Response to “What the Western Left” Below

I agree fully, but I would just add that the case of whiteness = Jewishness is Exhibit A in the morally bankrupt political exercise that is “intersectionalism.”

The far left advocates of that theory, I think, believe that there is some moral compass driving the distinctions that they make, but there isn’t. It’s simply a political calculation with no more ethical insight that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

If there were any kind of rules guiding the hierarchy of oppression in intersectionality, the rank hypocrisy of advocating that European nations be burdened with refugees from the Levant seeking to escape slaughter while denying the legitimacy of refugees from Europe seeking to escape slaughter by heading to the Levant—even if there were no historical tie between those “refugees” and the Levant—would be a cause of some hesitation.

The scary part isn’t just that there is no moral compass in intersectionalism, it’s that the Jew has taken his traditional spot as the hated outcast within it just as we find again and again in history. Now, instead of wearing yellow stars, or being forced to run with pigs on easter, Jews are expected to denounce the “occupation” as an auto da fe anytime they want to participate in a lefty event when citizens of no other country are supposed to seek atonement for their sins. If the people enforcing these rules had any historical perspective, they would see that all their singling out of Israel does (ironically for them) is underscore the very need for Israel: as a place to go when the next society turns its back on Jews.

A few years ago, I might have thought all of this was harmless, but given recent events in Europe, I simply can’t deny that politics has not only blinded people to history, it’s blinded them to the present and to the principle of equal justice under the law.

I should add: recent events on American campuses too. The Intersectional Jew is the one minority who gets no safe space, for whom discrimination is not only not frowned upon, but is encouraged, from whom cultural appropriation is not shameful but indeed from whose own ranks traitors are sought and paraded as if they were part of a Roman triumph.

At least old fashioned right-wing antisemitism made plain that Jews were subhuman and filthy and were overt about it. This kind attempts to think that rather than a genetic defect, it’s merely a mental one that can be cured by reeducation.

What the Western Left and Middle Eastern Arabs Do Not Understand About Israelis

In an effort to live out some bad karma, I occasionally read the comments section of Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, or Haaertz articles posted on Facebook. For all its faults, Comment Land serves as a useful proxy for the folk wisdom of current events – the one-on-one dialogue of personal arguments far from the purported nuance of elite` Thought Leaders.

In this sluggish and nasty realm the anti-Israeli argument goes something like this: Zionism and Zionists are fundamentally colonial and have stolen land in the British Mandate Palestine; therefore, Israel’s claim to said land is illegitimate and it should somehow be returned to indigenous Palestinians that, although never a nation-state [although many in Comment Land are ignorant of this fact and think that there was a formal “Palestine” that got turned into Israel], are still a cultural identity that should have had a formal state in what is now Israel.

The moderates in this camp will concede that Israel has a right to exist along with a Palestinian state but that a homeland is still owed to the Palestinians by the Israelis, the radicals say “Palestine from the river to the sea!” None of this contends with the fact that the “Palestinians” could have had a homeland on multiple occasions and started all the wars that they lost, but I digress.

There is so much ignorance in the Zionism = Colonialism argument that it is almost impossible to unpack all of it, but because it is elemental to the ongoing Arab-Israeli peace problem  address it we must to achieve a lasting peace.

The first problem with the Zionism = Colonialism narrative is that it assumes that there is no connection between the land that is Israel today and contemporary (say, from the 1880s to present day) Jews. This would stun anyone that has ever been at any Jewish prayer service. Even not understanding a word of Hebrew you would hear “Yis-rah-ale” and “Jer-ru-sa-li’yim” chanted again and again. There is ample archaeological evidence for humans identifying themselves as Jews lived in what is now Israel since almost the dawn of recorded history. This includes Judea and Samaria (“The West Bank”), whose moniker itself should be revealing.

Israel is foundational to Judaism, but the anti-Israeli narrative (if it even acknowledges that people called Jews have lived in Israel historically) rests on inventing a statute of limitations at which point Jews no longer get to become Israelis after the Diaspora: by this logic, Diaspora Jews are not Israelis or Judeans, they are “Europeans.” This ignores the reason that Ashkenazi Jews became Zionists and ultimately Israelis: the European majority considered them Jews and not Europeans. The major Aliyahs of modern Israeli history are not Colonial swashbuckling but refugees fleeing horrific discrimination, pogroms and the Holocaust, often with just two suitcases or less. Call their migration Colonialism all you want, they called it survival.

Finally, despite the fact that (for just one example) the Incans were conquerors of local peoples before they themselves were Conquistadored by the Spanish, Colonialism is seen as something that Whites do to Others. Again, the supposed whiteness of Jews disqualifies their ability to live in their historic Homeland that also has non-white people in it. Yet most Jews were  expelled from other lands because of their Jewishness. Jews’ expulsion from the Arab world was not a catastrophe in 1948 because Zionism worked as intended and they went to Israel. The same holds true for Ethiopian Jews in the 1980s and French Jews today. As a result, as anyone that has ever been to Israel will attest, Jews are multi-racial. That’s not to say that discrimination towards Mizrahi Jews in Israel was not and is not problematic, but Israel  and Judaism is not a monolithic “white” region, religion or culture.

The Zionism = Colonialism slander underlies the Palestinian/Arab strategy towards Jews. It is the same strategy used in Afghanistan against the Russians and Americans, and used in Iraq against the Americans: Blow stuff up, weaponize young children as suicide bombers or terrorist stabbers, keep committing violence and make staying so horrible that eventually the occupiers leave. The problem is, as far as so-called “the occupiers” are concerned, they are home! It doesn’t matter how many freshman College essays labeling Israelis as Colonialists get an A-, or how often Arab TV fulminates about them being “European.” For Jewish Israelis Israel is Israel and they will not be boycotted or terrorized into thinking otherwise. Trying to do so is a foolhardy strategy for anyone that actually wants to achieve peace, as the Palestinians prove with each rejected peace offer.

Naive Pundits

I really don’t know if it was all the Aaron Sorkinesque praises of “real America” but the Pundit class doesn’t seem to understand politics very well or why Donald Trump would receive and endorsement from Jerry Falwell.

Even Nate Silver thinks this means the Republican Party is failing.  Why? Because he thinks the party is no longer capable of nominating a Presidential candidate that advances the agendas of all of their factions.

But that presumes that Donald Trump’s failure to be a doctrinaire market conservative or a religious fundamentalist means that. It doesn’t. Because the Republican party isn’t just a coalition of business, fundamentalists, small government purists, and hawks.[1] Since the realignment of the parties in the 60s at least, and arguably since the end of World War II, the Republican Party has been the White Christian Nationalist party. If you see that as the center of gravity for Republicans, then Trump’s candidacy makes perfect sense.

Just think about what all of those tired liberal charges of hypocrisy against Republicans are saying after all. They favor small government but want to regulate contraception or abortion? Well, not exactly. Those are two “wings” of the Republican coalition. But the reason they work together, the reason these folks have an easier time imagining a low tax world where abortion is illegal than a high tax one where it’s illegal or vice versa is because that world is a Saturday Evening Post cover. It’s every white person’s gossamer memory of the 1950s. In that world, unwanted children are a problem for other people. Paying taxes to support them is to support other people.

This may just be an Instrumentalist Theory of the GOP. It may not actually be “real” in anyone’s head but it perfectly explains their behavior in the last 70 years.

So, in sum, what I’m saying is, there may be some Republicans who have a red line on abortion or a red line or privatizing social security or a red line on this issue or that, but they are mostly willing to operate under the banner of someone who will use those as chits to preserve the world dominating role of the American white christian middle class.

I think this also explains the other side of it: why Obama using markets to improve healthcare from the libertarian/small government think tank wing of the GOP, why Clinton making the economy boom and enacting ideas from the same, while also tickling the law and order G-spot with the crime bill and welfare reform, or Carter balancing the budget did nothing or in fact made Republicans hate them more. Because those ideas are not sacrosanct to them the way that preventing the universalizing of opportunity or the changing of identity roles are.

[1] There are liberal evangelicals like Jimmy Carter, pro-business Democrats like Bill Clinton, Hawkish Democrats like Joe Lieberman, Jim Webb, or even, according to liberals, Barack Obama. There are “small government” governing Democrats like Bill Clinton and Al Gore who wrote “The Gore Report on Reinventing Government.” There are taxcutting Democrats like Kennedy. There are Neoliberal Democrats and Neoconservative Democrats. There are isolationist and globalist Democrats. There are even a few Democrats who aren’t “gun grabbers.” None of these things alone, therefore, can be sufficient to be liked by Republicans.

 

Are Boomers About to Reverse the 60s?

Pat Buchanan used to say that the left won the culture wars and the right won the political ones. This was during the first Bush administration when there had been Republican presidents for 25 years with only the one term of Carter in between.

As the Boomer generation heads into retirement, we are very close to seeing some of those advances reversed. If a Republican wins the White House in November, it is extremely likely that the Supreme Court will reverse Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood either leaving abortion rights to the states or going so far as to make abortions unconstitutional altogether.

It would be conceivable, though less likely, that the Supreme Court could reverse itself on gay marriage. On the other hand, I think we will soon see the end of affirmative action regardless of the outcome of the Presidential election unless the case is put over for a term, which seems unlikely.

On the other hand, a certain economic populism that didn’t exist in the 80s has arisen. For right-wingers it is directed mostly at the government, for left-wingers, mostly at the banks. Right now we have a candidate leading the Republican primaries who is for taxes on the rich, for not cutting Social Security, and for universal healthcare even if he’s for deporting 11 million workers from Latin America.

I won’t be shocked to see a less tolerant yet more economically fair America in 5 years.

The “Pinkwashing” Slander

This week, a Jewish LGBT group was excluded from an event. The pretext was security reasons, but the subject immediately turned to BDS and the term “pinkwashing” which is a term invented to allege that Israel “overemphasizes” its gay rights record in order to “cover up” other “crimes.” The truth is that the term and those pushing it are covering up for the intolerance of the societies they are defending.

This is another one of the many contradictions of the toxic mix of “intersectionalism” and illiberal practices on speech and participation. The state policy of course is about denying platforms to those that spread oppression, but the problem is, almost everyone is part of some group that is more privileged than another or comes from a country with an imperfect record. I wonder how Americans are ever allowed into any of these events with our record both past and present.

But my big problem is that this actually punishes good behavior. If you care about liberal values, if you care about gay rights, more gay rights are good. If North Korea became a gay paradise, it wouldn’t make North Korea a great place or give it a responsible government, but it certainly wouldn’t add to its demerits. Indeed, I detect a bit of a claim of “Jewish swindle” in the whole concept of pinkwashing as if this isn’t a genuine thing. It’s genuine. A just like most places, not everyone is on board. Religious conservatives in Israel don’t care for how open Israel is about gays and have even engaged in acts of violence recently. It’s a shame.

StandWithUS-on-gay-rights-in-Israel-e1438804981259.pngThe test is simple. If you are gay or a woman (or even a Muslim!) you have to ask yourself, where would you rather find yourself if you were parachuted into a foreign country? Those who have brought themselves to believe that Israel isn’t probably the best in its region have found out the hard way what the truth is.

The entire concept, the term itself, and every time it is raised are simply attempts by Israel’s enemies to try and poison one of its positives. Oddly, it’s only Israel that gets left out in these cases. No one seems to think of banning people or organizations actually from countries that punish homosexuality.

Worse, the organization that was banned worked with Palestinian gays, including those in trouble with the religious conservatives who govern the Gaza strip.

“Intersectionality” is a recipe to accomplish “none of the above” and to completely undermine western civilization in a doe-eyed sophomoric attempt to bring about “justice” when it’s simply a set of values created by politicking and personal tastes.Pew-Survey-April-2014-Homosexuality-Views-by-Country

A Dangerous Gamble

Though I still expect Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee,  I must admit that it’s less certain than it was before. Sanders is starting to get his first serious critiques from pundits like Jonathan Chait and Ezra Klein and he’s not holding up terribly well. I wonder, though, how much of Sanders’s rise is connected with Trump.

No, I’m not suggesting their peas in a pod the way others are on the basis of the superficial fact that they are outsiders, but that their candidacies both reflect dissatisfaction with the slow workings of politics and that many Democrats figure, hey, if they are going to nominate Trump, why can’t we nominate Sanders?

That’s the dangerous gamble, for both sides and for the country.

Imagine if Barry Goldwater ran against George McGovern. The two iconic failures of each party never faced someone equally as far out on the other side. Goldwater faced the incumbent President who had led the country out of the chaos of the Kennedy assassination, and McGovern faced a president who, despite being disliked, hadn’t caused the world to end when he took power and had a handful of decent accomplishments by the time the election arose.

First, everyone has to admit that we have no idea what the outcome of such an election would be. We also have to speculate about what a term for either man would mean for liberal values. I suspect a Trump presidency would set back the conservative movement for a generation, even more than Bush II did. It would finally force the Republican party to recalibrate towards the center. Maybe. Or it could diverge into a scary “it can’t happen here” scenario. A Democratic controlled senate would stymie everything it could, but it wouldn’t matter. The damage to the United States would be irreparable.

A Sanders presidency, I think would be damaging to liberalism as well. It’s impossible to imagine that anything he wants to accomplish would occur. It would be blocked by Congress. If the kind of economic collapse occurred that opened a door to his ideas, it would be blamed either on his fellow Democrat Obama or on Sanders himself. Similarly, the kind of crisis that would require a transition to single payer would indicate a failure, not a success, of Obamacare and would not set the table well for such a change.

He would most likely be a feckless and obstinate commander in chief, a sort of reverse Bush, whose certitude contrasts with Obama’s empiricism and pragmatism.

The best I can offer about a Sanders presidency is that in his 4 years he would likely be able to replace some Supreme Court justices, though that is far from certain if he can’t gain control of the senate or if senators distance themselves from him.

His failures would be even more disheartening for the progressive movement than Obama seemed to be because while many progressives believed Obama was a crypto-left-liberal, he campaigned as a pragmatic center-leftist and delivered on that. But someone who campaigns as a left-liberal and whose government will only result in moving the country further to the right would be a disaster of Buchananian proportions.

I suspect that in their hearts, many folks know this about Trump and Sanders but are restless with incremental change but when the time comes, I think we’ll see different results.

 

 

 

After months atop the polls, Trump still surprises opponents

Why is Trump ahead? There’s more to it than the extreme statements and refusing to bow to critics. What no one seems to be noticing is that he’s actually pulling off a masterclass in appealing to his voters. Are mainstream politicians so drowned in mainstream narratives that the best they can do is make hints about what they’ll do here and there and otherwise snap back to the main talking points? It appears so.

Trump knew that the “natural born” question was more complicated than the media, who hadn’t bothered to look, was reporting. Now it is an ongoing story backed up by renowned Constitutional scholars and will certainly dog Cruz for the rest of his run.

Trump knew that despite what seemed “shocking” that most of his voters favored stopping and removing illegal immigrants and preventing Muslims from coming here. The fact that the implementation of all of this is complex can be left to the pinheads in government to point out. It’s what the voters want, and we live in a democracy.

This is seemingly transparent. He’s saying what voters want. Yet it still surprises everyone and seems mysterious to the press.

When Jeb Bush and the rest point out we need the other Muslim countries, or that requiring fair trade with China would make [Chinese] products more expensive, it’s music to the business interests’ ears, but the actual Republican voters don’t want to play in their neoliberal sandbox anymore, if they ever did. And they don’t care if it’s wrapped in the sympathetic cosmopolitan political correctness of lefty versions of neoliberalism.

In this way, and not in the superficial anti-PC “hate” label, he is leading the American version of the UKIP and similar movements in other European countries.

Dismissing this as merely racist or xenophobic is to forget the very narrative liberals tell themselves about Republican voters, which is that they vote against their self interest when supporting the business elite of the Republican party. And when both parties can be seen as doing so, and one party seems, from their point of view, bent on making everyone equal, but equally average instead of forcing more income equality, why side with the Democrats? To put it in terms of Supreme Court decisions, it’s a world where corporations can spend billions on elections, teachers unions are likely to be defunded, but a court decision made gay marriage legal. That is the Neoliberal political order of the United States as it is now. So why side with Democrats who are at least somewhat complicit?

My answer is that in their guts, the instinct of Democrats is to help working people. They took it on the chin to pass the ACA and shouldn’t be blamed for failing to achieve what the Republicans stopped them from doing regarding Wall Street. But when Democrats don’t talk about working people, they aren’t as strong.

But not everyone buys that answer. And those that don’t are likely to at least hear a few things coming from Trump that they agree with and while they might not totally agree wit what Trump says about immigrants and Muslims, it’s not a deal breaker for them—and why should it be if we live in a democracy where people can vote for their own self-interest however they construe it?

This should surprise no one. At all.

For me, the notion of expelling Latino immigrants is a deal breaker that would change life as we know it not just for the workers, but for anyone who buys food. It would cause a disgusting human toll. But again, that’s the implementation. The theory of it, heard as “give American jobs to Americans” is harder to dismiss.

With the birther issue unlikely to be off of Cruz’s back in time, I suspect Trump is the most likely person to now win the Republican nomination.

He is very beatable but he must not be dismissed.

European Elites Have Failed

In the last 10 years, the ruling parties of most major European countries have failed to protect their citizens from an economic collapse, an influx of terrorism, and now myopic but well intentioned policies towards refugees have shaken the continent in the wake of the Cologne attacks.

Let’s not forget that Germany found a way to pay for a million refugees to come into their country but could not let Greece off the hook for a much smaller amount. European unity, indeed!

And yet people still sort of wonder what these new insurgent parties are about. Why are UKIP, Five Star, Sweden Democrats, Syriza, Podemos, Front National, Pegida, the True Finns and so on all about.

These certainly aren’t the kinds of “right wing” parties that we associate with the wealthy banking elites pulling the strings of masses to enrich themselves. Indeed, it’s been the center-left and center-right parties who have governed these countries to the benefit of the neoliberal order and who have failed, not the other way around.

What they reek of is nationalism and xenophobia. But it’s unclear why in a democracy people don’t have the power to exclude outsiders. The United States is a different case, a nation founded on immigration and a culture based on ideas. European cultures are ancient and they are entitled to preservation in their homelands if that’s what the inhabitants choose.

What’s interesting is how the relatively comfortable and progressive welfare states of postwar Europe responded to the economic collapse with austerity while the United States and Canada were more pro-growth, with the United States doing massive stimulus packages and expanding the safety net to include health care for most people.

It’s easy to label these parties as “neo-nazi” or “nationalist” or “right-wing” but what I think they are is anti-establishment; they are against the prevailing order that has failed.

When libertarianism fails, libertarians dissemble into a No True Scotsman fallacy—”there’s never been a truly libertarian state.” Marxists say the same thing. As if we have the opportunity to start from scratch with any country. Political ideologies need to include ways to get from point A to point B without total anarchy or the destruction of the state.

It seems now that the message from the European elites: more austerity, more immigration resulting from a situation where that plan and its ideology have failed.

This is why a majority of the British now favor an EU exit, which may collapse the whole project. These same stupid leaders must see this but won’t act for the same stupid reasons they’ve failed in the past.

Trump’s Gamble on Refugees

Politicians are usually risk averse, but Donald Trump is gambling that something like what happened in Cologne, Germany on New Years Eve will happen in the United States. Worse has happened in San Bernardino, but Trump only announced his anti-Muslim policy after that occurrence. He’s betting it will happen again, and he’s probably right.

What Trump does is announce the policies that sound ridiculous to pundits but are the exact kind of solution talk average people engage in. Too many illegals from Mexico? Build a wall. Terrorism in the US? Ban all Muslims. Forget for a minute if these things are good policy or feasible. You have to admit that to most people they sound like solutions, perhaps even of the very kind they themselves have thought of.

To some extent, Bernie Sanders does the same thing. All of his cerebral supporters would surely tell you, very polysyllabically, that what he proposes are sound policies. But is it really feasible to break up all of the big banks and make college free in the current political environment? No, of course not. But these are the very things that liberals talk about when they get together and complain about things.

When people are frustrated or scared, they don’t want to hear about implementation and compromise. They want action. They even want rash action. This is how we got talked into Bush’s war in Iraq.

You can mock racists for suddenly caring about women’s rights or rape culture when it involves muslims, but accusations of that kind are double edged because it shows that people who claim to care about women’s rights have their own exceptions, asterisks, and rules. It’s these rules that are political and decided by elites in their dialogues about “intersectionality” that determines whose oppression is most important, and this is too complicated for most people to understand or care about. We understand when people aren’t given a fair shake; we don’t like that. But when we compensate for that and then are told it doesn’t always apply, that seems less like fairness or justice and more like a complicated framework meant to screw anyone not at the top of the oppression ladder.

Given these dynamics, every time something like San Bernardino or Paris or Cologne happens, Trump can say I told you so and his solutions will sound like many people’s own dinner table or water cooler conversations.

I think it will happen, I think that will bolster Trump. I don’t think any kind of 2008-like collapse is likely on Obama’s watch so I don’t think the left will be as thirsty for a cowboy as the Republicans are.

Israel and the Sunni Bloc

As we watch the diplomatic kabuki intensify between Saudi and Iran, the media is both over- and underplaying the significance. First, the tension between the two nations is not new in any scale you want. It’s century old, millennium old, decades old, but it’s also been heating up in the Sunni/Shi’a conflict in Yemen (even though the majority of Yemeni Shi’a are Yazidis, which are not all that different than Sunnis) and in Syria where the Saudis are aligned with the Sunni factions if not officially with ISIS.

Some interesting angles in all of this include the position of Bahrain, which has a majority Shi’a population but a Sunni ruling class—and a major US naval installation on it.

There’s Iraq which has its own internal sectarian tensions. We can pretty much expect the Gulf emirates to line up with the Saudis. Turkey borders Iran and Syria but is overwhelmingly Sunni, though it may want to see itself as a power balancer. Factions in Palestine have been supported by Iran but could risk their own survival if they align against Sunni powers. Lebanon and Syria have Iranian-aligned factions, but this is far from a lock on the whole territory.

This leaves Israel in the position of possibly finally finding some alliances in the Middle East which could be used against their allies for propaganda reasons to be sure, but which could be a spark towards changing the dynamic altogether. If Israel allies with the Sunni bloc, it would give them added security both with respect to the Palestinians and the Iranians, the former as I see it the real challenge for Israel and the latter the worst external one at the moment, but still only distantly second. But this creates problems on Israel’s norther borders.

Or, perhaps, Israel could align itself with Turkey and perhaps Egypt to form a Mediterranean bloc.

The United States’s interests seem best served by staying aloof in a Sunni/Shi’a conflict. Will we be able to?

 

Free College Is A Dumb Idea

In a very middle-class mindset, it sure would be nice if college were cheap. I’m not saying that the way things are doesn’t have issues. Why the cost of college has gone up so much is a good question. But making it free for everyone, or enabling everyone to go, regardless of what the outcomes are for people can only be something that the middle class fishbowl has foisted on people.

It’s interesting that this is associated with the lefty Sanders campaign, because it, just like “intersectional” identity politics are really concepts that come from the upper middle class and people already in college. Poor people don’t really care about the white male cishet hegemon. This politics is about making all of us equally poor.

If the same amount of people remain in low wage, downwardly mobile jobs, there’s little reason to suggest that they should be spending instead of earning money for 4 years.

It won’t make you earn more if everyone has a degree. It will just cheapen a degree. It won’t make a smarter workforce, it will make a more disaffected one. That is not a recipe for a stable and thriving society.

Something like a $15 minimum wage and an even higher level of free healthcare would actually help everyone and give people a chance without a degree, which is the only way we’re going to really deal with poverty and inequality.

However much free college would cost, dump that into healthcare, childcare, minimum wage increases, and housing for the poor and you’ll do way more good.