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.

Are we playing into the hands of the Right by criticizing the excesses of the Left?

June 29, 2021 • 11:15 am

A poll: Will wokeism hurt the Democrats in the midterms and in 2024?

June 11, 2021 • 12:20 pm

We haven’t had a poll in a while, and of course polls on this site aren’t scientific, because readers are hardly a cross section of America. But they are a cross section of readers—unless, of course, those prone to give answers have some biases. Actually, I do this for myself, just to see how readers feel.

This poll was inspired by an article sent by reader Barry and posted by Ben Cohen on his Substack site, The Banter. You’ll have to subscribe to read it (click below), but some of Cohen’s posts are free, so subscribe if you like them.


Cohen was inspired by this recent article in the NYT showing that “the party is at risk of losing ground with Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters unless it does a better job presenting an economic agenda and countering Republican efforts to spread misinformation and tie all Democratic candidates to the far left.” (You can read the original report by three groups here.)

But how can a party at war with itself, like the Democrats are now, “rebut Republican misinformation”? Every squabble between the center and “progressive” Left (I have to find a new adjective there) weakens party unanimity and causes Republicans on the sidelines to chuckle.

It turns out that, as many of us knew, identity politics and Wokeism are largely endeavors of white people on the progressive Left. Issues like “defunding the police” or drastically opening up the border don’t go down so well with voters of color, who are concerned largely with economic issues (who isn’t?)  Here are two quotes from Cohen’s piece:

The major issue with the identity politics movement is not necessarily the ideology itself. If you ignore the more militant aspects of it, there are many necessary, noble and good ideas embedded in it. From understanding structural racism to the complex issues faced by the LGBTQ community, identity politics can offer an interesting lens through which to examine them. The biggest problem though, is the right’s ability to magnify the extremist elements of the movement and unfairly tie the Democratic Party to it.

I don’t spend a huge amount of time talking about the identity politics left because it isn’t a dangerous movement like the far right is, and although influential, it is still relatively small. But if you follow the right wing media, you would be forgiven for thinking that Black Lives Matter was an offshoot of Al Qaeda, and Nancy Pelosi was ordering militant lesbian doctors to abort the fetuses of good Christian women around the country. The more mainstream identity politics gets, the more Republicans are able to use it as a rallying cry for their bigoted policies and distract voters from the good the Democrats are doing in office. Furthermore, it is helping Republican efforts to drive more conservative minorities away from the Democrats.

Cohen adds that of course the Democrats’ biggest problem isn’t the Woke among us, but Trumpism, which—despite my efforts to ignore it—appears to be waiting nearby in the wings, and still dominates the GOP. But the ruling political party tends to lose in the midterms, and our Democratic margin is already damn thin.

When Biden won, I worried that his administration would be too woke, and that that position would hurt the Dems down the line. It turns out that Biden isn’t that woke, and has been doing some pretty good stuff, but he’s always being pressured by the progressive  Authoritarian Left, and I wonder about his ability to withstand that pressure. (Pelosi’s presence helps.) We don’t want to lose the House and—Ceiling Cat forbid—the Senate in next year’s midterms.

Do you think the wokeness of the “progressive” wing of Democrats might turn the tide for the GOP? I have no definite opinion, but I worry.  So give your answer to the poll below and your explanation in the comments, please.

And yes, I know that Trump is a bigger danger than, say, “the squad,” so I needn’t be apprised of that.

Will the wokeism of the "progressive Democrats", or wokeism in general, hurt the Democrats in 2022 or 2024?

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Sullivan on Orwell on Language

June 5, 2021 • 11:00 am

George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” is one of my favorite essays of all time (you could do worse, though, than read all his collected essays, many of them masterpieces). It not only teaches one how to write clearly, but shows how political writers deliberately use obfuscation and euphemism to blur language for ideological ends, hiding political brutality and base motives. You can read it here, and should, like me, do so at least once a year. It will improve your prose. There’s a reason why Christopher Hitchens wrote a book called Why Orwell Matters in 2003.

Andrew Sullivan is also a fan of that essay, as all writers should be, and highlights it in one section of his weekly column (click on screenshot below). But he gives it a modern twist, showing how the kind of obscurantist writing decried by Orwell is still with us—pervasive in the works of the Woke.

Reviving Orwell’s thoughts in light of modern politics was a great idea. He’d have a few harsh words to say about the woke!

First, though, let’s look at the five principles of good writing Orwell lists at the end of his essay:

i. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

ii. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

iii. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

iv. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

v. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

vi. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Then Sullivan gives several abstracts of Woke writing that violate many of these guidelines. I won’t reproduce his critique at length (it’s pretty funny in parts), nor mention the other people who violate these principles (e.g., the group Sullivan calls the “alphabet people” obsessed with gender nouns).

Here’s one example of bad modern writing discussed by Sullivan:

I was just reading about the panic that occurred in the American Medical Association, when their journal’s deputy editor argued on a podcast that socio-economic factors were more significant in poor outcomes for non-whites than “structural racism.” As you might imagine, any kind of questioning of this orthodoxy required the defenestration of the deputy editor and the resignation of the editor-in-chief. The episode was withdrawn from public viewing, and the top editor replaced it with a Maoist apology/confession before he accepted his own fate.

But I was most struck by the statement put out in response by a group called “The Institute for Antiracism in Medicine.” Here it is:

The podcast and associated promotional message are extremely problematic for minoritized members of our medical community. Racism was created with intention and must therefore be undone with intention. Structural racism has deeply permeated the field of medicine and must be actively dissolved through proper antiracist education and purposeful equitable policy creation. The delivery of messages suggesting that racism is non-existent and therefore non-problematic within the medical field is harmful to both our underrepresented minoritized physicians and the marginalized communities served in this country.

Consider the language for a moment. I don’t want to single out this group — they are merely representative of countless others, all engaged in the recitation of certain doctrines, and I just want an example. But I do want to say that this paragraph is effectively dead, drained of almost any meaning, nailed to the perch of pious pabulum. It is prose, in Orwell’s words, that “consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house.”

It is chock-full of long, compounded nouns and adjectives, riddled with the passive voice, lurching and leaning, like a passenger walking the aisle on a moving train, on pre-packaged phrases to keep itself going.

Notice the unnecessary longevity: a tweet becomes an “associated promotional message.” Notice the deadness of the neologisms: “minoritized”, “marginalized”, “non-problematic”. As Orwell noted: “the normal way of coining a new word is to use a Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the -ize formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind (deregionalizeimpermissibleextramaritalnon-fragmentatory and so forth) than to think up the English words that will cover one’s meaning.” Go back and see if you can put the words “minoritized” or “non-problematic” into everyday English.

His second target is Ibram X. Kendi, who also comes in for it in Sullivan’s “Dissents of the Week” section for proposing a Department of Racism that could vet and reject any U.S. law on the grounds that it creates inequity. But you can read that for yourself. Here’s his critique of Kendi’s language:

I caught a glimpse of Ibram X. Kendi’s recent appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival, the annual woke, oxygen-deprived hajj for the left-media elites. He was asked to define racism — something you’d think he’d have thought a bit about. This was his response: “Racism is a collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity that are substantiated by racist ideas.” He does this a lot. He repeats Yoda-stye formulae: “There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy … If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist.” These maxims pepper his tomes like deep thoughts in a self-help book. When he proposes specific action to counter racism, for example, he suggests: “Deploy antiracist power to compel or drive from power the unsympathetic racist policymakers in order to institute the antiracist policy.” “Always vote for the leftist” is a bit blunter.

Orwell had Kendi’s number: “The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favourable to political conformity.” And that conformity is proven by the gawking, moneyed, largely white, Atlantic subscribers hanging on every one of this lightweight’s meaningless words — as if they really were in church.

You can tell from Sullivan’s snide remarks about the Aspen Ideas Festival—which I once attended—and about Atlantic subscribers that he’s pretty ticked off, and in good form.

So what do we do about this abuse of the English language? Sullivan recommends, correctly, that we call it out and ask for clarification:

And that is the only recourse an average citizen has when buried by this avalanche of abstraction: ask the language-launderers what they are really talking about. When some doofus apologizes for the “terrible pain” they have caused to the whatever community, ask them to give a specific example of that “pain.” When someone says “structural racism,” ask: what actual “structures” are you referring to? How do they actually work? Give concrete examples.

When someone calls American society “white supremacy”, ask them how you could show that America is not a form of “white supremacy”. When someone uses the word “Latinx”, ask them which country does that refer to. When someone says something is “problematic”, ask them to whom? When you’re told you’re meeting with members of the BIPOC or AANHPI communities, ask them first to translate and then why this is in any way relevant, and why every single member of those communities are expected to have the same opinion. And when you’re told that today is IDAHOBIT Day, ask them if you can speak to Frodo.

The term “structural racism” is my personal bugaboo, as it’s become a synonym for just “racism”, with the “structural” tacked on to add gravitas and a supposed intensity of malfeasance. But “structural” racism is racism built into some institution or structure, like laws or rules, not simple acts of bigotry. As for “pain,” well, I accept very few of these claims as accurate. “Pain” has become another word for “offense” or even “manufactured offense.”

But I will stop here lest I begin ranting, for Sullivan’s rant is enough. Read it.

Thomas Edsall on toxic wokeness and how it hurts the Left

May 27, 2021 • 10:30 am

As far as I can determine, New York Times political columnist Thomas Edsall is a classical centrist liberal. Nevertheless, like many of us, he’s worried that wokeness among Democrats, rife in the misnamed “progressive” wing of the Party, could spell disaster in our attempts to court centrist Americans. This is the subject of his weekly column in the Times (click on the screenshot to read):

First, some statistics showing where Americans sit on several issues that are “big” for progressives (all quotes are from Edsall unless indicated otherwise):

  • In 2019, the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group commissioned a survey asking for agreement or disagreement with the statement: “There are only two genders, male and female.”

    In the full sample, a decisive majority, 59 percent agreed, including 43 percent who “strongly agreed,” 32 percent disagreed and 9 percent who said they weren’t sure. Among Republicans, it was no contest, 78 percent agreed and 16 percent disagreed. Independents mirrored the whole sample.

    Democrats were split: a plurality, 48 percent, disagreed, and 44 percent agreed.

  • An August-September 2017 Pew Research survey asked respondents to choose between two statements: “whether a person is a man or a woman is determined at birth” and “whether a person is a man or a woman can be different from the sex at birth.”

    A 54 percent majority of all those surveyed said sex “is determined at birth” and 44 percent said it “can be different from the sex at birth.” Republican voters and those who lean Republican chose “at birth” 80 to 19. Democratic voters and those who lean Democratic said sex can be different from the sex at birth 64 to 34.

  • Or take the public’s view of the “defund the police” movement that gained momentum after the murder of George Floyd a year ago.

    March 1-2 USA Today/Ipsos Poll found that voters were opposed to defunding the police 58-18, with the strongest opposition among whites (67 percent to 13 percent support, the rest undecided) and Republicans (84 to 4 percent), while a plurality of Democrats were opposed (at 39 to 34), which was also true among African Americans (37 to 28).

  • These surveys are complemented by others that measure the fear that our public dialogue is too constricted. A Harvard/Harris survey in February asked, “Do you think there is a growing cancel culture that is a threat to our freedom or not?” By 64-36, a majority of voters said they thought there was. Republicans see a threat by 80-20; independents by 64-34, but Democrats were split, with a slight majority, 52-48, saying they do not see a threat. This basic pattern is observable across a number of issues.Although centrist Democrats make up a majority of the party in the polls I cited above, the fact that a substantial minority of Democrats takes the more extreme stance allows Republicans to portray the Democratic Party as very much in thrall to its more “radical” wing.

Now of course some of the “wokeness” is in a good cause. Transgender people need to be not just respected, but given, as far as possible, full equal rights under the law. Police violence, racist or not, needs a closer inspection. And more people than ever are living in fear that what they say publicly could lead to their eternal damnation (pushback is of course useful and legal, but things have gone way too far).

Before I show some of the statements collected by Edsall to support his thesis, here’s one in support of wokeness that deserves consideration:

Elizabeth Rose, a law student, argued, for example, in “In Defense of Cancel Culture” last year that “for all the condemnations on cancel culture as an un-American speech suppressing monster, I would argue that cancel culture is incredibly American.”

Cancel culture, she continued,

is essentially a boycott. It’s refusing to participate or support those that promote racist, homophobic, sexist, transphobic, or otherwise ignorant behavior. Protest is at the heart of this country and it shouldn’t be limited in the name of making already powerful people feel safer to spew ideas that are not tolerable in today’s society. Because exposure by millions is so easy now with social media, celebrities, rich, powerful, connected, and beautiful, can no longer get away with disrespecting human dignity. They are not being held to a higher standard for being a public figure, they are being held to the bare minimum.

The problem is not that one should not push back against statements you consider injurious or bigoted. The problem is twofold. First, the pushback is not just counter-speech, but an attempt to ruin the lives of those who say things you don’t like. It is, in other words, a lack of empathy and civility—the assumption.  More important, much of the wokeness that irritates people like me—and probably many centrists—is that it is performative: it doesn’t aim to improve social problems but, apparently, to highlight the virtue of the critic. This includes things like the demonstrations against “Kimono Wednesdays” at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the attack on a professor who used a Japanese phrase that sounded like the “n word” but was a common Chinese filler sound, the overreaction to supposed racial slights that weren’t really racial, like the one at Smith College, the demonization of “whiteness” that’s an essential part of much anti-racist training (training that’s proved to be largely ineffective), and (a non-performative example) the dismantling of standardized testing on the grounds that it reveals gaps between racial groups. If these things strike me as overreactions, and often risible, then they will strike people more centrist than I as even more ridiculous.

Note, too, that the Right engages in much of this bad behavior, as Nadine Strossen points out:

Nadine Strossen, professor emerita at New York Law School and former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote by email that she considers herself

a “bleeding-heart liberal” but even more important to me are the classic liberal values that are under siege from all sectors of the political spectrum, left to right, including: freedom of speech, thought and association; academic freedom; due process; and personal privacy.

As I always emphasize, the behavior of the Right is nearly always way more odious than that of the Left, but my interest is keeping Democrats in power, and to do that, as Edsall’s quotes attest, we need to dial down the more ludicrous forms of wokeness. Do you want Republicans to recapture the House and Senate in 2022?

More from Edsall:

In an article in March, “Why Attacking ‘Cancel Culture’ And ‘Woke’ People Is Becoming the G.O.P.’s New Political Strategy,” Perry Bacon Jr., formerly a senior writer at FiveThirtyEight and now a Washington Post columnist, described the ways that policies the Democratic left argued for provided political opportunities to the Republican Party:

First and perhaps most important, focusing on cancel culture and woke people is a fairly easy strategy for the G.O.P. to execute, because in many ways it’s just a repackaging of the party’s long-standing backlash approach. For decades, Republicans have used somewhat vague terms (“dog whistles”) to tap into and foment resentment against traditionally marginalized groups like Black Americans who are pushing for more rights and freedoms. This resentment is then used to woo voters (mostly white) wary of cultural, demographic and racial change.

Among the reasons Republicans will continue to adopt an “anti-woke posture,” Bacon writes, is that it

gives conservative activists and Republican officials a way to excuse extreme behavior in the past and potentially rationalize such behavior in the future. Republicans are trying to recast the removal of Trump’s accounts from Facebook and Twitter as a narrative of liberal tech companies silencing a prominent conservative, instead of those platforms punishing Trump for using them to “incite violence and encourage overturning the election results.”

Insofar as Republicans suppress Democratic votes, Bacon continued,

or try to overturn election results in future elections, as seems entirely possible, the party is likely to justify that behavior in part by suggesting the Democrats are just too extreme and woke to be allowed to control the government. The argument would be that Democrats would eliminate police departments and allow crime to surge if they have more power, so they must be stopped at all costs. Polls suggest a huge bloc of G.O.P. voters is already open to such apocalyptic rhetoric.

We’ve already discussed James Carville’s outspoken criticism of Wokeness in an interview at The Atlantic, but here are three other critics. First, Jon Haidt:

Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at N.Y.U., argued in an email that the policies the Democratic Party’s left wing is pushing are an anchor weighing down the party’s prospects:

Wokeness is kryptonite for the Democrats. Most people hate it, other than the progressive activists. If you just look at Americans’ policy preferences, Dems should be winning big majorities. But we have strong negative partisanship, and when people are faced with a party that seems to want to defund the police and rename schools, rather than open them, all while crime is rising and kids’ welfare is falling, the left flank of the party is just so easy for Republicans to run against.

And then Jonathan Rauch discusses why those opposed to more extreme wokeness don’t criticize it publicly. I think his reasons are quite good:

I asked Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at Brookings and the author of the new book “The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth,” about the lack of pushback, and he suggested a series of factors. [JAC: I’ve put in bold the ones I consider most important.]

  • “The younger generation (wrongly) perceives free speech as hazardous to minority rights.”

  • “The purist side has had more passion, focus and organization than the pluralist side.”

  • “Universities are consumeristic these days and very image-conscious, and so they have trouble withstanding pressure from their ‘customers,’ e.g., activist students.”

  • “The use of social pressure to manipulate opinion is a powerful and sophisticated form of information warfare. Anyone can be dogpiled in minutes for any reason, or no reason.”

  • “Activists have figured out that they can have disproportionate influence by claiming to be physically endangered and psychologically traumatized by speech that offends them.”

And Randall Kennedy (an African American):

Randall Kennedy, a law professor at Harvard and the author of the forthcoming book “Say It Loud! On Race, Law, History and Culture,” cited in an email a similar set “of reasons for the deficient response to threats against freedom of thought, expression and learning emanating from the left.”

His list:

“Woke” folk making wrongful demands march under the banner of “EQUALITY” which is a powerful and attractive emblem, especially in this George Floyd/Covid-19 moment when the scandalous inequities of our society are so heartbreakingly evident. On the campuses, many of the most vocal woke folk are students whom teachers and administrators want to mollify, comfort and impress. Many teachers and administrators seek desperately to be liked by students.

At the same time, Kennedy continued, many of the people demanding the diminution of what he sees as essential freedoms have learned how to package their insistence in effective ways. They have learned, Kennedy wrote, to deploy skillfully the language of “hurt” — as in “I don’t care what the speaker’s intentions were, what the speaker said has hurt my feelings and ought therefore to be prohibited.”

Because of this, Kennedy argued,

Authorities, particularly those at educational institutions, need to become much more skeptical and tough-minded when encountering the language of “hurt.” Otherwise, they will continue to offer incentives to those who deploy the specters of bigotry, privilege and trauma to further diminish vital academic, intellectual and aesthetic freedoms.

I would particularly emphasize the recurrent claims of “harm” or “danger”, claims that I often reject completely. Few of these clams involve actual harm; instead, nearly all involve having to encounter ideas you don’t like. And that is part of not just college education, but growing up in general. To call it “harm,” “danger,” or “injury” is ludicrous.

What’s the cure? Well, it’s to appeal to those who are open minded, and that excludes most Republicans. One of the few sensible courses of action I’ve seen is suggested by Diane Halpern, a psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College and former president of the American Psychological Association. (It would require a psychologist rather than a politician to make sensible suggestions, wouldn’t it?)

[Halpern] wrote in an email:

All social movements are a series of actions and reactions. For example, we can all agree that charges of sexual assault should be fair to all parties involved. But how does “fairness” get operationalized. The swing from policies that seem to favor the person being accused, then the reverse, then back again, and so on is mirrored in many other topics where people disagree. Action in one direction is followed by reaction in the other direction.

The difficulty, Halpern continued,

is to get people to find what they can agree upon and continue from that point. For example, most people will agree that they want humane treatment of migrants who are fleeing almost certain death in their home country, and we can agree that the United States cannot admit everyone who wants to live here. If conversations began with a shared set of goals, there will still be strong disagreements, but the tone will reduce some of the hostility both sides feel toward each other.

But, as Edsall notes, given the huge ideological gap between Republicans and Democrats, even this tactic may be futile. My suggestion would be the same one I give atheists who are sick of theocracy in America but don’t know what to do: “Speak up! There are many who feel like you, but are afraid to open their mouths. The more of us who express our feelings, regardless of how we’re demonized, the more the silent majority will stop being silent.”

This is one reason, I think, that religiosity has decreased so strongly in the last two decades, for that’s when people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Dan Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens started writing anti-theist books, empowering others to take up the cause. Now we need a similar spate of anti-Woke books, and by those on the Left. John McWhorter’s will be one of the first, though there are others by more conservative writers like Douglas Murray. Books like that one have good stuff in them, but are ignored by the Left simply because of the authors’ political leanings.

h/t: Greg Mayer

The Economist on the Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire

May 23, 2021 • 9:30 am

Reader Diana MacPherson sent a link to an Economist article with this note:

I subscribe to The Economist so I can read these articles which are often behind a paywall, which is a shame because I find The Economist to be one of the last true bastions of balanced journalism. Their Israel and Hamas coverage I find quite good. Here is their take on the ceasefire which I have put in a mediocre PDF since it’s behind a paywall. Note that they don’t pander to Hamas and talk about them as the ones who have ruined peace in the past.

Fortunately, the entire article is online; you can read it by clicking on the screenshot below. And Diana’s right in saying they don’t pander to Hamas and do indict them for ruining the peace. Still, I want to make a few tangential comments.

Excerpts from the article are indented. As you can see from the sub-headline and from the article’s last paragraph (below), they are not optimistic about the prospects for peace, nor am I. I predict six months as a maximum for the ceasefire.

Yet there were new elements to this round of violence. A wave of clashes between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel itself unnerved Mr Netanyahu. There are new types of pressure from abroad, too. Whereas President Joe Biden emphasised “Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself”, some fellow Democrats called for putting conditions on American aid to Israel.

But for now, none of that is likely to stop the cycle of violence. Israel and Hamas will come out of this battle much as they went in. Nothing has been gained; nothing has been resolved. And yet they are likely to do it again.

(Try this link if the screenshot below doesn’t work.)

Now my comments. First, on the casualty data:

THE FIGHTING lasted less than two weeks, but there was no shortage of explosions. By the end Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, had fired some 4,000 rockets at Israel. Most were intercepted by Israel’s missile defences. Israel responded with hundreds of air strikes on Gaza, a cramped enclave ruled by Hamas, which had no shield. More than 200 people were killed, all but 12 of them Palestinian.

This is pretty accurate: Hamas fired 4,360 rockets at Israel. Of these, 680 fell into Gaza, killing an unknown number of Palestinians who are surely included in the casualty totals. The Palestinian Health Ministry, which is run by Hamas, announced that a total of 243 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children (people under 18) and 39 women. The Health Ministry implies that the dead are all civilians, but that is dubious given the imbalance of sexes. Of the 177 adults killed, 138 were men (78%) and 39 (22%) were women. If these are truly civilian deaths, then there must be a severe sex-ratio imbalance in the Gaza population! More likely is that the male toll includes Hamas fighters. A separate fighting group, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) did announce that 19 of its fighters were killed by Israelis.

Thirteen Israelis were killed by Hamas, none of them members of the IDF (Israel does separate out military deaths from civilian deaths). While this disproportionality is used as a reason to indict Israel, that is somewhat misguided given the way “disproportionality is used in wartime, but I’ve discussed this before and won’t get into it here. I’ll only add what I said before: Palestine, like Israel, does have an Iron Dome to protect its civilians: the dome is the mantra “Don’t fire rockets at Israel.”


Since the Islamist group [Hamas] grabbed control of Gaza in 2007, the two sides have fought four wars and several smaller battles, costing thousands of lives (again, mostly Palestinian).

This refers not to a battle with Israel, but to the Fatah-Hamas battle for Gaza.  Remember that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 as a voluntary good-will gesture in connection with the Oslo Accords. PM Sharon also evicted 7,000 Jews from Gaza at that time, leaving it “Judenrein” (“Jew free”). The Jews didn’t want to leave, and many had to be physically carried out of their homes by Israeli soldiers, homes that were destroyed by the soldiers as well.  However, the agricultural and industrial infrastructure of Gaza, previously owned by Jews, was donated by Israel to Gaza and the Palestinians, who promptly destroyed this infrastructure simply because it was Jewish. Have people forgotten this?

As I said, the article doesn’t gloss over the actions of Hamas, including storing weapons at schools and hospitals and their use of human shields. I have just one more comment on one of its statements:

Both sides are content to leave Gaza a festering pit of misery that periodically erupts. Hamas’s control in some ways suits Mr Netanyahu, inasmuch as it weakens the Palestinian leadership and dims the prospect of a Palestinian state. Israel will still try to keep the group down, though. It and Egypt have kept Gaza under blockade since 2007, making it harder for Hamas to arm itself—and making life grim for ordinary Gazans. Restrictions on travel mean they cannot leave. The isolated, impoverished territory draws comparisons to an open-air prison.

Let’s be clear here: Israel is not depriving Gaza of food, medicine, or other amenities and necessities of life. The blockade, which is enforced by Israel and Egypt (Egypt is stricter!) is meant only to prohibit the importation into Gaza of weapons or of material that can be made into weapons. The EU, the UN, and many GMOs pour millions and millions of dollars into Gaza (more is coming soon), and if there is a reason for a grim life for ordinary Gazans, let us rememeber that much of that is due not to the blockade of weapons, but to the appropriation of donated money to build rockets, tunnels, and to line the pockets of corrupt Hamas officials. Those who continually indict Israel for turning Gaza into an “open-air prison” often seem to forget that this is largely due to the leadership of Gaza by Hamas.

Finally, my friend Malgorzata had a comment on the first sentence above: “Both sides are content to leave Gaza a festering pit of misery that periodically erupts.” Here’s what she wrote me:

This is simply stupid. Israel doesn’t want these eruptions. Israel would be happy if Gaza was a prosperous place with contented, productive people. That was the idea in 2005: a dream that Gaza would develop into “Singapore of the Middle East”. Israel still is helping Gazans not only with medical treatment of Gazans who need more specialized help, but also by training its doctors, and farmers, thinking up new crops they could export, and so on. It’s Hamas and PIJ, and Iran in the first place, who are happy with the misery in Gaza.

Israel and Palestine, take 3.

May 13, 2021 • 9:00 am

I have two pieces to call to your attention, one by Bari Weiss and the other an announcement by an anti Israel NGO (non-governmental organization) showing the carnage inflicted on Palestinians by their own rockets. (Hamas has now started launching guided suicide drones.)

First, Ms. Weiss:


Weiss begins her piece by saying that she’s writing from a fertility clinic. She and her partner Nellie are trying to have a baby with IVF, and she ends her column saying this:

The truth needs people who are willing to stand up for it. It needs people willing to publicly resist moral perversion and nihilism. People willing to fight for a sane future.

That’s why I’m writing this. And it’s why we’re trying to start a family.

I suppose this means they’re trying to create a family of truth-tellers, but of course you can’t control how your kids turn out, and even that reason seems a bit strange to me. Regardless, Weiss, who says she wept while writing the column, is distraught over what’s going on in Israel—especially the internecine violence, which, giving the lie to a touted intra-Israel harmony between citizen Arabs and Jews, also discombobulates me. In the meantime she weeps for the lies sweeping the world. Just an excerpt (she doesn’t let Israel off the hook, either); Weiss’s words are indented

As you may have gathered, this complicated truth about a tiny country surrounded by enemies making hard decisions about how to protect its citizens doesn’t sell. Hamas, its paymasters in Iran, and their allies in the Western press know this well, and are skilled in exploiting every piece of bad news about Israel’s actions that they can to promote The Narrative (™).

The Narrative (™) holds that all Hamas’s violence is the justified reaction to the original sin of Israel’s existence. That if Israel only withdrew to the 1967 borders, if only Israel abandoned settlements in the West Bank, if only Israel split Jerusalem in half, and so on and so forth, Hamas would cease launching rockets aimed at Israeli homes and schools.

The Narrative (™) insists that Israel is not just an oppressive force, but the last standing bastion of colonialism in the Middle East, white interlopers in a foreign land squatting on the rightful territory of brown people. Israelis are baby killers, they are racists, they are supremacists. And Zionists? What are we? We are the facilitators of all this evil.

Never mind the fact that most Israeli Jews are not of Eastern-European descent, but are from the Middle East and North Africa. (The history of Israel, despite what facile activists would have you believe, is not color-coded.) Never mind the fact that Zionism flourished in defiance of imperial British — and, in an earlier era, Ottoman — rulers.

Never mind the fact that Palestinian militants have regularly partnered with large, powerful nation-states in the region in an attempt to cripple Israel. Never mind that the Jewish people have an indigenous history in the land dating back thousands of years, and that most Israeli citizens came back to the Holy Land in the last century because nowhere else would have them.

None of that matters to The Narrative (™) — a story about good and evil that has taken thousands of years to perfect in which the Jewish people, and now the Jewish State, plays the role of villian.

When you grasp the depth of The Narrative (™) it makes sense to watch the way certain kinds of lies spread like wildfire. Among them, this popular meme, in which we are told that Israel is not a country:

Sarkeesian is a blithering idiot. But wait! There’s more!

Or this viral video, which has been viewed 14 million times and is a total fraud:

. . . Take five minutes and read Hamas’s charter. It insists that “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad” and that “there is no way out except by concentrating all powers and energies to face this Nazi, vicious Tatar invasion.”

. . . Nevertheless, The Narrative (™) rockets around the world, with influencers like Bella Hadid and Dua Lipa and Halsey, and progressive darlings like Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, Marc Lamont HillRashida Tlaib, and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, speaking in unison.

Even the smart celebrities are getting in on the action. Trevor Noah weighed in with this gem: “I just want to ask an honest question here. If you are in a fight where the other person cannot beat you, how much should you retaliate when they try to hurt you?”

Just so we have this straight: A country should accept a terrorist group launching deadly rockets at its civilian population because a comedian thinks that the terror group won’t win? If there was no Iron Dome, and more Israelis were killed by Hamas, would it be okay with the Noted Military Strategist Trevor Noah for Israel to . . . try to stop the rocket attacks? How many dead Israelis are necessary for a response to be OK? Did anyone have the temerity to tell America that we shouldn’t go after the Taliban or hunt Osama bin Laden after 9/11 because they had no realistic chance of destroying America?

. . . The world has gone Corbyn. Look online. When Andrew Yang, the frontrunner in the New York mayoral race, tweeted on Monday “I’m standing with the people of Israel,” AOC rallied the online hordes. The anodyne statement was, she said, “utterly shameful,” and the pile-on ensued. By Wednesday, Yang had all but apologized. The ratio is the new veto. How pathetic.

. . . . If you can’t stomach the whole thing —  there is a part about how the Jews were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and control the media — watch this clip from last week of a senior Hamas official asking Palestinians to go out and buy five-shekel knives to chop off Jewish heads:


How come the Western media doesn’t publicize things like this? You don’t hear senior Israeli officials announcing imminent decapitations of Palestinians with cheap knives (5 shekels is about $1.50). But never mind—Palestinians have a right to call for decapitations because they’re oppressed. And we all know about the Jew hatred and Israel-destruction taught to Palestinian children from the time they are very young. They don’t do that in Israel. But never mind—Palestinians have a right to teach hatred and murder because they’re oppressed. (Perhaps Dr. King should have taken a lesson from Gaza!)

And one more piece, which shows that many people, including the dead children invariably imputed to IDF activities in news reports, are actually caused by malfunctioning Hamas rockets. This comes from an Israeli website reporting verbatim on news put out by an NGO (Defense for International Children Palestinian [DICP]) which is against Israel.

Defense for Children International-Palestine, an extraordinarily anti-Israel NGO which has made bald-faced lies in the past, has unwittingly proven that most of the children killed in Gaza so far have been killed by Hamas – and others are killed because they are human shields. A quote from the Israeli site which you can verify on the DICP site):

An Israeli drone-fired missile killed 15-year-old Mohammad Saber Ibrahim Suleiman shortly after 6 p.m. while he and his father Saber Ibrahim Mahmoud Suleiman were on their agricultural land outside the city of Jabalia, according to documentation collected by Defense for Children International – Palestine. Father and son were both killed instantly. Mohammad’s body was subsequently transferred to the Indonesian hospital in Jabalia where doctors reported there were shrapnel wounds throughout his body.
Mohammad’s father was reportedly a commander in Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, a Palestinian armed group and the armed wing of Hamas, according to information collected by DCIP.
Mohammad was a human shield for his father. But what DCI-P admits next is amazing
In a second incident around 6:05 p.m., initial investigations suggest a homemade rocket fired by a Palestinian armed group fell short and killed eight Palestinians, including two children. The rocket landed in Saleh Dardouna Street near Al-Omari Mosque in Jabalia, North Gaza, according to evidence collected by DCIP. Mustafa Mohammad Mahmoud Obaid, 16, was killed in the blast, and five-year-old Baraa Wisam Ahmad al-Gharabli succumbed to his injuries around 11 p.m. on May 10.
Palestinian security sources and explosives experts indicated the cause of this explosion was a Palestinian armed group rocket that fell short. Another 34 Palestinian civilians were injured in the blast, including 10 children, according to DCIP’s documentation. 
Eight killed and 34 injured from one Hamas rocket.
Palestinian media reports 17 Palestinian children killed by Israel’s strikes. The totals above include 13 children killed by Hamas rockets. Were these counted as Israeli casualties?
And then:
Six Palestinian children and two adults were killed in a third blast that occurred around 6 p.m. in Beit Hanoun about 800 meters (2,600 feet) west of the Gaza Strip perimeter fence. Those killed included Rahaf Mohammad Attalla al-Masri, 10, and her cousin Yazan Sultan Mohammad al-Masri, 2; brothers Marwan Yousef Attalla al-Masri, 6, and Ibrahim Yousef Attalla al-Masri, 11; as well as Hussein Muneer Hussein Hamad, 11, and 16-year-old Ibrahim Abdullah Mohammad Hassanain, according to information collected by DCIP. When the blast occurred, members of the al-Masri family were reportedly harvesting wheat in the field outside their home, and their children were playing nearby, according to information collected by DCIP.
DCIP has not yet confirmed the cause of these deaths. At the time of the incident, Israeli drones and warplanes were reportedly overhead and Palestinian armed groups were firing homemade rockets towards Israel. DCIP continues to investigate these incidents to determine and identify the responsible parties.
The deaths of the al-Masri family was already confirmed by Israel on Tuesday as being from Hamas rockets. There was clearly no military target and Israel doesn’t randomly target a family – Israel diverts rockets when it sees children in the area, and they were outside.

Do not get me wrong: these are tragedies—self-inflicted ones, to be sure—but none the less tragic for that. The point is that all this misery then gets blamed directly on Israel, and finds its way into the Western media and the Internet.

Just remember, when people come on the internet, or make pronouncements like those of Trevor Noah or Anita Sarkeesian, more likely that not they know very little about what’s going on in Israel and almost nothing of the history of that country. (Alternatively, they could be ideologically blinkered.) I can’t say I’m an expert myself, but I do try to keep up. All I can say now, though, is that Israel has every right to defend itself against rockets from Gaza, but that one possible solution (a ground invasion of Gaza) seems untenable, while quashing an internecine civil war between Israeli citizens seems impossible. It’s ineffably sad that Israeli Jews and Arabs who once considered themselves friends and neighbors are now beating each other up and killing each other.

(h/t: Malgorzata)

Reader discussion: Biden’s speech

April 29, 2021 • 9:00 am

If you listened to Joe Biden’s address to Congress last night, you know that he proposed sweeping (and expensive) governmental plans, which he proposes to finance with taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

Here’s a video of the full speech:

Among his proposals are these, as outlined by the New York Times:

What he’ll do:

The “American Families Plan,” as he called his latest, $1.8 trillion proposal, would follow the “American Rescue Plan,” a $1.9 trillion package of spending on pandemic relief and economic stimulus that he has already signed into law, and the “American Jobs Plan,” a $2.3 trillion program for infrastructure, home health care and other priorities that remains pending.

The families plan includes $1 trillion in new spending and $800 billion in tax credits. It would finance universal prekindergarten for all 3- and 4-year-olds, a federal paid family and medical leave program, efforts to make child care more affordable, free community college for all, aid for students at colleges that historically serve nonwhite communities and expanded subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

The plan would also extend key tax breaks included as temporary measures in the coronavirus relief package that benefit lower- and middle-income workers and families, including the child tax credit, the earned-income tax credit, and the child and dependent care tax credit.

Paying for it:

To pay for that, the president proposed increasing the marginal income tax rate for the top 1 percent of American income earners, to 39.6 percent from 37 percent. He would increase capital gains and dividend tax rates for those earning more than $1 million a year. And he would eliminate a provision in the tax code that reduces capital gains on some inherited assets, like vacation homes, that largely benefits the wealthy.

He also noted that he exceeded his campaign promise vis-à-vis inoculations, helping get more than 200 million Americans vaccinated in his first hundred days in office.

And although Biden still made noises about being a “unifying” President, I think we all recognize that he’s given up on that. And rightly so, because the Republicans are absolutely intransigent.

Over at CNN, 13 of the 15 commenters rated his speech either an A or a B (the two dissenters, giving him a D for substance, are Republicans or worked for Republicans). Here’s what David Gergen, who gave Biden an A, said:

Can Biden Measure up to FDR and LBJ?

Only twice before in history has an American president done what Joe Biden did tonight: issue a clarion call for a transformation of the nation’s social safety net.

Franklin Roosevelt was the first to envision a strong, impenetrable safety net that would protect citizens from cradle to grave. That was the essence of his first 100 days after his election in 1932. Inspired by Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson chose his first congressional speech as the forum for laying the groundwork for his Great Society programs after his 1964 election.

But can Biden be as successful? He certainly gave one of his most effective speeches tonight. For the first 40 minutes of his address, he laid out a menu of delights for the middle class that will surely be popular. His arguments for his plans were well crafted and deftly delivered.

But there is one crucial difference between Biden and his predecessors, Roosevelt and Johnson: those two men began the fight with far more political strength in Congress. Roosevelt’s Democrats held 59 of 96 Senate seats and 313 House of 432 House seats when he was first elected. And coming off a landslide election, Johnson commanded 68 Senate seats and 295 House seats. Biden, by contrast, holds congressional power by a thread.

It is also a fair question whether the price tag for the President’s plans — about $6 trillion in total — is so towering that public support will wane over time. For now, Biden holds the upper hand with the American people. Whether he can keep it may well determine whether he will join Roosevelt and Johnson in the Democratic pantheon.

My own opinion; it was a very good speech, aimed at the average American (I won’t assign a grade)—ambitious for the country but not self-aggrandizing for the man. Biden radiated compassion and empathy.  It was thus a hugely refreshing change from our previous “President”. I am not in the tax bracket that will be asked to pay more, but if I were, I would, and I’d be willing to pay more taxes even now (I note that I’m not strapped for cash). I still worry that Biden will be coopted by the Woke, but compared to Trump, that’s a minor worry, and I count on the rational to reign him in. (Perhaps that’s a vain hope.)

As for the impact of the enormous spending and taxing required, it’s always popular to finance stuff by calling for taxes on the rich and on corporations. Whether this will affect the economy as a whole is beyond my pay grade.

Oh, one more worry. Given that much of this legislation may require 60 votes in the Senate—votes that Biden doesn’t have—can this actually be accomplished? It cannot all be done by executive order, you know.

But I am neither a politician nor a pundit, and the purpose of this post is to ask readers to discuss the speech, how they feel about it, and any worries they have about how the new administration is going. Comments should go below.

James Carville is worried about the Democrats’ message

April 28, 2021 • 1:30 pm

Ceiling Cat bless the bald pate of James Carville and the gray matter it conceals!  One thing you can count on with Carville is that he doesn’t mince words, and while you may not agree with him, you always know where he stands. In this new Vox interview, cited in Bari Weiss’s column I posted about earlier, Carville is worried about the Democratic Party and its message. If you say, as interviewer Sean Illing does, “Well, we won the Senate, the White House, and Congress, didn’t we?”, Carville will reply like this:

James Carville

We won the White House against a world-historical buffoon. And we came within 42,000 votes of losing. We lost congressional seats. We didn’t pick up state legislatures. So let’s not have an argument about whether or not we’re off-key in our messaging. We are. And we’re off because there’s too much jargon and there’s too much esoterica and it turns people off.

Click on the screenshot to read:

Carville is high on Biden and what he’s done, but he thinks that wokeness and academic-style jargon is turning off parts of the electorate that the Democrats need. A few of his examples:

Sean Illing

Part of the issue is that Republicans are going to paint the Dems as cop-hating, fetus-destroying Stalinists no matter what they say or do. So, yeah, I agree that Democrats should be smart and not say dumb, alienating things, but I’m also not sure how much control they have over how they’re perceived by half the country, especially when that half lives in an alternate media reality.

James Carville

Right, but we can’t say, “Republicans are going to call us socialists no matter what, so let’s just run as out-and-out socialists.” That’s not the smartest thing to do. And maybe tweeting that we should abolish the police isn’t the smartest thing to do because almost fucking no one wants to do that.

Here’s the deal: No matter how you look at the map, the only way Democrats can hold power is to build on their coalition, and that will have to include more rural white voters from across the country. Democrats are never going to win a majority of these voters. That’s the reality. But the difference between getting beat 80 to 20 and 72 to 28 is all the difference in the world.

So they just have to lose by less — that’s all.

Note that the tweet about abolishing the cops comes from the odious and anti-Semitic Rashida Tlaib:

I don’t get the “lose by less” trope, for the Electoral College is basically an all-or-none affair, so if Democrats loss by less in Republican states (all but two states have a winner-take-all system), it makes no difference for the Presidency. Someone can enlighten me here.


James Carville

Honestly, if we’re just talking about Biden, it’s very difficult to find something to complain about. And to me his biggest attribute is that he’s not into “faculty lounge” politics.

Sean Illing

“Faculty lounge” politics?

James Carville

You ever get the sense that people in faculty lounges in fancy colleges use a different language than ordinary people? They come up with a word like “Latinx” that no one else uses. Or they use a phrase like “communities of color.” I don’t know anyone who speaks like that. I don’t know anyone who lives in a “community of color.” I know lots of white and Black and brown people and they all live in … neighborhoods.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with these phrases. But this is not how people talk. This is not how voters talk. And doing it anyway is a signal that you’re talking one language and the people you want to vote for you are speaking another language. This stuff is harmless in one sense, but in another sense it’s not.

There’s more, but you should read it for yourself. As for what Carville suggests, well, he’s mainly trying to raise the problem rather than solve it, but he does suggest some approaches. One involves livening up discourse about climate change: fewer boring stats and more slogans. And hit Republican miscreants as hard as they hit the Democrats (his example is to pay more attention to the Right storming the Capitol). As he says (my emphasis):

Sean Illing

There’s a philosophy on the left right now, which says the Democrats should pass everything they possibly can, no matter the costs, and trust that the voters will reward them on the back end.

Where do you land on that?

James Carville

First of all, the Democratic Party can’t be more liberal than Sen. Joe Manchin. That’s the fact. We don’t have the votes. But I’ll say this, two of the most consequential political events in recent memory happened on the same day in January: the insurrection at the US Capitol and the Democrats winning those two seats in Georgia. Can’t overstate that.

But the Democrats can’t fuck it up. They have to make the Republicans own that insurrection every day. They have to pound it. They have to call bookers on cable news shows. They have to get people towrite op-eds. There will be all kinds of investigations and stories dripping out for god knows how long, and the Democrats should spend every day tying all of it to the Republican Party. They can’t sit back and wait for it to happen.

Hell, just imagine if it was a bunch of nonwhite people who stormed the Capitol. Imagine how Republicans would exploit that and make every news cycle about how the Dems are responsible for it. Every political debate would be about that. The Republicans would bludgeon the Democrats with it forever.

So whatever you think Republicans would do to us in that scenario, that’s exactly what the hell we need to do them.

Now I suspect a lot of readers will disagree about Carville’s diagnosis. The part about wokeness, though, resonates with me. The fact is that the vaunted “Blue Wave” just didn’t appear in the last elections, and the midterms in two years  historically represent a loss of power for the ruling party. We do have cause to worry and we should, as Carville notes, be speaking Yiddish rather than Hebrew.

A call to optimism from Glenn Loury

April 21, 2021 • 1:30 pm

From City Journal we have a short piece (an edited version of a talk) by Brown economist Glenn Loury, who is of course African-American.  Here he makes the case that although the Woke and extreme Left often seem to vilify America, black Americans should recognize not only the progress they’ve made, but also join in with all Americans in helping improve the country, which he sees as a beacon of liberty. I guess this is all done in the cause of comity and racial harmony, though I suspect that people like Ibram Kendi and Ta-Nehisi Coates would disagree. (Nobody, least of all me, thinks we’re perfect, or the best country in the world!)

Click on the screenshot to read.

Three excerpts and one comment:

The thesis:

There is a fashionable standoffishness characteristic of much elite thinking about blacks’ relationship to America—as exemplified, for instance, by the New York Times’s 1619 Project. Does this posture serve the interests, rightly understood, of black Americans? I think that it does not.

Indeed, a case can be made that the correct narrative to adopt today is one of unabashed black patriotism—a forthright embrace of American nationalism by black people. Black Americans’ birthright citizenship in what is arguably history’s greatest republic is an inheritance of immense value. My answer for black Americans to Frederick Douglass’s famous question—“Whose Fourth of July?”—is, “Ours!”

Is this a venal, immoral, and rapacious bandit-society of plundering white supremacists, founded in genocide and slavery and propelled by capitalist greed, or a good country that affords boundless opportunity to all fortunate enough to enjoy the privileges and bear the responsibilities of citizenship? Of course, there is some warrant in the historical record for both sentiments, but the weight of the evidence overwhelmingly favors the latter. The founding of the United States of America was a world-historic event by means of which Enlightenment ideals about the rights of individual persons and the legitimacy of state power were instantiated for the first time in real institutions.

African slavery flourished at the time of the Founding, true enough. And yet, within a century of the Founding, slavery was gone and people who had been chattel became citizens of the United States of America. Not equal citizens, not at first. That took another century. But African-descended Americans became, in the fullness of time, equal citizens of this republic.

After listing some of the successes of black Americans, Loury issues his call to action—or at least a call to civil debate:

The central issue, then, is a question of narrative. Are we going to look through the dark lens of the U.S. as a racist, genocidal, white supremacist, illegitimate force? Or are we going to see it for what it has become over the course of the last three centuries: the greatest force for human liberty on the planet? This conflict of narratives is worth arguing about—with Ta-Nehisi Coates; with Colin Kaepernick; with the Black Lives Matter activists; with the officials who will exercise power in the Biden administration; and with the editorial staff of the New York Times. The narrative we blacks settle upon about the American project is fundamentally important to our nation’s future.

This is a debate that I’m not sure I can adjudicate as I’m neither black nor a historian. But I will point out one odd thing that Loury says, which I’ve put in bold.

In the last 75 years, a vast black middle class has developed. There are black billionaires. The influence of black people on the culture of America is stunning and has global resonance. Some 40 million strong, black Americans are the richest and most powerful population of African descent on the planet. There are 200 million Nigerians, and the gross national product of Nigeria is just about $1 trillion per year. America’s GNP is over $20 trillion a year, and we 40 million African-Americans have claim to roughly 10 percent of it. We have access to ten times the income of a typical Nigerian. What is more, the very fact that the cultural barons and elites of America—who run the New York Times and the Washington Post, who give out Pulitzer Prizes and National Book Awards, who make the grants at the MacArthur Foundation and run the human resources departments of corporate America—have bought in to the new woke racial sensibility hook, line, and sinker gives the lie to the pessimism that the American dream doesn’t apply to blacks. It most certainly and emphatically does apply, and it is coming to fruition daily.

It seems strange that Loury touts the ubiquity of the “woke racial sensibility” as a sign of progress for blacks when he intensely dislikes the woke racial sensibility. Yes, I can see the point that wokeness affecting the Powers that Be might be a sign that those Powers don’t intend to impede the African-American route to equality. But Loury also thinks (or so I suspect) that the woke sensibility isn’t only impotent at helping blacks, but actually impedes their progress. That’s because, if I read the man right, he thinks Wokeness is not only largely performative, and doesn’t really help people fulfill the American dream, but is also divisive and patronizng, and in that way makes the American dream recede. After all, wasn’t it Loury who fuliminated against watering down mathematics so it would be less “white” (i.e., less rigorous)? If competency in math is part of the American Dream, as it was for Loury, then wokeness isn’t doing jack for it.

Read the bit in bold as you will.