Joe Biden has likely lost the young

Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh

South Side


Fig. 1. Jack’s Bar. Photograph by User:Piotrus, December 2007, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Justin Vellucci, “One year into Pittsburgh police patrol, tide is turning on South Side,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 30, 2024, https://triblive.com/local/one-year-into-pittsburgh-police-patrol-tide-is-turning-on-south-side/


Neoliberalism

Democratic (neoliberal) Party

Joe Biden


Fig. 2. Joe Biden and Pope Francis, unknown photographer, April 29, 2016, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.


Fig. 3. Image of Mastodon post by author, June 30, 2024.


One of these @$$holes is gonna have the nuclear codes? Really?

Illiberalism

Gilead

Donald Trump
Coup attempt

2024

Fig. 1. Donald Trump still has his fans. Photograph along Washington Road in Upper Saint Clair, Pennsylvania, by author, April 28, 2024.

Ann E. Marimow, “Supreme Court strikes obstruction charge used for hundreds of Jan. 6 rioters,” Washington Post, June 28, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/06/28/supreme-court-obstruction-jan-6-trump/


Neoliberalism

Democratic (neoliberal) Party

Joe Biden


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

Nothing like a debate to tell us what we already knew: These are two utterly dismal candidates, neither of whom should anywhere near any sort of authority, let alone nuclear codes. But I think what’s really catching my eye is the desperation of some Democrats to defend Joe Biden even as others insist he should step aside.[1]

The real questions here are whether the defenses of Biden will stick, how many voters will forget about this debate performance, and for how many voters the debate performance reinforces what they already thought. When people already think Biden is a doddering old man and he gives a performance that confirms that impression, I would expect that to count a whole helluva lot more than the defenses, and I’m profoundly skeptical that voters will just forget about it. There’s still time—and a lot of it—which is why this performance didn’t move the needle for me further than it did, but if the Democrats actually want to win—I’ve long since concluded they do not—they’ll replace Biden on the ticket.

But since Democrats prefer sitting in opposition where they can complain about the Republicans and where no one actually expects them to accomplish anything, they won’t. And that’s why the fascist now has the edge.

Aaron Blake, “5 takeaways from the first Trump-Biden 2024 debate,” Washington Post, June 27, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/06/27/presidential-debate-takeaways/

Rachel Leingang, “‘Defcon 1 moment’: Biden’s debate performance sends Democrats into panic,” Guardian, June 28, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/jun/27/biden-trump-debate-democrats-reaction

Elena Schneider, Adam Wren, and Lauren Egan, “‘WTF’: Panicked Dems start looking for alternatives to Biden,” Politico, June 28, 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/06/27/biden-democrats-replacement-00165672

Julia Terruso, Gillian McGoldrick, and Aliya Schneider, “Panicked Pennsylvania Democrats launch into cleanup mode after Biden’s bad debate night,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 28, 2024, https://www.inquirer.com/politics/election/biden-trump-debate-pennsylvania-20240628.html


Imperialism

Israel

Palestine
2024

Tara Copp, “US removes Gaza aid pier due to weather and may not put it back, officials say,” Associated Press, June 28, 2024, https://apnews.com/article/gaza-pier-humanitarian-aid-f3e21c072630c0d9cb9498d3a0e27a55


  1. [1]Rachel Leingang, “‘Defcon 1 moment’: Biden’s debate performance sends Democrats into panic,” Guardian, June 28, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/jun/27/biden-trump-debate-democrats-reaction; Elena Schneider, Adam Wren, and Lauren Egan, “‘WTF’: Panicked Dems start looking for alternatives to Biden,” Politico, June 28, 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/06/27/biden-democrats-replacement-00165672; Julia Terruso, Gillian McGoldrick, and Aliya Schneider, “Panicked Pennsylvania Democrats launch into cleanup mode after Biden’s bad debate night,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 28, 2024, https://www.inquirer.com/politics/election/biden-trump-debate-pennsylvania-20240628.html

Fasten your seatbelts: The right is still rising

Neoliberalism

Democratic (neoliberal) Party

Joe Biden


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

From the start, Biden faltered in the debate, the first of the 2024 presidential election. He was hard to hear, mumbling and muffling his lines, some of which – were they delivered with the intended force – could have landed successfully. He said Donald Trump has “the morals of an alley cat”, but even that one-liner was difficult to discern.[1]

One major Democratic donor and [Joe] Biden supporter said it was time for the president to end his campaign. This person described Biden’s night as “the worst performance in history” and said Biden was so “bad that no one will pay attention to [Donald] Trump’s lies.”[2]

David Plouffe, a Democratic strategist and former [Barack] Obama campaign official, called the debate “kind of a Defcon 1 moment”.

“The biggest thing in this election is voters’ concerns – and it’s both swing voters and base voters – with his age, and those were compounded tonight,” Plouffe said. . . .

Nicholas Kristof, the leftwing political columnist, said on social media that he hopes Biden reflects on the debate and decides to withdraw from the race, letting the convention decide who should be the nominee. He suggested someone like Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, Ohio senator Sherrod Brown or commerce secretary Gina Raimondo.

Former Missouri senator Claire McCaskill said on MSNBC that [Joe] Biden had one job, and he didn’t do it: He needed to “reassure America that he was up to the job at his age, and he failed”. Democrats are doing more than hand-wringing in private and wondering why the Biden surrogates, who were performing well to counter the Biden debate performance, aren’t the ones at the top of the ticket, she said.

“I know how this felt tonight: it felt like a gut punch,” McCaskill said.[3]

I’ll reduce Aaron Blakes “five takeaways” to two: Joe Biden did not do what he needed to do and in fact reinforced opponents’ perceptions of a doddering old man. Donald Trump’s usual lies went unchallenged.[4]

One adviser to major Democratic Party donors said they were texting from a meeting of donors in Atlanta on Thursday night, some writing “wtf.”

“Our only hope is that he bows out, we have a brokered convention, or dies,” the donor adviser said. “Otherwise we are fucking dead.” . . .

“No one expected a master class in debating from Joe Biden, but no one expected this nose dive,” said a senior adviser to top Democratic officials. “He was bad on message, bad on substance, bad on counter punching, bad on presentation, bad on non-verbals. There was no bright spot in this debate for him. The only bright spot is that this happened in June and not October.”[5]

My forecast now shifts to a slight edge for Trump, probably magnified in the electoral college. If the Democrats do indeed replace Biden,[6] the picture will change and I will reevaluate.

Aaron Blake, “5 takeaways from the first Trump-Biden 2024 debate,” Washington Post, June 27, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/06/27/presidential-debate-takeaways/

Rachel Leingang, “‘Defcon 1 moment’: Biden’s debate performance sends Democrats into panic,” Guardian, June 28, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/jun/27/biden-trump-debate-democrats-reaction

Elena Schneider, Adam Wren, and Lauren Egan, “‘WTF’: Panicked Dems start looking for alternatives to Biden,” Politico, June 28, 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/06/27/biden-democrats-replacement-00165672


Illiberalism


Fig. 2. Photograph by Joachim F. Thurn, August 1991, Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F089030-0003, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE.

In France, too.

Ishaan Tharoor, “The twilight of Macronism,” Washington Post, June 28, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/06/28/macron-french-elections-loser/


Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh


Fig. 3. The confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, with the “Golden Triangle” and downtown Pittsburgh. Photograph by author, October 15, 2023.

Jeff Himler and Haley Daugherty, “2 tornadoes suspected as severe storm causes damage, outages in Westmoreland, Allegheny,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 26, 2024, https://triblive.com/local/westmoreland/2-tornadoes-confirmed-as-severe-storm-causes-damage-outages-in-westmoreland-allegheny/

Quincey Reese and Joe Napsha, “Weather service confirms 3 tornadoes touched down in recent Western Pa. storm,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 27, 2024, https://triblive.com/local/westmoreland/weather-service-super-confident-2-tornadoes-hit-westmoreland-county/


So-called ‘ridesharing’

Drivers


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

Preetika Rana, “Uber, Lyft Agree to Minimum Wage, Other Benefits for Drivers in Massachusetts,” Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2024, https://apple.news/AXEbdpkwbR8eQGDxc7n7KSQ


  1. [1]Rachel Leingang, “‘Defcon 1 moment’: Biden’s debate performance sends Democrats into panic,” Guardian, June 28, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/jun/27/biden-trump-debate-democrats-reaction
  2. [2]Elena Schneider, Adam Wren, and Lauren Egan, “‘WTF’: Panicked Dems start looking for alternatives to Biden,” Politico, June 28, 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/06/27/biden-democrats-replacement-00165672
  3. [3]Rachel Leingang, “‘Defcon 1 moment’: Biden’s debate performance sends Democrats into panic,” Guardian, June 28, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/jun/27/biden-trump-debate-democrats-reaction
  4. [4]Aaron Blake, “5 takeaways from the first Trump-Biden 2024 debate,” Washington Post, June 27, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/06/27/presidential-debate-takeaways/
  5. [5]Elena Schneider, Adam Wren, and Lauren Egan, “‘WTF’: Panicked Dems start looking for alternatives to Biden,” Politico, June 28, 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/06/27/biden-democrats-replacement-00165672
  6. [6]Rachel Leingang, “‘Defcon 1 moment’: Biden’s debate performance sends Democrats into panic,” Guardian, June 28, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/jun/27/biden-trump-debate-democrats-reaction; Elena Schneider, Adam Wren, and Lauren Egan, “‘WTF’: Panicked Dems start looking for alternatives to Biden,” Politico, June 28, 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/06/27/biden-democrats-replacement-00165672

More tornadoes in Pittsburgh

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.

Jeff Himler and Haley Daugherty, “2 tornadoes suspected as severe storm causes damage, outages in Westmoreland, Allegheny,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 26, 2024, https://triblive.com/local/westmoreland/2-tornadoes-confirmed-as-severe-storm-causes-damage-outages-in-westmoreland-allegheny/


Imperialism

United States


Fig. 2. “American Progress,” painting by John Gast, 1872, digital version 2006, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Josh Gerstein and Samantha Latson, “Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, cuts plea deal to avoid US prison,” Politico, June 24, 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/06/24/julian-assange-plea-deal-00164763

Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett, and Rachel Weiner, “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange expected to plead guilty to felony charge,” Washington Post, June 24, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/06/24/assange-wikileaks-plea-deal-guilty/

Ed Pilkington, “Julian Assange leaves UK after striking deal with US justice department,” Guardian, June 25, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/media/article/2024/jun/25/julian-assange-plea-deal-with-us-free-to-return-australia

Ishaan Tharoor, “The joy and rage over Assange’s release,” Washington Post, June 26, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2024/06/26/julian-assange-release-debate/

Mathew Ingram, “Julian Assange is free, but troubling journalistic questions remain,” Columbia Journalism Review, June 27, 2024, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/julian-assange-is-free-but-troubling-journalistic-questions-remain.php

Israel

Lebanon


Fig. 3. “Sabra & Shatila Massacre 1982 Memorial in Sabra, South Beirut,” photograph by Bertramz, September 2009, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0.

There’s a curious pattern to war: It seems inconceivable until it seems inevitable. It’s looking like we’re in the latter stage here.

The United States on Thursday joined a growing list of countries that have advised their citizens to leave Lebanon due to the risk of war as tensions between Israel and the Hezbollah terror group continue to spiral.

The US call came as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned during a visit to Washington that Israel was capable of sending Lebanon “back to the Stone Age” in any war with Hezbollah, though he stressed that a diplomatic solution is preferred.[1]

“Stone Age” rhetoric sounds like a threat to use nuclear weapons.

A notice from the US Embassy in Lebanon published on Thursday strongly advised nationals to reconsider travel to the country, and said that “US citizens in Lebanon should not travel to southern Lebanon, the Lebanon-Syria border area, or refugee settlements.”

On Wednesday, Dutch and German authorities urged their nationals to leave Lebanon due to the risk of war.

The Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Thursday that the majority of Western embassies — especially European missions — had already examined the Lebanese coast for potential sites from which to evacuate their citizens by sea should war break out between Israel and Hezbollah.[2]

It just completely doesn’t matter how many people Binyamin Netanyahu must kill in order to salvage his political career.

Times of Israel, “US joins countries telling citizens not to visit Lebanon, amid push to avert war,” June 27, 2024, https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-joins-countries-telling-citizens-to-get-out-of-lebanon-amid-push-to-avert-war/


Illiberalism

Gilead

Abortion, reproductive freedom, reproductive health, and even divorce


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.

Eric Berger, “Conservative US lawmakers are pushing for an end to no-fault divorce,” Guardian, June 25, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/jun/25/republicans-no-fault-divorce

John Fritze, “Bloomberg: Supreme Court appears to side with Biden admin in abortion case, according to draft briefly posted on website,” Cable News Network, June 26, 2024, https://www.cnn.com/2024/06/26/politics/supreme-court-abortion-idaho-bloomberg

Ann E. Marimow and Dan Diamond, “Supreme Court officially allows emergency abortions in Idaho, for now,” Washington Post, June 27, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/06/27/supreme-court-abortion-emergency-room-hospital-impact/


  1. [1]Times of Israel, “US joins countries telling citizens not to visit Lebanon, amid push to avert war,” June 27, 2024, https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-joins-countries-telling-citizens-to-get-out-of-lebanon-amid-push-to-avert-war/
  2. [2]Times of Israel, “US joins countries telling citizens not to visit Lebanon, amid push to avert war,” June 27, 2024, https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-joins-countries-telling-citizens-to-get-out-of-lebanon-amid-push-to-avert-war/

Worried justices? I mean about November

Illiberalism

Gilead

Abortion, reproductive freedom, reproductive health, and even divorce


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

I wonder if some justices are worried about further inflaming pro-choice sentiment ahead of the November election. To be fair, prohibitions on abortions even when a woman’s life or health are endangered are the extremist of extremes. Logically, if you essentialize women as their childbearing capacities,[1] which seems to be the red hot thing[2] to do these days, then you should want to preserve and prolong those capacities, which pretty much means you gotta preserve and prolong the women in question. But these people are just stupid; judges, generally being lawyers, pretty much all have advanced degrees, and you gotta be able to recognize stupidity at least some of the time if you’re gonna get an advanced degree.[3]

Eric Berger, “Conservative US lawmakers are pushing for an end to no-fault divorce,” Guardian, June 25, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/jun/25/republicans-no-fault-divorce

John Fritze, “Bloomberg: Supreme Court appears to side with Biden admin in abortion case, according to draft briefly posted on website,” Cable News Network, June 26, 2024, https://www.cnn.com/2024/06/26/politics/supreme-court-abortion-idaho-bloomberg


  1. [1]George Lakoff, Moral Politics, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2002).
  2. [2]Apologies. Yes, I did know I was doing that.
  3. [3]Yes, I’m bitter as hell about what is effectively my exile from academia, and not even for decent pay.

A word about the debate

Neoliberalism

Democratic (neoliberal) Party

Joe Biden


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

As usual, I will forego the debate (tomorrow?), preferring to read about it afterwards. The consensus is that Joe Biden needs to show he is sharp and to call out Donald Trump’s lies and deceptions. It’s fairly obvious that how well he does this will be a factor determining his chances of prevailing against Trump in November and there is a decent chance my forecast (now, a toss-up) will change accordingly.

The bad news is that this is a continuation of what Democrats do each and every single fucking election, running on “the other guy is worse.” This enables an evasion of existential issues for a great many people that true progressives would surely address in short order. If pressed on his shortcomings, Biden can only point to the same chronic excuses Democrats use each and every fucking election: the Supreme Court, the Senate filibuster, and Republicans. I have rejected these excuses for decades and, in this, I am joined by ever greater numbers of voters.

And in 2024, like any year, I cannot vote for a war criminal, cannot vote for genocide. Simply can’t do it. This is a moral absolute, even against a fascist, whom it is also absolutely unacceptable to vote for.

In Pennsylvania, the alternatives are the “tankie”[1] Greens, who support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (yes, they do[2]), and the (capitalist) Libertarians. I cannot vote for any of these either. It remains my intention to write in LESSER EVIL because voting for the “lesser evil” is precisely how we find ourselves with this absolutely appalling and profoundly unacceptable choice.


  1. [1]Roane Carey, “Don’t Be a Tankie: How the Left Should Respond to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine,” Intercept, March 1, 2022, https://theintercept.com/2022/03/01/ukraine-russia-leftists-tankie/
  2. [2]Roane Carey, “Don’t Be a Tankie: How the Left Should Respond to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine,” Intercept, March 1, 2022, https://theintercept.com/2022/03/01/ukraine-russia-leftists-tankie/

Still awaiting confirmation on Julian Assange

Imperialism

United States


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

I am still awaiting confirmation that Julian Assange’s plea deal[1] has been accepted by the judge. This should have already happened and, I think, has. But all the coverage is this “live coverage” bullshit that never clearly stops being updated: Just give me a single story about a single topic. That’s all I’m asking for here.

Josh Gerstein and Samantha Latson, “Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, cuts plea deal to avoid US prison,” Politico, June 24, 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/06/24/julian-assange-plea-deal-00164763

Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett, and Rachel Weiner, “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange expected to plead guilty to felony charge,” Washington Post, June 24, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/06/24/assange-wikileaks-plea-deal-guilty/

Ed Pilkington, “Julian Assange leaves UK after striking deal with US justice department,” Guardian, June 25, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/media/article/2024/jun/25/julian-assange-plea-deal-with-us-free-to-return-australia

Ishaan Tharoor, “The joy and rage over Assange’s release,” Washington Post, June 26, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2024/06/26/julian-assange-release-debate/


Illiberalism

Gilead

White Christian nationalism


Fig. 1. If one weighs by geography rather than population, Pennsylvania is very much a white Christian nationalist kind of place. Photograph by author, January 5, 2023.

Heather Cox Richardson errs, writing:

Modern-day Americans could embrace the cowboy myth so long as our laws addressed conditions in the real world. But as extremist lawmakers and judges have removed those guardrails by legislating around ideology rather than reality—incidentally, the very scenario true political conservatism was designed to avoid—they have ushered in conditions that are badly hurting Americans. This moment in our history feels chaotic in part because the gulf between reality and image can no longer be hidden with divisive rhetoric, and ordinary Americans are reasserting their right to laws that protect equality, community, and opportunity.[2]

The truth is that conservatism has always been ideological. In traditionalist form, it relies on “God’s plan” (if the Bible is evidence for anything, it is evidence for the absolute absence of any such plan) over “social engineering.” In capitalist libertarian form, it imagines the market, which is inherently unequalizing, as a truer form of “democracy.”[3] In functionalist form, it veers into a psychopathy[4] of a perceived mandate of power and privilege over others. In neoconservative form, it imagines the U.S. (neoliberal) economic and political system as the best system for all humans everywhere, quite heedless of culture or history. In paleoconservative form, it denies the obvious fact that people of different races can get along with each other. In social conservative form, it draws upon a cherry-picked literalist subset of the Bible to insist,[5] against the very evidence of the very existence of people who do not feel they fit in the heterosexual comfortable-in-skin binary, that they must somehow do so. All of this, every last bit of it, is intensely ideological and has always been.

And there is absolutely zero evidence to support the claim that “ordinary Americans are reasserting their right to laws that protect equality, community, and opportunity.” Richardson is right, however, to point to the “cowboy myth” as a source of toxic masculinity (though she does not refer to ‘toxic masculinity’) and she goes on, correctly, to show how the crusades against abortion, contraception, and even divorce; against taxes; against climate crisis mitigation; and for unlimited gun “rights” are all deeply delusional. But she returns to error in appearing to embrace Biden’s imagination that the economy is in good shape,[6] which it only is if you accept shit jobs that don’t pay enough to live (a problem exacerbated by inflation) as okay. But her imagination that “[t]he Biden administration has returned to the idea of leveling the nation’s economic playing field”[7] returns to the simply absurd; this can only be achieved through the elimination of markets.[8]

And, of course, in her hagiography, Richardson neglects that to vote for Biden is to vote for genocide.

Heather Cox Richardson, “June 25, 2024,” Letters from an American, June 26, 2024, https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/june-25-2024


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,[9] fair use.

Oops:

At the end of the meeting, [National Transportation Safety Board] Chair Jennifer Homendy accused Norfolk Southern of interfering with the investigation and abusing its status as a party to the probe to help gather information.

“Norfolk Southern’s abuse of the party process was unprecedented and reprehensible,” she said.[10]

Josh Funk, Tom Krisher, and Patrick Orsagos, “NTSB chair says Norfolk Southern interfered with derailment probe after botching vent-and-burn call,” Associated Press, June 25, 2024, https://apnews.com/article/norfolk-southern-train-derailment-ntsb-east-palestine-944991c7a44286aa9675995f5eb677f0

Justine McDaniel, “Burn-off of toxics in Ohio derailment was unnecessary, NTSB investigators say,” Washington Post, June 25, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2024/06/25/east-palestine-train-derailment-chemicals-report/


  1. [1]Josh Gerstein and Samantha Latson, “Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, cuts plea deal to avoid US prison,” Politico, June 24, 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/06/24/julian-assange-plea-deal-00164763; Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett, and Rachel Weiner, “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange expected to plead guilty to felony charge,” Washington Post, June 24, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/06/24/assange-wikileaks-plea-deal-guilty/; Ed Pilkington, “Julian Assange leaves UK after striking deal with US justice department,” Guardian, June 25, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/media/article/2024/jun/25/julian-assange-plea-deal-with-us-free-to-return-australia
  2. [2]Heather Cox Richardson, “June 25, 2024,” Letters from an American, June 26, 2024, https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/june-25-2024
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  4. [4]George Monbiot, “Outer Turmoil,” June 17, 2019, https://www.monbiot.com/2019/06/17/outer-turmoil/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  6. [6]Heather Cox Richardson, “June 25, 2024,” Letters from an American, June 26, 2024, https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/june-25-2024
  7. [7]Heather Cox Richardson, “June 25, 2024,” Letters from an American, June 26, 2024, https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/june-25-2024
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  9. [9]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
  10. [10]Josh Funk, Tom Krisher, and Patrick Orsagos, “NTSB chair says Norfolk Southern interfered with derailment probe after botching vent-and-burn call,” Associated Press, June 25, 2024, https://apnews.com/article/norfolk-southern-train-derailment-ntsb-east-palestine-944991c7a44286aa9675995f5eb677f0

Implausible Deniability

Imperialism

Israel

Lebanon


Fig. 1. “Sabra & Shatila Massacre 1982 Memorial in Sabra, South Beirut,” photograph by Bertramz, September 2009, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0.

This is what you call implausible deniability and it takes an eye-catching form: The U.S. can’t, it claims, stop Israel and will—here’s the tell—back them up all the way. Nobody wants war, they all say,[1] but Binyamin Netanyahu has a political career to salvage and Joe Biden is very much for the most part backing him up.

Times of Israel, “US sent message to Hezbollah that it won’t be able to rein in Israel — report,” June 25, 2024, https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-sent-message-to-hezbollah-that-it-wont-be-able-to-rein-in-israel-report/


Pennsylvania and surrounding areas

Pittsburgh, the Ohio Valley, and surrounding areas

Pollution


Fig. 2. 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,[2] fair use.

I don’t think I’d want to be in management at Norfolk Southern Railway right now.

Justine McDaniel, “Burn-off of toxics in Ohio derailment was unnecessary, NTSB investigators say,” Washington Post, June 25, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2024/06/25/east-palestine-train-derailment-chemicals-report/


So-called ‘ridesharing’

Drivers


Fig. 1. Yeah, this is me. The sign says, “If you’re whining about a labor shortage, STOP ignoring my job applications!” And the QR-code leads here. Photograph by author, January 16, 2023.

Emily Price
, “Uber Is Locking NYC Drivers Out of Its App to Cut Costs,” PC, June 25, 2024, https://apple.news/A21KUO-tiQi-Tjb8RcqPXpg


  1. [1]Times of Israel, “US sent message to Hezbollah that it won’t be able to rein in Israel — report,” June 25, 2024, https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-sent-message-to-hezbollah-that-it-wont-be-able-to-rein-in-israel-report/
  2. [2]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

Defending war crimes at any cost

It was an awfully slow news week last week. This week, we seem to be picking up the pace.


Imperialism

United States


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

The saga that led to [Julian] Assange’s prosecution dates back to 2010, when an Army intelligence analyst, Private Chelsea Manning, leaked a vast trove of data to WikiLeaks including videos of deadly U.S. military airstrikes, hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and logs of U.S. military activity in Afghanistan and Iraq. Among the revelations posted online was video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack by American forces in Baghdad that killed 11 people, including two Reuters journalists.

While the leaks of military and State Department records made Assange a controversial figure in the U.S. and a hero to many anti-war activists, the picture grew more complex in 2016 when his website released large volumes of emails from the Democratic National Committee and from a personal Gmail account of John Podesta, then the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Among other revelations, the stolen emails showed signs that the DNC had acted favorably toward Clinton during her primary against Bernie Sanders.

Many Democrats accused Assange of collaborating with Russian intelligence to undermine Clinton’s campaign. Assange denied the claim.[1]

The simple fact is that this is about wars that were atrocious ideas from the beginning but that the U.S. political class wanted, and had only become even more dubious in the time since they began. The politicians did not want to admit that they were profoundly wrong, though they had to know that they were profoundly wrong and were responsible for knowing it even if they didn’t, and they wanted to continue their wars at any cost. And so, pointless and ultimately futile slaughters had to be defended at any cost.

If you’re noticing parallels with Israel’s genocide in Gaza and with Russia’s attempted conquest of Ukraine,[2] go to the head of the class. The U.S. and Russian refusals to accede to the International Criminal Court are obviously about escaping accountability for war crimes. The U.S. defense of Israel’s genocide is nothing less.

Josh Gerstein and Samantha Latson, “Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, cuts plea deal to avoid US prison,” Politico, June 24, 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/06/24/julian-assange-plea-deal-00164763

Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett, and Rachel Weiner, “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange expected to plead guilty to felony charge,” Washington Post, June 24, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/06/24/assange-wikileaks-plea-deal-guilty/

Ed Pilkington, “Julian Assange leaves UK after striking deal with US justice department,” Guardian, June 25, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/media/article/2024/jun/25/julian-assange-plea-deal-with-us-free-to-return-australia

Israel


Fig. 2. John Bolton and Binyamin Netanyahu at a press conference. Office of U.S. National Security Advisor, August 20, 2018, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

The ultra-Orthodox in Israel have enjoyed considerable privilege, which many in the rest of the Israeli population resents, in exchange for supporting Binyamin Netanyahu. The Israeli Supreme Court’s decision threatens that support.[3]

Israel Cohen, a commentator on the ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Berama, said the community realizes that, post-Oct. 7 [the day of the Hamas attack], it has to compromise. He said it has so far directed its ire against the Supreme Court and will grant [Binyamin] Netanyahu a short grace period to draft a law that would take into consideration the new reality, while ensuring the ultra-Orthodox are able to hold on to their values.

“Now it’s test time for Netanyahu to pass a law,” Cohen said. “And, if not, support for this government disappears.”[4]

There is, of course, a bit more to this picture. Both the war on Gaza and a potential war on Lebanon are wars of choice, which Israelis claim are in “self-defense”—long a rationale for imperialism—but are actually about protecting Binyamin Netanyahu’s political career. When Israelis now say that the ultra-Orthodox are needed for military duty, it is due to their own imperial ambition.

Shira Rubin and Claire Parker, “Israeli Supreme Court rules ultra-Orthodox must serve in the military,” Washington Post, June 25, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/06/25/israel-haredi-ultra-orthodox/

Russia

Ukraine


Fig. 3. Cartoon by Ella Baron, June 2, 2024, via the Guardian, fair use.

Seb Starcevik, “The Hague hits Putin’s military cronies with arrest warrants for war crimes,” Politico, June 25, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/4982958/


Illiberalism

Gilead

Abortion, reproductive freedom, reproductive health, and even divorce


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.

No-fault divorce is a way for partners to escape abusive relationships. Banning or restricting no-fault divorce is a way of trapping people in those relationships,[5] which is a way of saying you want to reinforce the powerful over the weak in abusive relationships.

My father was abusive, rejecting and physically assaulting me from the day I was born, verbally abusive toward my mother. When she finally threw him out in the 1970s, after Ronald Reagan—himself a divorcée—had signed a California law enabling no-fault divorce,[6] it felt like freedom for me. Her path was eased by no-fault divorce and she went on to marry a man whom I did not get along with but who brought her decades of happiness.

My father, on the other hand, went on to a second marriage, to a woman who suffered heroin addiction and depression and who became severely depressed during their marriage. He committed suicide at the age of 65, having recently retired and, I believe, discovered what it is like to live with a severely depressed person full time. Entirely dependent upon him, she killed herself with a opioid overdose a few months later.

Between 1976 and 1985, states that passed the laws saw their domestic violence rates against men and women fall by about 30%; the number of women murdered by an intimate partner declined by 10%; and female suicide rates declined by 8 to 16%.

Without such laws, “it’s hard to prove anything in court relating to a family because you don’t have any witnesses”, said Kimberly Wehle, professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law. “It’s very difficult to get evidence to show abuse of children. How do you do it? Do you put your kids on the stand?”[7]

I still suffer. My father’s rejection developed into a societal rejection—shunning, for all practical purposes—depriving me both of a career and a social life, let alone a love life. I am forsaken, profoundly and eternally alone. But it would surely have been even worse if my mother had not been able to get that divorce.

Eric Berger, “Conservative US lawmakers are pushing for an end to no-fault divorce,” Guardian, June 25, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/jun/25/republicans-no-fault-divorce

Gun nuttery


Fig. 5. “Rally Against Gun Control ‘Come and Take it’ flag at the Minnesota State Capitol,” photograph by Fibonacci Blue [pseud.], April 28, 2018, via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Expect this to not move the needle even a nanometer.

Sabrina Malhi and Lizette Ortega, “U.S. surgeon general declares firearm violence a public health crisis,” Washington Post, June 25, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2024/06/26/surgeon-general-firearm-deaths/


  1. [1]Josh Gerstein and Samantha Latson, “Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, cuts plea deal to avoid US prison,” Politico, June 24, 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/06/24/julian-assange-plea-deal-00164763
  2. [2]Ahmed Twaij, “Bush did what Putin’s doing — so why is he getting away?” al Jazeera, March 28, 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2023/3/28/putin-should-be-punished-so-must-bush
  3. [3]Shira Rubin and Claire Parker, “Israeli Supreme Court rules ultra-Orthodox must serve in the military,” Washington Post, June 25, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/06/25/israel-haredi-ultra-orthodox/
  4. [4]Shira Rubin and Claire Parker, “Israeli Supreme Court rules ultra-Orthodox must serve in the military,” Washington Post, June 25, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/06/25/israel-haredi-ultra-orthodox/
  5. [5]Eric Berger, “Conservative US lawmakers are pushing for an end to no-fault divorce,” Guardian, June 25, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/jun/25/republicans-no-fault-divorce
  6. [6]Eric Berger, “Conservative US lawmakers are pushing for an end to no-fault divorce,” Guardian, June 25, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/jun/25/republicans-no-fault-divorce
  7. [7]Eric Berger, “Conservative US lawmakers are pushing for an end to no-fault divorce,” Guardian, June 25, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/jun/25/republicans-no-fault-divorce

Julian Assange’s saga set to end

Illiberalism

Gilead

Donald Trump
Coup attempt

2024

Fig. 1. Donald Trump still has his fans. Photograph along Washington Road in Upper Saint Clair, Pennsylvania, by author, April 28, 2024.

As I look at coverage such as this in Raw Story, I worry that it is not only right-wing sources that fall into the trap of valorizing the folks on “our” side and vilifying the folks on “their” side.[1] Here, it is implied that the valiant Jack Smith cunningly laid a trap for the vilified Aileen Cannon to get her off the case.[2] Smith is our valiant hero. Cannon is our evil villain. Right must prevail, therefore Cannon will be vanquished.

When we think that righteousness must and will prevail, we succumb to a moral ideology. “Our” side is “righteous.” “Their” side is “evil.” And while I accept that Cannon is evil, I am not so sure that Smith is a hero, and I am not sure that the conflict between them should be reduced to a chess game. The journalism here is a little too cheap—cheerleading even—even if it does prove correct in the end.

David McAfee, “‘This is serious’: Ex-prosecutor says Judge Cannon is about to fall into removal trap,” Raw Story, June 24, 2024, https://www.rawstory.com/trump-removal-trap-judge-cannon-litman/

C. Ryan Barber, “As Trump’s Documents Case Crawls Along, Questions About Judge Abound,” Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2024, https://apple.news/A2YQSWOXwTbm53Gjqh8x38A


Roman Catholic Church


Fig. 2. Catholic temple, El Señor de Tila, Balancan, Tabasco, Mexico. Photograph by Carlos Valenzuela, August 29, 2020, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.

“Francis was elected to renew the Catholic Church,” said Thomas Söding, the vice president of the Central Committee for German Catholics, the group that descended on the German capital in November. But the pope’s failure to bring about any meaningful change has left the Church archaic and unfixed, he said, forcing the Germans to try and beat their own path.[3]

I have lived my entire life absolutely convinced that the Roman Catholic Church could not continue as it has. There are a lot of stubborn—really stubborn—folks there and I have been surprised, frankly, that the Church’s doctrinal suppression of the sensual has lasted. Catholics in the U.S. often disregard the doctrine from the Catholic hierarchy regarding sex precisely because that doctrine is so far out of step.

But a conference in Germany is the first I’ve heard—apparently, I haven’t been paying close enough attention—of a move to push the Church to lighten up. It’s being framed as a challenge to the entire idea of an authoritarian Roman Catholic hierarchy, which indeed hearkens back to the Protestant Reformation,[4] which itself asserted a direct relationship between humans and God rather than one mediated by Church hierarchy.[5] We’ll see if it amounts to anything.

Ben Munster, “Pope Francis has lost control of his liberal revolution,” Politico, June 24, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/pope-francis-rome-vatican-city-germany-catholics-liberal-revolution/


Imperialism

United States


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

In case you’ve forgotten what this very long-running saga was about:

[Julian Assange] burst into the American public consciousness in the 2010s, when WikiLeaks began publishing a series of bombshell disclosures. They included hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. military documents related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of confidential diplomatic cables that included candid and sometimes unflattering assessments by U.S. diplomats of counterparts overseas — including foreign heads of state whose help was needed to counter terrorism.

He famously in 2016 published emails that Russian government hackers had stolen from Democratic Party servers and that U.S. authorities assessed were leaked by Moscow in an effort to disrupt the presidential election. He was not charged in connection with those documents.[6]

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were both disasters, the product of neoconservative hubris, guaranteed to further inflame relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world. It was already bad with Iran, so that can’t really be blamed for that, although the origins of that problem also originate partly in hubris. Anything leaked about these wars was bound to be embarrassing; the quoted account omits mention of infamous videos documenting aerial killings of innocent civilians.[7]

Let’s be clear: Assange is not the hill I’d want to die for. Early on in the saga, Sweden was pursuing him on rape charges, and his conduct toward the women was at least that of an asshole. But there was an inconsistency in that Sweden rarely pursued rapists like they did Assange, and so it was widely suspected that this was really about the U.S. wanting Assange arrested on any pretense necessary and then extradited.[8] But it’s also the case that the material Chelsea (at the time, Bradley) Manning leaked to Wikileaks exposed war crimes, which of course were never prosecuted in U.S. or international courts; the classification of those materials, whether or not otherwise warranted, was a means of covering up those crimes.

Apart from his appalling treatment of women, Assange deserves considerable credit for and there was a legitimate public interest in publishing the leaked material he did, both with regard to George W. Bush’s wars, and to Hillary Clinton. I hope this saga is indeed at an end.

Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett, and Rachel Weiner, “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange expected to plead guilty to felony charge,” Washington Post, June 24, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/06/24/assange-wikileaks-plea-deal-guilty/


Neoliberalism

Academic repression

Student loans


Fig. 4. Unattributed and undated image via James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal,[9] fair use.

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, “Courts grant injunctions against Biden’s student loan repayment plan,” Washington Post, June 24, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2024/06/24/student-loan-repayment-plan-lawsuits/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “The morality of polarization,” Not Housebroken, January 4, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/09/21/the-morality-of-polarization/
  2. [2]David McAfee, “‘This is serious’: Ex-prosecutor says Judge Cannon is about to fall into removal trap,” Raw Story, June 24, 2024, https://www.rawstory.com/trump-removal-trap-judge-cannon-litman/
  3. [3]Ben Munster, “Pope Francis has lost control of his liberal revolution,” Politico, June 24, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/pope-francis-rome-vatican-city-germany-catholics-liberal-revolution/
  4. [4]Ben Munster, “Pope Francis has lost control of his liberal revolution,” Politico, June 24, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/pope-francis-rome-vatican-city-germany-catholics-liberal-revolution/
  5. [5]Richard Tarnas, Passion of the Western Mind (New York: Harmony, 1991), 6.
  6. [6]Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett, and Rachel Weiner, “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange expected to plead guilty to felony charge,” Washington Post, June 24, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/06/24/assange-wikileaks-plea-deal-guilty/
  7. [7]Kim Zetter and Kevin Poulsen, “U.S. Intelligence Analyst Arrested in Wikileaks Video Probe,” Wired, June 6, 2010, https://www.wired.com/2010/06/leak/
  8. [8]David Benfell, “The Great Feminist Smackdown: Rape Allegations against Julian Assange,” Not Housebroken, December 21, 2010, https://disunitedstates.org/2010/12/21/the-great-feminist-smackdown-rape-allegations-against-julian-assange/
  9. [9]Richard K. Vedder, “Eliminate or Radically Restructure Federal Student Loans,” James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, September 16, 2020, https://www.jamesgmartin.center/2020/09/eliminate-or-radically-restructure-federal-student-loans/