Saturday, January 23, 2021

Coming Not To Praise Sheldon, But To Bury Him

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's eulogy for Sheldon Adelson doesn't mince words: It's titled "I hate everything Sheldon Adelson loved about Israel". A taste:

Adelson loved Israel and contributed much to a variety of Israeli organizations. And yet, which Israel did he love? Adelson loved an Israel that expels Palestinians from areas under our control. He stated this explicitly on a number of occasions.

Adelson loved an Israel that ignores its Arab citizens and refuses to recognize their equal rights. Adelson believed in a right-wing, nationalistic and fundamentalist Israel, though he himself was not a religious person. He also thought that if Israel had nuclear capability, it should use this power against Iran.

Adelson contributed to public discourse in Israel by fueling hatred toward elements that did not identify with the extreme Right, and that were unwilling to bear the dominance of settlers and their supporters.


Sheldon loved an Israel that most of the residents living here don’t even want. He preached a racism that is inimical to us. He supported discrimination against Arabs, which we are definitely not prepared to go along with. He hated leftists, and did his utmost to make Israeli society fractious. He encouraged internal disputes and rivalries among ourselves, even though he himself didn’t live here.

Everything he loved, I hate.

Everything I love about Israel has nothing to do with Adelson.

May he rest in peace.

Woof. But hardly undeserved. (H/T


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Firin' Biden

The Joe Biden administration has already begun with a bit more fire than the "sleepy Joe" chanting GOP had probably hoped for. Among the moves they made on day one came the termination of several particularly noxious Trump-era holdovers. This is big news, if no other reason than it suggests that Biden will not, contra the fears of some, allow Republicans to have their cake and eat it too on the question of norms. Trump shattered norms for four years without nary a peep of complaint, and Biden does not appear interested in unilateral disarmament.

That's clearly a necessary move, and I applaud him for it. If the risk of Biden was that he'd be too enamored with the old model of Washington where gosh-golly we just play nice with one another and agreements will be made over some cocktails, the reward would be that he's a savvy enough DC insider to know when to play hardball. Indeed, while it's certainly too early to make such judgments, I'm feeling a faint burbling of hope that Biden might mimic Terry McAuliffe in Virginia -- the seemingly boring party man who punched way above his weight in terms of pushing an aggressive progressive agenda forward.

That's all good news for the immediate future. But what about the downstream effects? Who benefits if incoming presidential administrations feel more free to terminate the seemingly "burrowed" figures from the previous administration?

One of the main drawbacks to doing these sorts of terminations is that they leave gaps in the federal bureaucracy which are (temporarily, at least) filled by essentially whichever career civil servant happens to be next in line. The argument that the new normal favors Democrats would be that basically competent and conscientious bureaucrats are more likely to be at least amenable to Democratic priorities compared to Republican ones, and so the "empty" time will be less costly. The argument in favor of the Republicans is that Democrats generally need a fully functioning bureaucracy running on all cylinders to achieve their aims, whereas Republicans -- at least in their more nihilist moods -- can "achieve" their desires simply by allow things to fall apart.

Which will it be? Hopefully we won't find out, because hopefully the GOP will be in the political wilderness for a long, long time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Beginning of the Beginning

The Donald Trump presidency is officially over. Congratulations to our new President, Joe Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris.

This is obviously a huge step forward in terms of stemming the bleeding and repairing the immense damage caused by the last four years of quasi-authoritarian rule. And yet, I worry that so much time will need to be spent on the act of repair that we may struggle to also effectuate the positive changes we need. To be clear, by "repair" I don't mean vapid acts of "unity" and acting like the Trump era didn't happen. I mean the actual steps of undoing and rectifying the damage wrought against our democratic institutions. These are very much necessary, but they also will take time and energy; and that's time and energy that can't be devoted to other things.

It is not an easy situation that Biden, Harris, and the other Democratic leaders have placed themselves in. I wish them all the luck and all the support as they try to navigate difficult shoals.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Happy Trails to Kevin Drum

Kevin Drum has announced he's leaving his post at Mother Jones for health reasons (Drum has been battling multiple myeloma for several years now). He isn't hanging up the spikes altogether -- he plans on launching his own blog -- but he felt he could not maintain the pace that justified working for a major magazine like Mother Jones.

Drum was one of the first bloggers I read -- I don't think I caught him during his Calpundit days, but I sure read him at the Washington Monthly -- and was a tremendous influence on my own development as a blogger. I'm certainly not alone in that: Drum was a towering figure during the Golden Age of blogging, whose influence on the mainstream liberal side of the commentariat could not be overstated. And while blogging is fading as an artform, Drum remained decidedly old school and has accordingly stayed as one of my favorites. His work on the lead/crime hypothesis was absolutely fascinating and dare-I-say important, and in general I've always respected him for being thoughtful, considerate, and fair-minded without being mushy or wooly. Those are virtues that are perhaps in rare supply these days, and so I'm especially grateful to Drum for modeling them for so many years.

I'll certainly be following Drum at his new gig, wherever it may be, and so I'm glad this isn't goodbye. But it did strike me as a good time to give a brief tribute to one of my favorite members of the blogosphere.