Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Strikes work

On Monday the United Auto Workers completed a clean sweep of wins over the big three U.S. auto companies when GM followed Ford and Stellantis (formerly Chrysler, etc.) by agreeing to a contract.

The results are astonishingly good for workers. And the union knows how to communicate its wins visually:

And the union doesn't take these gains as a signal to lay back ...

In a speech to union members live-streamed on Facebook Sunday night, the U.A.W. president, Shawn Fain, said the union planned a push to organize plants at some of the nonunion automakers, such as Toyota, Honda and Tesla.

“One of our biggest goals coming out of this historic contract victory is to organize like we’ve never organized before,” Mr. Fain said. “When we return to the bargaining table in 2028, it won’t just be with the Big Three. It will be the Big Five or Big Six.”

Can auto workers organize anti-union in the anti-union South? They are going to try.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Good news that's been crowded out ....

Almost two weeks ago, voters in Poland unexpectedly used democratic means to stymie, at least temporarily, an illiberal populist turn in that European Union country. For at least a minute, democracy won.

Since this was an election, I'll outsource the story to DailyKos:

Opposition parties won a stunning victory amid record turnout in parliamentary elections on Sunday, ending eight years of authoritarian rule by the radical-right Law and Justice Party and its allies.
Law and Justice, known by the Polish acronym PiS, has for years undermined democracy, media freedom, and judicial independence in the European Union's fifth-largest member state. But despite its efforts to entrench itself in power, PiS lost to an alliance led by the centrist Civic Coalition that also includes two smaller blocs of parties—one to its left and another on the center-right.
Final results for the all-important lower chamber released on Tuesday showed this opposition alliance winning a 54-43 majority of votes over PiS and the far-right Confederation alliance, which could have kept PiS in power had the two won the most seats, but the opposition instead secured a 248-212 majority.
While Sunday's historic result pulls Poland's democracy back from the brink, there's still a long way to go before the winners can fully reverse the damage PiS has inflicted. President Andrzej Duda, who was elected as a PiS ally, still has two years left in his final term, and the incoming government will lack the three-fifths supermajority needed to override his vetoes. It will also have to contend with courts packed by the right.
However, the new government will have the chance to dismantle PiS' control over the media, prosecute political corruption, and strengthen Poland's support for its embattled neighbor, Ukraine.

People who actually know anything about Polish politics were more than a little thrilled. Anne Applebaum, the Atlantic journalist who is married to a democratic (small "d") Polish politician, has happily surprised. 

After democratic coalitions failed to defeat nationalist-conservative ruling parties in Hungary last year and in Turkey last May, and after elections in Israel brought a coalition of extremists to power, plenty of people feared that democratic change in Poland, too, was impossible. Against the odds, yesterday’s election has proved them wrong. Even if you don’t live in Poland, don’t care about Poland, and can’t find Poland on a map, take note: The victory of the Polish opposition proves that autocratic populism can be defeated, even after an unfair election. Nothing is inevitable about the rise of autocracy or the decline of democracy. Invest your time in political and civic organization if you want to create change, because sometimes it works.
That cheerleader for Central Europe, Timothy Garton Ash, also drew happy conclusions.

It seems young Poles finally understood that their future was at stake. Whatever happens next, this was a great democratic moment. The people spoke and said they wanted a different government.

Click to enlarge.

An insightful analysis of how this Polish turn came about comes from Anna Piela in Religion News Service: 

... Law and Justice’s tenure dovetails neatly with rapidly falling support for the Catholic Church, described in “Church in Poland 2023,” a report recently published by the Catholic Information Agency. The strong relationship between Law and Justice and the Catholic hierarchy is reflected by enormous financial support that the Polish state has given to the church, including $48 million to the Church Fund that pays for clergy’s social security contributions, in 2022 alone. The recent tightening of abortion restrictions instituted by Law and Justice was received with satisfaction by the Catholic clergy who had campaigned for it for years.

The party’s leadership openly embraced most of the church’s agenda in its public comments. “Christianity is a part of our national identity,” said Law and Justice’s leader, Jaroslaw KaczyƄski, in 2019, conflating as usual Christianity and Catholicism. “The church wields the only system of values commonly known in Poland.”

... But Law and Justice’s identification with the church, which for years locked in rural and elderly urban voters, looks to have backfired. In recent polls, two groups — young adults and those living in larger cities — appear to have turned away from the church in overwhelming numbers. In 1992, 52% of those living in the large cities regularly practiced the Roman Catholic faith; in 2022 this share fell to 28%. Those who called themselves nonpracticing constituted 19% of the inhabitants of large cities 30 years ago; in 2022, they represent 38%.

It’s not hard to see the reason for these findings: Young Poles have abandoned the church in huge numbers. Adults aged 18-24 who participate regularly in religious services dropped from 43% to 22% in the eight years Law and Justice was in power, while the share of those who told pollsters they do not participate doubled from 18% to 41%.

Young adults said they dislike organized religion, citing pedophilia and sex scandals among the Catholic clergy. Said Lidia, 33, from Poznan in central Poland: “I voted for Civic Coalition. I am disgusted about everything about the Catholic Church. It is morally repugnant. Recently, a group of priests organized a party and hired a male sex worker. He passed out because they abused him so much. And then they refused to let the paramedics in after someone called the ambulance. … This kind of stuff. And then of course, the new ban on abortion.”

The right wing alliance with a corrupted church served it well -- until it proved a mill stone around its neck.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

A little bucolic beauty to soothe body and soul


I have seen more dramatic seasons of the turning leaves, but this island is not, usually, about natural drama. This bit of New England is about tenacity, persistence at the sometimes bleak edge of the continent. That doesn't mean there are not occasional vivid contrasts, but more subtle views are more common.

I wonder whether anyone lives in there.
The leaves have done their task.
Bambi visiting the yard is not exactly welcome. The all-too numerous deer are vectors for the ubiquitous Lyme Disease tick. It's bow hunting season at present, which implies where there are deer, there might be hunters. But that's a dawn and dusk thing.
Back in town, it's good to know Timmy has a job at the feed store. He lucked out.
I'm beginning to recover from what seems as if it were a viral pneumonia. Not all gone, but receding. Sleep is healing. Will try to resume blogging this week. The agony of Gaza and Israel doesn't help, not to mention so much other human misery. And joy also persists.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

The making of Big Brother ...

Erudite Partner is at it again, dissecting the condition our condition is in:

Sometimes the right wing in this country seems like a riddle wrapped in an enigma encased in a conundrum.

Do they want to strengthen the government in line with the once-fringe doctrine of the “unitary executive,” concentrating most official power in the hands of a president who would then rule more or less by fiat? That’s the fascist position.

Or would they prefer to destroy the government, to “starve the beast,” something anti-tax activist Grover Norquist used to call for decades ago? “I don’t want to abolish government,” he declared. “I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” That’s the anti-government nihilist position.

You might not think that those two goals could coexist comfortably within a single party. And of course, you’d be right if you were talking about an ordinary American political party. But the Republicans are no longer an ordinary party. In many respects, in fact, they have become the however-fractious sole property of one Donald J. Trump. ...

Read all about it at the L.A.Progressive.

Still on blog sick break

I thought I was getting over the cold I picked up two weeks ago in Managua, but apparently not. An overnight JetBlue flight that was the temperature of refrigerator, followed by 5 hours in JFK airport, has thrown me right back into mucus hell. Sorry if that is TMI.

Here's Ganesh who watches over the house on Martha's Vineyard. Back when my head clears.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Moral injury compounding death and destruction

Benjamin Wittes edits Lawfare for the Brookings Institution. In the context of exploring Strategy, Law, and Morality in Israel’s Gaza Operation he has written a cogent description of the two societies at war in that benighted corner of the world which captures what Americans don't often know and perhaps are newly learning. 

With the possible exception of the Demilitarized Zone in the Korean peninsula, there is no geographic line in the world across which life changes more dramatically over a shorter distance than the border of Israel and the Gaza Strip.
On one side of the line, the per-capita gross domestic product is $55,000 per year, according to the International Monetary Fund—just over two-thirds that of the United States. The population density is low. While Israel itself packs a lot of people into a small area, in general, the region surrounding the Gaza border lies outside of the sprawl that runs up and down the coastal plain and between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It is dotted with small agricultural villages. The only major city in the region, Ashkelon, is 13 kilometers away and has fewer than 150,000 people—with closer-by Sderot having only about a fifth that many people.
On this side of the line, governance is the province of a modern, highly functional state, overseen by an elected government. Infrastructure is modern. Social services are highly developed. The sovereignty of that state, while controversial in academic circles worldwide and still unrecognized by a number of regional actors, is firmly established and increasingly recognized by the other states in the region. The lingua franca on this side of the line is Hebrew, but depending on precisely where along the border and how far from it you are, the street language for many people may also be Arabic, Russian, or English. 
San Francisco cease fire demonstration
Cross over into Gaza—and, the proximity being what it is, Israeli villages extend right up to the line—and everything changes. The per-capita income plummets by more than 97 percent to around $1,250 per year, according to the World Bank. Worldwide, only wealthy city-states like Monaco and Singapore and jurisdictions like Hong Kong and Macau exceed Gaza’s population density; more than 2 million people are crammed into an area roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C. Gaza’s infrastructure is a disaster, with drinkable water and electricity alike both scarce, and food insecurity widespread. Government social services are virtually nonexistent. The deprivation is fueled, in part, by a long, partial blockade of the territory maintained by both Israel and Egypt.
The territory is ruled by Hamas, a fundamentalist militia that both the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist organization, which won a legislative election in 2006 and seized executive power in a kind of coup the following year. Hamas’s military infrastructure is deeply embedded within the civilian population with both command centers located in civilian buildings and weapons caches and launch sites based in or near civilian institutions or residences. Sovereignty, however, is undetermined. Israel, which was the occupying power until 2005, makes no sovereign claims over Gaza. Neither does Egypt, which occupied the strip from the time of Israel’s founding until 1967. The Palestinian Authority has never declared a Palestinian state and doesn’t control the territory in any event. And Hamas has not declared itself a sovereign entity either. The spoken language on this side of the line is almost uniformly Arabic. Roughly half of the population is under 18.
I draw this picture of contrast neither to assign blame for the shocking disparity in living conditions evident in the descriptions (there’s enough blame to go around), nor to complain on behalf of Palestinians about their comparative misfortune (though complaint is certainly justified), nor to triumph on behalf of Israelis at their comparative windfall (though the accomplishments of the Israeli state are nothing to sneeze at). 

Wittes continues to discuss both legal and moral implications of Israel's bombing and apparent impending invasion of the Gaza territory. They say they aim to eradicate Hamas in response to the atrocities of 10/7. He asks, can Israel mount an assault that is more than collective punishment, largely of the innocent, more than a reprisal for evil done that itself is evil in return?

You can read his argument yourself. It's very clear. I was most struck by this:

... as I see it anyway, to wage this conflict even in self-defense without a coherent strategy is morally dicey. It is not, to be clear, a war crime. There is no principle of the law of armed conflict that makes it a crime to respond flailingly and without a well-thought-through strategy to an armed attack.  

Yet when a lot of civilians (many of them children) are going to die in a conflict, that fact imparts a certain responsibility to think things through carefully—and specifically to think through the question of how things are going to be better at the end of the conflict than they are now. This same point, by the way, flows from the fact that a lot of Israeli soldiers—for whose lives the Israeli government is more directly accountable—are also going to die. Without a strategy, a sound, well-thought-through strategy, the operation is really just a giant reprisal attack.

... if Israel is not operating pursuant to clear objectives that warrant the cost it is exacting, that is a grave moral problem irrespective of whether the individual strikes are lawful. And it’s a problem that Israel needs to rectify immediately.

Israel's backers, especially the Biden administration, need to be saying this loud and clear.

• • •

After all, the United State, to our sorrow, knows what a war without definable ends looks like. We made exactly that in Afghanistan for 20 years and left, bloodied, without having accomplished anything except spreading misery and a lot of dead Afghans.

Today's New York Times includes a heart-rending account (gift article) by a U.S. Marine veteran sniper turned journalist who got to ride along with a Ukrainian sniper team trying to kill Russian soldiers. 

“I don’t want to kill, but I have to — I’ve seen what they’ve done,” Raptor [Ukrainian sniper's nom de guerre] went on, his own moral and martial purpose linked to the atrocities Russian forces had committed throughout the war. For Raptor, the reason for pulling the trigger was clear. For me and my comrades, all these years later, the reason we chose to kill can continue to elude us.

We found ourselves in the middle of some poorly thought-out counterinsurgency strategy, propping up a corrupt government that collapsed almost as soon as the United States left. We were protecting each other. That became a binding ideology, all the clarity we could summon in the puzzle our politicians in Washington handed us. We stumbled through exhausted, mouthing our lines, until our tours ended and we were discharged.

When Israel's Gaza response concludes -- which it must someday -- will justified rage at Hamas atrocities turn to further moral injury to Israel and the supportive world as well as material injury and death to unfortunate Gazans?

Friday, October 20, 2023

Friday cat blogging

Living with Mio and Janeway, it's easy to get obsessed with their antics and their demands. Mostly for more food. The vet says Mio should slim down, so we try. But he's a big boy.

But in reality, the cats are busy doing something much less demanding of us. They move about the house, following sunbeams, and dozing about 20 hours a day.

I don't think it's inaccurate to conclude, cats just want to be left alone!

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Listen to the man. Trump is losing it.

The right wing in our politics wants to say there's something weak and senile about the president we've got. Come on, folks -- a guy who can make the trip to Tel Aviv in wartime try to wrangle Benjamin Netanyahu, who is as much of a terrorist as Hamas militants, is not mentally depleted. Biden is old. But experience might even have made him wiser. Whether the slaughter of innocents can be contained, we will learn soon enough.

Meanwhile, the guy who will be his opponent next year is flat-out demented.

Kevin Drum records a catalogue of recent Trump bleats which ought to convince anyone who is not super-MAGA that Donald is losing it.

September 16: Says you need ID to buy a loaf of bread. (No you don't.)
September 18: Claims that under Biden, we would be in World War II. (World War II already happened.)
September 18: Says he beat Obama in 2016. (He beat Hillary Clinton in 2016.)
September 26: Tells a rally audience that Jeb Bush invaded Iraq. (George W. Bush led us into Iraq.)
October 8: Says Hannibal Lecter was a great actor. (Lecter was a fictional character played by the great actor Anthony Hopkins.)
October 13: Thinks Obama is currently president. (Joe Biden is the current president.
October 14: Says Republicans "eat their young" when they attack him. (The teleprompter probably said "eat their own.")
Drum concludes:
These aren't examples of routine Trump crackpottery. He says crazy stuff all the time. These are examples of Trump flatly forgetting or confusing things that he once knew. He's losing it.
We need to shove these sorts of breaks in front of the voters. Maybe, as some commenters suggested, Trump is just being lazy or tired. But if he wants to be president again, make him work for it.

And then, there is the even worse aspect to Trump's appearances: he actively encourages violence by his (often unhinged) supporters. We heard a little about his desire to execute General Mark Milley for crossing him when he was president. But there provocations are part of every public appearance.

Graphic by Z. Hagen

Legal commentator Jeffry Toobin is worried: 
The temptation with Mr. Trump, for President Biden and others, has always been to ignore the former president’s more outrageous statements in favor of the high (or at least higher) road. But that restraint is a disservice to the public and, in all likelihood, bad politics, too. If Mr. Trump isn’t called out for his encouragement of violence before it actually takes place, that will bolster his proclamations of innocence when the worst happens; he shouldn’t have that opportunity. Mr. Trump’s statements represent an immediate danger to the targets of his rage and the public at large; it’s Mr. Biden’s responsibility, as well as a political opportunity, to issue that warning.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Makes me grumpy

I'm a purist. October 15 is too early for Xmas decorations to take over Costco. Give me another month with pumpkins and goblins and Thanksgiving turkeys. But no. The great American consumer holiday is underway.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Target area

What you are seeing here is what the area of Gaza looks like superimposed on New York City. Click to enlarge.

Adam Tooze thought we might better understand what's happening as Israel takes aim at Gaza and Gazans if we saw this image. Two point two million people live crowded into Gaza, many of them refugees from earlier land appropriations by the Israeli state.

The area placed under siege by Israel is roughly the size of Manhattan, which I know is walkable in its entirety. That puts a lot of things in context, like Israel’s order to people in the north of Gaza to move south to avoid incoming bombardment. That is hard to imagine given the whole area is so densely populated (and bombed; hospitals in Gaza now report a patient a minute coming through while they run out of supplies).

Apparently also, as many Gazans are trying to escape in a southerly direction, Israel has bombed the few roads. Or that report may be the "fog of war." We won't know for awhile.

And in any case, the southern border with Egypt is closed to Palestinians (and others) trying to escape the war. Gaza remains a deadly prison.

Erudite Partner is on Martha's Vineyard island off Massachusetts at the moment. When I told her that I'd be posting this, she reminded: "Yes, Gaza is the same size as the Vineyard."

The NYTimes speculates that Prime Minister Netanyahu will be hesitant to launch his offensive while Biden is on the ground in Israel tomorrow. I am not sure Netanyahu is that predicable or cautious.

The map comes from Newsweek. That article shows Gaza superimposed on other US cities as well, but not the SF Bay Area.

Monday, October 16, 2023

That small, ghastly, sacred place ...

Revenge Is Like Drinking Poison And Waiting For The Other Person To Die. Nelson Mandela

Professor Peter Beinart, a Jewish activist and honest man, writes in the New York Times

... Palestinians are not fundamentally different from other people facing oppression: When moral resistance doesn’t work, they try something else. In 1972, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, which was modeled on the civil rights movement in the United States, organized a march to oppose imprisonment without trial. Although some organizations, most notably the Provisional Irish Republican Army, had already embraced armed resistance, they grew stronger after British soldiers shot 26 unarmed civilians in what became known as Bloody Sunday. By the early 1980s, the Irish Republican Army had even detonated a bomb outside Harrods, the department store in London. As Kirssa Cline Ryckman, a political scientist, observed in a 2019 paper on why certain movements turn violent, a lack of progress in peaceful protest “can encourage the use of violence by convincing demonstrators that nonviolence will fail to achieve meaningful concessions.”

... In Israel-Palestine and around the world, pockets of Palestinians and Jews, aided by people of conscience of all backgrounds, must slowly construct networks of trust based on the simple principle that the lives of both Palestinians and Jews are precious and inextricably intertwined.

... From those reckonings, small, beloved communities can be born, and grow. ... I’m confident I won’t live to see it. No gambler would stake a bet on it happening at all. But what’s the alternative, for those of us whose lives and histories are bound up with that small, ghastly, sacred place?

Like many others who care about the lives of both Palestinians and Jews, I have felt in recent days the greatest despair I have ever known. On Wednesday, a Palestinian friend sent me a note of consolation. She ended it with the words “only together.” Maybe that can be our motto.

Though Beinart lives and works in New York City, he's not some ivory tower pundit. His parents were Jewish immigrants from South Africa. He made the moral and intellectual mistake of endorsing George W. Bush's Iraq campaign and since has remade himself as a skeptical and humble observer of conventional wisdom.

If you read once source on Israel/Palestine, I highly recommend his substack: The Beinart Notebook.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Against barbarism

Since news broke of the Hamas atrocities done to the people of southern Israel, there have been mutterings -- "it's just like 9/11 ..." 

It's not. Why do I say that? Because it is still possible in U.S. mainstream media to demand elementary common sense and conformity with international law without being called a traitor. Listen to Perry Bacon Jr writing in the Washington Post (gift article):

Biden and his administration need to change their approach. They should stop saying “Israel has a right to defend itself” in a vague way, without any preconditions, such as abiding by international law and minimizing the deaths of Palestinian civilians. There is not a real debate about whether Israel has the right to defend itself. It does. The question is how Israel defends itself. And if the Israelis’ answer is that defending themselves means bombing everything in Gaza with little regard for the lives of Palestinian civilians and demanding fast, mass evacuations that they know can’t actually happen, then the United States and the rest of the world should reject that answer and push for an alternative.

... “Israel has a right to defend itself” is not a vision or a policy. We should come up with one — immediately.

Of course it may seem relatively cheap to make such an appeal because we're an ocean away and it wasn't (with exceptions) our citizens who were murdered. But calls to recognize the horrors which the impulse to raw vengeance implies, also come, loudly, from some Israelis (I published one here) and from brave voices in Israel. 

After 9/11, in the dazed horror that persisted for days -- a horror compounded both of the Al-Qaeda atrocities and of fear of what our own government would do in response -- the Erudite Partner and I printed and made widely available this simple sign which some folks hung in San Francisco windows:

That message remains on point. To demand better of our governments is not to deny the humanity of Israeli victims; it might even be to honor them. Barbarism is not good for children and living things, to paraphrase the Vietnam-era truism.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

I give up

I'm on the fifth day of a nasty cold (not covid, per tests) and blogging that requires a brain seems unimaginable. 

So I won't try. Back soon.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Friday cat blogging

Janeway seems to wonder - "what's going on out there?"
Sometimes Mio uses his bulk to enforce bath time. Janeway looks a cross between resigned and wary.  But she takes care of herself. Click to enlarge.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

"Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return" -- W.H. Auden

Somebody on Xitter liberated this article from behind the paywall at the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. I am going to pass it along intact here; he speaks to his fellow Israelis, but Americans too need to listen up. The author, Gideon Levy, is an all too experienced Israeli journalist.

Opinion | Israel can’t imprison two million Gazans without paying a cruel price

Behind all this lies Israeli arrogance; the idea that we can do whatever we like, that we’ll never pay the price and be punished for it. We’ll carry on undisturbed. We’ll arrest, kill, harass, dispossess and protect the settlers busy with their pogroms.

We'll visit Joseph’s Tomb, Othniel’s Tomb and Joshua’s Altar in the Palestinian territories, and of course the Temple Mount – over 5,000 Jews on Sukkot alone. 

We’ll fire at innocent people, take out people’s eyes and smash their faces, expel, confiscate, rob, grab people from their beds, carry out ethnic cleansing and of course continue with the unbelievable siege of the Gaza Strip, and everything will be all right. 

We’ll build a terrifying obstacle around Gaza – the underground wall alone cost 3 billion shekels ($765 million) – and we’ll be safe. We’ll rely on the geniuses of the army's 8200 cyber-intelligence unit and on the Shin Bet security service agents who know everything. 

We’ll transfer half an army from the Gaza border to the Hawara border in the West Bank, only to protect far-right lawmaker Zvi Sukkot and the settlers. And everything will be all right, both in Hawara and at the Erez crossing into Gaza.

It turns out that even the world's most sophisticated and expensive obstacle can be breached with a smoky old bulldozer when the motivation is great. This arrogant barrier can be crossed by bicycle and moped despite the billions poured into it and all the famous experts...

We thought we’d continue to go down to Gaza, scatter a few crumbs in the form of tens of thousands of Israeli work permits – always contingent on good behavior – and still keep them in prison.

We’ll make peace with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and the Palestinians will be forgotten until they’re erased, as quite a few Israelis would like.

We’ll keep holding thousands of Palestinian prisoners, sometimes without trial, most of them political prisoners. And we won’t agree to discuss their release even after they've been in prison for decades.

We’ll tell them that only by force will their prisoners see freedom. We thought we would arrogantly keep rejecting any attempt at a diplomatic solution, only because we don’t want to deal with all that, and everything would continue that way forever.

Once again it was proved that this isn’t how it is. A few hundred armed Palestinians breached the barrier and invaded Israel in a way no Israeli imagined was possible. A few hundred people proved it’s impossible to imprison 2 million people forever without paying a cruel price.

Just as the smoky old Palestinian bulldozer tore through the world’s smartest barrier Saturday, it tore away at Israel’s arrogance and complacency. And that’s also how it tore away at the idea that it’s enough to occasionally attack Gaza with suicide drones.

On Saturday, Israel saw pictures it has never seen before. Palestinian vehicles patrolling its cities, bike riders entering through the Gaza gates. These pictures tear away at that arrogance.

The Gaza Palestinians have decided they’re willing to pay any price for a moment of freedom. Is there any hope in that? No. Will Israel learn its lesson? No.

On Saturday they were already talking about wiping out entire neighborhoods in Gaza, about occupying the Strip and punishing Gaza “as it has never been punished before.” But Israel hasn’t stopped punishing Gaza since 1948, not for a moment.

After 75 years of abuse, the worse possible scenario awaits it once again. The threats of “flattening Gaza” prove only one thing: We haven’t learned a thing. The arrogance is here to stay, even though Israel is paying a high price once again.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bears very great responsibility for what happened, and he must pay the price, but it didn’t start with him and it won’t end after he goes. We now have to cry bitterly for the Israeli victims, but we should also cry for Gaza.

Gaza, most of whose residents are refugees created by Israel. Gaza, which has never known a single day of freedom."

Hamas fighters used earth-moving equipment to breach the border fence between Gaza and Israel on Saturday, allowing more than 1,500 fighters to surge through nearly 30 points along the border. 
Credit...Mohammed Fayq Abu Mostafa/Reuters

The poet W.H. Auden came to hate the poem from which the title I've given this post is taken... But it remains all too true to our benighted moral compasses.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

It's National Coming Out Day

I guess we have to do this a little longer. The enemies of sex and gender diversity are on the march again, so let's remind them "we're here; we're queer; get used to it!"

A few images captured around San Francisco from the days I was walking every street:

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Making a big difference where even a little helps a lot

The Nicaraguan town of Comoapa is only a couple of hours drive from the capital city of Managua, but you don't have to look far to see that many of the benefits of modern life are few and far between. Last week members of the board of the water and sanitation organization El Porvenir had the chance to see a tidbit of what our diligent local staff are accomplishing alongside the local people at one site.

Students and staff of the Josefa Toledo school gave us a warm welcome.
Thanks to our help and the community's efforts, they now have brand new, sustainable, latrines -- one each for boys, girls, and staff.

The inspirational mural on the doors was their idea. These young people are being taught to love and preserve their beautiful countryside.
What visit from faraway strangers would be complete without some folkloric dances?

The mission of El Porvenir is inspiring:
We believe all people deserve clean water, safe sanitation, and the knowledge to sustain it for the generations to follow. We partner with the people of Nicaragua to build a better future for themselves through the sustainable development of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) education projects.
We also take it a step further with our watershed management program, which promotes water flow, increases food security, and reduces the impact of climate change.
Clean drinking water for all Nicaraguans—no matter how remote or how bad the road is—is at the core of everything we do, now and into the FUTURE.

Thursday, October 05, 2023

Greetings from Managua, Nicaragua

The airport Best Western hotel is a nice spot in an afternoon thunderstorm.  Rain chatters on the tin roofs and tile floors are unharmed by some water splash. Though they are slippery. I'm here for a board meeting of El Porvenir. There will be more pictures of the work of helping people provide themselves with clean water and sanitation facilities. These may have to wait until next week when I'll have better connectivity. Meanwhile, I'm loving the familiar 90 degree humid heat and the greenery.

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Silver lining

As a consequence of the Republican clown show in the House of Representatives, this sensible woman is now third in line for the presidency.

Until the GOP nincompoops manage to elect a Speaker, should something happen to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Patty Murray steps in.

I find that comforting. She could do the job.

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

There's something about the women ...

This is too good not to share. The New York Times' polling geek Nate Cohn responded to a reader email:

I’m 79, and women my age remember when abortion was illegal. Many of us either had a back-alley abortion, or had friends who had one. We are determined that neither our daughters nor our granddaughters have to experience this. Many of the elderly men I know still vote for Republicans. But watch out: We outlive you! — Mary Leonhardt

You may be partly joking, Mary, but this is probably a minor reason Democrats do a bit better among older voters than people might guess!

Why? American women, who tend to support Democrats, live almost six years longer on average than men. Women make up 55 percent of registered voters over age 65 — including 58 percent of those over age 80 — according to data from L2, a political data firm. In comparison, women are 52 percent of registered voters under 65.

I know all of this is a little morbid, but longevity strikes me as an underexplored dimension of electoral trends nowadays. We know higher life expectancy is correlated with socioeconomic status and tends to be higher in Democratic-leaning areas. Could this be a factor in why Democrats are performing better among older voters than usually thought? I think so.
As Cohn points out, old men too live longer in more prosperous areas where there are more Democrats. Kind of makes you suspect there's a correlation between (better) functioning social systems, sane politics, and longevity.

Monday, October 02, 2023

San Francisco for people as well as cars

I'm not walking as many San Francisco streets as I did for a long while, but I still get out and about. And I still encounter these sad markers of pedestrian carnage.

My sense is that we've come out of the pandemic driving even more erratically than we did before. The self-driving cab fleet generally smooths the flow; without imagination, the little zombies don't attempt to weave in and out of traffic. But some humans ... !

As of September 22, there had been 14 pedestrian deaths in the San Francisco this year. Two of those killed were older persons using crosswalks in the Mission-Valencia corridor.  

A new bicycle lane down the center of Valencia may or may not be helping. Both drivers and cyclists sometimes seem confused by it.

Advocates and local politicians are focusing on banning some right turns on red lights.

According to the city’s transit agency, turn-on-red crashes account for 20% of all pedestrian or bicycle-related injuries. In an experiment in the Tenderloin, the agency found that banning right turns on red has led to a decline in car collisions with pedestrians and a 70% reduction in cars blocking crosswalks.

Pedestrian advocates will be taking our concerns to the Municipal Transit Board this Tuesday. 

Sunday, October 01, 2023

"I never get used to being here ..."

Erudite Partner is off to spend a couple of months on Martha's Vineyard. That's the island in the Atlantic off Massachusetts where Florida Governor Ron DeSantis pulled his stunt, dumping Venezuelan migrants who had no idea where they'd be transported. To the Republicans' shock, the island folks knew what to do -- the state helped the migrants get work permits and sort out their immigration cases. Meanwhile, the company that DeSantis hired to fly the Venezuelans now faces human trafficking charges in the Texas county where they rounded up the confused migrants.

Contrary to common preconceptions, this affluent summer playground has a year round population of hardy working class New Englanders, many of whom are recent immigrants. The Martha's Vineyard Times has put out a series of interviews with immigrant Island residents. These conversations are great fun - learn how newcomers deal with new foods and, above all, the long, cold, gray winter.