Bombs under bridges

Ireland

I remember making Nic Robertson’s mistake. It is to look at violence and to see evil, without seriously considering the underlying cause:

The IRA [Irish Republican Army] was at the forefront of the conflict [“The Troubles”] – killing, bombing, shooting and intimidating their way to influence. They had grown out of a demand for equality in Northern Ireland’s deeply bigoted society that often gave advantages to Protestants over Catholics.[1]

First, this neglects that Ireland has been an English colonial project since at least the 17th century:

The mandate for extermination [of Native Americans] anticipated similar calls for ruthless wars against a dehumanised enemy that would be heard from land-hungry colonists in southern Africa, New Zealand and Australia. It was also a reminder that the first colonisation of North America was contemporaneous with the far larger settlement of Ireland, mainly by Presbyterian Scottish immigrants. Between 1620 and 1642 120,000 colonists arrived to help undertake what Sir Francis Bacon revealing called ‘the reduction to civility’ of the Gaelic-speaking Catholic Irish.[2]

Lawrence James’ description is brief—he goes on to describe The Troubles at greater length later in his book. But nonetheless, we see crucial commonalities: The hunger for land—Lebensraum if you will—masked as a “civilizing” project, as if English Catholics (Episcopalians) of Henry VIII’s church were somehow more civilized than Roman Catholics, and carried out by Scottish Presbyterians, as if even they were somehow more civilized than Roman Catholics.

It is in that historical context that we should see Boris Johnson’s likely implausible notion of a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland.[3]

He called again for the link during the Conservative leadership campaign, despite engineers expressing scepticism at the idea of building such a link over waters more than 300 metres deep in places, parts of which were used by the Ministry of Defence to dump more than 1m tonnes of obsolete munitions.[4]

And it is in that historical context that we should see Ulsterist resistance to what is now being called a “frontstop,” the customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain necessary to avoid such a border between the North and South.[5]

There is no humane logic to such bigotry and the Irish, seen by the English as a “fickle, childlike race, unable to subdue their wilder passions,”[6] suffered it for centuries. It is little wonder that finally, early in the 20th century they rose up only to be lumped in with Communists and trade unions. The IRA resorted to violence to displace the colonizer and the conflict took a familiar pattern of asymmetric conflict culminating in partition and independence for the Republic of Ireland, excluding the North. But the fight for the North continued.[7]

Robertson foolishly treats Sinn Fein as a Northern Irish organization,[8] But it was in Dublin with the IRA at the beginning.[9] And the Ulster Protestants seek to perpetuate a vicious subjugation of Catholics.

Nic Robertson, “Sinn Fein surged in Ireland’s election. Here’s why that’s so controversial,” CNN, February 10, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/10/europe/ireland-election-sinn-fein-analysis-intl/index.html

Peter Walker, “Government ‘actively looking into’ Scotland-Northern Ireland bridge,” Guardian, February 10, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/feb/10/boris-johnson-northern-ireland-scotland-bridge-plan-being-actively-looked-into-no-10


  1. [1]Nic Robertson, “Sinn Fein surged in Ireland’s election. Here’s why that’s so controversial,” CNN, February 10, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/10/europe/ireland-election-sinn-fein-analysis-intl/index.html
  2. [2]Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1994), 14.
  3. [3]Peter Walker, “Government ‘actively looking into’ Scotland-Northern Ireland bridge,” Guardian, February 10, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/feb/10/boris-johnson-northern-ireland-scotland-bridge-plan-being-actively-looked-into-no-10
  4. [4]Peter Walker, “Government ‘actively looking into’ Scotland-Northern Ireland bridge,” Guardian, February 10, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/feb/10/boris-johnson-northern-ireland-scotland-bridge-plan-being-actively-looked-into-no-10
  5. [5]Daniel Boffey and Jennifer Rankin, “Boris Johnson and EU reach Brexit deal without DUP backing,” Guardian, October 17, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/17/boris-johnson-and-eu-reach-brexit-deal-without-dup-backing; Daniel Boffey et al., “Boris Johnson ‘on brink of Brexit deal’ after border concessions,” Guardian, October 15, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/15/boris-johnson-close-to-brexit-deal-after-border-concessions; Rory Carroll and Lisa O’Carroll, “Rival unionists accuse DUP of catastrophic Brexit miscalculation,” Guardian, October 17, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/17/rival-unionists-accuse-dup-of-catastrophic-brexit-miscalculation; Peter Foster, “Brexit plan revealed: Telegraph obtains proposal Boris Johnson will send to Brussels,” Telegraph, October 1, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/10/01/brexit-plan-revealed-prime-minister-rolls-sleeves-send-brussels/; Conor Humphries, “Irish PM says hard Brexit would raise issue of Irish unification,” Reuters, July 27, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-ireland-nireland-idUSKCN1UL280; Laurence Norman and Max Colchester, “U.K., EU Agree on Draft Brexit Deal, Paving Way for Key Vote,” Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/brexit-talks-are-dealt-a-blow-as-northern-irish-party-rejects-draft-11571294766; Kate Proctor, “Irish border after Brexit – all ideas are beset by issues says secret paper,” Guardian, September 2, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/02/irish-border-after-brexit-all-ideas-beset-by-issues; James Rothwell, “DUP’s demand for a veto over deal brings talks to standstill as consent not customs becomes crucial issue,” Telegraph, October 16, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/10/16/dups-demand-veto-deal-brings-talks-standstill-consent-not-customs/
  6. [6]Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1994), 377.
  7. [7]Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1994).
  8. [8]Nic Robertson, “Sinn Fein surged in Ireland’s election. Here’s why that’s so controversial,” CNN, February 10, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/10/europe/ireland-election-sinn-fein-analysis-intl/index.html
  9. [9]Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1994).

Bernie Sanders’ mistake

Scotland

Kieran Andrews, “Nicola Sturgeon ‘would resort to court battle to secure referendum,’” Times, January 31, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/past-six-days/2020-01-31/news/nicola-sturgeon-would-resort-to-court-battle-to-secure-referendum-jglmr7d3n


Palestine

Contrary to an initial appearance of some Arab backing for Donald Trump’s “deal of the century,”[1] the Arab League unanimously rejected it.[2]

Times of Israel, “Backing Abbas, Arab League rejects Trump’s Middle East peace plan,” February 1, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/backing-abbas-arab-league-rejects-trumps-middle-east-peace-plan/

Times of Israel, “Gantz vows to advance US peace plan immediately if elected prime minister,” February 1, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/gantz-vows-to-advance-us-peace-plan-immediately-if-he-becomes-prime-minister/


Bernie Sanders

The move to restore superdelegates to the first ballot, pretty obviously to stop Bernie Sanders, enjoys only minority support.[3] But some of us have not forgotten 2016.[4]

I understand why Sanders trusts the Democratic Party. In a bipartisan system, he has little choice. I still think it’s a mistake.

David Siders, “DNC members discuss rules change to stop Sanders at convention,” Politico, January 31, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/01/31/dnc-superdelegates-110083

Eoin Higgins, “DNC Insiders Plot Return of Superdelegates to Stop Sanders at Convention,” Truthout, February 1, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/dnc-insiders-plot-return-of-superdelegates-to-stop-sanders-at-convention/


  1. [1]Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-release-middle-east-peace-plan-11580221616
  2. [2]Times of Israel, “Backing Abbas, Arab League rejects Trump’s Middle East peace plan,” February 1, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/backing-abbas-arab-league-rejects-trumps-middle-east-peace-plan/
  3. [3]Eoin Higgins, “DNC Insiders Plot Return of Superdelegates to Stop Sanders at Convention,” Truthout, February 1, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/dnc-insiders-plot-return-of-superdelegates-to-stop-sanders-at-convention/; David Siders, “DNC members discuss rules change to stop Sanders at convention,” Politico, January 31, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/01/31/dnc-superdelegates-110083
  4. [4]Donna Brazile, “Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC,” Politico, November 2, 2017, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/02/clinton-brazile-hacks-2016-215774

Free Scotland

As I wonder how in the world I’m going to pay my taxes this year, I see one of my neighbors may have a more pressing dilemma.

There’s a bright pink notice taped to her door informing her of an arrest warrant. Assuming its veracity, she was busted for speeding and not having had her vehicle inspected (Pennsylvania has an annual vehicle inspection scheme to help keep local mechanics afloat).

From what I gather, such violations are how the local cops harass Blacks. Whites rarely face such tickets.

And it’s not like I’m the only white noticing this. Sure, I talk about all this with Blacks, but I also talk about it with whites. And a few of them have noticed at least some of what I’ve noticed. Those that grew up here are less likely to have noticed, but when I inform them of my observations, I don’t even have to explain my logic—they, too, are often horrified.


Scotland

As this issue goes online, the hour for Brexit has now passed.

Kieran Andrews, “Brexit is a boost for independence,” Times, January 31, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/scotland/brexit-is-a-boost-for-independence-njdh6zmfc

British Broadcasting Corporation, “Scottish independence: Nicola Sturgeon calls for patience over indyref2,” January 31, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-51311288


Palestine

Jerusalem Online, “Bibi Steps Back from ‘Immediate’ Annexation Promise,” January 31, 2020, https://www.jerusalemonline.com/bibi-steps-back-from-immediate-annexation-promise/


All hail King narcissist-in-chief

It’s not at all uncommon to see squirrels in the roadway as I drive around Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, quite a few end up as roadkill.

But today I saw one of a sort I hadn’t seen before. S/he saw me coming, scampered off to the side by a parked car, turned around, and stood on his/her hind legs, revealing a white chest and belly.

Against an otherwise grey coat, it was really rather fetching.


Brexit

Boris Johnson accepted border checks on the Irish Sea.[1] Now, it seems, he’ll have them in the English Channel as well,[2] suggesting that this state of affairs will not be temporary.

The Prime Minister will say sovereignty is more important than frictionless trade, defying warnings from Brussels that the UK must accept EU standards on goods if it wants the best possible deal.

Whitehall sources have told The Daily Telegraph that while Mr [Boris] Johnson wants to avoid tariffs and quotas on cross-Channel trade, he will never cave in to demands for alignment on regulations, despite knowing “the consequences that flow from that”.[3]

Look for long lines in Dover and shortages in Britain as distributors adjust.[4] But hey, wave that Union Jack.[5]

James Crisp, “Flag-waving Nigel Farage cut off in farewell speech as European Parliament ratifies Brexit deal,” Telegraph, January 29, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/29/european-parliament-ratifies-brexit-deal-paves-way-britain-leave/

Gordon Rayner, “Boris Johnson will tell the EU he is prepared to accept post-Brexit border checks,” Telegraph, January 29, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/29/boris-johnson-will-tell-eu-prepared-accept-post-brexit-border/


Palestine

Not seein’ much love for Donald Trump’s plan from anyone except the Israelis and the Trump administration.

I saw a comment correctly emphasizing that Palestinian voices should be heard on Trump’s “Deal of the Century.” But the truth is, their reaction is no more surprising than that of the Israelis. The so-called deal—a ‘diktat,’ as multiple scholars have labeled it—stinks and Palestinians know it. What’s more interesting is when pretty much everyone else recognizes it as well.[6]

In normal times, this would suggest that Trump has failed at his ostensible aim. His ‘deal’ has no credibility. But we must remember that for Trump, the only people who matter are those who vote for him, principally authoritarian populists and social conservatives. The former have made clear they will carry on worshipping him as a hero regardless. The latter, especially those who see Jewish control of Jerusalem as indicating the second coming, will be thrilled. And he’ll at least split neoconservatives (this group includes #NeverTrump holdouts like Bill Kristol) who are unambiguously pro-Israel, joining Israel’s government in labeling anyone who opposes Israel’s policies as anti-Semitic.

Binyamin Netanyahu thinks he’s gotten a good deal. Natan Sachs notes that his “preferences on nearly everything are reflected here.” But Bruce Riedel recalls that “President Ronald Reagan tried to get the Arabs to accept his plan in 1982. Despite considerable pressure, King Hussein rejected it. The Trump plan is likely heading for the same outcome.”[7] Which means it’s Trump who’s gotten the deal. And pretty much no one else.

Natan Sachs, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Bruce Riedel, “Around the halls: Brookings experts on the Middle East react to the White House’s peace plan,” Brookings Institute, January 29, 2020,https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/01/29/brookings-experts-react-to-the-white-houses-middle-east-peace-plan/


Equal Rights Amendment

I’m uneasy in my mind as to how closely to follow this. I generally prefer to wait for resolutions rather than taking note of every twist and turn. But to lump this issue in with others in how I treat it may not be just. Whatever I decide, this article summarizes the state of play, with lawsuits both in favor of and opposing ratification.[8]

Patricia Sullivan, “Herring, other attorneys general file lawsuit demanding ERA ratification,” Washington Post, January 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/era-lawsuit-herring/2020/01/30/027eb956-42dc-11ea-aa6a-083d01b3ed18_story.html


Impeachment

To the extent there was ever a possibility that the Senate might call witnesses in the impeachment of Donald Trump, it appears to be fading fast. In the meantime,

For more than a week, House managers prosecuting the impeachment case against Trump have argued that the Senate’s failure to convict him would make Trump an unaccountable leader; in effect, a dictator or a king. When [Alan] Dershowitz spoke, it was as if he completely agreed with them. Two days earlier, Dershowitz had told senators that Presidential “abuse of power” should not be considered an impeachable offense under the Constitution. On Wednesday, he took that further—much further. “If a President does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” he argued. Dershowitz was offering Trump—and all future Presidents—a free pass. His argument seemed unbelievable: as long as the President thinks his reëlection will benefit the country, he can do anything in pursuit of it without fear of impeachment.[9]

I guess we should just start calling him King narcissist-in-chief.

Susan B. Glasser, “Alan Dershowitz for the Defense: L’État, C’est Trump,” New Yorker, January 30, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/alan-dershowitz-for-the-defense-letat-cest-trump


  1. [1]Amy Davidson Sorkin, “Boris Johnson’s Bad Saturday and the Contradictions of Brexit,” New Yorker, October 19, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/boris-johnsons-bad-saturday-and-the-contradictions-of-brexit
  2. [2]Gordon Rayner, “Boris Johnson will tell the EU he is prepared to accept post-Brexit border checks,” Telegraph, January 29, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/29/boris-johnson-will-tell-eu-prepared-accept-post-brexit-border/
  3. [3]Gordon Rayner, “Boris Johnson will tell the EU he is prepared to accept post-Brexit border checks,” Telegraph, January 29, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/29/boris-johnson-will-tell-eu-prepared-accept-post-brexit-border/
  4. [4]Nick Hopkins, “UK less able to cope with hard Brexit than it was in spring, say officials,” Guardian, August 1, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/aug/01/uk-less-able-to-cope-with-hard-brexit-than-in-spring-say-officials
  5. [5]James Crisp, “Flag-waving Nigel Farage cut off in farewell speech as European Parliament ratifies Brexit deal,” Telegraph, January 29, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/29/european-parliament-ratifies-brexit-deal-paves-way-britain-leave/
  6. [6]Oliver Holmes, Sufian Taha, and Hazem Balousha, “‘We will never be Jerusalem’: Abu Dis pours scorn on Trump plan,” Guardian, January 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/29/we-will-never-be-jerusalem-abu-dis-pours-scorn-on-trump-plan; Natan Sachs, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Bruce Riedel, “Around the halls: Brookings experts on the Middle East react to the White House’s peace plan,” Brookings Institute, January 29, 2020,https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/01/29/brookings-experts-react-to-the-white-houses-middle-east-peace-plan/; Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-release-middle-east-peace-plan-11580221616; Ishaan Tharoor, “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is no deal at all,” Washington Post, January 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/28/trumps-deal-century-is-no-deal-all/; Times of Israel, “As peace plan rolls out, Netanyahu says he will annex Jordan Valley, settlements,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/as-peace-plan-rolls-out-netanyahu-says-he-will-annex-jordan-valley-settlements/; Times of Israel, “Trump unveils plan for ‘realistic 2-state’ deal, ‘undivided’ Israeli Jerusalem,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/trump-unveils-plan-for-realistic-2-state-deal-undivided-israeli-jerusalem/; Raoul Wootliff, “Netanyahu indicted for corruption in three cases, in first for a sitting PM,” Times of Israel, January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-indicted-for-corruption-in-three-cases-in-first-for-a-sitting-pm/
  7. [7]Natan Sachs, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Bruce Riedel, “Around the halls: Brookings experts on the Middle East react to the White House’s peace plan,” Brookings Institute, January 29, 2020,https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/01/29/brookings-experts-react-to-the-white-houses-middle-east-peace-plan/
  8. [8]Patricia Sullivan, “Herring, other attorneys general file lawsuit demanding ERA ratification,” Washington Post, January 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/era-lawsuit-herring/2020/01/30/027eb956-42dc-11ea-aa6a-083d01b3ed18_story.html
  9. [9]Susan B. Glasser, “Alan Dershowitz for the Defense: L’État, C’est Trump,” New Yorker, January 30, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/alan-dershowitz-for-the-defense-letat-cest-trump

As we are sucked ever deeper into Donald Trump’s black hole, there’s really nothing new to say

Special Operations

Oh, gee. Here’s Philip Zimbardo’s “power of the situation” again. Complete with “a few bad apples” and a ‘culture’ that enables them.[1] But you know, nothing to see, here, Brian Resnick,[2] any more than there was with the concentration camps on the U.S.-Mexico border.[3] Even the case of the ever so self-righteous Eddie Gallagher and his narcissist-in-chief enabler points to Zimbardo’s claim—which I’ve been skeptical of—that people can resist,[4] as Gallagher’s platoon testified against him.[5]

Andrew Dyer, “Retired Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher Strikes Back at SEALs Who Testified Against Him,” Military.com, January 28, 2020, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/01/28/retired-navy-seal-eddie-gallagher-strikes-back-seals-who-testified-against-him.html

Gina Harkins, “Spec Ops Culture Sets Conditions ‘Favorable for Inappropriate Behavior,’ 4-Star Says,” Military.com, January 28, 2020, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/01/28/spec-ops-culture-sets-conditions-favorable-inappropriate-behavior-4-star-says.html


Palestine

But rather than working to bridge the profound gap between Israelis and Palestinians that bedeviled U.S. policymakers for decades, the Trump administration has spent the past three years doling out concessions to the former, while placing its boot on the latter.[6]

I think what worries me about Donald Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century” for Palestine is that it says just enough of the right words that casual onlookers may be deceived[7] or that folks who should be supporting the Palestinians have an excuse not to.[8] Writing for Mondoweiss yesterday, Raoul Wootliff noted resemblances between the proposal and South African apartheid.[9] Today, though also written yesterday, I find Ishaan Tharoor echoing Wootliff’s argument, albeit from other sources, and labeling the plan “a declaration of terms for Palestinian surrender” in the Washington Post.[10]

But the 181-page proposal published shortly after [Donald Trump] spoke showed that the details of these pledges effectively made them meaningless. Any Palestinian “state” would not look much like a sovereign country. It would be completely encircled, would have no army or air force, and Israel would continue to control its skies, borders and seas.Crucially, Israeli forces would have the right to make incursions into Palestine at any time. The document also indicates that the US and Israel could veto Palestinian moves for independence.

Possibly even more misleading was Trump’s assertion that Palestinians would finally realise their decades-old wish to have a capital in East Jerusalem.

This point raised eyebrows from residents of Abu Dis, who described their home as an outlying “village” or a “suburb” at best, and certainly not a central part of Jerusalem they envisioned for their governmental headquarters. Not even Israel considers Abu Dis part of its “undivided capital” – a term Trump used in his speech – and Israel purposefully excludes it from its municipal boundaries.[11]

Even somewhat friendlier Wall Street Journal coverage notes that “[t]he Trump proposal requires many more concessions from the Palestinians than from the Israelis” and that “[i]mportant elements of the plan have now been set in motion in a way that ensures substantial Israeli territorial gains regardless of what the Palestinians say or whether the plan is approved by other world powers or the United Nations.”[12]

Tamara Cofman Wittes, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, said the proposals fail to provide a foundation for lasting peace. “They are structured as a diktat,” she said. “The administration has made it clear that it plans to recognize Israeli sovereignty over all the land indicated for the Israelis in Trump’s map, whether the Palestinians accept it or not.”[13]

We can also note that a number of U.S.-Middle East allies fell into line, yet again betraying the Palestinians, and supporting negotiations under obviously biased U.S. auspices.[14]

I saw a remark on Twitter that a lot of the usual folks are silent on this ‘surrender.’ I suspect that is because really, this is what was expected of the Trump administration: “powerful sops to key political constituencies for both leaders — Christian evangelical voters for Trump and the nationalist Israeli right for Netanyahu.”[15] It’s sickening but there’s really not much new to say.

Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-release-middle-east-peace-plan-11580221616

Ishaan Tharoor, “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is no deal at all,” Washington Post, January 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/28/trumps-deal-century-is-no-deal-all/

Oliver Holmes, Sufian Taha, and Hazem Balousha, “‘We will never be Jerusalem’: Abu Dis pours scorn on Trump plan,” Guardian, January 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/29/we-will-never-be-jerusalem-abu-dis-pours-scorn-on-trump-plan


Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant was not a person I cared about. He was a sports star. I don’t care about sports.

I do care about rape and while I’m not particularly interested into digging into yet another sexual assault by yet another sports star, I can’t say I’m happy with how the Washington Post reacted to Felicia Sonmez’ tweets. Here’s an excerpt from the Columbia Journalism Review‘s “Media Today” newsletter today:

Felicia Sonmez and the tyranny of the social-media policy
By Jon Allsop

On Sunday—amid the wave of public eulogizing that followed the death of Kobe Bryant—many people on Twitter stressed that we should also remember the time he was credibly accused of raping a hotel worker in Colorado. (Bryant denied the claim, but later settled with the woman, and said he understood “how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”) One such tweeter was Felicia Sonmez, a politics reporter at the Washington Post. Sonmez has consistently been vocal on issues of sexual assault; in 2018, she alleged that she had been abused by Jon Kaiman, who then worked for the LA Times. (Another woman made a similar claim; Kaiman, who subsequently lost his job, has strongly denied wrongdoing.) On Sunday, Sonmez first linked to Daily Beast story (which she didn’t write) about the Bryant rape case without adding commentary of her own. She elaborated, but only after receiving a rash of abusive messages—including, she said, death threats. “Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality,” she wrote. “That folks are responding with rage & threats toward me… speaks volumes about the pressure people come under to stay silent in these cases.” She also shared a screenshot of one nasty message she had received, without masking the sender’s name.

Managers at the Post were not happy with Sonmez. According to Rachel Abrams, of the New York Times, Marty Baron, the paper’s top editor, emailed Sonmez a screenshot of her first Bryant tweet, along with the message: “Felicia, a real lack of judgment to tweet this. Please stop. You’re hurting this institution by doing this.” Tracy Grant, managing editor at the Post, then told Sonmez to delete the tweets, before suspending her on the grounds that she had strayed beyond her “coverage area,” and “undermined” her colleagues’ work. Responding to the threats Sonmez had faced, Grant added that she “might want to consider a hotel or a friend’s place for this evening.” (At least one of the threats referenced Sonmez’s home address; Sonmez had contacted Grant to flag the threats, as mandated by the Post’s security protocols.) This, many critics noted, felt like a dereliction of the paper’s duty to ensure the safety of its staff.

Many such critics could be found inside the Post’s newsroom. The paper’s guild wrote an open letter to Baron and Grant, accusing them of failing to protect Sonmez and noting that this isn’t the first time management “has sought to control how Felicia speaks on matters of sexual violence.” As of last night, nearly 350 staffers had signed the letter. Opinion writers at the paper used their platforms to come to Sonmez’s defense, too. On Monday, Erik Wemple wrote that the backlash against her was rooted in “the ancient wisdom that urges folks not to speak ill of the dead,” which is “a fine rule for everyone except for historians and journalists.” Yesterday, David Von Drehle concurred with Wemple. Sonmez, he wrote, had been punished for keeping “both eyes on the truth—or more precisely, on one particular truth, namely that somewhere a woman was experiencing this outpouring of adulation for a man who choked and lacerated her during an encounter that she called a rape, and which he acknowledged was very much like one.”

Late yesterday, the Post retreated. In a statement, it said that following a “review,” it had concluded that Sonmez’s tweets were “ill-timed,” but “not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy.” Sonmez was reinstated, though the statement was notably missing an apology. In a statement of her own, Sonmez hit back, insisting that she and her colleagues deserve to hear directly from Baron, and noting that the episode had “sown confusion” about the Post’s values.

As some observers (including Charlie Warzel, of the Times) noted, the Sonmez fiasco is a fresh reminder that newsrooms still struggle when coordinated mobs of online culture warriors target their staff. (Baron and Grant clearly feared institutional blowback, though it’s possible they found Sonmez’s tweets distasteful on their own terms.) The Post isn’t alone here. Last year, the Times caused a mini media panic when it reported that “a loose network of conservative operatives” had compiled dossiers incriminating “hundreds” of reporters at leading outlets. (The “loose network” has since been mysteriously quiet.) For some reason, A.G. Sulzberger, the Times’s publisher, deemed this development worthy of public comment; he called it a clear attempt to harass his reporters (which was correct), but added that the paper would nonetheless be diligent in responding to “legitimate problems” raised by “anyone—even those acting in bad faith.” This handed the harassers a victory, at least to some small extent.

Sonmezgate also exposes a more routine problem: the tyranny of the newsroom social media policy. Ostensibly, such policies are meant to safeguard journalists and their bosses against the pitfalls of the internet; in practice, they often read like hamfisted attempts to reconcile competing impulses. That of the Post, for instance, says, in part, that reporters should communicate in “more personal and informal ways” to better connect with readers, but should also prioritize preserving the paper’s reputation “for journalistic excellence, fairness, and independence.” Such wording invites flawed—not to mention inconsistent—application. “We have repeatedly seen colleagues—including members of management—share contentious opinions on social media platforms without sanction,” the Post Guild wrote in its letter supporting Sonmez. “But here a valued colleague is being censured for making a statement of fact.”

Again, the Post isn’t alone; tensions like these exist across the media industry. We warn aspiring journalists that they won’t be hired unless they have thousands of Twitter followers they can mine for clicks, while also warning them that they won’t be hired if they ever expressed an opinion online. (Regrettably, Twitter followers tend to like opinions.) The Trump era has made things worse. Newsrooms have moved to monetize their reporters’ humanity (Ring, ring. Ring, ring. “Hi, it’s Michael.”) without really letting them show any preconceptions, or mistakes, or life experiences—the things that actual humans are made of. (Life is not lived in “coverage areas.”) All of which is very ironic: in many cases, trust in the press has declined not because reporters have manifest flaws, but because news organizations insist on pretending that they do not.

Yes, there are things reporters shouldn’t do: campaign for candidates, lie, display prejudice, etc. But these are so obvious—and so intrinsic to what it means to be a journalist—that they hardly need to be codified in an inflexible policy. Which raises the question: what are such policies for, really? It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that they’re a tool of management control.

Below, more on Sonmez and the Post:

  • Correcting the record: Last year, Emily Yoffe wrote an article for Reason Magazine arguing that Kaiman had wrongly suffered professional and personal damage. Sonmez felt the piece contained a string of inaccuracies, and wrote to Reason requesting corrections; she also posted her letter and supporting evidence to Twitter. The magazine made only three changes. “It’s been a process of having to keep reasserting myself and making sure my own voice was heard,” Sonmez told CJR’s Lauren Harris in November. “When people have tried to put their own spin on my story, I’ve had to push back.”
  • Women and the PostCritics of the Sonmez decision shared other instances in which the Post was criticized on issues pertaining to gender. Last year, Irin Carmon alleged that the Post killed a story she’d been working on about sexual-harassment allegations against Jeff Fager, of CBS. (The allegations later surfaced in the New Yorker; the Post said five editors agreed that the Fager story didn’t meet its standards.) Also last year, the Post Guild assessed pay structures at the paper, and found that women and staffers of color were being paid less than white male employees.
  • Bryant’s death: Sonmez’s Post colleague Margaret Sullivan writes that media coverage of Bryant’s death was “a chaotic mess.” Our collective handling of his rape case was just one part of the problem.[16]

I’m having a real hard time seeing how the Washington Post protected its reputation here. And while, in claims such as these, a reporter’s competence should have little bearing, it can only help that Sonmez is one whom I have cited here and in my blog on a number of occasions.

It looks to me like a number of media organizations, but especially the Post, have a #MeToo problem. They’d do well to get on top of it.


Polarization

Jim Geraghty, “The Pendulum of American Politics,” National Review, January 29, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/the-morning-jolt/the-pendulum-of-american-politics/


  1. [1]Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect (New York: Random House, 2008).
  2. [2]Brian Resnick, “The Stanford Prison Experiment was massively influential. We just learned it was a fraud,” Vox, June 13, 2018, https://www.vox.com/2018/6/13/17449118/stanford-prison-experiment-fraud-psychology-replication; Brian Resnick, “Philip Zimbardo defends the Stanford Prison Experiment, his most famous work,” Vox, June 28, 2018, https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/6/28/17509470/stanford-prison-experiment-zimbardo-interview
  3. [3]Priscilla Alvarez, “Lawmakers, including Ocasio-Cortez, lash out over conditions following border facility tours,” CNN, July 2, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/01/politics/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-clint-texas-facility/index.html; Caitlin Dickerson, “‘There Is a Stench’: No Soap and Overcrowding in Detention Centers for Migrant Children,” New York Times, June 21, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/21/us/migrant-children-border-soap.html; Adam Harris, “An Astonishing Government Report on Conditions at the Border,” Atlantic, July 3, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/07/government-report-details-inhumane-conditions-migrant-facilities/593242/; Miriam Jordan, “Judge Orders Swift Action to Improve Conditions for Migrant Children in Texas,” New York Times, June 29, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/29/us/migrant-children-detention-texas.html; Alejandro Lazo and Jacob Gershman, “Lawsuit Alleges Government Mistreatment of Migrant Children,” Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/lawsuit-alleges-government-mistreatment-of-migrant-children-11561608969; Sam Levin, “‘Happy hunting!’ Immigration agents swapped cheery messages about raids, records reveal,” Guardian, July 3, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/03/ice-us-immigration-messages-raids; Katie Mettler, Mike DeBonis, and Reis Thebault, “Border agents confiscated lawmakers’ phones. Joaquin Castro captured photo and video anyway,” Washington Post, July 2, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/07/02/ocasio-cortez-says-dispute-with-border-patrol-agents-started-after-one-tried-take-stealth-selfie/; Geneva Sands and Nick Valencia, “2nd Customs and Border Protection-connected secret Facebook group shows mocking images,” CNN, July 5, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/05/politics/cbp-second-facebook-group-images/index.html
  4. [4]Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect (New York: Random House, 2008).
  5. [5]Andrew Dyer, “Retired Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher Strikes Back at SEALs Who Testified Against Him,” Military.com, January 28, 2020, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/01/28/retired-navy-seal-eddie-gallagher-strikes-back-seals-who-testified-against-him.html
  6. [6]Ishaan Tharoor, “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is no deal at all,” Washington Post, January 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/28/trumps-deal-century-is-no-deal-all/
  7. [7]Oliver Holmes, Sufian Taha, and Hazem Balousha, “‘We will never be Jerusalem’: Abu Dis pours scorn on Trump plan,” Guardian, January 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/29/we-will-never-be-jerusalem-abu-dis-pours-scorn-on-trump-plan; Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-release-middle-east-peace-plan-11580221616; Ishaan Tharoor, “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is no deal at all,” Washington Post, January 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/28/trumps-deal-century-is-no-deal-all/; Times of Israel, “As peace plan rolls out, Netanyahu says he will annex Jordan Valley, settlements,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/as-peace-plan-rolls-out-netanyahu-says-he-will-annex-jordan-valley-settlements/; Times of Israel, “Trump unveils plan for ‘realistic 2-state’ deal, ‘undivided’ Israeli Jerusalem,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/trump-unveils-plan-for-realistic-2-state-deal-undivided-israeli-jerusalem/; Raoul Wootliff, “Netanyahu indicted for corruption in three cases, in first for a sitting PM,” Times of Israel, January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-indicted-for-corruption-in-three-cases-in-first-for-a-sitting-pm/
  8. [8]Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-release-middle-east-peace-plan-11580221616
  9. [9]Raoul Wootliff, “Netanyahu indicted for corruption in three cases, in first for a sitting PM,” Times of Israel, January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-indicted-for-corruption-in-three-cases-in-first-for-a-sitting-pm/
  10. [10]Ishaan Tharoor, “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is no deal at all,” Washington Post, January 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/28/trumps-deal-century-is-no-deal-all/
  11. [11]Oliver Holmes, Sufian Taha, and Hazem Balousha, “‘We will never be Jerusalem’: Abu Dis pours scorn on Trump plan,” Guardian, January 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/29/we-will-never-be-jerusalem-abu-dis-pours-scorn-on-trump-plan
  12. [12]Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-release-middle-east-peace-plan-11580221616
  13. [13]Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-release-middle-east-peace-plan-11580221616
  14. [14]Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-release-middle-east-peace-plan-11580221616
  15. [15]Ishaan Tharoor, “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is no deal at all,” Washington Post, January 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/28/trumps-deal-century-is-no-deal-all/
  16. [16]Jon Allsop to “Media Today” list, Columbia Journalism Review, January 29, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/felicia_sonmez_kobe_bryant_washington_post.php

Binyamin Netanyahu will be tried for corruption, in stark contrast with Donald Trump

Impeachment

“Nine months left to go, the people should judge. We are a republic, we are based on the will of the people — the people should judge,” [Diane] Feinstein said Tuesday, after the president’s team finished a three-day presentation in his defense. “That was my view and it still is my view.”[1]

Diane Feinstein must have figured out that voting to acquit might be a bad idea after all:

Zachary Evans, “McConnell Tells Caucus They Lack the Votes to Block Impeachment Witnesses,” National Review, January 28, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/news/trump-impeachment-trial-mitch-mcconnell-tells-caucus-they-lack-the-votes-to-block-witnesses/

Molly O’Toole, Jennifer Haberkorn, and Eli Stokols, “Feinstein says she’s a maybe on acquitting Trump as his defense team ends impeachment arguments,” Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-01-28/trump-team-wraps-impeachment-defense-with-an-elephant-in-the-senate-john-bolton


Israel

[Binyamin] Netanyahu’s announcement [withdrawing his request for immunity] came hours before the Knesset was set to form a committee to debate — and almost certainly reject — his immunity request.[2]

Richard Haass’ tweet undoubtedly reflects what Donald Trump would have the Palestinians do. One question is whether a fair deal would be possible in such negotiations. Given the present players, I doubt it. On the other hand, the risk of annexation[3] is being realized.[4]

“Your peace plan…addresses the root cause of the conflict by insisting that the Palestinians will finally have to recognize Israel as the Jewish state,” [Binyamin Netanyahu] said.

“Second, it stipulates that Israel will retain security control on the entire area west of the Jordan River, thereby giving Israel a permanent eastern border to defend ourselves across our longest border. Third, your plan calls for Hamas to be disarmed and Gaza to be demilitarized. Fourth, it makes clear that the Palestinian refugee problem must be solved outside the state of Israel. Fifth, it calls for our ancient capital, Jerusalem, to remain united under Israel sovereignty. Sixth, your plan does not uproot anyone from their homes, Israelis and Palestinians alike.”[5]

Sheena Anne Arackal, “The ‘Deal of the Century’ is Apartheid,” Mondoweiss, January 28, 2020, https://mondoweiss.net/2020/01/the-deal-of-the-century-is-apartheid/

Times of Israel, “As peace plan rolls out, Netanyahu says he will annex Jordan Valley, settlements,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/as-peace-plan-rolls-out-netanyahu-says-he-will-annex-jordan-valley-settlements/

Times of Israel, “Trump unveils plan for ‘realistic 2-state’ deal, ‘undivided’ Israeli Jerusalem,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/trump-unveils-plan-for-realistic-2-state-deal-undivided-israeli-jerusalem/

Raoul Wootliff, “Netanyahu indicted for corruption in three cases, in first for a sitting PM,” Times of Israel, January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-indicted-for-corruption-in-three-cases-in-first-for-a-sitting-pm/


Pittsburgh

Overall, Pittsburgh’s air seems to be improving.[6] This, of course, will be no surprise to my mother, who was here when the steel industry was pumping soot into the air at a ferocious rate.[7] Some of that soot can still, decades later, be seen on some retaining walls and on the sides of some buildings. But this[8] refers to more recent improvements.

Jamie Martines, “U.S. Steel to hold info sessions about Clairton, Braddock plant upgrades,” TribLive, January 27, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/u-s-steel-to-hold-info-sessions-about-clairton-braddock-plant-upgrades/

Kristina Marusic, “Pittsburgh’s air was unsafe to breathe for 3 months in 2018,” Environmental Health News, January 28, 2020, https://www.ehn.org/pittsburgh-air-pollution-unsafe-2644931105.html


  1. [1]Molly O’Toole, Jennifer Haberkorn, and Eli Stokols, “Feinstein says she’s a maybe on acquitting Trump as his defense team ends impeachment arguments,” Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-01-28/trump-team-wraps-impeachment-defense-with-an-elephant-in-the-senate-john-bolton
  2. [2]Raoul Wootliff, “Netanyahu indicted for corruption in three cases, in first for a sitting PM,” Times of Israel, January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-indicted-for-corruption-in-three-cases-in-first-for-a-sitting-pm/
  3. [3]Michael Bachner and Jacob Magid, “Settler leaders call for West Bank annexation after US shifts stance,” Times of Israel, November 18, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/settler-leaders-call-for-west-bank-annexation-after-us-shifts-stance/
  4. [4]Times of Israel, “As peace plan rolls out, Netanyahu says he will annex Jordan Valley, settlements,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/as-peace-plan-rolls-out-netanyahu-says-he-will-annex-jordan-valley-settlements/
  5. [5]Times of Israel, “As peace plan rolls out, Netanyahu says he will annex Jordan Valley, settlements,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/as-peace-plan-rolls-out-netanyahu-says-he-will-annex-jordan-valley-settlements/
  6. [6]Kristina Marusic, “Pittsburgh’s air was unsafe to breathe for 3 months in 2018,” Environmental Health News, January 28, 2020, https://www.ehn.org/pittsburgh-air-pollution-unsafe-2644931105.html
  7. [7]Mark Byrnes, “What Pittsburgh Looked Like When It Decided It Had a Pollution Problem,” CityLab, June 5, 2012, https://www.citylab.com/design/2012/06/what-pittsburgh-looked-when-it-decided-it-had-pollution-problem/2185/
  8. [8]Kristina Marusic, “Pittsburgh’s air was unsafe to breathe for 3 months in 2018,” Environmental Health News, January 28, 2020, https://www.ehn.org/pittsburgh-air-pollution-unsafe-2644931105.html

What? You mean cops aren’t allowed to be ‘original’ or ‘creative?’

Qualified immunity

Just remember, they’re all, each and every one of them, “cop haters:”

The centerpiece of Cato’s strategic campaign to take down qualified immunity has been a series of targeted amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to reverse its precedents and eliminate the doctrine outright. Since launching the campaign in March 2018, Cato has filed dozens of additional amicus briefs in our own name, but we have also organized a massive cross‐​ideological alliance of public interest groups opposed to qualified immunity — what Judge Don Willett recently called “perhaps the most diverse amici ever assembled.”[1]

To the extent I’m understanding this correctly, qualified immunity enables “rights‐​violating police and other government officials” to do whatever the fuck they please as long as they haven’t been explicitly told they can’t do it.

Judge Don Willett, a Trump appointee to the Fifth Circuit, has explained how “[t]o some observers, qualified immunity smacks of unqualified impunity, letting public officials duck consequences for bad behavior — no matter how palpably unreasonable — as long as they were the first to behave badly,” and sharply notes that “this entrenched, judge‐​created doctrine excuses constitutional violations by limiting the statute Congress passed to redress constitutional violations.”[2]

But originality counts! Doesn’t it?

I’m not a fan of the Cato Institute. They’re capitalist libertarians, that is, what neoliberals were before they got into power and became even worse hypocrites.[3]

But something I’ve noted for a long time is that capitalist libertarians are occasionally very, very good on constitutional issues. This might be one of those occasions.

Jay Schweikert and Clark Neily, “As Supreme Court Considers Several Qualified Immunity Cases, A New Ally Joins The Fight,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/supreme-court-considers-several-qualified-immunity-cases-new-ally-joins-fight


Iraq and Iran

Capitalist libertarians are also one of a triumvirate of sometimes anti-war conservative tendencies; the other two are paleoconservatives and traditionalist conservatives. Of these, the traditionalists are the most consistent and, truly, scathing. Some paleoconservatives are neo-Nazis and white supremacists, so for at least some of them, race war would be okay and their opposition to war is to foreign war—if you believe in preserving your own segregated society, it hardly makes any sense to involve yourself in other societies. And capitalist libertarians are against war until they think another principle, usually entailing money, is more important.[4]

This article[5] is useful for an explanation of just how it is that Congress ceded the power to start wars to the president:

But, unless you’re willing to go full John Yoo and endorse “the president’s right to start wars,” imminence matters because the constitutional claim has to be based on self‐​defense. Under Article II, the president retains some measure of defensive power, alternately described at the Convention as the power “to repel sudden attacks” or “to repel and not to commence war.” That power reasonably includes the use of force to avert an impending attack not yet begun. But as you move from shooting back, to addressing an immediate threat, to “deterring future Iranian attack plans” — or “re‐​establishing deterrence,” as Pompeo put it this week — the self‐​defense rationale disappears. If the Trump administration wants the general power to target Iranian military commanders as enemy combatants, it should make its case for war to Congress.[6]

The trouble, of course, is that many such “immediate threats” have involved long-running wars: Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, that is, every major military encounter the U.S. has been involved in following World War II. Each of them was ill-advised; not one has ended in anything like victory. They are simply occasions for killing people and for spending vast sums of money on the military rather than for helping people as elites argue violently over which of them will control which territories, the people on those territories, and the resources within those territories. Which is pretty much what war is about.[7]

Gene Healy, “On ‘Imminence’: Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/imminence-absence-evidence-evidence-absence


Guns

So I was mentioning about paleoconservatives above and the possibility of race war? Fuck, here it is, along with a helping of militia in general:[8]

“The anticipation of violation of gun rights is common among militia groups more broadly — pretty easily seen in all the ‘molon labe’ patches worn by militia folks,” [Sam] Jackson said. (“Molon labe” is a classical Greek phrase meaning “come and take them.”) “Several novels that are important for the group depict war between Americans and the American government that begins with attempts at gun control.”

But beyond civil war, others expected to attend Monday’s rally are explicitly calling for a race war, in which white Americans will kill nonwhite Americans and Jewish people to establish a white ethnostate. Using the term “boogaloo” — a sarcastic reference to the 1980s film Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo that implies a “Civil War 2” of sorts — users of online forums like /pol/ are using Richmond as the impetus for the beginnings of a race war. They use phrases like “fuck all optics,” a reference to the last post shared on the social networking site Gab by the Tree of Life shooter, which has become a motto of sorts for white nationalists.[9]

I’m not seeing this rally so much as the start of a civil war as I am a harbinger of what may yet come. Though some militia movements are white supremacist, I generally associate them with authoritarian populism, and we are in a situation where I fear that the possibility that Donald Trump may be removed from office, either through impeachment or electoral defeat, may indeed provoke a very violent and heavily armed uprising.[10]

Jane Coaston, “The Virginia gun rights rally raising fears of violence, explained,” Vox, January 17, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/1/17/21067627/virginia-lobby-day-gun-laws-extremism


Pittsburgh

Winter seemed finally to have arrived. I went out to my car yesterday to find three inches of snow on it. The snowfall amounts were weirdly variable. Even immediately adjacent cars didn’t seem to have that much and I hadn’t been on the road very long when I saw the snow was pretty thin on grass by the Allegheny County Airport. Areas north of the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers seemed barely to have received any at all.

There was more snow last night and a warning went up for snow and freezing rain today.[11] These looked to be conditions that would make me pause before going out. But I have no choice: Thinking I was in a bit better shape than it turns out I was, I ordered bookshelves to accommodate the last of my book collection that my mother has been sending me from the west coast (it’s all here now). That’s a hit on my bank accounts.

As it turned out, it was just rain, which melted a lot of the snow that had fallen the last couple nights.

Natasha Lindstrom, “Storm to bring 1 to 5 inches of snow, dangerous travel conditions to Western Pa.,” TribLive, January 17, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/storm-to-bring-1-to-5-inches-of-snow-dangerous-travel-conditions-to-western-pa/


Amish

Since coming to Pittsburgh, I’ve been surprised that I haven’t seen more Amish. I expected to at least cross their territory on various trips. I haven’t.

The only time I’ve seen them, it was outside a hospital in Pittsburgh. They were recognizable by their plain dress and were standing around a trash bin, using it as a platform, eating. I don’t know their story.

From what I know of them, stories of normalized rape such as those presented here[12] are most emphatically not the picture they would like the world to have of them. The ethical dilemma for me as a human scientist is two-fold: 1) Of course, these women need support and their assailants should face far harsher penalties than they are; but 2) how do we present Amish society such that it isn’t totalized as rape culture? It isn’t like “English” (the term used by Amish to refer to their non-Amish neighbors) society has such a wonderful a track record either.

Sarah McClure, “The Amish Keep to Themselves. And They’re Hiding a Horrifying Secret,” Cosmopolitan, January 14, 2020, https://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a30284631/amish-sexual-abuse-incest-me-too/


Gig economy

Some things are a little too close to home. There is a substantial strain of capitalist libertarianism among denizens, especially the richer ones, of Silicon Valley. What we see with the “Silicon Valley Economy,” the gig economy, is the outcome of capitalist libertarians being absolutely certain they can get their way and acting accordingly.

My guess is that California’s AB 5 is a harbinger of what’s to come.[13] It may not appear in precisely that form everywhere, but it will appear in something like that form in enough places that the non-viability of companies that rely on misclassification of workers will be pushed even further.[14] But it’s going to take a while. And in the meantime, these capitalist libertarians will continue to be self-righteous as they extract ever more wealth from a very raw deal for workers.

Lia Russell, “The Silicon Valley Economy Is Here. And It’s a Nightmare,” New Republic, January 16, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156202/silicon-valley-economy-here-its-nightmare


  1. [1]Jay Schweikert and Clark Neily, “As Supreme Court Considers Several Qualified Immunity Cases, A New Ally Joins The Fight,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/supreme-court-considers-several-qualified-immunity-cases-new-ally-joins-fight
  2. [2]Jay Schweikert and Clark Neily, “As Supreme Court Considers Several Qualified Immunity Cases, A New Ally Joins The Fight,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/supreme-court-considers-several-qualified-immunity-cases-new-ally-joins-fight
  3. [3]Capitalist libertarians have the oh-so-cute notion in which political power is a “threat to liberty” but never economic power. Neoliberals circumscribe that to declare that labor power is a “threat to liberty,” but never corporate power or the power of whomever can shovel the most money at, well, especially, the Clinton Foundation. Neoliberals think political power is great for deregulation, reducing taxes, and eviscerating the social safety net in the name of balancing the budget. They gain support from neoconservatives, who view neoliberalism as a moral imperative, in part because they never suggest that the military should be cut and mainly because capitalism is part of the Amerikkkan Way, the system which neoconservatives believe is universally best for all people everywhere and which they therefore believe must be aggressively and proactively “defended” from even the most remote challenges. David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126); see also David Benfell, “The larger question of California’s AB 5,” Not Housebroken, September 14, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/14/the-larger-question-of-californias-ab-5/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  5. [5]Gene Healy, “On ‘Imminence’: Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/imminence-absence-evidence-evidence-absence
  6. [6]Gene Healy, “On ‘Imminence’: Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/imminence-absence-evidence-evidence-absence
  7. [7]David Benfell, “We ‘need to know how it works,’” Not Housebroken, March 19, 2012, https://disunitedstates.org/2012/03/19/we-need-to-know-how-it-works/
  8. [8]Jane Coaston, “The Virginia gun rights rally raising fears of violence, explained,” Vox, January 17, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/1/17/21067627/virginia-lobby-day-gun-laws-extremism
  9. [9]Jane Coaston, “The Virginia gun rights rally raising fears of violence, explained,” Vox, January 17, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/1/17/21067627/virginia-lobby-day-gun-laws-extremism
  10. [10]David Benfell, “The least violent solution,” Not Housebroken, December 16, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/16/the-least-violent-solution/
  11. [11]Natasha Lindstrom, “Storm to bring 1 to 5 inches of snow, dangerous travel conditions to Western Pa.,” TribLive, January 17, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/storm-to-bring-1-to-5-inches-of-snow-dangerous-travel-conditions-to-western-pa/
  12. [12]Sarah McClure, “The Amish Keep to Themselves. And They’re Hiding a Horrifying Secret,” Cosmopolitan, January 14, 2020, https://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a30284631/amish-sexual-abuse-incest-me-too/
  13. [13]David Benfell, “The larger question of California’s AB 5,” Not Housebroken, September 14, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/14/the-larger-question-of-californias-ab-5/
  14. [14]David Benfell, “Time for the gig economy to grow up,” Not Housebroken, August 30, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/30/time-for-the-gig-economy-to-grow-up/

The morality of polarization makes an appearance in Israel

Israel

While the United Kingdom’s Balfour declaration, calling for creation of a Jewish homeland predates the Holocaust, little action, apart from mass Zionist purchases—they seem to have made generous offers—of Palestinian land, was taken until after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.[1] Accordingly, I hadn’t even questioned that Israel was founded in response to the Holocaust as the latest and most horrific in a series of pogroms that occurred over a period of centuries.[2]

Apparently, however, Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo, given in 2009, connecting the Holocaust with the founding of Israel caused outrage because it was understood to have undermined the Zionist claim to indigenous status in Palestine,[3] a claim which is ridiculous given that nearly all residents of the region for thousands of years, at least, have had somewhat darker skin than the Ashkenazi Jews[4] who dominate Israeli politics, often discriminate even against darker-skinned Jews, and are often the most vocal Zionists. (Spare me your white Jesus bullshit. Just spare me.) This truly belongs in the same category with Rachel Dolezal, a white former college instructor who claimed to be Black.[5]

But now that U.S. Republicans are saying it rather than Obama, guess what? It’s all okay,[6] offering yet further evidence for my theory of the morality of polarization.[7]

Gotta tell you: It’s bad enough that a country founded as a political response to the Holocaust engages in genocide against Palestinians. Hypocrisy such as this is its own reason for the obliteration of Israel.

Ron Kampeas, “Linking Israel’s founding to Holocaust, once cause for outrage, is now accepted,” Times of Israel, January 15, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/linking-israels-founding-to-holocaust-once-cause-for-outrage-is-now-accepted/


  1. [1]David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace (New York: Owl, 1989).
  2. [2]Avigail Abarbanel, “A change needs to come,” Electronic Intifada, May 26, 2008, http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9567.shtml; Albert Memmi, Portrait of a Jew, trans. Elisabeth Abbott (1962; repr., New York: Viking, 1971).
  3. [3]Ron Kampeas, “Linking Israel’s founding to Holocaust, once cause for outrage, is now accepted,” Times of Israel, January 15, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/linking-israels-founding-to-holocaust-once-cause-for-outrage-is-now-accepted/
  4. [4]Masha Kisel, “How does it feel to be white?” Times of Israel, November 29, 2019, https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/how-does-it-feel-to-be-white/
  5. [5]David A. Love, “Can Rachel Dolezal redeem herself as an ally?” Grio, June 14, 2015, http://thegrio.com/2015/06/14/can-rachel-dolezal-redeem-herself-as-an-ally/
  6. [6]Ron Kampeas, “Linking Israel’s founding to Holocaust, once cause for outrage, is now accepted,” Times of Israel, January 15, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/linking-israels-founding-to-holocaust-once-cause-for-outrage-is-now-accepted/
  7. [7]David Benfell, “The morality of polarization,” Not Housebroken, December 23, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/09/21/the-morality-of-polarization/; David Benfell, “The theory of the morality of polarization,” Not Housebroken, December 23, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/23/the-theory-of-the-morality-of-polarization/

Winter? What winter? What’s a ‘winter?’

Climate crisis

When I woke up and looked at the weather report this morning, it was 59° F. As I was driving home—I quit around sunset—the thermometer reading in my dashboard told me it was 72-73° F. As I was fixing dinner, I received repeated warnings of impending thunderstorms—it might be quite a night. There is, of course, no snow on the ground.

I’ve been remembering, from my time here 50 years ago, walking door-to-door with a snow shovel, realizing that as I walked up people’s walks through freshly-fallen snow, I was compacting it beneath my footsteps such that it would adhere to the concrete below, making my own job harder. I had no idea what to do about that.

It’s certainly not a problem this year. The maintenance folks at my apartment complex usually (they missed one day) douse the walks and parking lots heavily with salt whenever snow or ice threatens.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been cold days and even snowy days. But the snow melts within a few days and I’m still not wearing winter clothing—I wear a Gore Tex windbreaker I bought for San Francisco Bay Area rain, not my heavy winter coat, and I’m still wearing sandals—because the effort required to don winter clothing seems wildly disproportionate to any fleeting discomfort I might feel in my brief exposures to the cold.
RAYGRAPHIC
Fig. 1. Pittsburgh snowfall by decade. Graphic by Ray Petelin, January 9, 2020.[1] Fair use.

But if a local meteorologist is to be believed, it actually turns out that this has not been an exceptionally low-snow decade.[2] I honestly don’t know how to reconcile his chart (figure 1) with, for examples, my mother’s ongoing terror of a Pittsburgh winter (she grew up here in the 1940s and 1950s) or what I hear from just about everyone. Something’s clearly off kilter there because contrary to what he says, what I hear even from younger folks is that there is less snow than there used to be. Those who were here for it recall an exceptional blizzard in the late 1990s, a much lower-snow decade than the 2010s, let alone the 1960s (I was here for a couple years in the 1960s).

I have to think that total snowfall in each decade is somehow—this would actually be a good human science question—the wrong measure for people’s experience of snow and cold.

Robinson Meyer, “Australia Will Lose to Climate Change,” Atlantic, January 4, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/01/australia-caught-climate-spiral/604423/

Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/


Ireland

Kate Devlin and Oliver Wright, “DUP and Sinn Fein agree deal to revive Stormont assembly,” Times, January 11, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/northern-ireland-s-power-sharing-government-is-expected-to-be-restored-within-days-after-sinn-fein-and-the-democratic-unionist-party-signed-up-to-a-draft-deal-brokered-by-the-british-and-irish-governments-three-years-after-sinn-fein-walked-out-gsk0sph39


Israel

Times of Israel, “In blow to Netanyahu, Knesset legal adviser said set to okay immunity debate,” January 10, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-blow-to-netanyahu-knesset-legal-adviser-said-set-to-okay-immunity-debate/


  1. [1]Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/
  2. [2]Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/

Warmongers rob the poor. Leftists too often ignore them.

Bernie Sanders

There is a new blog post entitled, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched . . ..”


Iran and Iraq

I’m just leaving this here.