HomeUncategorized10.10-12 Open Threads
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Thanks orl

Ryan Cooper


The American labor market seemingly will not quit, no matter how many times the Federal Reserve wallops it with the frying pan of raised interest rates. The September employment survey recently reported 336,000 new jobs, far above expectations.

Lefty economists have termed the combination of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and the pandemic rescue packages that preceded him (almost entirely designed by Democrats) as “Big Fiscal,” and it has led to the fastest economic recovery since the wartime spending of the 1940s.

The full employment created by Big Fiscal has led to a debate among progressives about what to make of the Biden economy. One faction argues that Biden has done little about inflation, rising rents and home prices, and other problems, which is why he gets poor marks in polls about the economy. Others argue that the Biden economy is quite good relative to most of the last 20 years.

In my view, all should be able to agree about one thing at least: The low unemployment of the last couple of years has been very good.

Now, let me admit up front that the naysayers are right to say there are a great many aspects of economic life that a job by itself does not touch. Large fractions of the population are made up of categories of people who cannot, should not, or struggle to work, like children, students, disabled, or elderly folks. This is why only about half the population is working at any one time, and why it is so important to build a welfare state to provide income to all those nonworkers, especially as prices rise. It is also why Joe Manchin killing the expanded Child Tax Credit was such a tragedy.

Similarly, creating jobs will not by itself solve the crisis of housing affordability in many cities, or the broken health care system, or the burden of student debt, though it can help individuals deal with all three problems.

However, full employment is still hugely beneficial for several reasons. First is that the people who need jobs the most—the long-term unemployed, ex-convicts, high school dropouts, and so on, populations that by and large are disproportionately nonwhite—are typically the very last people to be hired. Big Fiscal has meant driving the employment rate among prime-age workers up to 80.9 percent, the highest level in more than 20 years and the second-highest rate in American history.

As Michael Harrington points out in his book The Other America, unemployment represents more than just a loss of income. It is also a loss in status, dignity, and self-respect. It is not a coincidence that the Rust Belt regions hit worst by deindustrialization also tend to be ground zero for opioid overdoses, alcoholism, crime, and other social ills, as well as attractions to fearmongering around social issues and demagogues who promise to solve everything.

Second and relatedly, running a red-hot labor market cuts income inequality. At Politico, Victoria Guida demonstrates that between 2020 and 2022, the 10th percentile of workers (that is, if we divided workers up into 100 groups by income, and examined the tenth group) got inflation-adjusted wage increases of 5.7 percent, while 90th-percentile workers saw a pay cut of 5 percent. This naturally cut income inequality—economists David Autor, Arindrajit Dube, and Annie McGrew estimate that fully a quarter of the increase in inequality relative to 1980 has been reversed over that period.

Big Fiscal has meant driving the employment rate among prime-age workers up to 80.9 percent, the highest level in more than 20 years and the second-highest rate in American history.

The reason for this is that full employment transforms the character of the labor market in a highly welcome fashion. When unemployment is high, jobs are scarce, and people at the bottom of the social ladder have no choice but to accept whatever terrible wages and working conditions are on offer. But when unemployment is low, jobs are plentiful, and workers gain the ability to demand more, or quit to find a better job. Employers offering difficult, unpleasant, poorly paid jobs, like restaurant and hospitality work, suddenly had to offer huge raises to fill positions.

The racial dimension of this deserves special attention. In normal times, the Black unemployment rate is reliably about twice that of whites. But thanks to this strong labor market, that is no longer true, as Black unemployment has fallen to its lowest level on record, along with the smallest Black-white unemployment gap on record. The ultrahot economy of the Second World War saw even faster convergence between racial groups. Full employment, in short, is powerfully anti-racist.

Third, full employment is good for unions. When wages are rising and labor is scarce, the confidence of workers to risk employer backlash by organizing a union or calling a strike grows. It’s not a coincidence that the last couple of years have seen the most militant union actions in decades—just possibly marking a turning point in labor’s long membership decline.

Some skeptics of Bidenomics have correctly pointed out that the effects of a tight labor market are temporary. The labor market has already softened quite a lot relative to 2022, particularly on wages, and a recession will come sooner or later. But if the labor movement can seize on these few years of strength to get unions up off their backs, then they will be able to lock in much of the higher wages and better benefits with contracts. Indeed, just last Friday, UAW President Shawn Fain announced that General Motors had agreed to put its new battery factories under its master union contract.

As an aside, let me emphasize that I am not praising work in and of itself here. On the contrary, as I argued in a paper for the People’s Policy Project, Americans on average work far too much relative to our vast wealth. We are crying out for a great expansion in mandatory vacation, public holidays, a shorter working week, and so on. But such a goal does not trade off with the benefits of full employment. On the contrary, by cutting labor supply among the already-employed, leisure policy will drive structural labor demand into the least-employed demographics. There should be a plentiful supply of jobs for everyone who wants to work, and those jobs should come with plenty of time off.

At any rate, I will have to admit that I have a personal stake in this debate. Back when the American Rescue Plan was being debated, I argued against Larry Summers’s notion that its size should be slashed because it might cause inflation. I said the balance of risks was not even close—on the one hand a continuation of the economic lost decade of the 2010s, but on the other some inflation that would cause only moderate pain. Inflation did come—and while I don’t believe Summers was right about the causes, which were more about the pandemic and the war in Ukraine than Big Fiscal, it did turn out to be quite unpopular.

Perhaps I was glib about the political risk of prices going up. But I think my moral ordering of risks was correct, and I think progressives should be wary of complaining too much about Bidenomics. If the 2023 economy is really so bad, then one logical conclusion would be that Summers was right, and the long-term unemployed should be sacrificed in service of price stability.


FWIW as its early;
Gallego leads Lake, Sinema in Arizona Senate race: poll

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) is leading both former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake (R) and Sen. Krysten Sinema (I-Ariz.) in a hypothetical three-way race for Sinema’s Arizona Senate seat, according to a new poll.

A poll from the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling, which was commissioned by Gallego’s campaign and first shared with The Hill, shows Gallego receiving 41 percent support, Lake receiving 36 percent and Sinema receiving 15 percent in a hypothetical three-way matchup. A separate 8 percent of respondents said they were not sure.

Gallego also polls ahead in several other hypothetical three-way matchups. Between Gallego, Sinema and Republican Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, the Arizona Democrat received 40 percent, Lamb received 31 percent, Sinema received 16 percent and 13 percent said they were not sure.

Between Gallego, Sinema and former Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters (R), Gallego received 41 percent, Masters sat at 31 percent and Sinema received 17 percent; 11 percent were not sure.

The poll found, however, that a match-up between only Gallego and Lake would be tighter — Gallego sat at 48 percent, Lake at 43 percent, and 9 percent said they were undecided. The polling difference between Gallego and Lake is just outside of the poll’s margin of error, which is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.


Meanwhile in Wi;

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice advises Republican leader against impeachment

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — There should be no effort to impeach a liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court justice based on what is known now, a former justice advised the Republican legislative leader who asked him to review the issue.

Some Republicans had raised the prospect of impeaching newly elected Justice Janet Protasiewicz if she did not recuse from a redistricting lawsuit seeking to toss GOP-drawn legislative district boundary maps. On Friday, she declined to recuse herself, and the court voted 4-3 along partisan lines to hear the redistricting challenge.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos had asked three former justices to review the possibility of impeachment. One of those three, David Prosser, sent Vos an email on Friday, seemingly just before Protasiewicz declined to recuse, advising against moving forward with impeachment. That was after a state judiciary disciplinary panel rejected several complaints lodged against Protasiewicz that alleged she violated the judicial code of ethics with comments she made during the campaign.

Vos will try to pull something, its his nature…



Sanders, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, issued a report Tuesday criticizing how tax-exempt hospitals follow through on their obligation to provide free or reduced care.

Under the Affordable Care Act, nonprofit hospitals — which account for roughly half of all hospitals in the U.S. — must have a Financial Assistance Policy that applies to all services provided at the facility. This policy must be widely publicized, but Sanders said that isn’t happening.

“Those hospitals have made information about their charity care programs difficult to access, leaving many patients unaware that they may qualify for free or discounted care,” he wrote.

Sanders further blasted the small amount of overall funding hospitals spend on charity care, citing cases where some major health systems use less than 1 percent of their overall budgets for these obligations.

This issue has already piqued some bipartisan interest, as the committee’s top Republican, Sen. Bill Cassidy (La.), joined with other senators last month to examine hospital compliance with tax-exempt requirements.

“We are alarmed by reports that despite their tax-exempt status, certain nonprofit hospitals may be taking advantage of this overly broad definition of ‘community benefit’ and engaging in practices that are not in the best interest of the patient,” Cassidy and the other senators wrote in a letter to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

“These practices – along with lax federal oversight – have allowed some nonprofit hospitals to avoid providing essential care in the community for those who need it most.”

But according to the American Hospital Association, tax-exempt hospitals are a significant benefit to their communities. The group published its own report Tuesday pushing back on criticisms, asserting that tax-exempt hospitals’ and health systems provided more than $129 billion in total benefits to their communities in 2020, and used 15.5 percent of their total expenses for community benefits.


Israel Responds to Hamas Crimes by Ordering Mass Crimes in Gaza

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant used genocidal language and ordered mass war crimes in the occupied Gaza Strip on Monday in response to Hamas’s weekend assault and massacre of Israeli civilians, setting the stage for a large-scale escalation of the violence that has already led to the killing of at least 800 Israelis and more than 500 Palestinians.

Gallant said that he had ordered “a complete siege of the Gaza Strip,” which is home to 2.2 million Palestinians, nearly half of them children. “There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed,” he said. “We are fighting human animals, and we act accordingly.”

What Gallant ordered — the collective punishment of a civilian population — amounts to a war crime under international law, as well as potentially a crime against humanity and the crime of genocide, some international law experts have pointed out. Hamas’s massacre of civilians and taking of at least 150 hostages, whom it has reportedly threatened to execute in response to the targeting of civilians in Gaza, are also war crimes.

Hamas and Israel’s crimes against civilians, which are likely to escalate in the coming days, come after years of impunity for Israel’s crimes against Palestinians. The historical lack of accountability has bred a culture of disregard for international law that directly resulted in the weekend’s violence, human rights advocates say.

“Deliberate killings of civilians, hostage-taking, and collective punishment are heinous crimes that have no justification,” Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “The unlawful attacks and systematic repression that have mired the region for decades will continue, so long as human rights and accountability are disregarded.”

In the wake of Hamas’s attack on Israel on Saturday, the Israeli military launched a bombing campaign on Gaza. Israeli raids flattened residential buildings and targeted a densely populated refugee camp over the weekend. Humanitarian workers in the strip have also reported that hospitals are completely overwhelmed by the number of casualties and ambulances are coming under fire. A ground invasion of the occupied territory is also widely expected in the coming days.

Experts have noted that Israel’s practice of “warning” civilians — like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call on Gaza’s residents to “leave now because we will operate forcefully everywhere” — is not sufficient. There is nowhere for people to seek safety in the strip, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, since Israel imposed an air, land, and sea blockade on the territory in 2007, effectively trapping them in.

War crimes fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, which, in 2021, opened an investigation on war crimes and crimes against humanity in the occupied Palestinian territories. The investigation prompted fierce opposition by Israel and the United States — neither of which are members of the court — and it has largely stalled.

Human rights advocates quickly pointed to Gallant’s words as an “admission of intent” to commit crimes, calling on ICC prosecutor Karim Khan to take notice. But international officials’ responses to his comments were largely muted. The Biden administration has repeatedly stated its support for Israel since Saturday’s attack, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledging the U.S.’s “unwavering focus on halting the attacks by Hamas” but offering no immediate comment on Israel’s declared retaliation against Palestinian civilians.

A spokesperson for Khan’s office wrote in a statement to The Intercept that the ICC’s mandate in Palestine “is ongoing and applies to crimes committed in the current context.” The spokesperson called on those with information relevant to investigation to provide it to the office, but did not comment on Gallant’s words or on criticism that the stalling of its investigation might have contributed to recent crimes.

The Consequences of Impunity

As human rights advocates and international law experts have long warned, impunity for war crimes only leads to more. Last year, as Russia staged a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, many pointed to the impunity for war crimes it committed in Syria and elsewhere and argued that the lack of accountability directly enabled similar crimes to be committed in Ukraine. The ICC, for its part, responded to Russian crimes in Ukraine by immediately dispatching investigators there, leading to charges implicating Russian leadership all the way up to President Vladimir Putin earlier this year. But there was no such response following Israeli crimes in Gaza, including after military campaigns in 2018, 2021, and 2022 that left hundreds of Palestinian civilians dead.

“If we’ve learned anything through prior escalations, it is that so long as there is impunity for serious abuses, we will continue to see more repression and shedding of civilian blood,” said Shakir. Human Rights Watch called on the ICC “to accelerate its investigation into serious crimes committed by all parties in Palestine.”

While both parties committed heinous crimes, Gallant’s call for a complete siege on Gaza revealed the underlying imbalance at play: While Hamas’s attack shocked Israelis and the world and amounted to the most serious attack on Israel in five decades, it paled in comparison to Gallant’s threat to starve 2 million trapped civilians. “This is why this never was and never will be a ‘war’ of equals,” media critic Sana Saeed noted on Monday. “Because one side has the power to entirely eliminate an entire population, to control whether they live or die.”

Gallant wasn’t the only Israeli leader to tap into genocidal rhetoric in response to Hamas’s attack, with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich declaring, “It’s time to be cruel,” and Knesset member Ariel Kallner calling for a “Nakba that will overshadow the Nakba of 48,” a reference to the massacre and expulsion of more than 750,000 Palestinians upon Israel’s founding.

Other observers denounced efforts by either party to use crimes committed by the other as justification for committing more crimes.

“Failure of one party to a conflict to abide by the laws of war does not absolve the other party from complying with the laws of war,” noted Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Democracy for the Arab World Now.

“Israel certainly cannot claim the upper moral hand. Israeli government ministers now calling to kill, destroy, crush and even starve the residents of Gaza forget that this is already Israeli policy,” the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem echoed in a statement. “Intentional attacks on civilians are prohibited and unacceptable. There is no justification for such crimes, whether they are committed as part of a struggle for freedom from oppression or cited as part of a war against terror.”

Palestinian and international human rights groups also called on the United Nations to address the underlying causes behind this weekend’s events.

“Israel has a horrific track record of committing war crimes with impunity in previous wars on Gaza,” Amnesty International wrote in a statement that called on Palestinian armed groups to refrain from targeting civilians.

“The root causes of these repeated cycles of violence must be addressed as a matter of urgency. This requires upholding international law and ending Israel’s 16-year-long illegal blockade on Gaza, and all other aspects of Israel’s system of apartheid imposed on all Palestinians.”

Palestinian human rights groups echoed that call.

“For decades, Palestinians have been calling on the international community to take concrete and meaningful actions, beyond statements of condemnation, to put an end to these violations,” Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights wrote in an open letter to the United Nations on Monday. “The international community’s lack of political will to hold Israel to account only emboldens Israel to continue committing crimes against the Palestinian people as a whole.”


Israel and Palestine: No Exit

Here’s one thing that Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas have in common: None of them let Palestinians vote.

While Arab citizens of Israel can and do vote in Israeli elections, Israel’s refusal to allow the creation of a Palestinian state effectively disfranchises the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza on the paramount issue of their collective life. Still, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas do govern, after a fashion, in their respective terrains, but they don’t govern democratically. The Palestinian Authority has not held an election since 2006 rather than risk defeat, and since Hamas took power in Gaza in 2007, it also has held no elections and cracked down on domestic opposition. The residents of Gaza didn’t get to vote on the current attacks, or on any of their many predecessors, or for or against the sectarian government that waged them.

The justifiable fury that Palestinians feel about Israel and its occupation would doubtless spur many of them to support the current attacks if given a choice, but others would conclude that Israel’s military response and much of the world’s political response would only make things worse. Had they been told in advance that Hamas would target children and the elderly for killing and kidnapping, to be broadcast to the world via social media, some would have concluded those military and political responses, sure to be more devastating than any that had come before, made these attacks a profoundly self-sabotaging idea. And, as Palestinians are no less or more human than anyone else, some would have simply been appalled at such violence, as they are also appalled when children are killed by Israeli armed forces in the West Bank.

But Hamas didn’t convene a conclave or commission a poll. They just went ahead.

As someone who’s supported Palestinian statehood for the past half-century, the response of a number of Westerners who agree with me on that question has been as infuriatingly stupid as it’s been morally bankrupt. The case for Palestinian statehood is every nation’s generally self-evident case for national self-determination, but it is greatly diminished when it is linked to the deliberate barbarism of Hamas. The pro-Palestinian demonstrators on the streets of New York and other cities, by the very fact that they’ve taken to the streets now, have made that link more forcefully than the opponents of Palestinian nationhood ever could. Did they think the American public would be more receptive to the Palestinian cause because of Hamas’s murders? If they did, they probably also believe that Americans’ immediate response to Pearl Harbor was to repeal the Oriental Exclusion Act.

The Palestinians have real enemies, but with friends like these, their slim prospects for statehood grow steadily slimmer.

Their real enemies—Israel’s far-right and center-right parties, which dominate the Knesset—have made Israel’s 56-year occupation of Palestinian territories even more oppressive and violent in recent years. Those forces have grown stronger in Israel in rection to each successive intifada, as the pro-two-state Israeli left has dwindled to a sliver of the electorate. At this juncture, it’s impossible to envision the Israelis and Palestinians resolving this conflict themselves or, for that matter, doing anything other than intensifying it. Once the current round of slaughtering civilians has run its god-awful course, the United States and other nations with the wherewithal to enforce borders and provide financial aid should do all they can to compel a two-state solution. Some populations, like the Israeli settlers on the West Bank, will have to be and deserve to be moved—in the settlers’ case, to within Israel’s internationally recognized borders. Anyone who still believes a single state of Israelis and Palestinians is a viable option has to believe that the worst instances of settlers’ violence in the West Bank and Hamas’s mass murders of the past few days are both jim-dandy, for they’d be everyday occurrences in a unified state.

Paul ADK

With Netanyahu at the helm it sure wasn’t going any other way. Where sane people would see a city of over half a million people, in a region of more than two million, Bibi sees a tract of squalor ripe for a bulldozer, and then nice Israeli settlements to come. Kind of like what’s been happening on the West Bank, without the justification. The question remains as to how Hamas got the intel necessary to circumvent the Iron Dome, and I have to wonder if, maybe, Putin got classified information from, um, somewhere, that he passed along to Iran, who then gave it to Hamas. So there’s that.

Americans are dead over this, along with thousands of Israelis and Palestinians, and the more I think about it the more ticked off I get.


Dave Dayen

The Speaker’s Race and the Israeli War

Tomorrow, allegedly, Republicans will choose a new House Speaker. Whether or not this happens can probably be divined by whether or not there’s an actual vote. House Republicans are embarrassed enough at their own dysfunction that they want to keep any other hiccups behind closed doors. If the vote is postponed, it’s because there’s no consensus yet. If it’s held, it’s because there’s a preordained winner.

That’s the theory, anyway. But the GOP has not demonstrated the kind of discipline that would enable this. After all, just a week ago Kevin McCarthy was ousted from his Speaker position in full view. A Monday caucus meeting appears to have done nothing to resolve the situation.

Things are so up in the air that, rather than walk away quietly, McCarthy has sort of hung around, like the guy not chosen for a pickup basketball game who’s hoping for an injury to sub in. At a Monday press conference—and yes, I share your curiosity as to why some backbencher member of Congress is holding a press conference and why the congressional press is attending it—McCarthy sounded completely ready to be thrust back into the job, a reminder of the fact that he has essentially no impulse other than acquiring power.

To the extent anything may concentrate minds and end the internal strife, it’s the war that has broken out in Israel and Gaza. The lack of a Speaker led to a delay in briefing members of Congress; Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) had to step in at one point. While Foreign Affairs Committee leaders are collaborating on a bipartisan resolution with the usual reaffirmation of support for Israel, even that probably can’t happen without a Speaker. That’s also true of any funding requests, on top of the existing $3 billion a year Israel already receives. Some resources can flow without congressional approval, but that support is finite.

The next couple of months was already going to be impossible for a new Speaker, given the rapidly approaching deadline on government funding, a Ukraine supplemental, and border money. Does a war in the Middle East make things easier or harder? There’s a case for both options.

On the easier side: It often feels like the prime directive in Washington is to never get in between defense contractors and a sale. Soaring stock prices for weapons manufacturers signals the obvious: There’s a lot of money to be made in war, and nobody wants a protracted Speaker fight to get in the way. The far right is also taking a beating for creating the vacancy and subsequently delaying any movement on the Israel issue. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who led the McCarthy putsch, said on Meet the Press Sunday that he would support whoever got the most votes from inside the House GOP, which seems like a tactical retreat.

In the aftermath, a new Speaker could be hemmed in by the fact that military aid for Israel, which most members wouldn’t dare vote against, could serve as a magic bullet to unclog funding for other contested measures. A bill that lumps in Ukraine and Israel aid would be difficult for a new Speaker to block. House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Mike McCaul (R-TX) has already floated that as an option, with sweeteners on Taiwan and border security to boot.

Israel’s needs could force Republicans to set their differences aside, but nothing has successfully enabled that to date in this Congress.

On the harder side: The right is already desperate to portray Hamas’s sneak attack and incursion into Israel as somehow Joe Biden’s fault (inside Israel, the blame is being placed pretty squarely on Benjamin Netanyahu). They would be all too ready to condemn Democrats for risking the “loss” of Israel (regardless of the veracity of that claim) by trying to stuff Ukraine or government funding into a package. Israel becomes one more variable, no matter how must-have. It could just amp up the polarization and harden positions.

The mythical Speaker will have a say in this, of course. Right now, it’s a fight between Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise, with everyone else (including McCarthy) waiting in the wings in case of a lack of consensus.

Jordan, armed with Donald Trump’s endorsement (as well as some McCarthy allies who are wary of Scalise), has said that Israel would be his top priority, implicitly vowing to separate that from government or Ukraine funding. Scalise has also expressed Israel support, without explicitly saying that a resolution would top his list of priorities. Jordan seems more likely to leverage the Israel issue to partisan advantage. Scalise, given his position in the leadership and the fundraising that goes along with that, probably has a significant degree of support.

But if Scalise can’t corral Jordan’s allies, Jordan can’t pick up the moderates, and nobody can figure out how to deal with the motion to vacate—a large segment of Republicans want it gone, and the handful who used it successfully on McCarthy want it to stay—threading the needle for 217 votes (the majority, given that there are a couple of vacancies) might not be possible. Israel’s needs could force Republicans to set their differences aside, but nothing has successfully enabled that to date in this Congress.

The prospect of an accommodation with Democrats for some moderate Speaker sounds as much of a West Wing/D.C. journalist fever dream as a brokered party convention. McCarthy’s return seems also very unlikely.

After a Speaker—somehow—is chosen, the other variable in the various funding fights is a trigger put in during the debt limit deal. If the 12 annual appropriations bills are not passed by December 31, a sequester automatically kicks in that would cut spending across the board by 1 percent. That’s actually much harsher on the defense side, almost a 10 percent real cut, at a time when the military is trying to support other efforts abroad. While this was seen as a nudge to get Republicans to buckle down and pass spending bills, Jordan at least has raised it as a way to get the Biden administration serious about negotiating on border security issues.

On balance, I think adding a new addition to what is already a mess on Capitol Hill makes things more and not less difficult. There’s a narrow path to the Israel situation taking everything off the table, but it doesn’t fit with what we know about this Congress and this Republican Party.

One final thought: A week ago, 20 Democratic senators wrote to the Biden administration, which was brokering a diplomatic agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, to urge that the final terms include an end to settlement-building in the West Bank and other concessions to the Palestinians. It was a rare moment of recognition of the existence of the Palestinian occupation, a divergence from the diplomatic trajectory going back to the Abraham Accords. Writing Palestinians out of the story did not erase the central tension amplifying so much death and destruction in the Middle East over the past 70 years.

Congress will at some point get its act together just enough to ship more weapons into the region. Most of the 20 senators who were unsuccessful in forcing the Palestinian question back into diplomatic hands will be among those approving the shipments, I’d imagine. For a second, however, they showed how an engaged Congress can have more of an impact than just passing laws. Unfortunately, their viewpoint was not heeded. And Congress will shrink back into chaos and irrelevancy.



Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday criticized Israeli forces for cutting off electricity, food, fuel and water to the more than 2 million residents of Gaza, calling it a “serious violation of international law” that will cause hundreds of thousands of children to suffer.

“The targeting of civilians is a war crime, no matter who does it. Israel’s blanket denial of food, water, and other necessities to Gaza is a serious violation of international law and will do nothing but harm innocent civilians,” said Sanders, a leading progressive voice in Congress and former presidential candidate, in a statement.

Sanders praised the United States for “rightly” offering support to Israel in responding to the attacks by Hamas militants that have killed more than 1,000 people in Israel, but he insisted Israeli defense forces should not retaliate against civilians in Gaza.

“We must also insist on restraint from Israeli forces attacking Gaza and work to secure U.N. humanitarian access. Let us not forget that half of the two million people in Gaza are children.

Children and innocent people do not deserve to be punished for the acts of Hamas,” he said.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday ordered a “complete siege” on Gaza and said such severe tactics are justified against “human animals.”

“We are fighting against human animals and we act accordingly,” he said. “There will be no electricity, no food, no water. No fuel.”

Militants from Hamas, the political group that controls Gaza and is recognized as a terrorist group by the United States, attacked Israel on Saturday. Videos of killings of civilians have widely circulated, and Hamas has taken hostages after the incursion.

Israeli defense forces have pummeled Gaza since the weekend with airstrikes on buildings and critical infrastructure.

Palestinian health authorities are warning that hospitals will run out of fuel by Thursday, and the group Doctors Without Borders says hospitals are already “overwhelmed” with a huge influx of wounded civilians. More than 1,000 people in Gaza have died.

Sanders condemned Hamas’s brutal surprise attacks on Israeli civilians who were murdered at a music festival, while driving on the roads, waiting at a bus stop or while enjoying a typical Saturday morning at home as “horrific.”

“The gunning down of young Israelis at a music festival is an image the world will not soon forget,” he said.

But he warned the weekend’s attacks “will embolden extremists on both sides” and continue “the cycle of violence.” He urged the United States and its allies to pressure Israel to minimize civilian casualties in any military invasion of Gaza.

“Right now, the international community must focus on reducing humanitarian suffering and protecting innocent people on both sides of the conflict,” he said.

He called the attack by Hamas a “major setback for any hope of peace and reconciliation in the region — and justice for the Palestinian people.”

And he said the attacks will make it only more difficult to improve the conditions of the residents of Gaza.

“For many, it is no secret that Gaza has been an open-air prison, with millions of people struggling to secure basic necessities,” he said. “Hamas terrorism will make it more difficult to address that tragic reality.”



IN A HEATED exchange during a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting on Wednesday, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., allegedly made an off-color remark to another member during a broader discussion on Muslim clerics attending Jewish events that “stunned” his colleagues, according to three sources with knowledge of the meeting.

The latest dustup speaks to a growing rift between Democrats on Israel and Palestine and the party’s long-standing reluctance to criticize human rights abuses by the Israeli government.

According to two Democrats familiar with the meeting, Gottheimer got into tense arguments with several of his colleagues.

In Wednesday’s caucus meeting, according to two sources, a member discussed wanting both Jewish and Muslim constituents to feel comfortable attending events to support each other, and that they had heard Muslim clerics did not attend a vigil on Tuesday night in their district.

Sitting in the back of the room and speaking to another attendee, Gottheimer made a remark. Some present thought he was responding to comments from the front of the room and saying Muslim clerics felt guilty. Gottheimer’s comment left many in the room stunned, according to a member in the room.

According to two sources with knowledge of the meeting, Gottheimer was heard saying, “It’s because they’re guilty.”

“I urge Democratic leadership to take action against Congressman Gottheimer, whose comments will only serve to embolden violent [Islamophobes] and extremists around the country who already have a history of sending death threats to Muslim members of Congress,” said Usamah Andrabi, the head of communications at the progressive group Justice Democrats. “Comments like these endanger the entire American Muslim community.”

In a statement to The Intercept, Gottheimer spokesperson Chris D’Aloia said the member of Congress does not blame Palestinians for the crimes of Hamas. “Congressman Gottheimer is furious and deeply disappointed with Members of Congress who have yet to condemn Hamas terrorists,” D’Aloia said. “Congressman Gottheimer said that those Members who have not condemned Hamas terrorists should indeed feel guilty. Of course, Congressman Gottheimer doesn’t blame innocent Palestinian civilians — he blames the terrorists.”

Democratic leaders remained quiet after Gottheimer attacked Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Cori Bush, D-Mo., over the weekend following statements they made mourning the loss of Israeli and Palestinian lives and calling for an end to violence and Israeli apartheid. Gottheimer, a staunchly pro-Israel Democrat with close ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said he was “sickened” by statements from Tlaib and Bush over the weekend.


What happened was bad enough without Biden fabrications.


Truly insane that the president of the United States just claimed he personally “saw” photos of beheaded babies, when he didn’t. Actually. See. Them. It is very dangerous.



There is no proof Palestinian fighters ‘beheaded’ babies. The only source is a radical settler.

U.S. and international media outlets are repeating unsubstantiated claims that Palestinian fighters “beheaded” babies. These unverified assertions aren’t just sloppy journalism — they are being used to justify a massacre.

One story has been dominating the U.S. and international media cycle for the past 24 hours. It has been repeated by pro-Israel activists, Israeli government officials, reporters, and anchors throughout the U.S. media and even alluded to by the President. The thing is — this story has not been confirmed in any way. It appears to come from a single source with a history of espousing calls for genocidal violence against Palestinians.

You have probably heard the story that Hamas fighters beheaded 40 Israeli children in the Kfar Aza community near Gaza. This story can be traced back to an article by Bel Trew, a reporter for The Independent. Trew entered Kfar Aza on October 10, soon after the Israeli army, and reported on Twitter that gunfire erupted just as they arrived. She is told by a member of the Israeli military that children were beheaded, but the article notes, “The Independent did not see evidence of this.”

The military source of this claim is Major David Ben Zion. According to his Twitter bio, he is the Deputy Head of the settler leadership organization, the Samaria Regional Council, and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Fund for Israel, a quasi-governmental agency used to acquire land in Palestine that is then made available exclusively for use by the Israeli state.

In this video clip, Ben Zion speaks directly to the camera. He says the soldiers found children with their heads cut off. He is incorrectly named on-screen in the video but is correctly named in the description below the video on YouTube.

In addition to his role in settler leadership, Ben Zion has a history of calls to genocidal violence.

Earlier this year, Israeli settlers carried out a so-called “reprisal attack” on the Palestinian village of Huwwara after an unknown Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli settlers. As we reported at the time, Israeli settlers launched a ‘pogrom’ on the night of February 26, attacking Palestinian homes and property in Huwwara, Burin, and across the Nablus area, burning houses, cars, vandalizing property, and assaulting Palestinians.

Following the reprisal attack on Huwwara carried out by Israeli settlers, Ben Zion wrote in a now-deleted tweet:

“Here in Hawara, the blood of our children, the residents of Samaria who were murdered here an hour ago, is spilled on the road. The village of Huwwara should be erased today. Enough with the talk of building and strengthening the settlement, the deterrence that was lost needs to be restored immediately, and there is no room for mercy.”

And The Independent wasn’t the only outlet to run the story. Later on October 10, according to the Times of Israel, the IDF took the foreign press on a tour of Kfar Aza to survey the scene and document the carnage left by the attacks. Nicole Zedek, a reporter with i24 News, filed a report repeating the claim that Hamas fighters beheaded children in the community: “Some soldiers say they found babies with their heads cut off, entire families gunned down in their beds.” This article also noted that the bodies of “[a]bout 40 babies and young children have been taken out on gurneys”.

Here, Major David Ben Zion relates a similar story to i24 News.

A similar claim was made in a video posted on CNN’s official Instagram, where reporter Nic Robertson says men, women and children were found with their “hands bound…executed, heads cut.” Robinson does not name his sources in the video report, or clarify if that information was independently verified by CNN.

It was not long before social media sites filled up with claims that Hamas fighters had beheaded 40 babies in Kfar Aza.

On October 11, the Israeli journalist Oren Ziv, who was also on the tour of Kfar Aza, wrote on Twitter, “During the tour we didn’t see any evidence of this, and the army spokesperson or commanders also didn’t mention any such incidents.”

He continued: “Soldiers I spoke with in Kfar Aza yesterday didn’t mention ‘beheaded babies.’ The army’s spokesperson stated: ‘We can not confirm at this point… we are aware of the heinous acts Hamas is capable of.’”

We don’t know exactly who the reporters on that tour spoke to, but as of yet, no independent news publication appears to have verified the claim made by Major David Ben Zion about finding beheaded children in Kfar Aza, and the Israeli military has even denied having evidence of the event.

And other similarly horrific stories that have been reported are also starting to fall apart. The Los Angeles Times has retracted similarly unconfirmed reports of rape, and reporters are beginning to “clarify” or retract their statements about this claim of beheadings. We will continue to follow this story.

Of course, if this horrific event did happen, the world needs to know about it because it is an indefensible war crime and will color and inform how we understand the unfolding events.

But If it did not happen, it is also important that the world know that a member of the Israeli military lied to journalists about such a gruesome crime and, in the process, helped create a global story with no bearing in fact beyond the claim of one person whose own history should put his trustworthiness under deep suspicion.

And regardless of when the truth comes out, it is possible the damage has been done. As has been the case in many recent examples, in the rush to war, misreporting or intentional misinformation can help build support for deadly consequences.



THE ONLY PALESTINIAN AMERICAN member of Congress is under attack from her Democratic colleagues after she issued a statement that condemned a “heartbreaking cycle of violence” in Israel and Palestine and called for an end to the Israeli occupation.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., released the statement on Sunday, the day after Hamas bulldozed through the barbed-wire fence that separates Gaza from Israeli territory and massacred civilians, including attendees at a music festival. Israel responded by bombing Gazan villages and a refugee camp, and on Monday ordered a complete siege of the Gaza Strip.

“I grieve the Palestinian and Israeli lives lost yesterday, today, and every day,” Tlaib said in her statement, going on to say that the end of Israel’s occupation of Palestine would create a just future for everyone.

“The failure to recognize the violent reality of living under siege, occupation, and apartheid makes no one safer,” she said. “We cannot ignore the humanity in each other. As long as our country provides billions in unconditional funding to support the apartheid government, this heartbreaking cycle of violence will continue.”

Tlaib’s comments drew swift attacks from not only Republicans but also her fellow Democrats, including Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J.,. On Sunday, Gottheimer let loose on Tlaib and Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., who in a statement on Saturday said she mourned the Israeli and Palestinian lives lost, calling for a ceasefire as well as an end to Israeli military occupation and apartheid.

“It sickens me that while Israelis clean the blood of their family members shot in their homes,” Gottheimer told Jewish Insider, “they believe Congress should strip U.S. funding to our democratic ally and allow innocent civilians to suffer.”

In recent decades, as the Israeli government increasingly and sometimes openly sided with Republicans in Washington, the Democratic establishment’s relationship with the Jewish state became strained. But the carnage of recent days in Israel, with Palestinian militants launching large-scale coordinated attacks on civilians, has shown that the party’s deference to the pro-Israel lobby is still intact.

“On this issue, there always tend to be special rules,” said Matt Duss, executive vice-president at the Center for International Policy and former foreign policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

“I think all people should condemn the Hamas attacks, and we have called for that. At the same time, it’s kind of offensive that some Democrats are using this moment, with further massive loss of lives at stake, to attack other Democrats for their own political advantage,” Duss said. “It is notable how some elements of a party that prides itself on racial justice and equality and standing up for the less powerful can’t seem to tolerate any expressions of sympathy for civilians when those civilians are Palestinians.”

For some progressive Democrats, the party leadership’s response to the attacks against Tlaib, Bush, and others reflects the reinvigoration among top Democrats of a blind fealty to Israel that ignores the existence of Palestinians and the systematic destruction of the occupied Gaza Strip.

“It is Democratic leadership’s job to protect their members,” said a Democratic staffer who asked for anonymity to speak freely. The staffer said the members under attack merely staked out their stances and the centrist and pro-Israel Democrats should do the same, but avoid going after their colleagues: “The question is, to leadership: Are they going to put up with this? With members going out of their way, not to state their position, or not to state their support for Israel and condemnation of Hamas, but to slam members of their own party?”

The attacks are coming from Democrats who retain close ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the flagship of the Israel lobby groups. Gottheimer is one of the top recipients in Congress of money from the group.

Meanwhile, members of the leadership remaining silent on the political broadsides are also close to AIPAC. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., a staunch AIPAC ally, has taken nearly half a million dollars from the group since last year; he also led an AIPAC-sponsored trip to Israel for incoming House Democrats. (Gottheimer and Jeffries did not respond to requests for comment.)

Progressive activists on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict said Tlaib and Bush stood out as two of the only members of Congress to call for an end to the violence and mourn both Israeli and Palestinian lives.

“There have been almost no members of Congress who have so much as even acknowledged the fact that, in addition to the horrific killing of Israeli civilians, there have been Palestinian civilians who have been killed by the Israeli military and by Israeli settlers,” said Beth Miller, political director of the progressive anti-occupation group Jewish Voice for Peace Action.

“What they said should not have been remotely controversial,” Miller said. “And the fact that people like Josh Gottheimer — who has spent his career moving us further and further away from any possible future where both Palestinians and Israelis can be free and safe — that he would dare attack them for mourning both Palestinian and Israeli lives shows how far and wildly off base he is and how much he is beating the drums of war right now.”

Like Gottheimer himself, the group has attacked Democratic candidates and officials who criticize human rights abuses in Israel and Palestine, even going after the incumbents that Democratic leadership says it’s committed to protecting. AIPAC is recruiting candidates to run primary challenges against several incumbent Democrats who have criticized U.S. support for Israeli military operations, including Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; Summer Lee, D-Pa.; and Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y.

“Clearly there is an extremely aggressive effort to prevent more members of Congress from representing what we know is the view of actually a majority of Democrats,” Duss said. “Which is that Palestinian lives have value just as Israeli lives have value. That Palestinians have rights just as Israelis have rights. That Palestinian civilians should be protected just as Israeli civilians should be protected. And that U.S. policy should reflect those facts. That is unacceptable, unfortunately, to conservative elements of the party.”

Gottheimer, for his part, has helped lead Democratic efforts to protect incumbents from primary challenges alongside Jeffries. The members attacking Bush and Tlaib are also partnering with groups seeking to oust members of Congress who speak about human rights abuses in Palestine, said the Democratic staffer.

“Democrats are quick to condemn women of color when they speak out on Palestinian rights, but are unwilling to publicly push back against their members essentially calling for the genocide of Palestinians or attacking the only Palestinian in Congress — who literally has her grandmother in the crosshairs,” they said. “These members are actively being targeted by groups like AIPAC using the same talking points.”

Other top Democratic AIPAC recipients — including Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y, and Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Mich. — attacked Tlaib this week. “U.S. aid to Israel is and should be unconditional,” Torres said in a statement. “Shame on anyone who glorifies as ‘resistance’ the largest single-day mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust. It is reprehensible and repulsive.” (Later, on the social media site X, Torres defended Tlaib when she was attacked for hanging a Palestinian flag outside her office.)

Stevens, who unseated progressive Israel critic and Jewish Democrat Rep. Andy Levin last year with help from AIPAC — which spent more than $4 million on ads attacking Levin and boosting her — joined the attacks. “We must continue to come together as a Congress and a country to disavow terrorism and support the Jewish state, our democratic ally, Israel,” Stevens told Jewish Insider in response to Tlaib’s comments. “Israel has a right to exist and defend herself.” (Torrres and Stephens did not respond to requests for comment.)

“We’re seeing our members of Congress, we’re seeing the Biden administration beating the drums of war,” said Miller, of Jewish Voice for Peace Action. “And Rashida Tlaib and Cori Bush are trying to hold a sane, anti-war line and they’re being attacked for it by their own party.”


What a turd blossom.




The contrast between the boundaries of discussion in the country that fetishizes allyship with Israel and the boundaries of discussion in the actual country of Israel couldn’t be more stark.



Wisconsin Republicans signaled on Thursday that they were retreating from their threats to impeach a recently seated liberal State Supreme Court justice, Janet Protasiewicz, before the newly left-leaning court could throw out the gerrymandered legislative maps that have cemented the G.O.P.’s hold on power in the state.

Robin Vos, the powerful Republican speaker of the State Assembly, said at a news conference in Madison that he would not seek to remove Justice Protasiewicz based on the argument he and fellow Republicans had been making for two months — that statements she made calling the maps “rigged” during her campaign for office this year compelled impeachment if she refused to recuse herself from a case challenging them.

Now, Mr. Vos said, the focus would be on what Justice Protasiewicz does “in office.” He said that if the court ruled against the Republican-drawn maps and other conservative causes, he would appeal its decisions to the U.S. Supreme Court. Impeachment, he said, remained “on the table” but was not something Republicans would pursue now.

“If they decide to inject their own political bias inside the process and not follow the law, we have the ability to go to the Supreme Court and we also have the ability to hold her accountable to the voters of Wisconsin,” Mr. Vos said.

His remarks came after nearly two months of drama about how Republicans would respond to the prospect that the State Supreme Court, now controlled by liberals for the first time in 15 years, will act as a check on conservative control of the state’s government. Mr. Vos had first floated the possibility of impeachment in August, and the potential move was embraced by other top Republicans in the state, including Senator Ron Johnson and former Gov. Scott Walker.

In response, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin began a $4 million campaign to pressure Republican lawmakers against impeaching and removing Justice Protasiewicz. Democratic officials and volunteers sought to force Republican legislators to reveal their position, though only one, State Representative Scott Johnson of Jefferson, has said publicly that he opposes impeachment.

“The people of Wisconsin rose up in outrage and the G.O.P. backed down,” said Ben Wikler, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. “This moment marks a new dawn of accountability and democracy in the Badger State.”

The crux of the Republican argument to impeach Justice Protasiewicz had been her campaign statements, made before she won a commanding victory in April, that the state’s legislative maps were “rigged.”

Mr. Vos had for weeks teased the idea of impeaching Justice Protasiewicz without making an explicit call for it. In August, he said the Assembly would “take a look at it.” Last week, he told The Associated Press that “it is wrong if she doesn’t” recuse herself from the maps case.
Last week, Justice Protasiewicz rejected Republicans’ arguments.

“If precedent does not warrant recusal, my oath binds me to participate,” she wrote in a decision to remain on the case.

In recent days, Mr. Vos had begun taking public steps to back away from the impeachment threat. His statement responding to Justice Protasiewicz’s decision to remain on the case did not mention impeachment, saying only, “The United States Supreme Court will have the last word here.”

On Tuesday, it emerged that a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice with whom Mr. Vos has been consulting — David Prosser, a conservative — had counseled him that impeachment was not warranted.

“There should be no effort to impeach Justice Protasiewicz on anything we know now,” Mr. Prosser wrote to Mr. Vos, according to emails released to The Associated Press. “It should not be considered unless the subject has committed a crime, or the subject has committed indisputable ‘corrupt conduct’ while ‘in office.’”

There was also little appetite for impeachment in the Wisconsin Senate, where Republicans hold a two-thirds majority and would need all of their members to vote to remove her. No Wisconsin judge or justice has been impeached since 1853, when a Milwaukee circuit court judge was impeached by the Assembly in a bribery scandal.

Though Democrats and Democratic-backed candidates have won 12 of the last 15 statewide elections dating to 2018, Republican-drawn legislative maps have given the G.O.P. two-thirds of seats in the State Senate and 64 of 99 seats in the Assembly. Republicans nearly captured enough seats last November to be able to override vetoes from Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat who won a second term.

Republican mapmakers have so efficiently packed Democrats into as few districts as possible that when Joseph R. Biden Jr. won Wisconsin in 2020, he carried just 35 of the state’s 99 Assembly districts.

Justice Protasiewicz infuriated Republicans during her campaign by broadcasting her views on the maps and abortion. Because of a state law enacted in 1849, decades before women won the right to vote, abortion became illegal in Wisconsin last summer when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. A case challenging the state abortion prohibition is likely to go before the Wisconsin Supreme Court next year.


ff’in joke.

“If they decide to inject their own political bias inside the process and not follow the law, we have the ability to go to the Supreme Court and we also have the ability to hold her accountable to the voters of Wisconsin,” Mr. Vos said.

Paul ADK

Wow. Deflection, much?

That’s how you know a Republican is speaking. They have one finger pointed at someone else in accusation, while three more fingers are pointed right on back at themselves.


Naomi Klein


I spent the evening in candlelight and tears with a dear friend who just learned that a close family member was among those massacred in Israel. I won’t name the kibbutz to protect her privacy but yes, it was unequivocally a massacre.

We tried to explain the killing of this family member – a civilian with two kids – to our kids. We tried to do it in a way that would not fill their young hearts with fear and hatred for the people who committed the crime. That was hard enough, but possible. Harder for us adults is the fact that, in their desire to celebrate the powerful symbolism of Palestinians escaping the open air prison that is Gaza — which occupied people have every right to do — some of our supposed comrades on the left continue to minimize massacres of Israeli civilians, and in some extreme cases, even seem to celebrate them.

In fact these callous displays are a gift to militant Zionism, since they neatly shore up and reconfirm its core and governing belief: that the non-Jewish world hates Jews and always will – look, even the bleeding-heart left is making excuses for our killers and thinks that Jewish kids and old ladies deserved death merely by living in Israel.

For Zionist believers (I’m not one of them), Jew-hatred is the central rationale for why Israel must exist as a nuclear-armed fortress. Within this worldview, antisemitism is cast as a primordial force that cannot be weakened or confronted. The world will always turn away from us in our hour of need, Zionism tells us, just as it did during the Holocaust, which is why force alone is presented as the only conceivable response to any and all threats.

The Israeli state’s current murderous leveling of Gaza is the latest, unspeakably horrific manifestation of this ideology, and there will be more in the coming days. The responsibility for these crimes of collective punishment rests solely with their perpetrators and their financial and military backers abroad. But we all have to figure out how to make it stop.

So how do we confront this violent ideology? For one thing, we can recognize that when Israeli Jews are killed in their homes and it is celebrated by people who claim to be anti-racists and anti-fascists, that is experienced as antisemitism by a great many Jews. And antisemitism (besides being hateful) is the rocket fuel of militant Zionism.

What could lessen its power, drain it of some of that fuel? True solidarity. Humanism that unites people across ethnic and religious lines. Fierce opposition to all forms of identity-based hatred, including antisemitism. An international left rooted in values that side with the child over the gun every single time, no matter whose gun and no matter whose child. A left that is unshakably morally consistent, and does not mistake that consistency with moral equivalency between occupier and occupied. Love.

It’s certainly worth a try. In these difficult times, I’d like to be part of a left like that.


Reminder of humanity…

ER Screenshot 2023-10-12 194227.jpg