Speaking of * [0 - 9]

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Speaking of Which

My company left Saturday afternoon, so I didn't really get started on this until then. Sunday I started feeling sick, and ran out of energy. No idea whether Monday will be better or worse, so I figured I might as well post this while I can. Maybe I'll circle back later. Big news stories are pretty much the same as they've been of late, so you pretty much know where I stand on them.

Not a lot of music this week, but if I'm up to it, I'll try to post what I have sometime Monday. Another pending problem is that I'm unable to send email, and Cox doesn't seem to have anyone competent to work on the problem until Monday.

Notable tweets:

  • Yousef Munayyer [04-03]: Joe Biden knows backing Israel's genocide in Gaza could cost him the election he says American democracy depends on.
    Joe Biden doesn't care.
    Imagine hating Palestinians so much as a US president that you'd throw away American democracy for it.

  • Steve Hoffman [04-10]: [meme]: Christians warn us about the anti-Christ for 2,000 years, and when he finally shows up, they buy a bible from him.

  • Rick Perlstein [04-10]: I mean, protecting criminal presidents from accountability actually is perfectly on-brand for an organization devoted to the legacy of Gerald Ford. [link: Famed photographer quits Ford over Liz Cheney snub]

Initial count: 188 links, 6,611 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. Iran:

Israel vs. world opinion:

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Robert F Kennedy Jr: And suddenly we have a cluster of stories on the third-party candidate:

Trump, and other Republicans: But first, let's open up some space to talk about abortion politics:

We can also group several stories on Trump's court date on Monday in New York:

That hardly exhausts their capacity for senseless cruelty, starting with their Fearless Führer:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Jonathan Chait:

  • David Dayen: [04-10] TSMC chips deal promotes the logic of Biden's industrial policy.

  • John Nichols: [04-05] More than half a million Democratic voters have told Biden: Save Gaza! "The campaign to use 'uncommitted' primary votes to send a message to Biden has won two dozen delegates, and it keeps growing." I'm sorry, but these are not impressive numbers. And it is telling that you don't actually have a candidate -- one more credible than the underappreciated Marianne Williamson, that is -- leading the challenge (as Eugene McCarthy did in 1968). The obvious difference is that Americans were more directly impacted by war in Vietnam than they are now in Gaza: even though many of us are immensely alarmed by Israel's genocide, its impact on our everyday life is very marginal. Also, Biden is widely seen by Democrats (if rarely by anyone else) as the safe option to defend against Trump, who most Democrats do regard as a clear and present danger. The main reason there is that the all-important donor class seems to be satisfied with Biden, but would surely throw a fit (as Bloomberg did in 2020) if anyone like Sanders or Warren made a serious run for the nomination. Also, perhaps, that back in 1968, few people really understood how bad throwing the election to a Republican would turn out to be.

  • Evan Osnos: [04-06] Joe Biden and US policy toward Israel.

  • Matt Stieb: [04-11] Biden's leverage campaign against Bibi isn't producing dramatic results.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

  • Connor Echols: [04-12] Diplomacy Watch: Ukraine risks losing the war -- and the peace: "It's now unclear if the US Congress will ever manage to send more aid to Kyiv."

  • Dave DeCamp:

  • John Mueller: [04-09] Ukraine war ceasefire may require accepting a partition: "Kyiv wound likely see significant economic and political benefits -- and move closer to the West -- from a cessation of hostilities." This has become obvious a year ago, but after Ukraine recovered territory along the northeast and southwest fronts in late 2022, they held out big hopes for their much-hyped "spring offensive" of 2023. Nine months later, the "gains" were slightly negative. Since then, most of the action has been away from the unmovable front: notably drone attacks on Russian oil refineries and on Ukrainian power plants. Which is to say, punitive terror attacks, reminders of the ongoing cost of war that have no bearing on its conclusion. Before the war, there were two basic options: one was the Minsk agreements, which would have unified Ukraine but given Russian minority rights that could have kept western Ukraine from moving toward economic integration with Europe; the other was to allow secession following fair referendums, which would almost certainly have validated the secessionists in Crimea and Donbas (but probably not elsewhere). In a divided Ukraine, the west could more easily align with Europe, while the east could keep its Russian ties. Either of these would have been much preferable to the war that maximalists on both sides insisted on.

  • John Quiggin: [04-03] Navies are obsolete, but no one will admit it: Examples here start with Russia's Black Sea Fleet, which seems to have provided little beyond Ukrainian drone target practice, and the US Navy in the Red Sea, which hasn't been able to thwart Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping (Suez Canal traffic is down 70%).

Around the world:


OJ Simpson: Famous football player, broadcaster, convicted criminal (but famously acquitted on murder charges), dead at 76. I'm not inclined to care about any of this, but he did elicit another round of articles:

Other stories:

William J Astore: [04-11] There is only one spaceship earth: "Freeing the world from the deadly shadow of genocide and ecocide."

Charlotte Barnett: [04-10] Declutter, haul, restock, repeat: "The content creators making a living by cleaning one purs tower, acrylic plastic box, and egg organizer at a time."

Emmeline Clein: [04-12] How capitalism disordered our eating: "From Weight Watchers to Ozempic, big business profits off eating disorders and their treatments."

Russell Arben Fox: [04-10] Thinking about Wendell Berry's leftist lament (and more). The Berry book is The Need to Be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice. Also segues into a discussion of Ian Angus: The War Against the Commons: Dispossession and Resistance in the Making of Capitalism. The destruction of the commons is a major theme in Astra Taylor's The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as Things Fall Apart, including a critique of the famous "tragedy of the commons" theory that I was unaware of but long needed. Scrolling down in Fox's blog, I see a couple pieces I had read in the Wichita Eagle. (He teaches here in Wichita, and I believe we have mutual friends, but as far as I know he's not aware of me.)

Robert Kuttner: [04-09] The political economy of exile: Searching for safe havens from Trumpism, or escaping from "shithole countries" if you're rich enough.

Michael Ledger-Lomas: [04-14] The outsize influence of small wars: Review of Laurie Benton's book, They Called It Peace: Worlds of Imperial Violence. These "small wars" were mostly directed by European powers against their would-be colonies, most fought with a huge technological edge which complemented their legal scheming, distinguishing them from the large wars Europeans fought against each other. That's pretty much the same definition Max Boot used in his book, The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power.

Walter G Moss: [04-14] 2024 US anxieties and Hitler 1933: "Here is a friendly reminder that all it would take for Trump to be elected is a series of mistakes by the electorate -- many of them not especially earthshaking." I figured this was a bit far-fetched to include in the section on Trump, the Republicans, and their more mundane crime interests, but Hitler-Trump comparisons are a parlor game of some interest for those who know more than a little about both. Speaking of parlor games for history buffs, Moss previously wrote:

Yasmin Nair: [03-27] What really happened at Current Affairs? This looks to be way too long, pained, deep, and trivial to actually read, but maybe some day. And having thrown a tantrum or two of my own way back in the days when I slaved for someone else's parochially leftist journal, it may even hit close to home. From my vantage point, Nathan J Robinson is a smart, sensible, and prodigious critic, and Current Affairs is one of my more reliably insightful sources as I go about my weekly chores. That such qualities can go hand-in-hand with less admirable traits is, well, not something I feel secure enough to cast stones over.

John Quiggin: [03-29] Daniel Kahneman has died.

Ingrid Robeyns: [04-13] Limitarianism update: Author of the recent book, Limitarianism: The Case Against Extreme Wealth, with links to reviews, interviews, etc. Comments suggest that the concept is better than the title.

Luke Savage: [04-13] The rich: On top of the world and very anxious about it: "The small handful of ultrawealthy winners are firmly ensconced in their positions of privilege in power. Yet so many of them seem haunted by the possibility that maybe they don't deserve it."

Robert Wright: [04-12] Marc Andreessen's mindless techno-optimism.

Li Zhou: [04-10] The Vatican's new statement on trans rights undercuts its attempts at inclusion.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Speaking of Which

I don't have much time to work with this week. Writing this on Friday, I expect that the links below will be spotty. I also doubt that I'll have many records in the next Music Week, although that can run if I have any at all.

My company left Saturday morning, headed to Arkansas for a better view of the eclipse on Monday, so I finally got a bit of time to work on this. I collected a few links to get going, then spent most of Sunday writing my "one point here" introduction, and adding a few more links. I got a little over half way through my usual source tabs before I had to call it a day. On Monday, I tried to pick up where I had left off -- not going back to the tabs I had hit on Sunday, but picking up the occasional Monday post as I went along. Wound up with a pretty full post, dated Monday. I marked this paragraph as an add, because it's a revision to my original intro.

This should go up before I go to bed Monday night. Music Week will follow later Tuesday. Very little in it from before Saturday, but I've found a few interesting records while working on this.

But I do want to make one point here, which is something I've been thinking about for a while now.

I've come to conclude that many of us made a fundamental error in the immediate aftermath of October 7 in blaming Hamas (or more generally, Palestinians) for the outbreak of violence. Even those of us who immediately feared that Israel would strike back with a massive escalation somehow felt like we had to credit Hamas with agency and moral responsibility -- if not for the retaliation, at least for their own acts. But what choice did they have? What else could they have done?

But there is an alternate view, which is that violent resistance is an inevitable consequence of systematic marginalization, where nonviolent remedies are excluded, and order is violently enforced. How can we expect anyone to suffer oppression without fighting back? So why don't we recognize blowback as intrinsic to the context, and therefore effectively the responsibility of the oppressor? I don't doubt that Israelis were terrified on October 7. They were, after all, looking at a mirror of their own violence.

It's pretty obvious why Israel's leaders wanted to genocide. The Zionist movement was born in a world that was racist, nationalist, and imperialist -- traits that Zionists embraced, hoping to forge them into a defensive shield, which worked just as well as a cudgel to impose their will on others. What distinguishes them from Nazis is that they're less driven to enslave or exterminate enemy races, but that mostly means they see no use for others. In theory, they'd be satisfied just to drive the others out -- as they did with the Nakba -- but in practice their horizons expand as the settlements grow.

The question isn't: why genocide? That's been baked in from the beginning. The question is why they didn't do it before, and why they think they can get away with it now. The "why not" is bound to be speculative, and I don't want to delve very deep here, but I can imagine trying to sort it out on two axes, one for the people, the other for the cutting-edge political leaders. For the people, the scale runs from respect for one's humanity, and dehumanizing others. Most Israelis used to take pride in their high morality, but war and militarism broke that down (with ultra-orthodoxy and capitalism also taking a toll). As for the leaders, the scale is based on power: the desire to push the envelope of possibility, balanced off by the need to maintain good will with allies.

Ben Gurion was a master at both: a guy who took as much as he could (even overreaching in 1956 and having to retreat), and was always plotting ahead to take even more (as his followers did in 1967, meeting less resistance from Johnson). Begin pushed even further, although he too had to retreat from Lebanon under Carter before he found a more compliant Reagan. Netanyahu is another one who constantly tested the limits of American allowance, only to find that Trump and Biden were pushovers, offering no resistance at all. Genocide only became possible as Palestinians came to be viewed by most Israelis as subhuman, while Netanyahu found his power to be unlimited by American sensitivity.

So, while Israel has always been at risk of turning genocidal, what's really changed is America, turning from the "good neighbor" FDR promised to Eisenhower's "leader of the free world" to Reagan's capitalist scam artists to Bush's "global war on terror" to the Trump-Biden cha-cha. I chalk this up to several things. The drift to the right made Americans meaner and politicians more cynical and corrupt. The neocons came to dominate foreign policy, with their cult for power that could be rapidly and arbitrarily deployed anywhere -- as Israel did in their small region, Bush would around the globe. The counter-intifada in Israel and the US wars on terror drove both countries further into the grip of dehumanizing militarism, opening up an opportunity for Netanyahu to forge a right-wing alliance with America, while AIPAC held Democrats like Obama and Biden in check. Trump automatically rubber-stamped anything Netanyahu wanted, and Biden had no will power to do anything but.

By the time October 7 came around, Americans couldn't so much as articulate a national interest in peace and social justice. But there was also one specific thing that kept Americans from seeing genocide as such: we had totally bought into the idea that Hamas, as exemplary terrorists, were intrinsically evil, could never be negotiated with, and therefore all you could do to stop them is to kill as many as you can. It wasn't a novel idea. America has a sordid history of assassination plots until the mid-1970s, when the Church Committee exposed that history and forced reforms. But Israel's own assassination programs expanded continuously from the 1980s on, and American neocons envied Israel's prowess. Under Bush, "high value targets" became currency, and Obama not only followed suit, he upped the game -- most notably bagging Osama Bin Laden.

There's a Todd Snider line: "In America, we like our bad guys dead." That's an understatement. Dead has become the only way we can imagine their stories ending. We long ago gave up on the notion that enemies can be rehabilitated. In large part, this reflects a loss of faith in justice, replaced by sheer power, the belief that we are right because we have the might to force them to tow the line. That was the attitude that Europe took to the South in the 19th century. That was the attitude Germany and Japan made World War with.

That attitude was discredited -- Germany and Japan were allowed to recover as free and peaceful nations; Africa and Asia decolonized; the capitalist world integrated, first with a stable divide from the communists, then by further engagement. There were problems. The US was magnanimous to defeated Germany and Japan, but in turning against the Soviet Union, and in assuming security responsibility for the former European colonies, and in maintaining capitalist hegemony over them, Americans lost their faith in democracy and justice, and embraced power for its own sake. And when that failed, they turned vindictive toward Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and elsewhere.

The Israelis were adept students of power. They learned directly from the British colonial system, with its divide-and-conquer politics, and its use of collective punishment. They worked with the British to defeat the Palestinian revolt of 1937-39, and against the British in 1947-48. They drew lessons from the Nazis. They learned to play games with the world powers, especially with the US. Trita Parsi's book, Treacherous Alliance, is a case study of how they played Iran off for leverage elsewhere, especially with the US. The neocons, with their Israel envy, were especially easy to play.

So when October 7 happened, all the necessary prejudices and reflexive operators were aligned. Hamas were the perfect villains: they had their roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, which qualified them as Islamists, close enough to the Salafis and Deobandis who Americans had branded as terrorists even before 9/11; they had become rivals with the secular PLO within the Occupied Territories, especially after Israel facilitated Arafat's return under the Oslo Accords -- a rivalry which led them to become more militant against Israel, which Israel intensified by assassinating their leaders; when they finally did decide to run for elections, they won but the results were disallowed, leading to them seizing power in Gaza, which Israel then blockaded, "put on a diet," and "mowed the grass" in a series of punishing sieges and incursions; along the way, Hamas managed to get a small amount of aid from Iran, so found themselves branded as an Iranian proxy, like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen -- Israel knew that any hint of Iranian influence would drive the Americans crazy.

Not only was Hamas the perfect enemy, Israel and the United States had come to believe that terrorists were irrational and fanatical, that they could never be negotiated with, and that the only way to deal with them was by systematically killing off their cadres and especially their leaders until they were reduced to utter insignificance. The phrase Israelis used was that their goal was to make Palestinians realize that they were "an utterly defeated people." When I first heard that phrase, a picture came to mind, of the last days of the American Indian campaigns, when the last Sioux and Apache surrendered to be kept as helpless dependents on wasteland reservations.

On its founding, Israel kept a British legal system that was designed to subjugate native populations, to surveil them, and to arbitrarily arrest and punish anyone they suspected of disloyalty. They discriminated legally against natives, limiting their economic prospects, curtailing their freedom, and punishing them harshly, including collective punishments -- a system which instilled fear of each against the other, where every disobedient act became an excuse for harsher and more sweeping mistreatment.

After Hamas took control of Gaza, those punishments were often delivered by aircraft, wielding 2,000-pound bombs that could flatten whole buildings. Hamas responded with small, imprecise rockets, of no military significance but symbolic of defiance, a way of saying we can still reach beyond your walls. Israel always responded with more shelling and bombing, a dynamic that repeatedly escalated until the horror started to turn world opinion against Israel. Having made their point, Israel could then ease off, until the next opportunity or provocation sent them on the warpath again.

The October 7 "attack" -- at the time, I characterized it, quite accurately I still think, as a jail break followed by a brief crime spree. In short order, Israel killed most of the "attackers," and resealed the border. The scale, in terms of the numbers of Israelis killed or captured was much larger than anything Palestinians had previously managed, and the speed was even more striking, but the overall effect was mostly symbolic, and the threat of more violence coming from Gaza dissipated almost immediately. Israel had no real need to counterattack. They could have easily negotiated a prisoner swap -- Israel had many times more Palestinians in jail than Hamas took as hostages, and had almost unlimited power to add to their numbers. But Israel's leaders didn't want peace. They wanted to reduce Palestinians to "an utterly defeated people." And since there was no way to do that other than to kill most of them and drive the rest into exile -- basically a rerun of the Nakba, only more intense, because having learned that lesson, Palestinians would cling even more tenaciously to their homeland.

That's why the immediate reaction of Israel's leaders was to declare their intent to commit genocide. The problem with that idea was that since the Holocaust, any degree of genocide had become universally abhorrent. To proceed, Israel had to keep the war going, and to keep it going, they had to keep their ideal enemy alive, long enough to do major devastation, making Gaza unlivable for anywhere near the 2.3 million people who managed to live through decades of hardships there, with starvation playing a major role in decimating the population.

In order to commit genocide, Israel had to supplement its killing machinery with a major propaganda offensive, because they remembered that what finally stopped their major wars of 1948-49, 1956, 1967, and 1973, and their periodic assaults on Lebanon and Gaza, was public opinion, especially in America. But Netanyahu knew how to push America's buttons. He declared that the only thing Israel could do to protect itself -- the one thing Israel had to do in order to keep this mini-Holocaust from ever happening again -- was to literally kill everyone in Hamas.

And Americans fell for that line, completely. They believed that Hamas were intractably evil terrorists, and they knew that terrorists cannot be appeased or even negotiated with. And they trusted that Israelis knew what they were doing and how best to do it, so all they really had to do was to provide support and diplomatic cover, giving Israel the time and tools to do the job as best they saw fit. And sure, there would be some collateral damage, because Hamas uses civilians as human shields -- it never really occurring to Americans that those super-smart, super-moral Israelis can't actually tell the difference between Hamas and civilians even if they wanted to, which most certainly they do not. And if anything does look bad, Israel can always come up with a cover story good enough for Americans to believe. After all, Americans have a lot of practice believing their own atrocity cover up stories.

The hostage situation turned out to be really useful for keeping the spectre of Hamas alive. There is no real way for Americans to evaluate how much armed defense Hamas is still capable of in Gaza -- their capability to attack beyond the walls was depleted instantly as they shot their wad on October 7 -- so the only reliable "proof of existence" of Hamas is when their allies show up for meetings in Qatar and Cairo. And there's no chance of agreement, as the only terms Israel is offering is give up all the hostages, surrender, and die. But by showing up, they affirm that Hamas still exists, and by refusing to surrender, they remind the Americans that the only way this can end is by killing them all.

And while that charade is going on, Israel continues to kill indiscriminately, to destroy everything, to starve, to render Gaza unlivable. And they will continue to do so, until enough of us recognize their real plan is genocide, and we shame them into stopping. We are making progress in that direction, as we can see as Biden starts to waver in his less and less enthusiastic support, but we still have a long ways to go.

The key to making more progress will be to break down several of the myths Israel has spun. In particular, we have to abandon the belief that we can solve all our problems by killing everyone who disagrees with us. Second, we need to understand that killing or otherwise harming people only causes further resentment and resistance. People drunk on power tend to ignore this, but it's really not a difficult or novel idea: as Rabbi Hillel put it, "That which is hateful unto you, do not do to your neighbor."

Moreover, we need to understand that negotiated agreement between responsible parties is much preferable to the diktat of a single party, no matter how powerful that party is. It's not clear to me that Israel needs to negotiate an agreement with Hamas, because it's not clear to me that Hamas is the real and trusted agent of the people of Palestine or Gaza, but some group needs to emerge as the responsible party, and the more solid their footing, the better partner they can be.

Israel, like the British before them, has always insisted on picking its favored Palestinian representatives, while making them look foolish, corrupt, and/or ineffective. Arafat may only have been the latter, but by not allowing him to accomplish anything, Israel opened up the void that Hamas tried to fill. But Hamas has only had the power it was able to seize by force, and even then was severely limited by what Israel would allow, in a perverse symbiotic relationship that we could spend a lot of time on -- Israel has often found Hamas to be very useful, so their current view that Hamas has to be exterminated seems more like a line to be fed to the Americans, who tend to take good vs. evil ever so literally.

Initial count: 217 links, 12,552 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world opinion:

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes: There were presidential primaries on April 2, all won as expected by Biden and Trump: Connecticut: Trump 77.9%, Biden 84.9%; New York: Trump 82.1%, Biden 91.5%; Rhode Island: Trump 84.5%, Biden 82.6%; Wisconsin: Trump 79.2%, Biden 88.6%; also Delaware has no vote totals, but gave all delegates to Trump and Biden. The next primary will be in Pennsylvania on April 23.

Trump, and other Republicans:

I've been reading Tricia Romano's oral history of The Village Voice, The Freaks Came Out to Write, and ran into a section on Wayne Barrett, who started reporting on Trump in the 1970s, and published the first serious book on Trump in 1992. The discussion there is worth quoting at some length (pp. 522-524):

TOM ROBBINS: Wayne appreciated the fact that Trump could be a serious player, given his willingness to play the race card, which was clear from his debut speech that he was gonna go after illegal immigrants and Mexicans. As long as you're going to outwardly play the race card in the Republican primary, you can actually command a lot. And Wayne understood that. He was surprised as the rest of us the way that Trump just mowed down the rest of the opposition and that nobody could stand up to him.

WILLIAM BASTONE: He knew that Trump was appealing to something that was going to have traction with people and that wasn't just a passing thing. I said, "Wayne, don't you think people see through this and they understand that he's really just a con man and a huckster and a racist?" The stuff goes back, at that point, almost thirty years with his father and avoiding renting apartments to Black families in Brooklyn.

And he was like, "No, that's gonna be a plus for him, for the people that he's going to end up attracting." I was like, "You're crazy, Wayne. You're crazy."

There was talk that he may have used racially charged or racist remarks when he was doing The Apprentice. And I said, "So Wayne, if it ever came out that Trump used those words or used the N-word?" And Wayne said, "That would be good for him." He was totally right. And then nine months later, he's talking about shooting people on Fifth Avenue. Trump understood that "there's really nothing I can do [wrong] because these people hate the people I hate, and we're all gonna be together."

TOM ROBBINS: When I was at the Observer, I had a column in there called Wise Guys. And at that point, Trump was talking about running for president. This was 1987, that was thirty years before he actually ran, almost. He was focused on this from the very beginning. And none of us took him seriously. . . .

As someone who worked with the tabloid press for a long time, the people who invented Trump were all those tabloid gossip reporters who dined out from all of his items over the years and who reported them right up until the time he ran for president. This is one of the great unrecognized crimes of the press. We in the tabloid press created Trump; it wasn't Wayne. Wayne was going after him.

JONATHAN Z. LARSEN: This is the media's Frankenstein's monster. Trump would call, using a fake name, saying, "I'm the PR guy for Donald Trump. I really shouldn't be telling you this, but he's about to get divorced, and he's got three women he's looking at. There's Marla Maples. There's so-and-so." Very often the people that he was speaking to recognized his voice. They loved it. It was free copy.

Barrett really did have some incredibly good information on Trump, how he built Trump Tower. The head of the concrete union was mobbed up. There was this crazy woman who bought the apartment just underneath Donald Trump's because she was sleeping with the concrete guy, and she wanted to install a pool. It's astonishing, the stuff he got. It's a national treasure now that we have Wayne Barrett's reporting. As soon as Trump became president, everybody was picking through all of Wayne's files.

The ellipsis covers a section on Barrett's Trump book, and stopped before a section on Barrett's horror watching the 2016 returns. By then Barrett was terminably ill, and he died just before Trump's inauguration. I remember reading about Trump in the Voice back in the 1970s, so I was aware of him as a major scumbag, but I took no special interest in him otherwise. Anything I did notice simply added to my initial impression.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Aaron Blake: [04-05] Gaza increasingly threatens Democrats' Trump-era unity.

  • Ben Burgis: [04-04] Democratic voters are furious about US support of Israel.

  • Rachel M Cohen: [04-01] You can't afford to buy a house. Biden knows that.

  • Page S Gardner/Stanley B Greenberg: [03-15] They don't want Trump OR Biden. Here's how they still can elect Biden. "Our new survey of these voters shows the president can still win their support."

  • Robert Kuttner: [04-04] Liberals need to be radicals: "The agenda for Biden's next term must go deeper to restore the American dream." The substance here is fine, but why resort to clichés? The "American dream" was never more than a dream. One can argue that we should dream again, and work to realize those dreams for everyone. Back in the 1960s, the first real political book I bought was an anthology called The New Radicals, edited by Paul Jacobs and Saul Landau, and I immediately saw the appeal of the word "radical" for those who seek deep roots of social problems, but nowadays the word is mostly used as a synonym for "extremist." But perhaps more importantly, I've cooled on the desirability for deep solutions (revolutions) and come to appreciate more superficial reforms. I would refashioned the title to say that "liberals need to be leftists," because the liberal dream of freedom can only be universalized through solidarity with others, and is of little value if limited to self-isolating individuals.

  • Tim Miller: [04-05] Joe Biden is not a "genocidal maniac": "And it's not just wrong but reckless and irresponsible to say he is." I agree with the title, but I disagree with the subhed. Genocide wasn't his idea, nor is it something he craves maniacally. But he is complicit in genocide, and not just passively so. He has said things that have encouraged Israel, and he has done things that have materially supported genocide. He has shielded them in the UN, with "allies," and in the media. I've thought a lot about morality lately, and I've come to think that it (and therefore immorality) can only be considered among people who have the freedom to decide on their own what to say and do. Many people are severely limited in their autonomy, but as president of the United States, Biden does have a lot of leeway, and should be judged accordingly.

    I realize that one might argue that morality is subordinate to politics -- that sometimes actual political considerations convince one to do things that normally regard as immoral (like going to war against Nazi Germany, or nuking Hiroshima) -- but the fundamentals remain the same: is the politician free to choose? One might argue that Biden's initial blind support for Israel was purely reflexive -- lessons he had learned over fifty years in AIPAC-dominated Washington, a reflex shared by nearly every other politician so conditioned -- but even so, as president Biden had access to information and a lot of leeway to act, and therefore should be held responsible for his political, as well as moral, decisions.

    Miller goes on to upbraid people for saying "Genocide Joe." He makes fair points, but hey, given the conditions, that's going to happen. Most of us have very little power to influence someone like Biden -- compared to big-time donors, colleagues, and pundits, all of whom are still pretty limited -- so trying to shame him with a colorful nickname is one of the few things one can try. In a similar vein, we used to taunt: "Hey, hey, LBJ; how many kids did you kill today?" And sure, LBJ was more directly responsible for the slaughter in Vietnam than Biden is in Gaza, but both earned the blame. Biden, at least, still has a chance to change course. If he fails, he, and he alone, sealed his fate.

  • Elena Schneider/Jeff Coltin: [03-29] Pro-Palestinian protesters interrupted Biden's glitzy New York fundraiser: "The event padded Biden's cash advantage, but laid bare one of his biggest weaknesses." The Biden campaign's response seems to be to try to exclude potential protesters:

    • Lisa Lerer/Reid J Epstein/Katie Glueck: [04-07] How Gaza protesters are challenging Democratic leaders: "From President Biden to the mayors of small cities, Democrats have been trailed by demonstrators who are complicating the party's ability to campaign in an election year." By the way, better term here than in the Politico piece: you don't have to be "pro-Palestinian" to be appalled by genocide. You can even be consciously pro-Israel, someone who cares so much for Israel that your most fervent desire is to spare them the shame of the path Netanyahu et al. have set out on.

  • Washington Monthly: [04-07] Trump vs. Biden: Who got more done? The print edition has a series of "accomplishment index" articles comparing the records of the two presidents. You can probably guess the results, especially if you don't count corruption and vandalism, the main drivers of the Trump administration, as accomplishments:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

The bridge:

Beyoncé: Cowboy Carter: I played the album (twice), and will present my thoughts in the next Music Week. I figured I was pretty much done with it before I started collecting these, but thought it might be interesting to note them:

Other stories:

Hannah Goldfield: [04-08] In the kitchen with the grand dame of Jewish cooking: Gnoshing with Joan Nathan.

Luke Goldstein: [04-02] The in-flight magazine for corporate jets: "The Economist has channeled the concerns of elites for decades. It sees the Biden administration as a threat."

Stephen Holmes: [04-04] Radical mismatch: A review of Samuel Moyn: Liberalism Against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times.

David Cay Johnston: [04-05] Antitax nation: Review of Michael J Graetz: The Power to Destroy: How the Antitax Movement Hijacked America, explaining "how clever marketing duped America into shoveling more tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations."

Sarah Jones:

Natalie Korach/Ross A Lincoln: [04-05] Meta blocks Kansas Reflector and MSNBC columnist over op-ed criticizing Facebook: "The company says Friday afternoon that the blocks, which falsely labeled the links as spam, were due to 'a security error.'" A Wichita columnist also wrote on this:

Orlando Mayorquin/Amanda Holpuch: [04-07] Southwest plane makes emergency landing after Boeing engine cover falls off. And just when I thought I'd get through a week with no Boeing stories. Then I noticed I had two more waiting:

Rick Perlstein: [04-03] Joe Lieberman not only backed Bush's war; he also helped make Bush president: "A remembrance of this most feckless of Democrats."

Nathan J Robinson: And other recent pieces from his zine, Current Affairs:

Jeffrey St Clair: [04-04] The day John Sinclair died: "The poet, musician, writer, pot liberator, raconteur, Tigers fan, jazzbo, political radical, producer of MC5, founder of the White Panthers and occasional CounterPunch, John Sinclair died this week at 82."

Michael Stavola: [04-03] Wichitan involved in deadly swatting arrested after reportedly doing donuts in Old Town: This story, where Wichita Police murdered Andrew Finch, keeps getting sicker. The trigger man not only got off, he's since been promoted, even after the city agreed to pay $5 million to the victim's family, while they managed to pin blame on three other pranksters. There's plenty of blame to go around. Not even mentioned here is the gun lobby and their Republican stooges who did so much to create an atmosphere where dozens of trigger-happy cops are dispatched to deal with an anonymous complaint, totally convinced that everyone they encounter is at likely to be armed and shoot as they are.

Carl Wilson: [03-25] Sweeping up kernels from Pop Con 2024. Includes links to key presentations by Robert Christgau, Michaelangelo Matos, Glenn McDonald, De Angela L Duff, Alfred Soto, and Ned Raggett.

I scribbled this down from a Nathan J Robinson tweet: "very interesting discussion of how, during World War I, attrocities attributed to German soldiers were used to whip people into a frenzy and create an image of a monstrous, inhuman enemy -- atrocities that later turned out to be dubious/exaggerated, well after the fighting stopped." That was followed by a scan from an unidentified book:

. . . stated that the Germans had systematically murdered, outraged, and violated innocent men, women, and children in Belgium. "Murder, lust, and pillage," the report said, "prevailed over many parts of Belgium on a scale unparalleled in any war between civilised nations during the last three centuries." The report gave titillating details of how German officers and men had publicly raped twenty Belgian girls in the market place at Liège, how eight German soldiers had bayoneted a two-year-old child, and how another had sliced off a peasant girl's breasts in Malilnes. Bryce's signature added considerable weight to the report, and it was not until after the war that several unsatisfactory aspects of the Bryce committee's activities emerged. The committee had not personally interviewed a single witness. The report was based on 1,200 depositions, mostly from Belgian refugees, taken by twenty-two barristers in Britain. None of the witnesses were placed on oath, their names were omitted (to prevent reprisals against their relatives), and hearsay evidence was accepted at full value. Most disturbing of all was the fact that, although the depositions should have been filed at the Home Office, they had mysteriously disappeared, and no trace of them has been found to this day. Finally, a Belgian commission of enquiry in 1922, when passions had cooled, failed markedly to corroborate a single major allegation in the Bryce report. By then, of course, the report had served its purpose. Its success in arousing hatred and condemnation of Germany makes it one of the most successful propaganda pieces of the war.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Speaking of Which

This is another week where I ran out of time before I ran out of things I needed to look up. Further updates are possible, although as I'm writing this, I'm pretty exhausted, so I'm tempted to call it done.

First thing to add on Monday is: Jonathan Swan: [04-01] Trump's call for Israel to 'finish up' war alarms some on the right: Assuming this isn't an April Fool, as Israeli journalist Ariel Kahana puts it, "Trump effectively bypassed Biden from the left, when he expressed willingness to stop this war and get back to being the great country you once were." As Trump put it, "You have to finish up your war. You have to get it done. We have to get to peace. We can't have this going on." Kahana continued:

"There's no way to beautify, minimize or cover up that problematic message."

Trump aides insisted this was a misinterpretation. A campaign spokeswoman, Karoline Leavitt, said that Mr. Trump "fully supports Israel's right to defend itself and eliminate the terrorist threat," but that Israel's interests would be "best served by completing this mission as quickly, decisively and humanely as possible so that the region can return to peace and stability."

Trump wants it both ways: he wants to be seen as tough as possible -- there is no indication that "finish it" couldn't include simply killing everyone, but he recognizes that free time to do whatever Israel wants is in limited supply. So is American patience, because it is finally sinking in that this genocide is bad for America's relationships with the world, not just for Israel.

The article includes a good deal about and from David M. Friedman, who was Trump's ambassador to Israel, but could just as well be viewed as Netanyahu's mole in the Trump administration.

Mr. Friedman has gone much further than Mr. Kushner, who seemed to be only musing. Mr. Friedman has developed a proposal for Israel to claim full sovereignty over the West Bank -- definitively ending the possibility of a two-state solution. West Bank Palestinians who have been living under Israeli military occupation since 1967 would not be given Israeli citizenship under the plan, Mr. Friedman confirmed in the interview.

Of course, Trump wouldn't put it that way -- he'd never admit to going to the left of any "radical left Democrat," although he has occasionally scored points by avoiding extreme right Republican positions (like demolishing Social Security and Medicare). But peace isn't a position exclusive to the left. The trick for Trump, following Nixon in 1968, is to convince people that the tough guy is the best option for "peace with honor." It's hard to see how Trump can sustain that illusion, especially given that he has zero comprehension of the problem, and nothing but counterproductive reflexes. (Nixon didn't deliver either.)

Nathan Robinson tweeted on this piece, adding:

I have this wild notion that Trump might conceivably run to Biden's left on Israel-Palestine in the general election, like he did with Hillary and Iraq.

Elsewhere, Robinson noted:

Trump has always understood that the American people don't care for war. That was crucial to his successful campaign against Hillary in 2016. He's been unusually quiet for a Republican on Israel-Palestine, probably in the hopes it will be a big disaster for Biden.

I figured I'd add more to this post, but got bogged down with Music Week, then other things, so this will have to do. I doubt I'll get much done over the next two or three weeks, as we have various company coming and going. Not that there won't be lots to write about, as Tuesday's Mondoweiss daily title makes clear: [04-02] Israel kills 7 international aid workers in central Gaza, passes law banning Al Jazeera.

Initial count is actually pretty substantial: 183 links, 9,891 words. Updated count [04-02]: 196 links, 11,509 words.

Top story threads:


  • Mondoweiss:

  • AlJazeera: For quite some time I've been leading off with the daily logs published by Mondoweiss, but they didn't appear on Saturday and Sunday, so let these fill in. You can search for other possible daily updates, which Google suggests includes: Palestine Chronicle, Haaretz, IMEMC, Al Mayadeen, Palestine Chronicle, Times of Israel, Roya News, TASS, Jerusalem Post, Al-Manar TV Lebanon, UNRWA. Other news organizations that provide live updates include: AlJazeera, CNN, Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times, ABC, I24News, CNBC, Middle East Monitor.

    • [03-30] Day 176: List of key events: "Israeli attacks kill dozens of Palestinians including 15 people at a sport centre where war-displaced people were sheltering."

    • [03-31] Day 177: List of key events: "Gaza's Media Office says Israel has committed 'a new massacre' by bombing inside the walls of a hospital in Deir el-Balah."

  • Kaamil Ahmed/Damien Gayle/Aseel Mousa: [03-29] 'Ecocide in Gaza': does scale of environmental destruction amount to a war crime?: "Satellite analysis revealed to the Guardian shows farms devastated and nearly half of the territory's trees razed. Alongside mounting air and water pollution, experts say Israel's onslaught on Gaza's ecosystems has made the area unlivable." Let's say this loud: This is one of the most significant pieces of reporting yet on the war. War crime? Sure, but specifically this is compelling proof of intent, as well as fact, of genocide. The purpose of ecocide is to kill, perhaps less directly than bombs but more systematically, more completely. And driving people away? Sure, Israel will settle for that, especially as they're making it impossible for people who flee to return.

    Before this war, I must admit that I pictured Gaza as this chunk of desert totally covered by urban sprawl: you know, Manhattan's population in an area only slightly larger. Ever since the Nakba swept a couple hundred thousand Palestinians into refugee camps there, Gaza has had to import food. But any food they struggled to produce locally helped, especially as the population grew, and as Israel, as they liked to boast, "put Gaza on a diet." So small farms helped, and greenhouses even more. Israel has gone way out of their way to destroy food sources, much as they've destroyed utilities, hospitals, housing. While the news focuses on the top line deaths figure -- well over 30,000 but still, I'm sure, quite seriously undercounted -- Israel has shifted focus to long-term devastation.

  • Ammiel Alcalay: [03-26] Israel's lethal charade hides its real goals in plain sight: "Forget Israel's stated goals about destroying Hamas. Its real, undeclared goal has always been to make Gaza uninhabitable and destroy as many traces of Palestinian life as possible."

  • Nada Almadhoun: [03-26] A volunteer doctor in Gaza faces her patients' traumas along with her own: "I am in my final year in medical school and have seen hundreds of critical cases as a volunteer doctor during Israel's genocidal assault on Gaza. The traumas I have seen in my patients are no different from those I have experienced myself."

  • Zack Beauchamp: [03-29] The crisis that could bring down Benjamin Netantyahu, explained: "Netanyahu has till Sunday evening to present a fix to Israel's controversial conscription law. If he fails, his government likely fails with him." Genocide isn't controversial, but this [drafting yeshiva students] is? Actually, special status for ultra-orthodox Jews has been a fault line in Israeli politics ever since 1948 -- arguably Ben-Gurion's biggest mistake was bringing them into his government. But the stakes over conscription has grown over time, and are especially acute in times of high mobilization, like now.

  • Sheera Frenkel: [03-27] Israel deploys expansive facial recognition program in Gaza. They've been doing this in the West Bank for some time. Israel is also developing an export business for surveillance technology, handy for authoritarian regimes everywhere. Some earlier reports on this:

  • Tareq S Hajjaj: [03-25] The story of Yazan Kafarneh, the boy who starved to death in Gaza.

  • Ghada Hania: [03-30] 'No, dear. I will never leave Gaza.'

  • Ellen Ioanes/Nicole Narea: [03-25] Gaza's risk of famine is accelerating faster than anything we've seen in this century: "Everyone in Gaza is facing crisis levels of hunger. It's entirely preventable." In case you're wondering where he ever got such idea, Israel negotiated the exile of PLO members from Beirut, putting them on ships, most heading to Tunisia. Before that, British ships transferred large number of Palestinians from Jaffa to Beirut. So that's one thing the pier could be used for -- if the US can line up anywhere to deposit the refugees.

  • Chris Hedges: [03-18] Israel's Trojan Horse: "The 'temporary pier' being built on the Mediterranean coast of Gaza is not there to alleviate the famine, but to herd Palestinians onto ships and into permanent exile."

  • Ameer Makhoul: [03-25] While eyes are on Rafah, Israel is cementing control of northern Gaza: "Israel is building infrastructure to carve up Gaza, prevent the return of displaced Palestinians, and change the geographical and demographic facts on the ground."

  • Orly Noy: [03-23] Hebrew University's faculty of repressive science: "The suspension of Palestinian professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian empties all meaning from the university's proclaimed values of pluralism and equality."

  • Jonathan Ofir: [03-26] Another Israeli soldier admits to implementing the 'Hannibal Directive' on October 7: "Captain Bar Zonshein recounts firing tank shells on vehicles carrying Israeli civilians on October 7. 'I decide that this is the right decision, that it's better to stop the abduction and that they not be taken,' he told Israeli media outlets."

  • Meron Rapoport: [03-29] Why do Israelis feel so threatened by a ceasefire? "Halting the Gaza war means recognizing that Israel's military goals were unrealistic -- and that it cannot escape a political process with the Palestinians."

Israel vs. world opinion:

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Trump, and other Republicans:

  • Zack Beauchamp: [03-28] How MAGA broke the media.

  • Jonathan Chait: [03-30] Republican billionaires no longer upset about insurrection: "The absurd rationalizations of Trump's oligarchs."

  • Chas Danner: [03-30] Trump is into kidnapped Biden shibari: Refers to "a truck tailgate meme about kidnapping President Joe Biden, tying him up with rope, and tossing him in the back of a pickup." Trump seems to approve.

  • Igor Derysh:

  • Tim Dickinson: [03-25] 'Bloodbath,' 'vermin,' 'dictator' for a day: A guide to Trump's fascist rhetoric.

  • Liza Featherstone: Donald Trump's crusade against electric vehicles is getting racist.

  • Francesca Fiorentini: [03-29] Handmaids of the patriarchy: "Republicans offer a lesson in how not to win women back to their party."

  • Shane Goldmacher/Maggie Haberman: [03-26] Trump isn't reaching out to Haley and her voters. Will it matter? Link to this article was more explicit, quoting Steve Bannon: "Screw Nikki Haley -- we don't need her endorsement." But as the article notes, many Republicans who once grumbled about Trump wound up "bending the knee."

  • Sarah Jones: [03-29] The time Trump wished everyone a 'Happy Good Friday': "Trump doesn't have to be pious. He doesn't have to understand what holy days mean to his supposed co-religionists. He just has to infuriate their enemies -- and he's good at that."

  • Robert Kuttner: [03-27] The corrupt trifecta of Yass, Trump, and Netanyahu: "Yass's payoffs to Trump are part of his efforts to destroy democracy in the US and Israel, while helping China."

  • Adam Lashinsky: [03-25] Trump's new stock deal is just another pig in a poke:

    I don't give investment advice. But I assure you that a company with $3.4 million in revenue and $49 million in losses over the past nine months is not worth $5 billion. Buy into shares of any company with those numbers and you are certain to be taken for a sucker.

    That Donald Trump will be the one doing the bamboozling means that investors in his public media company might as well be making a political donation to his campaign or contributing to a Trump legal defense fund instead.

  • Julianne Malveaux: [03-31] Those ridiculous retiring Republicans: Four Republican Reps have resigned this year -- Kevin McCarthy (CA), Bill Johnson (OH), Ken Buck (CO), and Mike Gallagher (WS) -- unable to cope with a party that eats its own.

  • Andrew Marantz: [03-27] Why we can't stop arguing about whether Trump is a fascist: Review of a new book on the question, Did It Happen Here? Perspectives on Fascism and America, edited by Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins. Without having read the book, I can probably rattle off a dozen arguments for and against, but to matter, you not only have to have some historical background but also an interest in certain possible political dynamics and outcomes -- which makes it a question those on the left are both inclined to ask and answer affirmatively: from where we stand, knowing what we know, Trump and his movement are indeed very fascist, at least inasmuch as they hate us and wish to see us destroyed, as have all fascists before them. However, that's mostly useful just to us, to whom labeling someone a fascist suffices as a sophisticated and damning critique. Others' mileage may vary, depending on what other questions they are concerned with, and how Trump aligns or differs from his fascist forebears. One such question is does knowing whether Trump is a fascist help you to oppose him? It probably does within the left, but not so much with others.

  • Amanda Marcotte: [03-26] Trump loves to play the victim -- NY appeals court bailout shows he's the most coddled person alive: "There appears to be no end of breaks for a spoiled rich boy who has never done a decent thing in his 77 years."

  • Dana Milbank: [03-29] Trump can't remember much. He hopes you won't be able to, either. Too bad Trump's opponent doesn't seem to have the recall and articulation to remind people.

  • Ruth Murai: [03-30] Donald Trump stoops to lowest low yet with violent post of Biden: "Let's call it what it is: stochastic terrorism."

  • Timothy Noah: Trump's unbearable temptation to dump his Truth Social stock: "Would he really screw over MAGA investors to cover his gargantuan legal debts? Don't bet against it."

  • Rick Perlstein: [03-27] The Swamp; or, inside the mind of Donald Trump: "His orations about migrants are a pastiche of others' golden oldies. Exhibit A: the lie that migrants are sent from prisons and mental institutions."

  • Catherine Rampell:

    • [03-25] Two myths about Trump's civil fraud trial: So, after a judge cut down and postponed the full bond requirement that every other defendant has had to live with, Trump "shall live to grift another day." The myths?

      First, that Trump's white-collar cases are "victimless" and therefore not worth enforcement. And second, that every lawsuit and charge against him plays into his persecution narrative, thereby strengthening him as a presidential candidate.

      Both criticisms are off-base, at least in a society that values rule of law.

    • [03-29] The internet was supposed to make humanity smarter. It's failing. I wasn't sure where to file this, but a quick look at her examples of internet stupidity led me to the simplest conclusion, which is under her other article on Trump. But I'm tempted to argue that the problem is less the internet than who "we" are. I personally haven't the faintest sense that the internet has made me dumber. I use it to fact check myself dozens of times each week, which I couldn't have done before it. This very column is ample evidence of the internet's ability to make extraordinary amount of information widely available. I couldn't do what I do without it. Indeed, I couldn't know what I know. There are problems, of course. The internet is an accelerator of all kinds of information, right and wrong, good and bad, or just plain frivolous. It's also a great diffuser, scattering information so widely that few people have common references. (Unlike when I was growing up, and everyone knew Edward Murrow, and a few of us even knew I.F. Stone.) Of course, those properties sound more neutral than they are. The internet can be viewed as a market, which has been severely skewed to favor private interests over public ones. That's something we need to work on.

  • Eugene Robinson: [03-28] Trump's Bible grift is going to backfire: I think his reasoning -- "some of them might actually read it" is way off base. I mean, who actually reads the Bible? I never did. I'm not sure I knew anyone who did. I remember being shocked when I found out it was included in the list of the "Great Books" curriculum: the very idea that you could just sit down or curl up and read it through, like Plato's Republic and Dante's Inferno. All we ever did was hunt for quotes -- preferably short ones -- that we could use as an authority, because that's what everyone used the Bible for. And even if your quote-hunting goes long and deep, it's not like you're open to discovery; it's usually just confirmation bias. So no, I don't think there's any reason to think that people fool enough to buy a Bible from Trump are going to wise up. The best I'm hoping for is that they become embarrassed at having fallen for such an obvious con.

  • Jennifer Rubin:

    • [03-20] We ignore Trump's defects at our peril: An obvious point, but not just the defects -- the whole package is profoundly disturbing. I included this column for the title, but it's mostly a q&a, starting with one about the Schumer speech calling for new elections in Israel, which she answers with a real howler: "The United States and Israel generally avoid influencing each other's domestic politics, so this was quite a shock to some." Ever hear of Sheldon Adelson? Granted, it's mostly Israel interfering with America -- maybe AIPAC has American figureheads, but they always march to the orders of whoever's in power in Israel -- but I can think of examples, even if they're mostly more subtle than Schumer.

    • [03-24] Other than Trump, virtually no one was doing better four years ago. By the way, this is a bullshit metric. It was pushed hard by Reagan in 1984, knowing that America had been mired in a Fed-induced recession in 1980, but was then rebounding as interest rates dropped. Carter wasn't blameless for the recession -- he had, after all, appointed Volcker -- and Reagan did goose the recovery with his budget-busting tax cuts and military spending, but that's overly simplistic. Same today, although the depths of the 2020 recession were so severe that Biden couldn't help but look good in comparison. That, as Rubin notes, some people can't see that is a problem, potentially a big one if amnesia and delusion lead to a second Trump term. So yeah, Democrats need to remind us of Trump's massive failures, and real things accomplished under Biden (even though many of them, like infrastructure, haven't had much impact yet).

      But we should be aware of two flaws in the argument: one is that it takes a long time to fully understand the impact of a presidency; the other is that one's personal effect is often misleading. Personally, I did great during the Reagan years, but maybe being 30-38 had something to do with that? But we now know that the most significant political change was the uncoupling of wages and productivity increases -- something that was made possible by a major shift of leverage from labor to business -- which more than any other factor (including tax cuts and growing trade deficits) massively increased inequality. I didn't fully understand that at the time, but I did detect that something had gone terribly wrong, when I would quip that America's only growth industry was fraud. While I could point to a number of examples at the time, it took longer to realize that Bill Clinton was one of them -- a point that many Democrats still haven't wised up to. But even today, some people can't even see the fraud Trump peddles.

  • Margaret Sullivan:

  • Sophia Tesfaye: [03-31] Trump unloads on Republican "cowards and weaklings" in Easter Sunday meltdown.

  • Katrina vanden Heuvel: [02-27] If Trump wins, he'll be a vessel for the most regressive figures in US politics: "A Trump presidency would usher in dark consortium dedicated to stripping millions of Americans of our freedoms."

  • Amy B Wang/Marianne LeVine: [03-27] Trump has sold $60 bibles, $399 sneakers and more since leaving office.

  • George F Will: [03-29] These two GOP Senate candidates exemplify today's political squalor: Kari Lake (AZ) and Bernie Moreno (OH). This is a tough read, and I'm not sure it's all that rewarding -- e.g., he refers to Moreno's opponent, Sherrod Brown, as "a progressive reliably wrong -- and indistinguishable from Trump," as he tries to find the most extremely right-wing vantage point possible from which to attack Republicans like Trump who aren't pure enough. But at least from that perspective, Will doesn't imagine pro-business Democrats to be "radical communists."

    For what it's worth, I regard Will as the most despicable of all the Washington Post columnists -- a group that once included Charles Krauthammer and still gives space to Marc Thiessen -- his interest in baseball has always been genuine and occasionally thoughtful. I'm not up for this at the moment, but if you're so inclined: You can't get thrown out for thinking, so take a swing at George Will's baseball quiz. (I might have once, but question 2 offers as an option a player I've never heard of: Adam Dunn, who it turns out hit 462 home runs, but clearly isn't the answer. Despite that bit of ignorance, I'm pretty sure I would have gotten that question right. I suspect I could figure out most of the combinations, but most of the rest are too obscure even for me in my prime.)

  • Amanda Yen: [03-31] Trump just won't stop attacking hush-money judge's daughter: "It's the fourth time he's gone after Judge Juan Merchan's daughter in the past week."

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

  • Dean Baker: Sorry for the bits, here and elsewhere, where sentences tend to tumble down hills as each clause reveals a premise that you should know but probably don't, hence requiring another and another. I know that proper form is to start from the premises and build your way up, but that's a lot of work, often winding up with many more points than the one you wanted to make. I do that a lot, but two examples here are especially egregious: each could be turned into a substantial essay (but who wants to read, much less write, one of those?).

    • [03-26] Relitigating the pandemic: School closings and vaccine sharing. There's been a constant refrain about how school closings have irrevocably stunted the intellectual growth of children. Baker mostly checks their math, rather than taking on the bigger issue of whether the nose-to-the-grindstone cult that took over policy control under the guise of "No Child Left Behind" (which, sure, wasn't all that different from the "rote learning" that dominated the first century of mass education, and like all test-driven regimes was all about leaving children behind, at least once their basic indoctrination has been accomplished -- the whole point of mass education in the first point [see Michael B Katz: The Irony of Early School Reform]).

      At some point, I should write more about education, including how hard I find it to reconcile my political belief in universal free education with my grim view of what we might call our actually-existing system. For now, I'll just point out that Astra Taylor's brilliant section on curiosity in her book The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as Things Fall Apart. Fifty-some years ago, I tried to figure out why my own educational experience had been so disastrous, which led me through books like those by Katz (op. cit.), Paul Goodman (Compulsory Mis-Education and the Community of Scholars), Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed), and Charles Weingarten and Neal Postman's Teaching as a Subversive Activity.

      Baker then goes on to talk about America's peculiar system for developing vaccines against Covid-19, which was to focus on the most expensive, most technically sophisticated, and (to a handful of private investors) most profitable system possible, making it unlikely that the world could share the benefits. It is some kind of irony that America ultimately suffered more from the pandemic than any other "developed" nation -- other aspects of our highly politicized profit-driven health care system saw to that, but it was by design that in every segment the poor would suffer worst, in health, and indeed in education.

    • [03-27] There ain't no libertarians, just politicians who want to give all the money to the rich. Responding to the Wallace-Wells column on Argentina's new president, Javier Milei -- you may recall that before he was elected, I predicted he'd quickly become the worst president anywhere in the world; let's just say he's still on that trajectory, although he's been slowed down a bit by the gravity of reality, so he's not yet as bad as he would be if he had more power (a phenomenon I trust you observed close enough with Donald Trump):

      Baker explains:

      The piece talked about how Milei calls himself as an anarchist, with the government just doing basic functions, like defending the country and running the criminal justice system. Otherwise, Milei would eliminate any role for government, if he had his choice.

      It is humorous to hear politicians make declarations like this. As a practical matter, almost all of these self-described anarchists would have a very large role for the government. What they want to do is to write the rules in ways that sends income upwards and then just pretend it is the natural order of things.

      The "natural order of things" is what conservatives are all about, as long as they're the ones on top of the totem pole. The more common word used for Milei is libertarian, which is how people on top like to think of themselves as being free (they turn conservative when they look down, and realize that their freedom depends on repressing, even enslaving, others). Michael Lind was onto something when he said that libertarianism had actually been tested historically; we tend to forget that, because the term at the time was feudalism. Charles Koch is the great American libertarian -- I know more about his fantasy world than most, because I used to typset books for him during his Murray Rothbard period -- and no one more exemplifies a feudal lord.

      Baker goes on to reiterate his usual shtick starting with patents, continuing on to a pitch for his book, Rigged (free online, and worth the time).

    • [03-28] Profits are still rising, why is the Fed worried about wage growth?

    • [03-29] Social Security retirement age has already been raised to 67.

    • [03-31] Do we need to have a Cold War with China?: Responds to a Paul Krugman column -- Bidenomics is making China angry. That's okay. -- that I didn't see much point of including on its own. Much more detail here worth reading, but here's the end:

      The basic point here is that we should care a lot about our relations with China. That doesn't mean we should structure our economy to make its leaders happy. We need to implement policies that support the prosperity and well-being of people in the United States. But we also need to try to find ways to cooperate with China in areas where it is mutually beneficial, and we certainly should not be looking for ways to put a finger in their eye.

  • Ryan Cooper: [02-07] Why were inflation hawks wrong? "Economists like Larry Summers predicted that bringing inflation down would require a large increase in unemployment. It didn't."

  • Inequality.org: [03-24] Total US billionaire wealth is up 88 percent over four years.

  • David Moscrop: [03-29] Welcome to a brave new world of price gouging: "Sellers have always had access to more information than buyers, and 'dynamic pricing,' which harnesses the power of algorithms and big data, is supercharging this asymmetry."

  • Alex Moss/Timi Iwayemi: [03-29] Senators' latest attempt to enrich Big Pharma must not prevail: "Patents are meant to encourage actual innovation, not monster corporate profits." Given how little bearing patents have on actual innovation, you'd think that argument would have dropped by the wayside, but the profits are so big those who seek them will say anything.

  • Kenny Stancil: [03-27] Jerome Powell's fingerprints are on the next banking crisis: "Not only did Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell's post-2016 regulatory rollbacks and supervisory blunders contribute significantly to the 2023 banking crisis, his current opposition to stronger capital requirements is setting the stage for the next crisis."

  • Yanis Varoufakis: [03-28] "Debt is to capitalism what Hell is to Christianity": Interview by David Broder with the Greek economist, who has a new film series where he explains "how elites used the financial crisis to terrorize Europe's populations into submission."

Ukraine War: Further details, blame, and other ruminations about the Moscow theatre terror attack have been moved to a following section. Worth noting here that if you're a war architect in Kyiv or Moscow (or Washington), the terror attack is bound to look like a second front, even if the two are unconnected. With the war hopelessly stalemated, both sides are looking for openings away from the front: Russia has increased drone attacks in Ukrainian cities far from the front (in one case, infringing on Polish air space); Ukraine has also sent drones over the Russian border, as well as picked off targets in Crimea and the Black Sea, and seems to have some capacity for clandestine operations within Russia. The result has been a dangerous bluring of respect for "red lines," which could quickly turn catastrophic (nuclear weapons and power plants are the obvious threats, but lesser-scale disasters are possible, and could quickly turn into chain reactions).

The only possible answer has always been to negotiate a truce which both sides can live with, preferably consistent with the wishes of the people most directly affected (which in the case of Crimea and most of Donbas means ethnic Russians who had long opposed Ukraine's drift to the West). Also, the Biden administration needs to discover where America's real interests lie, which is in peace and cooperation with all nations. The idea that the US benefits by degrading and isolating Russia is extremely short-sighted. (Ditto for China, Iran, and many others the self-appointed hyper-super-duper-power thinks it's entitled to bully.)

  • Connor Echols: [03-29] Diplomacy Watch: NATO, Russia inch closer to confrontation.

  • David Ignatius:

    • [03-29] Zelensky: 'We are trying to find some way not to retreat'. Even with the most sympathetic interviewer in the world, he's starting to sound pathetic. For another example of Ignatius trying to champion a loser, see:

    • [03-19] Liz Cheney still plays to make a difference in the election. Sorry for the disrespect -- I do have some, for Zelensky and Cheney (though maybe not for Ignatius), but I couldn't resist the line. Both have maneuvered themselves into positions that appear principled but are untenable, with their options limited on both ends. Zelensky's matters much more. When he was elected, he had to make a choice, either to try to lead a reduced but still substantial nation into Europe and peace, or fight to regain territories that had always opposed the European pivot. He chose the latter, and failed: the chances of him winning any substantial amount of territory back are very slim, while the costs of continuing the war are daunting (even if the US and Europe can continue to support him, which is becoming less certain). But if he's willing to cut his losses, the deal to end the war is distasteful but pretty straightforward. And so is the entry of the Ukraine that he still controls into Europe. Of course, doing so will disappoint the war party (especially Ignatius, and count Cheney in there, too). As for Cheney, I don't see any options. She has no popular support to maneuver, and no real moral authority either.

  • Robert Kagan: [03-28] Trump's anti-Ukraine view dates to the 1930s. America rejected it then. Will we now? The dean of neocon warmongers tries to pull a fast one on you. While there is some similarity between Trump's MAGA minions and Nazi sympathizers of the late 1930s -- still not as obvious as the direct line between Fred and Donald Trump -- the much derided "isolationists" of the pre-WWII period spanned the whole political spectrum, as they were rooted in the traditional American distrust of standing armies and foreign entanglements, along with hardly-isolationist ideas like the Monroe Doctrine and the Open Door Policy.

    Such views weren't rejected: even Roosevelt respected them until Japan and Germany declared war, forcing the US to join WWII. As the war turned, some highly-placed Americans saw the opportunity (or in some cases the necessity) of extending military and economic power around the globe, especially seeing as how Europe would no longer be able to dominate Africa and Asia, especially with communists, who had taken the lead in fighting the Axis powers, spearheading national liberation movements.

    The elites who promoted American hegemony had first to win the political argument at home. They did this by branding those who had rejected Wilson's League of Nations as "isolationists," the implication being that their opposition was responsible for World War's return, and by stirring up a "red scare," which played the partition of Europe, the revolution in China, and the Korean War into a colossal Cold War struggle, while also helping right-wingers at home demolish the labor movement, and turning American foreign policy into a perpetual warmaking machine. Kagan, like his father and his wife, is a major cog in that machine, as should be obvious here.

  • Joshua Keating: [03-28] Therer's a shadow fleet sneaking Russian oil around the world. It's an ecological disaster waiting to happen. "The world's next big maritime catastrophe could involve sanctions-dodging rustbuckets." Not something the Ukraine hawks will ever think to worry about, but sounds to me like another good reason to settle real soon now.

  • Blaise Malley: [03-25] Would House approve 'loaning' rather than giving Ukraine aid?: "There's a new plan afoot to do just that, even if Kyiv cannot repay it."

  • Jeffrey Sachs: [03-25] Crude rhetoric can lead us to war: "The US, Russia, and China must engage in serious diplomacy now. Name calling and personal insults do nothing for the peace effort. They only bring us closer to war."

Putin and Bush shared a common bond, and a temporary alliance, in the early 2000s, as both were struck by "terror attacks" from Islamic groups, blowback to their nations' long historical efforts to dominate and/or exploit Muslims (which for Russia goes back to wars against Turks and Mongols, extending to Russia's conquest of the Caucusus and Central Asia, their Great Game with the UK, later replaced by the US; for Americans it's mostly been driven by oil and Israel since WWII, although the legacy of the Crusades still pops up here and there). In recent years, Russia's "war on terror" has taken a back seat to its war in Ukraine, but the problem flared up again when gunmen killed 143 concert-goers at Moscow's Crocus City Hall.

We shouldn't be surprised that when a historically imperialist ruler takes a nationalist turn, as Putin did in going to war to reassert Russian hegemony over Ukraine, that its other minority subjects should get nervous, defensive, and as is so much the fashion these days, preëmptively strike out.

The attack was claimed by ISIS-K, and Russia has since arrested four Tajiks in connection with the crime. One should not forget that in the 1980s, the US was very keen not only on arming mujahideen to fight in Afghanistan against Russia but on extending the Islamist revolt deep into the Soviet Union (Tajikistan).

  • Francesca Ebel: [03-27] As death toll in Moscow attack rises to 143, migrants face fury and raids.

  • Richard Foltz: [03-26] Why Russia fears the emergence of Tajik terrorists.

  • Sarah Harmouch/Amira Jadoon: [03-25] How Moscow terror attack fits ISIL-K strategy to widen agenda against perceived enemies.

  • Ellen Ioanes: [03-28] ISIS-K, the group linked to Moscow's terror attack, explained.

  • Ishaan Tharoor: [03-27] Putin sees Kyiv in Moscow terrorist attack. But ISIS is its own story. I'm reminded here of something in the afterword to Gilles Kepel's Jihad: The Trial of Political Islam -- a book that appeared in English in 2003, but had been written and published in French, I think before 9/11 -- about how political Islam (including Al-Qaeda) was in serious decline after 2000, and 9/11 was initially a desperate ploy for attention and relevance (what American footballers call a "hail Mary pass").

    By the way, the first thing I did after 9/11 -- I was visiting friends in Brooklyn on that date, and one was actually killed in WTC, so it hit pretty close to home -- was to go to a bookstore and scrounge around for something relevant to read that would give me some historical context. The book that I found that came closest (but not very close) to satisfying my urge was Barbara Crossette's The Great Hill Stations of Asia, probably due to my intuition that the terror attacks were deeply rooted in the imperialist (and racist) past, but that specific story was too far in the past to be of much help. The book I really wanted to find was Kepel's, which told me everything I needed to know. So yeah, I find it plausible that ISIS-K wanted to kick Russia just to remind them that they have unfinished business. I don't doubt that Hamas wanted to kick Israel in the same way -- also reminding Saudi Arabia who they were about to get in bed with. Terrorists aren't very good at calibrating those kicks, so sometimes they get more reaction than they really wanted. But do they really care? Overreaction is often the worst possible thing an offended power can do, as 9/11 and 10/7 have so painfully demonstrated.

Around the world:

  • Caroline Houck: [03-29] A very bad year for press freedom: Playing up the year-and-counting detention of Evan Gershkovich in Russia, but there are other examples, including many journalists killed by Israel not just recently but "over the last two decades." On Gershkovich, see:

  • Vijay Prashad: [03-26] Europe sleepwalks through its own dilemmas: With the episodic rise of the right in America, where each fitful advance has tattered and in some cases shredded not just the social welfare state but our entire sense of democracy, solidarity, cohesion, and commonwealth, lots of Americans have come to admire Europe, where social democracy for the most part remains intact. On the other hand, what we see in European politics, at least for those of us who see anything at all, is often bewildering and unnerving. Don't these people realize how fortunate they have been? Yet in many areas, as Prashad notes here, they seem to be blind and dumb, just following whatever the direction is coming from Washington and Davos, despite repeated failures.

  • David Smilde: [03-22] Candidate registration is becoming a purge of Maduro's opposition.

The bridge:


Other stories:

Joshua Frank: [03-28] As the rich speed off in their Teslas: Of life and lithium.

Sam Levin: [03-27] Joe Lieberman, former US senator and vice-presidential nominee, dies at 82. More on Lieberman:

Gideon Lewis-Kraus: [03-25] You say you want a revolution. Do you know what you mean by that? Reviews two books: Fareed Zakaria: Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash from 1600 to the Present; and Nathan Perl-Rosenthal: The Age of Revolutions: And the Generations Who Made It, which is more focused on the years 1760-1825.

Jeffrey St Clair: [03-29] Roaming Charges: Nowhere men: Remembering Joe Lieberman, then onto the bridge and other disasters.

Mari Uyehara: [03-25] The many faces of Viet Thanh Nguyen: "The Vietnamese American writer's leap to the mainstream comes at a moment that demands his anti-colonialist perspective."

I've cited this article before, but my wife reminded me of it yesterday and went on to read me several chunks. The article is by Pankaj Mishra: The Shoah after Gaza. It's worth reading in whole, but for now let me just pull a couple paragraphs out from the middle:

One of the great dangers today is the hardening of the colour line into a new Maginot Line. For most people outside the West, whose primordial experience of European civilisation was to be brutally colonised by its representatives, the Shoah did not appear as an unprecedented atrocity. Recovering from the ravages of imperialism in their own countries, most non-Western people were in no position to appreciate the magnitude of the horror the radical twin of that imperialism inflicted on Jews in Europe. So when Israel's leaders compare Hamas to Nazis, and Israeli diplomats wear yellow stars at the UN, their audience is almost exclusively Western. Most of the world doesn't carry the burden of Christian European guilt over the Shoah, and does not regard the creation of Israel as a moral necessity to absolve the sins of 20th-century Europeans. For more than seven decades now, the argument among the 'darker peoples' has remained the same: why should Palestinians be dispossessed and punished for crimes in which only Europeans were complicit? And they can only recoil with disgust from the implicit claim that Israel has the right to slaughter 13,000 children not only as a matter of self-defence but because it is a state born out of the Shoah.

In 2006, Tony Judt was already warning that 'the Holocaust can no longer be instrumentalised to excuse Israel's behaviour' because a growing number of people 'simply cannot understand how the horrors of the last European war can be invoked to license or condone unacceptable behaviour in another time and place'. Israel's 'long-cultivated persecution mania -- "everyone's out to get us" -- no longer elicits sympathy', he warned, and prophecies of universal antisemitism risk 'becoming a self-fulfilling assertion': 'Israel's reckless behaviour and insistent identification of all criticism with antisemitism is now the leading source of anti-Jewish sentiment in Western Europe and much of Asia.' Israel's most devout friends today are inflaming this situation. As the Israeli journalist and documentary maker Yuval Abraham put it, the 'appalling misuse' of the accusation of antisemitism by Germans empties it of meaning and 'thus endangers Jews all over the world'. Biden keeps making the treacherous argument that the safety of the Jewish population worldwide depends on Israel. As the New York Times columnist Ezra Klein put it recently, 'I'm a Jewish person. Do I feel safer? Do I feel like there's less antisemitism in the world right now because of what is happening there, or does it seem to me that there's a huge upsurge of antisemitism, and that even Jews in places that are not Israel are vulnerable to what happens in Israel?'

One thing I want to add here is that liberal- and left-democrats often take great pains to make clear that their criticism of Israeli government policy, and of the people who evidently support those policies, does not reflect or imply any criticism of Jews in America, who are not represented by the Israeli government, even if they are deeply sympathetic to Israel. We are also very quick to point out that many of those most critical of Israel, both in the US and in Israel itself, are Jewish, and often do so out of principles that they believe are deeply rooted in Judaism.

We do this because our fundamental position is that we support free and equal rights for all people, regardless of whose human rights are being asserted or denied. But we're particularly sensitive on this point, because we know that many of our number are Jewish, so we are extra aware of when their rights have been abused, and of their solidarity in defending the rights of others.

So we regard as scurrilous this whole propaganda line that accuses anyone who in any way disagrees with Israeli policy with antisemitism. We are precisely the least antisemitic people in America. Meanwhile, the propaganda line seems to be aimed at promoting antisemitism in several ways: it tells people who don't know better to blame all Jews for the human rights abuses of Israel; it also reassures people who really are antisemites that their sins are forgiven if they support Israel; and it reaffirms the classic Zionist argument that all Jews must flee the diaspora and resettle in Israel -- the only safe haven in a world full of antisemitism. (It is no coincidence that many of Zionism's biggest supporters have been, and in many cases still are, antisemites. Balfour and Lloyd George were notorious antisemites. Hitler himself approved the transfer of hundreds of thousands of German Jews to Palestine.)

While none of this is hard to understand, many people don't and won't, so it's very likely that some will take their fear and anger over genocide out on Jews. We will denounce any such acts, as we have always done. And as we have, and will continue to, heinous acts by Israel. But we should be aware that what's driving this seemingly inevitable uptick in "antisemitism" is this false propaganda line, perpetrated by Israel and its very well heeled support network -- including most mainstream media outlets, and virtually the entire American political elite. So when people insist you step up and denounce antisemitism, do so. But don't forget to include the real driving force behind antisemitism these days: the leaders of Israel.

While I was looking for a quote to wrap up this post, I ran across a Richard Silverstein tweet that fits nicely here:

Genocide is an unpardonable sin before God in Judaism, regardless of who are the victims or the perpetrators. Israel's crimes are not in my name as a Jew, nor in the name of Judaism as millions of my fellow Diaspora Jews know it.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Speaking of Which

I was struck by this meme: "If Israelis stop fighting there will be peace. If Palestinians stop fighting there will be no more Palestinians." The first line is certainly true. This latest war has been so devastating that it's hard to imagine any fight left -- at least of the sort that would strike out at Israelis beyond their wall. The other obvious point is that there's no risk in trying. If Hamas does attack again, Israel can always strike back, and that reaction will be better understood than the systematic, genocidal war Israel is waging.

The second is less obvious, depending on what you mean by "stop fighting." Hamas has never had the capability of fighting Israel like Israel fights Gaza. Hamas has no air force, no navy, no submarines, no tanks, no heavy artillery, no anti-aircraft or anti-missile defenses, no drones. Their rockets are small and unguided, and have never produced more than accidental damage. Aside from the Oct. 7 jailbreak, the only way an Israeli gets hurt is by entering Gaza, and even then the ratio of Palestinian-to-Israeli casualties is 50-to-1 or more. That's not much of a fight.

However, the second line could be rewritten in terms that both sides will agree with, if not agree on: "Palestinians will [only] stop fighting when there are no more Palestinians." An army may sensibly surrender to a more imposing power, but this will only happen if one has hope of surviving and eventually recovering from surrender. Germany and Japan surrendered to the US to end WWII, but only because they believed that they would be given a chance to return to running their own lives. (See John Dower's Embracing Defeat for more on how Japan dealt with this. Japan is a better example than Germany, because its government was still intact when it surrendered, whereas Germany's was in tatters after Hitler's suicide.) A number of American Indian tribes surrendered with similar hopes, even though the US had given them little reason for such hope.

But Israel's current demands for ceasefire terms, following the genocidal threats of Israel's leaders, and the genocidal methodology they've practiced in this war, offer little or no hope to any Palestinian that surrender is anything but suicide. Israelis demand absolute servility, but know that they'll never get everyone to submit, that there will always be resistance of some sort, and as such their security will always be at risk. This presents them with an existential dilemma, to which there are only three solutions: equal rights, separation, or annihilation.

They have long refused to consider equal rights. (Lots of reasons we needn't consider here, like racism and demography.) They've considered separation, at least within certain bounds, but it's naturally a formula for war, so they've insisted on being the dominant power, both by building up a huge military advantage and by preventing Palestinians from ever developing their own popular leadership. But the solution they've always craved was annihilation. The problem there has been finding a time when they could get away with it. Oct. 7 was the excuse they were waiting for, dramatic enough that few of their allies grasped immediately how they had goaded Hamas into action.

Even so, Israel has always had a numbers problem. America was able to reduce its native population to levels where they became politically and economically irrelevant, after which annihilation no longer mattered, and some reconciliation was possible. But for Israel, there were always too many Palestinians, too close by, too economically developed and culturally sophisticated. For just these reasons, colonizers eventually gave up on Algeria and South Africa, but only after extraordinary brutality. Israel is the last to believe they're strong enough to beat down any and all resistance. And that's really because they have few if any scruples against killing every last Palestinian.

And don't for a moment think that Palestinians don't understand this. They've lived through it for decades, and while often beaten down, often severely, they've survived to resist again. They'll survive this, too, and will continue to resist, as peacefully as Israel will allow, or as violently as they can muster.

Looking further down my twitter feed:

From Rami Jarrah: Picture of an adult Palestinian male seated on a couch, surrounded 14 children (a couple into their teens). Text: "Nobody in this photo is alive. Israel's right to self defence."

From Kayla Bennett: Chart image. Text: "One of the most horrifying graphics ever." I looked for an article including the chart, and came up with:

From Ryan Heuser: A link to the website for The New York War Crimes, reporting on propaganda published by The New York Times (motto: "All the Consent That's Fit to Manufacture"). I haven't figured out yet where the illustrations come from.

From Yousef Munayer retweeted Heuser, adding: "A new poll found that even though some 30,000 more Palestinians have been killed than Israelis since October, half of Americans didn't know which side has lost more lives. This has a lot to do with it."

From Etan Nechin retweeted Chris Olley: "[Pennsylvania]'s richest person Jeff Yass is buying Truth Social for $3 Billion so Trump can pay off his $450 Million judgment in return for Trump doing a 180 on his Tiktok and China stance to preserve Yass's $30 Billion-with-a-B stake in Tiktok. We call this oligarchy' when it's elsewhere." Nechin adds: "Notably, Jeff Yass was the main financier of Kohelet Forum, the shadowy organization behind Israel's attempted judicial coup that was championed by the settler far right. These oligarchs care little for democracy, only market interests." The Wikipedia page for Yass is here, which documents all this and more.

From Daniel Denvir: "Truth Social has roughly twice the monthly app users as my niche left-wing intellectual podcast has monthly downloads. The Dig's own healthy but rather modest financial situation suggests to me that this company is not worth nearly $6 billion."

From Paul Krugman: "So, did the ACA bend the cost curve? Call it coincidence, but excess cost growth -- health spending growing faster than GDP -- basically ended when it passed." See chart:

I'm reminded that Switzerland long had the world's second most expensive health care system, with costs increasing in tandem with US costs, until they adopted a universal non-profit insurance scheme. While this was still much more expensive than systems in UK, Germany, and France, it halted the increase, while US costs continue to rise. ACA hasn't worked as well as Switzerland's system -- by design, it isn't universal, and still allows (and sometimes encourages) profit-seeking -- but it was a step in the right direction.

Initial count: 227 links, 9,825 words. Not really finished when posted late Sunday night, so some Monday updates have been added. While sections are marked (like this), minor edits (like the last paragraph above) are not. (Seems like there should be a finer-grained way to do this, but I haven't figured one out yet.

Updated count [03-25]: 259 links, 11,559 words.

Several breaking stories on Monday [03-25] are not reported or reacted to below, but should be significant next week: Here's the "heads up":

  • Luisa Loveluck/Karen DeYoung/Missy Ryan/Michael Birnbaum: [03-25] Netanyahu cancels delegation after US does not block UN cease-fire call: The US, for the first time since Israel attacked Gaza after the Oct. 7 attacks, abstained from and didn't veto a cease-fire resolution, allowing it to pass 14-0. This is the first concrete step that the Biden administration is developing a conscience over Israel's genocide. A stronger signal would have been to vote for the resolution. Stronger still would be to withhold aid (especially munitions) until the cease-fire has been implemented (at which point Israel won't need the arms). So Biden still has a long ways to go, but at least he has found a new direction. Next step will be to show Netanyahu that his tantrum is for naught, and that his conceit that he actually runs Washington -- which, by the way, is a big part of his political capital in Israel -- is no longer true.

    PS: Yousef Munayyer tweeted after this: "The US abstention at the UNSC today as well as Netanyahu's reaction to it should be seen as each leader's attempt to manage domestic audiences. What matters is Biden signed off on $4billion more in weapons for Israel to further the genocide. Keep your eye on the ball."

  • Mark Berman/Jonathan O'Connell/Shayna Jacobs: [03-25] Trump wins partial stay of fraud judgment, allowed to post $175 million: This postpones foreclosure on Trump properties, for ten days at least (the time allowed to post the bond).

  • Shayna Jacobs/Devlin Barrett: [03-25] NY judge sets firm April 15 trial date in Trump's historic hush money case.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world opinion:

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes: After Super Tuesday, this is turning into a category with not much happening, or at least not much people are bothering to write against. March 19 saw presidential primaries in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, and Ohio. Biden's been winning the Democratic side by a bit over 80%, which isn't great for an incumbent, but also isn't disastrous. Trump wins as easily, but rarely hits 80% -- also not great considering no one is actively running against him. (In Arizona, the figures were 89.3% Biden, 78.8% Trump; in Florida, 81.2% Trump; in Illinois, 91.5% Biden, 80.6% Trump; in Kansas 83.8% Biden, 75.5% Trump; in Ohio, 87.1% Biden, 79.2% Trump; in Louisiana, 86.1% Biden, 89.8% Trump. Missouri had a caucus, where Trump got 100% of 924 votes.

  • Paul Krugman: [03-21] What's the matter with Ohio?

  • Nia Prater: [03-22] The Republican Party is too embarrassing for George Santos: So he's going to run as an independent in Nick LaLota's (R-NY) House district. Most people run as independents because they think they are, but the big advantage for Santos is that he can keep his campaign finance scam going all the way to November, instead of getting wiped out in the primary. So pretty much the same reason Bob Menendez is running as an independent to keep his Senate seat in New Jersey.

Trump, and other Republicans: Salon picks up some substantial pieces, but they also do a lot of stuff that basically amounts to Trump trolling. I usually skip past them, but this week they especially spoke to me, so quite a few got crammed in here this week. I can also give you some author indexes, in case you want to dig deeper (just scanning the titles is often a hoot):

This week's links on all things Republican (the Trumpier the better, but the real evil lies in the billionaire-funded think tanks):

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Perry Bacon Jr: [03-19] Voters of color are shifting right. Are Democrats doomed?

  • Hannah Story Brown: [03-25] Tim Ryan's natural gas advocacy makes a mockery of public service: Ex-Representative (D-OH), ran for Senate and lost, now "leveraging his prior career for a group backed by fossil fuel and petrochemical players." Why do you suppose he couldn't convince voters he'd serve them better than a Republican?

  • Gail C Christopher: [03-22] Stop ageism: A call for action: "It's one of the last socially acceptable forms of prejudice, and it needs to come to an end in society and this presidential campaign." Really, you think this is going to work? Or even help? Believe me, I know it happens, often in cases where it is inappropriate, but unlike many prejudices, there is also something substantive at root here, and finding the right combination of respect and care and understanding in each distinct case is going to take some work, and not just a bumper sticker slogan.

  • Ryan Cooper: [03-11] Democrats need a party publication: "The New York Times is not going to get Biden's campaign message before voters." Pull quote: "There is a giant right-wing propaganda apparatus blasting Republican messaging into tens of millions of homes every day, which Democrats do not have." Also: "You could do quite a lot of journalism for a tiny, tiny fraction of what the Democrats are going to spend on the 2024 campaign." I figured the line about the New York Times was some kind of joke, but here's the unfunny part:

    A recent speech from New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger makes clear that he -- perhaps unsurprisingly for a scion of multigenerational inherited wealth -- is proud of his paper's ludicrously anti-Biden slant and virulent transphobia, and will keep doing it. If it's up to him, this campaign will center around Biden's age, while Trump's numerous extreme scandals and outright criminality -- as well as his own advanced age and dissolving brain -- will be carefully downplayed. If I were Biden and the Democrats, who implicitly elevate the Times as their counterpoint to Fox, I'd be looking to change that, and quick.

  • James Downie: [03-23] House Republicans just gave Biden the biggest possible gift: "When it comes to Social Security and Medicare, Republicans just can't help themselves." I could have filed this under Republicans, but didn't want this piece to get lost among this week's Trump scuzziness. Trump is a problem, but he's merely cosmetic compared to the deep Republican mindset, which remains set on destroying the institutions that at least minimally protect us from the most predatory practices of capitalism, supposedly in favor of an entrepreneurial utopia. I was pointed to this piece by an Astra Taylor tweet (link just vanished), possibly because the piece itself cites her The Age of Insecurity.

  • Robert Kuttner:

    • [03-18] Man of steel: "President Biden's blockage of the proposed purchase of US Steel by Japan's Nippon Steel is unprecedented and magnificently pro-union."

    • [03-22] The promise of Biden's second term: "And the exemplary effects of his green jobs creation programs in his first term."

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

  • Stephen Lezak: [03-22] Scientists just gave humanity an overdue reality check. The world will be better for it. This follows on [03-20] Geologists make it official: we're not in an 'anthropocene' epoch. For geologists, it's a fairly technical question, and given the ways geologists think about time, I'm not surprised that they don't see need for another division. The Holocene only starts with the retreat of the Wisconsin Ice Age -- the fifth major glacial advance of the Pleistocene, itself an arguably premature designation. (The factors that drove ice ages during the period have are presumably still in place -- certainly the continents haven't moved much, nor has the earth orbit changed, or solar output -- but the atmosphere has been altered enough to make renascent glaciation very unlikely.) Humans started leaving their mark on the Earth's surface as the Holocene started some 11,700 years ago, so the whole epoch could have been named the Anthropocene. Perhaps that seemed presumptuous when first named, and maybe even now, but using 1952 as an convenient dividing line is simply arbitrary.

  • Delaney Nolan: The EPA is backing down from environmental justice cases nationwide.

  • Cassady Rosenblum: [03-23] Blocking Burning Man and vandalizing Van Gogh: Climate activists are done playing nice: This is indicative of what happens with those in power deny, dissemble, and ultimately fail at problems that have become overwhelmingly obvious. Those in power should see protests -- orderly of course, but also disruptive and destructive -- as symptoms of underlying issues that require their attention.

    But most often, they think they can get away with suppressing protests, which by aggravating the protesters while ignoring the problems only makes future protests more desperate, and dangerous. As noted here, "something desperate and defiant is stirring in the climate movement." Signs of escalating tactics are as easily measured as the increasing ppm of greenhouse gases. The tipping points of catastrophic inflections are harder to guess, but their odds are approaching inevitable, as we have observed stressed humans do many times before, in many comparable situations.

  • David Wallace-Wells: [03-20] When we see the climate more clearly, what will we do? There is not a satellite designed to locate methane leeks.

Business/economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

  • Connor Echols: [03-20] US 'prepared to deploy troops to Haiti if necessary. If Biden goes along with this, I dare say it would be political suicide. For Trump, as for most US presidents going back to Thomas Jefferson, Haiti is the quintessential "shithole country." Right-thinking Americans would bristle at the idea of doing anything to help there. Realistic Americans would realize that the US military is not capable of helping, and that its entrance would make matters worse. The left should be pushing back against Biden's warmaking on all fronts. And nobody wants another costly quagmire.

  • Sam Knight: [03-25] What have fourteen years of Conservative rule done to Britain? "Living standards have fallen. The country is exhausted by constant drama. But the UK can't move on from the Tories without facing up tot he damage that has occurred."

  • Robert Kuttner: [03-13] WTO, RIP: "The annual World Trade Organization meeting came to an ignominious end last week with no 'progress' on major issues. That is a form of progress."

  • Emily Tamkin: Slovakia's presidential election is a warning to America: "What to see what the United States would look like under a reelected Trump?"

Other stories:

Laura Bult: [03-21] Why it's so hard for Americans to retire: "There's a reason so many of us don't have enough retirement savings." Video piece, but links to Teresa Ghilarducci's book, Work, Retire, Repeat: The Uncertainty of Retirement in the New Economy. Probably good, but Astra Taylor covers the key point in her The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as Things Fall Apart.

Stephanie Burt: Lucy Sante and the solitude and solidarity of transitioning: "In her new memoir, I Heard Her Call My Name, Sante dissects her past in order to understand her future."

David Dayen: [01-29] America is not a democracy. Long piece from the print magazine. Seems like I should have noticed it before. Too much to get into just now.

Sarah Jones: The exvangelicals searching for political change. Self-evident neologism is from the book reviewed herein, The Exvangelicals: Loving, Living, and Leaving the White Evangelical Church, by Sarah McCammon. Related here:

  • Carlene Bauer: [03-12] She trusted God and science. They both failed her. Review of Devout: A Memoir of Doubt, by Anna Gazmarian, "an author who grew up in the evangelical church recounts her struggle to find spiritual and psychological well-being after a mental health challenge."

Rich Juzwiak: [03-12] A biography of a feminist porn pioneer bares all: "In Candida Royalle and the Sexual Revolution, the historian Jane Kamensky presents a raw personal -- and cultural -- history." Another review:

Keren Landman: [03-20] Abortion influences everything: "By inhibiting drug development, economic growth, and military recruitment, as well as driving doctors away from the places they're needed most, bans almost certainly harm you -- yes, you."

Katie Moore: [03-17] When Kansas police kill people, the public often can't see bodycam footage. Here's why.

Marcus J Moore: [03-21] The visions of Alice Coltrane: "In the years after her husband John's death, the harpist discovered a sound all her own, a jazz rooted in acts of spirit and will." I'll say something about this in Music Week. Meanwhile:

Rick Perlstein: [03-20] 'Stay strapped or get clapped': "How the media misses the story of companies seeking profit by keeping traumatized veterans armed and enraged."

Andrew Prokop: [03-21] The political battle over Laken Riley's murder, explained: Riley was a 22-year-old student in Georgia who was murdered, allegedly by an "illegal immigrant," an event seized upon by right-wing agitators, like the guy who tweeted: "If only people went to the streets to demand change in the name of Laken Riley, like they did for George Floyd." Article provides more details. While the murders as isolated events were equivalent, the policy considerations are very different, starting with responsibility for enabling the killers, and regarding the more general context.

One not even mentioned here is the effect of the sanctions and isolation policy toward Venezuela -- mostly but not exclusively Trump's work -- and how that has driven many, including Riley's alleged killer, to migrate to the US. Prokop: "But reality is also more complicated than Trump's promises that he'll fix everything by getting tougher once he's president."

Brian Resnick: [03-22] The total solar eclipse is returning to the United States -- better than before: "This will be the last total solar eclipse over the contiguous United States for 21 years." I find myself with zero interest in looking up, much less traveling to do so, but family and friends in Arkansas are lobbying for visitors, and I know some people who are going. April 8 is the date.

Dylan Scott: [03-22] Kate Middleton's cancer diagnosis is part of a frightening global trend: "More and more young people are getting cancer." I have zero interest in her, or in any of "those ridiculous people" (John Oliver's apt turn of phrase), and so I've ignored dozens of pieces on them recently, but there's something more going on here. Every category of cancer they used is more common among ages 14-49 than it was in 1990. My wife swears it's environmental, and while I can think of statistical variations, I'm inclined to agree.

Jeffrey St Clair: [03-22] Roaming Charges: L'état sans merci. "Willie Pye is dead and Georgia is back in the execution business." This introduces a long section on what passes for justice in America. Much more, of course. For more on Pye, see:

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins: [03-20] The problematic past, present, and future of inequality studies: Interview with Branko Milanovic, whose lates book is Visions of Inequality: From the French Revolution to the End of the Cold War.

Dodai Stewart: [03-16] You're not being gaslit, says a new book. (Or are you?) Review of Kate Abramson: On Gaslighting. Demands precision of a phenomenon that is deliberately imprecise ("all kinds of interactions -- lying, guilt-tripping, manipulation"; "a multi-dimensional horror show"). Cites Harry G Frankfurt's On Bullshit (2005) as a "spiritual forebear."

Astra Taylor/Leah Hunt-Hendrix: [03-21] The one idea that could save American democracy: Tied to the authors' new book, Solidarity: The Past, Present, and Future of a World-Changing Idea. Also:

By the way, I just found a link to audio for Astra Taylor: [2023-11-17] The Age of Insecurity: 2023 CBC Massey Lectures, with five hour-long lectures corresponding to the book I just read, and recommend as highly as possible -- I'd go so far as to say that she's the smartest person writing on the left these days. I was pointed to the lectures by a daanis tweet: "I finally listened to @astradisastra Massey Lectures on my way to Boston, just mainlined them one after another straight into my brain, and added her language about precarity and insecurity into my own remarks about surviving together by becoming kin."

Maureen Tkacik: [03-11] 'Return what you stole and be a man with dignity': "Doctors didn't think it was possible to loathe the world's biggest health care profiter any more. Then came the hack that set half their bookkeeping systems on fire." About the ransomware outage at Change Healthcare, which is owned by UnitedHealth ("the nation's fifth-largest company").

Bryan Walsh: [03-22] Baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani has been caught up in a gambling controversy. He won't be the last. One of the biggest changes in my lifetime has been the changed attitude toward gambling, which in my mother's day was a degenerative sin indulged by lowlifes, much to the profit of mobsters. Today the mobsters have turned into Republican billionaires -- hard to say whether that's a step up or down ethically -- and their rackets have moved out into the open. For a long time, the shame of the Black Sox kept the lid on sports gambling, but that's been totally blown open in the recent years. I hate it, which doesn't mean I want to try to ban it, but those involved are no better than criminals, and should be reminded of it as often as possible.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Speaking of Which

Well, another week, with a few minor variations, but mostly the same old stories:

  • Israel is continuing its genocidal war on Gaza, with well over 30,000 direct kills, the destruction of most housing and infrastructure, and the imposition of mass starvation. This war is likely to escalate significantly next week, as Netanyahu has vowed to invade Rafah, which has until now been a relatively safe haven for over one million refugees from northern parts of the Gaza strip. Israel is also orchestrating increased violence in the occupied West Bank and along the Lebanon border, which risks drawing the US into the conflict (as has already happened in the Red Sea).

  • The United States remains supportive of and complicit in Israeli genocide, although we're beginning to see signs that the Biden administration is uncomfortable with such extremism. Public opinion favor an immediate cease-fire, which Israel and its fan club have been working frantically to dispel and deny.

  • Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine continues to be stalemated, with increasingly desperate and dangerous drone attacks. Putin is up for reelection this weekend, and is expected to win easily, against token opposition that also supports Russia's war, so any hopes for regime change there are very slim. On the other hand, the war is becoming increasingly unpopular in the US, where thus far Biden has been unable to pass his latest arms aid request. The only way out of this destructive and debilitating war is to open negotiations, where the obvious solution is some formalization of the status quo, but thus far Biden and Zelensky have refused to consider the need.

  • Biden's has secured the Democratic nomination for a second term, but he remains deeply unpopular, due to gross Republican slanders, his own peculiar personal weaknesses, and legitimate worry over wars he has shown little concern and/or competency at ending.

  • Meanwhile, Trump has secured the Republican nomination, but is mostly distracted by the numerous civil and criminal cases he has blundered into. He's lost two civil cases, bringing fines of over $500 million, but he has thus far managed to postpone trial in the four criminal cases, and he had several minor victories on that front last week. Meanwhile, the Republican Party is remaking itself in his image, defending crime and corruption, spreading hate, and aspiring to dictatorship. (At some point, I should go into more depth on how, while the Democrats remain pretty inept at defending democracy, the Republicans have gone way out of their way to impress on us what the destruction of democracy has in store for us.)

Due to various factors I don't want to go into, I got a late start on this, and lost essentially all of Saturday, so I expect the final Sunday wrap-up to be even more haphazard than usual.

Sorry I didn't mention this earlier, but we were saddened to hear of the recent death of Jim Lynch. He was one of the Wichita area's most steadfast peace supporters, and he will be missed.

Except, of course, that I didn't manage to wrap up on Sunday, so this picks up an extra day -- not thoroughly researched, but I am including some Monday pieces.

Initial count: 183 links, 9,145 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. Biden: Israelis like to talk about the "multi-front war" they're besieged with, but for all the talk of Iranian proxies, they rarely point out that their main struggle since Oct. 7 has been with world opinion, especially as it became obvious that they had both the intent and means to commit genocide. For a long time, Biden and virtually the entire American political establishment were completely subservient to Israeli dictates, but that seems to be shifting slightly -- maybe those taunts of "Genocide Joe" are registering? -- so much so that Israel can add the US to its array of threats. Not a done deal, but increasingly a subject of discussion.

  • Daniel Boguslaw: FBI warns Gaza War will stoke domestic radicalization "for years to come".

  • Connor Echols: [03-13] Bombs, guns, treasure: What Israel wants, the US gives.

  • Liz Goodwin: [03-14] Schumer calls for 'new election' in Israel in scathing speech on Netanyahu: I'd be among the first to point out that's none of his business, just as it's none of Netanyahu's business to weigh in on American elections -- as he's done both personally and through donors like the Abelsons and lobbying groups like AIPAC. On the other hand, if Schumer wanted to cut off military aid and diplomatic support for genocide, that would clearly be his right. More on Schumer:

    • Jonathan Chait: [03-16] Why Chuck Schumer's Israel speech marks a turning point: "He tried to escape the cycle of violence and hate between one-staters of the left and right." That's a very peculiar turn of phrase -- one designed to depict "two-staters" as innocent peace-seekers who have been pushed aside by extremists, each intent on dominating the other. But the very idea of "two states" was a British colonial construct, designed initially to divide-and-rule (as the British did everywhere they gained power), and when they inevitably failed, to foment civil wars in their wake. (Ireland and India/Pakistan are the other prime examples, although there are many others.) The "two-state solution" isn't some long deferred dream. It is the generator and actual state of the conflict. Sure, it doesn't look like the "two states" of American propaganda -- a fantasy Israelis sometimes give lip-service to but more often subvert -- due to the extreme asymmetry of power between the highly efficient and brutal Israeli state and the emaciated chaos of Palestinian leadership (to which the PA is mere window dressing, as was much earlier the British-appointed "Mufti of Jerusalem"). The only left solution is a state built on equal rights of all who live there.

      Borders may be abitrary, and one could designate one, two, or N states in the region, with various ethnic mixes, but for the left, and for peace and justice, each must offer equal rights to its inhabitants. It is true that some on the left were willing to entertain the two-state prospect, but that was only because we realized that Israel is dead set against equal rights, and saw their security requiring that most Palestinians be excluded. We expected that a Palestinian majority, left to its own devices, would organize a state of equal rights democratically. Meanwhile, an Israel more secure in its Jewish majority might moderate, as indeed Israel had done before the 1967 war, the revival of military rule, the settler movement, the debasement and destruction of the Labor Party, and the extreme right-wing drive of the Netanyahu regimes.

      That the actually-existing Zionist state has become an embarrassment to someone as devoted to Israel as Schumer may indeed be a turning point. But heaping scorn on "left one-staters" while trying to revive the "two-state solution," with its implied "separate but equal" air on top of vast differences in power, is less a step forward than a desperate attempt to salvage the past.

    • EJ Dionne Jr: [03-16] Schumer said out loud what many of Israel's friends are thinking.

    • Murtaza Hussain: Outrage at Chuck Schumer's speech: The pro-Israel right wants to eat its cake too.

    • Fred Kaplan: [03-14] Why Chuck Schumer's break with Netanyahu seems like a turning point in the US relationship with Israel.

    • Halie Soifer: [03-15] Schumer spoke for the majority of American Jews: "Only 31% of American Jewish voters have a favorable view of the Israeli prime minister."

  • Caitlin Johnstone: [03-15] If Israel wants to be an 'independent nation,' let it be: "Israel knows it's fully dependent on the US and cannot sustain its nonstop violence without the backing of the US war machine."

  • Fred Kaplan: [03-15] There's a cease-fire deal on the table. Hamas is the one rejecting it. Israel doesn't need to negotiate with Hamas for a cease-fire. They can do that by themselves. You say that wouldn't get the hostages back? Someone else -- say whoever wants to run food and supplies into Gaza? -- can deal with that. The hostages are relatively useless just to swap for other hostages. Their real value to Hamas is to the extent they inhibit Israel from the final, absolute destruction of Gaza and everyone stuck there. Admittedly, that hasn't worked out so well, but trading them for time only helps if the international community uses that time to get Israel to give up on their Final Solution. Meanwhile, what Israel likes about negotiating with Hamas is they never have to agree to anything, because the one thing Hamas wants is off the table. And because Israel is very skilled at shifting blame to Hamas. They even have Kaplan fooled. I mean, consider this:

    Netanyahu has rejected these conditions as "delusional." On this point, he is right. A complete withdrawal of troops and a committed end to the war would leave Israel without the means to enforce the release of hostages. It would also allow Hamas to rebuild its military and resume attacking Israel, whether with rocket fire or another attempted incursion.

    But isn't the point of negotiation to get both sides to do what they committed. Why does Israel need a residual force to "enforce the release of hostages"? If Hamas failed to honor its side of the deal, Israel could always attack again. Can't we admit that would be a sufficiently credible Plan B? And how the hell is Hamas going "to rebuild its military and resume attacking Israel"? They never had a real military, and Gaza never had the resources and tech to build serious arms, and what little they did have has been almost completely demolished. I could see Hamas worrying that Israel could use truce time to bulk up so they could hit Gaza even harder, but the opposite isn't even projection; it's just plain ridiculous.

  • Joshua Keating: [03-14] How Biden could dial up the pressure on Israel -- if he really wanted to.

  • Mitchell Plitnick: [03-15] It isn't Netanyahu who is acting against the will of his people, it's Biden.

  • Richard Silverstein:

  • Adam Taylor/Shira Rubin: [03-14] Biden administration imposes first sanctions on West Bank settler outposts.

  • Kelley Beaucar Vlahos:

  • Philip Weiss: [03-17] Weekly Briefing: Now everyone hates Israel: "The unbelievable onslaught on a captive people in Gaza has at last cracked the conscience of the American Jewish community and sent American Zionists into complete crisis." Picture of Schumer, followed by Jonathan Glazer at the Oscars.

Israel vs. world opinion:

  • Michael Arria: [03-14] The Shift: Jonathan Glazer smeared by pro-Israel voices over Oscar speech: The director of the film The Zone of Interest said this during his acceptance speech after winning the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film:

    All our choices we made to reflect and confront us in the present. Not to say 'look what they did then' -- rather, 'look what we do now.' Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst. It shaped all of our past and present.

    Right now, we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people. Whether the victims of October 7 in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza -- all the victims of this dehumanization, how do we resist?


  • Khalil Barhoum: [03-09] The real reason 'from the river to the sea' has garnered so much condemnation: "The false labeling of Palestinian liberation slogans like 'from the river to the sea' as calls for the elimination of Jews reveals an Israeli anxiety over its dispossession of the Palestinians from their land."

  • Daniel Beaumont: [03-15] Smoke and mirrors: How Israeli agitprop lies become fact.

  • Jonathan Cook:

  • Feminist Solidarity Network for Palestine: [03-11] Here's what Pramila Patten's UN report on Oct 7 sexual violence actually said: "The UN report on sexual violence on October 7 has found no evidence of systematic rape by Hamas or any other Palestinian group, despite widespread media reporting to the contrary. But there are deeper problems with the report's credibility."

  • Luke Goldstein: [03-14] AIPAC talking points revealed: "Documents show that the powerful lobby is spreading its influence on Capitol Hill by calling for unconditional military aid to Israel and hyping up threats from Iran."

  • David Hearst: [03-14] All signs point to a strategic defeat for Israel.

  • Kathy Kelly: [03-15] When starvation is a weapon, the harvest is shame.

  • Tariq Kenney-Shawa: [03-14] Israel Partisans' use of disinformation.

  • Jonathan Ofir: [03-12] Human rights groups sue Denmark for weapons export to Israel.

  • Roy Peled: [03-08] Judith Butler is intentionally giving Hamas' terror legitimacy: "In recent comments, the American Jewish gender theorist labeled the Oct. 7 attack as 'armed resistance.'" This is where I entered a cluster of related articles:

    There's an element of talking past each other here, and especially of assuming X implies Y when it quite possibly doesn't. "Armed resistance" is not in inaccurate description of what Hamas is doing in Gaza. Especially when they're firing back at invading IDF soldiers, one could even say that they're engaged in "self defense" (to borrow a term that Israelis claim as exclusively theirs). The left has some history of celebrating "armed resistance," but that's mostly from times and places where no better option presented itself. But the struggle for equal rights (which is the very definition of what the left is about) has a natural preference for democracy, nudged on by occasional nonviolent civil resistance -- a realization that has been encouraged by occasional success, but also by the insight that some acts of violence are self-damaging and self-defeating.

    Oct. 7 is certainly an example of this. I think it's safe to say that most people who supported equal rights for Palestinians have condemned the Oct. 7 attackers, most often as immoral but also as bad political strategy. Why Hamas chose to launch that particular attack can be explained in various ways -- and please don't jump to the conclusion, which seems to be ordained in the Hasbara Handbook, that explaining = justifying = supporting = celebrating. The most likely is that Hamas felt that no other option was open, perhaps by long observation of other Palestinians pleading and protesting non-violently, only to find Israelis more recalcitrant than ever. Or one might argue that Hamas aren't a left group at all, but like the Zionists are dominating and reducing their enemies, and as such are enamored with violence, like the right-wing fascists of yore. Or you could imagine a conspiracy, where Hamas and Netanyahu have some kind of bizarre symbiotic relationship, where each uses the other as a wedge against their near enemies. (Even without an actual conspiracy, that does describe much of the dynamic.)

    Still, there is another way of looking at "armed resistance," which is that it is the inevitable result of armed occupation, oppression, and repression -- something which Israel is uniquely responsible for. And because it's inevitable, it doesn't matter who is doing it, nor does it do any good to chastise them. The only way to end resistance is to end the occupation that causes it. So while we shouldn't celebrate armed resistance, we also shouldn't flinch from recognizing it as such, because we have to in order to clearly see the force it is resisting.

  • Andrew Perez/Nikki McCann Ramirez: [03-14] Israel lobby pushes lie that people are not starving in Gaza.

  • Reuters: [03-17] UE's Von Der Leyen says Gaza facing famine, ceasefire needed rapidly.

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

War in Ukraine, an election in Russia:

Around the world:


TikTok: A bill to force, under threat of being banned, the Chinese owners of TikTok to sell the company has passed the House, with substantial bipartisan support. Despite the many links here, I have no personal interest in the issue, although I do worry about gratuitous China-bashing, and I'm not a big fan of any social media companies or their business models.

Other stories:

Andrea Long Chu: [03-11] Freedom of sex: The moral case for letting trans kids change their bodies. I'm in no mood to wade into this issue, but note the article, which makes an honest and serious point, and backs it up with considerable evidence and thought. Also note the response:

  • Jonathan Chait: [03-16] Freedom of sex: A liberal response. Oh great, another epithet: TARL (trans-agnostic reactionary liberal), which Chait seizes on, probably because he's the very model of a "reactionary liberal" -- a term he's encountered in many other contexts, and not undeservedly (need we mention Iraq again?).

TJ Coles: [03-08] The new atheism at 20: How an intellectual movement exploited rationalism to promote war: The Sam Harris book, The End of Faith, came out in 2004, soon to be grouped with Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell), Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), and Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great). While critical of all religions, they held a particular animus for Islam, at a time when doing so was most useful for promoting the American and Israeli wars on terror. Coles has a whole book on them: The New Atheism Hoax: Exposing the Politics of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens. Coles is a British psychologist with a lot of recent books attacking media domination by special interests; e.g.:

  • President Trump, Inc.: How Big Business and Neoliberalism Empower Populism and the Far-Right (2017)
  • Real Fake News: Techniques of Propaganda and Deception-Based Mind Control, From Ancient Babylon to Internet Algorithms (2018)
  • Manufacturing Terrorism: When Governments Use Fear to Justify Foreign Wars and Control Society (2019)
  • Privatized Planet: Free Trade as a Weapon Against Democracy, Healthcare and the Environment (2019)
  • The War on You (2020)
  • We'll Tell You What to Think: Wikipedia, Propaganda and the Making of Liberal Consensus (2021)
  • Biofascism: The Tech-Pharma Complex and the End of Democracy (2022)
  • Militarizing Cancel Culture: How Censorship and Deplatforming Became a Weapon of the US Empire (2023)

Matt Kennard: [03-16] Last days of Julilan Assange in the United States: "The WikiLeaks publisher may soon be on the way to the US to face trial for revealing war crimes. What he would face there is terrifying beyond words."

Rick Perlstein: [03-13] Social distortion: "On the fourth anniversary of the pandemic, a look at how America pulled apart as the rest of the world pulled together." Reviews Eric Klinenberg: 2020: One City, Seven People, and the Year That Changed Everything.

Scott Remer: [03-15] Pessimism of the intellect, pessimism of the will: Title is an obvious play on Gramsci, who even facing death in prison preferred "optimism of the will." But no mention of Gramsci here. The subject is self-proclaimed progressivism, keyed to this quote from Robert LaFollette: "the Progressive Movement is the only political medium in our country today which can provide government in the interests of all classes of the people. We are unalterably opposed to any class government, whether it be the existing dictatorship of the plutocracy or the dictatorship of the proletariat." (Presumably that was from 1924, when the Soviet Union was newly established.) That leads to this:

All this should sound familiar. It describes bien-pensant liberals of the Obama-Clinton-Biden persuasion to a tee: their aestheticization of politics, their fetishization of entrepreneurialism and expertise; their studied avoidance of polarization, partisanship, and partiality; their distaste for class conflict; their elevation of technocracy and science as beacons of reason; their belief in the pretense that politics can be reduced to interest-group bargaining and consensus seeking; their desire to keep the labor movement at a distance; their continued fealty to American exceptionalism even when looking to European models would be exceptionally edifying; and their general attitude of deference towards big business. Neoliberals' demography -- disproportionately white, upper middle class, professional, and college-educated -- also parallels the original Progressives.

I like bien-pensant here, as it's open to translations ranging from "right-thinking" to "lackadaisically blissful," each a facet of the general mental construct. The easiest way to understand politics in America is to recognize that there are two classes: donors and voters. Voters decide who wins, but only after donors decide who can run -- which they can do because it takes lots of money to run, and they're the ones with that kind of money. Republicans have a big advantage in this system: they offer businesses pretty much everything they want, and ask little of them beyond acceding to their singular fetishes (mostly guns and religion).

Democrats have a much tougher problem: voters would flock to them because Republicans cause them harm, but the only Democrats who can run are those backed by donors, who severely limit what Democrats can do for their voters. The Clinton-Obama types tried to square this circle by appealing to more liberal-minded business segments, especially high-growth sectors like tech, finance and entertainment. They were fairly successful at raising money, and they won several elections, but ultimately failed to make much headway with the problems they campaigned on fixing.

At present, both parties have backed themselves into corners where they are bound to fail. With ever-increasing inequality, the donor class is ever more estranged from the voting public. Normally, you would expect that when the pendulum swings too far left or right, it would swing back toward the middle, but the nature of capitalism is such that donors can never be satisfied, so will always push for more and more. But the policies they want only exacerbate the problems that most people feel, sooner or later leading to disastrous breakdowns (for Republicans) or severe dissolution (for Democrats, who while incapable of fixing things are at least more adept at delaying and/or mitigating their disasters).

Nathan J Robinson:

  • [03-12] Overwhelmed by feelings of complicity and paralysis: "In a world filled with horrors, where our actions feel useless, it can be hard to muster the energy to press on." This paragraph hit close to home:

    As Americans see tens of thousands of Palestinians die, we know that our own government is responsible, through providing the weapons and blocking UN action to stop the war. But how can we actually affect government policy? Later this year, there will be an election, but the choices in that election will be between the intolerable status quo (Joe Biden) and a likely even more rabidly pro-Israel president (Donald Trump). I don't know how it felt to oppose the Vietnam war in 1967-68, but I suspect it must have felt similarly frustrating, with the Democratic incumbent responsible for the war and any Republican likely to escalate it further.

    I do remember 1967-68, which spans the period from when my next door neighbor came home from Vietnam in a box to the government's first efforts to send me to the same fate. I knew people who went quite literally crazy back then. (Fortunately, I was already crazy then, and the Army decided they'd be better off without me.) So one thing I learned was to be fairly tolerant of people I don't agree with. Nearly everything is out of our control, so the only real task most of us face is just coping with it.

    Also the section on critiquing political books ("I have never felt more ineffectual than at this moment"). Here's a bit:

    Today, our public discourse seems to have gone off the rails entirely, and this sometimes makes me question what my approach should be as a political writer. Look, for example, though the top-selling political commentary books. No.1 at the moment is a book by Abigail Shrier, whose terrible polemic about trans kids I reviewed a while back. This one is about how we're ruining children by coddling them and is a broadside against mainstream psychology. I suspect its claims are just as dubious as those in the last book. Should I bother to go through and refute them? Will anybody care if I do?

    What else do we have in the political commentary section? More stuff about how the left is crazy, from Jesse Watters, Christopher Rufo, Douglas Murray, Coleman Hughes, Alex Jones, Candace Owens, Ted Cruz, etc. Books about how there's a war on Christian America, a war on the West, and a battle to "cancel" the American mind. Most of the bestsellers are right-wing, and the ones that are liberal are mostly just attacks on Trump.

    That list is generated by sales, so it's likely changed a bit since Robinson linked to it. One new add is Alan Dershowitz: War Against the Jews: How to End Hamas Barbarism. Aside from Jonathan Karl's Tired of Winning, the top-rated Trump book is also by Dershowitz, but defending him. The only remotely liberal (never mind left) book is Heather Cox Richardson's Democracy Awakening, where she is astonishingly naïve and blasé about the real effects of Biden's foreign policy.

  • [03-08] Why we need "degrowth": Interview with Kohei Saito, author of Slow Down: The Degrowth Manifesto.

  • [03-01] Why factory farming is a moral atrocity: Interview with Lewis Bollard, of Open Philanthrophy's farm animal program.

  • [02-26] It's time to break up with capitalism: Interview with Malaika Jabali, author of It's Not You, It's Capitalism: Why It's Time to Break Up and How to Move On, "reviewed here by Matt McManus."

  • [02-02] Astra Taylor on what 'security' really means: I'm pretty sure I've linked to this before, but I've nearly finished reading the book -- which, not for the first time, is very good, especially the section on education and curiosity -- so could use a review.

Aja Romano:

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Speaking of Which

Once again, started early in the week, spent most of my time here, didn't get to everything I usually cover. Late Sunday night, figured I should go ahead and kick this out. Monday updates possible.

Indeed, I wasted most of Monday adding things, some of which, contrary to my usual update discipline, only appeared on Monday. The most interesting I'll go ahead and mention here:

  • Alexander Ward/Jonathan Lemire: [03-11] If Israel invades Rafah, Biden will consider conditioning military aid to Israel. There are several articles below suggesting that the Biden administration is starting to show some discomfort with its Israeli masters. I've generally made light of such signals, as they've never threatened consequences or even been unambiguously uttered in public. I've seen several more suggesting that the long promised invasion of Rafah -- the last corner of Gaza where some two million people have been driven into -- could cross some kind of "red line."

    I am willing to believe that "Genocide Joe" is a bit unfair: that while he's not willing to stand up to Netanyahu, he's not really comfortable with the unbounded slaughter and mass destruction Israel is inflicting. I characterize his pier project below as "passive-aggressive." I think he's somehow trying (but way too subtly) to make Israel's leaders realize that their dream of killing and/or expelling everyone from Gaza isn't going to be allowed, so at some point they're going to have to relent, and come up with some way of living with the survivors.

I don't recall where, but I think I've seen some constructive reaction from Biden to the "uncommitted" campaign that took 13% of Michigan and 18% of Minnesota votes. So it's possible that the message is getting through even if the raw numbers are still far short of overwhelming. The Israel Lobby has so warped political space in Washington that few politicians can as much as imagine how out of touch and tone-deaf they've become on this issue.

Still, Biden has a lot of fence-mending to do.

I'll try not to add more, but next week will surely come around, bringing more with it.

Initial count: 181 links, 7,582 words. Updated count [03-11]: 207 links, 9,444 words.

Top story threads:

Not sure where to put this, so how about here?

  • Jacob Bogage: [03-08] Government shutdown averted as Senate passes $459 billion funding bill: In other words, Republicans once again waited until the last possible moment, then decided not to pull the trigger in their Russian roulette game over the budget. It seems be an unwritten rule that in electing Mike Johnson as Speaker, the extreme-right gets support for everything except shutting down the government.


Israel vs. world opinion: Note that Biden's relief scheme for Gaza, announced in his State of the Union address, has been moved into its own sandbox, farther down, next to other Biden/SOTU pieces.

  • Kyle Anzalone: [03-07] South Africa urges ICJ for emergency order as famine looms over Gaza.

  • James Bamford: [03-06] Time is running out to stop the carnage in Gaza: "Given the toll from bombing and starvation, Gaza will soon become the world's largest unmarked grave." Actually, time ran out sometime in the first week after Oct. 7, when most Americans -- even many on the left who had become critical of Israeli apartheid -- were too busy competing in their denunciations of Hamas to notice how the Netanyahu government was clearly intent to commit genocide. At this point, the carnage is undeniable -- perhaps the only question is when the majority of the killing will shift (or has shifted) from arms to environmental factors (including starvation), because the latter are relatively hard to count (or are even more likely to be undercounted). Of course, stopping the killing is urgent, no matter how many days we fail.

  • Greer Fay Cashman: [03-07] President Herzog faces calls for arrest on upcoming Netherlands visit.

  • Jonathan Cook: [03-07] How the 'fight against antisemitism' became a shield for Israel's genocide.

  • Richard Falk: [02-25] In Gaza, the west is enabling the most transparent genocide in human history.

  • Noah Feldman: [03-05] How Oct. 7 is forcing Jews to reckon with Israel. Excerpt from his new book, To Be a Jew Today: A New Guide to God, Israel, and the Jewish People.

  • Daniel Finn: [03-07] Slaughter in Gaza has discredited Britain's political class.

  • Fred Kaplan: [03-06] Four things that will have to happen for the Israel-Hamas war to end: I have a lot of respect for Kaplan as an analyst of such matters, but the minimal solution he's created is impossible. His four things?

    1. The Hamas leadership has to surrender or go into exile. ("Qatar will have to crack down on Hamas, or perhaps provide its military leaders refuge in exchange for their departure from Gaza.")
    2. "Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Sunni powers in the region will have to help rebuild Gaza and foster new, more moderate political leaders."
    3. "Israel will at least have to say that it favors the creation of a Palestinian state and to take at least a small movement in that direction." Why anyone should believe Israel in this isn't explained.
    4. "The United States will have to serve as some sort of guarantor to all of this -- and not only for Israel."

    In other words, every nation in the region has to bend to Israel's stubborn insistence that they have to maintain control over every inch of Gaza, even though they've made it clear they'd prefer for everyone living there to depart or die. In any such scenario, it is inevitable that resistance will resurface to again threaten Israel's security, no matter how many layers of proxies are inserted, and no matter how systematically Israel culls its "militants." Short of a major sea change in Israeli opinion -- which is a prospect impossible to take seriously, at least in the short term -- there is only one real solution possible, which is for Israel to disown Gaza. Israel can continue to maintain its borders, its Iron Walls and Iron Domes, and can threaten massive retaliation if anyone on the Gaza side of the border attacks them. (This can even include nuclear, if that's the kind of people they are.) But Israel no longer gets any say in how the people of Gaza live. From that point, Israel is out of the picture, and Gaza has no reason to risk self-destruction by making symbolic gestures.

    That still leaves Gaza with a big problem -- just not an Israel problem. That is because Israel has rendered Gaza uninhabitable, at least for the two million people still stuck there. Those people need massive aid, and even so many of them probably need to move elsewhere, at least temporarily. Without Israel to fight, Hamas instantly becomes useless. They will release their hostages, and disband. Some may go into exile. The rest may join in rebuilding, ultimately organized under a local democracy, which would have no desire let alone capability to threaten Israel. This is actually very simple, as long as outside powers don't try to corrupt the process by recruiting local cronies (a big problem in the region, with the US, its Sunni allies, Iran, its Shiite friends, Turkey, and possibly others serial offenders).

    Sure, this would leave Israel with a residual Palestinian problem elsewhere: both with its second- and lesser-class citizens and wards, and with its still numerous external refugees. But that problem has not yet turned genocidal (although it's getting close, and is clearly possible as long as Smotrich and Ben-Gvir are part of Israel's ruling coalition). But there is time to work on that, especially once Israel is freed from the burden and horror of genocide in Gaza. There are lots of ideas that could work as solutions, but they all ultimately to accepting that everyone, regardless of where they live, should enjoy equal rights and opportunities. That will be a tough pill for many Israelis to swallow, but is the only one that will ultimately free them from the internecine struggle Israelis and Palestinians have been stuck with for most of a century. There's scant evidence that most Israelis want that kind of security, so people elsewhere will need to continue with BDS-like strategies of persuasion. But failure to make progress will just expose Israelis to revolts like they experienced on Oct. 7, and Palestinians to the immiseration and gloom they've suffered so often over many decades decades.

  • Colbert I King: [03-08] The United States cannot afford to be complicit in Gaza's tragedy: True or not, isn't it a bit late to think of this?

  • Nicholas Kristof: [03-19] 'People are hoping that Israel nukes us so we get rid of this pain': Texts with a Gazan acquaintance named Esa Alshannat, not Hamas, but after Israeli soldiers left an area, found "dead, rotten and half eaten by wild dogs." Kristof explains: "Roughly 1 percent of Gaza's people today are Hamas fighters. To understand what the other 99 percent are enduring, as the United States supplies weapons for this war and vetoes cease-fire resolutions at the United Nations, think of Alshannat and multiply him by two million."

  • Debbie Nathan:

  • Vivian Nereim: [03-10] As Israel's ties to Arab countries fray, a stained lifeline remains: The United Arab Emirates is still on speaking terms with Israel, but doesn't have much to show for their solicitude.

  • Ilan Pappé: [02-01] It is dark before the dawn, but Israeli settler colonialism is at an end.

  • Mitchell Plitnick: [03-07] Replacing Netanyahu with Gantz won't fix the problem.

  • Rebecca Lee Sanchez: [03-06] Gaza's miracle of the manna: Aid and the American God complex.

  • Philip Weiss:

  • Brett Wilkins: [03-06] AIPAC's dark money arm unleashes $100 million: "Amid the Netanyahu government's assault on Gaza and intensifying repression in the West Bank, AIPAC is showing zero tolerance for even the mildest criticism of Israel during the 2024 US elections."

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire: I started this section to separate out stories on how the US was expanding its operations in the Middle East, ostensibly to deter regional adversaries from attacking Israel while Israel was busy with its genocide in Gaza. At the time, it seemed like Israel was actively trying to promote a broader war, partly to provide a distraction from its own focus (much as WWII served to shield the Holocaust), and partly to give the Americans something else to focus on. Israel tried selling this as a "seven-front war" -- a line that Thomas Friedman readily swallowed, quickly recovering from his initial shock at Israel's overreaction in Gaza -- but with neither Iran nor the US relishing what Israel imagined to be the main event, thus far only the Houthis in Yemen took the bait (where US/UK reprisals aren't much of a change from what the Saudis had been doing, with US help, for years). So this section has gradually been taken over by more general articles on America's imperial posture (with carve outs for the still-raging wars in Israel/Gaza and Ukraine/Russia.

  • Ramzy Baroud:

    • [03-04] To defend Israel's actions, the US is destroying the int'l legal system it once constructed: I'm not sure that the US ever supported any sort of international justice system. The post-WWII trials in Japan and Germany were rigged to impose "victor's justice." The UN started as a victors' club, with Germany and Japan excluded, and the Security Council was designed so small states couldn't gang up on the powers. And when Soviet vetoes precluded using the UN as a cold war tool, the US invented various "coalitions of the willing" to rubber-stamp policy. The US never recognized independent initiatives like the ICJ, although the US supports using the ICJ where it's convenient, like against Russia in Ukraine. The only "rules-based order" the US supports is its own, and even there its blind support for Israel arbitrary and capricious -- subject to no rules at all, only the whims of Netanyahu.

    • [03-08] On solidarity and Kushner's shame: How Gaza defeated US strategem, again.

  • Mac William Bishop: [02-23] American idiots kill the American century: "After decades of foreign-policy bungling and strategic defeats, the US has never seemed weaker -- and dictators around the world know it."

  • Christopher Caldwell: [03-09] This prophetic academic now foresees the West's defeat: On French historian/political essayist Emmanuel Todd, who claims to have been the first to predict the demise of the Soviet Union (see his The Final Fall: An Essay on the Decomposition of the Soviet Sphere, from 1976), has a new book called La Défaite de l'Occident. Caldwell, who has a book called The Age of Entitlement, seems to be an unconventional conservative, so even when he has seeming insights it's hard to trust them. Even harder to get a read on Todd. (The NYTimes' insistence on "Mr." at every turn has never been more annoying.) But their skepticism of Biden et al. on Ukraine/Russia is certainly warranted. By the way, here are some old Caldwell pieces:

  • Brian Concannon: [03-08] US should let Haiti reclaim its democracy.

  • Gregory Elich: [03-08] How Madeleine Albright got the war the US wanted: NATO goes on the warpath, initially in Yugoslavia, then . . . "the opportunity to expand Western domination over other nations."

  • Tom Engelhardt: [03-05] A big-time war on terror: Living on the wrong world: "A planetary cease fire is desperately needed."

  • Connor Freeman: [03-07] Biden's unpopular wars reap mass death and nuclear brinkmanship.

  • Marc Martorell Junyent: [03-07] Tempest in a teapot: British illusions and American hegemony from Iraq to Yemen. Review of Tom Stevenson's book, Someone Else's Empire: British Illusions and American Hegemony.

  • Joshua Keating: [03-09] The Houthis have the world's attention -- and they won't give it up: "What do Yemen's suddenly world-famous rebels really want, and what will make them stop?" One lesson here is that deterrence only works if it threatens a radical break from the status quo. The Saudis, with American support, have been bombing the Houthis for more than a decade now, causing great hardship for the Yemeni people, but hardly moving the needle on Houthi political power. So how much worse would it get if they picked a fight with Israel's proxy navy? Moreover, by standing up to Israel and its unwitting allies, they gain street cred and a claim to the moral high ground. For similar reasons, sanctions are more likely to threaten nations that aren't used to them. Once you're under sanctions, which with the US tends to be a life sentence, what difference does a few more make? It's too late for mere threats to change the behavior of Yemen, Iran, North Korea, and/or Russia -- though maybe not to affect powers whose misbehaviors have thus far escaped American sanctions, like Israel and Saudi Arabia. But for the rest, to effect change, you need to do something positive, to give them some motivation and opportunity to change. In many cases, that shouldn't even be hard. Just try to do the right thing. Respect the independence of others. Look for mutual benefits, like in trade. Help them help their own people. And stop defending genocide.

  • Nan Levinson: [03-07] The enticements of war (and peace).

  • Blaise Malley: [03-06] Opportunity calls as Cold War warriors exit the stage: "Will Mitch McConnell's replacement represent the old or new guard in his party's foreign policy?"

  • Paul R Pillar: [03-06] Why Netanyahu is laughing all the way to the bank: "David Petraeus said recently that US leverage on Israel to do the right thing in Gaza is 'overestimated' -- that's just not true."

  • Robert Wright: [03-08] The real problem with the Trump-Biden choice: This piece is far-reaching enough I could have slotted it anywhere, but it has the most bearing here: the problem is how much Trump and Biden have in common, especially where it comes to foreign affairs: "America First" may seem like a different approach from Biden's, but the latter is just a slightly more generous and less intemperate variation, as both start from the assumption that America is and must be the leader, and everyone else needs to follow in line. Trump thinks he can demand the other pay tribute; Biden possibly knows better, but his pursuit of arms deals makes me wonder. Wright cites a piece by Adam Tooze I can't afford or find, quoting it only up to the all-important "but" after which the Trump-Biden gap narrows. While I'm sure Tooze has interesting things to say, Wright's efforts to steer foreign policy thinking away from the zero-sum confrontations of the Metternich-to-Kissinger era are the points to consider.

  • Fareed Zakaria: [03-08] Amid the horror in Gaza, it's easy to miss that the Middle East has changed.

Election notes: Sixteen states and territories voted for president on Super Tuesday, mostly confirming what we already knew. Biden won everywhere (except American Samoa), even over "uncommitted" (which mostly got a push from those most seriously upset over his support for Israeli genocide). Trump won everywhere -- except in Vermont, narrowly to Nikki Haley, who nonetheless shuttered her campaign (but hasn't yet endorsed Trump). Dean Phillips dropped out of the Democratic race after getting 8% in his home state of Minnesota and 9% in Oklahoma. He endorsed Biden. I'm not very happy with any of the news summaries I've seen, but here are a few to skim through: 538; AP; Ballotpedia; CBS News; CNBC; CNN; Guardian; NBC News; New York Times; Politico; USA Today; Washington Post. One quote I noticed (from CNN) was from a "reluctant Democrat" in Arizona: "It's hard to vote for someone with multiple felony charges; and it's also very hard to vote for someone that is pro-genocide."

  • Michael C Bender: [03-06] How Trump's crushing primary triumph masked quiet weaknesses: "Even though he easily defeated Nikki Haley, the primary results suggested that he still has long-term problems with suburban voters, moderates, and independents."

  • Aaron Blake: [03-08] The Texas GOP purge and other below-the-radar Super Tuesday nuggets.

  • Nate Cohn: [03-07] Where Nikki Haley won and what it means: Inside the Beltway (61%), Home base and Mountain West cities (57%), Vermont (56%), University towns (56%), Resort towns (55%): In other words, the sorts of places that would automatically disqualify one as a Real Republican.

  • Antonia Hitchens: [03-06] Watching Super Tuesday returns at Mar-a-Lago.

  • Ro Khanna: [03-07] The message from Michigan couldn't be more clear: Actually, these figures (see Nichols below) are hardly enough for a bump in the road to Biden's reelection -- unlike, say, Eugene McCarthy's New Hampshire showing in 1968, where Lyndon Johnson got the message clearly enough to give up his campaign. What they do show is that the near-unanimity of Democratic politicians in support of Israel is not shared by the rank and file.

  • Adam Nagourney/Shane Goldmacher: [03-09] The Biden-Trump rerun: A nation craving change gets more of the same: I bypassed this first time around, but maybe we should offer some kind of reward for the week's most inane opinion piece. Wasn't Nagourney a finalist in one of those hack journalists playoffs? (If memory serves -- why the hell can't I just google this? -- he finished runner-up to Karen Tumulty.)

  • John Nichols: [03-05] Gaza is on the ballot all over America: "Inspired by Michigan's unexpectedly high 'uncommitted' vote, activists across the country are now mounting campaigns to send Biden a pro-cease-fire message." Uncommitted slate votes thus far (from NYTimes link, above): Minnesota: 18.9%; Michigan: 13.2%; North Carolina: 12.7%; Massachusetts: 9.4%; Colorado: 8.1%; Tennessee: 7.9%; Alabama: 6.0%; Iowa: 3.9%.

  • Alexander Sammon:

    • [03-09] Katie Porter said her Senate primary was "rigged." Let's discuss! "Her complaint was kind of MAGA-coded. But it wasn't entirely wrong." Adam Schiff had a huge fundraising advantage over Porter, as Porter did over the worthier still Barbara Lee. This is one of the few pieces I've found that looks into where that money came from (AIPAC chipped in $5 million; a crypto-backed PAC doubled that), and how it was used, explained in more depth in the following:

    • [03-05] Democrats have turned to odd, cynical tactics to beat one another in California's Senate race. Schiff wound up spending a lot of money not trying to win Democrats over from Porter and Lee -- something that might require explaining why he supported the Iraq War (which itself partly explains why he got all that AIPAC money) -- but instead spent millions raising Republican Steve Garvey's profile. In the end, Schiff was so successful he lost first place to Garvey (on one but not both of the contests: one to finish Feinstein's term, one for the six year term that follows), but at least he got past Porter and Lee, turning the open primary into a traditional R-D contest (almost certainly D in California).

  • Michael Scherer: [03-08] Inside No Labels decision to plow ahead with choosing presidential candidates: "The group announced on a call with supporters Friday plans to announce a selection process for their third-party presidential ticket on March 14 with a nomination by April." More No Labels:

  • Li Zhou: [03-06] Jason Palmer, the guy who beat Biden in American Samoa, briefly explained.

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden's band-aid folly: Unveiled in Biden's State of the Union address, q.v., but for this week, let's give it its own section:

  • Alex Horton: [03-08] How the US military will use a floating pier to deliver Gaza aid: "Construction will take up to two months and require 1,000 US troops who will remain off shore, officials say. Once complete, it will enable delivery of 2 million meals daily."

  • Jonathan Cook: [03-10] Biden's pier-for-Gaza is hollow gesture.

  • Kareem Fahim/Hazem Balousha: [03-08] Biden plan to build Gaza port, deliver aid by sea draws skepticism, ridicule. Sounds like they had a contest to come up with the most expensive, least efficient method possible to trickle life-sustaining aid into Gaza, without in any way inhibiting Israel's systematic slaughter.

  • Miriam Berger/Sufian Taha/Heidi Levine/Loveday Morris: [03-05] The improbable US plan for a revitalized Palestinian security force: Because the US did such a great job of training the Afghan security force?

  • Noga Tarnopolsky: [03-09] The Biden plan to ditch Netanyahu: "The 'come to Jesus moment' is already here, according to Israeli and US sources." I don't give this report much credit, but it stands to reason that eventually Biden will tire of Netanyahu jerking him around just so he can further embarrass both countries with what is both in intent and effect genocide. I do see ways in which Biden's initial subservience is evolving into some kind of passive-aggressive resistance. Rather than denounce Israel for making reasonable aid possible, Biden has challenged Israel to spell out what they would allow, and agreed even as these schemes are patently ridiculous. It's only a matter of time until Israel starts attacking American aid providers. For another piece:

  • Zack Beauchamp: [03-08] Are Biden and the Democrats finally turning on Israel? "Biden's new plan to build a pier on the Gaza coast seems to say yes. The continued military aid to Israel says otherwise."

Biden's State of the Union speech: A section for everything else related, including official and unofficial Republican responses:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

  • Elie Honig: [03-08] Biden's looming nightmare pardons: Ever since this "former federal and state prosecutor" started writing for Intelligencer, his pieces have sounded like stealth briefs from the Trump legal team, even if not things they would actually want to own. This one at least assumes things not yet in evidence: that Trump is actually tried and convicted and sentenced to jail time -- the power may be to pardon, but all he's asking for is commutation of prison time, not full pardons. As that's increasingly unlikely before November, the assumption may also be that Biden wins then, so has some breathing room before having to consider the issue, which would leave plenty of time for this discussion, unlike now.

  • Josh Kovensky: [03-05] Feds slap 12 new counts on Bob 'Gold Bars' Menendez: Senator (D-NJ).

  • Ian Millhiser: [03-10] Do Americans still have a right to privacy? "With courts coming for abortion and IVF, it's hard not to wonder what the Supreme Court will go after next."

Climate, environment, and energy:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

Other stories:

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

Indivar Dutta-Gupta/Korian Warren: [03-04] The war on poverty wasn't enough: "While Lyndon B Johnson's effort made some lasting impacts, the United States still has some of the highest rates of nonelderly poverty among wealthy nations." As the article notes, Johnson's programs brought big improvements, but the Vietnam War hurt him politically, and his successors lost interest: e.g., Nixon's appointment of Donald Rumsfeld to run the Office of Economic Opportunity. And while Republicans deserve much of the blame, Democrats like Daniel Moynahan and Bill Clinton were often as bad, sometimes worse.

Henry Farrell: [02-27] Dr. Pangloss's Panopticon: A very thoughtful critique of Noah Smith's "quite negative review of a recent book by Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson, Power and Progress: Our 1000-Year Struggle Over Technology & Prosperity. There are complex issues at dispute here, many much more interesting than those that dominate this (and all recent) posts. Dr. Pangloss (from Voltaire) stands in for techno-optimism: the idea that unfettered innovation, accelerated as it is through modern venture capitalism, promises to deliver ever-improving worlds. Panopticon (from Jeremy Bentham) is an early form of mass surveillance, a capability that technology has done much to develop recently, with AI promising a breakthrough to the bottleneck problem (the time and people you need to surveil other people).

Luke Goldstein: [02-23] Crunch time for government spying: "Congress has a few weeks left until a key spying provision sunsets. Both reformers and intelligence hawks are plotting their strategies."

Oshan Jarow: [03-08] The world's mental health is in rough shape -- and not getting any better: "Guess where the US ranks?"

Sarah Kaplan: [03-06] Are we living in an 'Age of Humans'? Geologists say no. A recent proposal for delineating a stratigraphic boundary for the Anthropocene, based on "a plume of radioactive plutonium that circled around the world" in 1952, was proposed recently and, at least for now, voted down. More:

Alvaro Lopez: [03-08] The making of Frantz Fanon: Review of Adam Shatz's new book, The Rebel's Clinic: The Revolutionary Lives of Frantz Fanon. Also:

Rick Perlstein: [03-06] The spectacle of policing: "'Swatting' innocent people is the latest incarnation of the decades-long gestation of an infrastructure of fear."

Dave Phillipps: [03-06] Profound damage found in Maine gunman's brain, possibly from blasts: "A laboratory found a pattern of cell damage that has been seen in veterans exposed to weapons blasts, and said it probably played a role in symptoms the gunman displayed before the shooting." Robert Card was a grenade instructor in the Army Reserve for eight years. He went on to shoot and kill 18 people and himself. Something not yet factored into the "Costs of War" accounting. Another report:

Jeffrey St Clair: [03-08] Roaming Charges: Too obvious to be real.

I ran across a link to this David Brooks [02-08]: Trump came for their party but took over their souls. A normal person would have little trouble writing a column under that headline. Even Brooks hits some obvious points, like: "Democracy is for suckers"; "Entertainment over governance"; and "Lying is normal." But the one that really upsets Brooks is: "America would be better off in a post-American world." The other maxim that Brooks castigates Trump for is "Foreigners don't matter." This leads to his rant against "isolationism," which inevitably devolves into invoking the spectre of Neville Chamberlain.

Brooks celebrates the triumph of Eisenhower over Taft in 1952, when "the GOP became an internationalist party and largely remained that way for six decades" -- glorious years that spread capitalist exploitation to the far corners of the globe, transforming colonies into cronies ruled by debt penury, policed by "forever wars" and, wherever the occasion arose, ruthless counterrevolutions and civil wars.

Meanwhile, instead of enjoying the wealth this foreign policy generated, America's middle class -- the solid burghers and union workers who, as Harry Truman put it, "voted Democratic to live like Republicans" -- got ground down into their own penury. The Cold War was always as much about fighting democracy at home as it was about denying socialism abroad, much as the "war on terror" was mostly just an authoritarian tantrum directed against anyone who failed to submit to America's globe-spanning military colossus.

Sure, it is an irony that blows Brooks' mind that it now seems to be the Republicans -- the party that most celebrates rapacious capitalism, is most devoutly committed to authoritarian rule, and whose people are most callously indifferent to the cries of those harmed by their greed -- should be the first give up on the game.

Of course, they weren't. The left, or "premature antifascists" (as the OSS referred to us in the 1940s, before "communists and fellow travelers" proved to be a more effective slur), knew this all along, but that insight came from caring about what happens to others, and solidarity in what we sensed was a common struggle. It took Republicans much longer to realize that globalized capitalism, under the aegis of American military power, not only didn't work for them personally, but that it directly led to jobs moving overseas, and all kinds of foreigners flooding America. And since Republicans had put so much propaganda effort into stoking racism and reaction, not least by blaming Democrats (with their "open borders" and focus on wars as "humanitarian") for loving foreigners more than their own people.

I was pointed to Brooks' piece by a pair of tweets: Simon Schama linked, adding: "Heartfelt obituary by David Brooks for the expiring of last vestiges of the Republican Party. No longer has supporters but 'an audience.' Lying normalised. Total abandonment of internationalism." To which, Sam Hasselby added:

People have really memory-holed the whole Iraq catastrophe which is in fact what normalized a new scale of lying and impunity in American politics. It was also a lie which cost $7 trillion dollars, killed one million innocent Iraqis, and displaced 37 million people.

Yet Iraq War boosters like Brooks still have major mainstream media gigs, while Adam Schiff trounced Barbara Lee (the only member of Congress to vote against the whole War on Terror) in a Democratic primary, and Joe Biden became president -- finally giving up the 20-year disaster in Afghanistan, only to wholeheartedly embrace new, but already even more disastrous, wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Speaking of Which

I started this early, on Wednesday, maybe even Tuesday, as I couldn't bring myself to work on anything else. There's a rhythm here: I have twenty-some tabs open to my usual sources, and just cycle through them, picking out stories, noting them, sometimes adding a comment, some potentially long. By Friday night, I had so much, I thought of posting early: leaving the date set for Sunday, when I could do a bit of update.

I didn't get the early post done. Sunday, my wife invited some friends over to watch a movie. I volunteered to make dinner, and that (plus the movie) killed the rest of the day. Nothing fancy: I keep all the fixings for pad thai on hand, so I can knock off a pretty decent one-dish meal in little more than an hour. And I had been thinking about making hot and sour soup since noticing a long-neglected package of dried lily buds, so I made that too. First actual cooking I had done in at least a month, so that felt nice and productive.

This, of course, feels totally scattered. I'm unsure of the groupings, and it's hard for me to keep track of the redundancies and contradictions. And once again, I didn't manage to finish my rounds. Perhaps I'll add a bit more after initially posting it late Sunday night. But at the moment, I'm exhausted.

My wife mentioned an article to me that I should have tracked down earlier, but can only mention here: Pankaj Mishra: [03-07] The Shoah after Gaza. Mishra grew up in a "family of upper-caste Hindu nationalists in India," deeply sympathetic to Israel, so his piece offers a slightly distant parallel to what many of us who started sympathetic only to become dismayed and ultimately appalled by what Israel has turned into. Beyond that, the piece is valuable as a history of how the Nazi Judeocide -- to borrow Arno Mayer's more plainly factual term in lieu of Holocaust or Shoah -- has been forged into a cudgel for beating down anyone who so much as questions let alone challenges the supremacy of Israeli power.

There is also a YouTube video of Mishra's piece.

On Facebook, I ran across this quote attributed to Carolina Landsmann in Haaretz:

We (Israelis) continue to approach the world from the position of victim, ignoring the 30,000 dead in Gaza, including 12,000 children, assuming that the world is still captive to its historic guilt toward Israel without understanding that this is over. The era of the Holocaust has ended. The Palestinians are now the wretched of the earth.

It's impossible to go back to the pre-Oct 7 world. To the blame economy between the Jews and the world, which gave the former moral immunity. Enough; it's over. Every era draws to a close. The time has come to grow up.

There was a time, and not that long ago, when I still thought that the experience of victimhood would still temper the exercise of Israeli power: sure, Israel was systematically oppressive, and Israeli society was riddled with the ethnocentrism we Americans understand as racism, but surely they still had enough of a grip on their humanity to stop short of genocide. That's all changed now, and it's coming as quite a shock -- no doubt to many Israelis as they look at their neighbors, but even more so to Americans (not just Jews but also many liberals who have long counted on Jews as allies).

It's hard to know what to do these days, beyond the call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, and the constant need to remind anyone who's still echoing the Israeli hasbara that it's genocide, and by not opposing it, they're complicit. It may be unfair to go so far as to make placards about "Genocide Joe" -- he's just in thrall, having fully adapted to the peculiar gravity of the Israel lobby when he arrived in Washington fifty years ago -- as there is still a difference (maybe not practical, but certainly in spirit) between him and the people in Israel (and some Republicans in Congress) who really are committed to genocide. But in times like this, nice sentiments don't count for much.

Another important piece I noticed but skipped over on Sunday: Aaron Gell: [03-03] Has Zionism lost the argument? "American Jews' long-standing consensus about Israel has fractured. There may be no going back." There is a lot to unpack here. It's worth your time to read the interview with Ruth Wisse, with her absolutist defense of Israel, then the digression where the author considers the charge that Jews who doubt Israel are becoming non-Jews, ending in a reference to the Mishnah, specifically "by far the hardest to answer: If I am only for myself, who am I? Many Zionists long justified their project as providing a haven from anti-semitism, but their exclusive focus on their own issues, turning into indifference or worse towards everyone else, has finally turned Israel into the world's leading generator of anti-semitism.

Wisse insists that "the creation of the state changes the entire picture, because now to be anti-Zionist is a genocidal concept. If you're an anti-Zionist, you're against the existence of Israel . . . the realized homeland of nine million people." But later on, Gell notes: "I've spoken to dozens of anti-Zionists over the past few months, and not a single one thought Israel should cease to exist." They have various ideas of how this could be done, in part because they've seen it work here:

American Jews are justifiably proud to live in a successful multiethnic democracy, imperfect though it is. As citizens of a nation in which Jews are a distinct minority, we owe our well-being, our prosperity, and, yes, perhaps our existence to the tolerance, openness, and egalitarianism of our system of government and our neighbors. No wonder we shudder at Israel's chauvinism, its exclusionary nationalism, its oppression. It's all too obvious how we'd fare if the United States followed Israel's lead in reserving power for an ethnic or religious majority. Seen in this light, what's surprising isn't that some American Jews are anti-Zionists; it's that many more aren't.

I've been reading Shlomo Avineri's 1981 book (paperback updated with a new preface and epilogue 2017), The Making of Modern Zionism: The Intellectual Origins of the Jewish State, which offers a highly sympathetic survey of most of the reasons people have come up with to justify and promote Zionism. I'm still in the last profile chapter, on David Ben Gurion, before the initial epilogue, "Zionism as a Permanent Revolution." Immediately previous were chapters on Jabotinsky (who built a cult of power based on fascist models and used it to flip the script on race, promoting Jews as the superior one) and Rabbi Kook (who reformulated Zionism as God's will).

Ben Gurion's major contribution was the doctrine of "Hebrew labor," where Jews would fill all economic niches in the economy, leaving native Palestinians excluded and powerless. This was a significant change from the usual practice of settler colonialism, which everywhere else depended on impoverished locals for labor. Ben Gurion's union bound Jews into a coherent, self-contained, mutual help society, including its own militia, well before it was possible to call itself a state. But in doing so, he excluded the Palestinians, and plotted their expulsion -- his endorsement of the 1937 Peel Commission plan, his campaign for the UN partition plan, and finally his "War of Independence," remembered by Palestinians as the Nakba.

Ben Gurion was an enormously talented political figure, and his establishment of Israel through the 1950 armistices, the citizenship act, and the law of return, was a remarkable achievement against very stiff odds. He might have gotten away with it, but he couldn't leave well enough alone. He always wanted more, and he cultivated that trait in his followers. And while he feared the 1967 war, his followers launched it anyway, and in the end -- even as his fears had proven well founded -- he delighted in it. Like Mao, he so loved his revolution he kept revitalizing it, oblivious to the tragedy it caused. I expect the book, with its "permanent revolution" epilogues, will end on that note.

There is a lot of wishful thinking in the early parts of Avineri's book -- most obviously, Herzl's fairy-tale liberalism, but also the socialism of Syrkin and Borochov, which could have been developed further in later years, but it's appropriate to end as it does, with the real Israeli state. Great as he was, Ben Gurion made mistakes, and in the end the most fateful was allowing Jabotinsky and Kook, or more precisely their followers, into the inner sanctumm, from which they eventually prevailed in shaping Israel into the genocidal juggernaut it has become. The path from Jabotinsky to Netanyahu is remarkably short, passing straight through the former's secretary, the same as the latter's father. The other intermediaries were Ben Gurion's rivals of 1948, Begin and Shamir, who became favored tools in driving the Palestinians into exile, and future prime ministers.

Less obvious was Ben Gurion's decision to invite the Kookists into government, but what politician doesn't want to be reassured that God is on his side? Rabbi Kook was succeeded by his son, Zvi Yehuda Kook, whose Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) was the driving force behind the West Bank settlements, leading directly to Smotrich and Ben Gvir. The first casualty in Ben Gurion's schemes was the socialism that unified the Yishuv in the first place. That was what gave Israel its foundational sense of justice, a reputation that is now nothing but ruins.

Initial count: 174 links, 8,842 words. Updated count [03-05]: 193 links, 10,883 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world (including American) opinion: This week we lead off with a singular act of self-sacrifice, by an American, an active duty serviceman, Aaron Bushnell, in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington. I feel like I should add an opinion, but I don't really have one. My inclination is to view him as just another casualty of the more general madness, so not a hero or martyr or even a fool, but I'm also not so callous as to look the other way -- especially when so many people do have things to say.

Other stories:

  • Spencer Ackerman: [03-28] The anti-Palestinian origins of the War on Terror: Interview with Darryl Li, who wrote the report Anti-Palestinian at the core: The origins and growing dangers of US anti-terrorism law.

  • Ammiel Alcalay: [02-28] War on Gaza: How the US is buying time for Israel's genocide: "As the US ambassador to the UN recently made clear in a rare moment of honesty, Washington is fully committed to facilitating Israel's destruction of the Palestinians."

  • Kyle Anzalone: [03-01] US vetoes UN resolution condemning Israel for flour massacre.

  • Muhannad Ayyash: [02-26] Boycotting Israel could stop the genocide: At this point, this is probably just wishful thinking: "the world must ensure Tel Aviv's legal, economic and political isolation." The nice thing about BDS was that it provided a forum for grass-roots organizing against the apartheid regime in Israel: something that individuals could start and grow, and eventually recruit more powerful organizations, while ultimately appealing to the better consciences within Israel itself. That it worked with South Africa was encouraging.

    But it was always going to be a much more difficult reach in Israel -- I could insert a half-dozen reasons here -- and it never came close to gathering the collective moral, let alone financial, force it had with South Africa. Now, about all you can say for it is that it allowed people of good will to express their disapproval without promoting even more violence. I would even agree that it's still worth doing -- Israel deserves to be shamed and shunned for what it's doing, now more than ever. And, as we witness what Israel is doing, many more people, indeed whole nations, may join us.

    But will boycotting stop the genocide now? Maybe if the US and NATO banded together and put some serious teeth in their threats, some Israelis might reconsider. But sanctions usually just push countries deeper into corners, from which they're more likely to strike back than to fold. I'm not about to blame BDS for Israel's rampant right-wing -- their racism dates back further than any outsider noticed -- but they would claim their ascent as the way of fighting back against foreign moralizers. Even if we could count on eventually forcing some kind of reconciliation, the people in power in Israel right now are more likely to double down on genocide. It's not like anyone in the Nazi hierarchy saw the writing on the wall after Stalingrad and decided they should call the Judeocide off, lest they eventually put on trial. They simply sped up the extermination, figuring it would be their enduring contribution to Aryan civilization.

    • Jo-Ann Mort: [02-28] BDS is counter-productive. We need to crack down on Israeli settlements instead: "A future peace depends on drawing a line between Israel proper and the illegal settlements in Palestinian territory." This article is so silly I only linked to it after the Ayyash piece above. It does provide some explanation why BDS failed, but it doesn't come close to offering an alternative. Israel has been continuously blurring and outright erasing the Green Line ever since 1967. (It started with he demolition of the neighborhood next to the Al-Aqsa Mosque's western wall, just days after the 7-day war ended.) There is no way to force Israel to do much of anything, but few things are harder to imagine them acceding to is a return to what from 1950-67 were often decried as "Auschwitz borders."

  • Phyllis Bennis:

  • Amena ElAshkar: [02-28] Gaza ceasefire: Talk of an imminent deal is psychological warfare. I haven't bothered linking to numerous articles about an imminent ceasefire deal because, quite frankly, possible deals have never been more than temporarily expedient propaganda, mostly meant to humor the hostage relatives and the Americans. If Israel wanted peace, they could ceasefire unilaterally, and having satisfied themselves that they had inflicted sufficient damage to restore their Iron Wall deterrence, leave the rubble to others to deal with. The hostages would cease to be a bargaining chip, except inasmuch as not freeing them would keep much needed international aid away. So why is Netanyahu negotiating with Hamas? Mostly to squirrel the deal, while he continues implementing his plan to totally depopulate/destroy Gaza.

  • Paul Elle: [02-26] The Vatican and the war in Gaza: "A rhetorical dispute the Church and the Israeli government shows the limits -- and the possibilities -- of the Pope's role in times of conflict." On the other hand, if you look at the Pope's recent comments on "gender theory," you'll realize that he has very little to offer humanity, and that a Church that follows him could be very ominous. (For example, see [03-02] Pope says gender theory is 'ugly ideology' that threatens humanity.) Sometimes I'm tempted to take heart in that the Catholic Church is one of the few extant organizations to predate, and therefore remain somewhat free of, capitalism. But in it the spirit of Inquisition runs even deeper.

  • Madeline Hall: [02-28] Israeli genocide is a bad investment: For one thing, Norway has divested its holdings of Israeli bonds.

  • James North:

  • Peter Oborne: [02-27] These ruthless, bigoted Tories would have Enoch Powell smiling from his grave: "The recent spate of vile anti-Muslim rhetoric from the Tories shows they have decided that stoking hatred against minorities is their only way to avoid electoral annihilation." Also in UK:

  • Charles P Pierce: [02-29] The US has enabled Netanyahu long enough: "Two democracies, hijacked for alibis."

  • Vijay Prashad: [02-14] There is no place for the Palestinians of Gaza to go.

  • Barnett R Rubin: [03-02] Redemption through genocide: "The ICJ ruled that Israel's Gaza campaign poses a plausible and urgent threat of genocide. Future historians of Jewish messianism may recount how in 2024 "redemption through sin" became "redemption through genocide," with unconditional US support."

  • Sarang Shidore/Dan M Ford: [02-29] At the Hague, US more isolated than ever on Israel-Palestine.

  • Adam Taylor: [02-29] Democrats grew more divided on Israeli-Palestinian conflict, poll shows. Interesting that the Democratic split has always favored "take neither side," from a peak of 82% down to 74% before Gaza blew up -- the 12% drop since looks to be evenly split. Republicans, on the other hand, never had any sympathy for Palestinians, and became more pro-Israeli since (56% would "take Israel's side," vs. 19% for Democrats).

  • Philip Weiss: [02-28] PBS and NPR leave out key facts in their Israel stories: "Pundits and reporters in the mainstream media have a double standard when it comes to Israel and all but lie about apartheid, Jewish nationalism, and the role of the Israel lobby."

America's empire of bases and proxy conflicts, increasingly stressed by Israel's multifront war games:

  • Juan Cole: [03-03] How Washington's anti-Iranian campaign failed, big time.

  • Dave DeCamp: [02-29] US officials expect Israel to launch ground invasion of Lebanon: "Administration officials tell CNN they expect a ground incursion in late spring or early summer." The logic here is pretty ridiculous, and if it's believed in Washington, you have to wonder about them, too. Israel had a lot of fun bombing Lebanon in 2006, but their ground incursion was a pure disaster. There's no possible upside to trying it again. The argument that Netanyahu will, for political expediency, enlarge the war in order to keep it going "after Gaza," overlooks their obvious desire to "finish the job" by doing the same to Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank.

  • Sasha Filippova/Kristina Fried/Brian Concannon: [03-01] From coup to chaos: 20 years after the US ousted Haiti's president.

  • Jim Lobe: [03-01] Neocon Iraq war architects want a redo in Gaza: "Post-conflict plan would put Western mercenaries and Israel military into the mix, with handpicked countries in charge of a governing 'Trust.'" Pic is of Elliott Abrams, who was the one in charge of US Israel policy under Bush, and who pushed Sharon's unilateral withdrawal of settlements from Gaza, so that Gaza could be blockaded and bombed more effectively. That directly led to Hamas seizing power in Gaza, so one could argue that Abrams already had his "redo in Gaza."

The Michigan primaries: Of minor interest to both party frontrunners, so let's get them out of the way first. Trump won the Republican primary with 68.1% of the votes, vs. 26.6% for Nikki Haley, splitting the delegates 12-4 (39 more delegates will be decided later). Biden won the Democratic primary with 81.1% of the vote, vs. 13.2% for an uncommitted slate, which was promoted by Arab-Americans and others as a protest vote against Biden's support for Israel's genocide in Gaza. Marianne Williamson got 3%, and Dean Phillips 2.7%. Everyone's trying to spin the results as much as possible, but I doubt they mean much.

Next up is "Super Tuesday," so here's a bit of preview:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Mitch McConnell, 82, announced he will step down as Republican Leader in the Senate in November. This led to some, uh, appreciation?

  • Ryan Cooper: [02-29] Mitch McConnell, Senate arsonist.

  • Jack Hunter: [02-29] Sorry AP: Mitch McConnell is no Ronald Reagan: "The paper deploys the usual neoconservative trope that their foreign policies are the same. They are not." Still, I hate it when critics think they're being so clever in claiming that old Republicans were so sensible compared to the new ones. Reagan's "willingness to talk to America's enemies" didn't extend much beyond Russia, and that only after the door had been opened by Gorbachev. He left nothing but disasters all over Latin America and the Middle East through Iran and Afghanistan.

  • Ed Kilgore: [02-29] Mitch McConnell's power trip finally comes to an end.

  • Ian Millhiser: [02-29] How Mitch McConnell broke Congress.

  • John Nichols: [02-29] Good riddance to Mitch McConnell, an enemy of democracy: Sorry to have to break this to you, but he isn't going anywhere. He'll serve out the rest of his six-year term. He's not giving up his leadership post out of a sudden attack of conscience. He's doing it so some other Republican can take over, and possibly do even worse things than he would have done. By holding out until November, he's giving Trump the prerogative of hand-picking his successor -- assuming Trump wins, of course.

  • David A Graham: Mitch McConnell surrenders to Trump: That's more like it, but at least he's given himself some time. If Trump wins in November, there'll be no fighting him. And if Trump loses, why should he want to be the one stuck cleaning up the mess?

  • Andrew Prokop: [02-28] How Mitch McConnell lost by winning.

  • Jane Mayer: [2020-04-12] How Mitch McConnell became Trump's enabler-in-chief: Sometimes an old piece is the best reminder. Had McConnell a bit more foresight and backbone, he could have swung enough Republican votes to convict Trump over Jan. 6, and followed that with a resolution declaring Trump ineligible to run again, according to the 14th Amendment -- such a resolution was discussed at the time, and would undoubtedly be upheld. Sure, it would have been unpopular among Republicans at the time, but popular will has almost never entered into McConnell's political calculus.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Zack Beauchamp: [02-27] Biden has been bad for Palestinians. Trump would be worse. "On Israel, the two are not the same." Probably true, but this really isn't much comfort. Biden is effectively an Israeli puppet, with no independent will, or even willingness to caution Netanyahu in public, and as such has had no effect on moderating Israel's vendetta -- and may reasonably be charged with not just supporting but accelerating it. For instance, Biden did not have to send aircraft carriers into the region, threatening Iran and provoking Yemen and Lebanon. Nor did he have to accelerate arms deliveries when a ceasefire was obviously called for. As for Trump, sure, he doesn't even know the meaning of "caution." He is largely responsible for Netanyahu believing that he can get away with anything.

    • Dave DeCamp: [03-03] Poll: Majority of Democrats want a presidential candidate who opposes military aid to Israel: With Marianne Williamson unsuspending her campaign, there actually is one, but will anyone find out?

    • Isaac Chotiner: [02-28] Does the Biden administration want a long-lasting ceasefire in Gaza? Interview with John Kirby, Biden's National Security Council spokesman, explaining that Biden only wants whatever Netanyahu tells him to want. It's like a form of hypnosis, where Hamas is the shiny object that so captures America's gaze that it will support Israel doing anything to it wants as long as it's saying it's meant to eliminate Hamas. Sure, Biden understands that Palestinians are suffering, and he implores Netanyahu to make them suffer less, but he can't question his orders.

      The key to this is that he buys the line that Hamas is a cancer that can be excised from the Palestinian body politic, allowing Israel to regain its security. I hesitate to call that the Israeli line: sure, they developed it with their targeted assassinations (they go back at least as far as Abu Jihad in 1988), but Israelis never claimed one strike would suffice -- they tended to use metaphors like "mowing the grass"). It was only the Americans, with their romantic conceits about their own goodness and the innate innocence of ignorant savages, that turned this systematic slaughter into magical thinking. Israelis don't think like that. They understand that Hamas (or some other form of militant backlash) is the inevitable result of their harsh occupation. And, their consciences hardened by constant struggle (including their carefully cultivated memory of the Holocaust), they're willing to live with that brutality.

      If they can't distinguish Hamas from the mass of people they've emerged from, they see no reason to discipline their killing. They figure if they destroy enough, the problem will subside. Even if it inevitably erupts again, that's later, and they'll remain eternally vigilant. There are no solutions, because they don't want to accept the only possible one, which is peaceful coexistence. But silly Americans, they need to be told stories, and it's amazing what they'll swallow.

    • Mitchell Plitnick: [03-01] Biden memos show Palestine advocacy is working: "Two recent presidential orders show the Biden administration is feeling the heat from months of protests against his support for Israel's genocide in Gaza."

    • Alexander Ward: [03-01] 'We look 100 percent weak': US airdrops in Gaza expose limit to Biden's Israel policy.

    • Fareed Zakaria: [03-01] Biden needs to tell Israel some difficult truths. Only he can do it.

    • Erica L Green: [03-03] Kamala Harris calls for an 'immediate cease-fire' in Gaza: Promising title, but fine print reveals it's only the "six-week cease-fire proposal currently on the table," and that she's calling on Hamas, not Israel, the ones who are actually doing all of the firing, and who have already broken off talks on that particular proposal. A cease fire, especially where the war is so one-sided, doesn't need to be negotiated: just do it (perhaps daring the other side to violate it, but the longer it lasts, the better). Sure, prisoner exchanges have to be negotiated, but not cease-fire, which is just common sense.

  • Frank Bruni: [03-03] How Democrats can win anywhere and everywhere.

  • Michelle Goldberg: [03-01] The Democrat showing Biden how it's done: Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan. This follows on recent columns by Goldberg:

  • Ezra Klein: [02-16] Democrats have a better option than Biden: Starts by heaping considerable praise on Biden and his accomplishments of the last three-plus years, then lowers the boom and insists that he should step aside, not so much because one reasonably doubts that he can do the job for more years, but that he's no longer competent as a candidate. (Never mind that Trump is far from competent, in any sense of the term. He's a Republican, and one of our many double standards, we don't expect competency from Republicans, or for that matter caring, or even much coherence.) He goes into how conventions work, and offers a bunch of plausible candidates. It's a long and thorough piece, and makes the case as credibly as I've seen (albeit much less critically of Biden than I might do myself).

    Klein's columns are styled as "The Ezra Klein Show," which are usually just interviews, but this one is monologue, with multiple references to other conversations. He's had a few other interviews recently with political operatives, a couple adding to his insight into Democratic prospects, plus a couple more I'll include here. (Also see the pieces I listed under Ukraine.)

  • Paul Musgrave: [03-03] An inside look at how Biden's team rebuilt foreign policy after Trump: Review of Alexander Ward: The Internationalists: The Fight to Restore American Foreign Policy After Trump.

  • Bill Scher: [02-29] "Nightmare in America": How Biden's ad team should attack Trump: "In 1984, Ronald Reagan's reelection campaign ran a series of ads that evoked how different life felt in America compared to under his opponent's administration four years prior. Today, Joe Biden should do the same." Sure, there's something to be said here, if you can figure out how to say it. But Trump's going to be pushing the opposite spin, in many cases on the same set of facts, all the while pointing out the extraordinary efforts his/your enemies took to hobnob his administration and persecute him since he was pushed out of office. He's just as likely to embrace the Left's notion of him as their worst nightmare. Note that page includes a link to a 2020 article, which also cites Reagan: Nancy LeTourneau: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

  • John E Schwarz: [03-01] Democratic presidents have better economic performances than Republican ones.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Ukraine War:

  • Connor Echols: [03-01] Diplomacy Watch: Russia could be invited to Ukraine-led peace talks. I don't really buy that "Ukraine's shift is a sign of just how dire the situation is becoming for its armed forces," but I do believe that Russia can more/less hold its position indefinitely, that it can continue to exact high (and eventually crippling) costs from Ukraine indefinitely, and that it can survive the sanctions regime (which the US is unlikely to loosen even in an armistice. All of this suggests to me that Zelensky needs to approach some realistic terms for ending the war, then sell them as hard to his "allies" as to Putin, and to the rest of the world.

  • Anatol Lieven/George Beebe: [02-28] Europeans' last ditch clutch at Ukrainian victory: "France's Macron raised the idea of Western troops entering the fray, others want to send longer range missiles."

  • Olena Melnyhk/Sera Koulabdara: [02-29] Ukraine's vaunted 'bread basket' soil is now toxic: "Two years of war has left roughly one-third of its territory polluted, with dire potential consequences for the world's food supply."

  • Will Porter: [02-28] Russia claims first Abrams tank kill in Ukraine.

  • Ted Snider: [03-01] How the West provoked an unprovoked war in Ukraine. The ironies in the title at least merit quotes around "unprovoked." The important part of the story is the relatively underreported period from March, 2021 when Biden added $125 million of "defensive lethal weapons" on top of $150 million previously allocated under Trump, up to the eve of the March 2022 invasion, when "Putin called Ukraine 'a knife to the throat of Russia' and worried that 'Ukraine will serve as an advanced bridgehead' for a pre-emptive US strike against Russia." It is unlikely the US would ever launch such a strike, but Ukraine had by then given up on the Minsk accords and was preparing to take back Donbas. Had they succeeded, Crimea would be next, and that (plus excessive confidence in his own military) was enough for Putin to launch his own pre-emptive attack.

  • Marcus Stanley: [02-28] Biden officials want Russian frozen assets to fund Ukraine war: "Not only will this prolong the conflict, but rock confidence in the Western-led world economic system."

  • Ishaan Tharoor: [02-28] Foreign troops in Ukraine? They're already there.

  • Ezra Klein:

  • [2022-03-01] Can the West stop Russia by strangling its economy? Transcript of an interview with Adam Tooze, doesn't really answer the title question but does provide a pretty deep survey of Russia's economy at the start of Putin's invasion of Ukraine. One minor note: I think Tooze said "Kremlinologists" where you read "the criminologists of the modern day have five, six, seven, eight different groups now that they see operating around Putin."

    PS: Unrelated to Russia, but for another Klein interview with Tooze, see: [2022-10-07] How the Fed is "shaking the entire system".

Around the world:

Other stories:

Lori Aratani: [03-01] Boeing in talks to reacquire key 737 Max supplier Spirit AeroSystems: Boeing spun the company off in 2005, including the Wichita factory my father and brother worked at for decades.

Marina Bolotnikova/Kenny Torrella: [02-26] 9 charts that show US factory farming is even bigger than you realize: "Factory farms are now so big that we need a new word for them." Related here:

Rosa Brooks: [02-20] One hundred years of dictatorship worship: A review of a new book by Jacob Heilbrunn: America Last: The Right's Century-Long Romance With Foreign Dictators [note: cover has it "America First" in large white type, then overprints "Last" in blockier red].

Daniel Denvir: [02-28] The libertarians who dream of a world without democracy: Interview with Quinn Slobodian, who wrote the 2018 book Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, and most recently, Crack-Up Capitalism: Market Radicals and the Dream of a World Without Democracy.

Adam Gopnik: [02-19] Did the year 2020 change us forever? "The COVID-19 pandemic affected us in millions of ways. But it evades the meanings we want it to bear." A review, which I haven't finished (and may never) of the emerging, evolving literature on 2020.

Sean Illing: [03-03] Are we in the middle of an extinction panic? "How doomsday proclamations about AI echo existential anxieties of the past." Interview with Tyler Austin Harper, who wrote about this in the New York Times: The 100-year extinction panic is back, right on schedule. I could write a lot more on this, especially if I referred back to the extinction controversies paleontologists have been debating all along, but suffice it to say:

  • Short of the Sun exploding, there is zero chance of humans going extinct in the foreseeable future. People are too numerous, widespread, and flexible for anything to get all of us. (Side note: the effective altruist focus on preventing extinction events is misguided.)
  • Human population is, however, precariously balanced on a mix of technological, economic, political, and cultural factors which are increasingly fragile, and as such subject to sabotage and other disruptions (not least because they are often poorly understood). Any major breakdown could be catastrophic on a level that affects millions (though probably not billions) of people.
  • Catastrophes produce psychological shocks that can compound the damage. By far the greatest risk here is war, not just for its immediate destruction but because it makes recovery more difficult.
  • People are not very good at evaluating these risks, erring often both in exaggeration and denial.

The Times piece led to some others of interest here:

Chris Lehman: [03-01] Border hysteria is a bipartisan delusion: "Yesterday, both President Biden and Donald Trump visited Texas to promise harsher immigration policies."

Andrea Mazzarino: [02-27] War's cost is unfathomable. I mentioned this in an update last week, but it's worth mentioning again. She starts by referring to "The October 7th America has forgotten," which was 2001, when the US first bombed Afghanistan, following the Al-Qaeda attacks of that September 11. In 2010, Mazzarino founded the Cost of War Project, which, as economists are wont to do, started adding up whatever they could of the quantifiable costs of America's Global War on Terror and its spawn. Still, their figures (at least $8 trillion and counting, and with debt compounding) miss much of the real human (and environmental) costs, especially those that are primarily psychic.

For instance, would we have the gun problem that we have had we not been continuously at war for over two decades? Would our politics have turned so desperately war-like? Certainly, there would have been much less pressure to immigrate, given that war is the leading producer of refugees. Without constant jostling for military leverage, might we not have made more progress in dealing with problems like climate change? The list only grows from there.

One constant theme of every Speaking of Which is the need to put aside the pursuit of power over and against others and find mutual grounds that will allow us to work together cooperatively to deal with pressing problems. There are lots of reasons why this is true, starting with the basic fact that we could not exist in such numbers if not for a level of technology that is complex beyond most of our understandings and fragile, especially vulnerable to the people who feel most unjustly treated. Our very lives depend on experts who can be trusted, and their ability to work free of sabotage. You can derive all the politics you need from this insight.

Michelle Orange: [03-01] How the Village Voice met its moment: A review of Tricia Romano's The Freaks Came Out to Write, a new "oral history" (i.e., history presented in interview quotes). I rushed out and bought a copy, and should probably write my own review, even if only because she left me out. More:

Rick Perlstein: [02-28] Kissinger revisited: "The former secretary of state is responsible for virtually every American geopolitical disaster of the past half-century."

Deanne Stillman: [02-21] Mothers, sons, and guns: Author wrote a book about Lee Harvey Oswald and his mother, recounted here, in light of high school shooter Ethan Crumbley and his mother, Jennifer Crumbley, who was convicted for her role leading up to the shootings.

David Zipper: [03-01] Driving at ridiculous speeds should be physically impossible: As someone who grew up with a great love of auto racing, I'd argue that driving at ridiculous speeds has always been physically impossible, even as limits have expanded with better technology. Of course, "ridiculous" can mean many different things, but I'd say that's a reason not to try to legislate it. I've long thought that the 55 mph speed limit was the biggest political blunder the Democrats made, at least in my lifetime. (Aside from Vietnam.) Not only did it impose on personal freedom -- in a way that, say, European levels of gasoline taxes wouldn't have done -- but it induced some kind of brain rot in American auto engineering, from which Detroit may never have recovered. (I can't really say. After several bad experiences, I stopped buying their wares.)

Ironically, this political push for mandating "speed limiters" (even more euphemistically, "Intelligent Speed Assistance") on new cars is coming from tech businesses, who see surveillance of driving as a growth area for revenue. This fits in with much broader plans to increase surveillance -- mostly government, but it doesn't end there -- over every aspect of our lives. Supposedly, this will save lives, although the relationship between speeding and auto carnage has never been straightforward, and much more plausible arguments (e.g., on guns) go nowhere. My great fear here is that Democrats will rally to this as a public health and safety measure, inviting a backlash we can ill afford (as with the 55 mph speed limit, which helped elect Reagan).

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Speaking of Which

Once again, I failed to finish my rounds by end-of-Sunday, so I'm posting what I have, with the expectation that I'll add more on Monday (look for red right-border stripes). One thing I didn't get to but seems likely to be worthwhile adding is No More Mister Nice Blog. That's where I first ran into the Katie Glueck article, and I see relevant posts on many of this week's politics articles. Charles P Pierce also has worthwhile takes on most of this.

This appeared after my cutoff, but is a good overview of everything else that follows: Andrea Mazzarino: [02-27] War's cost is unfathomable, where she starts by referring to "The October 7th America has forgotten," which was 2001, when the US first bombed Afghanistan, following the Al-Qaeda attacks of that September 11. In 2010, Mazzarino founded the Cost of War Project, which, as economists are wont to do, started adding up whatever they could of the quantifiable costs of America's Global War on Terror and its spawn. Still, their figures (at least $8 trillion and counting, and with debt compounding) miss much of the real human (and environmental) costs, especially those that are primarily psychic.

For instance, would we have the gun problem that we have had we not been continuously at war for over two decades? Would our politics have turned so desperately war-like? Certainly, there would have been much less pressure to immigrate, given that war is the leading producer of refugees. Without constant jostling for military leverage, might we not have made more progress in dealing with problems like climate change? The list only grows from there.

One constant theme of every Speaking of Which is the need to put aside the pursuit of power over and against others and find mutual grounds that will allow us to work together cooperatively to deal with pressing problems. There are lots of reasons why this is true, starting with the basic fact that we could not exist in such numbers if not for a level of technology that is complex beyond most of our understandings and fragile, especially vulnerable to the people who feel most unjustly treated. Our very lives depend on experts who can be trusted, and their ability to work free of sabotage. You can derive all the politics you need from this insight.

Initial count: 154 links, 7,499 words. Updated count: 178 links, 8,813 words.

Top story threads:

Israel: The genocide continues.

Reported casualty figures, as of 2/23, show 1,147 Israelis killed on October 7, plus 576 Israelis killed since. Palestinian deaths -- certainly undercounted -- are 29,514 in Gaza + 380 elsewhere in Israel. Since Oct. 7, Israelis are killing more than 51 Palestinians in Gaza for every soldier lost. No breakdown between soldiers lost in invading Gaza vs. elsewhere, but the latter numbers are probably very small. The kill ratio increases to 65-to-1 using the 38,000 estimate "when accounting for those presumed dead."

Israel vs. world opinion:

  • Ben Armbruster: [02-22] US intel has 'low confidence' in Israel's UNRWA claims.

  • Michael Arria: [02-22] The Shift: US vetoes UN ceasefire resolution again: "Joe Biden has stepped up public criticisms of Israel to save his faltering electoral prospects in Michigan, but there remains an incredible disconnect between these words and his administration's ongoing support for Israel's genocidal attack on Gaza."

  • Moustafa Bayoumi: [02-17] As Biden ignores death in Gaza, the 'Dark Brandon' meme is unfunny and too real.

  • Miguel A Cruz-Díaz: [02-23] On the shame of living through times of genocide. The article, about "suicidal ideation," is not exactly what I imagined from the title, but I'm not wired to take other people's tragedies personally. (I was tempted to say "for empathy," but I can imagine even if I only rarely feel.) But the title is evocative. I don't advise you feeling shame for what other people -- and not just the perpetrators, but also those making excuses, or just shrugging their shoulders -- are doing, but they definitely should feel ashamed (and if not, should learn).

  • Emily Davies/Peter Hermann/Dan Lamothe: [02-27] Airman who set self on fire grew up on religious compound, had anarchist past: Aaron Bushnell, whose protest echoed that of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc during the Vietnam War.

  • Yves Engler: [02-21] The reasons for Canada's 'unwavering' support for Israel: "Canada's remarkable fidelity to an apartheid state committing genocide is driven by imperial geopolitics, settler solidarity, Christian Zionism and the Israel lobby in Canada, and the weaponization of antisemitism."

  • Richard Falk: [02-25] In Gaza, the west is enabling the most transparent genocide in human history.

  • Jonathan Freedland: [02-23] Hamas and Netanyahu are a curse on their peoples. Yet amid the horror, there is a sliver of hope: The "sliver" seems to be [02-23] Gaza ceasefire talks underway in Paris, but this ignores the core fact of this "war," which is that you don't need to negotiate a ceasefire when only one side is shooting. Just do it. Israel can even declare that if Palestinians do keep shooting rockets at Israel, there will be reprisals (short in time, but severe). That would be understandable. But negotiations just does something Israel claims it doesn't want to do, which is to elevate Hamas as the representative of the people of Gaza.

    The headline suggests that both Netanyahu and Hamas are unfortunate political choices, but Netanyahu was a choice, at least of the limited electorate within Israel, and there's plenty of reason to believe he's doing exactly what those who voted for him want. Hamas was never elected, because Palestinians have never been free to choose their own leaders. The West Bank is, well, complicated, but Gaza should be simple: all Israel has to do is stop attacking and step away. They've more than punished Hamas. They've destroyed most of the region's infrastructure. For at least the next 20 years, the only way people will be able to live in Gaza is through foreign aid, which they will basically have to beg for. If Israel takes itself out of the picture, and lets the UN organize a proper democratic government there, Hamas will release the hostages, and quietly disappear. (Sure, Hamas may still survive in the West Bank, and among exiles, but that shouldn't be Gaza's fault. Hamas has no life except as resistance to Israeli power.)

    The idea that some people who got to power purely through the use of terror -- and that's every bit as true of Netanyahu as of Hamas (and only slightly less for the Saudis and Americans and other parties invovled) -- can settle something in Paris that will bring peace to Gaza is absurd. Freedland writes: "To grasp it, the Palestinians need to be free of Hamas and Israelis free of Netanyahu." Swap those and you start to enter the realm of the possible: Palestinians need to be free of Netanyahu, which for Gaza at least is easy to do. And that would also make Israelis free of Hamas (except, of course, in the areas where they're still determined to rule rough over Palestinians, because such rule always begets resistance -- if not by Hamas, then by the next bunch that bands together to stand up for freedom and against injustice).

  • Thomas L Friedman: [02-27] Israel is losing its greatest asset: acceptance: This is one of those "if even Thomas Friedman sees a problem . . ." pieces. Israelis have a handicap here: they're so conditioned to expecting that the whole world hates them, they can't imagine how much worse it can get, or how that might impact them. They figure as long as the US stays in line, no problem. And they figure the US is way too big to worry about its own diminishing acceptance.

  • Mehdi Hasan: [02-21] Biden can end the bombing of Gaza right now. Here's how.

  • Robert Inkalesh: [02-23] Why the US must enage Hamas politically: I don't agree with this now, but I do believe that I do believe that America's refusal to accept the results of the 2006 Palestinian Authority elections -- I believe Israel, which had always preferred Hamas to the secular-socialist PLO, was only following the American lead -- was largely responsible for pushing Hamas back into violent rebellion, including the desperate attacks of Oct. 7. There is, of course, much room for debate as to how to apportion blame for the continued repression and resistance. Israel's behavior is fully consistent as a white settler colony overseeing a rigidly racist system of control -- call it "Apartheid" if you like, but it differs in some from the disgraced South African system, and often for the worse. It reflects a demented and ultimately self-destructive worldview, but they are pretty clear on what they're doing, and why. As for Americans, they're much harder to explain. Having developed two (or maybe three) such rigidly racist systems, then dismantled them without ever owning up to their crimes, they're amazingly ingenious at lying to themselves and others -- hypocrisy is much too superficial a word -- for the way they so easily rationalize and romanticize Israeli brutality as high moral dudgeon.

  • Jake Johnson: [02-22] "I think we should kill 'em all," GOP Rep. Andy Ogles says of Palestinians in Gaza. Makes him exhbit A (but not the only one) in:

  • Robert Lipsyte: [02-22] I'm heartbroken by the war in Israel.

  • Mitchell Plitnick: [02-23] Biden won't let Israel's rejection of a Palestinian state interfere with his delusions.

  • Philip Weiss: [02-21] The context for October 7 is apartheid, not the Holocaust: "The Israel lobby is attempting to indoctrinate Americans that the context for the October 7 attack is the Holocaust. This is a misrepresentation. The Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust."

America's expansion of Israel's world war:

Trump, and other Republicans: Well, South Carolina is done and dusted -- see [02-24] Trump defeats Haley in South Carolina primary, 60.1% to 39.2% (at the point with 92% counted). Also, if you care, How different groups voted in the South Carolina primary, according to exit polls. Nothing terribly surprising there, except perhaps that Trump had his best age split in 17-29 (66% vs. 63% for 65+). [PS: The final delegate split was 47 Trump, 3 Haley.]

CPAC: The erstwhile conservative (more like fascist) organization held their annual conference last week, headlined by Donald Trump, so we'll offer this as a Republicans overflow section. Before we get serious, probably the best introduction here is: [02-23] Jimmy Kimmel on CPAC: 'A who's who of who won't accept the results of the election'.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Perry Bacon Jr: [02-26] Criticizing a president is always okay -- even one running against Trump: If you care about issues, you should say so, even when it's politically inexpedient. Otherwise, you lose your credibility, and any hope for eventual success. You reduce politics to a game, signifying nothing. If that's your view of it, you may already be a Republican -- although they've adopted some truly obnoxious issue stands, they're really just saying whatever they think gives them a slight advantage, because all they're really intererested in is power: seizing it, keeping it, cashing in on it.

  • Aaron Boxerman/Jonathan Weisman: [02-24] Biden caught in a political bind over Israel policy: "His steadfast support of the Gaza war effort is angering young people and Arab Americans in an election year. But any change risks alienating Jewish voters." Not really: recent polling has Jewish Americans favoring a ceasefire 50-34%. That's not as high as support for a ceasefire from Americans in general, but not enough to justify the NYT's antisemitic trope of painting "the Jews" as responsible for Biden's colossal blunder.

  • Jackie Calmes: [02-14] Biden's polls aren't great. How much is the media's fault?

  • Ben Davis: [02-21] Biden visited East Palestine a year after Trump. This doesn't bode well.

  • William Hartung: [01-31] Tone deaf? Admin brags about 55% hike in foreign arms sales: "Washington's sanitized view of unleashing $80.9 billion in weapons on the world, especially now, is a bit curious."

  • Eric Levitz: [02-23] Biden is weak -- and unstoppable: "It will be hard to convince the president that he isn't the best of his party's bad options."

  • Norman Solomon: [02-25] Joe Biden's moral collapse on Gaza could help Donald Trump win. I'm not going to not vote for Biden in November even though I regard him as not just naive and/or negligent but materially complicit in the most crime against humanity in recent decades, but only because I fully realize that Trump would even be worse (as, indeed, his four years as president amply demonstrated). Still, by all means, tank Biden's polls and trash his prospects, at least until he starts to reverse course. And also note that lots of people are not fully apprised of how awful Trump has been on Israel in particular and on world war in general -- indeed, he is campaigning, Wilson-like, on having "kept us out of war" and steering us away from the path to "world war" that Biden is heading (even though, sure one might even repeat Wilson-like, he's done more than anyone to pave that path). If Biden fails to get his war under control, enough people are likely to fall for Trump's line to tip the election. Also linked to by Solomon:

  • Robert Wright: [02-23] Biden's tough love deficit: Two years after Ukraine, and 20 weeks after Gaza, turned into massive wars:

    There are lots of differences between those two events and between the wars they've brought, but there's one important commonality: how President Biden has reacted. In both cases he has come to the aid of a friend in need and done so in a way that wasn't ultimately good for the friend. Biden is good at showing love and catastrophically bad at showing tough love.

    With both Ukraine and Israel, the US has massive leverage -- by virtue of being a critical weapons supplier and also in other ways. And in both cases Biden has refused to use the leverage to try to end wars that are now, at best, pointless exercises in carnage creation.

    I'll add that both of these wars were advertised long before they broke out, coming out of long-standing conflicts, and only surprising to the those in Washington who pretended that peace can be secured simply by buying American arms and covering them with clichés about deterrence and sanctions. Most of the fault belongs to presidents before Biden: to Bush and Trump for indulging Israel's most right-wing fantasies (and Obama for not resisting them, reinforcing the idea that American reservations are not things Israelis need to take seriously); to Obama's pivot toward a renascent Cold War (after Clinton and Bush expanded NATO to Russia's doorstep); and to Trump for his half-assed mishandling of Ukraine, Russia, China, and everything else. On the other hand, every president inherits the mistakes of his predecessors. Thanks to Trump, Biden wound up with more than usual, but it was his job to fix them. In some cases he tried, and has even had some success. In others, he failed, sometimes not even trying. But here, he's made bad situations worse, and seems incapable of even understanding why.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

  • Eric Levitz: [02-21] Why you probably shouldn't blow up a pipeline. Reaction to Andreas Malm's book, How to Blow Up a Pipeline, and the subsequent movie. My rejection of such notions is so deep-seated -- I'm still anti-Luddite, even after having developed some appreciation for the intractable problems they faced -- I've never had to wrestle with the issues, nor do I expect that I ever will. But I won't be surprised to see a rising tide of sabotage -- they've already coined the term "ecoterrorism" for this eventuality -- as climate distress worsens, especially if major powers are unwilling to reform and continue to set the standard for dealing with problems through repression and violence. [PS: Note, however, that in Kim Stanley Robinson, in his novel, The Ministry for the Future, expects to see a lot of "ecoterrorism," and sees it as promoting necessary changes.]

Economic matters:

  • Dean Baker: [02-21] The sham "The economy is awful" story: Per Baker's tweet: "Too bad they [New York Times] weren't allowed to run these when Donald Trump was in the White House." Next in my Twitter queue was Kevin Erdmann: "It's really crazy how interest rate casual stories get canonized without the slightest interest or curiosity in facts. EVERY story about housing will stipulate that the Fed's rate hikes slowed down sales." The chart shows that sales spiked after the worst of the pandemic in 2020, while interest rates were still low, and declined as interest rates increased, but since 2022 they're basically back to pre-pandemic levels, albeit with higher interest rates.

  • Farrah Hassen: [02-23] The rent's still too high! "A new Harvard study found that half of U.S. renter households now spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities. And rent increases continue to outpace their income gains. . . . Last year, homelessness hit an all-time national high of 653,100 people."

Ukraine War:

  • Responsible Statecraft: [02-22] The Ukraine War at two years: By the numbers.

  • Kyle Anzalone: [02-22] US officials see Ukraine as an active and bountiful military research opportunity.

  • Medea Benjamin/Nicolas JS Davies: [02-25] After two grueling years of bloodshed, it's time for peace in Ukraine.

  • Aaron Blake: [02-27] Zelensky's increasingly blunt comments about Trump: This isn't a good sign, but Trump has always wanted Zelensky to wade into the American political fray -- on his side, of course, but it's not like he can't play opposition just as well. Zelensky is careful to portay his interests as America's own, but Trump is unflappable in that regard.

  • Joe Buccino: [02-22] Ukraine can no longer win. This piece appeared in the Wichita Eagle right after the Doran piece, below. Added here after I wrote the Doran comment, but let's list it first.

  • Peter Doran: [02-24] Ukraine can win -- here's how: Author works for Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), one of our leading war tanks, out here to buck up the troops by, well, quoting Winston Churchill and Henry V. He's wrong on many levels, starting with the notion that anyone can win at war these days. Even when he has a point (that Russia's "manpower pool" isn't inexhaustible) he misses it (that it's still much deeper than Ukraine's). He points to the unpopularity of the war in Russia, the suggestion being that Putin will buckle if the West only shows we're firmly resolved to win, but hasn't Putin proven much more effective at stifling dissent than the democratic West has? Aside from greater resolve, he insists the keys to winning are faster deliveries of even more sophisticated weapons systems, and even tighter sanctions. How did the war planners miss that? He insists on "a clear and compelling definition of victory in Ukraine that advances our national interests." Note nothing here about the well-being of the Ukrainian people, who bear the primary costs of continued war. His definition? "The requirements of this victory include the Russian military ceasing to kill Ukrainians, departing Ukrainian territory and not threatening the existence of the country in the future." It should be obvious by now that the only way to achieve any way of this is through a negotiated settlement that leads not just to a ceasefire but to an enduring stable relationship between Russia, Ukraine, and the West. That may require lesser steps -- a ceasefire would be a good start -- but also means giving up impossible definitions of victory.

  • Steven Erlanger/David E Sanger: [02-24] Hard lessons make for hard choices 2 years into the war in Ukraine: "Western sanctions haven't worked. Weapons from allies are running low. Pressure may build on Kyiv to seek a settlement, even from a weakened position."

  • Ben Freeman: [02-22] The Ukraine lobby two years into war.

  • Joshua Keating: [02-22] Are Ukraine's defenses starting to crumble? "What Ukraine's biggest setback in months tells us about the future of the war."

  • Serhiy Morgunov/David L Stern: [02-25] Zelensky says 31,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed since invasion. His first public disclosure since Dec. 2022 ("up to 13,000"). He's also claiming 180,000 Russian troops have been killed. When the New York Times reported this story (31,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed in two years of war, Zelensky says, they also noted that Zelensky's number "differs sharply from that given by U.S. officials, who have said the number is closer to 70,000."

    A leaked Pentagon document had estimated deaths at 15,500-17,000 Ukrainian soldiers, and 35,000-42,500 Russian soldiers. That doesn't count at least 10,000 Ukrainian civilians killed. For more figures, some exaggerated, some minimized, see Wikipedia's Casualties of the Russo-Ukrainian War.

  • Marc Santora: [02-24] Ukraine's deepening fog of war: "Two years after Russia's full-scale invasion, Ukrainian leaders are seeking a path forward in teh face of ferocious assaults and daunting unknowns."

  • Paul Street: [02-22] 500,000 dead and maimed in Ukraine, enough already: It's been a long time since I've seen any figures for war in Ukraine, so this one caught me off guard.

  • Marc A Thiessen: [02-22] If Republicans want to help Trump, they should pass Ukraine aid now. I never cite him, mostly because he's pure evil (he got his start as Cheney's torture apologist), but my local paper loves his columns, so I run into him constantly, and occasionally read enough to reconfirm my judgment. But this one is especially twisted, so I offer it as an example of the mind games regular Republicans play to manipulate the deranged Trumpian psyches -- in effect, to keep them reliably evil. The pitch is that Republicans should keep the war going so Trump can fulfill his "I'll have that done in 24 hours" campaign promise once he's elected. Of course, if Trump does win, Thiessen will do his most to sabotage any peace moves, but in the meantime the war goes on and Biden gets the blame.

  • Katrina Vanden Heuvel/James Carden: [02-23] 10 years later: Maidan's missing history.

  • Walt Zlotow: [02-24] First 2 years of US proxy war against Russia finds both US and Ukraine in downward spiral.


  • The Observer: [02-17] The Observer view on Alexei Navalny's murder: Putin must be shown he can't kill with impunity: "Russia has been exposed as a rogue state that is a menace to the rest of the world." Isn't the Guardian supposed to be the flagship of Britain's left-leaning press? But I cringe any time I see an "Observer view" editorial, perhaps because so many of them are so full of spite yet so futile, combinations of hypocrisy and bluster. After fulminating for twelve paragraphs, they finally explode: "It's time to get real with Russia." So, like, no more patty-cakes? Like 74 years of "cold war" that actually started with US and UK troops fighting the revolution on Russian soil? That went on to using Afghan proxies to snipe at Russians in the 1980s? That after a brief respite when Yeltsin tried to adopt America's prescription of "shock treatment" nearly self-destructed Russia? That was followed by the relentless expansion of NATO combined with economic warfare including crippling sanctions?

    When they wail, "After Navalny, it's time to drop any lingering illusion that Putin's Russia is a normal country, that it may be reasoned with." If Russia is not "a normal country," and I'll grant that it isn't, perhaps that's because no one in the US/UK has tried to reason with it in dacades? Navalny is part of the price of this hostile rivalry, and unless he was some sort of spy, he wasn't even a price the US/UK paid. He was just collateral damage, like thousands of Ukrainians and Russians maimed and killed in Ukraine, the millions displaced, the many more who are denied food and fuel due to sanctions, and the millions of Russian subjects who are denied free political rights because they are living under a state whose security is constantly being attacked by the West.

  • Andrew Cockburn: [02-19] Tears for Navalny. Assange? Not so much.

  • Ellen Ioanes: [02-20] Where does the fight for a free Russia go now? "Yulia Navalnaya picks up her husband's battle against Putin."

  • Fred Kaplan: [02-21] Even if you hate Julian Assange, the US attempt to extradite him should worry you.

  • Margaret Sullivan: [02-20] The US justice department must drop spy charges against Julian Assange: 'You don't have to like him or WikiLeaks to recognize the damage these charges create."

  • Walt Zlotow: [02-22] Julian Assange is Biden's Navalny.

Other stories:

Mac William Bishop: [02-23] American idiots kill the American century: "After decades of foreign-policy bungling and strategic defeats, the US has never seemed weaker -- and dictators around the world know it." This is a pretty seriously wrong-headed article, its appeal to the liberal publisher based on the MAGA movement, prominent Republicans, Elon Musk and Tucker Carlson for making America weak, the effect simply to "advance Putin's agenda." The key to American influence around he world was always based on nothing more than the perception that we would treat the world fairly and generously -- unlike the old colonial empires of Europe, or the new militarism of the Axis, or the growing Soviet-aligned bloc. Sure, the US was never all that innocent, nor all that charitable, but in the late 1940s seemed to compare favorably to the others. The US squandered its moral standing and good will pretty rapidly, and as the article notes, is losing the last of it with Biden's wholehearted support for Israeli genocide.

Nick Estes: [02-19] America's origin story is a myth: Daniel Denvir interviews Estes, author of Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance.

David French: [02-25] What is Christian nationalism exactly? NY Times opinion columnist, self-described Never-Trump Conservative, professes as evangelical Christian, claiming the authority to explain his wayward brethren -- the flock Chris Hedges wrote about in his 2007 book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America -- or at least to make fine distinctions between his kind and the others, who he's more inclined to dub "Christian supremacists." That works almost as well as Hedges' "Fascists" to identify the dictatorial and vindictive powers they aspire to, without implicating Christians who practice tolerance and charity, and allowing new nationalists to express their love for American diversity (as opposed to the old ones, wallowing in xenophobia and racism).

By the way, one term I haven't seen, but seems more to the point, is Republican Christianists (or, I guess, Christianist Republicans): those who enbrace the Republicans' cynical pursuit of coercive power at all costs, while justifying their lust and avarice as a divine mission. This piece led me to some older ones:

Katie Glueck: [02-19] Anti-Trump burnout: The resistance says it's exhausted: "Bracing for yet another election against Donald Trump, America's liberals are feeling the fatigue. "We're kind of, like, crises-ed out," one Democrat said." Well, if one Democrat said it, that's exactly the sort of thing you can count on the New York Times to blow up into a page one issue. Genocide in Palestine? Not so much. Reading their own paper, they don't seem to understand that Trump is out of power, and has been for 3.5 years now. Sure, he still talks a lot, but that's all he is. Trying to shut him up, even if we wanted to, not only isn't worth the effort, but would make things even worse. For most of us, there's nothing much we can do except wait until November, then vote against him.

Sarah Jones: [02-22] The right to a private life is under attack: Starts with the Alabama ruling on IVF (see Cohen, Millhiser, and others, above), but of course the Trump-supporting Christian Nationalists want much more than that: they want to run nearly every aspect of your life:

Our private freedoms are linked to public notions of equal citizenship. Conservatives attack the former in order to undermine the latter. It's an unpopular strategy, but as the scholar Matthew Taylor told Politico, "These folks aren't as interested in democracy or working through democratic systems as in the old religious right because their theology is one of Christian warfare." This is total war, and not just on women. Anyone who fails to conform is at risk.

More, especially on the IVF backlash:

Taylor Lorenz: [02-24] How Libs of TikTok became a powerful presence in Oklahoma schools: "The owner [Chaya Raichik] of the far-right social media account, who sits on a state advisory panel, has drawn attention since the death of a nonbinary student near Tulsa." I could have filed this under Republicans (above), as that's her mob, but didn't want to bury it under the usual graft and bullshit. Related here:

Garrison Lovely: [01-22] Can humanity survive AI? Long piece I haven't spent much time with as yet, although the subhed "Capitalism makes it worse" is certainly true. I don't know how good and/or bad AI will be, but it's generating a lot more press than I can follow, including:

Kelly McClure: [02-23] Ex-NRA chief funneled millions of dollars into his own pockets, according to a NYC jury: "Wayne LaPierre and other NRA executives were found liable for financial misconduct."

Anna North: [02-23] Mascuzynity: How a nicotine pouch explains the new ethos of young conservative men: "Stimulants, hustle culture, and bodybuilding are shaping young men's drift to the right." Not obvious to me why this has become "a gateway to right-wing politics." Unless, that is, you're broadening the definition of right-wing from servants of hierarchy/oligarchy to plain old, all-around assholes.

Rick Perlstein: [02-21] The neglected history of the state of Israel: "The Revisionist faction of Zionism that ended up triumphing adhered to literal fascist doctrines and traditions." This is, of course, directly relevant to what's happening in the Israel section above. The relationship is not just temperamental and ideological: Netanyahu's father was Jabotinsky's secretary and confidant.

Alissa Quart: [02-21] US media is collapsing. Here's how to save it. She's director of something called Economic Hardship Reporting Project

Aja Romano: [02-18] An attempt to reckon with True Detective: Night Country's bonkers season finale: Noted in the breach, as a remarkably bad review of a season and series where I'm hard pressed to find any points to agree with, either in praise (mostly of seasons one and three, where the flaws are most obvious) or in panning (seasons two and four, where the messes swamp out the positives). But I will say that the "bonkers season finale" was much more satisfying than any I imagined to that point. I at least took the political point, which is that the power of the rich, and the hopelessness of the people they carelessly grind down and toss aside, are never as complete as they imagine.

At the same time, I was also watching A Murder at the End of the World, which was, if anything, even messier (though just a close second for bone-chilling cold), and again mostly acquitted itself with a politically-charged "bonkers finale": the murders were orchestrated by AI, but the context was corporate megalomania, as represented by a billionaire obsessed with control and life-extension. Speaking of which:

Jeffrey St Clair: [02-23] Roaming Charges: Somewhat immature: Title is Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, commander of U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific, describing the "rules of engagement for orbital warfare," which is to say nobody agrees on any rules, or even knows what they are or should be. But who's that going to stop?

Ben Wray: [02-24] It's time to dismantle the US sanctions-industrial complex: "The US has built up an elaborate machinery for waging economic warfare on its rivals with little or no public debate. This sanctions-industrial complex is a disguised form of imperialism and a dangerous source of global instability."

Li Zhou: [02-23] America's first moon landing in 50 years, explained.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Speaking of Which

Another week, dallying on work I should be doing, eventually finding a diversion in the world's calamities, reported below.

Note, however, that I didn't manage to finish my usual rounds by end-of-Sunday, so posted prematurely, and will try to follow up on Monday, the new pieces flagged like this one.

Initial counts: 151 links, 7,009 words. Updated: 171 links, 7,780 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world opinion:

America's expansion of Israel's world war:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Gabriel Debenedetti: [02-17] Too old? Biden World thinks pundits just don't get Joe: "The president's friends and aides play media critic amid a political mess." They're probably right, but it's hard for outsiders to see, because Biden has never been a very good communicator, and that's never sunk in deep enough to save his latest gaffes from being attributed to obvious age. David Ogilvy advised: "develop your eccentricities while you are young. That way, when you get old, people won't think you're going gaga." But if they hadn't paid attention, that's what they'll think anyway, since that's the easiest answer. But people who have paid attention often come to a different appreciation of Biden. I was surprised when, as Biden was just sewing up the 2020 nomination, to see the "Pod Save America" guys appear on Colbert and profess not just support for Biden -- as any practical Democrat would -- but love. I take that to be the point of Franklin Foer's The Last Politician (on my nightstand but still unread as, well, I'm pretty upset with him since he sloppily endorsed Israeli genocide).

  • Elie Honig: [02-16] The real Biden documents scandal (it's not the old-man stuff).

  • Paul Krugman: [02-13] Why Biden should talk up economic success: I'm pretty skeptical here. Two big problems: one is that people experience the economy differently, so it's hard for most people to see how the big stats affect them personally, and the latter requires more personalized messaging; the other is that lots of people think the economy does wonderfully on its own, and that politicians can only muck it up. They're wrong, but telling people they're stupid or naive is a rather tough sell. What Biden should be doing is talk about case examples. He should identify problems, like high prices (drugs is a good one; gasoline is less good, but still affects people), low wages (minimums, unions, etc.), rent, debt, pollution, corruption, fraud, etc. -- the list is practically endless -- and talk about what he has done, and what he is still trying to do, to help with these problems. And also point out what businesses, often through corrupt Republicans, are doing to make these problems even worse. Every one of these stories should have a point, which is that the Democrats are trying hard but need more support to help Americans help themselves, and to keep Republicans from hurting us further. But just throwing a bunch of numbers up in the air doesn't make that point, at least in ways most people can understand, even if you're inclinled to believe Biden, which most people don't. And isn't that the rub? There are lots of good stories to be told, but Biden is such an inept communicator that he's never going to convince people.

  • Miles Mogulescu: [02-10] Biden's unqualified aid to Israel could hand Trump the presidency: I think this is true, even though anyone who knows anything knows that it was Trump who gave Israelis the idea that Washington would blindly support any crazy thing right-wing Israelis could dream up, and that was what increasingly pushed Hamas into the corner they tried to break out of on Oct. 7. However, Biden didn't so much as hint at any scruples over Israel, even after raging vengeance turned into full genocide. At this point, the war in Ukraine is slightly less of an embarrassment, but also shows the Biden administration's inability to think their way out of war. As I said last week, if Biden can't get his wars under control, he's toast.

  • John Nichols: [02-16] Michigan just became the first state in 6 decades to scrap an infamous anti-union law.

  • Ari Paul: [02-16] The media is cheering Dems' rightward turn on immigration.

  • Christian Paz: [02-12] Yes, Democrats, it's Biden or bust: "Even if voters or the establishment wanted to, there really isn't a viable process to replace Biden as the nominee." More "replacement theory":

  • Paul Rosenberg: This also led me to a couple of older articles also on tactics.

  • Dylan Saba: [02-15] Democrats are helping make the US border look more and more like Gaza.

  • Robert J Shapiro: [02-12] Based on incomes, Americans are a lot better off under Biden than under Trump.

  • Norman Solomon: [02-16] Dodging Biden's moral collapse is no way to defeat Trump.

  • Paul Starr: [02-15] It's the working class, stupid: Review of John Judis/Ruy Teixeira: Where Have All the Democrats Gone? The Story of the Party in the Age of Extremes. I've been thinking about the same problem, so picked up a copy of the book, but haven't rushed to get into it. After all, these guys aren't exactly known as geniuses. Their 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, tried to flip Kevin Phillips' 1969 book on how demographic trends favored Republicans, and didn't fare so well -- it's easier to be optimistic than to be self-critical. Starr lets them off easy, noting that he wrote a similar essay five years earlier (An Emerging Democratic Majority), so it's nice to have that reference.

  • Matt Stieb: [02-15] Biden picks up key Putin endorsement: Eliciting suspicion by Democrats that he's playing some kind of devious reverse psychology game, although his explanation ("[Biden] is a more experienced, predictable person") sounds eminently reasonable. Of course, it would have been more sensible to just dodge the questions, maybe even to admit that covert support for Trump in 2016 was a blunder. In their rush to demonize him -- which Navalny's death once again sends into overdrive -- people forget that he is the kind of guy, secure in his own power, that one can do business with, at least if you approach him with a measure of respect. Unfortunately, that seems to be a lost art in Washington, supplanted by a cult of power projection with no concern for doing right.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Valerie Hopkins/Andrew E Kramer: [02-16] Aleksei Navalny, Russian opposition leader, dies in prison at 47. I don't have any real opinions on Navalny, other than that his arrest and death reflects badly on Russia's political and justice systems, and therefore on their leader, Vladimir Putin. Like most people with any degree of knowledge about Russia, I don't have much respect let alone admiration for Putin. I could easily imagine that, if I were Russian, I would support whatever opposition seems most promising against Putin, and that may very well mean Navalny, but not being Russian, I also realize that it's none of my business, and I take a certain amount of alarm at how other Americans have come to fawn over him. I don't think that any nation should interfere in the internal political affairs of another, and I find it especially troubling when Americans in official positions do so -- not least because they tend to be repeat offenders, using America's eminence as a platform for running the world.

On the other hand, I don't believe that nations should have the right to torture their own people over political differences. There should be an international treaty providing a "right to exile" as an escape valve for individuals who can no longer live freely under their own government. Whether Navalny would have taken advantage of such a right isn't obvious: he did return to Russia after being treated for poisoning in Germany, and he was arrested immediately on return, so perhaps he expected to be martyred. That doesn't excuse Russia. If anything, that the story had such a predictable outcome furthers the indictment.

More on Navalny:

Speaking of prominent political prisoners, there's been a flurry of articles recently on Julian Assange:

Around the world:

Other stories:

Keith Bradsher: [02-12] How China built BYD, its Tesla killer.

Tim Fernholz: [02-15] How the US is preparing to fight -- and win -- a war in space: "Meet the startup trying to maintain American military dominance in space." Author previously wrote Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race (2018). Few ideas are more misguided than the notion that anyone can militarily dominate space. Chalmers Johnson illustrated that much 20 years ago by imagining the result of some hostile actor launching "a dumptruck full of gravel" into orbit: it would indiscriminately destroy everyone's satellites, and everything dependent on them (including a big chunk of our communications infrastructure, and such common uses as GPS, as well as the ability to target missiles and drones).

Lydialyle Gibson: [02-12] We have treatments for opioid addiction that work. So why is the problem getting worse?

Umair Irfan: [02-14] Carmakers pumped the brakes on hybrid cars too soon.

Ben Jacobs: [02-13] The race to replace George Santos, explained: Written before Tuesday's vote, which gave the seat to Democrat Tom Suozzi, who was favored in polls by 3-4 points, and won by 8 (54-46).

Sarah Jones: [02-14] The anti-feminist backlash at the heart of the election.

Eric Levitz: [02-18] How NIMBYs are helping to turn the public against immigrants: "(In this house, we believe that high rents fuel nativist backlashes."

Charisma Madarang: [02-13] Jon Stewart skewers Biden and Trump in scathing 'Daily Show' return: I watched the opening monologue segment, and must say I didn't laugh once. It was about how much older Stewart is now than when he retired from the show 20 years ago, which was when Biden was the same age Stewart is now. And, yes, Trump's pretty old too. The most annoying bit was when Stewart, repeatedly, referred to being president as "the hardest job in the world." That it most certainly is not. As far as I can tell, it looks like a pretty cushy job, with lots (probably too many) people constantly at your beck and call, keeping track of everything and everyone, and preparing for every eventuality. It may be overscheduled, but Trump showed that doesn't have to be the case, and Biden doesn't seem to spend a lot of time in public, either. It may be dauntingly hard to fully comprehend, and the responsibility that comes with the power may be overwhelming, but Trump, and for that matter Biden, don't seem to be all that bothered. Maybe we should have presidents who know and care more, but history doesn't suggest that it makes much difference. Once they get their staffs in place, the bus pretty much drives itself. (Or, in Trump's case, wrecks itself, repeatedly.)

Later on, Stewart brought in his "team of reporters," tending to all-decisive diners in Michigan -- the sort of comedians who developed careers out of the old Daily Show, like Samantha Bee and John Oliver -- and sure, they were pretty funny, albeit in stereotypical ways (naïve/inept Democrats; vile/evil Republicans). More on Jon Stewart:

  • Jeet Heer: [02-16] Jon Stewart is not the enemy: "You don't defeat Trump by rejecting comedy." I agree with the subhed, but I'm still waiting for the comedy. For what it's worth, I think Messrs. Colbert, Myers, and Kimmel have done great public service over the last eight years in reminding us how vile, pompous, and utterly ridiculous Trump has always been, and I thank their audiences for robustly cheering them on. (It's nice to know you're not alone in thinking that.) Myers even does a pretty good job of reminding us that all Republicans are basically interchangeable with Trump, which is a message more people need to realize.

Ciara Moloney: [01-29] What peace in Northern Ireland teaches us about 'endless' conflicts: "If the international community can underwrite war, it can also underwrite peace and justice." Nathan J Robinson linked to this in a tweet, pace a quote from Isaac Herzog: "You cannot accept a peace process with neighbors who engage in terrorism."

Kevin Munger: [02-16] Nobody likes the present situation very much. Unclear where this is going, but it's something to think about:

I think that the pace of technological change is intolerable, that it denies humans the dignity of continuity, states the competence to govern, and social scientists a society about which to accumulate knowledge.

Dennis Overbye: [02-12] The Doomsday clock keeps ticking: The threat of nuclear weapons is real, but the metaphor is bullshit. The clock isn't ticking. It's just a visual prop, meant to worry people, to convey a sense of panic, but panic attenuates over time. So if 7 minutes haven't elapsed since the clock was set 77 years ago, why should we worry now? We clearly need a different system for risk assessment than the one behind the doomsday clock. We also need some much better method for communicating that risk, which is especially difficult, because there are actually dozens of different risks that have to be represented, each with their own distinct strategies for risk reduction. I'm not willing to enter that rabbit hole here, other than to offer a very rough swag that the odds of any kind of nuclear incident in the next 12 months are in the 1-2% range (which, by the way, I regard as alarmingly high, given the stakes, but far from likely; my greatest uncertainty has to do with Ukraine, where there are several serious possible scenarios, but the avoidance of them in 2023 and the likelihood of continued stalemate suggests they can continue to be avoided; by the way, I would count Chernobyl as an above-threshold incident, as it caused more damage, and more fallout, than a single isolated bomb; it should be understood that there is a lot more danger in nuclear power than just the doomsday scenario).

Jared Marcel Pollen: [02-14] Why billionaires are obsessed with the apocalypse: Review of Douglas Rushkoff's book, Surival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires.

Aja Romano: [02-15] Those evangelical Christian Super Bowl ads -- and the backlash to them -- explained. Also:

Brian Rosenwald: [02-14] The key to understanding the modern GOP? Its hatred of taxes. Review of Michael J Graetz: The Power to Destroy: How the Antitax Movement Hijacked America. The reviewer, by the way, had his own equally plausible idea, in his book: Talk Radio's America: How an Industry Took Over a Political Party That Took Over the United States.

Becca Rothfeld: [02-15] The Alternative is just the book economists should read -- and won't: "Journalist Nick Romeo lays out eight examples of what we gain when we think about morality alongside money." The book's subtitle: How to Build a Just Economy.

Matt Stieb: [02-13] The millionaire LimeWire founder behind RFK Jr.: "Mark Gorton has done his own research on JFK, LBJ, vaccines, and the 2024 election."

Li Zhou:

The New Yorker: [02-17] Our favorite bookstores in New York City: From the days after I turned 16, got a driver's license, and dropped out of high school, up until perhaps as late as 2011 (i.e., when Borders show down), I spent large parts of my life carousing around bookstores -- at least two, often more like four times a week. (Since then, I mostly just do this.) I fell out of the habit here in Wichita (which still has Watermark Books, and a Barnes & Noble), but what really got me was find most of the bookstores I regularly sought out when visiting New York City had been turned into banks (Colisseum Books was especially saddening). So I'm pleased to see this article, and also to note that the only store listed I've actually been in was the Barnes & Noble. Not that I'm actually likely to get back there any time soon -- most of the people I knew there have departed, and I haven't traveled since the pandemic hit -- but at least one can again entertain the thought.

Also, some notes found on ex-Twitter (many forwarded by @tillkan, so please do yourself a favor and follow her; my comments in brackets):

  • John Cassidy: When 2 headlines are worth 10,000 word[s]. [Image of Wall Street Journal page. Headlines: "Biden Presses Netanyahu to Accept Plan"; "U.S. Is Preparing to Send Bombs, Other Arms to Israel"]

  • Tony Karon: Judge Biden by what he does, not by what he says. Israel can't sustain its genocidal war without the US munitions Biden keeps sending, while offering the equivalent of "thoughts and prayers" for the Palestinian civilians they'll kill [link to: US to send weapons to Israel amid invasion threat in Gaza's Rafah]

  • Nathan J Robinson: The worst serial killer in history killed nearly 200 children. A true monster. Unfathomable evil.

    So far Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu have killed over 10,000 children. Their evil reaches a whole other level of depravity.

    [Commenters belittle the comparison by pointing to the usual list of political monsters -- Hitler, Stalin, Mao -- without realizing that they're only adding to the list (which should, by the way, also include Churchill, Nixon, and GW Bush). Where Netanyahu ranks on that list is open to debate, but that he is morally equivalent isn't. As for Biden, he's certainly complicit, a facilitator, but things he's directly responsible for are relatively minor even if undeniably real (e.g., strikes against Yemen, Iraq, Syria; general poisoning of relations with Iran and Russia). I'm less certain that Stalin and Mao belong, at least the mass starvation their policies caused: that result was probably not intended, although both did little to correct their errors once they became obvious. Churchill's relationship to starvation is more mixed: the Bengal famine was mostly incompetence and lack of care, much like Stalin and Mao, but his efforts to starve Germans were coldly considered and rigorous.]

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Sunday, February 11, 2024

Speaking of Which

It's pretty exhausting trying to wrap this up on Sunday evening, early enough so I can relax with a bit of TV, a few minutes on the jigsaw puzzle, a few pages in my current book, and maybe a bit of computer Mahjong before I run make to get a jump on Monday's Music Week. After a night's sleep, chances are good that I'll think of some introductory text, and stumble across a couple stories I initially missed. If I do, I'll add them and mark them accordingly, with that red right-margin border.

But if you want a pull quote right now, it's probably this:

But if Biden can't get his wars under control by October, I fear he's toast -- and will be deserving of the loss, even if no one else deserves to beat him. After all, the ball is in his court.

Initial counts: 145 links, 5,485 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world opinion:

America's expansion of Israel's world war:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Lots of people have unsolicited advice for the Biden campaign, which frankly seems to need one, but New Republic came up with a bundle of them this week -- enough to break out from the news items above, so let's collect them here.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

Other stories:

Al Jazeera: [02-02] Ex-CIA software engineer who leaked to WikiLeaks sentenced to 40 years: "Joshua Schulte had been found guilty of handing over classified materials in so-called Vault 7 leak.

Nicholson Baker: [01-31] No, aliens haven't visited the earth: "Why are so many smart people insisting otherwise?"

Harry Brighouse: [02-05] What's wrong with free public college? Some reasonable points, but I'm not much bothered that a right to free higher education would benefit the middle class more than poorer students. Lots of worthwhile programs do the same, but we shouldn't, for example, give up on airline safety just because the beneficiaries skew up.

Elizabeth Dwoskin: [02-10] How a liberal billionaire became America's leading anti-DEI crusader: Profile of Bill Ackman. Another rich guy with money to burn, but how does having donated to Clinton and Obama make him any kind of liberal?

Nicholas Fandos: [02-10] What to know about the race to replace George Santos: "The special House election in New York pits Mazi Pilip, a Republican county legislator, against Tom Suozzi, a former Democratic congressman." In other words, the Democrats nominated the most anodyne white guy possible, while the Republicans calculated that the best way to advance their racist, sexist, nativist agenda was by nominating a black female Jewish immigrant from Ethiopia.

Abdallah Fayyad/Nicole Narea/Andrew Prokop: [02-09] 7 questions about migration and the US-Mexico border, answered. More border:

Rebecca Gordon: [02-11] Banning what matters: "Public libraries under MAGA threat."

Joshua Keating: [02-06] Welcome to the "neomedieval era": "Nations like the US have more firepower than ever before -- but they also appear weaker than ever. The upshot is a world that feels out of control."

Carlos Lozada: [02-16] : I was expecting, perhaps even hoping for, a Consumer Guide-style compendium of notes on political books, but instead got an introductory essay adapted from his forthcoming The Washington Book: How to Read Politics and Politicians. Of course, unless you're a writer with a specific assignment, it's very unlikely you'd actually have to read any book written by (or for) a Washington politician, nor would you do so voluntarily. But I find that such surveys, such as I attempt in my book roundups, can be useful for sampling the state of public discourse. By the way, I did finally pick up a copy of Lozada's What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

Clare Malone: [02-10] Is the media prepared for an extinction-level event? "Ads are scarce, search and social traffic is dying, and readers are burned out. The future will require fundamentally rethinking the press's relationship to its audience."

AW Ohlheiser: [02-08] What we've learned from 20 years of Facebook.

Nathan J Robinson:

Jeffrey St Clair: [02-09] Roaming Charges: Comfortably dumb. Harsh on Biden. Quote:

  • Sen. Chris Murphy on the failed Border/Ukraine/Israel deal: "They are a disaster right now. How can you trust any Republicans right now? They told us what to do. We followed their instructions to the letter. And then they pulled the rug out from under us in 24 hrs." ["They"? You got nothing but embarrassed.]

  • It's instructive that MAGA has threatened to "destroy" James Lankford, the rightwing Senator from Oklahoma who wrote a border closure bill that gave them 99% of what they wanted and Democrats are lining up behind Biden for endorsing a bill that betrayed everything he'd ever promised on immigration.

Bryan Walsh: [02-10] Taylor Swift, the NFL, and two routes to cultural dominance: My minor acknowledgment of the week's overweening culture story, not that I have anything to say about it. Cultural dominance isn't what it used to be LVIII years ago, when the Chiefs I remember fondly -- Len Dawson, Otis Taylor, Ed Budde, E.J. Holub, Buck Buchanan -- got butchered by the Green Bay Packers (IV was much more satisfying), while the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and James Brown were regularly outdoing themselves. These days, even the largest stars seem much smaller than they did when I was fifteen, because we now recognize that the world is so much larger. I haven't watched football since the 1980s (or baseball since the 1990s), and while I still listen to quite a bit of popular music, I doubt that any new artist has occupied as much as 1% of my time since 2000. I've listened to, and clearly like, Taylor Swift, but I hardly recognize her song titles, and certainly couldn't rank them (as Rob Sheffield did, 243 of them). I suppose you could chalk that up to age, but I'm feeling the least bit nostalgic. I reviewed more than 1,600 records last year. In 1966, I doubt I heard more than 10 -- supplemented, of course, by KLEO and TV shows like Shindig! and Hullabaloo, but the universe I was conscious of extended to at most a couple hundred artists. Back then, I thought I could master it all. Now I know I never stood a chance.

I know I promised, but what the hell:

Li Zhou: [02-06] The Grammys' Beyoncé snubs speak to a deeper problem: Beyoncé was snubbed? "They're emblematic of how the awards have failed Black artists." As someone who has never had any expectation of Grammy ever doing anything right, I find the very notion that anyone could be so certainly deserving of a win as to be snubbed baffling.

Sorry for doing this to you, but I'm going to quote a Donald Trump tweet (quoted by Matthew Yglesias, reposted by Dean Baker, my emphasis added):

2024 is our Final Battle. With you at my side, we will demolish the Deep State, we will expel the warmongers from our government, we will drive out the globalists, we will cast out the Communists, Marxists, and Fascists, we will throw off the sick political class that hates our Country, we will rout the Fake News Media, we will Drain the Swamp, and we will liberate our country from these tyrants and villains once and for all!

Yglesias responded: "This stuff is demented but it also serves to deflect attention from the boring reality that what he's going to do is cut rich people's taxes, raise prescription drug prices, let companies dump more shit in the water, etc etc etc." There's a lot of hyperbole in this pitch, but who can doubts that there are warmongers in the cururent government, that they are pushing us into more perilous foreign entanglements, and that Biden isn't likely to restrain much less break from them. There's good reason to doubt that Trump can fix this, but if he wants to campaign on the promise, many people will find slim chance preferable to none. Moreover, the rest of his pitch is coherent and forceful, and is likely to resonate with the propaganda pitch much of the media -- and not just the shills at Fox -- have been pushing over the last decade.

Countering that Trump won't really do this just feeds into the paranoia over the Deep State -- which, to be sure, thwarted him in 2017, but this time he knows much better what he's up against. Worse still is arguing that his actual government will be boring, with a side of petty corruption, just shows you're not listening, and also suggests that you don't much care what happens. If Trump did nothing more than check off Yglesias's list, he'd still be a disaster for most Americans. But at the very minimum, he's going to do much more than that: he's going to talk, and he's going to talk a lot, and he's going to bring more people into government and media who are going to add ever more vicious details to the mass of hate and pomposity he spews. And even though lots of us are going to recoil in horror, we'll still have to stuggle to survive being inundated by it all, all the while suffering the glee of our tormenters.

Of course, the "Final Battle" and "once and for all" is as over the top as the Book of Revelation he's taken to heart. But that it can't happen won't make them any less determined, or dangerous, or dreadful.

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