08 March 2024

I can bring whole cities to ruin

"Roses and Strawberries" by Sergey Sovkov is from the Rose Period collection.

Oops! I bounced my computer on the kitchen tiles and lost February! My data seems to be okay, but having to get a new computer made recovery pricey, and I do have a PayPal button on the sidebar, but if there's someone who deserves it more (Common Dreams sounds like they're balancing on a knife-edge at the moment), I'll survive without it.

And I would have posted a few days ago but EMTs insisted on getting me to the hospital for a scan of my foot and leg so I had a complicated few days of tests and dope and lots of sleep there before they pronounced me "fine", which was a surprise to us all.

Meanwhile, right-wing war-monger and big-time beneficiary of AIPAC largess Adam Schiff ruined it for us by beating Barbara Lee and Katie Porter in the California Senate Primary. This means he will be running against Republican Steve Garvey for the DiFi's old Senate seat. How did he do it? "The primary broke records as the most expensive Senate race in California. Schiff's campaign is widely seen as having engineered Garvey's strong primary performance by spending millions of dollars to air ads attacking Garvey, the former first baseman for the LA Dodgers and an inexperienced Republican candidate, thus elevating his name recognition among Republican voters in a way the Garvey campaign itself was not able to afford. Schiff's strategy appeared to be effective at boxing out his two Democratic progressive competitors. Neither Porter nor Lee are expected to return to Congress next year, after choosing to compete in the Senate race rather than run for re-election in their House districts."

"A State Supreme Court Just Issued the Most Devastating Rebuke of Dobbs Yet [...] This week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court responded to that conclusion: no. On Monday, the court issued a landmark opinion declaring that abortion restrictions do amount to sex-based discrimination and therefore are 'presumptively unconstitutional' under the state constitution's equal rights amendment. The majority vehemently rejected Dobbs' history-only analysis, noting that, until recently, 'those interpreting the law' saw women 'as not only having fewer legal rights than men but also as lesser human beings by design.' Justice David Wecht went even further: In an extraordinary concurrence, the justice recounted the historical use of abortion bans to repress women, condemned Alito's error-ridden analysis, and repudiated the 'antiquated and misogynistic notion that a woman has no say over what happens to her own body.'"

"The Nixonian New York Times Stonewalls on a Discredited Article About Hamas and Rape: The newspaper of record botches an important story about sexual violence on October 7. [...] On December 28, 2023, the Times published a major investigative report headlined ''Screams Without Words': How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7.' Written by veteran foreign correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman along with two younger freelancers, Anat Schwartz and Adam Sella, the article dealt with one of the most painful stories to emerge from the Hamas massacre of October 7, the allegations of widespread rape. Based on more than 150 interviews, the article contended that the Hamas systematically used rape as a weapon of war. The question of rapes on October 7 had been simmering since the Hamas attack, gaining increasing urgency by November, when the Israeli government made it a centerpiece (along with unverified reports about beheaded babies) in its case for war. While leading pro-Israel advocates emphasized accounts of rape that they insisted amounted to a systematic campaign deliberately organized by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups, some pro-Palestinian commentators took a more skeptical stance, noting the lack of forensic evidence to cast doubt on the narrative of a systematic campaign of sexual violence. The danger of the skeptical stance, sometimes played out in polemics, is that it sometimes seemed to shift over to the suggestion that all the testimonies of rape were mere 'stories' without evidentiary basis. 'Screams Without Words' initially seemed like a searing and irreproachable indictment that settled this debate. But doubts soon emerged about the article, both on account of the unacknowledged biases of the reporters (in particular Anat Schwartz) and also the shaky nature of the evidence presented. Key sources for the article had a history of false claims. The family of one allegedly raped murder victim spoke out against the article, claiming it presented an impossible story. A fierce internal debate emerged inside the Times itself as reporters not part of the original team found it difficult to verify many of the claims of the article. The reporting behind the Times article has been questioned both by the Times podcast The Daily and The Intercept." But instead of investigating how they'd made such a mess, they decided to investigate staff who'd "leaked" the fact that many Times staffers were outraged at the bias and unsubstantiated nature of the claims of the authors.

From In These Times, "The ADL Wants to Conflate Critiques of Israel with Antisemitism. That Won't Make Jews Safer. As conservative pundits mainstream antisemitic tropes, the ADL is instead focused on silencing expressions of Palestinian solidarity. [...] The truly dangerous rise in American antisemitism since October 7 has nothing to do with activists calling for a ceasefire, or chanting ​'from the river to the sea' or arguing (in concurrence with dozens of scholars in Holocaust and Genocide Studies) that Israel is engaged in genocidal violence against Palestinians in Gaza. The serious threat here, which the ADL under Greenblatt continually deemphasizes, is the proliferation of antisemitic ideology coming from the U.S. Right, where influential figures are rapidly normalizing racist, misogynistic, antisemitic and otherwise bigoted ideas long considered taboo in mainstream political discourse."

"The Neglected History of the State of Israel: The Revisionist faction of Zionism that ended up triumphing adhered to literal fascist doctrines and traditions. [...] One of Chotiner's best interviews ran this past November. A leader of the militant West Bank settlement movement told him that Jews have a sacred duty to occupy all the land between 'the Euphrates in the east and the Nile in the southwest,' that nothing west of the Jordan River was ever 'Arab place or property,' and that no Arabs, even citizens, should have civil rights in Israel. Stunning stuff, and extremely valuable to have on the record, especially given the settler movement's close ties to Benjamin Netanyahu's government. I praise Chotiner, however, as a bridge to a separate point: Even the most learned and thoughtful observers of Israel and Palestine miss a basic historic foundation of the crisis. [...] In 1928, a prominent Revisionist named Abba Ahimeir published a series of articles entitled 'From the Diary of a Fascist.' They refer to the founder of their movement, Ze'ev Jabotinsky (his adopted first name is Hebrew for 'wolf'), as 'il duce.' In 1935, his comrade Hen Merhavia wrote that Revisionists were doing what Mussolini did: 'establish a nucleus of an exemplary life of morality and purity. Like us, the Italian fascists look back to their historical heritage. We seek to return to the kingdom of the House of David; they want to return to the glory of the Roman Empire.' They even opened a maritime academy in Italy, under Mussolini's sponsorship, for the navy they hoped to build in their new Israeli state. '[T]he views and the political and social inclinations of the Revisionists,' an Italian magazine reported, 'are absolutely in accordance with the fascist doctrine … as our students they will bring the Italian and fascist culture to Palestine.'"

From 2021, a story few seem to have heard, "How did it happen that Israel's Jews and Arabs rose up against each other?: The endless rocket attacks no longer shock, but the divisions that have come violently to the surface in Israeli towns have horrified the country. [...] But the deterioration of the political status of Palestinians in Israel hangs heavily over social and economic problems. Over the last decade, Israel has passed laws targeting Palestinian citizens' rights, culminating in the 2018 'nation state' law, elevating Jews to a superior status in Israel. Anti-Arab rhetoric from rightwing politicians has crossed the line to incitement." Like so much else, the claim that Arabs in Israel live as equals is a sham. For a deeper dive, it's worth watching "The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine." You might also want to read a little about Plan Dalet.

"WMD, Part II: CIA "Cooked The Intelligence" To Hide That Russia Favored Clinton, Not Trump In 2016: Russia didn't fear Hillary Clinton. 'It was a relationship they were comfortable with,' some CIA analysts believed, but intelligence was suppressed. On the fall of the last great Russiagate myth [...] Russia didn't fear Hillary Clinton. 'It was a relationship they were comfortable with,' some CIA analysts believed, but intelligence was suppressed. On the fall of the last great Russiagate myth"

Radley Balko on "The retconning of George Floyd: Bari Weiss's Free Press is the latest outlet to tout a conspiratorial documentary alleging that Derek Chauvin was wrongly convicted. It's all nonsense. For a few precious days after the death of George Floyd, there was at least a clear consensus across the political spectrum — there was near-unanimity that what Darnella Frazier captured on her cell phone was a crime. An outrage. A thing to be denounced. As Floyd lay handcuffed on his stomach, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's back for nine minutes as Floyd became unresponsive, then went limp, then died. Even the most vocal police supporters condemned Chauvin's actions, though with obligatory disclaimers that Chauvin was a rogue, aberrant bad apple, and that no one should judge all law enforcement officers by his actions. The consensus wouldn't last. As protests heated up around the country, far-right pundits began to break away. They pointed to Floyd's criminal record, the violence at some of the protests, and the allegedly radical positions of the organizers. Dennis Prager, the radio host and founder of a fake university, marveled to his audience how 'decent' MPD officers had been to Floyd."

RIP: "The Prestige author Christopher Priest dies aged 80: Internationally acclaimed novelist died from cancer on Friday after being diagnosed with small-cell carcinoma last summer" (I saw the Telegraph story first so I could post it here right away, but now I see that his close friend and colleague John Clute got the Guardian obit.) Chris also did a great fanzine called Deadloss and later wrote The Last Deadloss Visions about Harlan Ellison's failure to produce the promised third in the Dangerous Visions series in a timely fashion. He also had a long-time friendship and collaborations with Dave Langford in both sf and their private enterprises. There's so much I could say about Chris, but what I'll tell you is that one time he drove us home and sat on our couch and told us about the time he went up to Liverpool and discovered an as-yet unknown rock band called The Beatles and George insulted his suit, and we made him write that story down and we built a whole one-shot fanzine around it. That fanzine was called Chuch, and you can go there now and read Chris' story, "Thank You, Girls."

RIP: Brian Stableford 1948-2024, British SF author of 80 novels and a lot of other things. He was one of those people who Dave Langford alerted me to early as one of the Good Guys, and he was. My heart really goes out to Dave, losing such close, long-time friends at once.

RIP: Liaden Universe Co-Author Steve Miller. (1950-2024). I really liked this guy back in the BaltiWash days, and I was really happy to hear he'd married Sharon Lee and they were writing together up in Maine. I'd always meant to look at their stuff but I never saw it on shelves locally, and then a chance remark from a friend made me put them on my wishlist. It didn't take me long to realize I wanted all of the Liaden novels, they ring all my chimes. I stayed in contact with Steve, and got to know Sharon better, on Facebook, and was right chuffed about it all. I'm sorry to say I took no photos of him but one day shortly after a party at his place, he presented me with this photo of me being leered at by two guys, which had amused him. So here's a nice old shot of his sofa and me being thin, once upon a time. But there's a nice pic of him and Sharon on that obit page.

RIP: "Hinton Battle, Three-Time Tony Winner and Original The Wiz, Actor, Dies at 67: Hinton Battle, the Tony-winning performer who originated the role of The Scarecrow in Broadway's The Wiz, has died. He was 67. The actor died Tuesday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles following a lengthy illness." But of course, we loved him as the dancing demon.

"Moral Bankruptcy: The constitutional grant of a second chance for the destitute has become an enabler of reverse wealth redistribution. One wild case in Houston tells the story. [...] THE NATION'S BANKRUPTCY CODE, the constitutionally enshrined system by which Americans are theoretically afforded the chance to discharge unmanageable debts, has over the past decade or two quietly metamorphosed into a vast enabler of reverse wealth redistribution. Corporations have exploited the tremendous privileges of bankruptcy protection to abrogate union contracts, cram down unilateral wage and benefit cuts, eject lawsuits filed by customers and community members killed by toxic products and manufacturing processes, back out of funding pensions and zero out the savings accounts of workers they pressured into investing in company stock as a condition of keeping their jobs, settle wrongful death claims for less than a penny on the dollar, evade responsibility for cleaning up after oil spills or refinery explosions or poisoning groundwater with benzene, and, of course, discharge debt incurred in the process of defrauding vulnerable students into taking out tens of thousands of dollars in student loans they are practically barred by law from discharging in bankruptcy themselves."

Kuttner presents the depressing news of "The Return of Tony Blair: The former prime minister has all but taken over the Labour Party and pushed it to the right. Didn't Tony Blair, nicknamed Tory Blur, do enough damage last time? When Bill Clinton was the U.S. president and Tony Blair was the British prime minister, they were soulmates. They brought us neoliberalism. Both Clinton's New Democrats and Blair's New Labour turned away from progressivism and working families in favor of globalist corporate financial elites. Neoliberal deregulation of finance in turn produced the economic collapse in 2008. The failure of the center-left party to maximize the moment, contain capital, and rebuild a pro-worker economy led to the defection of working-class voters and ultimately to Trump in the U.S. and Brexit in the U.K. At home, Joe Biden has at last broken with Democratic neoliberalism. In Britain, the Conservative Party has lurched from blunder to blunder and from failed leader to failed leader, setting up a return to Labour. The Labour Party, under Keir Starmer, is the odds-on favorite to win the next general election, which could be as early as May or as late as next January. But Starmer, rather than rebuilding a progressive party, has virtually outsourced his entire program to Tony Blair. Based on its recent pronouncements, a Starmer government, if anything, would be worse than Blair's."

This article is good, but it doesn't get to the heart of the matter, which is that the publisher in question shows no interest in presenting the unvarnished facts he so claims he wants the public to have so we can make up our own minds. You might get one rigorously researched article with nothing-but-the-facts on a particular issue, but when you have half a dozen articles that are clearly propaganda for one side full of widely-debunked nonsense as their foundation, you just might suspect a bias is in effect. And why do you print dozens of articles on an issue hardly anyone cares about when they don't even carry any illumination, let alone when they are full of holes? And, you know, everyone already knows Biden is old, why harp on it constantly? Even in an environment where The Times was rooting for Biden, you'd get the occasional reference to his age, but you really don't need to mention it that often — more often than Trump's visible dementia is mentioned. It's like that. "Why is New York Times campaign coverage so bad? Because that's what the publisher wants."

Ryan Cooper learned about "The Best Tax System on Earth: What America and the world can learn from the Faroe Islands [...] The Faroes have a tax system that is unique even among their Nordic neighbors, and probably the best in the world. Its operating principles are centralization, efficiency, and simplicity. It's not the most riveting subject for a travel holiday, I'll readily admit. But it's beautiful in its own way—and it makes a major difference in the lives of every Faroese person, from the lowest worker to the owners of the biggest businesses. It's hard to imagine fully implementing such a system in the United States, but we still might learn from their example."

Dave Johnson in 2013, "The 1983 Strategy Behind Today's Social Security Attacks: Suppose you're in a bar and you overhear a couple of guys in the next booth talking about a plan to steal from people's houses. As you eavesdrop the plan unfolds: one will come to the front door pretending to be from the gas company warning the homeowner about a gas leak down the street. While he distracts the homeowner at the front door, the other one will sneak in the back door and take stuff. So the next day the doorbell rings, and there's a guy saying he is from the gas company. He says he wants to talk a while to warn you about a gas leak down the street... This is what is happening with this constant drumbeat of attacks on Social Security. The attack on Social Security never goes away, it only escalates. As we go into this next round of attacks -- this time it is even coming from the President* -- it is more than useful to understand the background of this campaign against the program."

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