Antisemitism is a powerful drug, but the three presidents saw their duty as defending the open market on thought. They upheld, though very badly, the core notion of academic freedom, which is free speech. But when free speech becomes hate speech with the threat of violence, what then?
Can you put conditions on advocating for antisemitism? Maureen Dowd expressed it this way: “Not since Bill Clinton was asked about having sex with Monica Lewinsky and replied, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” has there been such parsing.”
I spent a lot of years in academia, teaching at NYU, City College and the University of Wisconsin. There were things about it that I loved, but not the sense of moral superiority which infected some of the faculty and administration. I finally found academia to be constricting because it was often smug and self-satisfied. Yes, there were other reasons that I left, but I found more freedom outside the ivy-covered walls.
Now we have the spectacle of Ted Cruz and Elise Stefanik accusing the Harvard president of “intentionally fostering an environment that allows rampant and dangerous antisemitism.” We should not be surprised that she and her colleagues are just continuing their regular attack on liberal institutions. The GOP is very good at confounding issues that have no necessary connection—such as linking aid to Ukraine with the border mess.
But of course she was right to go after the three Ivy presidents. I guess they were advised by their lawyers to give legalistic answers, waffling over what should have been an obvious and strong response. The schools ought to be teaching the real and complex history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, not defending an abstract standard.
Academia is sometimes guilty of parsing the simple truth.
To honor the memory of Hunter S. Thompson we’ve assembled some factoids regarding the mental health of the U.S. population. As one who follows such things, I’ll note that it has gotten considerably more hopeless since Hunter’s time.
Thirty-nine percent of them believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Forty percent trust far-right news.
“In the hours following the Arizona call [for Biden], a paranoid conspiracy theory spread rapidly on Parler and in other right-wing online forums: Voters in conservative counties had been given felt-tip pens that supposedly made vote-counting machines reject the ballots that they marked for Trump.”
“It was at a Turning Point USA event at Boise State University Monday that a member of the audience asked organizer Charlie Kirk, ‘How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?’”
A US senator [Ted Cruz] loudly defended a man who gave a Nazi salute as a protest at a school board meeting.
The unconstitutional Texas law that effectively bans all abortions is now being heard by the Supreme Court. The Court has agreed to duck the constitutional issue and to decide only procedural questions.
And we could go on—about Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert and the other loonies—but you get the drift, and it’s all historical, of course. Hunter Thompson was our political harbinger, and what he had to say about Nixon goes double for Trump:
Writing about the final days as president of his nemesis Richard Nixon, Mr. Thompson observed, “The slow-rising central horror of ‘Watergate’ is not that it might grind down to the reluctant impeachment of a vengeful thug of a president whose entire political career has been a monument to the same kind of cheap shots and treachery he finally got nailed for, but that we might somehow fail to learn something from it.”
Heidi Schneider, our Houston correspondent, unwraps some indecent political behavior in Texas. Quick to blame others, these folks have no competence and no shame. On a related note, I highly recommend to you Ezra Klein’s recent podcast, “The Texas Crisis Could Become Everyone’s Crisis.” Three smart people talk not only about the Texas debacle but how climate change will change all of us.
We tried-and-true Texans are taught to “Remember the Alamo” and the flag slogan “Come and Take It” from our earliest fight for independence. But since the 1990s the Texas GOP has fractured our exemplary and fabled image with sanctimonious messaging and agendas. Fast forward to the present day and it’s clear that Texas’s image as a sovereign utopia needs a dramatic facelift.
Just last week the Texas Attorney General, Republican Ken Paxton—who has been under a federal indictment since 2015—took a page from Senator Ted Cruz’s playbook and snuck off to Utah with his Texas state senator wife Angela, paying no regard to the non-legislative Texans left behind during a statewide weather catastrophe. Just two days after the historic freeze arrived, he left town, claiming his absence was due to important official meetings.
More important than millions of frozen constituents? Do you remember that in late 2020 Paxton’s department joined the Stop the Steal con by drafting a lawsuit against four other states? Dispatched to the Supreme Court, the case was quickly dismissed, as the justices instructed Texas conservatives to play in their own sandbox. Upstanding folkloric judicial leader, or total self-serving schmuck? You decide.
Just days ago, the Lone Star state’s conservative Lt. Governor Dan Patrick went on record insisting on a thorough investigation into the state’s energy failure. He claimed this would not be a finger-pointing expedition, then immediately placed blame for the magnitude of frozen failure on ERCOT, the Energy Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the power grid. Should we tell him a similar investigation was done in 2011 after an extreme cold snap? Moreover, the recommended updates were never pursued by the legislature. Crawl back under your rock, Dan. Your expertise is in gender-neutral bathroom policing, not power grids.
In the past several years, changing weather systems have brought horrific flooding and damaging winds to my home state. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey became the second-costliest tropical storm on record, costing 127 billion dollars in damage. I remember newscasts where Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner pleaded with Governor Abbott to release his Ebenezer Scrooge grip on the state’s rainy-day fund to help flood victims. That fund, currently around 10 billion dollars, was originally created after the oil and gas bust way back in the 1980s. Instead, Abbott used his executive power, as he has done for last week’s storm, and declared a state disaster, so Texas could qualify for federal assistance. So much for national overreach and state sovereignty.
The legislature just began another biennial session in January. After a dysfunctional year of pandemic quarantines, disturbances from 2020 election deniers, and a frozen national disaster, voters should expect them to address our most pressing statewide issues. There is nothing exceptional about literally polarizing segments of our state and victimizing the most vulnerable. Meaningful infrastructure and inclusive policies are what will move our state forward, not gaslighting from our majority surrogates in Austin.
As my no-nonsense husband George puts it, “If you are a partisan asshole, own it, and stop talking out of both sides of your mouth.” For me, I sum it up simply as: bullshit runs deep in Texas.
With all the horror stories coming out of Texas, I asked my friend Heidi Schneider for her thoughts on what has happened and is still happening there. She and her husband George are lifelong Houston residents and seasoned observers of the political scene. Here is her account.
Over the last several years, many Republican legislators in Texas have become chameleons of a sort. They change the colors of their opinions to support the national administration’s mantra of “fake news” and everything is a “hoax” sound bites as their only tangible agenda.
Well, saddle up, chameleon cowboys, because there has been no partisan politics in play when it comes to the millions of Texans devastated by the recent polar blast. This left the entire state without the basic infrastructure to keep multitudes of citizens from freezing to death.
In desperation to keep warm, some households across the state have resorted to burning their belongings or exposing themselves to carbon monoxide poisoning. People were left without water and electricity at random, and traffic blocking lines started to form at some fast-food establishments, as folks sat in their cars just to absorb the warmth and obtain a hot meal.
Gas pumps have been bombarded by motorists who navigated the dangerous, icy streets just to secure fuel before it disappeared. Grocery stores, with limited supplies, have hundreds of shoppers standing in the freezing elements, only to select from already depleted shelves. In Houston, a handful of warming shelters opened, with Texas’s largest city housing over 800 homeless and vulnerable Houstonians, and their pets, at the city’s convention center. Who would have thought the pandemic could be upstaged in my state?
During the height of our utility outages, I watched Governor Greg Abbott focus more on planting the seed of ultimate blame than addressing the palpable desperation happening in his state. During cable news appearances his conversation strayed by stretching the blame to Texas’s frozen wind turbines. We heard his views that oil and gas remain king, that progressive ideas of alternative sources are the root of energy evil, all the while overlooking the fact that winterizing the state’s energy resources has been neglected for decades.
Former Republican Governor Rick Perry felt he was speaking for all citizens by verbalizing that Texans are happy to do without creature comforts in order to maintain our state’s energy independence and freedom from federal oversight. He spoke while warm and comfy during an internet-style interview.
To add insult to injury, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who has offices in Houston—you know him, he aided in the insurrection of our nation’s capital a few weeks back—decided to sneak off to Cancun for some sun and fun, since his children were out of school due to inclement weather. You cannot make this stuff up.
As a native Texan, I am tired of my intelligence being insulted by my state’s Republican leaders telling me not to believe what I see and hear for myself. From my view today, I see Texans helping Texans, just as we always do during crises, and I hear that federal assistance is on the way.
The crown prince of appeasement has always been Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister who ushered the world into war in 1938. But the real heir apparent is Trump, whose exercises in appeasement have known no bounds.
You remember, for instance, his gift to Turkey and what he did to the Kurds? His constant sucking up to Russia? His “America First” is simply a recrudescence of the isolationism of the same name that was so strong in the United States in the 1930s. This came not only to bolster the appeasement of the British and French; it paralyzed them in the face of a total threat.
Appeasement usually means “pacifying an aggrieved country through negotiation in order to prevent war.” Now the president’s GOP colleagues have given it a new twist. They condone and foster his lies and fantasies about the election, giving him and his demented base virtually full support for a wealth of conspiracy theories and nutcase behavior.
Their present appeasement is not a new thing, however. It has been a part of Republican identity for many years. Currently it extends to the very beginning of Trump’s term with the GOP’s tacit support of his personal scams and their public damning of the facts contained in the Mueller report. You know the history.
Trump’s Republican enablers have now sold out their rights to govern. You know who they are; Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham lead the parade. One writer put it this way: “Trump’s GOP enablers act like those terrible parents you see in the grocery store trying to cajole their bratty kid throwing a tantrum in the checkout line with ever more absurd promises.” Except they don’t just cajole the behavior, they tolerate it.
Some 70 percent of Republicans don’t believe the election was valid, and only 10 percent of Republicans in Congress accept it as valid. And so the Congressional enablers continue to ratify their fantasies in the pursuit of electoral power. That’s all it’s about. Most of them know it’s a farce and that it can lead to the prospects of violence and lynching we have seen in Georgia and elsewhere. And still they persist.
In Arizona, the Gonzo Party “asked its followers if they are willing to die for the cause of overturning the presidential election results, . . . and a handful of users replied they were indeed willing to give their lives to the cause.”
The only remedy I see for the madness is to strongly call out Trump and his goons for what they are. To be silent is to be complicit. Chamberlain at least taught us that.