« Lewiston | Main | The Road to Somewhere »

October 29, 2023

Comments

This is just a politics story— I usually ignore these.

https://www.axios.com/2023/10/29/behind-the-curtain-bidens-horror-shows

I recognize the reporter names but know nothing about them. The piece seemed reasonable.


But it is a bit puzzling to me that Biden is so unpopular domestically. I am not crazy about him, and quite possibly I am out of touch, but some of the criticism seems overblown. (Not crazy about his foreign policy, putting it mildly, but that is in the war thread. )

Otoh, I don’t know what the party was thinking when they wanted to stop Sanders and picked someone this old. There wasn’t a younger center left person they thought they could rally around?

Sort of out of my usual lane here and will go back to the war thread tomorrow, probably. But the age issue is real and seems like an own goal.

I would say the handwringing over the "age issue" is simply a combination of accepting the opposition's framing with an almost reflexive view of the glass being half empty.

It's obviously true that Biden is not some callow youth. But my experience has consistently been that people age at quite different rates. I have known people in their early 60s who struck me as ancient and decrepit. I have known people who were in their 90s who were still sharp as a tack, interested in the world and eager to learn new stuff.

As a result, my view tends to be: age is a number. It can give you insight into which historic events a person remembers, rather than having merely read about. But beyond that, it's not particularly useful.

As for Biden's supposed unpopularity, I beg leave to suspect that what we're seeing is flawed question framing.

Consider, one of the things people fret about is the negative responses to "Is the country on the right path or the wrong path?" Well, maybe I say "Wrong path" because of where I see Republican politicians dragging any part of the country they control. Does that "Wrong path" response mean I want to vote Biden out and TIFG or one of his worshipers in? Obviously not. But every "analysis" I see of right path / wrong path polls would assume that that must be what I mean.

I don't want to make light of the challenge that next year's election will be. But the incipient hysteria strikes me as ludicrous.

I think most of Biden's unpopularity comes of people's tendency to treat the president (whoever that may be) as a vicar of America's fortunes. The press doesn't help this one bit. When Americans feel that their fortunes are waning, then the president becomes a scapegoat.

I'm not thrilled with Biden, but I never was. I do think he's too old, but I don't really see that much alternative to him running again given the absolute enshitification of US politics and the lack of a well established alternative.

I don't really believe that Biden's unpopularity will be the deciding factor if The Rump continues his domination of Republican politics. That contest will not go to the most popular candidate so much as it will to the least unpopular candidate.

I think what most people are waiting for is someone who credibly represents a positive change of direction. That's not on the menu on either side.

I watched "Killers of the Flower Moon" yesterday and liked it. It's a bit on the long side - three and a half hours, lol - but it never dragged for me. That said, "Barry Lyndon" is one of my favourite films so uou might feel differently about that...

I plays both like an elegy for the Osage people and a world weary commentary on the infinite greed, stupidity and callousness of humans. Gradually it becomes clear that it's also about the power dynamics between two humans (Hale and Burkhart) of different intellectual ability abd social standing.

Some have commented that the POV of the Osage is not represented sufficiently bit I think that criticism is unfair. Having read the book by David Grann probably helped me appreciate the film.

Typed on the phone with fat fingers...

I remember going to see "Barry Lyndon" when I was an undergraduate. I thought it dragged, but I went back the next day just to watch the cinematography.

Playing off Donald's Axios article, a tweet embedded at BJ:

Ben Collins
@oneunderscore__
·

Nov 9, 2022

Before the next election, you might want to find a better way to poll anyone under the age of 30 since they would rather pick up a pinless grenade than a call from an unknown number.

The trick will be to make contact using their preferred communication app, without being treated as spam or a bot or advertising. In other words, the same stuff that makes them (and me!) allergic to taking calls from unknown numbers.

There wasn’t a younger center left person they thought they could rally around?

No one else that had the advantage of an eight-year association with the Obama name. Biden didn't have to play it up, he could just let people do it implicitly and not run away from it.

I blame some of it on whatever has advantaged Dem Congress critters relative to Dem governors seeking the nomination.

I'm beginning to wonder if Mike Johnson isn't better at this than most people think. Last Thursday he brought the energy and water appropriations bill to the House floor and got it passed with $5B in spending cuts, mostly spending on renewable energy. Three more appropriations bills are scheduled to come to the floor this week. If those also pass, that would be 8 of the 12 spending bills passed by regular order and several days left to pass the last four before Nov 17. Over in the Senate, all 12 of their bills have passed out of committee but none have reached the floor. It's all but impossible for Schumer to finish them by Nov 17. So Johnson will be able to finesse a CR by blaming the need for it on the Senate Democrats.

Michael - I assume the House GOP is simply stripping out whatever they don't like and passing what is left. Can the Senate restore any of the funding that the House has cut?

In therory yes but then the two versions have to get harmonized and pass through both chambers again.

then the two versions have to get harmonized

Reconciliation involves negotiation and compromise. Is the new Speaker even capable of that? Is his caucus? I mean, without another VtC motion and subsequent chaos....

'reconciliation' was the word I was looking for but could somehow not remember, so I chose 'harmonize'. I could only remember the term for the German equivalent that does not translate directly into English.

"Reconciliation" means something very specific in Congressional budget proceedings. This is not that. The ongoing CRS status table labels this "resolution of House-Senate differences".

I'm beginning to wonder if Mike Johnson isn't better at this than most people think.

We shall see, but I have my doubts. Passing legislation with right wing fever dreams amendments does not strike me as legislative genius. You never saw Nancy Pelosi herd a funding bill through with a Medicare for All rider. There is a reason why.

Remember when Megan McArdle posited that 5 year olds should be trained to gang rush a shooter? Good times. Her latest continues in that daft tradition.

THREE year olds should gang-rush McMegan. And today is the day (10/31) for them to do it (or later on, when it's getting dark)

They're objectively terrorists, so will terrorize to achieve their goals.

They're objectively terrorists, so will terrorize to achieve their goals.

At best would-be terrorists. (When was the last time you saw an adult, or even a teenager, scared by a Halloween costume?)

Maybe not even that -- try asking a little kid what the "trick" in "Trick or treat!" means. Good luck finding one who has a clue.

We shall see, but I have my doubts. Passing legislation with right wing fever dreams amendments does not strike me as legislative genius. You never saw Nancy Pelosi herd a funding bill through with a Medicare for All rider. There is a reason why.

Purely for the sake of argument, Johnson didn't tack on something like Medicare for All. He raised the issue of whether aid to Israel should be add-on spending, or should be redirection of some part of the overall budget. We also haven't seen what the Rules Committee is going to say. If Johnson is being clever in the way I worry about, he'll let the Democrats introduce an amendment to get rid of the offset.

My thinking on this is no doubt affected by my time on my state legislature's budget committee staff. The state couldn't borrow money for non-capital expenses. In most years, General Fund revenue is entirely spent by the Long Bill (the detailed budget for the state). So when a member came forward with a bill to create new GF spending they were immediately asked, "Where's the offset? What thing already in the budget is less important than your new spending?"

Maybe not even that -- try asking a little kid what the "trick" in "Trick or treat!" means. Good luck finding one who has a clue.

I remember getting home one Halloween when I was about ten and remarked to my parents that I thought I was probably too old for trick or treat. When they asked why I told them, "The bad-tempered old man in the corner house? When he told us that there would be no treat unless we entertained him first, I explained that trick-or-treat was actually a protection racket. He wasn't happy."

So when a member came forward with a bill to create new GF spending they were immediately asked, "Where's the offset? What thing already in the budget is less important than your new spending?"

I wouldn't be surprised if Johnson, among others, thinks that way. Plus those reactionaries who find it convenient to talk that way, even if they know better.

But the Federal government's situation is quite different from state governments'. Different constraints (and none in the Constitution), different financial situations, etc. Which, I expect, everybody here already knows. But it doesn't hurt to repeat it occasionally, in the face of ongoing misinformation on the topic.

"The bad-tempered old man in the corner house? When he told us that there would be no treat unless we entertained him first, I explained that trick-or-treat was actually a protection racket. He wasn't happy."

You were obviously an excellent child, rather like Wednesday Adams. You must have sowed much confusion, and, hopefully fear.

From what I read the current House GOP proposal is to take the money for Israel from the budget of the IRS.
No money for Ukraine (that should be put into another separate bill. HA! Very funny!).

It might be more accurate to say that the proposal is to take money from the IRS. With money for Israel being the handy excuse. This time.

Two birds with one stone I'd say. Three, if we take (Israel XOR Ukraine) AND (Israel=TRUE) into account.

re Speaker Johnson: The point I was trying to make is this....it is posturing, not legislating. These assholes have been spouting off about "regular order" now for years....so what is it that first comes out of the box? Tying IRS funding to a totally unrelated funding request. IRS funding, under "regular order" should be addressed in the assigned appropriations subcommittee. And thence make its way to the floor for amendments and a vote.

This is not the give and take of "regular order". It is bullshit.

They know full well it will be DOA in the Senate, and "reconciliation" will simply not occur because there will not be two bills to reconcile.

How about we take the powerful arms that would be supplied to Israel, and split it 50/50 between Israel and the IRS?

There's a bunch of greedhead tax cheats that need a drone-strike.

There's a bunch of greedhead tax cheats that need a drone-strike.

Like other drone strikes, there'll be collateral damage.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that Biden has been a bloody good president.

As for the new Speaker, in his own polite way, he’s almost as dishonest as Trump. He seems to be proposing that the only tax cheat the Government should go after is Hunter Biden.
A $14bn cut in IRS funding is a fraud’s charter, and will cost the government far more revenue than it saves%

I’ll go out on a limb and say that Biden has been a bloody good president.

A demerit in my book is his succumbing to the current moral panic and putting restrictions on AI development.

"People who love sausage and respect the law should never watch either one being made." -- Mark Twain

Of course it's posturing. It's also tactical. Pelosi juggled her conference factions to get most of the infrastructure bill and IRA and a reconciliation-rules budget passed. She moved things up and back in the schedule, made promises many people thought she couldn't keep, compromised on policy points, gave people a chance to vote "no" when it didn't matter to her but did to them, and stretched some things right to the breaking point. But she made it work. It was a master class in sausage making.

It's also tactical

Not necessarily, unless pleasing the Freedom Caucus is considered "tactical". We've seen this story before. It is a fool's errand.

It was a master class in sausage making.

Absolutely.

I think Biden has been an utter disaster, a continuation of Trump in many ways, in his Mideast foreign policy. I I think I said most of what I would say on his record on that subject over in the war thread.

I am not at all sure how to rate him domestically. The Republican side is so utterly worthless it is hard to tell and he had the two idiots Sinema and Manchin to deal with.

A demerit in my book is his succumbing to the current moral panic and putting restrictions on AI development.

Did you write that or did you ask the AI to?

Did you write that or did you ask the AI to?

1. "Oh, I'm just a human dictionary! AI? Who needs it?"
2. "Nah, I've got a team of elves in my basement. They're fantastic writers."
3. "I have a personal AI ghostwriter, actually. It's named ShakespeareBot 3000."
4. "Clearly, it's the work of my pet parrot with a penchant for eloquent prose."
5. "Me? Use AI? Never. I trained a colony of highly literate ants instead."
6. "I just channeled my inner Shakespeare. AI is for amateurs."
7. "Why use AI when I have a magic typewriter that spits out Pulitzer-worthy content?"
8. "Nope, I just had a caffeine overdose and started typing. Pure genius, right?"
9. "AI? Please, I consulted a crystal ball for this one."
10. "I've outsourced my brain to AI. It's writing my life story now!"

—OpenAI ChatGPT 3.5

I've had at least three more students turn in work that is clearly generated by AI. In every case it was very readable and sounded like well crafted academic prose, but it was vacuous and devoid of insight, and the summaries focused on the most superficial insights of the material being discussed.

One of the texts tried to cite Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto, but couldn't get more than a single obvious statement about Haraway's content, then used that to say something equally banal about the text that they were supposed to be analyzing. It was exactly the sort of thing that a struggling student would have generated except the language sounded more capable, and no struggling student would have used Haraway because that text is far more difficult than the ones that I gave them for class that they were struggling with.

To paraphrase Rush (the band), Gen AI is the dream for those who wish to seem. Those who wish to be still have to actually do the hard work of actually thinking and learning, and then the hard work of actually communicating. There are no short cuts.

I just tried out ChatGPT for the first time. I gave it the simplest question on a maths 'example sheet' of problems, for a third-year undergraduate course. The question really is simple, I answered it with a few seconds thought, but it contains some technical language which would be unfamiliar to most readers here.

Its answer suggested that it 'understood' the question. The english-language wording of its answer was to the point, with one exception - it would have been quite good work from a student. But the formulas it came up with were gibberish - I'd be gobsmacked if any student who had got through two years of the course came up with something so bad.

I have been seeing a fair amount of AI generated stuff. Not least because my manager has become enamoured with it.

It is definitely NOT suitable for creating a finished product. But, with some care about the inputs, it can usefully lay out an initial structure for a document. After which, an actual human being can go thru and add/modify content to get to something that is arguably fit for purpose. And, with a couple of rounds of editing, something that we would be willing to show the rest of the world.

In short, it can be a tool used by a human being. But nothing like a replacement. I would think of it on the level of an electric drill. It can usefully replace a hand cranked drill. But it is not a milling machine -- that took another century of development. AI technology seems likely to need similar time to mature.

Because this is an Open Thread: all my life, I have read (along with everything else) children's books, much to many bookish adults' surprise and often incomprehension. A few years ago a close friend gave me a book by Katherine Rundell called Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise. Since then, I have read good reviews of her book on John Donne (not a children's book), and ordered but not yet read her recently released and also wonderfully reviewed children's fantasy Impossible Creatures.

In today's Times, in a regular spot called My Culture Fix in which they ask various artists etc for what they've been reading, watching etc, she says this, which I thought perfect, and worth copying for you all:

I wrote a book called Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise. It argues that children’s writing, at its best, can remind you of the things you have forgotten you have forgotten you have forgotten: it can, in its clarity and wit and generative imagination, be a kind of defibrillation for the human heart.

Further to discussion of the new Speaker, this gift article is from the NYT today, headlined Mike Johnson Just confirmed How Unserious He Is:

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/01/opinion/mike-johnson-israel-ukraine.html?unlocked_article_code=1.7Ew.1_Hq.y3XzMbCKGVPU&smid=url-share

Killer sentence, at least to me:

So essentially the U.S. can protect Israel as long as it also protects rich white-collar criminals.

In short, it can be a tool used by a human being. But nothing like a replacement. I would think of it on the level of an electric drill.

This analogy is good as far as it goes, but if I understand this correctly, these tools are adaptive, so the output you get is often tuned. You get the same thing in Facebook, with microtargeting, what one person sees in Facebook can be completely different from what another person sees. So imagine an electric drill that presents itself in different configurations to different users.

Also, a lot of crap is baked into it, but it isn't clear how to get it out. It is as if electric drills were made in a way that only right handers whose hands were a particular size.

cf this
https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2023/10/06/1201840678/ai-was-asked-to-create-images-of-black-african-docs-treating-white-kids-howd-it-

While the article points out that it is possible to feed images to counteract the bias, you have to first know that there is a bias there. So we are screwed...

While the article points out that it is possible to feed images to counteract the bias, you have to first know that there is a bias there. So we are screwed...

We are not yet in a helpless position, but we do need to be quite careful. I can spot AI generated information quite easily for the topics I assign to my students because I have read most of the texts that the AIs have been trained on, and I know when a particular reference is BS, or when a summary is off, or when a text is unlikely to be used by an undergrad because it isn't particularly accessible, or, especially, when a text is being cited for reasons that just don't jive with the salient parts of the text.

While expertise still gets bandwidth, information still has a functioning media ecology, just as calculators and matlab didn't kill mathematics. Someone still needs to be there in the driver seat to do the mathematical thinking that decides which calculations are going to be productive. Same goes for experts in qualitative fields.

The danger comes if and when the tech "disruptors" disrupt institutions enough to undercut the value of work done by knowledge workers and creators. At that point there won't be anyone left in a position to judge , and curate, and guide the innovation in productive ways. We will have become the feverish and decadent city from Plato's Republic, steered by the whims of the algorithm and of our desire.

We are not going to get AI Solon. At best we will get AI Simon Cowell.

"At best we will get AI Simon Cowell."
...and at worst, AI Homer Simpson.

George Santos (or whatever his actual name is) survived an expulsion vote in Congress. It was a NY Republican initiative and - surprisingly - 24 GOPsters agreed to kick him out. But no less than 31 Democrats voted in his favor, so there was not even a simple majority for eviction, let alone a 2/3rd one. Well, the speaker was quite open recently that Santos's vote was far too valuable given the slim majority the GOP has to kick him out under any circumstances. And of course - but unsaid - it would set a precedent and many naturally fear that one day they could become a similar target.

Open thread, so: A friend of mine was out at a bar in Chattanooga last night, and related this tale:

I was sitting at the bar last night and this couple was sitting next to me. The bar had a participation game going on. Like trivia, but it was family feud type questions. Anyway, the couple was playing and the started asking my opinions on things. They were nice. It was low key fun. Having just finished the welding course, I told the guy about it. Turned out he knew a lot about welding so he was interested and we talked. He said something about having lived all over Florida. Ok cool. I told him I grew up down there. All vaguely enjoyable small talk. Then he suddenly says “hey! If you like welding then the next step is guns”. I’m thinking welding guns (TIG gun, Spool gun, etc). No. Guns. “When I shoot an AR15 until my thumbs fall off, I don’t need therapy anymore.“ then in the very next sentence he says something about how nice Florida is. I say “well. It’s actually pretty messed up these days.” To which he says “yup. It’s all the damn liberals down there. They ruined the place. I love Desantis. He’s trying to fix things. And doing a good job of it. But the liberals are screwing it all up. That’s why I moved up here. Tennessee has some small fraction of that shit, but for the most part you can be free. And I lived in Georgia for a while, but it is imploding.”

But it is not a milling machine -- that took another century of development. AI technology seems likely to need similar time to mature.

With my old technology analyst hat on, I think it will be much faster than that. The state of the art in data processing 100 years ago was chains of punched-card tabulating machines. Today, we carry a hundred billion or more transistors around in our briefcases. Although my intuition is that the breakthroughs will be in the math and algorithms, not beating the problem to death with more hardware.

my intuition is that the breakthroughs will be in the math and algorithms, not beating the problem to death with more hardware.

Pretty sure you're right. In particular, algorithms for selecting the examples to train an AI with. GIGO.**

** For the non-computer geeks among us, thats Garbage In; Garbage Out.

Why did any Democrats vote in favor of Santos? Gotta look that up.

https://www.axios.com/2023/11/02/george-santos-expulsion-vote-house-democrats

Apparently a due process argument.

Donald -- courtesy of BJ.

The due-process argument looks reasonable to me. But why did it not apply in May?

What happened in May?

Strange, my reply to Michael's question hasn't appeared. Here instead is a link to a report on the May vote.

Pro Bono -- it's not in the spam filter. Dunno what happened to it.

Gotta say, the due process arguments make sense to me. And a couple more weeks (until the Ethics Committee report comes out) doesn't seem like that long a time to wait.

"And a couple more weeks (until the Ethics Committee report comes out) doesn't seem like that long a time to wait."

Indeed.

The expulsion vote was triggered by NY House GOP members. Maybe they wanted it before the election next week, even though it's an off-year election that doesn't affect them directly? The timing of the special election to replace Santos?

This could go in the war thread but belongs here.

Gaza is to Biden as Vietnam was to LBJ.. Trump is Nixon.


https://www.hamiltonnolan.com/p/it-would-be-a-shame-if-you-sacrificed

Hamilton Nolan needs to consider that Biden is in a bind no matter what he does. Too stalwart a support of Israeli overreach will lose him votes from the left, but too little vocal support of Israel will bleed off pro-Israel voters directly to the GOP.

And to be fair to Biden, we have been attempting to slow Netanyahu’s and his RW allies’ bloodthirsty roll, but Netanyahu isn’t going to listen, and the GOP is going to back him, atrocities be damned. I don’t think Biden has any cards to play.

I fully agree with the first part of the post in its qualified and circumspect praise of Biden’s support of labor, and I agree that Biden’s support for Israel is bot in character and a bit of a liability for reelection, but I don’t see any practical way to avoid it, either.

I agree that Biden is screwed either way, but he should have said from the beginning that indiscriminate bombing is not supported by the US.

I don’t support any bombing— this should go to the ICC, assuming they can be trusted. Both sides need to be held accountable. But from a purely political viewpoint, drone strikes aimed as carefully as possible at Hamas leaders would be very easy to defend and the U.S. could have taken that position. Instead, Biden himself brushed off the casualty figures as coming from Hamas—if I were Palestinian- American he would be dead to me at that point. He very nearly is to me anyway. Yeah you can wonder about the numbers but evidence in the past is that they are mostly accurate and nobody doubts the numbers are huge and quite likely larger than the “ Hamas” figures. I am possibly old enough or whatever that I fully embrace lesser evil logic but mean both literally. He is the lesser evil. But he is vile.

There was a discussion of lesser evil voting here before Oct 7 and I almost jumped in, but didn’t. The general assumption at most liberal websites is that it is a no- brainer, especially with Trump and much or most of the Republican Party posing a threat to democracy itself. But it is infuriating to be told this in a condescending way, or dismissively. People who are tempted to not vote ior go third party are not talking about frivolous issues. Suppose somehow Biden was part of that subset of the radical left that refused to condemn Hamas and I suspect there might be a bit more understanding of the third party temptation.

Also, threatening to withhold one’s vote is the only form of pressure the average voter has. Unfortunately it is a very blunt instrument. It’s why I think electoral politics is almost worthless on some issues. You can’t calibrate your stance on all the different issues and you end up with people demanding that you support someone you literally believe should be in prison. And yeah, I vote for such people. I can’t stand listening to lectures about pragmatism. I know about pragmatism.

Axios report on the politics.

https://www.axios.com/2023/11/04/america-divided-israel-hamas-war

Having followed this issue for 40 years I think the disinformation- social media connection is overstated. You would expect lies and distortions with any ethnic conflict, but since this also involves antisemitism, the Holocaust, Western colonial attitudes, Islamophobia, everybody’s different views of ancient history, the Bible, the Koran and so forth, you should assume a larger than normal amount of pathological lying. It used to be confined to books and newspapers but technology marches on.

Radio has a now rather long tradition there too.
Father Coughlin (almost a century after his heydays) would feel right at home in the modern media environment and he would not even have to give up radio for that.
Or take the Polish Radio Maryja (also note that Israeli rightwingers seem to have had no problem with these guys despite their notorious antisemitism).
The 'old media' still play their role.
And word of mouth (with our without a megaphone) also always played a big role. The first rabid antisemites (I think of certain fathers of the church) had their greatest successes with vocal sermons (only later put to paper) since the majority of the listerners probably either could not read or could not afford the paper edition.

Anti-Muslim screeds have a similar tradition just naturally starting a few centuries later. In particular, when the Turks became the face of Islam, it spawned its own popular literary tradition in Europe (e.g. the Türkenlieder (songs of the Turks)). Even Martin Luther partook in his later years.

Actually, there are very few actually 'new' lies about either Jews or Muslims. Most have rather old roots and some were even originally aimed at Christians (by the pagans of antiquity) before the Christians now in power found them useful to use too.

Unfortunately it is a very blunt instrument. It’s why I think electoral politics is almost worthless on some issues. You can’t calibrate your stance on all the different issues and you end up with people demanding that you support someone you literally believe should be in prison.

There's at least marginal data supporting this in western ballot initiative states. (Possibly eastern ones as well, but I don't follow eastern politics much.) Voters have comfortably passed relatively progressive single-issue initiatives opposed by the state Republican party, while also keeping Republicans in control of the state legislature. In Colorado, neither party wanted to touch renewable energy mandates; once the first one was passed by initiative, the legislature has consistently raised the goal for renewables.

From today's Guardian, we have Andrew Rawnsley commenting on the Covid Inquiry.

The Covid inquiry testimony is an eviscerating indictment of Boris Johnson and a stain on the reputation of his enablers

Devastating.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/nov/04/when-britain-needed-a-decent-leader-we-had-a-derelict-at-the-helm-boris-johnson

Gaza is to Biden as Vietnam was to LBJ.. Trump is Nixon.

Bosh! LBJ got burned on Vietnam because American kids were dying there! I don't know if you are old enough to remember the 1960s, but Vietnam was extremely personal to all of us. And thus to our families.

Not to say that Israel won't be an issue. But not on the level of Vietnam. Not even close.

There was a discussion of lesser evil voting here before Oct 7 and I almost jumped in, but didn’t. The general assumption at most liberal websites is that it is a no- brainer, especially with Trump and much or most of the Republican Party posing a threat to democracy itself. But it is infuriating to be told this in a condescending way, or dismissively. People who are tempted to not vote ior go third party are not talking about frivolous issues. Suppose somehow Biden was part of that subset of the radical left that refused to condemn Hamas and I suspect there might be a bit more understanding of the third party temptation.

Agreed. I have acquaintances - staunch, lifelong Democrats - who are always taking opportunistic pokes at the Progressives, and especially at Tlaib and Omar, in the name of unapologetic support for our ally in the Middle East, the only representative democracy in the region. I see them treat the anti-war progressives as naive tools of terrorists, while continuing to blame them for abandoning Clinton in her time of need to support a lightweight like Sanders. And these people frustrate me as much as they frustrate you. They are as morally smug in the rightness of their pro-Israel position as are the pro-life evangelicals.

I also have Israeli-American friends who were loony leftists in their youth, who have abandoned the Dems entirely because they see the rising tide of anti-Jewish sentiment and blame it on the same progressives. Their preferred candidate at the moment is Haley, but I have heard more than one of them praise Trump for his unapologetic boosterism of Netanyahu, claiming that the US was safer under him than under Biden.

I too wish Biden would do more to pressure Israel into ending the assault on Gaza, but I am having a hard time finding the practical ways in which Biden could effect any change in the situation. This feels to me like a moment where one has either to decide that the situation is irredeemable, and choose to be on the right side of history for human rights, or to accept that the only way to steer your ally into even marginally less atrocious behavior is to remain in contact, because abandoning them in their folly will lead to a greater tragedy.

Either way, the gains are incremental, and do nothing except mitigate the harm of this moment.

All the inflection points for a less horrible solution are well behind us.

See also climate change.

While were in an Open Thread, I don't want to miss this brilliant idea from the new Speaker of the House: "laddered CRs."

What that means is 12 different occasions when part of the Federal government will be subject to shutdown. Because, if one shutdown is good, more are obviously better. You'd almost think that he missed the memo about how every government shutdown has damaged Republican election results.

WJ—

How fortunate that Biden has such a commanding lead in the polls that if people are sickened by his stance it won’t make any difference in November. I am cynical enough to think that if Israel finishes razing Gaza quickly enough or public outcry causes a ceasefire long before then it won’t matter. It it drags on for months with the kinds of horrors we have been seeing, you never know. Not everyone sees things quite the way you do. And of course if Biden does change course and demand a ceasefire he might lose votes that way. This thing is yet another negative for him either way and he isn’t in a great position to start with. I don’t think the Republicans will be hurt because angry people are not entirely logical.

Michael— Yeah, initiatives won’t work ( I guess?) on foreign policy but it is encouraging that one can get past the usual tribal political biases on domestic issues with that approach.

Also, I was only a child in the 60’s and when an older child supported the Vietnam War because the Reader’s Digest articles said we could win the war if it weren’t for the damn hippies. I have read about the chant, Hey- hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today? And McGovern got the nomination in 1972 and went down to disastrous defeat for various reasons, but he got the nomination for being antiwar. Much of the opposition was self- interested and motivated by our own losses, but not all of it was.

Donald - exactly. The situation in Gaza is a gigantic amygdala hack, and that’s going to make all sides more paranoid and tribal. It’s a recipe for bad results no matter what.

I’m not arguing that Biden shouldn’t do the right thing and push hard for a cease fire, I’m just saying that it’s daft to argue that Biden is causing his own difficulties with his choices. The election angle is a wash, so this all has to come down to choosing the best achievable practical result from a moral perspective.

Donald,
I'm curious. What do you think Biden should (and can) do differently that would make a difference on the ground in Gaza? I'm not seeing any signs that Bibi would change course for anything. Sure, Biden could posture in various ways. But would anything change on the ground?

Also, assuming he did change, what impact do you see that having on the election? And how?

Biden should press for a ceasefire. Then a 2ss that will not involve Hamas or extremists on either side. I can’t even imagine him doing this, We have gone so far in pandering to Israel it is absurd.. People online have pointed out that the Bush Administration openly condemned Israel for dropping a bomb that killed a Hamas leader in 2002 that also killed 14 civilians

Biden has not publicly condemned a single thing Israel has done. The cutoff of power which means hospitals are shutting down. Every freaking air strike. It’s all good. The Israelis are killing 1000 children per week.

It is, I think, an amazingly fantastically low bar to demand that Israel stop this or we will go public with our criticisms and start enforcing the Leahy ( sp?) law on supplying them with arms. If Biden can’t bring himself to demand a ceasefire, he can stop breaking American law by supplying weapons he knows will be used to commit war crimes. He can privately demand that Bibi start using only very carefully target strikes, genuinely try to minimize civilian deaths, turn the power back on so that hospitals can operate, stop bombing the damn ambulances , stop blowing up entire neighborhoods, and in general stop acting like this really is a slow motion genocide.

If Bibi refuses, go public.

This is such a freakingly low minimalist demand it is a damning indictment of our political culture that it wasn’t done immediately by those who want a military solution. If you want that don’t be Assad. He faced exactly the same problem— there were plenty of Syrians who wanted his regime replaced by a democracy, but the people with the guns were Islamists and in fact Hamas was on their side, which is why fir some years Hezbollah and Iran were not on good terms with Hamas. How did Assad fight? Pretty much like Israel.

Nous— agreed.

“ . I can’t even imagine him doing this,””

Actually I can, if the death toll is high enough and protests loud enough, but right now it is all PR request for a humanitarian pause which BIbi refused.

I can't imagine him doing it before it is already too late.

I'm not entirely sure that it isn't already already too late.


How fortunate that Biden has such a commanding lead in the polls that if people are sickened by his stance it won’t make any difference in November.

The press needs a horse race...and by god they shall get one:

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/05/us/politics/biden-trump-2024-poll.html

I wouldn’t brush that story off though. Biden is in trouble. ( Gaza is a marginal issue, but could hurt him in Michigan and on the far left.). The big problem is the economy, which people don’t seem to like no matter what economists might say about it.

And on foreign policy there is a huge gender gap, primarily I suspect because so many men are chest thumping gorillas and rate people on who seems“ tough”. I am just guessing but when you have man on the street interviews on this out of thing the people who worry about national security usually come across as Paleolithic. Trump is apparently a stupid person’s idea of toughness, though to me he seems like the stereotypical bully, not tough at all in any meaningful way if that is what you care about.

But the problems seem real to me. The toughness one is moronic, but has to be dealt with. Maybe he can kill more children. There are times when I wish my gender didn’t have the vote. Half serious.

On the economy, if that many people are unhappy then the Democrats had better think of something, but I don’t know what.

What people think about "how the economy is doing" is typically a seriously lagging indicator (when it is recovering/doing well). People first notice that their personal finances are improving (which has mostly already happened), and only later pick up on the fact that they are not the exception.

So the question becomes, how long will the lag be? They could figure it out next month, or six months from now, or next December. Which one that is will be important; more accurately, since it won't happen all at once, how many figure it out when.

It seems to me that the Democrats need to just keep pounding on the point, in as many different ways as possible. It won't be what turns out their voters, but it might de-incentivize (is that even a word?) some of their opponents.

The complication here is that what the media calls the economy is somewhat decoupled from the economic situation of most Americans. Booming economy does no good for most people if wages are stagnant (or declining due to inflation) and all of the boom is going to the finance side of things.

Biden has been seriously better than most for supporting labor, and that could be a serious strength for the Ds were it to become a larger focus. It might be enough to engage some of the younger voters who are otherwise put off by his age and the ongoing carnage in Gaza. I think the Ds could go far with a "Green Labor" platform.

But talking about how well the economy has done is not going to change the minds of those who never see much improvement no matter how high the Dow.

And assuming that the Ds could go Green Labor, they seriously need to take that show out of the cities and roll it into the rural areas to offer some alternative to the motherfrackers.

an historically low unemployment rate lifts all boats, ceteris paribus

Biden in trouble with the young and partly due to Gaza

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/06/opinion/joe-biden-polling.html

The newer open thread is too hopeful a place for me to put this up there. This is my response to the growing politicization of the dead and competing op-ed thinkpieces showing up on my social media feed:

I reject any framing of the ongoing tragedy in Israel and the Palestinian Territories that sticks flags on pictures of the non-combatant dead. I want a page where the dead are shown living their lives, and you have to scroll through all of them all at once, and they are all mixed together. The only information that we need are the names and ages, and how many relatives they have on the side of the dead and how many on the side of the living.

And every political think piece should be forced to mention and link to that site before it ever gets its opportunity to erase or justify any of those deaths for the sake of their own nationalism or try to lay blame for them entirely on the other side.

Nationalist memorials are a death cult.

The awfulness of everything that is going on is very hard to take. And I mean that in the broadest sense; for example the Trump poll results are also totally making me crazy. And, to add to general misery I finally, for the very first time, have Covid. Goddamit.

Things do not get better, but worse.

Oh gosh sorry about the covid. I hope you don't have a bad case. I've dodged it too so far.

The awfulness of everything that is going on is very hard to take.

It doesn't make up for covid, but looking at tonight's election returns in the US might ease the pain. Democrats seem to be having a good night.

I'm hoping I'm through the worst of it, 5 days or so. Haven't had a chance to check the election results yet, but heartened somewhat by wj's comment. Will check US sites now for what I hope will be a pick-me-up

And thank you, wonkie.

Democrats seem to be having a good night.

Not here on Eastern LI. It's NIMBY country and went for Trump and Zeldin in the last election. And our neighbors to the immediate west are the ones who brought you George Santos. Dems won 3 of 18 districts (one of 'em is mine, at least). But... yeah.

I've been lucky enough to dodge the bullet so far. Be well, GftNC!

Gftnc--

Is it a bad case of Covid? I had it early this year for the first (and I hope only) time--it was like a mild cold that lasted a couple of weeks. But I was really out of shape for a couple of months after it was over-just walking fast made my heart speed up like I was running, though that eventually ended. Hopefully yours won't be any worse than that.

Donald -

I thought it was a medium-level case of flu: unpleasant but bearable for a few days with regular doses of Tylenol (Paracetamol here, same drug). But then after a few days a nasty gut side effect made itself felt (I'm not generally one for euphemism, but perhaps on this occasion I make an exception), and when I looked this seems to be one of the possible side-effects of this variant. I'm about 6 days in, and I thought it was making me unusually exhausted which worried me, but actually today that seems quite a bit better. So the main effects left are a troublesome (but not sleep-denying) cough. Could be worse.

That’s definitely worse than what I had. At least you are getting better. All I had as a mild cough and a scratchy throat. I was actually feeling good enough to move furniture the first two days, thinking it was a slight cold before testing it just to be sure. I was shocked to find I had it.

My aerobic fitness took a real hit, but it got better after two months.

And now for something completely different. For anybody who has forgotten the blessed Nadine Dorries, here is proof that she is the gift that keeps on giving. From Boris "I'm a coiled mamba" Johnson, to Dr No (eeek, who is that masked man?), she has effortlessly managed to upstage even her own shenanigans earlier this year when she complained about not having been given a peerage while stopping all work for her constituents and continuing to refuse to resign:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/nov/08/claims-and-conspiracies-and-pulling-the-trigger-on-johnson-dorries-book-tells-all

Do yourselves a favour and read it. It's not long, and into even such dark times as these a little light must fall.

Omer Bartov says Israel is not yet guilty of genocide, but the danger is real and we have to act now.

If this keeps up, this is not going to be a fringe issue in 2024. It will be the issue that rips the Democratic Party in half.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/10/opinion/israel-gaza-genocide-war.html

I am worried about that. Of course, there are many, many anti-Zionist Jews both in the US and in Israel, and maybe their voices will be heard.

I remember when Viet Nam ripped the party in half. This is a much more critical juncture in our history. The stakes for us are higher.

I'm not worried that this will rip apart the Democratic party - not because I think the party will hold, but because I think that the country may not hold, rendering the party irrelevant in the scheme of things.

When you look at the most recent GOP debate performance, and the candidates' efforts to throw the weight of the US behind the crushing of Gaza, you have to look at the parallel language from that direction about how to deal with their domestic enemies (and who those domestic enemies are).

There is nothing about the rule of law. There is nothing about the need for protocol. There is nothing about the other side being people of good intent. There is only the language of sovereignty and of existential crisis.

The Democratic party and the media keep acting like this is all a worrying trend for the coming election when what they really need to worry about is how to hold everything together in the wake of the election, win or lose.

Either way, I think that we are going to see the right attempt to muster violence against their enemies.

We have the warning signs here, too.

As long as TIFG looks to be (or is) the GOP nominee, I don't see anything ripping the Democratic Party apart. As furious as various factions are on various issues, none of them are going to use a shotgun on their nose to spite their face. They realize that "existential crisis" is precisely the term. And that, however much they dislike the views of others in the party, what TIFG would do if back in office would be vastly worse for the issues they care about.

Now, if/when TIFG passes from the scene, we may see a different story. Mostly, I think, depending on how successfully a future GOP candidate divorce himself from the GOP's current rhetoric and positions. But for this election cycle, only the self-destructive will walk away in a snit.

I am not as sure of unity behind and anti-Trump as wj and nous seem to be. There is certainly a core of people who are highly motivated to vote for anyone who is not Trump, just as there are many who will vote MAGA no matter what. There are also, even in our polarized society, swing voters and who the hell knows what motivates them. And there are many, many people who only marginally pay attention--so who the hell knows how they will vote, if they show up.

Abortion has triggered a visceral response in a large swath of voters and previously not-voting people. The obvious ethnic cleansing and on-going war crimes are triggering a visceral responses. Yes the R position is worse, but back in the day when there was growing opposition to the war in Viet Nam Humphrey lost because his position was muddled and vague. I understand Biden's dilemma, but his position is also muddled and vague. Given the choice between the bad Rs and the Biden admin trying to split the difference, people who feel strongly about the treatment of Palestinians might decide to not vote.
It won't take many people not voting for Republicans to win.

With R's only controlling the House, there is FAR less opportunity for people to see what horror they would unleash on Palestine, while any problems with Biden's actions are more clear.

Maybe someone could convince Trump to "go over there and straighten it out", but he's too much of a coward. Someone should put Jared Kushner in a flack-jacket over his suit, and air-drop him into Gaza.

Parachute? Maybe.

I am not as sure of unity behind and anti-Trump as wj and nous seem to be.

Just to be clear, I'm not arguing/predicting what so-called swing voters will do. Just that I don't see a split in the Democratic Party.

There are people within the Biden Administration that are intensely frustrated with our policy.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/inside-angst-anxiety-gripping-biden-174920044.html

Wj, I don’t think you are very good at realizing how emotional people get about certain issues. To you it seems to be lesser evil calculations at all times. But people actually care about certain issues and can become infuriated if told to suck it up because the other guy is worse ( which is true). I don’t yet use the term “ genocide” myself, but it is the word of choice among antiwar types right now— some are calling Biden “ Genocide Joe”.

I think precisely because people are starting to get scared of both the domestic political consequences and the regional Mideast consequences if this war drags on, there may be more serious efforts to either end it or, more cynically, get the killing rate low enough so it drops off the front pages. I am not sure how long we can continue to support Israel killing 1000 children per week. After awhile, wj, people get a little exasperated, you know. Even if the Republicans will be worse. Literally genocidal by any definition in some cases.

The comments to this entry are closed.