zionist adventure -- that makes so many on the left so reticent
to perform a public shedding of tears over Hamas's victims. They are,
we might darkly say, "pre-grieved": that is, an apparatus is already
in place to take their deaths and give them not just any meaning,
but specifically the meaning that they find in the bombs falling
on Gaza. . . . Its power, in turn, is such that the most ringing
dissents calling instead for peace and humane mourning for all --
like Eric Levitz's and Joshua Leifer's -- nevertheless resonate only
as whimpers of sentiment. Whatever the noble and admirable content
of such humane efforts, their form is already molded. They are
participating, presumably without intent, in a new Red Scare being
prepared not against stray callous advocates of Hamas, but against all
who defend the right of Palestinians to live, and to live as equals.
The Israeli government doesn't care if you, a principled person,
perform your equal grief for all victims: it will gobble up your
grief for Jews and use it to make more victims of Palestinians,
while your balancing grief for Palestinians will be washed away
in the resulting din of violence and repression. The impulse,
repeatedly called "humane" over the past week, to find peace by
acknowledging equally the losses on all sides rests on a fantasy
that mourning can be depoliticized. If only it were so -- but this
would be the end of Zionism, after all. More tragically, the
sentiment of those who want peace and justice for all and express
this by chastising those in the West whom they see to be reacting
with insufficient grief and excessive politics have only given
amplification to the propaganda machine that is now openly calling
for the blood of the innocent and the silence of doubters.
No time for me to start unpacking this, let alone building on
it, but much more could be said.
Ask a question, or send a comment.
Monday, October 30, 2023
Speaking of Which
Note: It got too late Sunday night before I completed my rounds,
much less checked spelling and formatting and did the other bits of
housekeeping I need to do before posting, so let this sit overnight.
I changed the date to Monday, but didn't make another round. I did
add the bits from Twitter, and one more link on the UAW strike,
since that not only really matters but wraps up the trifecta.
Music Week will be delayed until Tuesday. The extra day has so
far been good for two more A- records (surprises at that).
By the way, if anyone wants to try reformulating the introduction
plan into an op-ed or a more serious proposal, please go ahead and
do so (no citation required, but if you want to talk about it, feel
free to reach out). I have no standing in mainstream media (or for
that matter in solidly left-wing and/or antiwar media), and I have
no appetite for throwing myself at their feet.
And yes, I understand why the plan as sketched out will be hard
for lots of well-meaning folks to swallow. I'm sorry that in politics
people hardly ever pay for their crimes. I was 18 when Richard Nixon
was elected president, and no one in my lifetime ever deserved to pay
more. (Well, maybe Winston Churchill, but he died when I was 14, or
Joseph Stalin, who died when I was 2.) But that almost never happens,
and even when some measure of justice is meted out, it's never enough.
Nixon was granted a pardon, and retired not even to obscurity, but at
least out of harm's way.
The proposed scheme simply splits off one part of the conflict
and arranges it so the sides stop hurting each other. It's urgent
to do so because it's turned into a self-destruction pact, as sore
to Israel as it is fatal to Gaza. It leaves the rest of the conflict
in place, in hopes that Israel will, in good time, recognize that
they cannot forever deny Palestinians their dignity. I'm not very
optimistic that they will come to their senses, but the odds are
better than now, in the fevered heat of war.
The key points here are these: you cannot force Israel to do
anything they're unwilling to do; you have to give Israel an option
that they can choose that doesn't require that they change their
fundamental political beliefs; you cannot appeal to the conscience
of Israel's leaders, because they don't have a functioning one;
you don't have to solve any problem but the immediate one in Gaza;
you don't have to deal with Palestine's leaders, because none of
them are legitimate; you do have to provide a path where the people
of Gaza can live normal lives, in peace and dignity, where they
have no practical need to lash out at Israel or anyone else. It is
in the interest of the whole world to end this conflict, so it is
worthwhile to put some effort into making it work. But for now the
only piece you have to solve is Gaza, because that's the one that's
spun out of control.
From early grade school, my favorite subject was "social studies,"
with geography and history key dimensions. But I also had aptitude
for science, at least until an especially boorish teacher turned me
off completely. I dropped out of high school, but not finding myself
with any other competency, I tested my way into college, where my
main studies were in sociology and philosophy. I turned my back on
academic studies, but never stopped adding to my store of knowledge --
if anything, I redoubled my efforts after 2000.
When microcomputers started appearing around 1979, I bought one,
and taught myself to program. Then I discovered that my real skill
was engineering -- the practical application of my mindset.
Politics turned out to be mostly rhetoric: people were measure
by how good they sounded, not by anything they actually did. Sure,
social scientists measured things, but mostly their own prejudiced
assumptions. But engineers didn't waste their time railing about
the injustices of gravity and entropy. Engineers fixed things. And
better than that, engineers designed and built things to not break --
or, at least, to serve a useful life before they wore out.
So, when I encounter a political problem, I tend to think about
it as an engineer would (or should), in terms of function and the
forces working against it. I can't be value-neutral in this, nor can
anyone, though I'm better at most at recognizing my own prejudices,
and at suspending judgment on those of others. A big part of my kit
is what Robert Wright calls "cognitive empathy": the ability to
imagine someone else's view. This is a skill that is sorely needed,
and way too often lacking, in diplomats. (You're most likely to
find it in sales, where one is measured on deals made, rather than
on political rhetoric that precludes agreement.)
So when I encounter a political problem, my instinct is to come
up with a solution: an approach that will reduce the conflict in a
way that will lead to prolonged stability. It's always tempting to
come up with a universal solution based on first principles, but
history offers few examples of conflicted sides finding such common
ground. That means for most acute conflicts we have to come up with
short-range, partial fixes.
Over the last twenty years, I've come up with a lot of partial
and a few comprehensive solutions to the Israel/Palestine conflict.
They've never been taken seriously, by either side, or even by
potentially influential third parties. The basic reason is that
politically powerful Israelis are unwilling to grant concessions
to Palestinians, even a small territory they have no settlement
interest in (Gaza), basic human rights, and/or any real measure
of economic freedom. There are various reasons and/or excuses for
this, but the most important one is that no outside nation nor
any possible internal force (nonviolent or not) has anything
close to enough power to persuade Israel to change course. So
the first rule is you have to give Israel something they would
prefer to the course they have charted, which is to lay waste
to Gaza, making it uninhabitable to the people who manage to
survive their assault.
The first lesson Israeli leaders should draw from their war
is that while it's easy to kill enough Palestinians to make you
look monstrous, it's really hard to kill enough to make any real
demographic difference. As long as Palestinians survive and hang
onto what's left of their land, they remain to challenge and defy
Israeli colonialism, sacrificing their bodies and appealing to
international conscience. And while people of good will, many
sympathetic to the Palestinian plight, were quick to condemn the
violent outbreak, its main effect was to shock Israel into showing
their true colors: that domination is based on overwhelming power,
and the willingness to use it savagely when provoked.
Hence, Israel's response to the uprising -- the deadliest single
day in Israel's history -- was first to threaten the total demolition
of Gaza and the deaths of everyone who lived there (offering a mass
exodus through Egypt as the only path to safety), then a systematic
military campaign, starting with massive bombardment and leading to
a ground invasion. With over two million people in Gaza, that could
amount to the largest genocide since WWII. Israel's one-sided war
on Gaza has slogged on for three weeks, with some of the heaviest
bombing in recent history, destroying infrastructure, driving more
than a million people from their homes, and theatening starvation.
The longer this continues, the more world opinion will shift against
Israel's brutality, until what little good will remains dissipates
At some point, Israeli leaders are bound to realize three things:
that continuing the killing hurts them more than it helps; that large
numbers of Palestinians will stay in Gaza no matter what; and that as
long as there are Palestinians in Gaza, the land is of no practical
use to Israel. The only viable solution to this is for Israel to cut
Gaza loose. The simplest way to do this is to return the mandate to
the UN. This doesn't require any negotiations with Palestinians, so
it doesn't resolve any issues with Palestinians within Israel, the
occupied territories, or refugees elsewhere. Israel simply sets its
conditions for the transfer. If the UN accepts, Israel withdraws its
troops, and ceases all engagement with Gaza. Given the humanitarian
catastrophe unfolding, the UN will have little choice, but everyone
would be best served with some minimal understandings. I think the
following would be reasonable:
Israel removes any ground forces it has in Gaza, and seals
the border. Israel unilaterally ceases fire, except in retaliation
for attacks (e.g., rockets) from Gaza. Israel reserves the right to
retaliate for each attack, one munition (shell, bomb, rocket, etc.,
but probably larger) for each munition used against Israel, but only
within 24 hours of the incident.
Israel is responsible for its land border with Gaza. Israel
retains the right to continue patrolling the airspace and sea front
until other arrangements are negotiated with the UN and/or future
Gaza government. If Israel abuses these rights, there should be
some court or referee to nonviolently resolve these disputes (but
it's pretty unlikely Israel will agree to that).
The UN will organize a provisional, representative government
in Gaza, and will eventually organize elections (e.g., within one
year of handover). The UN may dictate a constitution and a basic legal
framework, which may be democratically amended or rewritten after a
fixed period of time (e.g., 5 years). The UN will organize donors to
provide aid in reconstruction, and may attach conditions to its aid
(e.g., a court to police against corruption). The UN will issue passports
to residents/citizens of Gaza, allowing them to leave if they wish, and
to return at any future point they may desire.
Israel and Gaza will be granted amnesty against possible charges
under international law up to the date of ceasefire and transfer, and
not limited to interactions between Israel and Gaza. All individuals
within Gaza will also receive amnesty for their role in the revolt or
other incidents that occurred up to the date of transfer. All political
organizations in Gaza will be banned, and their property will be
expropriated. New organizations may be formed from scratch, but
none may reused the names of banned parties. Past membership in a
banned political party will not be penalized.
UNHCR-registered refugees in Gaza will enjoy full rights as
citizens of Gaza, and will no longer be considered refugees from
Israel. This doesn't affect the rights of refugees resident elsewhere.
As a condition of its independence, Gaza may not call itself Palestine,
and may not make any claims to land and/or people not presently contained
Other items not specified are subject to negotiation, which I
imagine will be easier once the break is made, peace is established,
and some degree of normalcy returns. Two things I haven't stressed
are the desire to disarm Gaza, and the question of inspecting imports
to keep weapons from entering Gaza. These things should be implemented
voluntarily by Gaza itself. More weapons invites retaliation, which
is inevitably collective punishment. As long as Israel retains that
right, weapons shouldn't matter to them.
Another thing I didn't bother with is the hostage situation. I
assume that the hostages will be released, even without negotiation,
before amnesty kicks in. Of course, if Hamas is as bloodthirsty as
Israel wants you to believe, they could also be executed before
amnesty, in which case maybe some negotiation and exchange should
take place first. I didn't want to make it more complicated than
it had to be. As for the hostages Israel has taken prisoner, that
call is up to Israel. Some sort of mass release, especially of
prisoners who could be repatriated to Gaza, would be a welcome
gesture, but need not be immediate: I hardly think Gaza really
needs an influx of radicalized militants, which is the main produce
of Israeli jails.
Israel gets several major wins here: they gain viable long-term
security from threats emanating from Gaza; they give up responsibility
for the welfare of Gaza, which they've shown no serious interest in or
aptitude for; they get an internationally-recognized clean slate,
immediately after committing an especially egregious crime against
humanity (they're still liable for future acts against Palestinians,
but they get a chance to reset that relationship); they break the
link between Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, and they tilt
the demographic balance in the area Israel controls back to a strong
Jewish majority; they get a partial solution to the refugee; and
they will have already shown the world how hard they strike back,
without having to go complete "final solution."
But the biggest concession to Israel is that they get to control
the timing, simply because no one can let alone will move to stop
them. They can bomb until they run out, which isn't very likely
given that the US is already resupplying them. They can kill, maim,
destroy, until they run out of targets or simply wear themselves
out. Or until they develop a conscience and/or a sense of shame
over how world opinion and history will view them. Or until their
friends take pity and urge restraint. Or until they start losing
more soldiers than they're willing to risk -- the least likely of
all, given that nobody is rushing to resupply Gaza with the arms
they desperately need to defend themselves (as the US and Europe
did for Ukraine).
The point -- probably but not certainly short of extermination --
is that eventually Israel will tire of the killing, but still need
to dispose of the rubble and the corpses. That's when this framework
comes into play. Sooner would be better for everyone, but later is
the dominant mindset in Israel today, and one that is unfortunately
reinforced by America.
What Israel gives up is an endless series of wars and other
depredations which make them look like arrogant warmongers, and make
them seem malign to most of the people in most of the countries in
the world. (Even in the US, even with virtually every politician of
both parties in their pockets, their reputation is currently in
Few Palestinian politicians will welcome this proposal, especially
as it isn't even up to them. It's hard to argue that they've served
their people well over the years, even if one recognizes that they've
been dealt an especially weak hand in face of Israeli ruthlessness.
But for the people of Gaza, this offers survival, freedom, and a
measure of dignity. And for the world, and especially for the UN,
this offers a chance to actually fix something that got broke on
the UN's watch 75 years ago and has been an open sore ever since.
But sure, this leaves many more problems to be worked on. There
are border issues with Lebanon and Syria. There is apartheid, loss
of rights, harassment, even pogroms within Israel -- all of which
offer reasons to continue BDS campaigns. At some point, Israel could
decide to cut off more land to reduce its Palestinian population, but
they could also reduce tensions by moving toward equal rights, secure
in the expectation of a strong Jewish majority. That might spell the
end of the extreme right-wing parties, at least the leverage they've
recently held over Netanyahu, and for that matter the end of Netanyahu,
who's done nothing but drive Israel over the brink.
Meanwhile, all we can really do is to campaign for an immediate
ceasefire, both to arrest the genocidal destruction of Gaza and to
salvage Israelis from the ultimate shame of their political revenge.
The time for both-sidesing this is past. There is little point in
even mentioning Hamas any more. This isn't a war. This is a cold,
calculate massacre. History will not be kind to the people who laid
the foundations of this conflict, and will judge even more harshly
those who are carrying it to its ultimate ends.
I'll end this intro with something I wrote back on
October 9, a mere two days into this "war" (which I initially
described as a "prison break and crime spree," before moving on
to a comparison to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1944 -- it's not
exactly ironic how often Palestinian suffering echoes calamities
in Jewish history):
Anyone who condemns Hamas for the violence without also condemning
Israel for its violence, and indeed for the violence and injustice
it has inflicted on Palestinians for many decades now, is not only
an enemy of peace and social justice, but under the circumstances
is promoting genocide.
Bold in the original, and still valid here. And three weeks later,
you know who you are.
Top story threads:
Israel: See introduction above. Just scattered links below,
one that caught my interest and/or pissed me off. For more newsy
stuff, see the "live updates" from
Washington Post. There are also "daily reports" at
Ellen Ioanes/Jonathan Guyer/Zack Beauchamp: [10-28]
Israeli troops are in Gaza: 7 big questions about the war, answered.
This is a fairly generic intro. I don't put much stock into arguments
that the reason Hamas attacked when they did had much to do with topical
or even strategic concerns like the Saudi Arabia alliance or the latest
Al-Aqsa Mosque outrages. Rather, as Israel keeps lurching to the right,
and as America becomes more servile to the Israeli right, the sense of
desperation has increased. In such times, violence at least seems like
the one free thing one can do, a way to spread the pain and get the
world's attention. I've often pointed out that the attraction of rockets
is that the walls can't stop them. They're the one way people in Gaza
have of making their presence felt to their tormentors, of reminding
the world of their suffering. Of course, every time they do that,
Israel strikes back, massively, reminding the world that their hold
over Gaza is based on murderous force -- that that's the kind of
people Palestinians are struggling to free themselves from. It
doesn't work, in America at least, because we're so conditioned
to love Israel and hate its enemies.
Rania Abouzeid: [10-21]
The simmering Lebanese front in Israel's war.
Paula Aceves: [10-27]
The corporate and cultural fallout from the Israel-Hamas war.
I don't have time to sift through this long list just to feel
outraged, but will remind you that the first casualties of every
war are anyone who doubts the necessity of the war and the virtues
of the warriors (the ones who presume to represent you; the others,
of course, are evil inhuman ogres, and anyone who can't see that
is a naïve simp or far worse). I'll also note that one of the fired
was pursed for sharing a link to an Onion title, "Dying Gazans
Criticized For Not Using Last Words To Condemn Hamas." I missed
that piece, but did take note of two other Onion headlines:
U.S. warns a Gaza ceasefire would only benefit humanity; and
Biden Expresses Doubts That Enough Palestinians Have Died.
Michael Arria: [10-28]
We are witnessing the largest U.S. anti-war protests in 20 years.
Not just the US: See Philip Weiss: [10-29]
The world is seeing, and rising.
Ronen Bergman/Mark Mazzetti/Maria Abi-Habib: [10-29]
How years of Israeli failures on Hamas led to a devastating attack:
"Israeli officials completely underestimated the magnitude of the Oct.
7 attacks by Hamas, shattering the country's once invincible sense of
Paola Caridi: [10-26]
Does the US really know the Arab world at all? You would think
that for all those years of risking American lives, they would have
developed some expertise, but both the political and military career
paths mostly favored the advancement of facilitators of established
prejudice, and certainly not critics, or even people with cognitive
empathy. Author has a recent book: Hamas: From Resistance to
Regime. I have zero confidence that anyone else I've read in
recent months has any real insight into Hamas.
Isaac Chotiner: [10-25]
Is this the end of the Netanyahu era? Interview with Netanyahu
biographer Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist at Haaretz.
Jessica Corbet: [10-29]
30 Israeli groups urge global community to help stop surging West Bank
settler violence: "Unfortunately, the Israeli government is supportive
of these attacks and does nothing to stop the violence."
Richard Falk: [10-24]
The West's refusal to call for a ceasefire is a green light to Israel's
Thomas Friedman: [10-29]
The Israeli officials I speak with tell me they know two things for
sure. Friedman's such a reliable mouthpiece for those "Israeli
officials" that he's rarely worth reading, but his counsel today,
that sometimes it's better to do nothing when provoked, is sound,
and compared to the hysteria of most of his cohort, refreshing. An
earlier version of this op-ed took the last line as a title: "Please,
Israel, don't get lost in those tunnels." That sums up his concern:
he couldn't care less what happens to Palestinians, but he realizes
that what Netanyahu's gang is doing is ultimately very bad for the
Israeli people he so treasures.
Neta Golan: [10-28]
Israeli attacks on Gaza's healthcare sector are a form of genocide.
Israeli state terrorism over the years.
The lights are off. Here's what we know about life and death inside
Gaza: Interview with Maram Al-Dada. Also:
Inside a Gaza village: "All of us will die, but we don't know when".
Jonathan Guyer: [10-27]
The Biden administration needs to update its old thinking on
Israel-Palestine: "A viral essay by Biden's foreign policy adviser
shows why Israel is more of a liability to the US than anyone's ready
to admit." The official is national security adviser Jake Sullivan,
and the piece is classic self-delusion, something shockingly common
among Washington think-tankers, with their blind faith in throwing
their power around, with little care for whoever gets hurt in the
process. Guyer contrasts Sullivan's piece(s) with a recent one by
Ben Rhodes: [10-18]
Gaza: The cost of escalation. Behind a paywall, so let's at least
quote a bit:
The immediate comparisons to the September 11 attacks felt apt to me
not only because of the shock of violence on such a scale but also
because of the emotional response that followed. . . .
But imagine if you were told on September 12, 2001, about the
unintended consequences of our fearful and vengeful reaction. That we
would launch an illogical war in Iraq that would kill hundreds of
thousands of people, fuel sectarian hatred in the Middle East, empower
Iran, and discredit American leadership and democracy itself. That we
would find ourselves facing an ever-shifting threat from new
iterations of al-Qaeda and from groups, like ISIS, that on September
11 did not yet exist. That we would squander our moment of global
predominance fighting a war on terror rather than focusing on the
climate's tipping point, a revanchist Russia under Vladimir Putin, or
the destabilizing effects of rampant inequality and unregulated
technologies. That our commitment to global norms and international
law would be cast aside in ways that would be expropriated by all
manner of autocrats who claimed that they, too, were fighting
terror. That a war in Afghanistan, which seemed so justified at the
outset, would end in the chaotic evacuation of desperate Afghans,
including women and girls who believed the story we told them about
securing their future.
This accounting does not begin to encompass the effects of
America's renewed militarized nationalism, jingoism, and xenophobia on
our own society after September 11, which ultimately turned
inward. While it is far from the only factor, the US response to
September 11 bears a large share of the blame for the dismal and
divisive state of our politics, and the collapse of Americans'
confidence in our own institutions and one another. If someone painted
that picture for you on September 12, wouldn't you have thought twice
about what we were about to do?
I can't look up exactly what I was thinking on 9/11/2001 because
I was in Brooklyn, away from the computer where I had started keeping
my pre-blog online notebook, but my memory is pretty clear. I knew in
an instant that the crashed planes were blowback from past imperial
misadventures, that the political caste in Washington would take them
not as tragic crimes but as an insult to American hyperpowerdom, that
their arrogance would strike back arrogantly, that the consequences
would be impossible to predict, but would certainly create more enemies
than they could possibly vanquish. I probably could have figured out
that the war madness would poison our domestic politics, much as the
Cold War played such a large role in crippling our labor unions. Even
before 9/11, Netanyahu and Barak and Sharon had conspired to wreck the
Oslo Accords and trigger an Intifada they would use to permanently
disable the Palestinian Authority, figuring they'd rather fight with
Hamas than negotiate with Arafat.
Benjamin Hart: [10-26]
Why Ehud Barak thinks Israel must invade Gaza: He's a big part of
the problem in Israel over the last 30 years, even as he's tried to
position himself as the smarter/tougher alternative to Netanyahu.
I mean, he is, but not much, especially not much of an alternative,
but he is much clearer and much less of a liar, so you can learn
things listening to him.
David Hearst: [10-23]
Israel-Palestine war: Starmer's Gaza betrayal shows he is failing as
a leader: UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who saved the party
for neoliberalism by ousting actual leftist Jeremy Corbyn, and who is
likely to become Prime Minister next time voters get a chance to choose
one. "This is the first time Britain has been complicit in a direct
Israeli military action since the Suez Crisis in 1956."
Ellen Ioanes: [10-24]
Israelis feel abandoned by Netanyahu after October 7.
Jake Johnson: [10-26]
Eight progressives vote against House Israel Resolution that ignores
Palestinian suffering. This was the first act of the House after
electing Mike Johnson speaker. The vote was 412-10, with one Republican
and one non-CPC Democrat dissenting, six Democrats registering as
"present." The Senate passed a similar resolution unanimously --
More than 300 former Sanders staffers urge him to lead cease-fire resolution
Jimmy Johnson: [10-28]
Genocide has been catching up to Israelis ever since Zionism's
inception. "Israelis now perpetrate small-scale pogroms like
the one Issacharoff reported on such a regular basis that they
are barely considered newsworthy."
Fred Kaplan: [10-24]
How George W. Bush helped Hamas come to power. The history is
basically accurate, but I have a different take on it. Israel never
wanted a "partner for peace," so they never wanted a Palestinian
leadership that enjoyed strong popular support. In Arafat, and later
in Abbas, they thought they had a pawn they could manipulate, but
they never wanted either to be popular, so they never really offered
them much, ultimately sabotaging their authority and sending the
Palestinians searching for an alternative who would stand up for
them. That could have been Hamas, but Israel sabotaged them too --
with America's support, as it was easy to convince Bush that Hamas
were hopeless terrorists. So the title rings true, but what really
happened was that in denying Fatah any chance to serve Palestinians,
they created a vacuum that Hamas tried to fill, then kept them from
any effective power, driving them back to terrorism.
Isabel Kershner: [10-29]
Netanyahu finds himself at war in Gaza and at home: "Israel's
prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, apologized for accusing military
and security officials of lapses that led to the Hamas massacre but
declined to accept responsibility himself."
Whizzy Kim: [10-28]
The boycott movement against Israel, explained: It's often said
that nobody gives up power without a fight, but it's hard to fight
injustice without complicating it. Hence the search for nonviolent
resistance and pressure, which have had modest successes, especially
in countries where public opinion holds some sway, both locally and
among higher powers. BDS played a large role in convincing South
Africa to abolish apartheid, so it seemed like an ideal strategy
for pressuring Israel into ending its own system of apartheid. We're
still in the stage where Israel is pulling out all the stops to keep
people in America and Europe from even discussing the prospect. Gag
laws, of course, have been tried before, most notoriously in the US
to prevent abolitionists from petitioning Congress about slavery.
We should understand that had BDS been more successful, Israel may
not have blundered its way into the present war.
Menachem Klein: [10-26]
Israel's war cabinet has learned nothing from its failures:
"The leaders who oversaw Israel's Gaza policy for 15 years are
incapable of abandoning the erroneous ideas that collapsed on
Will Leitch: [10-27]
Banning Palestinian flags is just the beginning.
Eric Levitz: [10-27]
The suppression of Israel's critics bolsters the case for free speech:
Someone get this guy a thesaurus. Bolster: "support or strengthen; prop
up." I think I get what he's saying, but I can't figure out a way to
rephrase his title. The weak link is "the case," as no way suppression
of anything "bolsters free speech." "The case" turns a real argument
about who's allowed to say what into an abstract right, where liberals
have to defend the rights of assholes to spew hate and lies in order
to justify their own right to say something sensible and helpful.
Richard Luscombe: [10-27]
Ron DeSantis's claim he sent military equipment to Israel unravels.
Well, it's the thought that counts. On the other hand, Edward Helmore:
Ron DeSantis defends call to ban pro-Palestinian groups from Florida
colleges is totally on-brand.
Ian S Lustick: [10-13]
Vengeance is not a policy: "Emotionally driven reactions from
Washington won't prevent future violence. Dismantling the Gaza
Eldar Mamedov: [10-25]
EU's vaunted unity is disintegrating over Gaza crisis.
Neil MacFarquhar: [10-23]
Developing world sees double standard in West's actions in Gaza and
Ruth Margalit: [10-19]
The devastation of Be'eri: "In one day, Hamas militants massacred,
tortured, and abducted residents of a kibbutz, leaving their homes
charred and their community in ruins." This doesn't excuse that, or
is excused by any of the chain of outrages that came before, as far
Deir Yassin (1948) or
Qibya (1953) or, in Gaza itself, in
Khan Yunis and
Rafah (1956). But one shouldn't look away, because, regardless
of the perpetrators and victims, this is what it looks like.
Stephen Mihm: [10-26]
Many evangelicals see Israel-Hamas war as part of a prophecy:
If you weren't brought up on "Revelations," this seems like lunacy,
but if you were, you have damn little incentive to try to allay the
threat of war in the region.
Mahmoud Mushtaha: [10-24]
If we survive the bombs, what will remain of our lives?
Nicole Narea: [10-28]
Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group, explained:
"Why would Hezbollah enter the fight against Israel?" People forget
that in 2006 Israel was attacking Gaza before Hezbollah started firing
rockets into North Israel, triggering the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War.
They succeeded in relieving Gaza, but Israel did an enormous amount
of bombing damage to Lebanon, then attempted a ground incursion to
rout out Hezbollah, and got beat back pretty bad. Since then, they've
had occasional skirmishes, especially over the disputed Bekaa Farms,
but neither side has wanted to reopen a full-scale war. Israel has,
however, bombed Hezbollah and/or Iranian troops in Syria quite a
few times, without reprisals from Lebanon or Iran, so there's an
itch they'd like to scratch.
AW Ohlheiser: [10-29]
Why some Palestinians believe social media companies are suppressing
their posts. I don't know much about this, but I do know that my
wife was threatened with a Facebook ban and responded by "algospeak"
(not her term). Hard for me to tell, as I rarely post anything but
links to my pieces, and occasional
food, but I've seen little evidence that my pieces are even read,
much less by people who hate them and try to ban me. But algorithms?
Wendy Pearlman: [10-30]
Collective punishment in Gaza will not bring Israel security:
"Scholarship suggests the overwhelming violence unleashed on the strip
is not just a violation of international law -- it is militarily
Vijay Prashad: [10-26]
The everyday violence of life in occupied Palestine. Prashad also
wrote, with Zoe Alexandra: [10-27]
When the journalists are gone, the stories will disappear.
Adam Rasgon/David D Kirkpatrick: [10-20]
Another hospital in Gaza is bleeding: Speaking with Dr Omar Al-Najjar:
"Gaza is the place we were born and raised. However much they try to
frighten and scare us, I agree with my family that I can't ever leave
David Remnick: [10-28]
In the cities of killing: Long report on the ground, with history,
but Not as much "what comes after" as advertised.
Richard E Rubenstein: [10-27]
Conflict resultion and the war in Gaza: Beyond the "bad actor"
Sigal Samuel: [10-27]
Palestinians fear they're being displaced permanently. Here's why
that's logical. He doesn't mention the Peel Commission (1937),
but they recommended partition of Palestine with forced transfer,
a policy which David Ben-Gurion applauded -- publicly for the first
time, although his adoption of the "Hebrew labor" doctrine made it
clear that an emerging Israel would do everything it could to drive
Palestinians away. That's what they did on a massive scale in 1948-50,
but after that it got more difficult. Ben-Gurion advised against war
in 1967 because he recognized that Palestinians wouldn't flee any
more: they would stay in place, and Israel would be stuck with them,
sinking the Jewish majority he had engineered by 1950. But the dream
and desire to expel was always there, with the settler movement on
the front lines, becoming ever more aggressive as they increased
Benzion Sanders: [10-28]
I fought for the I.D.F. in Gaza. It made me fight for peace.
"When my Israeli infantry unit arrived at the first village in Gaza,
in July 2014, we cleared houses by sending grenades through windows,
blowing doors open and firing bullets into rooms to avoid ambush and
booby traps." And: "All our casualties and the suffering brought on
Palestinians in Gaza accomplished nothing since our leaders refused
to work on creating a political reality in which more violence would
not be inevitable." Also see: Ariel Bernstein: [09-29]
I fought house to house in Gaza . . . I know force alone won't bring
Hamas attack provides "rare opportunity" to cleanse Gaza, Israeli think
Adam Shatz: [11-02]
Vengeful pathologies. This well-crafted essay stops short of
considering the pros and cons of genocide, which would push the
conflict into uncharted territory, but draws on the long history
of colonial conflict as well as recent Israel/Palestine, where
"its political class lacks the imagination and creativity -- not
to mention the sense of justice, of other people's dignity --
required to pursue a lasting agreement." A couple quotes:
One is reminded of Frantz Fanon's observation that 'the colonised person
is a persecuted person who constantly dreams of becoming the persecutor.'
On 7 October, this dream was realised for those who crossed over into
southern Israel: finally, the Israelis would feel the helplessness and
terror they had known all their lives. The spectacle of Palestinian
jubilation -- and the later denials that the killing of civilians had
occurred -- was troubling but hardly surprising. In colonial wars, Fanon
writes, 'good is quite simply what hurts them most.'
What hurt the Israelis nearly as much as the attack itself was the
fact that no one had seen it coming.
Shatz notes that "many analogies have been proposed for Al-Aqsa
Flood," then argues for the 1955 Philippeville uprising where:
Peasants armed with grenades, knives, clubs, axes and pitchforks killed --
and in many cases disembowelled -- 123 people, mostly Europeans but also
a number of Muslims. To the French, the violence seemed unprovoked, but
the perpetrators believed they were avenging the killing of tens of
thousands of Muslims by the French army, assisted by settler militias,
after the independence riots of 1945. In response to Philippeville,
France's liberal governor-general, Jacques Soustelle, whom the European
community considered an untrustworthy 'Arab lover', carried out a campaign
of repression in which more than ten thousand Algerians were killed. By
over-reacting, Soustelle fell into the FLN's trap: the army's brutality
drove Algerians into the arms of the rebels, just as Israel's ferocious
response is likely to strengthen Hamas at least temporarily, even among
Palestinians in Gaza who resent its authoritarian rule.
Already, the 10/7 attacks, unprecedented in scale as they were, have
been dwarfed by Israel's overreaction. And while demographics and modern
war technology won't allow a repeat of Algeria, Israel still has a lot
to lose in its quest for vengeance.
Raja Shehadeh: [10-26]
The uprooting of life in Gaza and the West Bank: A friendly reminder
that "Palestinians are determined not to be displace."
Kevin Sieff/Noga Tarnopolsky/Miriam Berger/William Booth/David
In Israel, Macron proposes using anti-ISIS coalition against
Hamas. It's really mind-boggling that the leader of a country
which made such a complete and utter disaster of its colonialist
adventure in Algeria could want to come back for more. But even
if this isn't just some deep-seated muscle memory from the golden
age of European imperialism, even if it's just sheer opportunism
on Macron's part, how smart is it to want to be remembered for
aiding and abetting genocide? Lots of western politicians have
embarrassed themselves fawning over Israel lately, but this
takes the cake.
Norman Solomon: [10-30]
Biden is a genocide denier and the 'enabler in chief' for Israel's
ongoing war crimes. It kind of looks like that, doesn't it?
Israel's Gaza offensive stirs a wave of global protest: This is
the only really heartening thing to come out of this month. For many
years, Palestinians have been divided between factions (like Hamas)
set on fighting for their rights, and others appealing to nonviolent
change: to decent public opinion, international law, and the subtle
pressure of BDS. Israel has done everything possible to fight both,
especially by turning them against each other, and they've done a
pretty good job of locking up political elites in the US and Europe
with their campaign against "terrorism." But large numbers of people,
even in media markets saturated with Israeli talking points, still
see through that. And once their eyes open up, further genocide will
only further estrange Israel from what we'd like to think of as the
Israel says Hamas 'is ISIS.' But it's not.
The brutal logic of tying colorful pieces of string around children's
wrists in Gaza.
Nick Turse: [10-24]
Secret U.S. war in Lebanon is tinder for escalation of Israel-Gaza
conflict: "Billions in security aid to Lebanon, along with
off-the-books commandos, could embroil the U.S. in a regional
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [10-27]
'Tit-for-tat' after US retaliates against Iranian targets: "F-16s
struck what Pentagon said were IRGC-backed militias on Friday."
Bret Wilkins: [10-25]
40 faith leaders lead Gaza pray-in at House Minority Leader Jeffries'
DC office. I'd nominate this for Seth Meyers' "The Kind of Stories
We Need Now" segment. Wilkins also wrote:
Li Zhou: [10-25]
What unites the global protests for Palestinian rights: Given
the near unanimity of the US political caste in its fealty to Israel
(e.g., the Senate voted 97-0 to denounce a ceasefire), you may be
surprised by how many people all around the world demonstrating for
Palestinian rights, the most basic of which is not to be slaughtered
by Israeli bombers and left to starve in the rubble. The messages
and emphases vary, but the most basic one in the US, where Jewish
Voice for Peace and If Not Now have been especially active, is to
call for an immediate ceasefire.
Also on X (Twitter):
Peter Beinart: [Response to Yair Wallach: Last night, settlers
invaded the village of Susya (South Hebron hills) and ordered its
residents to leave within 24 hours -- otherwise they would all be
killed.] All year we've been screaming that this would happen. No
establishment American Jewish leader said a word. As far as I know,
they still haven't. [Link to Beinart's article: [04-13]
Could Israel carry out another Nakba? "Expulsionist sentiment
is common in Israeli society and politics. To ignore the warning
sign is to abdicate responsibility."]
Ryan Grim: Holy shit -- it looks like the Western media mistranslated
a doctor's guess that there were more than 500 killed or wounded by the
hospital bombing, and just went with killed.
Then the press found that fewer than 500 were killed and the president
of the United States told the world the numbers from the health ministry
can't be trusted.
Astounding combination of arrogance and ignorance all in the service
of unchecked slaughter.
[Continuing in comment] The error flowed, I think, from the Western
media's lack of interest in Palestinians as people. If one dies, we put
them in a spreadsheet, because we know on some level it's bad when
civilians are killed.
But if one is only wounded -- a leg blown off, a concussion, what
have you -- that's not interesting to us, and you very rarely see stats
for killed and wounded in the Western press -- only killed. Or "died,"
But people in Gaza, such as this doctor in question, do care about
the wounded as well as the killed. So he mentioned both, and we simply
didn't hear him, because it doesn't matter to us if a Palestinian
civilian is only hurt but not killed in a bombing.
Katie Halper: Jews pretending to be "afraid" of "antisemitic"
protests: They're protests against Israeli genocide. It's you genocidal
fascists who put us Jews in danger by conflating Jewishness &
zionism & perpetuating the antisemitic myth that all Jews support
Israel. You don't speak for us.
Tony Karon: Some mealy-mouthed efforts by the Biden Administration
to distance itself from Israel's war crimes in Gaza do nothing to alter
its culpability. The only credible way to prevent further mass slaughter
of civilians is to force a cease-fire. [Link to:
US says Israel must distinguish between Hamas targets and civilians.
Israel will just say Hamas is using "human shields," as if that's all
the excuse they need. They don't distinguish between targets and
civilians because they don't make the distinction.]
Tony Karon: Contra to @JoeBiden's ham-handed efforts to equate
Hamas with Russia, it is Israel that is following Putin's playbook.
In the second Chechnya war, he supervised Russian forces flattening
Grozny, and killing 18,000 people in the first weeks of his assault.
Tony Karon: Colonialism is deeply embedded in the BBC's DNA, which
is why every report on horrors being inflicted by Israel's 'pacification'
violence must be qualified by the colonizer's own spin. Clearly, @BBC
bosses believe the Israeli version. They would, though, wouldn't they?
[Robert Wright commented: Or it could be that, like many people, whoever
wrote this doesn't know the difference between "refute" and "rebut".]
Karon continued: Not really, because it's a pattern -- literally every
report on the horrors unfolding in Gaza on their web site is accompanied
by a disclaimer worthy of Walter Isaacson's 2001 instruction to his CNN
staff to downplay and spin civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
Arsen Ostrovsky: [Over aerial video of a massive protest in London]
This isn't a pro-Palestinian rally in London now, it's a pro-Hamas
Churchill is probably rolling in his grave.
Jon "Pumpkinhead" Schwarz commented: Churchill probably would be
upset about these demonstrations, given that he referred to Palestinians
as animals ("the dog in the manger") who had no right to be upset by
being replaced by "a higher grade race"
Nathan J Robinson: This is an important point. If the British had
responded to IRA attacks on civilians by launching relentless air strikes
on Irish civilian neighborhoods, it would have appeared obviously
psychopathic and deranged. Yet in Gaza this is considered a reasonable
response to terror.
David Sheen: Israeli TV running a counter of fatalities in Gaza --
most of whom are civilians and many of whom are children --under the
heading "terrorists we eliminated". And for those too lazy to drive to
Sderot to watch the genocide, they've got you covered with a livestream
of the bombing.
Tikun Olam commented: Language betrays the immorality and
genocide. Here are a few other statistics: 8,000 Gaza dead -- 3,000
children. 45% of homes destroyed. 1.5-million refugees. 10 of 35
hospitals shut down due to lack of supplies & power.
Rabbi Alissa Wise: This is Netanyahu telling the world he plans
genocide. So even if 8000 dead and cutting off connection to the
rest of the world and access to food & water didnt convince
you, now you know. ACT NOW! [Refers to Netanyahu quote, video
included: "You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our
Elsewhere, Barnett R. Rubin explains Netanyahu's bible quote:
For those unfamiliar with the reference, here it is: I Samuel 15: 3-4:
Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and
spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox
and sheep, camel and ass.
Tony Karon adds: Here, @POTUS, is your deranged partner in war
crime pledging to commit Biblically-inspired genocide. That Palestinian
death toll you don't want to hear about? Is that because you know you
could have prevented it?
Trump, and other Republicans: Big news this week, aside from
Trumps trials and fulminations, was the election of Mike Johnson (R-LA)
as Speaker of the House. So he's getting some press, raising the
question of why anyone who thought Jim Jordan was too toxic could
imagine that he'd be any more tolerable.
Kyle Anzalone: [10-27]
New House Speaker: Russia, China, and Iran are the new axis of evil.
Also: "Hamas and Hezbollah are proxies of Iran, and they're tied in now
with Russia and China." I guess that's good news for people worried
about keeping the government funded, as you can't fight WWIII during
a government shutdown.
David Badash: [10-30
Why did Mike Johnson scrub 69 podcasts from his website?
Devlin Barrett/Perry Stein: [10-29]
The Trump trials: Cannon fodder: "Welcome back to The Trump Trials,
our weekly effort to keep readers up to date on the many criminal --
and civil -- cases the 45th president is fighting in federal and
Noah Berlatsky: [10-30]
The Christofascism of Mike Johnson: "The new House speaker is an
opposition researcher's goldmine."
Andrea Bernstein/Andy Kroll: [10-27]
Trump's court whisperer had a state judicial strategy. Its full extent
only became clear years later. Leonard Leo.
Gabrielle Bluestone: [10-27]
Michael Cohen waited five years for this: He didn't just wait. He
did time in jail for Trump. Admittedly, not very hard time, but enough
to know that people should pay for their crimes.
Jonathan Chait: [10-26]
Republican 'moderates' caved. Wow, that never happens. "Except
Chas Danner: [10-28]
Mike Pence acknowledges reality: He "suspended" his presidential
campaign, after widespread reports of bankruptcy.
Norman Eisen/Amy Lee Copeland: [10-29]
Jenna Ellis could become a star witness against Trump. She became
the third of Trump's lawyers, after Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell,
to plead guilty to racketeering charges in Georgia.
Katelyn Fossett: [10-27]
'He seems to be saying his commitment is to minority rule':
Interview with Kristin Kobes Du Mez on "the Christian nationalist
ideas that shaped House Speaker Mike Johnson."
Rebecca Gordon: [10-24]
Trump's Schedule F (for "failed state"): "Republican contradictions:
Are they fascists or nihilists -- or both?"
Margaret Hartmann: [10-27]
15 not-fun facts about Speaker Mike Johnson. For a more comprehensive
accounting, see Anna Canizales/Michael Kruse: [10-26]
55 things you need to know about Mike Johnson.
Ben Jacobs: [10-29]
"Lord of the Flies": The House's chaotic next era, explained:
"New House Speaker Mike Johnson faces a long to-do list and a caucus
with short patience for compromise."
Sarah Jones: [10-28]
Mike Johnson's old-time religion.
Paul Krugman: [10-26]
The GOP goes full-on extremist: Meet Mike Johnson.
Meredith McGraw/Alex Isenstadt: [10-24]
'I killed him': How Trump torpedoes Tom Emmer's speaker bid.
Nia Prater: [10-25]
Trump takes the stand, gets fined again.
David Rothkopf: [10-26]
Here's why Mike Johnson is more dangerous than Donald Trump.
Greg Sargent: [10-27]
Mike Johnson's conspiracy theories about 'illegals' mark a new GOP
Laura Vozzella: [10-29]
Youngkin 'purge' removed nearly 3,400 legal Virginia voters from
Biden and/or the Democrats:
David French: [10-29]
Joe Biden knows what he's doing: Biden's "support among Democrats
has slipped 11 points in the past month to 75 percent, the lowest
of his presidency." Much of that has to do with his handling of Israel's
war against Gaza, where in public he's offered total support for Israeli
aggression, regardless of any reservations he may have communicated in
private. It's possible that he may eventually moderate Israel's lust for
vengeance, but it seems very unlikely to me that he "knows what he is
doing." That's because so very few Americans have any sort of objective
understanding of Israel, or for that matter of American power when it
is threatened or humbled. If you want examples, just look at the fine
print in French's piece, especially when he argues against a
Ed Kilgore: [10-27]
Biden's age is primary challenger Dean Phillips's only issue.
The Congressman (D-MN) decides to take a flyer, not over a political
disupte but doubts of Biden's "electability" (which isn't exactly
age, but close to it). Cites a profile by Tim Alberta in
The Atlantic, "timed to appear the day of his announcement."
Jennifer Rubin: [10-29]
Labor wins bolster Biden's strategy. For example, breakthroughs
in the auto workers strikes (although I'd give the UAW most of the
Jeanne Whalen/Lauren Kaori Gurley:
Legal matters and other crimes:
Climate and environment:
Umair Irfan/Benji Jones: [10-26]
How Hurricane Otis defied forecasts and exploded into a deadly storm
overnight. The Pacific hurricane intensified extraordinarily fast
to reach category 5, before hitting Acapulco.
Christopher Ketcham: [10-29]
When idiot savants do climate economics: "How an elite clique of
math-addled economists hijacked climate policy." Starts with William
Elizabeth Kolbert: [10-26]
Hurricane Otis and the world we live in now.
Ian Livingston: [10-24]
Earth's climate shatters heat records. These 5 charts show how.
Kasha Patel: [09-25]
Antarctica just hit a record low in sea ice -- by a lot.
Matt Stieb: [10-26]
Scenes of the destruction in Acapulco after Hurricane Otis.
Around the world:
Lautaro Grinspan: [10-23]
How young Argentines might put a far-right libertarian into power:
Javier Milei, who if elected would probably become the very worst
national president in the world today. He was the surprise leader
in the primary round, but fell to second place in last Sunday's
first-round election. (It's kind of a screwy system.)
Kelly Denton-Borhaug: [10-29]
The dehumanization of war (please don't kill the children):
Always two titles at this site, so I figured use both, for this
"meditation for Veterans Day," which I could have filed under
Israel or Ukraine or possibly elsewhere, but thought I'd let it
stand alone. Starts in Hiroshima, 1945 with what Stalin would
have called a "statistic," then focuses in on a 10-year-old
girl, whose mother was reduced to "an unrecognizable block of
ash," with only a single gold tooth to identify her. The author
has a book about American soldiers but the theme is universal:
And Then Your Soul Is Gone: Moral Injury and U.S.
Lloyd Green: [10-29]
Romney: A Reckoning review: must-read on Mitt and the rise of Trump:
"McKay Coppins and his subject do not hold back in a biography with
much to say about the collapse of Republican values."
Also on the Romney book:
John Herrman: [10-27]
What happens when ads generate themselves? I wish this was the
most important article of the week. This is a subject I could really
drill down hard on, not least because I think advertising is one of
the most intrinsically evil artifacts of our world. And because
"artificial intelligence" is a pretty sick oxymoron.
Bruce E Levine: [10-27]
Why failed psychiatry lives on: Seems like someone I would have
gained much from reading fifty years ago (although R.D. Laing, Thomas
Szasz, Paul Goodman, and Neil Postman worked for me).
Sophie Lloyd: [10-28]
Disney's 8 biggest mistakes in company's history: I wouldn't
normally bother with a piece like this, but as mistakes go, these
are pretty gross. I mean, after their treatment of slavery and
Indians, and their mistreatment of lemmings, number eight was an
omnibus "A long history of sexism."
James C Nelson: [10-27]
Just another day in NRA paradise: I suppose I have to note that
another crazy person with an assault rifle killed 18 and injured 13
more in Lewiston, Maine, last week. This article is as good a marker
as any. You know the drill. If you want an update: Kelly McClure:
Suspect in Maine mass shootings found dead.
Will Oremus/Elizabeth Dwoskin/Sarah Ellison/Jeremy B Merrill:
A year later, Musk's X is tilting right. And sinking.
Nathan J Robinson: I could have split these up all over
today's post, but want to point out the common source of so much
They're all "extremists": "The Republican Party has long been pushing
us toward an apocalyptic dystopian future. The differences between
individual Republicans are far less important than their similarities."
My only question is why the quotes? "Extremists" is plainly descriptive,
and hardly controversial.
How the occupation of Palestine shapes everyday life -- and what happens
now: Interview with Nathan Thrall, former director of the Arab-Israeli
Project at the International Crisis Group, and author of The Only
Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine,
and most recently A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a
Jerusalem Tragedy. Thrall lives in Jerusalem, but has recently
been trying to promote his book in the UK, noting:
I have never seen this degree of intolerance for any sort of nuance in
the discussion of Israel-Palestine, for any discussion of root causes,
even just expression of sympathy for Palestinians living under
occupation. We've seen events canceled in the UK and the US, hotels
refusing to host long planned Palestinian conferences. A concert in
London was shut down, and my own book event was shut down in London by
the UK police. And of course, what made headlines was the prize in
Germany that was going to be given to a Palestinian author. And you
saw that the UK Home Secretary had said -- the police, of course, are not
going to follow through on this -- but she recommended to the police to
arrest anyone, or to consider arresting anyone, with a Palestinian
flag. We saw in France that they were banning Palestinian protests.
It's really a very difficult moment to speak with any kind of
intelligence or nuance about this issue.
I've occasionally noted instances of repression emanating from
political and cultural elites in the US and Europe, clearly aimed
at shutting down any discussion, much less protest, against all
the violence in and around Gaza, but I haven't seriously tracked
it, because this assault on free speech and democracy seems like
the less urgent tragedy. But it's happening. And it reminds me
of 9/11: not the shocking initial event, but the chilling efforts
to keep anyone but the warmongers from speaking, allowing them
the illusion of cheering applause as they went ahead with their
ill-considered and ultimately self-destructive program.
"Libs of Tiktok" is Orwell's "two minutes hate": "The right-wing
social media account is viciopus and dehumanizing. Its revolting
toxicity shows us why empathy and solidarity are so important."
The wisdom of Edward Said has never been more relevant. Article
includes extensive quotes.
Jeffrey St Clair: [10-27]
Roaming Charges: That oceanic feeling. Lead section on climate
change (remember that?) and environment. I didn't realize that small
planes still burn leaded gasoline. Then the dirt on Mike Johnson. Then
a much longer list of criminal injustices. Plus other things, like a
Nikki Haley quote ("I'm tired of talking about a Department of Defense.
I want a Department of Offense.")
Evaggelos Vallianatos: [10-27]
Slauighter of the American buffalo: Article occasioned by the
Burns documentary, which may be an eye-opener if you don't
know the story, and adds details if you do. It is a classic case
of how insatiable world markets suck the life out of nature, and
how the infinite appetites of financiers, who've reduced everything
to the question of how much more money their money can make.
Richard D Wolff: [10-27]
Why capitalism cannot finally repress socialism. This assumes
that some measure of sanity must prevail. And yes, I know that's
a tautology, as socialism is the sanity that keeps capitalism from
tearing itself apart and dissolving into chaos.
Nothing from The New Republic this week, as they decided
I'm "out of free articles," even though I'm pretty sure we have a
valid subscription. Not much there that isn't elsewhere, although
I clicked on close to ten articles that looked interesting, before
giving up, including one called
Kyrsten Sinema's Delusional Exit Interview. AlterNet has a
similar article: Carl Gibson: [10-30]
'I don't care': Kyrsten Sinema plans to cash in on Senate infamy if
she loses reelection in 2024.
Ask a question, or send a comment.
Monday, October 23, 2023
Speaking of Which
After a grueling Speaking of Which
last week (9497 words, 125 links), I resolved this week not
start my article search until Sunday: partly because many of the
week's stories are quickly evolving, but mostly because I said
pretty much what I wanted to say last week (and much of it the
week before). But the way this column comes together is a
lot like surfing: you look around, notice an interesting wave,
and try to ride it. The process is very reactive, each little
bit giving you a glimpse of some still unparsed whole, further
obscured by a sort which obliterates order.
What I want to do this week is to start by making a few
points that I think need to be highlighted, as plainly and
clearly as possible.
On October 7, Palestinians in Gaza launched a surprise attack
on parts of Israel adjacent to the walls surrounding Gaza. The
attackers fired about 5,000 rockets over the walls, and about
2,500 fighters infiltrated Israel, attacking military bases,
villages, and kibbutzim. On the first day, they killed some 1,200
Israelis, and took some 200 back to Gaza as hostages. Within the
next day or two, Israel killed or repelled the infiltrators, and
took control back of the checkpoints and wall breaches. From that
point, the Palestinian offensive was over.
If you can overlook 75 years since Israel started pushing
Palestinian refugees into Gaza, the slaughter on the way to Suez
in 1956, the reprisal raids up to 1967, the military rule from
1967 up until the deputization of the PLO under the Oslo Accords,
and the blockade and periodic "mowing the grass" since 2006; if
you can put all of that out of mind, as well as the recent rash
of settler pogroms in the West Bank, and the encroachment on the
Al-Aqsa mosque, and the disinterest of other Arab leaders as they
negotiate alliances with Israel and the US, then sure, the attack
was unprovoked, savage, and shocking. But given how systematically
Gaza has been isolated, impoverished, and tortured, and given that
the evident trend was only getting worse, is it really a surprise
that people treated so badly might choose to fight back, even to
risk death (which given the how much more power Israel wields was
The rest of the war -- two weeks so far -- is purely Israel's
choice, whether for revenge or for spite, or perhaps, as numerous
Israelis have urged, a step toward a "final solution." Israel
blames the attacks on Hamas, and has vowed to kill them all
(supposedly 40,000, out of a population of 2.1 million), but
doesn't discriminate very well. They've already killed four
times as many Palestinians as they've lost. And they seem
intent on striking the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria as well.
They've vowed to enter Gaza with massive force, to root out
and end all resistance. They certainly have the firepower to
kill tens and hundreds of thousands. The only question is
whether conscience or shame will stop them. It certainly
doesn't seem like the United States will dare second guess
It's been clear from day one how this will play out. The
people who run Israel, from David Ben-Gurion down to the
present day, are very smart and very capable. They could
have settled this conflict at any step -- certainly any point
since 1980, and possibly quite earlier -- but they didn't,
because they kept getting away with it, while cultivating
the hope for ever greater spoils. But the more they kill,
the more they destroy, the more miserable they make the lives
of those subject to their whim, the more humanity they lose.
America prides itself on being Israel's dearest friend, but
what kind of person lets a friend embarrass himself like
this? This may once again be a case where no nation stands
up against genocide, but it is not one that will easily be
"What kind of friend" may be rhetorical, but it's time to
take a much harder look at what the US does for and to its
allies. The US habitually drags its friends into wars: as
with the "coalitions of the willing" in Afghanistan and Iraq,
the various lesser "war on terror" projects, and the hopeless
war in Ukraine. The US collects tribute in the form of arms
purchases. And the US choices of allies (like Israel and Saudi
Arabia) and enemies (like Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea,
or more seriously Russia and China) taint every ally, as the
US has become the world's most recalcitrant rogue state.
It's tempting to blame America's foolhardy foreign policy
on the vast power of the military-industrial complex, but what's
locked it into place isn't just revolving door corruption, but
also the persistence of several really bad ideas, like the
notion of "peace through strength," the cult of deterrence, and
the great sanctions game. We need a fundamental rethink on security
and foreign policy. We need in particular to realize that Israel
is not a model we want to follow, but a dead end disaster we need
to pull back from. And hopefully convince them to pull back too.
The next section is my "thesis-oriented" original introduction.
(I only got down to 13 before scratching it as the lead and writing
the newer one above, but will try to knock out the rest before I
post on Monday.) Finally, there is another note on foreign policy
at the end of the post, which I jotted down back on Saturday. This
week's links came out of a very quick scan of sources.
Actually, when I started writing an introduction on Sunday,
I intended a numbered list, with about a dozen items on it. What
follows is as far as I got, before turning to the shorter statement
The most basic political division is between Left and Right.
The Right believes that human beings sort into hierarchies, where
order is ultimately maintained through the threat of force. The
Left believes that people are fundamentally equal, and can enter
into a political compact for the mutual benefit of all. The Right
looks back on a long history of tribal warfare and plunder, which
they hold to be the natural order, but really just comes down to
their privileges. On the other hand, the Left appeals to those
denied respect and privilege, looking forward to our most generous
hopes and aspirations.
As human society and technology become more complex, as
population grows and interacts faster, as people become more
conscious of how the world works, traditional hierarchies falter
and frustrate. This leads to conflict. Ruling elites never give
up power without pressure. Their first instinct when challenged
is repression. Even if successful at first, the pressure builds
up, and can eventually explode in revolution. The alternative
is reform: diluting elite power to better serve more people,
channeling conflict into cooperation. Conflict destroys, but
The modern world is the result of forces of change (mostly
driven by science, technology, commerce, and culture), as modulated
by bouts of revolution and reform. It is reasonable to view change
as an inevitable force. Rigid regimes fight back with repression,
risking violent revolution. More flexible regimes accommodate change
through reform. Europe was regularly rocked by revolutions from 1789
through 1920, but reform gained ground from the 1830s (in England)
on, and has become the rule, especially after 1945. One might also
note that counterrevolutions occasionally occurred, but tended to
blow up disastrously (most notoriously in Germany, 1933-45).
Violence has been a common human trait as far back as anyone
can remember. It's been used to dominate, to control, to loot and
plunder, both by and against elites. Many of these uses have come
to be disparaged, yet in one form or another they persist: I've
seen a tally of some 250 wars since the "big one" ended in 1945.
Even today, most of us accept the concept that one is entitled to
fight back when attacked. The Left was defined in the French
Revolution, and most Leftists at least sympathized with the
Russians in 1917, and even the Vietnamese in the 1950-70s, but
lately the Left in America have become so reform-minded that
they are quick to condemn any violence, even in circumstances
that have totally closed any hope for peaceful reform. In my
opinion, true pacifists are not wrong, but they are out of
touch with the human condition (e.g., as in Gaza).
As Bertolt Brecht put it, "food first, morals later."
Brecht understood that thinking about morality is a luxury
that can only be indulged after more basic needs. (Another
famous line: "what keeps mankind alive? bestial acts.") Yet
when people broke out of their cage in Gaza and immediately
killed and maimed people on the other side of the walls, we
were immediately lectured by well-meaning Leftists that in
order to "talk morally" about the event, we first had to
condemn the killers, lest any later explanation of why they
killed should sound like an excuse, and thereby expose the
morality of the Left to shaming.
Morality is a personal belief system that guides one's
behavior in normal circumstances. That's probably true for all
people, but it particularly matters to Leftists, because our
politics is largely dictated by our moral concerns, and that's
something we're rather proud of. But it shouldn't be an excuse
for arrogance. Morality isn't a license which allows you to
condemn people you don't understand, especially when the big
thing you don't understand is what other options that person
has. Morality may seem absolute, but it's application is always
contingent on what options are actually available, and what
their consequences may be. On the other hand, where you can
reasonably discern other, more moral, options, you might be
able to criticize: while, say, Hamas or IDF soldiers may have
very limited options, a Prime Minister has options enough to
deserve more scrutiny.
While morality may guide your political choices, available
options are often limited, unclear, compromised, highly contingent --
hence the cliché of always having to vote for "the lesser evil."
Many political decisions are made on what amounts to blind trust.
The key point to understand about Israel is that it is the
result of a settler colonial project, where a foreign imperialist
power sponsored and installed an alien population, effectively
stripping a native population of most of its rights. There are
several dozen similar examples, mostly in the Americas, installed
by European empires from 1500 into the mid-1900s. The primary
determinant of success was demographic. Settler states remained
in charge where immigrants were a clear majority (e.g., Canada,
Australia, US), but not where they never came close to majority
status (South Africa and Algeria were the most hotly contested.
Israel is unusual in several respects: although Zionists began
moving to Palestine in the 1880s, the big influx only happened
after Britain took over in 1920, reaching about 30% in 1948.
Between the partition (expanded during the 1948-50 war), the
forced removal of 700,000 Palestinians, and immigration from
Europe and Arab lands, Israel's settler population grew to 70%
before the 1967 war, when Israel seized more lands with much
more Palestinians. Since then, the demographic split is about
50-50, although most Palestinians have no political rights or
representation. Israel has managed to retain control through
a really extraordinary "matrix of control" (Jeff Halper's
term), that is unique in history.
Israel shares many characteristics with other settler
colonies (especially formerly British ones). First is a strong
degree of segregation of the settlers from the natives, and
the economic marginalization of the latter. Israel preserved
the British colonial legal system, with military control, for
Palestinians, while evolving its own system for registered Jews.
Laws regarding the sale of land and the permitting of buildings
were skewed to siphon off resources. (The US had similar laws,
but by 1900 the Native American population had dwindled to the
point there was little left to steal, and the reservations,
while impoverished, were left as retreats.)
There are many unusual things about Israel, but the most
important one is that Israel synthesized a new culture, with its
own language and an extensive mythology, based on its status as
a settlement (before Israel, it was simply the Yishuv). Before
aliyah, Jews spoke local languages (like Arabic and German), or
creoles (like Ladino and Yiddish). In Israel, they spoke Hebrew.
They embellished the long history of Jewish suffering into their
own cosmic mantra. They farmed. They fought. They refashioned
orthodox Judaism into one that celebrated Israel. And they
trained new generations to maintain the settler ethic. The
result is a psyche that cannot ease up and do what every other
successful settler nation has done: let its native population
adjust to a normal life.
European settler colonialism reached a sort of peak
shortly after 1900, but the two world wars it inspired broke
the bank. Britain cut India and Palestine loose in 1947-48,
having come up with half-assed partition plans that led to
multiple wars. Most of Africa was independent by 1960. France
lost Vietnam in 1954, and Algeria in 1962. Nearly every colony
had an independence movement. Palestine was, if anything, ahead
of the curve, with a major revolt in 1936-39. Today, one is
tempted to fault the Palestinians for not seeking some sort
of accommodation with the Israelis, but they had reasons to
expect more -- probably up to the 1973 war, after which Egypt
abandoned them. It is hard for us today to imagine what it
felt like to be under a colonialist thumb, but Palestinians
knew that all too well.
Israelis have a word, "hasbara," which translates to
"explaining," but is really more like spin. Zionists have
been working their spin on Americans since well before 1947,
and they are very good at it. Any time Israel comes up, you
can count on constant monitoring of news and opinion sources,
with vigorous lobbying to get us to say what they want, in
the terms they want us to be using. They've turned the word
"terrorist" into a conditioned reflex to kill. The Palestinians
they kill are all, if not "terrorists," at least "miltants."
We all know that Israel is the "only democracy in the Middle
East," even though half the people aren't allowed to vote.
The propaganda machine got cranked up to max the moment the
Gaza breakout attacks started, and within minutes everyone
in America -- at least in upper punditland -- were singing
the same hymns. They've created a linguistic cage that is
making it difficult to think at all clearly. Long experience
makes one wonder: is it really Hamas that attacked Israel,
or is Hamas just the target we've been trained to hate? Why
is it the "Israel-Hamas War" when Israel is the only one with
an army and air force? And when the real target that Israel
is pounding isn't Hamas, which is basically invisible, but
all of Gaza? After key Israelis threatened to kill literally
everyone in Gaza, why aren't we talking about genocide,
instead of just some "humanitarian crisis"?
Everyone in Israel has an ID card. That ID card specifies
your rights, whether you can vote, which courts will try cases
you are involved in, where you can go, much more. In America, we
have a word for this kind of systematic discrimination based on
birth: racism. It's no longer embedded in law, but it is deeply
embedded in culture, and it pops up pretty often if you're at
all sensitive to it. Racism may not be the right word for what's
not just practiced in Israel but enshrined in law, but it's a
term that Americans recognize the implications and consequences
Nationalism was a 19th century European invention, which
sought a conservative sense of popular cohesion, at a time when
capitalism was going global, intellectuals turned cosmopolitan,
and ordinary people were promised a stake in public life. It
worked by turning people against other groups, who could be
imperial overlords or local minorities (like Jews). Zionism
was an attempt to posit a Jewish nationalism, but given the
diaspora first had to settle on a land. The Zionists went
hat-in-hand to various imperial capitols. The British saw an
opportunity, took Palestine from the Ottomans, and the rest
is history -- including the rise of a Palestinian nationalism
to struggle against the British and the Israelis. Nationalism,
even more than the Holocaust, is what binds Israel to Nazi
Germany, and what threatens Israel's future. In particular,
it's estranging Israel from the cosmopolitan Jewish diaspora.
Israel is the most deeply and intensively militaristic
nation in the world, possibly in world history. Nearly everyone
gets drafted and trained (except Palestinians and ultra-orthodox
Jews, although more of the latter are joining). Reserves extend
well into middle age, and there are numerous other police and
spy agencies. Military leaders move on to dominate the political
and business castes. The arms industry is huge, and subsidized
not just by the state but by billions of dollars of US aid each
year. Treaties with neighbors like Egypt and Jordan have never
produced peace dividends. Rather, Israel has always moved on to
taunting other "enemies" (Lebanon, Iraq, Iran), plus they've
always had the Palestinians to keep down. It's a lot of work
keeping enemies riled up at you, but they've developed a taste
for it, and can't imagine giving it up.
Virtually everyone in the American defense sector is in
bed with Israel, but none more so than the neoconservatives,
who so admire Israel's unilateral projection of power, their
refusal to negotiate, and their willingness to violate norms
against assassinations and such that they advocate America
adopting the same policies on a global scale. These are the
people whose 1990s Project for a New American Century started
the campaign to invade Iraq, but they also conspired to bring
Likud to power to demolish the Oslo Accords and fire up the
2000 Intifada. The GW Bush administration was run by those
same people. While their policies were disastrous, they still
exercise enormous influence in Washington. Israel's bad ideas
are at least limited by its small size and parochial interests.
But American neoconservatives have bigger game in mind, like
Russia and China.
Americans have always been sympathetic to Israel, though
the reasoning involved varies: Christian fundamentalists see a
fulfillment of biblical prophecies; many Americans see a kindred
settler spirit; neo-imperialists see an ally against Arab ills
(nationalism, socialism, Islamism); liberals see an outpost of
Western democratic (and capitalist) values (although earlier on
leftists were enamored of Israeli socialism); anti-semites see
a distant place to put unwanted Jews, and Jews see a thriving
refuge for their co-religionists; and military-industrialists
see a booming market and a stimulator of other markets. But
the political calculations have changed since the 1990s: the
Republicans aligned not just with Israel but with the Israeli
right; and while many Democrats have become wary of the racism,
repression, and belligerence of Israel, very few politicians
have been willing to risk punishment by the Israel lobby and
their donors. The result is that the US no longer attempts to
sanitize or rationalize Israeli positions. Trump and Biden
simply jump when commanded, as if America has no interests
other than to serve at Israel's feet. This, in turn, has only
emboldened the Israeli right to turn ever more viciously on
Approximately half of the people subject to Israeli law
and enforcement cannot vote in Israel. About 20% of the remainder
are nominally Israeli citizens, but are subject to many forms of
discrimination. The remainder are Jews from various backgrounds,
some intensely religious, some not at all, but almost all unite
on their shared fear and loathing of Palestinians. The old divide
between right and left has largely disappeared as the welfare
state has been trimmed back to a tolerable minimum, leaving as
the only real issue the contest of which party appears to be
the most barbaric toward the Palestinians. This has allowed the
ascendancy of a series of far-right demagogues, which Netanyahu
has been agreeable to work with, and has even tried to outflank.
Aside from the rump group in the Knesset, which has always
remained utterly powerless, there has never been a viable forum
for Palestinians to air out their political differences. The PLO
was a coalition of groups in exile that never had roots in the
Occupied Territories. The Oslo Accords ratified their election
as the Palestinian Authority, but when Hamas attempted to enter
the political process and challenged Fatah, their wins were thrown
out, and no further elections were allowed. (Israel, and America,
couldn't abide democratic elections where the wrong people won.
Remember the elections promised for 1956 in Vietnam? Eisenhower
canceled them for fear of losing to the Communists, leaving them
no choice but to fight.) Hamas wound up seizing
power in Gaza, which Israel responded to with blockade and bombs.
Israel branded Hamas as terrorists, giving them carte blanche to
kill whenever it suited them. Fatah, circumscribed in ever tighter
circles in the West Bank, remains ineffective, with a stench of
corruption. This suits Israelis, who love complaining about having
no partner for peace.
Israel's far-right turn is built on ethnocentrism, racism,
and a strong belief that might makes right. This has largely been
led by the settler movement, which kicked off immediately after the
1967 war, and was dedicated to establishing "facts on the ground"
that would make it politically impossible for future Israeli leaders
to negotiate any "land for peace" deal (like the one with Egypt,
which did result in the evacuation of two Israeli settlements; the
2006 removal of Israeli settlements from Gaza was deliberately not
negotiated to avoid such appearance). The pace of settlement building
in the West Bank accelerated significantly after Oslo, and did much
to sabotage peace prospects. Although all Israeli governments from
1967 on have supported the settler movement, the latest government
has raised its support to a new level, encouraging settlers to
attack Palestinians and drive them from the fields they have been
working. This seemed to be a calibrated first step toward forcing
Palestinians into exile, although it was still small and tentative --
unlike the post-attack demands that all Gazans move south and flee
Gaza into Egypt, or face death as Israel invades. That is exactly
the form that genocide would take.
The October 6 attacks were immediately met with a deafening
roar of condemnation, at least in America and probably in Europe,
even by people who have long been very critical of Israel's brutal
occupation and long history of duplicity and propaganda. That's
fine on a personal level, but what Israeli leaders were looking
for, and what they heard, was assent to respond with violence in
even greater orders of magnitude. When one said "terrorism," they
heard "kill them all." When one said "this is Israel's 9/11," they
heard "it's time for all-out war." And when Israelis threatened
genocidal revenge, and got little or no pushback from their old
allies, the die was cast. They would bomb and kill until even
they couldn't stand it anymore. And it would happen not because
of what Hamas did, but because they had started down this road
a century ago. (There's a book called Jerusalem 1913 which
offers one credible landmark date.) Because no one ever took the
threat seriously enough to stop them. Because they pulled the
occasional punch and laughed it off. Because we fellow settler
colonists secretly admired them.
It's tempting to think that world opinion, not least the rich
Americans who bestow so much generosity on Israel, could talk
Israel down from this precipice of genocide. In that light,
Biden's public embrace and endorsement seems not just foolish
but cowardly. I won't argue that it's not. But I'm reminded of
something that David Ben-Gurion liked to say: "it only matters
what the Jews do." And here, unencumbered by public opinion
and other people's morality, they will surely do what they've
always wanted to do, and reveal themselves as they truly are.
Or at least some of them will: the ones naively given so much
[PS: Ben-Gurion said a lot of ridiculous bullshit, so scouring
Google for an exact quote is hard and painful. Closest I came to
this one was "it does not matter what the goyim say, but what the
Jews do." But my memory is more to my point.]
Two more personal items for possible future reference:
unhappy with Bernie, as "he can't even call on Israel to stop the
bombing!" I think this has something to do with
Senate unanimously adopts resolution stating support for Israel.
Not only did Sanders vote for the resolution, he didn't call for a
ceasefire in a statement he issued calling for food to be allowed
I dug up the link to Laura's "one and only"
2010 poem, which she wrote for a local "poetry slam" event, but
continues to be relevant, urgent even.
Calling for a ceasefire should be one of the easiest and sanest
things any politician can do. That politicians are reluctant to do
so suggests that someone is snapping the whip hard behind them.
For instance, I just saw this
A senior adviser to [UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer was asked
how many Gazans have to die before Labour will call for a ceasefire.
The reply came: "As many as it takes . . ."
Top story threads:
Nicole Narea: [10-19]
A timelilne of Israel and Palestine's complicated history.
A lot of useful information here, though there are things I'd stress
a bit differently.
Sam Adler-Bell: [10-21]
War of the statements: "The unusual way Americans have processed
the Israel-Hamas War."
Zack Beauchamp: [10-20]
What Israel should do now: "Israel's current approach is clearly
wrong. Here's a better way to fight Hamas -- and win."
George Beebe/Anatol Lieven: [10-19]
How China and Russia can help us avoid escalation in the Middle
East: This is a bit fanciful, starting with the assumption that
the US wants to "avoid escalation in the Middle East." The underlying
point -- that Russia and China could help in cooling down hot spots --
would make more sense if the US wasn't so intent on heating them up.
Ghousoon Bisharat/Oren Ziv/Baker Zoubi: [10-17]
Israel cracks down on internal critics of Gaza war: "Palestinians,
as well as some left-wing Jews, are being suspended from studies, fired
from jobs, or arested at night -- all because of social media posts."
Data for Progress: [10-20]
Voters agree the US should call for a ceasefire and de-escalation of
violence in Gaza to prevent civilian deaths: 66% of all likely
voters agree (more or less), including 80% of Democrats, but evidently
not Joe Biden.
Mohammed El-Kurd: [10-20]
Western journalists have Palestinian blood on their hands.
Jarod Facundo: [10-17]
Progressive American Jewish groups lead cease-fire rally near
White House: "The protesters urged the Biden administration
to prevent 'a chain of reactions that would be catastrophic for
a lot of people.'"
Basil Farraj: [10-21]
Israel steps up its war against Palestinian prisoners: "Israel has
almost doubled the Palestinian prison population since October 7."
Gershom Gorenberg: [10-20]
How West Bank settlements led to the conflict in Gaza: "Having
to defend them clearly imperils Israeli security."
Chris Hedges: [10-22]
Let them eat cement: "Israel is not only decimating Gaza with
airstrikes but employing the oldest and cruelest weapon of war --
Ellen Ioanes: [10-21]
Israelis feel abandoned by Netanyahu after October 7: "A recent
poll shows high support for a group invasion in Gaza but dismal
numbers of the prime minister."
Colby Itkowitz: [10-11]
Democratic divisions over Israel resurface after 'cease-fire'
comments: "Democrats harshly rebuked several left-leaning
lawmakers who have called for a 'cease-fire' as Israel-Gaza
Sarah Jones: [10-19]
The Palestinian blood on America's hands. Quotes Biden as saying:
"The Israelis are gonna do everything in their power to avoid the
killing of innocent civilians." Everything? All they would have to
do is stop the bombing. Are they stopping the bombing? Biden's
credulity here is mind-boggling. Especially coming right after
Biden saying: "Israel is going after a group of people who have
engaged in barbarism that is as consequential as the Holocaust."
About 1,300 Israelis have been killed in this event. That's awful,
but not even a rounding error compared to the Holocaust. Worse
than the Holocaust? That's not exactly going to encourage Israel
"to avoid the killing of innocent civilians."
Robert Kuttner: [10-13]
Israel's dwindling moral high ground: Imagine an alternate
world where Israel stopped at repairing the breach in the wall,
and didn't go on to bomb Gaza and threaten genocide. A little
restraint would have argued for their innocence, putting a little
distance between the Hamas attack from the 75 years of Israeli
attacks that preceded it, and making it much easier to negotiate
a way out of this disaster. But Netanyahu just had to show Gaza
(and the world) how tough and intemperate Israel could be, as
if anyone needed reminding. Similarly, the world would have
remained very sympathetic to the US after 9/11, instead of
being forced to recognize GW Bush as the sniveling warmonger
he really was.
Eric Lipton: [10-17]
Middle East war adds to surge in international arms sales.
Branko Marcetic: [10-20]
Forget 'peace,' did Abraham Accords set stage for Israel-Gaza
John Nichols: [10-21]
Blessed be the peacemakers, unless they raise their voices in
Peter Oborne/Jamie Stern-Weiner: [10-17]
Why settlers want war in the West Bank.
Christian Paz: [10-20]
What do leftist critics of Israel do now?
Mitchell Plitnick: [10-20]
Biden's Mideast policy implodes.
Nathan J Robinson: [10-20]
The current Israel-Palestine crisis was entire avoidable: Interview
with Jerome Slater, author of Mythologies Without End: The US, Israel,
and the Arab-Israeli Conflict 1917-2020.
Raz Segal: [10-13]
A textbook case of genocide: "Israel has been explicit about
what it's carrying out in Gaza. Why isn't the world listening?"
Omar Shakir/Yasmine Ahmed/Akshaya Kumar: [10-20]
We are seeing urgent signs of more mutual mass atrocities to come in
Israel and Gaza.
Jonah Shepp: [10-22]
Don't blame Gazans for Hamas: "The terrorist group has never
been very popular among the people it rules." At this point, I'm
not sure what Hamas really is or isn't, other than a figment of
Israel's propaganda ministry. But when Israel says they're taking
out Hamas, they're really just aiming to punish Palestinians,
because, like they learned from the British, they've always been
about collective punishment.
Noga Tarnopolsky: [10-21]
How Biden bigfooted Bibi: "The American president has captured
Israeli hearts. Can he rein in the Israeli government?" Is he even
Nahal Toosi: [10-20]
'There are options for Israel that do not involve killing thousands
of civilians': "A now-former US official explains why he resigned
rather than pave the way for more arms transfers to Israel as it
battles Hamas." Josh Paul was the one who resigned.
Jeff Wise: [10-19]
How long can Gaza survive without water?
Trump, and other Republicans:
Legal matters and other crimes:
Brian Merchant: [10-20]
On social media, the 'fog of war' is a feature, not a bug. "Even
if that haze has occasionally been punctured for the greater good,
as when it's been used for citizen journalism and dissident organizing
against oppressive regimes, social media's incentive structure chiefly
benefits the powerful and the unscrupulous; it rewards propagandists
and opportunists, hucksters and clout-chasers."
David Pogue: [10-19]
My quest to downsize without throwing anything away: "A big old
house full of belongings -- could I find them all a new life?"
Vincent Schiraldi: [10-16]
Probation and parole do not make us safer. It's time to rethink
them. Some troubling examples and statistics. Author also has
a new book: Mass Supervision: Probation, Parole, and the Illusion
of Safety and Freedom.
Jeffrey St Clair: [10-20]
Born under punches: Counterpunch 30th anniversary.
We went to the Global Learning Center's annual banquet on Saturday,
where we were lectured by Bob Flax, past executive director of
Citizens for Global Solutions,
on the need for effective world government. I was pretty much aligned
with their thinking 25 years ago, when I started thinking about some
kind of major political book. I circulated a draft of about 50 pages
to some friends, and every time I mentioned anything in that direction,
I got savage comments from one reader. The gist of her comments was:
no fucking way anything like that's going to fly. I had to admit she
was right, which killed that book idea -- though after 2001 events
suggested more urgent political book tasks.
Clearly, the idea of a benign global authority which can lawfully
arbitrate disputes between nations has considerable appeal. Flax
started his presentation by pointing out how the superior government
of the US Constitution resolved disputes and standardized practices,
at least compared to the previous Articles of Confederation. On the
other, every government presents an opportunity for hostile takeover
by special interests -- or for that matter, for its own bureaucratic
interests. There are, of course, reasonable designs that could limit
such downsides, but they will be resisted, and it doesn't take much
to kill a process that requires consensus.
Consequently, I've found my thinking heading toward opposite lines.
Instead of dreaming of an unattainable world order, why not embrace
the fact that nations exist in a state of anarchy? It's been quite
some time since I looked into the literature, but I recall that a
fair amount of thought has been put into functioning of anarchist
communities. The key point is that since no individual can exercise
any real power over anyone else, the only way things get done -- at
least beyond what one can do individually -- is through cooperative
The smartest political book to appear in the last 20-30 years is
Jonathan Schell's The Unconquerable World -- maybe smarter
than Schell realized, as he doesn't spend nearly enough time on the
insight of his title. Yet, at least since 2000, efforts to conquer
and occupy other parts of the world have nearly all been doomed to
failure: the US in Afghanistan and Iraq (and Somalia and Libya and
Syria); Saudi Arabia in Yemen; Russia in Ukraine; Israel in Gaza.
None of these were what you'd call underdogs, yet they ultimately
couldn't overcome the resistance of the people they meant to subdue.
(China may prove an exception in Sinkiang, where they have huge
advantages, but probably not in Taiwan, where they don't.)
Unable to conquer, the only recourse is to deal with the other
nation as an equal, to show respect and to search out areas that
may be mutually beneficial. American reliance on power projection
and deterrence seems to be habitually baked in, which is strange,
given that it has almost never worked. On the other hand, what has
worked -- at least for US business elites (benefits for American
workers are less plentiful) -- has been generous bilateral and
multilateral engagement with "allies."
Of course, I didn't bring this up in the long Q&A period
that followed. A who guy spends all his life working on a nice
dream shouldn't have it trampled on just because I'm a skeptic,
but also I doubt I could have expressed such a profound difference
of opinion in a forum that was predisposed to the speaker. But had
I spoken up, most likely I would have held myself to a smaller,
tangential question: is anyone in his
circles seriously talking about a right to exile? Sure, they
are big on the ICC, which they see as necessary to enforce
international laws against war crimes and human rights abuses.
The ICC rarely works, as it depends on being able to get their
hands on suspects. (I think it would work better as a reference
court, where it could validate facts and charges, in absentia
if necessary, but not punish individuals.)
A "right to exile" offers people convicted in one country the
chance to go into exile elsewhere, if some other country decides
the charges are political in nature or simply unjust. This is
both a benefit to the individual freed and to the country, which
no longer has to deal with a troublesome person. This is also
likely to reduce the level of international hostility that is
tied to the perception of people being treated unfairly. And it
should reduce the incentive that countries have for prosecuting
their own citizens. It could also reduce the need to determine
whether immigrants need to be protected as refugees.
I've never seen anyone argue for such a right, but it seems to
me that it would make the world a slightly better place. (When I
looked up "right to exile," most references concern whether a
state has a right to exile (or banish) its citizens -- something
that is widely frowned upon. I could see combining both meanings,
provided there is a willing recipient country, and the person is
agreeable to the transfer.
I have a few dozen off-the-cuff ideas worth pitching, some
simple and practical, others more utopian (for now, anyway). Paul
Goodman wrote a book called Utopian Essays & Practical
Proposals. That strikes me as a super subtitle, to say the
least. His 1949 proposal for a car-free Manhattan still strikes
me as a pretty good one.
Ask a question, or send a comment.
Sunday, October 15, 2023
Speaking of Which
Note: I ran out of time Sunday evening, so I posted what
I had, hoping to fill it out with my usual sources and clean it up
and repost Monday. I've added a few things (none new articles --
the Kaplan and Silverstein sections are largest, and a couple links
to MEE), but my eyes are glazing over, and I need to take a break
and move on to other things. So I've done very little rewriting,
and no reorganizing. Sorry about that. Consider this final for the
week. I believe that there are enough ideas and words here for a
coherent essay, but despair of getting them structured right.
I started writing an introduction on Friday night, and spent all of
Saturday laboring over it, only to find it impossible to say everything
I wanted to say in the limited time I had. What I wrote wasn't worthless,
so when I hacked it out, I moved it to the end of this post. It is,
however, incomplete, and not as convincingly fleshed out as I would
like. I did manage to write up a fantasy sketch on how what they're
calling the "Israel-Hamas War" might come to a soft landing, given
a considerable (and unexpected) change of heart in Jerusalem and
Washington (and probably Cairo).
That's followed by one paragraph
on why that's unlikely, which I might have followed up with three or
four more on the genocidal psychology Israelis have cultivated for
over a century. (It predates the Holocaust, which itself was the
ultimate example of nationalist, colonial, and imperialist plots
against whole peoples. I could give you a long list, probably
starting with the extermination of the Arawak in Hispaniola, but
one vivid example from American memory if the Trail of Tears. By
the way, the deeply cultivated memory of the Holocaust in Israel
probably acts more to inhibit its repeat than to inspire it, which
is one reason why it's so difficult to write up analogies between
Nazis and Israelis -- not because they boggle the imagination but
because they're often so easy: you won't find a closer historical
antecedent to the eruption from Gaza that started this episode
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.)
My wife also recommended this piece, dated [2018-08-14], so old as
news goes, but had the movement it covers been more successful, we
might be having less news this week: Nathan Thrall:
BDS: How a controversial non-violent movement has transformed the
Israeli-Palestinian debate. I've said a lot of negative things
lately about sanctions, especially as a much-overused tool of American
foreign policy, but in all things you need to consider the circumstances
and the alternatives. One key case where a BDS campaign was successful
in affecting much-needed change was South Africa. As with Israel, the
established Apartheid regime was so entrenched and so powerful it was
hard to imagine them getting overthrown, and impossible to think that
a foreign power might persuade them. Yet economic pressure, along with
an appeal to conscience, finally did the trick.
Perhaps the single best book I've read on Israel is Richard Ben
Cramer's How Israel Lost: The Four Questions (2004). He starts
with an old Jewish parable which I'd have to look up to get right,
but it basically says never give in to pressure now when you can put
it off until later. Israeli leaders (even Netanyahu) have always been
smart and flexible. They've repeatedly conceded points, but almost
never have they followed up on those concessions. They begged for
the UN partition resolution in 1947, then ignored its borders. They
agreed to cease fires, only to reload and resume the attack. They
signed armistices in 1949-50, promising to turn them into peace
treaties, but never did. When Eisenhower insisted they halt the
1956 war, they did, but dragged their feet for six months on the
necessary withdrawal. They agreed to UN resolutions after the 1967
and 1973 wars, then made a mockery of them, annexing Jerusalem and
the Golan Heights. They invaded Lebanon in 1978, and when Carter
insisted that they withdraw, they did . . . until they invaded
again in 1982, which Reagan let them get away with. The signed
the Oslo Accords, then dragged their feet, taking advantage of a
loophole allowing "natural growth" of settlements. Even Netanyahu
signed the Wye River Accord, then did nothing to implement it.
The list goes on and on and on, but they got away with it, because
in the end no one (well, other than Eisenhower) held them to their
word. Give them an inch, they'll take a couple feet, then pretend
you didn't understand, and talk about what great allies we are.
That all fits the parable in the book.
The other point of the book is that Jewish Israel is actually
divided into several distinct camps that basically don't like each
other. But the conflict, having a common enemy, holds them together,
so much so that they fear dissolution and despair if they should
ever lose that common bond. And that conflict, not just the local
one with Palestinians but the global, existential one between Jew
and Gentile, is baked into every nook and cranny of their culture,
their very being, the space they inhabit. The Holocaust Museum has
halls full of nightmares, but you exit onto a hilltop overlooking
Jerusalem, and that's Israel's deliverance, or at least that's the
lesson. Cramer's book is 20 years old now, so he's not totally up
to date. He hadn't yet seen how tightly wound that psyche would
become, how viciously it would explode. Max Blumenthal's 2013 book,
Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, was one of the
first to really expose that, though books on the settler movement
offered glimpse of that earlier (e.g., Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar:
Lords of the Land: The War for Israel's Settlements in the Occupied
Territories, from 2007).
Back around 2005, someone wrote to me and asked whether I thought
Israel would commit genocide. I don't have the letter any more, but
my answer was basically no. While there were forces, from deep within
the racist, colonialist soul of Zionism, that could drive them in that
direction, there were also other forces that would inhibit them, and
save them from going off the deep end. I'm still not sure they will
go through with it, but they're talking the talk, and walking the
walk. And the time has come to talk them off the ledge.
Top story threads:
Israel/Gaza: I just grabbed a lot of articles below. I'm
less interested in detailing the atrocities than I am with the broader
thinking about the war and its future consequences. There's way too
much here to fully digest, but I think the outlines and imperatives
are clear. The outline: that despite the initial shock, the only story
now is Israel's (and the world's) response. The imperative: to talk
Israel down from committing genocide.
As usual, there is a lot of good reporting at
Middle East Eye,
[PS: As I was trying to wrap this up, there is this report:
Egypt-Gaza crossing set to open for aid, says Blinken; 24 hours' more
fuel at Gaza hospitals, says UN.}
7 big questions about the Israel-Hamas war, answered: I could quibble
on various points, but this is a reasonable starting point, especially
if you don't have a lot of specialist knowledge. The questions:
- Where does the conflict currently stand?
- What do I need to understand about Gaza and Israel's relationship
to understand today?
- But why did Hamas launch such a huge attack now?
- How did this become an outright war, worse than we've seen in
- What will declared war mean?
- How is the US responding?
- What does this mean for the region -- and the world?
Yuval Abraham: [10-13]
Settlers take advantage of Gaza war to launch West Bank pogroms.
Jonathan Alter: [10-11]
Will Netanyahu survive the fallout? He didn't deserve to survive
the last twenty years, or for that matter his brief term as Prime
Minister back in the 1990s, so clearly his brand of oily but
intransigent malevolence appeals to many Israelis. Whether they
can also stomach the incompetence is an open question. I'm not
surprised that Scher has no real insight into this. His turf
is as a centrist Democrat, which leads to one of the stupidest
lines I've read this week: "The war gives [Biden] a chance to
address the nation about the need to protect both Ukraine and
Israel from aggression -- to lump Vladimir Putin in with Hamas
by explaining that both of them hate freedom and kill children."
The wars are similar only in the sense that the US is backing
the side that wants the land but not the people, who don't want
our side (dare I say it, that want to be free of our side?). But
Ukraine, at least, is fighting a well-armed foreign adversary,
and they genuinely need our help. Israel doesn't need our help,
except to restrain them from doing unimaginably horrible things.
Sending them more arms won't do that.
Bernard Avishai: [10-15]
Can White House diplomacy prevent escalation in Gaza and beyond?
They're not off to a good start. It's hard to impart wisdom when you
got your head stuck up Netanyahu's ass . . . especially if you didn't
have any wisdom in the first place. But at some point, Israel is going
to become an embarrassment, even for someone as shameless as Biden.
Zack Beauchamp: [10-11]
How to think morally about the Israel-Hamas war: I hate to say this,
but this feels like a guide to becoming pompous and irrelevant. Sure,
it's easy to sit far removed from the fracas and condemn this or that,
and there may be some intellectual satisfaction in that exercise. But
that's a luxury, not just because you're safe, but because you get to
judge a hypothetical rendition of events, filtered through the language
and cognitive constructs you are comfortable with. Consider this:
We can and should extend sympathy to Israeli victims, but we should not
let that shade into justification for retaliatory atrocities. We should
condemn Hamas terrorism, but we should also condemn Israeli abuses
Why the qualifier "Israeli victims" but no qualifier for "retaliatory
atrocities"? It's unclear whether he means "victims who are Israeli" or
"victims of Israelis." And why distinguish "retaliatory" from any other
kind of atrocities? Then note the word choices in the last line: why is
it "Hamas terrorism" but "Israeli abuses"? "Abuse" is far from the most
precise description of dropping bombs from F-15s. But "terrorism" --
which Beauchamp uses repeatedly -- bothers me more, as it's been used
for decades now as code for evil souls who can only be stopped with
killing. The only thing Israelis (and Americans) hear after "Hamas
terrorism" is "we support you in killing them." So if that's not our
intent, we should find better ways of talking about this.
Peter Beinart: [10-14]
There is a Jewish hope for Palestinian liberation. It must survive.
Marin Cogan: [10-13]
There's no Jewish American consensus about the conflict in Israel
and Gaza: "Attitudes toward Israel were already changing. The
unfolding violence is making it even more complicated."
Roy Cohen: [10-15]
Families of Israelis abducted to Gaza decry government's
Jonathan Cook: [10-08]
The West's hypocrisy towards Gaza breakout is stomach-turning:
Written early, but revised three days ago.
Ryan Costello: [10-12]
'Freezing' Iran's humanitarian fund is self defeating: Not
sure whether Biden did this due to Israeli orders or simple panic
over Republican talking points, but neither is a good look --
especially as all it proves is that America is an unreliable
diplomatic negotiator, likely to double cross you at the first
Jamil Dakwar: [10-13]
Neither Palestinians nor Israelis will be safe unless all are
Badia Dwaik: [10-15]
Israel is besieging the West Bank as it decimates Gaza: "While
the world's eyes are on Israel's genocidal war in Gaza, Israel has
also put the entire West Bank on lockdown. We are living under
Elizabeth Dwoskin: [10-14]
A flood of misinformation shapes views of Israel-Gaza conflict:
"The barrage of false images, memes, videos and posts -- mostly
generated from within the region itself -- is making it difficult
to assess what is real."
Stefanie Fox: [10-13]
Jewish grief must not be used as a weapon of war: "we cannot sit
back while Israel uses our trauma as a reason to destroy Gaza."
Masha Gessen: [10-13]
The tangled grief of Israel's anti-occupation activists. As
one put it: "We've warned for a long time. But, when it actually
happens, it's the most devastating thing." In my experience, we
actually pull our punches, out of an overabundance of caution,
or simply the dread that if our worst imagined scenarios came
true, our thinking of them may have contributed, or more likely
simply be blamed. I'm reminded of Nicholson Baker's Human
Smoke: while the pacifists were brushed aside (or in many
cases incarcerated) once the US entered WWII, during the 1930s
they were often the only ones who anticipated the horrors to
come, and who tried to raise the alert.
Omar Ghraieb: [10-12]
As darkness descends on Gaza, I yearn for the world to see us,
Rebecca Maria Goldschmidt: [10-13]
This is genocide: All out to end the war on Gaza.
Neve Gordon: [10-13]
Can Netanyahu survive Hamas's attack on Israel? Unlike Jonathan
Alter (above), someone who actually knows something about Israeli
Nicholas Grossman: [10-11]
Trump's overrated peace plan helped enable the horrors in Israel and
Gaza: Well, it was Kushner's plan, and the real goal was to get
billions of Arab dollars for his investment fund, among other grafts.
But Trump's concessions to Israel certainly added to their hubris.
Jonathan Guyer: [10-14]
How the Arab world sees the Israel-Palestine conflict:
"Demonstrations of solidarity with Palestinians have broken out
across the Arab world this week." This will only increase as the
extreme cruelty of Israel's siege continues, and the failure of
America and Europe to restrain Israel becomes more obvious. Guyer
refers back to his article: [02-06]
The US's empty commitment to a two-state solution.
Tareq S Hajjaj: [10-15]
This could be my last report from Gaza: "Keep my stories alive, so
that you keep me alive."
Benjamin Hart: [10-13]
What Israel didn't understand about Hamas: Interview with Michael
Milshtein, a former Israeli intelligence officer, an associate of
Benny Gantz. I don't have any real insight into Hamas, but I don't
buy this take, let alone the blanket demonization that goes with
the drive to exterminate everyone associated with them. Early on
Hamas was basically a charitable community organization, and later
they transformed into a political party to challenge Fatah. Like
Fatah, they spun off an armed wing, a rival to Islamic Jihad, and
possibly others, but they seemed to have always had a function in
civil society. Israel has always done much to control the public
perception of Palestinian groups. Early on Israel seemed to boost
Hamas as a lever against the PLO. During the second intifada, there
was a period when every time Hamas would attack, Israel retaliated
by shelling Arafat's headquarters -- hard to paint that as deterrence
against Hamas. While I don't doubt that Hamas-affiliated groups led
this attack, the idea of calling this the Israel-Hamas War seems to
involve some sleight of hand. Especially as Israel has no ability
and probably no incentive to distinguish between Hamas and any other
Palestinians. The real war here is between Israel and the people of
Gaza, and by "war" I mean massacre. Hamas is mostly just a brand
that Israel uses for people they want to kill.
Hanine Hassan: [10-12]
Israel-Palestine war: Mass slaughter in Gaza lays bare the depth of
Maha Hilal: [10-15]
Israel's war isn't against Hamas -- it's on the Palestinian people.
Gaza's spiraling humanitarian crisis, explained: "Israel's
evacuation order is creating chaos in Gaza. A ground invasion will
be worse." Consider this: "Though Israeli military policy is to use
disproportionate force in Gaza as a deterrent strategy, that has so
far failed to enact durable security, limit Hamas's ability to strike
Israel, or allow space in Israeli politics for any sort of political
negotiation that could lead to a more peaceful future."
How does Iran fit into the war between Israel and Hamas?
Donald Johnson: [10-15]
How would the 'NY Times' know if Israel valued human life? They
say it over and over again, "but a reexamination of Times coverage
of Israel's 2018 massacre of peaceful protesters in Gaza shows that
the Times itself does not uphold such values."
The U.S. and Israel are walking a tightrope, and the stakes are
Netanyahu is sharing power with one of his most popular political
opponents. It could keep a broader war at bay.
What is Israel's strategy now? I can't really navigate my brain
through these labrythine articles, but the way I read the situation
is that in public Netanyahu wants to come off as maximally hard
(which is to say genocidal) and Biden wants to come off as totally
loyal (which is, well, stupid). On the other hand, they both have
underlings (at least now that Benny Glantz is in Israel's coalition)
who share their basic worldviews but understand that implementing
them isn't so simple, and carries some serious risks. That opens
up a lot of hypothetical angles that are really just speculation
until they aren't. For instance, "If Qatar can get Hamas to release
all the hostages today, it is possible that Israel would agree to
call off the invasion." Really? That would be sensible, but would
be a major shift in strategy, for all concerned. There are lots of
details here if you're into that sort of thing. But no answers.
Rashid Khalidi: [10-15]
The U.S. should think twice about Israel's plans for Gaza.
A left that refuses to condemn mass murder is doomed: This came
early enough in the cycle that he's focusing on anyone on the left
who failed to immediately join the pro-Israeli chorus in condemning
the first (and really only) wave of Hamas attacks, lecturing us that
"it is therefore imperative for progressives to disavow all apologia
for Hamas's atrocities and for the broader public to understand that
the left's analysis of the conflict's origins, and its prescriptions
for its resolution, are wholly extricable from the blood lust of a
loud minority of pseudo-radicals." This is one of several articles
noted here (like Beauchamp above, and Wright below) to harp on proper
etiquette in responding to outbreaks of violence. He offers several
examples that fell short of his standards, then inflates them to
"it is not hyperbole to say that many left-wing supporters of
Palestine celebrated Hamas's atrocities." Many? How sure are you
that "supporters of Palestine" are left-wingers? Personally, I'm
enough of a pacifist that I don't have a problem with condemning
all acts of violence, but most people have more complex feelings
about violence. For instance, we routinely applaud when somebody
smites down the bad guy in a movie. (As Todd Snider put it, "in
America we like our bad guys dead!") And what difference does me
or you condemning someone make anyway? Sure, when people like
Netanyahu, Biden, or whoever runs whatever faction of Hamas can
make their condemnations felt, as can the soldiers who follow
them, but you and me? We're mostly just expressing our moral
sense, a luxury we enjoy because we aren't connected to the
people we presume to judge. And, let's face it, we're doing it
hastily on the basis of very little, and probably very faulty,
information. I mean, I get where Levitz is coming from, because
as a leftist, my politics reflects, and is an expression of, my
moral sense, and I want them to be consistent and universal. But
I also find it hard to condemn someone for trying to break out of
jail and stand up to a power that had for all his life punished
him and everyone he grew up with, even if that person wound up
harming someone else. Sure, that's not something I would do, but
I'm not in Gaza, and I've never had to live that life. I truly
don't know what I'd do in his shoes. But what I am certain of is
that in standing up to Israel, he was bound to die, and that,
regardless of whether he killed or not, his defiance would be
taken by Israelis as justification to punish more people in
Gaza, more severely than ever before. As a leftist, I could go
on and condemn Israel for their retaliation, as I had condemned
them for their past transgressions (not that it did or will do
any good). However, I can see one argument for not condemning
the Palestinian kid who breaks out of jail and goes on a rampage:
I'm not adding my voice to the clamor urging Israel to multiply
his violence many times over.
I could have phrased this many different ways. I could have
brought up examples, like a slave revolt, or a kidnapping, where
one would have been less likely to instinctively blame a person
for fighting back. I don't, for instance, blame Ukrainians for
fighting back against Russian invasion. It's human nature to
resist attack and oppression. (And if you think this case is
one where Hamas is invading Israel, you need to reconsider your
facts.) But sure, if you want reassurance that I'm not in favor
of Hamas any or all Israelis, I will give you that, but I'll try
to phrase it in a way that doesn't support Israel's many crimes.
One last point here: this article basically does the leg work,
complete with quotes usable out of context, for someone else's
anti-left tirade. Levitz may not be wrong in what he says, but
he's giving us a lecture most of us don't need, and he's giving
ammunition to our enemies, in many cases the same people who are
clamoring for genocide against Gaza.
The US is giving Israel permission for war crimes.
No, America's declining power didn't cause Hamas's attacks.
Evidently, some pundits who think America should throw its weight
around more (huh?) have come up with this line -- names dropped
her include David Leonhardt, Noah Smith, and Ross Douthat.
The world cannot stand by and watch this slaughter.
Nicole Narea: [10-13]
How the US became Israel's closest ally: Whole books have been written
on this, dating back to Kathleen Christison's Perceptions of Palestine:
Their Influence on US Middle East Policy (1999), with John B Judis:
Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli
Conflict (2014) focusing on Israel's creation. But while American
sympathies with Israel grew mostly through Democratic presidents from
Truman through Clinton, they shifted when GW Bush's neocons explicitly
aligned with the Israeli right to destroy the Oslo framework and use
Israel as a free agent in striking out at supposed enemies like Iran.
Obama struggled to return to a Clinton-level of fawning embrace, but
by then the "facts on the ground" and the hardening of Israel's right
had made that impossible, so he ultimately gave up. (Josh Ruebner's
Shattered Hopes: Obama's Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian
Peace covers this, as does Trita Parsi's A Single Roll of the
Dice: Obama's Diplomacy With Iran.) Trump, on the other hand,
sided whole hog with Israel, and Biden has made no effort to reverse
Trump's surrender (unlike in Europe and the Far East, where his
reassertion of American leadership has already produced one war and
made another more likely). While the bond has been real and deep,
this has never struck me as a true alliance. Israel does what they
want, and America helps clean up the mess. As Moshe Dayan put it:
"America gives us arms, money, and advice. We accept the arms. We
accept the money. We ignore the advice."
John Nichols: [10-14]
Israelis are rejecting Netanyahu. So why is Biden giving him a blank
AW Ohlheiser: [10-12]
Don't believe everything you see and hear about Israel and Palestine:
"Misinformation about the Israel-Hamas war is easy to find online. Here's
how to avoid spreading it." Fairly generic reminder about how social
media is regularly used to spread propaganda and other mischief. The
problem it doesn't go into is how readily mainstream media falls for
carefully tailored propaganda lines.
Kenn Orphan: [10-13]
Israel and the Gaza prison break.
Eve Ottenberg: [10-13]
Euphemisms for war are deadly: "How we talk about war matters."
Refers to David Vine's
Words About War guide.
Actually, I think these could use some more work. No doubt we should
avoid "terrorists" -- it's not just a loaded word, by now it's become
a conditioned reflex to kill -- but I'm not sure "militants" is a
better alternative. That word is almost exclusively used these days
as a synonym for "dead Palestinian male." I also want to note that
while "ethnic cleansing" has come to the process of driving a group
out of a land (as, for instance, is now happening in Nagorno-Karabakh,
or happened in the 1830s with the Trail of Tears), the phrase was
originally just a euphemism for mass killing (specifically, what the
Serbs did at Srebrenica in 1995), a cutesy way of saying genocide.
Israel must not react stupidly: I didn't read this, due to the
paywall, but I did manage a laugh. I counsel people against saying
"never forget," but I guess I haven't. I then took a look at some
of Atlantic's other links, reminding myself why I don't pay them
money (besides that I'm cheap, I mean), and found:
Conor Friedersdorf: "Students for Pogroms in Israel";
Helen Lewis: "The Progressives Who Flunked the Hamas Test"; and
Bruce Hoffman: "Understanding Hamas's Genocidal ideology." They're
all on board, though one article could go either way:
Israel is walking into a trap: "Storming into Gaza will fulfill
Hamas's wish." The author is a resident scholar at an Arab think tank
in Washington, and every reference to Hamas in what I can see links
them to "their Iranian backers." The trap I see is that Israel will
lose what little's left of their souls. He probably seems martyrdom
of Hamas as feeding into Iran's bid for leadership of the Muslim
world. I doubt that's even a fantasy in Tehran -- although the Saudis
are still reeling from a nod in that direction back in 1979, when
Ayatollah Khomeini was in the first throes of revolution, so it
could well be on Ibish's agenda.
Trita Parsi: [10-15]
Biden refuses to talk 'ceasefire' though it could prevent a regional
war: "It's strategic malpractice for the White House to give
Israel carte blanche when he knows it could drag the US into a wider
conflict." This isn't my big worry right now. Although Israel has
shelled Lebanon and
bombed Syria in recent days, their demonization of Iran has
always been more about manipulating Washington than confronting
a serious enemy. The real risk, short-term, is genocide in Gaza,
and as that is unveiled -- and there's little chance that this
one won't be televised -- the bad feelings that will be generated
could come back to attack Israel and its allies (and the US is
much more exposed than Israel is) in all sorts of unpredictable
ways. And as long as the US and Israel remain committed to policies
of massive reprisals, the real damage kicked off by provocations
will mostly be self-inflicted. Why haven't they learned this much
Matthew Petti: [10-13]
Why does Egypt fear evacuating Gaza?: As noted here, Azerbaijan
recently solved its Armenian enclave problem by setting up a
"humanitarian corridor," driving residents of Nagorno-Karabakh
to escape to safety in Armenia. Israelis -- and it sounds like
the US is going along with this -- have called for something like
that to depopulate Gaza through Egypt, which doesn't like the
idea, and has so far
Moved to prevent exodus of Palestinians from besieged Gaza.
An influx of two million Palestinians would cause significant
stress to Egypt's fragile not-really-democracy, especially given
that many would align with the banned Islamic Brotherhood, and
many understand that Egypt's cozy collaboration with Israel and
the US has kept Gaza isolated and precarious. As Israel's plan
seems to be to kill everyone in Gaza who can't get out, exile
doesn't sound like the worst possible outcome. On the other hand,
if Israel gets away with the depopulation of Gaza, they're sure
to try the same thing in the West Bank. One can even argue that
with the government supporting settler pogroms, they've already
started. The Nazis had a term for this: Judenrein. I wouldn't be
surprised if there is an analogous Hebrew term, translating to
Mitchell Plitnick: [10-08]
Hamas offensive the result of Washington's hostility to Palestinian
Vijay Prashad: [10-13]
The savagery of the war against the Palestinian people.
Meron Rapoport: [10-11]
The end of the Netanyahu doctrine: "Did his plan to preserve Hamas
in Gaza as a tool for keeping the strip separate from the West Bank
and the Palestinian Authority weak finally backfire?"
Nathan J Robinson: [10-14]
You can't selectively pay attention to certain atrocities and ignore
all others: "How is it possible to be outraged by Hamas killings
of Israeli children, but ignore or rationalize the killing of Gazan
Kenneth Roth: [10-11]
The attack on Israel has been called a '9/11 moment'. Therein lies a
David Rothkopf: [10-15]
The war's just started, but Benjamin Netanyahu has already lost:
"No matter what happens following Israel's siege of Gaza, the Israeli
prime minister's political ambitions are likely damaged beyond
The fog of war in Israel and Palestine: "As the long-running
quagmire erupts into more bloodshed and destruction, we need to
stop dehumanizing the conflict and acknowledge both sides' pain
and suffering." Benny Morris captured this sentiment in his title,
Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict,
1881-1999. However, beyond suffering, we also need to check
who has the power and agency to actively reduce the pain and harm.
The war on Gaza is the result of decades of extreme Israeli policy:
Interview with Matt Duss and Daniel Bessner.
Norman Solomon: [10-11]
'Israel's 9/11' is a slogan to rationalize open-ended killing of
Palestinian civilians. It's also a phrase meant to appeal to
Americans, and solicit their support for indiscriminate slaughter.
Jeffrey St Clair: [10-13]
Roaming Charges: Gaza without mercy: "You won't have to interrogate
them afterward. They are explicit about the war crimes they're planning
to commit." Sample quotes (read it all):
When you declare total war against Gaza, which has been under perpetual
siege since 1967 after being seized by Israel during the Six Day War,
what is it you're going to war against? There are no airbases, no army
bases, no tank battalions, no air defense systems, no naval ports, no
oil refineries, no rail system, no troop barracks, no armored personnel
carriers, no howitzers, no satellite systems, no attack helicopters, no
fighter jets, no anti-tank batteries, no submarines, no command-and-control
centers. Just people, most of them women and kids. It's why the entire
population must be dehumanized, turned into "human animals" whose lives
The reaction in the US to Hamas's attacks was more hysterical, the
calls for ultra-violence more grotesque, and the lack of dissent more
uniform, than in Israel itself (which is saying something because
Netanyahu blustered this week that "Every member of Hamas is a dead
Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is considered one of the most
reasonable of the current crop of Republicans. "Finish them." Genocide
is now her campaign theme.
Lindsey Graham has reverted back to John "Bomb-Bomb-Bomb Iran"
mode: "We are in a religious war, and I am with Israel . . . Level
The obvious parallel to Gaza is the Tet Offensive, which was a defeat
for the Vietnamese, but it was the defeat that won the war, exposing the
vincibility of the US military machine. It also triggered something deep
in the psyche of the American occupiers, who responded with attacks of
pointless savagery. The massacres and gang rapes at My Lai were a direct
response to Tet. Netanyahu has vowed that Israel's response will be equally
sadistic, which is, of course, a sign of its own weakness -- moral and
military -- and a harbinger of its ruin.
The column eventually moves on to his usual wide range of issues,
plus some books and music at the end.
Bret Stephens: [10-15]
Hamas bears the blame for every death in this war: I've mostly
picked sensible, judicious opinion pieces, because they're the ones
that deserve reading and distribution. But this one, obviously, is
included just to show you how horrifically wrong an American pundit
can be. The clear implication is that Israel's political leaders
have no free will, no brains, no morals, no capacity for managing
their own behavior. Sure, to some extent, that does seem to be the
case, but to what extent won't be determined until Israel stops
running up Hamas's tab. And here I was, foolishly thinking that
not just people but nations should be responsible for whatever
they do. [PS: Well, I also gotta admit some of this is pretty
funny. E.g., the paragraph that begins with "But Hamas spends
fortunes building a war machine whose only purpose is to strike
Israel." Or: "Hamas launched an attack with a wantonness like
what the Nazis showed at Babyn Yar." Nazi Germany attacked Russia
with 134 divisions, about three million men, but at least Hamas
matched their "wantonness"?]
Matt Stieb: [10-13]
The violence is spreading outside Gaza: The West Bank, obviously,
where Ben-Gvir is distributing another 10,000 rifles to settlers, and
the border with Lebanon, as Israeli rhetoric threatens to morph into
open season on Palestinians, some of whom could be inspired to fight
back. Not included here is another piece of spillover violence:
Hannah Allam: [10-16]
U.S.-born Palestinian boy stabbed to death in hate crime: six-year-old
Wadea Alfayoumi, in Illinois.
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [10-10]
In blistering remarks, Biden commits aid, intel, and military assets
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos/Blaise Malley: [10-12]
Presidential hopefuls outdo each other on Hamas, Israel war:
"Candidates across the spectrum urge overwhelming force and blast
Biden's weakness." Republican candidates, that is, although Biden's
own statement came off as the strongest, because he didn't detract
from his message by talking nonsense about anyone else, even Iran.
The article credits Vivek Ramaswamy with "restraint," because he
stopped short of committing the US to war against Iran. Marianne
Williamson waffled a bit, while assuring us she hated Hamas. Cornel
West had a more coherent critique of US/Israel, but he too took
pains to condemn Hamas, giving you an idea of how deep the party
line has sunk in. RFK Jr strayed from his fellow Republicans in
applauding Biden's statement, but more verbosely. I don't mind if
he describes the Hamas attack as "ignominious" and "barbaric," but
Netanyahu bolstered Hamas in order to thwart the creation of a
Robert Wright: [10-13]
Israel, Hamas, and Biden's failed foreign policy: After linking
to this piece, I started to write the original intro (now at the end
of the post), so I lost the thread here. I will say that the idea
that Hamas attacked to keep Saudi Arabia from joining the Abraham
cartel is a lot like saying an estranged friend killed himself to
spoil your birthday party. Sure, he spoiled your day, but how could
you think that's really the point? The real reasons are probably as
simple as: Hamas has been trying to figure how to make enough of an
explosion to remind the world that Palestinians are suffering but
can still hit back and make Israelis feel some of the pain they've
long subjected to; and the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War
attack would heighten the element of surprise. The 1973 war was
rebuffed easily enough, but the shock caused Israelis to doubt their
security forces, and ultimately to negotiate peace with Egypt. But
I doubt Hamas was so optimistic: they know better than anyone how
determined Israel is to grind Palestine into oblivion. Second point,
I really object to Wright's "assume that Hamas isn't motivated by
actual concern for the Palestinian people." People who deliberately
start doomed revolts may be misguided or foolish, but the idea of
laying down your life to free your people goes way back, including
every revolutionary we still honor, even as martyrs. I don't doubt
that many Palestinians don't appreciate Hamas's efforts -- indeed,
that they actively curse them -- but you need to understand their
sacrifice, else you understand nothing.
Here are a couple statements from concerned groups:
Trump, and other Republicans:
Mariana Alfaro: [10-15]
Trump-backed candidate wins Louisiana governor's race: Jeff Landry,
no runoff necessary.
Lindsay M Chervinsky: [10-13]
Trump and the Republican war on the civil service: Trump's plan
to scuttle the civil service, return to the "spoils system," and
politicize every government job is easily on the top-ten list of
reasons he should never hold elected office. (It's mind-boggling
to contemplate listing the other nine, but this is a big one.)
David A Graham:
Trump's only real worldview is pettiness. This was triggered
by some offhand comments about Netanyahu. For more, see:
Bill Scher: [10-12]
Why is Trump trashing Netanyahu?
Margaret Hartmann: [10-12]
Trump manages to make Israel attack all about him.
Fred Kaplan: [10-12]
The more you think about this Trump speech, the worse it gets:
That's the title on the link. When you get to the page, the title
changes to "Trump somehow manages to make the Isreal-Hamas conflict
all about him." Of course, Trump is, was, and always has been unfit
to be president, but his tendency to go unscripted and blurt out
things that no sober politician would ever admit is one of his few
charms. While most of those things are incredibly stupid, or simply
inane, every now and then he has a moment when he exposes the
emperor's new clothes. My favorite was when he had the gall to
make fun of Obama ending every speech with "God bless America."
I suspect his irreverence for political pieties is a big part of
his popular appeal. He has nothing insightful to say about Israel,
Hamas, and/or Hezbullah, but that he isn't parroting the party
line is, well, refreshing isn't the right word, but good for a
Stephen Prager: [10-11]
How the media turns extremists into "moderates": Case example,
Andrew Prokop: [10-11]
Republicans have nominated Steve Scalise for speaker. Now comes the
hard part. Scalise defeated Jim Jordan 113-99, but as few as four
Jordan supporters can keep him from being elected Speaker. PS: [10-12]
Steve Scalise quits speaker race after humiliating 24 hours. Then: [10-13]
Now it's Jim Jordan's turn to struggle to become speaker.
More updates on the House:
Peter Wade: [10-15]
Lindsay Graham: Trump praising Hezbollah was a 'huge mistake': Oh
no, he's lost Lindsay again. What's the over-under on when they kiss
and make up?
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Legal matters and other crimes:
Climate and environment:
Blaise Malley: [10-13]
Diplomacy Watch: Surprise, Putin and Zelensky don't agree on Gaza
war. Zelensky is absolutely supporting Israel, but his analogies
between Hamas and Russia are pretty tortuous, and before long he's
going to fret about Israel jumping ahead of him in the arms pipeline.
Putin, on the other hand, has resorted to saying things like: "I think
that many people will agree with me that this is a vivid example of
the failure of United States policy in the Middle East." Ok, nobody's
going to agree with him, but the rest of the line is hard to
Connor Echols: [10-10]
GOP hawks slam Biden, say he has 'no strategy' for Ukraine: In
particular, they want to make sure that no one in the administration
is talking to Russia.
Kyle Chayka: [10-09]
Why the internet isn't fun anymore: "The social-media Web as we
knew it, a place where we consumed the posts of our fellow-humans
and posted in return, appears to be over." News to me, not that I'm
unaware of the decline of fun.
Jim Geraghty: [10-12]
Why RFK Jr.'s independent bid makes sense, even if he doesn't:
Having gotten no traction running in the Democratic primary, with
most of his support coming from Republicans just looking to muddy
the waters, this move keeps him in the game, but it also changes
the game. The real curse of the third-party candidate is that you
have to spend so much time defending against charges of being some
kind of spoiler you never get to talk about your platform, or why
the two parties accorded a chance are wrong.
Oshan Jarow: [10-13]
Basic income is less radical than you think.
Sara Morrison: [10-11]
We're in a new Gilded Age. What did we learn from the last one?
Interview with Tom Wheeler, whose forthcoming book is Techlash:
Who Makes the Rules in the Digital Gilded Age?
David Owen: [08-14]
What happens to all the stuff we return?
Greg Sargent: [10-12]
The GOP's 'southern strategy' mastermind just died. Here's his
legacy. Kevin Phillips, dead at 82, wrote a book in 1969 called
The Emerging Republican Majority, landing him a job in the
Nixon White House. His painstaking research on voting trends not
only validated the "southern strategy" -- Barry Goldwater and Strom
Thurmond worked that hard in 1964 -- but showed Democrats losing
their commanding position among Catholics and other ethnic groups
(e.g., Spiro Agnew) in the north, especially as they moved to the
suburbs or the "sun belt." In the late 1960s, I did roughly the
same work, plotting election results from World Almanacs on county
maps, so when I read Phillips book, I recognized many of the same
patterns -- the main difference being that I had near-zero sense of
ethnic identity, but also I was less pleased with his conclusions,
and therefore more resistant. Sargent collected comments from several
figures, none striking me as quite correct.
For example, Michael Barone points out that Eisenhower has already
won 49-50 percent of the popular vote in the South, then claims that
southern whites "turned away from national Democrats not so much
because of civil rights but because of [McGovern's] dovishness."
But Eisenhower's southern support was all in the peripheral states,
where Republicans at least had a party structure. The deep south
(South Carolina-to-Louisiana) flipped for Goldwater because the
local Democrats did, as they did for Wallace in 1968). But by 1972,
when Nixon swept the region, he was ducking his association with
war, but dog-whistling race like crazy.
The Nixon strategy was more sophisticated than just playing up
civil rights backlash. It was deeply rooted in his psyche as an
all-American petit bourgeois everyman -- Gary Wills' Nixon
Agonistes is probably still the most exacting psychological
profile -- but he was smart, cunning, and ruthless. Phillips' job
was to feed him data, but it's use was pure Nixon. (Pat Buchanan,
who worked closely with Phillips, helped convert that data into
the sort of bile Nixon could spew.) Nixon's use of Phillips is a
big part of the reason Republicans are so artful at gerrymandering
and other dark arts.
Not mentioned here are Phillips' other books. He started moving
away from the Republican monster he had helped create, perhaps as
early as 1982's Post-Conservative America, certainly by
1993's Boiling Point: Democrats, Republicans, and the Decline
of Middle Class Prosperity. I didn't start paying much attention
until his scathing 2004 book on the Bush family: American Dynasty:
Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of
Bush. He followed that up with American Theocracy: The Peril
and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the
21st Century, which argued that financialization begot disaster
in three world-empires (Netherlands, Britain, and most assuredly
America next). That was 2006, so he was well prepared for 2008's
Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global
Crisis of American Capitalism.
In a piece I cite below, Robert Wright starts by noting, in
italics for emphasis:
This piece rests on my belief that the following two ideas are
logically compatible: (1) Hamas is morally and legally responsible for
the atrocities it committed against Israeli civilians; and (2) The US
is responsible for policy mistakes that, over the years, have made
violent attacks by Palestinian groups, including this attack, more
likely. I've noticed, in the context of the Ukraine War, that some
people find this approach to allocating responsibility not just wrong
but outrageous and offensive. So I'm adding this preface as a kind of
The first point is the sort of boilerplate lawyers write, in this
case to anticipate the moral judgments insisted on in Zack Beauchamp's
essay (also cited below), so the author can move on to something more
interesting than virtue signaling. I went ahead and quoted the rest
of the note because he points out that critics of twenty-some years
of American foreign policy toward Russia had to first condemn Putin's
February 2022 invasion of Ukraine before we -- I did this, as did
Wright, and even Noam Chomsky -- before we could get around to the
background that one must understand in order to make any sense out
of what Putin did (and again, we all had to reiterate that Putin
was still in the wrong). Still, every time we did that, we helped
validate the people who provoked as well as fought back against
Russian aggression, freely ignoring any concerns or fears we had,
or doubts about their motives.
I could go on about Ukraine -- I have in the past, and no doubt
will again in the future -- but the point I want to make is: I'm
not sure that we need to repeat this exercise here. Sure, if you
could isolate select events in the initial Hamas attack, like the
mass shooting at the concert, or the abduction of hostages, they
were things we were shocked and appalled by. But the Hamas attack
came up far short of a war. When Russia launched a war into Ukraine,
they came with thousands of heavily armed troops, tanks, artillery,
missiles, aircraft, a navy, backed by massive industry safely beyond
reach of retaliation, one that could sustain operations for years
with little fear of crippling losses.
What Hamas did was more like a jail break followed by a brief
crime spree. They shot their wad all at once: a few thousand of
their primitive rockets; 2,500 or so fighters infiltrated a few
miles of Israeli territory, killing over 1,000 Israelis and taking
200+ captive. But that's basically it, and all it could ever be.
Israel regrouped, killed or drove back all the fighters, patched
the breaches in its defense. Hamas appears to have had no external
coordination or support, and has no capability to inflict further
significant damage on Israel. The attack was very dramatic, but
never had a chance of being anything but a suicide mission. The
only thing the attack could accomplish was to embarrass Israeli
politicians, who had assured Israelis that their "iron wall"
defense and the threat of massive, indiscriminate retaliation
would keep them safe and render the Palestinians powerless.
Unless, of course, Israelis responded in a way that exposed
themselves as cruel and murderous. Which it was almost certain
Even now, it isn't hard to think of a plausible path forward.
Israel reseals its border, but ceases fire, contingent on no
further fire from Gaza. (Similar cease fires have been negotiated
many times before.) Israel allows humanitarian relief supplies
to enter Gaza, under its inspection, and eventually via Egypt,
as well as neutral observers and facilitators. They negotiate
the release of hostages, with both sides committed to no more
hostilities. Some number of refugees will be allowed out, to
countries that agree to take them, with assurance that they
will be allowed back in when requested. A non-partisan civil
administration is constituted, in liaison with the UN, with a
world-funded reconstruction budget. An indemnity fund will be
set up and at least partly funded by Israel. Reparations will
be drawn from this fund for any later cross-border damage by
any source. Gun control will be implemented, and the region
effectively disarmed. Egypt, with UN supervision, will assume
internal security responsibility. Israel will renounce its
claims to Gaza, which may remain independent or join Egypt.
Other issues may be negotiated (e.g., water, air control).
Of course, this won't happen. Israel will insist on taking
its revenge, and will kill a truly scandalous number of Gazans,
further turning the area into a wasteland. Israel will probably
get the hostages killed, and insist on taking further revenge
for that. In short order, more people will die of starvation
and disease than they can kill directly. Basically, they will
kill and destroy until they tire and/or think better of it, then
look to stampede whoever's left out the gate to Egypt, or let the
American Navy organize a flotilla elsewhere -- like the service
the British provided in 1948 moving Jaffa to Beirut. People will
think up new euphemisms for this, but the root term is genocide.
I also wrote this fragment, which got moved around and is now
Before we move on to Israel's response to the attack, we should
ask ourselves why frequent critics of Israel, like Beauchamp and
Wright, feel a need to condemn Hamas before they can point out that
Israel has done some bad things too. For most on the left, that
seems fair and consistent: we oppose inequity but also violence,
and imagine a possible a path toward much greater equality that
doesn't involve violence. That may make sense in a stable society
with laws and a responsible system of justice, which is our default
understanding of America (even though reality often disappoints).
But what if no paths are available? Does it even make sense
to make moral judgments over people who have no viable options to
achieve morally-justified ends? If you are at all familiar with the
history and politics of Israel/Palestine, I shouldn't have to run
through the many reasons why people in Gaza, especially Hamas, are
denied such options. Nor why hopes for change have been utterly
dashed by the trajectory of increasingly right-wing governments
and international indifference, especially how the US has given up
any pretense of being anything but an Israeli tool. Palestinians
have tried nonviolence (appealing to international law) and have
tried violence. Neither worked. As each fails, the other advances.
Ask a question, or send a comment.
Sunday, October 8, 2023
Speaking of Which
I wrote the introduction below before Israel blew up. On Saturday,
I moved my irregular section on Israel up to the top of the "top story
threads" section, ahead of the breakout on the House Speaker -- lots
of links there, but the story is pretty pat. The Israel introduction
was written Saturday afternoon. I resolved to post this early Sunday,
as I have other things I need to do in the evening, so my coverage of
the rapidly unfolding Israel story is limited. Still, I think the
lessons are obvious, even if no one is writing about them. When I
see lines like "this is Israel's 9/11" I process that differently:
for America, 9/11 was a sad, sobering day, one that should have
led us to a profound reassessment of our national fetish of power;
instead, America's leaders took it as an unpardonable insult, and
plotted revenge in a foolish effort to make any further defiance
unthinkably costly. It didn't work, and in short order America had
done more damage to itself than Al Qaeda ever imagined.
The only nation in the world even more hung up on its ability
to project power and impose terror is Israel -- so much so that
America's neocons are frankly jealous that Israel feels so little
inhibition about flaunting its power. Today's formal declaration
of war was another kneejerk move. But until Israelis are willing
to consider that they may be substantially at fault for their
misfortunes, such kneejerk moves will continue, hurting Israel
as much as its supposed enemies.
Good chance Music Week won't appear until Tuesday, if then.
I ran across this paragraph on conservatism in Christopher Clark's
Revolutionary Spring (pp. 251-252), and thought that, despite
its unfortunate source, it has something to say to us:
In a sympathetic reflection on Metternich's political thought, Henry
Kissinger, an admirer, exposed what he called 'the conservative
dilemma'. Conservatism is the fruit of instability, Kissinger
observed, because in a society that was still cohesive 'it would occur
to no one to be a conservative'. It thus falls to the conservative to
defend, in times of change, what had once been taken for granted. And
-- here is the rub -- 'the act of defense introduces rigidity'. The
deeper the fissure becomes between the defenders of order and the
partisans of change, the greater becomes the 'temptation to dogmatism'
until, at some point, no further communication is possible between the
contenders, because they no longer speak the same language. 'Stability
and reform, liberty and authority, come to appear as antithetical, and
political contests turn doctrinal instead of empirical.
I draw several conclusions from this:
Reactionaries always emerge too late to halt, let alone reverse,
the change they object to. Change is rarely the result of deliberate
policy, which makes it hard to anticipate and understand. And change
creates winners as well as losers, and those winners have stakes to
defend against reactionary attack.
What finally motivates reactionaries is rarely the change itself,
but their delayed perception that the change poses a threat to their
own power, and this concern dominates their focus to the exclusion of
anything else. They become rigid, dogmatic, eventually turning their
ire on the very idea of flexibility, of reform.
Having started from a position of power, their instinct is to
use force, especially to repress anyone who threatens to undermine
their power, including those pleading for reasonable reforms. Reason
itself becomes their enemy.
While they may win political victories, their inability to
understand the sources and benefits of change, their unwillingness
to entertain reforms that benefit others, drives their agenda into
the realm of fantasy. They fail, they throw tantrums, they fail
even worse. Eventually, they're so discredited they disappear, at
least until the next generation of endangered elites repeats the
Consider several major sources of change since 1750 or so:
Most profound has been the spread of ideas and reason, which has
only accelerated and intensified over time. One was the discovery
that we are all individuals, capable of reason and deliberate action,
and deserving of respect. Another is that we belong to communities.
Most relentlessly powerful has been the pursuit of profit: the
basic instinct that preceded but grew into capitalism.
The incremental development of science and technology, which has
been accelerated (and sometimes perverted) by capitalism.
The growth of mass culture (through print, radio, television,
internet), and its subsequent fragmentation.
The vast increase in human population, made possible by longer
lives and by the near-total domination of land (and significant
appropriation of water and air) on Earth, driven by the above.
Nobody anticipated these changes. Though reactionaries emerged at
every stage, they failed, and were forgotten, as generations came to
accept the changes behind them, often railing against changes to come.
It tells you something that conservatives claim to revere history, but
history just dismisses them as selfish, ignorant cranks.
Of course, there is no guarantee that today's reactionaries won't
win their political struggles. There may be historical examples where
conservatives won out, like the Dark Ages following the Roman Empire,
or the closing of China in the 15th Century. But human existence is
so precariously balanced on limits of available resources that the
threat they pose is huge indeed. Maybe not existential, but not the
past they imagine, nor the one they pray for.
Top story threads:
Israel: Last week I folded this section into "World." Friday
night I thought about doing that again, which a single link reviewing
the Nathan Thrall book wouldn't preclude. Then, as they say, "all hell
broke loose." When I got up around Noon Saturday, the Washington Post
Netanyahu: 'We are at war' after Hamas attack. What he probably
meant is "thank God we can now kill them all with impunity, all the
while blaming our acts on them." The memory of occupiers is much
shorter and shallower than the memory of the occupied. The first
tweet I saw after this news was from a
derecka, who does remember:
Palestinians can't march, can't pray, can't call for boycotts, can't
leave, can't stay, can't publish reports, what's should people do?
tweet, from Tony Karon:
Is Netanyahu threatening genocide? "We will turn Gaza into a deserted
island. To the citizens of Gaza, I say. You must leave now." Everyone
knows the 2m Gazans can't leave because Israel has locked them in for
decades. So how will he make it a "deserted island"
Netanyahu is Prime Minister, comanding one of the world's largest
and most sophisticated war machines, so I don't think you can dismiss
such threats as idle huffing. Looking backward, Doug Henwood
Some perspective -- since September 2000:
Palestinians killed by Israeli forces: 10,500
Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians: 881
That's a 12/1 ratio.
I've written hundreds of thousands of words on Israel since 2001.
(You can find most of them in my
notebooks and also in the "Last Days"
book drafts.) I've
read a lot. I've tried to be
reasonable. I've never described
myself as "pro-Palestinian" (or pro- any nation or ethnic group, not
even American). I suppose you could say I'm "anti-Israeli" in the sense
that I object to many policies Israel practices, also "anti-Zionist"
in the sense that I believe Zionism is a fundamentally flawed creed
and ideology. Still, I always felt that Jews had a right to settle in
what became Israel. I just objected to the terms they imposed on the
people who lived there before them, and continue to live there.
One piece I can point to is one I wrote on
November 17, 2012, which
is as good a place as any to start. In 2000, Ariel Sharon took over
as Prime Minister, demolished the Oslo Accords that promised some
sort of "two-state" division of Israel and Palestine, and provoked
the second Intifada (Palestinians called this the Al-Aqsa Intifada,
although I've always thought of it as the Shaul Mofaz Intifada, for
the Defense Minister whose heavy-handed repression of Palestinian
demonstrations kicked the whole thing off). By 2005, the Intifada
was defeated in what isn't but could be called the second Nakba (or
third, if you want to count the end of the 1937-39 revolt). Sharon
then pulled Israel's settlers from their hard-to-defend enclaves
in Gaza, sealed the territory off, and terrorized the inhabitants
with sonic boom overflights (which had to be stopped, as they also
bothered Israelis living near Gaza).
Hamas shifted gears, and ran in elections for the Palestinian
Authority. When they won, the old PA leadership, backed by Israel
and the US, rejected the results, and tried to seize power --
successfully in the West Bank, but they lost local control of Gaza
to Hamas. Ever since then, Israel has tried to managed Gaza as an
open-air jail, walled in, blockaded, and periodically strafed and
bombed. One such episode was the subject of my 2012 piece. There
have been others, every year or two -- so routine, Israelis refer
to them as "mowing the grass."
Once Sharon, Netanyahu, and the settlers made it impossible to
partition the West Bank -- something, quite frankly, Israel's Labor
leaders as far back as 1967 had never had any intention of allowing --
the most obvious solution in the world was for Israel to cut Gaza
free, allow it to be a normal, self-governing state, its security
guaranteed by Egypt and the West (not Israel), with its economy
generously subsidized by Arab states and the West. This didn't
happen because neither side wanted it: Palestinians still clung to
the dream of living free in their homeland (perhaps in emulation of
the Jews), so didn't want to admit defeat; and Israelis hated the
idea of allowing any kind of Palestinian state, and thought they
could continue to impose control indefinitely. Both sides were
being short-sighted and stupid, but one should place most of the
blame on Israel, as Israel had much more freedom to act sensibly.
But by all means, save some blame for the US, which from 2000 on
has increasingly surrendered its foreign policy to blindly support
Israel, no matter how racist and belligerent its politicians became.
I'll add a few more links, but don't expect much. It looks like
this will take weeks to play out, and while the lessons should be
obvious to any thinking being, Israel and America have dark blinders
to any suggestion that the world doesn't automatically bend to their
Updates, by Sunday afternoon:
Israel formally declares war against Hamas as hundreds killed on both
U.S. to provide arms, shift naval group toward Mideast; death toll in
Israel, Gaza passes 1,100.
Zack Beauchamp: [10-07]
Why did Hamas invade Israel? "The assault on southern Israel exposed
the reality of the Palestinian conflict."
Jonathan Cook: [10-08]
The West's hypocrisy towards Gaza's breakout is stomach-turning.
Jonathan Guyer: [10-07]
This Gaza war didn't come out of nowhere: "Everyone forgot about the
Palestinians -- conditions have been set for two decades, and Biden's
focus on Israel-Saudi talks may have lit the match."
Maha Hussaini: [10-08]
Why Gaza's attack on Israel was no surprise.
Ellen Ioanes: [10-07]
Hamas has launched an unprecedented strike on Israel. Here's what you
need to know.
Lubna Masarwa: [10-07]
Israel 'can no longer control its own fate' after stunning Palestinian
attack: Interview with Meron Rapoport, arguing that "Israeli military
and intelligence is at a new low."
Haggai Matar: [10-07]
Gaza's shock attack has terrified Israelis. It should also unveil
the context: "The dread Israelis are feeling after today's
assault, myself included, has been the daily experience of millions
of Palestinians for far too long."
James North: [10-03]
Nathan Thrall has written a masterpiece about Israel's occupation:
"A Day in the Life of Abed Salama tells the story of Israel's
occupation of Palestine through one family's tragedy."
Paul Pillar: [10-07]
Why Hamas attacked and what happens next.
Richard Silverstein: [10-08]
Gaza invasion: Over 700 Israeli dead, 230 Palestinian dead as Israel
prepares massive assault.
Philip Weiss/Michael Arria: [10-07]
Democrats and liberal Zionists decry 'terrorists' and rally to 'stand
with Israel': Of course they did, but it's one thing to decry the
sudden outbreak of violence (the Bernie Sanders quote is an example;
he didn't even resort to the coded language of "terrorism"), quite
another to cheer Israel on in inflicting far greater violence on
Palestinians (even if not explicit, a "I stand with Israel" amounts
to the same thing). Morever, a little self-consciousness would help.
I don't disagree that "the targeting and kidnapping of civilians is
an inexcusable, outrageous war crime," but culpability isn't limited
to one side (even momentarily). Israel has thousands of Palestinians
in jail (with or without "due process," which in Israel is designed
to be discriminatory).
I especially hate the "Israel has the right
to self-defense" line people habitually parrot. Palestinians don't?
As a pacifist, I might argue not, but not in a way that would exempt
Israelis. When something like this happens, the first, and really
the only, matter is to stop it, then to learn, adjust, and make it
unthinkable in the future. I dare say that no one in the echelons
of Israeli government is thinking along those lines. Probably no one
in Hamas either, possibly because they've spent decades studying
power in Israel.
The shutdown and the speaker: A week ago, after acting like
a complete ass for months, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy
reversed course and offered a fairly clean continuing spending bill,
which instantly passed, cleared the Senate, and was signed by Biden.
A small number of Republicans (eight), led by Matt Gaetz (R-FL), felt
so betrayed by not shutting down the government that they forced a
vote to fire McCarthy, which succeeded.
Nicole Narea/Andrew Prokop: [10-04]
9 questions about Kevin McCarthy's downfall and House GOP chaos,
Matthew Cooper: [10-03]
The day after the McCarthy ouster: "After the shock wears off,
remember that this cannibalism started in the 1990s and won't go
Hakeem Jeffries: [10-06]
A bipartisan coalition is the way forward for the House: This
won't happen, because the faction of Republicans who would even
consider it is even smaller than the Gaetz faction that just wanted
to trash the place. But unless something like this happens, the House
will continue to be a public embarrassment, at least until the 2024
elections, at which point it will either get better or even worse.
Ben Jacobs: [10-03]
Kevin McCarthy's historic humiliation.
Annie Karni: [10-04]
From a Capitol Hill basement, Bannon stokes the Republican Party
John Nichols: [10-05]
The "Trump for Speaker" campaign shipwrecks on the shoals of
stupidity: Turns out Republican actually had a rule against
an indicted felon becoming Speaker. So Trump resorted to the next
worse option, endorsing Jim Jordan. Nichols: [10-06]
Trump's pick for Speaker is a nightmare waiting to happen.
Timothy Noah: [10-05]
Who did in Kevin McCarthy? Maybe not Gaetz. Maybe not even Trump.
"James Carville thought the bond vigilantes controlled the world. He
just may have been right."
Nikki McCann Ramirez: [10-06]
Trump keys on Jim Jordan's wrestling history in speaker endorsement:
"omitting the scandal at the center of his coaching career."
Norman J Ornstein: [10-06]
How Kevin McCarthy planted the seeds of Kevin McCarthy's demise:
"Remember the 'young gun'? He doesn't want you to."
David Rothkopf: [10-06]
A broken Congress is what MAGA always wanted.
Leo Sands: [10-04]
Who voted Kevin McCarthy out? These 8 House Republicans.
Will Sommer: [10-06]
Fox News tries to referee House GOP chaos but cancels speaker 'debate':
Most likely Fox simply wanted to exploit the situation for profit, while
reminding everyone that they're the Mecca every Republican prostrates
and prays to (except, it would appear, Trump). On the other hand, even
the House demagogues realize that appealing to the public would only
further exacerbate their task of finding a leader no one hates enough
to kill over.
Michael Tomasky: [10-06]
Six reasons why liberals should salivate at a Speaker Jordan.
Jim Geraghty: [10-04]
Populist passions, not Trump, rule the GOP. To the extent that
anyone can be said to rule the Republican Party, it's still the
billionaires who fund the party, and pull strings behind the scenes.
Aside from a few fixed ideas about taxes -- something other people
should pay -- they aren't completely aligned, as they have varying
business interests (some depend on government support, others loathe
government interference) and personalities (many are assholes, a
trait which great wealth promotes, but they are assholes in varied
ways). Trump is, at least nominally, one of the billionaires, but
he is a peculiar one: extremely, flagrantly outspoken, but not much
of a leader. That's largely because his thoughts are received from
elsewhere (mostly his Fox News gurus). For years, Republican thought
leaders cynically issued their dog whistles. Not Trump: he's just a
particularly loud dog.
I tend to resist any linkage between Trump and populism -- I still
respect and admire the original 1890s People's Party -- but sure, he
reflects his followers much more than they do him. The result is often
incoherent, which doesn't seem to bother either, especially as they're
defined much more by what they hate than what they want.
Tori Otten: [10-06]
Trump Organization exec admits he considered fraud part of the job:
"Jeff McConney is blowing the door wide open on exactly how the Trump
Nia Prater: [10-03]
Trump hit with gag order after targeting judge's clerk.
Nikki McCann Ramirez: [10-05]
Trump blabbed about US nuclear capabilities to Australian billionaire:
who then "shared the potentially sensitive information with dozens of
Tatyana Tandanpolie: [10-06]
Trump abruptly drops Cohen lawsuit ahead of deposition: "Trump
sued former fixer Michael Cohen for $500 million -- then backed out
after repeatedly delaying deposition." Igor Derysh previously
wrote about this suit: [04-14]
Experts say Trump's lawsuit against Michael Cohen could badly
backfire. As Cohen put it: "I can't believe how stupid he was
to have actually filed it."
Emily Zemler: [10-05]
Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson says Trump threw his food
'once or twice a week'.
DeSantis, and other Republicans:
Perry Bacon Jr: [10-04]
Republicans are in disarray. But they are still winning a lot on
policy. Way, way too much, considering that their policy choices
are almost all deadass wrong.
Paul Krugman: [10-05]
Will voters send in the clowns? A lot of things that show up in
polls make little sense, but few show this much cognitive dissonance:
"Yet Americans, by a wide margin, tell pollsters that Republicans
would be better than Democrats at running the economy." Krugman
spends a lot of time arguing that the economy isn't so bad, but
regardless of the current state, how can anyone see Republicans as
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Kate Aronoff: [10-05]
Biden scraps environmental laws to build Trump's border wall.
Nicole Narea: [10-02]
Who is Laphonza Butler, California's new senator? I did a double
take on this line about the Democrats already campaigning for the
Feinstein seat: "All three have sizable war chests for the campaign,
with Schiff, Porter, and Lee having $29.8 million, $10.3 million,
and $1.4 million on hand." Sure, they're all "sizable," but sizes
are vastly different. They are currently polling at 20% (0.71 points
per million dollars), 17% (1.65 ppmd), and 7% (5.0 ppmd).
Stephen Prager: [10-03]
Voters have the right to be dissatisfied with 'Bidenomics': "The
president's defenders think voters are ungrateful for a good economy.
But people's economics experiences vary widely, and much of the
country has little to appreciate Biden for." Well, compared to what?
Not if you're comparing to Republicans. I'll grant that it can be
hard to gauge, including shifts from Obama that I believe are very
significant. But blaming Biden for canceling the Child Tax Credit
misses the key point that Democrats didn't have enough votes to
extend it. Same for the rest of the cutbacks from the Build Back
Better bill that Bernie Sanders presented -- some of which (the
parts that Joe Manchin accepted) was eventually passed. This piece
cites another by Stephen Semler: [08-15]
Bidenomics isn't working for working people. One thing that jumps
out here is the chart "The U.S. is Shrinking Its Social Safety Net,"
where everything listed (and since phased out) was part of the
remarkable pandemic lockdown relief act, which Trump got panicked
into signing, but which was almost all written and passed by Pelosi
and Schumer. To get it passed and signed, they had to sunset the
provisions. Democrats need to campaign on bringing them back, and
building on them.
Legal matters and other crimes:
Climate and environment:
Connor Echols: [10-06]
Diplomacy Watch: Ukraine's arduous path to EU accession: "A
hopeful summit obscured the difficulties facing Kyiv as it pushes
to join the bloc."
George Beebe: [10-04]
Will Ukraine's effort go bankrupt gradually . . . then suddenly?
Dave DeCamp: [10-08]
Biden considering huge $100 billion Ukraine spending package:
If at first you don't succeed, go crazy! Good chance he'll be adding
military aid for Israel before this passes. After all, look how
successful the last 50 years of aid was.
David Ignatius: [10-05]
A hard choice lies ahead in Ukraine, but only Ukrainians can make it:
First I've heard of a McCain Institute, but if someone wanted a pro-war
counter to the Quincy Institute, that's a pretty obvious name. As for
the opinion piece, it is half-obvious, and half-ridiculous. The obvious
part is that Ukraine, as well as Russia, will have to freely agree to
any armistice. The ridiculous part is the idea that the US shouldn't
exert any effort to achieve peace. The "defer to Ukraine" mantra is a
blank check policy, promoted by people who want to see the war go on
Jen Kirby: [10-03]
The West's united pro-Ukraine front is showing cracks. The
leading vote-getter in Slovakia has promised to end military aid
to Ukraine. Still, he's a long ways from being able to form a
government. Biden's latest request for Ukraine got dropped from
the bill the House finally passed to avoid (or forestall) a
government shutdown. On a straight vote, it would probably have
passed, but straight votes are hard to come by.
Jim Lobe: [10-06]
Iraq War boosters rally GOP hawks behind more Ukraine aid:
"Elliott Abrams' 'Vandenberg Coalition' also assails the Biden
administration for being soft on Russia." Wasn't Abrams the guy
who back in 2005 was whispering in Sharon's ear about how a
unilateral dismantling of Israeli settlements in Gaza with no
PA handover could be spun as a peace move but would actually
allow Israel to attack Gaza with impunity, any time they might
choose to? (Like in the lead up to elections, or in the interim
between Obama's election and when he took office, so he's have
to pledge allegiance to Israel before he could do anything
Siobhán O'Grady/Anastacia Galouchka: [10-06]
Russian missile attack at Ukraine funeral overwhelmingly killed
civilians: Link caption was more to the point: "Overwhelming
grief in Ukrainian village hit by strike: 'There is no point in
living.'" But already you can see the effort to spin tragedy into
a propaganda coup.
Robert Wright: [10-06]
The real lesson of Ukraine for Taiwan: Attempting to control
a conflict through increased deterrence can easily backfire,
precipitating the event one supposedly meant to deter. When
Russia started threatening to invade Ukraine, Biden didn't
take a step back and say, whoa!, can't we talk about this?
No, his administration cranked up their sanctions threats, and
expedited their increasing armament of Ukraine. Putin looked at
the lay of the land and the timelines, and convinced himself that
his odds were better sooner than later. Nor is this the only case
where sanctions have backfired: the context for Japan's attack on
Pearl Harbor was America's embargo of steel and oil. World War I
started largely because Germany decided that war with Russia was
inevitable, and their chances of winning were better in 1914 than
they would be later. All these examples are bonkers, but that's
what happens when states put their faith in military power. China
has long claimed Taiwan (going back to the day when Taiwan still
claimed all of China), but Peking has been willing to play a long
game, for 75 years now. But the more America wants to close the
door on possible reunification, the more likely China is to panic
and strike first.
Around the world:
Masha Gessen: [09-29]
The violent end of Nagorno-Karabakh's fight for independence. I cited
this article last week, without comment. I then started thinking about
another article last week: Richard Silverstein: [09-29]
Azerbaijan: Israeli arms sales, greased palms, ethnic conflict.
And lo, I became suspicious whether Israel's siding with Azerbaijan
was not just to make money, but to promote a mass exodus ("ethnic
cleansing") of Armenians from newly occupied territory. Perhaps if
they could show other examples, they could justify disposing of
their Palestinian population the same way? If so, the uprising in
Gaza is likely to accelerate their schedule.
Jonathan Guyer: [10-02]
How MBS has won over Washington and the world: Five years after
journalist Jamal Khashoggi was "murdered, dismembered, and disappeared"
in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Saudis are back in Washington's
good graces. Also on Saudi Arabia:
Ahmed Ibrahim: [10-03]
How Somalia never got back up after Black Hawk Down: "The Battle
of Mogadishu in October 1993 unleashed decades of American intervention
with very little to show for it."
Louisa Loveluck, et al: 10-05]
How government neglect, misguided policies doomed Libya to deadly
Kate Cohen: [10-03]
America doesn't need more God. It needs more atheists. Essay
adapted from the author's book: We of LIttle Faith: Why I Stopped
Pretending to Believe (and Maybe You Should Too).
Kevin T Dugan: [10-03]
The 3 most important things to know about Michael Lewis's SBF
book: The book is Going Infinite, which started out as
one of the writer's profiles of unorthodox finance guys, and has
wound up as some kind of "letter to the jury" on the occasion of
crypto conman Sam Bankman-Fried's fraud trial. Also on Lewis:
Karen J Greenberg: [10-05]
The last prisoners? With its prisoner population reduced to 30,
why can't America close Guantanamo?
Eric Levitz: [10-06]
Don't celebrate when people you disagree with get murdered.
"In view of many extremely online, spritually unswell conservatives,
[Ryan] Carson's brutal death was a form of karmic justice. . . . Days
earlier, the nihilist right greeted the murder of progressive
Philadelphia journalist Josh Kruger with the same grotesque glee."
Blaise Malley: [10-05]
The plan to avert a new Cold War: Review of Michael Doyle's
book, Cold Peace: Avoiding the New Cold War. "If all sides
continue to perceive actions by the other as hostile, then they
will constantly be at the precipice of a military confrontation."
Charles P Pierce: [10-05]
Guns are now the leading cause of accidental death among American
JJ Porter: [10-05]
Conservative postliberalism is a complete dead end: A review of
Patrick Deneen's Regime Change: Toward a Postliberal Future,
as if you needed (or wanted) one.
Emily Raboteau: [10-03]
The good life: "What can we learn from the history of utopianism?"
Review of Kristen R Ghodsee: Everyday Utopia: What 2,000 Years of
Wild Experiments Can Teach Us About the Good Life. Also see the
Current Affairs interview with Ghodsee: [10-04]
Why we need utopias.
Corey Robin: [10-04]
How do we survive the Constitution? Review of the new book,
Tyranny of the Minority by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt,
the comparative political scientists who previously wrote up many
examples of How Democracies Die. The authors are critical
of various quirks in the US Constitution that have skewed recent
elections toward Republicans, thus thwarting popular will and
endangering democracy in America. I haven't spent much time with
these books, or similar ones where the authors (like Yascha Mounk)
seem to cherish democracy more for aesthetic than practical reasons.
My own view is that the Constitution, even with its imperfections,
is flexible enough to work for most people, if we could just get
them to vote for popular interests. The main enemy of democracy
is money, abetted by the media that chases it. The solution is to
make people conscious, much less of how the Founding Fathers sold
us short than of the graft and confusion that sells us oligarchy.
By the way, Robin mentions a 2022 book: Joseph Fishkin/William
E Forbath: The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution: Reconstructing the
Economic Foundations of American Democracy. I haven't read this
particular book, but I have read several others along the same lines
(focused more on the authors and/or the text, whereas Fishkin &
Forbath follow how later progressives referred back to the Constitution):
Ganesh Sitaraman: The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why
Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic (2017); Erwin Chemerinsky:
We the People: A Progressive Reading of the Constitution for the
Twenty-First Century (2018); Danielle Allen: Our Declaration:
A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality
(2015). I should also mention Eric Foner: The Second Founding: How
the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution (2019).
Nathan J Robinson: [10-06]
How to spot corporate bullshit: "A new book shows that the same
talking points have been recycled for centuries, to oppose every
form of progressive change." Review of Corporate Bullsh*t,
by Nick Hanauer, Joan Walsh, and Donald Cohen, with plenty of
Missy Ryan: [10-04]
Over 80 percent of four-star retirees are employed in defense
industry: "Twenty-six of 32 four-star admirals and generals who
retired from June 2018 to July 2023." Based on the following report:
Washington Post Staff: [10-03]
The Post spent the past year examining US life expectancy. Here's
what we found:
- Chronic diseases are killing us
- Gaps between poor and wealthy communities are growing
- US life expectancy is falling behind global peers
- The seeds of this crisis are planted in childhood
- American politics are proving toxic
Ask a question, or send a comment.
Sunday, October 1, 2023
Speaking of Which
Front page, top headline in Wichita Eagle on Saturday:
McCarthy's last-ditch plan to keep government open collapses.
The headline came from an
AP article, dropping the final "making a shutdown almost certain"
clause. This headline, says more about the media
mindset in America than it does about the politics it does such a poor
job of reporting on. McCarthy is not trying to avert a shutdown (at
least with this bill). Even if he somehow managed to pass it, there
was no chance of it passing the Senate without major revisions, which
his caucus would then reject. His core problem is that he insists on
passing an extreme partisan bill, but no bill is extreme enough for
the faction of Republicans dead set on shutting down the government,
and nothing he can do will appease them.
If he was at all serious about avoiding shutdown, he'd offer a
bill that would attract enough Democrat votes to make up for his
inevitable losses on the extreme right. That's what McConnell did
in the Senate, with a bill that passed 77-19. But House Republicans
follow what they call the Hastert Rule, which states that leaders
can only present bills approved by a majority of the caucus -- in
effect, that means the right-wing can hold bills hostage, even
mandatory spending bills, and looking for bipartisan support is
pointless. McCarthy had to compromise even further to gain enough
votes to be elected Speaker.
If the mainstream media refuses to provide even the barest of
meaningful context, this kabuki propaganda will just continue, to
the detriment of all.
[PS: On Saturday afternoon, after I wrote the above, McCarthy did
just that, passing a bill 335-91, with 90 Republicans and 1
Democrat opposed. The bill continues spending for 45 days, adds
disaster relief funds, extends federal flood insurance, and
reauthorizes FAA, but does not include the new Ukraine aid Biden
Top story threads:
[PS: Congress finally passed a continuing spending resolution on
Saturday, after McCarthy's "last-ditch" bill failed to pass the
House. The intro below -- original title was "Drowning government
in the bathtub" -- was written before this bill passed, as
were the articles dated earlier. On the other hand, we're only
45 days away from the next big shutdown scare, which the same
bunch of clowns and creeps are almost certain again to push to
The Grover Nordquist quote
(from 2001) is: "I just want to shrink [government] down to the size
where we can drown it in the bathtub." Later he managed to get every
Republican in Congress to sign onto his "Taxpayer Protection Pledge,"
which would seem to commit them to the ultimate destruction of the
federal government. None of this slowed, let alone reversed the
growth of government -- it just ensured that the growth would be
funded mostly by deficits, which conveniently give Republicans
something else to whine about, even though they're mostly just
tax giveaways to the very rich. So whenever an opportunity arises
for Republicans to vent their hatred of the government and their
disgust over the people that government serves, they rise up and
break things. One of those opportunities is this week, when the
previous year's spending bills expire, without the House having
passed new ones for next year. Without new authorization, large
parts of government are supposed to shut down, giving Republicans
a brief opportunity to impress Grover Nordquist. Then, after a
few days or a couple weeks, they'll quietly pass a resolution to
allow their incompetence to escape notice for another year. You
see, most of what government actually does supports the very same
rich people who donate to Republican politicians. I could file
all of these stories under Republicans, since they are solely
responsible for this nonsense, but on this occasion, let's break
Corbin Bolies: [10-01]
Rep. Matt Gaetz: I will force vote to can McCarthy 'this week'.
Sam Brodey: [10-01]
It's bad news that so many in the GOP are pissed about averting a
shutdown: On the other hand, every tantrum here should be recorded
and thrown back in their faces in 2024. It's bad news because these
idiots still have considerable power to wreak havoc. Vote them down
to a small minority and it will merely be sad and pathetic, which
is what they deserve.
David Rothkopf: [09-30]
All that drama and the House GOP's only win was for the Kremlin:
I'm sorry to have to say this, but Russiagate -- not the "collusion"
but the jingoistic Cold War revival -- isn't over yet. One thing that
the Republican right understands is that Russia's "expansionism" is
fundamentally limited by their sense of nationhood, and as such is
no real threat to their own "America First" nationalism. Democrats
don't understand this. They view Russia through two lenses: one is
as a rival to the US in a zero-sum game for world domination -- which
was a myth in the Cold War era, and pure projection now; the other
is that Putin has embraced a social conservatism and anti-democratic
repression to a degree that Republicans plainly aspire to, so they
are strongly disposed to treat both threats as linked. (Which, by
the way, is not total whimsy: Steve Bannon seems to have taken as
his life's work the formation of an International Brotherhood of
Fascists.) The problem with this is that it turns Democrats into
supporters of empire and war abroad, and those things not only
breed enemies, they undermine true democracy at home. Still, I'm
not unamused by Rothkopf taking a cheap shot in this particular
moment. I just worry about the mentality that makes one think
that's a real point.
Michael Scherer: [09-30]
Shutdown deal avoids political pain for Republican moderates:
For starters, this helps with definition: A "moderate" is a Republican
who worries more about losing to a Democrat than one who worries more
about being challenged by an even crazier Republican. Shutting down
the government is a play that appeals to the crazies, but has little
enthusiasm for most people, even ones who generally vote Republican.
The Republican also-rans second debate: Six of the first
debate's eight made their way to the Reagan Library in California,
again hosted by Fox. Bear in mind that any judgments about winners
and losers are relative.
Intelligencer Staff: [09-27]
Republican Debate: At least 33 things you missed. If you're up for
the gory details, here are the live updates. Notable quotes: "It's kind
of sexist, but mostly it's just gross, and it drives home one essential
fact about the people on tonight's stage. They are unrelatable freaks.
There is something deeply off-putting about each person on stage." Also:
"Ramaswamy: Thank you for speaking while I'm interrupting."
Mariana Alfaro: [09-27]
Republican presidential candidates blame UAW strike on Biden:
What? For giving workers hope they might gain back some ground after
forty years of Republican-backed union busting?
Zack Beauchamp: [09-27]
The Republican debate is fake: "With Trump dominating the GOP
primary, the debate is a cosplay of a competitive election -- and
a distraction from an ugly truth."
Aaron Blake: [09-27]
The winners and losers of the second Republican debate:
- Winner: Nikki Haley: The press hope for a rational Republican
is getting real desperate here. Aside from dunking on Ramaswamy,
the other claims for her are really spurious. How can anyone argue
that the UAW strike was the result of "the impact of inflation on
- Winner: Donald Trump: "Okay, maybe this one's unoriginal."
- Winner: Obamacare: Because Pence repeatedly avoided the question?
- Loser: GOP debates: QED, right?
- Loser: Ron DeSantis: "there was nothing that seemed likely to
arrest his backsliding."
- Loser: GOP moderation on immigration.
Jim Geraghty/Megan McArdle/Ramesh Ponnuru: [09-28]
'It sucks:' Conservatives discuss the GOP primary after the latest
debate. I didn't listen to the audio -- I'm listening to music
almost all the time; I can read at the same time, but I don't have
free time for podcasts -- so I'm not sure where Geraghty is going
with this, but the gist is that Trump sucks all the oxygen out of
the party, and nobody else has the guts to say that he's suffocating
the party just to stroke his own ego, because even if he somehow
manages to win, he doesn't know how to actually do anything, other
than keep sucking. (Pun? Sure.)
Eric Levitz: [09-28]
Who won (and lost) the second Republican debate:
- Winner: Vivek Ramaswamy: "came across as a slicks sociopath."
- Winner: Chris Christie: "we're gonna call you Donald DUCK."
- Losers: All of them: "In seriousness, there were no winners in
Simi Valley." He then runs the rest down one by one.
Harold Meyerson: [09-28]
Debate number two: Phonies and cacophonies.
Alexandra Petri: [09-28]
Here's what happened at the second Republican primary debate. Really.
Really? My favorite line here is one attributed to DeSantis: "If you
measure popularity in number of tears that a candidate has collected
from crocodiles and others, I am by far the most popular candidate."
Andrew Prokop: [09-27]
1 winner and 3 losers from Fox's dud of a second GOP debate:
- Loser: Vivek Ramaswamy: "At tonight's debate, Ramaswamy's schtick
- Loser: The moderators: "Dana Perino, Stuart Varney, and Illa
Calderón seemed puzzlingly reluctant to have the candidates actually,
well, debate each other."
- Loser: Fox News: "Fox had to reduce its ad time slot prices by
hundreds of thousands of dollars for this debate, compared to the
first one, because interest was expected to be low."
- Winner: You know who: "Sorry, Chris Christie, calling him 'Donald
Duck' is cheesy and ineffective."
Let me conclude this section with a quote from Jeffrey St Clair
(see his "Roaming Charges" below for link) summing up the debate:
The Republican "debate" at the Reagan Library seemed like an exercise
in collective madness. And 24 hours and half a bottle of Jameson's
later, I still don't know what's crazier, Nikki Haley saying that
she'd solve the health care crisis by letting patients negotiate the
price of treatment with hospitals and doctors, Tim Scott's assertion
that LBJ's Great Society program was harder for black people to
survive than slavery or Ron DeSantis' pledge to use the Civil Rights
Act to target "left-wing" prosecutors: "I will use the Justice
Department to bring civil rights cases against all of those left-wing
Soros-funded prosecutors. We're not going to let them get away with it
anymore. We want to reverse this country's decline. We need to choose
law and order over rioting and disorder."
Trump: While it was unprecedented for a former president to
be indicted (for even one felony, much less 91), I think we now have
to admit that's merely a historical curiosity, like Dianne Feinstein
having been the first woman elected mayor of San Francisco. What is
truly unprecedented is that this guy, facing so many indictments under
four separate judges (plus more judges in prominent civil cases), is
still being allowed to campaign for president, to fly free around the
country, to give speeches where he threatens the lives of people he
thinks have crossed him, to appear on television shows where he can
influence potential jurors, and do this with complete impunity. While
everyone knows that defendants are to be considered innocent until a
jury finds them guilty, has anyone else under indictment ever been
given such lax treatment? Many of them spend long pre-trial periods
stuck in jail. (According to
this report, there are 427,000 people in local jails who haven't
been convicted.) Those who, like Trump, could manage bail, are subject
to other numerous other restrictions. Maybe one reason Trump seems
to regard himself as above the law is that the courts have allowed
him such privileges.
Mark Alfred/Justin Rohrlich: [09-29]
First plea deal in Georgia RICO case is not good news for Trump:
Scott Hall to plead guilty and testify about his crime, which is a
big part of the foundation for the RICO case. The plea agreement
calls for five years probation, $5,000 fine, 200 hours of community
service, and other restrictions.
Lauren Aratani: [10-01]
The art of the fraudulent deal? Trump Organization trial set to
begin. This is the New York civil case against his business.
I'm a little unclear on how this works, given that there is already
a "pre-trial judgment ruling that Trump and his co-defendants,
including sons Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, committed financial
fraud through faulty financial statements." Aratani previously
Five key takeaways from Donald Trump's financial fraud case ruling,
which says that the "bench trial" will be shorter, because the facts
of fraud have already been established, so the focus will be on the
amount and nature of the punishment.
Victoria Bekiempis: [09-30]
Trump calls for store robbers to be shot in speech to California
Kyle Cheney: [09-29]
Trump's attack on Milley fuels special counsel's push for a gag
Tim Dickinson: [09-29]
This 'violence-ready' militia is hiding in plain sight: "White
supremacist Active Clubs are growing exponentially -- 'they're who
the Proud Boys wanted to be,' one researcher says."
Gabriella Ferrigine: [09-25]
Donald Trump ramps up the GOP's attack on the military with call to
execute top US general: Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley. This
was followed up by Chauncey DeVega: [09-27]
The real reason why Donald Trump wants Gen. Milley to be killed.
Rep. Paul Gosar [R-AZ] also chimed in: Trudy Ring: [09-26]
Republican Rep. Paul Gosar calls for death to 'sodomy-promoting traitor'
Gen. Mark Milley.
Margaret Hartmann: [09-30]
Master dealmaker Melania Trump keeps renegotiating her prenup.
Sarah Jones: [09-27]
The media falls for Trump's labor lies.
Ed Kilgore: [09-28]
With Trump's 2024 rivals out, who's left on his veep list? This
is a stupid game, but I was tempted to look. For some reason, the
actual names bruited here are all women: Kristi Noem, Sarah Huckabee
Sanders, Kari Lake, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Joni Ernst, Marsha
Blackburn, Elise Stefanik, Katie Britt. I wouldn't give any of
them as much as a 2% chance, although if Trump were a somewhat
more conventional politician, Ernst wouldn't be a silly choice --
she's won two terms in former-swing-state Iowa, and her sadistic
"make 'em squeal" motto should appeal to Trump, or at least his
fans. Beyond that, I have no idea. Maybe someone he can share
locker room banter with, like Michael Flynn or Ronnie Jackson?
In 2016 he picked Pence because he needed someone to reassure the
Republican regulars, and none of the candidates groveled more.
This time, he is the Republican base, and no one else matters,
so the last thing he'll want is some sniveling upstart who wants
to step into his shoes. And while he might be up for banging
anyone on Kilgore's list, he's never going to trust any of them.
Heather Digby Parton: [09-27]
Trump family fraud exposed -- but Ivanka dodges liability in N.Y. civil
case. DJTJ and Eric, on the other hand . . .
Christian Paz: [09-28]
Donald Trump isn't the union legend he's pretending to be.
Charles P Pierce: [09-27]
You've got to read this judge's ruling in Trump's New York fraud case.
Nia Prater: [09-27]
Trump might lose Trump Tower after scathing court ruling.
Alex N Press: [09-27]
Trump is speaking tonight in Michigan at a nonunion auto shop, as a
guest of its boss: This was the date of the "debate," after Biden
appeared on a UAW picket line.
David Von Drehle: [09-27]
A judge calls out Trump's business lies. Voters can be just as
DeSantis, and other Republicans:
Jonathan Chait: [09-27]
DeSantis forced to say why he enjoys denying health insurance to poor
Floridians: Chait paraphrases: "Those people should work harder.
Indeed, to give them subsidized access to medical care will sap their
incentive. Poor people need motivation to work hard, and denying them
the ability to see a doctor and get medicine is part of that necessary
motivation." Conservatives believe that getting rich is a reward for
virtue, but they also seem to believe that if there are no consequences
for not getting rich, no one would bother putting the work in. (Even
though most of the people who actually are rich got that way not from
having worked hard, but from enjoying privileged access to capital.)
Ed Kilgore: [09-29]
Scott, Haley, and the Radicalization of the 'moderate' Republican:
It's ridiculous to call these people "moderate": they are the residue
left from the evolution of the South Carolina Republican Party from
Strom Thurmond through Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint. Their only
saving grace, which each of their predecessors had to some degree,
is that they aren't shamelessly stupid panderers. They have some
sense of how they look to others, and try to sound respectable.
But politically, there as far right as their predecessors (and
Haley is about as psychotically hawkish as Graham). Perhaps you
could give them some credit for moving beyond Thurmond on race,
but perhaps they were just cast to look like it?
Jasmine Liu: [09-26]
Everything you need to know about the right-wing war on books:
"Here's your guide to the heroes and villains -- plus a list of the
50 most banned books." Censorship chiefs: Ron DeSantis, Sarah Huckabee
Sanders, Greg Abbott, Moms for Liberty. Those have definitely gotten
more press than the Reading Rebels: Suzette Baker, Debbie Chavez,
Summer Boismier, and "Anonymous Utah parent." The books are mostly
off my radar, aside from two titles each for Toni Morrison and Ibram
Greg Sargent: [09-28]
New data on ultra-rich tax cheats wrecks the 'working-class GOP'
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Legal and criminal matters:
Climate and environment:
Around the world:
Dianne Feinstein: The Senator (D-CA) died Thursday, at 90,
after more than 30 years in the Senate. She had a mixed legacy, which
had soured lately as her absences kept Democrats from confirming many
Robert Menendez: Senator (D-NJ), was prosecuted for corruption
several years ago, beat the charges, managed to get himself reëlected,
and caught again.
- Aaron Blake: [09-26]
The GOP's defenses of Bob Menendez, and what they ignore. They
may not have gotten to where they automatically sympathize with all
criminals, but corrupt politicians are definitely their soft spot.
(Also tax cheats. Except for Hunter Biden, of course.)
- Bob Hennelly: [09-28]
Bob Menendez and the gold bars: A short history of New Jersey
- Robert Kuttner: [09-27]
How to oust Menendez: The Agnew precedent: Good idea, but I don't
see this happening, mostly because nobody is that desperate to get
rid of Menendez: Garland probably likes the idea of being as tough on
a Democrat as on Trump, and Republicans would cry foul if Menendez got
off on a "sweetheart deal" while Trump still has to face trial. (Cf.
their reaction to the Hunter Biden plea deal, which was a much smaller
case than the ones against Menendez and Trump.)
Branko Marcetic: [09-27]
Bob Menendez isn't merely corrupt. He carried water for a brutal
dictator. Shouldn't that be plural? Menendez got caught taking
money from Egypt, but he's been a dependable supporter of other
nominal allies with troubled connections (Israel and Saudi Arabia
get mentions here, but not Latin America, where his antipathy to
anything leftist knows no bounds).
Timothy Noah: [09-29]
Why is the GOP suddenly defending Bob Menendez? "From Trump on
down, they're speaking out on behalf of a Democratic senator buffeted
by accusations of corruption --he's just one more Biden deep state
Henry Olsen: [09-27]
Bob Menendez is right not to step down: One of the conservative
hack pundits to rally behind Menendez, pleading "let the justice system
play out as it's supposed to," urging him to hang in there even past
conviction until all his appeals are exhausted, and assuring him that
"there's little proof that a senator's indictment affects voters'
decisions in other races." He offers the example of Virginia Gov.
Ralph Northam, who resisted pressure to resign after embarrassing
photos from a yearbook came to light, but Northam wasn't indicted,
and was barely distracted from doing his job. The charges against
Menendez are very serious, and derive directly from his abuse of
the power given him by his job. While the indictments may cramp
his ability to collect further bribes, his job is one where even
the appearance of corruption diminishes the office. It is this
very sense of taint that has led many Democrats to call for his
resignation. To see Republicans rally behind Menendez testifies
to how they've evolved to celebrate his kind of corruption.
David Atkins: [09-27]
America needs a true liberal media: "Our crisis of democracy is
exacerbated by conservative misinformation. Time for a balanced media
diet." Of course, he has a lot to complain about, but couldn't he put
it better? I shouldn't have to parse the difference between "liberal"
as an adjective and "liberal" (or "liberalism") as a noun, and explain
why a "liberal media" isn't just a propaganda outlet for liberalism
(as conservative media is for conservatism). If we had an honest media
dedicated to rooting out misinformation from any source, it would
easily find ten times as much emanating from right-wing interest
groups (which it would clearly label as such). Atkins cites several
examples of polls where scary large numbers of Americans believe
things that are plainly false. That such numbers persist goes a long
way toward indicting the media for failing to keep us informed.
On the other hand, another sense of "liberal" is that it provides
equal credence to all views, regardless of truth, merit or ulterior
motives. This was, for instance, the view Marcuse et al. put forth
in A Critique of Pure Tolerance (1965). In light of this,
one can be as critical as Atkins is of the present facts and draw
the opposite conclusion, that the problem we have today is that the
media, with its relentless balancing and its credulous repetition
of blatant falsehoods, is simply too liberal.
Zack Beauchamp: [09-24]
Is America uniquely vulnerable to tyranny? Review of a new book,
Tyranny of the Minority: Why American Democracy Reached the Breaking
Point, by Steve Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, whose previous book,
the comparative study How Democracies Die, was taken as a
landmark among liberals who worry more about the formal political
institutions than about government reflecting the interests of
Nina Burleigh: [09-26]
Are we in the last days of Fox News? "Michael Wolff's new book
on the Murdochs is full of juicy details, but its predictions may
be off." The book is called The Fall: The End of Fox News.
Joshua Green: [08-27]
How social justice activists lost the plot: A review of Fredrik
DeBoer's new book, How Elites Ate the Social Justice Movement,
"an entreaty to white, college-educated progressives: Stop obsessing
over identity and language and start fighting for working people."
I took a brief look at this book when assembling my latest
Book Roundup and couldn't decide what to make of it: he's reputed
to be a leftist, but he spends most of his time attacking others on
the left side of "social justice" issues, possibly for not being
leftist enough (on economic issues? for leftists of some vintage
what else is there?). I'm not engaged enough to recognize much less
care about many of the complaints lodged against today's younger
generation on the left, but back in my day (c. 1970) I ran into
similar problems, where comfortably well-off young people got
worked up over other people's problems without having the grounding
of knowing their own problems. (I was a rare working class kid, and
pathological introvert, in an elite university, so I never had that
luxury.) I have no idea how well, or how badly, DeBoer navigates
problems with his fellow leftists. Green, however, ends with one
piece of reasonable advice: "If they'd focus on electing Democrats,
they'd finally be in a position to deliver for those groups, rather
than just bicker over whose turn it is to talk next." I would add
that while I don't think leftists should adopt bad positions just
to get around, the only policy improvements that are achievable
are ones that pass through the Democratic Party, so that's where
you need to do your practical work.
Anthony L Fisher: [09-30]
Why the 2020 social justice revolutions failed: Interview with
DeBoer on his book, steering the discussion toward the 2020 BLM
protests and the coincident looting ("riots"). Maybe DeBoer has
something specific to say about all that, but that wasn't obvious
to me from what I previously read. I wouldn't say that the protests
failed -- they moved several meters significantly, especially in
that the cop who killed George Floyd and the cops who aided and
abetted the murder have been convicted of serious crimes, which is
never expected when police kill civilians -- and I also wouldn't
say that where they failed, they did so due to the liberal elite
syndrome I take DeBoer to be critical of. What was possible from
those protests was limited by Trump, other right-wing political
figures, including police and vigilantes, responded so negatively,
often deliberately attempting to provoke riots (which, based on
much experience, they assumed would be blamed on the protesters).
Becca Rothfeld: [09-01]
Should progressives want the support of the ruling classes?
A critical review of DeBoer's book, mentioned in the Fisher interview
above, the author dismissed by DeBoer as "exactly the kind of person
that is being indicted in the book."
[PS: On closer examination, this strikes me as a pretty good review
of the book.]
Freddie deBoer: [0-25]
AOC is just a regular old Democrat now. I saw this at the time,
and didn't think it was worth reporting on, but since we're talking
about the author now, it shines as much light on him as on her. The
theme is not something I'd lose any sleep over.
Tyler Austin Harper: [09-28]
Ibram X. Kendi's fall is a cautionary tale -- so was his rise:
Flagged for possible future reference, as I'm not close enough to
this story to have an opinion. I will say that I fifty-plus years
ago I read two important historical works on racism in the early
1970s: Winthrop Jordan's White Over Black: American Attitudes
Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (1968), and David Brion Davis,
The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (1966), which if
memory serves argued that racism wasn't Stamped From the
Beginning (the title of Kendi's big book) but was developed
over time, primarily to justify chattel slavery in the Americas,
and the profits derived therefrom. I read quite a bit more back
then, covering later history as well as contemporary books like
Soul on Ice and The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
But it had been quite a while when Kendi's book came out, so I
thought it might be useful to get a more contemporary reading
of Jordan's domain. But when I looked at the book, I decided I
didn't need or particularly want it. I had, by then, read lots
about Thomas Jefferson's racism (and for that matter, Lincoln's),
but didn't see much point in dwelling on it. But the big turn
off was the section on major aboltionist William Lloyd Garrison.
Looking at the Amazon preview now, my reaction may have been
hasty: surely the later chapters on W.E.B. DuBois and Angela
Davis weren't meant to be simple exposés of racist ideas like
chapters on Cotton Mather and Jefferson? But then, what were
they? Kendi followed up with an explicitly political book, and
evidently built a mini-empire on his reputation. That could
have been good, bad, irrelevant, or some combination thereof.
Sean Illing: [09-26]
Naomi Klein on her doppelganger (and yours): Another interview,
promoting her new book, Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror
Sarah Jones: [09-24]
The dark side of courtship: "Shannon Harris's relationship was
held up as a model for millions of Evangelicals. Now she's reclaiming
David Masciotra: [09-26]
What the Clinton haters on the left get wrong: "A new book epitomizes
the risible belief that the 42nd president betrayed liberals and the 1990s
were a right-wing hellscape." The book is A Fabulous Failure: The
Clinton Presidency and the Transformation of American Capitalism,
by Nelson Lichtenstein and Judith Stein. I note this in passing, and
also that the first publication to take such offense against such a
blight on Clinton's good name is the one where the term "neoliberalism"
was first coined. Somehow I doubt a book where the authors juxtaposed
"fabulous" and "failure" is simply "untruths they've written [to]
bolster the cynicism that undermines the trust vital to the survival
of the American experiment."
The first point anyone needs to understand
is that Clinton pioneered a new political path by trying not to fight
Reagan but to outflank him: to show leaders that Democrats in power
would be even better for business than Republicans. That Clinton won
gave his argument an air of gospel after a brutal decade, which only
deepened the more hysterically Republicans attacked him. However, his
two presidential wins were largely wiped out by losing Congress, and
with it the ability to legislate anything beyond his pro-business and
On the other hand, his failures -- mistakes
and, especially, missed opportunities -- only grew. Listing them would
take a book (probably even longer than this one). Compounding Reagan's
turn toward increasing inequality is probably the top of the list. Or
failing to trim back America's imperial overreach to secure a truly
international peace -- today's conflicts with Russia and China, as
well as the long war against the Middle East, are easily traced back
to his failures. Or maybe we should wonder why Al Gore wasn't allowed
to work on climate change when it wasn't yet too late, but was tasked
instead with "reinventing government," which mostly meant making it
more profitable for lobbyists. Or maybe we should ask why he stripped
the Democratic Party down to a personal cult-of-personality, allowing
Republicans to repeatedly rebound from disaster every time they came
close to the lever of power?
Dylan Matthews: [09-26]
40 years ago today, one man saved us from world-ending nuclear war:
A Russian, Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, who was monitoring Russia's ICBM
detection system, which had determined "with high probability" that
the US had launched five Minutemen missiles at the Soviet Union. It
hadn't, but two years of constant saber-rattling under Reagan, on top
of worsening US-Soviet relations under Jimmy Carter (or should I say
Zbigniew Brzezinski?), along with internal turmoil that might suggest
weakness, left top Soviet circles more in fear of an American attack
than ever before. David Hoffman wrote a book about this: The Dead
Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race & Its Dangerous
Net neutrality is back, but it's not what you think.
The government's case to break up Amazon, explained: "The Federal
Trade Commission, led by longtime Amazon critic Lina Khan, finally
makes its move." This particular case focuses on Amazon Marketplace --
the most obvious place to start, I agree. I could probably write a
lot on this, but some other time. There are a lot of things I like
about Amazon, but the potential for abuse is huge, and doesn't loom
purely in the future. I cited a David Dayen piece last week, and it
deserves to be mentioned again in light of this suit:
Jonah Raskin: [09-29]
"I am not now, nor have I ever been": Musings on communism and
anti-communism. I've known a few American communists, or at
least a few of their "red diaper baby" children. All good people,
as far as I can tell.
Heather Cox Richardson: [09-26]
The fight for our America: Excerpt, or maybe a précis, from her
forthcoming book Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of
America. The setup: "There have always been two Americas. One
based in religious zeal, mythology, and inequality; and one grounded
in the rule of the people and the pursuit of equality. This next
election may determine which one prevails." My first cavil here
was over the word "prevails": recent elections (at least since 2000,
and arguably since 1968 -- the landslides of 1972 and 1984 now look
like flukes, as does the lesser margin of 2008) have turned out to
be pretty indecisive. There is little reason to think that 2024 will
turn out differently: a Trump-Biden rematch is unlikely to turn out
much differently than in 2020, but Republicans have structural
advantages in the Senate, the House, and the Electoral College
that could flip the popular vote -- further reinforcing the current
partisan divide over democracy itself.
Still, in searching for a better term than "prevails," I find
myself considering the more extreme "survives." While electoral
results have remained ambiguous, the stakes for (and fears of)
losing have only grown more urgent. Republicans have already used
their narrow margins to establish a Supreme Court supermajority,
which has already resulted in the loss of fundamental rights and
will continue to frustrate efforts of elected Democrats to address
important policy issues. Give them more power, and they'll continue
their efforts to fortify their power bases and impose their will
on a disempowered people.
Democrats are right to fear such authoritarianism, and are right
that the antidote is a renewed faith in democracy, but their defense
of democracy has been frustratingly difficult, because Democrats
rarely think of power in the broad sense that Republicans understand:
the power of business and money, of media, of social institutions
like churches, of culture (one area they have been least effective
at controlling, and therefore one they're most paranoid about, hence
their recent, seemingly desperate, stress on the "war against woke").
More often than not, Democrats have appealed to moneyed interests,
even to the point of sacrificing traditional allies like unions,
and this has tattered their reputation as champions of the people.
Richardson's "two Americas" may serve as generic shorthand for
the two highly polarized parties, but while identities align with
parties, the underlying philosophies are more or less present and
at tension in most people. By far the most important is the split
on equality: the right views the world as necessarily (or rightly)
inequal and hierarchical, where each person has a station, and
order is maintained by popular acceptance (and, often, by force);
the left views all people as fundamentally equal, at least in
rights, and ideally in opportunities. The left naturally leans
toward democracy, where government is constituted to act in the
popular interest. The right leans toward dictatorship (originally
of monarchs, although any strongman able to impose order to save
their hierarchy will do), and distrusts democracy, suspecting that
if given the chance, the majority would end the privileges of
those atop the hierarchy.
By the way, liberals are focused on the rights and ambitions
of individuals. Whether they lean right or left depends mostly on
the conservative hierarchy is in admitting talented upstarts --
for many would like to live like princes, but if they are locked
out, they're happy to tear the hierarchy down, and willing to
appeal to the masses for help in doing so. Liberals are disrupters,
which is why conservatives loathe them, but as long as they are
sufficiently corruptible, they can be co-opted. But until they get
bought off, they are likely to inspire more widespread ambitions --
which is why we still admire Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt (and
wanted to admire Obama).
It is important to remember that nearly everything we cherish
about our past was the work of liberals aspiring to the greater
(more universal) good. (Which is to say, of moves toward the left,
though often of people not strongly committed to the left.) Also
that every advance has been met with conservative reaction, which
was generally flexible enough to admit a select few in order to
cut short the hopes of the many. Richardson groups religious zeal
and mythology with the side of inequality. They are actually tools
of a hierarchy which, given America's founding as a liberal/mass
revolt against aristocracy, cannot be defended on its own terms.
Rather, the right, in order to maintain any plausibility at all,
has to spin a mythic past rooted in old fashioned religion and
pioneering entrepreneurial spirit -- the new hierarchy that rose
to replace the aristocracy dispatched by the Revolution.
Jeffrey St Clair: [09-29]
Roaming Charges: Our man in Jersey: Starts with Robert Menendez
as a Le Carré character, "New Jersey's own apex con man, whose personal
embellishments and political fictions have become so labryinthine
that now that he's been caught with gold bars in his closet, he
can't even get his own life story straight."
In other items, he notes that the US drug overdose rate, in the
fifty years since the War on Drugs was launched in 1973, has ("what
a smashing success it has been!") increased from 3.0 per 100,000 to
Marcela Valdes: [10-01]
Why can't we stop unauthorized immigration? Because it works.
"Our broken immigration system is still the best option for many
migrants -- and U.S. employers."
Jason Wilson: [10-01]
'Red Caesarism' is rightwing code -- and some Republicans are
listening: This piece introduced me to a recent book by Kevin
Slack: War on the American Republic: How Liberalism Became
Despotism, which argues that America has been destroyed by
three waves of liberals: "Teddy Roosevelt's Anglo-Protestant
progressive social gospelers, who battled trusts and curbed
immigration; Franklin Roosevelt's and Lyndon Johnson's secular
liberals, who forged a government-business partnership and
promoted a civil rights agenda; and the 1960s radicals, who
protested corporate influence in the Great Society, liberal
hypocrisy on race and gender, and the war in Vietnam," and
who finally cemented their power with "the 'great awokening'
that began under Barack Obama." The result: "an incompetent
kleptocracy is draining the wealthiest and most powerful
people in history, thus eroding the foundations of its own
I don't know how I missed this tome in my list of paranoid
rants tacked onto the end of my
Book Roundup entry on Christopher Rufo, as it's basically
Rufo's thesis backed up with more historical special pleading.
I do wonder, though, how you could get from Grover Cleveland's
America to world-topping empire and wealth except through the
progressive machinations of the Roosevelts and their followers.
The Amazon page for
Slack's book doesn't mention "Red Caesarism," which seems to be
the idea that Trump should seize power next chance he gets, and
dispense with all the other trappings of democracy. At this point,
the article shifts to Michael Anton's The Stakes, about
which I previously wrote:
Michael Anton: The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return
(2020, Regnery): Publisher is all the signal you need, but here's some
background: Anton wrote a famous essay calling 2016 "The Flight 93
Election," because he figured it was better to storm the cockpit and
crash the plane than to let Hillary Clinton win. He explains "the
stakes" here: "The Democratic Party has become the party of 'identity
politics' -- and every one of those identities is defined against a
unifying national heritage of patriotism, pride in America's past, and
hope for a shared future. . . . Against them is a divided Republican
Party. Gravely misunderstanding the opposition, old-style Republicans
still seek bipartisanship and accommodation, wrongly assuming that
Democrats care about playing by the tiresome old rules laid down in
the Constitution and other fundamental charters of American liberty."
While I'm skeptical both of Trump's chances of winning in 2024,
and even more so of his ability to seize total personal control of
the government (as, sorry but there is no clearer example, Hitler
did upon being appointed chancellor in 1933). Still, it is pretty
clear that he would like to, and that he will go out of his way to
hire people who have ideas about how to go about it (some of whom
he'll have to spring from jail), but these will largely be the
same sorts that talked him into thinking Jan. 6 was a bully idea.
announced: "I'm really excited to announce that I have written my
first book!" The title is: The Reactionary Spirit: How America's
Most Insidious Political Tradition Swept the World. I'd be real
tempted to order a copy, but right now I'm bummed that there sems to
be another year until publication date (next year, maybe fall). I've
always imagined that if I could get my book written in the next 3-4
months, say, it could still appear several months before the 2024
Beauchamp has been writing more/less philosophical pieces in
Vox for several years now. I've followed these with interest,
as they dovetail nicely with my own thinking. He described his
book in multiple tweets, collected and numbered here:
- Democracy as a system is based the idea that all people are
political equals. As such, it empowers people to challenge existing
social hierarchies through the political system -- which we saw, to
a globally unprecedented degree, in the second half of the 20th
- This forces defenders of existing hierarchy to make a choice:
fight social change through the system, or turn against democracy
itself. The impulse to make the latter choice is what I call "the
reactionary spirit," and it is at the heart of today's global
- The reactionary spirit has threatened democracy since its
earliest modern stirrings. But today's reactionary politics is
different in a crucial respect: it pretends to be
- In The Reactionary Spirit, I argue that this reflects
democracy's ideological triumphs. While reactionaries in the past
openly rallied for alternative systems, like monarchy or fascism,
today's reactionaries understand that democracy remains ideologically
- This is a very longstanding pattern in one place -- the United
States, a country whose home-grown authoritarian tradition has
always claimed to be democratic. The 20th and 21st centuries,
I argue, have seen an Americanization of global reactionary politics
in this key respect.
- The Reactionary Spirit engages deeply with reactionary
political movements and thinkers, like John C. Calhoun and Carl
Schmitt. It focuses on four case studies to illustrate the nature
of our global crisis: the US, Hungary, Israel, and India.
- There's much more in the book, of course. I'll keep talking
about it till publication date -- looking to be late summer or
early fall 2024. The Reactionary Spirit synthesizes a decade
of thinking and reporting about democratic crisis. I am so excited
to share it with you.
I also see that a book is coming out in January, 2024, by Hunter
Walker and Luppe B. Luppen, titled The Truce: Progressives,
Centrists, and the Future of the Democratic Party (from
WW Norton). The key here isn't that the leftists became
reasonable -- we've long been eager to work on real even if
piecemeal solutions -- but that the centrists finally started
to realize that their approaches, which most often tried to
incorporate right-wing talking points while slightly toning
them down, weren't working, either for winning elections or
for making tangible improvements (which are always hard when
you're not winning elections).
As I was trying to wrap this up, I ran across this
Nate Silver tweet:
I am a statistician. I'm also a statistician with a good bullshit
There is little variation in age by state. And to the extent
there is, it doesn't argue in your favor. The four oldest states
are West Virginia (very red), Florida (pretty red), Maine (pretty
blue) and Vermont (very blue).
What are their COVID death rates (per 1M population) since
Feb. 1, 2021 (i.e. post-vaccine?):
- West Virginia: 3454
- Florida: 2992
- Maine: 1881
- Vermont: 1210
These states all have the ~same elderly population, and yet there
are huge variations in COVID death rates that line up 1:1 with partisan
differences in vaccine uptake.
tweet, Silver noted:
Republicans have the same death rates as Democrats until the
introduction of vaccines, then they start dying at much higher
rates. That's a very useful first approximation.
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