Really important news

My groundhog neighbor had three babies in tow crossing the lawn this morning. Just so we all know what’s really important.

My landlord worries about his (actually his wife’s) tulips but honestly, I’ve never seen a groundhog anywhere near his tulips; I always see them rummaging in the grass or running to a bramble where I’m pretty sure their den is.


Illiberalism


Fig. 1. Photograph by Joachim F. Thurn, August 1991, Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F089030-0003, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE.

The failure of the opposition in Turkey[1] should serve as a warning as well to the U.S. about the Republicans’ competitive authoritarian regime project.

Deutsche Welle, “Turkey election: Erdogan, Kilicdaroglu head to a runoff,” May 15, 2023, https://www.dw.com/en/turkey-election-erdogan-kilicdaroglu-head-to-a-runoff/a-65619880

Ishaan Tharoor, “Erdogan scores win through culture wars and soft authoritarianism,” Washington Post, May 16, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2023/05/16/erdogan-turkey-culture-war-right-wing-authoritarianism/


Imperialism

Russia

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.

A Washington Post report raises a possibility that the report—from leaked U.S. intelligence[3]—that Yevgeny Prigozhin offered Ukrainians Russian troop locations[4] is an attempt to smear Prigozhin.[5] Prigozhin hardly needs smearing, but the idea that such leaked intelligence, which so far seems to have been the real thing, would be a ‘hoax’ in just this one case seems a bit over the top.

Meanwhile, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’ woes in persuading companies to decline deals circumventing sanctions on Russia will surely sound familiar to anyone who has read George Seldes’ account of U.S. corporations who couldn’t resist more deals with Nazi Germany.[6] The simple fact is that capitalists are in business to make money even if, as Vladimir Lenin is alleged to have suggested, it means selling their hangman a rope to hang them with.[7]

But those (including me) who wonder how Vladimir Putin can continue this war will find support for their doubts in a Washington Post op-ed:

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a longtime [Yevgeny] Prigozhin ally, has now appeared to break with the Wagner chief, harshly criticizing his threats to withdraw from the front. As a result, the three principal Russian forces in Bakhmut — the Wagner Group, Kadyrov’s Chechen militias and the regular army — are openly feuding with each other as Ukrainian troops advance.

Meanwhile, [Vladimir] Putin has conspicuously failed to explain to the public how his security forces failed to prevent two drones from reaching the Kremlin and neglected to thwart the car-bomb attack on a key Russian warmonger, Zakhar Prilepin.

Former Putin speechwriter Abbas Gallyamov told me the Kremlin is “shaking.”[8]

All this pales, really, before the spectacular failure of Russian forces in Ukraine,[9] but it can only add to the question of how much longer Putin can last.

Francesca Ebel and Mary Ilyushina, “Russia dismisses report that Wagner boss offered to reveal troop positions,” Washington Post, May 15, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/05/15/yevgeniy-prigozhin-russia-ukraine-wagner/

Shane Harris and Isabelle Khurshudyan, “Wagner chief offered to give Russian troop locations to Ukraine, leak says,” Washington Post, May 15, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2023/05/14/prigozhin-wagner-ukraine-leaked-documents/

Allan Woods, “Why Vladimir Putin isn’t shutting down the outspoken ‘thug’ running the Wagner Group,” Toronto Star, May 15, 2023, https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2023/05/15/why-vladimir-putin-isnt-shutting-down-the-outspoken-thug-running-the-wagner-group.html

Chris Cook, “Estonian PM pleads with companies to resist ‘ghost trade’ with Russia,” Financial Times, May 17, 2023, https://www.ft.com/content/1a17dacf-9c8d-46fe-860d-36ae9b708987

Anna Nemtsova, “I’ve never seen the Kremlin so rattled,” Washington Post, May 17, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/05/17/rattled-kremlin-ukraine-psychological-warfare/

United States


Fig. 3. “American Progress,” painting by John Gast, 1872, digital version 2006, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Brown University researchers, in a report released Monday, draw on U.N. data and expert analyses to attempt to calculate the minimum number of excess deaths attributable to the war on terrorism, across conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — impacts “so vast and complex that” ultimately, “they are unquantifiable,” the researchers acknowledge.

The accounting, so far as it can be measured, puts the toll at 4.5 million to 4.6 million — a figure that continues to mount as the effects of conflict reverberate. Of those fatalities, the report estimates, some 3.6 million to 3.7 million were “‘indirect deaths” caused by the deterioration of economic, environmental, psychological and health conditions.[10]

Miriam Berger, “Post-9/11 wars have contributed to some 4.5 million deaths, report suggests,” Washington Post, May 15, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/05/15/war-on-terror-911-deaths-afghanistan-iraq/


Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh

Infrastructure


Fig. 3. Post-collapse scene at the Fern Hollow Bridge, photograph by National Transportation Safety Board, January 29, 2022, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Ford Turner, “An aging Swissvale bridge raises a question: Should Pa. help pay to replace spans once owned by railroads?” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 16, 2023, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-state/2023/05/16/swissvale-washington-avenue-bridge-pa-funding/stories/202305150083


Gilead

Twitter


Fig. 4. “Elon Musk shared a video of his entrance on his Twitter account.” Photograph attributed to Elon Musk, October 26, 2022, via the New York Post,[11] fair use.

We shall see what Elon Musk has to say when he’s panhandling on a median strip.

No, I don’t expect that will happen. That would require justice in a deeply unjust world.

Mike Calia, “Elon Musk: ‘I’ll say what I want, and if the consequence of that is losing money, so be it,’” CNBC, May 16, 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/05/16/elon-musk-defends-inflammatory-tweets-ill-say-what-i-want.html

Abortion


Fig. 5. 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.

Ann E. Marimow, Caroline Kitchener, and Perry Stein, “Appeals court appears likely to restrict access to key abortion pill,” Washington Post, May 17, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/05/17/abortion-pill-appeal-court-arguments/


Banking

Commercial real estate


Fig. 6. “The iconic Crescent stands as recognizable landmark in the upscale neighborhood of Uptown, Dallas.” Photograph by Dallasedits [pseud.], July 5, 2016, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.

I mostly remember the blocks in San Francisco of Powell Street between Market and Geary Streets, that is apparently now mostly vacant,[12] for the Woolworth’s on Market that I think has been gone for a while (it appears vacant on Google Street View) and a bunch of shops offering goods (including electronics) that made no sense to buy at those shops and that aimed to rip off tourists (fools and their money) who wouldn’t know or perhaps even care even to go to a fucking department store where the prices are still exorbitant, just not so exorbitant as at these shops. I guess those stores didn’t survive the pandemic—good riddance.

A couple levels down at Woolworth’s you could find an entrance to the Powell Street Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station. On the other side was the Emporium, which closed long ago and also had a BART entrance; it was replaced by the Westfield Mall that now has a problem with homeless people shitting in its elevators and included a Nordstrom’s that has shut down.[13]

At the end of the day, we got to start somewhere. San Francisco is not in the doom loop that everyone says it is.[14]

I have to tell you that sinking six million bucks into that corridor[15] only makes a “doom loop”[16] seem more likely.

Yes, the cable cars that are actually useful start there. So, too, really, does the Tenderloin and South of Market Area (SOMA). SOMA is pretty diverse; historically, it had a lot of what they call single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels that offered homes to folks who couldn’t hack the regular rental market. It did attract some technology companies even during the dot-com boom; Twitter headquarters is on the southeast corner of 10th and Market Streets. It’s been a few years since I’ve been there, so I don’t know what it all looks like now, but I gather the Tenderloin, which had many more SRO hotels, is still very much a troubled neighborhood.[17] And the vacancy rate going out on Market Street (which separates SOMA from the Tenderloin) from Powell was probably the number one reason why San Francisco passed a tax on vacant storefronts.[18]

So between the tourist ripoff shops and the adjoining neighborhoods, I’m pretty sure this corridor is gonna be a waste of six million bucks.

Kevin Truong, “Union Square: Empty Powell Street Gets $6M Plan to Lure Shops Back,” San Francisco Standard, May 16, 2023, https://sfstandard.com/business/vacancy-ridden-street-near-sfs-union-square-gets-6m-investment/

Biz Carson, “San Francisco Gets a $1 Billion Bet That Workers Will Return,” Bloomberg, May 17, 2023, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-05-17/san-francisco-transamerica-pyramid-is-being-remade-in-bet-remote-work-will-fade


Jeffrey Epstein


Fig. 7. “Donald Trump with his future wife Melania Knauss, Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at Mar-a-Lago in February 2000.” Photograph credited to Davidoff Studios Photography/Getty Images, February 2000,[19] fair use.

James Fanelli and Khadeeja Safdar, “Deutsche Bank to Pay $75 Million to Settle Jeffrey Epstein Accusers’ Suit,” Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/deutsche-bank-to-pay-75-million-to-settle-jeffrey-epstein-accusers-suit-962564d7


  1. [1]Deutsche Welle, “Turkey election: Erdogan, Kilicdaroglu head to a runoff,” May 15, 2023, https://www.dw.com/en/turkey-election-erdogan-kilicdaroglu-head-to-a-runoff/a-65619880; Ishaan Tharoor, “Erdogan scores win through culture wars and soft authoritarianism,” Washington Post, May 16, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2023/05/16/erdogan-turkey-culture-war-right-wing-authoritarianism/
  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]Francesca Ebel and Mary Ilyushina, “Russia dismisses report that Wagner boss offered to reveal troop positions,” Washington Post, May 15, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/05/15/yevgeniy-prigozhin-russia-ukraine-wagner/
  4. [4]Shane Harris and Isabelle Khurshudyan, “Wagner chief offered to give Russian troop locations to Ukraine, leak says,” Washington Post, May 15, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2023/05/14/prigozhin-wagner-ukraine-leaked-documents/
  5. [5]Francesca Ebel and Mary Ilyushina, “Russia dismisses report that Wagner boss offered to reveal troop positions,” Washington Post, May 15, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/05/15/yevgeniy-prigozhin-russia-ukraine-wagner/
  6. [6]George Seldes, 1000 Americans: The Real Rulers of the U.S.A. (New York: Boni and Gaer, 1948; Joshua Tree, CA: Progressive, 2009).
  7. [7]Quote Investigator, “The Capitalists Will Sell Us the Rope with Which We Will Hang Them,” February 22, 2018, https://quoteinvestigator.com/2018/02/22/rope/
  8. [8]Anna Nemtsova, “I’ve never seen the Kremlin so rattled,” Washington Post, May 17, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/05/17/rattled-kremlin-ukraine-psychological-warfare/
  9. [9]David Benfell, “If Vladimir Putin doesn’t make sense, he doesn’t make sense, and he cannot last,” Not Housebroken, May 15, 2023, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/10/10/if-vladimir-putin-doesnt-make-sense-he-doesnt-make-sense-and-he-cannot-last/
  10. [10]Miriam Berger, “Post-9/11 wars have contributed to some 4.5 million deaths, report suggests,” Washington Post, May 15, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/05/15/war-on-terror-911-deaths-afghanistan-iraq/
  11. [11]Thomas Barrabi, “Elon Musk barges into Twitter HQ as deal nears: ‘Let that sink in,’” New York Post, October 26, 2022, https://nypost.com/2022/10/26/elon-musk-barges-into-twitter-headquarters-as-deal-nears/
  12. [12]Kevin Truong, “Union Square: Empty Powell Street Gets $6M Plan to Lure Shops Back,” San Francisco Standard, May 16, 2023, https://sfstandard.com/business/vacancy-ridden-street-near-sfs-union-square-gets-6m-investment/
  13. [13]Garrett Leahy; Downtown San Francisco: Human Waste Increasingly Found in Westfield Mall Elevators, Staff Say,” San Francisco Standard, May 16, 2023, https://sfstandard.com/business/downtown-san-francisco-human-waste-increasingly-found-in-westfields-elevators-staff-say/; Roland Li and J. D. Morris, “After Nordstrom store closures, what can San Francisco do to stop the retail exodus?” San Francisco Chronicle, May 3, 2023, https://www.sfchronicle.com/sf/article/after-nordstrom-closures-s-f-stop-retail-exodus-18074794.php
  14. [14]London Breed quoted in Kevin Truong, “Union Square: Empty Powell Street Gets $6M Plan to Lure Shops Back,” San Francisco Standard, May 16, 2023, https://sfstandard.com/business/vacancy-ridden-street-near-sfs-union-square-gets-6m-investment/
  15. [15]Kevin Truong, “Union Square: Empty Powell Street Gets $6M Plan to Lure Shops Back,” San Francisco Standard, May 16, 2023, https://sfstandard.com/business/vacancy-ridden-street-near-sfs-union-square-gets-6m-investment/
  16. [16]Roland Li and Noah Arroyo, “Cities are struggling. San Francisco could be in for the biggest ‘doom loop’ of all,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 30, 2023, https://www.sfchronicle.com/sf/article/city-economy-doom-loop-17846412.php; San Francisco Chronicle, “San Francisco could be on the verge of collapse. What should California do about it?” April 4, 2023, https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/downtown-san-francisco-17852552.php
  17. [17]Biz Carson, Karen Breslau, and John Gittelsohn, “Bank Turmoil Collides With Tech Slump in Battered San Francisco,” Bloomberg, April 2, 2023, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-04-02/san-francisco-s-feeling-the-pain-of-the-banking-crisis-big-tech-layoffs
  18. [18]Adam Brinklow, “SF election results: Vacant stores tax Proposition D leads,” Curbed San Francisco, March 4, 2020, https://sf.curbed.com/2020/3/4/21164603/election-results-prop-d-vacant-store-tax; Dominic Fracassa, “SF’s Prop. D vacant storefront tax wins; so does Prop. E, tying office space to housing,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 6, 2020, https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/SF-s-vacant-storefront-tax-measure-Proposition-15112228.php
  19. [19]Martin Pengelly, “‘She say anything about me?’ Trump raised Ghislaine Maxwell link with aides,” Guardian, October 4, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/oct/04/trump-ghislaine-maxwell-epstein-maggie-haberman-book-confidence-man

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