Monday, May 1, 2023

On Our "Virtual Route 66" As The New Month Dawns



A new month is upon us.
We present a snapshot of the week that was--As President Biden launched his reelection, India asserts itself, The UK has local elections, Turkey Votes, Israel turns 75, Sudan's civil war rages on, and  Ukraine gears up for an offensive.
We present thoughts courtesy The Economist, The Financial Times, Heather Cox Richardson, Project Syndicate, Crooked Media, Jacobin, Global SEcurity and Le Monde Diplomatique as we look forward to the privilege to serve. 


‘India’s century’: can the most populous nation unlock the potential of its youth?


- Disgraced former president Donald Trump having a normal one at a campaign event

As we hurdle towards the one-year anniversary of the Dobbs decision, which stripped tens of millions of Americans of their right to abortion, the fight for abortion rights has changed dramatically, and in many ways that scares the anti-choice movement. 

  • In post-Roe America, the anti-choice movement has successfully implemented heinous abortion bans across the country. But time and again, even in deep red states, when abortion access has been put on the ballot, voters have come out in droves to preserve it. Now, even some Republican legislators (mostly women, if you can believe it) are standing against some of these more obscenely restrictive bills. In Nebraska, a bill to ban abortion at six weeks fell one vote short of breaking a filibuster, and is unlikely to move forward this year despite backing from Gov. Jim Pillen (R-NE). This is a particularly interesting development in the hyper-conservative Cornhusker State, which was the first state in the country to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy in 2010. 

  • In Lindsey Graham’s South Carolina, state lawmakers voted 22-21 to shelve a near-total abortion ban for the rest of the year. State-Sen. Sandy Senn (R-SC) criticized the chamber’s majority leader, Shane Massey, for repeatedly “taking us off a cliff on abortion.” She went on, “ all, you men in the chamber, metaphorically keep slapping women,” by repeatedly raising abortion on stricter and stricter terms. The five women in the South Carolina Senate filibustered the bill, which would have banned abortion at conception with exceptions for rape and incest through only the first trimester, fatal fetal anomalies (required to be confirmed by two physicians), or to save the patient’s life. 

  • State-Sen. Mia McLeod (I-SC), who shared her experience of having been raped during a previous floor debate on abortion, expressed her frustration that women must reveal their most intimate and traumatic experiences to “enlighten and engage” men. “Just as rape is about power and control, so is this total ban,” she said, “Those who continue to push legislation like this are raping us again with their indifference, violating us again with their righteous indignation, taunting us with their insatiable need to play God while passing laws that are ungodly.” By the skin of its teeth, abortion remains legal in South Carolina up to 22 weeks, and this marks the third time a near-total ban has failed in the GOP-led chamber since the Dobbs decision.

The hard-won victories of many activists and lawmakers have stemmed the rising tide of anti-choice legislation for now, but the fight to come will present many new challenges.

  • You know how when Roe was first overturned, we kept hearing about trigger laws going into effect at the state level, some of which had been dormant on the books for a century or more? Well there’s unfortunately more where that came from. A 150-year-old Reconstruction-era federal law called the Comstock Act banned the posting of abortion supplies and was never fully repealed, and will therefore most likely be the next frontier for the abortion rights fight at the federal level. Medication abortions make up the majority of abortions in the U.S. today, and the Comstock Act has already  been weaponized by anti-abortion activists and judges to attack the availability of medication abortion. Taken to its furthest extent, it could even eliminate surgical abortions as well by restricting the shipment of medical instruments and supplies used in the procedure. 

Supporters of maintaining and restoring the right to safe, legal abortion access have to keep ourselves acquainted with the ever-changing battlefield, and people who want to see abortion swept into the “ash heap of history” at all costs sure as hell are not backing down.

Crooked’s newest pod, Pod Save the UK is launching May 4th, and if you're interested in politics you're going to love this show. In a special bonus episode, the hosts of Pod Save America sat down with the Pod Save the UK hosts - Nish Kumar and Coco Khan - to tackle the really important issues like, what “chat shit, get banged” means, how to turn political outrage into action, and of course what really happened to the Queen’s corgis. 

For more of this crossover episode, watch now on the Pod Save the World Youtube or listen and subscribe to Pod Save The UK, wherever you get your podcasts to hear new episodes starting May 4th.

Rememberthe 2018 Senate investigation into now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh that found there was “no evidence” to substantiate claims of sexual assault? That investigation? Well, according to new information obtained by The Guardian, it contained a number of “serious omissions.” Incredible surprise! The original report released by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) also contained an unfounded and unverified claim that one of Kavanaugh’s accusers, a Yale classmate of his named Deborah Ramirez, was “likely” mistaken when she alleged that he exposed himself to her at a dorm party, arguing that she was thinking of a member of Kavanaugh’s fraternity named Jack Maxey. Surprise! It turns out Maxey was not attending Yale at the time of the alleged incident. He was still a senior in high school. Another Yale graduate, Max Steir, reportedly wanted to go to the FBI anonymously during the confirmation process to attest that he had witnessed one of Brett’s buddies forcibly push Kavanaugh’s penis into the hand of a female classmate at a party, but when Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee got wind of this, they never interviewed Steir. Republican Senators protecting a Supreme Court nominee accused of sexual misconduct? Well now we’ve seen it all.

Whistleblower documents show that Chief Justice John Roberts’s wife, Jane Roberts, has made over $10.3 million in commissions from elite law firms, and that at least one firm argued a case before the Court after paying her hundreds of thousands of dollars. Seems like there might be something going on with this Supreme Court?


A federal judge in Virginia rejected Google’s request to toss the federal government’s antitrust lawsuit against the company. 


The Federal Reserve said on Friday that Silicon Valley Bank failed because of a deadly combination of extremely poor bank management, weakened regulations, and lax government supervision. We could have told you that!


At a New Hampshire campaign stop, disgraced former president Donald Trump embraced a January 6 defendant who already served time for attacking the Capitol and said that she wanted former Vice President Mike Pence to be executed for treason. Obviously she is also a QAnon cultist. 


Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) signed four gun-control bills into law on Friday, months after a deadly shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs. 

A bill advancing through the GOP-controlled Florida state legislature would protect Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) from the state’s famously-powerful public records laws as he plans his 2024 presidential campaign.

Last year, liberal justices on the North Carolina State Supreme Court ruled that obviously-gerrymandered maps of the state’s legislative and congressional districts were illegal and must be redrawn. Today, with a newly-elected right-wing majority, the same court looked at the same case and reversed its decision, saying it has no authority to act to change the maps. Wouldn’t you know it, this allows the Republican-controlled General Assembly to call off the court-ordered State House, Senate, and congressional district boundaries that were used in the 2022 midterm elections. It’s just the latest instance of Republicans rigging their maps and state rules when they don’t get the results they want, and sure to be seen again in other red states across the country.

... Turkey's future in the balance, could Erdoğan lose the May elections? Tunisia's double crackdown targets opposition and sub-Saharan migrants; is China winning the AI war? the Ukraine war makes Serbia'sfull recognition of Kosovo a priority; Armenia looks to the West to push for greater rights for Nagorno-Karabakh; France, how state of the art policing is eroding protestors' rights; Greece's railways, a disaster foretold;  France/US, the Iraq war's protagonists have never answered for the bloodshed; Nigeria, the irresistible rise of Aliko Dangote...

Feeding the poor is now profitable

  • Benoît Bréville
    Once, it was thought a good thing. Before people got charity, they needed to beg, either jostling for handouts or waiting in the cold under the disdainful gaze of passers-by. That way they would try to get themselves out of poverty. 'Learning (...)

AI: the key battleground for Cold War 2.0?

  • Evgeny Morozov
    It's becoming impossible to distinguish between the AI hype and warning of a conflict with China. What's certain is that the hype will be monetised.

Turkey's future in the balance

  • Ariane Bonzon
    On 14 May, three months after devastating earthquakes hit the south of the country, Turkey goes to the polls. With the economy in serious trouble, can a disparate but united opposition unseat Erdoğan?

Sub-Saharans are no longer welcome in Tunisia

  • Thierry Brésillon
    On 17 April Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi was arrested. This latest crackdown on the Tunisian opposition comes as President Kais Saied is trying to stop migration from sub-Saharan Africa to Italy.

Kosovo's divided nations

  • Philippe Descamps & Ana Otašević
    The Ukraine war makes resolving Kosovo's situation a priority for the West. There are steps towards normalising relations, but they fall short of Serbia's formal recognition of Kosovo's independence.

April 26, 2023



[Warning: the third and fourth paragraphs of this piece refer to the E. Jean Carroll lawsuit.]

Well, the Republicans did it. After middle-of-the-night negotiations to include more of the far right’s wish list, House Republicans passed a bill agreeing to a short-term raising of the debt ceiling, so long as it is accompanied by massive spending cuts and a rollback of Biden’s major accomplishments. The bill squeaked through by a vote of 217 to 215, mostly along party lines. Four extremist Republicans voted no because they believed the measure didn’t go far enough to slash spending.

The administration reiterated that it would not negotiate over paying the nation’s bills. “In our history, we have never defaulted on our debt or failed to pay our bills,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “Congressional Republicans must act immediately and without conditions to avoid default and ensure that the full faith and credit of the United States is not put at risk. That is their job. Economists have warned that default could spark a dangerous financial crisis, lead to a recession costing millions of Americans their jobs, endanger hard-working Americans’ retirement savings, and increase long-term federal borrowing costs, adding to deficits and debt. We are not a deadbeat nation.”

“I am here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen,” E. Jean Carroll said in court today for the former president’s civil trial for rape. “He lied and shattered my reputation, and I am here to try to get my life back.” Carroll offered a detailed account of what she says was Trump’s attack nearly 30 years ago, an attack that warped her life.

While she testified, Trump attacked Carroll on social media. The judge overseeing the case, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, warned Trump’s lawyer that his client’s statement was “entirely inappropriate,” saying he was trying to influence the jury. Any more commentary might open up “a new source of potential liability,” Kaplan said. The lawyer said he would do the best he could to silence Trump, but later in the day, Trump posted another attack and his son Eric Trump followed suit. 

“I wanted to address my senators, Cruz and Cornyn,” Amanda Zurawski told the Senate Committee on the Judiciary today at a hearing on reproductive rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision. Zurawski’s water broke 18 weeks into her pregnancy, making it impossible for her fetus to survive. Because of the vague and extreme antiabortion bill Texas lawmakers had passed, her health care providers refused to treat her so long as the fetus had a heartbeat, denying her an abortion. Zurawski developed deadly sepsis and, after giving birth to a stillborn daughter, spent three days in intensive care as doctors worked to save her life. 

Zurawski said she wanted the two Texas Republican senators to know “that what happened to me I think most people in this room would agree was horrific. But it’s a direct result of the policies they support. I nearly died on their watch, and…I may have been robbed of the opportunity to have children in the future. And it’s because of the policies that they support.”

Neither Cruz nor Cornyn showed up to hear her. Cornyn later said Zurawski should consider suing her doctors for misinterpreting the law. Zurawski responded: “[M]y physician and my team of health care professionals that I saw over the course of three days, while I was repeatedly turned away from health care access, made the decision to not provide an abortion because that’s what they felt they had to do under Texas’ law…. And that will continue to happen and it is continuing to happen, and it’s not a result of misinterpretation. It’s the result of confusion, and the confusion is because [of] the way the law is written.”

Today, the Walt Disney Company sued Florida governor Ron DeSantis over his “relentless campaign to weaponize government power” and attack free speech. Disney’s former chief executive officer last year spoke out against the governor’s law prohibiting teachers from mentioning sexual orientation or gender identity. The lawsuit says that DeSantis’s attack “now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.” 

“For more than half a century,” the lawsuit reads,” Disney has made an immeasurable impact on Florida and its economy, establishing Central Florida as a top global tourist destination and attracting tens of millions of visitors to the State each year. People and families from every corner of the globe have traveled to Walt Disney World,” but that relationship is now in jeopardy, the lawsuit warns. “A targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech—now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.” 

Meanwhile, DeSantis is overseas on what has been billed as a trade mission.

Tonight, the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals denied Trump’s last-ditch attempt to prevent former vice president Mike Pence from testifying before the grand jury investigating Trump’s attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election. The grand jury has issued a subpoena for Pence; Trump tried to argue that Pence’s testimony was barred because of executive privilege. The court of appeals disagreed.

Today, two associates of former Trump ally Steve Bannon were sentenced to four years and three years in prison for soliciting donations for their “We Build the Wall” charity and then pocketing the money. Bannon was also charged in the case, but Trump pardoned him for his involvement in it before he left office. 

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., today, President Joe Biden and President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea reaffirmed what Biden called the “ironclad” alliance between the two countries. They announced a new agreement, the so-called Washington Declaration, to increase cooperation in order to strengthen the message of nuclear deterrence conveyed to North Korea. This deterrence will include military training and exercises, the establishment of a joint nuclear consultative group, and the visit of a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea. “We’re not going to be stationing nuclear weapons on the peninsula, but we will have visits to ports, visits of nuclear submarines and things like that,” Biden said. 

“A nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies and partners is unacceptable and will result in the end of whatever regime were to take such an action,” he added, a public reassurance Yoon was hoping to receive when he arrived in Washington. Nervous about North Korean development of nuclear weapons, a majority of South Koreans want to develop their own nuclear weapons, a stance the U.S. strongly opposes. 

This official state visit, the second of the Biden presidency, reinforced the changing political landscape in the Indo-Pacific, where the United States seeks to support Japan and South Korea to counter the growing power of China. Since 2021, Korean businesses have invested more than $100 billion in the U.S., an investment that the White House says will create more than 40,000 new jobs here, while the U.S., in turn, is investing in South Korea. The presidents vowed to continue to work together to secure supply chains, develop clean energy, and cooperate on cybersecurity and emerging technologies.

Biden and Yoon have met four times before, and the mood at the White House after the announcement was friendly and celebratory. At tonight’s dinner in President Yoon’s honor, the attendees gave the South Korean leader a standing ovation when he sang the first verse of Don McLean’s 1971 rock ballad “American Pie.” 


American liberalism is exhausted.
After months of foot-dragging, Joe Biden is officially running for reelection — meaning that, barring some unexpected development on either side, Americans are likely in store for a second contest between Biden and Donald Trump. It’s a disheartening prospect for many reasons, not least because it’s one very few actually seem to want. The political arm of American liberalism is effectively saying that it has no better candidate to offer than Joe Biden, and no vision its current leadership can envision pursuing that looks beyond the present horizon.

It’s depressing, but it’s also probably true. The list of DNC-friendly alternatives to Biden that have been floated over the past year are pretty feeble. Vice President Kamala Harris, who might otherwise be the de facto front-runner, is visibly considered a liability. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the preferred candidate among people who say “adulting” and count “homework” among their favorite activities, has seemed to generate more buzz despite being ideologically indistinguishable from Biden or Harris. After that, what you tend to find is a list of governors or 2020 also-rans like Amy Klobuchar.

None of these figures would represent more than a cosmetic break from the status quo. And if the Democratic Party is not going to shift gears or change course, it has little incentive to conscript any of the functionally interchangeable centrists who might take Biden’s place.
Read more

orth Africa.

Boats of migrants entering a port in the Garabulli area, Libya. AFP
Boats of migrants entering a port in the Garabulli area, Libya. AFP


As a 72-hour ceasefire in Sudan slowed the fighting, nations around the world seized the opportunity to help their citizens escape. Evacuees arrived in Jeddah as part of a Saudi rescue of 1,700 people. A ship that sailed from the Port of Sudan arrived in the kingdom carrying people of 50 nationalities to safety. Here is a look at the efforts of countries in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as other nations, to get their citizens home. Meanwhile. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been pressed on whether the country would offer refuge to Sudanese children fleeing the conflict, as the first flight ferrying British citizens evacuated from Sudan touched down at Stanstead Airport yesterday.

Residents trapped by fighting in Sudan say their neighbourhoods have been “turned into a war zone” as violence continues despite the agreed ceasefire.

The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces group claims to have seized a major oil refinery and power plant that supply about 70 per cent and 20 per cent of the country's fuel and electricity, respectively.

A second US citizen has been killed in Sudan, a White House National Security Council spokesman said. The World Health Organisation has warned that more deaths are expected due to outbreaks of disease and a lack of essential services.

Toppled president Omar Al Bashir was moved from Kober prison to a military hospital in Khartoum before the heavy fighting broke out on April 15, the army said.


A senior Shiite cleric in Iran was shot and killed yesterday in a northern province on the Caspian Sea, authorities said.

Iran's Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of Iranian-German citizen Jamshid Sharmahd on charges of “corruption on Earth”, the judiciary said.


The UAE will embark on a second attempt to land a rover on the Moon, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said yesterday.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, President-designate of the Cop28 summit, has called for developing nations to be given access to funding to ensure they are not priced out of pursuing climate goals.


The top commander of US forces in the Middle East reaffirmed Jordan’s “strategic importance” to the security and stability of the Middle East.


Inflation in Lebanon hit an annual rate of about 264 per cent in March as the Lebanese pound continued to lose value on the parallel and official markets since it was devalued by 90 per cent at the start of February.

Lebanon's economic crisis has pushed isolated communities into healthcare misery, with Baalbek-Hermel residents facing many problems when seeking life-saving services.


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was cancelling his planned election campaign appearances under doctor's orders after developing a stomach bug.

Economics & Finance

No Confidence in the Fed

Joseph E. Stiglitz says supervisory failures have exacerbated the financial turmoil triggered by rapid interest-rate hikes.

Politics & World Affairs

How Russians Fight

Nina L. Khrushcheva points to evidence that Kremlin propaganda justifying the Ukraine war is failing to win over ordinary people.

No comments:

Post a Comment