Free Scotland

As I wonder how in the world I’m going to pay my taxes this year, I see one of my neighbors may have a more pressing dilemma.

There’s a bright pink notice taped to her door informing her of an arrest warrant. Assuming its veracity, she was busted for speeding and not having had her vehicle inspected (Pennsylvania has an annual vehicle inspection scheme to help keep local mechanics afloat).

From what I gather, such violations are how the local cops harass Blacks. Whites rarely face such tickets.

And it’s not like I’m the only white noticing this. Sure, I talk about all this with Blacks, but I also talk about it with whites. And a few of them have noticed at least some of what I’ve noticed. Those that grew up here are less likely to have noticed, but when I inform them of my observations, I don’t even have to explain my logic—they, too, are often horrified.


Scotland

As this issue goes online, the hour for Brexit has now passed.

Kieran Andrews, “Brexit is a boost for independence,” Times, January 31, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/scotland/brexit-is-a-boost-for-independence-njdh6zmfc

British Broadcasting Corporation, “Scottish independence: Nicola Sturgeon calls for patience over indyref2,” January 31, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-51311288


Palestine

Jerusalem Online, “Bibi Steps Back from ‘Immediate’ Annexation Promise,” January 31, 2020, https://www.jerusalemonline.com/bibi-steps-back-from-immediate-annexation-promise/


All hail King narcissist-in-chief

It’s not at all uncommon to see squirrels in the roadway as I drive around Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, quite a few end up as roadkill.

But today I saw one of a sort I hadn’t seen before. S/he saw me coming, scampered off to the side by a parked car, turned around, and stood on his/her hind legs, revealing a white chest and belly.

Against an otherwise grey coat, it was really rather fetching.


Brexit

Boris Johnson accepted border checks on the Irish Sea.[1] Now, it seems, he’ll have them in the English Channel as well,[2] suggesting that this state of affairs will not be temporary.

The Prime Minister will say sovereignty is more important than frictionless trade, defying warnings from Brussels that the UK must accept EU standards on goods if it wants the best possible deal.

Whitehall sources have told The Daily Telegraph that while Mr [Boris] Johnson wants to avoid tariffs and quotas on cross-Channel trade, he will never cave in to demands for alignment on regulations, despite knowing “the consequences that flow from that”.[3]

Look for long lines in Dover and shortages in Britain as distributors adjust.[4] But hey, wave that Union Jack.[5]

James Crisp, “Flag-waving Nigel Farage cut off in farewell speech as European Parliament ratifies Brexit deal,” Telegraph, January 29, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/29/european-parliament-ratifies-brexit-deal-paves-way-britain-leave/

Gordon Rayner, “Boris Johnson will tell the EU he is prepared to accept post-Brexit border checks,” Telegraph, January 29, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/29/boris-johnson-will-tell-eu-prepared-accept-post-brexit-border/


Palestine

Not seein’ much love for Donald Trump’s plan from anyone except the Israelis and the Trump administration.

I saw a comment correctly emphasizing that Palestinian voices should be heard on Trump’s “Deal of the Century.” But the truth is, their reaction is no more surprising than that of the Israelis. The so-called deal—a ‘diktat,’ as multiple scholars have labeled it—stinks and Palestinians know it. What’s more interesting is when pretty much everyone else recognizes it as well.[6]

In normal times, this would suggest that Trump has failed at his ostensible aim. His ‘deal’ has no credibility. But we must remember that for Trump, the only people who matter are those who vote for him, principally authoritarian populists and social conservatives. The former have made clear they will carry on worshipping him as a hero regardless. The latter, especially those who see Jewish control of Jerusalem as indicating the second coming, will be thrilled. And he’ll at least split neoconservatives (this group includes #NeverTrump holdouts like Bill Kristol) who are unambiguously pro-Israel, joining Israel’s government in labeling anyone who opposes Israel’s policies as anti-Semitic.

Binyamin Netanyahu thinks he’s gotten a good deal. Natan Sachs notes that his “preferences on nearly everything are reflected here.” But Bruce Riedel recalls that “President Ronald Reagan tried to get the Arabs to accept his plan in 1982. Despite considerable pressure, King Hussein rejected it. The Trump plan is likely heading for the same outcome.”[7] Which means it’s Trump who’s gotten the deal. And pretty much no one else.

Natan Sachs, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Bruce Riedel, “Around the halls: Brookings experts on the Middle East react to the White House’s peace plan,” Brookings Institute, January 29, 2020,https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/01/29/brookings-experts-react-to-the-white-houses-middle-east-peace-plan/


Equal Rights Amendment

I’m uneasy in my mind as to how closely to follow this. I generally prefer to wait for resolutions rather than taking note of every twist and turn. But to lump this issue in with others in how I treat it may not be just. Whatever I decide, this article summarizes the state of play, with lawsuits both in favor of and opposing ratification.[8]

Patricia Sullivan, “Herring, other attorneys general file lawsuit demanding ERA ratification,” Washington Post, January 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/era-lawsuit-herring/2020/01/30/027eb956-42dc-11ea-aa6a-083d01b3ed18_story.html


Impeachment

To the extent there was ever a possibility that the Senate might call witnesses in the impeachment of Donald Trump, it appears to be fading fast. In the meantime,

For more than a week, House managers prosecuting the impeachment case against Trump have argued that the Senate’s failure to convict him would make Trump an unaccountable leader; in effect, a dictator or a king. When [Alan] Dershowitz spoke, it was as if he completely agreed with them. Two days earlier, Dershowitz had told senators that Presidential “abuse of power” should not be considered an impeachable offense under the Constitution. On Wednesday, he took that further—much further. “If a President does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” he argued. Dershowitz was offering Trump—and all future Presidents—a free pass. His argument seemed unbelievable: as long as the President thinks his reëlection will benefit the country, he can do anything in pursuit of it without fear of impeachment.[9]

I guess we should just start calling him King narcissist-in-chief.

Susan B. Glasser, “Alan Dershowitz for the Defense: L’État, C’est Trump,” New Yorker, January 30, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/alan-dershowitz-for-the-defense-letat-cest-trump


  1. [1]Amy Davidson Sorkin, “Boris Johnson’s Bad Saturday and the Contradictions of Brexit,” New Yorker, October 19, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/boris-johnsons-bad-saturday-and-the-contradictions-of-brexit
  2. [2]Gordon Rayner, “Boris Johnson will tell the EU he is prepared to accept post-Brexit border checks,” Telegraph, January 29, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/29/boris-johnson-will-tell-eu-prepared-accept-post-brexit-border/
  3. [3]Gordon Rayner, “Boris Johnson will tell the EU he is prepared to accept post-Brexit border checks,” Telegraph, January 29, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/29/boris-johnson-will-tell-eu-prepared-accept-post-brexit-border/
  4. [4]Nick Hopkins, “UK less able to cope with hard Brexit than it was in spring, say officials,” Guardian, August 1, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/aug/01/uk-less-able-to-cope-with-hard-brexit-than-in-spring-say-officials
  5. [5]James Crisp, “Flag-waving Nigel Farage cut off in farewell speech as European Parliament ratifies Brexit deal,” Telegraph, January 29, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/29/european-parliament-ratifies-brexit-deal-paves-way-britain-leave/
  6. [6]Oliver Holmes, Sufian Taha, and Hazem Balousha, “‘We will never be Jerusalem’: Abu Dis pours scorn on Trump plan,” Guardian, January 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/29/we-will-never-be-jerusalem-abu-dis-pours-scorn-on-trump-plan; Natan Sachs, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Bruce Riedel, “Around the halls: Brookings experts on the Middle East react to the White House’s peace plan,” Brookings Institute, January 29, 2020,https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/01/29/brookings-experts-react-to-the-white-houses-middle-east-peace-plan/; Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-release-middle-east-peace-plan-11580221616; Ishaan Tharoor, “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is no deal at all,” Washington Post, January 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/28/trumps-deal-century-is-no-deal-all/; Times of Israel, “As peace plan rolls out, Netanyahu says he will annex Jordan Valley, settlements,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/as-peace-plan-rolls-out-netanyahu-says-he-will-annex-jordan-valley-settlements/; Times of Israel, “Trump unveils plan for ‘realistic 2-state’ deal, ‘undivided’ Israeli Jerusalem,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/trump-unveils-plan-for-realistic-2-state-deal-undivided-israeli-jerusalem/; Raoul Wootliff, “Netanyahu indicted for corruption in three cases, in first for a sitting PM,” Times of Israel, January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-indicted-for-corruption-in-three-cases-in-first-for-a-sitting-pm/
  7. [7]Natan Sachs, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Bruce Riedel, “Around the halls: Brookings experts on the Middle East react to the White House’s peace plan,” Brookings Institute, January 29, 2020,https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/01/29/brookings-experts-react-to-the-white-houses-middle-east-peace-plan/
  8. [8]Patricia Sullivan, “Herring, other attorneys general file lawsuit demanding ERA ratification,” Washington Post, January 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/era-lawsuit-herring/2020/01/30/027eb956-42dc-11ea-aa6a-083d01b3ed18_story.html
  9. [9]Susan B. Glasser, “Alan Dershowitz for the Defense: L’État, C’est Trump,” New Yorker, January 30, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/alan-dershowitz-for-the-defense-letat-cest-trump

As we are sucked ever deeper into Donald Trump’s black hole, there’s really nothing new to say

Special Operations

Oh, gee. Here’s Philip Zimbardo’s “power of the situation” again. Complete with “a few bad apples” and a ‘culture’ that enables them.[1] But you know, nothing to see, here, Brian Resnick,[2] any more than there was with the concentration camps on the U.S.-Mexico border.[3] Even the case of the ever so self-righteous Eddie Gallagher and his narcissist-in-chief enabler points to Zimbardo’s claim—which I’ve been skeptical of—that people can resist,[4] as Gallagher’s platoon testified against him.[5]

Andrew Dyer, “Retired Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher Strikes Back at SEALs Who Testified Against Him,” Military.com, January 28, 2020, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/01/28/retired-navy-seal-eddie-gallagher-strikes-back-seals-who-testified-against-him.html

Gina Harkins, “Spec Ops Culture Sets Conditions ‘Favorable for Inappropriate Behavior,’ 4-Star Says,” Military.com, January 28, 2020, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/01/28/spec-ops-culture-sets-conditions-favorable-inappropriate-behavior-4-star-says.html


Palestine

But rather than working to bridge the profound gap between Israelis and Palestinians that bedeviled U.S. policymakers for decades, the Trump administration has spent the past three years doling out concessions to the former, while placing its boot on the latter.[6]

I think what worries me about Donald Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century” for Palestine is that it says just enough of the right words that casual onlookers may be deceived[7] or that folks who should be supporting the Palestinians have an excuse not to.[8] Writing for Mondoweiss yesterday, Raoul Wootliff noted resemblances between the proposal and South African apartheid.[9] Today, though also written yesterday, I find Ishaan Tharoor echoing Wootliff’s argument, albeit from other sources, and labeling the plan “a declaration of terms for Palestinian surrender” in the Washington Post.[10]

But the 181-page proposal published shortly after [Donald Trump] spoke showed that the details of these pledges effectively made them meaningless. Any Palestinian “state” would not look much like a sovereign country. It would be completely encircled, would have no army or air force, and Israel would continue to control its skies, borders and seas.Crucially, Israeli forces would have the right to make incursions into Palestine at any time. The document also indicates that the US and Israel could veto Palestinian moves for independence.

Possibly even more misleading was Trump’s assertion that Palestinians would finally realise their decades-old wish to have a capital in East Jerusalem.

This point raised eyebrows from residents of Abu Dis, who described their home as an outlying “village” or a “suburb” at best, and certainly not a central part of Jerusalem they envisioned for their governmental headquarters. Not even Israel considers Abu Dis part of its “undivided capital” – a term Trump used in his speech – and Israel purposefully excludes it from its municipal boundaries.[11]

Even somewhat friendlier Wall Street Journal coverage notes that “[t]he Trump proposal requires many more concessions from the Palestinians than from the Israelis” and that “[i]mportant elements of the plan have now been set in motion in a way that ensures substantial Israeli territorial gains regardless of what the Palestinians say or whether the plan is approved by other world powers or the United Nations.”[12]

Tamara Cofman Wittes, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, said the proposals fail to provide a foundation for lasting peace. “They are structured as a diktat,” she said. “The administration has made it clear that it plans to recognize Israeli sovereignty over all the land indicated for the Israelis in Trump’s map, whether the Palestinians accept it or not.”[13]

We can also note that a number of U.S.-Middle East allies fell into line, yet again betraying the Palestinians, and supporting negotiations under obviously biased U.S. auspices.[14]

I saw a remark on Twitter that a lot of the usual folks are silent on this ‘surrender.’ I suspect that is because really, this is what was expected of the Trump administration: “powerful sops to key political constituencies for both leaders — Christian evangelical voters for Trump and the nationalist Israeli right for Netanyahu.”[15] It’s sickening but there’s really not much new to say.

Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-release-middle-east-peace-plan-11580221616

Ishaan Tharoor, “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is no deal at all,” Washington Post, January 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/28/trumps-deal-century-is-no-deal-all/

Oliver Holmes, Sufian Taha, and Hazem Balousha, “‘We will never be Jerusalem’: Abu Dis pours scorn on Trump plan,” Guardian, January 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/29/we-will-never-be-jerusalem-abu-dis-pours-scorn-on-trump-plan


Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant was not a person I cared about. He was a sports star. I don’t care about sports.

I do care about rape and while I’m not particularly interested into digging into yet another sexual assault by yet another sports star, I can’t say I’m happy with how the Washington Post reacted to Felicia Sonmez’ tweets. Here’s an excerpt from the Columbia Journalism Review‘s “Media Today” newsletter today:

Felicia Sonmez and the tyranny of the social-media policy
By Jon Allsop

On Sunday—amid the wave of public eulogizing that followed the death of Kobe Bryant—many people on Twitter stressed that we should also remember the time he was credibly accused of raping a hotel worker in Colorado. (Bryant denied the claim, but later settled with the woman, and said he understood “how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”) One such tweeter was Felicia Sonmez, a politics reporter at the Washington Post. Sonmez has consistently been vocal on issues of sexual assault; in 2018, she alleged that she had been abused by Jon Kaiman, who then worked for the LA Times. (Another woman made a similar claim; Kaiman, who subsequently lost his job, has strongly denied wrongdoing.) On Sunday, Sonmez first linked to Daily Beast story (which she didn’t write) about the Bryant rape case without adding commentary of her own. She elaborated, but only after receiving a rash of abusive messages—including, she said, death threats. “Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality,” she wrote. “That folks are responding with rage & threats toward me… speaks volumes about the pressure people come under to stay silent in these cases.” She also shared a screenshot of one nasty message she had received, without masking the sender’s name.

Managers at the Post were not happy with Sonmez. According to Rachel Abrams, of the New York Times, Marty Baron, the paper’s top editor, emailed Sonmez a screenshot of her first Bryant tweet, along with the message: “Felicia, a real lack of judgment to tweet this. Please stop. You’re hurting this institution by doing this.” Tracy Grant, managing editor at the Post, then told Sonmez to delete the tweets, before suspending her on the grounds that she had strayed beyond her “coverage area,” and “undermined” her colleagues’ work. Responding to the threats Sonmez had faced, Grant added that she “might want to consider a hotel or a friend’s place for this evening.” (At least one of the threats referenced Sonmez’s home address; Sonmez had contacted Grant to flag the threats, as mandated by the Post’s security protocols.) This, many critics noted, felt like a dereliction of the paper’s duty to ensure the safety of its staff.

Many such critics could be found inside the Post’s newsroom. The paper’s guild wrote an open letter to Baron and Grant, accusing them of failing to protect Sonmez and noting that this isn’t the first time management “has sought to control how Felicia speaks on matters of sexual violence.” As of last night, nearly 350 staffers had signed the letter. Opinion writers at the paper used their platforms to come to Sonmez’s defense, too. On Monday, Erik Wemple wrote that the backlash against her was rooted in “the ancient wisdom that urges folks not to speak ill of the dead,” which is “a fine rule for everyone except for historians and journalists.” Yesterday, David Von Drehle concurred with Wemple. Sonmez, he wrote, had been punished for keeping “both eyes on the truth—or more precisely, on one particular truth, namely that somewhere a woman was experiencing this outpouring of adulation for a man who choked and lacerated her during an encounter that she called a rape, and which he acknowledged was very much like one.”

Late yesterday, the Post retreated. In a statement, it said that following a “review,” it had concluded that Sonmez’s tweets were “ill-timed,” but “not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy.” Sonmez was reinstated, though the statement was notably missing an apology. In a statement of her own, Sonmez hit back, insisting that she and her colleagues deserve to hear directly from Baron, and noting that the episode had “sown confusion” about the Post’s values.

As some observers (including Charlie Warzel, of the Times) noted, the Sonmez fiasco is a fresh reminder that newsrooms still struggle when coordinated mobs of online culture warriors target their staff. (Baron and Grant clearly feared institutional blowback, though it’s possible they found Sonmez’s tweets distasteful on their own terms.) The Post isn’t alone here. Last year, the Times caused a mini media panic when it reported that “a loose network of conservative operatives” had compiled dossiers incriminating “hundreds” of reporters at leading outlets. (The “loose network” has since been mysteriously quiet.) For some reason, A.G. Sulzberger, the Times’s publisher, deemed this development worthy of public comment; he called it a clear attempt to harass his reporters (which was correct), but added that the paper would nonetheless be diligent in responding to “legitimate problems” raised by “anyone—even those acting in bad faith.” This handed the harassers a victory, at least to some small extent.

Sonmezgate also exposes a more routine problem: the tyranny of the newsroom social media policy. Ostensibly, such policies are meant to safeguard journalists and their bosses against the pitfalls of the internet; in practice, they often read like hamfisted attempts to reconcile competing impulses. That of the Post, for instance, says, in part, that reporters should communicate in “more personal and informal ways” to better connect with readers, but should also prioritize preserving the paper’s reputation “for journalistic excellence, fairness, and independence.” Such wording invites flawed—not to mention inconsistent—application. “We have repeatedly seen colleagues—including members of management—share contentious opinions on social media platforms without sanction,” the Post Guild wrote in its letter supporting Sonmez. “But here a valued colleague is being censured for making a statement of fact.”

Again, the Post isn’t alone; tensions like these exist across the media industry. We warn aspiring journalists that they won’t be hired unless they have thousands of Twitter followers they can mine for clicks, while also warning them that they won’t be hired if they ever expressed an opinion online. (Regrettably, Twitter followers tend to like opinions.) The Trump era has made things worse. Newsrooms have moved to monetize their reporters’ humanity (Ring, ring. Ring, ring. “Hi, it’s Michael.”) without really letting them show any preconceptions, or mistakes, or life experiences—the things that actual humans are made of. (Life is not lived in “coverage areas.”) All of which is very ironic: in many cases, trust in the press has declined not because reporters have manifest flaws, but because news organizations insist on pretending that they do not.

Yes, there are things reporters shouldn’t do: campaign for candidates, lie, display prejudice, etc. But these are so obvious—and so intrinsic to what it means to be a journalist—that they hardly need to be codified in an inflexible policy. Which raises the question: what are such policies for, really? It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that they’re a tool of management control.

Below, more on Sonmez and the Post:

  • Correcting the record: Last year, Emily Yoffe wrote an article for Reason Magazine arguing that Kaiman had wrongly suffered professional and personal damage. Sonmez felt the piece contained a string of inaccuracies, and wrote to Reason requesting corrections; she also posted her letter and supporting evidence to Twitter. The magazine made only three changes. “It’s been a process of having to keep reasserting myself and making sure my own voice was heard,” Sonmez told CJR’s Lauren Harris in November. “When people have tried to put their own spin on my story, I’ve had to push back.”
  • Women and the PostCritics of the Sonmez decision shared other instances in which the Post was criticized on issues pertaining to gender. Last year, Irin Carmon alleged that the Post killed a story she’d been working on about sexual-harassment allegations against Jeff Fager, of CBS. (The allegations later surfaced in the New Yorker; the Post said five editors agreed that the Fager story didn’t meet its standards.) Also last year, the Post Guild assessed pay structures at the paper, and found that women and staffers of color were being paid less than white male employees.
  • Bryant’s death: Sonmez’s Post colleague Margaret Sullivan writes that media coverage of Bryant’s death was “a chaotic mess.” Our collective handling of his rape case was just one part of the problem.[16]

I’m having a real hard time seeing how the Washington Post protected its reputation here. And while, in claims such as these, a reporter’s competence should have little bearing, it can only help that Sonmez is one whom I have cited here and in my blog on a number of occasions.

It looks to me like a number of media organizations, but especially the Post, have a #MeToo problem. They’d do well to get on top of it.


Polarization

Jim Geraghty, “The Pendulum of American Politics,” National Review, January 29, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/the-morning-jolt/the-pendulum-of-american-politics/


  1. [1]Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect (New York: Random House, 2008).
  2. [2]Brian Resnick, “The Stanford Prison Experiment was massively influential. We just learned it was a fraud,” Vox, June 13, 2018, https://www.vox.com/2018/6/13/17449118/stanford-prison-experiment-fraud-psychology-replication; Brian Resnick, “Philip Zimbardo defends the Stanford Prison Experiment, his most famous work,” Vox, June 28, 2018, https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/6/28/17509470/stanford-prison-experiment-zimbardo-interview
  3. [3]Priscilla Alvarez, “Lawmakers, including Ocasio-Cortez, lash out over conditions following border facility tours,” CNN, July 2, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/01/politics/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-clint-texas-facility/index.html; Caitlin Dickerson, “‘There Is a Stench’: No Soap and Overcrowding in Detention Centers for Migrant Children,” New York Times, June 21, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/21/us/migrant-children-border-soap.html; Adam Harris, “An Astonishing Government Report on Conditions at the Border,” Atlantic, July 3, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/07/government-report-details-inhumane-conditions-migrant-facilities/593242/; Miriam Jordan, “Judge Orders Swift Action to Improve Conditions for Migrant Children in Texas,” New York Times, June 29, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/29/us/migrant-children-detention-texas.html; Alejandro Lazo and Jacob Gershman, “Lawsuit Alleges Government Mistreatment of Migrant Children,” Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/lawsuit-alleges-government-mistreatment-of-migrant-children-11561608969; Sam Levin, “‘Happy hunting!’ Immigration agents swapped cheery messages about raids, records reveal,” Guardian, July 3, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/03/ice-us-immigration-messages-raids; Katie Mettler, Mike DeBonis, and Reis Thebault, “Border agents confiscated lawmakers’ phones. Joaquin Castro captured photo and video anyway,” Washington Post, July 2, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/07/02/ocasio-cortez-says-dispute-with-border-patrol-agents-started-after-one-tried-take-stealth-selfie/; Geneva Sands and Nick Valencia, “2nd Customs and Border Protection-connected secret Facebook group shows mocking images,” CNN, July 5, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/05/politics/cbp-second-facebook-group-images/index.html
  4. [4]Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect (New York: Random House, 2008).
  5. [5]Andrew Dyer, “Retired Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher Strikes Back at SEALs Who Testified Against Him,” Military.com, January 28, 2020, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/01/28/retired-navy-seal-eddie-gallagher-strikes-back-seals-who-testified-against-him.html
  6. [6]Ishaan Tharoor, “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is no deal at all,” Washington Post, January 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/28/trumps-deal-century-is-no-deal-all/
  7. [7]Oliver Holmes, Sufian Taha, and Hazem Balousha, “‘We will never be Jerusalem’: Abu Dis pours scorn on Trump plan,” Guardian, January 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/29/we-will-never-be-jerusalem-abu-dis-pours-scorn-on-trump-plan; Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-release-middle-east-peace-plan-11580221616; Ishaan Tharoor, “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is no deal at all,” Washington Post, January 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/28/trumps-deal-century-is-no-deal-all/; Times of Israel, “As peace plan rolls out, Netanyahu says he will annex Jordan Valley, settlements,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/as-peace-plan-rolls-out-netanyahu-says-he-will-annex-jordan-valley-settlements/; Times of Israel, “Trump unveils plan for ‘realistic 2-state’ deal, ‘undivided’ Israeli Jerusalem,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/trump-unveils-plan-for-realistic-2-state-deal-undivided-israeli-jerusalem/; Raoul Wootliff, “Netanyahu indicted for corruption in three cases, in first for a sitting PM,” Times of Israel, January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-indicted-for-corruption-in-three-cases-in-first-for-a-sitting-pm/
  8. [8]Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-release-middle-east-peace-plan-11580221616
  9. [9]Raoul Wootliff, “Netanyahu indicted for corruption in three cases, in first for a sitting PM,” Times of Israel, January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-indicted-for-corruption-in-three-cases-in-first-for-a-sitting-pm/
  10. [10]Ishaan Tharoor, “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is no deal at all,” Washington Post, January 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/28/trumps-deal-century-is-no-deal-all/
  11. [11]Oliver Holmes, Sufian Taha, and Hazem Balousha, “‘We will never be Jerusalem’: Abu Dis pours scorn on Trump plan,” Guardian, January 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/29/we-will-never-be-jerusalem-abu-dis-pours-scorn-on-trump-plan
  12. [12]Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-release-middle-east-peace-plan-11580221616
  13. [13]Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-release-middle-east-peace-plan-11580221616
  14. [14]Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-release-middle-east-peace-plan-11580221616
  15. [15]Ishaan Tharoor, “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is no deal at all,” Washington Post, January 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/28/trumps-deal-century-is-no-deal-all/
  16. [16]Jon Allsop to “Media Today” list, Columbia Journalism Review, January 29, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/felicia_sonmez_kobe_bryant_washington_post.php

Binyamin Netanyahu will be tried for corruption, in stark contrast with Donald Trump

Impeachment

“Nine months left to go, the people should judge. We are a republic, we are based on the will of the people — the people should judge,” [Diane] Feinstein said Tuesday, after the president’s team finished a three-day presentation in his defense. “That was my view and it still is my view.”[1]

Diane Feinstein must have figured out that voting to acquit might be a bad idea after all:

Zachary Evans, “McConnell Tells Caucus They Lack the Votes to Block Impeachment Witnesses,” National Review, January 28, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/news/trump-impeachment-trial-mitch-mcconnell-tells-caucus-they-lack-the-votes-to-block-witnesses/

Molly O’Toole, Jennifer Haberkorn, and Eli Stokols, “Feinstein says she’s a maybe on acquitting Trump as his defense team ends impeachment arguments,” Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-01-28/trump-team-wraps-impeachment-defense-with-an-elephant-in-the-senate-john-bolton


Israel

[Binyamin] Netanyahu’s announcement [withdrawing his request for immunity] came hours before the Knesset was set to form a committee to debate — and almost certainly reject — his immunity request.[2]

Richard Haass’ tweet undoubtedly reflects what Donald Trump would have the Palestinians do. One question is whether a fair deal would be possible in such negotiations. Given the present players, I doubt it. On the other hand, the risk of annexation[3] is being realized.[4]

“Your peace plan…addresses the root cause of the conflict by insisting that the Palestinians will finally have to recognize Israel as the Jewish state,” [Binyamin Netanyahu] said.

“Second, it stipulates that Israel will retain security control on the entire area west of the Jordan River, thereby giving Israel a permanent eastern border to defend ourselves across our longest border. Third, your plan calls for Hamas to be disarmed and Gaza to be demilitarized. Fourth, it makes clear that the Palestinian refugee problem must be solved outside the state of Israel. Fifth, it calls for our ancient capital, Jerusalem, to remain united under Israel sovereignty. Sixth, your plan does not uproot anyone from their homes, Israelis and Palestinians alike.”[5]

Sheena Anne Arackal, “The ‘Deal of the Century’ is Apartheid,” Mondoweiss, January 28, 2020, https://mondoweiss.net/2020/01/the-deal-of-the-century-is-apartheid/

Times of Israel, “As peace plan rolls out, Netanyahu says he will annex Jordan Valley, settlements,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/as-peace-plan-rolls-out-netanyahu-says-he-will-annex-jordan-valley-settlements/

Times of Israel, “Trump unveils plan for ‘realistic 2-state’ deal, ‘undivided’ Israeli Jerusalem,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/trump-unveils-plan-for-realistic-2-state-deal-undivided-israeli-jerusalem/

Raoul Wootliff, “Netanyahu indicted for corruption in three cases, in first for a sitting PM,” Times of Israel, January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-indicted-for-corruption-in-three-cases-in-first-for-a-sitting-pm/


Pittsburgh

Overall, Pittsburgh’s air seems to be improving.[6] This, of course, will be no surprise to my mother, who was here when the steel industry was pumping soot into the air at a ferocious rate.[7] Some of that soot can still, decades later, be seen on some retaining walls and on the sides of some buildings. But this[8] refers to more recent improvements.

Jamie Martines, “U.S. Steel to hold info sessions about Clairton, Braddock plant upgrades,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 27, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/u-s-steel-to-hold-info-sessions-about-clairton-braddock-plant-upgrades/

Kristina Marusic, “Pittsburgh’s air was unsafe to breathe for 3 months in 2018,” Environmental Health News, January 28, 2020, https://www.ehn.org/pittsburgh-air-pollution-unsafe-2644931105.html


  1. [1]Molly O’Toole, Jennifer Haberkorn, and Eli Stokols, “Feinstein says she’s a maybe on acquitting Trump as his defense team ends impeachment arguments,” Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-01-28/trump-team-wraps-impeachment-defense-with-an-elephant-in-the-senate-john-bolton
  2. [2]Raoul Wootliff, “Netanyahu indicted for corruption in three cases, in first for a sitting PM,” Times of Israel, January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-indicted-for-corruption-in-three-cases-in-first-for-a-sitting-pm/
  3. [3]Michael Bachner and Jacob Magid, “Settler leaders call for West Bank annexation after US shifts stance,” Times of Israel, November 18, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/settler-leaders-call-for-west-bank-annexation-after-us-shifts-stance/
  4. [4]Times of Israel, “As peace plan rolls out, Netanyahu says he will annex Jordan Valley, settlements,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/as-peace-plan-rolls-out-netanyahu-says-he-will-annex-jordan-valley-settlements/
  5. [5]Times of Israel, “As peace plan rolls out, Netanyahu says he will annex Jordan Valley, settlements,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/as-peace-plan-rolls-out-netanyahu-says-he-will-annex-jordan-valley-settlements/
  6. [6]Kristina Marusic, “Pittsburgh’s air was unsafe to breathe for 3 months in 2018,” Environmental Health News, January 28, 2020, https://www.ehn.org/pittsburgh-air-pollution-unsafe-2644931105.html
  7. [7]Mark Byrnes, “What Pittsburgh Looked Like When It Decided It Had a Pollution Problem,” CityLab, June 5, 2012, https://www.citylab.com/design/2012/06/what-pittsburgh-looked-when-it-decided-it-had-pollution-problem/2185/
  8. [8]Kristina Marusic, “Pittsburgh’s air was unsafe to breathe for 3 months in 2018,” Environmental Health News, January 28, 2020, https://www.ehn.org/pittsburgh-air-pollution-unsafe-2644931105.html

So, they say that vegans are well off whites fobbing off their lifestyle choices on the poor and people of color.

Brexit

Alison Flood, “Philip Pullman calls for boycott of Brexit 50p coin over ‘missing’ Oxford comma,” Guardian, January 27, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jan/27/brexit-50p-coin-boycott-philip-pullman-oxford-comma


Veganism

There is a new blog post entitled, “Rationalizing cruelty.”

Laura Reiley, “The fastest-growing vegan demographic is African Americans. Wu-Tang Clan and other hip-hop acts paved the way,” Washington Post, January 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/01/24/fastest-growing-vegan-demographic-is-african-americans-wu-tang-clan-other-hip-hop-acts-paved-way/


On the Green New Deal

Climate crisis

I’m not fond of interviews and have been, perhaps inexcusably, slow to get to this interview with Naomi Klein.[1] But we hear a lot about a “Green New Deal” without seeing how that fleshes out.

Sometimes said explicitly, sometimes sort of sotto voce, which is like, “Look, let’s just save the planet first and then we’ll deal with, you know, racism and inequality and gender exclusion and sort of just wait your turn.” And that doesn’t go over very well because for people who are on the front lines of all of those other crises, they’re all existential. I mean, if you can’t feed your kids, if you’re losing your house, if you are facing violence, all of it is existential.[2]

What’s still missing here,[3] possibly because it’s just an interview, is an actual plan that coherently brings all the pieces together and shows how they save our species and our environment. All I can say is that it is the right idea.

Laura Flanders, “Naomi Klein: Climate Solutions That Neglect Inequality Are Doomed to Fail,” Truthout, January 6, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/naomi-klein-climate-solutions-that-neglect-inequality-are-doomed-to-fail/


Bernie Sanders

There is a new blog post entitled, “All of us.”

Martin Pengelly, “Bernie Sanders ‘must reconsider’ Joe Rogan endorsement, says LGBTQ group,” Guardian, January 24, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jan/24/bernie-sanders-joe-rogan-human-rights-campaign


  1. [1]Laura Flanders, “Naomi Klein: Climate Solutions That Neglect Inequality Are Doomed to Fail,” Truthout, January 6, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/naomi-klein-climate-solutions-that-neglect-inequality-are-doomed-to-fail/
  2. [2]Laura Flanders, “Naomi Klein: Climate Solutions That Neglect Inequality Are Doomed to Fail,” Truthout, January 6, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/naomi-klein-climate-solutions-that-neglect-inequality-are-doomed-to-fail/
  3. [3]Laura Flanders, “Naomi Klein: Climate Solutions That Neglect Inequality Are Doomed to Fail,” Truthout, January 6, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/naomi-klein-climate-solutions-that-neglect-inequality-are-doomed-to-fail/

It’s bad enough that Donald Trump is ripping off a television series without putting that series’ name in this title.

Donald Trump

Bill Kristol is, of course, a neoconservative, and one of the few who still subscribes to the failed #NeverTrump movement in the Republican Party that sought, much too late, to avert Donald Trump’s nomination for the presidency in 2016.

But, damn, does he have a way with words or does he have a way with words?

As to the New York magazine piece, some of us will remember that Captain James T. Kirk, in “The Omega Glory,” finishes a virtually unrecognizable utterance by one side in a society that had somehow managed to continue the Cold War over a series of centuries by reciting the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, which in retrospect, seems like a strange thing for a Starfleet captain in the United Federation of Planets, three centuries later, to have memorized. There’s lots that’s weird about that,[1] but it plays into the patriotism I associate with authoritarian populism[2] and, since arriving in Pittsburgh, increasingly conflate with white supremacism (the flag-waving and other displays of patriotism, the guns, especially around Black areas, the combat fetishization, and the banners that overwhelmingly memorialize white but rarely Black soldiers, all seem so completely overdone as to compel the question of what folks around here are compensating for).

The Space Force logo resembles that of Starfleet, the military force of the United Federation of Planets. Yes, we are talking about Star Trek — but is Trump? The president does love television. Maybe he likes Star Trek, though the series doesn’t seem like his natural fare. Maybe someone was making a joke, and no one caught the joke, and here we are, contemplating the stupidest possible outcome of events. Maybe a consultant thought it would convince kids to sign up for the Space Force. You know, it’ll be just like Starfleet, except for the part where you’re in a military with a major white-nationalism problem. Or maybe it’s a viral marketing campaign for Star Trek: Picard, which premiered yesterday on CBS, but this seems very unlikely indeed. Trump bears no resemblance to the former captain of the Enterprise — not physically, not spiritually, not intellectually — so this is probably just what it seems, a dumb rip-off.[3]

Starfleet’s mission was not war, but peaceful exploration, something too many members of Starfleet International, the earth-based Star Trek fan club have forgotten, and something Trump is likely incapable of comprehending, that is, unless it’s for oil.

Sarah Jones, “Why Did Trump Just Rip Off Star Trek?” New York, January 24, 2020, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/01/the-new-space-force-logo-looks-like-starfleet-from-star-trek.html


White supremacism

Jason Wilson, “Prepping for a race war: documents reveal inner workings of neo-Nazi group,” Guardian, January 25, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/25/inside-the-base-neo-nazi-terror-group


  1. [1]Memory Alpha, s.v. “Pledge of Allegiance,” accessed January 25, 2020, https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The seven tendencies of conservatism,” Irregular Bullshit, n.d., https://disunitedstates.com/the-seven-tendencies-of-conservatism/
  3. [3]Sarah Jones, “Why Did Trump Just Rip Off Star Trek?” New York, January 24, 2020, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/01/the-new-space-force-logo-looks-like-starfleet-from-star-trek.html

Ikea delivery hell continues even after they’ve delivered the merchandise!

Pittsburgh

I just can’t wait to see one of my neighbors slaughtering a goat on their front lawn. Just can’t wait.

Stephanie Hacke, “Baldwin Borough considers ordinance over publicly slaughtering animals,” TribLive, January 23, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/baldwin-borough-leaders-consider-slaughtering-ordinance/


Impeachment

So you already know that I think Donald Trump should have been impeached for something important, like concentration camps on the U.S.-Mexico border,[1] not simply to protect the neoliberals’ preferred candidate.[2] Now here’s Marjorie Cohn confirming what else Trump could have been impeached for, specifically “violation of the emoluments clause, corruption and war crimes, as you said, most recently killing Soleimani in violation of the U.N. Charter, in violation of the War Powers Resolution.”[3]

I gotta tell ya, the more stuff I see that Trump could have been impeached for, and wasn’t, versus the one thing the neoliberal party did impeach him for, the more I think it was to protect Joe Biden. The omissions are just too important and too glaring. And Nancy Pelosi’s focus is just too suspect.

Democracy Now, “Law Professor: Trump Could Also Have Been Impeached for War Crimes, Assassinations and Corruption,” January 24, 2020, https://www.democracynow.org/2020/1/24/donald_trump_senate_impeachment_trial


IMG_0082
Fig. 1. These are the bookshelves that I’d previously gone through hell getting delivered.

IMG_0083
Fig. 2. These are the bookshelves I have most recently received after, again, going through delivery hell.[4] My books are gradually getting better organized.

So I’ve previously mentioned that Ikea’s delivery service sucks rocks in Pittsburgh but I had managed to receive my second set of bookshelves and get them assembled.[5]

I’m feeling the need to reiterate that now because it turns out that Ikea’s delivery service, XPO Logistics, has ignored my email responses indicating that I have received these bookshelves and is, allegedly, attempting the delivery again tomorrow.

I don’t even have room in this rather small apartment for another set of shelves, even if I had books to put on it. I certainly don’t want to be held responsible for them.

So I took off work an hour early and busted my ass down to Ikea to try and get this sorted. The unhelpful customer service person gave her manager an incomplete description of my situation. He told her to tell me to ignore it.

My mind is not at ease.

As you can see (figures 1 and 2), the bookshelves are tall enough and spacious enough to accommodate my collection. There aren’t a lot of bookshelves out there meeting that requirement. Which is why I went to Ikea in the first place and, to tell you the truth, it’s not at all a bad store—I’m glad to know it’s there and to know what all they have.

I am just sincerely hoping that anything else I need from Ikea in the future will be small enough that I can get it home on my own.


  1. [1]David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/15/the-whiteness-of-impeachment/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “It’s still a smoke-filled room,” Not Housebroken, December 6, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/06/its-still-a-smoke-filled-room/
  3. [3]Marjorie Cohn, quoted in Democracy Now, “Law Professor: Trump Could Also Have Been Impeached for War Crimes, Assassinations and Corruption,” January 24, 2020, https://www.democracynow.org/2020/1/24/donald_trump_senate_impeachment_trial
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Your job sucks. Thank neoliberals,” Irregular Bullshit, January 22, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/01/22/your-job-sucks-thank-neoliberals/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Your job sucks. Thank neoliberals,” Irregular Bullshit, January 22, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/01/22/your-job-sucks-thank-neoliberals/

Just remember, neoliberals know better than we do what’s good for us

Updates

  1. Originally published, January 23, 2020, 7:02 pm.
  2. January 23, 8:10 pm:
    • The Doomsday Clock is now at 100 seconds before midnight. They’re counting down in seconds now, not minutes.[1]

Rohingya

I remember, somewhat dimly now, that when I took an international relations class, the professor explained that compliance with international law was mostly a matter of a handshake; enforcement mechanisms are weak. But particularly problematic in the case of formerly colonized countries, including Burma, is that the grounding for this legal system rests in a European (the colonizers) treaty, the Treaty of Westphalia, that established the legal groundwork for state sovereignty and a protection for religious minorities meant to limit the perceived need for neighboring states to militarily intervene in each other’s affairs.[2]

The International Court of Justice (based in Europe) ruling against Burma in the matter of the Rohingya genocide[3] is certainly laudable. I don’t know how the Court enforces it. (Spoiler alert: It can’t.[4]) Which, for me indicates extreme cynicism in interpreting this:

“Right now, we can’t say what exactly our next steps will be,” [Myo Nyunt] said, expressing sadness at the court’s ruling. “We have to study and learn what the impact of this decision will be on our state, which is a sovereign state.”[5]

“The impact of this decision . . . on our state” would seem to refer explicitly to concrete enforcement, which is to say, none, at least for the moment. The reaffirmation of Burma as a “sovereign state” reaffirms a claimed legitimacy to state violence that is a defining characteristic of sovereignty and which constitutes Burma’s rationale for the genocide in the first place.

It gets worse and this is why I hate realism theory (“realpolitik”). Note that this is not because the theory, albeit flawed, particularly with regard to non-governmental actors, is incorrect: It, too often correctly, elides any moral basis for action, relying exclusively on “state” (for which, read “ruling class”) interests.

The Court has no enforcement power itself.[6] Enforcement by the international community typically takes two forms: First, economic sanctions, which typically end up affecting ordinary civilians much more than ruling elites, and are applied in varying degrees depending on the extent to which other countries feel their interests are at stake; and second, military intervention, which typically occurs only if other sufficiently powerful countries views their interests as being at stake. I don’t know that Bangladesh is sufficiently powerful. If other countries surrounding Burma have said a word about the plight of the Rohingya, I missed it—it was an African country, Gambia, far away from Burma, that brought the case.

Which means that the fate of the Rohingya really rests where it always has. That’s pretty cold, if not positively frigid, comfort.

British Broadcasting Corporation, “Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of genocide,” January 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029

Shibani Mahtani, “International Court of Justice orders Myanmar to prevent genocide against the Rohingya,” Washington Post, January 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/international-court-of-justice-orders-myanmar-to-prevent-genocide-against-the-rohingya/2020/01/23/ff383ff4-3d29-11ea-afe2-090eb37b60b1_story.html


Hillary Clinton

“Apparently SOMEBODY likes him!” Democratic strategist and former Obama adviser David Axelrod quipped Wednesday, referring to Hillary Clinton’s controversial comments about her 2016 primary opponent.[7]

Like I said yesterday[8] and before.[9] Damn, this bitch is an idiot.

But oh yeah, let’s not forget she’s the most qualified woman ever for the presidency. Oh yeah, and these are the idiots who think they know better than we do what’s good for us.

Veronica Stracqualursi and Gregory Krieg, “Clinton says ‘nobody likes’ Sanders and won’t commit to backing him if he’s the Democratic nominee,” CNN, January 21, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/21/politics/hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders-documentary/index.html

Eric Lutz, “Turns Out Lots of People ‘Like’ Bernie Sanders,” Vanity Fair, January 22, 2020, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/01/cnn-poll-bernie-sanders-joe-biden


Doomsday Clock

Andrew Sheeler, “Jerry Brown urges America to ‘wake up’ as Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight,” Sacramento Bee, January 23, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article239564083.html


  1. [1]Andrew Sheeler, “Jerry Brown urges America to ‘wake up’ as Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight,” Sacramento Bee, January 23, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article239564083.html
  2. [2]This is all from memory and may accordingly be flawed. I took the class while at California State University, East Bay, where I finished my Master’s degree in 2009. Indexed references to the Treaty of Westphalia are sparse in my book collection, at least in the books I thought to consult, but Theodor Meron writes “that the Peace of Westphalia (1648) .nbsp;. . introduced a system of modern nation-states and international relations governed by sovereign equality” in Henry’s Wars and Shakespeare’s Laws (Oxford, United Kingdom: Clarendon, 1993), 212. He goes on to say that protections for prisoners of war and for civilians—this latter could be from acts of war—originated at about this time. I am unable to discern much from the archaic language of the treaty itself, which seems to require a historical understanding well beyond that which I possess.
  3. [3]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of genocide,” January 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029; Shibani Mahtani, “International Court of Justice orders Myanmar to prevent genocide against the Rohingya,” Washington Post, January 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/international-court-of-justice-orders-myanmar-to-prevent-genocide-against-the-rohingya/2020/01/23/ff383ff4-3d29-11ea-afe2-090eb37b60b1_story.html
  4. [4]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of genocide,” January 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029
  5. [5]Shibani Mahtani, “International Court of Justice orders Myanmar to prevent genocide against the Rohingya,” Washington Post, January 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/international-court-of-justice-orders-myanmar-to-prevent-genocide-against-the-rohingya/2020/01/23/ff383ff4-3d29-11ea-afe2-090eb37b60b1_story.html
  6. [6]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of genocide,” January 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029
  7. [7]Eric Lutz, “Turns Out Lots of People ‘Like’ Bernie Sanders,” Vanity Fair, January 22, 2020, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/01/cnn-poll-bernie-sanders-joe-biden
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Your job sucks. Thank neoliberals,” Irregular Bullshit, January 22, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/01/22/your-job-sucks-thank-neoliberals/
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Hillary Clinton needs to just shut the fuck up,” Not Housebroken, October 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/10/22/hillary-clinton-needs-to-just-shut-the-fuck-up/

Your job sucks. Thank neoliberals.

Labor

I’ve been revisiting my dissertation, specifically the seven tendencies of conservatism, and updating them in a new page which will continue to be developed, entitled, “The seven tendencies of conservatism.” A little has changed in that I have developed my understanding of the tendencies a little, and mainly that I have developed my understanding of neoliberalism, born from capitalist libertarianism but embraced by neoconservatism as a moral imperative, a lot.

In the course of going through the material there, I archived the articles that I cited in excerpts. I didn’t even read most of them, but inevitably, I browsed them, going through to get rid of extraneous crap like advertising.

I am reeling. I have been harshly critical of Barack Obama for excusing war crimes,[1] for refusing to prosecute the bank fraud that led to the 2007-2009 financial crisis,[2] and for leaving unemployed workers to twist in the wind.[3]

That last part is only mostly but not precisely accurate. Jobs were created in the wake of the financial crisis. But of an especially cruel sort, accelerating trends that had already been in place before the crisis[4] and that reflect neoliberal ideology.[5] For all my unhappiness at being stuck driving for Uber and Lyft, I had managed to forget what it’s like working in other low-level jobs. Here’s the reading list:

Daniel D’Addario, “Amazon is worse than Walmart,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/control/2013/07/30/how_amazon_is_worse_than_wal_mart/

Timothy Egan, “The Corporate Daddy,” New York Times, June 19, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/opinion/timothy-egan-walmart-starbucks-and-the-fight-against-inequality.html

Josh Eidelson, “Wal-Mart faces warehouse horror allegations and federal Labor Board complaint,” Salon, November 19, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/18/breaking_wal_mart_faces_warehouse_horror_allegations_and_federal_labor_board_complaint/

Josh Eidelson, “Tens of thousands protest, over 100 arrested in Black Friday challenge to Wal-Mart,” Salon, November 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/30/tens_of_thousands_protest_over_100_arrested_in_black_friday_challenge_to_wal_mart/

Josh Eidelson, “Finally paying for Wal-Mart’s sins: Wage theft settlement yields millions,” Salon, December 16, 2013, source

Josh Eidelson, “Freezing for Wal-Mart: Sub-zero warehouse temperatures spur Indiana work stoppage,” Salon, January 14, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/01/13/freezing_for_wal_mart_sub_zero_warehouse_temperatures_spur_indiana_work_stoppage/

Josh Eidelson, “Amazon Keeps Unions Out By Keeping Workers in Fear, Says Organizer,” Alternet, January 22, 2014, https://www.alternet.org/2014/01/amazon-keeps-unions-out-keeping-workers-fear-says-organizer/

Nichole Gracely, “‘Being homeless is better than working for Amazon,’” Guardian, November 28, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/nov/28/being-homeless-is-better-than-working-for-amazon

Steven Greenhouse, “The Changing Face of Temporary Employment,” New York Times, August 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/01/upshot/the-changing-face-of-temporary-employment.html

Erin Hatton, “The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy,” New York Times, January 26, 2013, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/the-rise-of-the-permanent-temp-economy/

Simon Head, “Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers,” Salon, February 23, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/02/23/worse_than_wal_mart_amazons_sick_brutality_and_secret_history_of_ruthlessly_intimidating_workers/

Paul Jaskunas, “The Tyranny of the Forced Smile,” New York Times, February 14, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/jobs/the-tyranny-of-the-forced-smile.html

Allison Kilkenny, “Ohio Walmart Holds Food Drive For Its Own Employees,” Nation, November 18, 2013, https://www.thenation.com/article/ohio-walmart-holds-food-drive-its-own-employees/

Paul Krugman, “The Plight of the Employed,” New York Times, December 24, 2013, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/24/the-plight-of-the-employed/

Paul Krugman, “The Fear Economy,” New York Times, December 26, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/27/opinion/krugman-the-fear-economy.html

Danielle Kurtzleben, “Read McDonald’s workers’ shocking harassment and discrimination complaints — and why they’re so important,” Vox, January 22, 2015, https://www.vox.com/2015/1/22/7873661/mcdonalds-lawsuit-harassment-discrimination

Edward McClelland, “You call this a middle class? “I’m trying not to lose my house,’” Salon, March 1, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/03/01/you_call_this_a_middle_class_i%E2%80%99m_trying_not_to_lose_my_house/

Mac McClelland, “I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave,” Mother Jones, March/April 2012, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor/

Nathaniel Mott, “From Amazon warehouse workers to Google bus drivers, it’s tough working a non-tech job at a tech company,” Pando, October 9, 2014, https://pando.com/2014/10/09/from-amazon-warehouse-workers-to-google-bus-drivers-its-tough-working-a-non-tech-job-at-a-tech-company/

Ari Rabin-Havt, “Wal-Mart flunks its fact-check: The truth behind its sarcastic response to the Times,” Salon, June 25, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/06/25/walmart_flunks_its_fact_check_the_truth_behind_its_sarcastic_response_to_the_times/

Alex Seitz-Wald, “Amazon is everything wrong with our new economy,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/07/30/amazon_is_everything_wrong_with_our_new_economy/

Alana Semuels, “As employers push efficiency, the daily grind wears down workers,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-harsh-work-20130407-story.html

Alana Semuels, “How the relationship between employers and workers changed,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html

Alana Semuels, “Tougher workplace makes home life worse too,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html

Spencer Soper, “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse,” Lehigh Valley Morning Call, September 18, 2011, https://www.mcall.com/business/mc-xpm-2011-09-18-mc-allentown-amazon-complaints-20110917-story.html

Lindsay Wise, “Report: Temp jobs at all-time high in U.S.,” McClatchy, September 2, 2014, https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/economy/article24772543.html

I wish I could make public the entry where I have all these stories archived. Copyright restrictions obviously inhibit this. But these stories reflect the fire I seek to avoid jumping into from the frying pan.


My book collection

One of the things I didn’t have space for as I was packing my car for the move across country was my book collection. My mother, bless her heart, has been shipping those books to me in packages as large as she could manage. She finished shipping them shortly before Christmas, and somehow, the Postal Service managed not to lose any of the packages.

On my side, there was the problem of acquiring bookcases. Ikea has ones that are great for someone like me who has as many books as I do. But Ikea’s delivery service sucks rocks in Pittsburgh. I went through hell getting both sets of bookshelves delivered. Getting them assembled wasn’t so bad: Task Rabbit, unfortunately of the gig economy, has sent great people to build them. But I wonder, given transportation time, how well it works out for the people who have helped me out enormously.

But now, thankfully, at last, I have my entire book collection here and it is shelved. I can’t tell you what a relief that is.


Hillary Clinton

I’ve said it before: Hillary Clinton needs to shut the fuck up.[6]

So now Tulsi Gabbard is suing her over some ill-considered words that she has refused to retract.[7] Of course, they’ll settle out of court, and then, Clinton will carry on as she always does. Because, accountability? 1) The very idea is misogynistic (that Gabbard is a woman is irrelevant; it’s those Russian men that put her up to it, which in turn suggests that Gabbard’s voice is not her own). And 2) accountability is for the little people. I mean, the impertinence!

Tobias Hoonhout, “Tulsi Gabbard Sues Hillary Clinton for Defamation over ‘Russian Asset’ Comments,” National Review, January 22, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/news/tulsi-gabbard-sues-hillary-clinton-for-defamation-over-russian-asset-comments/


WhatsApp

Just don’t use WhatsApp. Don’t.

James Titcomb, “Saudi crown prince ‘hacked Jeff Bezos’s phone with WhatsApp message,’” Telegraph, January 22, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2020/01/21/saudi-crown-prince-hacked-jeff-bezoss-phone-whatsapp-message/


 

  1. [1]Glenn Greenwald, “Obama’s justice department grants final immunity to Bush’s CIA torturers,” Guardian, August 31, 2012, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/aug/31/obama-justice-department-immunity-bush-cia-torturer; Elizabeth Holtzman, “Statutes of Limitations Are Expiring on Some Bush Crimes,” Nation, March 20, 2013, https://www.thenation.com/article/statutes-limitations-are-expiring-some-bush-crimes/; David Johnston and Charlie Savage, “Obama Reluctant to Look Into Bush Programs,” New York Times, January 11, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/us/politics/12inquire.html
  2. [2]Jason M. Breslow, “As Deadlines Loom for Financial Crisis Cases, Prosecutors Weigh Their Options,” Public Broadcasting System, January 22, 2013, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/as-deadlines-loom-for-financial-crisis-cases-prosecutors-weigh-their-options/; Jason M. Breslow, “Too Big To Jail? The Top 10 Civil Cases Against the Banks,” Frontline, January 22, 2013, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/too-big-to-jail-the-top-10-civil-cases-against-the-banks/; Jason M. Breslow, “Were Bankers Jailed In Past Financial Crises?” Public Broadcasting System, January 22, 2013, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/were-bankers-jailed-in-past-financial-crises/; David Dayen, “Wall Street wins again,” Salon, February 13, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/02/13/wall_street_wins_again/; Frontline, “Phil Angelides: Enforcement of Wall St. is ‘Woefully Broken’,” Public Broadcasting System, January 22, 2013, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/phil-angelides-enforcement-of-wall-st-is-woefully-broken/; Frontline, “Ted Kaufman: Wall Street Prosecutions Never Made a Priority,” Public Broadcasting System, January 22, 2013, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/ted-kaufman-wall-street-prosecutions-never-made-a-priority/; Office of the Inspector General Audit Division, “Audit of the Department of Justice’s Efforts to Address Mortgage Fraud,” U. S. Department of Justice, March 2014, http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/2014/a1412.pdf; Barry Ritholz, “Why Prosecutors Whiffed on Subprime Crime,” Bloomberg View, March 14, 2014, http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-03-14/why-prosecutors-whiffed-on-subprime-crime; David Sirota, “Are banks too big to jail?” Salon, January 23, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/01/23/are_banks_too_big_to_jail/; David Sirota, “Barack Obama, Wall Street co-conspirator,” Salon, January 29, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/01/29/barack_obama_wall_street_co_conspirator/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Dickens redux,” Not Housebroken, August 3, 2011, https://disunitedstates.org/2011/08/03/dickens-redux/
  4. [4]Daniel D’Addario, “Amazon is worse than Walmart,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/control/2013/07/30/how_amazon_is_worse_than_wal_mart/; Timothy Egan, “The Corporate Daddy,” New York Times, June 19, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/opinion/timothy-egan-walmart-starbucks-and-the-fight-against-inequality.html; Josh Eidelson, “Wal-Mart faces warehouse horror allegations and federal Labor Board complaint,” Salon, November 19, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/18/breaking_wal_mart_faces_warehouse_horror_allegations_and_federal_labor_board_complaint/; Josh Eidelson, “Tens of thousands protest, over 100 arrested in Black Friday challenge to Wal-Mart,” Salon, November 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/30/tens_of_thousands_protest_over_100_arrested_in_black_friday_challenge_to_wal_mart/; Josh Eidelson, “Finally paying for Wal-Mart’s sins: Wage theft settlement yields millions,” Salon, December 16, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/12/16/finally_paying_for_wal_marts_sins_wage_theft_settlement_yields_millions/; Josh Eidelson, “Freezing for Wal-Mart: Sub-zero warehouse temperatures spur Indiana work stoppage,” Salon, January 14, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/01/13/freezing_for_wal_mart_sub_zero_warehouse_temperatures_spur_indiana_work_stoppage/; Josh Eidelson, “Amazon Keeps Unions Out By Keeping Workers in Fear, Says Organizer,” Alternet, January 22, 2014, https://www.alternet.org/2014/01/amazon-keeps-unions-out-keeping-workers-fear-says-organizer/; Nichole Gracely, “‘Being homeless is better than working for Amazon,’” Guardian, November 28, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/nov/28/being-homeless-is-better-than-working-for-amazon; Steven Greenhouse, “The Changing Face of Temporary Employment,” New York Times, August 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/01/upshot/the-changing-face-of-temporary-employment.html; Erin Hatton, “The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy,” New York Times, January 26, 2013, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/the-rise-of-the-permanent-temp-economy/; Simon Head, “Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers,” Salon, February 23, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/02/23/worse_than_wal_mart_amazons_sick_brutality_and_secret_history_of_ruthlessly_intimidating_workers/; Paul Jaskunas, “The Tyranny of the Forced Smile,” New York Times, February 14, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/jobs/the-tyranny-of-the-forced-smile.html; Allison Kilkenny, “Ohio Walmart Holds Food Drive For Its Own Employees,” Nation, November 18, 2013, https://www.thenation.com/article/ohio-walmart-holds-food-drive-its-own-employees/; Paul Krugman, “The Plight of the Employed,” New York Times, December 24, 2013, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/24/the-plight-of-the-employed/; Paul Krugman, “The Fear Economy,” New York Times, December 26, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/27/opinion/krugman-the-fear-economy.html; Danielle Kurtzleben, “Read McDonald’s workers’ shocking harassment and discrimination complaints — and why they’re so important,” Vox, January 22, 2015, https://www.vox.com/2015/1/22/7873661/mcdonalds-lawsuit-harassment-discrimination; Edward McClelland, “You call this a middle class? “I’m trying not to lose my house,’” Salon, March 1, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/03/01/you_call_this_a_middle_class_i%E2%80%99m_trying_not_to_lose_my_house/; Mac McClelland, “I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave,” Mother Jones, March/April 2012, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor/; Nathaniel Mott, “From Amazon warehouse workers to Google bus drivers, it’s tough working a non-tech job at a tech company,” Pando, October 9, 2014, https://pando.com/2014/10/09/from-amazon-warehouse-workers-to-google-bus-drivers-its-tough-working-a-non-tech-job-at-a-tech-company/; Marc Pilisuk with Jennifer Achord Rountree, Who Benefits From Global Violence and War (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2008).; Ari Rabin-Havt, “Wal-Mart flunks its fact-check: The truth behind its sarcastic response to the Times,” Salon, June 25, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/06/25/walmart_flunks_its_fact_check_the_truth_behind_its_sarcastic_response_to_the_times/; Alex Seitz-Wald, “Amazon is everything wrong with our new economy,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/07/30/amazon_is_everything_wrong_with_our_new_economy/; Alana Semuels, “As employers push efficiency, the daily grind wears down workers,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-harsh-work-20130407-story.html; Alana Semuels, “How the relationship between employers and workers changed,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html; Alana Semuels, “Tougher workplace makes home life worse too,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html; Spencer Soper, “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse,” Lehigh Valley Morning Call, September 18, 2011, https://www.mcall.com/business/mc-xpm-2011-09-18-mc-allentown-amazon-complaints-20110917-story.html; Lindsay Wise, “Report: Temp jobs at all-time high in U.S.,” McClatchy, September 2, 2014, https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/economy/article24772543.html
  5. [5]Daniel Altman, Neoconomy (New York: PublicAffairs, 2004); Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University, 2013); Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe (Princeton, NJ, Princeton University, 2012).
  6. [6]David Benfell, “Hillary Clinton needs to just shut the fuck up,” Not Housebroken, October 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/10/22/hillary-clinton-needs-to-just-shut-the-fuck-up/
  7. [7]Tobias Hoonhout, “Tulsi Gabbard Sues Hillary Clinton for Defamation over ‘Russian Asset’ Comments,” National Review, January 22, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/news/tulsi-gabbard-sues-hillary-clinton-for-defamation-over-russian-asset-comments/