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the gaza war

Biden Finally Reacts as Gaza War Arrives at Starvation

In a sudden turnabout, as the war reached the half-year mark, Israel has withdrawn its forces from the southern end of the Gaza Strip and ceasefire talks have resumed in Cairo. Warnings of famine from several article illustration
organizations, and the killing of seven members of World Central Kitchens, a charity that had brought a shipload of food for the starving population, finally was enough for U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to end months of feckless pleading by issuing an implicit threat that aid to Israel might be in jeopardy:

"Right now there is no higher priority in Gaza than protecting civilians, surging humanitarian assistance, and insuring the security of those who provide it. Israel must meet this moment...If we don't see the changes that we need to see, there'll be changes in our own policy."

Whether the president would actually follow through on that veiled threat is questionable. Having immediately after the Hamas atrocities declared U.S. support of Israel to be "ironclad", he has since had to confront what he called Israel's "over the top" killing of Palestinian civilians and worry about a critical percentage of voters in the battleground state primaries who protested his inaction by marking their ballots "uncommitted".

But the threat was enough to cause Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu to finally back down after months of defying Biden. Of paramount importance, hundreds of trucks, in numbers close to the 500 a day that Gaza customarily needs, have been entering Gaza in recent days.

Calling Netanyahu's approach to the war "a mistake", Biden said after a phone call with Netanyahu that "He agreed to do several things that related to, number one, getting more aid, both food and medicine, into Gaza" and to reducing significantly civilian casualties.

With the Palestinian health ministry saying that…

china watch

Focused on Ukraine and Israel, the U.S. Neglects the China Threat

China is undergoing “the largest military buildup in history since World War II… across all domains, maritime, air, land, space, cyberspace.” So warns Adm. John Aquilino, head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which comprises China’s navy and air forces as well, has expanded more rapidly in the past 30 years than any armed force in history. “When I look at the military China is building, it is not a general-purpose military,” said Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall III. “It is designed around the goal of being able to take Taiwan and keep the U.S. out.”

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has set a deadline of 2027 for the PLA to be ready to invade Taiwan, according to Central Intelligence Agency chief William Burns. The unification of Taiwan with mainland China “must be achieved”, says Xi. In December, the Chinese foreign ministry said, “China will realize reunification, and this is unstoppable.” Matt Pottinger, who speaks Chinese and was deputy national security adviser under Trump, says Xi has shown urgency about “recovering” Taiwan, viewing the absorption of the island nation into mainland China to be his signature legacy.

article illustration
China's sailors and their ship on review.

Actually, China's and Xi's ambitions extend well beyond Taiwan. The "nine-dash line" on Chinese maps that embraces the South China Sea as Chinese territory is only the first dash line. Successive semi-circular dash lines extending eastward into the Pacific show China's intentions to make the Western Pacific a Chinese lake and carve out a vast economic empire across the global south — all part of the “national rejuvenation” that will return China to its former place as the most powerful country on Earth. We covered this in "What China Wants: Today, the South China Sea. Tomorrow, Everything Under Heaven".…


Supreme Court to Decide Whether Abortion Pill Should Be Banned

Used to produce over half of all abortions

UPDATE: March 26: The Court looks likely to find, as we said in this article, that "Anti-abortion groups and doctors not harmed themselves, purporting to represent other unnamed doctors, hardly establishes standing to sue, not least because none of the plaintiff doctors have ever prescribed mifespristone themselves." In other words, that the Court will discard the suit on the grounds that the plaintiffs had no standing to sue seems assured.
But the conservatives on the bench showed unusual interest in the otherwise forgotten Comstock Act of 1873 which prohibits a number of freedoms such as sending though the mails whatever contraceptives and abortifacients existed then. That suggests we will be hearing from the Court in time.

In April a year ago, a federal judge in Texas suspended the Food and Drug Administration's approval of mifepristone, the "abortion pill". The FDA had overlooked "legitimate safety concerns", said the judge, notwithstanding that the pill has been used safely by millions of women in all the years since the agency approved the medication 24 years ago.

Immediately following, in a case brought by attorneys general of 18 Democratic states, who argued that the FDA approval was "lawful and valid" and that the drug is "far safer than continuing a pregnancy", a Washington State federal court agreed and enjoined the FDA from reducing the availability of the drug. A stay has kept the drug available since.

In striking down Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court meant to send all matters of abortion to the states for each to decide policy and create laws, but it falls to the highest court to resolve conflicting decisions by federal courts, and so, the nine justices are once again in the thick of the abortion wars. On March 26th they will hear arguments for and…

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Still No Fix to Our Most Dangerous Law

Donald Trump expects there to be riotous protests if he is elected and has let it be known that he will, the moment he is inaugurated, invoke the Insurrection Act to bring the American military into the streets of our cities to round up and detain protesters.

To reinforce that this is not his idle musing, you might recall that Trump publicly article illustration
U.S. troops in Salt Lake City.

expressed regret that he did not deploy the Act to quell the unrest after the murder of George Floyd. He further said he would not hesitate to use the act in the future. He is a president who thinks the Constitution is just so many disposable words, saying in 2022 that what he fantasized was a fraudulent 2020 election “allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” Invoking the Act to deploy military rule within the United States would show Putin and Xi that he is just as powerful as they, elevating himself into the exclusive club of the world's dictators to which he has aspired.

the ultimate zombie law

The Insurrection Act of 1807, so named although it dates from even earlier, 1792, has been used responsibly by several presidents. Lincoln in 1861's insurrection in the South; Grant to put down the first Ku Klux Klan in the 1870s; Jackson, Hayes, Grover Cleveland and others, often to intervene in labor disputes (on behalf of employers); Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson during the civil rights movement to enforce desegregation. Most notably it was not invoked on… Read More »

china watch

China Increasingly Aggressive Toward Its Neighbors — and the U.S.

China has shown escalating belligerence in its surroundings seas, confident that it has no rivals in strength among what it calls the "small countries" such as Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines. It has built up reefs and outcroppings in the South China Sea into military bases from which it can force those nations off the fishing grounds that they rely on to feed their populations.

These invasions are in violation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to which 168 countries are signatories that prescribes for each coastal nation an "economic zone" extending 200 nautical miles from its shores for its exclusive use. But China sweeps aside Western-inspired precepts of national sovereignty that conflict with its intended global dominance where it will set the rules. And so, on a boat sailing out of the Philippines at night near Mischief Reef, militarized by China in an area of the South China Sea that an international tribunal has said belongs to the Philippines, a New York Times reporter said that cell phones on board pinged with the message "Welcome to China", notwithstanding that they were 900 miles from…

the election

Increasing Incidents Expose Trump’s Cognitive Decline

That 81-year-old Joe Biden shows intermittent signs of cognitive decline is not in dispute. There's no denying that he has worrying lapses. Leftwing media has touched on such incidents gingerly; rightwing cable channel hosts engage in the topic virtually every night.

For them it takes the form of gleeful mockery. Sean Hannity of Fox News tells us "about your president who doesn't know today is Thursday" and "it's not even clear that Biden knows he's alive." Laura Ingraham on that same channel ridicules Biden's occasional malaprops. Both often fabricate. "Today he looked totally, completely, utterly confused, confounded, unsure of his surroundings", says Hannity, the worst of the two, while the video on the split screen shows nothing of the sort.

But now, it has become increasingly apparent that 77-year-old Donald Trump is showing signs of wear.…


IRS Struggles to Keep House Republicans from Stealing Funding

October’s $106 billion supplemental funding request may be dead in the water in the House, but should $60 billion in assistance for Ukraine go forward, there is a threat which does not get the attention needed to spur outcry.

In a continuation of their decades-long practice of beggaring the Internal Revenue Service, House Republicans passed a bill last fall with $14.3 billion aid to Israel that they would pay for out of the $80 billion allotted to the IRS in 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act. On its own, without Ukraine aid, it went nowhere, but it’s clear that Republicans view the $80 billion as a slush fund to be dipped into for their own purposes. “I love cutting the IRS. I’m here for that,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.). “And if we can cut the IRS and fund Israel doing it, then I think that’s great.”

Last summer, to get Republicans in the House to raise the debt ceiling, President Biden had to agree with House Speaker McCarthy to cut $21.4 billion from the IRS funding: $1.4 billion in the debt ceiling bill itself, and $20 billion repurposed for 2024 and 2025. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the $20 billion, applied to going after tax cheats, would bring in $44 billion. Thus, by taking the money from the IRS in a move to spare their wealthy donors from having to pay that amount of concealed tax obligations, Republicans will add a net of $24 billion to the national debt. Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson can’t seem to fathom the concept:

“Only in Washington when you cut spending do they call it an increase in the deficit. We don’t put much credence in what the CBO says.”

It's also doubtful that the rube from Louisiana's backwater is aware that the Internal Revenue Service is the one government agency that makes money.

The intent of House Republicans to take still more from the IRS is stunning on its face: hobbling the Service from bringing in a cascade of money to lower the annual deficit, raising the debt instead as the CBO ratio tells us, and sending the money to Israel for them to buy munitions to flatten Gaza and kill thousands more Palestinians. Biden is already in trouble among younger voters who in the primaries opted for “uncommitted” rather than…

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