Tuesday, October 31, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 31 albums, 7 A-list
Music: Current count 41078  rated (+31), 32  unrated (+1).
I spent most of last week thinking about, shopping for, and
finally cooking up this year's birthday dinner. I've made it to
73, which is +3 from my grandfather, and -4 from my father, so
it's starting to weigh heavy on my mind. Dinner was served on
Friday, as several guests had schedule conflicts for Wednesday.
Menu was Spanish:
- Mariscada in almond sauce (aka "green sauce").
- Crisp potatoes.
- Green beans with chorizo.
- Mushrooms in garlic sauce.
- Escalivada y garum on toasts.
- Olive oil tortas with cheese and Spanish ham and sausages.
I also opened up a couple cans and jars: octopus, sardines,
artichoke hearts. I had bought much more for possible tapas, but
ran out of time to get them prepared, or in some cases simply
organized. I mixed up a batch of sangria to drink, and had my
traditional coconut cake for dessert, with vanilla ice cream. (I
know, reminds you of the "white cake" in Tarrantino's Django
Unchained. Sometimes we can't help being who we are.)
I meant to write up notes, and will after this post. They
should show up in a future
notebook entry (which I've already stubbed out, so the link
will work, and eventually get you the information). Facebook
entry, including a plate pic, is
here. A "memory" entry, with a recycled picture of last year's
here. The actual cake was even uglier, and not just because it
was less blindingly white. No complaints, except for the guy who
was so phobic about seafood he didn't eat anything until the cake
Saturday, I woke up with my vision for how the so-called
Israel-Hamas War ends, so I quickly wrote it up as the "First
Introduction" to my
Speaking of Which. I'm reluctant to call it a proposal,
because it is not remotely close to people genuinely concerned
with justice for all wanted or hoped for. (I know, for sure,
that my wife hates it, and nearly all of my research into the
conflict owes to her passionate interest.) And I suppose my
plea for someone else to pick up these ideas and run with them
is partly due to my reluctance to sign my name to it.
I have, ever since my late teens, devoted myself to conjuring
up utopian solutions to practical problems. Because, well, I've
never pretended to be an activist. I'm just a thinker, so why
constrain myself to things that other people consider possible?
But I've also developed a good deal of pessimism, and that creeps
in whenever I consider what's possible, as engineers must.
Instantly, when I heard the news of Oct. 7, I understood that
Israel's leaders would want to destroy everything and to kill
everyone in Gaza, leaving at most an escape hatch through Egypt.
I knew that America's leaders would back them to the hilt, as
they've long given up any capacity for independent thought, and
they're every bit as committed to force as the Israelis. And I
expected Israelis to take advantage of this to step up their
attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank and elsewhere. And all
of that has happened, just as expected. Hence, my first reaction
was to warn that this would be nothing less than genocide.
That, too, has been born out, though the point of using the
word was to make people conscious of the full danger (and I was
far from the only one to raise this alarm). I also intuited how
things would play out over time. I can't really explain this,
but through all my reading, and a fair number of conversations,
I've developed this really complex psychological model of most
of the people involved. I intuited that a great many Palestinians
would stick in Gaza, even daring Israel to kill them. I doubted
that Egypt would have welcomed them anyway, or could have dealt
with them (as Israel imagined they could).
I also suspected that a great many Israelis, even ones who have
clearly demonstrated their racism and militarism, would grow weary
of the killing, and embarrassed by their own inhumanity. (One book
I kept thinking back to was Richard Rhodes' Masters of Death,
where he explained that the Nazis, who are our archetypal example
of cold-blooded killers, designed their death camp processes out
of concern that killing Jews in the field was traumatizing German
soldiers. While Nazis made no secret of their hatred for Jews, the
enormity of the Holocaust was only possible through stealth, under
cover of war.) As the killing continued, as the rubble grew, some
sense of need to limit the war would grow, and Israel's leaders,
even as blinded as they are, will eventually need some escape
from their own handiwork.
What's become more and more clear is that Israel can't hide their
slaughter in Gaza. The world can, and will, see it, and will not
react kindly to the people responsible. And sure, Hamas will get
some share of the blame -- they were uniquely responsible for one
day, out of more than three weeks now -- but the fact that the
slaughter continues, that it has turned into genocide, is solely
the dictate of Netanyahu and his mob, not that you should spare
those who have aided, abetted, propagandized, and even championed
the massacre (which from where I stand mostly look like Americans).
My "vision" is just a way to clean up a particularly sore part
of a larger, deeper, and still potentially deadly mess. There are
lots of things that should happen afterwards. But what makes it
practical now is that the people who are immediately responsible
don't have to change character. All they have to do is back off,
and let others tend to the wounds. Is that really too much to ask?
Apologies to those of you who just want the latest music dope,
but you must know how to scroll past my rants by now. I had damn
near nothing, other than the Clifford Ocheltree picks down in the
Old Music section, before I started writing Speaking of Which on
Saturday. But I worked through a steady stream of records once I
started writing, so with the extra day came up with a semi-normal
week. Among the high B+, National and Angelica Sanchez tempted me
to replays, but they didn't quite manage to move the needle.
This coming week, I will put up a website for the 18th Annual
Francis Davis Critics Poll, and I will start communicating with
a few possible voters, trying to gauge interest and identify
others who should vote with us. The voters from last year are
here. They will all be invited back, but please let me know
if there are any others you read and find useful. I'd like to
see more international critics, although those are particularly
hard for me to judge. I'm also tempted to slip in a few more
jazz-knowledgeable rock critics -- where I figure the minimal
qualification is listen to 200+ jazz albums per year (used to
be expensive, but easy enough with streaming) and write about
at least 5-10 (or more if you, like me, write real short). I'd
welcome suggestions from publicists and musicians, but probably
not for yourself or each other. (Not an absolute rule, as we've
had the odd exception from time to time.)
I'm also toying with the idea of forming an advisory board,
if you really want to get deep into the weeds. There's a fair
chance I won't be doing this beyond this year, so this might
be a chance to eventually step up.
End of October, so I still need to do the indexing on the
archive file. It's
also time to reorganize my
2023 list into separate jazz
and non-jazz lists. I've already started expanding my
tracking file so I'll be ready
to look up jazz albums when ballots start to flow in. And I will
probably set up my usual EOY aggregate files, as they build on
the tracking file, and have long been one of my favorite wastes
New records reviewed this week:
- Affinity Trio [Eric Jacobson/Pamela York/Clay Schaub]: Hindsight (2022 , Origin): [cd]: B+(***)
- Constantine Alexander: Firetet (2023, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
- Bark: Loud (2023, Dial Back Sound): [bc]: B+(**)
- Corook: Serious Person (Part 2) (2023, Atlantic, EP): [sp]: A-
- Paul Dunmall/Olie Brice: The Laughing Stone (2021 , Confront): [bc]: B+(***)
- The Front Bottoms: You Are Who You Hang Out With (2023, Fueled by Ramen): [sp]: B+(*)
- Grrrl Gang: Spunky! (2023, Big Romantic): [sp]: B+(*)
- Darius Jones: Fluxkit Vancouver (Its Suite but Sacred) (2022 , We Jazz): [sp]: A-
- Sunny Kim/Vardan Ovsepian/Ben Monder: Liminal Silence (2023, Earshift Music): [cd]: C+ [11-10]
- Frank Kohl: Pacific (2022 , OA2): [cd]: B+(***)
- Sofia Kourtesis: Madres (2023, Ninja Tune): [sp]: B+(**)
- Chien Chien Lu: Built in System: Live in New York (2023, Giant Step Arts): [sp]: B+(***)
- Vic Mensa: Victor (2023, Roc Nation): [sp]: B+(*)
- The National: Laugh Track (2023, 4AD): [sp]: B+(***)
- No-No Boy: Empire Electric (2023, Smithsonian Folkways): [sp]: B+(***)
- Alogte Oho & His Sounds of Joy: O Yinne! (2023, Philophon): [sp]: B+(***)
- Graham Parker & the Goldtops: Last Chance to Learn the Twist (2023, Big Stir): [sp]: B+(**)
- Ratboys: The Window (2023, Topshelf): [sp]: B+(***)
- Mike Reed: The Separatist Party (2023, We Jazz/Astral Spirits): [sp]: A-
- The Rolling Stones: Hackney Diamonds (2023, Polydor): [sp]: B
- The Angelica Sanchez Nonet: Nighttime Creatures (2023, Pyroclastic): [cd]: B+(***)
- Joe Santa Maria: Echo Deep (2023, Orenda): [cd]: B- [11-03]
- Slow Pulp: Yard (2023, Anti-): [sp]: B+(**)
- Steep Canyon Rangers: Morning Shift (2023, Yep Roc): [sp]: B+(*)
- Dan Tyminski: God Fearing Heathen (2023, 8 Track Entertainment): [sp]: A-
- Pabllo Vittar: Noitada (2023, Sony Music): [sp]: B+(**)
- Pabllo Vittar: After (2023, Sony Music): [sp]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Big Bill Broonzy: Big Bill's Blues (1937-41 , CBS): [sp]: A-
- Big Bill Broonzy/Washboard Sam: Big Bill Broonzy With Washboard Sam (1953 , Chess): [sp]: A-
- The Golden Era of Rock & Roll 1954-1963 (1954-63 , Hip-O, 3CD): [cd]: A
- Alogte Oho & His Sounds of Joy: Mam Yinne Wa (2019, Philophon): [sp]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Susan Alcorn/Septeto Del Sur: Canto (Relative Pitch) [11-10]
- Ballister: Smash and Grab (Aerophonic) [01-16]
- John Bishop: Antwerp (Origin) [11-17]
- Gabriel Guerrero & Quantum: Equilibrio (Origin) [11-17]
- Chien Chien Lu: Built in System: Live in New York (Giant Step Arts) [10-06]
- Sarah McKenzie: Without You (Normandy Lane Music) [10-27]
- Alon Nechushtan: For Those Who Cross the Seas (ESP-Disk, 2CD) [10-27]
- Robert Prester & Adriana Samargia: Quenara (Commonwealth Ave. Productions) [01-19]
Started to write up some belated notes on October 27's belated
birthday dinner, but needing to get my Music Week post out first,
I've punted them to
Elias Vlanton posted
this on Facebook, and Jane Silver added: "Let me say it out loud:
these are war crimes!" I commented further:
I've become increasingly skeptical of the notion that there is
sufficient international order to define anything as criminal, but
sure, war is the worst of all possible crimes, and the devastation of
a relatively defenseless land and people by a modern military
powerhouse is, well, the only word in our vocabulary that comes close
is genocide. Needless to say, I've written a fair amount in recent
weeks, including yesterday's post:
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.
Saturday, October 28, 2023
Albert Einstein quote found on Facebook: "Peace cannot be kept by
force; it can only be achieved by understanding."
Another Einstein quote: "Mankind invented the atomic bomb, but
no mouse would ever construct a mousetrap."
Biden Expresses Doubts That Enough Palestinians Have Died.
Article quotes Biden as saying: "I have no confidence that the
death toll provided by the Hamas-run Ministry of Health is as
high as it should be." Less authentically, "Perhaps when the
fog of war has cleared, we'll realize Israel has killed more
Palestinians than necessary, but now is not the time to ease
up." No one in the "fog of war" recognizes it as such.
An earlier Onion headline:
U.S. warns a Gaza cease fire would only benefit humanity.
Tuesday, October 24, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 44 albums, 1 A-list
Music: Current count 41047  rated (+44), 31  unrated (+4).
I took an extra day this weekend. I decided to hold off starting
Speaking of Which until late Saturday, and then write intro
instead of searching for links. I struggled Sunday with what
turned out to be a false start, then wrote yet another intro,
taking a break midway to collect some links. It got late, and
I decided I should hold off and write up the missing outline
points Monday afternoon. Took most of the day before I posted.
I then did the cutover for Music Week, but by then I didn't
feel like writing any form of this intro, so I sat on it until
Tuesday, fairly late. Tuesday afternoon got wiped out in grocery
shopping, a first pass toward a birthday dinner later this week.
Frankly, I'd rather think about that than this, but last week
is in the bag, so I might as well wrap it up quick.
Next week will be short. I seriously doubt I'll get any listening
in until Saturday. I certainly won't be starting another Speaking of
Which. And I wouldn't mind just punting for the year. The world has
a long ways to go to catch up with what I've written already.
What I do hope to write about next week is the 18th Annual Francis
Davis Jazz Poll. I've set up the result directory locally, so I need
to post that. The main thing I want to do in the next couple weeks is
to expand the voter list. To that end, I'm trying to take a more
systemmatic survey of who's writing what. I'd like to extend invites
to another 30-50 critics -- probably half outside the US, which (I
don't have a reliable count, so I'm only guessing) could double the
number of non-US critics. I doubt this will skew the results much,
but it should broaden the base. That would be a big plus for people
like me who find the bottom two-thirds of the list more interesting
than the winners.
As for this week, I started off with a premature jazz ballot,
where half of the records selected were unheard by me. The Miles
Davis archival piece got me looking at recent Fresh Sound reissues,
mostly albums from the 1990s when Jordi Pujols set up sessions with
many of his cool jazz heroes, and I wanted to hear them all. (I
already knew several, especially with Herb Geller and Bud Shank,
and also some very good Charlie Mariano records.)
Then I read that John Zorn's Tzadik records are returning to
streaming platforms. (I followed them fairly close before they
picked up their toys and headed home.) Tzadik is much more than
Zorn's personal label, but he's so prolific all I managed this
week was his own 2023 releases (plus a couple slightly older).
Still reading Christopher Clark's Revolutionary Spring,
now almost 600 pages in, as the revolutionary hopes get dashed
by right-wingers. While I'm not a fan of violence coming or going,
that coming from the right is always particularly bitter.
New records reviewed this week:
- Afro Peruvian New Trends Orchestra: Cosmic Synchronicities (2023, Blue Spiral): [cd]: B+(***)
- Dmitry Baevsky: Kid's Time (2022, Fresh Sound New Talent): [sp]: B+(***)
- Ron Blake: Mistaken Identity (2021 , 7ten33 Productions): [cd]: B+(***)
- Flying Pooka! [Dani Oore & Florian Hoefner]: The Ecstasy of Becoming (2021 , Alma): [cd]: B+(*)
- Louis Hayes: Exactly Right! (2022 , Savant): [sp]: B+(**)
- Marie Kruttli: Transparence (2022 , Intakt): [sp]: B+(*)
- Martin Lutz Group: LoLife/HiLife (2023, Gateway, 2CD): [sp]: B+(***)
- Mendoza Hoff Revels: Echolocation (2023, AUM Fidelity): [sp]: B+(***)
- Azuka Moweta & Anioma Brothers Band: Nwanne Bu Ife (2022, Palenque): [bc]: B+(***)
- Gard Nilssen's Supersonic Orchestra: Family (2022 , We Jazz): [sp]: A-
- Ivo Perelman/Nate Wooley: Polarity 2 (2023, Burning Ambulance): [bc]: B+(**)
- Precarious Towers: Ten Stories (2023, Shifting Paradigm): [sp]: B+(***)
- Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Five: In the Garden (2023, Constellation): [sp]: B+(**)
- Jim Rotondi Quintet: Over Here (2023, Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
- Chris Speed Trio: Despite Obstacles (2022 , Intakt): [sp]: B+(***)
- Terell Stafford: Between Two Worlds (2023, Le Coq): [sp]: B+(***)
- Sufjan Stevens: Javellin (2023, Asthmatic Kitty): [sp]: B+(*)
- True Stomach of a Bird [Ulf Mengersen/Lina Allemano/Kamil Korolczuk]: Computation Intensive Spontaneousness (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(*)
- Andrea Veneziani: The Lighthouse (2022 , self-released): [cdr]: A-
- Jamila Woods: Water Made Us (2023, Jagjaguwar): [sp]: B+(***)
- Peter Xifaras: Fusion (2023, Music With No Expiration): [cdr]: B+(*)
- John Zorn: New Masada Quartet (2021, Tzadik): [sp]: A-
- John Zorn: New Masada Quartet, Vol. 2 (2022 , Tzadik): [sp]: B+(***)
- John Zorn: The Fourth Way (2022 , Tzadik): [sp]: B+(***)
- John Zorn: 444 (2022 , Tzadik): [sp]: B
- John Zorn: Multiplicities: A Repository of Non-Existent Objects (2022, Tzadik): [sp]: B+(*)
- John Zorn: Multiplicites II: A Repository of Non-Existent Objects (2023, Tzadik): [sp]: B+(**)
- John Zorn/Bill Laswell: Memoria (2023, Tzadik): [sp]: B+(*)
- John Zorn: Quatrain (2023, Tzadik): [sp]: B+(*)
- John Zorn: Full Fathom Five (2023, Tzadik): [sp]: B+(**)
- John Zorn: Homenaje A Remedios Varo (2023, Tzadik): [sp]: B+(***)
- John Zorn: Nothing Is as Real as Nothing (2023, Tzadik): [sp]: B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Gabe Baltazar Quartet: Birdology (1992 , Fresh Sound): [bc]: A-
- Basie All Stars: Live at Fabrik Vol. 1: Hamburg 1981 (1981 , Jazzline): [r]: B+(**)
- Eddie Bert Sextet: The Human Factor (1987 , Fresh Sound): [bc]: B+(**)
- Miles Davis Quintet: In Concert at the Olympia Paris 1957 (1957 , Fresh Sound): [bc]: B+(**)
- Jan Lundgren Trio/Herb Geller: Stockholm Get-Together! (1994 , Fresh Sound): [bc]: B+(***)
- Jack Nimitz Quartet: Confirmation (1995 , Fresh Sound): [bc]: B+(***)
- The Dave Pell Octet: Plays Again (1984 , Fresh Sound): [bc]: B+(**)
- Bill Perkins: Perk Plays Prez: Bill Perkins Recreates the Historic Solos of Lester Young (1995 , Fresh Sound): [bc]: B+(***)
- Frank Strazzeri and His Woodwinds West: Somebody Loves Me (1994 , Fresh Sound): [bc]: B+(**)
- Eddie Bert Quintet: Kaleidoscope (1953-59 , Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(**)
- Martin Lutz Group: It's Swing Not Rocket Science (2011, Calibrated): [sp]: B+(*)
- Paul Moer Trio: Plays the Music of Elmo Hope (1991 , Fresh Sound): [bc]: B+(***)
- Jack Nimitz and Friends: Yesterday and Today (1957-2007 , Fresh Sound): [sp]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Barry Altschul/David Izenson/Perry Robinson: Stop Time: Live at Prince Street, 1978 (NoBusiness) [09-08]
- Peter Brötzmann/Sabu Toyozumi: Triangle: Live at Ohm, 1987 (NoBusiness) [09-08]
- Rob Brown: Oblongata (RogueArt) * [10-09]
- Rob Brown: Oceanic (RogueArt) * [10-09]
- Roy Campbell/William Parker/Zen Matsuura: Visitation of Spirits: The Pyramid Trio Live, 1985 (NoBusiness): [09-08]
- Kim Dae Hwan/Choi Sun Bae: Korean Fantasy (1999, NoBusiness) p[09-08]
- Ahmad Jamal: Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse 1966-1968 (Jazz Detective/Elemental, 2CD): [11-24]
- Jouk Minor/Josef Traindl/Jean Querlier/Christian Lété/Dominique Regef: Enfin La Mer (1978, NoBusiness): [09-08]
- Cal Tjader: Catch the Groove: Live at the Penthouse 1963-1967 (Jazz Detective/Elemental, 2CD): [11-24]
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.
Monday, October 16, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 20 albums, 3 A-list
Music: Current count 41003  rated (+20), 27  unrated (+1).
I worked up a monster
Speaking of Which this week (9497 words, 125 links). It was
a maddening process, as I kept tripping into rabbit holes and
digging in even further, before punting, and repeating. A big
part of the problem is that years of repetition has locked
people into language and conceptual ruts that were designed
to perpetuate conflict, to dehumanize opponents, and to justify
abuse of power. I found myself having to define "war" -- as
opposed to other degrees and durations of directed violence.
I found myself trying to write some kind of disquisition on
morality. I got stuck in questions of sequence and causality.
And I could always reach back into an encyclopedia of historic
facts to illustrate any point I wanted to make. But all the
articles I was collecting were just spinning around, some damn
Still, one point was instantly clear to me from the first
reports: Israelis -- not all, but probably most, or at least
most of the ones who have any actual political power -- want
to empty the entire land of Israel/Palestine of Palestinians,
and there are few if any limits to what they're willing to do
to accomplish that goal. In other words, they are aiming for
genocide, and they are looking for excuses to do it; perhaps
I should say, for opportunities to get away with it?
This isn't a new sentiment. It was baked into Zionism from the
beginning, but only surfaced as something one could say in 1936,
when the Peel Commission proposed partition and forced "transfer" --
the first of many such euphemisms. The plan was put into practice
in 1948, as the Deir Yassin massacre was staged to terrorize
Palestinians into fleeing -- as more than 700,000 did during
Israel's War of Independence. But in the 1967 war, Israel's plans
for further mass expulsions had to be toned down to keep from
offending the US and its allies (only about 200,000, of a growing
population, fled). But as Israel's government has lurched ever
more to the right, and as the US has become ever more subservient
to Israel's right, the talk and action, especially led by the
settlers, has only picked up, reaching a crescendo in the immediate
aftermath of the Hamas attack.
The only way to stop this genocide is to make Israel ashamed
for even thinking such thoughts. Railing against Hamas won't help.
If anything, it only emboldens Israel.
While I was working on this, I found it very hard to prospect for
new music, and even harder to write about it. I got off on an odd
r&b sax tangent early in the week. I was lucky to come up with
three good new saxophone albums (Nachoff fell just shy of the mark
with an excess of strings).
But what really made this week so difficult was the death of
Donald Barnes (81), known to all of us as Tookie. He came
into our lives when he married my dear cousin Jan in 1960. They
grew up in Kinsley, KS, and married right out of high school.
His father was a welder, and he learned that trade very young.
They followed his father to a shop in Wyoming for a couple years,
before coming back to Kansas. He got a job at Cessna, and they
lived in Wichita for about a year when I was in 9th grade. Their
love and friendship was about all that got me through that year.
They adopted a daughter that year, Heidi, and I've never seen
anyone as happy as he was when he signed the papers. Not long
after that, they had a son, Patrick.
But Jan hated the big city, so they left, first to Hugoton in
western Kansas, where he built feedlots, and then to Idaho to work
on a pipeline. They wound up settling in Soda Springs, where he
worked at Monsanto's phosphate plant, becoming an electrician as
well as a welder. There was nothing mechanical he couldn't master.
Someone once complimented me as the "most competent person" she
had ever met. For me, that person was Tookie.
Jan refused to go to college, and wound up working low-paid jobs
which she was totally overmatched for. But they loved the outdoors,
camping, and hunting. Tookie was an artist, hunting elk with bow and
arrow, tying his own flies, crafting antique guns (including a blunderbuss).
But the moose head that dominates their living room was Jan's doing.
He was quiet and fastidious, with a sly and mischievous sense of
humor. She was a force of nature, energizing all around her. She
was (well, is) one of the most formidable cooks in the family,
continuing to make industrial quantities of bread and rolls for her
local farmers market each week. They've always struck me as one of
the world's most perfectly suited couples.
I could dredge up dozens, maybe hundreds, of stories, missing
only a stretch in the middle of our lives when distance kept us
apart. First time Laura and I took a trip together, we went to
Yellowstone, then to Soda Springs to see Jan and Tookie. Heidi
had been to college, but was there and proclaimed us "perfect for
each other," which pretty much sealed the deal. We won't talk
about politics here, except to note that no matter
we might have disagreed on those things, it never got in the way
of our love for each other.
New records reviewed this week:
- Tyler Childers: Rustin' in the Rain (2023, Hickman Holler/RCA): [sp]: B+(***)
- Caroline Davis' Alula: Captivity (2021 , Ropeadope): [cd]: A-
- Quinsin Nachoff: Stars and Constellations (2022 , Adyhâropa): [cd]: B+(***)
- Angelika Niescier/Tomeka Reid/Savannah Harris: Beyond Dragons (2023, Intakt): [sp]: A-
- Bailey Zimmerman: Religiously: The Album (2023, Warner Nashville/Elektra): [sp]: B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Little Willie Jackson & the Original Honeydrippers: Jazz Me Blues [The Legendary Modern Recordings] (1947-48 , Ace): [r]: A-
- Willis Jackson: The Remaining Willis Jackson 1951-1959 (1951-59 , Blue Moon): [r]: B+(*)
- Willis Jackson/Pat Martino: Willis . . . With Pat (1964 , 32 Jazz): [sp]: B+(**)
- Willis Jackson/Richard "Groove" Holmes: Live on Stage (1980 , Black & Blue): [sp]: B+(***)
- Wild Bill Moore: The Complete Recordings Volume 1: 1945-1948 (1945-48 , Blue Moon): [r]: B+(**)
- Wild Bill Moore: The Complete Recordings Volume 2: 1948-1955 (1948-55 , Blue Moon): [r]: B+(***)
- Wild Bill Moore: Bottom Groove (1961 , Milestone): [r]: B+(**)
- Sam Price and the Rock Band: Rib Joint: Roots of Rock and Roll (1956-59 , Savoy): [sp]: B+(***)
- The Roots of Rock'n Roll (1948-57 , Savoy): [r] [yt]: B+
- Zoot Sims: For Lady Day (1978 , Pablo): [sp]: B+(**)
- Zoot Sims: The Swinger (1979-80 , Pablo): [sp]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Atlantic Road Trip: One (Calligram) [11-03]
- Dave Bayles Trio: Live at the Uptowner (Calligram) [11-03]
- Mike DiRubbo: Inner Light (Truth Revolution) [11-17]
- Scott Hesse Trio: Intention (Calligram) [11-03]
- Steve Million: Perfectly Spaced (Calligram) [11-03]
- Russ Spiegel: Caribbean Blue (Ruzztone Music) [10-23]
- Kevin Sun: The Depths of Memory (Endectomorph Music) [10-27]
In response to yesterday's post, I received an email titled "tom
hull, bibi supporter," with a screenshot image of this quote:
"Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state
has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas," he
[Netanyahu] told a meeting of his Likud party's Knesset members in
March 2019. "This is part of our strategy -- to isolate the
Palestinians in Gaza from the Palestinians in the West Bank."
I got this because I wrote a paragraph suggesting that the best
solution at this point would be for Israel to cut Gaza loose, as
a free country (ok, with some restrictions, but free of Israeli
control and terror). Many, perhaps most, Palestinians don't like
this idea, presumably because they still want a single Palestinian
state (either in the whole of Palestine, or in something version
of the "two-state solution"). The idea that Netanyahu shares this
idea is ridiculous, as is the charge that I'm a "bibi supporter."
Netanyahu, like all Israelis in any position of power, has never
seriously entertained the idea of freeing Gaza. The Israelis refuse
to admit the possibility of any kind of Palestinian state, even in
a territory (Gaza) that they have no interest in occupying. Their
position is one of pure spite.
I've never described myself as "pro-Palestinian" or "pro-Israeli."
I'm "pro-peace," and I understand that to require some minimal level
of justice and equal rights. But I'm also realistic enough to know
that the only peace that is possible is one Israel is willing to
grant. It should be possible to persuade Israel to cut Gaza loose:
it costs them very little, except for giving up a measure of control
that frankly they have neither the skill nor fortitude to exercise.
East Jerusalem and the West Bank is another story. They've made it
clear that they're going to finish annexing those lands. What happens
to the people is an open question, for which most Israelis have very
harsh preferences. But if you subtract Gaza -- and the rest of the
Palestinian refugees, which I see as a dead issue -- the case for
integrating the remaining Palestinians as equal Israeli citizens
becomes more palatable, and infinitely preferable to the prevailing
trend, which is heading toward genocide.
Still not very good odds at present, but last week and this should
impress on any remaining sane and decent minds the need to do something
before it's too late.
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.
Wednesday, October 11, 2023
Clifford Ocheltree posted this:
So. My nephew calls and asks for 20 jazz recordings from the 60s and
70s. Or, in his words, "albums normal people might like". My list
(rough chronological order):
Davis, Miles: Sketches Of Spain
Coleman, Ornette: Free Jazz
Evans, Bill: Sunday At The Village Vanguard
Mingus, Charles: The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady
Dolphy, Eric: Out To Lunch
Getz / Gilberto: Getz / Gilberto
Ayler, Albert: Spiritual Unity
Coltrane, John: A Love Supreme
Hancock, Herbie: Maiden Voyage
Davis, Miles: In A Silent Way
Davis, Miles: Bitches Brew
Soft Machine, The: Third
Mahavishnu Orchestra: The Inner Mounting Flame
Corea, Chick: Return To Forever
Davis, Miles: On The Corner
Hancock, Herbie: Head Hunters
Mahavishnu Orchestra, The: Birds Of Fire
Jarrett, Keith: The Koln Concert
Weather Report: Heavy Weather
Carter, Betty: The Audience With Betty Carter
I belatedly commented:
1960s list is impeccable, although I'd try to include Horace Silver
(Jody Grind) and Duke Ellington (Far East Suite was my morning music
today, after Al Green's Greatest Hits). 1970s list is a different fork
from the one that I would have taken, but by far the more popular
one. Aside from Soft Machine, which wouldn't have occurred to me (I
only really know the Wyatt side, which I love), the only ones I rather
dislike are the last two. I would have shifted Coleman to one of his
late 1970s masterpieces (Dancing in Your Head, In All Languages, Of
Human Feelings -- there is a good case to be made for each), and for a
vocal album, that's gotta be Roswell Rudd's "Flexible Flyer" (with
Sheila Jordan). As for Rollins, his greatest work was before and after
this period, but "Alfie" (1966) wouldn't be amiss.
Greg Morton repllied: "And of course, the best answer is "Just
ask Tom." Clifford was more defensive:
Tom, in defense of my 70s selections. 1.) My nephew is 30ish and a
guitar player. 2.) In that moment I was completely immersed in the
group. Probably saw them more than 30 times in five years. The Carter
album is one that has been part of my life since release. I only heard
"Flexible Flyer" for the first time about five years ago. Need to go
back and listen again.
Long ago, my sister played me a Weather Report side that she loved. I
thought about it, then played "Filles de Kilimanjaro," which I thought
had everything WR was doing but much, much better. She didn't agree at
all. Lots of critics I respect rate them highly, but for me they've
always been just blah (even though I could imagine editing a nice
compilation, especially if I could shorten some songs). Still, not
just Shorter but Zawinul, the bassists (Vitous and Pastorius), and for
that matter Erskine have notable work on their own. (Put him in an
acoustic piano trio, and Erskine is a really good drummer.) So I
figure that's largely on me, and probably the timing -- when I think
of '70s fusion, I jump straight from Miles to Ornette, and between
those peaks there's not much that stands out (and what does is most
likely way off the beaten path, like the Tribe, or some Finnish group
I'd have to look up). Double that on Carter, whose album has a Penguin
Guide crown. She's an incredible singer, but one I rarely enjoy, and
for that matter she's extraordinary band leader, as the instrumental
stretches in your album make clear.
I was thinking about adding that for long I regarded "Flexible
Flyer" as my all-time favorite jazz album, but I might ultimately
give "Mingus Ah Um" the nod (with due apologies to "The Far East
Suite" and "A Love Supreme").
Laura asked whether I had a copy of her poem, which she wrote and
read for Wichita Peace Center poetry slam event on September 21, 2010.
I thought I did, but only found
a link as posted by Mondoweiss. For good measure, I'll include
What do you do/if you are a Jew
by Laura Tillem
What do you do
if you are a Jew
who doesn't believe in a Jewish state
A Christian state, nor a Muslim state,
not even a Buddhist or Hindu state.
Zionism says what you must support
is a nationalist scheme of the colonial sort
What do you do
if you are a Jew
who thinks about the Palestinians.
In the West Bank and Gaza they are occupied
In Israel proper -- second class citizens.
What do you do if you are Jew
who thinks Zionism is a trap
set by those who should be taking the rap
Europe and the US refused Jews a haven
and used them then in a craven manner
against the Arab liberation banner
What do you do if you are Jew
who is proud of our history,
Tragic yes, but glorious too.
Before the Holocaust only a few liked Zionism.
We were a lot more interested in socialism.
What did Hitler hate about the Jews?
I will tell you, I hope this is not news:
We were people that could see clearly
that prejudice and exclusion cost a society dearly.
So now we have Israel, which we are supposed to love,
but it meant giving the Palestinians a terrible shove
The US pays three billion a year
To keep up a policy that costs us dear.
Some say aid to Egypt is just as big,
but listen to me and then dig:
that is our bribe to keep them on the side
Of our client Israel and its politicide.
What do you do
if you are a Jew
whose ancestors came from Poland and Russia?
When you say Israel is my homeland
I want to shush ya.
born in 45
This is the only time I can make that rhyme.
I graduated college in 67
I don't believe in God and I don't believe in heaven
But I used to be proud
of my Jewish background
Not much of a Jew you might say
But I just buried my Dad in the Jewish way
If you speak out loud you're called a self-hater
I think I'm just a good cogitator.
I was taught to tell the truth
So I am speaking to the youth
Mine's a story you never hear
But I am not the only one.
John Lennon was a hero of mine
and I think you can guess which tune I mean
Let's imagine no countries
and wash our bloody histories clean.
What do you do
if you are a Jew
whose sympathies lie with Palestinians
and those Israeli humanitarians
They are marching now
So tell me how
it makes sense to beat them,
jail them and send them into exile
It does no good to keep up the denial
This policy was born in the colonial mind
And now we are caught in a logical bind.
If we want to be fair
Then the answer is share
Two peoples -- one fate
I hope it's not too late.
Monday, October 09, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 22 albums, 1 A-list
Music: Current count 40983  rated (+22), 26  unrated (-5).
I expected this week's report to be delayed, and even so short.
My plan was to entertain company, and do some fairly serious cooking.
My niece came for a visit, but I came down with something undiagnosed
and was a terrible host (though I did finally manage to knock out a
decent phat thai). But rather than wait another day or two, I found
a few minutes to knock this out before bed Monday, and figured it
would be best to put it behind me.
Speaking of Which posted Sunday afternoon. I haven't followed
the news since then, but I do have one important thing to say:
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.
Anyone who has been paying attention must recognize by now how the
Israeli people have been primed to commit massive and indiscriminate
slaughter. And they must also understand that Israel, unlike Hamas,
has the military power to do so. When Americans swear they continue
to stand wholeheartedly with Israel, and don't show any concern for
the great likelihood that Israel will commit atrocities, they are
assuring Israeli leaders that anything they do will be excused. By
the way, the one thing sending American naval ships into the Eastern
Mediterranean reminds me of is how they stood by idly while Sharon
Sabra and Shatila massacre of Palestinian refugees in Beirut.
As someone who believes in peace, and who has always condemned
violence and prejudice on all sides, I am bothered that Hamas has
chosen to respond to this cruel occupation in such a manner. But
I am also aware that nothing else any group of Palestinians have
attempted to secure fundamental human rights that we take for
granted in America has made any headway with Israel.
For now, I'll leave it at that, aside from reproducing a
tweet I managed Sunday evening:
On 9/11 I remember Netanyahu & Peres on TV, all smiles, lecturing
us on how now we know it feels like to be targets of terrorism, and
offering us their sage advice on how to fight and control
terrorists. Not so jovial today, as all they thought they knew has
Nothing much to add to the reviews below, except that the new ones
that came closest (Armand Hammer, Sarah Mary Chadwick) got multiple
plays without quite convincing me. And while I showed a slight
preference for one of the Yazoo comps, I would have gone with
the higher grade for a 2-CD package.
New records reviewed this week:
- Armand Hammer: We Buy Diabetic Test Strips (2023, Fat Possum): [sp]: B+(***)
- Bowmanville: Bowmanville (2023, StonEagleMusic): [cd]: B+(**)
- Geof Bradfield/Richard D Johnson/John Tate/Samuel Jewell: Our Heroes (2023, Afar Music): [cd]: B+(***)
- Sarah Mary Chadwick: Messages to God (2023, Kill Rock Stars): [sp]: B+(***)
- DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ: Destiny (2023, Spells on the Telly): [bc]: B+(*)
- Arina Fujiwara: Neon (2023, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
- Andrew Krasilnikov: Bloody Belly Comb Jelly (2023, Rainy Days): [cd]: B
- Jeff Lederer With Mary LaRose: Schoenberg on the Beach (2023, Little (i) Music): [cd]: B+(*)
- Jeff Lederer/Morningside Tone Collective: Balls of Simplicity: Jeff Lederer Notated Works 1979-2021 (2023, Little (i) Music): [sp]: B+(**)
- Ivan Lins: My Heart Speaks (2023, Resonance): [cd]: B+(**)
- Madre Vaca: Knights of the Round Table (2022 , Madre Vaca): [cd]: B+(*) [11-21]
- Astghik Martirosyan: Distance (2021 , Astghik Music): [cd]: B+(*) [10-06]
- Colette Michaan: Earth Rebirth (2022 , Creatrix Music): [cd]: B+(*) [10-15]
- Michael Musillami Trio: Block Party (2021 , Playscape): [sp]: B+(**)
- Elsa Nilsson's Band of Pulses: Pulses (2023, Ears & Eyes): [cd]: B+(***)
- Oneohtrix Point Never: Again (2023, Warp): [sp]: B
- Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Borrowed Flowers (2023, Top Stop Music): [cd]: B+(**)
- Sara Serpa & André Matos: Night Birds (2022 , Robalo Music): [cd]: B
- Gianluigi Trovesi: Stravaganze Consonanti (2014 , ECM): [sp]: B+(*)
- Ben Winkelman: Heartbeat (2023, OA2): [cd]: B
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Holy Church of the Ecstatic Soul: A Higher Power: Gospel, Funk & Soul at the Crossroads 1971-83 (1971-83 , Soul Jazz): [sp]: B+(*)
- The Rose Grew Round the Briar: Early American Rural Love Songs, Vol. 1 (1920s-30s , Yazoo): [sp]: B+(***)
- The Rose Grew Round the Briar: Early American Rural Love Songs, Vol. 2 (1920s-30s , Yazoo): [sp[: A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Affinity Trio [Eric Jacobson/Pamela York/Clay Schaub]: Hindsight (Origin) [10-20]
- Frank Kohl: Pacific (OA2) [10-20]
- Russell Kranes: Anchor Points (OA2) [10-20]
- Aruán Ortiz: Pastor's Paradox (Clean Feed) [10-20]
- Andrea Veneziani: The Lighthouse (self-released) * [10-06]
- Jennifer Wharton's Bonegasm: Grit & Grace (Sunnyside) [10-20]
Sunday, October 08, 2023
Sick today, feeling bad enough there was nothing better to do than
take a nap. Got up and tweeted this:
On 9/11 I remember Netanyahu & Peres on TV, all smiles, lecturing us
on how now we know it feels like to be targets of terrorism, and
offering us their sage advice on how to fight and control
terrorists. Not so jovial today, as all they thought they knew has
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
Monday, October 02, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 43 albums, 2 A-list
Music: Current count 40961  rated (+43), 31  unrated (+1).
Speaking of Which last night (8867 words, 114 links). My
wife was more critical than I was of Fredrik deBoer, and
recommended the Becca Rothfeld review that I had
linked to, only to note that deBoer didn't like it. It now seems
to me like she does a pretty fair job of summarizing deBoer's points
and their limits. Final paragraph, which doesn't sound like an elite
trying to usurp a mass movement and turn it into a vanity project:
It is hardly a shock that BLM and #MeToo attracted some unsavory
allies. Mass movements are, by definition, massive, and every large
group includes some lunatics on the margins. To point to the existence
of a few fanatic hangers-on is hardly to indict a movement or its
methods. Indeed, a motley coalition is -- for better or worse -- a
necessary result of any truly democratic foray. Who, then, is DeBoer's
intended audience? Movements are not agents amenable to
persuasion. There is no secretary to whom DeBoer could hand a
petition, demanding more stringent "message discipline." There is only
the flash and the fury, the sudden surge of belief in a better
life. If the wayward beast of a mass action cannot always be coaxed
into behaving rationally, so much the better: That is the source of
its chaos, but also the source of its force.
I've been focusing a lot on books lately because that's the forum --
not blogs and podcasts, and certainly not X -- where serious thinkers
have the time and space to try to put their thoughts into coherent
form. My latest
Book Roundup has many of these, and this post adds several more:
ones I missed like DeBoer's How Elites Ate the Social Justice
Movement, Nelson Lichtenstein and Judith Stein's A Fabulous
Failure, Steve Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt's Tyranny of the
Minority, and Kevin Slack's ridiculous War on the American
Republic; one I knew was coming soon: Heather Cox Richardson's
Democracy Awakening, so held off on; and a couple future
books I only just heard about: Zack Beauchamp's The Reactionary
Spirit, and Hunter Walker and Luppe B. Luppen's The Truce.
(There are also mentions of several other books I had previously
One thing I've been thinking about a lot is how changes happen,
and why they move in some directions and not others. This isn't
the place to attempt a disquisition on what I think, but I will
note that my recent reading in Hobsbawm and Clark on 1789-1848
is giving me a lot of case studies (oddly enough, even drawing
on Turchin's "elite overproduction" thesis).
One final note is that after I slogged through Hobsbawm's first
volume over 5-6 weeks, my wife got an audible of his second volume,
and finished it within 3-4 days. Makes me wonder what I could get
done if I wasn't listening to music all the time.
I lost less time thrashing this week, trying to find something to
play next, mostly thanks to Phil Overeem's
latest list. Two records I didn't get around to because they're
just too damn long are DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ's Destiny
(six LPs) and the big box (4-CD) of the Replacements' Tim.
Given that Tim has long been my favorite of their albums,
and that everyone is raving about the new mix, the latter seems
like a lock. I did manage to make it through two more sets that
ran too long, but were remarkable before I lost track: Kashmere
Stage Band and Les Rallizes Dénudés. Phil also initiated the Money
for Guns dive. I love that he comes up with records like these.
Still only had one A-list album when I cut off the week, but
it took long enough to do the Streamnotes indexing today that I
got to the Allison Russell album, and decided to move it up. I
also knocked off three jazz CDs from the queue, but they can (and
should) wait. Until lately, the queue was almost all scheduled
well into the future, but release dates have started to come fast --
ten (of 31) albums are already out. I need to work on that.
I'm starting to think about the Jazz Critics Poll this year.
It would be nice to get a jump on it for the first time ever,
rather than getting blindsided a few days before the ballots
need to be sent out. If you have suggestions, drop me a line.
New records reviewed this week:
- Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids: Afro Futuristic Dreams (2023, Strut): [sp]: B+(***)
- Farida Amadou/Jonas Cambien/Dave Rempis: On the Blink (2022 , Aerophonic): [cd]: A- [10-10]
- Zoh Amba: O Life, O Light Vol. 2 (2021 , 577): [bc]: B+(***)
- Emil Amos: Zone Black (2023, Drag City): [sp]: B+(*)
- Florian Arbenz: Conversation #10: Inland (2023, Hammer): [sp]: B+(**)
- Kyle Bruckmann/Tim Daisy/Phillip Greenlief/Lisa Mezzacappa: Semaphore (2022 , Relay): [bc]: B+(***)
- Chai: Chai (2023, Sub Pop): [sp]: B+(**)
- Margo Cilker: Valley of Heart's Delight (2023, Fluff and Gravy: [sp]: B+(***)
- Brent Cobb: Southern Star (2023, Ol' Buddy/Thirty Tigers): [sp]: B+(**)
- Jeff Coffin/Jordan Perlson/Viktor Krauss: Coffin/Perlson/Krauss (2023, Ear Up): [cd]: B+(***)
- Hollie Cook: Happy Hour in Dub (2023, Merge): [sp]: B+(*)
- Charles Wesley Godwin: Family Ties (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(*)
- Laurel Halo: Atlas (2023, Awe): [sp]: B
- Heather Lynne Horton: Get Me to a Nunnery (2023, Pauper Sky): [sp]: B-
- Loraine James: Gentle Confrontation (2023, Hyperdub): [sp]: B+(*)
- Nils Kugelmann: Stormy Beauty (2022 , ACT): [sp]: B+(**)
- Lewsberg: Out and About (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(**)
- Fred Lonberg-Holm/Tim Daisy: Current 23 (2022 , Relay): [bc]: B+(**)
- Lydia Loveless: Nothing's Gonna Stand in My Way Again (2023, Bloodshot): [sp]: B+(*)
- Francisco Mela and Zoh Amba: Causa Y Efecto Vol. 1 (2021 , 577): [dl]: B+(***)
- MIKE/Wiki/The Alchemist: Faith Is a Rock (2023, ALC): [sp]: B+(*)
- Billy Mohler: Ultraviolet (2023, Contagious Music): [cdr]: B+(***) [10-13]
- Money for Guns: All the Darkness That's in Your Head (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(**)
- Wolfgang Muthspiel: Dance of the Elders (2022 , ECM): [sp]: B+(**)
- Jessica Pavone: Clamor (2023, Out of Your Head): [cd]: B+(***) [10-06]
- Chappell Roan: The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess (2023, Amusement/Island): [sp]: B+(**)
- Bobby Rush: All My Love for You (2023, Deep Rush/Thirty Tigers): [sp]: B+(**)
- Allison Russell: The Returner (2023, Fantasy): [sp]: A-
- Slayyyter: Starfucker (2023, Fader): [sp]: B+(***)
- Veronica Swift: Veronica Swift (2023, Mack Avenue): [sp]: B-
- That Mexican OT: Lonestar Luchador (2023, Manifest/Good Talk/Good Money Global): [sp]: B+(**)
- Tinashe: BB/ANG3L (2023, Nice Life, EP): [sp]: B+(*)
- Brad Turner Quintet: The Magnificent (2023, Cellar): [cd]: B+(*)
- Fay Victor: Blackcity Black Black Is Beautiful (2023, Northern Spy): [sp]: B+(**)
- Håvard Wiik/Tim Daisy: Slight Return (2023, Relay): [bc]: B+(***)
- Simón Willson: Good Company (2022 , Fresh Sound New Talent): [sp]: B+(**) [10-13]
- John Wojciechowski: Swing of the Pendulum (2022 , Afar Music): [cd]: B+(**)
- Miguel Zenón & Luis Perdomo: El Arte Del Bolero, Vol. 2 (2023, Miel Music): [sp]: B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- The Frustrated Bachelors: In the End It Wasn't Enough: All the Good Ones 2003-2006 (2003-06 , Money for Guns): [sp]: B+(**)
- Les Rallizes Dénudés: Citta' '93 (1993 , Temporal Drift): [bc]: B+(***)
- Money for Guns: Dead Tracks (2007-20 , Money for Guns): [sp]: B
- Farida Amadou/Pavel Tchikov: Mal De Terre (2020 , Trouble in Mind): [sp]: B+(*)
- Kashmere Stage Band: Texas Thunder Soul 1968-1974 (1968-74 , Now-Again, 2CD): [sp]: B+(***)
- Wolfgang Muthspiel/Scott Colley/Brian Blade: Angular Blules (2018 , ECM): [sp]: B+(**)
- Ernst-Ludwig Luten Petrowsky/Uschi Brüning/Michael Griener: Ein Résumé (2013, Jazzwerkstatt): [sp]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Constantine Alexander: Firetet (self-released) [10-18]
- Geof Bradfield/Richard D Johnson/John Tate/Samuel Jewell: Our Heroes (Afar Music) [09-08]
- Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Borrowed Flowers (Top Stop Music) [09-15]
- The Angelica Sanchez Nonet: Nighttime Creatures (Pyroclastic) [10-27]
- Joe Wittman: Trio Works (self-released) [11-01]
- John Wojciechowski: Swing of the Pendulum (Afar Music) [08-18]
Sunday, October 01, 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.