Saturday: Hili dialogue

October 21, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to CaturSaturday, October 21, 2023, and National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day. Oy, what a repugnant hybrid dessert! Ben & Jerry’s has added another dessert to the mix to produce this:

It’s also ‘Back to the Future’ Day (the day they travel to in the first movie is October 21, 2015), International Sloth Day, Apple Day, International Day of the Nacho, National Mezcal Day, Reptile Awareness Day, Garbanzo Bean Day, Sweetest Day (buy your squeeze some chocolates), Trafalgar Day in the British Empire, and, of course, Birth of the Báb (2017) celebrated by members of the Baháʼí Faith.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the October 21 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*At last—trucks are moving into Gaza from Egypt with humanitarian aid.

A convoy of 20 trucks carrying aid moved through the Rafah border crossing into Gaza from Egypt on Saturday, according to the United Nations and images shown on Egyptian state television, after days of diplomatic wrangling to get food, water and medicine into the blockaded enclave where essential supplies were running out and hospitals were nearing collapse.

The convoy carrying “life-saving supplies” will be received in Gaza by the Palestinian Red Crescent with the support of the United Nations, the U.N. spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said. Four of the trucks carried medicine and other health-related essentials, the World Health Organization confirmed, which warned that Saturday’s deliveries would “barely begin to address the escalating health needs” in Gaza.

It they can keep this aid out of the hands of Hamas. Remember, the Hamas terrorists took UNICEF first aid kits with them when they entered Israel to butcher civilians.

*Another update on the war. Two American hostages—a mother and daughter—were released by Hamas without any bargaining.

Hamas on Friday released two American hostages — a mother and daughter — who were being held in Gaza. The Israeli military received them at the border and took them to an army base in central Israel to be reunited with family members, according to statements released by Hamas and the Israel government.

The release of the hostages came on the same day the Biden administration formally asked Congress for billions of dollars in emergency funding for Israel and Gaza.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., identified the released hostages as Judith Raanan, 59, and her daughter Natalie Raanan, 17. It said they were kidnapped during the Oct. 7 attack on Kibbutz Nahal Oz.

Abu Obeidah, the spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing, said Friday in a statement on Telegram that Hamas had released the women for “humanitarian reasons” after mediation by Qatar.

Well, it’s a start.  But why has the world seem to have largely forgotten about the hostages. Biden mentions them frequently, but this war crime is drowned out by the rebukes to Israel for “genocide”.

On the down side, it doesn’t look like humanitarian aid is coming to Gaza very soon (see update above; this was written yesterday evening):

Hopes that humanitarian aid would begin to trickle into Gaza from Egypt on Friday were fading as Egyptian, Israeli, U.S. and United Nations officials were still hammering out thorny issues, including who will inspect the shipments for weapons, several U.N. and European officials and diplomats familiar with the talks said.

Israel, for instance, wants to be involved in those inspections and is against shipping in fuel, those people said. Other officials say fuel is needed to keep generators on at hospitals and to provide clean water to desperate Palestinians stuck in Gaza.

Talks in Cairo on Thursday had yielded a step forward, with an agreement to set up a United Nations-operated system at the Rafah border crossing in northeastern Egypt. President Biden said on Tuesday that he had secured agreement from the Israeli government to open up the aid corridor.

I can understand Israel’s position, and think they should be involved in inspecting the shipments for weapons. Egypt doesn’t care and the U.N. isn’t exactly pro-Israel. As for fuel, there is of course a danger that it could be used for terrorism, and Hamas could siphon off a lot, so there should be some way to keep them from getting it.  If the aid is to help the people, it should not be used to help Hamas.

*And we still don’t have a Speaker of the House.

Rep. Jim Jordan lost an internal ballot to remain the GOP speaker nominee, hours after failing to win the speakership in a third round of voting on the House floor Friday.

Republicans will now start over, planning a new candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. Monday night.

*At the WaPo, author Yuval Noah Harari asks the question, “Is Hamas Winning the War?”  His answer is “yes”, and his analysis is pretty good.

Hamas launched this war with a specific political aim: to prevent peace. After signing peace treaties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Israel was on the verge of signing a historic peace treaty with Saudi Arabia. That agreement would have been Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s biggest achievement in his entire career. It would have normalized relations between Israel and much of the Arab world. At the insistence of the Saudis and Americans, the treaty’s conditions were expected to include significant concessions to the Palestinians, aimed to immediately alleviate the suffering of millions of them in the occupied territories, and restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

, , , Hamas slaughtered hundreds of Israeli civilians, in the most gruesome ways it could devise. The immediate aim was to derail the Israeli-Saudi peace deal. The long-term aim was to sow seeds of hatred in the minds of millions in Israel and across the Muslim world, thereby preventing peace with Israel for generations to come.

. . . Hamas knew its attack would make Israelis livid, distraught with pain and anger, and the terrorists counted on Israel to retaliate with massive force, inflicting enormous pain on Palestinians. The codename Hamas gave its operation is telling: al-Aqsa Tufan. The word “tufan” means flood. Like the biblical flood intended to cleanse the world of sin even at the cost of nearly wiping out humanity, Hamas’s attack aimed to create devastation on a biblical scale.

. . . If Hamas’s war aims are indeed to derail the Israeli-Saudi peace treaty and to destroy all chance for normalization and peace, it is winning this war by a knockout. And Israel is helping Hamas, largely because Netanyahu’s government seems to be conducting this war without clear political goals of its own.

Israel says it wants to disarm Hamas, and it has every right to do so in protecting its citizens. Disarming Hamas is vital also for any chance of future peace, because as long as Hamas remains armed, it will continue to derail any such efforts. But even if Israel succeeds in disarming Hamas, that’s just a military achievement, not a political plan. In the short term, does Israel have any plan to rescue the Israeli-Saudi peace deal? In the long term, does Israel have any plan to reach a comprehensive peace with the Palestinians and normalize its relations with the Arab world?

Ceiling Cat help us if Harari is right. But I can’t see any huge flaws in his argument.

*As usual, I’ll steal three items from Nellie Bowles’s weekly news report at The Free Press; this week’s is called “TGIF: Guilty until proven innocent.” (This refers to reporting on the Palestinian rocket misfire imputed to Israel.)

→ The blood libel heard ’round the world: So let us get this straight: terrorists burst across the border of Israel, slaughtered innocents, raped women, took captives—including toddlers who remain in their hands—then accidentally exploded a rocket in their own Gaza hospital parking lot, and somehow, in all of this, Israel is still the bad guy.

Let’s start with the rocket. As soon as it went off, Hamas blamed Israel, which in turn said it needed a minute to verify what happened. Do you know who doesn’t need a minute? The mainstream American press. ReutersThe Washington Post, and The New York Times blindly ran with the Hamas account: an Israeli strike, a hospital, hundreds of deaths—500, according to the Times. (A great collection of those headlines can be found here.) The Times even ran an image of a blown-up building—but it wasn’t the hospital. The news ricocheted around the world, leading to attacks on synagogues and marches on embassies. It is the dominant narrative now and likely forever. Even though it is a lie. In the information war, this was a spectacular win for Hamas.

After Biden announced that U.S. intelligence confirmed the Israeli government account—it was a failed rocket from within Gaza—there were no apologies, no corrections, just subtle headline changes to make it slightly factual-ish. (Just compare this to the uproar after Tom Cotton’s op-ed, which led to the firing of the paper’s opinion editor.) And so it was a bit of an awakening for me. This is the week I realized that the adults I thought were flawed but trying are actually on meth and don’t care. Or maybe it’s even worse: they know it’s a lie.

Nellie adds that one of the NYT’s liveblog reporters on the war happens to be an Israel-hating aide to, yes, Rashida Tlaib. Shoot me now!

→ Why do you want those babies back anyway? What are you implying by saying you don’t want your children kidnapped? And now you want them back? I suggest you ask yourself why that is. In cities around the country, Jews have been posting the faces of the Hamas-held hostages. And in cities around the country, activists have been tearing those images down. Those plaintive images of babies are really harshing my pro-Hamas march vibe. In New York, protesters are desecrating their faces (obviously, that’s happening everywhere in England). The images of the kidnapped victims are being torn down by all sorts of people, like this Florida dentist. Welcome to the new Keep the Hostages movement. Why deprive Hamas of hostages? Do you know how high a terrorist’s cost of living is these days?

But my favorite Keep the Hostages activists are the two young women at NYU—Hafiza Khalique and Yazmeen Deyhimi—running around gleefully holding the ripped images of those hostages. Worth looking at some pics, because they’re just having so much fun doing it. But their pleasure is not what makes these two girls my favorite; it’s that Yazmeen was an intern at the—wait for it—Anti-Defamation League. Her apology: “I have found it increasingly difficult to know my place as a biracial brown woman, especially during these highly volatile times.”

Here’s a professor at University of California, Davis. (The school has taken down her faculty page and likely doubled her pay.)

Professor Decristo is trying to stir up literal violence against journalists (I might be in the top 500 on Jemma’s list, but Bar is definitely in the top 5, so if anyone wants to take her into your home that would be great). Jemma is trying to provoke people to do real-life harm to journalists and their children. She adds a knife, an ax, and three blood drops to make it really clear. (No one ever said terrorists were smart.) Do not hold your breath for one of the dozens of journalist dignity defense groups to speak up here. They’re camped out waiting for Trump to post a Truth so they can Stand Together Against Mean Trump Posts. Meanwhile, I’m going to email Professor Decristo to ask if her plan is to kill me tonight or tomorrow and what the vibe is exactly of knife, ax, blood blood blood.

See more on the sickening Professor Decristo here.

There’s a lot of stuff in Nellie’s report this week, so go have a look.

*The NYT reports that “On Israel, progressive Jews feel abandoned by their Left-wing allies“:

Progressive Jews who have spent years supporting racial equity, gay and transgender rights, abortion rights and other causes on the American left — including opposing Israeli policies in Gaza and the West Bank — are suddenly feeling abandoned by those who they long thought of as allies. This wartime shift represents a fundamental break within a liberal coalition that has long powered the Democratic Party.

“When a people have been subject to decades of apartheid and unimaginable violence, their resistance must not be condemned, but understood as a desperate act of self-defense,” Black Lives Matter Los Angeles posted on Facebook, in its first response to the attack. A reproductive-rights group sharply criticized the “Zionist occupation,” saying that the Israeli government denied “Palestinians control over their bodies” and that “there can be no justice, peace or reproductive freedom underneath colonial occupation.” A number of socialist organizations across the country did not directly condemn the killings by Hamas.

And many protests have included chants of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan that leaves no place for the state of Israel to exist in its own land.

From email listservs of progressive Jewish groups to protests on university campuses to social-media campaigns by prominent liberal Jewish celebrities like Sarah Silverman, the war is bringing to a head more than a decade of tensions about Israel on the American left.

. . .Interviews with dozens of liberal Jewish leaders and voters, and a review of social media posts, private emails and text chains of liberal Jewish groups, reveal a politically engaged swath of American Jewry who are reaching a breaking point. They have long opposed the Israeli government’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, supported a two-state solution and protested the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

But in the Hamas attacks, many saw an existential threat, evoking memories of the Holocaust and generations of antisemitism, and provoking anxiety about whether they could face attacks in the United States. And they were taken aback to discover that many of their ideological allies not only failed to perceive the same threats but also saw them as oppressors deserving of blame.

Yes, one of those who feel abandoned is Sarah Silverman, who saw this odious Democratic Socialists of America Instagram post and commented on it (below)

And another Instagram statement from The Divine Sarah:

*Andrew Sullivan’s Weekly Dish post this week is called “A party unfit for government,” and you know he’s talking about Republicans.

And I know you know this, but it’s still vital to remember that a major political party is backing this incoherent, unhinged, fact-free narcissist to be president of the United States. It is therefore no surprise to discover that the same party is completely incapable of forming a stable majority in the House of Representatives because it too is incoherent, divided, unhinged, and narcissistic. We’ve never had this amount of time without a Speaker in the history of the House. But then we’ve never had a majority party as utterly vacuous as this one.

The leading candidate for the Speaker, who keeps running and keeps losing, is Jim Jordan, the apotheosis of Republican nihilism: he has passed no legislation in his time in office — zero! — and he was up to his neck in the attempt to overturn the last election and in the storming of the Capitol on January 6. He has launched investigations into every Trump prosecutor. His supporters have run intimidation campaigns, including death threats. He is entirely a negative, howling artifact of ideology.

So is his party. A party wedded to ideological abstractions, emotional hissy-fits, constitutional brinkmanship and a strongman candidate is not a conservative party. It is the anti-conservative party. Objecting to everything is objecting to nothing. Gerrymandering yourself into a homogeneous, minority cult only rewards ever more extremism. Obsessed with themselves, demanding the impossible, and risking everything for it: this is not a party that is in any way fit for government, and yet it is a party that is all but guaranteed huge sway because America is so polarized that extremists get away with anything.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Andrzej are again discussing philosophy:

Hili: Is scepticism a world view?
A: No, but sometimes it helps against the worst mistakes.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy sceptycyzm jest światopoglądem?
Ja: Nie, ale pozwala czasem bronić się przed najgorszymi błędami.

*******************

From Richard:

From Merilee, a tee-shirt that would be useful for many of us (including me0:

From BuzzFeed, more capitalistic lying:

A tweet from Masih showing a bloodied Iranian child attacked by the regime (sound up). Zahedan is in Iran.

From Jez, a WaPo flub. (The papers are having trouble with the war.) DETAINED by Hamas? Seriously? What about KIDNAPPED? Is it against the Post’s stylebook to say that Hamas kidnaps people?

From Barry; these ducklings will be well protected, but they need to learn how to be ducks (and get proper food):

From Frits, a REAL catwalk:

From the Auschwitz Memorial: a mother and three-year-old child gassed upon arrival at the camp:

From Dr. Cobb who got it from Tina. The speaker is apparently a Jewish comedian who lives in the West Bank, but his words are dead serious. I think he’s speaking in Arabic.

Cat in an orchestra (sound up):

. . . and a groaner:

On Herschel Walker’s candidacy: is Andrew Sullivan becoming a Democrat?

October 8, 2022 • 1:30 pm

As James Carville said the other day in a video I posted, “[the Republicans have really stupid people who vote in their primaries”, and thus “they tend to elect really stupid leaders.”

One of those stupid leaders is Herschel Walker, an ex football star now running as a Republican candidate for Senate in Georgia.  Walker is unbelievably stupid and hamhanded—so far away from the semblance of a rational politician that Andrew Sullivan devoted mostof his weekly column to a splenetic dissection of Walker’s idiocy and hypocrisy.  Americans will know one example of that: Walker is running as a hard anti-abortion candidate, who sees abortion as murder, yet all the evidence shows that he paid for one of his girlfriends to get an abortion. And, despite the palpable evidence (including a check and get-well card from Walker), the candidate says he doesn’t even know the woman.

Walker also said this about evolution, as reported by CNN:

“At one time, science said man came from apes, did it not?” Walker, the frontrunner for the Georgia Republican Senate nomination, said in an appearance over the weekend at a church in Sugar Hill, Georgia. “If that is true, why are there still apes? Think about it.”

Yes, I’ve spent my life thinking about this stupid creationist canard, but only a moronic Republican (which is almost a redudancy) would parade that kind of ignorance in public. I expect every reader of this website should be able to refute Walker’s claim. (By the way, why don’t reporters ever ask candidates if they accept the fact of evolution? Anybody answering “no” should automatically be deemed unfit for office.)

As reader Steve noted, when he sent me the link (I do subscribe), “I think [Sullivan] is at the top of his form in this post.” And indeed he is. In fact, Sully rails so hard against the Republican party as a whole that he might as well start calling himself an independent centrist.  Click on the screenshot to read:

The intro, clearly showing a disaffection for Republicans:

There are times, I confess, when I decide to pass on writing another column on how degenerate the Republican Party is. What else is there to say? It’s not as if the entire media class isn’t saying it every hour of every day. And it’s not as if the depravity of the party hasn’t been a longtime hobbyhorse of mine. Unlike most of the Never-Trumper set, I was writing about this derangement on the right in the 1990s. I tore into George W. Bush’s spend, borrow and torture policies. I wrote a book on what I thought conservatism really was in 2006 — and why the GOP was its nemesis. I couldn’t have been clearer about what Palin represented — even as Bill Kristol selected her to be a potential president.

But then you come across the Senate candidacy of one Herschel Walker, and, well, words fail. No magical realist fiction writer could come up with something so sickeningly absurd. Walker is, of course, inextricable from his longtime friend, Donald Trump, who made his campaign possible in March 2021. . .

Sullivan goes hard on Walker’s unbelievable stupidity (and also mentions the man’s evolution denialism):

Walker is, to start with, very dumb. I don’t usually note this quality in a candidate and it doesn’t make him a huge outlier in politics of course. Being brainy, moreover, can be a serious liability for some pols. But seriously: this stupid?

Here is Walker’s grasp of climate change: “Our good air decided to float over to China’s bad air so when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move.” Here’s his take on John Lewis: “Senator Lewis was one of the greatest senators that’s ever been, and for African Americans that was absolutely incredible. To throw his name on a bill for voting rights I think is a shame.” On the Inflation Reduction Act: “They continue to try to fool you that they are helping you out. But they’re not. Because a lot of money, it’s going to trees. Don’t we have enough trees around here?”

After running through Walker’s sins of lying, abuse, harassment, stupidity, and hypocrisy, and wondering how any Republican can still support Walker’s candidacy, but observing that they do so out of tribalism, Sullivan argues:

I am not saying that the Democrats are not also corrupted by rank tribalism. At their worst, they are, as I often point out. I am saying that they do not compare with the current GOP in its hollowness and depravity and madness.

Walker shows that there is no principle they will not jettison, no evil they will not excuse, no crime they won’t “whatabout,” and no moron they won’t elect, if it means they gain power. There is degeneracy among many Democrats, sure. But the Republican party is defined by this putrescence. Burn it down.

Burn it down, with “it” being the Republican party? That’s not the Sullivan of yore! But you have to hand it to Andrew: he’s persuaded by reason and sometimes changes his mind. In this case, he was also persuaded by stupidity.

But there is a slight nod to faith in the piece. I don’t consider it terribly significant—though I aways thought Sullivan’s own Catholicism was a striking departure from his rationality—but reader Steve wanted to mention it. In one part of his piece, Sullivan attacks Republicans who still support Walker, despite his failure as both candidate and human being, because he can win:

It’s rare to see this kind of nihilist consequentialism expressed so nakedly. It’s rare to hear someone publicly say something so deeply hostile to any shred of Christianity. (Christians never believe the ends justify any means. Christianism is defined by that principle.) But nothing matters to the current GOP more than victory, by fair means or foul, by democratic processes or not.

And here’s where Steve finds some fault:

[Sullivan] does, however, betray his weakness for his religion in this sentence: “Christians never believe the ends justify any means.” On the contrary, the history of Christianity shows the continued reliance on the pious fiction or noble lie to gain adherents.

The column referenced, a good one, is by Neil Godfrey, and recounts the “noble lies” of Scripture: outrageous claims (like Jesus walking on water) seen as metaphorical by some theologians. Their end was to make converts; their means was to use Biblical claims the theologians didn’t accept but that demonstrated the miracles of God and Jesus.

But you don’t even have to go to the Bible to see lots of Christians violating Sullivan’s claim by showing that “the ends justify any means.”

The Inquisition is but one example.

That aside, Sullivan’s column is remarkably good.

Andrew Sullivan on the election and CRT

November 6, 2021 • 11:45 am

It seems that much of the gubernatorial election in Virginia turned on the issue of Critical Race Theory (CRT) being taught in schools. Youngkin denounced it while McAuliffe deprecated parents’ “rights” to have a say in their kids’ schooling.  After McAuliffe’s loss, upset Democrats accused the Republicans of “dog whistling”: using CRT as a cover for their racism and white supremacy.  In this week’s main article on Andrew Sullivan’s website, he notes that this criticism may have held a wee bit of truth, but in general was wrong.  His thesis:

What has happened this past week, I suspect, is that the woke revolution has finally met its match: educated parents. People can tolerate sitting through compulsory “social justice” seminars, struggle sessions, pronoun rituals, and the rest as adults, if they have to as a condition of employment. But when they see this ideology being foisted on their children as young as six, they draw a line.

I believe you can read his piece for free by clicking on the screenshot below.  But again, I urge you to subscribe if you read him frequently.

The one bit of Sullivan’s column I disagree with is the almost palpable joy with which he greets Youngkin’s victory.  Who can be happy that a Republican, particularly one who may have a covert agenda that may jibe with many Republican stands? But you could argue as well that this is a necessary wake-up call for the Democrats to reorganize, listen to the electorate, and thereby promote future victories. Only a major loss—or, in this case, the repudiation of several Woke initiatives throughout the U.S., could do that.

Dems have also argued that CRT was not being taught in Virginia schools. Well, not in the academic form, but Sullivan dispels that with some data. I’m giving a long excerpt here, for it contains links you can consult. Emphasis below is mine:

Look at recent polling. A big survey from the Manhattan Institute of the 20 biggest metropolitan areas found that the public, 54-29, wants to remove CRT concepts such as “white privilege” or “systemic racism” from K-12 education. That includes black parents by a margin of 54-38. And that’s in big cities. A new Harris poll asked, “Do you think the schools should promote the idea that people are victims and oppressors based on their race or should they teach children to ignore race in all decisions to judge people by their character?” Americans favored the latter 63-37.

And when the Democrats and the mainstream media insist that CRT is not being taught in high schools, they’re being way too cute. Of course K-12 kids in Virginia’s public schools are not explicitly reading the collected works of Derrick Bell or Richard Delgado — no more than Catholic school kids in third grade are studying critiques of Aquinas. But they are being taught in a school system now thoroughly committed to the ideology and worldview of CRT, by teachers who have been marinated in it, and whose unions have championed it.

And in Virginia, this is very much the case. The state’s Department of Education embraced CRT in 2015, arguing for the need to “re-engineer attitudes and belief systems” in education. In 2019, the department sent out a memo that explicitly endorsed critical race and queer theory as essential tools for teaching high school. Check out the VA DOE’s “Road Map to Equity,” where it argues that “courageous conversation” on “social justice, systemic inequity, disparate student outcomes and racism in our school communities is our responsibility and professional obligation. Now is the time to double down on equity strategies.” (My itals.) Check out the Youtube site for Virginia’s virtual 2020 summit on equity in education, where Governor Northam endorsed “antiracist school communities,” using Kendi’s language.

Matt Taibbi found Virginia voters miffed by “the existence of a closed Facebook group — the ‘Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County’ — that contains six school board members and apparently compiled a list of parents deemed insufficiently supportive of ‘racial equity efforts.’” He found Indian and South Asian parents worried about the abolition of testing standards, as well they might be. And at school board meetings, in a fraught Covid era of kids-at-home, parents have been treated with, at best, condescension; and at worst, contempt. Remember how the National School Boards Association wanted the feds to designate some protests from these angry parents as “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes” — and then withdrew that request?

The argument continues in the piece, but I’ve given the gist. So long as teachers and schools are pushing stuff that divides the children, so long as they repudiate Dr. King’s emphasis on character rather than color, then for that long the Democrats will continue to lose. Every time a kid comes home saying that she’s learned she’s bad because she’s white, the Democrats let a vote slip away.  As Sullivan says:

. . .  if the culture war is fought explicitly on the terms laid out by the Kendi left and the Youngkin right, and the culture war is what determines political outcomes, then the GOP will always win.

Nobody here, least of all me, claims that we should soft-pedal America’s history taught in full honesty: not only its glories but its abysmal failures, including its racism and the genocide of Native Americans. The textbooks and history lesson do need to be honest. But this is America, the “gumbo of diverse ingredients” that Carville describes, and in the end kids need to see it as it is—and was.  What should be taught are the facts, leaving out the ideology of CRT.

At the end Sullivan embraces the “Youngkin version of Republicanism”, saying that “he hopes it lasts.” I don’t, for I think Youngkin, while savvy about parents and schools, has a raft of Republican horrors up his sleeve. Get set for Virginia to pass a Texas-style anti-abortion bill.

A brief review of Andrew Sullivan’s new essay collection

October 12, 2021 • 10:15 am

I don’t want to write a full review of Andrew Sullivan’s new book, as I just finished a different review for a media outlet, but I want to urge you to read Out on a Limb: Selected Writing: 1989-2021, even if you don’t like Sullivan’s conservatism or religiosity (both are muted in this book). It contains dozens of essays over the 32-year period, arranged in chronological order.  Some are very long, others just a page or two, and I found myself reading all of them over the past several weeks.

Click on the screenshot to go to the Amazon site:

Sullivan is a lovely and thoughtful writer, and, although he puts himself on the rightish end of the political spectrum, many of the essays comport well with liberal thinking. He was, for instance, instrumental in helping gay marriage become accepted in America, and his early essays (e.g., “Here comes the groom” from The New Republic) are powerful arguments for that institution. He touted Obama as a possible and potentially good president long before others were doing so, and shows additional prescience in recognizing Trump not only as a possible winner of the Presidency, but later as a probable winner of the Presidency. (He despises Trump.) He also predicted that Joe Biden would be the best Democratic candidate to beat Trump. (Perhaps he’s picking his essays to look prescient, but I doubt it.)

What I like about Sullivan’s writing is that, unlike many other writers, he’s willing to admit when he’s wrong and remains open to correcting his opinions. Ergo his self-flagellating essay, “How did I get Iraq wrong?” (he was an early booster of the war). His case against torture is ironclad (“The abolition of torture”), and many essays will appeal to readers on the grounds of simple humanity (e.g., his memoriam on the death of one of his beagles, “Surprised by Grief”, a title cribbed and modified from C. S. Lewis; or “Still here, so sorry”, his musings on still being alive years after an AIDS diagnosis).

There is a lot, of course, on AIDS and homosexuality, and it’s good to read this stuff from the viewpoint of a gay writer. The bulk of the essays are on politics, which he knows a lot about. I usually find such essays dry but Sullivan is such a good writer that you get the sense of discussing politics with a friend, not being preached to. Like a good scientist, he’s always considering counterarguments to his positions, another thing that makes him likable.

As I said, he’s surprisingly light on religion—it comes up rarely, except for one long and tedious essay on “What is the meaning of Pope Francis?” But after reading that and his other stuff on faith, I’m no closer than ever to understanding why a smart guy like Sullivan believes in things like the literal resurrection of Christ. So it goes.

Here are a few of my favorite essays, which give an idea of his range:

“Here comes the groom”, an epochal essay that really did help move American opinion.

“Quilt”, a touching piece on the AIDS Quilt.

“When plagues end: Notes on the twilight of an epidemic”. About the tapering off of the AIDS epidemic and Sullivan’s remembrance of its worst days.

“What’s so bad about hate?”  A long and absorbing essay on the uses, abuses, and varieties of hatred.

“Gay cowboys embraced by redneck country”: Sullivan’s thoughts on the movie Brokeback Mountain.

“The abolition of torture”: an eloquent argument that any torture is the sign of a totalitarianism and is to be totally rejected as a tool of Americans.

“Why I blog”: a very thoughtful piece that especially resonated with me, as it draws a distinction that those of us understand who write both for publication in the media as well as on a website. They’re very different forms of writing, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

“I used to be a human being”: A tale of Sullivan’s week at a meditation center completely disconnected from the Internet, combined with an acute and scathing analysis of what absorption in our “devices” has done to us.

“We all live on campus now”. A favorite of mine, which dispels the idea that insane leftist extremism found on colleges campus will not spread to the greater culture because the kids will grow up. (It already has spread, as you know, and is not going away.)

And the two final pieces:

“The unbearable whiteness of the classics”: An anti-Woke critique of the anti-classics classicists, defending the classics and showing that they can be taught alongside the history of racism.

“Two sexes, infinite genders”: A distinction between gender and sex (one that seems to be disappearing) and a touching remembrance of Sullivan’s father.

It’s good to have a book of essays on hand, like Sullivan’s or Orwell’s, to fill in the gaps when you don’t have time to absorb a chunk of a novel. And of course there’s a long-standing literary niche for short non-fictional pieces. Sullivan is a master of them, and although none of us are fans of all his ideas (the religion still bothers me), you come away from this book feeling as if you really know the guy—and like him.

Photograph of Sullivan by Joshua Cogan.

Andrew Sullivan on the possible downfall of Biden

October 2, 2021 • 11:00 am

Andrew Sullivan is no lover of Trump, nor, I think, are many people here. But it behooves us liberals to ensure that he doesn’t make a comeback. I think that unlikely, but others differ. One of them is Andrew Sullivan in his column this week, concentrating on the issue of immigration (click on screenshot, but subscribe if you read frequently). You can read his argument by clicking on the screenshot below.

Before we begin, let me recommend again Sullivan’s new book, Out on a Limb: Selected Writing, 1989-2021. The selections range from very short to quite long, and some of them are really great essays. His arguments for gay marriage, for instance, instrumental in moving the country towards recognizing that institution, are heartfelt and persuasive. He offers an apologia for his support of the Iraq war, trying to explain where he went wrong, and, presciently, predicted Obama’s victory well before the election. His essay “We all live on campus now” was also prescient, and there are various miscellaneous pieces like a good essay on “What’s so bad about hate?” The pieces go up to February of this year with discussions of gender issues and “the whiteness of the classics.” If you don’t like an essay, just read the next one. There’s something here for everyone. It’s also quite personal in places, as when he recounts his bout with HIV and how it changed him.

Anyway, click below to read:

The elephant in the room—the one factor that may be fatal to Biden’s reelection while energizing Trumpists, is, claims Sullivan, immigration. No liberal wants to come out explicitly favoring immigration limits (it’s been discussed very little lately, though 400,000 immigrants are predicted to pass through the southern border of the U.S. this October), as that sounds inhumane. Nevertheless, we have to take into account three issues. As Sullivan says, they’re not all Biden’s fault, for he inherited a badly broken immigration system.

a.) Volume, clearly much greater than ever before. As Sullivan says,

We are in a new era of mass migration, and the US government is demonstrating in real time that it has no idea how to control it. From January through July, well over a million undocumented migrants were intercepted at the border — Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians, Romanians, among others — and the pace is accelerating. If those intercepted in the first half of this year formed a city, it would be the tenth largest in the US.

There are some short-term factors behind this: earthquakes, natural disasters, political unrest, Covid, gang warfare, and economic stagnation. But there is also a long-term one: climate change, the impact of which on migration from the south to the north is increasingly felt across the globe. The sudden wave at the border is a 21-year high — after both the Obama and Trump administrations had kept the numbers to around a quarter of that rate most years (excluding a sudden surge in 2019).

A further — and arguably central — reason for the acceleration is a change under Biden in how the US treats these intercepted newcomers.

I think even Progressive Democrats have to admit that this volume of influx is unsustainable, but you won’t hear them mention it. In fact, one could well get the impression from both Progressive and Center-Left Democrats that they favor open borders. We want to be compassionate, but no country can deal with this level of influx. Sullivan says that the tide of immigration, much of it illegal, is one reason why Latino support for Biden is waning, especially in towns near the border.

b.) Once you’re in, legally or not, you’re pretty much in for keeps. We all know that despite the requirement for formal applications to stay in the U.S., and rulings by immigration judges, many immigrants simply vanish into the population, not showing up for their court dates and lying low.  Sullivan:

In the latest crisis, with 15,000 Haitian migrants arriving in Del Rio, around 2,500 were sent back to Haiti (where many hadn’t lived for years), and 12,500 were allowed in. That’s an 83 percent success rate.

So what, you may ask? Don’t those 12,500 have to get their asylum cases approved in order to stay permanently and legally in the US? Theoretically yes. But the wait for a court date can be several years (the average is around two and a half years) given our broken immigration infrastructure, after which it’s inhumane (as well as extremely difficult) to send people back. There’s also currently no way to force anyone to appear at the court, and 50 percent of removal orders — failed applications for asylum resulting in deportation — are issued in absentia, i.e. without the asylum-seeker showing up. The key stat: every year only around two percent of illegal immigrants are deported. You can do the math. That’s why another 60,000 Haitians are on their way.

This is why we badly need immigration reform, which of course will be sidelined for the next few months as Congress squabbles over Biden’s infrastructure and social reform bills. Don’t expect the initiative to come from the Democrats, many of whom equate immigration reform with immorality, nor from the Republicans, who have a lot to gain by doing nothing and letting people gravitate towards Trump as immigrants pour in.

c.) Many immigrants claim refugee status, but are really moving for economic advantage. To get asylum you have to be fleeing danger or persecution in your home country, and all immigrants know this. Many thus confect persecution stories to get in. It’s the savvy thing to do. Everybody in Congress knows this, but it’s ignored. Sullivan:

The other clear fact is that, by any sane definition, these are not people fleeing political or religious persecution, i.e. bona fide asylum cases. Most, including most Haitians, had already relocated to countries like Chile, but chose the US for economic reasons. And that’s great. They can apply legally, and see if they qualify. Instead, they are using the broken border, and fake claims of asylum, to jump the line.

Responding to the claim that, well, Sullivan himself is an immigrant, he notes that he went through the process legally, and it took him 18 years.

I agree with Sullivan here: the Democrats, if they’re to win the midterm elections next year and the 2024 election, would be much better positioned if they had a humane but workable immigration program.  We don’t want Trump re-elected while immigration is still broken and as he promises to build his damn wall.

Overall, Sullivan has a pretty gloomy prognostication about Biden aside from the immigration issue. You may disagree, but here’s his take:

Elsewhere in the West, mass migration has empowered the far right, and taken the UK out of the EU.

Yet in a very similar situation, when racial anxiety has already helped bring an unhinged authoritarian to power, and threatens to help him come back, the Democrats seem utterly blind to the danger. You want to take the wind out of the racist “Great Replacement” canard that appears to be gaining traction? You can huff and puff on Twitter, and feel great. Or you can get serious about border control.

The optics are also terrible — and compound a sense that the Biden administration is losing control of events. The scenes of death and mayhem in Kabul merge too easily in the mind with the squalor and disorder in Del Rio. Factor in the faltering vaccine program, and the prevaricating, incomprehensible shit-show of this Congress, and you can see how the image of a doddering incompetent in the White House is beginning to stick. And once that image imprints itself, it’s hard to escape it.

Worse: the immigration debate reflects an elite that simply cannot imagine why most normal citizens think that enforcing a country’s borders is not an exercise in white supremacist violence, but a core function of any basic government.

. . . If mass migration continues to accelerate under this administration, and Biden seems unable or unwilling to do anything about it, Tump could win that election in a romp. And deserve to.

Well, under no circumstances do I think an unhinged, authoritarian demagogue deserves to win, but what Sullivan surely means is that unless the Democrats get savvier, they’ll be hoist with their own petard.

 

Sullivan on Maher on wokeness

August 21, 2021 • 2:30 pm

Reader Paul sent me a 5-minute segment of Andrew Sullivan’s appearance on Bill Maher’s show last night, adding these comments:

He was the initial one-on-one interviewee and they mostly talked about Wokeism. Maher pointed out that this was Sullivan’s 27th appearance on the show, the most of any guest.

In the group discussion part of the show, Maher’s anti-vaxish opinion reared its ugly head. He mentions that he’s vaccinated and “did it for the team”, hinting that he wouldn’t have taken it otherwise. Then he says he won’t be getting the booster. One of the guests was someone who consulted on COVID matters for the US military. I was happy that he pushed back hard against Maher and that Maher seemed to indicate that he was on thin ice. I suspect that Maher’s going to get an earful on Twitter today.

In the short segment, Maher heaps praise on Sullivan for his common sense, noting that their perspectives generally agree. They then discuss Andrew’s move to Substack, and Andrew admits (I don’t remember this from before) that he was indeed fired from New York Magazine (I think it was because Sullivan was going to criticize the violence and looting of some of the Black Lives Matter protestors). Andrew’s own criticism of the pro-woke mindset of magazines (including all that have “New York” in the title) is pretty good.

Here’s part of Maher’s monologue, largely about the downside of smartphone. Well, they certainly have made people nastier as well as reduced the reading of books as well as people’s attention span in general.

Andrew Sullivan’s new book reviewed by the NYT

August 8, 2021 • 9:15 am

I had forgotten that Andrew Sullivan has a new book coming out—a collection of selected essays written over the last 32 years. The official date of release is Tuesday, and you can order the book from Amazon by clicking on the screenshot below (the Simon & Schuster website for the book is here).

 

There’s a review of the book in today’s New York Times (click on screenshot below), and it’s surprisingly positive. I say “suprisingly” because, after four years as a writer for the NYT Magazine, Sullivan was fired in 2002. (He was also let go from New York Magazine last year, presumably because they deep-sixed one of his columns condemning the violence associated with racial-justice demonstrations.) And he’s also seen as a “conservative”, though my reading of his positions shows him all over the map. It’s also surprising because their choice of a reviewer is David French, identified in the column as “a senior editor of The Dispatch, a columnist at Time and the author of Divided We Fall”, but also self-identified in the column as an “evangelical conservative”—not the kind of reviewer you’d think the paper would pick.

French’s review is a good one in both senses, though: it’s thorough and well written, and it’s positive about the book. It makes a good case for why Sullivan is, as French calls him, “one of America’s most important public intellectuals,” and surely one of its most readable and thoughtful journalists as well.

Except for his Catholicism, to which Sullivan clings resolutely in the face of reason, I read Sullivan weekly, and subscribe to his Substack website—for several reasons. First, he’s an excellent writer. Like Orwell, he eschews cant, writes simply but eloquently, and is always engaged with politics. (A journalist who writes with leaden words is hard to read!)  I like the fact that he’s fearless, going against the Zeitgeist on issues like Critical Race Theory and wokeness. And I like the fact that, unlike almost every journalist working, he admits when he’s wrong, as he did when he initially supported the Iraq war.

His writing on gay marriage was of immense importance in helping turn America around on this important issue, and, on other issues, Sullivan is constantly re-examining and re-asssessing his previous views. He was a big supporter of Biden and a big hater of Trump, and although he still rightly despises the Orange Man, he’s beginning to find flaws in Biden and his administration. His latest column is called “Biden’s Not-So-Great New Normal“, in which, though he praises Uncle Joe for his pandemic response, he faults him for his administration’s failure to do anything about the immigration crisis—yes, it is a crisis—and for the rising murder rate, which disproportionately affects African Americans.

Is Sullivan a conservative? I don’t really care. On some issues he’s taken conservative stands, on others liberal ones. What I like about him is that he makes me think, which is the job of a good journalist. (Don’t ask me about his enthusiasm for Herrnstein and Murray’s book The Bell Curve. I haven’t read the book nor followed Sullivan’s coverage of it.)

Click to read the piece: I’ll give just a few quotes from the review. Note, though, the somewhat snarky description of Sullivan in the picture caption. “Andrew Sullivan looking concerned.” Did they need to write anything there? It undercuts the seriousness of Sullivan’s views.

Some praise from French:

When he is right, he is right with the same intensity. In 2009, he could see the strategy and incentives of the modern Republican Party: “If you have safe Republican seats in a party dominated intellectually by rigid ideologues, then your path of least resistance is total political warfare.” Substitute “rigid commitment to Trump” for “rigid ideologues,” and you have the same dynamic today.

It’s hard for anyone to read Sullivan’s words and not feel provoked. However, he is no troll. He does not write for the purpose of inflicting pain. And even his most passionate arguments are thoughtfully delivered, deeply rooted in his philosophy and faith.

That seems to be a pretty accurate characterization, although I could do without the reliance on “faith”(see below).

And the final assessment:

When I reached the end of his book, I felt a sense of gratitude. I disagreed with Sullivan on many points (and I do wish he had reproduced one of his essays in support of the Iraq war), but for 32 years a thoughtful man has demonstrated the courage of his convictions and challenged his readers time and again.

This world is almost impossibly complex. Conventional wisdom is frequently wrong. No partisan side has a monopoly on truth. In these circumstances, a nation needs writers and thinkers who will say hard things, whose fearlessness gives you confidence that you’re hearing their true thoughts.

It’s not difficult to be a partisan bomb-thrower. Attacking the hated opposition to the roar of the home crowd can be lucrative and rewarding. Partisans who gird for cultural battle don’t want to have second thoughts. They don’t want to look in the mirror and ponder the sin on their own side. Yet in essay after essay, for decade after decade, Sullivan has been the man with the mirror. He’s held it up to a nation and culture that increasingly yield to authoritarian temptations and shouted: “Look at yourself. Look at what you’re becoming.”

Read “Out on a Limb” for the snapshots of recent history. Read it to better understand the many journeys of one of America’s most important public intellectuals. But most of all read this book to see what it looks like when a thoughtful man tries his best to tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may.

The last paragraph could be just one of many blurbs from the review that could go on the book cover.

As I said, my one abiding disagreement with Sullivan is his rather pious Catholicism, though he’s notably reluctant to say explicitly what part of Catholic dogma he accepts. Surely he believes that Jesus existed as a divine being, and saved us through his crucifixion and resurrection, but you’ll never hear it from his mouth. (Or at least I never have.) Does he belief in the afterlife, or in the transubstantiation? You got me. For a writer grounded in facts, he’s been eager to inhabit a warehouse full of mythology. Now that could have some good effects (perhaps Sullivan’s humility comes from his faith), but in the main his harping on religion only serves to justify a belief system based not on evidence but on wish-thinking.

One plaint in this area. A while back Sullivan wrote a column, Religion and the decline of democracy: We may miss it when it’s gone“, asserting that liberal democracy depends on Christianity and, should atheism prevail, America will go to ground. I was incensed enough not only to write a critical post about this thesis, but also forwarded an email to Sullivan’s site as a “dissent” (he regularly publishes readers’ criticism). My dissent, however, was ignored. Perhaps it was too long, but I think it countered Sullivan’s points well. I thought I’d posted it on this site, but couldn’t find it (it may be somewhere), so I reproduce it again (I added the supporting links in my email):

Dear Andrew,

I wanted to challenge you on a statement you made in last Friday’s Dish. In response to a reader’s question about whether you thought that “a resurgence of small ‘L’ liberalism is possible in an increasingly atheistic west”, and how it could be promoted, you said this:

. . . . the honest answer is: I don’t know whether liberalism can survive without some general faith in an objective reality and a transcendent divinity. That’s why I suspect a reinvention and reboot for Christianity is an urgent task.

I agree about the objective reality part—after all, modern liberalism and its program are closely wedded to real facts, not fake ones—but I don’t agree that liberalism needs a “transcendent divinity”. In fact, objective reality suggests the opposite: liberalism needs to reject the idea of gods.

I’ll leave aside the contradiction between believing there’s an objective reality and the assertion that there’s a “transcendent divinity”, much less a Christian one— claims about reality that have no empirical support. And I’ll only mention that many nonliberal positions, like anti-pro-choice and anti-gay views, are often seen and supported as God’s will.

Instead, I want to emphasize that the objective reality of the world is that the less religious a country or a state is, the more liberal it seems to be. Not only that, but the inhabitants are better off and happier.

There are now ample data showing a negative correlation among the world’s countries between belief in God and several indices of national well being—indices that comport with liberal goals. Measures of “successful societies”, incorporating 25 factors that make for healthier societies, are negatively correlated with religiosity among developed Western nations.  Income inequality across 67 countries is positively correlated with the frequency with which their inhabitants pray. The UN’s World Happiness Index, a measure of people’s subjective evaluation of their mental well being, is strongly negatively correlated with the average religiosity of a nation.

Granted, some of these data come from non-Christian countries, but most are Christian.

This also holds for states in the U.S.: the human development index, a measure of a state’s well being, is negatively correlated with the average religiosity of the 50 American states. Of course in America religiosity is Christian religiosity.

Over and over again—and this is a fact well known to sociologists—we find that the more religious a country is, the worse off it is. The five happiest countries in the world, for instance, are Finland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Switzerland—hardly Christian nations, with Scandinavia being for all purposes a den of atheists. And these countries, by all lights, are liberal, moral, and caring.

While the reason for these correlations aren’t clear, it’s not likely that religion itself promotes poverty, inequality, and unhappiness. Rather, it’s probable that, when the people of a country or state are not well off, and don’t feel cared for by their societies, they turn to religion as a palliative: the assurance that Someone Above will take care of things, now or after death. Although I’m not a Marxist, Marx may have gotten it right when he said, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

Whatever the cause, objective reality doesn’t support your claim that embracing transcendent divinities leads to more liberal societies. Rather, worse societies seem to become more religious, or retain more religion.

Fortunately, we do have a reinvention of Christianity. It isn’t a reboot, but surely suffices as a grounding for liberalism. It’s called secular humanism, and is the basis for all the happiest, most secure, and best-off societies in the world.

All the best,
Jerry Coyne

I thought that wasn’t bad, but it’s in the circular file. Still, it doesn’t diminish my desire to keep reading Sullivan (I’ve just asked our library to order his new book), nor even the affection I feel for him—an affection, I think, born of his sensitivity, his willingness to reveal a lot about himself as a person, and, above all, his willingness to re-examine his views and admit when he’s wrong—traits that appeal to a scientist.

Andrew Sullivan recommends going easy on China and letting them have Taiwan, all to reduce global warming

July 24, 2021 • 11:00 am

When I visited Tibet some years ago, it was painfully evident that China was trying to wipe out native Tibetan culture, replacing Tibetans with the dominant group, Han Chinese. Pictures of the Dalai Lama were outlawed, and Buddhism itself was being suppressed: monasteries closing, Han stores moving in, and so on.

The same thing, but on a larger and more brutal scale, is going on with another religious minority in China: the Uyghurs—a Muslim ethnic group living largely in the big province of Xinjiang. The Chinese are eliminating them in every way possible, including putting them in “reeducation camps” where they’re brainwashed out of their Islam and turned into Han Chinese. Although reports from these camps are hard to come by, they’re dire, with forced labor, punishments, brutality, and, as described in the second video below, torture. There are 6 million Uyghurs, and it’s estimated that a million of them—one in six—are living in the camps.

The Chinese are also imposing strict surveillance on Uyghurs, monitoring their phones with special apps, ensuring that they don’t own “dangerous” books like the Qur’an, tripling the security budget, and installing cameras everywhere that are programmed to identify faces. While there are no mass killings reported, this is in effect a cultural genocide, one described in the two videos below.

The first is from The Economist, and the second from Al Jazeera. The content is somewhat overlapping, but it’s well worth the 18 minutes of time to watch both of them. See what happens when a dictatorship decides to get rid of a minority that won’t be “assimilated” into the Han culture. Both Trump’s and Biden’s Secretaries of State have called this a “genocide.”

China, of course, denies nearly all of it: it’s all in the interest of peace and security, and the camps are there to provide Uyghurs with “job skills.” (Note that the Rohingya, another Muslim minority, are persecuted by Myanmar as well, but nothing near on the scale of China’s repression.)

 

So what can the U.S. do about this. We couldn’t do much about Tibet, though India has provided a refuge for the Dalai Lama, and we can’t do much about the Uyghurs, either.  Our impotence on this issue is the major topic of Andrew Sullivan’s new column in The Weekly Dish (click on screenshot to read; it should be free):

In view of China’s dictatorial system and genocidal intentions, what can we do? Sadly, Sullivan, at the expense of his own conscience, suggests that we practice Realpolitik: pragmatism. He does recognize China for what it is:

And what China truly is helps defuse some of the hysteria that demonizes America: China, not America, is a built on a racist (Han) supremacy. As Jonah Goldberg notes, China is far, far worse on “free speech, democracy, police abuse, racism, reproductive freedom, corporate greed, colonialism, and corruption.” What China does to the Tibetans and Uyghurs makes Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians (while lamentable) seem minor. Where is the BDS for China, one wonders?

Good question! What China is doing to the Uyghurs really is creating a genuine apartheid system, but of course Israel and not China is the Country of Demons.

And then Sullivan says things that disturb me, including writing off the vigorous country of Taiwan (Sullivan seems to think that a Chinese takeover is imminent) and ignoring what’s going on in Tibet. He has bigger fish to fry.

And no, Taiwan is not a vital US interest, and we shouldn’t pretend it is. Nor is there any conceivable way the American public would support a global war to defend an island on the other side of the world — a war which essentially every Pentagon war-game predicts we’d lose. We should, it seems to me, maintain a certain ambiguity about Taiwan, and stress to the Chinese the huge international blowback if it were to be the aggressor in such a conflict.

So Sullivan’s “solutions” involve, à la Gwynnie, conscious economic decoupling, calling attention to the Chinese use of forced or slave labor, asking us to boycott goods made with such labor (which may include products by the likes of Nike and Apple), and asking us to “shame them.” That’s right: shame both those companies and China:

We cannot prevent major US companies from becoming enmeshed with a totalitarian country; but we can shame them when they re-write their film scripts, or when they manufacture their products with slave labor, or when they distract from their enabling of real oppression with woke takes on “oppression” in America, or when they kowtow to China’s language police. It should be possible for there to be a revulsion at China’s model on both right and left in America. And Biden’s framing of our rivalry as one between a free society and a totalitarian one is a contrast that can also win converts abroad if we do not overplay our hand.

That will work in the U.S, since we have more of a moral backbone, but it will do jack for our relationship with China. None of Sullivan’s recommendations will do accomplish much except keeping U.S. companies from exploiting workers in other countries. As for making China our friend, fuggedaboutit. It’s like expecting the renaming of birds to have a serious effect on reducing racism.

Why is Sullivan so pessimistic? Well, by and large he’s right: China is a big and powerful country full of smart people, and its leadership is canny and has a plan. We’re just a minor impediment in their plan. But, it seems, the main reason Sullivan wants us to coddle China is—wait for it—we need their help to reduce global warming:

Unlike with the Soviets, we also have a global emergency we need China’s cooperation and help with: climate change. There is no longer any hiding of the fact that we are facing a global catastrophe, made much, much worse by China’s coal plants and breakneck growth. Without their signing off on drastic carbon reduction, we are all fucked. Similarly with one result of that climate change: a world which will likely endure ever more viral outbreaks of unknowable power, released as the ground thaws, species move, and temperatures gyrate. You can see the Covid disaster — and China’s key role in creating it — as a reason to cut them off, and isolate them. I understand that. But, given their technological capacities, how does this actually help us stymie the next plague?

Yes, we are facing a global catastrophe, and the savvy now admit it. And China has to pitch in if we’re to conquer it. But seriously, does Sullivan really think that if we go easy on China, and let them persecute the Uyghurs without protest and then hand Taiwan to them, they’ll be so well disposed toward America that they’ll take serious steps to reduce carbon emissions?  If you believe that, I have some land in Florida to sell you.

I’d like to hope that Sullivan is right. But I just can’t see it.