Rename Balbo Drive! Up with Ida! Down With Fascists!

 

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This woman stared unflinchingly at evil and made us all look with her.

 

Like most people in Chicago, I for years thought Balbo Drive, a short street on the south end of the Loop, running from Printers Row and intersecting with history at Grant Park, where hippies and cops clashed in the street in 68, and where, 40 years later, our first African-American President celebrated his election, was actually called Balboa Drive. That’s how I always pronounced it, and almost certainly spelled it. That is to say: I didn’t think about it at all.

Learning (or remembering) that it was actually called Balbo marked the end of my concern for the street, except for always consciously marking the lack of a Rocky-ifying “a” in the middle, in the same way I mentally make an “L” with my thumb when turning left or think about Alison Milnamow when spelling “their” (don’t ask). Even for someone as interested in Chicago history as I am, it seemed unimportant.

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Near historic Lou Malnati’s, apparently.

That changed in the last few years, when in the wake of the country finally realizing that honoring traitors and murderous racists was bad, people pointed out that the Balbo in question was, well, questionable.

During Chicago’s 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair, an Italian airman led a roundtrip flight of 24 seaplanes in formation for an unprecedented flight of its kind from Rome, Italy to Chicago, Illinois for the fair. In honor of the achievement, the Chicago mayor at the time, Edward Kelly, renamed the nearby three block long 7th street after the lead airman, Italo Balbo. During his time in the USA he also invited to lunch by President D. Roosevelt and received a warm welcome from Americans, particularly Italian-Americans as a shining example of Italian aviation. In fact, for a time, ‘Balbo’ became a common term to refer to a large formation of aircraft.

That might have been the end of it if the Italian government Balbo was representing at the time weren’t that of brutal Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Mussolini even donated an ancient Roman column to the city that exists to this day as another monument to the controversial Balbo. Before his aviation fame, Balbo helped institute Mussolini’s Fascist rule as a Blackshirt leader, a gang of Fascist thugs that intimidated and assaulted non-Fascists that stood in their way. He spent the rest of his life devoted to both Mussolini and Fascism. Many considered Balbo to be Mussolini’s heir before he was killed in 1940 by friendly fire.

Now don’t get me wrong: I love that there was a name of a large group of airplanes, and it was the childishly-syllabically pleasing “balbo”. It’s a balbo of planes! That’s fun! Less fun is fascism.

 

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Brutal thuggish dictator Mussolini is the guy on the left

 

But now comes a movement to rename this street after someone who is genuinely heroic, and who towers over American history: Ida B. Wells.

Balbo Drive would be renamed for Ida B. Wells, an iconic figure in the African-American community who led an anti-lynching crusade, under an aldermanic plan that is certain to stir controversy.

South Side Ald. Sophia King (4th) and downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) plan to launch the effort at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

They will introduce an ordinance to rename Balbo Drive in honor of Wells. If colleagues go along with the idea, it would be Chicago’s first permanent street renaming since 1968 and the first street in the Loop named after a woman and a person of color, according to King’s staff.

Wells was born a slave and died in Chicago, and lived a life of tireless and fearsome advocacy. She was an impossibly brave journalist, traveling at great risk throughout the south to document lynching, calling attention to this terrorist scourge, not letting America pretend that it had moved forward one inch. She called just as much attention to a barely-more-genteel form of racism in the north, particularly this violent and segregated city. She was a pioneering advocate for women’s rights, especially at the intersection of race.

In short, she made America look at itself. She was never comfortable, never safe. And she never stopped.

Thankfully, she seems to be having a bit of a moment. A movement to put a monument of her up in Bronzeville seems to be gaining steam. You can (and should!) donate to it, though it is a shame the city won’t just pay for it. If anyone deserves to be honored, it is Wells.

Now, there are a few counter-arguments. Maybe the most compelling one is that the Loop already has a street called Wells, and although the two wouldn’t intersect, or even really run near each other, that could be an issue. That one is named after William Wells, who was killed in the Battle of Fort Dearborn, a seminal moment in Chicago history, though one that is a tad bit more complex than the heroism on which we were weaned.

Still, Wells is too long to be renamed, and that’s a losing battle. I don’t think it would be that big a deal, since people would say “go to Ida B and Michigan!” There’s only three blocks to choose from. GPS might be the only obstacle here (and it is a substantial one.)

The other argument comes from (or will probably come from) the Italian-American community, which was upset last year when people wanted to remove the Mussolini monument, and there was talk of renaming Balbo to Fermi Drive.

Dominic DiFrisco, president emeritus of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian-Americans… joined Lou Rago, president of the Italian American Human Relations Foundation, in writing a letter to the editor of the Chicago Sun-Times defending Balbo’s honor.

They argued that Italo Balbo had unfairly become “residual shrapnel from the barrage of bullets the rest of the country is firing over what to do with the approximate 1,500 Confederate place names and other symbols in public spaces.”

They wondered why the memory of Balbo’s “remarkable accomplishments” was being “swept up into the national wave of removing the past.”

(Note: this is really cute wording. It’s the people opposed to Confederate monuments that are doing violence, and who are “removing the past.” That language isn’t exactly dissimilar to the actual Confederate symps. This is what we call a “tell”.)

“We want to be perfectly clear. Italo Balbo was an outspoken opponent of the Mussolini tilt towards Hitler and was not the enemy that many in the Chicago City Council are portraying he was,” they wrote.

“Despite being a general under Mussolini, when Balbo saw where Mussolini was going with his pro-German policies, he was horrified. He was one of the only fascists in Mussolini’s regime to openly oppose Italy’s anti-Jewish racial laws and Italy’s alliance with Germany.”

That’s good! Those are definitely good things toward which to be opposed. He wasn’t a total monster. Things he wasn’t opposed to, though, include: the invasion and destruction of Ethiopia, war in Europe, the crushing of dissent, internal concentration camps, the spread of fascism, being a fascist.

 

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This is him and Benito after “conquering” Ethiopia. The only good person in history to wear a cape like that is Lando.

Now, it is interesting of course, because in America in the 30s, being a fascist wasn’t a disqualifier. It wasn’t a catch-all term for “my political opponent”. Throughout the world, there was a genuine debate if fascism was the ideal form of politics. It was a legitmate political philosophy.

This was true whether it was the personalized authoritarianism of Hitler and Mussolini, the sort of corporatist state envisioned by James Burnham, or a unique American quasi-fascist managed democracy promoted by the likes of Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and for a time even John Kenneth Galbraith.

But here’s the thing: they were wrong. They were wrong about how the powerful should run roughshod over the weak. They were wrong about how rights should be subsumed to monetary interest and the dim horizons of national glory. They were wrong about the relationship of people to state, individuals to capital, and blood and soil to ideals.

In other words, they were wrong about everything Ida B. Wells was right about. We’re still fighting those battles, as quasi-fascist strongman nationalist rule is taking hold again around the world, and America is staring at a particularly dumbshow type of authoritarianism. That’s all the more reason to change the name. We’re fighting for what we believe to be good.

This isn’t erasing the past. It’s celebrating what America should be. It’s celebrating the best of us. It’s honoring the true forgotten past, and honoring someone who never let us forget our dark present. It might be a small street, but it would be a huge step forward.

 

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Pompeo Denies Iranian Existence

 

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Seriously, like two years ago this guy was a garden-variety Tea Party nobody. 

 

In a speech yesterday, our Secretary of State, the terrible Tea Party Christianist bigot Mike Pompeo, presented his idea of diplomacy in the aftermath of the United States’ violation of the Iran deal: colonialism.

In essence, Pompeo told Iran that they would be faced with the most devastating sanctions in human history if they didn’t comply with his list of 12 demands. This, on its face, was nonsense. After all, they already faced terrible sanctions, which is why they gave up their nuclear program and agreed to a hugely invasive inspection regime.

But even more so, in order for that to work, the EU, Russia, and China would have to be on board with this. And so far, it is far from clear they will be. The EU is already saying they might protect firms hurt by US sanctions, which they absolutely should. US leadership doesn’t mean anything if we violate our agreements and then demand our allies support us.

And Russia and China? Please. Russia’s whole goal is to make this a post-US world, and separating us from Europe is a big part of that. Trump and Pompeo just handed them a huge gift. China isn’t trying to separate us, as much as make themselves far more relevant, and our rush toward empurpled irrelevance is extremely helpful.

But beside the unreality of his claims, it was Pompeo’s demand that really showed just what kind of people the administration is. I’m going to paste them in full.

  1. Declare to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) a full account of the prior military dimensions of its nuclear programme and permanently and verifiably abandon such work in perpetuity.

  2. Stop enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing, including closing its heavy water reactor.
  3. Provide the IAEA with unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country.
  4. End its proliferation of ballistic missiles and halt further launching or development of nuclear-capable missile systems.
  5. Release all US citizens as well as citizens of US partners and allies.
  6. End support to Middle East “terrorist” groups, including HezbollahHamas and Islamic Jihad.
  7. Respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi government and permit the disarming, demobilisation and reintegration of Shia militias.
  8. End its military support for the Houthi rebels and work towards a peaceful, political settlement in Yemen.
  9. Withdraw all forces under Iran’s command throughout the entirety of Syria.
  10. End support for the Taliban and other “terrorists” in Afghanistan and the region and cease harbouring senior al-Qaeda leaders.
  11. End the Islamic Revolutionary Guard corps-linked Quds Force’s support for “terrorists” and “militant” partners around the world.
  12. End its threatening behaviour against its neighbours, many of whom are US allies, including its threats to destroy Israel and its firing of missiles at Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and threats to international shipping and destructive cyberattacks.

Some of these are extremely worthy. Some are insane (give up even their nuclear energy program?). Some are wildly hypocritical, like the demand to stop supporting the Houthis while we’re arming the Sauds in their genocidal war. It’s not that it is unworthy, but it is not exactly an ask backed by any moral authority.

But the point-by-point isn’t as important as the project taken as a whole. In essence, they insist that Iran stop trying to be a power in the Middle East. This isn’t just hyopcritical; it is colonial. It is demanding that Iran go back before the revolution, when they were a vassal of the west. It is demanding that the Middle East be ruled by America, who gets to decide who is the power and who isn’t.

I can’t state how wildly self-defeating this is, not just in Iran, but in the broader Middle East (Gulf Arab states not included). I talked about why a while ago, but think it is important to re-up.

It’s madness and fallacy to think that the Iranian regime, or really, any post-Shah Iranian government, would enter into any agreement that lessens their regional power and increases that of the West. To believe that is to have zero historical understanding, of the near or the distant past.

The Iranian revolution wasn’t about Islam, or not entirely. There was a mix of anti-imperialist leftists, communists, other various secularists, religious types who didn’t want clerical rule (which remember, is what Khomeini first promised) and non-ideological nationalists who were just tired of western interference.

Western Europe and Russia had eclipsed Persian power in the region in the late 1800s, but it wasn’t until oil that the West really started controlling what was happening in Iran. Lopsided deals with venal flunkies gave England and then America a dominant role in the expropriation of Iranian resources. Shahs got rich, the west got rich, and most Iranians stayed poor. The same thing happened in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Western colonialism in the Middle East was a 20th-century phenomenon, which in our lifetime seems like all of eternity, but was really a blip. It was a terrible one, from the perspective of the inhabitants, of course. It was dirty and condescending and venal and greedy and grubbing. It was literally crude. Khomeini wasn’t just deposing a shah for the sake of Islam: he was kicking out the west for the sake of Iran.

That’s the heart of this. Iran, after a low and brutal, but historically brief, interregnum, is trying to reassert itself in a changing and fluid Middle East, still reeling from the collapse of the Ottoman empire and the perversions of 20th-century colonialism and nationalism.

To demand that they shouldn’t do this is breathtakingly arrogant and essentially colonialist. It’s saying to these dirty Persians that they should probably do what we want or else it would be a shame if we had to destroy your country. Grovel, or be brought low. One way or the other, on your knees.

The stupidity and venality of this is overwhelming. It brings us back to the days where we’d sign treaty after treaty with native nations, and then break them, running roughshod over their land, simply because we could. Because we had the power.

It’s no different. After treaty-breaking our way across the continent, we expanded worldwide, treating distant locals the way we treated the nations in this land. In the last generation, the world sort of accepted that this wasn’t the way to do things, that smaller countries had rights as well.

The US never really believed that, but certainly paid tribute to virtue (Russia was more or less the same, minus the tribute). This is nothing but the bad old days again. To assume that Iran will accept this is madness. To think that they should is arrogance. To think that they will, in the age of Trump, an ascendant China, and a swaggering Russia, is blindness.

“I Hereby Demand”: Trump’s Dumbshow Authoritarian Apotheosis

When the eventual history of this dumb and wretched is eventually written, this tweet could be one that children are forced to memorize, from a stone desk in their cave-school in the Nü-Barrens.

There’s a lot going on here, but the basic story is this: when the FBI found out about the extensive role that Russia was (ultimately successfully) attempting to play in our election, and the inordinate number of ties and meetings between Russia and the Trump campaign, they wanted to look into it. Seems reasonable, to me.

One thing they did was ask an intermediary to talk to several Trump campaign officials, your various Pages and Papadodoli. This intermediary would then report back to the FBI. Again, pretty basic stuff, when investigating criminality. Indeed, this would seem to be the bare minimum the FBI can do.

Of course, now that this is public knowledge, thanks to extraordinary leaks from quisling par excellence Devin Nunes, it has mutated into the FBI “infiltrating or surveilling” the campaign, which is only half accurate, for “Political Purposes”, which is nonsense.

The reason it is nonsense is basic common sense. This has been pointed out by probably millions of people, but the FBI, under the Higherly Loyal leadership of James Comey, slow-walked any Trump investigation to avoid even the merest hint of politics, even planting false stories in the Times about how there was no investigation, which was patently false. This is actually ok, or would have been, had they not made a huge show out of looking at some emails found because Anthony Weiner had to sext teenagers, and no, I will never ever get over this.

So, if you wanted to allege an FBI conspiracy to derail the Trump campaign, it was basically this: 1) Investigate and infiltrate; 2) find damning details of meetings and Russian interference; 3) alert the President, who said nothing; 4) tell the world there is no investigations; 5) ?; 6) win!

(This timeline ignores Mitch McConnell refusing to release a bipartisan statement telling Russia to back off, one the many reasons he’s the worst, but this timeline isn’t about Republican abetting, just baffling FBI conspiracies.)

Obviously, it is nonsense, but despite–or rather, because–of that, it is an absolute article of faith with the President, his surrounders, most elected Republicans, and the whole right wing machine. That’s why this tweet is so ominous. We don’t just have the normal absolutely insane situation of the President tweeting out idiot conspiracies. He’s now demanding that the Justice Department investigate itself.

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Weekend Reads and Quick Hits, Mostly Bleak

Hey, remember on Wednesday, when we had sort-of good news about things? A post that wasn’t super bleak? Well, don’t get used to it, chumps.

Let’s hit some things, quickly! How about we start with…the death of the planet?

Planetary Forcast Is Hot and Dead

 

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Earth, 2075. (Note: POSSIBLE exaggeration)

 

At Inverse, which is really a wonderful site, Mary van Aue reports that we’ve had our 400th consecutive month of above-average temperatures. We’re also pretty much guaranteed to have a temperature change of at least 2 degrees, Celsius. This is: bad.

With these new records behind us, scientists are now forecasting that the “worst case scenario,” one in which the planet heats up more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures by the end of the century, is more likely.

That number isn’t arbitrary. Limiting global warming to just 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures would limit the carnage that climate change has on the Earth’s biodiversity. A new study published in Science on Friday found that keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius would preserve tens of thousands of land-based species of plants, vertebrates, and insects living on the planet.

For anyone who thinks “biodiversity” is just something liberals like, remember that we all eat plants and animals! And they eat other things, and get nutrients from other things, and keep other plants and animals alive, and often work in complex, symbiotic ways.  When species start dying, whole ecosystems can collapse. We live in a bunch of overlapping ecosystems. This is a catastrophe, and honestly, I don’t think we’re going to make it.

Congressman Has Odd Ideas About Rising Sea Levels

You probably saw this earlier, but Mo Brooks (R- Alabama, the least surprising parenthetical ever) made maybe the dumbest comments ever uttered in the House of Representatives, a place that employs Louis Gohmert. It was about climate change and the rising seas.

Now, the official GOP position is that global warming doesn’t exist, and that it is all a hoax made up for some reason, most likely to make scientists rich. This is enshrined in our nation’s highest office.

But on the other hand, there are things like “facts” that make it super hard to pretend this isn’t happening. One fact is that we just passed 410ppm of CO2. That’s not a record, probably, since there have been times when it was higher, like when the Deccan Flats or Siberian Traps were coming damn near to extinguishing life on the planet, but it is the highest we have in about 800,000 years. (I linked to Business Insider there because I don’t think they’re known for their raving liberalism.) This keeps going up, according to the dangerous radicals at NASA.

There’s also the fact of rising oceans which threatens a lot of the world’s population, and which is getting considerably worse. One of the reasons it is getting worse is because of all that CO2 floating around, and warming the oceans, which is melting Antartica from beneath, which we just discovered, and is genuinely terrifying.

So it is the job of Republicans to wave away these facts, and they showed their tactics in full at a hearing this week. As Science explains:

The purpose of the hearing was to focus on how technology could be deployed for climate change adaptation. But the hearing frequently turned to the basics of climate science. Many of the questions by Republicans and Democrats alike were directed to Philip Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts and former senior adviser to the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said he was bothered that established climate science has not been questioned more by the committee, which has accused federal climate scientists of fraudulently manipulating climate data and subpoenaed their records.

“I’m a little bit disturbed by, No. 1, over and over again, I hear, ‘Don’t ever talk about whether mankind is the main cause of the temperature changing and the climate changing,'” he said. “That’s a little disturbing to hear constantly beaten into our heads in a Science Committee meeting, when basically we should all be open to different points of view.”

That’s the most common Republican tactic…allege that the scientists aren’t open to other points of view, that it is a conspiracy, and that they just want to get the truth. It’s a very hard-to-fight cynicism, because overwhelming consensus is whistled away as proof that everyone is in on it. It’s a real mob mentality! That this is being put forward by bought Russian stooge Rohrabacher is the real icing here.

But it is up to Mo Brooks to not just counter the idea of rising seas, but to find alternate ideas. These are…interesting.

Brooks then said that erosion plays a significant role in sea-level rise, which is not an idea embraced by mainstream climate researchers. He said the California coastline and the White Cliffs of Dover tumble into the sea every year, and that contributes to sea-level rise. He also said that silt washing into the ocean from the world’s major rivers, including the Mississippi, the Amazon and the Nile, is contributing to sea-level rise.

“Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up,” Brooks said.

“What about the white cliffs of Dover, California, where time and time again you’re having the waves crash against the shorelines, and time and time again, you’re having the cliffs crash into the sea. All that displaces water, which forces it to rise, does it not?”

Duffy responded: “I’m pretty sure that on human time scales, those are minuscule effects.”

It’s really the “does it not”, that sells this, like Brooks just check and mated the eggy egghead liar. There’s no doubt that on a grand geologic timeframe the land all washes into the sea and the world is remade, but it doesn’t actually happen this quickly. Brooks could also possibly be surprised by the fact that, as the earth is currently constituted, there is more ocean than land.

At least this was a nice exchange.

Brooks added that Antarctic ice is growing. That was true a few years ago, and scientists say it does not disprove the theory of global warming because different factors affect the Arctic and Antarctic rates of melting.

“We have satellite records clearly documenting a shrinkage of the Antarctic ice sheet and an acceleration of that shrinkage,” Duffy said.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know where you’re getting your information, but the data I have seen suggests — ” Brooks said.

Duffy answered: “The National Snow and Ice Data Center and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.”

Your Reminder That The President Doesn’t Know Anything: North Korea and Libya Edition

Sigh…

The US president issued the threat at the White House when he was asked about the recent suggestion by his national security adviser, John Bolton, that the “Libyan model” be a template for dealing with North Korea at a summit between Trump and Kim planned for 12 June in Singapore.

“The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him. Now that model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy,” Trump said, suggesting that the regime’s survival could be assured if Kim agreed to disarm.

“This with Kim Jong-un would be something where he would be there. He would be running his country. His country would be very rich,” the president said.

I mean…that’s not what the Libya model is. It’s when, after the invasion of Iraq, Gaddafi agreed to give up his nuclear power in exchange to be welcomed into the world community and keep getting rich. The problem is that after a while, the world helped him be overthrown and killed. So it is a weird precedent for Bolton to suggest, but I see the outline of coherence there.

But Trump doesn’t know that, or doesn’t care. He’s just making random threats, only remembering one thing, and using that as his “model”. If you wanted to argue that he was making a point, it is that he’s assuming Kim saw what happened to Gaddafi, so he knows the US could take him out, so he should make a deal. After all, Trump literally says that they’ll decimate the regime if a deal isn’t made, which now that I read it, should be the fucking headlines.

That’s terrifying and a horrible way to negotiate. I know he thinks it sounds tough. But combined with the “Libya model”, what reason is there for Kim to give up his weapons? The stability of the United States? The strength of our promises? It’s madness predicated by total ignorance and a half-cocked notion of how strongmen talk.

What 100 Miles In Means to Border Patrol

 

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The borderlands of Indianapolis

 

A year and change ago, we talked about how an aggressive CBP, who, along with ICE, is the spear end of Trump’s white nationalism, were using the full extent of their powers to harass people “100 air miles from any border“.

It’s a weird notion for those of us who don’t really have to worry about Border Patrol. We don’t really understand the extent of their jurisdiction. But Tanvi Misra and the great people at CityLab showed exactly what this means, in a tremendous piece of research and data-reporting.

In the “border zone,” different legal standards apply. Agents can enter private property, set up highway checkpoints, have wide discretion to stop, question, and detain individuals they suspect to have committed immigration violations—and can even use race and ethnicity as factors to do so.

That’s striking because the border zone is home to 65.3 percent of the entire U.S. population, and around 75 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population, according to a CityLab analysis based on data from location intelligence company ESRI. This zone, which hugs the entire edge of the United States and runs 100 air miles inside, includes some of the densest cities—New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. It also includes all of Michigan and Florida, and half of Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to a prior rough analysis by Will Lowe, a data scientist at MIT.

Read the whole piece to understand the democratic dystopia that has been gaining steam for decades, and has now been shot into hyperspeed.

Finally, A Nice Thing About Rivers

 

Bluff Springs Fen, October 31

Bluff Springs Fens, Oct 31st. By the artist. I mean, this is just lovely, right? 

 

The Center for Humans and Nature has a nice interview with an artist named Joel Shessley. (Disclosure: the company I work for has the Center as a client, though I wasn’t there when we did their website.) He is painting the Fox River, and his work will be presented at Aurora University in September. Anyway, he has some lovely thoughts about rivers, and I’ll leave you with them, contemplatively.

How has painting from different perspectives and during various seasons transformed the way you view life on the river and the life of the river itself?

Since I’m dealing with the watershed, and not just the river itself, I’ve become much more aware that the river cannot be separated from the land that feeds it. The river is what it is by virtue of all the named and unnamed tributaries, all the little rivulets and the larger streams that flow together to become the Fox River. Working across the Fox River Valley, I’ve begun to feel the pull of gravity down the gentle slopes. I’ve begun to sense how the river and the land interact. A topographic map would show you this, but patient observation on the ground and moving with the current in a canoe puts this information into your bones in a visceral way.

Some Good News: Investors Balk over ANWR Drilling

 

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“You know what would be nice here? Derricks.” – Not Everyone, thankfully

Ye gods, but this blog has been bleak of late. Let’s look at some good news, and it comes from one of this blog’s favorite group of people…the investor class!

 

No, but for real. From The Guardian

Investors managing more than $2.5tn have warned oil firms and banks to shun moves by the US president, Donald Trump, to open the Arctic national wildlife refuge (ANWR) to drilling.

Companies extracting oil and gas from the wilderness area in Alaska would face “enormous reputational risk and public backlash”, the investors say in a letter sent on Monday to 100 fossil fuel companies and the banks that finance them.

Exploiting the area would also be an “irresponsible business decision”, the group argues, as global action on climate change will reduce oil demand and mean such projects have a high risk of losing money. An accompanying letter from the indigenous Gwich’in people say it would be “deeply unethical” to destroy their homelands.

This, to me, is really good. It would be nice if we could just say “Don’t do it, because it’s stupid and it ruins everything that is nice and beautiful in the world and we’re already tipping irrevocably into civilizational ruin because we’re pulling all the carbon from the ground and pushing it into the sky and the ocean and can we just stop that and enjoy some moose for goddamn once?

But that’s not really going to work, and so the language used here is perfect. It of course talks about the rights of the indigenous, which is really heartening after the horrors of DAPL and, say, the last half-millennium-and-change of human history. But it is most powerful, at least for its intended audience, when it uses the language of business.

An “irresponsible business decision” is exactly right. The investors are saying that we’re going to move away from fossil fuels, so this is an enormous investment of capital for an uncertain payoff. I’m not sure that, in a vacuum, they are correct. That battle isn’t won. But when the battle is joined by people who stand to make money from fossil fuels, on the side of clean of energy, that tilts the odds. It’s a (hopefully) self-fulfilling prophecy.

I’m not sure I agree that the companies would face “enormous reputational risk and backlash” overall. As a nation, we tend to be pretty blase about companies poisoning the land and water; it’s not as if there are public marches against Enbridge.  But if there is backlash from the large investment groups and pension funds that modern capitalism depends on? Well, that’s a different story.

Finally, I really liked this:

“There is no longer any doubt that climate change poses an acute risk not only to our collective way of life, but also to investments made in outdated and highly precarious forms of energy,” said Thibaud Clisson at BNP Paribas Asset Management, another signatory.

I like that there is almost a sigh, here. “Yes, it may kill us all, but if that’s not enough to get through your greedy, short-sighted heads, it might also cost you money. Christ.”

BNP Paribas has about $682 billion in asset management. This is how capitalism works when it works for good. People make rational, long-term decisions that don’t just look at the quickest and dirtiest dollar, but figure out a way to make sustainable money.

That can be greed. That can be nothing but pure self-interest. That can be not really giving a damn about the Gwich’in people, except as another way to dissuade a company not to make a bad bet.

Is it an ideal system? Probably not. Will it always work? Certainly not. Is it a better way of doing things, and on the path toward something actually sustainable? It seems to be the only way, and maybe the best chance we have at saving ourselves from ourselves.

So today’s rare burst of good news is that capitalism can potentially work when capitalists realize that the destruction of human civilization is bad for the bottom line. Baby steps are better than sprinting backwards.

Gaza Massacre and Jerusalem Embassy Demonstrate Final Merging of The GOP, Trumpism, and Bibism.

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As news and images exploded out from Gaza yesterday morning, as death counts increased, and the idea that Israeli soldiers opened indiscriminate live-fire on mostly-unarmed protestors became rooted in whatever passes for a public consciousness these days, a sort of counter-narrative began to take place. These protestors, massed against the border, were Hamas operatives. There was some talk of them being paid by Hamas, but the right wing in America and Israel believed, en masse, that these people were at best being manipulated by Hamas and used as human shields in a propaganda war.

Now, it’s not that these fabulists had no point at all: Hamas has never been above sacrificing Palestinians. And the protestors weren’t strictly angry about the move of the US embassy per se, but rather against the occupation as a whole. And it is clear that Hamas certainly encouraged people to mass at the border.

But still: think about it. Think of how little you have to care about Palestinians to think that they’d throw their lives away simply because Hamas said to. Think about how much you’d have to dismiss the daily cruelty and, ultimately, the pointless confinement of their lives. Think about the deep cynicism and reflexive denial you’d have to live in to pretend that there could be no legitimate reasons for a punished and trapped people to be angry.

And that’s when you realize that yesterday represented a kind of culmination, growing for years. The racism and religious bigotry that has been growing and ultimately consuming the GOP has found a full-throated partner in Netanyahu’s Likud, which has dropped even the pretense of peace, and even the illusion of recognizing Palestinian humanity.

The grotesque spectacle of the corrupt and terminally stupid US President sending the smiling emptiness of his daughter and the hollow absurdity of his son-in-law to open an embassy and close the door on any productive US role in the Middle East, to be surrounded and serenaded by bigots and religious hucksters, while a few miles away dozens were killed, is that final fusion.

It’s where the GOP’s ravening viciousness and absolute lack of empathy combined perfectly with the reckless hatreds of Trumpism and the cynical bloody-mindedness of Bibisim. They have been moving together for years, and they met fully and finally on Monday, the ting of clinking glasses drowning out the shrieks and the sound of rivening flesh below.

Ferguson and the Intifada

 

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An oppressed minority has enough, and protests against their oppressors. Years–generations–of systemic abuse come to a head in clashes that turn violent. Official policy is to treat them as hostile, assume the worst, and use the behavior of any bad actor to engage in swift, disproportionate punishment.

You saw the subhead of this section, so you understand the parallels here. The protests in Ferguson in 2014 came from a defining incident, the shooting of Mike Brown and the decision not to prosecute Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed him. Immediately, a country already on edge after race-baiting demagogues used the fact of a black President to sow even more fear and division split apart.

The conversation quickly turned from the weight of Ferguson’s history (and that of the entire US) to whether or not Mike Brown deserved it.

In the hot summer of 2016, with Donald Trump stoking racial hatred at every raucous, adoring rally, we turned to another killing, in Charlotte, of Keith Scott. I wrote that maybe Scott had a gun or was a bad dude, but that wasn’t the issue.

The problem then is that these normal suspects will use any potential flaws in his character to gloss over the real issue, which isn’t just police violence, but the culture from which it springs. Tongues will be clucked over the defense of the dubious, and the question will be not “why are they angry”, but “how dare they be so angry. This one guy wasn’t a saint!”

It’s the normal dodge– that Mike Brown may have committed petty larceny means the sins of Ferguson don’t count, and that no one should have been mad. History is erased by a couple of cheap cigars.

That’s what has happened in Gaza as well. There’s no question that Hamas is a cruel sort of government, and that surely some of the people who went to protest wanted violence. But that we say, blithely, that they were “protesting at the border” is a benign way to describe the situation. They were at the fence that circumscribes their life, that leaves them in a wrecked and punished enclave, where they are trapped by Israel, and trapped with Hamas.

But none of that matters. The whole goal of the GOP has stopped even trying to understand why people might be upset over hundreds of years of slavery and Jim Crow and redlining and the War on Drugs and police brutality. A whole campaign, and arguably an entire Presidency, was based around saying mean things about Black Lives Matter and getting performatively angry about football players kneeling.

That’s not just Trumpism, but he was the snarling completion of the GOP’s transformation, and certainly accelerated it and liberated bigots from using code words anymore. And he decided, without any hesitation (or really any thought) that he’d overturn decades of US foreign policy regarding the Palestinians, and be entirely unconcerned with their national aspirations of even basic humanity.

Again, though, Trump was the culmination of this. Over the last decade, the GOP accepted that Bibi’s particularly cruel and inward version of Likudism wasn’t merely cool, but was the avatar of Israel. That there was no Israel other than Bibi. And Bibi himself, in his rhetoric and cynicism and bigotry, was essentially, or even quintessentially, a Republican. They both decided whose lives were the only ones that mattered.

There is a common denominator between Mike Pence going to an NFL game just to walk out when black players demonstrated that their basic human dignity and lives were worth more than a tuneless poem, and Nikki Haley walking out today when a representative from Gaza rose to speak about the slaughter of his people. They both showed exactly how they felt about the wrong people claiming their humanity.

(The connection between the GOP and Israel is pretty complex, as the Republicans have been more of less taken over my apocalyptic Christians, who despise Islam and therefore love Bibi. It’s a marriage partly of convenience, as these Christians have no love for Jews in any real sense, but it is mostly a marriage of true love, based on mutual hatred.)

Foreign Policy by Politics and Personality

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There’s another way that the United States and Israel are in the same trough of historical madness: they are being shaped entirely by the malignant personalities of their heads of state. Those personalities manifest themselves in different ways, of course, but there are parallels that go beyond their racism.

I used to think that Bibi had no ideology other than his own political career, and he was willing to bend as far to the right as possible to create coalitions that would keep him there. I don’t think I was wrong, but I think he calcified into the grotesquerie he always presented himself as. You don’t cater for years to Avigdor Lieberman without eventually believing your own wretched posturing.

But still, the raw cynicism with which he managed his career posioned everything in Israeli politics and its foreign policy. Piece by piece, in order to save his own skin, he destroyed first the possibility of a two-state solution and then even any idea of it. He destroyed hope, and in doing so, he further coarsened Israel. The country has largely washed its hands not just of the national aspirations of Palestinians, but their very humanity.

This was also made possible by the fervent embrace in which he was wrapped by the GOP, who had his back, and who gave him pride of place even over the United States President. Until, of course, that President was Trump, who either through laziness or meanness, tied his foreign policy entirely to Bibism, starting with the JCPOA (which, was always have to remind ourselves, is supported by the Israeli intelligence services, but not Bibi).

Trump’s attitude toward Israel was, by any logical stance, weird. It’s not just that he is willing to give them whatever he wants, and it’s not that he really has no principled reason to support them. It’s that he really doesn’t care, which is why he turned over all his policy to Jared Kushner, who knew nothing.

Our policy is then dominated by Trump’s laziness and ignorance and bigotry, by his idea that he really should listen to Bibi, by his addiction to the strange passions of Fox News, and by his absolute lack of concern for anyone who can’t fete him with red carpets and orbs.

That’s why he moved the Embassy. It is true that many Democrats supported this as well- Chuck Schumer, who is entirely inexcusable, congratulated Trump for doing so. It’s very true that not giving the Palestinians a real chance was bipartisan, but never to this degree. Since the first Bush administration, the idea that the Palestinians had rights was a given.

Moving the Embassy was never done by a Democrat, or a Republican before the zombie fungues took full control of the GOP brain, because everyone recognized that if we wanted any chance of being a trusted broker, we couldn’t honor the Occupation. We could play footsie with it, we could recognize it de facto, but a de jure acceptance of Israeli domination over Jerusalem? That was madness.

Well, it’s madness that the right wing likes. It sticks it to the Palestinians, and gives Bibi a boost. It’s a main cause of Fox News. They’ve been telling Trump to do this for years. And he wants to make them happy. He lives for them to say he was sure tough and he stuck it to the libs.

And so he made a catastrophic move, because that’s who he is. And that’s what our politics are now. That’s also the heart of our international relations.

White Supranationalism Over All

 

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This was happening at the same time as the top picture

As we’ve argued on this blog, many times, putting Jared Kushner in charge of Middle East peace is one of the most insulting aspects of Trumpism. Even if he’s a bright guy, and that shouldn’t be stipulated as a fact, he knew nothing about the Middle East.

That’s sort of why it was maddening that he and Ivanka, who is a worthless cover for the admin’s depredations, were there dedicating the Embassy in the first place. This was a monumental event, whether you thought it was Brave and Bold or catastrophic. It wasn’t a photo op for a jumped-up empowerment guru and the security-clearance-denied rich kid she married.

But it was doubly maddening when you consider the violence that was happening while they cheered and grinned and celebrated. The contrast itself was sickening; that the Administration literally doesn’t care enough about a razor-edge situation to send anyone competent puts it in stark relief: they just don’t consider Palestinians to be people.

In his rare remarks, Kushner gave boilerplate platitudes about peace, the possibility of which’s death he was overseeing, but then improvised and let us know exactly what he thought about Palestinians.

“As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today, those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution,” he said.

That’s really all you need to know about this administration, about the GOP, about Bibi, and about the white supranationalism that is overtaking so much of the globe. You see it in the cruelty shown Syrian refugees in Europe (especially, though not exclusively, in Eastern Europe). You see it in how we treat refugees of all stripes, and how the controlling party treats any minority. Cruelty isn’t the outcome: it’s the entire goal.

It’s the idea that the Other has to be completely dehumanized, that their aspirations treated as worthless, that any violence they commit is inexcusable, and that violence against them is justified, acceptable, and praise-worthy.

That’s Bibism. That’s Trumpism. That’s the GOP. And at the end, that’s America.

 

Iran, Israel, and Syria: Does What Came Before Show What Will Come Next?

Location of the Golan Heights

Last night, it looked like we were about to plunge into the new and most dangerous phase of a constantly-mutating series of wars in the Middle East. Over a tense few hours, Iran and Israel exchanged strikes, in what was either a display of signaling or a sign of things to come.

Or, of course, both.

Israel carried out widespread deadly raids against what it said were Iranian targets in Syria on Thursday after rocket fire towards its forces which it blamed on Iran, marking a sharp escalation between the two enemies.

I know that yesterday I said today’s post would be about the medium-and-long-term ramifications of the US announcing it was going to violate the JCPOA, but events, as we see, quickly overtook long-term thinking. They have a way of doing that.

So what do these strikes mean? Since, as of this writing (around 1:00 CST), there haven’t been further significant exchanges, we can begin to hazard a few guesses, knowing all the while that predictions only serve to make you look foolish, and bland gamesmanship is grotesque when real lives are on the line.

So to do a quick recap of last night’s events: Iran, shortly after announcing that it would abide by the JCPOA, but making clear that could change if the European signatories changed their tune, launched rockets at Israeli positions in the Golan Heights, which has been occupied by Israel since the ’67 war.

Israel retaliated, claiming to take out “nearly all key Iranian military targets in Syria”. The reason for this significance isn’t just that Israel was attacked; that is common. But up until now, it has been through Iranian proxies, such as Hezbollah. This was the first actual Iranian strike, and the first time Israel has attacked Iranian forces/infrastructure directly.

So…does this mean war? Right now, it looks like it doesn’t. Indeed, on the surface, it looks like Iran swaggered, and Israel punched back, demonstrating clear power, forcing Iran to back off. That might be the case. This may have been a little bit of eagerness, a few punches thrown in the chaos of war, before both sides backed down.

Right?

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