If the desert does not dissuade migrants, what will?

Illiberalism

Gilead

Migration


Fig. 1. Photograph credited to “ProtoplasmaKid,”, November 9, 2018, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.

I hate paying attention to this issue. But today, what we’re seeing is not merely callous disregard for migrant lives but, I believe, actual homicidal intent.

I have explained repeatedly that when people are undertaking desperately dangerous journeys, desperately fleeing their homes, the U.S. habit of putting obstacles in their way only increases the number who will die. These obstacles do not address the “push factors” that compel people to migrate.[1] There’s nothing radical here. It’s straightforward logical sense. And anyone who lives in those regions knows you have to be pretty damned desperate to cross these deserts. So yes, when Texas Governor Greg Abbott puts concertina wire in the Rio Grande River,[2] he is knowingly and willfully endangering human lives. This is top-end for culpability in negligence cases,[3] but with the animus that white Christian nationalism so consistently expresses toward migrants, I see criminal intent.

With 25 (all Republican) out of 50 state governors backing Abbott, who has promised to add more concertina wire to the Rio Grande,[4] I’m hearing a lot of talk of civil war. My reading of Abbott is that he’s much too chickenshit to actually try to secede. But it’ll be interesting to see how close to that he gets.

Additional questions: What happens if and when Joe Biden federalizes the Texas National Guard? Will the latter in fact take orders from the former? Will they resist and, if so, how violently?

Of course, the inevitable horse race question: How will all this affect Joe Biden’s re-election chances?

In the meantime, Texas is asserting property rights over the concertina wire it has placed in the Rio Grande River.[5]

Arelis R. Hernández, “Texas border city on edge as Gov. Abbott dials up battle with Biden,” Washington Post, January 30, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2024/01/30/eagle-pass-texas-standoff-border-biden/


Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh

Century III Mall


Fig. 2. “The exterior of the closed Century III Mall taken from a drone . . . in West Mifflin.” Photograph by Benjamin B. Braun, May 11, 2023, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,[6] fair use.

The hope is that by seizing the property, West Mifflin can demolish the buildings and then sell the property to defray the cost it otherwise can’t afford.[7]

Justin Vellucci, “DA files criminal charges against Century III, calls former mall a ‘monument to blight,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 30, 2024, https://triblive.com/local/da-files-criminal-charges-against-century-iii-calls-former-mall-monument-to-blight/

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.

Yeah, there’s been rain in Pittsburgh lately. Washed all but the larger heaps of snow left by the plows away and, um, funny how this works, ultimately into the rivers. So all of a sudden I’m seeing messages on electronic message boards warning that the 10th Street Bypass, which runs pretty close to Allegheny River level,[8] was closed.

I was thinking, oh fuck, they must be doing more work on the Three Sisters bridges (the 10th Street Bypass runs under them). Then I noticed that the Monongahela Wharf (a parking lot) was also closed. And I started to wonder. . . .

Julia Felton, “10th Street Bypass reopens after flooding in Pittsburgh,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 30, 2024, https://triblive.com/local/10th-street-bypass-reopens-after-flooding-in-pittsburgh/

Housing


Fig. 1. Once upon a time this was a Whole Foods Market. The store is part of a complex that replaced the Penn Plaza Apartments.[9] Whole Foods has now relocated to a larger location a few blocks away. Photograph by author, August 23, 2023.

Mark Belko, “‘A higher standard:’ Affordable housing developer acquires Downtown Pittsburgh apartment building,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 31, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/business/development/2024/01/31/midtown-towers-downtown-pittsburgh-apartment-affordable-housing-tredway/stories/202401310054


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,[10] fair use.

The entire defense of ‘Genocide Joe’ Biden rests on “the other guy is worse” and a claim that there are bigger issues than war crimes. And that’s precisely the problem: Biden’s defenders devalue Palestinian lives. Other things are more important, they insist.[11]

Rory Jones and Dov Lieber, “​Netanyahu Puts Political Survival Ahead of Tough Decisions on Gaza,” Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/netanyahu-puts-political-survival-ahead-of-tough-decisions-on-gaza-783cb8e6

Ed Pilkington, “Pro-Palestinian protests hound Biden, casting shadow on his re-election effort,” Guardian, January 31, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/31/biden-pro-palestine-protest-israel


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  2. [2]Sam Cabral, “25 Republican governors back Texas in escalating border standoff with US government,” British Broadcasting Corporation, January 25, 2024, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-68101927; Ann E. Marimow and Nick Miroff, “Supreme Court clears way for border agents to remove Texas wire barrier,&rdquqo; Washington Post, January 22, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/01/22/supreme-court-texas-biden-border-razor-wire/
  3. [3]Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004).
  4. [4]Sam Cabral, “25 Republican governors back Texas in escalating border standoff with US government,” British Broadcasting Corporation, January 25, 2024, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-68101927
  5. [5]Arelis R. Hernández, “Texas border city on edge as Gov. Abbott dials up battle with Biden,” Washington Post, January 30, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2024/01/30/eagle-pass-texas-standoff-border-biden/
  6. [6]Neena Hagen, “The fall of the Century: Once a retail shopping jewel, the West Mifflin mall has been left to rot,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 21, 2023, https://www.post-gazette.com/business/development/2023/05/21/centuryiii-west-mifflin-mall-slag-heap-kaufmanns-sears-police-closed-crime/stories/202305210039
  7. [7]Justin Vellucci, “DA files criminal charges against Century III, calls former mall a ‘monument to blight,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 30, 2024, https://triblive.com/local/da-files-criminal-charges-against-century-iii-calls-former-mall-monument-to-blight/
  8. [8]This is as in I can look out my side window—understand, I’m not looking down—and see the river pretty much at the same level I am.
  9. [9]Bob Bauder, “Pittsburgh settles court battle over Penn Plaza Apartments,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 27, 2017, https://archive.triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/pittsburgh-settles-court-battle-over-penn-plaza-apartments/
  10. [10]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/
  11. [11]Ed Pilkington, “Pro-Palestinian protests hound Biden, casting shadow on his re-election effort,” Guardian, January 31, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/31/biden-pro-palestine-protest-israel

You might be stupid, but I bet you aren’t as unforgivably stupid as the city of Pittsburgh (corrected)

Correction, January 29, 2024: The Philadelphia Inquirer issued a correction to the news alert announcing its abortion story. The earlier indication had been that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had ruled that abortion is a right protected under the state constitution. Instead, it has drawn the issue into a case over whether Medicaid should pay for an abortion and sent it back to the lower court.[1] Since I was modifying this issue, I went ahead and added a story under Ukraine and Hungary.[2]


Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh


Fig. 1. The confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, with the “Golden Triangle” and downtown Pittsburgh. Photograph by author, October 15, 2023.

My father would have been 89 years old today. And in two days, I will begin looking for a new apartment in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Why are the two connected? I am glad I moved to Pittsburgh. It was a vignette on a little over two years of my childhood that has helped me to understand the larger pattern of my life, that has helped me to understand that I really never had a chance, that this society rejected me from the start and has been relentlessly cruel to me ever since.

The abuse by my father blends into the relentless teasing and bullying I endured from classmates. That abuse blends into the difficulty I have long had—really far longer than the last 23 years since I got laid off in the dot-com crash—with the job market. It blends into my isolation, my poverty.

My father was cruel but by no means uniquely so in my life. There are plenty of excuses I’m sure, but ageism cannot account for difficulties I was having even almost forty years ago when I bounced out of high technology and landed hard on my ass the first time (out of three). That I am white and male, therefore excluded from this “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) bullshit, cannot explain how I faced this difficulty long before the people who came up with it had been born. But it remains hard to imagine that something systemic isn’t going on. I am convinced that if human resources departments were properly held to account, I’d have the evidence I need to sue their companies out of existence.

I will be looking for a place in Fermented-Honey-ville, er, um, that’d be Meadville or at about that distance from Erie. Meadville is along I-79, offering easy access back to Pittsburgh, roughly 92 miles away, or north to Erie, roughly 42 miles away. I expect this to get me away from the horribly aggressive driving and appalling roads in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has also been attracting high technology workers who don’t solve any real problems but certainly drive up rents—this at the same time Uber has been cutting my pay (an estimated 40 percent in 2022, more since).

Pittsburgh is a place of hate for me. I’m glad I came. It’s time to leave.

Infrastructure


Fig. 1. Post-collapse scene at the Fern Hollow Bridge, photograph by National Transportation Safety Board, January 29, 2022, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

The Fern Hollow Bridge was an exception[3] only in that it actually collapsed.[4] Pittsburgh is a city that flatly does not take care of business[5] and then wonders[6] why bad shit happens.

For me, it’s in the category of too stupid to live. They claim they haven’t the “resources” (money) to keep up on maintenance.[7] But that only gets back to the point I’ve been making that if you can’t afford to take care of your infrastructure, then you have to scale it back to what you can afford. To do anything less is reckless: As we saw with Fern Hollow, people get hurt.

That means a lot of streets close. It means a lot of bridges close. It probably means some tunnels close. And it absolutely means you don’t use one-shot money to fix what you can’t afford to maintain otherwise.

Neena Hagen and Hallie Lauer, “Pittsburgh’s run-down bridges face yearslong backlog of repairs, tens of millions in maintenance,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 28, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/transportation/2024/01/28/pittsburgh-bridge-repairs-fern-hollow-collapse/stories/202401280090


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,[8] fair use.

The Financial Times is claiming an exclusive,[9] though Politico had a similar report two days earlier.[10] It looks like the Financial Times report does represent progress from the Politico report, in thatPolitico had reported a threat to deprive Hungary of voting rights:[11] but the Financial Times is reporting a threat to cut off all funding altogether, which would presumably have dire effects on Hungary’s economy.[12]

Several capitals have considered whether it is feasible to use Article 7 of the Treaty on the European Union, which would allow Brussels to strip Budapest of its voting rights or, one diplomat said, block disbursement of money. But others have rebuffed the notion given that it requires unanimous support and many countries are reluctant to deploy such a serious sanction.[13]

I do think Hungary should be deprived of its vote. I don’t know how you even argue with the analysis that Viktor Orbán has been abusing Hungary’s position in the European Union,[14] really to evade EU sanctions for his illiberal agenda. The new plan thus rather precisely targets Orbán’s vulnerability.

Henry Foy, Andy Bounds, and Marton Dunai, “Brussels threatens to hit Hungary’s economy if Viktor Orbán vetoes Ukraine aid,” Financial Times, January 28, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/9dabcd4b-9c64-4124-9f9c-b0c898c84c8f

Marton Dunai and Henry Foy, “Hungary vows to defy EU ‘blackmail’ over Ukraine funding,” Financial Times, January 29, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/b3913ca8-09d9-470b-adf5-82c20078c9f0

United States and United Kingdom

Iran

I have finally pulled together an Iran page.

Tony Diver and Abbie Cheeseman, “Joe Biden blames Iran for deaths of US troops in drone strike,” Telegraph, January 29, 2024, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/us/news/2024/01/28/us-troops-killed-drone-attack-jordan/

Yemen


Fig. 3. Satellite photograph by Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Tony Diver and Abbie Cheeseman, “Joe Biden blames Iran for deaths of US troops in drone strike,” Telegraph, January 29, 2024, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/us/news/2024/01/28/us-troops-killed-drone-attack-jordan/


Illiberalism

Hungary

Henry Foy, Andy Bounds, and Marton Dunai, “Brussels threatens to hit Hungary’s economy if Viktor Orbán vetoes Ukraine aid,” Financial Times, January 28, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/9dabcd4b-9c64-4124-9f9c-b0c898c84c8f

Marton Dunai and Henry Foy, “Hungary vows to defy EU ‘blackmail’ over Ukraine funding,” Financial Times, January 29, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/b3913ca8-09d9-470b-adf5-82c20078c9f0

Gilead

Abortion, reproductive freedom and health


Fig. 4. 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.

Jeremy Roebuck, Sarah Gantz, and Gillian McGoldrick, “Pa. Supreme Court sets up a showdown over whether abortion is a right protected by the state constitution,” Philadelphia Inquirer, January 29, 2024, https://www.inquirer.com/health/abortion-laws-pennsylvania-state-constitution-20240129.html


  1. [1]Jeremy Roebuck, Sarah Gantz, and Gillian McGoldrick, “Pa. Supreme Court sets up a showdown over whether abortion is a right protected by the state constitution,” Philadelphia Inquirer, January 29, 2024, https://www.inquirer.com/health/abortion-laws-pennsylvania-state-constitution-20240129.html
  2. [2]Marton Dunai and Henry Foy, “Hungary vows to defy EU ‘blackmail’ over Ukraine funding,” Financial Times, January 29, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/b3913ca8-09d9-470b-adf5-82c20078c9f0
  3. [3]Neena Hagen and Hallie Lauer, “Pittsburgh’s run-down bridges face yearslong backlog of repairs, tens of millions in maintenance,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 28, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/transportation/2024/01/28/pittsburgh-bridge-repairs-fern-hollow-collapse/stories/202401280090
  4. [4]Ed Blazina et al., “‘A boom, then a monster sound’: 10 hurt after bridge over Pittsburgh’s Frick Park collapses,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 28, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2022/01/28/pittsburgh-bridge-collapse-forbes-braddock-avenue-point-breeze-squirrel-hill/stories/202201280075
  5. [5]Neena Hagen and Hallie Lauer, “Pittsburgh’s run-down bridges face yearslong backlog of repairs, tens of millions in maintenance,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 28, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/transportation/2024/01/28/pittsburgh-bridge-repairs-fern-hollow-collapse/stories/202401280090
  6. [6]Hallie Lauer, “Pittsburgh taps WSP Global to evaluate all 150 city-owned bridges,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 5, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-local/2022/07/05/pittsburgh-bridge-inspections-plan-mayor-ed-gainey-city-council-fern-hollow-swindell-wsp-global-infrastructure/stories/202207050063
  7. [7]Neena Hagen and Hallie Lauer, “Pittsburgh’s run-down bridges face yearslong backlog of repairs, tens of millions in maintenance,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 28, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/transportation/2024/01/28/pittsburgh-bridge-repairs-fern-hollow-collapse/stories/202401280090
  8. [8]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
  9. [9]Henry Foy, Andy Bounds, and Marton Dunai, “Brussels threatens to hit Hungary’s economy if Viktor Orbán vetoes Ukraine aid,” Financial Times, January 28, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/9dabcd4b-9c64-4124-9f9c-b0c898c84c8f
  10. [10]Barbara Moens et al., “EU threatens to silence Hungary if it blocks Ukrainian funds,” Politico, January 26, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-threatens-silence-hungary-orban-if-blocks-ukrainian-aid-funds-article-7/
  11. [11]Barbara Moens et al., “EU threatens to silence Hungary if it blocks Ukrainian funds,” Politico, January 26, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-threatens-silence-hungary-orban-if-blocks-ukrainian-aid-funds-article-7/
  12. [12]Henry Foy, Andy Bounds, and Marton Dunai, “Brussels threatens to hit Hungary’s economy if Viktor Orbán vetoes Ukraine aid,” Financial Times, January 28, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/9dabcd4b-9c64-4124-9f9c-b0c898c84c8f
  13. [13]Henry Foy, Andy Bounds, and Marton Dunai, “Brussels threatens to hit Hungary’s economy if Viktor Orbán vetoes Ukraine aid,” Financial Times, January 28, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/9dabcd4b-9c64-4124-9f9c-b0c898c84c8f
  14. [14]Henry Foy, Andy Bounds, and Marton Dunai, “Brussels threatens to hit Hungary’s economy if Viktor Orbán vetoes Ukraine aid,” Financial Times, January 28, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/9dabcd4b-9c64-4124-9f9c-b0c898c84c8f; Barbara Moens et al., “EU threatens to silence Hungary if it blocks Ukrainian funds,” Politico, January 26, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-threatens-silence-hungary-orban-if-blocks-ukrainian-aid-funds-article-7/

Relief for Clairton at long last?

Pennsylvania and surrounding areas

Pittsburgh, the Ohio Valley, and surrounding areas

Pollution


Fig. 1. Photographer unknown, circa 1940-1950, from Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection, ca. 1940-1950, AIS.1978.22, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh, via Bloomberg,[1] fair use.

Evan Robinson-Johnson, “U.S. Steel settles environmental suit, pledging millions in Mon Valley improvements,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 27, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/business/powersource/2024/01/26/us-steel-environmental-lawsuit-settlement-millions-mon-valley/stories/202401260098


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,[2] fair use.

Juan Cole makes clear that Israel has a serious problem that the International Court of Justice ruled it clearly hasn’t taken seriously enough.[3]

Henry Foy, “EU seeks ‘consequences’ for Israel over opposition to Palestinian statehood,” Financial Times, January 21, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/6b39f7cf-f6d6-4344-b1e8-a505616423ef

Owen Jones, “The west’s complete contempt for the lives of Palestinians will not be forgotten,” Guardian, January 21, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/jan/21/palestinian-lives-gaza-politics-media

Summer Said, “U.S., Arab Allies Push Hostage-Release Plan Aimed at Ending Israel-Hamas War,” Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/u-s-pushes-hostage-release-plan-aimed-at-ending-gaza-war-d48b27e1

Ishaan Tharoor, “What Netanyahu sees from the river to the sea,” Washington Post, January 22, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/22/netanyahu-biden-two-state-solution-palestine-river-to-sea/

Times of Israel, “Most believe Netanyahu’s wartime decision-making mainly motivated by personal interest,” January 22, 2024, https://www.timesofisrael.com/poll-gives-national-unity-commanding-lead-over-likud-with-a-center-bloc-of-69-mks/

Shira Rubin, Steve Hendrix, and Lior Soroka, “As some Israeli troops leave Gaza, a long-term strategy remains elusive,” Washington Post, January 23, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/23/israel-military-gaza-strategy-hamas/

Matthew Bell, “Israel says ‘no’ to a 2-state solution,” World, January 24, 2024, https://theworld.org/stories/2024-01-24/israel-says-no-2-state-solution

Loveday Morris, Sarah Cahlan, and Jonathan Baran, “What to know about Israel’s controversial ‘buffer zone’ in Gaza,” Washington Post, January 24, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/24/israel-buffer-zone-gaza-war/

John Hudson and Claire Parker, “Biden to deploy CIA director to help broker major Gaza deal,” Washington Post, January 25, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/01/25/william-burns-cia-gaza-israel-hostages/

Neri Zilber and Andrew England, “Qatar rebukes ‘irresponsible’ Netanyahu over apparent criticism of Gulf state,” Financial Times, January 25, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/410de5d0-08b1-4be8-9260-4ddb87751ecc

Steve Crawshaw, “This momentous ICJ ruling may be brushed aside by Israel – but the US and UK can’t afford to ignore it,” Guardian, January 26, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/jan/26/israel-gaza-icj-genocide-ruling-the-hague

Just Security, “Top Experts’ Views of Int’l Court of Justice Ruling on Israel Gaza Operations (South Africa v Israel, Genocide Convention Case),” January 26, 2024, https://www.justsecurity.org/91457/top-experts-views-of-intl-court-of-justice-ruling-on-israel-gaza-operations-south-africa-v-israel-genocide-convention-case/

Ron Kampeas, “International Court of Justice rules that some allegations of Israel committing genocide are ‘plausible,’” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 26, 2024, https://www.jta.org/2024/01/26/politics/international-court-of-justice-rules-that-some-allegations-of-israel-committing-genocide-are-plausible

Emily Rauhala and Steve Hendrix, “U.N. court orders Israel to halt killings in Gaza, but no cease-fire,” Washington Post, January 26, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/26/israel-icj-ruling-decision-south-africa-gaza/

Kenneth Roth, “The ICJ ruling is a repudiation of Israel and its western backers,” Guardian, January 26, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/jan/26/icj-ruling-israel-western-backers

Juan Cole, “Israel’s Reputation forever Besmirched by UN Court Injunction to Cease Genociding Palestinians,” Informed Comment, January 27, 2024, https://www.juancole.com/2024/01/reputation-besmirched-palestinians.html


  1. [1]Mark Byrnes, “What Pittsburgh Looked Like When It Decided It Had a Pollution Problem,” Bloomberg, June 5, 2012, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-06-05/what-pittsburgh-looked-like-when-it-decided-it-had-a-pollution-problem
  2. [2]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/
  3. [3]Juan Cole, “Israel’s Reputation forever Besmirched by UN Court Injunction to Cease Genociding Palestinians,” Informed Comment, January 27, 2024, https://www.juancole.com/2024/01/reputation-besmirched-palestinians.html

International Court of Justice puts Joe Biden on the spot

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 preliminary ruling by the International Court of Justice appears as something of a Rorschach test: How you interpret it depends heavily upon your sympathies. That said, the case continues—the court didn’t throw the case out—and Israel has been ordered to prevent genocide, punish genocidal incitement, and permit more humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. A number of analysts, including the bulk consulted by Just Security, seem to see it as a win for South Africa. And it does raise awkward issues for Israel’s Western backers.[2]

Henry Foy, “EU seeks ‘consequences’ for Israel over opposition to Palestinian statehood,” Financial Times, January 21, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/6b39f7cf-f6d6-4344-b1e8-a505616423ef

Owen Jones, “The west’s complete contempt for the lives of Palestinians will not be forgotten,” Guardian, January 21, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/jan/21/palestinian-lives-gaza-politics-media

Summer Said, “U.S., Arab Allies Push Hostage-Release Plan Aimed at Ending Israel-Hamas War,” Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/u-s-pushes-hostage-release-plan-aimed-at-ending-gaza-war-d48b27e1

Ishaan Tharoor, “What Netanyahu sees from the river to the sea,” Washington Post, January 22, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/22/netanyahu-biden-two-state-solution-palestine-river-to-sea/

Times of Israel, “Most believe Netanyahu’s wartime decision-making mainly motivated by personal interest,” January 22, 2024, https://www.timesofisrael.com/poll-gives-national-unity-commanding-lead-over-likud-with-a-center-bloc-of-69-mks/

Shira Rubin, Steve Hendrix, and Lior Soroka, “As some Israeli troops leave Gaza, a long-term strategy remains elusive,” Washington Post, January 23, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/23/israel-military-gaza-strategy-hamas/

Matthew Bell, “Israel says ‘no’ to a 2-state solution,” World, January 24, 2024, https://theworld.org/stories/2024-01-24/israel-says-no-2-state-solution

Loveday Morris, Sarah Cahlan, and Jonathan Baran, “What to know about Israel’s controversial ‘buffer zone’ in Gaza,” Washington Post, January 24, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/24/israel-buffer-zone-gaza-war/

John Hudson and Claire Parker, “Biden to deploy CIA director to help broker major Gaza deal,” Washington Post, January 25, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/01/25/william-burns-cia-gaza-israel-hostages/

Neri Zilber and Andrew England, “Qatar rebukes ‘irresponsible’ Netanyahu over apparent criticism of Gulf state,” Financial Times, January 25, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/410de5d0-08b1-4be8-9260-4ddb87751ecc

Steve Crawshaw, “This momentous ICJ ruling may be brushed aside by Israel – but the US and UK can’t afford to ignore it,” Guardian, January 26, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/jan/26/israel-gaza-icj-genocide-ruling-the-hague

Just Security, “Top Experts’ Views of Int’l Court of Justice Ruling on Israel Gaza Operations (South Africa v Israel, Genocide Convention Case),” January 26, 2024, https://www.justsecurity.org/91457/top-experts-views-of-intl-court-of-justice-ruling-on-israel-gaza-operations-south-africa-v-israel-genocide-convention-case/

Ron Kampeas, “International Court of Justice rules that some allegations of Israel committing genocide are ‘plausible,’” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 26, 2024, https://www.jta.org/2024/01/26/politics/international-court-of-justice-rules-that-some-allegations-of-israel-committing-genocide-are-plausible

Emily Rauhala and Steve Hendrix, “U.N. court orders Israel to halt killings in Gaza, but no cease-fire,” Washington Post, January 26, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/26/israel-icj-ruling-decision-south-africa-gaza/

Kenneth Roth, “The ICJ ruling is a repudiation of Israel and its western backers,” Guardian, January 26, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/jan/26/icj-ruling-israel-western-backers


Illiberalism

Gilead

Donald Trump
Hush money


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

Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling, “Judge Absolutely Kneecaps Trump’s Testimony in E. Jean Carroll Trial,” New Republic, January 25, 2024, https://newrepublic.com/post/178444/judge-kaplan-kneecaps-trump-testimony-e-jean-carroll-trial

Susie Coen and Edward Helmore, “Donald Trump ordered to pay E Jean Carroll $83m damages in defamation case,” Telegraph, January 26, 2024, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/us/politics/2024/01/26/donald-trump-e-jean-carroll-83m-damages/


  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]Steve Crawshaw, “This momentous ICJ ruling may be brushed aside by Israel – but the US and UK can’t afford to ignore it,” Guardian, January 26, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/jan/26/israel-gaza-icj-genocide-ruling-the-hague; Just Security, “Top Experts’ Views of Int’l Court of Justice Ruling on Israel Gaza Operations (South Africa v Israel, Genocide Convention Case),” January 26, 2024, https://www.justsecurity.org/91457/top-experts-views-of-intl-court-of-justice-ruling-on-israel-gaza-operations-south-africa-v-israel-genocide-convention-case/; Ron Kampeas, “International Court of Justice rules that some allegations of Israel committing genocide are ‘plausible,’” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 26, 2024, https://www.jta.org/2024/01/26/politics/international-court-of-justice-rules-that-some-allegations-of-israel-committing-genocide-are-plausible; Emily Rauhala and Steve Hendrix, “U.N. court orders Israel to halt killings in Gaza, but no cease-fire,” Washington Post, January 26, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/26/israel-icj-ruling-decision-south-africa-gaza/; Kenneth Roth, “The ICJ ruling is a repudiation of Israel and its western backers,” Guardian, January 26, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/jan/26/icj-ruling-israel-western-backers

European Union threatens Hungary with ‘nuclear option’

Imperialism

Russia

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,[1] fair use.

Barbara Moens et al., “EU threatens to silence Hungary if it blocks Ukrainian funds,” Politico, January 26, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-threatens-silence-hungary-orban-if-blocks-ukrainian-aid-funds-article-7/

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,[2] fair use.

The [International Court of Justice] rulings, all passed by either 16-1 or 15-2 – even the appointed Israeli judge, Aharon Barak, sided twice with the majority – are devastating for Israel, though a final judgment is still a long way off. Meanwhile, those governments which argued that South Africa’s case was empty and illegitimate now need to dig themselves out of the hole of their own creation.[3]

Henry Foy, “EU seeks ‘consequences’ for Israel over opposition to Palestinian statehood,” Financial Times, January 21, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/6b39f7cf-f6d6-4344-b1e8-a505616423ef

Owen Jones, “The west’s complete contempt for the lives of Palestinians will not be forgotten,” Guardian, January 21, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/jan/21/palestinian-lives-gaza-politics-media

Summer Said, “U.S., Arab Allies Push Hostage-Release Plan Aimed at Ending Israel-Hamas War,” Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/u-s-pushes-hostage-release-plan-aimed-at-ending-gaza-war-d48b27e1

Ishaan Tharoor, “What Netanyahu sees from the river to the sea,” Washington Post, January 22, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/22/netanyahu-biden-two-state-solution-palestine-river-to-sea/

Times of Israel, “Most believe Netanyahu’s wartime decision-making mainly motivated by personal interest,” January 22, 2024, https://www.timesofisrael.com/poll-gives-national-unity-commanding-lead-over-likud-with-a-center-bloc-of-69-mks/

Shira Rubin, Steve Hendrix, and Lior Soroka, “As some Israeli troops leave Gaza, a long-term strategy remains elusive,” Washington Post, January 23, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/23/israel-military-gaza-strategy-hamas/

Matthew Bell, “Israel says ‘no’ to a 2-state solution,” World, January 24, 2024, https://theworld.org/stories/2024-01-24/israel-says-no-2-state-solution

Loveday Morris, Sarah Cahlan, and Jonathan Baran, “What to know about Israel’s controversial ‘buffer zone’ in Gaza,” Washington Post, January 24, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/24/israel-buffer-zone-gaza-war/

John Hudson and Claire Parker, “Biden to deploy CIA director to help broker major Gaza deal,” Washington Post, January 25, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/01/25/william-burns-cia-gaza-israel-hostages/

Neri Zilber and Andrew England, “Qatar rebukes ‘irresponsible’ Netanyahu over apparent criticism of Gulf state,” Financial Times, January 25, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/410de5d0-08b1-4be8-9260-4ddb87751ecc

Steve Crawshaw, “This momentous ICJ ruling may be brushed aside by Israel – but the US and UK can’t afford to ignore it,” Guardian, January 26, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/jan/26/israel-gaza-icj-genocide-ruling-the-hague

Just Security, “Top Experts’ Views of Int’l Court of Justice Ruling on Israel Gaza Operations (South Africa v Israel, Genocide Convention Case),” January 26, 2024, https://www.justsecurity.org/91457/top-experts-views-of-intl-court-of-justice-ruling-on-israel-gaza-operations-south-africa-v-israel-genocide-convention-case/

Ron Kampeas, “International Court of Justice rules that some allegations of Israel committing genocide are ‘plausible,’” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 26, 2024, https://www.jta.org/2024/01/26/politics/international-court-of-justice-rules-that-some-allegations-of-israel-committing-genocide-are-plausible

Emily Rauhala and Steve Hendrix, “U.N. court orders Israel to halt killings in Gaza, but no cease-fire,” Washington Post, January 26, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/26/israel-icj-ruling-decision-south-africa-gaza/


Illiberalism

Hungary

Barbara Moens et al., “EU threatens to silence Hungary if it blocks Ukrainian funds,” Politico, January 26, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-threatens-silence-hungary-orban-if-blocks-ukrainian-aid-funds-article-7/


Pennsylvania

Traffic non-enforcement


Fig. 1. Obviously, nowhere near Pittsburgh: “A Pennsylvania state trooper checks motorists’ speed using a radar gun.” Unattributed photograph credited only to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.[4]

My big problem with school bus stops is that they are not marked. The bus may stop in front of any home to disgorge an unknowable number of children. The bus flashes orange lights prior to turn on the flashing red, but this still does not tell me where the bus will stop.

And once, I got popped because the bus had briefly turned on its orange lights, stopped sooner than I expected, and turned on its red. I was already stopping, but it wasn’t quickly enough, because on that very short notice, I had no way to judge how quickly I needed to stop. That was a nice little $300 for something I had inadequate notice of. And of course, in a system where I am guilty until proven innocent, there’s absolutely no possibility of appeal.

As usual, and as we see here,[5] nobody is ever at fault except the drivers. Pedestrians are never at fault. Schoolchildren are no longer required to learn how to cross the fucking street. Drivers are the scapegoats. Always. Every time.

Megan Tomasic, “‘Unacceptable’: Pittsburgh Public sees over 9,000 school bus violations in six months,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 26, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2024/01/25/pittsburgh-schools-bus-violations/stories/202401250116

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.

Robert Moran and Gillian McGoldrick, “Gov. Josh Shapiro proposes sweeping reform of Pa. state-funded higher education,” Philadelphia Inquirer, January 25, 2024, https://www.inquirer.com/education/pennsylvania-college-reform-state-funding-shapiro-20240126.html


  1. [1]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
  2. [2]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/
  3. [3]Steve Crawshaw, “This momentous ICJ ruling may be brushed aside by Israel – but the US and UK can’t afford to ignore it,” Guardian, January 26, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/jan/26/israel-gaza-icj-genocide-ruling-the-hague
  4. [4]Associated Press, “Senate OKs local police using radar for speed enforcement,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 23, 2021, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/senate-oks-local-police-using-radar-for-speed-enforcement/
  5. [5]Megan Tomasic, “‘Unacceptable’: Pittsburgh Public sees over 9,000 school bus violations in six months,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 26, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2024/01/25/pittsburgh-schools-bus-violations/stories/202401250116

Donald Trump still gagged

I am no longer forecasting that Joe Biden will win in November. It’s now a toss-up and I’m not holding my breath for clarification:


Illiberalism

Gilead

Donald Trump
Coup attempt

2024

Fig. 1. Cartoon by Ben Jennings, January 24, 2024, via the Guardian,[1] fair use.

Hannah Rabinowitz, Katelyn Polantz, and Devan Cole, “Federal appeals court lets Trump gag order stand in federal January 6 case,” Cable News Network, January 23, 2024, https://www.cnn.com/2024/01/23/politics/gag-order-trump-appeals-court-en-banc/index.html

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

Hush money


Fig. 2. Cartoon by Jesse Duquette, undated, via “Minneapple23” [pseud.] on Imgur, April 1, 2023, fair use.

Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling, “Judge Absolutely Kneecaps Trump’s Testimony in E. Jean Carroll Trial,” New Republic, January 25, 2024, https://newrepublic.com/post/178444/judge-kaplan-kneecaps-trump-testimony-e-jean-carroll-trial


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,[2] fair use.

In a video posted online Dec. 12 and verified by The Washington Post, Israeli soldiers can be heard shouting and clapping as a school in northern Gaza is blown up.[3]

I will tell you flat out: I do not care the least bit that the Israeli Defense Force claims the school was used by Hamas.[4]

Blowing up museums, libraries, schools, and hospitals is a categorical wrong that cannot be justified under any circumstances. Joe Biden materially supports this even if his rhetoric criticizes a portion of it. These are war crimes, Biden is a war criminal, and Israel must pay a very high price for its crimes.

Whether you embrace a two-state solution or a one-state solution,[5] the “Jewish state” delegitimizes itself with the genocide it perpetrates on Palestinians. It can no longer exist. But here’s Netanyahu, desperately seeking to prolong the war as he blasts an intermediary in negotiations with Hamas:

You don’t hear me thanking Qatar. Have you noticed? I don’t thank Qatar. Why? Because for me, Qatar is essentially no different from the UN, it is essentially no different from the Red Cross and in a way it is even . . . more problematic.[6]

Henry Foy, “EU seeks ‘consequences’ for Israel over opposition to Palestinian statehood,” Financial Times, January 21, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/6b39f7cf-f6d6-4344-b1e8-a505616423ef

Owen Jones, “The west’s complete contempt for the lives of Palestinians will not be forgotten,” Guardian, January 21, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/jan/21/palestinian-lives-gaza-politics-media

Summer Said, “U.S., Arab Allies Push Hostage-Release Plan Aimed at Ending Israel-Hamas War,” Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/u-s-pushes-hostage-release-plan-aimed-at-ending-gaza-war-d48b27e1

Ishaan Tharoor, “What Netanyahu sees from the river to the sea,” Washington Post, January 22, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/22/netanyahu-biden-two-state-solution-palestine-river-to-sea/

Times of Israel, “Most believe Netanyahu’s wartime decision-making mainly motivated by personal interest,” January 22, 2024, https://www.timesofisrael.com/poll-gives-national-unity-commanding-lead-over-likud-with-a-center-bloc-of-69-mks/

Shira Rubin, Steve Hendrix, and Lior Soroka, “As some Israeli troops leave Gaza, a long-term strategy remains elusive,” Washington Post, January 23, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/23/israel-military-gaza-strategy-hamas/

Matthew Bell, “Israel says ‘no’ to a 2-state solution,” World, January 24, 2024, https://theworld.org/stories/2024-01-24/israel-says-no-2-state-solution

Loveday Morris, Sarah Cahlan, and Jonathan Baran, “What to know about Israel’s controversial ‘buffer zone’ in Gaza,” Washington Post, January 24, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/24/israel-buffer-zone-gaza-war/

John Hudson and Claire Parker, “Biden to deploy CIA director to help broker major Gaza deal,” Washington Post, January 25, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/01/25/william-burns-cia-gaza-israel-hostages/

Neri Zilber and Andrew England, “Qatar rebukes ‘irresponsible’ Netanyahu over apparent criticism of Gulf state,” Financial Times, January 25, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/410de5d0-08b1-4be8-9260-4ddb87751ecc


Doomsday Clock


Fig. 4. “The atomic cloud over Nagasaki 1945.” Photograph from Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Overseas Operations Branch, New York Office, News and Features Bureau, (12/17/1942 – 09/15/1945), by Charles Levy, August 9, 1945, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Ninety seconds is still much too far off for me. We did not deserve and certainly do not appreciate such a beautiful planet, this planet certainly didn’t deserve us, and we do not deserve each other. My sorrow is for all the other species, the species who have nothing to do with human greed, arrogance, and stupidity, we’re taking with us.

And if you think all this is somehow “God’s plan,” to hell with you and him.

Oliver Holmes, “Wars and climate crisis keep Doomsday Clock at 90 seconds to midnight,” Guardian, January 23, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/23/wars-and-climate-crisis-see-doomsday-clock-stay-at-90-seconds-to-midnight

John Mecklin, “A moment of historic danger: It is still 90 seconds to midnight,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 23, 2024, https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/current-time/


Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh

Infrastructure


Fig. 5. Post-collapse scene at the Fern Hollow Bridge, photograph by National Transportation Safety Board, January 29, 2022, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Two days after the snow, I finally made it into the areas I watch for snowplowing. It was clear. It looks, though I would have preferred to check sooner, like Ed Gainey did indeed fix the snowplowing mess after all.

Jonathan D. Salant, “New federal funding aims to drain I-376’s ‘bathtub,’ rehab 10 bridges, improve busway and highways,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 25, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/transportation/2024/01/25/joe-biden-infrastructure-parkway-east-2024-presidential-election/stories/202401240121


  1. [1]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
  2. [2]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/
  3. [3]Loveday Morris, Sarah Cahlan, and Jonathan Baran, “What to know about Israel’s controversial ‘buffer zone’ in Gaza,” Washington Post, January 24, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/24/israel-buffer-zone-gaza-war/
  4. [4]Loveday Morris, Sarah Cahlan, and Jonathan Baran, “What to know about Israel’s controversial ‘buffer zone’ in Gaza,” Washington Post, January 24, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/24/israel-buffer-zone-gaza-war/
  5. [5]Matthew Bell, “Israel says ‘no’ to a 2-state solution,” World, January 24, 2024, https://theworld.org/stories/2024-01-24/israel-says-no-2-state-solution; Ishaan Tharoor, “What Netanyahu sees from the river to the sea,” Washington Post, January 22, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/22/netanyahu-biden-two-state-solution-palestine-river-to-sea/
  6. [6]Binyamin Netanyahu, quoted in Neri Zilber and Andrew England, “Qatar rebukes ‘irresponsible’ Netanyahu over apparent criticism of Gulf state,” Financial Times, January 25, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/410de5d0-08b1-4be8-9260-4ddb87751ecc

The knee-jerk response

Imperialism

United States

Yemen


Fig. 1. Satellite photograph by Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

There’s no two ways about it. Joe Biden fucked up. Badly:

At the center of the unrest in the Red Sea is the crisis in Gaza, which has been devastated by Israeli attacks since the October 7 offensive by Hamas. Though Israeli troops are carrying out the war that has killed more than 24,000 Palestinians, the U.S. is the patron and enabler. The Biden administration continues to offer unblinking financial and diplomatic support to Israel, despite mounting accusations against the U.S. of complicity in genocide.[1]

If this formulation doesn’t sound familiar, you really haven’t been paying attention:

The U.S. should consider that these actions in Gaza are enraging people throughout the region. The local perception is that when Palestinian blood was being shed the last three months, no one was bothered, but when the economic interests of the West were threatened, they immediately acted. This message fits right into Houthi rhetoric and is resonating very strongly in the region.[2]

How, seriously, do you refute that?

Ryan Grim, “Biden on Yemen Airstrikes: ‘Are They Stopping the Houthis? No. Are They Gonna Continue? Yes,’” Intercept, January 18, 2024, https://theintercept.com/2024/01/18/biden-yemen-houthi-airstrikes/

Iain Marlow, “US Presses Ahead With ‘Least Bad’ Option in Confronting Houthis,” Bloomberg, January 18, 2024, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-01-18/us-presses-ahead-with-least-bad-option-in-confronting-houthis

Murtaza Hussain, “The Houthis May Have Checkmated Biden in Red Sea Standoff,” Intercept, January 19, 2024, https://theintercept.com/2024/01/19/houthis-yemen-biden-airstrikes/


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,[3] fair use.

I will not compromise on full Israeli security control over the entire area west of [the river] Jordan — and this is irreconcilable with a Palestinian state. . . .

For 30 years, I have been very consistent, and I’m saying something very simple. This conflict is not about the lack of a state, a Palestinian state, but about the existence of a state, a Jewish state.[4]

This is what is often derided as zero-sum thinking: Any concession to our opponent comes at our expense. It is them or us.

There are times when zero-sum thinking is appropriate. When concessions are consistently too one-sided, it does indeed become clear that “compromise” means the other side wins. But in this case, it’s the Palestinians who have been making the concessions, not the Israelis, and so of course Palestinians have called for the elimination of the Israeli state—note that no matter how Zionists may style it, this is distinct from calling for the elimination of Jews and therefore distinct from genocide that Israel in fact wages on Palestinians.

Which should amount to another familiar formulation: Binyamin Netanyahu accuses his opponents of what he, himself actually does.

Henry Foy, “EU seeks ‘consequences’ for Israel over opposition to Palestinian statehood,” Financial Times, January 21, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/6b39f7cf-f6d6-4344-b1e8-a505616423ef

Owen Jones, “The west’s complete contempt for the lives of Palestinians will not be forgotten,” Guardian, January 21, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/jan/21/palestinian-lives-gaza-politics-media

Summer Said, “U.S., Arab Allies Push Hostage-Release Plan Aimed at Ending Israel-Hamas War,” Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/u-s-pushes-hostage-release-plan-aimed-at-ending-gaza-war-d48b27e1

Ishaan Tharoor, “What Netanyahu sees from the river to the sea,” Washington Post, January 22, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/22/netanyahu-biden-two-state-solution-palestine-river-to-sea/

Times of Israel, “Most believe Netanyahu’s wartime decision-making mainly motivated by personal interest,” January 22, 2024, https://www.timesofisrael.com/poll-gives-national-unity-commanding-lead-over-likud-with-a-center-bloc-of-69-mks/


Illiberalism

Gilead

Migration

Ann E. Marimow and Nick Miroff, “Supreme Court clears way for border agents to remove Texas wire barrier,&rdquqo; Washington Post, January 22, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/01/22/supreme-court-texas-biden-border-razor-wire/


  1. [1]Murtaza Hussain, “The Houthis May Have Checkmated Biden in Red Sea Standoff,” Intercept, January 19, 2024, https://theintercept.com/2024/01/19/houthis-yemen-biden-airstrikes/
  2. [2]Hisham Al-Omeisy, quoted in Murtaza Hussain, “The Houthis May Have Checkmated Biden in Red Sea Standoff,” Intercept, January 19, 2024, https://theintercept.com/2024/01/19/houthis-yemen-biden-airstrikes/
  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]Binyamin Netanyahu, quoted in Ishaan Tharoor, “What Netanyahu sees from the river to the sea,” Washington Post, January 22, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/22/netanyahu-biden-two-state-solution-palestine-river-to-sea/

Unacceptable choices

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 fallout[2] from Binyamin Netanyahu’s rejection of a two-state solution[3] continues.[4] Joe Biden has publicly urged restraint, but continues to arm and fund Israel, even bypassing Congress to do so,[5] even as Netanyahu demands control of security from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea[6] (yes, that’s “the river to the sea,” a phrase Zionists consider anti-Semitic[7]) and blatantly snubs Biden’s requests at every turn;[8] Biden must therefore be judged complicit in what nearly everyone outside the U.S. and Israel increasingly regard as Israel’s genocide.[9] That complicity makes Biden a war criminal himself.

I can vote neither for a fascist nor a war criminal. These are unacceptable choices.

And that one handbasket to hell might be slightly slower than the other is still unacceptable.

Henry Foy, “EU seeks ‘consequences’ for Israel over opposition to Palestinian statehood,” Financial Times, January 21, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/6b39f7cf-f6d6-4344-b1e8-a505616423ef

Summer Said, “U.S., Arab Allies Push Hostage-Release Plan Aimed at Ending Israel-Hamas War,” Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/u-s-pushes-hostage-release-plan-aimed-at-ending-gaza-war-d48b27e1


  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]Peter Beaumont, “Netanyahu tells US he opposes creation of Palestinian state after Gaza war,” Guardian, January 18, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/18/netanyahu-tells-us-opposes-palestinian-state-after-gaza-war; Tori Otten, “Democrats Are Pissed After Netanyahu’s Palestinian Statehood Comments,” New Republic, January 19, 2024, https://newrepublic.com/post/178286/democrats-pissed-netanyahu-palestinian-statehood-rejection; Neri Zilber, “Benjamin Netanyahu faces political backlash over Israel’s hostage strategy,” Financial Times, January 16, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/2d5258d5-aabb-4c54-80e8-ec28fd4e21b0
  3. [3]Peter Beaumont, “Netanyahu tells US he opposes creation of Palestinian state after Gaza war,” Guardian, January 18, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/18/netanyahu-tells-us-opposes-palestinian-state-after-gaza-war
  4. [4]Henry Foy, “EU seeks ‘consequences’ for Israel over opposition to Palestinian statehood,” Financial Times, January 21, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/6b39f7cf-f6d6-4344-b1e8-a505616423ef
  5. [5]Matthew Lee, “The Biden administration once again bypasses Congress on an emergency weapons sale to Israel,” Associated Press, December 29, 2023, https://www.vox.com/world-politics/23972967/river-to-sea-palestine-israel-hamas
  6. [6]Peter Beaumont, “Netanyahu tells US he opposes creation of Palestinian state after Gaza war,” Guardian, January 18, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/18/netanyahu-tells-us-opposes-palestinian-state-after-gaza-war
  7. [7]Ellen Ioanes, “The controversial phrase “from the river to sea,” explained,” Vox, November 24, 2023, https://www.vox.com/world-politics/23972967/river-to-sea-palestine-israel-hamas
  8. [8]Karen DeYoung, “Biden’s support of Israel could come at a cost to U.S. foreign policy,” Washington Post, December 16, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2023/12/16/biden-netanyahu-israel-support-gaza/; Edward Luce, “Biden’s mounting self-harm on Israel,” Financial Times, December 15, 2023, https://www.ft.com/content/cfb4660f-de36-4453-9b44-531996c6ec9e; Tori Otten, “Democrats Are Pissed After Netanyahu’s Palestinian Statehood Comments,” New Republic, January 19, 2024, https://newrepublic.com/post/178286/democrats-pissed-netanyahu-palestinian-statehood-rejection; James Politi and Felicia Schwartz, “Biden’s troubled Gaza strategy: ‘the US looks feckless,’” Financial Times, December 22, 2023, https://www.ft.com/content/edebf6ef-155e-4aad-a41b-7e31016cad96; Patrick Wintour, “Biden in a bind as Netanhayu ready to flout any US attempt to rein in Israel,” Guardian, December 15, 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/dec/15/biden-in-a-bind-as-netanhayu-ready-to-flout-any-us-attempt-to-rein-in-israel
  9. [9]Jess Bravin, “South Africa Accuses Israel of Genocide in U.N. Court,” Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/south-africa-accuses-israel-of-genocide-in-u-n-court-3af69eb7; Democracy Now! “Judith Butler on Hamas, Israel’s Collective Punishment of Gaza & Why Biden Must Push for Ceasefire,” October 26, 2023, https://www.democracynow.org/2023/10/26/judith_butler_on_hamas_israels_collective; Democracy Now! “Palestinian Lives Matter Too: Jewish Scholar Judith Butler Condemns Israel’s ‘Genocide’ in Gaza,” October 26, 2023, https://www.democracynow.org/2023/10/26/judith_butler_ceasefire_gaza_israel; Mark Leon Goldberg, “Why Israel Can’t Just Wave Away International Justice Charges,” New Republic, January 10, 2024, https://newrepublic.com/article/177983/israel-gaza-international-justice-charges; Ron Kampeas, “Israel faces charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice. Here’s why, and how Israel will respond,” i>Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 4, 2024, https://www.jta.org/2024/01/04/politics/israel-faces-charges-of-genocide-at-the-international-court-of-justice-heres-why-and-how-israel-will-respond; Barbara Moens, Jacopo Barigazzi, and Eddy Wax, “South Africa’s genocide case against Israel lays bare Europe’s feeble power,” Politico, January 11, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/south-africas-genocide-case-against-israel-lays-bare-europes-feeble-power/; Claire Parker and Emily Rauhala to Today’s Worldview list, “What to know about the genocide case against Israel at the ICJ,” Washington Post, January 11, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/newsletters/todays-worldview/; Khaleda Rahman, “Israel Committing ‘Textbook Case of Genocide,’ Holocaust Historian Says,” Newsweek, October 17, 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/holocaust-historian-israel-committing-genocide-raz-segal-1835346; Yves Smith, “Israel Capitulates at the Start of International Court of Justice Genocide Hearing,” Naked Capitalism, January 11, 2024, https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2024/01/israel-capitulates-at-the-start-of-international-court-of-justice-genocide-hearing.html

Get me out of this town before these construction projects begin

Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh

Infrastructure


Fig. 1. Post-collapse scene at the Fern Hollow Bridge, photograph by National Transportation Safety Board, January 29, 2022, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

I didn’t traverse anything like a representative section of Pittsburgh today, so I don’t know how the snowplowing went, though I have seen neglected tertiary streets (like back alleys) even before this latest storm. I was mostly in the suburbs today. I did wind up quitting a little early as I noticed it getting dark and the snow seemed to be intensifying, and it happened I was relatively close to home. This’d be about the time the snow plows get going again, and, of course, it takes time for them to do their rounds, with more snow accumulating just as soon as they’ve plowed it.

Usually, after they’ve had a chance to make their rounds, the roads are pretty much okay, apart from the usual hazards, just well salted to rust any exposed metal so the car can fail its annual inspection. I get a car wash in the morning to wash off the snow I’m just getting too damned old to reach. I get another one in the evening to try to wash off some of that salt. I pray this and the rustproofing treatment I had applied will preserve the car.

I got home safely and here I am in my sandals because I’m too damned lazy to put on appropriate shoes for this weather, trudging through I’d guess about three inches of snow on the ground to get to the stairs back to my apartment, which of course were also covered in about three inches of snow. I’ll deal with it in the morning.

On the other hand, the usual quiet of my neighborhood is being regularly disturbed by the passage of snowplows. I’m glad they’re there. I’m not looking forward to finding out how trying to sleep through the din goes. Who knows? I might be snowed in.

In the meantime, repairs will now be funded for some really, really major bridges: McKees Rocks (work is already underway with a long-term lane closure), West End, and Fort Duquesne.[1] These bridges are all already traffic bottlenecks.

I start looking for an apartment in northwest Pennsylvania next month. It looks like I’ll have to broaden my radius a bit. I’m realizing I don’t like cities, really even one little bit: I see only the negatives and have neither time nor money for the positives. So Erie itself is out.

I was thinking Edinboro, but it’s still looking kind of high rent. One of the factors I might be up against will be a solar eclipse coming, if I recall correctly, in April. It seems Erie will be a prime viewing location. Me? I’d be just fine indoors under cloudy skies.

Steve Bonel, “State, local officials announce $132 million for repairs to three Pittsburgh bridges,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 18, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/transportation/2024/01/18/fort-duquesne-west-end-mckees-rocks-bridges/stories/202401180089

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Another winter storm is bearing down on the Pittsburgh region,” January 18, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/weather-news/2024/01/18/how-much-snow-pittsbugh-forecast-updates/stories/202401180086

Jacob Geanous, “Chartiers Bridge from Pittsburgh to McKees Rocks has new restrictions after a recent analysis of its condition,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 19, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/transportation/2024/01/19/chartiers-bridge-load-reduction-repairs-pittsburgh/stories/202401190073

Justin Vellucci, “3 major Pittsburgh bridges set to get $132M in renovations,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 19, 2024, https://triblive.com/local/3-major-pittsburgh-bridges-set-to-get-132m-in-renovations/


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,[2] fair use.

Neri Zilber, “Benjamin Netanyahu faces political backlash over Israel’s hostage strategy,” Financial Times, January 16, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/2d5258d5-aabb-4c54-80e8-ec28fd4e21b0

James Robins, “Israel’s Subtle Threats at the International Court of Justice,” New Republic, January 17, 2024, https://newrepublic.com/article/178174/israels-subtle-threats-international-court-justice

Peter Beaumont, “Netanyahu tells US he opposes creation of Palestinian state after Gaza war,” Guardian, January 18, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/18/netanyahu-tells-us-opposes-palestinian-state-after-gaza-war

Tori Otten, “Democrats Are Pissed After Netanyahu’s Palestinian Statehood Comments,” New Republic, January 19, 2024, https://newrepublic.com/post/178286/democrats-pissed-netanyahu-palestinian-statehood-rejection


  1. [1]Steve Bonel, “State, local officials announce $132 million for repairs to three Pittsburgh bridges,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 18, 2024, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/transportation/2024/01/18/fort-duquesne-west-end-mckees-rocks-bridges/stories/202401180089; Justin Vellucci, “3 major Pittsburgh bridges set to get $132M in renovations,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 19, 2024, https://triblive.com/local/3-major-pittsburgh-bridges-set-to-get-132m-in-renovations/
  2. [2]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/

The Middle East skirmish you can probably relax about


Imperialism


Fig. 1. Map by U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, 1980, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

You can probably relax about this one. It looks as if neither Iran nor Pakistan want a war; they’re targeting Baluchistan militants on opposing sides of their border.[1]

Ishaan Tharoor, “The restive borderlands at the heart of Pakistan and Iran’s fight,” Washington Post, January 18, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/18/baluchistan-pakistan-iran-border-conflict-tension/

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,[2] fair use.

Peter Beaumont packs in much more than the headline suggests. Among other things,

shortly after [Binyamin] Netanyahu’s address [opposing a Palestinian state], Mexico and Chile announced they had referred Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territories to the prosecutor of the international criminal court for the investigation of possible “war crimes”. . . .

The White House responded [to Netanyahu] by saying the US would continue working towards a two-state solution and that there could be no Israeli reoccupation of Gaza when the war concluded.

“There will [be] a post-conflict Gaza, no reoccupation of Gaza,” the White House national security adviser, John Kirby, told reporters onboard Air Force One after Netanyahu’s speech.[3]

It doesn’t seem like Binyamin Netanyahu cares much what Joe Biden or his administration have to say,[4] which makes it even harder for me to believe anything the White House is saying about this conflict right now.

Neri Zilber, “Benjamin Netanyahu faces political backlash over Israel’s hostage strategy,” Financial Times, January 16, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/2d5258d5-aabb-4c54-80e8-ec28fd4e21b0

James Robins, “Israel’s Subtle Threats at the International Court of Justice,” New Republic, January 17, 2024, https://newrepublic.com/article/178174/israels-subtle-threats-international-court-justice

Peter Beaumont, “Netanyahu tells US he opposes creation of Palestinian state after Gaza war,” Guardian, January 18, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/18/netanyahu-tells-us-opposes-palestinian-state-after-gaza-war

United States

Yemen


Fig. 3. Satellite photograph by Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Ryan Grim, “Biden on Yemen Airstrikes: ‘Are They Stopping the Houthis? No. Are They Gonna Continue? Yes,’” Intercept, January 18, 2024, https://theintercept.com/2024/01/18/biden-yemen-houthi-airstrikes/

Iain Marlow, “US Presses Ahead With ‘Least Bad’ Option in Confronting Houthis,” Bloomberg, January 18, 2024, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-01-18/us-presses-ahead-with-least-bad-option-in-confronting-houthis


  1. [1]Ishaan Tharoor, “The restive borderlands at the heart of Pakistan and Iran’s fight,” Washington Post, January 18, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/18/baluchistan-pakistan-iran-border-conflict-tension/
  2. [2]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/
  3. [3]Peter Beaumont, “Netanyahu tells US he opposes creation of Palestinian state after Gaza war,” Guardian, January 18, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/18/netanyahu-tells-us-opposes-palestinian-state-after-gaza-war
  4. [4]Peter Beaumont, “Netanyahu tells US he opposes creation of Palestinian state after Gaza war,” Guardian, January 18, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/18/netanyahu-tells-us-opposes-palestinian-state-after-gaza-war; David S. Cloud, and Summer Sai, “Israel’s Netanyahu Rejects U.S. Plan for Postwar Gaza,” Washington Post, December 12, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/israels-netanyahu-rejects-u-s-plan-for-post-war-gaza-d60fc0c3; Karen DeYoung, “Biden’s support of Israel could come at a cost to U.S. foreign policy,” Washington Post, December 16, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2023/12/16/biden-netanyahu-israel-support-gaza/; Edward Luce, “Biden’s mounting self-harm on Israel,” Financial Times, December 15, 2023, https://www.ft.com/content/cfb4660f-de36-4453-9b44-531996c6ec9e; James Politi and Felicia Schwartz, “Biden’s troubled Gaza strategy: ‘the US looks feckless,’” Financial Times, December 22, 2023, https://www.ft.com/content/edebf6ef-155e-4aad-a41b-7e31016cad96; Washington Post to 5-Minute Fix list, “The 5-Minute Fix: What’s behind Biden’s steadfast support for Israel?” November 27, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/the-fix/; Patrick Wintour, “Biden in a bind as Netanhayu ready to flout any US attempt to rein in Israel,” Guardian, December 15, 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/dec/15/biden-in-a-bind-as-netanhayu-ready-to-flout-any-us-attempt-to-rein-in-israel