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BeyondGeography's Journal
BeyondGeography's Journal
October 27, 2023

Is there anything more Republican

than a Bible-thumping Speaker of the House who was installed in his chair thanks to the leadership of a guy who crushed Viagara and chased it with Red Bull so he could tomcat all night with underage girls and showed the videos to anyone who would watch on the House floor?

October 26, 2023

It has been another rough day...here's some happiness

Ford and United Auto Workers’ union negotiators reach potential new deal


Shawn Fain is how we win.

“We’re all fed up with living in a world that values profits over people,” Fain said earlier this month. “We’re all fed up with seeing the rich get richer while the rest of us just continue to scrape by. We’re all fed up with corporate greed and together, we’re going to fight like hell to change it.”


October 23, 2023

Kristof: We Must Not Kill Gazan Children to Try to Protect Israel's Children

The crisis in the Middle East is a knotty test of our humanity, asking how to respond to a grotesque provocation for which there is no good remedy. And in this test, we in the West are not doing well. The acceptance of large-scale bombing of Gaza and of a ground invasion likely to begin soon suggests that Palestinian children are lesser victims, devalued by their association with Hamas and its history of terrorism. Consider that more than 1,500 children in Gaza have been killed, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, and around one-third of Gaza homes have been destroyed or damaged in just two weeks — and this is merely the softening-up before what is expected to be a much bloodier ground invasion.

…The United States speaks a good deal about principles, but I fear that President Biden has embedded a hierarchy of human life in official American policy. He expressed outrage at the massacres of Jews by Hamas, as he should have, but he has struggled to be equally clear about valuing Gazan lives. And it’s not always evident whether he is standing four-square with Israel as a country or with its failed prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a longtime obstacle to peace.

…In his speech on Thursday, Biden called for America to stand firmly behind Ukraine and Israel, two nations attacked by forces aiming to destroy them. Fair enough. But suppose Ukraine responded to Russian war crimes by laying siege to a Russian city, bombing it into dust and cutting off water and electricity while killing thousands and obliging doctors to operate on patients without anesthetic. I doubt we Americans would shrug and say: Well, Putin started it. Too bad about those Russian children, but they should have chosen somewhere else to be born.

…The best answer to this test is to try even in the face of provocation to cling to our values. That means that despite our biases, we try to uphold all lives as having equal value. If your ethics see some children as invaluable and others as disposable, that’s not moral clarity but moral myopia. We must not kill Gazan children to try to protect Israeli children.

More at https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/21/opinion/israel-gaza-palestine-children.html?unlocked_article_code=1.40w.v7UG.4WZQwsV6xF_9&smid=nytcore-ios-share&referringSource=articleShare
October 22, 2023

Corporations are voting with their investment dollars for Bidenomics

But if they don’t start speaking up they run the risk of losing all the incentives that are driving their decisions.

From Barrons:

Siemens’ U.S. CEO Barbara Humpton made an unusual plea for these politically fractured times in a recent Financial Times interview. She called on beneficiaries of infrastructure investment—her company is one of them—to tell voters how important that government policy is for the economy. The Biden administration championed infrastructure investment, and Congress passed it in bipartisan bills in 2021. But a change of government could imperil the tax breaks and subsidies that are just starting to modernize the U.S. economy and fight climate change.

Infrastructure investment is a “transcendent and nonpartisan issue,” she said. Businesses need to speak up, she added, “so that whoever is sitting in the White House or whoever’s legislating on Capitol Hill knows the importance of this to American workers, to American families, and frankly, to our national security.” Humpton has a point. Republicans in the presidential race and in Congress are attacking Bidenomics. Former President Trump recently called automakers “stupid or gutless” for investing in electric cars. Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina, described Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act—focused on rebuilding American industry and weaning the country off fossil fuels—as a “communist manifesto filled with tax hikes and green subsidies that benefit China.”

…It didn’t used to be rare to hear from executives like Siemens’ Humpton. CEOs spoke up on affirmative action hiring after the murder of George Floyd, stopped doing business with gunmakers after a series of school massacres, and supported employees in anti-abortion states. Then came the conservative backlash against “woke,” and a series of red state policies that look an awful lot like retribution for business leaders speaking their minds. Plenty of companies have said they’re eager to participate in publicly funded projects, but Humpton seems alone in citing the looming risks to Biden’s economic policies and calling on her fellow leaders to speak out in support of federal economic policies that will broadly benefit the U.S. economy. They’re going to be on the ballot next year, whether voters know it or not.

We can argue about whether business should get involved in the politics of abortion or saving democracy (I vote yes), but this is about the economy. Business is already voting with its investment dollars. Now it’s time for business leaders to speak up and take a political stand.

October 20, 2023

Thomas Friedman: No new economic aid to Israel unless settlement expansion ceases

…I’m all for helping Israelis and Palestinian civilians at this time — but not without some very visible strings attached. If Israel needs weapons to protect itself from Hamas and Hezbollah, by all means ship them. But in terms of broader economic aid for Israel, it should be provided only if Israel agrees not to build even one more settlement in the West Bank — zero, none, no more, not one more brick, not one more nail — outside the settlement blocs and the territory immediately around them, where most Jewish settlers are now clustered and which Israel is expected to retain in any two-state solution with the Palestinians. (Netanyahu’s coalition agreement actually vows to annex the whole of the West Bank.)

…For way too long U.S. economic and military aid has allowed Netanyahu to have his cake and eat it too — to fund the insane settlement project, and maintain an advanced military, while not having to raise taxes on the whole Israeli public to pay for it all. While Israel got U.S. aid in one hand, the budget of its Ministry of Defense paid to build roads for settlers with the other hand. Uncle Sam’s wallet, indirectly, was the slush fund for Netanyahu’s politics. So no, we’re not telling Netanyahu what to do in Gaza — Israel is a sovereign country. We’re just going to tell him what we’re not going to do anymore — because we happen to be a sovereign country too.

America has been indirectly funding Israel’s slow-motion suicide — and I am not just talking settlements. Look at what Netanyahu did last June. To buy off the ultra-Orthodox parties he needs in his coalition to keep himself out of jail on corruption charges, Netanyahu’s government gave the ultra-Orthodox and the settlers “an unprecedented increment in allocations … including full funding of schools to not teach English, science and math,” explained Dan Ben-David, a macroeconomist who has focused on the interaction between Israel’s demography and education at Tel Aviv University, where he heads the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research. “This budgetary increment alone is more than Israel invests each year in higher education altogether — or 14 years of complete funding for the Technion, Israel’s M.I.T.,” Mr. Ben-David said. “It is completely nuts.”

Bottom line: Netanyahu has a completely incoherent strategy right now — eliminate Hamas in Gaza while building more settlements in the West Bank that undermine the only decent long-term Palestinian alternative to Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, which Israel needs to safely leave Gaza.

October 18, 2023

The danger of leaving things be: how the world 'failed miserably' in the Middle East

Amid Israel’s turn to the right and the resurgence of armed groups in the Palestinian territories, recent horrific events highlight the dangers of diplomatic inaction

…At the US behest, the Israelis came to the Red Sea port of Aqaba in Jordan on 26 February 2023 to meet Arab leaders and pledge a four-month moratorium (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/feb/26/israeli-and-palestinian-security-chiefs-meet-in-jordan-for-talks) on settlements. It was the first negotiation between the two sides in 10 years.

But before the ink was dry on the communique, it was repudiated. Netanyahu simply denied that Israel had committed to halting new settlement projects during the summit. A second summit at Sharm el-Sheikh on 19 March repeated the same pledges, and this time spoke of developing “a mechanism” to curb and counter violence, incitement, and inflammatory statements and actions.

Regardless, Israel’s finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, was openly denying the existence of the Palestinian ethnic group. “The Palestinian people are an invention of less than a hundred years. Do they have a history, a culture? No, they do not. There are no Palestinians, there are just Arabs.”Far from punishing Smotrich, Netanyahu in June rewarded him by handing all control over planning approval for construction in West Bank settlements to him. Could Biden have done more to constrain the actions of the Israeli government?

The Democratic left says Biden should have recognised the de facto annexation of the West Bank was under way, intervened, and imposed a bigger punishment than a withheld invitation to the White House. Bernie Sanders, for instance, in February had argued that Biden had to recognise this was a qualitatively different Israeli government to anything that preceded it. He said: “If a government is acting in a racist way and they want billions of dollars from [US taxpayers], I think you say: ‘Sorry but it’s not acceptable. You want our money? Fine. This is what you got to do to get it.’”

More at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/17/left-on-the-shelf-how-the-world-failed-miserably-in-the-middle-east?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
October 17, 2023

Josh Marshall: Heads I Win, Tails You Lose - Scenes from The Annals of Authoritarianism

…After McCarthy dropped out the GOP caucus held a vote to decide who the caucus would back on the House floor. Scalise won that vote. But most of Jordan’s backers just said they wouldn’t abide by the results of the vote. Seeing no way to persuade them, Scalise dropped out of the race. That triggered another caucus election to decide who the caucus would back on the House floor. This time Jordan defeated a random back bencher who was likely there mainly as a placeholder for opposition to Jordan. But Jordan didn’t win by much more than Scalise won the first round. Jordan’s allies in turn went scorched earth against his opponents and got most of them to fold. This is ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ rules. The Jordan backers message is we’re the rule breakers and you’re the rule followers. So we get to break them and you have to follow them even when we break them. And that means that you have to back Jordan now both because those are the rules but also because there’s no choice since you know we won’t follow them if and when you win.

It’s another version of debt ceiling hostage taking. You’re going to fold because deep down you know we’re willing to wreck the country to get what we want. We both know that. And we both not you’re not wiling to do that. So we’ve already won. All we’re talking about is when you realize it.

This is obviously a fool’s game. Agreeing to play by those rules means you’ve already lost. I don’t particularly care about McCarthy or Scalise who thrived under this system before it consumed them. Who cares about them? But as we discussed a couple days ago, this is just is just a microcosm of the authoritarian pathogen looming over and threatening the whole American Republic. It’s the use of force over systems of rules. So in that sense it matters quite a lot.

October 17, 2023

Longer Commutes, Shorter Lives: The Costs of Not Investing in America

(NYT gift link; long but well worth the read)

Alternative headline: Chronicle of our Republican-led decline.

The chaos of the 1960s and 1970s helped end the era of great American investment. Crime rose rapidly during those decades. The country fought a losing war in Vietnam. Political leaders were murdered. A president resigned in scandal. And the economy seemed to break down, with both unemployment and inflation soaring. The causes were complex — including wars in the Middle East that upended global energy markets — but Americans understandably came to question their own government’s competence.

In their frustration, many embraced a diagnosis that a group of conservative intellectuals had been offering for decades, mostly without winning converts. It held that the post-New Deal United States had put too much faith in government regulation and not enough in the power of the market to allocate resources efficiently. These intellectuals included Milton Friedman and Robert Bork, while the politician who successfully sold their vision was Reagan. The new consensus has become known as neoliberalism, a word that in recent years has turned into a catchall epithet to describe the views of moderate Democrats and conservatives. But the word is nonetheless meaningful. The neoliberal revolution in economic policy changed the country’s trajectory. After 1980, regulators allowed companies to grow much larger, often through mergers. The government became hostile to labor unions. Tax rates on the affluent plummeted. And Washington pulled back from the major investments it had been making.

Federal spending on research and development, which had already come down from its post-Eisenhower high, declined in the 1980s and 1990s. In recent years, it has accounted for less than half as large a share of G.D.P. as it did 60 years ago. The country’s roads, bridges, rail networks and air-traffic system have all atrophied — hence the lengthening of travel times. The share of national income devoted to government spending on education stopped rising in the 1970s and has remained stagnant since. Less selective colleges, which tend to educate working-class students, tend to be especially lacking in resources.

Other countries, meanwhile, have passed by the United States. Every American generation born between the late 1800s and mid-1900s was the most educated in the world. Americans under age 50 no longer hold this distinction. The lack of progress among American men has been especially stark. Men’s wages, not coincidentally, have risen extremely slowly in recent decades.

October 13, 2023

Stevie Wonder - Higher Ground


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