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October 23, 2020


some people leave "You're not the boss of me!" behind when they graduate kindergarten.

some, not.

lately, in my own life, I find I'm battling two things:

  1. Exhaustion. The flooding of the zone with shit is wearing me the hell out.
  2. A deepening lack of basic respect for my fellow Americans.

Have we no sense of decency?

Jury is still out.

The whole fear thing drives me nuts. Are you a big chicken for wearing a seat belt? Should you be chastised for being afraid to drive if you wear one? Or is it a dispassionate, rational action?

Another problem is that a lot of Americans are under the impression that they're in a lock-down simply because there are any COVID-related restrictions at all. We're not talking about the kind of stay-at-home orders and the shutdown of non-essential businesses we had for something like a month and a half back in the spring, which was the closest the US, or at least parts of it, came to the kind of lock-down they had in, say, Italy.

If people would just wear their damned masks and avoid gathering indoors, we'd be in so much better shape. But even those relatively minor changes in behavior are too much to ask. Why are we so f**king dumb?

A lot of the agitation about kids' sports in Maine is coming from parents. Kids too, mind you, but a lot of parents are pushing hard.

Parents using their kids to live out their own sports fantasies, without reference to whether the kids are interested. That's been a thing since at least my childhood, over half a century ago. The only difference I'm seeing this time around is that, in addition to the kids bodies taking punishment (sometimes permanent damage), they can bring home medical problems to share.

The whole fear thing drives me nuts. Are you a big chicken for wearing a seat belt? Should you be chastised for being afraid to drive if you wear one? Or is it a dispassionate, rational action?

Our culture has a recurring problem noticing that "brave" and "reckless" aren't the same thing.

We not only don't do well there, we have some challenges weighing the benefits that come from taking a particular risk. (Well, except for the folks who are sure that it is cowardice to even consider benefits when thinking about risks.)

hsh: Are you a big chicken for wearing a seat belt?

You're younger, so maybe you missed this part, but I bet wj can remember just this kind of whining when seat belts became mandatory.

Somewhat parallel, I had an argument with an acquaintance in college who thought helmet mandates for motorcycle riders was the height of tyranny. "It's my risk to take," he said. I pointed out that scraping him off the pavement and taking care of him for the rest of his life if he broke his neck might cost the community at large something too. He was unmoved.

Make sure that those "motorcyclists without a helmet" have an up-to-date organ donor card, and they might even be a societal benefit.

As for seatbelts, the "story" that convinced ME was hearing how seatbelts were invented in the 1950s by an Air Force guy, because too many of his 'trying to go supersonic' test pilots were dying in car accidents.

(for those who aren't aware, when a plane goes from subsonic to supersonic, the controls REVERSE: when you'd normally pull back the stick to head upwards, the plane goes downward. So all those highly-tuned reflexes betray the unwary. Plus planes shaking themselves to pieces during the trans-sonic turbulence. Took many dead test-pilots to figure out.)

Not to mention he was riding his motorcycle on roads he didn't build, without which he wouldn't be riding a street bike at all. Would he have preferred outlawing motorcycles on public roads, I wonder?

Maybe we should have a cage match between Lurker and Michael Cain. Vote by mail! Don't vote by mail! Etc.

Since I took my meds today, I suggest a compromise. Federal elections should be a 1 week paid holiday with voting stations for every 5,000 people.

Stuff like this, on the other hand, is driving me off the edge. This is Orban stuff, the fideszilation of our democracy. This is basically saying, "fuck you, we can do what we want". They don't even have to try to make it look good.

You're younger, so maybe you missed this part, but I bet wj can remember just this kind of whining when seat belts became mandatory.

Yup. It was some kind of horrid commie plot. Seriously. I remember hearing the seatbelt laws described in exactly those terms. Never did get clear why our country's enemies would care, but....

there is no way to verify who has filled the ballot, nor that the voter has not acted under duress, or for payment. The vote is really free only when it is secret so that you can't show it to anyone even if you want.

As Janie notes, the US is a big country, and states have a lot of discretion about how they run elections.

In MA, where I live, vote by mail works like this:

  • If you're registered to vote, you are mailed a ballot application.
  • If you want to vote by mail, you return that (postage paid) and then are mailed a ballot
  • You fill out the ballot
  • You put the ballot in an envelope that you sign
  • You put that envelope in another envelope and either mail that to local election authorities, or drop it in a dedicated ballot drop-off box

Somebody - typically town clerk - opens the outer envelope and verifies the signature on the inner envelope against your signature in the voter registry.

If they match, the inner envelope is opened and your ballot removed and counted.

I suppose a pernicious town clerk could keep track of who voted for who, based on the signature on the inner envelope and the ballot inside.

Barring that, there is no way for anyone to know who you voted for.

The procedure for voting in person is actually less secure, you just show up, tell the nice poll worker your name and address, and they look to see if somebody with that name is registered at that address. No ID, no signature.

So all in all, vote by mail is arguably less prone to fraud.

All of that is specific to Massachusetts.

Federal elections should be a 1 week paid holiday with voting stations for every 5,000 people.

I'll sign off on this.

On idiotic reactions to public safety regulations, I remember a certain amount of controversy on breathalysers for alcohol percentage (although not as much as there was about seatbelts). On the other hand, we don't have quite the mad "freedom" fetish that you guys have in the US (of course, there may be historical reasons for that), although we are famously bloody-minded.

OT, so I loved this review of Martin Amis's new book, from the NYT:


I have a problematic relationship with his novels, but I loved Experience unconditionally, and thought it a) absolutely the best thing he had done and b) fascinating on his past and relationships (e.g. Kingsley, Larkin etc). Based on what I had heard about this, I wasn't sure I would read it, but after this review I will.

lately, in my own life, I find I'm battling two things

right there with you.

Considering seat belts, the other main contributor to the opposition was fear not to be able to untangle after the crash and to burn alive in your wrecked car. Cars were a greater fire hazard then indeed, although not as much as Hollywood tends to present it.
Over here in Germany 'freedom of the road' (Freie Fahrt für freie Bürger!) has about the same unreasonable support as gun rights in the US. No need to invoke a commie plot. Speed limits and the fuel price were the third rail for decades (admittedly vehicle fuel is significantly more expensive due to taxation than in the US, although higher engine efficiency and far lower total weight more or less compensate for that).

Why are we so f**king dumb?

because there's so much money in keeping people that way

I have a problematic relationship with his novels....

Ok with me to read them...just wear your seat belt and use your turn signals :)

The seatbelt analogy is imperfect, as around 70% of the efficacy of masks is preventing infected folk spreading the virus.
Most masks worn by the public are much less effective at actually protecting from airborne aerosol than they are at preventing its production.

IOW not wearing them in public spaces is a badge of selfishness.

He recently wrote an opinion citing Bush v Gore as precedent.

Hard to top that as pure unadulterated hackery.

Better than that (Slate):

...George W. Bush’s 2000 election legal team—which included Barrett, Kavanaugh, and Roberts—argued during that contested election that ballots arriving late and without postmarks, which were thought to benefit Bush, must be counted in Florida.

The seatbelt analogy is imperfect,

I don't think anyone said it was. Maybe you could propose a perfect one, though.........

Blah, I don't think anyone said it was perfect.

(I'm taking my haste and typos out to an appointment now...)

Maybe we should have a cage match between Lurker and Michael Cain. Vote by mail! Don't vote by mail! Etc.

My friend the anthropologist and I also discuss the pronounced regional split on vote by mail in the US. The 13-state West has been moving to more and more vote by mail over the last 25 years (that far back, permanent absentee ballot lists). This year >90% of ballots cast regionally will be distributed by mail. For assorted reasons, it is unlikely that there will be less vote by mail in the future. Outside the West, not so much.

Everyone's first guess about why vote by mail is popular is "Look at the size of those states! It must be hard for people to get to a voting place." That turns out not to be the case -- the very large majority of the West's population is in urban and high-density suburban areas.

My friend and I think that it's a combination of different factors. One of the peculiarly Western things is ballot initiatives. Having initiatives on the ballot has always made in-person voting more time consuming. Too many people don't prepare in advance but feel obligated to vote on those policy questions. Everyone I've ever talked to about it says that they much prefer spreading the (large) ballot out on the kitchen table and working through it.

Probably a Ph.D. dissertation in there somewhere.

Maybe you could propose a perfect one, though...

Sadly, no. I think analogies, mine included, tend make things less clear, not more.

And if I came across as rude, apologies.

In the US regulations pressed manufacturers into developing more fuel-efficient engines. Once they had done so, they realized they could build bigger vehicles with bigger engines and still stay within their fleet fuel efficiency requirements.

The seat belt analogy was meant only to address the attribution of an emotional state to the wearer as is done with masks. Nothing more - not even the freedumb thing, which it might also work for.

Nigel -- no, you weren't rude, maybe just hasty. But I was being snarky unnecessarily. I didn't think any analogy had been made at all, except to the way people complain. And I see that hsh has just said that....

Off I go. I'm the one who should apologize, so -- consider it done. Snark gets the better of me too often.

Michael Cain:

My friend and I think that it's a combination of different factors. One of the peculiarly Western things is ballot initiatives. Having initiatives on the ballot has always made in-person voting more time consuming. Too many people don't prepare in advance but feel obligated to vote on those policy questions. Everyone I've ever talked to about it says that they much prefer spreading the (large) ballot out on the kitchen table and working through it.

Maine has a relatively easy path to citizen initiatives and people's vetoes as well, though in my experience/opinion we never have too many on the ballot at once.

But what makes our ballots much longer once a year, and nicer to do at home, is that town meeting, the traditional NE form of town government, has evolved, at least in my town, to where the ballot is now on paper and secret.

When I moved here, and for a long time afterwards, you had to go to town meeting and stay for endless hours to vote on town business, dozens and dozens of warrant articles. The trade-off for the time commitment was that you did indeed get a direct voice, and a direct vote, on how the town was run, to a very nitty-gritty level.

But it got to be harder and harder for people to do that, especially when town meeting went on half the night. Ultimately it was only a small, well-connected in crowd making the decisions.

So instead of just transitioning to having a town council and getting rid of town meeting and direct involvement entirely, we transitioned to keeping an extensive town meeting warrant, but voting on it by secret ballot. Once a year it makes a VERY long ballot.

For the record, we also have a "Select Board" -- which does the day to day business.

I was quite taken with town meeting when I first moved here, but it suffers from the same phenomena that any kind of group decision-making does: we're not trained in it, most of ust aren't very good at it, many of us aren't very articulate on our feet, and the louder voices and grabbier personalities end up dominating.

Not for the first time I'll say: I'd happily replace some of the traditional school curriculum with some lessons in handling conflict, group process, etc.

you had to go to town meeting and stay for endless hours


We try to keep our town meeting to one night, but it often spills over into two, or even three if there's a lot on the warrant.

There's about 20k people in town, maybe 1,000 people show up for town meeting. Probably less than that.

Every year since 1635. Even this year, it was outside under a tent.

Every year since 1635 -- that makes me cry.

Long may it continue.

Town meeting for a town of 20k is really impressive. I could be wrong, but I don't think any of the towns in Maine that are that big (all nine of them, ha ha) still have town meeting. My town is about 2500.

Fun article about town meeting.

So instead of just transitioning to having a town council and getting rid of town meeting and direct involvement entirely, we transitioned to keeping an extensive town meeting warrant, but voting on it by secret ballot. Once a year it makes a VERY long ballot.

Do you still have to go to the meeting in order to cast your ballot?

Every year since 1635.

Wow. I'm really impressed. That's as amazing to me as the white cranes (which were breeding in England for the first time since the battle of Agincourt) were to you all. In fact more amazing, because once humans facilitate things, cranes be cranes. Whereas in terms of people choosing to do their civic duty, I too (along I think with russell and cleek, and probably others here) am losing faith in an awful lot of humanity. I spoke with a sweet, very bright boy (30!) who used to be my ward (long story) who's working in Utah. He said he's not going to vote, he doesn't want to be involved in politics anymore, and it wasn't only because the result in Utah was a foregone conclusion. He comes from a fairly crazy, rightwing family, so actually if he did vote it might be for Trump, but still, I was pretty depressed by the attitude.

Do you still have to go to the meeting in order to cast your ballot?

No, you don't. Same rules as voting in general -- you can vote absentee-in-person, absentee-by-mail, or on the specific day. So it's really not the same thing anymore in that sense, but it still carries on the custom of voters getting a quite detailed say, e.g. over specific expenditures.

He said he's not going to vote, he doesn't want to be involved in politics anymore, and it wasn't only because the result in Utah was a foregone conclusion.

The 2018 wave was big enough that Salt Lake City and its inner suburbs elected a Democrat to the US House despite the Utah gerrymander. I think Utah is going to be very interesting in about ten years. The population is growing like crazy and there are a lot of young highly-educated people winding up there.

One of my measuring sticks for western states is to look at the sort of initiatives getting on the ballot and getting passed. In 2018, all three of medical marijuana, expanded Medicaid, and an independent redistricting commission made the ballot and passed. (The legislature subsequently futzed with the marijuana and Medicaid laws.) Warning signs for the Republicans, perhaps.

I think Utah is going to be very interesting in about ten years. The population is growing like crazy and there are a lot of young highly-educated people winding up there.

The company I work for opened an office in Salt Lake in 2019. It's becoming a tech hub, along with a number of other cities around the country that are (a) nice places to live and (b) a lot cheaper to live in than San Francisco, NYC, or Boston.

That will change the political dynamics. Not completely, but some. Or even a lot.

Warning signs for the Republicans, perhaps.

The (R)'s are on their way out. Maybe the (D)'s are, too - things seem to be shifting around, who knows where they will all land.

But the (R)'s are stinking up the joint on their way out the door.

"Stand athwart history and yell stop" is not a position with a rosy future.

Not enough follow up details from the article writer on the scenarios, but this sounds about right to me as well, and with the same caveats about seeing this too readily:


The election is not going to solve our problems. We are just getting started with the confrontations.

That is remarkable, russell. It’s perhaps not unconnected with the decline of organised religion in the UK that it seems so from our perspective ?
The whole topic of structures, and training for community engagement which JanieM raises is a very interesting, and to me slightly alien one.

On the notion of partisan strife, even civil war, this is perhaps worth a read.


We have separate national and local elections, but even local elections take place on a nationally decided day, so you can vote in advance in your local election anywhere in the country.

The ballot is always the same: a piece of paper with a large empty ring. You write the candidate's number inside. In any single election, there is only a single office that is being fulfilled: president, parliament, European Parliament or municipal council. All local offices other than municipal council are elected by the council.

With an American ballot, the system would be indeed unworkable.


granted, i wasn't alive at the time, but today's violence and division doesn't seem much worse than what we had in the civil-rights-era .

odds n ends

Utah. Just an impression, but the LDS, while conservative, isn't quite a perfect fit for the rest of conservatism. Plus the fact that so many go on missions, which then has them come back with a different sense of the world than the average conservative. Michael and Russell point out the changing demographics and it is interesting that some of that change is because of the Mormon church. Any company that needs to have ready access to a multi-lingual employee base considers Salt Lake first and the state leans into that, the language education in Utah is pretty amazing

elections It's quite interesting here in Japan, all ballots have to be handwritten and the name has to be legible (which probably rules out me voting here) In fact, politicians with names that use difficult chinese characters often use a listed name in hiragana, the syllabic script.

Italian Marxists are the worst.

Protesters set trash bins afire and police responded with hydrant sprays in downtown Rome Tuesday night, part of a day of public outpouring of anger against virus-fighting measures like evening shutdowns for restaurants and bars and the closures of gyms and theaters — a sign of growing discontent across Europe with renewed coronavirus restrictions.

Pedestrians and motorists returning home from work in Rome were taken by surprise when protesters, some of them hooded and members of an extreme-right political group, set afire to trash bins in Piazza del Popolo, overturned parked motor scooters and mopeds and hurled smoke bombs, state TV reported. Police vans unleashed torrents of water to disperse them.

I thought this was interesting - It Pays to Believe Obviously Untrue Things


Interesting stuff about Salt Lake City. The company I worked for has several offices, one in Brussels. The guy who ran that office for quite a few years was an American Mormon who was very fluent in French after spending his missionary years in France.

He was (is) a great guy, but I never knew him well enough to ask about the thing I was most curious about, which was: what on earth do the French make of young American men trying to convert them? ;-)

granted, i wasn't alive at the time, but today's violence and division doesn't seem much worse than what we had in the civil-rights-era.

It's not the violence that worries me. It's the polarization and the regime cleavage. We have the civil rights movement and the red scare combined, with the NRA paranoia freakout and Operation Rescue to amp up the Manichean militancy. Our politics have federalized and factionalized. And we have millions more guns than in the '60s and most of those millions are specifically anti-personnel in nature. Oh yeah, and instead of three national networks that are centrist, we have hyperpartisan tv and radio media nationwide feeding the fear that researchers say fuels the run up to civil conflict.

The violence is just the part above the water.

From GftNC's link:

nose-picking simpletons

That is all.

(More seriously, it was a good read. That just tickled my humerus.)

On the civil war thing, this is also an interesting and mildly encouraging read.

A new, more-positive both-siderism: Both sides are tired of the extreme political divisiveness that we've been living with. Not everyone, of course. I imagine the accelerationists mentioned in nous' Vice link love it. But maybe enough people that there will be some kind of movement away from people living in different realities based on their politics.

I'd like to have some sliver of hope.

I'd like to have some sliver of hope.

Me too.

Glad you enjoyed the link, hsh.

The Politico piece is definitely worth a sliver of hope. I think a lot depends, though, on how long it takes to transform the grassroots. It took 40-50 years of radicalization to get us to the brink here, and most of the really hard shift into partisanship took a decade to gain enough of a foothold to become a movement.

If we can delay the radicalized for a decade or so, we may be able to start turning this around. But turning is also going to motivate the radicalized to be more extreme, so...

I'll just sit here and curate my stress levels.

The sociopathy is off the scale.
And this is just a spokesperson.


I'd like to have some sliver of hope.

I think most people are reluctant to shoot other people.

So, we have that going for us.

Sometimes the firm determination not to know stuff just amazes me. Although, by now, it shouldn't.

(For accuracy, that article label should include the words "decision not to do".)

I'll just sit here and curate my stress levels.

This, from your link, gives me some stress, nous. It looks like it could be an American phenomenon, perhaps substituting "not far enough right" for "leftist."

During the Years of Lead in Italy, right-wing terrorists colluded with the police and assassinated leftists political leaders.

Too many scenes of police letting militia types go about their business and evidence the nexus between them for me to think the law will be enforced neutrally.

I saw that too, hsh, and thought of the MI militias and the Constitutional Sheriffs and the like. It's a worry.

Makes you wonder what would have happened if the RUC were on the side of the IRA.

time for the left to get its own police!


blast form the past...

Anonymous , who wrote that NYT op-ed telling the world that Trump was a loon, has been revealed.

everyone who guessed "Former Homeland Security chief of staff Miles Taylor", step up to collect your prizes.

So a very dear old friend who was always R has been since 2016 a Trumper. We decided then not to discuss politics, under the circumstances. But today she has told me that the estimate of the votes so far in Florida, in which the Rs are starting to close the gap (but are still 235,000 behind), is based on registered Ds and Rs, and that there are two million votes cast so far by people with no party affiliation, so no one has a good idea of how that vote was split. Does this sound correct or likely to you all?

Sounds plausible. I'm sure a lot of the projections are based on polls rather than party affiliation, but at this point I don't think anyone knows where FL is going to land.

Google provides.

Total Voted

Total Voted: 6,921,358
Total Voted as Percentage of Registered Voters: 49.2%
Total Voted by Party Registration
Party Count Percent
Democrats 2,841,731 41.1
Republicans 2,595,819 37.5
Minor 88,096 1.3
No Party Affiliation 1,395,712 20.2
TOTAL 6,921,358 100.0

Too lazy to try to format. Her 2 million number is not reflected here, but her 235000 isn't far off from what these numbers show.

Huh. Of course, given who she supports, she may currently not trust polls. Thanks russell.

Official numbers here. A bit less than 1.5 million votes cast so far by voters with no or 'other' party affiliation.

Look at PA.

In fact, you can stick any (? I've tried half a dozen) two-letter state abbreviation into that link and get whatever state you're interested in.

Given who she supports, she may not trust official government statistics, either. So why is she quoting any numbers at all.....?

Gosh, Janie, thanks. I should have looked that up myself, rather than lazily casting the ObWi runes.

It's a tragedy and an object lesson. She has a genius-level IQ (we were kids together), used to work in politics at a high level, and despite being R used to have a grasp of reality and be perfectly rational. She is now fully in the bubble. I suppose given our age it's possibly a symptom of mental deterioration, but it's so common among Rs that I wonder if it's partly the whole RWNJ media bubble, and partly confirmation bias.

I spent the afternoon walking in the woods with a friend down near the coast, about 80 minutes' drive away. There were lots of political signs en route, but, just like around where I live, there were lots more for Clickbait and Rs than for Ds. I saw one house with a bunch of signs strung out along the road -- couldn't read them all because I was driving too fast, but one said, in effect, vote for Rs to stop the child trafficking.

Clickbait and his minions have been doing superspreader appearances in District 2 lately -- they must really want that one electoral vote. The orange one himself, Pence, one of the sons, I forget who else. Someone is lying, or was lied to, or both, I'm sure we'll never know which. A physician's assistant is in both quarantine and hot water. If only they were exposing only themselves to the virus....

For that matter, Biden surrogates have been up there too, but their events follow COVID rules. Kind of fascinating that that one electoral vote is so enticing.

I'm going to laugh my way to perdition. You couldn't even make this up as a spoof.

I guess someone did make it up as a spoof...? But the fact that it's hard to tell is also sad.

@JanieM, I think it's more a matter of where can he go with the Covid spikes and get 4k people largely w/o masks for the cameras...

Michael Cain -- good point. Too bad we can't put all the mask-scorning superspreaders in one place together for the duration.

her 235000 isn't far off

That's something like 3.5% of the votes cast so far, which are not quite half of all registered voters in FL.

And yes, if she's counting by party registration, the number of independent voters dwarfs the difference between the (R)'s and the (D)'s.

FL is a toss-up. The election is something of a toss-up, TBH, in spite of what the national polls look like.

It's going to come down to the swing states, and probably to a fairly narrow set of voters in those states.

This could, perhaps, be a lesson to all of the people who love the Electoral College because it makes sure "their voice isn't drowned out", but it probably won't be.

In any case, if anyone has time and is so inclined to participate in GOTV efforts, now's the time.

I don't believe anyone loves the Electoral College because it makes sure their voice isn't drowned out.

People like the Electoral College if it favours their views and interests over democracy. And they dislike it if it doesn't.

It Pays to Believe Obviously Untrue Things

There's a certain irony in this article being published by Unherd - to put it mildly.

I knew nothing about Unherd when I read the piece from a friend's twitter feed, although I had a not-very-close look around after reading it. I thought, nonetheless, that the piece was interesting and satisfactorily explained certain phenomena. Why, what do you have against it, novakant? I have become more and more aware of people dismissing articles and views because they dislike or disapprove of the ideological bent of writers or editors, and it is starting to make me wonder if this isn't how one ends in a bubble. I'm not necessarily saying that's what you're doing, novakant, but this issue has been increasingly on my mind.

from skimming the front page, UnHerd seems like one of those sites that wants to be a place where people who think of themselves as broad-minded thinkers can publish political things that don't really fit on more partisan outlets. fine. there's a place for that.

and, then i looked at the Mission Statement:

We are not aligned with any political party, and the writers and ideas we are interested in come from both left and right traditions. But we instinctively believe that the way forward will be found through a shift of emphasis: towards community not just individualism, towards responsibilities as well as Rights, and towards meaning and virtue over shallow materialism.

nailed it!

and then there's an article gushing about the brilliance of self-help guru Jordan Peterson!

One of the strangest and most baffling aspects of the Peterson phenomenon has been the way in which his critics failed to contend with his points and arguments. And not just the specifics, but the fact that anybody with such a following must be onto something.

mm hmm.

not my cup of chai, but it's fine.

Thank you for that, cleek. But based on what you say, I wondered whether such views and such an article put it beyond the pale for me, so I went back on to look around. There were many pieces the point of which I dislike, but some interesting and surprising ones (podcasts with surprising public people talking frankly about their lives), and then I saw this review by Tanya Gold, a journalist I always find interesting, of a new book about Boris Johnson.


When the real history of Johnson’s rule is written there will be three villains at least beyond Stanley Johnson: the English public school system which supplies the Tory Party with inept leaders; the media, who collude in this and the raising of Johnson, for sport and profit; and the voters, who, with indifference or salaciousness, tolerate it.

sounds kindof Intellectual Dark Web-by to me.

the fact that anybody with such a following must be onto something

Like, say, Q?


Further to this very discussion, on hearing that Jeremy Corbyn had been suspended from the Labour Party on the publication of a report on anti-semitism, I read this interesting set of talking points from a site called Engage:


So then I went looking to see who they are, since it seems to be an article of faith with all the lefties I know that Jeremy Corbyn is not anti-semitic, and the whole issue was fabricated to smear him. So this is from About Us:

Engage, the group for which this web site is a focal point, was created to arm people with arguments and facts that they could use to counter the propaganda of the boycott campaign within the Association of University Teachers. Engage grew from a being a resource for that particular campaign into being a resource that aims to help people counter the boycott Israel campaign in general, as well as the the assumptions and misrepresentations that lie behind it.

Engage is a left wing campaign. We “support” neither Israel nor Palestine; we support a cosmopolitan or internationalist politics that supports those who fight for peace and against racism within both nations. We are not a “Jewish” campaign, whatever that might mean. We do not speak “as Jews” but as socialists, liberals, trade unionists or academics. A number of the people centrally involved in Engage are not Jewish.

There are plenty of people in the world who fly the Israeli flag, defend whatever Israel does, and regard Palestinians as being incurable rejectionists, terrorists or fundamentalists. There are plenty of others that fly the Palestinian flag and regard Israel as being an “oppressor” state, an essentially, unchangably racist, illegitimate, imperialist or apartheid state.

Engage comes out of a socialist tradition that maintains a skeptical view of nationalism. We do not see nationalism as necessarily racist or evil, but neither is it our own tradition; we are not nationalists. To the extent that nationalism defines community, and as far as nationalism represents a collective response to oppression, or a means of self-defence, we recognise that nationalism sometimes plays a positive role. Yet nationalism always also has potential to exclude those who are not thought of as being part of the nation and it has the potential to set one nation against another. This does not mean that we hope that nationalism (or particular nations) can be wished away or artificially destroyed. It means that our perspective is not one that puts any particular nation first, but one that aspires to a world in which people can enjoy guaranteed rights irrespective of national identity.

Engage is a single issue campaign. It focuses on one issue, antisemitism, and is therefore concerned also about the demonization of Israel, and of Jews who don’t think of themselves as anti-Zionists. We believe that a new commonsense is emerging that holds Israel to be a central and fundamental evil in the world. We disagree with this notion and we think that it is dangerous. The danger is that this kind of thinking may well lead to, and license, the emergence of a movement that is racist against Jews in general.

Our focus is on this issue but our view of the world is one that opposes all racism equally. We oppose racism against black people or Muslims as strongly as we oppose racism against Jews. We oppose commonsense notions that demonize lesbians and gays as strongly as we oppose those that demonize Israel. We oppose damaging and dangerous myths about women as strongly as we oppose those about Jews. We oppose exclusions of Palestinians as strongly as we oppose those of Jews.

So our politics is consistent, cosmopolitan, internationalist, even if our campaign focuses on one issue. We are not primarily concerned with the Israel/Palestine conflict. Engage was not born in Israel or in Palestine, but in Britain, to fight against an exclusion that was supported by our own trade union – an exclusion of Israeli Jews and of nobody else.

I think the world is very complicated, and I welcome different, nuanced views. Which is not to say that other people have to think the same!

Unherd's brand is built upon the idea that the media (or the public) is suppressing some set of ideas for political or normative reasons. And while that is not an unreasonable position to take, I disagree with the implied argument that the problem is one of gatekeeping and that people who seek out alternative news sites are wiser and more open. That's just soft conspiracy thinking and it's own brand of anti-elite gatekeeping.

What we need is better sites with more transparency that practice (and teach) critical media literacy.

What we need is better sites with more transparency that practice (and teach) critical media literacy.

Can't argue with that. And for the avoidance of doubt, I do not pretend to have such literacy. I aspire to, though.

I don't believe anyone loves the Electoral College because it makes sure their voice isn't drowned out.

If I ask people why they feel strongly about retaining the EC, they invariably say it's because they want their voice to not be drowned out by the people who live in great big cities.

So, I take them at their word.

No doubt some of them would have a different opinion if the EC wasn't furthering their interests policy-wise. Some of them probably would not. I don't know how many of each there would be.

then there's an article gushing about the brilliance of self-help guru Jordan Peterson!

I continue to struggle to understand the appeal of Jordan Peterson.

To each, their own.

Admittedly just skimming, and not wanting to get snagged by this hook:

1. I can't tell, on a few minutes' effort, whether that Engage site recognizes any distinction between anti-semitism and criticism of Israel for actual policies and actions. It seems to me that they skirt very carefully around that question, but maybe I just didn't dig deep enough. (And am not going to. It is not within my top 10,000 concerns at the moment, I'm just doing this for the sake of possible conversation here.)

2. There's a commenter at BJ named Tony Jay who writers rarely, but when he does, he's hilarious and AFAICT sharp about Boris, Brexit, and anything else he might choose to write about. He posted a couple of comments today about the Corbyn situation:



I'd be curious to know what the UK folks here think of his comments.

Meanwhile....back to seesawing between worry and hope for next Weds.

Jordan Peterson

Had to Google.

2. FWIW, Tony Jay seems to say exactly what most of my more lefty friends say. I can't help wondering why they are prepared to completely ignore the evidence of e.g. female labour MPs who left Labour party meetings in tears after what they described as anti-semitism. If it were just criticism of Israeli government policies, it seems to me unlikely to have provoked such a reaction. What doesn't help is that "Zionist" has become a codeword which many closet anti-semites use to insult and monster Jews, and the litany of Jeremy Corbyn "gaffes" on this matter is a bit too long to convince.

1. This is really interesting. I assumed from that Engage stuff that there was no possible doubt that they were differentiating between anti-semitism and "criticism of Israel for actual policies and actions". But Janie feels they skirted very carefully around this question, so I have looked again. This:

We support those who campaign for Palestinian rights and we believe that what we have to say would strengthen, not weakens, their campaigns. We also support the Israeli peace movement, weak and disorientated as it may be. [Support for the Israeli peace movement seems to me by definition a criticism "of Israel for actual policies and actions"]. We believe that the demonization of Israel weakens the Israeli peace movement and pushes Israelis who are for peace into the arms of the Israeli right. It is obvious that a boycott of Israeli Jews, and only Israeli Jews, will be understood by Israelis as a racist attack on them – and boycotts therefore strengthen Israeli hawks at the expense of the peace movement.

seems to me to be absolutely clear, and the opposite of any endorsement (and by implication at least the criticism) of rightwing, settler-type Israeli policy. And I would add that they are absolutely correct about the last sentence I quote here; I have seen this exact phenomenon apply to Israeli Jews I know well, and whose views I have seen evolving over many years.

What is interesting to me is the Engage site's use of the words "Jews who don’t think of themselves as anti-Zionists". This has real resonance for me, because on the one hand I think it is entirely illegitimate to take by force (or politicking) a land already occupied by another people, on the other hand I think that for Jews after 1945 there were no good choices. Consequently, I am hard put as to whether to call myself an anti-Zionist. It seems to me they try to cover themselves by disavowing nationalism, which presumably would mean a one-state solution which is neither Jewish not Palestinian, but this (like so much else in the ME) seems unattainable with the current state of human evolution

Had to Google.

Me, too. After reading, I thought I had read something about or from him before. I now have a vague recollection of thinking he was a jerk.

he really hates "Cultural Marxism" !

which means he's a doofus.

Too bad we can't put all the mask-scorning superspreaders in one place together for the duration.

Could improve the gene pool, too.

Actually, Trump's rallies seem likely to take some steps in that direction as well. However inadvertently.

now that he has defeated the Virus, Trump's manly essence cures all who come near him.

1. Trump's manly essence -- ewwwwww. Can anything be creepier?

2. I know about Jordan Peterson mostly from Crooked Timber having had a go at him more than once. But also because his thoughts are all too attractive to a couple of people I know.

3. GftNC, thanks for the lengthy and thoughtful reply. As I said, I didn't spend too much time onthe site, but it's still not as absolutely clear to me as it is to you just what they're up to.

E.g. in the passages you quoted, there's this: We believe that the demonization of Israel....

"Demonization" is quite a loaded word. And again, it either answers the question I'm asking (not in a good way from my POV), or, at best, obscures the answer.

Is the boycott "demonization" by definition? I have seen it very persuasively argued at Crooked Timber that it is not (not in those exact terms, but in effect).

But then, it doesn't surprise me if a fraught issue like this is the death of nuance on all sides.

As to Corbyn's gaffes, that I will take your word for, since I don't follow this stuff. In light of that vantage point...whither the Labour Party? It doesn't look like the balances are falling out in the same way in the UK as they seem to be right now in the US. I mean, I think Biden has a real chance of winning, and even though there's a horrible mess to be cleaned up, and the fight is long from over, millions have rallied and said: An end to this criminal, lethal, Clickbait BS. That doesn't seem to be happening in the UK, and if Tony Jay is right that Labour is being further weakened by the minute, when/how is it likely to happen? Giving a due nod to the fact that your system is quite different from ours.

Another view on the accusations against Corbyn—


The blog post containing the link above—


Thanks Donald.....

speaking of the EC...

did you know that the best reason for keeping it is that it keeps most states from mattering at all thereby reducing the number of states where parties will be tempted to get into electoral shenanigans?


At present, in one-party states where the winner of the presidential contest is not in doubt, there is little motivation for the dominant party to inflate its vote count. But if the electoral decision were determined by the national popular vote, the calculus would change — since it would no longer matter where a vote is cast.

Indeed, this would heighten the attractiveness of odious, if marginally legal, strategies that have sprung up in recent years with the objective of diminishing voter turnout — such as the exclusion of felons, burdensome identification laws, challenges to mail-in voting. Up to now, manipulations of this sort have affected the presidential contest mainly through their presence in the states that are “in competition” and can influence the election outcome. However, if the electoral decision were to be based on the national popular vote, we can expect such laws, along with outright vote tampering, to be instituted more extensively, especially in states dominated by a single political party, since the institutional arrangements for ensuring a fair contest are weakest in such settings.

well, now you know!

And I'm sure "we" could do nothing to remedy or prevent or address any of that stuff.

Corbyn's gaffes

Perhaps it's just me, but I generally take "gaffes" to mean accidental mis-statements or poor phrasing.

Whereas, in so far as I can tell from half a world away, Corbyn's anti-Semitism appears to be what he actually thinks. His "mistake" being (again, from what I can tell from here) to have let his actual views become public.

“ on the one hand I think it is entirely illegitimate to take by force (or politicking) a land already occupied by another people, on the other hand I think that for Jews after 1945 there were no good choices”

I happen to agree with that. In the 30’s and 40’s there were no good choices for Jews fleeing persecution. And at the same time the Palestinians should not have been forcibly expelled. Both sides have used terrorist tactics. All these things and various others are true. And only an idiot or fanatic or antisemite would think Israel is the leading evil in the world or whatever Engage claims anti Zionists are supposed to think. It’s more of a run of the mill country with a crappy human rights record, but one idealized in the US, including by our Democratic candidates ( who I fervently hope win). Trump is popular in Israel.

In the US and I suspect Britain, it is possible to publish murderous anti Palestinian racism in leading newspapers. I’ve given examples before from the NYT. There are some pro Palestinian types who are antisemites, but you find them on the internet where literally everything can be found— they aren’t given space in the NYT.

wj -- If you have time, check out Donald's links.

i read the link...a very good squib with a host of links to delve further into it, if one is so inclined. thank you.

To take one of the accusations against Corbyn: that he laid a wreath at the grave of a Black September terrorist.

Donald's link denies the allegation out of hand. "[Corbyn] did indeed attend a wreath-lying ceremony in 2014 where victims of the 1985 Israeli airstrike against the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Tunis were remembered...While wreaths may also have been laid at other graves, Corbyn did not participate in these ceremonies. Nor are any of the graves those of Munich perpetrators, who are mostly buried in Libya. None is buried in Tunis."

But photographs of Corbyn holding a wreath are not at the 1985 memorial but by the graves of Palestinians killed in 1991 and 1992 in Tunis and Paris. The grave he's standing at is that of Salah Khalaf, who was assassinated in Tunis in 1991 by a Palestinian associated with the Abu Nidal organisation

And Salah Khalaf was the prime mover in the formation of the Black September Organisation. According to a book written with his extensive co-operation, he planned and commissioned the Munich massacre.

None of which proves that Corbyn is anti-semitic; I think he's not. It's just that he loves being lauded by people he sees as leftist freedom fighters, and he's not very interested in facts. He ignored some ugly anti-semitism in the Labour party, not because he agreed with it but because he didn't care enough to see it for what it was.

I imagine (and hope) it will not surprise anybody to hear that all the accusations, and rebuttals, made in Donald's link, are familiar to me from the media and from discussions with my various lefty, Jewish friends, almost all of whom defend Corbyn. (The last point in the briefing for canvassers, however, relates to the EHCR investigation, which has now been concluded, and its report published. It was Corbyn's comments today about it, claiming that the whole antisemitism issue in Labour had been "dramatically overstated" that led to his suspension).

As it happens, I myself have been reluctant to think him an actual, personal, anti-semite, and to the extent that this has been exaggerated in order to have a stick with which to beat him, I disapprove. But the trouble is, as I said, there is just too much of it. I think he has assumed that because of his history of anti-racism everybody will understand that he is not an anti-semite, but because of the pernicious new use of Zionist as a weasel word to express anti-semitism, allied to the reflexive anti-Zionism of the left, and because he is, after all, not very bright and not very careful (have you actually looked at the mural?), he has been guilty of at least appearing to authorise the anti-semitism of some of his followers.


Regarding the "demonisation" of Israel, I am very sorry to say I do not think this is much of an overstatement. No doubt it has been eagerly latched onto by existing anti-semites, but the ability to distinguish between the actions of the Israeli government and attitudes of individual Jews is very severely compromised in much of our public discourse.

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