Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Facts and not feelings

We begin today with Karen Attiah of The Washington Post sounding off on the muted response of U.S. media organizations to the killing of journalists in the Israel-Gaza war.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 64 journalists have been killed in the Israel-Gaza war; 57 were Palestinian, four were Israeli and three were Lebanese. This war “has been the deadliest conflict for journalists that CPJ has ever recorded, in terms of documenting attacks on the press,” CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg said in an interview with the New Yorker.

It’s not just that the journalists are being killed: Some believe they have been explicitly targeted, even outside Gaza. […]

Journalists in the region have continued to work even though their families are also at risk. Al Jazeera Arabic’s Gaza bureau chief, Wael Dahdouh, kept reporting after learning in October that his wife, son, daughter and grandson had been killed in an Israeli airstrike. On Friday, Dahdouh himself was wounded — and Al Jazeera journalist Samer Abudaqa was killed — in what media outlets reported was an Israeli drone strike.

Anas Al-Sharif, another journalist for Al Jazeera Arabic, reported receiving threats from the Israeli military to stop his work; last week, his family’s home in the Jabalia refugee camp was hit in a strike, and his 90-year-old father was killed.

Ms. Attiah points out that American media was anything but silent about the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi. There’s been wall-to-wall coverage of journalists killed in the Russia-Ukraine war. There’s been some important coverage of the killings and harassment of journalists in Latin America generally and in Mexico specifically (FTR the killing of journalists in Mexico has decreased sharply from 2022 although Mexico remains a very dangerous place to be a journalist). But American media silence on the numbers of journalists (and their families) in Gaza that have been killed by Israeli forces during this war.

And journalists continue to be attacked even when wearing the blue hardhats and badges identifying them as a member of the press?

Tom Nichols of The Atlantic thinks that many Americans are in a state of “national hypochondria” about nearly everything.

But America faces an even more fundamental challenge as the 2024 elections approach: For too many voters, nothing seems to matter. And I mean nothing. Donald Trump approvingly quotes Russian President Vladimir Putin and evokes the language of Adolf Hitler, and yet Americans are so accustomed to Trump’s rhetoric at this point that the story gets relegated to page A10 of the Sunday Washington Post. Joe Biden presides over an economic “soft landing” that almost no one thought could happen, and his approval rating drops to 33 percent—below Jimmy Carter’s in the summer of 1980, when American hostages were being held in Iran, and inflation, at more than 14 percent, was well into a second year of double digits. (Inflation is currently 3.1 percent—and likely will go lower.)

My concern here is not that people aren’t taking Trump’s threat seriously enough (even if they aren’t) or that Biden isn’t getting some of the credit he deserves (even if he isn’t). Rather, the political reactions of American voters seem completely detached from anything that’s happened over the past several years, or even from things that are happening right now. We use vibes to talk about all of this: We’re not in an actual recession, just a “vibecession,” where people feel like it’s a recession. […]

Even in casual conversations, I find myself flummoxed by people who argue, with much conviction, that America is in fact worse off, even if their own situation is better. When I respond by noting that inflation is not going up, say, or that America is at full employment, or that wages are outpacing prices, or that pay is increasing fastest for the lowest-paid workers, none of it matters. Instead, I get a response that is so common I can now see it coming every time: a head shake, a sigh, and then a comment about how everything is just such a mess.

Heather Digby Parton of Salon thinks that with Number 45, all of it is personal and not ideological at all.

It’s tempting to believe that Trump doesn’t actually know that he’s “parroting Adolph Hitler” as the White House charged after his latest tribute to the monstrous, genocidal maniac…Even if his personal Heinrich Himmler, Stephen Miller, wrote the words, it’s obvious from Trump’s casual conversation that he is in complete agreement with the fascist sentiments underlying “poisoning the blood of the country.” It’s fundamental to his beliefs about himself and his own superior genetic make-up. […]

His list also includes “communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical-left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections” and he has vowed to “expel,” “cast out,” “throw off,” “rout,” “evict” and “purge” his enemies. This is right out of the Nazi playbook.

Trump is always looking for a way to thrill his followers with a new outrage so it’s easy to say he’s just putting on a show. But I think he means it. He’s very bitter and angry at half of America for not loving him unconditionally and his thirst for revenge is overwhelming. It’s not about ideology, it’s personal. But the program that he’s contemplating as his instrument to pay back all those who’ve refused to bow and scrape before him is a full-on fascist agenda. And he knows it (the man watches a lot of TV.) He just believes it will work for him.

Gabriel Debenedetti of New York magazine says that in spite of punditry and polling predicting electoral doom for President Joe Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign, the Biden campaign isn’t sweating about it at all.

With less than a year until the 2024 vote, there is a glaring cognitive split at the top of the Democratic Party. While commentators and many strategists are aghast at Biden’s polling slide and desperate to see a course correction, the president’s aides at the White House and at reelection headquarters give every indication that they consider the election very much under control. The morning after the November 7 vote, Michael Tyler, the campaign’s communications director, circulated a toldja-so memo scoffing at the “pundit class” practice of “breathlessly making prediction after prediction about November 2024 based on polling” and pointing out that Biden “now presides over the best midterm & off-year combo for a president’s party in 20 years.” Another Biden insider described the run of off-year election victories to me as “canaries in the coal mine, dying,” and predicted that the president would win next November because “Dobbs is going to be on every ballot in every jurisdiction in America.” Democrats have been doing better than expected in all sorts of elections since Roe was overruled, and abortion-rights activists are pushing ballot initiatives in at least ten states. […]

If the campaign has an unofficial motto, it might be “Calm the fuck down, trust the process, and vote for Joe Biden. One. More. Time.” His top advisers believe that the political-media complex is repeating all its mistakes of 2019 in underestimating Biden and misunderstanding just how low Trump has sunk in voters’ estimation. They’re convinced Biden will rebound in popularity as the election gets closer and its stakes become apparent to the average voter. They also fully expect that no matter what happens between now and Election Day, the race will be decided by the narrowest of margins, just like almost every recent contest.

Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner of The Washington Post report that Rudy Giuliani was slapped with another lawsuit by Lady Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss because he simply can’t keep the lies about the two women out of his fuc*ing mouth.

Ruby Freeman and Wandrea Arshaye “Shaye” Moss asserted that Giuliani is continuing to baselessly accuse the former Fulton County election workers of manipulating the absentee ballot count to steal the 2020 election from former president Donald Trump in Georgia. The former New York mayor repeated the allegations during and after his defamation damages trial last week, even as his lawyer conceded in court the claims were wrong. […]

On Friday, hours after an eight-person federal jury ordered Giuliani to pay the two workers three times more than they asked for, Giuliani gave another live news interview in which he claimed he was unable to present evidence of “all the videos at the time” showing “what happened at the arena,” Moss and Freeman’s lawyers alleged. […]

Freeman and Moss’s attorneys wrote Monday that they asked Giuliani to agree to stop making such false claims before bringing their new suit seeking a court order and legal fees but that Giuliani refused to agree. […]

Minutes after filing the new suit, Gottlieb asked Howell, Giuliani’s trial judge, to let the plaintiff’s immediately pursue the $148 million judgment, citing the risk that Giuliani, the former Manhattan U.S. attorney, will empty out his savings before any money can be recovered.

This tweet by The Editorial Board’s John Stoehr is on target.

Some leftists used to have the same conception about the judicial process as well, tbh.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt writes for MIT Technology Review about what social media platforms need to do to fight against election misinformation in 2024.

The coming year will be one of seismic political shifts. Over 4 billion people will head to the polls in countries including the United States, Taiwan, India, and Indonesia, making 2024 the biggest election year in history.

And election campaigns are using artificial intelligence in novel ways. Earlier this year in the US, the Republican presidential primary campaign of Florida governor Ron DeSantis posted doctored images of Donald Trump; the Republican National Committee released an AI-created ad depicting a dystopian future in response to Joe Biden’s announcing his reelection campaign; and just last month, Argentina’s presidential candidates each created an abundance of AI-generated content portraying the other party in an unflattering light. This surge in deepfakes heralds a new political playing field. Over the past year, AI was used in at least 16 countries to sow doubt, smear opponents, or influence public debate, according to a report released by Freedom House in October. We’ll need to brace ourselves for more chaos as key votes unfold across the world in 2024. […]

Now, with AI starting to make social media much more toxic, platforms and regulators need to act quickly to regain user trust and safeguard our democracy. Here I propose six technical approaches that platforms should double down on to protect their users. Regulations and laws will play a crucial role in incentivizing or mandating many of these actions. And while these reforms won’t solve all the problems of mis- and disinformation, they can help stem the tide ahead of elections next year.

Anshel Pfeffer of Haaretz thinks that Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments at last Saturday’s war cabinet press conference about the Oslo Accords are designed to shore up his base of support in anticipation for parliamentary elections, possibly in mid-2024.

The war cabinet’s press conference on Saturday was supposed to be about the war in Gaza. There was certainly more than enough war-related issues to discuss, starting with the tragic killing of hostages Yotam Haim, Samer Fuad El-Talalka and Alon Shamriz by Israel Defense Forces soldiers the previous morning in Gaza.

Instead, what Israelis got was a preview of what they can expect in the election campaign that increasingly seems imminent. […]

There was no other reason for Netanyahu to openly and directly challenge Israel’s only strategic ally, to state that Israel would continue fighting on the ground in Gaza, “continue to the end – until we eliminate Hamas,” and that he won’t “allow us to replace Hamastan with Fatahstan, that we replace Khan Yunis with Jenin.” In other words, he was defiantly thumbing his nose at U.S. President Joe Biden’s stated preference for the Palestinian Authority to reassert control in the Gaza Strip.

Why would Netanyahu air these differences with the Americans so openly now? He immediately explained.

“I will not allow the State of Israel to repeat the fateful mistake of Oslo, which brought to the heart of our country and to Gaza the most extreme elements in the Arab world, which are committed to the destruction of the State of Israel and who educate their children to this end.”

John Ramming Chappell and Hassan el-Tayyab of Just Security write about a new resolution by Senator Bernie Sanders designed to, at the very least, debate about the military aid that the U.S. is providing Israel.

In response to Hamas’ horrific Oct. 7 attacks, Israel has waged a military campaign that has killed nearly 20,000 people in Gaza, among them thousands of children, and injured another 50,000 people. Several prominent human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have documented likely violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza by Israeli forces. But as the Israeli offensive devastates communities across Gaza, the United States continues to provide a steady stream of bombs, missiles, drones, artillery shells, and ammunitionall apparently without conditions. Amnesty International investigators have already shown that Israeli forces killed dozens of civilians in two strikes using weapons made in the United States. But the State Department has admitted time andagain that it is not assessing whether Israel is complying with international law in its campaign.

Section 502B established the State Department’s country reports on human rights practices and includes a rarely enforced prohibition on security assistance to any country where the government engages in a “consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” (For a further discussion of Section 502B, its use, and its history, see author John Ramming Chappell’s previous Just Security article.) But the law’s promise for forcing a debate on arms transfers to Israel lies in its obscure process, known in legal terms as Section 502B(c), to require a report on human rights in a target country and then restrict security assistance to that country.

Using that process, Congress, either through the letter of a foreign affairs committee chair or the resolution of a single chamber, requests a mandatory human rights report from the State Department on a specified country. A vote on a resolution requesting a report is privileged in the Senate, meaning that a single motivated senator can force a vote on the measure ten days after introduction. If the State Department does not provide a report within 30 days of the request, no security assistance – including arms transfers – can be delivered until Congress receives the report.

Finally today, Eleni Courea of POLITICO Europe writes that Labour leader Keir Starmer wants to hit the American leg of his tour just like the rest of his shadow cabinet.

The U.K. opposition leader — on course to become Britain’s next prime minister, if current polling proves correct — is seeking talks with Biden in 2024, two Labour Party officials told POLITICO. They were granted anonymity to discuss private conversations.

“David Lammy [Starmer’s shadow foreign secretary] has been tasked with making it happen,” one of the officials said. “But it’s tricky because we don’t know when the election is going to be.”

Try to have the best possible day everyone!


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