Monday, April 23, 2018

Term Limited Roundup

My last class meeting is on Wednesday. After that (and grading finals), I'm free of teaching obligations for the next two (two!) years. All I have to do in that time is write a dissertation. Should be easy-peasy!

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I've been meaning to share this outstanding essay by C. Thi Nguyen on "echo chambers", and how we discount information from "the other side", for some time now. It's really, really good.

Several Labour MPs, including Luciana Berger, give heart-wrenching descriptions of the antisemitism they continue to face in British society. J.K. Rowling comes in with an assist (though the article doesn't link to her best moment).

Great conversation in Slate by several Black writers about being Black in White spaces in America. Starbucks, Waffle Houses, golf courses .....

J Street is the future of Democratic Party pro-Israel work. How do I know? Because on the one hand, Ben Cardin was welcome there, despite being a high-profile opponent of the Iran Deal and a backer of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. And on the other hand, Ben Cardin's message at J Street was basically in line with the broader progressive Zionist camp. Those who want to keep excluding J Street from the pro-Israel camp do so at their own peril.

The L.A. Times has an interesting piece on Latinos joining the Border Patrol (note: Border Patrol and ICE are distinct agencies). The Border Patrol either is now or soon will be majority Latino in personnel.

You know you're spending too much time following American antisemitism when a new story breaks about an antisemitic professor at Knox College and you're like "I bet I know who!" (my guess was "the guy who said that Michael Twitty wants 'to be everything but [his] African sel[f]' because Twitty is a Black Jew". I guessed right).

Sarah Jones interviews Michael Kimmel on deradicalization and reintegration of former White Supremacists. Also apropos: San Francisco anti-racism trainings that are for White Men only. Good example of "owning your shit" and not demanding that POCs serve as educators, or bad example of White Fragility and refusal to tolerate discomfort? You decide.

Are the Koch-brothers (the famous right-libertarian billionaires pumping money into academia and think tanks) spearheading a new insertion of paleo-con anti-Israel ideology back into the political right?

Two interesting pieces on Mizrahi Jews and the ongoing failure to fully grapple with their differentiated history vis-a-vis European/Ashkenazi Jews. The first centers on the documentary series "The Ancestral Sin", regarding how Mizrahi Jews were systematically marginalized by bigoted (largely secular) bureaucrats in Israel's early days. The second is a call for Mizrahi Jews to be given an equal seat at the table in Jewish conversations today.

Don't Take My Word For It: Listen To Natalie Portman

I have a new column in Haaretz on Natalie Portman's refusal to share a platform with Bibi Netanyahu at the Genesis Prize ceremony, while simultaneously disavowing support for BDS.

The radical, cutting, never-before-heard thesis is that "We should listen to Natalie Portman when she says that her refusal to share a platform with Bibi Netanyahu does not mean she supports BDS."

If that doesn't seem all that radical to you, you perhaps haven't encountered men on the internet when a woman expresses an opinion. Because it seems like everyone -- pro- and anti-BDS alike -- is racing to tell (Harvard-educated, deeply invested in Israel) Natalie Portman that she actually doesn't understand the content of her own political position.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Nuke Jersey! (In the Best Way)

I am a big booster of nuclear power. It's probably the single issue I've moved furthest on over the past five years (from "not caring about it one way or the other" to "big booster"). The reason is simple: nuclear power (which is carbon emission-free) is an essential part of moving to deep decarbonization in the electricity sector, and deep decarbonization in the electricity sector is essential to stopping global warming.

On this score, recent (good) news out of New Jersey provides a compelling illustration. A new energy package offers subsidies that will keep nuclear power plants operational for the foreseeable future, while also supporting new renewable power resources. Why does that matter? Well, consider the alternative we're witnessing in Ohio and Pennsylvania:
[T]here are four nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania that are slated to close prematurely. Last week, the research consultancy Brattle Group released a report analyzing the impact of those retirements, which are all taking place in the PJM regional energy market. 
The results are startling. Closing those four nuclear plants would wipe out the carbon emissions benefits of all the renewable energy installed in the PJM energy market in the past 25 years
Simply replacing the lost nuclear power with renewable energy would cost $2 billion a year, and that enormous investment would not replace or prevent any fossil fuel generation.
The emphasis is mine, but read it again. In terms of carbon emission cuts, losing nuclear power is equivalent to losing 25 years worth of renewable energy installation. Without these nuclear plants, just getting back to even (not replacing any new fossil fuel plants) would cost $2 billion/year.

If the nuclear plants in New Jersey closed, the same thing would happen. New renewable installations would simply be replacing lost nuclear energy -- which means no net reduction in carbon emissions. With the nuclear plants still operating, by contrast, new renewable resources will knock out natural gas plants -- providing a genuine reduction in carbon emissions.

As the linked article concedes, the New Jersey package isn't policy optimal (a carbon pricing scheme would be best). But given politically feasible options, it isn't bad. Importantly, when states treat nuclear power as a linchpin of deep decarbonization, that's a major net win for climate policy hawks.

So kudos, New Jersey. Nuke away.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Paul Ryan's Last Call

Paul Ryan only has a limited time left on Congress. If there are amends to be made, it's time for him to make them now. Priorities that haven't been passed? Time to push them through. And so what is foremost on Paul Ryan's mind right now? What does he envision as his congressional swan song?
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) aims to pass another massive tax cut this summer, which Republicans hope will rev up the GOP base and improve the standing of Republicans at the polls
Of course. A fitting end for a man who, above all else, favored gutting social programs in order to engage in massive upward redistribution of wealth to the most affluent Americans.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

When Will Republicans Turn On Trump?

The answer is "never". Or at least, never so long as they're in the majority. But I still would just bank on "never".

Of course there will be exceptions. But when it comes to the main bodies of the Republican Party -- basically, elected politicians, party officials, and of course, Fox News -- I'll stand by that answer.

Every once in awhile, someone will post about the latest development of some Trump scandal and say "this is the beginning of the end of the Trump administration". What makes it different? It varies.

  • It might be that the investigators leading the charge are unquestionably non-partisan, or even registered Republicans themselves;
  • It might be that the scandal implicates some issue area allegedly near-and-dear to the GOP base (e.g., a sex scandal turning off religious conservatives);
  • It might simply be that the findings are just too explosive to ignore.
So let me make it clear: It won't happen. There is no amount of Trump malfeasance that will cause Republicans to turn on him en masse. A murmured word of caution here, a "ill-chosen words" there, but that's it. That's the lesson of the past several years -- I have no idea where anyone gets misplaced optimism that something just has to change as things get worse.

If the investigators are Republican -- guess what? Now they're "the deep state"! If it seems to impact the GOP base's precious moral values -- forgiveness is limitless (if you think GOP conservatives actually care about family values in any context where it isn't smashing gay couples, I have a bridge to sell you). 

If it threatens basic notions of national security, electoral integrity, or core American values -- well, we're getting a crash course in just how little the Republican Party and its various apparatchiks care about those things. Which is to say -- virtually nil.

The only way this might change is if they're punished sufficiently at the ballot box (among the most disastrous consequences of the 2016 election was that it taught Republicans that limitless brinksmanship, conspiracy-peddling, and open racism would not be punished by the electorate). At which point it would be moot anyway. But I suspect even in the minority the GOP will continue backing Trump to the hilt -- investigations are witch-hunts, oversight is government propaganda, hearings are grandstanding.

Don't depend on the GOP to turn on Trump. They won't. They're his. And so right now, if you ride with the GOP, you ride with Trump.

Monday, April 16, 2018

If Only The Holocaust Weren't So Jewy

First, an employee at the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam was told to stop wearing a kippah -- on the grounds that it might violate the museum's "neutrality" policy (neutrality as to what? Between having Jews and not having them?).

Then, a Quebec parliamentarian attacked a Jewish colleague for wearing (you guessed it) a kippah ... on Holocaust Remembrance Day (did you guess that part, wise guy?). The aggrieved legislator complained (I swear I'm not making this up) that it was unfair for the Jewish man to wear a kippah in session when he wasn't allowed to wear his political party's lapel pin.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

A New Environment Roundup

We're closing the political theory term with a unit on ecologism/environmentalism. In honor of that, a roundup that includes nothing on that topic whatsoever:

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C. Thi Nguyen explains how echo chambers are like cults. The problem isn't lack of competing information per se, the problem is that the echo chamber has built-in narratives for why alternative information sources aren't trustworthy and can be discounted.

Eric Ward is interviewed by Tikkun on the subject of identity politics.

We often talk about a "free speech crisis" on liberal college campuses. But there are a slew of avowedly right-wing (generally Christian) universities that barely pretend to allow for a diversity of opinions on campus.

ICE's Philadelphia office seems out of control.

Two British intellectuals (one whom served on the Chakrabarti inquiry, no less) give a history of antisemitism on the British left -- one that by no means starts with Jeremy Corbyn.

As teachers walk out in Kentucky in a push for higher wages, Governor Matt Bevin (R) blames them for exposing children to drugs, sexual assault, and violence. You'd think if teachers were that important -- not just responsible for educating youth, but also the sole bulwark against them being physically and sexually abused -- they'd be worth paying more.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Syrian Kids Are Still Good Enough To Kill For, Not Good Enough To Save

We continue to make that abundantly clear.

Military interventions in Syria are a complicated issue on which reasonable minds can disagree. But one cannot justify military strikes on Syria on the basis of the ghastly human rights atrocities being perpetrated there and then only admit less than a dozen Syrian refugees into the United States (thus far this year).

Our policies with respect to immigration and refugee rights continue to be complete and utter disgraces.