Thursday, March 31, 2022

Thanks transfolk and all the rest of genderqueer land

Yesterday, the Biden administration issued a new interpretation of the civil rights law that applies to schools, otherwise known as Title IX. These regulations carry the power of law. This is what the Department of Education hopes to enact. There will be push back!

The draft text of the regulation included this key sentence, according to the people familiar with it: “Discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination on the basis of sex stereotypes, sex-related characteristics (including intersex traits), pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity.” 
I'm gobsmacked. Not so much by the outlawing of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as by that first prohibited category: "on the basis of sex stereotypes." If that sticks and gradually moves into our common experience, we'll be attempting something profoundly novel in this culture.

Women and men experience socially constrained stereotypes of femininity and masculinity. Huge numbers of us don't feel the roles we're expected to perform quite fit who we know ourselves to be. Mostly we find ways to be good enough at "male" or "female," but at the cost of not feeling quite ourselves. What would the world be like if we could be more ourselves? 

Slowly and painfully, largely thanks to the bravery of queer, lesbian and gay, transsexual, non-binary, intersex, and the whole melange of us who are somehow non-stereotype conforming, we're trying to change the world.

Sorry, gender-fearful Republicans.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Cosplay meets limits

What wouldn't Donald Trump give to be the recipient of that shit-eating grin? 

The photo is lifted from a tough article by a tough man, National Hockey League Hall of Famer Ken Dryden. In the 1970s, Dryden was THE MAN in Canadian hockey for the Montreal Canadiens who won the Stanley Cup (hockey's Super Bowl) five times with him in goal. 

He writes:

Putin also seems not to understand about hockey something that might relate to this moment: The tough are initiators, they deliver hard, devastating hits, but the really tough take those hits … and keep going, to win in the end. Just like in Leningrad. Obliterating the Ukrainian city of Mariupol doesn’t make you tough.

I'm no fan of this masculine chest bumping, but Dryden sure is more authentic than Vlad.

In some ways the most interesting thing about Dryden was that he took a year off hockey during his peak playing days to complete a law degree, interning for one of Ralph Nader's offshoots, the Ontario Public Interest Research Group. He was later a Liberal Party politician with only moderate success -- that places him with current Premier Justin Trudeau, perhaps a progressive Democrat if he were in the States.

By the way, the picture is from a 2021 exhibition in Sochi, Russia. Putin is looking at the referee who is likely determined not to let anything bad happen to his ruler.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Monster or wise woman? Or both?

When I heard that Madeleine Albright had died, my first, and essentially only, thought was of this 60 Minutes exchange from 1996. For more than a decade before George W. Bush's war of choice on Iraq in 2003, Iraqis lived under punishing economic sanctions imposed after Gulf War I, President G.H.W. Bush's excellent adventure in oil country. These economic sanctions endured and were increased under Bill Clinton. The first woman Secretary of State, a Clinton appointee, Albright was quizzed about the policy:

Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it? 
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.
No wonder I thought her a monster. 

Apparently she later tried to walk this back a bit, but such a retreat rarely takes. I was later intrigued that she only discovered her Jewish ancestry late in life; her refugee parents thought concealment might help her survive even in America. And I did note that she used whatever megaphone she had in old age to denounce Donald Trump's flirtations with fascism.

But this was not someone to look up to.

So when all sorts of commentators began writing laudatory appreciations of this woman, I made myself read some of them because I'm committed to trying to understand even if I abhor. 

David Von Drehle of the Washington Post recounted an Albright remark as revealing as her brutal dismissal of Iraqi lives.

Madeleine Korbel Albright was so thoroughly her father’s daughter that she said her formative experience as a foreign policy expert was an event that happened when she could barely walk. “My mind-set is Munich,” she once said, while “most of my generation’s is Vietnam.” By “Munich” she meant the 1938 capitulation of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to Hitler’s demand for parts of the former Bohemia. Hitler kept right on going, sending tanks to Prague and more tanks to Poland and launching another, even worse world war. 
To have a Vietnam mind-set — today we might substitute “Afghanistan” — is to say the United States should not be the world’s policeman because policemen make mistakes. To have a Munich mind-set — today we might substitute “Ukraine” — is to say the other applicants for the job of maintaining order are likely to be worse.
This I can understand. 

I'm unequivocally, by age and also by choice, a member of that Vietnam cohort. Seeing that futile and immoral war, I've never believed in my government's high-minded pronouncements when it unleashes our bloated military might. 

Those of us who retain that mindset, or acquired it watching our misbegotten mideastern misconduct, are challenged by Russia's assault on Ukraine.

It's not hard to admire Ukrainian grit in the face of vicious invasion. A thwarted Russian force does seem to be using criminal tactics against Ukrainian cities. President Zelensky offers a model of heroism we apparently have yearned for.

Erudite Partner and I have been forced to examine what we think we'd be doing if we were Ukrainians. We are a couple of old ladies -- but we're pretty good organizers of people and things. We would try to be useful to our country. Other nice people probably would be urging us to get out if we could. 

The very idea of a just struggle in Ukraine is foreign to a life shaped by resistance to American empire. But there we are. I am not ashamed to support the Ukrainians in their war.

But, as proud member of the Vietnam generation, I remain wary. May peace with whatever justice can be salvaged come soon.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Who is left and who is right

Matt Yglesias offered one of his counterintuitive takes at his Slow Boring substack recently that that I found worth thinking about:

American politics has been shifting leftward for years. 
I know some people find that absurd. But imagine if [Republican House Speaker-in-waiting] Kevin McCarthy gave a speech this week where he said “after we retake the House this fall, we’re going to fight against wokeness by kicking gay soldiers out of the military and curb inflation by privatizing Social Security and cutting Medicaid and K-12 school funding.” That would be the best news the DCCC and DSCC have heard in years! But it would just mean McCarthy was reiterating his support for Paul Ryan’s policy ideas from 10 years ago. Meanwhile, Biden’s positions on virtually everything are at least a little bit to the left of Obama’s.

I think he is correct that Dems have moved left in many respects. 

This very broad coalition has to cover a lot of bases; we are a magnificent mix struggling to preserve a democracy in which citizen participation gives majorities some power. This coalition also struggles between and among its constituencies. This mystifies GOPers. Our internal battles look like "moving left" to a mono-cultural Republican party of old, white Christian nationalists. And they do move us somewhere new, in uneven fashion. 

But Matt's take is belied by what we saw in the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. Republicans haven't moderated their most repressive aims; they merely expect to shift the battle away from the people to their packed court. At Slate, Mark Joseph Stern saw all too clear portents in the Republican grilling of the next Justice that, after decreeing that women are just vessels for fetuses, they hope the Court will come after the notion of a right to sexual privacy and individual choice, starting with gay marriage and moving on to contraception.
During Ketanji Brown Jackson’s hearings this week, GOP senators have, predictably, condemned Roe—but not as much as might be expected. Instead, many senators have turned their attention to a different precedent that’s likely next on their hit list once Roe likely falls this summer: Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision recognizing same-sex couples’ constitutional right to marry. 
Loathing for Obergefell emerged early on Tuesday, when Republican Sen. John Cornyn launched a frontal assault on the ruling, then sought Jackson’s reaction. He began by criticizing “substantive due process,” which holds that the “liberty” protected by the due process clause protects substantive rights, not just procedural ones. The Supreme Court has used this theory to enforce “unenumerated rights” that it deems fundamental, including the right to marry, raise children, use contraception, and terminate a pregnancy. Along with equal protection, it served as the basis of Obergefell. According to Cornyn, however, this doctrine is “just another form of judicial policymaking” that can be used “to justify basically any result.” 
... In case it wasn’t clear what these senators were up to, Cornyn made it explicit on Wednesday afternoon. “The Constitution doesn’t mention the word abortion,” he lectured Jackson, “just like it doesn’t mention the word marriage.” ...
Look for these attacks on the lives of us all to be labelled "protecting religious freedom." As a person who identifies with a religion, I am offended.

This packed Supreme Court will be an obstacle to human freedom -- and to the desires of majorities of us -- until it isn't. How that happens I don't know, but if we preserve democracy, it will happen.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Electrify everything!

Every once in a while, it's worth reminding San Franciscans that we have something tangible we can do about climate change.  

CleanPowerSF, a city program, provides a choice of either 50% renewable or 100% renewable electric power to residents using the existing PG&E power lines. You can sign up here.

CleanPowerSF is only marginally more expensive than regular, dirty PG&E power.

Now we need to think about electric stoves, electric hot water heating, and electric powered cars -- all transitions that are more complicated and sometimes expensive than just ordering clean power through a city program.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

The meaning of MAGA

Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama thought he had a clear path to winning an open Senate seat because he'd caught the gold ring: an endorsement from Donald Trump. He was Trump's guy; what could go wrong? Then the ex-president noticed that Brooks' campaign wasn't catching fire, so DJT took back his endorsement.

Brooks issued a statement explaining what Trump asked for from his endorsees. Trump demanded that he promise to:
    •    rescind the 2020 elections
    •    immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House
    •    immediately put President Trump back in the White House and
    •    and hold a new special election for the presidency

Brooks sought to recapture some shred of dignity by explaining:
As a lawyer, I’ve repeatedly advised President Trump that January 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit what President Trump asks. Period. 
I’ve told President Trump the truth knowing full well that it might cause President Trump to rescind his endorsement.
This story comes by way of Charlie Sykes who knows his Republican crackpots because he's seen the political party he once promoted hi-jacked by all manner of crazy.

The story has a moral: Every Republican candidate for any office should be asked by media and potential constituents at every appearance whether they are onboard with Trump's plan. Will they work to rescind the 2020 election, throw out Biden, and reseat Trump? Yes or no?

(Bet most of them will scamper away ...)

• • •

Meanwhile, Democratic communicator Dan Pfeiffer offers a deep dive into why the MAGA movement is so simpatico with Vladimir Putin:

1. Addicted to Strength: The concept of strength is the axis on which Republican politics has long rotated. Every Republican political campaign is about portraying the GOPer as strong and the Democrat as weak. ... When strength at all costs is emphasized at the expense of empathy, compassion, and morals, Putin can become the ideal leader for a morally bankrupt political party.

2. An Apocalyptic Mentality: The public tends to gravitate towards strongman-like figures out of fear. And fear is a central feature of Republican messaging. ... The driving force in the politics of fear is that before too long White people will represent a minority of Americans and the dominant political position that many believe is their birthright is at risk. Putin’s restorative nationalism is appealing to this segment of the population.

3. White Power: There is something grossly ironic about the America First movement idolizing a former KGB agent trying to reestablish America’s greatest adversary. But “America First,” really means “White America First. ... If you are skeptical about the central role of race, ask yourself why the Far Right loves Putin and Orban but disdains Xi Jinping of China? Pay close attention to what they are saying today in order to be prepared for tomorrow.

4. The Perverse Incentives of the Internet Attention Economy: Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, and Tucker Carlson have a lot in common. One of these commonalities is an inherent understanding of how to get and maintain attention in a media ecosystem powered by outrage. ...  
Unabridged version here.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Friday cat blogging

Nice to see this cat gets to join the fun in the sun. Janeway has one of these cat leash contraptions, but our noisy street isn't this attractive.

No idea what the "cat in puffy" flag was meant to signify.

Both pics from the Presidio while Walking San Francisco.

The Vindmans have a bit of an answer from President Joe

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman came to public notice as the brave national security officer who testified to Donald Trump's plot to extort the Ukrainian president for dirt on the Biden family. He lost his career path for that one. His twin, Yevgeny Vindman, also a White House national security officer, was fired and marched out unceremoniously by the Trump regime.

The twins were born in Ukraine, but joined the Jewish exodus from the late Soviet Union and grew up in New York City, becoming patriotic citizens along the way.

Wednesday, Vevgeny posted a tweet imploring his country to welcome Ukrainian refugees from the Russian invasion. 

Weapons and humanitarian aid ✅. What about refugees? Are we accepting refugees entry into the US? Refugees and immigrants contribute enormously to our country.

Y. Vindman replied to the inevitable questions:

I’m the cuter one. @AVindman is the goofier one.

Thursday Joe Biden promised a small measure of welcome to Ukrainian refugees and aid to European countries bearing the main burden of this mass migration.

Bowing to domestic and international pressure, the United States announced on Thursday that it would accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees into the country and would donate $1 billion to help European countries handle a surge of migrants fleeing Russia’s invasion.

The announcement comes as countries facing an exodus of some three million refugees have sought assistance from the United States, which has been engaged in its own struggle to absorb thousands of refugees from the war in Afghanistan.

... Earlier this week, in discussions in Washington, U.S. officials said they were considering bringing in Ukrainians with relatives in the United States under a streamlined family reunification process. Other Ukrainians deemed to be vulnerable, such as members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community, political activists and journalists, potentially would be considered for temporary protection, according to the sources.

The Vindmans and even the Times highlight HIAS and Razom for Ukraine as go-to places for charitable donations to help refugees.

• • •

The Times is kinder about our obligations to Afghans than I would be. Can we get Joe Biden to take seriously the plight of people who fled during and after our military belly flop at withdrawal? A good country is one that recognizes its debts.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Where to go from here?

We streamed LUNANA: A YAK IN THE CLASSROOM this week. Nominated for an Oscar as Best International Feature Film, the movie tells the story of a young Bhutanese teacher dispatched, over his objections, to the most remote school in the country, a 10 day hike into the Himalayan foothills. His electronic devices go dead, keeping a fire burning requires collecting yak dung, and the school doesn't even have a blackboard. But the children turn out to be bright and eager to learn, the village leader's daughter teaches him to appreciate the magic of this remote valley, and even to how to get along with Norbu, the yak who lives in the classroom. Too soon, the teacher leaves this beautiful place, returns to accomplish his urban dream of emigrating to Australia -- and realizes that he may have left behind something vital.

Sounds trite, doesn't it? And maybe it is. The actors are beautiful and the scenery majestic. The film was an unalloyed joy to watch.

Yet I realized overnight that the film had stayed with me; there's depth in it.

I had the privilege of traveling in Bhutan in 2013. It was a fascinating place: a constitutional monarchy with a governing parliament, chosen by elections that international observers characterize as largely free and fair. The state aims to give all Bhutanese young people a modern education. In a country with many local dialects, all students learn English along with Dzongkha. Education promotes Western science; urban dwellers are plugged in citizens of the world. Yet Bhutan is also trying to keep its distinctive Buddhist culture alive and flourishing. Professional life is carried on in traditional dress; politicians compete to promote "Gross National Happiness" as well as security, health, and prosperity.

None of this is easy to balance. People we encountered in 2013 openly discussed whether the balance -- old and new, capitalist and cooperative, scientific and spiritual -- that makes Bhutan feel unique could be sustained. The tiny kingdom sits between Indian and China, both seeking influence. It has a Nepali minority who are very poorly treated. And if Bhutanese are really free, will they continue to want to preserve the national way of life?

These questions are the subject of Lunana. The filmmakers don't bash you over the head with them, but they are all there to ponder amid the gorgeous scenery. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Happens every primary season

Paul Waldman, an opinion writer at the Washington Post, took a whack at a hardy perennial feature of primary season among Democrats. One set, labeled "centrists" by journalists, complains that progressives will force candidates so far to the left that they won't be able to win a general election. Another set says that voters will be uninspired by a nice safe candidate who offers only small incremental improvements in their lives. Waldman asserts Democratic centrists want to say politics is simple. They’re wrong. 

Exhibit A for Waldman is the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate primary contest between "moderate" Congressman Conor Lamb and Lt. Governor John Fetterman. It's not going the way some Democratic donors think it should. Fetterman is ahead in polls, not their guy Lamb.

The [Democratic donor] super PAC’s analysis is simple: Lamb is more centrist than Fetterman; Fetterman is winning because people don’t understand that; eventually they will, even if it doesn’t happen until the general election; so primary voters have to be persuaded to get with the program now and back the centrist in the race.  
The trouble is that while the Pennsylvania Senate primary might involve ideology, it isn’t just about ideology. With all due respect to Conor Lamb, he’s pretty indistinguishable from a thousand congressional candidates who have come before: clean-cut, solid résumé, just the kind of person you picture when you think “congressman.” 
Fetterman, on the other hand, stands out, from his imposing stature (6-foot-8) to his tattoos to his sartorial choices (he’s one of those shorts-in-the-winter guys) to his unashamed advocacy of issues such as marijuana legalization. Might his liberalism be a vulnerability in a closely divided state? It’s possible, but it’s also possible that his long record of concern for people in distressed areas of the state will help him win votes in places many Democrats don’t. Some people love Fetterman because of who he is, and some people don’t. 
... Lamb has discovered that reminding everyone he’s a moderate is taking him only so far. The argument between centrists and liberals might never be resolved, but don’t believe anyone who tells you the answer is as simple as these moderates believe.
Some comments: National Democratic leaders will almost always prefer the uninspiring "centrists" in these contests -- because should they get elected, they'll be a lot easier to work with. I bet I know who Chuck Schumer would prefer to deal with in his caucus.

The "moderate" candidates will almost always have an easier time raising money. People with big money don't want the boat rocked. Bernie proved you can get around this with small donors, but non-standard candidates will always face a high bar. 

And, from years of canvassing and working get-out-the-vote, votes aren't very attuned to these divides. These days, party label accounts for most vote choices. Among the sliver who really are making a choice, they want to feel like this person cares about people like me. That can go in as many directions as there are voters. 

I don't have a horse in the PA Senate race. Lamb was a sterling candidate who won a formerly Republican House seat in a very tough race in 2018. He was what that set of voters wanted. Fetterman is more a wild card, but he has won statewide before. The voters will decide May 17.

Here's Fetterman's introductory ad:

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Old bulls performing today ...

Naturally she's experienced -- experienced at shoveling aside BS. That's always been part of her career path.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Crash, bang, boom, part 4 -- feeding the IRS edition

They're still at it on the roof above me. 

But we're getting stuff done around here. Today we filed our taxes, as early as I can ever remember accomplishing it.

This historical artifact (I think genuine) captures the ambivalence of the moment. Ultimately, the state we finance makes war possible. Of course taxes also do plenty of other things -- as many as we the people can squeeze out of the state through ongoing agitation. 

Citizenship is so much more than paying those taxes. At least this year I can be glad taxes are going to a pretty competent Biden administration rather than to an inept wannabe autocrat.  

Enough for now.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Shards from the Embattled Republic

An occasional list of links to provoking commentary. Some annotated by me. 

To-be Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson

Theodore Johnson, director of the Fellows Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, writing at The Bulwark: "... what will it mean if the progressive wing of the Court made up of three women—one black, one Hispanic, and one Jewish—is consistently on the losing side, their constitutional interpretation on issues of civil rights and criminal justice routinely defeated?" My heart goes out to these sisters ... Can you imagine having to work with those pricks (one honorary)?

New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie: "for Americans who want a more equal society, the Supreme Court has been, is and will continue to be an adversary, not an ally. Understanding that fact is the first step toward doing something about it." 

• • •

Polish politician and member of the European Parliament Radosław Sikorski observes: "Populism has roots in many things, including frivolity. Electorates were voting for outlandish politicians in the UK, in the United States and elsewhere, out of a sense that nothing can go wrong, and therefore we can have these weird individuals. And now we know that things can go very badly wrong, and we need steadier hands." Over and over we have to learn this -- the politics of frivolity is a luxury item suitable only for an unserious society.

G. Elliot Morris, data nerd for The Economist: "Congressional election outcomes serve as very limited barometers of the public’s preferences for policy and presidents. ... If Democrats lose 30 or 40 seats in November, it is very hard to claim that x, y, or z is the thing that costs them electorally. That’s because lots of things matter marginally but most of the swing is already baked in. Though they have some control over how many seats they will lose in November, barring a war or political realignment by November, the Democrats lost Congress when they won the White House." I think of this well-founded observation when I read screeds about how Democrats should adopt this message or that one -- or throw this part of our coalition under the bus or that one ... We will need to work our darndest to hold as many Congressional seats as possible knowing the odds are against us, while winning some winnable Senate races and governor contests.

Nsé Ufot, chief executive of the New Georgia Project: “We need to remember that disinformation and fear that drives the other side, particularly around issues like critical race theory, do not equally drive Black voters ... We have to stop being reactive to talking points that motivate other audiences while ignoring the issues that actually matter to Black voters.” These Georgia folks have proved they know how to focus where their work can do the most good.

Stacey Abrams, running for Georgia governor, is very clear on what will get her elected: "You should not vote for me as a person. You should vote for me as a proxy, as a representative for who you are and what you want your community to be. The minute a politician becomes the product itself, we find ourselves in a lot of trouble. We’ve had recent examples of people buying the commodity versus the conduit." Abrams is the living antithesis of our frivolous politicians.

• • •

Philip Bump in the Washington Post: "Putin’s defenders in his fight against democracy are those who are disparaging America’s diversity, over and over again." Republicans are finding the present moment confusing. Putin invaded a democratic Ukraine, politics became more serious, and massaging racial and gender resentment ceased to provide an adequate compass. Some might find new bearings; many will remain unserious panderers to unserious crackpots.

Feminist stalwart Jessica Valenti: "To the politicians pushing anti-choice laws, women dying isn’t collateral damage—it’s just our job. They believe that if we were real mothers and real women, we’d give up anything for pregnancy: Our education, our finances, our safety, our health and even our lives." Woman hatred is real.

Paul Butler: "Students who think their education should be free of racist slurs from professors are not illiberal snowflakes who don’t understand academic values. They simply want to learn in an environment where their teachers don’t judge them by their race or gender." He's calling bull___ on fear of "cancel culture." 

Hamid Hayat served 14 years in federal prison for a crime he didn't commit because there was no crime. "His country once looked at him and imagined a terrorist. Americans feared his anger, and for that, he lost nearly everything. So if he does feel anger now, he isn’t free to show it. He still worries what co-workers and neighbors will think when they learn about his story. He still feels the need to show that he has a good heart, a good mind. He is still afraid of America’s fear." Because it was convenient for the people running the country, we let ourselves be run off our rails by exaggerated fears of Muslims. We should remember this, if we don't want to compound the folly and our crimes of cowardice.

Ariel Dorfman explores the urge of the powerful to censor: "... Winnie the Pooh was banned in China because apparently the portly, lovable bear was being used by dissidents to mock President Xi Jinping." 

For a last word here: the Reverend Dr Ellen Clark-King, Dean of King’s College London: "TL:DR  God is not male so broaden your pronouns."

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Some people love showing their skills ...

They are out there everyday along San Francisco's Embarcadero.

They usually have an audience, but you get the sense that they perform mostly to impress each other.

I enjoyed the show while Walking San Francisco.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Away with useless grass!

Scanning The Nevada Independent, this wonderful ad popped up:

Since most readers here aren't located in Nevada, I've broken the link to the landscape company that placed it. Sorry if you wanted their services -- but you can probably find it.

The ad makes me jump for joy. 

The state of Nevada makes no sense as a population center. It's a desert, for goodness sake. 

Yet the Las Vegas area has been growing for years. And the city has been drawing its water from the Colorado River by way of artificial Lake Mead for decades. Because of the long running western drought, Lake Mead is currently at its lowest level ever. 

Now Las Vegas is actually somewhat better at water conservation than you might think. All those attractive fountains around casinos use recycled water quite efficiently. 

But in 2021 the Nevada legislature took what residents of many U.S. locales might consider a drastic step to reduce water waste. They moved to outlaw "useless grass" in many settings. 

LAS VEGAS—Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has signed into law a bill supported by the Southern Nevada Water Authority that requires the removal of “useless,” or purely decorative, grass throughout the Las Vegas Valley by the end of 2026. ...

The law does not apply to grass in homeowners’ yards, or to grass used for recreation at schools and parks.

... Nonfunctional turf is grass that no one uses for sports, picnics, or other recreational activities. Some areas of nonfunctional turf are simply narrow strips grass bordering parking lots, walkways, and sidewalks. These narrow areas of purely decorative grass create significant amounts of sprinkler overspray and water waste.

Other examples of nonfunctional turf are found along streets between the curb and sidewalk; in traffic circles and medians; in landscaping at office parks and commercial properties, and at entryways for housing developments.

If the only person that uses the grass is pushing a lawn mower, it is nonfunctional.

So, happily, enterprising businesses are seeking to profit off helping landowners come into compliance.

And Nevada is setting a pattern that most regions will have to adopt as the earth warms. Unused expanses of green grass will become a luxury. Let's do it voluntarily before we're forced by necessity. We can learn to appreciate alternatives.

Crash, bang, boom, part 3; Friday cat blogging

A sensible cat might hide under a bed while the roofers bang above. Not Janeway. She wants to know what all the excitement is about.

Her human hopes this is the last day of this -- it's supposed to drizzle a little tomorrow.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Where does the world go from here?

There is so much enthusiasm, terror, and anxiety floating among us. The atmosphere is intoxicating and perilous. Let's survey about some of the emotions surfaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pulled our heart strings by speaking to what we want to believe we value:

Right now, the destiny of our country is being decided. The destiny of our people, whether Ukrainians will be free, whether they will be able to preserve their democracy. Russia has attacked not just us, not just our land, our cities. It went on a brutal offensive against our values. Basic human values. Against our freedom, our right to live freely, choosing our own future. Against our desire for happiness, against our national dreams.
We're profoundly unused to heroism. Here's a guy -- and a people -- Davids up against a nasty Goliath. How could we not be moved? We, most of us, have plenty of reason to believe our country and society are in trouble, largely inept, decayed, amoral, racist, and scarcely functioning after pandemic and ascendant nationalist thuggery.

Historian of Ukraine Timothy Snyder diagnoses our feelings:
[Ukrainians] are consoling us.  Because Ukrainians are resisting, not just on the battlefield but as a society, they console us all. Every day they act is one when we can reflect, and hope. People do have values. The world is not empty.  People do find courage. There are things worth taking risks for.
It feels so good -- to be able to believe for a few minutes that the United States is for once on the right side of freedom. I'm seventy-four. No U.S. war in my lifetime has seemed to me just. (Yes, I can tell you why, but that's not what I'm writing about here.) I'm a Christian; I think most theory of "just war" is empire-serving sophistry. War is evil. But so is a brutish dictator choosing to invade a neighboring country and smash a functioning society. And yet, war is still never something to enjoy.

For some people -- perhaps too many -- there's both purpose and romance in a just cause. Hieu is a U.S. combat veteran who knew what he had to do. He was present when Russian missiles struck the Yavoriv military training center in western Ukraine.

When Russia launched its full-scale attack on Ukraine in February, he felt compelled to join the international legion, which is open to foreigners who want to fight the Russians. “It’s the right thing to do,” Hieu posted on his Facebook page in February. “I want to help the Ukrainian people and as [a] US veteran, I feel compelled to stand up for my American ideals. I’m mostly healthy and I’m qualified so I would not be able to rest easy knowing that I didn’t do something when I could.”
Let's hope he gets back alive.

In this time, I feel intense comradeship with Russians who want to explain to the world that they do not endorse what their ruler has begun.

Journalist Yevgenia Albats tells a western interviewer:
I feel awful. I'm a citizen of the Russian Federation. And I always thought that being political journalist, I have to have the same sort of constraints, in the same settings, as people I write for. I could have applied for Israeli citizenship because I'm Jewish, or Spanish or Portuguese citizenship, because centuries ago, my ancestors went from Morocco and they were kicked out from Spain and Portugal. It never even occurred to me to do that. I thought: “I have to be just a Russian citizen, as the readers are for whom I write.” 
I feel so ashamed [of] my country, which went through the awful realities of the World War II—my country, which lost 27 million people to Nazi occupation and the war. My dad fought at the front in World War II. And you know where? In Nikolaev. Yes. It is like a joke of history. My dad was parachuted onto the territory of Nazi-occupied Ukraine. ...
Ilia Krasilshchik is the former publisher of Meduza, an independent news outlet.
... The primary responsibility for this evil lies squarely at the feet of Mr. Putin and his entourage. But for those who opposed the regime, in ways big and small, the responsibility is also ours to bear. How did it happen? What did we do wrong? How do we prevent this from happening again? These are the questions we’re facing. No matter where we are — in Moscow, Tbilisi, Yerevan, Riga, Istanbul, Tel Aviv or New York — and no matter what we do. 
 ... We must now put aside our individual concerns and accept our common responsibility for the war. Such an act is, first and foremost, a moral necessity. But it could also be the first step toward a new Russian nation — a nation that could talk to the world in a language other than wars and threats, a nation that others will learn not to fear. It is toward creating this Russia that we, outcast and exiled and persecuted, should bend our efforts.
In the context of America's wars, especially the Iraq war, I would sometimes make the bitter joke that the only people as deeply ashamed of their country as I was of mine were anti-Zionist Israelis watching the pounding of Gaza. Antiwar Russians -- welcome to this sad club.

People in the United States need to understand that not everyone in the world sees the Russian invasion of Ukraine and our material and empathetic cheer-leading as we do.

Anthony Faiola and Lesley Wroughton report:
Many countries in the developing world, including some of Russia’s closest allies, are unsettled by Putin’s breach of Ukrainian sovereignty. Yet the giants of the Global South — including India, Brazil and South Africa — are hedging their bets while China still publicly backs Putin. Even NATO-member Turkey is acting coy, moving to shut off the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to all warships, not just the Russians. 
Just as Western onlookers often shrug at far-flung conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, some citizens in emerging economies are gazing at Ukraine and seeing themselves without a dog in this fight — and with compelling national interests for not alienating Russia. In a broad swath of the developing world, the Kremlin’s talking points are filtering into mainstream news and social media. But even more measured assessments portray Ukraine as not the battle royal between good and evil being witnessed by the West, but a Machiavellian tug of war between Washington and Moscow. ...
After all, there is little reason for most of the world to look upon the United States or Europe as particularly benevolent forces.
A 27-year-old doctor living near Nairobi in Kenya questioned how Americans could be outraged over the Russian invasion when “for so long, they had a monopoly over anarchy.” New York Times
And a monopoly over unjustified invasions of choice ...

To my moderate surprise, I think Joe Biden is handling this potentially catastrophic moment pretty well. He has been measured, resolute, and seems to remember that it is Ukrainians and European states that are in the immediate line of fire. So far, so good.

I do wonder, along with Peter Beinart who is feeling much chastened after having applauded past U.S. military adventures, whether Biden and his staff have visualized an endgame, especially to the sanctions which certainly are an act of economic war.

After 9/11, ... righteous indignation constricted public debate. I’m not even talking about the debate over invading Iraq. Think back to the debate over invading Afghanistan. Because the Taliban was so odious, because it deserved to be overthrown, Americans found it extremely difficult to question the wisdom of doing so. No one wanted to be accused of despising the Taliban less than everyone else. So not enough people (myself included) asked hard questions about America’s strategy.  
In this moment of justified fury at Vladimir Putin, I fear that’s happening again today.
It's not just Putin who needs an off-ramp. Someday Ukraine and the rest of us need to visualize a livable end.

Crash, bang, boom, part 2

There go bundles of shingles up to the roof. I remember being a construction flunky who sometimes carried those up in a more primitive setting. They are heavy. And when they land, the house shakes.

Regular blogging will resume when the disruption subsides.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Crash, bang, boom

Installing a new dishwasher was satisfying, but living under the roof being torn off is unsettling.

Because the old roof had covered a previous set of shingles, the whole thing has to be torn off. And new sheathing attached. Guess I'll resume work here when the banging stops, which may be a day or so.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Texas is about to commit a crime

The state of Texas plans to execute Melissa Lucio on April 27 for killing her 2 year old daughter Mariah in 2007. 

According to the Innocence Project, the child's death was "a crime that never occurred." Yes, there was a dead toddler. And there was a huge Latinx family living from hand to mouth in a culture of deep poverty and dysfunction that was inexplicable to the Anglo legal system. Add an ambitious DA who needs a "win" -- a conviction came easy. Oh yeah, that DA later was convicted of corruptly profiting from drug crimes. But none of that helped Melissa -- Texas aims to kill her.

The documentary The State of Texas vs Melissa is an extraordinary accomplishment, introducing and unveiling a maze of incomprehension mixed with love and malevolence. 

 The incomprehension is well-nigh universal. For her family:

"As close as we were, there were a lot of things happening. Maybe we just wanted to block it out. ... it's like opening up our wounds. ... there's nobody there to set her free. we need to continue to live."

And Melissa herself:

"If I was out there, I'd have my children with me ..."

Filmed at a moment in Melissa's long travail when there seemed more hope than today that justice might prevail, it is absolutely worth viewing.

Take a look and join the campaign to stop this mad execution.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Why doesn't California have this?

Of perhaps we do and I just don't know it. (I get my health care in the closed Kaiser system, so I enjoy the advantages of that.)

Because of having worked on elections in Nevada, I scan the news from the Silver State and was delighted to see that Governor Steve Sisolak has managed to launch a prescription drug cost savings program.

According to the Nevada Independent

Gov. announced that Nevada will join Oregon and Washington in the Northwest Prescription Drug Consortium, a partnership that allows residents to use drug discount cards to purchase prescription drugs at lower costs.

... Data shared by the state using examples from Oregon and Washington offer an example of potential cost savings for consumers. The retail chain cash price for 30 counts of 20 mg Atorvastatin, a medication widely used to lower cholesterol, is $127, but through the program, the cost could be reduced to just $6.14. Similarly, five 3 ml Lantus Solostar insulin pens can cost $530 at a retail chain, but the program can lower the cost to approximately $418.

... All residents of Nevada are free to enroll regardless of their private insurance. Slamowitz said consumers can choose to use the ArrayRx Card, that can be used at 65,000 locations nationwide or use their pharmacy benefit, depending on whichever provides a better price. 

Drug companies can just run over individuals. Harnessing the power our numbers is what government should be doing. If the feds can't get it done, states should get on with it. 

Bravo Nevada Democrats!

Sunday, March 13, 2022

A sometimes wise, often strange, book

The book excerpts that follow, written in 2020 as far as I can tell, seem perhaps even more on point about what we are trying to comprehend today than when they were written:

Whereas Hungary represents how capitalism without meaning or restraint open the door for a return to an older nationalism, Russia represents the disruptive force that nationalism can be in the world when hitched to a belligerent approach to national security, the worldview that domestic and international laws are always to be subjugated to the raw will to power. The corruption that seeped into Hungarian political life is but a drop in the ocean of graft upon which Russia runs. ... The nostalgia for the past and ceaseless Us versus Them politics was ... a reflection of Putin's political project, one in which greatness is defined by what you can destroy, not what you can build. And what Putin set out to destroy, above all, was the idea that was so prevalent when the Berlin Wall came down: that a new world order of democratic values and agreed-upon rules and norms was here to stay. 
For much of the twentieth-first century, Russia has led the counter-revolution to American domination -- not by seeking to upend the local order that America constructed, but rather by disrupting it from within, turning it (and ultimately America itself) into the ugliest version of itself. I think of how Russians must have seen us Americans as I was growing up: capitalist stooges, driven entirely by a lust for profit; a militarized empire, unconcerned with the lives of distant people harmed by our foreign policies; racist hypocrites, preaching human rights abroad and practicing systematic oppression at home. That's the America Putin wants all the world to see, and that's the America that Putin wants us to be. 
Think about it. Isn't that what you would want for someone who humiliated you? For them to be revealed, before the world, as the worst version of themselves? By doing so, Putin leveled the playing field -- the world is what it is, a hard place in which might makes right, capitalism is as fungible as Communism, and a ruthless Russia will always have to be treated with the respect it was denied after the wall came down.

• • •

Ben Rhodes, from whose After the Fall: Being American in the World We've Made these thoughts derive, was a national security aide and speech writer to President Barack Obama. He's all of 44  now and served 8 years back then on the White House staff. The more senior figures in the U.S. foreign policy establishment, then and now, seem to regard him as an irritating twerp.

Nonetheless, it has leaked out that Obama used Rhodes extensively when he wanted to open up to normalizing relations with Cuba -- perhaps some youthful thinking helped break that fossilized morass open. Today Rhodes can be found as cohost of Pod Save the World.

In response to the shock of the United States electing an authoritarian moron to succeed Obama, Rhodes wandered the world, trying to understand illiberalism on the ascendant. This book is the story of the places (Hungary, Russia, Hong Kong) and people (mostly members of a young, modern, educated class like his own) who he met and commiserated with.

It's not a bad book -- as the excerpts above indicate, it is often insightful.

But to this reader, it's also just plain weird. 

Rhodes seems genuinely to know a lot about the places he describes. (With his background, one would hope so.) But he shows not the least brush with any leftish narrative of "western" history. I'm not talking hard core Marxism or Lenin on imperialism. He uses all the conventional critical words -- corruption, capitalism, nationalism, American exceptionalism. He understands that women matter, but perhaps has never had to understand how we're different. He describes being in his own country during the "racial reckoning" of 2020 and he is sharp about how white supremacy constrained Obama. But above all, his mindframe is "rules-based-order," "international law," "human rights." He doesn't seem to have a frame for society-wide, systemic oppression and subjugation.

Don't get me wrong: I love that some of the horrors and heartbreaks in our past have taught the U.S. and Europe to care about liberal values. But I can't understand the implications of what we affirm on our better days without also considering fascism, communism, imperialism, colonialism. And patriarchy. And somehow Rhodes seems untouched by these concepts; they are not his frame.

Rhodes is aware of US hypocrisy. He knows unequivocally that the "War on Terror" was both a practical and ethical disaster for the country. He knows U.S. global hegemony is over. He's perhaps like his old boss without the cosmopolitan sophistication, preferring to point his readers to visions of better possibilities rather than chew over the breakage of the past. He's likable. But this is an odd book, just a notch off-center for this reader.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Blame it on the Emperor Constantine

Church historian Diana Butler Bass makes a convincing case that Putin's war is a religious war.

Make no mistake: the war in Ukraine can rightly be seen as a religious war, a specifically Christian — even Orthodox Christian — one. Eastern Europe is an outlier in what was once Christendom. For in the east, Christianity is not in decline but is growing with both Russia and Ukraine showing sharp increases of those who embrace Orthodox Christianity. Unlike in western Europe, religion is flourishing and the church matters greatly in these countries. 
... Indeed, in Eastern Europe, you can’t really separate “church” and “state” or “faith” and “nation” in the same way western Europeans and North Americans do. The further east in Europe one travels, the more one experiences church and state as part of the same mystical cloth of meaning, a single cloak of community and destiny. This is how it has been for more than a thousand years — and no one should expect it to change any time soon. 
Christians may say, “Well, that’s not Christianity. Putin isn’t really a Christian. He’s using Christianity for nationalism.” But being personally religious isn’t the point in Orthodoxy — the point is being part of a people bound through a tradition blessed by divine favor. One’s feelings or depth of faith or piety has nothing to do with it. Indeed, history is replete with examples of emperors, strongmen, and rulers who prayed (perhaps less than authentically) at an altar as the vicar of their people, and then rose from their knees to unleash all the demons of Hell on the earth. It is an old story, one that dates back to the Emperor Constantine himself. Perhaps is isn’t “really” Christianity, but church history says differently. Christians are practiced at it.
She goes on to analyze the divergence between the Russian Orthodox polity with its seat in Moscow and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church located in Kiev. The Russian Patriarch is all in for Putin's invasion; he views the Ukrainian Church as an illegitimate breakaway from his proper domain. The Ukrainian branch of Orthodoxy seems more ready to coexist within a more multi-faceted national culture -- one which can live with a Jew as the legitimate president of an Orthodox nation.

Bass' thoughts on this are fascinating, expansive, and appropriately tentative. There's much here.

• • •

St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Church in San Francisco
Meanwhile here on the homefront, it seems appropriate to ask with Molly Olmstead, Can the Christian Right Quit Putin? Until recently, many white nationalist evangelicals were Putin fans.

... The managing director of World Congress of Families, an international organization crusading for the values of the Christian right, has called Russia “the hope for the world right now.” The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association featured Putin on the cover of the March 2014 issue of its magazine. (Franklin Graham has also met with Putin and has “exchanged views on Russia-US cooperation” and “discussed issues related to traditional family values” with other Russian officials. 
And then, of course, there was Donald Trump, eager to praise Putin as a strong leader and potential ally. 
... [Andrew] Whitehead, [author of the book Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States,] described the stance of Putin-loving Christians in the U.S. as: “‘If we can have a strongman protect our cultural heritage and values, that’s what we want” because “we want a fighter.’”
Olmstead reports that many religious right leaders are now backpedaling. Are they waiting for a cue from their Orange Emperor --- who seems to remain a Putin fan? Time will tell.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Friday cat blogging

Let's give Janeway a rest today and refer you to Chris Arnade's wonderful photoessay at Intellectual Int-ing, Cats (and Dogs) of Istanbul. Chris offers free subs to his substack. Check it out.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Pandemic, fury, fire, and flood -- and the 2022 midterm elections

They're coming sooner that we want to imagine and with them, in closely contested races, new political ads. 

In 2016, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto won a slim victory to succeed retiring Harry Reid as one of Nevada's two U.S. senators. She was the first Latina elected to the Senate. And she was a rising star -- within a couple of years, she was leading her colleagues as Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee which works to get incumbents re-elected.

She's up again this year, facing a tough run; Republicans have been gaining on the Dems in registrations in Nevada. Though Biden won there last year, state elections are always close.

So she's on the air already for her election campaign. And her ads clearly point to where she thinks her people are.

The pandemic hit Nevada workers hard. At one point, eighty percent of the state's thousands of unionized hotel and restaurant workers, members of Unite-HERE, were laid off. These are Cortez Masto's people and she speaks to them.

For Democrats to keep control of the Senate, this is an election Cortez Masto has to win.

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Nuclear perils

Today's news that war damage to electric lines has interrupted monitoring of the radioactive Chernobyl site in Ukraine makes the thoughts of Mohamed ElBaradei even more to the point.


In 2002, Mohamed ElBaradei was Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He called bullshit on the Bush administration's 2002 claim that Saddam Hussein's Iraq possessed nuclear weapons. He was correct. The U.S. (make that John Bolton) worked to get him canned from the agency. International opposition defeated that move and in 2005 ElBaradei was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

So ElBaradei's observations on the nuclear implications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine seem well grounded.
Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear facility, is home to six nuclear reactors, any one of which could have been jeopardized by the fires that were started during the Russian shelling of the facility and fighting at the plant. That the flames were extinguished quickly is a testament to the professionalism and bravery of the plant’s workers. But with Russian officers now interfering in the running of the plant, the Zaporizhzhia reactors remain at risk. 
The world got lucky, as it did with Russian troops’ equally dangerous incursion into the shuttered Chernobyl plant during the first days of the invasion. Yet there are still another half-dozen nuclear reactors scattered across Ukraine, which means that the worst-case scenario remains a live possibility. The release of radioactive material could render entire population centers uninhabitable, threatening hundreds of thousands of people – and not just in the immediate vicinity. ...
The point he's making here is something we need to listen to. In recent years, climate hawks have insisted that nuclear-generated electric power has to be part of overcoming dependency on coal and oil if we hope to mitigate carbon pollution. Nuke plants make clean energy, as least with regard to carbon emissions.

Certainly nuclear power is attractive on its face -- and most likely engineers have figured out how to make nuke plants safer than Chernobyl or Three Mile Island. Designs do get better with experience.

Every once in a while, I try to inject a question like "have they figured out what to do with the waste?" into online discussions. Either there is no answer or people who've been beat up for even thinking about nuclear get hostile.

My question is not hostile. I'm just trying to inject the human dimension into the discussion of nuclear power. Our species is not capable of behaving carefully or sensibly for the thousands of years it takes for high end nuclear waste to decay. We're bright and creative hominids, but we fight wars. The horror of  Ukraine is a reminder that in a crisis, the soldiers can take over from the engineers with dire consequences.

* * *

ElBaradei goes on to summarize where the global nuclear weapons danger is today:

As we have seen in the Ukraine war, nuclear weapons have once again become instruments of security strategy. All nine [Nuclear Weapons States] NWSs – China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the UK, and the US – are, indeed, now in a frantic race to modernize their arsenals. 
Even more ominously, the NWSs are availing themselves of new cyber and artificial-intelligence technologies, as well as advanced sci-fi-like hypersonic missiles that are designed to evade existing defense systems. And many – including Britain and France – now keep their nuclear weapons on heightened alert, a status that raises the probability of a nuclear-weapon launch (be it intentional, accidental, or as a result of cyber manipulation). 
Despite all our past legal commitments, we are still living in a world where security strategy ultimately depends on nuclear weapons. ...
He goes on to call for the sort of patient, tiresome negotiation and confidence building which created the nuclear treaty firewalls which successive Republican administrations in the U.S. and the aggressive autocracy in Russia have torn down over the last 20 years.

His prescription includes a mobilized global public opinion which makes "the hoarding of [nuclear] arsenals ... a taboo akin to genocide." Such a force existed for awhile in the 1980s -- the Ukraine war reminds us we still need it.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Her mother taught her to expand the possible

On International Women's Day, primatologist Jane Goodall recorded a message about where she finds hope for a sustainable future.

People said 'Girls didn't do things like that' but my mother supported me ... if I didn't give up I might find a way. ... I did get to Africa ...

Today we're dealing with climate change ... longer droughts, more hurricanes, and flooding ... these things are making the lives of some women very difficult. ...

In fact, women have a quiet strength that is often apparent after a disaster, such as a hurricane ... during war too..

Once people understand that protecting the environment isn't just for wildlife but their own future, they become partners in conservation. ...

Indigenous peoples are the custodians of the natural world and in many tribes, women play a very important role in advancing a sustainable relationship to the natural world. It's desperately important that their voices are listened to as we tackle climate change. ...

She's a charming speaker -- she has enlarged the possible for all of us -- and as an elder, she passes it forward.

What will they think of next?

Up down, up down
What if you could generate electricity by filling trucks with water at the top of a long hill, then using the trucks' breaks to charge a powerful battery on the way down? A short description:

We propose a more flexible alternative for hydropower that features electric trucks. The proposed system consists of using existing road infrastructure that crosses mountain ranges to transport water down the mountain in electricity truck containers, transform the potential energy of the water into electricity with the regenerative braking of the truck and use this electricity to charge the battery of the truck. The ideal configuration of the ETH system is in mountainous regions with steep roads, where the same electrical trucks can be used to generate hydropower from different sites. This increases the chances that there will be water available to generate hydropower and thus increases the capacity factor of the system. 
Another benefit of the system is that only a small barrier is required to abstract water from the river, there is no requirement for reservoirs to regulate the flow of the river. The reservoirs of this system are containers parked close to a river stream on the mountain, which are filled up with water extracted from the river. After the container is filled up, it is ready to be transported down the mountain and to generate hydropower. When the truck reaches the base of the mountain range, the container is parked close to the river, and the water in the container is slowly returned to the river to minimise the impact on the aquatic life.
Read all about it.

I pass this along, not because this scheme is a be-all and end-all suggestion for clean power generation and stream life sustainability, but because the mere idea is a reminder of the ingenuity which people all over the world are using to challenge our dependence on fossil fuels. Oil and gas make us a dirty, dependent society; the technological possibilities for breaking the stranglehold of our corporation overlords are wider than we might imagine. And such imaginings are our best path to a stable climate, peace, prosperity. Go modern garage mechanics!

Via Dr. Volts.

Monday, March 07, 2022

How to make an impression on a rogue state

Some of the sources I read, notably economic historian Adam Tooze, are doubtful that the massive financial sanctions that Europe, the United States, and various friends have slapped on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine will make much of a dent in Putin's resolve. Well, unless these countries really bite the bullet and stop buying Russian fossil fuels ...

I'm no judge of that -- but my life experience does tell me that the very widespread expulsion of Russian teams and athletes from international sports will make an impression. Working on struggle newspapers in apartheid South Africa in 1990, we saw that the international sports boycott was what really seemed to grate on white citizens, underlining that their country was an international racist parish. Sure, consumer products could sometimes be smuggled in -- but their teams could not show their stuff on the world stage and that bit deep.

Sports sanctions are hell on the athletes since the Russian invasion isn't their fault, but it might get the attention of a population likely hoping to just keep heads down.

The list of sports sanctions over the Ukraine invasion is long:

• Russian and Belorussian figure skaters won't be allowed to compete at the International Skating Union world championship March 21 in Montpellier, France.

FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, broke with its usual lumbering, corrupt pattern, quickly kicking all Russian club and national teams out of international competition. Russia is out of the 2022 World Cup. The European Soccer League pulled it's upcoming championship out of St. Petersburg.

• The Paralympic Winter Games were about to begin in Beijing on Friday. They go on without Russian competitors. 

• The International Ice Hockey Federation banned Russian and Belarusian teams.

Formula 1 canceled the Grand Prix of Russia that was to be held in Sochi, trying to stay in front of furious drivers who were threatening not to attend.

• The World Curling Federation began the process of removing the Russian Federation’s entries from the World Championships.

World Taekwondo said they were stripping Putin of an honorary black belt, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine goes against the sport’s motto: “Peace is more precious than triumph”.

The International Judo Federation (IJF) suspended Russian President Vladimir Putin as its honorary president.

One more way for world civil society to concentrate Putin's attention ...

Sunday, March 06, 2022

It's still going on ...

U.S. law is still being perverted to protect the Bush administration's torture regimen. And the result is the stuff of Alice-in-Wonderland.

The Supremes have decided, on a 7-2 vote, that, although the world has known without question since at least 2012 that the government tortured a Saudi citizen picked up in Pakistan while holding him in secret prisons in Thailand and Poland, somehow these crimes are covered by a "state secrets privilege." Therefore a Polish prosecutor cannot demand testimony from the rogue contractor-psychologists James Mitchell and John Jessen. Mitchell is so proud of what he did to Abu Zubaydah he wrote a book about it.

Only two Justices dissented from the absurd coverup. Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing in a dissent joined by Justice Sotomayor, explained what U.S. agents did to Abu Zubaydah:

They waterboarded Zubaydah at least 80 times, simulated live burials in coffins for hundreds of hours, and performed rectal exams designed to establish “total control over the detainee.” Six days into his ordeal, Zubaydah was sobbing, twitching, and hyperventilating. During one waterboarding session, Zubaydah became “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.” He became so compliant that he would prepare for waterboarding at the snap of a finger.

He continued:

... as embarrassing as these facts may be, there is no state secret here. This Court’s duty is to the rule of law and the search for truth. We should not let shame obscure our vision.

The majority did not agree.

Oh, and it has further become clear that Abu Zubaydah was an inconsequential bit player in al-Qaeda. His torture was an experiment -- a test of what can we do to an enemy over whom we have absolute power. 

He will remain a permanent prisoner of the United States, convicted of nothing and charged with nothing, because we don't want to 'fess up to what we did to him.