Sunday, June 9, 2024

Speaking of Which

I'm posting this after 10PM Sunday evening, figuring I'm about worn out, even though I've only hit about 80% of my usual sources, and am finding new things at a frightening clip. I imagine I'll add a bit more on Monday, as I work on what should be a relatively measured Music Week. There is, in any case, much to read and think about here. Too much really.

I have two fairly major pieces on Israel that I wanted to mention before I posted Sunday night, but didn't get around to. They're big, and important, enough I thought about putting them into their own post, but preferred to stick to the one weekly post. I didn't want to slip them into the regular text as mere late finds, so thought I'd put them up here first, easier to notice. But I already wrote a fairly lengthy intro, which I think is pretty good as an intro, so I finally decided to put the new pieces after the old intro, and before everything else.

I thought I'd start here with a quote from Avi Shlaim, from his introduction to one of the first books to appear the Oct. 7, 2023 attacks from Gaza against Israel and Israel's dramatic escalation from counterterrorism to genocide (Jamie Stern-Weiner, ed.: Deluge: Gaza and Israel from Crisis to Cataclysm):

The powerful military offensive launched by Israel on the Gaza Strip in October 2023, or Operation Swords of Iron to give it its official name, was a major landmark in the blood-soaked history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was an instant, almost Pavlovian response to the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7. The attack caught Israel by complete surprise, and it was devastating in its consequences, killing about 300 Israeli soldiers, massacring more than 800 civilians, and taking some 250 hostages. Whereas previous Hamas attacks involved the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip on southern Israel, this was a ground incursion into Israeli territory made possible by breaking down the fence with which Israel had surrounded Gaza. The murderous Hamas attack did not come out of the blue as many believed. It was a response to Israel's illegal and exceptionally brutal military occupation of the Palestinian territories since June 1967, as well as the suffocating economic blockade that Israel had imposed on Gaza since 2006. Israel, however, treated it as an unprovoked terrorist attack that gave it a blank check to use military force on an unprecedented scale to exact revenge and to crush the enemy.

Israel is no stranger to the use of military force in dealing with its neighbors. It is a country that lives by the sword. Under international law, states are allowed to use military force in self-defense as a last resort; Israel often employs force as a first resort. Some of its wars with the Arabs have been "wars of no choice," like the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948; others have been "wars of choice," like the Suez War of 1956 and the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Wars are usually followed by the search for a diplomatic resolution of the conflict. When one examines Israel's record in dealing with the Arabs as a whole, however, the use of force appears to be the preferred instrument of statecraft. Indeed, all too often, instead of war being the pursuit of politics by other means, Israeli diplomacy is the pursuit of war by other means.

Also, a bit further down:

Deadlock on the diplomatic front led to periodic clashes between Hamas and Israel. This is not a conflict between two roughly equal parties but asymmetric warfare between a small paramilitary force and one of the most powerful militaries in the world, armed to the teeth with the most advanced American weaponry. The result was low-intensity (but for the people in Gaza, still devastating) conflict which took the form of primitive missiles fired from inside the Gaza Strip on settlements in southern Israel and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) counter-insurgency operations designed to weaken but not to destroy Hamas. From time to time, Israel would move beyond aerial bombardment to ground invasion of the enclave. It launched major military offensives into Gaza in 2008-09, 2012, 2014, 2021, 2022, and 2023.

Israeli leaders used to call these recurrent IDF incursions into Gaza "mowing the lawn." This was the metaphor to describe Israel's strategy against Hamas. The strategy did not seek to defeat Hamas, let alone drive it from power. On the contrary, the aim was to allow Hamas to govern Gaza but to isolate and weaken it, and to reduce its influence on the West Bank. Israel's overarching political objective was to kep the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government geographically separate so as to prevent the emergence of a unified leadership. In this context, Israel's periodic offensives were designed to degrade the military capability of Hamas, to enhance Israeli deterrence, and to turn the civilian population of Gaza against its rulers. In short, it was a strategy of managing the conflict, of avoiding peace talks, of using the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah as a sub-contractor for Israeli security on the West Bank, and of containing Palestinian resistance within the open-air prison of the Gaza Strip.

Shlaim opens the next paragraph with "This strategy lay in tatters following the Hamas attack," but that's just a momentary reflection of Israeli histrionics plus a bit of wishful thinking. The latter was based on the hope that Israelis would recognize that the old strategy had backfired, and needed to be revised. But the histrionics were at most momentary, and quickly evolved into staged, as Netanyahu and his gang realized the attacks presented a opportunity to escalate the conflict to previously unthreatened levels, and in the absence of meaningful resistance have seen little reason to restrain themselves.

Israel has a very sophisticated propaganda operation, with a large network of long-time contacts, so they sprung immediately to work, planting horror stories about Hamas and Palestinians, while pushing rationales for major war operations into play, so Israel's habitual supporters would always be armed with the best talking points. That they were so prepared to do so suggests they know, and have known for a long time, that their actions and programs aren't obviously justifiable. They know that their main restraint isn't the threat of other powers, but that world opinion will come to ostracize and shame them, like it did to South Africa. It's not certain that such a shift in world opinion will sway them -- the alternative is that they will shrivel up into a defensive ball, like North Korea, and there would certainly be sentiment in Israel for doing so (here I need say no more than "Masada complex").

Israel has, indeed, lost a lot of foreign support, including about 80% of the UN General Assembly. But though all of that, the US has remained not just a reliable ally to Israel, but a generous one, and a very dutiful one, even as Israel is losing support from the general public. Netanyahu is Prime Minister by a very slim and fractious coalition in Israel, but when he speaks in Congress, he can rest assured that 90% of both parties will cheer him on -- a degree of popularity no American politician enjoys.

I meant to include these two major pieces, but missed them in the rush to post Sunday night.

Adam Shatz: Israel's Descent: This is a major essay, structured as a review of six books:

While most of these books go deep into the history of Zionist attempts to claim exclusive representation for the Jewish people -- a topic Sand previously wrote about in The Invention of the Jewish People (2009) and The Invention of the Land of Israel (2012) -- and that features further down in the review, the first several paragraphs provide one of the best overviews available of the current phase of the conflict. I'm tempted to quote it all, but especially want to note paragraphs 4-8, on why this time it's fair and accurate to use the term "genocide":

But, to borrow the language of a 1948 UN convention, there is an older term for 'acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group'. That term is genocide, and among international jurists and human rights experts there is a growing consensus that Israel has committed genocide -- or at least acts of genocide -- in Gaza. This is the opinion not only of international bodies, but also of experts who have a record of circumspection -- indeed, of extreme caution -- where Israel is involved, notably Aryeh Neier, a founder of Human Rights Watch.

The charge of genocide isn't new among Palestinians. I remember hearing it when I was in Beirut in 2002, during Israel's assault on the Jenin refugee camp, and thinking, no, it's a ruthless, pitiless siege. The use of the word 'genocide' struck me then as typical of the rhetorical inflation of Middle East political debate, and as a symptom of the bitter, ugly competition over victimhood in Israel-Palestine. The game had been rigged against Palestinians because of their oppressors' history: the destruction of European Jewry conferred moral capital on the young Jewish state in the eyes of the Western powers. The Palestinian claim of genocide seemed like a bid to even the score, something that words such as 'occupation' and even 'apartheid' could never do.

This time it's different, however, not only because of the wanton killing of thousands of women and children, but because the sheer scale of the devastation has rendered life itself all but impossible for those who have survived Israel's bombardment. The war was provoked by Hamas's unprecedented attack, but the desire to inflict suffering on Gaza, not just on Hamas, didn't arise on 7 October. Here is Ariel Sharon's son Gilad in 2012: 'We need to flatten entire neighbourhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn't stop with Hiroshima -- the Japanese weren't surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing.' Today this reads like a prophecy.

Exterminationist violence is almost always preceded by other forms of persecution, which aim to render the victims as miserable as possible, including plunder, denial of the franchise, ghettoisation, ethnic cleansing and racist dehumanisation. All of these have been features of Israel's relationship to the Palestinian people since its founding. What causes persecution to slide into mass killing is usually war, in particular a war defined as an existential battle for survival -- as we have seen in the war on Gaza. The statements of Israel's leaders (the defence minister, Yoav Gallant: 'We are fighting human animals, and we will act accordingly'; President Isaac Herzog: 'It is an entire nation out there that is responsible') have not disguised their intentions but provided a precise guide. So have the gleeful selfies taken by Israeli soldiers amid the ruins of Gaza: for some, at least, its destruction has been a source of pleasure.

Israel's methods may bear a closer resemblance to those of the French in Algeria, or the Assad regime in Syria, than to those of the Nazis in Treblinka or the Hutu génocidaires in Rwanda, but this doesn't mean they do not constitute genocide. Nor does the fact that Israel has killed 'only' a portion of Gaza's population. What, after all, is left for those who survive? Bare life, as Giorgio Agamben calls it: an existence menaced by hunger, destitution and the ever present threat of the next airstrike (or 'tragic accident', as Netanyahu described the incineration of 45 civilians in Rafah). Israel's supporters might argue that this is not the Shoah, but the belief that the best way of honouring the memory of those who died in Auschwitz is to condone the mass killing of Palestinians so that Israeli Jews can feel safe again is one of the great moral perversions of our time.

A couple paragraphs later, Shatz moves on to "Zionism's original ambition," which gets us into the books, including a survey of how Israel's supporters have long sought to quell any Jewish criticism of Israel, eventually going so far as to declare it anti-semitic. I find this particular history fascinating, as it provides some counterweight to the claim that Zionism was intrinsically racist and, if given the power and opportunity, genocidal. Just because this is where you wound up doesn't mean this is where you had to go.

Again, there is much to be learned and thought about everywhere in this article. Let's just wrap up with a few more choice quotes:

  • But the tendency of Israeli Jews to see themselves as eternal victims, among other habits of the diaspora, has proved stronger than Zionism itself, and Israel's leaders have found a powerful ideological armour, and source of cohesion, in this reflex. [This has made them] incapable of distinguishing between violence against Jews as Jews, and violence against Jews in connection with the practices of the Jewish state.

  • Today the catastrophe of 1948 is brazenly defended in Israel as a necessity -- and viewed as an uncompleted, even heroic, project.

  • The last eight months have seen an extraordinary acceleration of Israel's long war against the Palestinians.

  • Benjamin Netanyahu is a callow man of limited imagination . . . [but] his expansionist, racist ideology is the Israeli mainstream. Always an ethnocracy based on Jewish privilege, Israel has, under his watch, become a reactionary nationalist state, a country that now officially belongs exclusively to its Jewish citizens.

  • But this was no accident: conflict with the Arabs was essential to the Zionist mainstream. . . . Brit Shalom's vision of reconciliation and co-operation with the indigenous population was unthinkable to most Zionists, because they regarded the Arabs of Palestine as squatters on sacred Jewish land.

  • This moral myopia has always been resisted by a minority of American Jews. There have been successive waves of resistance, provoked by previous episodes of Israeli brutality: the Lebanon War, the First Intifada, the Second Intifada. But the most consequential wave of resistance may be the one we are seeing now from a generation of young Jews for whom identification with an explicitly illiberal, openly racist state, led by a close ally of Donald Trump, is impossible to stomach.

  • For all their claims to isolation in a sea of sympathy for Palestine, Jewish supporters of Israel, like the state itself, have powerful allies in Washington, in the administration and on university boards.

  • For many Jews, steeped in Zionism's narrative of Jewish persecution and Israeli redemption, and encouraged to think that 1939 might be just around the corner, the fact that Palestinians, not Israelis, are seen by most people as Jews themselves once were -- as victims of oppression and persecution, as stateless refugees -- no doubt comes as a shock.

  • Operation Al-Aqsa Flood thrust the question of Palestine back on the international agenda, sabotaging the normalisation of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, shattering both the myth of a cost-free occupation and the myth of Israel's invincibility. But its architects, Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, appear to have had no plan to protect Gaza's own people from what would come next. Like Netanyahu, with whom they recently appeared on the International Criminal Court's wanted list, they are ruthless tacticians, capable of brutal, apocalyptic violence but possessing little strategic vision. 'Tomorrow will be different,' Deif promised in his 7 October communiqué. He was correct.' But that difference -- after the initial exuberance brought about by the prison breakout -- can now be seen in the ruins of Gaza.

  • Eight months after 7 October, Palestine remains in the grip, and at the mercy, of a furious, vengeful Jewish state, ever more committed to its colonisation project and contemptuous of international criticism, ruling over a people who have been transformed into strangers in their own land or helpless survivors, awaiting the next delivery of rations.

  • The 'Iron Wall' is not simply a defence strategy: it is Israel's comfort zone.

There is a lot to unpack here, and much more I skipped over -- a lot on US and other protesters, even some thoughts by Palestinians -- but for now I just want to offer one point. If Israel had responded to the Oct. 7 "prison break" with a couple weeks (even a month) of indiscriminate, massive bombardment, which is basically what they did for the first month, then ended it with a unilateral cease-fire, with the looming threat to repeat if Hamas ever attacked again, their wildly disproportionate response would have more than reestablished their "deterrent" credibility.

Those who hated Israel before would have had their feelings reinforced, but those who hadn't hated Israel wouldn't have turned against Israel. (Sure, some would have been shocked by the intensity, but once it ended those feelings would subside. The UN, the ICJ, the ICC wouldn't have charged Israel. The word genocide would have gone silent. The protests would have faded, without ever escalating into encampments and repression. Israel could have washed its hands of governing Gaza, leaving the rubble and what, if anything, was left of Hamas to the international do-gooders, and simply said "good riddance."

The Shatz article helps explain why Israel didn't do that. It is strong on the psychology that keeps Israelis fighting, that keeps them from letting up, from developing a conscience over all of the pain and hate they've inflicted. But it misses one important part of the story, which is the failure of the Biden administration to restrain Israel. Over all of its history, Israel has repeatedly worked itself into a frenzy against its enemies, but it's always had the US to pull it back and cool it off, usually just before its aggression turns not just counterproductive but debilitating. You can probably recite the examples yourself, all the way up to GW Bush and Obama, with their phony, half-hearted two-state plans. Often the restraint has been late and/or lax, and no Israeli ever publicly thanked us for keeping them from doing something stupid, but on some level Israelis expected external restraint, even as they plotted to neutralize it. So when they finally went berserk, and Biden wasn't willing to twist arms to tone them down, they just felt like they had more leeway to work with.

So the piece missing from the Shatz article is really another article altogether, which is what the fuck happened to America, who in most respects is a decent human being, and the rest of America's political caste (some of whom aren't decent at all), couldn't generate any meaningful concern much less resistance against genocide vowed and implemented by Israel? There's a long story there, as deep and convoluted as the one behind Israel, but it should be pretty obvious by now if you've been paying any attention at all.

The second piece I wanted to mention is:

Amira Haas: [06-04] Starvation and Death Are Israel's Defeat. I'm scraping this off Facebook, because the original is behind a paywall. My wife read this to our dinner guests recently, which made me a bit uneasy, because I don't like the use of the word "defeat" here (see my Ali Abunimah note below), although I suppose there could be some language quirk I'm missing, like the difference between "has lost" and "is lost." Israel has not lost the war, but Israel is very lost in its practice. Still, I take this mostly as a cri de coeur, and am grateful for that.

Israel was defeated and is still being defeated, not because of the fact that at the start of the ninth month of this accursed war, Hamas has not been toppled.

The emblem of defeat will forever appear alongside the menorah and flag, because the leaders, commanders and soldiers of Israel killed and wounded thousands of Palestinian civilians, sowing unprecedented ruin and desolation in the Gaza Strip. Because its air force knowingly bombed buildings full of children, women and the elderly. Because in Israel people believe there is no other way. Because entire families were wiped out.

The Jewish state was defeated because its politicians and public officials are causing two million three hundred thousand human beings to go hungry and thirsty, because skin ailments and intestinal inflammation are spreading in Gaza.

The only democracy in the jungle was overwhelmingly defeated because its army expels and then concentrates hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in increasingly smaller areas, labeled safe humanitarian zones, before proceeding to bomb and shell them. Because thousands of permanently disabled people and children with no accompanying adults are hemmed in and suffering greatly in those targeted humanitarian areas.

Because mounds of garbage are piling up there, while the only way to dispose of them is to set them on fire, spouting toxic emissions. Because sewage and excrement flow in the streets, with masses of flies blocking one's eyes. Because when the war ends, people will return to ruined houses chock full of unexploded ordnance, with the ground saturated with toxic dangerous substances. Because thousands of people, if not more, will come down with chronic diseases, paralyzing and terminal, due to that same pollution and those toxic substances.

Because many of those devoted and brave medical teams in the Gaza Strip, male and female doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and paramedics and yes -- including people who were supporting Hamas or on its government's payroll -- were killed by Israeli bombs or shelling. Because children and students will have lost precious years of study.

Because books and public and private archives went up in flames, with manuscripts of stories and research lost forever, as well as original drawings and embroidery by Gazan artists, which were buried under the debris or damaged. Because one cannot know what else the mental damage inflicted on millions will bring about.

The defeat, forever, lies in the fact that a state that views itself as the heir of the victims of genocide carried out by Nazi Germany has generated this hell in less than nine months, with an end not yet in sight. Call it genocide. Don't call it genocide.

The structural failure lies not in the fact that the G-word was affixed to the name "Israel" in the resounding petition filed by South Africa at the International Court of Justice. The failure lies in the refusal of most Israeli Jews to listen to the alarm bells in this petition. They continued supporting the war even after the petition was filed in late December, allowing the petition's warning to become a prophecy, and for doubts to be obliterated in the face of additional cumulative evidence.

The defeat lies with Israel's universities, which trained hordes of jurists who find proportionality in every bomb that kills children. They are the ones providing military commanders with the protective vests, of repeated cliché: "Israel is abiding by international law, taking care not to harm civilians," every time an order is given to expel a population and concentrate it in a smaller area.

The convoys of displaced people, on foot, in carts, on trucks overloaded with people and mattresses, with wheelchairs carrying old people or amputees, are a failing grade for Israel's school system, its law faculties and history departments. The debacle is also a failure of the Hebrew language. Expulsion is "evacuation." A deadly military raid is an "activity." The carpet bombing of entire neighborhoods is "good work by our soldiers."

Israel's monolithic nature is another reason for and proof of utter defeat, as well as being emblematic of it. Most of the Jewish-Israeli public, including opponents of Benjamin Netanyahu's camp, was taken captive by the notion of a magical total victory as an answer to the October 7 massacre, without learning a thing from past wars in general and from ones against the Palestinians in particular.

Yes, the Hamas atrocities were horrific. The suffering of the hostages and their families is beyond words. Yes, turning the Gaza Strip into a huge depot of weapons and ammunition ready to be used, through an imitation of the Israeli model, is exasperating.

But the majority of Israeli Jews let the drive for revenge blind them. The unwillingness to listen and to know, in order to avoid making mistakes, is in the DNA of the debacle. Our all-knowing commanders did not listen to the female spotters, but they mainly failed to listen to Palestinians, who over decades warned that the situation cannot continue like this.

The seeds of defeat lay in protesters against the judicial overhaul rejecting the basic fact that we have no chance of being a democracy without ending the occupation, and that the people generating the overhaul are the ones striving to "vanquish" the Palestinians.

With God's help. The failure was inscribed back then, in the first days after October 7, when anyone trying to point out the "context" was condemned as a traitor or a supporter of Hamas. The traitors turned out to be the real patriots, but the debacle is ours -- the traitors' -- as well.

In looking this piece up, I found another at Haaretz worth notice for the title:

Dahlia Scheindlin: [06-10] Will the real opposition stand up: Is anyone trying to save Israel from Netanyahu, endless war and isolation? "Benny Gantz's unsurprising departure from the Netanyahu government won't strengthen the opposition, because Israel barely has one worthy of the name."

The Shatz piece doesn't have links, but a casual reference there to "philosemitic McCarthyism" led me to search out this piece:

Susan Neiman: [2023-10-19] Historical reckoning gone haywire: "Germans' efforts to confront their country's criminal history and to root out antisemitism have shifted from vigilance to a philosemitic McCarthyism that threatens their rich cultural life."

That, in turn, led me to Neiman's recent review of Shatz's book The Rebel's Clinic: The Revolutionary Lives of Frantz Fanon:

Susan Neiman: [06-06] Fanon the universalist: "Adam Shatz argues in his new biography of Frantz Fanon that the supposed patron saint of political violence was instead a visionary of a radical universalism that rejected racial essentialism and colonialism."

Initial count: 209 links, 12260 words. Updated count [06-10]: 235 links, 15800 words.

Local tags (these can be linked to directly): on music.

Top story threads:

Israel: As I'm trying to wrap this up on Sunday, I must admit I'm getting overwhelmed, and possibly a bit confused, by the constant roll call of atrocities Israel is committing. There appears to be not just one but several instances of mass slaughter at Nuseirat refugee camp. There is also "late news" -- later than the earliest reports below -- including the Benny Gantz resignation, that are captured in various states of disclosure below. While I've generally tried to group related reports, that's become increasingly difficult, so my apologies for any lapses in order. These are truly trying times. And yet the solution of a simple cease-fire is so blindingly obvious.

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

  • Janet Abou-Elias: [06-06] Who's minding the stockpile of US weapons going to Israel? "Congress has further weakened constraints on a special DOD arms reserve, which is spread over multiple warehouses and lacks a public inventory."

  • Michael Arria: [06-06] The Shift: Netanyahu is going back to Washington: "Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress will be his fourth, giving him the most of any foreign leader. He's currently tied with Winston Churchill at three. He was invited by the leadership from both parties. Who says bipartisanship is dead?" More on the Netanyahu invite:

  • Matthew Mpoke Bigg: [06-05] Here's a closer look at the hurdles to a cease-fire deal: "Neither Israel nor Hamas have said definitively whether they would accept or reject a proposal outlined by President Biden, but sizable gaps between the two sides appear to remain." NY Times remain masters at both-sidesing this, but Israel is the only side that's free to operate deliberately, so lack of "agreement" simply means that Israel has refused to cease-fire, despite what should be compelling reasons to do so. More on the Biden (presented as Israel) proposal:

    • Ali Abunimah: [05-31] Biden admits Israel's defeat in Gaza: Author seeks to poke Biden in the eye, but quotes Biden's actual speech, adding his annotation. Mine would differ, but the exercise is still worthwhile. I'd never say Israel has been defeated in Gaza, except perhaps to say that Israel has defeated itself (although I'd look for words more like degraded and debilitated, as I hate the whole notion that wars can be won -- I only see losers, varying in the quantities they have lost, but less so the qualities, which afflict all warriors).

      I haven't been following his publication, but I've been aware of Abunimah for a long time. He's written a couple of "clear-eyed, sharply reasoned, and compassionate" books on the subject: One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impassed (2007: not remotedly agreeable to Israel, but not wrong either, and would have "avoided all this mess" -- quote's from a Professor Longhair song, about something else, but hits the spot here); and The Battle for Justice in Palestine (2014; my Books note was: "tries to remain hopeful")

    • Fred Kaplan:

  • Sheera Frenkel: [06-05] Israel secretly targets US lawmakers with influence campaign on Gaza War: "Israel's Ministry of Diaspora Affairs ordered the operation, which used fake social media accounts urging U.S. lawmakers to fund Israel's military, according to officials and documents about the effort."

  • Ellen Ioanes: [06-05] What happens if Gaza ceasefire talks fail. "Nearly 40 Palestinians in Rafah will die each day due to traumatic injuries if Israel continues its incursion, according to a new analysis." How they came up with that figure, which they project to 3,509 by August 17, boggles the mind. Israel has been known to kill more than that with a single bomb. And note how they're breaking out "traumatic injuries" into a separate category, presumably to separate them out from starvation deaths and who knows what else? For that matter, "traumatic" is about a pretty tame generic word for blown to bits and/or incinerated, which is what Israel's bombs are actually doing, as well as burying bodies under tons of rubble. When we commonly speak of trauma, usually we mean psychological injuries -- something which in this case no one has come close to quantifying.

    And can we talk about this passive-voiced "if talks fail." Biden announced what he called "Israel's plan," and Hamas basically agreed to it, so who is still talking? The thus-far-failing talks Ioanes alludes to here are exclusively within Israel's war cabinet, where failure to agree to anything that might halt the war is some kind of axiom.

  • Alon Pinkas: [06-06] Biden wants an end to the Gaza war. But he is finally realising Netanyahu will block any attempts at peace. This has been more/less the story since about a month into the war. although it took Biden much longer to dare say anything in public, and he's still doing everything possible to appease Israel. If, after a few weeks of their savage bombing of Gaza, Israel had unilaterally ceased fire, no one would doubt their deterrence. Everyone would have understood that any attack on them would be met with a disproportionately savage response. They could then have turned their backs and walked away, simply dumping responsibility for Gaza and its people, which they have no real interest in or for, onto the UN. The hostages would have been freed, even without prisoner swaps. The ancillary skirmishes with Hezbollah and the Houthis would have ended. Months later, no one would be talking about genocide, or facing charges from the ICC. Israel's relations with the US would be unblemished. And Israel's right-wing government would still have a relatively free hand to go about its dispossession of and terror against Palestinians in the West Bank. This didn't happen because Biden didn't dare object to Israel's genocidal plans, because he's totally under their thumb -- presumably due to donors and the Israel lobby, but one has to wonder if he just doesn't have a streak of masochism. Even now that he's writhing in misery, he still can't bring himself to just say no.

  • Mitchell Plitnick: [06-08] The Biden administration must stop Israel before it escalates in Lebanon: "There are dangerous signs Israel intends to escalate attacks on Lebanon and raise the stakes with Hezbollah. If it does, the risk of a regional war grows enormously. The only way out is to end the fighting in Gaza." More evidence that the theory of deterrence is a recipe for disaster. To rally American support, Israel has tried to paint its genocide in Gaza as a sideshow to its defense against Iran, the mastermind behind the "six front" assault on Israel -- because, well, Americans hate Iran, and are really gullible on that point. To make this war look real, Israel needs to provoke Hezbollah, which is easy to do because Hezbollah also buys into the theory of deterrence, so feels the need to shoot back when they are shot at. This is close to spiraling out of control, but a ceasefire in Gaza would bring it all to an abrupt close. A rapprochement between the US and Iran would also be a big help, as it would knock the legs out from under Israel's game-playing.

  • H Scott Prosterman: [06-06] How Trump and Netanyahu are tag-teaming Biden on Gaza.

    Before these men served, no Israeli leader had ever dared to interfere in US electoral politics. Trump openly campaigned for Bibi. It's almost as if they ran on the same ticket in 2020. The political survival of both men is dependent on generating political outrage among their bases, because they have nothing else to run on.

  • Philip Weiss:

    • [06-02] Weekly Briefing: The political and moral consequences of hallowing Trump's verdict while nullifying the Hague: "Joe Biden wants it both ways. He wants Democrats to stop criticizing genocide but he also wants the Israel lobby's support. Thus, he has a ceasefire plan in one hand, and an invitation to Netanyahu, a war criminal, to speak to Congress in the other." Pretty good opening here:

      Joe Biden is trying to end the war in Gaza. He's not trying that hard. But he's trying.

      Biden knows that the Democratic base is on fire. He knows that for a certain bloc of voters in American society -- Genocide is not acceptable. Sadly, most people will go along fine with a genocide. That's what history tells us and what the U.S. establishment is demonstrating right now. Samantha Power wrote a whole book about the Sarajevo genocide and launched a great career but now she's a top Biden aide and just keeps her head down. It's not fair to single her out -- because all the editorial writers and politicians have a similar stance. It's a terrible thing that so many civilians and babies are being killed by American weaponry in Gaza, but hey, look what Hamas did on October 7. That's the ultimate in whatabboutery. What about Hamas? While we are burning up civilians.

    • [06-09] Weekly Briefing: 274 Palestinian lives don't matter to the Biden administration: "A week culminating with the massacre of 274 Palestinians in Gaza provided further evidence -- though none is needed -- that anti-Palestinian bias is simply a rule of American politics, and today maybe the leading rule."

    • [06-09] 'Allow me to share a story that touched me deeply' -- Harry Soloway on Palestinian resistance.

Israel vs. world opinion:

  • Yuval Abraham/Meron Rapoport: Surveillance and interference: Israel's covert war on the ICC exposed: "Top Israeli government and security officials have overseen a nine-year surveillance operation targeting the ICC and Palestinian rights groups to try to thwart a war crimes probe."

  • Yousef M Aljamal: [06-07] Israel's progression from apartheid to genocide: "The unfolding genocide in Gaza is the latest chapter in Israel's attempt to remove Palestinians from their land. All those calling for a ceasefire should join in the longer-term efforts to dismantle Israeli apartheid."

  • Michael Arria: [06-03] San Jose State University professor says she was suspended over her Palestinian activism: "Last month Sang Hea Kil, a justice studies professor at the San Jose State University, was placed on a temporary suspension because of her Palestine activism."

  • Ramzy Baroud: [06-06] End of an era: Pro-Palestinian language exposes Israel, Zionism.

  • Reed Brody: [06-06] Israel's legal reckoning and the historical shift in justice for Palestinians.

  • Chandni Desai: [06-08] Israel has destroyed or damaged 80% of schools in Gaza. This is scholasticide: This is another new word we don't need, because it just narrows the scope of a perfectly apt word we're already driven to use, which is genocide. The lesson we do need to point out is that genocide isn't just a matter of counting kills. If the goal is to ending a type of people, it is just as effectively advanced to destroying their homes, their environment, their culture and historical legacy. Counting the dead is easy, but much of the devastation is carried forward by its survivors, and those impacts are especially hard to quantify.

  • Connor Echols/Maya Krainc: [06-04] House votes to sanction ICC for case against Israeli settlers: "The bill, which is unlikely to pass the Senate, would punish US allies and famous lawyer Amal Clooney."

  • Richard Falk:

  • Abdallah Fayyard: [06-05] It's not Islamophobia, it's anti-Palestinian racism: "Anti-Palestinian racism is a distinct form of bigotry that's too often ignored."

  • Joshua Frank: [06-05] It's never been about freeing the hostages: "Israel's scorched-earth campaign will cruelly shape the lives of many future generations of Palestinians -- and that's the point."

  • Philippe Lazzarini: [05-30] UNRWA: Stop Israel's violent campaign against us. How violent?

    As I write this, our agency has verified that at least 192 UNRWA employees have been killed in Gaza. More than 170 UNRWA premises have been damaged or destroyed. UNRWA-run schools have been demolished; some 450 displaced people have been killed while sheltered inside UNRWA schools and other structures. Since Oct. 7, Israeli security forces have rounded up UNRWA personnel in Gaza, who have alleged torture and mistreatment while in detention in the Strip and in Israel.

    UNRWA staff members are regularly harassed and humiliated at Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank including East Jerusalem. Agency installations are used by the Israel security forces, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups for military purposes.

    UNRWA is not the only U.N. agency that faces danger. In April, gunfire hit World Food Program and UNICEF vehicles, apparently inadvertently but despite coordination with the Israeli authorities.

    The assault on UNRWA has spread to East Jerusalem, where a member of the Jerusalem municipality has helped incite protests against UNRWA. Demonstrations are becoming increasingly dangerous, with at least two arson attacks on our UNRWA compound, and a crowd including Israeli children gathered outside our premises singing "Let the U.N. burn." At other times, demonstrators threw stones.

    PS: The day after this op-ed was published, Israel replied as directly and emphatically as possible: [06-06] Israel strike on Gaza school kills dozens. Israel claims "the compound contained a Hamas command post." Perhaps Netanyahu should brush up on The Merchant of Venice, where the "wise judge" allowed that Shylock could take his "pound of flesh" but could spill no blood in the process. Of course, Netanyahu is unlikely to get beyond the thought that Shakespeare was just being antisemitic. On the other hand, the notion that one wrong does not allow you to commit indiscriminate slaughter isn't novel.

  • Natasha Lennard/Prem Thakker: Columbia Law Review refused to take down article on Palestine, so its board of directors nuked the whole website.

  • Eric Levitz: [06-03] Israel is not fighting for its survival. I mentioned this piece in an update last week, but it's worth reiterating here.

  • Branko Marcetic: [06-03] The corporate power brokers behind AIPAC's war on the Squad: Their investigation "reveals the individuals behind AIPAC's election war chest: nearly 60% are CEOs and other top executives at the country's largest corporations." I haven't cited many articles so far on AIPAC's crusade against Democrats who actually take human rights and war crimes seriously, but they are piling up. Bipartisanship is a holy grail in Washington, not because either side treasures compromise but because a bipartisan consensus helps to exclude critics and suppress any further discussion of an issue that those in power would rather not have to argue for in public. Cold War and trade deals like NAFTA are other classic examples, but support for Israel has been so bipartisan for so long it defines the shape of reality as perceived all but intuitively by politicians in Washington. But apartheid and genocide are unsettling this equation, disturbing large numbers of Democratic voters, so AIPAC is reacting like its Israeli masters, by cracking the whip -- the same kneejerk reaction we see when university administrators move to arrest protesters. Both are turns as sharply opposed to the basic tenets of liberal democracy as liberal Democrats routinely accuse Republicans of. That both are driven primarily by the extraordinary political influence of money only exposes the sham that our vaunted democracy has become under oligarchy.

  • Qassam Muaddi: [06-03] Against a world without Palestinians: "If the world as it is cannot abide Palestinian existence, then we will have to change the world." This piece makes me a bit queasy, but I recognize that is largely because I've never accepted the conditions under which it was written, and always preferred to think of Palestinians as just another nationality, like all others, with its harmless parochial quirks. But the effort to deny them recognition, and to erase their memory, has been a longstanding project in Israel.

    In early days, this was done through pretense (see A land without a people for a people without a land and denial (see Golda Meir's oft-repeated There was no such thing as Palestinians). Norman Finkelstein wrote about all that in Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (1995; revised 2003), especially his critique of Joan Peters' 1984 book, From Time Immemorial.

    Another book that was very insightful at the time (2003) was Baruch Kimmerling: Politicide: Ariel Sharon's War Against the Palestinians -- reissued in 2006 with the new subtitle, The Real Legacy of Ariel Sharon. Kimmerling's precise meaning is still operative, although since then the methods have become much cruder and more violent. Sharon, of course, would turn in his grave at the suggestion that he engaged with tact. I'll never forget the expression on his face when Bush referred to him as "a man of peace." Even if you dispute that the Gaza war fully counts as genocide, it is impossible to deny that politicide is official policy.

    I'm sure there are more recent books on the subject, like Rebecca Ruth Gould: Erasing Palestine: Free Speech and Palestinian Freedom (2023), which deals specifically with the canard that "pro-Palestinian" statements should be banished as anti-semitic. But another aspect of this piece is the notion that the Palestinian survival is redemptive, potentially for everyone. I can't say one way or the other, but I will say that this reminds me of a book I read very shortly after it came out in 1969: Vine Deloria, Jr.: Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. As an American, I find it completely natural to think of Zionism as a settler-colonial movement, as was European-settled America. There are many aspects to this: if I wanted to launch a career as a scholar, I'd research and write up some kind of global, comparative study of how other settlers and natives viewed the American-Indian experience. (Sure, there's enough for a book just on Israel, but I'd also like to see some bit on Hitler's use of America's "frontier myth.")

    Suffice it for now to draw two points here. The first is that what permanently ended Indian violence against settlers was the US army calling off its own attacks, and restraining settlers from the free reign of terror they had long practiced. Indians were "defeated," sure, but they would surely have regrouped and fought back had they been given continued cause. The second is that "Custer died" is pretty damn generous given all of the sins it's been allowed to redeem.

  • Jonathan Ofir: [06-02] Netanyahu is back and leading the polls, all thanks to the ICC: "In Israel, a potential arrest for crimes against humanity can help boost the popularity of a politician. That itself is a telling indictment."

  • Edith Olmsted: [04-27] Pro-Israel agitator shouts 'kill the Jews,' gets everyone else arrested: "Around 100 protesters were arrested on Saturday at a pro-Palestine encampment at Northeastern University, but not the one whose hate speech got everything shut down."

  • James Ray: [06-05] Do you condemn Hamas? How does it matter? This was a question every concerned thinking person was asked at the moment of the October 7, 2023 attacks, although there was never any forum by within which disapproval of Hamas could have affected their acts. There were, at the time, many reasons why one might "condemn Hamas," ranging from the pure immorality of armed offense to the political ramifications of provoking a much more powerful enemy, including the probability that Israelis would use the attacks as a pretext for unleashing much greater, potentially genocidal, violence of their own. But even acknowledging the question helped suppress the real question, which is whether you approve of the way Israel has exercised power over Gaza and wherever Palestinians continue to live.

    Many of us who have long disapproved of Israel's occupation were quick to condemn Hamas, only to find that our condemnations were counted as huzzahs for much more devastating, much more deadly attacks, a process which continues unabated eight months later, and which will continue indefinitely, until Israel's leadership (or its successors) finally backs off, either because they develop a conscience (pretty unlikely at present) or some calculation that the costs of further slaughter can no longer be justified. Given this situation, I think it no longer makes any sense to condemn Hamas, as all doing so does is to encourage Israel to further genocide.

    I'm not even sure there is a Hamas any more -- sure, there are a couple blokes in Syria who once had connections with the group, and who continue to negotiate to release hostages they don't actually have, but for practical purposes what used to be Hamas has dissolved back into the Palestinian people (as Israel makes clear every time they allegedly target "high value" Hamas operatives while killing dozens of "human shields" -- something which, we should make clear, Israel has no right to do). If, at some future point, the war ends, and Palestinians are allowed to form their own government -- which is something they've never been permitted to do (at least under Israeli, British, Ottoman, or Crusader rule) -- and some ex-Hamas people try to reconstitute the group, that would be a good time to condemn them. Otherwise, focus on who's responsible for the devastation and violence. It's not Hamas.

    In this, I'm mostly responding to the title. The article is a bit more problematical, as it does a little arm-chair analysis of "when armed struggle becomes material necessity." Clearly, a number of the Palestinian groups listed here decided that it did become necessary, and they proceeded to launch various attacks against Israeli power, of which Oct. 7 was one of the most dramatic (at least in a long time; the revolt in 1937, and the war in 1948, were larger and more sustained; the 2000-05 intifada killed slightly fewer Israelis over a much longer period of time). Still, before one can condemn the resort to armed struggle, one needs to ask the questions: Were there any practical non-violent avenues for Palestinians to redress their grievances (of which they had many)? It's not obvious that there were. (Short for a long survey of who missed which opportunities for opportunities for peace -- as the oft-quoted Abba Eban quip comes full circle.)

    I was thinking of a second question, which is how effective have all those efforts at armed resistance been? The answer is not very, and the prospects have probably diminished even further over time, but that's easier for someone far removed like myself to say than for someone who's directly involved. But in that case, the question becomes: how desperate do you have to be to launch a violent attack against a power that's certain to inflict many times as much violence back at you? If you've been following the political dynamics within Israel, especially with the rise of Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, but also for the long decline of Labor (starting with the assassination of Rabin) through the rise of Netanyahu, with the marginalization of the corrupt and pliant PA and the exclusion of Hamas, Palestinian prospects for achieving any degree of decent human rights have only grown dimmer. During this period, I believe that most Palestinians favored a non-violent appeal to world opinion, hoping to shift it to put pressure on Israel through BDS. However, thanks to Israel's machinations, Hamas maintained just enough privacy and autonomy in Gaza to stage an attack, with nothing other than fear as a constraint, so they took matters into their own hands. I feel safe in saying that a democratic Gaza would never have launched such an attack. Which is to say that responsibility for the attack lay solely on Israel, for creating the desperate conditions that made the attack seem necessary, and for not allowing any other peaceable outlets for their just grievances.

    One should further blame Israel for post-facto justifying the Hamas attack. This is a point that Israelis should understand better than anyone, because they have been trained to celebrate the uprising of the 1943 Warsaw ghetto, even though it was doomed from the start. I don't want to overstate the similarities, but I don't want to soft-pedal them either. Such situations are so rare in history as to necessarily be unique, but they do excite the imagination. Although Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, they seem to be doing more than anyone to build Hamas up, to restore their status as the Palestinians who dared to fight back. Because Israel has never really minded a good fight. It's peace they really cannot abide -- and that is what makes them responsible for all of the consequent injustice and violence, the first of many things you should blame Israel for.

    And as Hamas -- at least as we understand it -- wouldn't exist but for Israel, when you do condemn Hamas, make sure it's clear that the blame starts with Israel.

  • Hoda Sherif: [06-06] 'The generation that says no more': Inside the Columbia University encampments for Palestine: "Students at Columbia University continue to disrupt business as usual for Gaza and have birthed a radical re-imagining of society in the process."

  • Yonat Shimron: [04-29] How unconditional support for Israel became a cornerstone of Jewish American identity: Interview with Marjorie N. Feld, author of The Threshold of Dissent: A History of American Jewish Critics of Zionism.

  • Tatiana Siegel: [06-06] Hollywood marketing guru fuels controversy by telling staffers to refrain from working with anyone 'posting against Israel': The Hollywood "black list" returns.


  • Charlie Savage/Jonathan Swan/Maggie Haberman: [06-07] If Trump wins: Nothing new here that hasn't been reported elsewhere, but if you find the New York Times a credible source, believe it. (I should write more on this piece next week.)

  • David Corn: [06-06] Trump's obsession with revenge: a big post-verdict danger.

  • Michelle Cottle/Carlos Lozada: [06-07] The 'empty suit' of Trump's masculinity: With Jamelle Bouie and David French.

  • Chas Danner: [06-06] Trump can no longer shoot someone on fifth avenue. Well, his "New York concealed carry license was quietly suspended on April 1, 2023, following his indictment on criminal charges," leading him to surrender two guns, and move one "legally" to Florida. If he shoots someone on Fifth Avenue, he could be charged with illegal possession of a firearm, but if he could previously get away with murder, it's hard to see him more worried now.

  • Maureen Dowd: [07-28] The Don and his badfellas. She has fun with this, but seems to get to an inner truth:

    Trump is drawn to people who know how to dominate a room and exaggerated displays of macho, citing three of his top five movies as "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," "Goodfellas" and "The Godfather."

    As a young real estate developer, he would hang out at Yankee Stadium and study the larger-than-life figures in the V.I.P. box: George Steinbrenner, Lee Iacocca, Frank Sinatra, Roy Cohn, Rupert Murdoch, Cary Grant. He was intent on learning how they grabbed the limelight.

    "In his first big apartment project, Trump's father had a partner connected to the Genovese and Gambino crime families," said Michael D'Antonio, another Trump biographer. "He dealt with mobbed-up suppliers and union guys for decades.

    "When Trump was a little boy, wandering around job sites with his dad -- which was the only time he got to spend with him -- he saw a lot of guys with broken noses and rough accents. And I think he is really enchanted by base male displays of strength. Think about 'Goodfellas' -- people who prevail by cheating and fixing and lying. Trump doesn't have the baseline intellect and experience to be proficient at governing. His proficiency is this mob style of bullying and tough-guy talk."

  • Abdallah Fayyad:: [06-04] Trump's New York conviction is not enough: "If the federal government wants to uphold democracy and the rule of law, it can't leave convicting Trump to the states."

  • Phil Freeman, in a [06-01] Facebook post, summed up Trump's post-verdict appearances almost perfectly (assuming you get what by now must be a very esoteric reference):

    Donald Trump is officially in his "Lenny Bruce reading his trial transcripts to audiences that came in expecting jokes" era. Hope everyone's ready for five solid months of rambling, self-pitying speeches about how unfair everyone is to him, 'cause that's what's coming, from today till November 5.

  • Matt Ford: [06-09] The right's truly incredible argument for weakening consumer safety: "A baby products company and an anti-woke activist group are trying to weaken a critical consumer watchdog agency. If one of their cases reaches the Supreme Court, we're all in trouble."

  • Michelle Goldberg: [06-07] Donald Trump's mob rule: Starts with an anecdote from Peter Navarro, currently in prison for contempt of Congress, describing how his Trump ties "make him something of a made man," both with guards and inmates. "One of the more unsettling things about our politics right now is the Republican Party's increasingly open embrace of lawlessness. Even as they proclaim Trump's innocence, Trump and his allies revel in the frisson of criminality."

    There's a similar dichotomy between Trump and his enemies: He represents charismatic personal authority as opposed to the bureaucratic dictates of the law. Under his rule, the Republican Party, long uneasy with modernity, has given itself over to Gemeinschaft. The Trump Organization was always run as a family business, and now that Trump has made his dilettante daughter-in-law vice chair of the Republican National Committee, the Republican Party is becoming one as well. To impose a similar regime of personal rule on the country at large, Trump has to destroy the already rickety legitimacy of the existing system. "As in Machiavelli's thought, the Prince is not only above the law but the source of law and all social and political order, so in the Corleone universe, the Don is 'responsible' for his family, a responsibility that authorizes him to do virtually anything except violate the obligations of the family bond," [Sam] Francis [a white nationalist who has become posthumously influential among MAGA elites] wrote. That also seems to be how Trump sees himself, minus, of course, the family obligations. What's frightening is how many Republicans see him the same way.

  • Sarah Jones: [06-06] The anti-abortion movement's newest lie: Are they going after contraception next?

  • Ed Kilgore:

    • [06-06] GOP primaries prove Trump has thoroughly dominated the party.

    • [06-08] Trump doubles down on plan for huge spending power grab.

      But arguably some of the most important second-term plans involve Team Trump's dark designs on the so-called swamp of the federal bureaucracy. Their interest in tearing down the civil service system is well-known, along with a scheme to fill vacant positions created by mass firings of non-partisan professional employees and their replacement via a so-called Schedule F of political appointees chosen for all the top policy-making jobs in the executive branch. The purpose of placing these MAGA loyalists throughout the bureaucracy isn't just to ride herd on such bureaucrats as remain in federal departments and agencies. These new commissars would also serve as Trojan Horses charged with advising the Trump high command on how to eliminate or disable executive branch functions the new order dislikes or can do without.

  • Ben Mathis-Lilley:

  • Kim Phillips-Fein: [06-04] The mandate for leadership, then and now: "The Heritage Foundation's 1980 manual aimed to roll back the state and unleash the free market. The 2025 vision is more extreme, and even more dangerous." This is part of an issue on Project 2025, which includes pieces like:

  • James Risen:

  • Greg Sargent: Trump's bizarre moments with Dr. Phil and Hannity should alarm us all.

  • Alex Shephard: [06-06] The billionaires have captured Donald Trump.

  • Matt Stieb: [06-09] The time Trump held a national security chat among Mar-a-Lago diners: "When he strategized about North Korea on a golf-resort patio, it was an early indication of how crazy his administration would get."

  • Ishaan Tharoor: [05-31] Netanyahu and Putin are both waiting for Trump: "Some foreign leaders may be holding out for a Trump victory." It's not just that they can expect to be treated more deferentially by Trump. It's also that they have a lot of leverage to sabotage Biden's reëlection chances, which are largely imperiled by the disastrous choices Biden made in allowing wars in Ukraine and Gaza to open up and to drag on indefinitely.

  • Michael Tomasky: It's simple: Trump is treated like a criminal because he's a criminal.

And other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Jeet Heer: Showing contempt for young voters is a great way for Democrats to lose in November: "Hillary Clinton's arrogance already lost one election. And if Joe Biden follows her example, it can easily cost another."

  • Annie Linskey/Siobhan Hughes: [06-04] Behind closed doors, Biden shows signs of slipping: "Participants in meetings said the 81-year-old president performed poorly at times. The White House said Biden is sharp and his critics are playing partisan politics." My wife found this very disturbing, but I find it hard to get interested, beyond bemoaning the obvious obsession of much of the media and some of the public with his age. Perhaps some day I'll write out my thoughts on aging politicians, but I don't feel up to it now, and expect I'll have many opportunities in the future. But I do have a lot of thoughts, which lead to a mixed bag of conclusions: about Biden (who I've never liked, and am very chagrined with over certain key policies), Democrats (who are so terrified, both of Trump and of their own rich donors, that they're unwilling to risk new leadership), the presidency (where the staff matters much more than the head or face), and the media (which has turned that face into some kind of bizarre circus act, relentlessly amplifying every surface flaw), and maybe even the people (we suffer many confusions about aging). Also on this:

    • Angelo Carusone tweeted about this piece: "The person who wrote that deceitful WSJ attack piece on Biden age is the same reporter who a few years ago (while at WaPo) had to delete a tweet for taking a jab at Biden as he visited his late son, wife and daughter's graves."

    • Greg Sargent: [06-06] Sleazy WSJ hit piece on Biden's age gets brutally shredded by Dems: "After a new report that dubiously hyped President Biden's age infuriated Democrats, we talked to a leading media critic about the deep problems with the press this sage exposes."

  • Blaise Malley: [06-05] 'We are the world power': Biden offers defense of US primacy: "In TIME interview, president talks up foreign policy record, offers few details on what second term would hold."

  • Nicole Narea: [06-04] Biden's sweeping new asylum restrictions, explained: "Biden's transparently political attack on asylum put little daylight between him and Trump." Some more on immigration:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

  • Paul Krugman: Famed economist and New York Times token liberal columnist, I've paid very little attention to his columns of late, but thought a quick catch-up might be in order. His more wonkish pieces, especially on the recurring themes of inflation and budgets, are informative. And while he seems especially loathe to criticize Biden from the left, he is pretty clear when he focuses on the right.

Ukraine War and Russia:

  • Connor Echols: [06-07] Diplomacy Watch: What's the point of Swiss peace summit? It's not to negotiate with Russia, which won't be attending. Zelensky has a "10-point peace plan, which demands the full expulsion of Russian troops from the country and the prosecution of top Kremlin officials," which suggests he still thinks he can "win the war." I seriously doubt that, while I also see that Ukrainians have much more to lose if the war is prolonged.

  • Dave DeCamp: [05-30] France may soon announce it's sending troops to Ukraine for training.

  • Joshua Keating: [06-05] The US tests Putin's nuclear threats in Ukraine: "Allowing Ukraine to fire Western weapons into Russia strengthens an ally, but risks violating an unknown red line." I thought the "red line" was pretty loudly proclaimed. They're basically testing whether Putin is serious (which has usually been a bad idea, but the idea of him escalating directly to nuclear arms is pretty extreme, even for him). Also, it really isn't obvious how taking occasional pot shots inside Russia "strengthens Ukraine." Russia has more capability to strike Ukraine than vice versa, so once you factor the reprisals in it's unlikely that there will be any net gains, or that such gains could actually be realized through negotiation. And since negotiation is really the only avenue for ending this war, that's where the focus should really be.

  • Constant Méheut: [06-09] Ukrainian activist traces roots of war in 'centuries of Russian colonization': "One Ukrainian researcher and podcaster is a leading voice in efforts to rethink Ukrainian-Russian relations through the prism of colonialism." Mariam Naiem. I don't doubt that there is some value in this approach, but I can also imagine overdoing it. We tend to view colonialism through a British prism, perhaps with variations for France, maybe even Spain/Portugal, each of which varied, although the power dynamic was similar.

  • Theodore Postol: [06-05] Droning Russia's nuke radars is the dumbest thing Ukraine can do: "Attacks on the early warning system actually highlights the fragility of peace between the world's nuclear powers."

  • Reuters: [06-05] Russia to send combat vessels to Caribbean to project 'global power,' US official says: "Naval exercises spurred by US support for Ukraine are likely to include port calls in Cuba and Venezuela, says official." Nothing to be alarmed of here. (My first thought was how Russia sent its Baltic Sea fleet all the way around Africa in 1905, only to have it sunk in the Sea of Japan, an embarrassment that triggered the failed revolution of 1905.) But it does show that the era where only "sole superpower" US was arrogant enough to try to project global naval power is coming to a close. Also:

    • Guardian: [06-06] Russia nuclear-powered submarine to visit Cuba amid rising tensions with US. By the way, The Guardian remains a reliable source for news and opinion with an anti-Russian slant, as evidenced by:

    • Pjotr Sauer:

    • Léonie Chao-Fong: [06-05] Putin says Trump conviction 'burns' idea of US as leading democracy: Funny guy.

    • Patrick Wintour: [06-08] 'We're in 1938 now': Putin's war in Ukraine and lessons from history. The Guardian's "diplomatic editor," this could become a classic in the abuse of history for political ends, although he offers a nice feint in this:

      As Christopher Hitchens once wrote, much American foolishness abroad, from Korea to Vietnam to Iraq, has been launched on the back of Munich syndrome, the belief that those who appease bullies, as the then British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, sought to do with Adolf Hitler in Munich in 1938, are either dupes or cowards. Such leaders are eventually forced to put their soldiers into battle, often unprepared and ill-equipped -- men against machines, as vividly described in Guilty Men, written by Michael Foot, Frank Owen and Peter Howard after the Dunkirk fiasco. In France, the insult Munichois -- synonymous with cowardice -- sums it up.

      But then he quotes Timothy Snyder, and reverts to the stereotype that Putin is Hitler's second coming, an expansionist so implacable that he will continue besieging us until we finally gather up our courage and fight back. The problem here isn't just that Putin is not Hitler, but that this isn't even a valid portrait of Hitler, who had specific territorial ambitions that were conditioned by his times and place -- when "the sun never sets on the British Empire," presided over by a country no larger or more developed than Germany, while the vast land mass to Germany's east looked to him like the American West, promising Lebesraum for the superior Aryan race. Putin may conjure up the occasional odd fantasy of Peter the Great or Vlad the Impaler, not something we can take comfort in, but in an unconquerable world, nationalism is a self-limiting force, which falls far short of the ambitions of Hitler or the inheritance of Churchill.

  • Ted Snider: [06-04] Why Zelensky won't be able to negotiate peace himself: "The way out is to transcend bilateral talks to include moves toward a new, inclusive European security architecture."

America's empire and the world:

Other stories:

Associated Press: [06-06] Charleston bridge closed as out-of-control ship powers through harbor: In South Carolina, another 1,000ft ship, narrowly avoided knocking down another major bridge, as happened in Baltimore recently.

Kyle Chayka: [05-29] The new generation of online culture curators: "In a digital landscape overrun by algorithms and AI, we need human guides to help us decide what's worth paying attention to." This isn't meant as an advertisement, but perhaps it is an idea for one:

The onslaught of online content requires filtering, whether technological or human, and those of us who dislike the idea of A.I. or algorithms doing the filtering for us might think more about how we support the online personalities who do the job well.

Ivan Eland: [06-03] Finding a foreign policy beyond Biden and Trump: "There has to be an option that would allow the US to engage and protect its interests without aggressive primacy."

Tom Engelhardt: [06-04] Making war on Planet Earth: The enemy is us (and I'm not just thinking about Donald Trump).

AW Ohlheiser: [06-06] Why lying on the internet keeps working. Reviews, or at least refers to, a forthcoming book: \ Renée DiResta: Invisible Rulers: The People Who Turn Lies Into Reality, with what I suppose is a second-order subhed: "If You Make It Trend, You Make It True."

Kelsey Piper: [06-07] Where AI predictions go wrong: "Both skeptics and boosters are too sure of themselves."

Tejal Rao: [06-07] His 'death by chocolate' cake will live forever: "The chief Marcel Desaulniers, who died last month, had an over-the-top approach to dessert, a sweet counterpoint to the guilt-ridden chocolate culture of the time."

Music and the arts:

Mike Hale: [06-05] 'Hitler and the Nazis' review: Building a case for alarm: "Joe Berlinger's six-part documentary for Netflix asks whether we should see our future in Germany's past."

Tom Maxwell: [04-12] How deregulation destroyed indie rock across America: "On the corporate capture of regional radio stations." What happened with The Telecommunications Act of 1996, enacted by Newt Gingrich and signed by Bill Clinton: "The act . . . became a checkered flag for a small number of corporations to snap up commercial radio stations across the country and homogenize playlists." Excerpted from Maxwell's book, A Really Strange and Wonderful Time: The Chapel Hill Music Scene: 1989-1999.

Michael Tatum: A Downloader's Diary (52): June 2024.

Midyear reports: I've been factoring these into my metacritic file.

My nephew Ram Lama Hull dredged up a 2016 Facebook "memory" where he wrote "I'm likely voting 3rd party, and encourage everyone in Kansas to do the same." He didn't say who, but had a libertarian streak as well as the family's left-leanings. However, this year he writes:

I've changed my stance. I still stand by this as a general principle, but I voted Democrat in 2020, and will do so in 2024: even if my vote doesn't shift the electoral college results, I want to do my part to push for a Democratic mandate in the popular vote.

I added this comment:

I moved back to KS in 1999. In 2000, I voted for Nader, figuring that the Gore campaign was so invisible he might not even get as many votes as Nader. Bush won bit (58.04%), while Nader only got 3.37%, less than one-tenth of Gore's 37.24%. I drew two conclusions from this: one is that Kansas has a very solid minority that will show up as Democrats no matter how little effort one makes to reach them. (You can also see this in Moran's Senate results, where he rarely cracks 60% despite outspending his opponents as much as 100-to-1.) And second, if you ever want to get to a majority, you have to first win over your own Democrats. I'm very upset with Biden at the moment over his foreign policy (not just but especially Israel), but by now I've become pretty used to lesser-evilism.

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