Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Clown Cars Aren't For Driving, They're For Clowning

At the start of the congressional session, I predicted that "endless stunt investigations is all the House GOP will do, because it's all they can agree upon". I'll give myself a pat on the back for that one, as the House -- on its second try -- decided to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for absolutely no discernible reason.

It's dead-on-arrival in the Senate, and rightfully so, but we need to reiterate just how pathetic and embarrassing this was. It was embarrassing when it failed the first time, and it's embarrassing that it succeeded the second time. The nominal complaint -- that Mayorkas isn't enforcing border policy to Republicans liking -- is not only not an impeachable offense (except insofar as Republicans believe it's unconstitutional for them to lose elections, which appears to be increasingly their consensus view), but it's doubly-embarrassing to blame Mayorkas for inaction on the border given that congressional Republicans can't even pass their own bill on the border because they think doing so will help Biden in the next election (and because actual policymaking, unlike endless stunt investigations, requires actual position-taking). Republicans dealing with the fact that they are too chaotic and incompetent to even have, let alone enact, an agenda on the issue they say is a Crisis Invasion Destroying America!!1!!1! by impeaching a Democrat is the latest example of the crippling infantilization that has completely overtaken the party.

The fiasco did give me a chance to call my Republican congressional representative, Lori Chavez-Deremer (R-OR), and Be Mad At Her, but to by honest my heart wasn't fully in it this time. I genuinely don't understand why Chavez-Deremer even wants to be in Congress at this point. She's not doing anything there -- she's certainly not legislating -- she just mindlessly nods along with whatever ridiculous circus show her more creative MAGA colleagues decide to put forward in any given week. One would think she could do the same thing much more remuneratively as a talk radio host, and with any luck after the next election she'll get that opportunity. 

[Image: NYT]

Monday, February 12, 2024

Blamed for Surviving

A new book tells the gripping story about a Polish Jew and brilliant mathematician who, during the Holocaust, pretended to be a member of the Polish nobility to survive the Nazi occupation. Janina Spinner Mehlberg's deception actually ran two layers deep: she worked for a Polish welfare organization during the war, while secretly being a member of the Polish Underground -- but in the Polish Underground, she maintained her cover as a Catholic "Countess" in order to hide her Jewish identity from her fellow resistors.

There's much that could be said about this story, not the least the lengthy period where publishers ignored it out of a general disinterest in hearing survivor narratives. But I want to focus on something slightly different. 

In her "public" role during the war, Mehlberg regularly worked with the Nazi occupiers, negotiating for more food or resources to enter the work camps by arguing that it would serve the interests of the German war machine (non-starving workers could replace German men sent to the front, for instance). Even this at best indirectly benefited Jewish inmates, who were typically slated for direct extermination -- the hope was that some of these provisions would end up reaching the entirety of the camps and so improve the survivability for Jews as well as ethnic Poles.

Mehlberg, in short, may not have saved any Jews at all. And her "arguments" were ones expressly framed around aiding the Nazi's military ambitions. Yet I cannot imagine anyone reading her story and not thinking she acting bravely and heroically.

This is why, whenever I see some soulless cretin on the internet running the "Zionists collaborated with Nazis" narrative, with a smirk and a sanctimonious "see how evil they are and always have been!", I positively radiate with fury. In the most horrifying circumstances imaginable, yes, Jews were forced to negotiate with Nazis -- and negotiate from positions of weakness and supplication. The "deals" we got obviously were not good ones, but that didn't make them any less necessary. To treat this as cowardice or betrayal is not just to miss the point, it is to act with an almost impossible cruelty towards the survivors and the Jewish community writ large placed in truly impossible circumstances. It blames survivors for surviving, and trying to help others survive as well. Even if I thought, with the benefit of hindsight and comfortable distance, that the deals were objectively "bad" (and I make no such claim), I would still never dare indict those who made them. I cannot imagine having the hubris or the heartlessness to do otherwise.

I do not judge Mehlberg for doing what it took to survive. I do not judge her for trying her best, in the best way she could, to save innocent lives. It was not her who placed her in those circumstances. Anyone who tries to make her, or those in analogous circumstances, into a villain, is beneath contempt.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Super Birthday

It's a big day today -- it's my birthday! We're having a bunch of friends over to our house to celebrate my birthday and for no other reason (there may some light entertainment on in the background).

I saw a comic describe herself as in her "early-mid-to-late-thirties", and boy is that a mood.

Hope you all have a wonderful day, however you spend it. And may 2024 be a peaceful, productive, just, and thriving year for all.