Equal measures of humility and confidence

Agence France Presse:

US Secretary of State-designate Antony Blinken vowed Tuesday to pursue cooperation around the world, saying that the United States cannot solve global problems on its own.

“We have to proceed with equal measures of humility and confidence,” Blinken said after President-elect Joe Biden presented him and the rest of his national security team.

“As the president-elect said, we can’t solve all of the world’s problems alone. We need to be working with other countries, we need their cooperation. We need their partnership,” Blinken said.

“We can’t solve all of the world’s problems alone” was reported by CNN, Reuters, Deutsche Welle, Bangkok Post, and on and on. Can Blinken, can the average American imagine how this statement sounds to a world which has watched four years of the US failing to deal with Trump and this past year of the US failing to manage the Covid pandemic? Die Zeit, Frankfurter Allgemeine, Süddeutsche Zeitung all regularly carry stories on poverty, hunger, homelessness, lack of health insurance in the US. “We can’t solve all of the world’s problems alone”?

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In his first sit-down interview since the election, President-elect Joe Biden declared his presidency would not be “a third Obama term” and promised to represent the full spectrum of the country and the Democratic party.

“This is not a third Obama term. We face a totally different world than we faced in the Obama-Biden administration,” Biden answered. “President Trump has changed the landscape.”

Biden expressed his wish to pursue a “progressive” agenda. Asked if he’d consulted with progressive senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on cabinet appointments, the president-elect said “there’s nothing really off the table” when it comes to who he’ll tap to join his administration. But, he said, “taking someone out of the Senate, taking someone out of the House … is a really difficult decision that will have to be made”.

On Wednesday, Biden will deliver a Thanksgiving address, from Wilmington, Delaware, and will “discuss the shared sacrifices Americans are making this holiday season and say that we can and will get through the current crisis together”, according to the transition team.

Biden outlined during a Wilmington press conference his vision for a country “ready to lead the world, not retreat from it”.

He told Holt that he was pleased to have spoken to “over 20 world leaders”, and said, “they are really excited”.

This is all in keeping with Johanna Roth’s point a week ago: Biden continues to sound like someone running for president. There will be important decisions to be made, which will be made sometime in the future. He is bold, brash,  proclaiming that in addition to not being Trump, he is also not Obama. Why is he not Obama? Because of Trump.

Has Biden spoken to Bernie Sanders about Sanders being Secretary of Labor? Well, theoretically – there’s nothing really off the table, but then taking Sanders out of the Senate is a really difficult decision. A decision that will have to be made.

America is ready to lead the world. It will lead the world by getting through this current crisis. Here is leadership which over 20 world leaders have already shown themselves to be really excited  about.

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Scottish judges rule Lockerbie documents will remain secret


Scotland’s most senior judges have upheld a secrecy order signed by the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, to withhold intelligence documents believed to implicate a Palestinian terror group in the Lockerbie bombing.

The documents are thought to have been sent by King Hussein of Jordan to the UK government after Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over the town of Lockerbie on December 1988, killing all 259 passengers and crew, and 11 townspeople.

The documents are believed to allege that a Jordanian intelligence agent within the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), called Marwan Khreesat, made the bomb. Critics of Megrahi’s 2001 conviction believe the PFLP-GC carried out the attack on behalf of the Tehran regime in revenge for the destruction of an Iranian airliner by the US warship the USS Vincennes in July 1988, but this was covered up in order to implicate Libya.

The new appeal hearing was ordered after the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission decided Megrahi’s conviction was arguably a miscarriage of justice, because of significant discrepancies in the evidence of the Crown’s key witness, a Maltese shopkeeper called Tony Gauci, who alleged Megrahi had bought clothes put in the suitcase bomb.

The SCCRC also said the Crown had failed to disclose Gauci and his brother were offered reward payments totalling $3m for testifying. Given that evidence, no reasonable jury would have convicted Megrahi, and his rights to a fair trial under article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been breached.

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The Brink

Los Angeles Times:

Earlier this month Los Angeles was nearing the brink, and now it is on the brink. Will it go over? This it will assuredly not do! There will be a new brink to near.

The thought of apocalypse stimulates. Think of all those people who will die. Those of us who will survive will have to struggle. We’ve led soft lives up till now, but with the apocalypse we will be challenged. Will you be able to withstand the test? I hope I am strong enough. It is exciting to think about. It is reassuring to know that this is not The End, although The End is Near.

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Die Lage im Land

Jörg Wimalasena, Die Zeit:

Die “Seele Amerikas” (Joe Biden) mag mit der Wahlniederlage Donald Trumps zumindest vorübergehend gerettet sein – an der desaströsen sozialen Situation der US-amerikanischen Bevölkerung ändert das jedoch herzlich wenig. Erst am vergangenen Wochenende machten Bilder aus Dallas die Runde, wo mehr als 25.000 Menschen in ihren Autos lange Schlangen vor der Lebensmittelausgabe bildeten, um mit Essensspenden über die Runden zu kommen.

Die Szene führte noch einmal vor Augen, wie ernst die Lage im Land ist.


Und die Demokraten um den designierten Präsidenten Joe Biden scheinen auch kaum Druck auf die Gegenseite auszuüben, endlich an den Verhandlungstisch zurückzukehren. Andernfalls würde Biden sein Forum nutzen, um auf eine rasche Einigung zu dringen. Schließlich rühmte sich der 78-Jährige im Wahlkampf damit, dass er mit seiner jahrzehntelangen Politikerfahrung auch Republikaner zur Zusammenarbeit bewegen könne. Derzeit zeichnet sich allerdings nicht ab, dass ihm das gelingt.

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Those darn Republicans


I didn’t bother even starting to read this one, but I must say I got a big kick out of the headline. For added amusement do a search for Reich articles in the Guardian of the last four years. Trump is always about to fall. One event after another was a step too far. He’s going down this time. Mueller and the Good People are just about to triumph.

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Rupert Neate, Guardian:

On Matt Haney’s walk to work at San Francisco city hall he passes the luxurious homes of some of the richest US tech billionaires, as well as hundreds of the country’s most desperate people living in tent encampments on the street.

The “extreme, shocking inequality” he and the other 900,000 residents are forced to navigate every day led Haney, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the city’s legislative body, to propose a new “overpaid executive tax” designed to help tackle the problem.

San Francisco voters overwhelming backed a new law that will levy an extra 0.1% tax on companies that pay their chief executive more than 100-times the the median of their workforce.

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla and the world’s third richest person, was paid $595m (£449m) last year, almost 10,000 times the firm’s median salary of just under $60,000.

Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, was paid $134m in 2019, more than 2,300 times the firm’s median pay of $57,600.

The pay levels of US chief executives have increased by an average of 940% since 1978, compared with a 12% increase in workers’ pay, according to the Economic Policy Institute thinktank.

“San Francisco has some of the most extreme inequality anywhere in the world, and many of the best-known companies growing here have some of the largest gaps between executive pay and worker pay,” said Haney, in an interview over Zoom as he walked to work this week.

Haney, who represents District 6, which includes the Tenderloin, Mission Bay and South of Market, added: “The contrasts are especially stark in my district where I represent some of the richest parts of San Francisco – and the country – and some of the poorest parts with huge numbers of homeless people without access to healthcare.”

He said the coronavirus pandemic had exacerbated San Francisco’s inequality problem, which had already created “a city of extreme suffering” that drained local government of resources.

“The heath system was already very strained, and the pandemic has exposed it even more,” Haney said. “It has shown how stark the inequality is, poor people could not afford to shelter and people of colour and essential workers bore the burnt of the pandemic.

“At the same time the richest have gotten much richer [from the pandemic] it shows the fundamental flaw of our economic system. A small number of people continue to make massive profits at a time when almost everyone else was suffering more than ever.

“San Francisco is a modern day version of a A Tale of Two Cities everywhere you look, we can’t have a nation that turns into that.”

San Francisco is, indeed, a modern day version of A Tale of Two Cities. I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for nearly 30 years and can verify the very apparent inequality. Several items in this article caught my eye. San Francisco’s “shocking inequality” is something Haney is “forced to navigate”. Many of my San Francisco high tech coworkers displayed no sign of being shocked by the inequality around them and in fact showed no indication they even registered inequality, gave no evidence they saw income and wealth disparities as something to avoid. Instead, to be avoided were people sleeping on the streets, human excrement and urine on the streets. The San Francisco problem one is forced to navigate is the poor, not poverty.

“A small number of people continue to make massive profits at a time when almost everyone else was suffering more than ever”: why would they not? Whatever would suggest to Haney or anyone else that increased suffering would dissuade billionaires from maximizing profits? Tim Cook pulls down 134 million US dollars in 2019 while Apple Chinese sweat shop workers are driven to suicide, but he’ll have second thoughts if those workers contract a virus?

When Haney mentions homeless people with no access to healthcare he is describing homeless who seek healthcare from Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, previously known as San Francisco General. I remember when reading Neuromancer thinking Gibson was a bit over the top in his depiction of a corporate-owned future. Earlier in 2020 a Bay Area high tech friend was enthusiastic about reading a new novel about a pandemic. This, I think, is a quintessential comment on the San Francisco Bay Area high tech view of the world: in the midst of a pandemic one consumes a cultural good about a pandemic. Living in a nation which for decades has experienced increasingly great wealth and income disparity one conscientiously declares the intent to avoid a future where the nation is one of great wealth and income disparity. One is forever nearing the brink. Here, let me recommend just the greatest thing: there’s this great new Netflix series which deals with that.

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Remember The Russians?

BBC 21.11.2020:

After the 2016 election, the losing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post calling on the Obama administration to brief members of the US Electoral College on “Russian interference” before they could vote to confirm Mr Trump’s election victory.

After three and a half years of repeating as truth the proposition Russians played some significant role in the 2016 US election, in November 2020 the BBC puts scare quotes around “Russian interference”. Where was Russian interference in the 2020 election? Where was Iranian interference? What about Chinese interference? Finnish? Croatian? Have foreign intelligence agencies all been foiled in their dastardedly attempts to undermine Democracy? How was this sweeping victory accomplished? Have we always been at war with Eastasia?

Speaking of John Podesta, remember the Podesta e-mails? Julian Assange remains imprisoned.

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Julian Borger, Guardian:

The outgoing Trump administration’s final days at the United Nations have resulted in a deepening of US isolation on social and health issues, with only a handful of allies including Russia, Belarus and Syria.

A UN diplomat said the spectacle of a western ally and a superpower so totally isolated was “staggering”.

“It’s amazing that they decided they want to put their isolation on record, on full display, like that,” the diplomat said.

Each time the amendments were decisively voted down in the general assembly, with the US drawing only a very small group of between four and 14 supporters. Its only consistent allies were Russia, Belarus, Syria, Qatar and the Pacific island states of Nauru and Palau.

Describing actions as “staggering” or “amazing” is a formulation used to show the actions as out of the norm, using the device of depicting the observer as so amazed it is as if one were hit over the head and so left dazed, staggering. While this is designed to characterize some other’s actions, it may be seen as well, or in this case perhaps better, as characterizing the viwer: “It was staggering” and “I was amazed” are both ways of saying I was extremely surprising by what I observed. Rather than containing content as to the actions witnessed, the message might be more usefully read as being a statement of failure to apprehend accurately conditions which have been pertaining for some time.

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A temporary focus

KFOXTV, El Paso, Texas:

Reports emerged over the weekend that El Paso County inmates were being used to handle bodies of COVID-19 patients at the county medical examiner’s office.

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said the use of inmates was a last resort, but after seeing the community’s reaction, he felt El Paso needed to move in a different direction.

“It was just a temporary focus, and we’re waiting for the Texas National Guard to help us out with that,” Judge Samaniego said.

Judge Samaniego said the county has asked the Texas National Guard to take over at the morgue, but the military hasn’t committed yet out of concern over the sheer number of bodies coming in.

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