Vladimir Putin sends his love

Imperialism

Russia


Fig. 1. Historic Russian empire, from the New York Times, possibly March 6, 2014, fair use.[1]

I shouldn’t have to say this. I should be able to assume that the U.S. is in fact studying what’s going on with Vladimir Putin and Russia very carefully. With the stupidity I see around me pretty close to 100 percent of the time, I cannot.

But if indeed Putin is sending a message (see below), then I hope an understanding of that message is being taken into account with these as yet unannounced sanctions.[2]

In 2021, [Joe] Biden told reporters that if [Alexey] Navalny died, the consequences for Russia would be “devastating.” Asked directly about that on Friday, the president said his remark was three years ago, and they’ve faced “a hell of a lot of consequences” since then.[3]

I also hope these sanctions will actually prove effective.

Matt Berg, “US to announce ‘major sanctions package’ on Russia following Navalny death,” Politico, February 20, 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/02/20/russia-sanctions-navalny-putin-00142183

Ukraine


Fig. 1. “Destroyed Russian military vehicles located on the main street Khreshchatyk are seen as part of the celebration of the Independence Day of Ukraine in Kyiv, August 24.” Photograph by Gleb Garanich for Reuters, August 24, 2022,[4] fair use.

A man’s corpse, found riddled with bullets and run over by a vehicle in Spain last week, was identified as that of Russian military pilot Maksim Kuzminov, who flew his Mi-8 helicopter to Ukraine in a dramatic defection in August, Ukrainian officials said.

His apparent murder — after a very public threat to his life last year on Russian state television — has raised questions about whether this was a Russian-ordered assassination carried out on European soil.

News of Kuzminov’s violent demise emerged just days after the sudden death in prison of Russian political opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which European and U.S. officials have framed as evidence of the Russian government’s unchecked brutality.[5]

In this era, when you see two attacks at about the same time from the same source, it’s time to look for a less obvious message.

Robyn Dixon, “Bullet-riddled body found in Spain was Russian defector, Ukraine says,” Washington Post, February 20, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/02/20/spain-russia-ukraine-kuminov-assassination-defector/

Israel

Palestine

07_09:10:47-2
Fig. 1. The ruins of a terminal at the Gaza airport. Image by Said Khatib (Agence France-Presse) on September 9, 2018, via the Times of Israel,[6] fair use.

Susie Coen, Nataliya Vasilyeva, and Nick Gutteridge, “US moves to stop Israel’s invasion of Rafah,” Telegraph, February 19, 2024, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2024/02/19/us-use-un-force-israel-halt-rafah-invasion-hamas-idf/


  1. [1]New York Times, “Ukraine Crisis in Maps,” n.d., http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/02/27/world/europe/ukraine-divisions-crimea.html
  2. [2]Matt Berg, “US to announce ‘major sanctions package’ on Russia following Navalny death,” Politico, February 20, 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/02/20/russia-sanctions-navalny-putin-00142183
  3. [3]Matt Berg, “US to announce ‘major sanctions package’ on Russia following Navalny death,” Politico, February 20, 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/02/20/russia-sanctions-navalny-putin-00142183
  4. [4]Reuters, “Ukraine puts destroyed Russian tanks on display in Kyiv,” August 25, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/ukraine-puts-destroyed-russian-tanks-on-idUSRTSALV9Q
  5. [5]Robyn Dixon et al., “Bullet-riddled body found in Spain was Russian defector, Ukraine says,” Washington Post, February 20, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/02/20/spain-russia-ukraine-kuminov-assassination-defector/
  6. [6]Agence France-Presse and Times of Israel, “20 years after its opening, destroyed Gaza airport embodies grounded peace hopes,” Times of Israel, September 12, 2018, https://www.timesofisrael.com/20-years-after-its-opening-destroyed-gaza-airport-embodies-grounded-peace-hopes/

Personalities I’d prefer not to pay attention to

Imperialism

Russia


Fig. 1. Historic Russian empire, from the New York Times, possibly March 6, 2014, fair use.[1]

I try to avoid focusing on personalities. Sometimes, as with Donald Trump, that’s impossible. Yevgeny Prigozhin, too, compelled my attention with his brazen mutiny.

And so, I mostly have not paid much attention to Alexey Navalny. I understand he was no friend to Ukraine. But I would be taking this too far to let his death pass without notice.

Julia Ioffe, “The Tragedy of Navalny,” Puck, February 19, 2024, https://puck.news/the-tragedy-of-navalny/


Illiberalism

Gilead

Donald Trump


Fig. 2. Donald Trump, depicted in an orange jumpsuit, reportedly by the Drudge, via Mediaite,[2] fair use. Apparently, no mugshot was taken when he was actually arrested over hush money paid to Stormy Daniels.[3]

Were you expecting anything else?

[Donald] Trump, who has a long history of praising [Vladimir] Putin, went days without publicly mentioning [Alexey] Navalny and spoke for about an hour and a half at a campaign rally in Michigan over the weekend without weighing in on he opposition leader’s death. When asked in the hours after news of Navalny’s death broke if Trump had a response, his campaign pointed CNN to a post by Trump on Truth Social that bashed [Joe] Biden and claimed, “America is no longer respected,” but did not mention Navalny or Putin.

The first time Trump mentioned Navalny’s name in the wake of his death was when he shared a piece by the tippinsights editorial board on Sunday with the headline “Biden:Trump::Putin:Navalny,” that baselessly claimed there are “some parallels between how the Biden administration is targeting the former president of the United States and how President Putin went after his arch-nemesis.” . . .

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” former Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney — a leading critic of the former president — said Sunday she believes “the issue this election cycle is making sure that the Putin-wing of the Republican Party does not take over the West Wing of the White House.”[4]

Peter Baker, “Poll Ranks Biden as 14th-Best President, With Trump Last,” New York Times, February 18, 2024, https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/18/us/politics/biden-trump-presidential-rankings.html

Kate Sullivan, “Trump avoids condemning Russia for Navalny’s death,” CNN, February 19, 2024, https://www.cnn.com/2024/02/19/politics/trump-navalny-death-response/index.html


Neoliberalism

Democratic (neoliberal) Party

Joe Biden


Fig. 3. Joe Biden and Pope Francis, unknown photographer, April 29, 2016, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Joe Biden apparently earns credit in presidential rankings for evicting Donald Trump, named the worst president in U.S. history, from the White House.[5]

Indeed, Mr. [Joe] Biden may owe his place in the top third in part to Mr. [Donald] Trump. Although he has claims to a historical legacy by managing the end of the Covid pandemic; rebuilding the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure; and leading an international coalition against Russian aggression, Mr. Biden’s signature accomplishment, according to the historians, was evicting Mr. Trump from the Oval Office.[6]

So what happens if Biden loses this November? Where will he rank then?

Walker Bragman, “Analysis: The Age of Biden,” Opt-Out, February 17, 2024, https://www.optout.news/newsletters/biden-and-the-media

Peter Baker, “Poll Ranks Biden as 14th-Best President, With Trump Last,” New York Times, February 18, 2024, https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/18/us/politics/biden-trump-presidential-rankings.html


  1. [1]New York Times, “Ukraine Crisis in Maps,” n.d., http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/02/27/world/europe/ukraine-divisions-crimea.html
  2. [2]Alex Griffing, “Drudge Puts Trump in an Orange Jumpsuit as Site Monitors His Potential Indictment,” Mediaite, August 29, 2022, https://www.mediaite.com/news/drudge-puts-trump-in-an-orange-jumpsuit-as-site-monitors-his-potential-indictment/
  3. [3]Sarah D. Wire and Alexandra E. Petri, “Trump charged with 34 felony counts in alleged hush money cover-up case,” Los Angeles Times, April 4, 2023, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-04-04/donald-trump-alleged-hush-money-investigation-indictment-arraignment
  4. [4]Kate Sullivan, “Trump avoids condemning Russia for Navalny’s death,” CNN, February 19, 2024, https://www.cnn.com/2024/02/19/politics/trump-navalny-death-response/index.html
  5. [5]Peter Baker, “Poll Ranks Biden as 14th-Best President, With Trump Last,” New York Times, February 18, 2024, https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/18/us/politics/biden-trump-presidential-rankings.html
  6. [6]Peter Baker, “Poll Ranks Biden as 14th-Best President, With Trump Last,” New York Times, February 18, 2024, https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/18/us/politics/biden-trump-presidential-rankings.html

Publicly, Donald Trump wants a ‘deal’ on abortion. Privately, he likes a 16-week ban because it’s a ‘round number’

Illiberalism

Gilead

Abortion, reproductive freedom and health


Fig. 1. Sign at demonstration in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, May 3, 2022. Janni Rye, via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Chris Geidner, “Trump dodges on abortion as SCOTUS cases highlighting anti-abortion extremism approach,” Law Dork, February 18, 2024, https://www.lawdork.com/p/trump-abortion-scotus-cases


Neoliberalism

Work


Fig. 2. The spectre of Death, in the form of a large skeleton, rises with the smoke and flames of the burning Asch Building during the Triangle fire, as people jump and fall to their death. Artist unknown, from International Ladies Garment Workers Union Photographs (1885-1985) at The Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0.

Charlotte Lytton, “AI hiring tools may be filtering out the best job applicants,” British Broadcasting Corporation, February 16, 2024, https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20240214-ai-recruiting-hiring-software-bias-discrimination


The possible collapse of Donald Trump

Illiberalism

Gilead

Donald Trump


Fig. 1. Original caption: “Your Honor, in an effort to insure a fair trial, we move for a change of venue to the defendant’s imagination.” Cartoon by Teresa Burns Parkhurst, apparently February 16, 2024, via the New Yorker, fair use.

Something I’ve learned over the decades is that when things go bad, the various factors in my situation compound each other in unexpected ways, much as general systems theory might predict, to produce emergent problems. Not only do I now have the problems I started out with, I have unexpected new problems making it all worse.

It feels like society kicking me when I’m down and I thought this was a problem for the poor, like me, on a downward skid, and when I try to do things well, to do them right, it is in part a desperate attempt to avoid potentially compounding problems.

It’s possible I am wrong about this being a problem only for the poor: Donald Trump’s problems now compound each other: The money he has to put up to appeal his fraud and his defamation convictions will crimp his campaign.[1] He’ll actually have to be present for criminal trials, constraining campaign appearances. More of his supporters may decide he really is a crook and that, yes, that matters.

Bloomberg Billionaires Index recently estimated [Donald] Trump’s net worth at $3.1 billion, with about $600 million in cash assets. The fines and penalties levied by Engoron could eat into well over half of that fortune, accumulated over many years, and could prompt the company to sell more real estate if it wants to free up cash. Last year, Forbes downgraded its estimate of the former president’s net worth to $2.5 billion, $600 million less than its previous estimate.

“The financial penalties that are being placed on Trump and the Trump Organization are likely to put serious strain on Trump’s business in a way that hasn’t happened to date,” said New York Law School adjunct professor Steven M. Cohen, a former top official in the New York attorney general’s office, citing Friday’s decision and the recent $83.3 million verdict in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit.[2]

If it happens, a collapse need not happen all at once. And it is possible that events may forestall that collapse. But I am watching for it now.

Lukas I. Alpert, “Trump is backed further into a financial corner after losing control of his company,” MarketWatch, February 16, 2024, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-is-backed-further-into-a-financial-corner-after-losing-control-of-his-company-85aa467e

Lloyd Green, “Trump, the ‘law-and-order’ candidate, is an adjudicated fraudster,” Guardian, February 16, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/feb/16/donald-trump-organization-legal-woes

Jonathan O’Connell, “Hefty fines, penalties will rock Trump family’s business and fortune,” Washington Post, February 16, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/02/16/trump-verdict-civil-fraud-trial/

Finances


Fig. 2. Trump International Hotel, Las Vegas, undated image credited to https://www.flickr.com/photos/glynlowe/ [bad link], via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0.

Lukas I. Alpert, “Trump is backed further into a financial corner after losing control of his company,” MarketWatch, February 16, 2024, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-is-backed-further-into-a-financial-corner-after-losing-control-of-his-company-85aa467e

Jacob Gershman and James Fanelli, “Judge Orders Trump to Pay More Than $350 Million for Misrepresenting His Wealth,” Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/us-news/law/donald-trump-new-york-civil-fraud-trial-ruling-6447c2cd

Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling, “Trump Enters Full Meltdown Mode Over $355 Million Verdict in Fraud Trial,” New Republic, February 16, 2024, https://newrepublic.com/post/179110/trump-meltdown-reaction-civil-fraud-trial-verdict

Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling, “Very Stable Genius Trump Hammered to Tune of $350 Million in Fraud Trial,” New Republic, February 16, 2024, https://newrepublic.com/post/178566/trump-verdict-bank-fraud-trial

Joy Wiltermuth, “No quick end to Trump’s real-estate business after New York fraud case ruling,” MarketWatch, February 16, 2024, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/no-quick-end-to-trumps-real-estate-business-after-new-york-fraud-case-ruling-7c29db55

Lloyd Green, “Trump, the ‘law-and-order’ candidate, is an adjudicated fraudster,” Guardian, February 16, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/feb/16/donald-trump-organization-legal-woes

Jonathan O’Connell, “Hefty fines, penalties will rock Trump family’s business and fortune,” Washington Post, February 16, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/02/16/trump-verdict-civil-fraud-trial/

Hush money


Fig. 3. Cartoon by Jesse Duquette, undated, via “Minneapple23” [pseud.] on Imgur, April 1, 2023, fair use.

Lukas I. Alpert, “Trump is backed further into a financial corner after losing control of his company,” MarketWatch, February 16, 2024, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-is-backed-further-into-a-financial-corner-after-losing-control-of-his-company-85aa467e

Lloyd Green, “Trump, the ‘law-and-order’ candidate, is an adjudicated fraudster,” Guardian, February 16, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/feb/16/donald-trump-organization-legal-woes

Jonathan O’Connell, “Hefty fines, penalties will rock Trump family’s business and fortune,” Washington Post, February 16, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/02/16/trump-verdict-civil-fraud-trial/

Coup attempt

2024

Fig. 4. Cartoon by Ben Jennings, January 24, 2024, via the Guardian,[3] fair use.

Lukas I. Alpert, “Trump is backed further into a financial corner after losing control of his company,” MarketWatch, February 16, 2024, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-is-backed-further-into-a-financial-corner-after-losing-control-of-his-company-85aa467e

Lloyd Green, “Trump, the ‘law-and-order’ candidate, is an adjudicated fraudster,” Guardian, February 16, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/feb/16/donald-trump-organization-legal-woes


Neoliberalism

Democratic (neoliberal) Party

Joe Biden


Fig. 1. Joe Biden and Pope Francis, unknown photographer, April 29, 2016, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

If it’s getting harder to see how Donald Trump wins this November despite his intensifying legal difficulties, it is also hard to see how Joe Biden overcomes doubts about his age. Walker Bragman thinks the issue isn’t going away.[4]

Walker Bragman, “Analysis: The Age of Biden,” Opt-Out, February 17, 2024, https://www.optout.news/newsletters/biden-and-the-media


  1. [1]Lukas I. Alpert, “Trump is backed further into a financial corner after losing control of his company,” MarketWatch, February 16, 2024, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-is-backed-further-into-a-financial-corner-after-losing-control-of-his-company-85aa467e; Lloyd Green, “Trump, the ‘law-and-order’ candidate, is an adjudicated fraudster,” Guardian, February 16, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/feb/16/donald-trump-organization-legal-woes; Jonathan O’Connell, “Hefty fines, penalties will rock Trump family’s business and fortune,” Washington Post, February 16, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/02/16/trump-verdict-civil-fraud-trial/
  2. [2]Jonathan O’Connell, “Hefty fines, penalties will rock Trump family’s business and fortune,” Washington Post, February 16, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/02/16/trump-verdict-civil-fraud-trial/
  3. [3]Ben Jennings, “Ben Jennings on Donald Trump’s progress along the Republican nomination trail – cartoon,” Guardian, January 24, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/picture/2024/jan/24/ben-jennings-on-donald-trumps-progress-along-the-republican-nomination-trail-cartoon
  4. [4]Walker Bragman, “Analysis: The Age of Biden,” Opt-Out, February 17, 2024, https://www.optout.news/newsletters/biden-and-the-media

Donald Trump: A wounded animal, cornered

Illiberalism

Gilead

Donald Trump


Fig. 1. “Your Honor, in an effort to insure a fair trial, we move for a change of venue to the defendant’s imagination.” Cartoon by Teresa Burns Parkhurst, apparently on February 16, 2024, via the New Yorker, fair use.

Finances


Fig. 2. Trump International Hotel, Las Vegas, undated image credited to https://www.flickr.com/photos/glynlowe/ [bad link], via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0.

A ruling “order[ing] the Trump Organization to pay $364 million in penalties and barr[ing] the former president from any role in running a business in New York state for three years”[1] “will have such an enormous impact on the operation of his business. But it will also provide a strong basis for an appeal.”[2]

This is the second recent judgment against [Donald] Trump that vastly outweighs the original asking price in damages. When the trial began in October, [Letitia] James requested that the state punish Trump and his two sons, Don Jr. and Eric Trump, also Trump Organization executives, to the tune of $250 million. But after significant grandstanding about his alleged net worth during his deposition, James asked in a post-trial brief that the state penalize him for $120 million more, bringing the total sum up to $370 million, a little more than [Arthur F.] Engoron’s final ruling on Friday.[3]

The other such penalty is in E. Jean Carroll’s successful defamation suit. “With these verdicts, Trump now owes more than $440 million in damages.”[4]

With the court-ordered monitor, Donald Trump could have difficulty even posting a required bond for an appeal and that cost could crimp his presidential campaign.[5] This is the kind of thing I refrain from speculating on: I lack the expertise and what experience I do have suggests that forecasts such as this often prove to be wrong. We shall see.

The Trump Organization is going to exist. It is going to be hamstrung, but I think it still exists.[6]

As to the appeal itself,

Unless [Donald] Trump settles the claims, it will now be up to appeals courts to decide whether the penalties and sanctions should stand. The appeals fight will likely focus on whether the state [of New York] established Trump’s liability under a state fraud statute intended to combat consumer scams and corporate malfeasance that harms the marketplace. Trump’s lawyers also have argued that most of the claims in the attorney general’s lawsuit should have been dismissed for falling outside the statute of limitations.[7]

Again, we shall see.

Lukas I. Alpert, “Trump is backed further into a financial corner after losing control of his company,” MarketWatch, February 16, 2024, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-is-backed-further-into-a-financial-corner-after-losing-control-of-his-company-85aa467e

Jacob Gershman and James Fanelli, “Judge Orders Trump to Pay More Than $350 Million for Misrepresenting His Wealth,” Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/us-news/law/donald-trump-new-york-civil-fraud-trial-ruling-6447c2cd

Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling, “Trump Enters Full Meltdown Mode Over $355 Million Verdict in Fraud Trial,” New Republic, February 16, 2024, https://newrepublic.com/post/179110/trump-meltdown-reaction-civil-fraud-trial-verdict

Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling, “Very Stable Genius Trump Hammered to Tune of $350 Million in Fraud Trial,” New Republic, February 16, 2024, https://newrepublic.com/post/178566/trump-verdict-bank-fraud-trial

Joy Wiltermuth, “No quick end to Trump’s real-estate business after New York fraud case ruling,” MarketWatch, February 16, 2024, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/no-quick-end-to-trumps-real-estate-business-after-new-york-fraud-case-ruling-7c29db55


  1. [1]Lukas I. Alpert, “Trump is backed further into a financial corner after losing control of his company,” MarketWatch, February 16, 2024, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-is-backed-further-into-a-financial-corner-after-losing-control-of-his-company-85aa467e
  2. [2]Randy Zelin, quoted in Lukas I. Alpert, “Trump is backed further into a financial corner after losing control of his company,” MarketWatch, February 16, 2024, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-is-backed-further-into-a-financial-corner-after-losing-control-of-his-company-85aa467e
  3. [3]Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling, “Very Stable Genius Trump Hammered to Tune of $350 Million in Fraud Trial,” New Republic, February 16, 2024, https://newrepublic.com/post/178566/trump-verdict-bank-fraud-trial
  4. [4]Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling, “Very Stable Genius Trump Hammered to Tune of $350 Million in Fraud Trial,” New Republic, February 16, 2024, https://newrepublic.com/post/178566/trump-verdict-bank-fraud-trial
  5. [5]Lukas I. Alpert, “Trump is backed further into a financial corner after losing control of his company,” MarketWatch, February 16, 2024, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-is-backed-further-into-a-financial-corner-after-losing-control-of-his-company-85aa467e
  6. [6]Evan Gotlob, quoted in Joy Wiltermuth, “No quick end to Trump’s real-estate business after New York fraud case ruling,” MarketWatch, February 16, 2024, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/no-quick-end-to-trumps-real-estate-business-after-new-york-fraud-case-ruling-7c29db55
  7. [7]Jacob Gershman and James Fanelli, “Judge Orders Trump to Pay More Than $350 Million for Misrepresenting His Wealth,” Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/us-news/law/donald-trump-new-york-civil-fraud-trial-ruling-6447c2cd

Democrats sit much more comfortably in opposition, where they can complain about Republicans and where no one expects them to actually accomplish anything

Imperialism

Israel

Lebanon


Fig. 1. “Sabra & Shatila Massacre 1982 Memorial in Sabra, South Beirut,” photograph by Bertramz, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0.

There’s just never enough war, is there?

Peter Beaumont, “Hezbollah vows to retaliate for civilian deaths in Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon,” Guardian, February 15, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/feb/15/hezbollah-vows-to-retaliate-for-civilian-deaths-in-israeli-airstrikes-on-lebanon

Israel

Palestine

07_09:10:47-2
Fig. 2. The ruins of a terminal at the Gaza airport. Image by Said Khatib (Agence France-Presse) on September 9, 2018, via the Times of Israel,[1] fair use.

The president has dismissed any talk of slowing arms sales to Israel, U.S. officials said, and instead has largely relied on the bully pulpit to try to express discontent.[2]

It’s not enough for Joe Biden to get mad.[3] He needs to actually do something about Binyamin Netanyahu who just wants ever more war:

On Wednesday, [Binyamin] Netanyahu’s office said the government wouldn’t send a delegation back to Cairo to continue negotiations.[4]

The pressure on Israel to avoid a ground offensive [in Rafah] is coming from almost all quarters, including allies such as the US, UK, France, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The shadow of a return to the international court of justice and a further Algerian-sponsored UN security council resolution is looming over Israel.[5]

It remains to be seen what leverage the [Joe] Biden administration might be willing to use to address this gap between Israel and the United States on the Gaza endgame and the revived two-state solution concept. It’s one thing to leak messages of discontent and disapproval—it’s another thing to make a policy shift that might matter and lead to a different debate or decision calculus inside of Israel.[6]

America’s pressure on Israel must go beyond stern words and leaked angry conversations. The U.S. today is complicit in the destruction of Gazan society, the immiseration of much of the strip. But even at this late stage there are choices to be made and further catastrophe to be avoided.[7]

The U.S. State Department makes its excuses:

I think that sometimes people pretend that the United States of America has a magic wand that it can wave to make any situation in the world roll out in exactly the way that we would want it to,” he said, “and that is never the case.[8]

But the simple fact is that Biden is not doing everything he can to rein in Netanyahu.[9]

Yasmeen Abutaleb, John Hudson, and Tyler Pager, “Biden moving closer than ever to a breach with Netanyahu over war in Gaza,” Washington Post, February 11, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/02/11/biden-netanyahu-closer-to-a-breach/

Liz Goodwin and Mariana Alfaro, “Aid bill for Ukraine, Israel on track to pass Senate early this week,” Washington Post, February 11, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/02/11/senate-aid-ukraine-israel-taiwan-aid/

James Politi and Neri Zilber, “Biden says Israel must have plan to avoid civilian casualties in Rafah,” Financial Times, February 11, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/b00a8dcc-f8e3-4da6-a65b-280bb2289f5f

Andy Bounds, James Shotter, and Jonathan Wheatley, “Dutch court bans export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel,” Financial Times, February 12, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/502ebca5-5f2c-497c-968f-e710e617f268

Susie Coen, “Joe Biden considers going public with frustration over ‘a–hole’ Benjamin Netanyahu,” Telegraph, February 12, 2024, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/us/news/2024/02/12/joe-biden-going-public-frustration-benjamin-netanyahu/

Chao Deng, Carrie Keller-Lynn, and Daniel Michaels, “Defying Biden, Netanyahu Doubles Down on Plans to Fight in Rafah,” Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/defying-biden-israels-netanyahu-doubles-down-on-plans-to-fight-in-rafah-7b66d1dd

Emine Sinmaz, “Israel says two hostages freed in raid Gaza officials say killed 67 Palestinians,” Guardian, February 12, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/feb/12/israeli-hostages-freed-rafah-idf-gaza-report-dozens-palestinians-killed-strikes

Matthew Rosenberg et al., “A Tunnel Offers Clues to How Hamas Uses Gaza’s Hospitals,” New York Times, February 13, 2024, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/02/12/world/middleeast/gaza-tunnel-israel-hamas.html

Dion Nissenbaum and Jared Malsin, “U.S. Probes Israeli Strikes That Killed Civilians in Gaza, Possible Use of White Phosphorus in Lebanon,” Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/u-s-probes-israeli-strikes-that-killed-civilians-in-gaza-possible-use-of-white-phosphorus-in-lebanon-b8fb043b

Dion Nissenbaum and Vivian Salama, “Biden-Netanyahu Relationship at Boiling Point as Rafah Invasion Looms,” Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/biden-netanyahu-relationship-at-boiling-point-as-rafah-invasion-looms-b893bec5

Ishaan Tharoor, “As Israel corners Rafah, Netanyahu defies the world,” Washington Post, February 16, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2024/02/16/israel-rafah-pressure-global-displaced-assault/

Patrick Wintour, “Pressure builds on Israel to ditch Rafah offensive as ministers gather in Munich,” Guardian, February 16, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/feb/16/pressure-builds-on-israel-to-ditch-rafah-offensive-as-ministers-gather-in-munich


Neoliberalism

Democratic (neoliberal) Party

Joe Biden


Fig. 3. Joe Biden and Pope Francis, unknown photographer, April 29, 2016, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

I have said it before and it is particularly relevant now: The Democratic (neoliberal) Party strongly prefers sitting in opposition, where they can complain about the Republicans and where no one expects them to actually accomplish anything.

Donald Trump retains the undying support of his base. His base is not a plurality. He should be eminently defeatable.

So what do the Democrats do? Insist on nominating Joe Biden, whose excuses for his memory lapses under questioning by Robert Hur[10] fall flat even if the consensus is that Hur’s report was a political hit job,[11] and whose love for Israel, but not for anyone else who lives in the region, costs him votes[12] among everyone who recognizes genocide when it walks up and introduces itself. Now, those Democrats who missed the memo—we want to lose, remember?—are freaking out.[13]

Y’all should have gotten yourselves a party that actually wants to win. Me? I’d settle for one that cares about somebody besides the “donor class.”

Tara Palmeri, “The Old Man & The Scene,” Puck, February 15, 2024, https://puck.news/the-old-man-the-scene/

  1. [1]Agence France-Presse and Times of Israel, “20 years after its opening, destroyed Gaza airport embodies grounded peace hopes,” Times of Israel, September 12, 2018, https://www.timesofisrael.com/20-years-after-its-opening-destroyed-gaza-airport-embodies-grounded-peace-hopes/
  2. [2]Dion Nissenbaum and Vivian Salama, “Biden-Netanyahu Relationship at Boiling Point as Rafah Invasion Looms,” Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/biden-netanyahu-relationship-at-boiling-point-as-rafah-invasion-looms-b893bec5
  3. [3]Dion Nissenbaum and Vivian Salama, “Biden-Netanyahu Relationship at Boiling Point as Rafah Invasion Looms,” Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/biden-netanyahu-relationship-at-boiling-point-as-rafah-invasion-looms-b893bec5
  4. [4]Dion Nissenbaum and Vivian Salama, “Biden-Netanyahu Relationship at Boiling Point as Rafah Invasion Looms,” Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/biden-netanyahu-relationship-at-boiling-point-as-rafah-invasion-looms-b893bec5
  5. [5]Patrick Wintour, “Pressure builds on Israel to ditch Rafah offensive as ministers gather in Munich,” Guardian, February 16, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/feb/16/pressure-builds-on-israel-to-ditch-rafah-offensive-as-ministers-gather-in-munich
  6. [6]Brian Katulis, quoted in Dion Nissenbaum and Vivian Salama, “Biden-Netanyahu Relationship at Boiling Point as Rafah Invasion Looms,” Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/biden-netanyahu-relationship-at-boiling-point-as-rafah-invasion-looms-b893bec5
  7. [7]Michael Hanna, quoted in Ishaan Tharoor, “As Israel corners Rafah, Netanyahu defies the world,” Washington Post, February 16, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2024/02/16/israel-rafah-pressure-global-displaced-assault/
  8. [8]Matthew Miller, quoted in Dion Nissenbaum and Vivian Salama, “Biden-Netanyahu Relationship at Boiling Point as Rafah Invasion Looms,” Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/biden-netanyahu-relationship-at-boiling-point-as-rafah-invasion-looms-b893bec5
  9. [9]Dion Nissenbaum and Vivian Salama, “Biden-Netanyahu Relationship at Boiling Point as Rafah Invasion Looms,” Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/biden-netanyahu-relationship-at-boiling-point-as-rafah-invasion-looms-b893bec5; Ishaan Tharoor, “As Israel corners Rafah, Netanyahu defies the world,” Washington Post, February 16, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2024/02/16/israel-rafah-pressure-global-displaced-assault/
  10. [10]Matt Viser and Tyler Pager, “Biden responds angrily to special counsel report questioning his memory,” Washington Post, February 8, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/02/08/biden-hur-response/
  11. [11]Robert Kuttner, “A Partisan Hit Job on President Biden,” American Prospect, February 9, 2024, https://prospect.org/blogs-and-newsletters/tap/2024-02-09-partisan-hit-job-president-biden/
  12. [12]Dion Nissenbaum and Vivian Salama, “Biden-Netanyahu Relationship at Boiling Point as Rafah Invasion Looms,” Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/biden-netanyahu-relationship-at-boiling-point-as-rafah-invasion-looms-b893bec5
  13. [13]Tara Palmeri, “The Old Man & The Scene,” Puck, February 15, 2024, https://puck.news/the-old-man-the-scene/

Nukes in space?

Imperialism

Russia


Fig. 1. Historic Russian empire, from the New York Times, possibly March 6, 2014, fair use.[1]

Rozina Sabur, “Russia is preparing to launch nuclear weapon into space, US fears,” Telegraph, February 15, 2024, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2024/02/14/russia-is-preparing-to-launch-nuclear-weapon-into-space/

Ukraine


Fig. 2. “Destroyed Russian military vehicles located on the main street Khreshchatyk are seen as part of the celebration of the Independence Day of Ukraine in Kyiv, August 24.” Photograph by Gleb Garanich for Reuters, August 24, 2022,[2] fair use.

Zachary Basu, “House’s Ukraine showdown escalates with calls to bypass Johnson,” Axios, February 13, 2024, https://www.axios.com/2024/02/14/ukraine-house-republicans-mike-johnson-discharge

Israel

Palestine

07_09:10:47-2
Fig. 3. The ruins of a terminal at the Gaza airport. Image by Said Khatib (Agence France-Presse) on September 9, 2018, via the Times of Israel,[3] fair use.

Yasmeen Abutaleb, John Hudson, and Tyler Pager, “Biden moving closer than ever to a breach with Netanyahu over war in Gaza,” Washington Post, February 11, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/02/11/biden-netanyahu-closer-to-a-breach/

Liz Goodwin and Mariana Alfaro, “Aid bill for Ukraine, Israel on track to pass Senate early this week,” Washington Post, February 11, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/02/11/senate-aid-ukraine-israel-taiwan-aid/

James Politi and Neri Zilber, “Biden says Israel must have plan to avoid civilian casualties in Rafah,” Financial Times, February 11, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/b00a8dcc-f8e3-4da6-a65b-280bb2289f5f

Andy Bounds, James Shotter, and Jonathan Wheatley, “Dutch court bans export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel,” Financial Times, February 12, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/502ebca5-5f2c-497c-968f-e710e617f268

Susie Coen, “Joe Biden considers going public with frustration over ‘a–hole’ Benjamin Netanyahu,” Telegraph, February 12, 2024, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/us/news/2024/02/12/joe-biden-going-public-frustration-benjamin-netanyahu/

Chao Deng, Carrie Keller-Lynn, and Daniel Michaels, “Defying Biden, Netanyahu Doubles Down on Plans to Fight in Rafah,” Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/defying-biden-israels-netanyahu-doubles-down-on-plans-to-fight-in-rafah-7b66d1dd

Emine Sinmaz, “Israel says two hostages freed in raid Gaza officials say killed 67 Palestinians,” Guardian, February 12, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/feb/12/israeli-hostages-freed-rafah-idf-gaza-report-dozens-palestinians-killed-strikes

Matthew Rosenberg et al., “A Tunnel Offers Clues to How Hamas Uses Gaza’s Hospitals,” New York Times, February 13, 2024, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/02/12/world/middleeast/gaza-tunnel-israel-hamas.html

Dion Nissenbaum and Jared Malsin, “U.S. Probes Israeli Strikes That Killed Civilians in Gaza, Possible Use of White Phosphorus in Lebanon,” Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/u-s-probes-israeli-strikes-that-killed-civilians-in-gaza-possible-use-of-white-phosphorus-in-lebanon-b8fb043b


So-called ‘ridesharing’

Drivers


Fig. 4. Yeah, this is me. The sign says, “If you’re whining about a labor shortage, STOP ignoring my job applications!” And the QR-code leads here. Photograph by author, January 16, 2023.

Akash Sriram, “Uber, Lyft, DoorDash drivers to strike on Valentine’s Day for fair pay,” Reuters, February 12, 2024, https://www.reuters.com/world/us/uber-lyft-doordash-drivers-us-strike-valentines-day-fair-pay-2024-02-12/

Lizzy McLellan Ravitch, “PHL Airport Uber and Lyft drivers will strike on Valentine’s Day. Here’s why,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 13, 2024, https://www.inquirer.com/jobs/labor/uber-lyft-philadelphia-phl-strike-20240213.html

Evan Robinson-Johnson, “Uber, Lyft drivers plan daylong strike over complaints about wages, traumatic work experiences,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 14, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/business/2024/02/13/uber-lyft-drivers-strike-pittsburgh-wages-trauma/stories/202402130096

Bezzle


Fig. 5. “Clarkdale Classic Gas Station, Clarkdale, Arizona,” Photograph by Alan Levine, October 28, 2016, via Wikimedia Commons, CC0.

[Uber] announced new long-term financial targets during a virtual analyst meeting Wednesday morning that pointed toward better-than-expected growth in bookings, adjusted pretax earnings and free cash flow. The low end of Uber’s target implied free cash flow hitting about $9.3 billion in 2026—nearly triple what it generated last year and above Wall Street’s consensus target of $9.1 billion for that year. Uber also announced its first-ever share buyback, worth $7 billion.[4]

Dan Gallagher, “Uber Put a Lot More Gas in Its Tank,” Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/business/hospitality/uber-put-a-lot-more-gas-in-its-tank-90b0bc74


Illiberalism


Fig. 6. Photograph by Joachim F. Thurn, August 1991, Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F089030-0003, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE.

Ishaan Tharoor, “The world’s third-biggest democracy could be sliding backward,” Washington Post, February 14, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2024/02/14/indonesia-elections-democracy-backsliding-prabowo-widodo/


  1. [1]New York Times, “Ukraine Crisis in Maps,” n.d., http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/02/27/world/europe/ukraine-divisions-crimea.html
  2. [2]Reuters, “Ukraine puts destroyed Russian tanks on display in Kyiv,” August 25, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/ukraine-puts-destroyed-russian-tanks-on-idUSRTSALV9Q
  3. [3]Agence France-Presse and Times of Israel, “20 years after its opening, destroyed Gaza airport embodies grounded peace hopes,” Times of Israel, September 12, 2018, https://www.timesofisrael.com/20-years-after-its-opening-destroyed-gaza-airport-embodies-grounded-peace-hopes/
  4. [4]Dan Gallagher, “Uber Put a Lot More Gas in Its Tank,” Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/business/hospitality/uber-put-a-lot-more-gas-in-its-tank-90b0bc74

Israeli evidence still falls short

Imperialism

Israel

Palestine

07_09:10:47-2
Fig. 1. The ruins of a terminal at the Gaza airport. Image by Said Khatib (Agence France-Presse) on September 9, 2018, via the Times of Israel,[1] fair use.

The Israeli military, however, has struggled to prove that Hamas maintained a command-and-control center under [Al-Shifa Hospital]. Critics of the Israeli military say the evidence does not support its early claims, noting that it had distributed material before the raid showing five underground complexes and also had said the tunnel network could be reached from wards inside a hospital building. Israel has publicly revealed the existence of only one tunnel entrance on the grounds of the hospital, at the shack outside its main buildings. . . .

After the raid on the Qatari Hospital, the commonly used name for the Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani Hospital for Rehabilitation and Prosthetics, the Israeli military showed a video on Nov. 5 of what it said was the entrance to “a tunnel that was being used for terror infrastructures” on the hospital’s grounds.

But the video appears to show something else: a water storage area built in 2016, when the hospital was constructed, according to engineering plans and images from the hospital’s construction reviewed by The Times.[2]

Evidence available to the New York Times supports only some, not all Israeli justifications for the war crimes it has committed at Gaza hospitals.[3]

Yasmeen Abutaleb, John Hudson, and Tyler Pager, “Biden moving closer than ever to a breach with Netanyahu over war in Gaza,” Washington Post, February 11, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/02/11/biden-netanyahu-closer-to-a-breach/

Liz Goodwin and Mariana Alfaro, “Aid bill for Ukraine, Israel on track to pass Senate early this week,” Washington Post, February 11, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/02/11/senate-aid-ukraine-israel-taiwan-aid/

James Politi and Neri Zilber, “Biden says Israel must have plan to avoid civilian casualties in Rafah,” Financial Times, February 11, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/b00a8dcc-f8e3-4da6-a65b-280bb2289f5f

Andy Bounds, James Shotter, and Jonathan Wheatley, “Dutch court bans export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel,” Financial Times, February 12, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/502ebca5-5f2c-497c-968f-e710e617f268

Susie Coen, “Joe Biden considers going public with frustration over ‘a–hole’ Benjamin Netanyahu,” Telegraph, February 12, 2024, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/us/news/2024/02/12/joe-biden-going-public-frustration-benjamin-netanyahu/

Chao Deng, Carrie Keller-Lynn, and Daniel Michaels, “Defying Biden, Netanyahu Doubles Down on Plans to Fight in Rafah,” Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/defying-biden-israels-netanyahu-doubles-down-on-plans-to-fight-in-rafah-7b66d1dd

Emine Sinmaz, “Israel says two hostages freed in raid Gaza officials say killed 67 Palestinians,” Guardian, February 12, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/feb/12/israeli-hostages-freed-rafah-idf-gaza-report-dozens-palestinians-killed-strikes

Matthew Rosenberg et al., “A Tunnel Offers Clues to How Hamas Uses Gaza’s Hospitals,” New York Times, February 13, 2024, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/02/12/world/middleeast/gaza-tunnel-israel-hamas.html


So-called ‘ridesharing’

Drivers


Fig. 2. Yeah, this is me. The sign says, “If you’re whining about a labor shortage, STOP ignoring my job applications!” And the QR-code leads here. Photograph by author, January 16, 2023.

I guess I’ve got a day off tomorrow.[4] According to my tax data, Uber is taking an average of about 45 percent of each fare, but when passengers happen to tell me how much their fare is, that difference often appears more like 60 percent. Uber attributes the cut it takes to its fees, taxes, and insurance. But it does not even tell drivers how much of each fare it withholds, let alone how much of each fare goes to each, allowing drivers only aggregate data.

Uber clearly has something to hide. That it has something to hide strongly implies that it has something to be ashamed of. And this presumably underlies its ludicrously expensive insistence on misclassifying drivers as independent contractors.[5]

But organizers of a driver strike scheduled for tomorrow[6] also clearly have trouble getting the word to drivers. I heard about this from a passenger who was unclear on where the strike was occurring (it’s U.S.-nationwide[7]). I had to search a couple of times, a couple of different ways before I found the Reuters story.[8]

Akash Sriram, “Uber, Lyft, DoorDash drivers to strike on Valentine’s Day for fair pay,” Reuters, February 12, 2024, https://www.reuters.com/world/us/uber-lyft-doordash-drivers-us-strike-valentines-day-fair-pay-2024-02-12/


  1. [1]Agence France-Presse and Times of Israel, “20 years after its opening, destroyed Gaza airport embodies grounded peace hopes,” Times of Israel, September 12, 2018, https://www.timesofisrael.com/20-years-after-its-opening-destroyed-gaza-airport-embodies-grounded-peace-hopes/
  2. [2]Matthew Rosenberg et al., “A Tunnel Offers Clues to How Hamas Uses Gaza’s Hospitals,” New York Times, February 13, 2024, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/02/12/world/middleeast/gaza-tunnel-israel-hamas.html
  3. [3]Matthew Rosenberg et al., “A Tunnel Offers Clues to How Hamas Uses Gaza’s Hospitals,” New York Times, February 13, 2024, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/02/12/world/middleeast/gaza-tunnel-israel-hamas.html
  4. [4]Akash Sriram, “Uber, Lyft, DoorDash drivers to strike on Valentine’s Day for fair pay,” Reuters, February 12, 2024, https://www.reuters.com/world/us/uber-lyft-doordash-drivers-us-strike-valentines-day-fair-pay-2024-02-12/
  5. [5]Michael Hiltzik, “Uber and Lyft just made their campaign to keep exploiting workers the costliest in history,” Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-09-08/uber-lyft-most-expensive-initiative
  6. [6]Akash Sriram, “Uber, Lyft, DoorDash drivers to strike on Valentine’s Day for fair pay,” Reuters, February 12, 2024, https://www.reuters.com/world/us/uber-lyft-doordash-drivers-us-strike-valentines-day-fair-pay-2024-02-12/
  7. [7]Akash Sriram, “Uber, Lyft, DoorDash drivers to strike on Valentine’s Day for fair pay,” Reuters, February 12, 2024, https://www.reuters.com/world/us/uber-lyft-doordash-drivers-us-strike-valentines-day-fair-pay-2024-02-12/
  8. [8]Akash Sriram, “Uber, Lyft, DoorDash drivers to strike on Valentine’s Day for fair pay,” Reuters, February 12, 2024, https://www.reuters.com/world/us/uber-lyft-doordash-drivers-us-strike-valentines-day-fair-pay-2024-02-12/

Time to order my Great Asteroid Strike 2024 stickers

Imperialism

United States


Fig. 1. “American Progress,” painting by John Gast, 1872, digital version 2006, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

One expert was pleasantly surprised with the understated nature of the responses from Defence Minister Bill Blair and Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly — but others warned there can be no room for complacency and said important security arrangements beyond NATO could be thrown into chaos if [Donald] Trump returns to the Oval Office. . . .

Trump, who is running for re-election in November, said during a weekend campaign event that he would encourage Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to any NATO member country that doesn’t meet spending guidelines. He said he would not offer such a country U.S. protection.[1]

Much of the debate on [Donald] Trump’s comments so far has focused on the consensus among most right-thinking people that it would run counter to American interests. But for Europe at this stage, that’s almost irrelevant. Europe would be crazy to leave its security every four years up to the whims of about 50,000 American swing-state voters (the rough margin of victory in recent presidential elections).

The reality is that whoever wins in November, MAGA will remain a factor in American politics for some time to come. Whose [sic] to say Trump’s Republican heir doesn’t renew his anti-NATO bent? It’s a risk Europe can’t afford to ignore.[2]

Right now, it looks like any Republican victor of a U.S. presidential election for the foreseeable future will be anti-Ukraine and, nearly as likely, opposed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Western European institutions, including NATO, are globalist, favoring cosmopolitan values just like they do international trade. White Christian nationalists are, emphatically, not. The latter are, as Thomas Frank describes his ‘cons,’ suspicious even of people living in cities along the U.S. Atlantic or Pacific coasts.[3]

Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? Has he shipped every middle-class job in my town to Russia? Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked my business and kept me indoors for two years? Is he teaching my children to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Is he trying to snuff out Christianity?[4]

Tucker Carlson’s rage in the foregoing is directed at an ‘other’ that includes not only migrants, people of color, and people of divergent sexual orientations or gender identities, but even native-born white cis U.S. citizens, really anybody who might dare to disagree with an ideology that is, by its very nature, exclusionary. This is an ideology—you might call it ‘fascist’—that in fact depends upon the presence of this ‘other’ to rage at. Institutions like NATO are targets for representing everything white Christian nationalists despise.

The crucial question—I cannot answer it—is how far that rage will go. If, hypothetically, we do not call a majority of white Christian nationalists fascists, we are nonetheless tumbling into that chasm.

Even if, as I do, you agree in some part with white Christian nationalists about trade, I hope you abhor any notion that other people are anything but people, sometimes better in some ways, sometimes worse in some ways, sometimes about the same in some ways. This abhorrence I expect lies at the heart of cosmopolitanism, which welcomes rather than fears intercultural contact and exchange, which welcomes rather than fears difference. Our conflict with white Christian nationalism is due to their absolute intolerance for us and our values, their insistence that we must conform to their ideology utterly regardless of, well, um, reality.

I remain absolutely gobsmacked by the question of how the hell either the fascist (Donald Trump) or the war criminal (Joe Biden) win this November and I am dumbfounded, even as I have warned that the result of voting for the lesser evil still yields evil, that we are reduced to such despicable choices. It’s far beyond my comprehension.

Murray Brewster, “Trump’s NATO comments aren’t cause for panic — but they should be taken seriously, experts warn,” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, February 12, 2024, https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trump-nato-canada-bill-blair-1.7113129

Matthew Karnitschnig, “Donald Trump just did Europe a favor,” Politico, February 13, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/donald-trump-just-did-europe-a-favor/


  1. [1]Murray Brewster, “Trump’s NATO comments aren’t cause for panic — but they should be taken seriously, experts warn,” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, February 12, 2024, https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trump-nato-canada-bill-blair-1.7113129
  2. [2]Matthew Karnitschnig, “Donald Trump just did Europe a favor,” Politico, February 13, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/donald-trump-just-did-europe-a-favor/
  3. [3]Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (New York: Henry Holt, 2004).
  4. [4]Tucker Carlson, quoted in Adam Gabbatt, “Tucker Carlson leads rightwing charge to blame everyone but Putin,” Guardian, February 26, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2022/feb/25/tucker-carlson-fox-news-russia-putin

Early data casts doubt on PennWest University consolidation

Pennsylvania

Higher Education


Fig. 1. The Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh (“Pitt”). Photograph by “RealNordyNed,” December 17, 2015, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Maddie Aiken, “PennWest is struggling. Its campuses are experiencing those challenges differently,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 11, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2024/02/11/pennwest-california-edinboro-clarion-student-enrollment/stories/202402090083

Erie


Fig. 2. Lake Erie, from Presque Isle State Park. Photograph by author, April 3, 2021.

Regrettably, I am having to defer my intended move to northwestern Pennsylvania. Landlords check credit; mine was damaged severely when Uber blindsided me with a 40 percent pay cut in late 2022. Historically, Uber has blamed “seasonality” for such cuts,[1] but of course, once the pay is cut, they have almost no incentive to raise it again, and I didn’t see any sustained increase in 2023. Because I use credit cards to smooth the fluctuations in a highly variable income, the result was a substantial increase in credit card debt.

I’ve been making significantly-more-than-minimum payments on time, because I have a high cash flow, but have not yet turned the tide on my debt. With the addition of a pension from Social Security and the technological improvements I’ve made to improve my ability to be offered orders, I have some limited hope that I can improve the situation this year. In the meantime, because nearly all landlords check credit, I’m stuck where I am.

This is a problem because rents have been increasing dramatically nationwide.[2] My landlord here has been threatening a significant increase, pretty much since the first year I renewed the lease. (With a wife now in memory care, he actually does now need the money.)

Valerie Myers, “The truth about slavery in Erie County in the 19th century,” Erie Times-News, February 12, 2024, https://www.goerie.com/story/news/local/2024/02/12/erie-pa-black-history-month-slavery-enslavement-abolition-history-census-fugitive-hamot-grubb/72393483007/


Imperialism

Israel

Palestine

07_09:10:47-2
Fig. 3. The ruins of a terminal at the Gaza airport. Image by Said Khatib (Agence France-Presse) on September 9, 2018, via the Times of Israel,[3] fair use.

So long as you are supporting [Binyamin] Netanyahu’s military operation in Gaza without condition, it makes absolutely no difference how much you turn the dial in your comments. Fundamentally, you have to make a decision not to give Bibi a blank check of support.[4]

And until Joe Biden imposes, really imposes conditions on aid to Israel, he and the United States are complicit in Israel’s genocide. And for what? It’s not like Israel is indeed achieving “total victory” over Hamas:

In a closed-door briefing last week, U.S. intelligence officials told lawmakers that while Israel had degraded Hamas’s military capabilities, it is not close to exterminating the group more than 100 days into its campaign, said officials familiar with the briefing, which was first reported by the New York Times.

U.S. leaders are skeptical of Netanyahu’s claim that he has destroyed two-thirds of Hamas’s fighting regiments, and they warn that the high levels of civilian casualties are ensuring that a radicalized population will live adjacent to Israel for decades to come.[5]

That should not even be remotely surprising. As the Soviets discovered in Afghanistan, as the Russians should have discovered in Ukraine, as the U.S. should have learned in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, modern war simply fails to produce an expected result. It doesn’t work except in extraordinarily limited ways.

At this writing, I do not have confirmation of social media reports that Israel’s operation in Rafah has already begun, with its beginning apparently coinciding with the Super Bowl kickoff. Israel does, however, claim to have rescued two hostages in an operation that reportedly killed at least 67 Palestinians[6] and that some may have mistaken for a full attack on Rafah.

Yasmeen Abutaleb, John Hudson, and Tyler Pager, “Biden moving closer than ever to a breach with Netanyahu over war in Gaza,” Washington Post, February 11, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/02/11/biden-netanyahu-closer-to-a-breach/

Liz Goodwin and Mariana Alfaro, “Aid bill for Ukraine, Israel on track to pass Senate early this week,” Washington Post, February 11, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/02/11/senate-aid-ukraine-israel-taiwan-aid/

James Politi and Neri Zilber, “Biden says Israel must have plan to avoid civilian casualties in Rafah,” Financial Times, February 11, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/b00a8dcc-f8e3-4da6-a65b-280bb2289f5f

Chao Deng, Carrie Keller-Lynn, and Daniel Michaels, “Defying Biden, Netanyahu Doubles Down on Plans to Fight in Rafah,” Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/defying-biden-israels-netanyahu-doubles-down-on-plans-to-fight-in-rafah-7b66d1dd

Emine Sinmaz, “Israel says two hostages freed in raid Gaza officials say killed 67 Palestinians,” Guardian, February 12, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/feb/12/israeli-hostages-freed-rafah-idf-gaza-report-dozens-palestinians-killed-strikes

Russia

Ukraine


Fig. 4. “Destroyed Russian military vehicles located on the main street Khreshchatyk are seen as part of the celebration of the Independence Day of Ukraine in Kyiv, August 24.” Photograph by Gleb Garanich for Reuters, August 24, 2022,[7] fair use.

Liz Goodwin and Mariana Alfaro, “Aid bill for Ukraine, Israel on track to pass Senate early this week,” Washington Post, February 11, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/02/11/senate-aid-ukraine-israel-taiwan-aid/


Illiberalism


Fig. 5. Photograph by Joachim F. Thurn, August 1991, Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F089030-0003, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE.

Ishaan Tharoor, “The powerful lesson behind Pakistan’s stunning election result,” Washington Post, February 11, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2024/02/11/pakistan-election-results-khan-lessons/


Neoliberalism

Banking

Commercial real estate


Fig. 6. The confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, with the “Golden Triangle” and downtown Pittsburgh. Photograph by author, October 15, 2023.

[O]nly 26% of the $35.8 billion of office [commercial mortgage-backed securities] loans that matured in 2023 was actually paid off in full, as borrowers struggled to get refinancing or to sell their properties. . . .

The pool of troubled loans is growing, with 10.5% of CMBS office debt in distress by the end of January. Distressed loans are those that are more than 30 days late paying or have been transferred to a special servicer. This is more than triple the rate seen a year ago and is likely to rise as an additional $46.6 billion of CMBS office loans come due through 2025, CRED iQ data shows. . . .

Of a list of 220 troubled loans that have recent reappraisal data, the average valuation decline for offices is 40%, according to CRED iQ. Buildings that were revalued in 2023 have plunged almost 50%.[8]

Commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) data may be a bit pessimistic in relation to the commercial real estate market as a whole,[9] but I’m going out on a limb here and guessing the fun ain’t over.[10]

Something to remember is that people working from home are not the only threat to downtowns. Brick and mortar retail has been struggling due to online shopping. At some point, you have to ask, what do downtowns, let alone the “walkable cities” some advocate, even exist for? Is it so those of us who live in cities can fight traffic by day and listen to siren symphonies and gunshot percussion by night, all night?

Carol Ryan, “What Mortgage Bonds Say About the Office Meltdown,” Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/real-estate/commercial/what-mortgage-bonds-say-about-the-office-meltdown-a231bcb3


  1. [1]Sheldon Ingram, “Pittsburgh Uber drivers to launch Valentine’s weekend strike,” WTAE, February 11, 2016, https://www.wtae.com/article/pittsburgh-uber-drivers-to-launch-valentine-s-weekend-strike/7477721
  2. [2]Jordan Anderson, “Cost of rent is hitting record levels, including in Pittsburgh, but not enough low-cost units are available,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 10, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/social-services/2024/02/10/pittsburgh-cost-of-rent-harvard-study/stories/202402080091; Jacob Geanous, “As evictions soar in Allegheny County, a sense of urgency permeates,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 11, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/social-services/2024/02/11/landlord-evictions-allegheny-county-public-housing/stories/202402090067
  3. [3]Agence France-Presse and Times of Israel, “20 years after its opening, destroyed Gaza airport embodies grounded peace hopes,” Times of Israel, September 12, 2018, https://www.timesofisrael.com/20-years-after-its-opening-destroyed-gaza-airport-embodies-grounded-peace-hopes/
  4. [4]Ben Rhodes, quoted in Yasmeen Abutaleb, John Hudson, and Tyler Pager, “Biden moving closer than ever to a breach with Netanyahu over war in Gaza,” Washington Post, February 11, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/02/11/biden-netanyahu-closer-to-a-breach/
  5. [5]Yasmeen Abutaleb, John Hudson, and Tyler Pager, “Biden moving closer than ever to a breach with Netanyahu over war in Gaza,” Washington Post, February 11, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/02/11/biden-netanyahu-closer-to-a-breach/
  6. [6]Chao Deng, Carrie Keller-Lynn, and Daniel Michaels, “Defying Biden, Netanyahu Doubles Down on Plans to Fight in Rafah,” Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/defying-biden-israels-netanyahu-doubles-down-on-plans-to-fight-in-rafah-7b66d1dd; Emine Sinmaz, “Israel says two hostages freed in raid Gaza officials say killed 67 Palestinians,” Guardian, February 12, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/feb/12/israeli-hostages-freed-rafah-idf-gaza-report-dozens-palestinians-killed-strikes
  7. [7]Reuters, “Ukraine puts destroyed Russian tanks on display in Kyiv,” August 25, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/ukraine-puts-destroyed-russian-tanks-on-idUSRTSALV9Q
  8. [8]Carol Ryan, “What Mortgage Bonds Say About the Office Meltdown,” Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/real-estate/commercial/what-mortgage-bonds-say-about-the-office-meltdown-a231bcb3
  9. [9]Carol Ryan, “What Mortgage Bonds Say About the Office Meltdown,” Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/real-estate/commercial/what-mortgage-bonds-say-about-the-office-meltdown-a231bcb3
  10. [10]Alena Botros, “Morgan Stanley analysts are forecasting something ‘worse than in the Great Financial Crisis’ for commercial real estate,” Fortune, April 4, 2023, https://fortune.com/2023/04/04/how-bad-commercial-real-estate-banking-crisis-svb-morgan-stanley-outlook/; Eric Platt and Harriet Agnew, “Charlie Munger: US banks are ‘full of’ bad commercial property loans,” Financial Times, April 30, 2023, https://www.ft.com/content/da9f8230-2eb1-49c5-b63a-f1507936d01b; Dror Poleg, “The Next Crisis Will Start With Empty Office Buildings,” Atlantic, June 7, 2023, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/06/commercial-real-estate-crisis-empty-offices/674310/; Akila Quinio, “Office space vacancies in US and London reach at least 20-year highs,” Financial Times, October 10, 2023, https://www.ft.com/content/698f41af-0d88-424b-80b0-241be01dac35; Konrad Putzier, “America’s Downtowns Are Empty. Fixing Them Will Be Expensive,” Wall Street Journal, October 21, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/real-estate/commercial/wrecking-ball-targets-empty-downtown-offices-d0e3391; Carol Ryan, “Property Loans Are Starting to Crack,” Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/livecoverage/stock-market-today-dow-jones-06-09-2023/card/heard-on-the-street-property-loans-are-starting-to-crack-0tae3dxXRfn1hWR5jqar; Rachel Siegel, “How the ‘urban doom loop’ could pose the next economic threat,” Washington Post, August 28, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/08/28/commercial-real-estate-economy-urban-doom-loop/; Natalie Wong et al., “The World’s Empty Office Buildings Have Become a Debt Time Bomb,” Bloomberg, June 23, 2023, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-06-23/commercial-real-estate-reset-is-causing-distress-from-san-francisco-to-hong-kong