Sunday, May 20, 2018

Cokie's Camp

Cokie's Luxury Fishing Camp in Cocodrie, LA, via homeaway.

The other day, in response to the David Brooks column describing the founding of Israel as 
a historic achievement involving a historic wrong — the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians
I wrote that it was "a place where a little bothsiderism is welcome for a change."

This apparently presented a problem for some readers. I should have written something like the following:

Ex-conservative "centrists" like David Brooks and Matthew Dowd are frequently accused of what blogger Driftglass characterizes as "both siderism" (I close up the two words, others spell it with a hyphen), that is insisting in theory that everyone should always take care to see the good and bad on both sides of a partisan divide, but applying it in practice only to cases in which Republicans look bad (but Hillary is corrupt too! How about those emails?) or Democrats look good (but Ryan has a health care plan as well, tax-free savings accounts!).

This is not a misleading reference—I will never knowingly mislead you—to the hysterical centripetality of writers who always take every difference of opinion to be the endpoints of a spectrum on which they anxiously seek the centerpoint. Nor to Atrios's related concept introduced in 2007-08 of "high Broderism", after the magisterial above-it-all antipartisanship of the late Washington Post opinionist David Broder, which I don't generally use as a technical term (Broder died in 2011, and I kind of don't think anybody remembers who he was, and old jokes don't make good technical terms), and which means something overlapping but different, the belief that partisan differences are really an illusion and we all basically agree on everything if we'd just be sensible about it, as in this case, the earliest example I can find, 24 July 2007:

Friday, May 18, 2018

West of Eden: We've Captured Brooks

Tear gas at the Gaza border. Photo by Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images via Toronto Globe & Mail.

I'm in the unexpected position of being grateful for a David Brooks column, enough to want to not criticize it (very hard), on this week's Gaza demonstrations ("The Gaza Violence: How Extremism Corrupts"):
I see the situation through the “extremism corrupts everybody” narrative. My narrative starts with the idea that the creation of the state of Israel was a historic achievement involving a historic wrong — the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians.
For two generations, in what we can call the Yitzhak Rabin era, the leaders of Israel and of Palestinians tried, sometimes dysfunctionally and bloodily, to address this wrong and find two homelands around the pre-1967 borders.
But sometime in the 1990s, a mental shift occurred. Extremism grew on the Israeli side, exemplified by the ultranationalist who murdered Rabin, but it exploded on the Palestinian side. Palestinian extremism took on many of the shapes recognizable in extremism everywhere.
That's a very remarkable concession in the top paragraph, from someone of his position, and a place where a little bothsiderism is welcome for a change. His critique of the current Israeli government, sort of projected, not wrongly, from his critique of Trumpian conservatism—
By and large, Israel has taken the former path. The shift from the politics of Rabin and Shimon Peres to that of Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman is a move from pluralism to ethnocentrism, from relentless engagement to segregation. It’s a shift from tough realism to the magical thinking that Palestinians are somehow going to go away.
—is well founded, and more accurate (when he's talking about US Republicans, he's evading his own and his friends' responsibility for the disaster, and when he's talking about Likud he's not).

I disagree, obviously, with the specific bothsides balance Brooks finds here—I think failing to recognize the gigantic aymmetry of financial and military power between the sides spoils the analysis, and I think he's specifically wrong about what happened to Palestinians after the 1994 Oslo accord and the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, which was not a march to extremism but a confused variety of reactions of despair, including the shockingly un-Palestinian growth of gloomy religiosity. They were in despair at what we might now realize was an increasing rejection on the Israeli side of the peace process altogether—the growth of Israeli extremism was exemplified not by one assassination but by the slow death of the Labor Party and the successive governments of Netanyahu, Sharon, and Netanyahu abandoning the promise of Oslo and instituting what amounts to an apartheid system, with the difference that South African whites provided jobs to black Africans, and Israeli Jews prefer importing Filipinos.

The way Brooks makes the contrast—
Yasir Arafat was once a terrorist, but at least he used terror to win practical concessions. The actions today — the knife attacks, the manipulation of protesters to rush the border fence — are of little military or strategic value. They are ventures in suicidal theater.
—is wry, but slips over the chronology in an unhelpful way: the "suicidal theater" of the Gaza border rush is an echo of the First Intifada of 1987-91, which is as close as Palestinians ever came to a Ghandian practice of nonviolent resistance, and also the most politically effective strategy they ever employed [update: and as Ten Bears notes in the comments, "manipulation" is bullshit]. What happened on Tuesday, horrible as it was because of the hysterical IDF response, was a look back to that effectiveness—it's even shaken Brooks!

For the Record: Shapiro Goes Godwin

After the 1903 pogrom in Kishinev, state-sponsored gang violence that convinced my grandfather to  come to North America. Nobody in America was worried he might be a gang member, though they may well have worried he could be a Communist. In fact he was too cynical for that.
So as you know the Mare Salvatrucha or MS-13 gang, which arose among criminals of Central Americn origin in southern California prisons in the 1980s, and expanded to Guatemala and Honduras and El Salvador when the Reagan administration started deporting them to their homelands, is a big issue in the mind of the president, who seems to believe all Central American immigrants (who are at this point and for a couple of years now mostly fleeing from gangs of the MS-13 type at home) belong to the thing, as his dad no doubt believed all Italian immigrants were members of the dread Sicilian Mob (as some of them, especially the ones the Trumps worked with in the real estate business, unquestionably were), and he was saying, "They're not people, they're animals!"

How do you know, Ben? Maybe your parents didn't tell you great-great-grandpapa was a horse thief back home in Bessarabia. My zeydi was a draft dodger and a socialist and an atheist who made bubbi cry every Passover by singing obscene parodies of the sacred songs, and she was actually illiterate, in three different languages. I don't know any MS-13 members, but I'll bet most of them don't do the gross things you're worried about.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Whiggery Pokery

So, David Brooks ("The American Renaissance is Already Happening"):
People who read this column know my political ideology: I’m a Whig. If progressives generally believe in expanding government to enhance equality, and libertarians try to reduce government to expand freedom, Whigs seek to use limited but energetic government to enhance social mobility.
Back in the 19th century, during their heyday, Whigs promoted infrastructure projects, public education, public-private investments and character-building programs to create dynamic, capitalist communities in which poor boys and girls could rise and succeed.
Last time Brooks announced he was a Whig, in January 2014, he was inviting Barack Obama to be a Whig too. I wrote:
I must say, I'm extremely stimulated by the concept of Obama as American Whig, in the mold of Clay and Webster and young Abraham Lincoln, a proponent of powerful Congressional government engaged in industrial planning through the massive expansion of publicly supplied education and government-funded infrastructure, and rejecting idiotic imperial adventures like the conquest of Texas. The only big thing missing is the bedrock Whig insistence on high taxes through the protective tariff, something Obama (and Brooks and Yglesias) would be unlikely to support (then again the old Whigs themselves might have turned free traders as the industrial economy matured, and probably would have warmed to the income tax as an alternative way of funding their big-government programs).
I don't quite get how Brooks sees himself as Whiggish in this sense, though, or how he gets to reproach Obama for failing to be a Whig, except that alcohol prohibition was a popular idea in segments of the Whig tendency, and Brooks has always been big on morals legislation.  Perhaps he is a little confused by the other, trans-Atlantic Whiggery, that of his beloved Edmund Burke, ancestor of the free-trade Liberals of 19th-century England.
Fictional history from the Ill Bethisad wiki.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

For the Record: These Goulish Things Remind Me of You

West of Eden: Clueless on Gaza

What Prime Minister Netanyahu likes to refer to as Israel's "eternal, undivided capital", with a stretch of the separation wall that divides it in the foreground (photo by Haaretz/Olivier Fitoussi). It's not eternal either, obviously. It was the administrative-religious center of an Israelite polity for much though nowhere near all of the time from the 9th century BCE to the 1st century CE, most often under the patronage of Egyptian, Persian, Greek, Seleucid, and eventually Roman overlords, but frequently totally destroyed and its inhabitants banished; when Romans or Christians were in charge Jews were not allowed to live there at all, so it was better for the few remaining local Jews, after Muslims were invented in the 7th century, to have them in charge, but the only Jewish state that existed anywhere between the last total destruction in 70 CE and the founding of Israel in 1948 was the kingdom of the Khazars extending from what's now Ukraine south and east to the Caucasus, who whimsically decided to become Jews by religion in the 8th or 9th century and lingered as a power until near the end of the 10th. Let's also remember that these were the days memorialized in the oldest parts of the Arthur cycle and the Nibelungenlied of the great Völkerwanderungen when the Franks pushed the Gauls our of France and the Goths took Iberia and most of Italy and the Saxons and others got Britain and the Finns and Ugrians and Turks pushed into their modern territory and the Mongols seized China for a couple of centuries and Arabs took control of practically the whole Mediterranean and nobody ended up with the homeland they were expecting, just saying.
She's a rabbi, so she has to be kind, but she's allowed to be angry. IDF soldiers have killed at least 58 Gazan demonstrators—reports keep saying they "died", as if the bullets were just hanging there to be wandered into—and shot more than 1,300, attempting to hit them in the legs so that they're merely disabled, putting the Gaza hospital system into terrible crisis, because they're just not equipped to handle that many shooting victims at once. In Washington, deputy press secretary Raj Shah suggests they're dying on purpose, just to make the Israelis look bad:

Monday, May 14, 2018

For the Record: D'Souza's wrong about something.

Egyptian-born singer Dalida congratulating socialist François Mitterand on his plans to seize the leadership of the revolutionary proletariat, Château Chinon, May 1981. Pinterest.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Hi, it's Stupid: Bari Weiss

2008 edition of a work originally published in 2001, whose authors "had the ability to take an everyday menu of spaghetti and waffles and transform biblical, practical wisdom into a word picture that has encourage, equipped, and inspired couples worldwide." I haven't read it, but I think the idea of the central metaphor is that we guys are furnished with many tiny pockets in which butter and syrup collect, whereas for helpless gals it just runs off their backs, which explains why they have to do what we tell them to do or go without butter and syrup altogether, because that's how God planned it.

Hi, it's Stupid to suggest Bari Weiss in her notorious piece about those outlaw intellectuals was really writing about her own grievance at the way mean leftists have been treating her since she ascended to The New York Times—

Meet the Renegades of the Journalismic Dark Web

By Skari Speiss

Here are some things that you will hear when you sit down to dinner with the vanguard of the Journamalismic Dark Web: Both sides do it. Just because a president is ignorant, narcissistic, and venal, that doesn't mean we shouldn't give him credit for the numerous things he's doing right. Identity politics is a toxic ideology that is tearing American society apart. And we’re in a dangerous place if these ideas are considered “dark.” 
Though nobody actually calls it "dark" except the five or six members of the J.D.W. themselves, who made it up because they thought it was funny. Still, if people reading this sure-to-be-controversial article start using the term, that will be chilling.
A decade ago, as the situations in Afghanistan and Iraq and New Orleans seemed to be on the point of stabilizing, though the U.S. economy was in free fall, none of these now-dark ideas would have seemed even surprising. Today, people like the members of the J.D.W. who dare venture into this “There Be Dragons” territory on the intellectual map have met with outrage and derision — even, or perhaps especially, from people who pride themselves on openness, such as powerful bloggers, late-night television comics, and J-school professors.
And yet I have a feeling she was, in a way. As we know, the official subject was not Times journalists but intellectuals much worse off than she is, so abject and marginalized by the scorn of the majority that they can't even get Times gigs, and are forced to squeeze by on the charity of well-wishers—

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Guys, I have an idea where that money may have come from

Doonbeg Golf Course, County Clare, via RTE.

Among all the week's crazy news stories,  this one, from Jonathan O'Connell, David A. Fahrenthold and Jack Gillum at the Washington Post last Saturday (and reinforced by the WNYC/Pro Publica Trump Inc. project), got a little lost:
In the nine years before he ran for president, Donald Trump’s company spent more than $400 million in cash on new properties — including 14 transactions paid for in full, without borrowing from banks — during a buying binge that defied real estate industry practices and Trump’s own history as the self-described “King of Debt.”
Trump’s vast outlay of cash, tracked through public records and totaled publicly here for the first time, provides a new window into the president’s private company, which discloses few details about its finances.
It shows that Trump had access to far more cash than previously known, despite his string of commercial bankruptcies and the Great Recession’s hammering of the real estate industry. 
Eleven golf courses and resorts from Aberdeen (2006) through Doonbeg and Turnberry (2014), a winery-resort, a hotel, and five houses, almost entirely paid with cash, from a man who used to boast that the secret of his success was Other People's Money.