Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Vorpal Sword


In short, not much government at all.

Sort of a negative space.

Something more explored in art than geo-politics.

The Conservatives have their knickers in a twist — do I have that precious expression right? —because David Cameron, the genius who called the Brexit referendum, is resigning, and Boris Johnson, his rival for leadership of the Tories, is backpedalling fast as he can.

(Johnson, a classical scholar, has even been heard reciting Latin verses in reverse, and some ancient Greek, likewise.)

On the Labor side, turns out Jeremy Corbyn, the party's leader, didn't really fight to stay in the EU — too many worries about globalization innit — and is hemmed in by loud-mouthed Laborite anti-Semites who can't keep their opinions muted, in keeping with the usual conventions of English restraint.

No! Now it's all Protocols of the Elders of Zion, whot! (Is this a correct use of "whot"? Or would an all-purpose "innit" have done as well?)

It's kind of fun to see Brits being unintentionally funny. The UK is being broken back not to Little England, as C.S. Lewis might have fondly described it, or as Frodo, hero of the little people, defended it, in the LOR sagas, but to Monty Python England, Angle Terre the ridiculous, England the absurd.

Crackers.

"Can I to tawk to Missus Sawtre, please."
"What, won't take my cawl? Well bugger the French."

Not to mention the Germans, Poles, Italians, Belgians, and whomever didn't grow up speaking the King's.

There are some who think the Jabberwocky —not the Jabberwocky personally given his termination suffered at the hand of the fiendish beamish boy — should rise up and claim their proper place in a dissolving Angleterre.

That vorpal sword branished by beamish boy? One idea is it goes to Brussels.



Vorpal Sword


In short, not much government at all.

Sort of a negative space.

Something more explored in art than geo-politics.

The Conservatives have their knickers in a twist — do I have that precious expression right? —because David Cameron, the genius who called the Brexit referendum, is resigning, and Boris Johnson, his rival for leadership of the Tories, is backpedalling fast as he can.

(Johnson, a classical scholar, has even been heard reciting Latin verses in reverse, and some ancient Greek, likewise.)

On the Labor side, turns out Jeremy Corbyn, the party's leader, didn't really fight to stay in the EU — too many worries about globalization innit — and is hemmed in by loud-mouthed Laborite anti-Semites who can't keep their opinions muted, in keeping with the usual conventions of English restraint.

No! Now it's all Protocols of the Elders of Zion, whot! (Is this a correct use of "whot"? Or would an all-purpose "innit" have done as well?)

It's kind of fun to see Brits being unintentionally funny. The UK is being broken back not to Little England, as C.S. Lewis might have fondly described it, or as Frodo, hero of the little people, defended it, in the LOR sagas, but to Monty Python England, Angle Terre the ridiculous, England the absurd.

Crackers.

"Can I to tawk to Missus Sawtre, please."
"What, won't take my cawl? Well bugger the French."

Not to mention the Germans, Poles, Italians, Belgians, and whomever didn't grow up speaking the King's.

There are some who think the Jabberwocky —not the Jabberwocky personally given the his termination suffered at the hand of the fiendish beamish boy — should rise up and claim their proper place in a dissolving Angleterre.

That vorpal sword branished by beamish boy? One idea is it goes to Brussels.







Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Brexit You Own It

Remember when Slovakia broke off from Czechoslovakia in 1993? The Slovaks were hot for independence, until they achieved it. Then they did a 180 and begged to be reunited with the more prosperous Czech Republic, which refused.

Brexit You Own It

Remember when Slovakia broke off from Czechoslovakia in 1993? The Slovaks were hot for independence, until they achieved it. Then they did a 180 and begged to be reunited with the more prosperous Czech Republic, which refused.

Monday, June 27, 2016


Case histories:

Weimar Germany, in which Socialists and Communists fought street battles against each other instead of uniting against Nazi brown shirts, may feel too far away. Still, together they might have won against Hitler. Divided until the very last, they lost.

Nader, Naderism, again


Case histories:

Weimar Germany, in which Socialists and Communists fought street battles against each other instead of uniting against Nazi brown shirts, may feel too far away. Still, together they might have won against Hitler. Divided until the very last, they lost.

1968, when anti-war protestors demonstrated against Humphrey, occasioning what journalists and historians have collectively deemed a police riot in Chicago, is too complex, I think. It's absurd to argue the protestors, people like me, should have sat back and put faith in Humphrey, who gave exactly no indication of deserving it, and had never differentiated himself from LBJ with regard to Vietnam. When LBJ refused to run in '68, Humphrey should have too. Instead he campaigned under the banner of "The Politics Of Joy."

Such Joy. Joy and napalm. Joy and the draft.

He may have been something once, way back, in progressive politics, but by '68 was farcical.

Nader is the best case to present to Sandernistas who think it's better not to vote at all than to vote for Clinton. Nader played a key role in Bush's win over Gore in 2000. To put it another way, were it not for Nader, Bush would not have won.

Granted, there was Gore's dull candidacy, Florida votes, an anti-democratic Supreme Court decision. Still, Nader's impact, where it mattered, right at that point of impact, brought us Bush, the invasion of Iraq and all the infinitely many sorry consequences.

For what it's worth Nader, to date, stands by his candidacy. He did no wrong. The rest of us were wrong.

I think that after his exemplary career as consumer advocate, Nader, trying to translate such insights into political acclaim, became, at any speed, the problem.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/06/ralph-nader-still-wont-admit-he-elected-bush.html



Saturday, June 25, 2016

Etgar Keret

Etgar Keret is a celebrated 48-year-old Israeli author of short (sometimes very), pungent, often surreal fictions. If you want to familiarize yourself with his work, I'd recommend the pleasures of "Suddenly, a Knock on the Door" (translated from the Hebrew by Nathan Englander.)

Keret also has political opinions. He has differentiated himself from an august elder of Israeli literature A.B. Yehoshua, who upholds the higher, the maximal Zionism, meaning that for him Israel is the only place you can really be a Jew.

Keret demurs. He makes no such sharp distinction between "Diaspora" and Israel. A Brooklyn Jew is no less a Jew than a Jerusalemite.

In a new op-ed for the NY Times, Keret argues for being ambi-Israel, meaning you can stand up for the existence of your country while utterly opposing the harm it inflicts on those it occupies.

He writes:

Those with “ambi” positions will be allowed to support an end to the occupation while still condemning Hamas; they may believe that the Jewish people deserve a state but also maintain that Israel should not occupy territories that do not belong to it.

NY Times Book Review 6/26/16

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/25/opinion/im-not-anti-israel-im-ambi-israel.html?ref=opinion

Etgar Keret

I’m Not Anti-Israel, I’m Ambi-Israel

TEL AVIV — I was recently honored to learn that I had won the Charles Bronfman Prize. It’s an award that recognizes humanitarian work inspired by Jewish values, and I was overwhelmed and thrilled to receive it. Several news outlets reported on the announcement, and one headline in particular caught my attention: “Anti-Israel Author Etgar Keret Awarded Bronfman Prize,” proclaimed FrontPage Mag, a conservative website.

As I perused the article and the online comments (debating the best way to connect with my books, one reader suggested throwing them in the toilet and flushing them with urine), I found myself contemplating the term “anti-Israel.” Apparently a person cannot engage in Middle Eastern political issues without being quickly labeled “anti-Israeli” or “anti-Palestinian” (or sometimes, if his or her opinions are complicated enough, both).

We are all familiar with the term “anti.” We understand what it is to be “anti-Semitic,” “anti-gay” or “anti-Communist.” But what exactly does “anti-Israel” mean? After all, Israel is a state, and we rarely encounter someone who is “anti-Switzerland” or “anti-Netherlands.” Unlike ideologies, which we can attempt to sweepingly reject, when it comes to states there are complex, multifaceted, heterogeneous entities, and that much is clear to anyone who sets out to defend or attack them. For example, we can be grateful for the Dutch people who hid Anne Frank in their attic, while at the same time criticizing the Dutch citizens who volunteered for the S.S. We can adore the soccer talent that evolved in that same country, but be less admiring of aged Dutch cheeses.

As far as I am concerned there is no difference between “pro-Israel” and “pro-women-with-big-breasts.” Both positions are equally reductive and chauvinistic. I find it perplexing that precisely on the issues I hold dearest and most essential, many people insist on reducing my views to such superficiality. I love my wife, but I’m not “pro-wife,” especially when she’s unjustly berating me. I have a fraught relationship with my new neighbor, whose dogs leave their waste right outside our apartment building, but it would be wrong to say that I’m “anti” her, or her cute dogs.

Which brings me back to my initial question: Why is it that people refuse to accept this reductive perspective on most aspects of our lives, yet they adopt it without batting an eye when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Why, for example, are people who are appalled by the death of Palestinian children in an Israeli Air Force bombing of Gaza, or horrified when Israeli children are killed in a terrorist attack, moved to these reactions by an unbending support of the Palestinian people, or of the Israeli nation, rather than by a no-less-fervent defense of innocent lives in general?

My theory is that many people on both sides of this dichotomy are tired of earnestly debating the specifics and find it easier to demand a tribal discourse, the kind that essentially resembles a sports fan’s unequivocal support of a team. This denies a priori the possibility of criticizing the group you support, and moreover, if done properly, can absolve you from voicing any empathy for the other side. The “anti” or “pro” appeal aims to invalidate any discussion of tiresome issues like “occupation,” “coexistence” or “two-state solution,” replacing them with a simple binary model: us versus them.

Israeli society’s avoidance of the complexities and ambivalences of genuine introspection was especially noticeable during the debate after an Israel Defense Forces soldier, Elor Azaria, shot and killed a wounded terrorist in Hebron. His supporters united around the slogan, “The soldier is the son of us all.” Just as with the “pro” or “anti” ralliers, many of these supporters did not bother wading into the subtleties of moral or legal arguments, sufficing with a declaration that the soldier is our virtual child, and when it comes to our own children we do not have to concern ourselves with the facts but simply stand by their side.

One question, however, is unavoidable — and this may only reinforce my “anti-Israel” label — and that is: Is this really the case? If your own son were to shoot an unarmed terrorist, would you consider your love of him a justification for his acts? It is a complicated issue, but those of you who would continue to love your son while still condemning his deeds would not necessarily become “anti-son.”

To lend a helping hand to those who are fond of simplified labels, I would like to suggest a third option. Let’s call it “ambi.” The terms “ambi-Israeli” or “ambi-Palestinian” will simply indicate that our opinions on Middle Eastern affairs, while they may be resolute, are complex. Those with “ambi” positions will be allowed to support an end to the occupation while still condemning Hamas; they may believe that the Jewish people deserve a state but also maintain that Israel should not occupy territories that do not belong to it. Careful application of this new label might enable us to delve deeper into the essential arguments around the conflict and its resolution, instead of merely squirting water at one another in the shallow end of the pool.




Friday, June 24, 2016

Abbas

If you have a sense of humor, you gotta love anti-Semitism. For example, you gotta love Mahmoud Abbas, sclerotic, mostly brain-dead, 81 year old President of the State of Palestine (which doesn't exist), proclaiming, before the European Parliament the other day, that: “Just a week ago, a week, a group of rabbis in Israel announced, in a clear announcement, demanding their government, to poison, to poison, the water of the Palestinians.”

He got wild applause for this principled, deeply researched remark.

Have Palestinians been mistreated by Israeli authorities? By Israel occupation of the weiqi? No question, yes.

Have Israelis been poisoning Palestine water at the behest of rabbis?

This is where a sense of humor would be useful.



Monday, June 20, 2016

Roy Cohn as Trump's Fixer

Did you know this, namely that Roy Cohn and Donald Trump go way back, and that Cohn served Trump as what is called in certain kinds of novels a fixer, a rabbi (no actual Judaism implied)?

One tidbit: "One of Mr. Trump’s executives recalled that he kept an 8-by-10-inch photograph of Mr. Cohn in his office desk, pulling it out to intimidate recalcitrant contractors."

Another: "For 13 years, the lawyer who had infamously whispered in Mr. McCarthy’s ear whispered in Mr. Trump’s. In the process, Mr. Cohn helped deliver some of Mr. Trump’s signature construction deals. . . "

Friday, June 17, 2016

The worship of worship .. . .

I don't always read, much less like, David Brooks, the would-be centrist conservative who op-eds for the NY Times.

How do I know he's a would-be centrist-conservative? Because he longs for the kind of Republican Party that will never be again, where people could be both — relatively speaking, of course  — sane and Republican. No more: Trump has put an end to that. Brooks knows it. Trump scares him the hell out of him, too.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Spite doesn't make right

My impression is that Sanders may, far from certainly, have been the better Dem candidate. I would certainly have supported him though I found many of his aims chimerical at best, e.g. universal health care. Yes, in principle. Tear away the Affordable Care Act to get at it?

Please.

That said, the idealistic, somewhat intellectually sclerotic Sanders is not going to be the candidate.

Don't blame me, or Paul Krugman. Blame caucuses, primaries, the whole process. Blame money, peace, war, voting.

Clinton will be the candidate

And anyone who holds to the belief that Clinton is equal to or worse than Trump is suffering from what I like to call "spite makes right" syndrome.

Or, simply, Naderism.

My doubts about a Clinton presidency are profound, unlike my feelings about the national and geopolitical disasters of a Trump presidency, which present themselves as absolutes.

Maybe it's not just younguns who go for Sanders to the degree of not voting for a Clinton. I know others of our, that is my, chronological ilk who feel the same.

My private assumption is that they suspect they will never have to live through the havoc of a Trump presidency, so why not go out with a big fat utopian bang.

I had my big fat utopian bang earlier on.

Sanders has improved Clinton and with her the Dem party. His legacy will hinge on how well, how earnestly, he unites with her to defeat Trump.



Sunday, June 5, 2016

Ali, Vietnam

Walter Mosley, author of many works of fiction in a variety of genres  — my favorites are the Easy Rawlins novels set in post WW II L.A. — posts a moving and heartfelt eulogy for Muhammad Ali for the NY Times. It starts with the impact on Mosley of Ali's refusal to be drafted for the War in Vietnam. Mosley remembers saying to a friend he would not serve in Vietnam because he felt "no hatred toward or fear of the Vietnamese people.” When he thought for a second about where those words came from, he realized they had come from Muhammad Ali, who had said much the same when refusing to be drafted.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Bernie Sanders: Message Good, Messenger Maybe Not So Much.

I don't much like David Frum, who had served as speechwriter for GW Bush but has clearly evolved from that kind of politics into I'm not sure what, perhaps a certain sort of self-critical post-conservativism, assuming conservatives can be self-critical, just like liberals.

Nor do I agree with everything Frum says in this otherwise very stand-up piece.

For example, in contrasting Trump with Bush Frum writes:

Even where the politician did not intentionally lie, as George W. Bush did not intentionally lie about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, important statements exposed as damagingly untrue inflict untold political damage.

This is by way of Frum arguing that Bush made mistakes in re Iraq whereas Trump starts with zero respect for any difference between truth and fiction, and no taste for it. A liar, in short, knows there is such a thing as truth. A bullshit artist of Trump's stripe doesn't.

I think in the case of Bush and Iraq Bush was more a liar than Frum, who was working for him,  allows. Bush wanted, lusted for that war, no matter what untruths had to be deployed to get it. And the execution of that war suffered from and was doomed by the same fantasies that had engendered it.

Still, Frum's calling Trump out, not just in the name of conservatism but on behalf of United States history, including history of the presidency, is smart and welcome.

I hope it has due influences.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/the-seven-broken-guardrails-of-democracy/484829/

Moving on, the more I hear from Sanders the less I like him, the less I think of him not as the principled and idealist alternative to Clinton I wanted him to be but as a bygone blowhard.

To put it bluntly, I hope he gets creamed in California.

Why?

Because California Gov. Jerry Brown, who shares many of the Sanders ideals, endorses Clinton.

In effect, Brown is saying ideals good, messenger bad.

This take on Sanders as a messed up messenger of high ideals is furthered by Sanders promoting Cornell West to the Democratic platform committee to come up with the plank on Israel and Palestine.

No, look, I like Brother West as much as you do, but I didn't really dig his pissing contest with fellow black intellectual Michael Eric Dyson, over, among other things, access to the Obama White House.

Nor could I stand Brother West's attempted uncle Tomming of President Obama.

Bernie, Burlington, not the White House, is the place for you. Sooner you get that, the better you'll be.

Better we'll all be.

Message good.

Messenger loud but tired.