Comments

  1. says

    New York Times link: “Satellite images show bodies lay in Bucha for weeks, despite Russian claims.”

    An analysis of satellite images by The New York Times rebuts claims by Russia that the killing of civilians in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, occurred after its soldiers had left the town.

    When images emerged over the weekend of the bodies of dead civilians lying on the streets of Bucha — some with their hands bound, some with gunshot wounds to the head — Russia’s Ministry of Defense denied responsibility. In a Telegram post on Sunday, the ministry suggested that the bodies had been recently placed on the streets after “all Russian units withdrew completely from Bucha” around March 30.

    Russia claimed that the images were “another hoax” and called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting on what it called “provocations of Ukrainian radicals” in Bucha.

    But a review of videos and satellite imagery by The Times shows that many of the civilians were killed more than three weeks ago, when Russia’s military was in control of the town.

    One video filmed by a local council member on April 2 shows multiple bodies scattered along Yablonska Street in Bucha. Satellite images provided to The Times by Maxar Technologies show that at least 11 of those had been on the street since March 11, when Russia, by its own account, occupied the town.

    To confirm when the bodies appeared, and when the civilians were likely killed, the Visual Investigations team at The Times conducted a before-and-after analysis of satellite imagery. The images show dark objects of similar size to a human body appearing on Yablonska Street between March 9 and March 11. The objects appear in the precise positions in which the bodies were found after Ukrainian forces reclaimed Bucha, as the footage from April 2 shows. Further analysis shows that the objects remained in those position for over three weeks. […]

    More at the link, including photos.

  2. says

    Here’s another summary of that RIA Novosti article @ Lynna’s #478:

    I’ll spare you the full translation. It’s easily the most horrific text I can remember ever reading. But I still need to explain what’s written here, because many of you might not understand exactly what Ukraine is facing. Exactly what Russia’s plans for it are
    Brace yourselves

    This is primarily for those Westerners who still think this war may end in a compromise. That Ukraine may stop this by agreeing to some of Russia’s demands (some of which may even be “reasonable”), or even that Ukraine, NATO and the US need to accept some portion of the blame…

    Bear in mind that this comes directly from Kremlin-owned media, from their main news agency. And while this is a column by one of their propagandists, it fully describes the philosophy Russia is operating under.
    It’s nothing less than the philosophy of genocide…

    The article’s title is ominous in itself: “What Russia Must Do To Ukraine” and its TL;DR thesis is the answer: utterly and irretrievably eradicate it. It lays out why, outlines how and explains to what ends. It’s long, it’s truly blood-curdling, and it’s incredibly thorough…

    It starts out by rejecting the notion that “Ukrainian people are good, it’s only the government that’s bad.” No, says the author, Ukrainian people are bad. They wanted to wage a blitzkrieg on Russian-speaking “antifascists”, which is why they voted for Poroshenko and Zelensky…

    Therefore, he continues, Russia needs “a complex of measures against the nazified population” that, by its sheer size, cannot be formally tried for as war criminals.

    First, he goes, everyone who took arms against Russia must be eliminated. Totally. No trials…

    “No distinctions between all armed forces and so-called nationalist battalions”, he writes. And goes on to say that the same measure must be applied to territorial defense combatants too. They are all war criminals and active Nazis. They must be executed, brutally and publicly

    But, the article warns, this is not enough. “A substantial part of the population” is also guilty – of “passively supporting Nazism.” Therefore, they must be made to suffer all hardships of war as a just punishment.

    Their subsequent denazification must be achieved through ruthless ideological repressions and strict censorship. But all of this can be achieved, the article says, only if the territory is controlled, completely, by the winners. Ukraine must be completely absorbed into Russia, with a government loyal to Kremlin installed…

    Russia cannot afford to be a liberal or merciful occupier, either. Its ideology “cannot be argued against” by the occupied side. The length of “denazification” cannot be any shorter than one whole generation, at least 25 years, enough to bring up a new society of loyal Russians.

    Nazism must be defined as any desire for Ukrainian independence or European orientation. Saying that Ukraine should be in EU means being a Nazi and must be punished as such. But the entire “historical memory” of Ukraine is an artificial Western creation and is inherently Nazi…

    Which is why even the word “Ukraine” must be forbidden. The parts of Ukraine under direct Russian control cannot be neutral: they must display utmost loyalty to Russia to atone for their guilt to Russian people (the guilt they incurred by wanting to be independent or European)…

    “Denazification is inevitably going to be deukrainization”, it continues. kraine has no right to statehood or ethnic self-determination. Anyone who thinks of themselves as Ukrainian (“the social swamp” it calls them) must be either destroyed to forced to endure full hardships of war as a lesson.

    The five Western onblasts of “Catholic Ukraine” can remain outside Russia, but must be completely demilitarized. Any display of disloyalty to Russia would trigger a new “operation” and reprisals. This may require Russian military occupation…

    The rest of Ukraine will be absorbed into Russia, culturally as well as politically. This is achieved by total propagandizing of the society, complete ban on all Ukrainian literature, strict control over children’s education. The very memory of Ukrainian identity must be erased..

    Finally, Russia must understand that it will have no allies in this project of genocide and cultural erasure. Which means that Russia will completely reject all Western values. Russia’s ultimate goal is to take itself outside of the Western system completely…

    as it punishes Ukraine for choosing the West in the first place.

    This is it. This is the program, the plan, in all its monstrocity. Please tell me that you have ever read anything more horrific.

    And now, tell me what compromise can exist for Ukraine. I will wait.

  3. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he will address the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, after saying it is in Kyiv’s interest to have the most open investigation into the killing of civilians in Ukraine.

    Speaking on Monday, he said that in Bucha, where mass graves and bodies were found after Ukraine took the town back from Russian forces, at least 300 civilians have been killed, and he expects that in Borodyanka and other towns the number of casualties may be even higher.

    “I would like to emphasise that we are interested in the most complete, transparent investigation, the results of which will be known and explained to the entire international community,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

  4. says

    Inna Sovsun, Ukrainian MP:

    My mom got a text from a friend from Kharkiv.

    The text was in Ukrainian. And the friend is Russian, both her parents were actually from Russia. She always spoke Russian.

    She said: “Sorry for the mistakes in Ukrainian, but I am trying. I just want to forget I am Russian”.

  5. says

    Ruth Ben-Ghiat: “I don’t think people are prepared for what can happen if Republicans win control of Congress. There is nothing more dangerous than radicalized lawmakers allied w/seasoned extremist operatives (Stone, Flynn, Bannon) & an autocrat who can’t wait to take revenge for his defeat.”

  6. says

    Kyiv Independent:

    Russians’ torture chamber discovered in basement of children’s health resort in Bucha.

    The bodies of five murdered men were discovered in the basement.

    Their hands had been tied and they appear to have been tortured.

    Source: Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine.

    I’ve also seen it described as a kids’ summer camp – I think that’s what they mean by “children’s health resort.” There’s a photo at the link and several more being shared on Twitter.

  7. says

    Mathieu von Rohr in Der Spiegel – “Opinion: Peace in Europe Must Now Be Defended Against Putin’s Russia”:

    …If Putin can wage war against Ukraine, then he can do the same against the Baltic states, Moldova or Poland – and then, very soon, the war will be even closer. We must stop Putin’s criminal war because it is a threat to our lives of freedom and self-determination in Europe. Putin himself already declared his claim to power over additional countries in Eastern Europe even before the war broke out. He wants to destroy the prosperous and peaceful Europe that emerged after 1989. Putin is a warmonger against whom we must defend our lives and freedoms. This is in our own vital interest.

    That’s why we, as Europeans, must once again put ourselves in a position to be able to defend ourselves militarily against this aggressive power. That is why it is so important that Germany’s Bundeswehr is now reformed and equipped to the point that it can even function as an army. It is significant how on this issue, too, hostile old conceptions have returned and sentiment is being stirred up against “rearmament,” as if it weren’t simply a given that a country has to be able to defend itself against a militarily aggressive Russia. Which will take time.

    In the short term, however, there can be only one response to the war crimes in Bucha and other parts of Ukraine: We must supply Ukraine with all the weapons it can use, especially heavy weapons, and quickly. We must support Ukraine with all our strength. Because it is not only defending itself – it is defending us and all of Europe. And it is paying the price for that.

    If Putin’s troops fail in Ukraine, it will also be a blow to his imperialism. Russia cannot be allowed to win this war. If Putin loses, he will be weakened for the time being. If he wins, his thinking will be bolstered.

    That’s why it is so disastrous that the impression is created repeatedly that Germany is only supporting Ukraine with the brakes on. It is true that the German government is supplying weapons and that it is doing a lot, but it is not doing everything that could be done. It is hard to shake off the impression that Berlin wants to leave some back doors open, and that it perhaps does hope that a return to the old status quo will be possible at some point. Indeed, there are more reports about what Germany refuses to supply in terms of military aid than about what it is willing to supply.

    Time and again, the impression is created that Germany is the country at the European level that is doing the most to apply the brakes on sanctions. This is incomprehensible and it is damaging Germany’s image in Eastern Europe – most importantly, though, it is wrong politically. We have to say goodbye to the idea that with Putin, everything can one day go back to the way it was. It was already wrong to continue buying oil and gas from Russia after 2014, and it is even more so now.

    If Germany forgoes oil from Russia and if it boycotts Russian gas, that will have economic consequences, but they also have to be weighed against what is truly at stake here: our freedom.

    The war crimes in Bucha and elsewhere need to serve as a reminder to us that this war is horrific, it is close and it affects us directly. And it is not only morally imperative that we respond – it is also in our own interest to stop Putin. We must do everything in our power to prevent his war from succeeding or even spreading. For that, greater support for Ukraine is urgently needed.

  8. says

    From today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog:

    ‘Every Russian will learn the truth’ Zelenskiy vows

    Ukraine’s president Zelenskiy has spoken of the death and destruction in the recently liberated towns of Stoyanka, Irpin, Bucha of which he visited on Monday.

    The bodies of killed people, killed Ukrainians have already been taken from most streets. But in the yards, in the houses, the dead still remain.

    The cities are simply ruined. Burnt military equipment on the roads, destroyed cars. It is especially hard to look at the traces of bullets on cars with the inscription ‘children’.

    Zelenskiy added authorities have begun an investigation into possible war crimes, adding that there is information to suggest about more than three hundred people were killed and tortured in Bucha alone.

    “It is likely that the list of victims will be much larger when the whole city is checked. And this is only one city,” he said. “There is already information that the number of victims of the occupiers may be even higher in Borodyanka and some other liberated cities.”

    In many villages of the liberated districts of the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions, the occupiers did things that the locals had not seen even during the Nazi occupation 80 years ago. The occupiers will definitely bear responsibility for this.

    Zelenskiy said Ukraine is “doing everything possible to identify all the Russian military involved in these crimes as soon as possible.”

    Everything to punish them. This will be a joint work of our state with the European Union and international institutions, in particular with the International Criminal Court.

    All crimes of the occupiers are documented. The necessary procedural basis is provided for bringing the guilty Russian military to justice for every crime they commit…

    The time will come when every Russian will learn the whole truth about who of their fellow citizens killed. Who gave orders. Who turned a blind eye to the murders. We will establish all this. And make it globally known.

  9. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    In Zelenskiy’s signature late-night national address he addressed Russian soldiers and military officers.

    “Nowadays people are not executed,” Zelenskiy began. “But all skabeevas, evening loudmouths, frontline liars and their bosses in Moscow should remember: the end of your life will be behind bars. At best.”

    “It is now 2022. And we have much more tools than those who prosecuted the Nazis after World War II.”

    The Ukrainian president also addressed western leaders, criticising what he described as delayed action against Russia.

    I would also like to note the reaction of the leaders of the democratic world to what they saw in Bucha. The sanctions response to Russia’s massacre of civilians must finally be powerful.

    But was it really necessary to wait for this to reject doubts and indecision?

    Did hundreds of our people really have to die in agony for some European leaders to finally understand that the Russian state deserves the most severe pressure?

    Zelenskiy again called for more military aid for Ukraine.

    If we had already got what we needed – all these planes, tanks, artillery, anti-missile and anti-ship weapons, we could have saved thousands of people. I do not blame you – I blame only the Russian military. But you could have helped.

    I will continue to say this to the face of all those on whom the decision on weapons for Ukraine depends.

  10. says

    The rector of Russia’s largest university in the north: ‘today, the conduct of a special operation to liberate the Ukrainian land from nationalistic disgusting dirt is the fulfilment of a historical duty in the memory of victory generation’.”

    From the article at the link:

    Rector Kudryashova urges her students to be careful not to repost controversial information. “Remember that false information is a provocation – a tool to fight against our country, its unity.”

    “Emotional decisions tend to lead to bad decisions, the consequences of which can be devastating for you and those around you,” Elena Kodryashova writes.

  11. says

    Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian – “Orbán’s victory in Hungary adds to the darkness engulfing Europe”:

    …Wherever I went over the last five days, I saw streets and metro carriages plastered with government-funded posters showing an avuncular image of Viktor Orbán beside the slogan “Let’s protect Hungary’s peace and security”. Another ubiquitous poster showed a young mother and child with the slogan “Protect the children”. This advertised a government referendum conducted at the same time as the election, with questions such as “Do you support the promotion of sex reassignment therapy for underage children?” (The referendum did not reach the required 50% of valid votes.) State media relentlessly promoted a pro-Orbán narrative, as they have done for more than a decade, and even spent some time effectively blaming the war in Ukraine on the Ukrainians. Márki-Zay got just five minutes on state television to explain the opposition programme. Facebook was plastered with regime-supporting paid advertising, thus continuing the platform’s ignoble record of helping the enemies of liberal democracy in return for filthy lucre.

    Yet having spent lavishly on tax and welfare handouts to win the election, the Orbán government needs EU funds to fill a big hole in its finances. Unless the EU is prepared simply to accept that it now has an authoritarian member state, it should at long last impose rigorous conditionality on the flows of European money that have long been one of the main founts of Orbán’s power. This means continuing to withhold post-Covid recovery grants and loans, since transparency cannot be guaranteed by a regime that is actually built on the corrupt use of EU money. It also means finally triggering the rule-of-law conditionality mechanism that could hold back significant chunks of funding from the EU’s regular budget. (And not being fooled into giving Hungary lots of money for Ukrainian refugees who have in fact already moved on to other countries.)

    But here’s the problem. Faced with the latest evidence of the barbaric [sic!] behaviour of Russian troops in Ukraine, Europe needs to step up its sanctions against Putin. When Orbán returned from back-to-back summits of Nato and the EU in Brussels last month, his government sent an email to all Hungarians who had signed up for a Covid vaccine saying that “proposals were put on the agenda against which Hungary’s interests had to be protected”. His government would never allow weapons supplies to go through Hungary to Ukraine, nor sanctions to be imposed on the 85% of Hungary’s gas and 64% of its oil that comes from Russia. In response to the Bucha atrocities, EU leaders such as French president Emmanuel Macron are now calling for more sanctions, including on Russian oil. Self-styled “realists” may argue that Brussels has to stay soft on Hungary in order to keep Orbán on board for a common front over Ukraine.

    Europe should now get tough on both the Russian enemy without and the Hungarian enemy within. But can it and will it do both at once? Here is another dilemma this dark, depressing weekend has presented to a deeply shaken Europe.

    (Incidentally, a huge portion of commentary on the invasion in the past few days has referred to Russians as animals, beasts, barbarians, savages, or some variant of these. Like this one, the article @ #4 commented on Russia’s “barbaric acts.” Mehdi Hasan: “this barbarism.” Kyiv Independent: “Russia’s barbarous war.” Enough.)

  12. says

    More about that RIA Novosti article discussed in the previous chapter of the thread – CBC – “A Kremlin paper justifies erasing the Ukrainian identity, as Russia is accused of war crimes”:

    An editorial in a prominent Kremlin media outlet appears to provide justification for the war with its call to erase the Ukrainian identity — language that geopolitical experts say is especially alarming after the discovery of dozens of dead civilians in a Kyiv suburb.

    Written by Timofei Sergeitsev in RIA Novosti, the rhetoric in the editorial — entitled “What Russia should do in Ukraine” — is inflammatory, even by the usual Russian state media standards.

    It claims the word “Ukraine” itself is synonymous with Nazism and cannot be allowed to exist.

    “Denazification is inevitably also De-Ukrainianization,” Sergeitsev writes, stating that the idea of Ukrainian culture and identity is fake.

    A prominent scholar whose career has been spent studying historical genocide said he felt sickened by reading the article — but he was also convinced that the Kremlin is using it to justify atrocities in Ukraine to the Russian people and the military.

    “It’s just a clear, pretty laid-out template for what is going to happen,” said Eugene Finkel, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. “This article crossed the line between talking and thinking about the invasion as some kind of collection of war crimes into something much more co-ordinated.”…

  13. says

    Guardian – “How far-right figures like Ammon Bundy cause chaos in US politics”:

    …Bundy has adapted to new times in US politics as the Republican party has lurched right under the influence of Donald Trump, and far-right militia groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers have dominated headlines, including after the January 6 assault on the Capitol. Bundy, however, has attracted far less attention as he built up a state-by-state-level, cell-like network that can host dinners to create a sense of community but also produce on-demand protesters.

    Bundy’s People’s Rights Network aims to form a coalition of militia members, anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, preppers and other far-right travelers. Its size eclipses most far-right groups put together. And many experts see it as a real threat to democracy.

    “They’ve repeatedly shown an ability to mobilize large number of armed far-right activists to threaten, harass, and intimidate public officials,” said Devin Bernhardt, director of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, a non-profit that monitors the far right.

    While 2021 saw a retreat for many of the national far-right groups as they came under intense scrutiny from law enforcement, People’s Rights Network grew last year by 53%. Today it has 33,000 members across 38 states, according to a report from the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.

    “Ammon Bundy, with People’s Rights Network, was the first to grasp on to Covid-19 denial as a mobilizing vehicle. The first to galvanize militants to oppose Covid-19 restrictions and to meld together anti-vaxxers, paramilitaries, Proud Boys and others into a larger movement to protest and protect these kinds of efforts,” said Bernhardt.

    Bernhardt says Bundy has shown the ability to radicalize people by “engaging in local conflict. Whether that’s showing up at vaccination sites and threatening healthcare providers or showing up at school boards and harassing school board members.”…

  14. says

    Guardian – “IPCC report: ‘now or never’ if world is to stave off climate disaster”:

    The world can still hope to stave off the worst ravages of climate breakdown but only through a “now or never” dash to a low-carbon economy and society, scientists have said in what is in effect a final warning for governments on the climate.

    Greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025, and can be nearly halved this decade, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to give the world a chance of limiting future heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

    The final cost of doing so will be minimal, amounting to just a few percent of global GDP by mid-century, though it will require a massive effort by governments, businesses and individuals.

    But the chances were narrow and the world was failing to make the changes needed, the body of the world’s leading climate scientists warned. Temperatures will soar to more than 3C, with catastrophic consequences, unless policies and actions are urgently strengthened.

    Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London and co-chair of the working group behind the report, said: “It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5C. Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”

    The report on Monday was the third and final section of the IPCC’s latest comprehensive review of climate science, drawing on the work of thousands of scientists. IPCC reports take about seven years to compile, making this potentially the last warning before the world is set irrevocably on a path to climate breakdown.

    Though the report found it was now “almost inevitable” that temperatures would rise above 1.5C – the level above which many of the effects of climate breakdown will become irreversible – the IPCC said it could be possible to bring them back down below the critical level by the end of this century. But doing so could require technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which campaigners warned were unproven and could not be a substitute for deep emissions cuts now.

    The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said some governments and businesses were “lying” in claiming to be on track for 1.5C. In a strongly worded rebuke, he warned: “Some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic.”

    Soaring energy prices and the war in Ukraine have prompted governments to rethink their energy policies. Many countries – including the US, the UK and the EU – are considering ramping up fossil fuels as part of their response, but the IPCC report made clear that increasing fossil fuels would put the 1.5C target beyond reach.

    Guterres said: “Inflation is rising, and the war in Ukraine is causing food and energy prices to skyrocket. But increasing fossil fuel production will only make matters worse.”

    The IPCC working group 3 report found:

    – Coal must be effectively phased out if the world is to stay within 1.5C, and currently planned new fossil fuel infrastructure would cause the world to exceed 1.5C.

    – Methane emissions must be reduced by a third.

    – Growing forests and preserving soils will be necessary, but tree-planting cannot do enough to compensate for continued emissions for fossil fuels.

    – Investment in the shift to a low-carbon world is about six times lower than it needs to be.

    – All sectors of the global economy, from energy and transport to buildings and food, must change dramatically and rapidly, and new technologies including hydrogen fuel and carbon capture and storage will be needed.

    Poor countries warned they were ill-equipped to make the changes needed and required financial assistance from richer nations to cut emissions and help them adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis….

    Catherine Mitchell, a professor emerita of energy policy at Exeter University, said the needs of the poorest countries must be prioritised. “Unless we have social justice, there are not going to be more accelerated greenhouse gas reductions. These issues are tied together.”

    Publication of the report was delayed by a few hours as governments wrangled with scientists in marathon sessions, culminating late on Sunday night, over the final messages in the 63-page summary for policymakers. While IPCC reports are led by scientists, governments have input on the final messages in the summary for policymakers.

    The Guardian understands that governments including India, Saudi Arabia and China questioned messages including on financing emissions reductions in the developing world and phasing out fossil fuels. However, scientists stressed that the final summary was agreed by all 195 governments….

  15. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian (support them if you can!) Ukraine liveblog. From there:

    Russian strike hits tank of nitric acid in Rubizhne, Ukraine says

    A Russian strike has hit a tank of nitric acid in the eastern Ukrainian city of Rubizhne, causing a cloud of toxic smoke to cover the area, according to Ukrainian officials….

    Spain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden expel Russian diplomats

    More than 120 Russian diplomats have been expelled from EU countries in the last 28 hours, amid international outrage over killings in the town of Bucha, Reuters reports.

    Spain’s foreign minister, Jose Manuel Albares, said today that 25 Russian diplomats and embassy staff will be expelled in response to alleged war crimes by the Russian military in Ukraine.

    The Russian ambassador was not among the diplomats to be expelled from Madrid, he said.

    His Italian counterpart, Luigi di Miao, also confirmed that 30 Russian diplomats have been expelled “for national security reasons”.

    Denmark earlier said it was expelling 15 Russian “intelligence officers” accused of spying on its territory.

    Danish foreign minister, Jeppe Kofod, said diplomatic ties would remain with Moscow, and “the Russian ambassador and the rest of the embassy in Copenhagen are therefore not included in the expulsion”.

    Sweden also announced it was expelling three Russian diplomats who conducted “illegal operations” in the country.

    The announcements by Italy, Denmark and Sweden follow similar moves by France, which on Monday expelled 35 Russian diplomats, and Germany, which expelled 40 diplomats.

    Also on Monday, Lithuania said it was expelling the Russian ambassador in response to Russia’s “military aggression” and the “horrific massacre in Bucha”.

    In the UK, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, demanded the expulsion of the Russian ambassador to the UK, Andrei Kelin, in response to alleged “war crimes” [why the scare quotes?] committed in Ukraine by Vladimir Putin and his forces.

    But the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, was understood not to be preparing to expel diplomats and intelligence officers from London, PA news agency writes.

    France has opened three inquiries over suspected war crimes in Ukraine committed against French citizens in the country, France’s national anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office said.

    In a statement, it said it was investigating possible crimes committed in the Ukrainian towns of Mariupol, Gostomel and Chernihiv between 24 February and 16 March.

    The facts referred to by the investigations were allegedly committed to the detriment of French nationals.

    Prosecutors had already opened a war crime investigation into the death of Franco-Irish Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, who was shot near Kyiv while covering the war.

  16. says

    Guardian – “‘Motorcade of shame’: outrage over pro-Russia displays at Berlin rally”:

    A rally in Berlin that was organised to draw attention to growing hostility towards Russians in Germany but included demonstrators supportive of the invasion of Ukraine has drawn sharp criticism from politicians and diplomats.

    About 900 protesters in a 400-strong motorcade took part in the demonstration on Sunday that culminated in a gathering at the Olympic Stadium. Cars were draped in the Russian flag, and one bore the symbol “Z”, meant to signify solidarity with the Russian war. Participants reportedly sang patriotic Russian songs.

    Christian Freier, a car mechanic identified as the organiser, displayed a Star of David on the front of his car above the slogan “Will we be next?”. He compared what he called the victimisation of Russians in Germany since the outbreak of the war with the persecution of Jews under the Nazis, and said participants were also angry at what he called propaganda about the invasion being spread in German schools.

    Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, said he was appalled that the demonstration, which was apparently registered in advance with the police and had its protection, was allowed to go ahead, in particular on a day when atrocities against hundreds of civilians in the town of Bucha, north of Kyiv, were reported.

    “For heaven’s sake, how could they allow this motorcade of shame to take place in the middle of Berlin?” he tweeted, focusing his criticism mainly on Berlin’s mayor, Franziska Giffey, and the police.

    Giffey responded: “I understand the anger and condemn any utterance that plays down the Russian war of aggression.”

    Berlin’s senate has expressed concern over upcoming sensitive anniversaries, such as the end of the second world war on 8-9 May, which they believe Russian nationalists may try to exploit.

    Torsten Akmann, the state secretary for Berlin’s interior ministry, said no demonstrations for those dates had yet been registered with the police and “we are keeping a very close eye on things”.

    A counter-demonstration that aimed to block the motorcade was prevented by police from doing so as it had not been registered with the authorities. Participants in that now face public nuisance proceedings….

  17. says

    Endorse!:

    I think it’s dangerous to report & so repeat Russian denials – unless it’s made 100% clear that you are quoting cynical lies & distortions

    ‘The Kremlin claims…’ & a raised eyebrow is not enough

    Litvinenko, Eastern Ukraine, MH17, ‘Genocide’ in the Donbas…now Bucha

    Enough

  18. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Israel accuses Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine

    Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, has “strongly” condemned Russia’s “war crimes” in Ukraine in a statement intensifying Israel’s criticism of Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.

    In a statement, Lapid said:

    The images and testimony from Ukraine are horrific. Russian forces committed war crimes against a defenseless civilian population.

    I strongly condemn these war crimes.

    Earlier today, Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, condemned the killing of civilians documented in Bucha but stopped short of accusing Russian forces of responsibility.

    The Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov says it is the first time Israel has clearly accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine….

  19. says

    Here’s a link to the current Meduza (support them if you can!) Ukraine liveblog. Their most recent summary:

    A treason trial gets underway: Journalist Ivan Safronov’s treason case finally began behind closed doors on Monday. Prosecutors say he collected and sold data on Russian defense capabilities to intelligence agencies in Germany and the Czech Republic. He categorically denies the charges. Safronov’s lawyers say the case is riddled with procedural violations that have been ignored.

    Taking on the Wikipedians: Russia’s federal censor has ordered Wikipedia to remove information from entries about Russian war atrocities committed in Ukraine. Ekaterina Mizulina (the head of the Safe Internet League and the daughter of the reactionary senator by the same surname) claims credit for alerting Roskomnadzor to the offending content.

    No more hidden fees: The housing rental marketplace Airbnb has suspended service to all users based in Russia and Belarus, including any individuals who identified themselves using documents issued in either country. The company previously suspended all operations in Russia and Belarus.

    Cursed classrooms: The Russian authorities have issued new guidelines to schoolteachers, recommending special lessons devoted to the supposed benefits for Russia from Western sanctions, as well as how the sanctions are actually hurting other countries.

    Criminalizing evidence of atrocities: Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee and Attorney General’s Office have both threatened to press felony charges against anyone who disseminates “false claims” that Russian troops massacred civilians in Bucha. (Moscow both blames Ukrainian forces for these killings and argues that the corpses themselves were “staged.”)

  20. says

    At the start of the Obama era, Guantanamo had 242 inmates. President Joe Biden has now lowered the total to 37. The tricky part is reaching zero.

    […] The New York Times reported yesterday on the U.S. military sending to Algeria a prisoner “whose repatriation from Guantanamo Bay was arranged during the Obama administration but then delayed for five years.”

    The prisoner, Sufyian Barhoumi, 48, was captured in Pakistan in March 2002 and soon taken to Guantanamo Bay, where he never faced trial. He was notified in August 2016 that he was eligible for release, but his case was sidelined by a Trump administration policy that generally halted transfers. The transfer was the second this year and the third since President Biden took office with the goal of closing Guantanamo.

    […] the prison’s population peaked in 2003 with 680 prisoners. The Bush/Cheney administration began moving detainees out in its second term, and by the time Obama took office, the population was down to 242 prisoners.

    In 2009 and 2010, Congress made it effectively impossible for the Democrat to close the facility altogether, but Obama successfully lowered the prison population from 242 to 41.

    “As president, I have tried to close Guantanamo,” Obama said in a letter to congressional leaders on his last full day in office. “When I inherited this challenge, it was widely recognized that the facility — which many around the world continue to condemn — needed to close. Unfortunately, what had previously been bipartisan support for closure suddenly became a partisan issue. Despite those politics, we have made progress.”

    The point of the progress, obviously, was to reduce the overall population, but it was also intended to appeal to Republicans’ sense of fiscal sanity: the smaller the number of detainees, the harder it becomes to justify the massive expense of keeping open a detention facility that houses so few people.

    Even if congressional Republicans are inclined to ignore every other consideration, the hope has long been that GOP lawmakers would at least care about wasteful spending: it costs American taxpayers about $13 million per prisoner, per year.

    For his part, Donald Trump promised voters he’d reverse the progress, telling the public in 2016, in reference to the Guantanamo Bay prison, “We’re gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me, we’re gonna load it up.”

    As was true about so many of [Trump’s] promises, none of this reflected reality. On his first day in office, the number of inmates was down to 41. On Trump’s last day in office, the prison sometimes referred to as “Gitmo” had just 40 inmates.

    And now, that total is down to 37.

    About a month after Biden’s inauguration, the White House announced plans to shut down the prison once and for all, with the Departments of Defense, State, and Justice planning to work with the White House National Security Council in pursuit of the goal.

    The latest developments suggest officials have made some progress, but lowering the number from 37 to zero will remain a difficult challenge for the administration.

  21. says

    Followup to SC’s comment 18.

    For anyone who hasn’t yet seen it, the Russian claims, (Moscow both blames Ukrainian forces for these killings and argues that the corpses themselves were “staged.”), have been debunked.

    See comment 497 in the previous chapter of this thread.

  22. says

    Another Trump admin official accused of voting irregularity

    n light of the Trump administration’s many failures and scandals, it might be tempting to think veterans of the Republican team would avoid the political spotlight, at least for a while. But as it turns out, that’s not the case: A surprising number of Trump administration officials are hoping to parlay their service into careers in elected office.

    Take Matt Mowers, for example, who worked in Trump’s State Department and is now running for Congress in New Hampshire. But like his former boss, Mowers appears to have a controversy that might be tough to explain away.

    The Associated Press reported overnight that the Republican candidate appears to have voted twice in 2016, “potentially violating federal voting law” in the process.

    Matt Mowers, a leading Republican primary candidate looking to unseat Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas, cast an absentee ballot in New Hampshire’s 2016 presidential primary, voting records show. At the time, Mowers served as the director of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign in the pivotal early voting state. Four months later, after Christie’s bid fizzled, Mowers cast another ballot in New Jersey’s Republican presidential primary, using his parents’ address to re-register in his home state, documents The Associated Press obtained through a public records request show.

    In other words, Mowers effectively took two bites at the apple: He voted in one 2016 primary, moved, re-registered, and then voted again in another primary in the same election.

    […] part of what makes this notable is the larger context. It was, after all, just last month when former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows faced difficult questions about his own alleged voting irregularities: The North Carolinian registered and voted in 2020 from an address where he did not live, despite signing documents claiming otherwise.

    It also doesn’t help that Trump had a habit of encouraging people to vote twice.

    Making matters just a bit worse, Mowers has embraced his party’s messaging as part of his campaign: The AP report added, “His own campaign website has leaned in on the issue, featuring a section dedicated to ‘election integrity.’”

    It’s a safe bet that Democrats will put stories like these to good use. Hillary Clinton, for example, tweeted this morning, “Republican officials are so determined to transform voter fraud from a flimsy pretense for suppressing votes to an actual phenomenon, they keep committing it themselves.”

  23. says

    Followup to SC’s comment #9.

    How The Kremlin Dehumanizing Ukraine Set The Stage For Bucha

    On Feb. 26, when Russian tanks were supposed to be rolling into Kyiv, state news outlet RIA Novosti briefly published an article prematurely proclaiming the capture of Ukraine’s capital.

    As Ukrainians defended the city, the article was quickly taken down from the internet. Accessible now via the Internet Archive, the column, written by Pyotr Akopov, announced that “Ukraine has returned to Russia.” […]

    “Without a drop of exaggeration, Vladimir Putin assumed a historical responsibility, deciding not to leave the Ukrainian question without a solution for future generations,” Akopov wrote.

    The article reflected the Kremlin’s belief in who it thought its enemy was in Ukraine: a thin layer of pro-Western elites, who would be quickly swept away by a Russian offensive.

    The war was simply a matter of Ukraine being “returned to Russia,” with its upper echelons being “denazified.” The country would then simply be nudged back toward Moscow.

    But now, six weeks into a grueling campaign that has seen Russia withdraw forces after a failed attack on Kyiv, Akopov is taking a new tone from the one in his speculative piece on Russia’s swift victory. Russia, he now says, aims to do just the opposite: It aims to “dismantle Ukraine as a state.”

    On the ground in Ukraine, mass graves have been found after Russian soldiers left the Kyiv area. In Bucha, hundreds of people appear to have been buried during the Russian occupation. Ukrainian officials have said that the situation in other towns may be far worse.

    “Putin cannot come out and directly say that we are liquidating Ukraine as a state,” Akopov told a Russian government news website on Friday.

    He then suggested that this was the plan all along: “But in reality, nothing is changing for us.”

    It’s one example of a broader feature in Russian rhetoric — from Putin, from high-ranking officials, and from propagandists — that has shifted over the past six weeks. What started off, in Putin’s telling, as a battle with a limited number of people at the top — the “bandits” and “drug-addicts” who took over the Ukrainian state — has turned out to be a showdown with the Ukrainian people as a whole.

    That change came as Ukraine’s military and society mobilized against the invasion and put up a defense that was far stronger than Russia anticipated, forcing the country to move its forces away from the Kyiv region and abandon its early objective of quickly taking the capital city.

    The irony is that, as a result of Ukraine’s staunch defense, Russia’s narrative has now become even more violent, going from casting Ukrainians as a pliant people controlled by Western puppets to something more akin to the German people under the Third Reich — brainwashed, active participants in evil who, at best, must be defeated and re-educated.

    The shift reflects a total lack of understanding of Ukrainian society before the war, and suggests increasing rage as the reality of the country’s attitudes becomes clearer.

    […] Akopov’s initial article was one of many explanations, sometimes self-appointed, made in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s statement that the aim of the war was to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine.

    “The problem is that on our neighboring territories — I note, on our historical territories — a hostile ‘anti-Russia’ is being created under full external control,” Putin said in his Feb. 24 announcement of the war.

    He added that the “special operation” was aimed at “defending people who, over the past eight years, have sustained abuse, genocide from the Kyiv regime. It’s for this that we will aim for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, and for those who committed multiple, bloody crimes against civilians, including Russian citizens, to face judgment.”

    […] “Unfortunately, and to our silent astonishment, a significant part of Ukrainian people — and not everyone — turn out to have been captured by the insanity of Nazism,” RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said last month. “[…] I couldn’t have imagined that there were so many of them.”

    […] Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president and current security council deputy chair, wrote on Telegram on Tuesday that the war’s aims “will be decided not only on the fields of battle.”

    “Changing the bloody and fully false myths of the consciousness of a segment of today’s Ukrainians is a most important aim,” he added.

    Reports from the ground in Ukraine suggest how troops may have interpreted that objective. Reports from liberated Ukrainian towns suggest that Russian forces targeted vocal supporters of Ukrainian sovereignty. In Motyzhyn, a village outside Kyiv, they reportedly killed the town’s mayor and her family.

    […] “Denazification will unavoidably be deukrainianization,” wrote political consultant Timofei Sergeitsev in a widely discussed column posted on RIA Novosti.

    His column partly attempts to define what “denazification” really means — a term that Putin left ambiguous in his speech.

    Sergeytsev added that beyond senior leadership in Ukraine, “a significant part of the masses are guilty, who are passive Nazis, enablers of Nazism.”

    “A just punishment of this part of the population is only possible by bearing the inevitable hardships of just war against the Nazi system, conducted as carefully and delicately as possible with regard to civilians,” he wrote.

  24. says

    From the most recent Guardian liveblog summary:

    Volodymyr Zelenskiy has given the UN security council a harrowing account of atrocities in his country and demanded that Russian leaders “be brought to justice for war crimes”. The Ukrainian president called for an international tribunal similar to the Nuremberg trials of Nazis after the second world war, speaking of Russian forces: “There is not a single crime that they would not commit there.”

    The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said he will “never forget the horrifying images of civilians killed” in the Ukrainian town of Bucha. Speaking at the UN security council in New York, he said the war in Ukraine is “one of the greatest challenges ever” to the “international order”. The UN undersecretary general for political and peacebuilding affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, said allegations of sexual violence perpetrated by Russian forces include “gang-rape and rapes in front of children”.

    Ukrainian human rights ombudswoman, Lyudmyla Denisova, said between 150 and 300 bodies may be in a mass grave by a church in the town of Bucha. She did not say how the authorities had reached the estimate of the number of victims in the mass grave.

    Displaced residents of Bucha should not yet return to their homes because there are still mines in the area after Russian troops withdrew from the devastated Ukrainian town, its mayor, Anatoliy Fedoruk, said. Fedoruk said about 3,700 civilians had stayed in Bucha, which had a pre-war population of about 37,000, throughout the occupation by Russian troops.

    The UN human rights office spokesperson, Liz Throssell, said all the signs from the Ukrainian town of Bucha pointed towards civilians having been directly targeted and killed. She described the images emerging from the aftermath of Russia’s occupation of Bucha as “extremely disturbing”.

    India’s permanent representative to the UN, T.S. Tirumurti, condemned the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha and called for an independent investigation. Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, also strongly condemned Russia’s “war crimes” in Ukraine in a statement intensifying Israel’s criticism of Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.

    The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said the evidence from Bucha shows “a deliberate campaign to kill, to torture, to rape, to commit atrocities” by Russian forces. “The reports are more than credible. The evidence is there for the world to see,” he told reporters.

    Almost two hundred Russian diplomatic staff have been expelled from European countries this week in a direct expression of governments’ outrage at the killings of Ukrainian civilians revealed as Moscow’s military forces left. In what amounts to one of the biggest diplomatic breakdowns of recent years, 206 Russian diplomats and embassy staff have been told since Monday they are no longer welcome to stay by governments in Italy, France, Germany and elsewhere.

    The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, announced that the EU is proposing new sanctions against Russia, including an import ban on coal worth €4bn (£3.3bn) per year. The package will also include a full transaction ban on four key Russian banks, a ban on Russian vessels and Russian-operated vessels from accessing EU ports, as well as targeted export and import bans.

    The Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said Nato and G7 foreign ministers meeting on Wednesday and Thursday will discuss the delivery of advanced weapons to Ukraine. Ammunition, medical supplies and “high-end” weapons systems would also be discussed, he added.

  25. says

    Followup to comment 22.

    Posted by readers of the article:

    Read the Rai/Novosti post in full. It’s chilling.

    Despite the perfuctory condemnation of the USSR for creating Ukraine as a Soviet republic, the entire vocabulary, syntax, and tenor of this rant is in the exact Soviet style.

    Alternatively, it can be compared to Nazi pronouncements on Poland, e.g., about how it wasn’t even really a state.

    ADDENDUM: given how relatively sophisticated Russian disinformation was in 2016, and how well it played into the fucked up psychology of certain groups in a foreign society, it’s remarkable how crude Russian propaganda has become.
    —————–
    “Denazification” is 100% projection.
    —————–
    “You will be greeted as liberators by your brother Slavs, who are really just Russians with funny accents. Also, you must exterminate them from the face of the planet as the Final Solution to the Ukrainian Question.”
    ——————
    Putin and the rest of the Russian leadership along for this ride are defining “Nazi” as anyone who opposes Russian hegemony.
    ——————
    They were brothers with bad leadership in February. Now, they are a nation of Nazis who need to be exterminated like vermin.

    I’ve known a few narcissists and one thing I noted was that if they were hurt/insulted and wanted sympathy for something that did not garner much sympathy, they exaggerated the offense until the listener had to be a monster not to sympathize.

    I think Putin has done the same in the face of protests. Protesting an invasion of another country is one thing. Failing to support your country when it is battling genocidal Nazis who want to exterminate your nation is another thing.
    ——————-
    The emphasis seems to have changed, but Putin and his media were always talking out of both sides of their mouths.
    ——————–
    ‘just war against the Nazi system, conducted as carefully and delicately as possible with regard to civilians,” he wrote.

    Yeah, nothing says “delicate” quite like executions and bodies littering the streets.
    ———————
    Oops: “Russian United Nations Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia mistakenly admitted this week that dead bodies that were seen in the streets of one Ukrainian city “never existed before Russian troops arrived.”During a Monday press conference […]”
    ———————–
    Leaving dead, tortured bodies is how a gangster operates. You’re sending a message, ‘this is what happens if you resist’. This is what criminal cartels do all over the world. Only this time, the criminal cartel is a nation.

  26. says

    Julia Ioffe:

    Just some army cadets in Russia telling us how this is World War 2 all over again, that America did it, Ukraine’s full of Nazis, and they plan to take revenge. Perfectly ordinary stuff. No fascists here.

    These totally non-fascist Russian cadets are reciting a poem about how Ukraine has been filled with Nazis by the U.S. so it can fight against Russia, its “older sister,” which will liberate Ukraine from this “impurity.”

    Showed this to my dad, who grew up in and loathed every aspect of life in the USSR: “We had morning assemblies just like this, where they recited this nonsense about the war just like this, with the same booming, straining voice to convey the fullness of their feelings.”

    Video at the link – no subtitles, but the imagery and general tone convey quite a bit.

  27. says

    Ukraine update: Widening gap between what Russian military can achieve and Russians’ expectations

    Military analyst Rob Lee points out that, while the rest of the world is hearing about Russia’s defeat in the Battle of Kyiv, witnessing all the evidence of Russian atrocities in Bucha, and watching as the tally of destroyed equipment and casualties reaches shocking highs … that’s not what Russia is hearing.

    Not only are the folks back in Moscow getting a very rosy picture of success in the war, they are still being given a narrative in which Russia is fighting back the evil Nazi hordes, liberating grateful civilians, and trouncing a weak Ukrainian military. In the words of so many Russian apologists on social media, “everything is going exactly to plan.” That plan includes approximately 15,000 dead Russian soldiers and over 2,400 lost tanks, transports, helicopters, and other vehicles. So far.

    But the lies don’t stop with what has happened up to this point. Russians are also hearing a false narrative that extends into the future, where commentators on Russian television are frequently calling for Ukraine to be utterly wiped from the map, or even for Russia to carry the war beyond the borders of Ukraine. They’re being whipped into a kind of victory-or-nothing frenzy. […]

    “There appears to be a widening gap between what the Russian military can achieve at this point and the expectations of many Russians,” writes Lee. “The more Russian news presents a rosy picture of the war, the harder it will be for people to accept the likely terms of a compromise settlement.”

    Russia can continue to lie about Nazis and continue to lie about Bucha, and that may work for the people who consume nothing but Fox News Moscow Edition as their own possible outlet. But it will be harder to continue to lie about the thousands of missing soldiers, the inability to catch a flight to 90% of the world, the closed stores, silent factories, and empty shelves.

    Was what Moscow would like to claim was a “feint” toward Kyiv, during which they took almost none of the Donbas region and don’t seem to have achieved any significant strategic goals, really worth the costs that Russia has paid and will continue to pay? And how is Moscow going to explain the mounting losses, even as Russian TV continues to claim that the Ukrainian military is weak, the people of Ukraine love Russia, and that Russian troops are being welcomed as liberators?

    There’s no guarantee that Russians will ever wake up to Vladimir Putin’s deception, or become aware of the acts being carried out in their name. Sadly, there’s also no guarantee that anything would change even if they knew everything.

  28. says

    When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tried to present a video today following his talk to the United Nations Security Council, there were technical issues that caused a delay before it could be presented. If you missed it this morning, the video is linked below. Please be warned, the contents of the video are extremely disturbing, even if you’ve already seen some of these images.

    Link

    Scroll down at the link to see the video, as posted by John Hudson.

  29. says

    Guardian – “‘I couldn’t keep it inside’: ballet star Olga Smirnova on quitting the Bolshoi and fleeing Russia”:

    “My life totally changed in one day,” says Olga Smirnova. “In the morning, I did not know I was going to leave Russia. And in the night, I was sitting on the plane.” The 30-year-old dancer was one of the Bolshoi Ballet’s star ballerinas, a universally lauded performer at the peak of her powers, at a company that has long had close ties to the Kremlin. Earlier this month, she made a shock announcement: she had joined Dutch National Ballet (DNB), leaving Moscow behind. The move came shortly after Smirnova wrote a heartfelt post on the online messaging service Telegram about Russia’s attack on Ukraine. “With all the fibres of my soul I am against the war,” she wrote. “I never thought that I would be ashamed of Russia … But now the line is drawn on the before and after.”

    Speaking via video call from Amsterdam, she explains her reason for leaving: “It did not feel safe.” Although there had been no direct threat from the authorities, she adds: “I just felt the atmosphere was tense in the country. International flights were being cancelled and there were rumours the borders would be closed, so we decided to leave. We didn’t want to risk it and wait longer.”

    She knew making such a statement would put her in the spotlight. Why did she do it? “I don’t know,” she says. “I just felt I needed to speak out. I couldn’t keep it inside. There were many artists who spoke out. I admire Russian literature. Dostoevsky and Tolstoy are my favourite writers and you learn from their example that you must speak honestly and openly.”

    Smirnova barely heard from her Bolshoi colleagues, save for a couple of “supportive and touching” messages. “People are afraid to speak out. If they don’t have any choice but to stay, they prefer not to speak out. Everyone should be able to decide what type of society they want to live in and how much freedom one needs for living.”

    Appearing to criticise the Russian regime can have consequences. The Bolshoi theatre’s general director Vladimir Urin is among a number of cultural leaders who signed a letter against the war. At a meeting with arts laureates last Friday, Putin suggested merging the directorship of the Bolshoi theatre with St Petersburg’s Mariinsky theatre under its director and Putin loyalist Valery Gergiev, implying that Urin would be ousted.

    “I never followed politics,” says Smirnova, being careful with her words. “But politics became impossible to ignore, which is why I spoke out against the war. War is an unacceptable way in our civilised [sic – gah] world to resolve any conflict.” Besides wanting the war to stop as soon as possible, she worries about the future relationship between Russia and the rest of the world. “It’s really painful,” she says. “Because it’s also about the reputation of the whole Russian people. Russia’s reputation has been severely damaged by the actions of Russia’s government.”

    Smirnova’s parents are still in Russia. They only knew she had left when the DNB announcement was made. “Only then could I speak to them and explain the situation,” she says. “And, of course, for them it was really hard to accept. First of all, because they are parents and want to have me close. They are upset, they wanted me to stay, but I think they just need more time to accept and understand my decision.”…

    There was a documentary several years ago called Bolshoi Babylon.

  30. says

    From the article @ #30:

    If “Russia” as a national and cultural project would like be part of the global community again, then the first new institution established in the country after the war should be a court empowered to investigate the crimes of the Russian state in all its guises, past and present.

  31. says

    This is Sasha. During the evacuation from Vyshorod in Kyiv oblast, his boat came under Russian fire, and Sasha went missing.

    Today Sasha was found dead. He was 4 years old.

    Since the beginning of the new Russian invasion, at least 165 Ukrainian children have died.”

    Photos at the link.

  32. says

    ANCHORAGE (The Borowitz Report)—Kicking off her campaign for the United States Congress, Sarah Palin lashed out at the word game Wordle for “using such long words.”

    “Wordle uses words that are way too long for everyday Americans like me to guess,” she told her audience at a campaign stop in Anchorage. “When I tried to play Wordle, I did the same thing I did as governor—I quit halfway through.”

    Palin also blasted the publisher of Wordle, her longtime nemesis the New York Times. “Once again, the New York Times is using long words to make me feel bad about myself,” she said.

    The former governor said that she is unconcerned that fifty other candidates are running for Alaska’s open congressional seat. “Honestly, I can’t count that high,” she said.

    New Yorker link

  33. says

    Reuters:

    German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, long an advocate of Western rapprochement with Russia, expressed regret for his earlier stance, saying his years of support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline had been a clear mistake.

  34. says

    Ukraine update: Meanwhile, in Kherson …

    Since Russia collected what was left of their forces in northern Ukraine and made a run for the Belarus border, almost all of the attention has focused on the Donbas region. Which isn’t surprising, since Russia already announced that it was going to redirect its attention there.

    The absolutely best outcome for Russia at this point would seem to be capturing more territory in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, and completing the capture of Mariupol. Then they could form a continuous slice of land from the Russian border to the Crimea and have it all “volunteer” to join Russia. Just the way that all those people herded onto busses in occupied Ukrainian towns are “volunteering” to move to prison camps somewhere in Russia.

    Many of the analysts projecting Russia’s next move would also include “and capture Odessa,” cutting Ukraine off from the Black Sea. But that suggestion seems to forget this: Russia is about to lose big, right down there next to the Black Sea coast.

    That’s because, at the same time that Ukraine forces went on the offensive near Kyiv, capturing one nearby village and suburb after another, they were doing the same thing southeast of the city of Mykolaiv. Multiple attempts to capture the city were repelled by Ukrainian forces and then, over a series of days within the last two weeks, Ukrainian forces broke out of Mykolaiv, pushing to the southeast. They recaptured villages and towns like Kotlyareve, Shevchenkove, and Luch in just two days of fast movement. Russian forces attempted to shift into a move on Kryvyi Rih, but that also failed. [map available at the link]

    The result was that by the end of the month Ukrainian forces were situated just outside Kherson, Russian helicopters and UAVs had been forced to flee from the local airport, and it looked like just a matter of time before Ukraine forces gathered their strength and pushed in to take back the only large city Russia has completely taken since the invasion began.

    Kherson (pop. 284,000) was the scene of fierce fighting during the first three days of the war, with Russia first capturing, then losing, then recapturing, the re-losing, the key bridge across the Dnieper River on the northeast edge of the city. Even at the time, there were many analysts wondering why no one blew up that bridge to prevent the Russian advance into the city. The answer seems to be: because traitors.

    Local officials in Kherson were among those who received bribes to roll over to the Russian invasion and it seems like, in this case at least, those bribes stuck. Less than a week after the invasion began, Ukrainian forces moved off toward Mykolaiv and Kherson was handed over to the Russians with relatively little fighting, bridge intact.

    Then the Ukrainians pushed back from Mykolaiv, marched right to the outskirts of Kherson, and that’s where things remained even as Russia was strategically running away like a scalded cat in the north.

    For the Ukrainian forces, Kherson does represent something of a challenge. After all, Russia may specifically target hospitals and shelters labeled “Children Inside,” but Ukrainian forces can’t be too keen to start lobbing artillery toward Russians camped inside their own city. However, it seems like Russia may be about to solve that problem for them. […]

    If Russian forces retreat across the Dnieper, it’s a good bet that they will pull down that bridge behind them when they go. That is definitely something that Russian forces currently scattered along the west bank of the river from Beryslav to Ivanivka might want to consider. Otherwise, they’re likely to be on the mop-end of some “mopping up,” and that’s never a good place to be.

    If Russia pulls back across the Dnieper, it represents a natural defensive position that will be hard for Ukrainian forces to break through at Kherson. However, Ukraine has control of multiple bridges farther up the river, which they can utilize to come down on Russian-occupied Melitopol from the north.

    If Russia leaves Kherson and retreats to the east, it’s also pretty much saying farewell to prospects of capturing Odessa. Russia’s only option would be to stage an amphibious assault, which are difficult maneuvers in the best of times, requiring a combination of coordination, competence, and surprise to pull off successfully. So far in this war, Russia is zero for all three of those.

    And the people of Kherson may be about to have one helluva celebration. […]

  35. says

    How Ireland Took On the Church and Freed Its Soul

    New Yorker link

    A nation learned to dodge God’s law in everything from biscuits to birth control, until religious doublethink became an agent of its own undoing.

    […] reading Fintan O’Toole’s new book, “We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland” (Liveright), is like reading a great tragicomic Irish novel, rich in memoir and record, calamity and critique. The book contains funny and terrible things, details and episodes so pungent that they must surely have been stolen from a fantastical artificer […]. The pedophile Dublin priest who built a swimming pool in his back garden—in drizzly Ireland!—so that little boys could swim with him. The censoring, all-seeing Archbishop of Dublin who kept a telescope and a magnifying glass in his official residence, and once boasted that, when he used the magnifier to scrutinize “the drawings of women in ads for underwear, it was possible to see the outline of a mons veneris.” The moment, in 1963, when Ireland acquired its first escalator. The fact that Irish viewers could see only a chaste version of “Casablanca” that “cut out all the references to Rick and Ilsa’s passionate love affair in Paris, leaving their motivations entirely mysterious.” The deeply corrupt Prime Minister Charles Haughey, who spent a thousand pounds of someone else’s money a week on dinners with his mistress. The strange fact that Albania got its own television station before Ireland did. The bishop who fled Ireland for a convent in Texas after his lover told the press about their illegitimate son, whom he had refused to acknowledge.

    These public events have the irresistible tang of the actual, and around them O’Toole—who has had a substantial career as a journalist, a political commentator, and a drama critic—beautifully tells the private story of his childhood and youth. But because the events really happened, because they are part of Ireland’s shameful, sometimes surreal postwar history, they also have the brutishly obstructive quality of fact, often to be pushed against, fought with, triumphed over, or, in O’Toole’s preferred mode of engagement, analyzed into whimpering submission. His great gift is his extremely intelligent, relentless critical examination, and here he studies nothing less than the past and the present of his own nation. […] O’Toole tells the story of how his race, at last breaking the fetters of religion and superstition, created its own conscience.

    O’Toole opens his book in 1958, the year of his birth. […] The family lived in a newish housing estate, “lined by largely identical two-storey working-class dwellings,” in a suburb southwest of Dublin. The modernity of the housing stock was important: the O’Tooles had electricity, running water, and an indoor lavatory. In a book rippling with extraordinary facts, here are some of the starkest: at the end of the Second World War, two-thirds of Irish homes had no electricity. In the countryside, especially, development was sluggish. The 1961 census revealed that nearly seventy-five per cent of rural homes didn’t have plumbing. […]

    Politically, the Ireland of his childhood appeared to be remarkably stable. […] But Ireland, in O’Toole’s telling, was in crisis, more of a fragile agrarian theocracy than a modern democratic republic. It was not de Valera who was really in charge but the zealous magnifier of women’s private parts, the Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid. […] Crucially, the country was shrinking. In 1961, its population was less than half the size it had been in 1841. “Three out of five children growing up in Ireland in the 1950s were destined to leave at some point in their lives,” O’Toole notes. […]

    O’Toole uses his birth date to plot the country’s tensions and contradictions, drawing the reader’s attention to three symptomatic events that occurred in the week of his birth. Two days before he was born, the Dublin Theatre Festival struck “Bloomsday,” an adaptation of Joyce’s “Ulysses,” from the schedule, when Archbishop McQuaid made his disapproval clear by refusing to mark the festival opening with a special votive mass. (Samuel Beckett withdrew his play in protest.) The second event, while O’Toole’s mother was in labor, took place in England. Masked members of the Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.) raided a British Army camp in Dorset, and bound and gagged ten young soldiers. The episode was relatively trivial, but it portended many years of murder and sorrow. Meanwhile, the government’s minister for industry and commerce, Seán Lemass—like de Valera, a veteran of the 1916 Easter Rising—flew to Paris to discuss the possibility of Ireland’s joining the newly proposed European Free Trade Association, a precursor to the European Union.

    Seen in hindsight, the three events occupy tellingly different temporalities. The censoring Church already belonged to the superstitious past, though the members of the clergy didn’t know it, of course, and had not yet even begun to cede their immense authority. The I.R.A. raid opened the long chapter of terroristic violence, perpetrated by both Catholics and Protestants, known as the Troubles—most of it confined to the British province of Northern Ireland and to the British mainland—that more or less came to an end in 1998, with the Anglo-Irish Good Friday Agreement. The ministerial trip to Paris set in motion an economic expansion and an integration with the rest of Europe that is open-ended and ongoing. The three events occupy the past, the finite present, and the unlimited future.

    […] Was Ireland just a curious, dusty little annex of the Catholic Church—its national vestry, essentially—or a modern nation willing to join a large, technocratic, increasingly secular political bloc, whose laws and mores were bound to conflict with Irish bans on abortion, divorce, and contraception? […] The sixty-year development that O’Toole so dexterously tracks is one in which an isolated religious nation becomes—slowly, then suddenly—a hospitably “normal,” secular one, and in which Catholicism and Irishness are no longer seen as synonymous. This sundering eventually made religiously sectarian violence not just difficult to defend […] but, finally, incoherent.

    […] the Ireland of the late nineteen-fifties and the sixties was torn between isolation and community. Most important, it had to navigate a path between the claims of the Church and the secular appeal of the new. […] Religion and nationalism, the cross and the clover, promised a timeless stability but were actually subversive forces.

    They were subversive because, despite the rhetoric of confidence, they were anxiously unstable, held together by a will to hypocrisy; when the deficits of this hypocrisy overwhelmed the benefits, the will began to wane. Reading this book, I was struck by parallels with the collapse of various European Communist regimes. […]

    Take contraception. The pill, though illegal in Ireland, had been imported into the country since 1963, officially as a “cycle regulator.” As long as no one spoke the word “contraceptive,” doctors could conspire with their female patients in this medical fiction. […]

    O’Toole bundles these hypocrisies under the delicious term “Connie dodging.” Cornelius (hence “Connie”) Lucey, the Bishop of Cork, had demanded a particularly strict version of Lenten fasting, in which parishioners were restricted to one meal a day, along with two “collations,” which were understood to be something like a biscuit, to be had with one’s tea. A resourceful local baker then invented a gigantic biscuit for Lent, known as a Connie dodger. [LOL] “The law of God was not defied,” O’Toole observes. “It was dodged. And so it was with the Pill.”

    One of the liveliest episodes in the book occurred in 1971, when members of a new feminist group known as the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement (aided, in the legal realm, by the young law professor Mary Robinson, a future President of the republic) mounted a campaign to break the law restricting the importation of contraceptives. The women took a train to Northern Ireland, with the intention of buying contraceptive pills in Belfast and then openly declaring them at customs in Dublin. But because they were unable to acquire the pill in Belfast without a prescription, they returned with aspirin, confident that the customs guards would not be able to tell the difference. Alas, nothing much happened. When one of the group announced that she was carrying the banned substance, O’Toole recounts, the customs men in Dublin “dropped their eyes, silent and fussed,” and waved the women through, as if they hadn’t heard anything. Official hypocrisy doubled down; Connie dodging lived to fight another day.

    O’Toole’s book pulses with righteous anticlericalism, and at its heart lies his eloquent outrage at what amounted to a vast religious penal colony. This network—comprising the ordinary Catholic schools run by the Christian Brothers, the more shadowy “mother and baby homes,” the Magdalene asylums, and the “industrial schools”—variously disciplined and incarcerated boys, girls, and pregnant or otherwise “wayward” women. […]

    The Magdalene asylums confined women who had broken the law and were perceived to have fallen into sexual immorality. The industrial schools were boarding schools for problem kids, who were subdued by regimes of terror that included flogging, burning, head shaving, beatings on the soles of the feet, and being made to sleep outside overnight. The network incorporated fifty-two such places and interned some fifty thousand children. O’Toole writes that he can’t recall a time when he didn’t know the names of the biggest “schools,” which “formed a hinterland of dread.” […]

    O’Toole was lucky enough to attend a relatively normal school run by the Christian Brothers, if normality can be stretched to accommodate unrestrained physical violence meted out with leather straps or bamboo canes, and much enforced propaganda; […] It is the logic of original sin: all have sinned, all must suffer, and only through suffering is glory achieved.

    […] until the divorce referendum of 1995, a couple who needed to get divorced in Ireland had to convince a body called the diocesan Marriage Tribunal that their marriage should be annulled on the ground that, owing to some “defect” at the time of the nuptials, they were never properly married anyway. In Dublin, O’Toole writes, the moral arbiter before whom you had to lay these sophistical contortions was a priest named, appropriately enough, Ivan Payne. In 1968, Payne had become the chaplain of the Crumlin children’s hospital, not far from where the young O’Toole lived. He replaced Father Paul McGennis, who had been discovered photographing little girls’ genitalia and had been secretly pardoned and protected by our man with the magnifying glass, Archbishop McQuaid. At the children’s hospital, Payne started abusing little boys: O’Toole tells us that there were sixteen known victims at the hospital, and fifteen more identified victims after Payne joined the Marriage Tribunal. The Church knew about Payne’s activities as early as 1981, when one of his young victims alerted Church authorities. Payne admitted his offense, and was quietly moved from one parish to another. As O’Toole puts it, with measured fury, from 1985 to 1995 the body charged with making discriminations about the moral fineness of marriages “included a man who had admitted the sexual abuse of a child and two other priests who knew about that abuse.”

    Hypocrisy shrivels when it is named in sunlight. In the nineteen-nineties, that sunlit naming happened fast […] Four events were propulsive. In 1992, Eamonn Casey, the popular and telegenic Bishop of Galway, fled Ireland for New York on an Aer Lingus plane. His American lover, Annie Murphy, had told the Irish Times about her long affair with Casey, and about their son, Peter, born in 1974, who was being financially supported by the Bishop—or, more precisely, by funds from the Galway diocese, without its knowledge. […]

    Politically, change was also under way. In 1990, Mary Robinson was elected President, after a brutal campaign that exposed the nation’s religiose misogyny. […] The mistake was speaking it so blatantly, since to do so “revealed the reality obscured by the rhetoric, a deep contempt for women. It triggered a visceral rage that had been built up over generations.”

    Robinson’s election, according to O’Toole, broke the reflexive alliance of the Church and the Fianna Fáil Party, debunking the notion that both had some kind of moral monopoly over Irish culture. […]

    A year later, the Good Friday Agreement, announced by the Irish and British governments, largely ended the armed conflict between Catholics and Protestants. […] “It is the firm will of the Irish nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions.”

    O’Toole’s commentary here is especially acute. He points out that these words allowed for the reconciliation of two compound identities, Catholic/Irish and Protestant/British, that had once seemed immutably at odds, and, in consequence, broke any necessary link between Irishness and Catholicism. Identity could now be plural and open-ended. […] mass emigration was being reversed. A quarter of a million people flocked to an economically revivified Ireland between 1995 and 2000. Foreign-born inhabitants grew from six per cent of the population in 1991 to ten per cent in 2002. Once the European Union allowed the free flow of people and labor, in 2004 […] Irish society began to diversify rapidly. By 2016, O’Toole informs us, seventeen per cent of the population had been born elsewhere.

    […] Ireland was slow to throw off its repressions and deceits, slow to unseat a theocratic system that insisted on votive masses to bless theatre festivals, and slow to overturn a moral arrangement that coddled molesting priests and murderous, secretive institutions. […] The key dates fall on O’Toole’s closing pages like accelerating hammer blows: Mary Robinson’s election (1990); Eamonn Casey’s flight (1992); the tribunal on Charles Haughey (1997); a documentary series, produced by Mary Raftery, on the industrial schools, titled “States of Fear” (1999), which was such a powerful exposé that the government began discussing the possibility of making a formal apology the day after its screening on Irish TV; the governmental report (2009) that confirmed Raftery’s reporting, and, in the same year, an official report into sexual abuse in the Dublin archdiocese. These were followed by happier events, moments of triumph not just through suffering but over suffering: the 2015 vote in favor of gay marriage, the 2018 referendum that lifted the ban on abortion.

    What happened? Ireland became normal. “To be normal was a wonder that deserved celebration,” O’Toole writes. Is it possible to say how in a sentence? He makes a brave effort, in what may be the most moving line of the book: “This, I think, was what really changed: ordinary Catholics realized that, when it came to lived morality, they were way ahead of their teachers.” O’Toole leaves unspoken the gaping implication: and perhaps way ahead of God Himself?

    More details are available at the link. It is a well-written article/book review and deleting some of the text felt brutish.

  36. blf says

    This is one of those Al Jazeera articles produced in cooperation with Bloomberg, so it contains an unreasonable amount of incomprehensible gibberish, some of which I’ve redacted, US Treasury blocks Russian bond payments, raising risk of default:

    […]
    Russia’s efforts to avoid a sovereign default took another blow after the US Treasury halted dollar debt payments from the country’s accounts at US banks.

    The decision further complicates Russia’s attempts to keep meeting debt obligations amid the sanctions imposed after it invaded Ukraine. As the [Russian] government tries to sidestep its first external default in about a century, those restrictions have hampered and delayed the process of transferring money to bond holders.

    […]

    The US announcement is intended to force Russia into either draining its domestic dollar reserves or spending new revenue to make bond payments, or else go into default, according to a spokesperson for the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, who discussed details on condition of anonymity.

    “Clearly this latest announcement by the US Treasury is designed to put additional pressure on the Russians,” said Gary Kirk, a portfolio manager at TwentyFour Asset Management. “The alternative payment methods are significantly more punitive and more challenging for Russia and hence it does increase the chances of a technical default.”

    Despite warnings from credit-rating companies and others, Putin’s government has so far stayed current on its foreign debt obligations.

    But the sweeping sanctions have already led to the seizure of an estimated two-thirds of Russia’s reserves. The central bank says it’s also sold some of its foreign currencies to support the ruble, leaving questions on how long it can pull from its local coffers to pay its debts.

    [… P]ayments haven’t been smooth, with many delayed by banks doing lengthy checks to ensure they aren’t breaching sanctions.

    […]

  37. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog. From there:

    Helena Smith, the Guardian’s Athens correspondent, reports on the reaction to the Greek government decision to expel Russian diplomats:

    The Russian embassy has reacted with fury to the Greek government’s decision to expel twelve of its diplomats after declaring them “personae non-gratae.”

    Joining the growing list of EU capitals to eject Russian embassy personnel, Athens invoked the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular Relations as it announced the move earlier today.

    In a statement, the Russian embassy described the decision as a step that would further undermine bilateral relations between the two Orthodox Christian nations….

    The Guardian’s Brussels correspondent, Jennifer Rankin, has a report from Viktor Orbán’s press conference:

    Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán has said his country would have “no difficulty” in paying for Russian gas in rubles and will do so if Moscow asks.

    The statement undermines EU unity on Russia, after Germany and Italy, other big EU consumers of Russian gas, refused Vladimir Putin’s request to pay for gas shipments in rubles. Germany found a workaround that would allow it to pay for gas in euros, which would then be converted into rubles by Russia’s Gazprombank.

    The Hungarian prime minister was speaking at a press conference, days after a resounding victory in an election that independent monitors said was characterised by media bias, a blurring between party and state and opaque campaign finance.

    Orbán also said he had invited Putin for peace talks in Hungary to be attended by the leaders of Ukraine, France and Germany.

    The Russian president was one of the first leaders to congratulate Orbán on his victory, which was also welcomed by far-right leaders Marine Le Pen, Matteo Salvini and former US president Donald Trump.

    Hungary’s government did not refer to Putin in a list of leaders said to have congratulated Orbán published on an international website on Wednesday.

    Budapest has supported EU sanctions and condemned Russia’s war, but Hungary’s refusal to aid Ukraine with weapons, as well as virulent anti-Ukrainian rhetoric in state-controlled media, has angered allies.

    On Wednesday Hungary’s foreign minister Péter Szijjártó announced that he was summoning Ukraine’s ambassador, a move that usually indicates a diplomatic dressing down.

    “It’s time for Ukrainian leaders to stop insulting Hungary and to take note of the will of the Hungarian people,” said Szijjártó, who was awarded a medal of friendship from Vladimir Putin.

    In recent weeks Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has accused Orbán of siding with the Kremlin and ignoring the humanitarian catastrophe being suffered by residents of Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities.

    Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman has said that more than 400 residents are missing in the town of Hostomel after a 35-day occupation by Russian forces, and she quoted witnesses as saying some of them had been killed.

    US imposes fresh sanctions on Putin’s daughters and top Russian banks

    The United States is sanctioning Putin’s daughters and Russia’s Sberbank as part of a new package of measures announced today.

    The measures target Russian banks and elites, and include a ban on any American from investing in Russia.

    Reuters reports:

    The new sanctions will put full blocking sanctions in Russia’s Sberbank, which holds one-third of Russia’s total banking assets, and Alfabank, a senior US official told reporters. Energy transactions are blocked from these sanctions, the official said.

    The United States is also sanctioning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adult daughters, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s wife and daughter, and members of Russia’s security council, the official said.

    Americans are banned from investing in Russia, the official said, including through venture capital or mergers.

    The US is “dramatically escalating” the financial shock on Russia by cutting off that country’s largest banks, the official said. Russians may be forced back into Soviet-style living standards from the 1980s, the official said.

  38. says

    From the Guardian US-politics liveblog:

    US indicts Russian oligarch; seizes megayacht and millions of dollars in Russian assets

    The US has indicted a Russian oligarch it says is responsible for spreading the Kremlin’s misinformation around the world, as well as seizing a megayacht belonging to another of Vladimir Putin’s allies, and millions of dollars in assets they held, as the war in Ukraine rages on.

    US attorney general Merrick Garland made the announcements today at a press conference at the justice department to announce actions “to prosecute criminal Russian activity.”

    He also said that the US and its allies has broken up a massive attempted malware attack that Russia intended to unleash internationally, causing unprecedented disruption of the internet and causing tens of billions of dollars in damages globally.

    “Our message to those who continue to enable the Russian regime through their criminal conduct is this: It does not matter how far you sail your yacht. It does not matter how well you conceal your assets. It does not matter how cleverly you write your malware or hide your online activity. The justice department will use every available tool to find you, disrupt your plots and hold you accountable,” Garland said.

    The conspiracy charges have been filed against the Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, who was previously the subject of US sanctions for spreading Russian misinformation.

    Garland said he is “one of the main sources of financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea and for providing material support for the so called Donetsk People’s Republic.

    “After being sanctioned by the US, Malofeyev attempted to evade the sanctions by using co-conspirators to surreptitiously acquire and run media outlets across Europe.”

    Garland said the US had seized millions of dollars from an account at a US financial institution which the indictment alleges constitutes proceeds traceable to Malofeyev’s sanctions violations.

    Meanwhile, the $90m megayacht Tango, belonging to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, a close ally of Putin, was seized in Mallorca on Monday. Vekselberg was sanctioned in 2018 for money laundering, and again last month after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

    The malware attack was targeted largely at small businesses with an intention to spreading a massive, attempted denial of service attack intended to disrupt the internet internationally and cause at least $10bn in damages.

    “The global botnet [was] controlled by the Russian military intelligence agency, commonly known as the GRU,” Garland said, noting the Russian government had recently used similar infrastructure to attack Ukrainian targets.

    “Fortunately, we were able to disrupt this botnet before it could be used. Thanks to our close work with international partners, we were able to detect the infection of thousands of network hardware devices. We are then able to disable the GRU’s control over those devices before the botnet could be weaponized,” he said.

  39. says

    Guardian – “Russian teacher ‘shocked’ as she faces jail over anti-war speech pupils taped”:

    …Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Moscow Center said the experience of Gen and other teachers pointed to a worrying “Stalinisation” of Russian society. “It feels like we are in a time machine. A climate is created in which denunciations are encouraged by the authorities. We have seen the same processes develop under Stalin, which had devastating consequences,.”

    Kolesnikov said he had been approached by “many university professors” who said they were scared to mention the “Ukrainian subject”. “They say that students are trying to provoke them into speaking about the conflict just to denounce them.”

    Kolesnikov said if the current atmosphere in the country persisted, Russia “will soon have a new generation of Pavlik Morozov’s”, referring to the Soviet boy who denounced his father to the authorities and became a propaganda icon, with statues of him being raised all over Russia.

    Kolesnikov said the effects of the war frenzy would be felt far beyond the classrooms in the country.

    A number of reports have recently emerged of random passersby denouncing small business owners who put up anti-war messages in their shop windows.

    “We are seeing creeping signs of an authoritarian regime transforming into a full-on totalitarian one, in which a mobilised society actively tells on each other,” Kolesnikov said.

    Much more at the link.

  40. says

    From the latest summary at the Meduza liveblog (link @ #18 above):

    The forbidden comparison: The Russian State Duma passed a new law against equating the actions of the Soviet Union with those of Nazi Germany. First-time violators will be subject to a fine of one to two thousand rubles or up to 15 days in jails, with even more severe penalties for repeat offenders, government officials, and organizations. The law also prohibits denying the Soviet army’s decisive role in defeating Nazi Germany.

    Zhirinovsky dies: Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the longtime leader of the far-right Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, has died at the age of 75, according to a Telegram post made by State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin. Zhirinovsky was hospitalized with COVID-19 on February 2.

    Compulsory donations: Medical workers from the Federal Medical-Biological Agency, Russia’s national public health institute, have been asked to donate several thousand rubles (around $40-90) from their salaries to victims of the war in Ukraine. Two anonymous sources who spoke to The Bell said they had been required to sign a statement indicating how much money they had already donated. One doctor said that when he asked whether the donations were mandatory, he was told, “not yet.” Another employee reported that anyone who refused to donate money was sent to have a “personal conversation with the chief physician.”

    Russia’s new goal: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a press conference that the war is now in a “crucial phase” as Russia, having failed to conquer Kyiv, is now aiming to take over the Donbas and establish a land corridor to Crimea. While he said the repositioning of Russia troops will take “some weeks,” this will give NATO time to resupply Ukraine’s military.

    Yet another foreign agent registry: The Russian Justice Ministry has created a new “foreign agents” registry — the fourth such registry so far. Previous registries were created to track and limit NGOs, media agencies (including private citizens, most of whom were journalists), and unregistered organizations. The new registry was created to track individuals; the first two people added were Russian journalist Yevgeny Kiselyov and Ukrainian journalist Matvey Ganapolsky. All individuals added to the register are required to mark all published materials with a lengthy notice of their “foreign agent” status, as well as to regularly report their income and expenses to the Justice Ministry. Violating these requirements can carry a prison term of up to five years.

  41. blf says

    In Brazil, Bolsonaro vetoes Covid aid for Brazil culture sector:

    […]
    Named for a widely beloved comedian and actor who died of Covid-19 last year, the Paulo Gustavo Bill aimed to provide 3.86 billion reais ($820 million) in federal funds to local and state governments to aid the cultural sector, still reeling from the impact of pandemic shut-downs.

    It had passed Congress with broad support, by a vote of 74–0 in the Senate and 411–27 in the Chamber of Deputies.

    Bolsonaro’s veto, published in the official gazette, was for economic reasons, the administration said. It argued the bill would breach the government’s spending cap without sourcing enough funds elsewhere to compensate.

    Opposition lawmakers called that an excuse from the far-right president, long criticized for alleged attacks on culture and the arts.

    Bolsonaro, who comes up for reelection in October, downgraded the culture ministry to a secretariat on taking office in 2019. His administration has faced repeated accusations of using its control over federal funding for the arts to try to censor projects it deems ideologically threatening.

    […]

    Congressman Odair Cunha of the left-wing Workers’ Party tweeted that Bolsonaro is “afraid of culture and freedom of expression, like every lover of dictatorship,” vowing: “We’re going to override that veto.”

    Lawmakers would need an absolute majority in both houses of Congress to override.

    Since the bill passed with an absolute majority (unanimously in the Senate), I presume the veto will be easily overridden — and that Bolsonaro knows that, so saw the veto as a way of having his cake and eating it… pretending to be economical / censorious, whilst arts still get the aid (which he’ll presumably then claim credit for).

  42. blf says

    Russian nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky dies at 75 [probably due to Covid-19]:

    […]
    State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said Zhirinovsky died after “a serious and prolonged illness.” The lawmaker was hospitalized with COVID-19 on February 2; in late March, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Zhirinovsky was “in serious condition.”

    As the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party for three decades, Zhirinovsky was infamous for making vehement statements that were neither liberal nor democratic, and typically delivered with a ferocious glare.

    He advocated for Russia to forcefully regain control of Alaska from the United States, suggested that Russia hit former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s residence with a nuclear weapon and said he wanted a DNA test to see if he was related to Donald Trump.

    He also claimed he had received a total of eight COVID-19 shots since August 2020.

    While Zhirinovsky played the role of a wild man, many saw him as a tamed one submissive to the Kremlin. In parliament, his party routinely voted to support measures put forth by the more stolid United Russia party, which is President Vladimir Putin’s power base.

    […]

  43. says

    Not helping: Dozens of House Republicans balk at resolution supporting NATO

    In 2018, the House was unanimous in its support for a pro-NATO resolution. This week, 63 Republicans rejected a similar measure.

    […] Politico reported this morning:

    More than five dozen House Republicans voted against a bipartisan resolution expressing “unequivocal support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as an alliance founded on democratic principles” and urging the creation of a center to protect democracy around the world.

    To be sure, the non-binding resolution, which doesn’t require any action from Congress, passed easily: The final vote was 362 to 63, and every member of both parties’ leadership teams voted in the majority.

    But four years after literally every member of the House supported a resolution in support of NATO, 63 House Republicans — representing nearly a third of the GOP conference — voted “no” last night. They knew the measure would pass anyway, but these GOP lawmakers wanted to go on the record voicing their disapproval.

    By any fair measure, this was not an especially controversial resolution. It was based on three seemingly anodyne provisions. As the text explained, the measure:

    1. “reaffirms its unequivocal support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as an alliance founded on democratic principles;

    2. “calls on the President to use the voice and vote of the United States to adopt a new Strategic Concept for NATO that is clear about its support for shared democratic values and committed to enhancing NATO’s capacity to strengthen democratic institutions within NATO member, partner, and aspirant countries; and

    3. “calls on the President to use the voice and vote of the United States to establish a Center for Democratic Resilience within NATO headquarters.”

    So why vote “no”? According to Politico’s report, Maryland’s Andy Harris complained that the resolution that democracies across the NATO alliance “face external threats from authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China and internal threats from proponents of illiberalism.” The Republican congressman insisted this was “left-wing” code for criticizing Poland and Hungary.

    The measure’s bipartisan authors said otherwise, but that didn’t stop 63 GOP members from opposing the resolution anyway.

  44. says

    Oh, FFS.

    [Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene] apparently can’t quite help herself, publishing a tweet on Monday night that accused three Republican senators — Maine’s Susan Collins, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, and Utah’s Mitt Romney — of being “pro-pedophile.” Greene’s proof: The three senators had “just voted for” Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination.

    […] Greene appeared on a conservative television talk show yesterday and again said the three senators from her own party are “pro-pedophile.” For good measure, the Georgia Republican added in the same interview that Democrats are “the party of pedophiles.”

    Obviously, such rhetoric is insane. That does not, however, make it irrelevant.

    As part of the GOP effort to slander Jackson, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee attacked the high court nominee’s record on sentencing in child pornography cases. The baseless smear was quickly and thoroughly discredited — even National Review described the allegations as “meritless to the point of demagoguery” — and responsible observers moved on.

    Irresponsible observers did not. On the contrary, Greene and others on the right have seized on this as part of a larger, hysterical effort. As a Washington Post analysis explained, “The red scare is now the kid scare.”

    At this point … insinuations about Democrats embracing pedophilia or downplaying sex crimes victimizing children are not simply the political fringe making its way into the Capitol. Instead, “pedophile” or “groomer” — a term used to describe people who try to prepare children for abuse — has of late replaced “socialist” as a preferred, political pejorative. Long-standing potency of elevating fears about the safety of children has combined with specific political fights like the Jackson nomination and Florida’s new legislation limiting instruction about non-heterosexual relationships to spur a new rhetorical focus.

    The same Post analysis added that talk of pedophiles and child porn is becoming “pervasive” across much of the right, with conservative media outlets and prominent voices such as Donald Trump Jr. pushing the same smear.

    Yes, American politics has taken yet another turn — to the point that casually throwing around baseless accusations of supporting pedophilia is now a part of our discourse.

    Indeed, a sitting member of the United States House of Representatives — a Republican in good standing, who’s poised to be rewarded by her party next year — assumed she could get away with accusing three senators from her own party of being “pro-pedophile,” without any meaningful pushback, because that’s where the contemporary right is now.

    And so far, Greene’s assumptions appear correct. House GOP leaders made no effort to denounce her slander yesterday, and Senate GOP leaders made no effort to defend Collins, Murkowski, or Romney. […]

    Link

  45. says

    Followup to comment 49.

    Yeah Let’s Sink Lower

    Apparently not content with hurling accusations of being pro-pedophilia, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) found a new angle with which to smear Supreme Court pick Ketanji Brown Jackson.

    Yep, Cotton declared the following during Jackson’s confirmation hearing on Tuesday: “You know the last Judge Jackson left the Supreme Court to go to Nuremberg and prosecute the Nazis. This Judge Jackson may have gone there to defend them.”

    It goes without saying that there’s literally nothing to back up Cotton’s latest accusation against Jackson, who would be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court if successfully confirmed.

    Link

  46. blf says

    Related to Lynna@49, A Supreme Court confirmation and the imaginary enemies of the GOP:

    […]
    As the Senate Judiciary Committee considered the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court over the last several weeks, the proceedings descended into farce whenever Republicans had their turn to speak.

    […]

    Jackson managed to calmly and consistently stick to discussing her record. She wisely opted not to opine on lines of questioning about things that were outside of her control, such as the fairness of the confirmation process for previous nominee Brett Kavanaugh (who faced accusations of past sexual assault) or whether President Joe Biden should expand the court in an effort to appoint more liberal justices. And she did not dignify accusations against her that had no basis in reality.

    […]

    While Republicans may have been hoping to either catch Jackson in a major gaffe or make their soft on crime charges against her stick, neither of these scenarios were particularly likely. And the GOP senators who spent several days attacking Jackson knew this as well. Yet, these lines of attack against Jackson were deployed frequently and with coordination, demonstrating a clear strategy from the Republican senators. What possible purpose did such an unwarranted grilling serve?

    While it is tempting to write these hearings off as simply a sign of the dysfunction within the Trump-dominated, conspiracy-theory laden Republican Party, in reality, Republicans and their actions at the Jackson hearings are quite functional. They are simply no longer working towards goals that bear any resemblance to democratic governance.

    In many ways, Republicans used the Jackson hearings as an opportunity to create a new set of enemies that the Republicans can run against in November of this year and in 2024. The fact that these enemies do not actually exist was of little consequence to the conservative senators on the panel.

    If they had bothered to look up the records of other judges, they would have seen that Jackson’s soft sentences were fully in line with others given for similar crimes. If Senator [Josh] Hawley had simply reviewed his own record as Missouri attorney general, he would have been forced to acknowledge that he was likewise criticised for being too lenient against sex offenders. But Republicans showed no interest in acknowledging this kind of basic context, even when Jackson herself and others raised these points during the hearings.

    I’ll amend my assertion that it is of little consequence that Republicans’ “enemies” do not actually exist. It is actually of great consequence that the GOP insists on fighting mirages. […]

    The Republican Party long ago adopted the tactic of portraying itself as the protector of real America against some exaggerated or caricatured threat: drug dealers (and users); abortion providers; welfare queens; feminists; the gay agenda; terrorists; activist judges; Black Lives Matter protesters; advocates for “wokeness” and so on. Along the way, however, the GOP has suffered setbacks in its culture wars as the targets of their attacks have become more accepted within society.

    Faced with a dwindling list of acceptable adversaries to demonise, the Republicans have resorted to making them up. Rather than say that they oppose LGBTQ rights and educating students about racism — stances that would put them out of the mainstream of American public opinion — they claim to be against rogue teachers and activists indoctrinating young children with ideas about sexuality and the evilness of white people.

    Republicans claim to be the only ones who stand between innocent, real Americans and the reverse-racists and sexual predators who would destroy the country. The alternative to creating these imagined enemies would be to have a genuine debate over the true goals of the Republican Party — a debate that it is not confident it can win.

    Senator Roy Blunt, who will have the chance to cast his vote when Jackson’s nomination arrives on the Senate floor, illustrated his party’s approach when he discussed Jackson’s nomination on ABC News this past weekend. Blunt conceded that Judge Jackson was “certainly qualified” to sit on the Supreme Court and acknowledged that her selection as the first Black woman justice would “be a high point for the country”. With this setup, Blunt then defied logic by, nearly in the same breath, declaring: I won’t be supporting her.

    Blunt gave a vague rationale about Jackson’s judicial philosophy — alluding to the well-worn activist judge label without actually making the argument since it does not really fit Jackson’s record. Instead, Blunt can merely imply that Jackson wants to rewrite the constitution and allow his Republican base to believe such a charge. Explicitly stating the accusation would open it up to scrutiny and invite a debate on the merits of the judge’s record, which Blunt and other Republicans know is quite strong, and demonstrate that their opposition to Jackson is rooted in ideology at best and bias at worst.

    This Republican strategy of hiding their true intentions is not motivated by shame, but by expediency. […]

    [… T]he other motivation for last month’s show [was] riling up the worst elements of the Republican base. The focus on sexual predators was a barely veiled appeal to the QAnon conspiracy theory that has convinced perhaps millions of right-leaning Americans that the country is literally being run by a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping paedophiles against which Donald Trump and his devotees are our only hope.

    The anti-CRT screeds are not only justification for the slate of state laws that essentially forbid teachers from discussing how racism exists, but also thereby provide cover for actual racist individuals and policies to operate freely.

    Thus, while Republicans attempt to obscure their true goals from the majority of moderate Americans who would be appalled by them, the GOP is also sending signals to its far-right base that their extreme agenda and views are being steadily promoted by the party.

    […]

  47. says

    Ukraine update: ‘The Russians have turned our whole city into a death camp’

    The atrocities in Bucha were only uncovered after Russian forces withdrew rapidly under fire from advancing Ukrainian troops. Now, as Ukrainian forces go town to town across northern Ukraine, more horrors are being discovered. Survivors are telling stories of civilians gunned down without warning, of homes set on fire for no reason, and of people being taken from their homes and executed, apparently for the amusement of the occupiers.

    In Borodyanka an apartment building above a shelter holding hundreds of people was blasted into ruins, and despite being told of the situation, it appears Russian forces made no effort to remove the rubble that they had generated. Ukrainian workers are clearing the wreckage now, all too aware of what they are likely to find. The destruction in the town, 20 miles northwest of Kyiv, is considered the worst seen anywhere so far.

    Of course, the world hasn’t seen everything. In Mariupol—where Russian forces deliberately bombed an opera house labeled with the word “children” and where thousands have been taken away to unknown locations inside Russia—weeks of shelling are now being followed with weeks of fighting street by street, while over 100,000 people remain trapped inside the tightening circle. With limited communications, Mariupol isn’t producing the steady stream of images seen early in the invasion. What’s happening in the city, especially in the sections now occupied by Russia, is impossible to say.

    But there are horrible clues … [tweet available at the link: about Russians using mobile crematoriums to erase evidence of was crimes]

    Even before the tanks rolled across the Ukraine border, there were reports of these crematory units being seen on the ground with Russian forces. The assumption was that they were to be used to incinerate the bodies of Russian soldiers lost in battle, disguising the extent of their own losses. Similar units were reportedly seen following fighting in the Donbas region in 2014 and 2015. At the time, Ukrainian officials reported that multiple such mobile crematoria were being used to incinerate dozens of bodies per day.

    Based on what’s been seen of the cruelty of forces involved in this invasion, it’s very easy to believe the claims coming from Mariupol. However, it is not possible at this point to know if there is any truth behind these reports. But the mayor of the besieged city put it in the starkest terms imaginable.

    “The scale of the tragedy in Mariupol is something the world has not seen since the time of Nazi concentration camps,” said the mayor. “The Russians have turned our whole city into a death camp.”

  48. says

    About those back-and-forth negotiations concerning the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO:

    From the first day of the war, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy made it clear that Ukraine was ready to surrender the idea of joining NATO as part of a peace agreement with Russia. Instead, Zelenskyy proposed that Ukraine make a separate agreement with several other countries that would promise to offer assistance in case Ukraine was attacked. That would allow Ukraine to meet Russian demands that it not join NATO, but wouldn’t leave the nation standing on its own in case Russia decided to come back for another bite.

    At the first two meetings between Russian negotiators and Ukrainian representatives in Belarus, Russia seemed to be accepting of this idea. But at the talks in Istanbul, Russian demands appeared to be that Ukraine strip itself of weapons, not join NATO, and not be allowed to be a part of any security pact. Essentially, that Ukraine stand helpless against any future attack. Which was not exactly the right demand to make when Russian forces in Ukraine were losing.

    Since that point, Zelenskyy has seems to have put the idea of Ukraine joining NATO squarely back onto the table. However, it seems he’s still negotiating an alternative.

    Germany says it is in confidential talks with Ukraine about security guarantees.

  49. says

    Evacuating civilians:

    In light of the discoveries in Bucha and elsewhere, it’s become clear that even if civilians are not killed outright by a Russian military that has deliberately targeted hospitals, homes, schools, and shelters, what happens to civilians when a village or town is occupied by Russian forces can be even worse. So it’s understandable that Ukrainian officials are working desperately in an effort to evacuate civilians who remain in Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk oblasts. These are the areas where the most intense fighting is expected to occur in the near future, and where Russian forces are advancing to occupy new locations.

    Both special trains and busses are now engaged in a full time effort to shuffle people from these oblasts to Kyiv and points west.

  50. says

    Chernobyl:

    The problem is not only that while digging, Russians raised the radioactive layer of earth again, but that they also slept in this radioactive dust for weeks.

    These trenches dug by Russian forces during their invasion of the region were dug in the most irradiated areas of the Chernobyl Radiation Area, see this map of soil Caesium radiation around the disaster area, with the location of the trenches marked. No wonder some got sick.

    https://twitter.com/Nrg8000/status/1511614133476945920
    Map available at the link.

  51. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Some insight from western officials obtained by the Guardian’s defence editor, Dan Sabbagh:

    Western officials believe that Russia’s retreat from around Kyiv and the north east of the country is now “largely complete” and that it will take “at least a week” before reconstituted units could go to Donbas and perhaps longer given how many losses they have suffered in the war so far.

    The officials believe that the Kremlin wants to see some kind of victory in the eastern Donbas region in time for Russia’s traditional Victory Day parade on 9 May, an important date in the country’s military calendar.

    One official said that Putin will want to have an “announceable success” by then, which could create “some tension” with Russian commanders as to “what they want to do in the military terms”.

    This means that exhausted Russian forces are likely to be thrown into battle fairly soon in an attempt to gain ground in the east.

    The belief is that Russia will prioritise capturing the entirety of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, or seek to create a land bridge to Crimea or both, with Russia “reshaping its narrative” so it can redefine its idea of victory.

    Ukraine’s military, however, have so far been unable to reinforce their own forces in the Donbas either “partly because they’re still trying to secure those areas from which they’ve sort of repulsed Russian forces” in the north and north east – and also because they need to defend against any surprise Russian re-offensive against Kyiv, one official said.

    Revised estimates are that 29 of Russia’s battalion tactical groups, the smallest operating unit of its forces, are now “combat non[?]-ineffective” from an invading force that is estimated to be at around 125 battalions, around 75% of Russia’s total army.

    There is also growing western concern about “genocidal propaganda” emerging from Moscow following a recent RIA Novesti Kremlin news agency article that called for Ukrainian society to be “cleansed of Nazi elements” and statements from former president Dmitri Medvedev who said that Ukrainian activists had been “praying to the Third Reich”.

    A Western official said “those sorts of comments are really creating an even more toxic information environment” and could “absolutely contribute” to Russian soldiers committing more war crimes in Ukraine.

    “Responsibility for this, of course lies with the perpetrators of the acts, but it also lies with the Russian leadership,” the official added.

  52. says

    Interesting:

    These jets are rapidly burning through their stock of “please don’t shoot me down with a Stinger” decoy flares.

    The video shows Russian jets flying over Donbas, Ukraine. The number of decoy flares they release is amazing.

    Scroll down to the April 6, 9:10:48 AM post by Mark Sumner.
    Link

    See also the post at 9:31:58 AM for video and tweet from Visegrád 24:

    Belarusian TV has aired the arrest of 3 “Railway Partisans” caught while sabotaging rail infrastructure in order to slow down Russia’s troop redeployment from Kyiv to the Donbas.

    Yauheni, Dzmitry and Uladzimir were all brutally beaten or shot in the knees.

    These men are heroes!

  53. tomh says

    Colorado governor signs bill to protect access to abortion
    By Shawna Mizelle and Amy Simonson, CNN
    April 4, 2022

    Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law on Monday that codifies the right to an abortion in the state.

    House Bill 1279, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, states that “every individual has a fundamental right to make decisions about the individual’s reproductive health care, including the fundamental right to use or refuse contraception; a pregnant individual has a fundamental right to continue a pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion and to make decisions about how to exercise that right; and a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of the state.”

    Polis’ signature follows a flurry of recent restrictive abortion laws advanced by Republican state legislatures across the country.
    […]

    The bill, which passed in the state’s Democratic-majority House and Senate last month on party-line votes, also prohibits local entities from implementing their own restrictions.

    “In the State of Colorado, the serious decision to start or end a pregnancy with medical assistance will remain between a person, their doctor, and their faith,” Polis said in a statement on Monday.
    […]

    Colorado House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar, a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement that “enshrining the right to choose when it comes to reproductive health care, including the right to abortion, shows we trust Coloradans to make their own medical decisions.”

  54. blf says

    Some snippets from The United Nations has the power to punish Putin. This is how it can be done:

    The 15-member UN security council, the one body that really could make a difference, had already proven its impotence. In the days following the invasion, a resolution condemning the assault failed after Russia used its veto. China, India and the UAE abstained. Ukraine’s furious ambassador memorably told the council: “Your words have less value than a hole in a New York pretzel”.

    Where does Ukraine keep finding these geniuses? President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the people dong the messaging / PR / propaganda, the military / partisans who forced the Russians away from Kyiv, etc, etc?

    […] A sensible, doable first step would be to change the rules, via an exceptional one-off vote, to allow majority voting in the security council on specifically Ukraine-related issues. Russia’s inevitable veto could be overridden, and the rule change ratified, by the anti-Russia two-thirds majority that already exists in the general assembly. If Putin didn’t like it, he could lump it. And if he didn’t comply with subsequent resolutions — for example, on withdrawing Russian forces — all UN members would be expected to support UN-agreed punitive measures, as in the case of North Korea.

    Seems like it might worth a try, albeit I presume Russia (at least) would simply ignore any Security Council measures — albeit other states may not. Judging by the General Assembly votes to-date on invasion-related resolutions, that could be a sizable number / percentage of the world’s countries (insert caveat here about the difference between voting for a toothless resolution and actually doing something, especially, perhaps, since outside of Europe / N.America (broadly defined to include Japan, etc.), support for Ukraine is tepid).

  55. says

    Ukraine update: Spring rains are coming, as Russia is increasingly desperate to show progress

    […]

    [A]n unconfirmed Ukrainian military intelligence report suggests that Moscow could soon send the 64th Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 35th Combined Arms Army, a unit that reportedly committed war crimes in Bucha, into the fight in eastern Ukraine in the hopes that guilty members of that brigade and witnesses of its war crimes are killed in combat with Ukrainian forces […]

    If only this single unit was guilty of all the war crimes. It wasn’t the 64th Motorized Rifle Brigade that bombed hospitals, schools, residential buildings, and other residential non-combat targets in cities around Ukraine. And it’s certainly not the 64th Motorized Rifle Brigade that has turned all of Mariupol into rubble.

    There has been much speculation over the last several few days over the fate of those Russian units previously operating near Kyiv. We know that units in the Sumy and Kherson areas have been redeployed toward Izyum, including the remnants of the famed 4th Guards Tank Division (GTD). In fact, if you’re thinking, “I thought half the division was wiped out,” because that’s what I speculated when last writing about them, turns out I was wrong. They’re likely closer to around 40% of their pre-war strength. Russia is throwing the tattered remnants of once-proud units into the meat grinder.

    As for those Kyiv-area units, the humane thing would be to disband what’s left and send those soldiers home. Or, at worse, give them a month to recover as their units are rebuilt from reserves. We saw what they left behind after their withdrawal, and by all indications, most of those units are combat ineffective. As the Brits put it, “Russian units that left Kyiv will need significant re-equipping before redeploying to the Donbas.” But what they need and what Russian high command will do are two different things, and the Pentagon estimates that two-thirds of those forces will be redeployed to the Donbas front. In short, this is an act of desperation: [Tweet from Phillips P. OBrien is available at the link]

    Those forces are broken. And they’re being sent into combat just as intense, if not more so, than what they saw around Kyiv.

    At least in Kyiv they were somewhat protected by 1) Ukraine’s defensive posture, and 2) natural river barriers. Yes, they bled and died from repeated ineffective charge after repeated ineffective charge, but it was Ukraine that was in desperate plight, under relentless artillery bombardment and assault. It wasn’t until very recently that they began to face Ukrainian counter-attacks. In Donbas, they face not only the same entrenched enemy, with the same incompetent leadership that will march them to their likely deaths, but also exposed flanks and an aggressive Ukraine able to confidently counter-attack, heavy Ukrainian artillery, and a new generation of battlefield weapons on their way (like Switchblade killer drones). Oh, and they get to do it with poorly maintained equipment from pilfered reserve stock.

    Don’t count on Russia’s logistics to get any better, as Ukraine is still doing a great job of taking them out en masse. [images available at the link] (Note the Ukrainian tractor in the upper right, circling in toward the chum.)

    Remember all those pictures of trashed supply lines attempting to run through the Sumy region to the eastern edge of Kyiv? Well, we’re about to see it all over again, as Russia really appears to be attempting the maneuver I mocked just a few days ago: [Map available at the link]

    Instead of a head-on assault on the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, they are attempting to loop around and cut them off, over hundreds of kilometers of terrain with exposed flanks on both sides. As I wrote:

    Attempting such an exposed push over barren open terrain, through 160 kilometers (100 miles) of hostile territory seems suicidal. That hasn’t stopped Russia before, but it does seem they are trying to reset. Four axes of attack were too much? Okay! Let’s go down to two! Hmmm, I wanted to come up with two more examples, but I’ve got nothing. Maybe “avoid long unsustainable and indefensible supply lines” can be added to the list.

    Doesn’t look like we’ll be adding anything to the “Russia learned its lesson” list anytime soon. Here we are now, with Russia behaving … suicidal: [Tweet and map available at the link]

    That emerging salient heading south, attempting to cut off dug-in Ukrainian positions, is going to get chewed up like this: [Tweet and video available at the link]

    That moonscape open terrain (more good pictures here and here [links at the main link]) makes it impossible for Russia to sneak up on anyone, anywhere, and will be a drone operator’s dream come true. Ukrainian artillery can safely operate west of the salient, shooting and scooting, protected by Russia’s fear of flying their planes anywhere covered by air defenses.

    Meanwhile, rasputista, that famous Ukrainian mud, is about to show up in a big way. Mud has already had a major impact on the war, as the mild winter kept the ground from being frozen as might’ve been the case pre-climate change. But things are about to get even tougher for armor. Look at the coming forecast for the Izyum area: [forecast available at the link, rain three days in a row next week]

    Not only are those surprisingly warm temperatures melting off the last of the winter snow, but the spring rains are coming. Expect to see a lot more of this: [Tweet and video available at the link]

    Rain will make field maneuvering nearly impossible, restricting Russian armor to roads, making them easy pickings for Ukrainian ambushes, artillery attacks, and drone strikes. On the plus side, it gives any Russian wanting an easy out a clear way to walk away from the war. “Abandoned” Russian equipment is the best Russian equipment. No one dies, Ukraine gets additional equipment and ammunition for its army, and we get to cheer the farmers towing that stuff away.

    Note that the rain can be a double-edged sword, restricting Ukraine’s ability to counterattack. So we may be entering a period where nothing much moves, except relentless artillery and air strikes from both sides, trying to degrade static, well-defended positions.

    In other words, we’ll be back to what the Donbas front looked like since 2014, except with a bit more territory under Russian control. Has that been worth 20,000 dead, billions in lost equipment, economic devastation, and the international shattering of the Russian bear myth? No matter what Vladimir Putin and his propagandists at home and in the West might say, a stalemate in a region they already controlled is a devastating loss. And desperation to show any progress is clearly leading to stupid decisions, like trying to encircle Sloviansk and Kramatorsk from the west.

  56. blf says

    Aynur Rahmanova, “a doctoral student at Tallinn University, Estonia”, writes in the Grauniad, Watching a film about communism, I realised I had been lied to as a child in China:

    […]
    I was born in north-east China in a province that was particularly heavy-handed with party propaganda. I learned to march in formation before knowing how to write, and maybe even count. Every morning at school started with a flag ceremony and obligatory salutes to Mao Zedong. Textbooks were illustrated with watercolour Lenins and Stalins, drawn to look much more handsome than they actually were. The propaganda made its way home as well. I think that, even to this day, my father knows only socialist songs.

    The life I’ve just described may sound extreme, but in fact it was a relatively free period in the 1990s, after the worst of our state terror and before Xi Jinping’s more recent crackdowns. [… W]e were always able to buy fish, bananas and peanuts, and even Sprite and other western-branded gifts for my teachers in the hope that they would treat me well at school. […]

    It was in the middle of this life that my father decided to move to the US for his doctoral studies. My mother followed within a year. I was sent to live with my grandparents and enrolled in the neighbourhood’s best school — that is to say, the most political. I clashed with the teachers almost immediately. These semiliterate relics from the Cultural Revolution couldn’t comprehend that times had changed enough for my parents to leave by legal means. To them, my parents could only be defectors, and therefore I must be an enemy of the people, at all of six years old. The other children were forbidden to talk to me, while I was forbidden to eat any of the school meals. Instead, I was expected to serve them. I remember very little of the anger and hatred I must have felt, but know that at one point I turned over an entire table of hot soup and burned one of the teachers. In hindsight, maybe all this could have been avoided if my grandparents had remembered to bribe the teachers with Sprite.

    I rejoined my parents later that year in a new country where the girls wanted to be Disney princesses instead of young pioneers. […] I initially watched them through communist eyes; […] in Sleeping Beauty, I really sympathised with Aurora’s disappointment after finding out about her royal roots. It must have hurt to find out that she was an enemy of the people through no will of her own.

    What really changed me was the 1997 film Anastasia. Before the first song started and the first talking animal appeared, I saw some familiar faces, straight out of my former life in China: young revolutionaries storming a palace, with the same determined expressions, the same grey or green overcoats, the ushankas, the fists. These were people I recognised very well, only my Chinese schoolbooks drew them as liberators, and the American film drew them as a mob.

    I had up to that point not entertained the possibility that communist revolutionaries might be antagonists in any story. I hadn’t known it was even possible to look at them with such fear and hatred. When this world materialised, fully formed, around me, it was as if the sky had turned green, and was at the same time revealed to have been green all along.

    The most valuable gift from my American years was critical thinking — the ability to see that the way something is presented is not necessarily how things are. […]

    As Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge say of critical thinking, “[t]he subject is complex; several different definitions exist […]” and gives quite a number. None appear to be as simple-seeming as the writer puts it.

    Over the years I found out that my first home town in China, far from the homogeneous and nationalistic place I remember, is ethnically diverse, and had been much more so before the establishment of the current People’s Republic; in addition, it had once been a Japanese colony. And in fact, I’m not even Chinese, but Mongolian with some Turkic blood — now that’s a twist Princess Aurora might have appreciated. People of my ethnic groups had fought against the communists and, after Mao’s takeover of the region, were heavily assimilated. As there were so many non-Chinese influences for the communists to purge, the repression there was particularly heavy-handed.

    […]

    Eight years ago I left the US for another stepmother country, in order to remember what exactly it is that I may have survived. I chose Estonia, where people have the fortitude to look at the bloodbaths of the past with clear and unflinching eyes, and afterwards, willingly shoulder the responsibilities of democratic life.

    And I have thrown myself headfirst into this European life, with its endless academic freedom, a presidential palace within walking distance, the possibility of joining the army without bloodying one’s conscience, classmates running for parliament, The Death of Stalin in the cinemas, almost any professor just an email away, cakes and wooden houses and supreme courts in the same pastel colours, hot water available all day long and shops full of their Annick Goutal and Wolford and Fjällräven and so many brands we have to boycott most of them.

    The Grauniad seems to have a knack for finding snarky writers.

    Unlike a free mind, this beautiful reality can be taken away, and I feel constantly haunted by a past and a hypothetical future that must never come into existence. […]

  57. says

    About that supposed Hunter Biden laptop:

    Yesterday, MSN [Mainstream Media] presented to me over and over again a story about how the “liberal mainstream” media is finally acknowledging that Hunter Biden’s laptop is real […]

    […] After a quick recap of the laptop myth, I will go through the analysis line by line for as long as I can stand it. Then I’ll offer my own explanation.

    Supposedly, in 2019, Hunter Biden, son of future President Joe Biden, dropped off a MacBook at a repair shop and never reclaimed it. […] I wouldn’t leave a MacBook like that, but for Hunter Biden it might have been like forgetting an umbrella at the theater. You just buy a new one.

    Then someone thought that the laptop might contain incriminating evidence that Hunter Biden did something or other corrupt in Ukraine. Okay, sure, could happen. So they copy the laptop’s hard drive over to a portable hard drive.

    Now the Washington Post hired “experts” to review what is presumably the first copy of the laptop’s contents and concluded that the cryptographic signatures somehow prove some of the e-mails were sent from the laptop, but apparently these experts haven’t looked at the laptop itself first hand.

    Of course that’s not how Fox News is reporting it. “Washington Post authenticated emails from Hunter’s infamous laptop on Wednesday.” The Washington Post headline is hardly any better: “Here’s how The Post analyzed Hunter Biden’s laptop.”

    Because “How The Post had two self-described experts analyze a copy of the hard drive purported to have come from Hunter Biden’s laptop” just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

    If you have any free Washington Post articles left for the month, don’t waste them reading this Biden Hunter laptop hogwash. I read it on Stars & Stripes.

    Thousands of emails purportedly from the laptop computer of Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, are authentic communications that can be verified through cryptographic signatures from Google and other technology companies, say two security experts who examined the data at the request of The Washington Post.

    Ooh, cryptographic signatures. Can’t argue with those. Sounds like technobabble from Star Trek: Voyager. Might as well have thrown in “algorithms” for good measure.

    The verifiable emails are a small fraction of 217 gigabytes of data provided to The Post on a portable hard drive by Republican activist Jack Maxey. He said the contents of the portable drive originated from Biden’s MacBook Pro, which Biden reportedly dropped off at a computer repair shop in Wilmington, Del., in April 2019 and never reclaimed.

    So… not the actual laptop itself.

    The vast majority of the data – and most of the nearly 129,000 emails it contained – could not be verified by either of the two security experts who reviewed the data for The Post. Neither found clear evidence of tampering in their examinations, but some of the records that might have helped verify contents were not available for analysis, they said.

    How convenient. But don’t let that stop you from writing a sensationalist headline.

    The Post was able in some instances to find documents from other sources that matched content on the laptop that the experts were not able to assess.

    I wonder if “creating documents from scratch” counts as “finding documents from other sources.”

    Among the reasons for the inconclusive findings was sloppy handling of the data, which damaged some records. The experts found the data had been repeatedly accessed and copied by people other than Biden over nearly three years.

    And surely those other people wouldn’t take the opportunity to add manufactured incriminating evidence, would they? Perish the thought!

    The MacBook itself is now in the hands of the FBI, which is investigating whether Biden properly reported income from business dealings.

    Okay, that sounds bad, but why not put it in the headline? Why bury it so many paragraphs down? Because this hatchet job by Craig Timberg, Matt Viser and Tom Hamburger is not journalistic malpractice, it is a deliberate attempt to smear Hunter Biden with vague innuendoes and nebulous accusations.

    The Washington Post’s forensic findings are unlikely to resolve that debate, offering instead only the limited revelation that some of the data on the portable drive appears to be authentic.

    The “limited revelation that some of the data” on what might not even be a direct copy of Hunter Biden’s actual laptop “appears to be authentic.” See, we’re technically not lying!

    Many of the nearly 22,000 verified emails were routine messages, such as political newsletters, fundraising appeals, hotel receipts, news alerts, product ads, real estate listings and notifications related to his daughters’ schools or sports teams.

    What an evil criminal! Exhausted yet? I’m going to skip ahead a little.

    The computer repairman who turned the laptop over to the FBI (complying with a subpoena) made several copies of the hard drive, in case he got thrown under the bus by Hunter Biden. Which is a reasonable precaution if Hunter Biden was really the evil boogeyman Fox “News” has made him out to be.

    But if Hunter Biden knew the laptop had such incriminating evidence, why not destroy it himself Ted 2-style? Well, he wanted to recover some data, supposedly to continue his already profitable criminal schemes. But surely someone as well-connected as Hunter Biden would know a data recovery expert he could trust to act with discretion?

    And here’s a very interesting tidbit that Fox won’t repeat:

    After the New York Post began publishing reports on the contents of the laptop in October 2020, The Washington Post repeatedly asked Giuliani and Republican strategist Stephen Bannon for a copy of the data to review, but the requests were rebuffed or ignored.

    So the “liberal mainstream” media wanted to run with this story in 2020, and would have been happy to if only someone had provided them the data. Now that they can run with this story, they’re being blamed for a failure of due diligence in 2020 that was not their fault.

    The Republican who delivered the portable hard drive with the supposed direct copy from the laptop admitted that plenty of other people had accessed the files. After scrolling the article more than halfway down:

    “The drive is a mess,” [Matt] Green[, a Johns Hopkins University security researcher who specializes in cryptography] said.

    That seems a far cry from “authenticated.”

    Neither expert reported finding evidence that individual emails or other files had been manipulated by hackers, but neither was able to rule out that possibility.

    So maybe the “Hunter Biden laptop” really belonged to Hunter Biden at one point. But maybe it’s stolen rather than abandoned property. Some Republican operative stole the laptop and worked to plant incriminating evidence on it.

    […] If the laptop had any genuine evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Hunter Biden, it would have been cracked wide open by now. All we have here is the appearance of wrongdoing milked for maximum effect.

    Link

  58. blf says

    Lynna@62 quotes “Ooh, cryptographic signatures. Can’t argue with those. Sounds like technobabble from Star Trek: Voyager. Might as well have thrown in ‘algorithms’ for good measure.”

    A true cryptographic signature is actually a very valuable technique in helping to confirm authenticity or non-sabotage. They are heavily-used in, as one example, credit / debit card transactions (along with strong encryption and other software & physical protections). And there does exist e-mail schemes using digital signatures to help confirm the authenticity of the message — but are not(?) widely used.

    Whether or not Mr Biden would use such a scheme, or use it correctly (like most cryptographic stuff, incorrect use is bad and possibly even worse than not-using any cryptography). The alleged involvement of Google makes me suspect whatever they are babbling on about, it’s not that sort of digital signature; the e-mail service is typically not-involved in strong signature schemes (as far as I am aware). Google’s gmail does use, optionally (on by default) a scheme to (allegedly) help ensure the sending- / receiving-user is who they say they are, but as far as I know (and I could easily be wrong here) the scheme both does not, and cannot, assure the authenticity of the e-mail’s contents.

    Whilst I’m guessing a lot here about what the writer is snarking about — and I concur with their snarks — there does exist available techniques which, if used (correctly), would help to do what is alleged… prove the contents of those e-mails are genuine. (And if the signatures were used properly, that proving can be done even if the drive was tampered-with (as seems probable in this situation).)

  59. says

    Thanks blf @63 for the additional information. I am thinking that authentication or non-authentication is not the real issue here. It seems probable that Republicans just want to muddy the waters enough to smear the Biden family with unspecified and unproven criminal activity.

    In other news, from NBC:

    President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced an extension of the payment pause on federal student loans through Aug. 31. The moratorium on student loan payments was previously set to expire on May 1.

  60. says

    Hmmm, I wonder what this will mean for some of the insurrectionists:

    A Virginia state court has disbarred Jonathon Moseley, an attorney who has represented a slew of high-profile Jan. 6 defendants, including a member of the Oath Keepers charged with seditious conspiracy, as well as several targets of the House select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol.

    Most prominent among Moseley’s criminal clients is Kelly Meggs, an Oath Keeper from Florida who took on a leadership role for the group that breached the Capitol. Moseley also previously represented Zachary Rehl, one of the Proud Boys leaders charged with conspiring to obstruct Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, though he withdrew from that case in December.

    On Friday, after a two-day hearing in Prince William County Circuit Court, a three-judge panel ordered Moseley’s law license revoked, court records show.

    Details of the bar discipline case against Moseley were not immediately available, but a summary posted on the Virginia State Bar website on Tuesday said the court found that he violated “professional rules that govern safekeeping property; meritorious claims and contentions; candor toward the tribunal; fairness to opposing party and counsel; unauthorized practice of law, multijurisdictional practice of law; bar admission and disciplinary matters … and misconduct.” The decision was effective on April 1.

    […] Moseley’s involvement in these cases was marked by his unusual and rambling legal filings, which drew the ire of judges like Mehta, who is presiding over the sprawling Oath Keepers conspiracy cases.

    For example, Mehta chastised Moseley in December for joining with another attorney to seek the release of two Jan. 6 defendants who claimed they might be given Covid vaccine injections against their will. Mehta emphasized that there was “no evidence to support their fantastic fears.”

    […] Virginia bar records show he was suspended from legal practice for six months in 2009.

    Link

  61. says

    Ukraine update: Bringing a Switchblade to a tank fight

    Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Western nations were extremely careful about the types of military hardware they sent to Kyiv. Food and supplies? Check. Small arms and ammo? Okay. Weapons designed specifically to take out tanks and other armored vehicles? That last one took a few years worth of thinking. Even something like body armor was the subject of deep discussion, as the U.S., NATO, and other members of the EU pondered just what did, and what didn’t, fit under the ill-defined oxymoron of “defensive weapon.” [Good point. that is an oxymoron.]

    Over the last month, it became clear that the Russian army was definitely not going to just roll into Kyiv to a welcoming parade. Over that same month, the Ukrainian military showcased how modern weaponry could take apart armored convoys deployed in a way that was either overconfident, or just plain sloppy. It also became increasingly obvious that not only does Ukraine have a chance to win this war outright, but that seeing Russia lose decisively benefits something like 194 out of the world’s 195 nations.

    Add in images of maternity hospitals being shelled and shelters being bombed; and even before the revelations of atrocities that came with the Russian withdrawal from the area around Kyiv, many nations began to quickly move the markers on what weapons were acceptable to give to Ukraine. It’s safe to say that items which would never have been considered on Feb 24—like a trainload of Czech T-72M1 tanks—are now on their way to being used by Ukrainian forces.

    The U.S. might not be sending any tanks or F-16 fighter jets […], but it has definitely backed way they hell away from debates of the past. The U.S. has issued two new packages of military hardware to Ukraine since the invasion began, including a heavy dose of Javelin anti-tank weapons and Stinger anti-aircraft weapons.

    In the last big package that President Biden put together, Ukraine was allocated 800 more Stingers, 2,000 Javelins, 1,000 missiles for hitting lightly armored vehicles, and a whopping 6,000 AT-4 anti-armor systems. Like the Javelin or Stinger, the AT-4 is a soldier-carried weapon, and it’s definitely capable of taking out a tank. It’s actually a Swedish weapon, one that the Ukrainian forces have already been using with some success. They seem to like them. [Tweet and images available at the link]

    For the U.S., that was on top of 600 Stingers and 2,600 Javelins that had already been sent. There are now far more anti-tank weapons in Ukraine than there are tanks. Which is just the way it should be. […]

    However, both advocates and skeptics […] were surprised when the $800 million package that Biden signed onto contained “100 Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems.” These turned out to be not some form of observation drone — though those are far more useful and deadly than they may seem — but sets of AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone.

    There are two types of Switchblades, the 300 and the newer 600. Both are “loitering munitions,” in other words, drones that can be launched and circle an area for several minutes before finding their target, locking in, and driving home. Unlike a larger Turkish Bayraktar, the Switchblade doesn’t fire a missile. It is a missile. One with good cameras and a lot of smarts.

    The reaction in Ukraine, and among those supporting Ukraine, was one of considerable excitement. […] it can be extremely effective in tasks like taking out artillery that is sitting back to shell a city safely out of reach of counter-fire.

    There may be no better way to see how important this system is than to check in with Clint Erhlich. If you’ve forgotten who Erhlich is, he’s a favorite of Tucker Carlson, Charlie Kirk, and right wing media in general. Ehrlich frequently pops up on television, radio, and podcasts as a “military analyst” or “Russia expert”.

    That expertise brought Erhlich these amazing insights:

    Feb 15: “I’ll put my reputation on the line: There is now zero chance that Russia suddenly invades Ukraine.”

    Feb 23: “Many people are predicting that a Russian invasion of Ukraine will look like the failed Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. They’re wrong. The world will be shocked by the swiftness of Russian victory. We’re about to witness a Sputnik moment.”

    Feb 24: “Before this conflict, many people were speculating that Ukrainian troops would have a morale advantage, since they’d be defending their homeland. As we’re seeing, that overlooked the role that Russian shock and awe would play. I’m not blaming the Ukrainians. Just being honest.”

    Erhlich then went on to explain, at length, in many tweets, why everyone should be cheering for a “swift Russian victory” to minimize Ukrainian casualties. You know, like how the casualties were minimized in Russian-occupied Bucha.

    So, with that background of accuracy behind him, what did Erhlich think of sending Ukrainians some Switchblade drones? Well, he thinks it’s really bad news … for Joe Biden.

    Mar 30: “If it’s only delivering Switchblade 300s to Ukraine, it’s not fighting the proxy war effectively. And if it thinks Russia won’t react to a covert delivery of Switchblade 600s, it’s dead wrong.”

    Notice that over the last month Erhlich has continued to swim in the Russian propaganda tank and is calling this a “proxy war” for the United States. And notice that the only good Switchblade, in his opinion, is no Switchblade at all.

    That’s how you know they’re good.

    Both the Switchblade 300 and 600 have their potential targets. How this type of weapon will work out in Ukraine isn’t clear, but we did learn one thing on Wednesday. Not only have the first examples of this weapon arrived in Ukraine for a trial, but when defense officials let slip that Ukrainian military were in the U.S. for training, at least some of that was being trained on how to use the Switchblade system, likely in connection with the Puma observation drone, which the U.S. is also sending.

    It’s very possible that in the next few days we’ll see the first results of a Switchblade system being used in Ukraine. While any new class of weapons becoming involved in a war is never anything that should generate a lot of excitement, after Bucha, and Borodyanka, and what we already know has happened in Mariupol, that feeling seems a lot more justified.

    Erlich was right about one thing — the faster this war is over, the better. So long as Russia loses.

  62. says

    Well, yuck, this is bad. After appearing in violent ad, Border Patrol union head pushes white supremacist conspiracy theory

    The Border Patrol’s union has consistently been up to no good. In just a couple of examples, it records its podcast in a studio owned by white supremacist rag Breitbart. The two actually enjoy quite a cozy relationship, with a local chapter of the union awarding the racist outlet for its “reporting” back in 2015.

    But the union also makes no secrets of its despicable views, after union president Brandon Judd went onto Fox News to openly promote racist “replacement theory.”

    In the clip, both Fox News host Bill Hemmer and Judd are fuming over the Biden administration’s decision to terminate the Stephen Miller Title 42 order that for more than two years now has effectively stomped on U.S. asylum law.

    “Sir, why do you think this administration has allowed virtually an open border?” Hemmer asks Judd, once again exposing the conundrum Republicans have created for themselves. Literally from the start of the Biden administration, they’ve lied and declared “open borders” as a political attack. But now that the administration is moving to restore asylum access—a just decision that we should celebrate—they’re acknowledging the presence of Title 42 as a border control measure (though the policy has been a failure in multiple ways, see why here).

    But I digress. “I believe that they’re trying to change the demographics of the electorate, that’s what I believe they’re doing” Judd responds to Hemmer. “They want to stay in power and the only way to stay in power is to continue to get elected.”

    My colleague David Neiwert has previously described this “replacement” talk as “a conspiracy theory claiming that white people are selectively ‘replaced’ by nonwhite immigrants.” It’s white supremacist conspiracy theory, and it’s being promoted by the president of the union for border agents. This is, to say the least, very worrying. [Tweet, with video, is available at the link]

    But it’s not like Judd hasn’t already exhibited worrying behavior, earlier this year appearing in an ad where a right-wing candidate from Arizona shot at actors portraying the president, Speaker Pelosi, and Sen. Mark Kelly.

    Let’s also not pretend the white supremacist “replacement theory” spouted during this interview was an aberration. Tucker Carlson has been a longtime fan, and has been echoed by top Republicans like Elise Stefanik. National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Rick Scott has gotten very close to it, after claiming that he’s eager to welcome “immigrants who want to be Americans, not change America.”

    Nor are they one bit sorry about running on racism. I mean, it’s all they have. “After national press attention condemning Stefanik’s use of the white nationalist ‘replacement theory’ in her Fbook ads warning of an ‘election insurrection’ … she has doubled down and is STILL running these ads,” America’s Voice Political Director Zachary Mueller noted last fall.

  63. says

    Gen. Mark Hertling:

    What’s going on now in eastern Ukraine? A new [thread]

    Many reports suggest RU has shifted their next fight to the Donbas.

    What can we expect to see in the coming days/weeks/months?

    Here’s a thread of my “guesses.”

    As most know, RU/RU-backed separatist & UKR forces have been fighting in parts of Donetsk & Luhansk Oblast since 2014.

    Ukraine regards both Donetsk & Luhansk People’s Republic (DPR & LPR) as terrorist organizations (do NOT call them “breakaway republics”).

    The fighting is like many “frozen conflicts” RU has stoked in various European countries (Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan-Armenia) with their illegal actions.

    Much of the line resembles WWI trenches. With intense sniping and shelling since 2014. Thousands killed

    By reinforcing these lines, and the 2 shoulders in the N & S, RU hopes to conduct frontal attacks in the Donbas while attempting to surround URK’s forces from N & S.

    They’ll have trouble executing this plan.

    But how will the frontal attacks look?

    Well, there’s already reports of RU attacks last night from within Donetsk.

    Reports say RU attempted a “breakthrough” (we’ll come back to that word) near Razdolnoye, with a purpose of reaching the Donetsk-Zaporizhia hiway near Bogatyr. (more to that in a minute, too).

    I’d say this action REALLY was is a Reconnaissance‐in‐force (RIF).

    A RIF is designed to find the enemy’s strength, weakness, dispositions & test their reactions, according to our doctrine (ADRP 3‐90).

    See example…

    If the RU RIF finds a weak spot, they push through (as shown). If they find strength in UKRs line, they should pull back.

    Last night, the RU found UKR strength, but kept going instead of pulling back. UKR reports they engaged & destroyed this small RU tactical attack.

    Had the RU RIF found a hole, it would have provided RU with intelligence about what they’re facing in the UA. They would’ve then planned to push other forces through the hole, while holding in other places along the front.

    In doctrine, this is called a “Breakthrough.”

    When RU finds a weak spot, their doctrine in to use LOTS of artillery to make the weak spot bigger and then send lots of fast moving forces (that is, tanks) through.

    Holding the “shoulders” with other forces.

    The Germans did this in WWII as part of their blitzkrieg doctrine.

    My belief, because of what I’ve seen, is RU hasn’t trained or practiced these kinds of maneuvers.

    Based on what we’ve seen, the RU “maneuver” capability, skill of their force, C2 [command and control, evidently] & log support are all extremely weak.

    And, they haven’t tried this in the Donbas in 8 years.

    A bunch of RU generals have been writing about this technique over the last few years.

    Here’s an interesting piece:…

    Problem: writing about and doing are two different things.

    Also, I’m convinced RU will NOT be able to get the same forces they used in the Kyiv and Kharkiv offensives back into the fight anytime soon, no matter what others say.

    Those forces are depleted. Mauled.

    Some may fight, but they likely won’t be effective.

    BTW, before we leave breakthrough, Brusilov & his followers say RU must use massive artillery on enemy positions OR use *battlefield tactical nuclear weapons* to create a breakthrough when gaps are found by the RIF.

    Again, theoretical…but that scares the crap out of me.

    So, how does UKR counter these offensive actions?

    1. be strong everywhere (tough to do)
    2. have a good reserve (possible, but also tough)
    3. be able to move quickly to counter any attacks.

    “Interior lines” I discussed in another thread helps w/ 2 & 3, because of distance

    But, UKR must also find ways to be more mobile for this new phase.

    First, they’ll need very good intelligence about where RU forces are moving.

    Then, tanks they’ve “acquired” from RU and those provided by NATO nations will help.

    UA will continue to rely on technological advanced weapons to close any gaps on the front line, and focus on defeating RU’s artillery.

    They will use territorials and UA to thwart RU advances from the N & S “shoulders” of the Donbas, to ensure no encirclement.

    UKR must defend their own supply line, interfere with RU C2, logistics, and movement…

    …while also conducting other unconventional operations behind RU front lines.

    This [thread] is about the “front line” tactical fights in the Donbas.

    UKR must still deal with civilian assistance, cataloguing war crimes, fighting RU assaults in Crimea, Mykolaiv, Kharkiv, etc everywhere else.

    Donbas will be a battle of attrition.

    UKR is prepared for it.

    Links, maps, and other images at the link.

  64. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Russia hiding ‘thousands’ killed in Mariupol, Zelenskiy says

    Russia is blocking humanitarian access to the besieged port city of Mariupol because it wants to hide evidence of “thousands” of people killed there, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said.

    In an interview with Turkey’s Haberturk TV, he said:

    I think Russia is afraid that [if] we successfully send humanitarian aid to Mariupol, then the whole world will see what’s going on here.

    Russia doesn’t want anything to be seen until they take control of the city until they clean it all up.

    Mariupol is hell right now. Thousands have either been killed or injured.

    The number of those killed and injured is increasing day by day … we do not have clear information on the number of those who lost their lives.

    They are trying to cover up the situation. In this case, they are trying to prevent the humanitarian supply. They will not be able to cover up everything. They will not be able to bury or hide thousands of people. The world has seen the real situation. It has seen what has been done to a Ukrainian city.”

    Zelenskiy said that Russia had already attempted to conceal evidence of crimes in the town of Bucha outside of Kyiv and several nearby communities, where Ukrainian officials have accused Moscow of carrying out widespread killings of civilians.

    “They burned families. Families. Yesterday we found again a new family: father, mother, two children. Little, little children, two. One was a little hand, you know,” Zelensky said. “That’s why I said ‘they are Nazis’.”

  65. says

    Followup to comment 71.

    Commentary from Wonkette:

    […] This is one of those things that is so shocking it doesn’t even sound true.

    Until now — I shit you not — the prevailing rule in many parts of the country, including the entire Second Circuit (home to the nearly 25 million people who live in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont), was that you could almost never sue police who framed you or knowingly charged you with a bogus crime.

    Under the old rule, a person could only bring a malicious prosecution/unreasonable seizure claim of a Fourth Amendment violation under the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (42 USC § 1983 or “Section 1983”) if the criminal prosecution ended with a “favorable termination” of the criminal charges against them. And several courts, in their infinite wisdom, decided that a case only had a “favorable termination” if a “criminal prosecution ended not merely without a conviction, but also with some affirmative indication of his innocence.” That’s not generally a thing. So even if police framed an innocent person, and planted fake evidence, and a prosecutor discovered that and dismissed the charges, in most cases, the person who was framed couldn’t sue.

    This has now changed, with none other than Justice Kegstand writing for the Court,

    In sum, we hold that a Fourth Amendment claim under §1983 for malicious prosecution does not require the plaintiff to show that the criminal prosecution ended with some affirmative indication of innocence. A plaintiff need only show that the criminal prosecution ended without a conviction.

    Or, to quote the MacArthur Justice Center, because of this ruling, “someone who is the victim of false or fabricated evidence by law enforcement can hold the government accountable for it.”

    In this particular case, Mr. Thompson was wrongfully accused of abusing his newborn daughter. When police showed up at his house, he told them they couldn’t enter without a warrant. The cops responded by roughing him up, arresting him and charging him with child abuse, and searching the house anyway. They took his newborn child to a hospital, which found that some small red marks on the baby were, in fact, diaper rash.

    Eventually, the prosecutor and judge in Mr. Thompson’s case dismissed the charges “in the interest of justice.” As in most pre-trial dismissals of this nature, there were no additional findings. So, despite beating his criminal charges, Thompson couldn’t even bring a malicious prosecution claim against the officers who baselessly arrested and charged him.

    In Mr. Thompson’s civil rights case, the trial court judge wrote that he had to dismiss the malicious prosecution claim, but reminded the Second Circuit that its precedent “can and should be changed” to allow malicious prosecution claims in cases like this one. The Second Circuit said “No thanks” and affirmed the dismissal.

    But, amazingly, the Supreme Court stepped in and decided to do the right thing.

    Because American law is dumb, most of the opinion dealt with what the rule was for malicious prosecution cases when the Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1871. Fortunately, even back in 1871, a whole bunch of courts were like “Yeah, dismissing the charges outright is a favorable termination, this really shouldn’t be that difficult of a question.” (Paraphrasing.)

    As the Court ruled,

    The question of whether a criminal defendant was wrongly charged does not logically depend on whether the prosecutor or court explained why the prosecution was dismissed. And the individual’s ability to seek redress for a wrongful prosecution cannot reasonably turn on the fortuity of whether the prosecutor or court happened to explain why the charges were dismissed.

    Makes sense.

    In addition, requiring the plaintiff to show that his prosecution ended with an affirmative indication of innocence would paradoxically foreclose a §1983 claim when the government’s case was weaker and dismissed without explanation before trial, but allow a claim when the government’s evidence was substantial enough to proceed to trial. That would make little sense.

    Yup.

    Finally, requiring a plaintiff to show that his prosecution ended with an affirmative indication of innocence is not necessary to protect officers from unwarranted civil suits—among other things, officers are still protected by the requirement that the plaintiff show the absence of probable cause and by qualified immunity.

    So there you have it! An actual good decision, from this Court!

    (Note: If you’re wondering about qualified immunity, this case hasn’t gotten that far yet. The old rule prevented civil rights plaintiffs from even bringing a claim without a “favorable determination,” so no qualified immunity analysis has been done yet. So it is entirely likely Mr. Thompson ends up screwed on those grounds. But we shall see!)

    But wait …

    We would be remiss if we didn’t spend at least a little bit of time mocking the dissenters. Samuel Alito, who has always really wanted to be Antonin Scalia but just isn’t good enough at writing to do so, begins his dissent about the Civil Rights Act of 1871 with … something about The Iliad?

    Homer described the mythical chimera as a “grim monster” made of “all lion in front, all snake behind, all goat between.” The Iliad p. 201 (R. Fagles trans. 1990). Today, the Court creates a chimera of a constitutional tort by stitching together elements taken from two very different claims: a Fourth Amendment unreasonable seizure claim and a common-law malicious-prosecution claim.

    Greek mythology aside, Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch just don’t think any malicious prosecution claims should exist, no matter how horrific the police actions. The dissent doesn’t get any better; in fact, the ridiculous invocation of The Iliad is the most interesting thing about it.

    It’s all pretty on-brand for this three, if nothing else.

    Anyway

    This is a good decision! From the Supreme Court! In 2022!

    As this Supreme Court season moves forward, there is going to be a lot of terrible bullshit. But that just makes it even more important to recognize and celebrate these victories when we get them.

    https://www.wonkette.com/scotus-did-a-good-thing-for-civil-rights

  66. says

    Shutdown of Russia’s Hydra Market Disrupts a Crypto-Crime ATM

    WIRED link

    ON THE DARK web, the takedown of yet another cryptocurrency-based black market for drugs has become almost a semiannual routine, with plenty of competitors ready to fill the shoes of any market law enforcement manages to bust. But the seizure of the Russian-language dark-web site Hydra may have ripple effects that go further than most: It represents a disruption of not just the post-Soviet world’s biggest hub of online narcotics sales, but also of a cybercriminal money-laundering and cash-out service that had been used in crimes with victims across the globe.

    German law enforcement agencies announced early Tuesday morning that German federal police known as the BKA—in a joint operation with the FBI, DEA, IRS Criminal Investigations, and Homeland Security Investigations in the US—seized Hydra’s Germany-based servers, shutting down the site and confiscating $25 million in bitcoins stored there. In doing so, they’ve put an end to, by some measures, the longest-running and most crowded black market in the history of the dark web, with 19,000 seller accounts and more than 17 million customer accounts, according to BKA. The US treasury simultaneously imposed new sanctions on the market and more than a hundred of its cryptocurrency addresses.

    In total, Hydra facilitated more than $5 billion dollars in illicit cryptocurrency transactions since it launched in 2015, according to blockchain analysis firm Elliptic. The majority of those transactions, Elliptic says, were sales of illegal drugs, which were strictly limited to Hydra’s target market of former Soviet states. But Hydra also played a significant and more global role for cybercriminals: It offered “mixing” services designed to launder crypto and make it more difficult to trace, alongside exchange services that allowed clients to trade in the crypto proceeds from all manner of crime for Russian rubles—in some cases, even for cash bundles buried in the ground for customers to dig up later.

    “It has this dual function of being a drugs market and a service for cybercriminals—and particularly Russian cybercriminals,” says Jess Symington, Elliptic’s research lead. “So it does impact more than just the drugs community, and it forces these individuals to now potentially reconsider how they’re going to launch their funds or cash out.”

    Around half of the roughly $2 billion in transactions going into Hydra’s cryptocurrency addresses in 2021 and early 2022 were from illicit or “risky” sources, such as stolen funds, dark-web markets, ransomware, online gambling, scams, and individuals and organizations facing sanctions, according to cryptocurrency tracing firm Chainalysis. In other words, close to a billion dollars’ worth of the money entering Hydra over that time wasn’t clean money used to buy drugs or other contraband available for sale on the site, but rather dirty money that Hydra was helping to launder and exchange for rubles.

    […] Hydra wasn’t merely a Silk Road for the post-Soviet world, but a significant player in the financial services of a more far-reaching cybercriminal economy—one that’s now been abruptly yanked offline. “I’m going to be following this really closely because it’s going to be really impactful on the ecosystem, ” says Kim Grauer, director of research at Chainalysis. “It’s a major disruption.”

    As a cashout service, Hydra didn’t function like a normal exchange, in which users could trade cryptocurrency for traditional dollars or euros in a bank account, or vice versa. Instead, according to Russian-speaking analysts at threat intelligence firm Flashpoint, the market offered services in which customers could spend cryptocurrency to buy rubles from vendors on the site, which were then sent to the buyer with payment services like QIWI, Tinkoff, or Yandex.Money (which has since rebranded as YooMoney). Users who sought to leave even less of a digital trail could also use klad, or “hidden treasure” services, a dead-drop system where rubles they purchased with crypto are buried in bundles underground by a courier. A few hours later, the service would share the location of the buried cash with the buyer, who could then dig it up and retrieve it.

    Due to the risk of discovery or theft, those dead-drop services charged a hefty commission—as much as 15 percent, according to Flashpoint—but that may have been worth the cost for paranoid users holding cryptocurrency connected to serious crimes. “Basically, you take the tracing part out of the equation,” says Vlad Cuiujuclu, an analyst at Flashpoint. “Paying a couple more percent is preferable to being traced and endangering yourself.”

    Whether Hydra is really offline for good or will resurface in the near future remains an open question. Germany’s BKA, after all, didn’t announce any arrests in its takedown operation. In keeping with its many-headed name, a joint report from Flashpoint and Chainalysis last year counted at least 11 administrators and operators who have run the market under pseudonyms like Ironman, Deus, Handsome Jack, Glavred, Fatality, and Satoshi Nakamoto.

    But even if the Hydra operators have escaped law enforcement, they may still face suspicion from their dark-web peers if Hydra reappears online, argues Elliptic’s Symington: Users may now fear that the Hydra admins have been compromised by law enforcement. “We’ve seen other markets struggle when they pop back up as version two,” she says. “They never really do as well as the original sites. And there’s always questions around the authenticity of the claims of the administrators.”

    After a decade demonstrating its resilience to law enforcement, however, the larger cryptocurrency black market will almost certainly produce another operation to fill the same Russian-language niche. Even if Hydra is gone for good, the dark web’s illicit economy will no doubt be ready to grow another head to replace it.

  67. says

    “MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

    The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.

    “These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”

    More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.”

    While scientists have no clear understanding of the mechanisms that prevent the fact-resistant humans from absorbing data, they theorize that the strain may have developed the ability to intercept and discard information en route from the auditory nerve to the brain. “The normal functions of human consciousness have been completely nullified,” Logsdon said.

    While reaffirming the gloomy assessments of the study, Logsdon held out hope that the threat of fact-resistant humans could be mitigated in the future. “Our research is very preliminary, but it’s possible that they will become more receptive to facts once they are in an environment without food, water, or oxygen,” he said.

    New Yorker link

  68. says

    Ukraine update: Russian moves reek of desperation as battered troops head east

    The atrocities committed by Russian troops in Bucha have resulted in world fury. They may not, however, be an outlier. Journalists and Ukrainian officials have little to no knowledge of what is going on in the areas of Ukraine that remain under Russian occupation, but claims that Ukrainian citizens are being forcibly deported to Russia (a possible move to “cleanse” Ukrainian cities of their current Ukrainian inhabitants) are numerous, and in Mariupol, officials are claiming that Russia is using the “mobile crematorium” units spotted prior to the war to collect and burn the bodies of possibly tens of thousands of civilians. It would not be out of character for Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin’s government to issue such orders, and we have already seen that Russian military units retreating from Kyiv appeared to be more dedicated to looting than they were to combat. The urgency of forcing a Russian retreat escalates with each passing day.

    Russian military leaders continue to show remarkable incompetence, and new signs suggest their indifference extends to their own troops. Many of their Kyiv-area units were shredded by Ukrainian defenders, but are now apparently being redeployed east in that tattered state. The 4th Guards Tank Division, a supposedly elite Russian unit, got so thoroughly thrashed that less than half of it appears to remain—but they, too are being redeployed to the new frontlines. It may be an act of desperation, as Russia launches a new “suicidal” run to cut off Ukrainian defenders in Donetsk before eastern Europe’s spring rains turn the whole region into a muddy bog. Or it may simply be that there’s nobody left in Putin’s hollowed-out military who knows how to do anything but bomb civilians and steal washing machines.

    We began the war with American military experts expressing astonishment at the utter inability of the famed Russian army to supply its own troops, coordinate their movements, or even secure their communications. None of those things have seen improvement as the war goes on, and now the very forces that found their Kyiv assault unsustainable due to the damage done to their supply lines and frontline forces are now limping, wounded, toward a Russian operation that appears to be premised on doing the very same thing.

    Here at home, Republican senators are doing what Republican senators do best: nothing. Led by Rand Paul, they’re blocking steeper sanctions against Putin and Russia; in the House, 63 House Republicans even voted against a resolution expressing support for NATO and its backing of democratic principles. You can pretend that it’s weird for the party that supported Trump’s international extortion and hoax-premised attempted coup to be uncomfortable with steep punishments of governments that use violence to upend democracies, but that’s because you’re imagining the Republican Party as it was a generation ago—before Fox News made both propaganda and fascist aspirations central to the conservative movement.

  69. says

    Guardian – “Covid linked to 33-fold increase in risk of potentially fatal blood clot”:

    Catching Covid is associated with a fivefold increase in the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and a 33-fold increase in risk of a potentially fatal blood clot on the lung in the 30 days after becoming infected, data suggests.

    The findings, published in the British Medical Journal on Thursday, could help explain a doubling in the incidence of, and deaths from, blood clots in England since the start of the pandemic compared with the same periods in 2018 and 2019.

    They also help to put the very small increased risk of blood clots associated with Covid-19 vaccination into context….

    Overall, they identified a 33-fold increase in the risk of pulmonary embolism, a fivefold increase in the risk of DVT and an almost twofold increase in the risk of bleeding in the 30 days after infection. People remained at increased risk of pulmonary embolism for six months after becoming infected, and for two and three months for bleeding and DVT.

    Although the risks were highest in patients with more severe illness, even those with mild Covid had a threefold increased risk of DVT and a sevenfold increased risk of pulmonary embolism. No increased risk of bleeding was found in those who experienced mild infections.

    [Dr. Frederick] Ho said the results remained relevant even in the Omicron era, since current vaccines were highly effective against severe Covid but breakthrough infections were common, even after a third dose of a vaccine.

    “Despite the potential for new variants of concern, most governments are removing restrictions and shifting their focus to determining how best to live with Covid. This study reminds us of the need to remain vigilant to the complications associated with even mild Sars-CoV-2 infection, including [blood clots].

    (Neneh Cherry, “Deep Vein Thrombosis.”)

  70. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian (support them if you can!) Ukraine liveblog. From there:

    G7 foreign ministers have condemned “in the strongest terms” the atrocities committed by Russian troops in Bucha and a number of Ukrainian towns….

    …Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has received rapturous applause addressing the Greek parliament today.

    The leader went to the heart of the matter by kicking off his speech with mention of Mariupol, the strategic southeastern port city that has become a symbol of the suffering Ukraine has suffered at the hands of Russian forces. With over 100,000 ethnic Greeks living there the besieged town has a special place in Greek hearts, prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has repeatedly said.

    Appealing to Greek sensitivity regarding the presence of a once vibrant diaspora in the Black Sea region, Zelenskiy said there were now fears that the country would lose a large part of its identity “that Greek culture had brought.”

    “This was the cradle of the Greek community for centuries,” he said before two Ukrainian fighters of Greek heritage also addressed the chamber.

    Invoking the mantra of battle-hardened Greeks during the War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire which began in 1821, the Ukrainian leader added: “Your own revolutionaries said ‘freedom or death’ and that today is what we are saying. Beside Mariupol, Odesa, another big centre of Hellenism, is also threatened.”

    Zelensky also referred to the Filiki Etairia, a secret society of friends that was founded in Odesa with the aim of overthrowing Ottoman rule. “The Filiki Etairia was also created here and this is of huge significance,” he told lawmakers. “A Filiki Etairia could [now] be created in Greece [for the purpose of giving] immediate held which Mariupol and Odesa so need. … with the practical solidarity of Greece we will be able to emerge victorious.”

    Russian troops used civilians as human shields to try to protect themselves from a counter-attack from Ukrainian forces in a village in northern Ukraine, the BBC reports.

    Villagers from Obukhovychi, just south of the exclusion zone around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, said Russian troops were losing soldiers and armoured vehicles to a counter-attack from Ukrainian forces on the night of 14 March.

    They said Russian troops went door-to door to round up about 150 people at gunpoint and held them in a freezing cold school gym as protection for Russian forces….

    German intelligence agencies have intercepted radio messages from Russian soldiers discussing the killings of civilians in Ukraine, according to reports.

    Local news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Thursday that the country’s office had intercepted the radio messages and presented the findings in parliament.

    Separately, the Washington Post reported Germany’s foreign intelligence service claimed to have intercepted two separate communications, in which Russian soldiers described how they question soldiers as well as civilians, and then proceed to shoot them. The Post cited an intelligence official it said was familiar with the findings.

    It was not clear in which part of Ukraine the recordings come from.

    The Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, said his country must be involved in negotiations to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, Reuters reports.

    Lukashenko was quoted as saying by the Belarusian state news agency Belta that he expected to hold talks with Vladimir Putin in the next few days.

    Lukashenko said:

    There can be no separate agreements behind Belarus’s back. Since you dragged us into this – principally Western countries – the position of Belarus naturally needs to be heard at these negotiations.

    Belarus foreign minister, Vladimir Makei, insisted Lukashenko himself “must participate in the (final) meeting”.

    Lukashenko also claimed Belarus had been unfairly labelled “an accomplice of the aggressor” as a result of Western sanctions.

    Belta quoted Lukashenko as saying:

    We do not need this war.

    Because as a result of this conflict between two Slavic peoples, we are the ones who may suffer the most.

    LOL. He sure sounds confident and relaxed.

  71. StevoR says

    I think we need a law against attempting to Pervert the course of Democracy just as we have law against Perverting the course of Justice. Clive Palmer ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clive_Palmer ) – who The 7.30 Report calls a “businessman” here :

    https://www.abc.net.au/7.30/how-the-united-australia-partys-vast-campaign/13832104

    (Transcript available there too if video doesn’t work. Hopefully it wll?)

    when oligarch or outright crook describes him better – & Rupert Murdoch and co would be the first charged and jailed under that for their disgusting warping of Aussie politics I’d say.

    Meanwhile in better news :

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-04-07/final-eight-asylum-seekers-released-park-hotel-melbourne/100973950

    After nine years for no crime just for being (non-white) refugees seeking asylum by boat in Oz as the Vietnamese did before them.. Still so much progress needing to be made and refugees needing freedom and security and well-deserved welcomes & probly a cynical issue -clearing thing before the imminent election here but still.

  72. StevoR says

    Expletives..

    Well, its not like there’s much at stake here is it? (Does this really need a sarc tag?)

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/apr/06/climate-scientists-are-desperate-were-crying-begging-and-getting-arrested

    These are the people who know what they are talking about. Who have dedicated their lives to this speciality, this issue, thsi science. To studying and understanding and knowing what they are talking about. They are trying to save us all. But will we listen? Will we act? Will we?

    Expletives.

  73. StevoR says

    I’m sure this seems a minisucule amount in the USA’s perspectrive but locally :

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-04-07/sa-sets-new-record-number-of-covid-cases/100973116

    Not good at all.

    Meanwhile in space science , far far away – 11,000 ly specvificallyand Cass A :

    https://www.space.com/supernova-reverse-shock-wave

    Whilst also relatively on our doorstep – though still far beyond Pluto’s orbit :

    https://www.space.com/38967-voyager-1-fires-backup-thrusters-after-37-years.html

    So, tyeah, relatively..

  74. blf says

    The Nasa/JPL Mars helicopter Ingenuity successfully completed its 24th(!) flight this past weekend, a short hop flying at an earlier time-of-(Mars-)day than usual with the rotors spinning at the original design speed (the Martian summer is ending so the atmospheric density is increasing, albeit the atmosphere itself is still “hot” (by Martian standards) which limits flight time due to the need to keep Ingenuity operating within its design temperatures). More on this flight at Nasa/JPL, Balancing Risks in the ‘Séítah’ Region — Flight 24. The Perseverance rover is apparently moving at speed towards the Jezero Crater delta, and the intent now is to keep Ingenuity ahead-of the rover.

    In addition, Ingenuity and its team has won yet another award, “the prestigious Robert J Collier Trophy […] for ‘the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles'”, NASA’s Pioneering Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Awarded Collier Trophy.

    Ingenuity has been operating for almost one (Earth) year now, its very first flight was on 19th April 2020.

  75. says

    Ukraine update: ‘Looking behind us now, into history back’

    Here’s a bit of lovely speechifying from one of my favorite film characters, “I’s looking behind us now into history back.” But “time counts, and it keeps counting” and there “ain’t nobody how knows where it’s gonna lead.”

    While you’re skimming Google to find Savannah Nix, all of this is just an elaborate way of saying that this morning—43 days into Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine—I’m looking “into history back.” As in, checking out the predictions that media outlets and columnists made before the tanks started to roll. But before we get to the point where Vladimir Putin began to gather forces around Ukraine last fall, here’s a thumbnail sketch of where things have gone over the last couple of decades.

    Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine learned quickly that Russia was far too busy dealing with its own internal issues and structural collapse to lend anything like assistance to former Soviet member states. That was underscored in 1995 when Kharkiv was left without drinking water for months after the literal collapse of Soviet-era infrastructure. Both desperate for assistance and anxious to put some distance between Kyiv and Moscow, Ukraine looked to the West for assistance.

    But almost as soon as Vladimir Putin rose to power, he saw that Ukraine was a threat. It wasn’t so much having NATO on the doorstep that bothered the Russian dictator, it was the idea of a functioning democracy with a growing economy that bothered him. After all, many Russians and Ukrainians have close personal and familial links. How was Putin going to keep everyone in Moscow happy with an economy slogging forward under the burden of an authoritarian kleptocracy, if they were always comparing their lives to cousin Sasha’s thriving democracy?

    So Putin set out to end that. He launched a series of programs to bribe Ukrainian officials, promote their own oligarchs, and ensure that levels of corruption pegged the dial. When Ukraine still seemed to be looking West, Putin brought in an expert on destroying democracies around the world, Paul Manafort, and set him loose to create chaos, break agreements with the West, and ink deals that bound Kyiv and Moscow. That included destroying deals that were easing Ukraine toward both the EU and NATO.

    Republican politicians in the USA are fond of pointing out that “Ukraine is full of corruption,” or something like that, but what we see from the fairly recent history is that Putin forced corruption on Ukraine. Of course, Paul Manafort and Donald Trump contributed to the efforts to increase corruption in Ukraine.

    By 2014, Ukrainians answered Putin with a resounding “no,” ousting pro-Russian officials in the Maidan Revolution, which is also known inside Ukraine as “the Revolution of Dignity.” Once again Ukraine turned to the West, and overthrew the Yanukovych government promoted by Manafort & Putin, Inc.

    Then Putin replied by invading Crimea and bolstering pro-Russian separatists—many of which were so pro-Russian that they were actually Russian soldiers or members of the FSB—in the Donbas.

    That Russia was able to so easily take Crimea and seize areas of eastern Ukraine wasn’t a signal that Russian soldiers were great and Ukrainian soldiers were terrible. It was a result of Russia acting while a political revolution and reformation in Ukraine was still underway. The capture of Crimea was as much about the internal disruption Putin has spent over a decade building, than it was “Little Green Men” dropping in to secure the borders.

    Putin was convinced that this action would teach Ukraine a lesson, reverse the Maidan Revolution, and convince Kyiv to beg to be let back into the Russia club. Instead, the 2014 invasion generated a new unity within Ukraine and increased their determination to rebuild connections with the West. Putin responded to this by sending ever more military equipment to the Donbas (if your internal rebels are driving around in tanks provided by your neighbor, are they really your rebels?) and continuing its efforts to fund corruption in Kyiv — efforts that Republicans from Donald Trump to Rudy Giuliani were all too happy to boost. Russia also took a number of provocative steps, like seizing the Kerch Strait, that were likely designed to test whether the West was still snoozing when it came to mounting a response (Answer: Yes).

    Still, the election of Volodymyr Zelenskyy was seen as a big repudiation of any remaining pro-Russia sentiment and a solid middle finger to Moscow. Efforts to drag Ukraine out of Putin’s corruption and disruption shadow accelerated.

    And that … is why is I’m no good at writing a brief thumbnail version of history. Anyway, Ukraine looked West. Putin spent 20 years trying to prevent Ukraine from building a functional democracy. Ukraine shrugged off the efforts. Putin invaded. Ukraine resisted. Putin fumed. Screw you, Vlad.

    There.

    Since 2014, Russia has teased a second invasion many times when Putin believed that Ukraine’s progress needed to be checked. So when all those Russian forces began gathering around Ukraine in the fall of 2021, it’s understandable that a lot of people seem to have responded with an eye roll and a “here we go again.” […]

    Except U.S. intelligence was getting serious signals that this time was different. Unable to cripple Ukraine sufficiently to keep them from evolving into a threat, Putin was going to do the other thing. Crush them.

    How did all the experts and analysts respond? It’s not hard to find predictions that Russia would simply roll over Ukraine in The New York Times and other major outlets, or that the West would step back and do nothing. In fact, many of the media forecasts bear an uncanny resemblance to exactly what Moscow was saying. Because transcribing Putin was probably a lot easier than doing any actual analysis.

    But there are some surprising nuanced predictions out there that don’t look half bad “in history back.” For example, Defense News didn’t think that Russia was going to go for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but their reasoning for this was pretty much—because Putin would be making a huge mistake.

    “… it would be very risky diplomatically and expensive militarily for Moscow. Russia could lose. … The Western response to an all-out invasion could be fierce, including possibly providing airpower to Ukraine to defend Kyiv should Ukraine be losing the battle. It could result in escalation and a major war despite lack of an Article 5 commitment. Putin likely knows this. Therefore, he is probably—hopefully—deterred here.”

    He wasn’t. Defense News actually expected Putin to go for something more modest and achievable, like just grabbing a land bridge from Donbas to Crimea through Mariupol, but they get points for the clear signal that a full-scale invasion was simply beyond the limits of what the Russian military could achieve.

    There’s also this piece, from The Wall Street Journal, that calls a Ukraine invasion “a trap” for Putin.

    “If Russian aggression toward Ukraine does expand militarily, however, it could spell the end of the authoritarian experiment that Vladimir Putin has fostered for the past two decades. In any scenario, it will also result in a much-diminished Russia.”

    That’s a remarkably good call, in an article that also recognizes Putin’s capture of Crimea was done “from a position of weakness” and ties Putin’s threats to Ukraine toward how his own popularity had crashed following the mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis.

    There’s also an analysis from Reuters, that predicts a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be “no walkover.” For the same reasons as the Defense News analysis, this leads to the conclusion that it would be “highly unlikely that Putin would contemplate an outright conquest of Ukraine.”

    Honestly, while the biggest media outlets were running a lot of news stories that took Russia marching into Kyiv in their parade best as a given, there was no end of sources with analysis that showed exactly why that was unlikely. But there were far more predictions that treated Russia’s ability to invade and conquer Ukraine as a given, but simply didn’t think Putin would do it, because the cost would be so high. Any attempt to take the whole of the country would turn into a long-term slog.

    […] And that’s the point where most of these predictions failed—not in pointing out that Ukraine’s military had vastly improved over 2014, or that Russia’s ability to wage full-scale conquest was questionable at best. They failed on the Putin question.

    They failed to predict that despite the high probability of failure, despite the enormous cost in men and materiel, and despite the staggering long-term cost of isolation and sanctions, Putin would push that button. The biggest errors people made weren’t in overestimating the power of the Russian military, it was in underestimating the size of Putin’s ego.

  76. says

    The United Nations General Assembly has voted to remove Russia from the Human Rights Council.

    The final vote was 93 Yes, 24 No, and 58 abstain.

    To pass, the resolution needed a 2/3 vote, but abstentions are left out of the calculation

  77. says

    I think this is a story that’s going to get much bigger, with tentacles that may reach some interesting people.

    AP is reporting that the FBI arrested two guys who were posing as Homeland Security agents. That is not all that noteworthy, I guess, but these particular mopes had infiltrated the Secret Service, including at least some on Presidential security duties. They provided these Secret Service agents with gifts, including an apartment, weapons, cellphones, and even an SUV. The Secret Service officers, ever the sharpest knives in the drawer, apparently never thought to wonder why one federal agency would be providing expensive gifts to members of another federal agency.

    Think about this. Infiltrate the security detail of the President and you’re 80% home free for a coup attempt. […]

    Link

    Associated Press link

  78. says

    SC @90, yay! Hooray!

    In other news, the Washington Post reports:

    The former president … repeatedly bragged about the size of the crowd on the Ellipse, when questioned about the events of Jan. 6. “The crowd was far bigger than I even thought. I believe it was the largest crowd I’ve ever spoken to. I don’t know what that means, but you see very few pictures. They don’t want to show pictures, the fake news doesn’t want to show pictures,” he said. “But this was a tremendous crowd.”

    Commentary:

    […] More than a year after the riot, after having time to reflect on the events, Trump has identified what he considers the truly important detail about the events of Jan. 6, 2021. The fatalities? The insurrectionist intent? The alleged crimes? The defilement of our seat of government? The attempts to use violence to reject our system of democracy?

    No, as we’ve discussed, what really weighs on the former president is the degree to which “they” fail to acknowledge the size of the crowd that appeared in the nation’s capital in advance of the riot.

    The symmetry of the circumstances is extraordinary: On Trump’s first full day in office in January 2017, the Republican was preoccupied with the size of his inaugural crowd, to the point that he literally called the National Park Service, asking for photographic evidence that his audience was larger than it appeared.

    Five years later, he’s now out of office, and still fixated on crowd size, which he continues to see as evidence of his self-professed greatness.

    Circling back to our earlier coverage, this guy can’t let it go. Last summer, Trump insisted “over a million people” attended his anti-election rally on Jan. 6. Three months ago, while sitting down with a conservative outlet, he was at it again.

    “Massive numbers. They don’t cover the numbers of people,” Trump said of his Jan. 6 audience. “They always show the Capitol with a very small, just a tiny percentage of the people that were there. They never show helicopter pictures of that incredible crowd because it was the largest crowd I’ve ever spoken before. I’ve never had a crowd — I’ve never seen a crowd that big.”

    He added, “You know what that number was, right? And I don’t even talk about that. And they don’t talk about it…. “[This was] the biggest crowd I’ve ever — and I’ve spoken before the biggest crowds — the biggest crowd I’ve ever spoken by far. By numerous times, I think.”

    For good measure, the former president went on to say, “Why don’t they show the real crowd that was there on Jan. 6? The crowd of people that was the biggest I’ve ever seen. I haven’t seen any — you can hardly get a picture. We’re trying to find pictures. They have censored the pictures. They don’t want to show that crowd because that shows what it was all about. They were there over a rigged election.”

    First, the election wasn’t rigged.

    Second, the crowd at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 was modest and not even close to a million people.

    Third, there is no nefarious “they” conspiring behind the scenes to hide evidence of his crowd size.

    And finally, the events of Jan. 6 were of extraordinary significance. The fact that Trump is obsessed with the size of the crowd reflects just how twisted his priorities are.

    Link

  79. says

    Ukraine update: The Kherson bulge, the Kramatorsk gap

    There was no doubt at all about Russia’s strategy when its troops rolled across the border on Feb 24: Take it all. Vladimir Putin meant to capture Kyiv, install a puppet government, declare victory, and then watch as the invincible Russian military drove tanks over dispirited Ukrainian holdouts while wearing their dress uniforms and singing the Soviet national anthem. According to Moscow, everything is going according to plan.

    In the real world, Russia is now moving all its forces to the east and south of Ukraine and where a few days ago there were conflicts all over the nation, now there are just two zones that are the absolute focus of both militaries—and could decide the course of the war. [map available at the link]

    One of these areas is what might be described as “the Kherson bulge.” With the help of local officials who took a bribe, Russian forces managed to capture two intact bridges across the southern Dnieper River: one on the northern edge of Kherson, and another about 40 miles upstream at Nova Kakhovka.

    These bridges allowed Russia to take control of the city of Kherson in the first week of the war. With a population just under 300,000, Kherson represents the only large urban center that Russia has been able to capture and hold since the invasion began. Once they had a grip on Kherson, Russian forces were able to achieve one of their key objectives — opening the flow of water to Crimea, without which conditions there were becoming extremely difficult for Russia to maintain. [map available at the link]

    Russian forces would like to achieve their second main objective in the area: capturing Odesa and cutting off Ukraine from the Black Sea. However, attempts to reach the city of Mykolaiv were strongly repulsed (in part by some of the same troops that had originally been in Kherson). Ukraine has been gradually pushing back down the same highway along which Russia advanced, recapturing towns and coming within about 20 miles of Kherson proper. In the past two days, Ukrainian forces have also been recapturing a series of towns and villages in the area of that blue arrow at the top of the map.

    There were widespread rumors that Russia was going to retreat across the bridges and hold positions on the east side of the Dnieper, but in the past day Russian troops advanced again to capture the town of Snihurivka (that red dot directly east of Mykolaiv). That seems to indicate they have not given up their ambitions in this area.

    A total victory for Ukraine would involve capturing one or more bridges and bagging a large number of Russian troops left trapped on the west side of the river. A more likely scenario is that Russia moves east and takes the bridges with them. But the move to take Snihurivka could signal a new advance on Mykolaiv.

    In any case, what happens next here could decide whether Russia gets anywhere close to Odesa, because attempts to capture the city by amphibious landing look like a no-go. [map available at the link]

    The other area is that “gap” in Russia’s control of the Donbas region south of the town of Isyum. This area is the key to whether or nor Russia can complete its number one goal at this point: capturing all of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

    The east side of the yellow area on this map represents well-established defensive positions where Ukrainian forces are dug in to prevent a direct westward advance by Russia or its supporters. In order to bypass this position and potentially capture a large number of Ukrainian troops along with their equipment, Russia is pushing south from Izyum and north from the Donetsk.

    The simple fact that we’re talking about Izyum as a town under Russian control shows that Russian forces have managed to advance in this area over the past week. Once again working with local officials who—due to either threat or bribery—went over to Putin, Russian forces managed to locate an area where they could successfully ford/bridge the small river running through Izyum, circled around the small local garrison from the southeast, and captured the hold-out town. Now those forces are continuing on to the south.

    Russia could continue down the M03 highway toward Slovyansk. If Russia took Slovyansk, its troops would have the option of continuing south or of cutting east along another highway to cut off a portion of the Ukrainian troops along the Donbas defensive line. However, there are indications that’s not what Russia intends to do. Troops may swing west around the town of Kramatorsk, putting them closer to the oblast border and allowing the troops to give the recently discovered oil field in the area a warm hug.

    Or … [Tweet and map available at the link]

    This would be the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass on the part of Russia. Izyum is already at the end of a long and complex salient that is vulnerable to a possible Ukrainian attack from Kharkiv. But an attempt to go all the way out to Pavlohrad (near the left edge of the map of the Kramatorsk area), would put them way-the-hell out on a limb.

    If Russia pulled it off, it would be an amazing feat, and could potentially cut off a sizable portion of the whole Ukrainian army. On the other hand … this looks impossible. They would have a salient that, by that point, would be hundreds of miles long, under assault from every direction, and subject to attack at dozens of locations.

    Still, Russia has shelled multiple locations west of Kramatorsk on Thursday, including points along the highway leading to Pavlohrad. That could indicate that they are trying to soften up the route in advance of moving that way.

    Meanwhile, Ukraine is well aware of Russia’s intentions in the Kramatorsk gap, and has also repositioned forces. On Wednesday several Russian tanks and a helicopter were destroyed by Ukrainian troops moving in southwest of Izyum, and some of those same vehicles that were involved in building the bridge that allowed Russia to cross the river now look like this: [photos available at the link]

  80. says

    Followup to comment 92.

    One other zone of major conflict: Mariupol. While the battle there may seem to have been decided, that’s not how local Ukrainian forces are behaving. On Thursday, at least one Russian ML-TB armored vehicle was destroyed in the city, and Ukrainian forces are still putting up something that’s far greater than token resistance.

    From Tweet and map at the link:

    This video shows that Ukrainian troops are still able to operate armour in the very outskirts of Mariupol. Not only do they still have working BTR-4s despite a nearly month-long siege, but they still operate in large parts of the suburbs.

    https://twitter.com/Osinttechnical/status/1512066872937627673

  81. says

    Followup to comment 93.

    All of this is taking place as Russia has also taken away the city’s last hospital staff at gunpoint and continues to relocate thousands of the city’s residents to unknown locations in Russia.

  82. says

    Exclusive: Leaked Messages Reveal the Origins of the Most Vile Hunter Biden Smear

    Fugitive Chinese tycoon and Steve Bannon ally Guo Wengui pushed out explicit material—and lies—on the eve of the 2020 election.

    Late in the 2020 presidential campaign, trailing in the polls, Donald Trump and his allies worked to make a campaign issue out of a trove of files on a laptop that his opponent’s son, Hunter Biden, had apparently abandoned at a Delaware repair shop. The effort to publicize compromising emails, images, and videos from the device involved prominent Trump confidants including Rudy Giuliani and Steven Bannon. But it also featured an unexpected player: Guo Wengui, a fugitive Chinese tycoon who was working with Bannon to build a small empire of Chinese-language media outlets, nonprofits, and other ventures.

    Mother Jones obtained scores of WhatsApp audio messages Guo sent to supporters, along with underlying material from Biden’s hard drive that Guo’s assistant distributed at his behest. Previous reports have noted the role of Guo allies and companies in publicizing sex tapes and other material involving Hunter Biden. But the WhatsApp messages, and sources who were involved in the effort, reveal that Guo—who has been accused in lawsuits of fraud and rape and of secretly acting as an agent for the Chinese Communist Party—played a larger role than previously known in ensuring that explicit images and videos from the laptop appeared online, and in spreading lies about them. (Guo has denied the allegations made in the lawsuits against him.)

    […] After Giuliani, then President Trump’s personal lawyer, gave him material from Hunter Biden’s laptop, Guo issued detailed instructions to two WhatsApp groups that included dozens of Guo’s supporters. Guo directed these supporters to package, post, and promote hundreds of explicit images and other material about Biden on websites Guo controlled […]

    […] People who helped Guo publish the material online said that it quickly became clear to them that he was lying about China’s role. “They tried to link the Biden family to the [Chinese Communist Party],” said a person involved in the effort, who shared Guo’s WhatsApp messages with Mother Jones and requested anonymity. “They wanted to help Trump win.”

    […] Giuliani has said he obtained a copy of Hunter Biden’s hard drive after John Paul Mac Isaac, the owner of the repair shop, gave it to Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello, in the summer of 2020. Isaac, after receiving a subpoena, also gave the drive to the FBI.

    […] Republicans and right-leaning publications that reported on the emails in 2020 have attacked mainstream media outlets for downplaying or ignoring them, arguing that those outlets refused to cover a legitimate news story due to anti-Trump bias.

    But the effort by Trump allies was far more problematic, dishonest, and unseemly than many of these critics seem to recall. In the final weeks of the 2020 campaign, Giuliani and Bannon selectively doled out information from the laptop to mostly right-leaning publications. The Washington Post noted that the duo refused to share access to laptop files with its reporters at the time. The files included newsworthy information about Hunter Biden’s work for foreign businesses, but Trump allies also linked it with allegations, which remain unsubstantiated, that Joe Biden was involved in his son’s ventures. Joe Biden “has never even considered being involved in business with his family, nor in any overseas business whatsoever,” his campaign said in 2020.

    The effort to exploit the laptop went further. Hunter Biden seems to have saved numerous images and videos that show him using crack cocaine and engaging in sexual encounters with multiple women. Biden’s addiction issues were well-known by the fall of 2020. And he was single when he created the material. This stuff was not news. But Trump allies, Giuliani in particular, played up these purely salacious images, and made false claims about what they depicted, in the apparent hope that the smear would hurt Joe Biden’s campaign.

    This was where Guo came in. After getting rich in Chinese real estate, Guo had fled China in late 2014 ahead of fraud and corruption charges. In the US, he began using the name Miles Kwok, joined Mar-a-Lago, and reinvented himself as a vocal critic of the Chinese Communist Party, using YouTube and Twitter to issue colorful, unproven claims about corruption and sexual hijinks among Chinese elites. These charges won Guo lots of press, tens of thousands of ardent supporters in the international Chinese diaspora, and friends among US conservatives.

    […] The Biden files, of course, came not from China but from Giuliani. […] Guo then arranged for some of his devoted backers to promote the material from Biden’s laptop, to misrepresent what it contained, and to post it on his sites. Guo’s personal assistant, Yvette Wang, sent the files to those Guo supporters, using Dropbox links, according to WhatsApp messages and a source involved.

    […] While he orchestrated the publication of the Hunter Biden material, Guo encouraged supporters to make a false, vile claim. He instructed them to say the laptop included videos that showed Hunter Biden having sex with underage Chinese girls […] Guo also asserted, baselessly, that the Chinese government had created or obtained the compromising videos and images and used them to blackmail the Bidens. […] No evidence whatsoever supports these allegations. “It was a lie.[…]

    These lies dovetailed with the QAnon conspiracy theory, which holds that many prominent Democrats are pedophiles and that Trump was working to stop them. [JFC] And they were echoed by Giuliani, who falsely asserted on Newsmax on October 20, 2020, that Biden’s laptop contained “numerous pictures of underage girls.” These bogus claims took off online, with far-right sites amplifying them. QAnon devotees in the fall of 2020 also pushed the claim that Joe Biden himself was a pedophile, a smear that Giuliani also appeared to bolster on Twitter in the final days of the 2020 campaign.

    […] Guo also dictated a message that later appeared as text attached to a video of Hunter Biden that was posted on GTV: “U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden, who is 100% absolutely controlled by the Communist Party, is one of the most important politicians in the United States with the most successful BGY plan of the CCP,” Guo said. “He is one of the important plotters of the CCP’s 3F plan in the United States: […]” BGY and 3F are plans Guo has claimed China has deployed to use hacking, bribes, and blackmail to influence Western lawmakers and weaken the US.

    That video prepped by Guo’s backers and other images appeared on GTV on the evening of October 24. The right-leaning Washington Examiner reported on the material that night and directly quoted Guo’s made-up allegations of Chinese influence over Biden. A Daily Mail article the next day followed suit.

    […] In the following days, Guo pushed his helpers to keep posting material. “Post one right now, one every hour from now on, on GTV, GNews,” he wrote on October 27. “I want everyone to fully promote it.” In an October 29 message about posting emails connected to Biden’s work in China, Guo directed: “The key documents must be marked with the GNews and GTV logos, and watermarks must be included. It must be clear, easy to download, and extremely standard.”

    This close involvement shows that a claim by Guo that he has not exercised control over content on his sites was false. […]

    Trump’s defeat, two days later, completed the failure. But the lies Guo’s network pushed have not been snuffed out. And Giuliani has not recanted his false claims about Hunter Biden. He’s kept making them. In a speech last year at a gala hosted by Guo, Giuliani railed against Hunter Biden and asserted that President Joe Biden “is bought and paid for by the Chinese Communist Party.” (Giuliani billed a Guo nonprofit $50,000 for the speech, a source involved in organizing the event said.) Nothing on Hunter Biden’s laptop substantiates that claim. But the efforts of Trump allies in October 2020, along with the recent furor over coverage of the story, is likely to leave many Americans believing otherwise

  83. says

    Followup to comment 97.

    Wonkette:

    […] A bit more about the bill:

    The bill, introduced in the House on March 29 and sponsored by GOP Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, seeks to “direct the President to submit to Congress a report on United States Government efforts to collect, analyze, and preserve evidence and information related to war crimes and any other atrocities committed during the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine since February 24, 2022.”

    The bill, titled the Ukraine Invasion War Crimes Deterrence and Accountability Act, asserts that Russian forces have intentionally attacked civilians and nonmilitary buildings, engaged in unnecessary wanton destruction of property, and unlawfully deported civilians and taken hostages.

    […] Last night, as congressmen were speaking before the contempt votes against Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino, Greene tried to heckle Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin. “What about Ashli Babbitt?” she grunted. “What about Russian collusion?” she shouted. So Raskin said, fine, “I accept the heckling,” and added, “That’s all right because if she wants to continue to stand with Vladimir Putin and his brutal bloody invasion against the people of Ukraine, she is free to do so. And we understand there is a strong Trump-Putin axis in the gentlelady’s party.” […]

  84. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 98

    “What about Ashli Babbitt?”

    I don’t know. What about the stupid, fascist woman who got what was coming to her, Marge?

    “What about Russian collusion?”

    Ask your dear leader. Trump can tell you everything he knows.

  85. says

    From the most recent summary at the Guardian liveblog:

    The Kremlin has admitted suffering “significant losses” of Russian troops since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, in a rare admission from Russia of how badly the war has gone….

    A Russian airstrike on a railway near Barvinkove station in Donetsk Oblast has blocked three evacuation trains from leaving, according to reports. Thousands of passengers who were meant to be evacuated on the trains have been placed at the station, according to the Ukrainian media outlet Hromadske.

    Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, said 26 bodies had been found under two ruined buildings in town of Borodyanka, around 23km west of Bucha. She did not say if the authorities had established the cause of death, but accused Russian troops of carrying out air strikes on the town, which is been being searched by Ukrainian authorities after Russian troops occupying it withdrew.

    Ukraine is bracing for a renewed Russian offensive on its eastern front, as Russian forces withdraw from the shattered outskirts of Kyiv to regroup and intensify their attacks across the Donbas region. Ukrainian presidential adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, said the besieged southern city of Mariupol was holding out and that he believed the Russian efforts to surround Ukrainian troops in the east would be in vain.

    The mayor of Mariupol, Vadym Boichenko, says over 100,000 people still need urgent evacuation from the city. Speaking on national television, he described the situation in the Russian-besieged Ukrainian port city as a humanitarian catastrophe. The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, called on the Greek parliament to use its influence to rescue the remaining population in Mariupol, which has had large ethnic Greek populations for centuries.

    Russia will likely renew its attack on Kyiv if it succeeds in taking full control of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, the deputy chief of staff of Ukraine’s ground forces, Oleksandr Hruzevych, said. The Ukrainian deputy defence minister, Hanna Malyar, earlier today warned that Russian forces were biding their time as Moscow ramped up intelligence operations there and learned how best to fight Ukrainian troops.

    Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said allies had agreed to strengthen support to Ukraine, and was providing “a wide range” of weapon systems as well as cybersecurity assistance and equipment to protect against chemical and biological threats. There was no sign Vladimir Putin intended to pull back, he added.

    Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, called for more heavy weaponry from its western allies and “ruinous” sanctions against Moscow, warning: “Either you help us now – and I’m speaking about days, not weeks – or your help will come too late, and many people will die.”…

  86. says

    Hromadske:

    Details of the assassination of Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravičius: in early April, the Russian military captured and shot him. His wife risked her life to find his body and bring it back to Lithuania

    In 2016, the director made the film “Mariupolis” about life in the then frontline city and the war in Donbas. After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Mantas Kvedaravičius returned to Mariupol to document the war

    You can watch the Mantas Kvedaravičius’ “Mariupolis” on the Ukrainian streaming platform @Takflix [link at the link]

  87. Akira MacKenzie says

    From Salon:

    Trump claims the “lunatic left” is “mutilating” children — as usual, the media looks away

    He leads a neofascist movement that attempted to nullify the results of 2020 presidential election. Through willful malfeasance, corruption, and negligence, Trump’s regime was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. Trump openly admires Vladimir Putin and other political thugs. He and his allies in the Republican Party yearn for the same kind of power here in America.

    Yet Trump still commands the loyalty of tens of millions of Americans. Even after four years of his ruinous regime, Trump won more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016; Sick societies produce sick leaders.

    […]

    In a democracy, it is supposedly the task of the free press to help the public better understand what is important, and in turn how to respond to it. Throughout the Age of Trump and beyond, the American news media has largely failed in this most basic responsibility: to inform the public about existential threats to democracy. Moreover, it appears very likely that editorial decisions have been made to not issue such warnings in any consistent way.

    In a recent essay at Medium, Wajahat Ali offers this blunt truth: “Fascism will be welcomed and applauded by media institutions as long as it’s profitable, helps with ratings, and grants them access to power.”

    The power of the Trumpist right grows day by day and the media does nothing. The Democrats in Congress do nothing. The DHS and FBI do nothing. Merrick Garland does nothing. Our liberal-anointed lord and savior, Joe Biden, does nothing.

  88. says

    Volodymyr Yermolenko:

    My attempt to understand why Russians hate / dehumanize Ukrainians so much, — which is a way to understand one of the major causes of this war.

    Ukrainian testimonies of meeting with “Russian soldiers” during the occupation are often pointing at Buryats, Bashkirs, Chechens, etc. This is a practical example to understand: Russians is not a nation, but an empire, which collected various ethnicities inside its body

    Its only capacity to exist is to strip all “constituent nations” of their identity and culture, calling them “Russians”. But instead of creating a “melting pot” in which these nations would enrich each other, it created a society in which humans are must forget their roots

    this politics of amnesia transformed people into rootless biological / physical units in whom identity and culture should be erased. This was the nature of the “Soviet people” in the USSR. But “Russian people” is also an imperial construct based upon this forced amnesia

    This can explain why Russians started hating Ukrainians so much: despite several centures of erasing Ukrainian identity and memory, physical extermination (Holodomor etc), Ukrainians miraculously succeeded in building a nation.

    Building a nation means: having a society which has a collective identity and common practices despite all differences; most importantly, which shapes and reshapes its political elites instead of being shaped by them

    compared to Ukrainians, “Russian nation” is still barely existing; thefore key kremlin ideologues are desperately looking for other metaphors to explain what Russia is (“civilization”, “empire”, “Nazi fighters”) but all this only hides a big void: absence of Russian nation

    So Ukrainians are seen as : a) traitors who reject Russian melting pot b) alter ego which succeeded in building an Eastern Slavic nation which Russians failed

    In a way this attitude is comparable to Nazi attitude to Jews (both an “internal” enemy and an alter ego, an “example” of “race purity” for Nazi prop) but with important difference:

    Jews were for Nazis “the Other” which wanted to “be like you”; Ukrainians are for Russians “like us” which now want to be “the Other”. And therefore have to be exterminated as major enemy par excellence (“anti-Russia”)

  89. says

    A few notes from Steve Benen:

    * After Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination, some on the right complained that President Joe Biden should’ve picked the best person for the job, regardless of race or gender. But if the last several weeks have proved anything, it’s that Jackson was the best person for the job, regardless of race or gender. Her intellect, temperament, experience, character, dignity, and grace under fire leaves no doubt that the president made the right call. [I agree.]

    * […] Jackson’s 53-member majority was larger than the majorities that confirmed the last two justices: Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed with 50 votes, while Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed with 52 votes. [good points]

    * Ordinarily, when Vice President Kamala Harris presides over the Senate, she’s there to break a tie. This afternoon, however, the California Democrat presided over the chamber to help reinforce the history: The first Black woman elected to national office in the United States led the Senate as it confirmed the first Black woman to serve as Supreme Court justice.

    * On a related note, it seemed fitting that the 50th vote for Jackson’s confirmation was cast by Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, the pastor of the Rep. Martin Luther King’s church in Atlanta.

    […] * Jackson will not become a justice right away. She’s succeeding Justice Stephen Breyer, who’s still on the bench, and whose retirement will begin once the court’s current term ends over the summer. At that point, Jackson will officially join the nation’s highest court as an associate justice.

    […] Senate Republicans instead came up with transparently foolish excuses to justify their partisan opposition to Jackson, after confirmation hearings in which GOP senators embarrassed themselves, earning widespread public disapproval.

    History will shine a light on what happened today, and it will not be a flattering light for one side of the political divide.

    Link

  90. says

    Mitch McConnell sat for an interview with Jonathan Swan from Axios, and while McConnell offered commentary on everything from the Republican candidates accused of violent conduct toward women (more on that below) and whether he would support Trump again if he were the 2024 nominee (he would), it was what he didn’t say that is the most troubling.

    In short, McConnell refused to say whether Republicans would allow a vote on a potential Supreme Court nomination next year if Republicans regain control of the Senate. Jonathan Swan sounded incredulous at McConnell’s refusal to answer and rightly said it sounded as if McConnell was formulating a plan to obstruct a future nominee during a non-election year. This is as big of a red flashing warning sign as I have ever seen. […]

    Link

    The article is accompanied by a photo of Mitch McConnell surrounded by a lot of fellow politicians. All of them but McConnell are clapping. Many who are applauding are also smiling. McConnell just looks even more dour than usual. Great photo.

    More commentary:

    […] Republicans like Mitch McConnell aren’t even pretending anymore. They have wrestled control of the Supreme Court from the majority and they intend to keep it at all costs. Norms, standards, decency, bipartisanship will all be cast aside if Republicans win again.

    When questioned about Clarence Thomas’s highly questionable ethics, he repeatedly reiterated his “complete confidence” that Justice Thomas would recuse himself if needed. Except, as we all know, he didn’t do that when he had voted against turning over text messages to the January 6th Committee that implicated his wife in the January 6th planning. […]

    I know y’all are tired, but we are going to have to motivate, organize and get out to vote again in November. Are you up for the fight?

  91. says

    Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene continued her clout-chasing ways on Wednesday afternoon with a tweet claiming to have reported comedian Jimmy Kimmel to the Capitol Police for a joke he made on network television.

    “.@ABC, this threat of violence against me by @jimmykimmel has been filed with the @CapitolPolice,” Greene tweeted, along with a video clip of Kimmel talking about her tweet calling the three Republican senators who supported Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court “pro-pedophile.”

    “Wow, where is Will Smith when you really need him,” Kimmel asked in the clip. In response to Greene’s tweet, Kimmel tweeted, “Officer? I would like to report a joke.”

    […] if Greene wants to talk about threats of violence, we can do that.

    Greene recently escaped meaningful rebuke from Republican leaders when she and Rep. Paul Gosar spoke at a white nationalist event. Gosar, one of her main buddies in Congress, lost his committee assignments after he tweeted an edited video showing himself murdering Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden.

    Greene herself lost her committee assignments after a series of revelations about her, including that she had liked other people’s Facebook comments calling for, in one case, “a bullet to the head” for Speaker Nancy Pelosi and in other cases for executing FBI agents. When Greene posted about the Iran deal, a commenter asked about hanging former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to which Greene responded, “Stage is being set. Players are being put in place. We must be patient. This must be done perfectly or liberal judges would let them off.” Those posts were in 2018 and 2019.

    While in Congress, Greene described congressional Democrats as “enemies to the American people” who “will be held accountable.” That’s a lot closer to a threat than, “Where is Will Smith when you need him?”

    Marjorie Taylor Greene embraces violence. She called Jan. 6 a “1776 moment.”

    She’s likely not even a little bit upset about that joke. She’s definitely thrilled by the attention. But fine, if she wants attention focused on threats of violence, let’s be clear about who she is and where the real threats of violence are coming from.

    Link

  92. says

    Ha! Funny stuff. Even if Devin Nunes meant to be serious, this is laugh-inducing:

    [Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo] BARTIROMO: “Joining me right now is the CEO of Trump Media and Technology Group. He is former California congressman Devin Nunes. Devin, it’s great to see you. Thanks very much for being here. What is your reaction to Elon Musk taking a 9% stake in one of your competitors, certainly, Twitter?”

    NUNES: “Well, I think it’s very interesting, because you know, the goal that President Trump has, and what I have, and our team here at Truth Social, is to open the internet back up so that the American people can get their voice back. So it’s clear that Twitter is kind of a ghost town. [LOL] They desperately need Elon Musk to be there so, it’s probably something that Elon wants to do.

    I think he probably believes in free speech like we do, but at the same time there’s not very much activity over at Twitter right now, especially when you compare it to sites like ours where we’re just in our beginning stages as we continue to test and bring people on day by day. Our interactions are already beating Twitter. [LOL LOL LOL] And so Elon’s going to have a lot of work to do there, but we want everybody. We see Truth Social as something like a rising tide that lifts all boats. We want people to get their voice back, and at Truth Social we’re doing that, and it’s working.”

    Link

    Commentary:

    Of course, down here on the reality-based community of Planet Earth, Truth Social is failing hard. It’s like crickets and tumbleweeds got together to create an elite strike force of mutant tumble-crickets that’s swiftly occupying abandoned Jazzercise franchises across the upper Midwest.

    In fact, it sucks so profoundly, even Trump isn’t using it.

  93. KG says

    In fact, it [“Truth Social”] sucks so profoundly, even Trump isn’t using it. – Lynna, OM quoting Daily Kos@109

    To be fair, it would suck even more profoundly if he was!

  94. says

    Another great piece at Meduza – “The clown prince of Russian politics is dead: Remembering Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the man who gave the Kremlin its blueprint for Russian nationalism and abrasive public diplomacy”:

    …Journalist Viktor Khamraev calls Vladimir Zhirinovsky a trendsetter in contemporary Russia politics, noting that his abrasive, pugilistic style is now the blueprint for the Kremlin’s behavior at home and on the world stage. “Fighting, scandals, public rudeness toward your opponents — it’s all become the norm of Russian politics. Everyone today operates like he did. Just look at our diplomats and listen to them. Now they talk exactly like Zhirinovsky,” Khamraev explains. He says he used to believe that such imperialist clownery would essentially “inoculate” Russian society against right-wing views by making it impossible to take this ideology seriously. Khamraev now admits that he was wrong: “It seems it wasn’t a vaccine but some kind of hormone that under Putin started developing in the blood.”

    This, from the introduction, is wonderful:

    In late March, false rumors about his death spread, leading Zhirinovsky’s fellow party members to draft legislation that would criminalize the dissemination of unverified reports about their leader’s demise. They finally submitted the bill to the State Duma on April 5, a day before Zhirinovsky’s actual death.

  95. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    The European Union is proposing a 500m euro military aid package to Ukraine….

    Britain is preparing to announce a fresh package of military aid for Ukraine and has demonstrated new missile systems and armoured vehicles that it believes can help Kyiv in the next phases of fighting….

    Canada has earmarked an additional 1b Canadian dollars in loans and 500m in military aid to Ukraine….

  96. says

    Kevin Rothrock:

    Aboard a train to Samara, somebody attacked Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov with red paint laced with the solvent acetone. “This is for our boys!” the assailant shouted. Muratov’s eyes now burn, he wrote in a statement.

    [photos at the link]

    A group calling itself the “Union of Z Paratroopers” has claimed responsibility for the attack on Dmitry Muratov, calling him a “Judas” and telling him to go back to Washington to his @NYRangers (they don’t know the NHL very well). More attacks are coming.

  97. says

    Bill Browder: “I like that: 100-0 vote for reauthorization of Global Magnitsky. That has a nice ring to it. Thank you @SenatorCardin for your amazing work and tenacity for a full decade on this cause. This is what moral leadership looks like.”

  98. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    The UN general assembly earlier voted to suspend Russia from its leading human rights body over allegations of horrific rights violations by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, which the US and Ukraine say are tantamount to war crimes.

    Speaking after the vote, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Gennady Kuzmin described the move as an “illegitimate and politically motivated step” and said Russia had decided to quit the human rights council altogether.

    “You do not submit your resignation after you are fired,” Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya hit back.

  99. says

    US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield:

    As I told @NationalAction last night, wars men like President Putin start are not fought by them.

    They are not fought by the rich, the powerful, the privileged. They are fought by the young, the poor, the disadvantaged.

    The children of oligarchs somehow never get conscripted. And it’s the civilian women and children and the most vulnerable who end up getting maimed, raped, or killed in the crossfire.

    It’s a pattern I’ve seen my entire career – across continents. It is true in Syria and Burma, and Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Yemen, and in so many other conflicts that we can’t forget about, even as we focus on Ukraine every day.

  100. says

    Followup to comment 87, and to SC @116.

    Prosecutors are considering leveling additional charges at two men who they accuse of impersonating Department of Homeland Security agents, an assistant U.S. attorney said on Thursday.

    Haider Ali, 35, and Arian Taherzadeh, 40, were arrested on Wednesday in a dramatic FBI raid of a D.C. Navy Yard luxury apartment complex on charges of impersonating federal officers.

    At a Thursday court hearing, D.C. federal prosecutor Josh Rothstein told U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey for the District of Columbia that the two needed to be kept behind bars pending trial, saying that FBI agents had discovered a weapons cache during the search.

    The hearings, held sequentially for Taherzadeh and then for Ali, were delayed and interrupted as the public defender assigned to the case spoke with her clients for what appeared to be the first time. […]

    Prosecutors filed the initial charges against the pair on Wednesday, one day after Secret Service agents who were the pair’s alleged targets were suspended. According to an FBI affidavit, the alleged scheme was purportedly uncovered after a March 15 assault on a postal worker at the building, which led postal inspectors to conduct initial interviews with the two defendants.

    The Wednesday search, Rothstein said, uncovered “ballistic vests, body armor, gas masks, tactical law enforcement breaching equipment, zip ties, handcuffs, firearms storage cases for large and small arms,” as well as body cameras and a “drone consistent with what’s used by SWAT teams.”

    The feds, Rothstein said, also found small arms, ammunition, and attachments for a long gun and “sniper spotting equipment.”

    Taherzadeh and Ali were accused in an FBI affidavit on Wednesday of trying to “ingratiate” themselves with a number of Secret Service agents who lived in the Navy Yard complex, giving agents gifts while themselves posing as members of the Department of Homeland Security. […]

    Rothstein also claimed that Ali’s passport showed visas and border stamps for Pakistan and Iran in 2019 and early 2020, before the pair rented the apartments in February 2020.

    The two moved into the building just as it was first opening up for rentals. Rothstein said that, having rented five units in the complex, the two set about trying to “infiltrate” law enforcement and defense networks, speaking with neighbors who worked for the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security.

    During the Wednesday search of the duo’s apartments, agents purportedly found a “binder with a list of every resident in their apartment complex,” which included law enforcement members. The pair also had documents labeled “law enforcement sensitive,” Rothstein said. […]

    Link

    Lots of cash was distributed by the two pretenders … so much cash, and so many expensive “gifts” that it is beginning to look like the two doofuses may have been funded by a foreign government.

  101. says

    Followup to comment 123.

    Posted by readers of the article:

    It’s Foreign Intelligence Service stuff, only question will be exactly which one. […] And standard espionage, just trying to get military and government secrets for the bosses.

    What it’s not going to turn out to be is that two dudes rented 5 apartments in D.C. and just for funsies went around dropping dollars like that.
    —————-
    The Pakistan connection is what one of the defendants told a witness, and also may have been a stamp on a passport. What foreign agent would reveal his true nationality like that? It is firmly established that these two are liars. And a passport stamp from a foreign country is obtained just by visiting that country. Same as for Iran. It would be standard cover for a foreign agent to have confusing information on his passport, even assuming the passport is real.
    ———————
    One more detail from the affidavit supporting the criminal charge. On page 6 paragraph 9 “The USPIS inspector then interviewed TAHERZADEH and ALI. Both individuals also self-identified as investigators with the U.S. Special Police Investigation Unit (USSP). ALI identified the USSP as part of DHS.” In fact on page 16 paragraphs 64 USSP is revealed to be a private security company headquartered in DC with TAHERZADEH as the owner. Nothing to do with DHS. So what else has this company been doing and when was it incorporated?
    ———————
    Secret Service agents assigned to protect first lady Jill Biden and the White House were duped by men impersonating federal agents, court records say.

  102. KG says

    SC@113,
    Thanks for that link! Johnson has been ungrammatically called (I can’t recall by whom) “Britain Trump”. It seems Trump is actually “America Zhirinovsky”. And if he stands in 2024, he has the opportunity to emulate his model by losing a third presidential election!

  103. says

    New episode of Why Is This Happening? – YT link – interview with Timothy Snyder:

    This week, we’re bringing you a vital history lesson that might not have made it into your high school textbooks. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in its second month, Yale historian Timothy Snyder joins to share much-needed context that often gets overlooked in coverage of the war. Hear the complicated legacy of the Nazi charges from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, how Ukrainians came to think of themselves as a nation, and whether Timothy Snyder thinks this is a war that can be won.

  104. says

    In the Guardian:

    “Get ready for a scary fortnight in French politics: a Le Pen presidency really is possible”:

    The French election is straying from the script. It was meant to be a predictable remake. It has turned into a thriller. It could end up as a horror story….

    Yesterday’s podcast – “Can Emmanuel Macron hold off France’s far-right surge?”:

    Emmanuel Macron heads into this weekend’s first round of voting in the French election leading in the opinion polls. But in a speech at a recent rally he warned his supporters that there is growing support for the far right in France that can’t be ignored.

    The Guardian’s Paris correspondent, Angelique Chrisafis, tells Michael Safi that while Macron is still favourite to win a second term, the boost his campaign got from his handling of the war in Ukraine has subsided and his closest challenger Marine Le Pen of the far right National Rally, is pushing him hard on the issue of living standards. Macron may have presided over a drop in unemployment in his first term, but he’s still seen by many as a ‘president of the rich’.

    “Pakistan court orders Imran Khan confidence vote to go ahead”:

    Pakistan’s supreme court has dealt a devastating blow to the prime minister, Imran Khan, by ruling that he acted unconstitutionally in dissolving parliament prior to a confidence vote he was expected to lose, and ordering the vote to go ahead this weekend.

    In the conclusion to a hearing that has gripped Pakistan for the past four days, the chief justice of Pakistan, Umar Ata Bandial, said Khan had violated the law in his attempt to stop the vote, which was widely expected to oust him.

    The verdict said Khan was wrong to instruct the deputy speaker of the house, a close ally, to suspend the vote and wrong to ask the president to dissolve parliament on Sunday morning.

    The bench of five judges ordered that a session of the national assembly be held on Saturday to allow for the confidence vote to go ahead. No member of the parliament will be restricted from voting….

    “Kyoto spring: the finest Japanese and world photography – in pictures”:

    Alongside its famous cherry blossom, the city hosts an annual photography festival, Kyotographie, now in its 10th year. From a thermally imaged bear to a sacred tree, here’s a taste of what’s on offer, including many images from a show of work by contemporary Japanese women…

  105. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog. From there:

    Slovakia has given its S-300 air defence system to Ukraine to help it defend against Russia’s aggression, the Slovak prime minister, Eduard Heger, confirmed today, AFP reports….

    They link to this longer article by Luke Harding – “‘Evil that has no limits’: Zelenskiy condemns Kramatorsk station attack”:

    The Kremlin has been accused of carrying out a “monstrous” war crime after a Russian ballistic missile hit a crowded train station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, killing at least 39 people including four children. [The death toll has now risen to more than 50.]

    The powerful Tochka-U rocket landed outside the main station building where 4,000 people were waiting to be evacuated on Friday. The authorities had urged residents to leave the region before a major Russian military assault expected from next week.

    At least 87 people were wounded in the strike, Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donetsk oblast, said. Many lost arms and legs. Surgeons at the city hospital were struggling to cope, with numerous victims in a critical condition, he added.

    Kyrylenko said Russia’s goal was to “sow panic and fear” and to kill as many civilians as possible. “They knew very well where they were aiming,” he said. Ukraine’s foreign minister accused Moscow of “murderous deliberate slaughter”. “We will bring each war criminal to justice,” he said.

    Some initial reports on Russia state media said the missile had hit a military transport target. Subsequently Moscow denied responsibility for the strike, which it blamed on Ukrainian forces.

    The attack happened as Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, and her deputy Josep Borrell, travelled on Ukrainian railways to Kyiv. Borrell said he “strongly condemned” Russia’s “indiscriminate” actions, “which killed dozens of people and left many more wounded”.

    “This is yet another attempt to close escape routes for those fleeing this unjustified war and cause human suffering,” he tweeted.

  106. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Kramatorsk rail strike was a ‘crime against humanity’, prosecutor general says

    Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, said a deadly missile strike on a rail station packed with evacuees in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk was a “crime against humanity”, Reuters reports.

    Venediktova said a pre-trial investigation has been launched into the Kramatorsk station attack.

  107. says

    More re #128:

    JUST IN: The US will reposition one Patriot missile system in Slovakia to backfill the Russian-made S-300 air defenses sent to Ukraine today, SecDef Lloyd Austin said.

    The US battery in Slovakia will be manned by US troops. The US has Aegis Ashore in Romania and soon in Poland.

    Austin on the Patriot deployment: “Their deployment length has not yet been fixed, as we continue to consult with the Slovakian government about more permanent air defense solutions.”

  108. says

    Ukraine update: ‘This is an evil that has no limits’

    On Thursday evening, Ukrainian officials announced that, in anticipation of major battle in the area, they were evacuating a broad swatch of eastern Ukraine. Residents in a number of cities and towns were urged to show up at bus stops and train stations. From there, they would be taken out of the conflict zone and delivered to Kyiv or other locations where they would be safe.

    On Friday morning, Russia bombed the train stations in at least four locations. […] people, gathered with a handful of their belongings, seeking to escape the invasion, were killed on the station platform at Kramatorsk. How many have died in other locations is still unknown.

    Informed of this latest tragedy, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy replied in a way that captured the whole nature of the last 43 days of this invasion: “Lacking the strength and courage to stand up to us on the battlefield,” said Zelenskyy, “they are cynically destroying the civilian population. This is an evil that has no limits.”

    It was Ian Fleming’s arch-villain Auric Goldfinger who uttered one of the most memorable lines in fiction, “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.” When it comes to missiles and bombs directed at civilian targets, Russia is far past those bounds. What they’re doing is something that goes beyond even the terrible label of war crime. It is war crimes as a strategy. It blows past depraved indifference into the realm of cold and calculated malevolence.

    While the bombing of the maternity hospital in Mariupol might have been the most visible instance, there are multiple towns and cities where Russia has bombed or shelled every hospital and medical facility. They’ve fired missiles directly into schools and kindergartens. They’ve targeted water plants and electrical supplies. As Russia has done in so many places before, they relentlessly targeted civilian homes. Perhaps most odious of all, they deliberately sought out locations marked as shelters, those places where frightened people huddled together when the air raid sirens sounded, and struck those locations with bombs and missiles.

    […] This is directed artillery fire and precision-guided munitions that have been deliberately targeted to cause the most pain, the most death, the most ongoing harm, to civilians. It’s a strategy to deprive people of their homes, of their health, and where if fails to take away their lives, of anything that might make those lives tolerable. What makes it far more terrible is that if Russian forces were actually seeking to limit their strikes to military targets, and to hit civilian areas only when they were intermingled with military equipment, they could. The Russian military didn’t just choose not to do that, they chose to do the opposite. They chose to preferentially attack civilians and civilian infrastructure.

    It is a malignant strategy. A despicable strategy. One for which sufficiently vile adjectives do not exist. It’s little wonder Russian soldiers are engaged in horrendous crimes as individuals when their leadership is showing them that causing pain and suffering is the goal.

    Yes, it’s war. Terrible things happen in war. Etc. Etc. That doesn’t make Russia’s actions any more tolerable or acceptable. What is clear is that any end to this invasion that doesn’t see the Russian military and civilian leadership, as a whole and as individuals, answering for these crimes, is unacceptable.

  109. says

    Daily Beast – “Russian Troops Brag They Bombed Fleeing Families at Train Station”:

    A few minutes before it became clear that women, children and elderly people were among the at least 39 dead and nearly 100 known to be injured when a missile struck the Kramatorsk train station in eastern Ukraine, Russian soldiers were bragging about the hit on Telegram.

    The missile struck the main evacuation center in the area and seemed to herald the beginning of an intensified offensive that Russia warned was coming.

    Minutes later, the messages, which included claims to have successfully obliterated “a crowd of Ukrainian militants at the Kramatorsk railway station,” were edited or disappeared altogether, according to several accounts by journalists in the region.

    Journalists who had visited the train station in recent days documented hundreds of people crowded onto platforms waiting to evacuate. The local governor said there were as many as 4,000 people waiting to evacuate when rockets struck the building….

    Tetiana Ihnatchenko, spokesperson for the Donetsk regional administration, told CNN that the Russian military knew the station would be full of civilians. “[Evacuations] have been going on since February 26, and the Russians knew that thousands of people are there every day,” she said. “I believe that’s what they were counting on.”…

  110. says

    To date, at least 18 journalists have been verified as killed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Several others are missing or injured. There is evidence that reporters have been specifically targeted.

    Posted by Mark Sumner, April 8 – 7:47:43 AM

  111. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Russian forces abandoned “a lot” of tanks, vehicles, and artillery in a “hasty” withdrawal from northern Ukraine that may be a sign of a “collapse of the will to fight”, according to a western official, PA news agency reports.

    The western official confirmed that there are no longer Russian units in northern Ukraine, adding:

    It has been a pretty hasty withdrawal by Russian forces and there’s a lot of Russian equipment which has been abandoned in that hasty withdrawal and that’s only going to exacerbate the challenge they have in terms of the refurbishment and reconstitution of their forces as they remove them both into Belarus and into Russia.

    They added:

    Some of it’s kind of unclear as to why it’s been abandoned because you might have thought there is some of these vehicles are still usable and you think they would have been able to take and I think there’s something around the collapse of morale and the collapse of the will to fight.

  112. says

    132 bodies of people shot dead were found in Makariv, a small town about twenty miles directly west of Kyiv and ten miles south of Borodyanka.

    Details and an image were posted by Mark Sumner. 7:59:29 AM.
    Link. Scroll down at the link to view the post. The image shows destruction, and does not show dead bodies.

  113. says

    Well that’s going to discourage investment in Russia for a long time:

    A draft law on the nationalization of the property of “unfriendly countries” without payment of compensation was submitted to the State Duma.

  114. says

    The rejoicing for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson continues

    Good history was made in Washington, D.C., on April 7, 2022. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson became Justice-designate Ketanji Brown Jackson, ready to take a seat on the highest court in the land when the new term begins in October. In the 233-year history of the Supreme Court, there have been 115 Justices, and 108 of them have been white men. In 1967, one barrier was broken with Thurgood Marshall’s confirmation. It took another 14 years for a woman, Sandra Day O’Connor to reach the bench. It took another 41 years for a Black woman to get there. Forty. One.

    Which is just part of why the joy of this day is irrepressible […]

    “Today is a day of healing for a lot of people. Today is a day of triumph for a lot of folks. And it’s definitely a day of celebration to see this glass ceiling shattered in what is a Jackie Robinson moment for America,” Booker said. […]

    See also: https://twitter.com/CoryBooker/status/1512232995486416896

    From Stacey Abrams:

    Anchored by intellectual rigor, compassion and fortitude, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson joins the U.S. Supreme Court and the annals of history. We are grateful for service that brought her here and the work yet to come. Congratulations, America!

    https://twitter.com/staceyabrams/status/1512148272227438593

  115. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    121,000 children ‘forcibly deported’ to Russia, Ukraine’s rights commissioner says

    Russian troops have “forcibly deported” more than 600,000 Ukrainians, including about 121,000 children, to Russia, Ukraine’s human rights commissioner, Lyudmila Denysova, said.

    In a statement posted on Facebook, Denysova said residents of the temporarily occupied city of Izyum in the Kharkiv region are being forcibly moved to Russia.

    Denysova said:

    This is not the first time Russian troops have used such tactics. After bringing the city to a critical situation, the enemy offers a conditional corridor to Russia, ostensibly to save people, leaving people no choice.

    Currently, Russian media report that they have deported 615,000 people from Ukraine, including 121,000 children.

    Russia to close Amnesty, Human Rights Watch offices

    Russia’s justice ministry has revoked the registration of 15 foreign organisations, including those of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Reuters reports.

    In a statement, the ministry said the Russian units of the organisations, which also included the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “were excluded due to the discovery of violations of the current legislation of the Russian Federation”.

  116. says

    Kyiv Independent:

    UK to send ‘Mastiff’ armored vehicles to Ukraine.

    The U.K. will be sending an unspecified number of Mastiff heavily armored vehicles to Ukraine, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed on April 8.

    British troops will head to a country neighboring Ukraine to provide training.

  117. says

    Ukraine update: It’s not as simple as ‘give Ukraine the most modern weapons’

    The war news lately has become one endless civilian massacre after another, so I take solace in focusing on the military side of the story. It’s not that I want to ignore or gloss over war crimes, it’s that it’s deeply triggering to me. Remember, I came to the United States as a war refugee. I’ve lived the life of a child noncombatant in the midst of armed conflict. And my personal experience was nowhere near as horrible as that of many people, either in El Salvador in the late 70s and 80s or in Ukraine today. It’s too much.

    Civilians always bear the brunt of war. Always.

    The reaction on social media always turns to “we need to give Ukraine everything they request, give them all the weapons!” The sentiment is understandable. We are mostly helpless, sitting on the sidelines of unspeakable horror. And it’s certainly understandable for Ukrainians to ask for it all. They are the ones doing the dying as the rest of the world is paralyzed by Russia’s nuclear weapons.

    But each news of fresh massacres changes the equation slightly, erodes constraints. NATO armor and artillery were once off-limits to Ukraine. Today, Czech armor is already in Ukrainian hands, and more is on the way from several countries. Slovakia sent Soviet-era air defenses that logistically fit into Ukraine’s current stock. The U.K. has sent advanced air defense systems, and artillery is on tap. Several countries are sending armored personnel carriers. The U.S. is sending switchblade suicide drones, which truth be told, feels more escalatory than anything, given their ability to strike deep behind Russian lines and their overall nastiness. Those switchblades will soon be the most effective killers on that battlefield.

    When the West began its first tentative shipment to Ukraine, Russia threatened retaliation. Before the war, it even made vague nuclear threats if anyone intervened. Today, Russia is rendered mostly mute. The war isn’t over, but it already has been defanged. When Finland first began discussing NATO membership, Putin spokesman’s thundered, “It is obvious that [if] Finland and Sweden join NATO, which is a military organization to begin with, there will be serious military and political consequences.” Yesterday, after news that Finland was moving forward with an application, the Kremlin’s response was sad and pathetic: “We’ll have to rebalance the situation. We’ll have to make our Western flank more sophisticated in terms of ensuring our security.”

    As for Ukraine’s new goodies from the West? Russia is essentially mute. And the floodgates have opened. NATO’s Eastern Bloc nations are all moving from Soviet-era equipment to NATO standard gear. Why waste the money to keep old equipment in deep storage? And NATO’s Western flank, including the United States, has entire armies worth of old equipment (like American humvees) being replaced by newer gear. Expect more and more of it to make its way to Ukrainian hands.

    Still, that doesn’t mean everything. Mark Hertling, former commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe discusses some of those logistical challenges in this thread. [One tweet in the thread, and a link, is available at the main link, and I have added an extended excerpt below.]

    Let me start with the M1Abrams tank (since I’m a tanker).
    It’s a great piece of kit. In my view the best in the world.
    And UKR tankers could spin up within a few days on that system.

    But here are some details:
    -It has a 1500HP turbine engine, so it needs fuel similar to jet fuel.
    -It gets 3 gallons/mile (not 3 mpg)…& it uses same amount of fuel even when idling
    -the fire control systems is advanced technology, which needs a separate turret mechanic

    A US tanker goes through weeks of training; a turret mechanic needs months
    -The M1 has a “track” (or hull) mechanic who repairs the automotive system…he/she also needs months of training
    -All tanks “break” in combat, & tankers try to “fix” their tanks…that’s not good

    If not treated right, the engines & transmissions “blow” easily (& that’s expensive).
    -It requires a lot of spare parts (what the army calls PLL or Prescribed Load List), & many fuel trucks […]

    During this war, there’s been calls for the US to give UKR more _____________ (fill in the blank with M1 Abrams tanks, Patriot Missile Systems, F16s, A10s, etc).

    Those calls often come from politicians, reporters, or those with little knowledge of weapons.

    I’m all for giving UKR the systems they need (and want), if those help the war effort.

    But there are many factors that go into the decision to provide arms beyond “this would be a game changer!”

    When giving or selling arms to other nations, there are considerations:
    1. Can the Army operate the system now (level of competence of the operator) and if not how much training would be needed?
    2. Can the Army support the system (an assessment of logistics requirement, e.g., parts and fuel), and is there the ability to repair/sustain?
    3. Will the new weapon system contribute to either short-term or long-term success on the battlefield?
    […] When a nation needs arms in the middle of a war, even more criteria are applied.

    Looking it up, an M1 Abrams tank mechanic goes to school for six months to learn to maintain it. Then, he or she goes to their unit, where they spend several years learning the craft under the watchful eye and guidance of non-commissioned officers with 10 to 20 years of experience. (We previously talked about why noncommissioned officers are so incredibly important.)

    The training on those systems is long, and that’s just the baseline! Think of what you learned in college or trade school, and what you learned at your subsequent jobs. Full training is ongoing and takes years to master. And that’s on a $3 million tank! As Hertling puts it, “The T72 is an old Chevy; the M1 is a Ferrari.” One is easy to maintain; the other is a nightmare without proper training and equipment. In fact, the M1 is so complex, that it needs several different kinds of maintenance personnel to keep one running. And as Hertling notes, if you do it wrong, the tank’s engine and transmission can blow.

    Let’s look at the Patriot missile defense system, which sure would come in handy in Ukraine. […]

    With launchers and radar (all of which would be a new Russian military priority to destroy) 60 missiles would cost $10 billion, or an initial startup cost of $33 million per missile. And once they’re launched, that’s it. A T-72 costs $500,000 to 1.5 million per copy. An M1 costs $2.5 to 9 million, all depending on how it’s kitted out. Ukraine, in total, has received a little over $2 billion in U.S. military aid.

    Financially, Ukraine could outfit entire tank regiments for the cost of a Patriot system. But let’s say, “Give Ukraine anything it wants, regardless the cost!” The world doesn’t work that way, but sure, let’s make that assumption.

    A Patriot operator undergoes 20 weeks of training. Once again, that’s just the baseline. Soldiers then go to their units and spend years, if not decades, perfecting their craft. But as always, pressing the button to fire is the relatively easy part. It’s maintaining the equipment that is the real challenge. A Patriot system repairer has a 53-week advanced training. That’s a full year! And I keep repeating this because it’s true—that’s the baseline. That’s just good enough to get placed in a line unit where NCOs with 10 to 20 years of experience continue the training.

    It would be literally impossible for Ukraine to operate and maintain this level of complex hardware anytime within the next year, absent a “foreign legion” of experienced Patriot operators and maintainers to run the systems. I’ll assume that’s not a realistic option.

    Now imagine the maintenance requirements for aircraft. […]

    The U.S. alone has sent 45,000 sets of body armor and helmets.

    As for going on the offensive: armor, artillery, and Switchblade killer drones are the name of the game, and that’s exactly what’s starting to flood into Ukraine. Will Ukraine ask for more? Of course. Why not? They even asked Germany for submarines, which is laughably absurd. But Ukraine would be in a different place without the flood of Western armaments that have delivered exactly what Ukraine needed to turn the tide of the war.

  118. says

    Francis Scarr, BBC:

    Last night Russian state TV got as close as I’ve seen it get to that horrifying article published by RIA Novosti

    I’ve added some subtitles (I hope you’ll excuse my rushed job)

    The first man speaking is a pro-Kremlin former Ukrainian MP. The second is presenter Vladimir Solovyov…

    Video clip at the link.

  119. KG says

    SC@126,
    An insightfull interview, but one thing Snyder elides is the continuing lionization of Stepan Bandera by many Ukranians – primarily in the west. Bandera was a terrorist, a racist, a Nazi collaborator, and an unrepentant fascist up to his death (he was assassinated by the KGB). It doesn’t mean those Ukranians with a positive view of him are themselves those things, many if not most nationalisms have comparably unpleasant featrures, and of course it in no way justifies the Russian invasion, but it should be faced squarely by analysts such as Snyder as a troubling aspect of Ukranian political culture.

  120. blf says

    Lynna@144, Yes it is. By pure coincidence I was watching it about the time of your comment. I believe that’s the longest Hannity — and hair furor — blathering I’ve ever(! (really!)) listened to. Is there a word for laughing when steam is coming out of your ears?

  121. blf says

    Al Jazeera has an interview with Alexey Kovalyov, Meduza editor: “Russia’s state media is terrifyingly effective”. Some snippets:

    Q. How would you characterise Russia’s media scene, and how has it changed?
    A. The short answer would be that apart from state propaganda, there is no media landscape in Russia. There are just a couple of very small, independent media outlets that are not yet blocked by the censor ministry, and we’re not even talking about the national ones.

    Soon enough, maybe in a couple of weeks, there won’t be a single local news website that is not blocked […]

    This has been building up for, I’d say about 10 years, since 2012[. …] I think 150, maybe close to 200 journalists left Russia fearing extreme persecution, and I’m one of them.

    Q. There was a wave of resignations from state-run TV channels after the war began. What does this tell us? And what happens to them after they resign?
    A. We can look at what happened in Belarus in 2020 when most self-respecting professionals also quit from the Belarusian state propaganda. This didn’t cause it to implode because they hired straight from the bottom of the barrel. There were still people out there willing to do this dirty job for an amount of money.

    I guess the same thing will happen to Russian state propaganda because now it’s already starting to look a lot less professional and slick than it used to be […]

    Q. What do you think of the global media’s coverage, outside Russia?
    A. What I’m seeing is pretty solid stuff. The reporters who are on the ground, risking their lives, are doing a very decent job.

    Q. Do you agree with other countries shutting off Russian state TV, such as RT? Could it be argued that it’s counterproductive, that Western audiences might want to see what the Russian state line is?
    A. If you want to see what the Russian state line is, you really just need to go on the Russian foreign ministry’s website and see their latest statement or press briefing, because RT’s coverage does not deviate an inch.

    Q. Might the pressure on the press ease after the war, or do you fear it will become more repressive?
    A. What war? (laughs) No, if anything it will become even more repressive because we are[Putin is] losing this war, and the state media will scramble to work around whatever Putin’s cooked up.

  122. says

    SC @148, I’m pleased to see that they added Tank the dog.

    blf @147, I don’t know, but there should be. Vaporizing laughter, laughter bubbling with anger, blowing off laughter, fuck-me laughter, pressurized joy/pain, contempt laughing, laughingshocks.

    In other news, A Short Tour of the Very Radioactive Russian Campground at Chernobyl

    The other night, I wrote about the Russian soldiers suffering from acute radiation sickness after camping in perhaps the most radioactive place in the world; Russian Soldiers Sickened by Chernobyl Waste. I wrote it because I was shocked that soldiers would be ordered to camp, even dig trenches, in the very area where the worst of Chernobyl’s radioactive waste was buried, the Red Forest.

    The Russians have since completely withdrawn from the area.

    It seems that one man has already died from his exposure to radiation at Chernobyl.
    https://twitter.com/MrKovalenko/status/1510785360430833671

    The Ukraine intelligence reports about confirmed death of the first russian Armysoldieer from Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS) and 73 more soldiers in a severe condition suffering from this illness. They were camping in the Red Forest near Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

    I found this and thought you all might want to see [Ukrainian tour of the Russian trenches is available as a video at the link.]

    Here’s something to remember: nearly the entire* world knows of Chernobyl. We fear it, and consider it one of, if not the most, dramatic failing of the Soviet Union.

    *But Russian soldiers didn’t. For the 20-so years of their lives no mention or remark of its significance.

    [Radiation meter reading showing the equivalent of about 3-4 chest x-rays per hour.]

    […] Putin’s adventure in Ukraine continues to be full of unimaginable horrors for the Ukrainian people. But the Chernobyl chapter is one avoidable horror Russia inflicted on its own.

  123. says

    From my link @ #116:

    Taherzadeh and Ali’s alleged ruse was uncovered when a US Postal Inspector started investigating an alleged assault of a USPS letter carrier in an apartment complex where the two men allegedly had multiple units, according to court documents. The inspector interviewed the men as potential witnesses of the assault, and they identified themselves as investigators with the US Special Police investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol as well as gang activity, the documents said.

    Was the alleged assault of the letter carrier just a coincidence that led to their capture but had nothing to do with them? Were they actually involved with it? What became of that case? It’s so unusual.

  124. says

    As the select committee investigating Jan. 6 secured criminal contempt referrals against two top Trump aides this week, the panel’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, meted out a drubbing to Republicans who were and continue to be complicit in Donald Trump’s 2020 election-stealing scheme.

    […] Cheney directly impugned her GOP colleagues, starting with Trump and his aides, former Assistant to the President Peter Navarro and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Dan Scavino.

    “Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Scavino nor Mr. Navarro is some form of royalty,” Cheney said in her House floor speech preceding the final vote. “There is no such thing in America as the privileges of the crown. Every citizen has a duty to comply with a subpoena.” Cheney also made the point this week that the Jan. 6 panel would have much preferred to interview the two men rather than hold them in contempt of Congress.

    Here’s a glimpse of Cheney’s work at a series of House hearings and votes this week.

    Donald Trump

    Cheney informed the public that Trump knew his actions were illegal and would likely lead to violence.

    “We have learned that President Trump and his team were warned in advance and repeatedly that the efforts they undertook to overturn the 2020 election would violate the law and our Constitution,” she said. “They were warned that Jan. 6 could and likely would turn violent.”

    The Jan. 6 committee also released a Jan. 3 text written to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows implicating Trump in a pre-certification planning call. […]

    Mr. Scavino worked directly with President Trump to spread President Trump’s false message that the election was stolen and to recruit Americans to come to Washington with the false premise that January 6th would be an opportunity to “take back their country.”

    This effort to deceive was widely effective and widely destructive. The Committee has many questions for Mr. Scavino about his political social media work for President Trump, including his interactions with an online forum called “The Donald” and with QAnon, a bizarre and dangerous cult.

    […]

    Mr. Navarro will also be a key witness. He has written a book boasting about his role in planning and coordinating the activity of January 6th, and yet, as the Chairman noted, he does not have the courage to testify here.

    We have many questions for Mr. Navarro—including about his communications with Roger Stone and Steve Bannon regarding the planning for January 6th. As a federal judge concluded last week: ‘Based on the evidence, the court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021.

    […] [Cheney said,] “It feels sad, and it feels tragic that so many in my own party are refusing to address the constitutional crisis and the challenge that we face.”

    Link

  125. says

    Why is Trump lumping himself in with notorious criminals?

    It’s one thing when Donald Trump’s critics equate his alleged misconduct with infamous criminals; it’s something else when he does this to himself.

    In 2018, as Donald Trump’s Russia scandal continued to make headlines, the then-president started facing unexpected legal troubles. Indeed, over the course of a single week, [Trump’s] former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, convicted of multiple felonies, and Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, directly implicated the then-president while pleading guilty to a variety of criminal charges.

    […] Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, a prominent Trump defender, suggested the allegations raised by Cohen were less important because they were unrelated to the dominant Trump scandals of the day. “It’s the Al Capone approach,” Dershowitz argued. “If we can’t get him on the grounds that we’d really want him on, let’s go after him on taxes, let’s go after him on business.”

    This was an odd argument for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the suggestion that the public should see Trump as some kind of equivalent to an organized-crime giant — but in a good way.

    Nearly three years later, the former president is doing something awfully similar. This, for example, was the written statement Trump issued late yesterday:

    “Never before has this happened to another President, and it is an absolute violation of my civil rights…. I’ve been investigated by the Democrats more than Billy the Kid, Jesse James, and Al Capone, combined.”

    In context, the Republican was whining about a series of legal setbacks this week, including developments in the civil investigation launched by New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office.

    It’s apparently led the scandal-plagued former president to believe he’s some kind of victim because a variety of law enforcement offices are examining his alleged wrongdoing.

    But it’s Trump’s comparison that stands out: [He] apparently thought it’d be a good idea to issue a written statement in which he lumped himself in with a murderer, a notorious bank robber, and one of the most powerful organized crime figures in American history.

  126. says

    Summarized from Politico:

    Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign manager who ended up in prison before the former president pardoned him, will reportedly be the featured guest at a “Truth & Freedom Dinner” tonight in southwest Florida. The event will be hosted by the Patriots for Florida Club.

    That’s the same Paul Manafort that Putin brought in to Ukraine as an expert on destroying democracies around the world. Putin paid Manafort to create chaos, break agreements with the West, and ink deals that bound Kyiv and Moscow. That included destroying deals that were easing Ukraine toward both the EU and NATO.

    See comment 84.

  127. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    A clip from earlier today of Maria Zakharova, Russia’s director of information and press department for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has gone viral for some bizarre comments she made about Ukrainians and borscht.

    “They wouldn’t share the borscht recipe. … It had to belong to one people, to one nationality,” Zakharova, referring to the beet soup. “They couldn’t bear the thought that every… housewife in the world would be able to cook it her way. This is what we are talking about. The xenophobia, the fascism, the extremism…”

    People were sharing the video on Twitter this morning. Several people suggested she seemed drunk, and some others replied that she’s often drunk. I have no idea whether the latter is true, and couldn’t really form an opinion about this occasion from the clip – since I don’t know the language, I can’t tell if her speech is off. The content is certainly bizarre!

  128. says

    CNN – “CNN Exclusive: ‘We control them all’: Donald Trump Jr. texted Meadows ideas for overturning 2020 election before it was called”:

    Two days after the 2020 presidential election, as votes were still being tallied, Donald Trump’s eldest son texted then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that “we have operational control” to ensure his father would get a second term, with Republican majorities in the US Senate and swing state legislatures, CNN has learned.

    In the text, which has not been previously reported, Donald Trump Jr. lays out ideas for keeping his father in power by subverting the Electoral College process, according to the message reviewed by CNN. The text is among records obtained by the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021.

    “It’s very simple,” Trump Jr. texted to Meadows on November 5, adding later in the same missive: “We have multiple paths We control them all.”

    In a statement to CNN, Trump Jr.’s lawyer Alan S. Futerfas said, “After the election, Don received numerous messages from supporters and others. Given the date, this message likely originated from someone else and was forwarded.”

    The November 5 text message outlines a strategy that is nearly identical to what allies of the former President attempted to carry out in the months that followed. Trump Jr. makes specific reference to filing lawsuits and advocating recounts to prevent certain swing states from certifying their results, as well as having a handful of Republican state houses put forward slates of fake “Trump electors.”

    If all that failed, according to the Trump Jr. text, GOP lawmakers in Congress could simply vote to reinstall Trump as President on January 6.

    “We have operational control Total leverage,” the message reads. “Moral High Ground POTUS must start 2nd term now.”

    The text from Trump Jr. is revealing on a number of levels. It shows how those closest to the former President were already exchanging ideas for how to overturn the election months before the January 6 insurrection — and before all the votes were even counted. It would be another two days before major news outlets declared Joe Biden the winner on November 7.

    The text also adds to a growing body of evidence of how Trump’s inner circle was actively engaged in discussing how to challenge the election results.

    Trump Jr. also texts Meadows that Congress could intervene on January 6 and overturn the will of voters if, for some reason, they were unable to secure enough electoral votes to tip the outcome in Trump’s favor using the state-based strategy.

    That option, according to Trump Jr.’s text, involves a scenario where neither Biden nor Trump have enough electoral votes to be declared a winner, prompting the House of Representatives to vote by state party delegation, with each state getting one vote.

    “Republicans control 28 states Democrats 22 states,” Trump Jr. texts. “Once again Trump wins.”

    “We either have a vote WE control and WE win OR it gets kicked to Congress 6 January 2021,” he texts Meadows.

    Trump Jr. ends his November 5 text by calling for a litany of personnel moves to solidify his father’s control over the government by putting loyalists in key jobs and initiate investigations into the Biden family.

    “Fire Wray; Fire Fauci,” he texts, referring to FBI Director Christopher Wray and White House coronavirus adviser Anthony Fauci. Trump Jr. then proposes making former acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell interim head of the FBI and having then-Attorney General Bill Barr “select Special prosecutor on HardDrivefromHell Biden crime family.”

    As Trump refused to concede in the days and weeks after the 2020 election, rumors swirled that he was still considering firing Wray, along with several other top officials with whom he had grown frustrated.

    While Wray remains in his post and Barr resigned in mid-December 2020 without naming a special prosecutor to investigate the Bidens, Trump Jr.’s text underscores just how precarious the situation at DOJ was in the immediate aftermath of the election….

    More at the link.

  129. says

    Sarah N. Lynch, Reuters:

    Good afternoon from Judge Harvey’s (virtual) court room where Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 35 are having a detention hearing, after they were accused of impersonating federal law enforcement agents

    The prosecutor tells the judge that the facts are getting “worse and worse” as more evidence is collected against them…

    Much more at the link.

  130. says

    WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Minutes after Kentanji Brown Jackson was confirmed to the United States Supreme Court, Senator Ted Cruz warned that the confirmation of a qualified nominee set “a dangerous precedent.”

    “Make no mistake, Judge Jackson has been confirmed for the flimsiest of reasons—that she is qualified,” Cruz said. “Now that one qualified nominee has been confirmed, we can expect more of the same.”

    “Mark my words, Joe Biden and his cabal of Democratic cronies are ready to pack the Court with other qualified nominees,” he added. “The slippery slope started today.”

    Recalling confirmation hearings of yesteryear, Cruz waxed nostalgic for an era “before the tyranny of the qualified seized control.”

    “There was a time in America when a Supreme Court nominee could be confirmed because he liked beer and cried about calendars,” he said. “Those days, sadly, appear to be over.”

    New Yorker link

  131. says

    Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, rhetorically teed off on Sen. Josh Hawley on Thursday, delivering a ferocious condemnation over the Missouri Republican’s refusal to confirm President Joe Biden’s Defense Department nominees.

    Hawley, who infamously raised a fist in solidarity with the horde that gathered outside the U.S. Capitol before the Jan. 6 riot, has vowed to block all state and Pentagon nominees unless Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin resign.

    His reason? Hawley claims he’s doing this because Americans died as the Biden administration executed its military withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, and he says the administration isn’t giving Ukraine enough military support.

    Those claims obviously strain credulity. Hawley doesn’t seem to care about defending the U.S. or Ukraine. If he did, he wouldn’t have supported the plot to overthrow the 2020 election or egged on Jan. 6 rallygoers. And if he cared about protecting Ukraine, he wouldn’t have voted to acquit then-President Donald Trump, who withheld military aid to Ukraine in an effort to get the country’s president to dig up dirt on Biden.

    Watch below as Schatz flames Hawley for his hypocrisy: [video available at the link]

    Link

  132. blf says

    Somehow, I read the title as something like “David Nune’s Dancing Cow Day” — which probably means need I moars coffee — but the actual article is still rather amusing, as are some of the images (of actual “dancing” cows!), Danes revel in ‘dancing cow day’ for first time since Covid outbreak:

    […]
    Rural Denmark will come to a standstill on Sunday when for the first time in three years its inhabitants will be able to stand in a field in large numbers to watch the moment when Denmark’s 200,000 organic cows are let out of their barns for “summer” to graze on grass — an event so exciting that the creatures run, leap, buck and “dance” with joy.

    Økodag, or dancing cow day, as it is affectionately known, marks the start of the outdoor season for all organic cows in Denmark. Children scramble up hay bales to get a better view and parents hold camera phones poised to capture the magic at midday precisely when the cows are released nationwide.

    […]

    “The cows are so happy to be outdoors, to feel the sun and the wind, that they dance,” [Louise Køster, the chair of Organic Denmark,] said. “Out in the field, a cow can also go for her favourite dishes — grass, clover, various herbs etc.”

    A certified organic animal must be outside eating grass for at least six hours a day between April and November in Denmark, occasionally a challenge with the unpredictable Danish weather. Farmers had to bring the cows in until the ground was frost-free in 2013 and it was so cold in 2014 that the herd ran straight back to the barn after their Økodag release.

    […]

    Someone should tell Gary Larson (of The Far Side Cow Strip fame).

  133. says

    A few podcast episodes:

    On the Media – “Our Unfinished Pandemic”:

    Congress is threatening to cut billions in COVID aid even as a new variant emerges. On this week’s On the Media, how our policy debate reveals an indifference for long COVID disabilities and death on a staggering scale. And, how that apathy tracks with a pattern of past pandemics. Plus, a look at the novelist Kurt Vonnegut’s theory of storytelling, and what it tells us about why so many Americans have stopped paying attention to the virus….

    The Daily – “A Covid Mystery in Africa”:

    As countries have struggled with disease and death throughout the coronavirus pandemic, one part of the world seems to have been mostly spared: central and western Africa.

    South Africa was deeply affected by waves of the coronavirus, as were countries in East Africa like Kenya and Uganda. But nations in the center and west of the continent appear to have been largely spared.

    What is behind these low case and death rates — and what does that tell us about the future of the pandemic?

    Guest: Stephanie Nolen, a global health reporter for The New York Times.

    On the Media – “The Death of Historical Memory in Russia”:

    Russia’s Memorial International maintained an archive whose purpose was to amass and preserve the crimes against humanity committed in the Soviet Union. On March 3rd it was closed down by order of the Kremlin. It was only a month ago that we first aired this piece about the threats to the archive, but already the information and media landscape in Russia is unrecognizable. Unknown numbers of journalists have fled draconian new laws that could land them in prison for 15 years for contradicting the party line on the war in Ukraine and state controlled media has has tightened its stranglehold l of the airwaves. In the chaos of the past few weeks, Memorial’s closing was – tragically, just another data point…another nail in the coffin for truth seekers.

    OTM producer Molly Schwartz – who was in Moscow but has since left, visited Memorial International and spoke with archivist Nikita Lomakin about the importance of preserving Russia’s oldest Human Rights organization. In this piece, Molly also interviews historian Ivan Kurilla, author of The Battle for the Past: How Politics Changes History, about how the attacks on the archive resonate with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

  134. says

    blf @160, I love “dancing cow day.” :-)

    In other news, Ukraine update: Gearing up for a showdown in Kherson

    In the first few days after Russia’s invasion, the bridge on the north side of Kherson became famous as a sign of Ukrainian resistance. Recognizing the importance of that bridge to one of Russia’s strategic objectives—capturing Mykolaiv and Odesa—Russian forces had moved quickly to take the bridge in the first two days of fighting. But then Ukrainian forces took it back. Then Russia seemed to have control. Then Ukraine took it again.

    It started to look as if Kherson might use the natural defense of the wide Dnipro River to hold out indefinitely. If things got tough, they could always blow up the critical bridge, greatly complicating Russia’s advance and forcing them to move north to fight again for the bridge at Nova Kakhovka.

    Then, suddenly, Ukrainian forces were gone. Russia rolled into Kherson, bridge intact, while the troops that had fought over, and twice retaken, that bridge moved completely out of the city and hurried up the M14 highway to Mykolaiv. Russia had the city. And the bridge. One day later, they also had the Nova Kakhova bridge 40 miles upstream.

    With these two wide crossings in hand, Russia was ready to move westward and complete the task of cutting off Ukraine from the Black Sea. In Odesa, mass evacuations began as citizens feared the Russians would roll into the city in a matter of days.

    Exactly what happened in Kherson still isn’t clear. How did the Russian military suddenly gain such a decisive upper hand, and why did forces that had been fighting them so successfully suddenly abandon not just the bridge, but the entire city? The answer seems to be: Treason. Officials there were apparently on the Russian bribery dole. As a result, they undermined the local territorial defense, refused to provide assistance to troops fighting to hold the city. Those officials ultimately fled the city—possibly running into the open arms of the Russian forces to hand them more information. The details won’t be known until the conflict is over, but betrayal certainly seems to be at the core of how Russia established a beachhead on the west side of the Dnipro.

    […] Russian troops consolidated their position, captured an 80 mile long swath of territory on the western bank, and began to move toward Mykolaiv from two directions—directly up the M14 from Kherson, and from the east along a smaller highway from Snihurivka.

    And that’s where things got less happy for Team Russia. Having fallen back on Mykolaiv, Ukrainian troops joined up with other forces and territorial defenses that were already in place in that city. They repulsed repeated attempts by Russia to capture Mykolaiv. When Russia attempted to set up artillery positions around the city, Ukrainian forces managed to sally out and attack those positions, preventing Mykolaiv from becoming besieged. It didn’t hurt that Mykolaiv sits on a peninsula jutting far out into the wide-as-hell Southern Bug River. That essentially means it can only be attacked from one side. […]
    Here, take a look. [Map available at the link]

    Getting a force into Mykolaiv and across it’s crucial bridge means moving through that narrow choke point on the city’s eastern side, then pushing through the entire city center, to reach the possibly still intact bridge. Russia didn’t come close to making it. Instead, it exhausted its forces in one attempt after another to approach the city from the south or east. Russia brought in large numbers of helicopters and planes, positioning them at the Kherson airport just 20 miles to the south. If there was anywhere that Russia had something like decent air support, this was the place.

    It still did not allow them to advance through Mykolaiv’s defenses. It’s also likely that those hold-out forces at Mariupol prevented Russia from moving all the forces they wanted to place on the western edge of the advance.

    […] only a week after being pushed back, Ukrainian forces had begun to range out of Mykolaiv and take back towns and villages along the roads south and southeast of the city. Gradually, they rolled back Russia’s hard-won advances. On March 15, they had advanced far enough to land an artillery barrage on Kherson airport. That not only destroyed a large number of Russian helicopters in place, it forced Russia to move the remainder to a more distant location.

    From that moment, Russia’s attempt to capture Odesa by land was likely done. And since multiple attempts to conduct an amphibious landing had already proved futile, the push back from Mykolaiv likely ended any chance of Russia achieving one of its primary strategic objectives. At least in this round.

    […] On Tuesday of last week, Ukraine managed to retake a number of locations at the northeast side of the area Russia had occupied above the Nova Kakhovka bridge. […]

    For a few days, things seemed to go quiet. That was until Friday, when there were signs of fighting on the south side of Kherson proper. Civilians in the center of the city reported that they could clearly hear explosions and gunfire. There have also been widespread reports of Russians looting and loading up vehicles with consumer goods, which many see as a sign they are about to get the hell outta Dodge.

    […] the battle in the south isn’t over after all. Ukrainian forces may be more focused on taking Kherson—which remains the only large urban area captured by Russia since the war began, and where over 250,000 Ukrainian citizens are thought to remain […]

    Russia may respond by blowing the bridge at Kherson (there have been images showing that Russia has mined the bridge in preparation for taking it down). This would limit any effort to pursue Russian forces across the Dnipro […]

    That would leave the bridge at Nova Kakhovka. If Ukraine could move quickly toward that bridge from north and south, they could potentially cut off a large Russian force, stranding them on the west side of the river. On the other hand, there are suggestions that Russia intends to press more troops across the river at that point, resuming the attempt on Mykolaiv from the east. […]

    As of early on Saturday, the battle for Kherson appears to be underway with Ukrainian forces moving toward the southern part of the city both along the M14 from Mykolaiv, and by pushing along the river bank up the narrower T1501. [Ukraine battle map available at the link]

    […] it’s not clear Russia will contest the city. The Ukrainian military has stated they expect the city to be captured “within days,” so expect an advance, but don’t expect a lightning advance. The presence of those Russian troops around Snihurivka and the suggestion that more forces could move across the Nova Kakhovka bridge to join them, certainly means that some Ukrainian forces are still in place around Mykolaiv to guard against a move on the city. […]

    But if Ukraine can recapture Kherson, it will mean that Russia has lost the only city it managed to take, and that one came more through treachery than military prowess. […] [Tweet and map available at the link]

  135. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog. From their most recent summary:

    The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has described a missile strike on a railway station in eastern Ukraine as a Russian war crime and called for a “firm global response”. At least 50 people, including five children, were killed in the missile strike on Kramatorsk train station….

    The UK prime minister held a one-to-one meeting with the Ukrainian president in the capital this afternoon. Johnson met Zelenskiy “in a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

    Ukraine’s defence ministry has accused Russian forces of committing war crimes in the town of Makariv in the Kyiv region. The town’s mayor, Vadym Tokar, said on Friday that 132 people had been killed in the town about 50km west of the capital.

    As of today, 176 children have died and 324 have been wounded in Ukraine since Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into the country, Ukraine’s prosecutor general office has said. It said the figures were yet to be finalised as “work is underway to establish them in places of active hostilities, in temporarily occupied and liberated territories”. The Guardian has not been able to verify this information.

    The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said Russian forces appeared to have committed war crimes by targeting civilians in Ukraine. Leaving Ukraine today after visiting the devastated town of Bucha on Friday, she told reporters: “My instinct says, if this is not a war crime, what is a war crime?”

    Later that day while at a fundraising event for Ukraine in Warsaw, von der Leyen said the European Commission will pledge 1 billion euros to support Ukraine and countries receiving refugees fleeing the war.

    Russia has reorganised the command of its battle operations in Ukraine, installing a new general with extensive experience in Russian operations in Syria, according to a western official. The commander of Russia’s southern military district, Gen Alexander Dvornikov, now leads the invasion, the source told the BBC, adding: “We would expect the overall command and control to improve.”

    Russian air activity is expected to increase in the south and east of Ukraine, according to the UK’s ministry of defence. Russian operations continue to focus on Donbas, Mariupol and Mykolaiv, supported by continued cruise missile launches into Ukraine by Russian naval forces, it said.

    A curfew will be in place in Ukraine’s southern city of Odesa from Saturday evening until Monday evening, in response to the shelling of the train station in Kramatorsk, and the threat of a missile strike.

    Figures published today by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, show that 4,441,663 Ukrainian refugees have fled the country since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February. About 90% of those who have fled Ukraine are women and children.

    A Ukrainian government minister has said she expects Ukraine to be granted EU candidate country status in June. Olga Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, said her country was “ready to move fast” with its application to become a member of the European Union.

  136. says

    An NBC News investigation of the company that refinanced Trump Tower turns up a whole lot of weird

    In the long grind of sketchy political stories, we’ve now got enough straight-up corruption news piled up to last the rest of Donald Trump’s remaining life. It’s still not clear anything will actually come of it, because it’s also been demonstrated that you can do ab-so-lute-ly anything, so long as you are willing to pay for more lawyers than state or federal governments are willing to pay for theirs—but we have a general picture. The citrus-tinted blowhard has for decades been part of an American subclass that dabbles in everything from money laundering to tax cheating to boosting international oligarchies to sex trafficking to immigration fraud to take-your-pick, all of it backed by banks whose bottom lines depend on looking the other way and an American political class that will write new laws faux-legalizing pretty much anything you ask them to in exchange for a handshake and a four-figure check.

    Then there’s the stories that are just … odd. Maybe there’s something crooked afoot, maybe there’s not, but there’s an inherent weirdness to them that can’t easily be explained away. So, for example, we’ve got this weird, weird NBC News story about the company that refinanced Trump’s flagship Trump Tower.

    Trump Tower’s $100 million mortgage was the subject of some heated speculation after Trump launched a coup against the U.S. government that left people dead in the U.S. Capitol building, with some innocent souls wondering if Trump could ever find a bank sleazy enough to work with a seditionist. Things looked grimmer still when, at the beginning of the year, Donald Trump’s longtime auditors severed all ties with Trump and announced that they were no longer standing by the Trump Organization’s last 10 years of financial statements—the Wall Street way of announcing that they found something going on so sketchy that they absolutely do not want any part of it, whether Trump’s checks are clearing or not, and that they don’t intend to go to jail over it.

    But the Trump Tower’s mortgage, as it turned out, was a non-issue for Trump. Mere days after Trump’s auditors cut him loose and announced that his company’s financial statements were, screaming-between-the-lines, “Extremely Likely To Be Crooked,” Trump Tower got a $100 million refinance inked with Axos, a smallish bank previously known as the “Bank of Internet USA” and which is currently headed by an ex-Indymac executive who migrated to the company just before the whole “we nearly broke the entire world economy” Wall Street debacle of 2008.

    Okay, fine, it’s a little weird that the mortgage for Trump Tower was taken on by a bank with an internet presence but no actual branches, one headed by an executive that managed to land on his feet despite his prior institution not just collapsing, but cratering so spectacularly that its failures will be a permanent mention in new U.S. history textbooks. But what we can glean from this, probably, is that none of the banks Trump had previous relations with wanted to deal with him despite the pile of money involved, while the new company figured he’d still be worth that extra risk.

    But the NBC News investigation also revealed some other weird things at play here. […]

    Weird things ranging, for example, from the two ex-employees suing the company after they were fired for flagging sketchy behavior ranging from allegedly hiding problems with shaky loans …

    … to offering “cash recapture” loans of a sort that can facilitate international money laundering …

    … to joining up with other companies to offer the small business equivalent of “payday loans,” loans that evade typical regulations limiting how much interest those companies can charge.

    […] It’s a bit weird that the company has been accused of making things too easy for money launderers, given that Trump Tower and Trump’s other real estate ventures have been noted for decades to be hubs of Russian money laundering. But again, real estate laws have been very carefully crafted to facilitate money laundering, so can we even count it as “weird” anymore? Or is it just business as usual?

    And the last one, the charging grotesque interest rates through loopholes in laws barring such things, which NBC refers to as an alleged “rent-a-bank scheme,” is a bit weird only because it turns out it was the Trump administration that put the rule allowing it in place, and it’s already being rescinded by the Biden administration for being obviously sketchy. So, um, extra points to them for managing to squeeze some profit out of a fleeting rule change that was pretty much destined to be yanked back again the second a non-sketchy administration took charge.

    […] NBC News also notes that the company has a history of going after anonymous bloggers who call attention to their weirdness and that the company head responded to an auditor’s whistleblowing by suing him and the auditor’s mother for taking “confidential” information, which, ok, bringing in the guy’s mom definitely ranks high on the old financial company weird-o-meter […]

    Donald Trump had his bacon saved mere days after his company’s auditing firm publicly told the world that there was Something Extremely Sketchy Going On with his bookkeeping, and a look at the low-profile company that bailed him out suggests both that they’re a company that specializes in loans that are a little sketchy and has ex-employees who claim that they got fired for pointing out the sketch, which makes the company sound like it went to prep school with Eric Trump or something.

    […] I’m not sure how a company like that would miss a red flag as big as “mere days before we signed this paper, the company we provided a loan to was fired by its own auditors for up to ten years of misleading or fraudulent financial statements” but none of us here are bankers, and we don’t know how this stuff works. […]

    It’s gonna be even weirder if some company that once called itself “Bank of Internet” ends up foreclosing on Trump Tower if and when Donald Trump’s finances collapse yet again […]

  137. says

    Religion Dispatches – “The Russian Patriarch Just Gave His Most Dangerous Speech Yet — And Almost No One in the West Has Noticed”:

    There’s little doubt that Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill’s Forgiveness Sunday Sermon last month received more attention than any Orthodox cleric’s sermon has received in the Western media in a long time. Beyond its frightening absurdity, it’s likely this attention is due, in no small part, to its use of culture war rhetoric with which Western audiences are so familiar and about which they are so passionate.

    Therefore, it’s not necessarily surprising that yesterday’s sermon, delivered in the imposing and threatening Cathedral of the Armed Forces, is receiving less attention, though this sermon was arguably far more dangerous and might provide critical insight into what will come next for Russia, Ukraine, and the rest of us.

    …About halfway through, the sermon took a turn for the shocking and dangerous. It was at about the point that he acknowledged where he stood: in a cathedral built not so much for the glory of God as for the glory of Russian military might. Here the Patriarch said he had come to address the leaders of their Russian forces, and through them, their troops. He reminded the assembled congregation of Vladimir Putin’s favorite propaganda point in this war: that Russia was fighting fascism in Ukraine just as it had in the Second World War.

    And then the Patriarch, whose office was just a few centuries ago (a blink of the eye in the memory of the Christian East) located not in Moscow, but Kyiv, offered up a version of history that simply erases Ukraine from the map. Kirill blames “various forces” (i.e. outsiders, including—one would imagine—the West) that emerged in the Middle Ages for what he regards as a false division between Russia and Ukraine. In fact, he doesn’t even acknowledge there are such people as Ukrainians, referring to all involved parties (including, perhaps, one could speculate, Belarusians) as “Holy Russians.”

    Disregarding for a moment how simply, factually wrong Patriarch Kirill’s history is, this sermon does mark a dangerous escalation in the rhetoric coming from the Moscow Patriarchate—and, we can assume, by extension the Russian state. This rhetorical advance is made all the more dangerous by the fact that most in the West won’t even know the sermon happened, let alone be aware of its pernicious implications.

    It’s understandable why. Patriarch Kirill isn’t deploying the familiar rhetoric of the Culture Wars, “gay pride parades,” and Western decadence. He’s speaking in terms of the obscure history of the Christian East, a history largely unknown in the West. But do not be fooled; what he’s saying is extremely dangerous.

    Patriarch Kirill’s sermon on the Sunday of St. John Climacus does no less than refuse to acknowledge the distinction between Russian and Ukrainian culture and identity, and it denies Ukraine’s right to exist as a sovereign nation, both historically and in the present. Furthermore, it legitimizes the ongoing violence as necessary and even, perhaps one could argue, holy.

  138. says

    SC @166, it is always dangerous to dehumanize one’s opponent. No matter what disgusting tactics are used by the opponent, don’t dehumanize them. They are people who have been trained, encouraged, threatened, bribed, or raised (educated0 to act immorally. They are people. They are also people who have been deceived by their leaders for decades. They are people.

    In fact, dehumanizing opponents is one of the disgusting tactics used by the Russians. Let’s not do that.

  139. says

    France 24 – “God, church, Tsar: The world of Russian oligarch Malofeyev and his Western associates”:

    …Enter Philippe de Villiers, a Eurosceptic French politician and businessman who is also the founder of Puy du Fou, a popular historical theme park in the Vendée region of western France. In de Villiers, an aristocratic, Catholic, royalist with business acumen, Malofeyev – the ultra-Orthodox, monarchist Russian oligarch – found a perfect ideological match.

    In August 2014, just weeks after the EU imposed sanctions on Malafeyev, de Villiers announced a deal with the Russian oligarch to build a historical theme park in newly annexed Crimea.

    The announcement came during de Villiers’ trip to Russia, where the French politician-businessman met Putin at Livadia palace, the summer residence of Russian Tsars in the Crimean resort city of Yalta. A day after his “unforgettable” meeting, de Villiers sounded as excited as a fanboy. “What a statesman,” gushed the French politician in a Twitter post featuring a photograph of the meeting.

    The Puy du Fou theme park in Vendée features a sweep of historical shows ranging from ancient Frankish resistance against the Roman Empire, Viking landings and medieval knights. Some historians have dubbed the park, “Puy du Faux” [Puy of Fakes], criticising historical errors and a “reactionary, ultra-Catholic” vision of the make-believe world. The park nevertheless is a popular destination and is the second-most visited theme park in France after Disneyland.

    De Villiers also owns a local radio station, Alouette Radio.

    For a Russian oligarch seeking the glory of bygone empires and heading a TV station named Tsargrad, a business deal with a French aristocratic politician and head of a historical theme park was a marriage made in revivalist paradise.

    Announcing the deal in the Russian capital in August 2014, the Moscow-backed Crimean administration said de Villiers, Malofeyev and Sergei Aksyonov, the head of the Crimean government, had signed a memorandum of understanding under which de Villiers’ company Puy du Fou International and Malofeyev would invest at least 4 billion Roubles ($110m) in the Crimean park. The new project was called Puy du Fou Tsargrad.

    The prospect of breaking EU sanctions in annexed terrain did not daunt de Villiers, who declared, “Sanctions are an act of war. Cooperation is an act of peace. We have come to deliver an act of peace,” in a 2014 press release. “Our project will promote the history of Crimea as a long part of the history of Russia,” he added.

    Once a mainstream conservative, de Villiers founded a now defunct Eurosceptic political party and made two unsuccessful bids for the French presidency in 1995 and 2007. He has since moved further right, has spoken out against Islam in France and currently supports far-right candidate Éric Zemmour in the 2022 French presidential race.

    Despite de Villiers’ dismissal of EU sanctions, the Crimea theme park dream in the end failed to materialise.

    Experts dismissed the deal from its inception, with a foreign lawyer in Moscow telling the Financial Times that there was “no way” the planned theme park could go ahead under EU sanctions….

    In a 2019 interview with French website Capital, de Villiers’ son and Puy du Fou artistic director Nicolas de Villiers confirmed his father’s Crimea plans had failed. “President Putin imagined a Puy du Fou in Crimea. But the economic sanctions against Russia prevent us from considering such a project,” said the younger de Villiers, adding that the group’s international projects in Spain and China were already keeping the group “quite busy. “No question of biting off more than we can chew,” he said.

    The war in Ukraine, which has seen a tightening of sanctions, appears to have stalled Malofeyev’s vision of promoting his far-right, ultra-conservative Christian values on both sides of Atlantic. It has also sparked scrutiny of the links between French far-right figures, including presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, and Putin.

    Malofeyev’s international ventures may have stalled, but the oligarch still has big plans for his native Russia. In a 2019 interview with the New York Times, Malofeyev hailed Putin’s move to grant himself two additional six-year terms after his current tenure expires in 2024.

    Welcoming the prospect of Putin staying in power until 2036, Malofeyev said Russia now has “a quasi-monarchy” which, he said, was “a very good thing”.

    But the 47-year-old oligarch is looking further into the future. “This isn’t the end,” said Malofeyev. “The introduction of a constitutional monarchy in the foreseeable future — for instance, after Putin’s rule in 2036 — has become realistic.”

    More at the link.

  140. says

    Text quoted by SC in comment 167: “Furthermore, it legitimizes the ongoing violence as necessary and even, perhaps one could argue, holy.…”

    Oh, FFS, not another “holy war.” That’s the worst.

    In other news: Proud Boys fold like a cheap suit, Oath Keepers raked by judge on way to trial

    In one courtroom in Washington, D.C., on Friday, a leader of the neofascist, pro-Trump Proud Boys, Charles Donohoe, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct the 2020 election and assaulting a police officer during the melee at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

    In another courtroom just nearby, nearly a dozen members of the Oath Keepers listened in as a federal judge gave the extremist group’s defense attorneys a heaping dose of reality as they—and the nation—careen toward a historic seditious conspiracy trial later this year.

    Donohoe, 34, is just the latest member of the Proud Boys to flip on his friends in the face of jail time. Once the leader of the network’s North Carolina chapter, Donohoe could receive up to seven years at sentencing. As a part of his plea agreement, he must cooperate with the Justice Department’s massive probe of Jan. 6 on their command.

  141. says

    Wonkette:

    Comedy website [/sarcasm] The Federalist has been very angry at Disney lately. The conservative equivalent of post-sleep eye gunk is pissed off that after Disney angered its significant cadre of LGBTQ+ fans and employees by keeping quiet as Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill wound its way through the state Legislature, it announced that it would work to get the bill repealed.

    Okay, so you’re a conservative and you do not want to take your kids to the Weimar-era Berlin fetish club that is Disney World due to its horrific insistence on treating gay and transgender people as human beings deserving of respect and dignity. So where do you take them? How about the theme park run by noted homophobe and trans-hater, uh, let’s double-check the notes here … Dolly Parton?

    And yet, here we go with the story of a Federalist writer who found herself in Tennessee and could have just taken her kids to Dollywood without making it sound like a blow against liberals and greedy consumerism and the dreaded Homosexual Agenda. But she just can’t help herself. Here is a sampling:

    It’s not just the recent visibility of the longstanding fact that Disney’s post-Walt corporate leadership works to undermine sexual wholeness, but also about the greedy commercialization of the Disney brand. […]

    Even setting aside their recently revealed support for destroying human happiness through sexual chaos… […]

    These are terrible values that can and do destroy people just as much as severing their genitals.

    These guys think more about transitioning than people who are actually transitioning do.

    Dollywood, on the other hand, that I can get into. The only message Dollywood pushed is that people should love each other.

    That’s a great message! After all, Dolly Parton is a longtime advocate for and icon of the LGBTQ+ community. Among her actions in support of those icky homos and trannies that the Federalist is so pissed at Disney for recognizing they exist:
    – Nominated for an Oscar for her song “Travelin’ Thru” from the movie Transamerica, about — you guessed it — a trans woman reconnecting with her long-estranged son.
    – Won the GLAAD Media Award two years ago for the portrayal of a gay person in an episode of her Netflix series “Heartstrings.”
    – Been a longtime supporter of gay marriage.
    – Once told an interviewer that Christians who attack LGBTQ+ people are sinners themselves for passing judgment.

    Tolerance! Love of others! Not judging people! This is the message Dolly Parton has preached for decades. It’s also the message Disney is trying (lamely and belatedly) to send by opposing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. You know, the bill that has earned the sneering contempt of the Federalist.

    Maybe one day a conservative will visit Dollywood and hear Dolly’s message of tolerance for everyone regardless of sexual orientation or self-identity. We can dream!

  142. says

    Lynna @ #168, the strange thing is that many of the same people who would recognize that referring to people classified as non-white (in Iraq, Aghanistan, Somalia, for example) with these terms would be racist don’t see the problem with using them to refer to people they classify as white.

    I talked about the speciesist smears in the previous chapter, and recognize that it’s going to be a long, difficult struggle to move people away from that sort of thinking and language. But I’m quite shocked to see these sorts of imperialist terms coming up so frequently during this war.

    And just aside from the associated harms, these descriptions add absolutely nothing to anyone’s understanding of events. “Why and how has the Russian military done these horrible things?” “Well, they’re barbaric/savage/animalistic!” It’s using words to say nothing, and I see smart people doing it every day. Grr.

  143. says

    SC @169, well, yuck. Here’s hoping Philippe de Villiers’ ventures fail. Yuck.

    Other news:

    […] The truth we must wrestle with is the pile of bodies in black bags, so why does the mind travel to the odd black draping of the coffin lid, and the curiously short handle of the shovel in the background?

    The punctum of the photographs coming out of Ukraine is different from that carried by photographs of recent wars and disasters in Syria, Haiti and Myanmar. At least, it functions differently for audiences in Western and developed countries, where Ukraine feels closer and more familiar. This fact must be acknowledged simultaneously with the role that race and cultural difference play in how photographs are read and circulated. In the West, ugly but resilient ideas about civilization, exoticism and the primitive are used to keep the suffering of people with brown and black skin at a safe emotional distance, often by minimizing or dismissing their full humanity.

    But the fact that Ukraine feels more culturally familiar to many people watching these events closely has had a profound impact not just on the kinds of images that are circulating, but also how they circulate. And it has changed the terms of some of the essential debates about war photography, including the dignity and privacy of victims, and the status of traumatic images within an image-saturated media world.

    […] Ukraine is not more civilized than any other country, and the destruction of European cities is not more terrible than the destruction of cities in Afghanistan or Iraq. But because Ukraine is European, people in Europe and culturally adjacent to Europe process these images differently […] Images may circulate and accumulate meaning more quickly in the Western media world because their content requires less basic interpretation or captioning. The punctum of these images is not difference, but sameness, and that seems to bring the horror of war more efficiently to the foreground.

    One striking photograph to come out of Bucha, where hundreds of civilians were allegedly massacred by Russians, shows a narrow table crowded with dozens of cellphones, plugged into a maze of power strips. Cellphones are not unique to Europe or any other continent. But this image centers ideas of dependence, connection and the fragility of infrastructure that will be particularly disconcerting for people who take infrastructure for granted and who have had little occasion to contemplate the fragility of their bonds to far-flung relatives and friends. [Photo available at the link]

    War reconfigures public space, no matter where it happens. An April 6 image made in Lviv is in some ways a more powerful introduction to war and public space than many of the more horrifying images of bombed-out buildings from cities farther east in Ukraine. It shows a child dragging a scooter past a street-level window cut that has been stuffed with sandbags, a defense against bomb blasts. The ordinary child’s toy makes the extraordinary sandbags all the more jarring. It defamiliarizes an urban space that many residents of similar cities might never give a second thought.

    […] smart, sensitive photographers and editors agonize over how much to show, how to maintain the dignity and agency of victims, and how to break through the complacency of audiences far from the scene of war. […]

    Washington Post link

  144. says

    SC @172: “aside from the associated harms, these descriptions add absolutely nothing to anyone’s understanding of events.”

    So true! The reduction of other human beings to “barbaric savages,” etc. provides an excuse for hating them. It is an excuse, not an explanation. I would argue that it even slows or prevents the emergence of more thoughtful explanations. Without a true explanation, how can one offer solutions, or offer avenues for positive change?

  145. says

    Lynna @ #174:

    It is an excuse, not an explanation. I would argue that it even slows or prevents the emergence of more thoughtful explanations. Without a true explanation, how can one offer solutions, or offer avenues for positive change?

    Exactly! I’ve been working on a draft of a blog post for like a year or so now, and one of the arguments I sketch out there is that this language is super lazy, and that if we could make an effort to avoid it it would help us to think more seriously, creatively, and constructively about the social, psychological, and institutional causes and mechanisms of violence and such.

  146. says

    NYT – “Spurred by Putin, Russians Turn on One Another Over the War”:

    …With President Vladimir V. Putin’s direct encouragement, Russians who support the war against Ukraine are starting to turn on the enemy within.

    The episodes are not yet a mass phenomenon, but they illustrate the building paranoia and polarization in Russian society. Citizens are denouncing one another in an eerie echo of Stalin’s terror, spurred on by vicious official rhetoric from the state and enabled by far-reaching new laws that criminalize dissent.

    There are reports of students turning in teachers and people telling on their neighbors and even the diners at the next table. In a mall in western Moscow, it was the “no to war” text displayed in a computer repair store and reported by a passer-by that got the store’s owner, Marat Grachev, detained by the police. In St. Petersburg, a local news outlet documented the furor over suspected pro-Western sympathies at the public library; it erupted after a library official mistook the image of a Soviet scholar on a poster for that of Mark Twain. [LOL]

    In the western region of Kaliningrad, the authorities sent residents text messages urging them to provide phone numbers and email addresses of “provocateurs” in connection with the “special operation” in Ukraine, Russian newspapers reported; they can do so conveniently through a specialized account in the Telegram messaging app. A nationalist political party launched a website urging Russians to report “pests” in the elite.

    “I am absolutely sure that a cleansing will begin,” Dmitri Kuznetsov, the member of Parliament behind the website, said in an interview, predicting that the process would accelerate after the “active phase” of the war ended. He then clarified: “We don’t want anyone to be shot, and we don’t even want people to go to prison.”

    But it is the history of mass execution and political imprisonment in the Soviet era, and the denunciation of fellow citizens encouraged by the state, that now looms over Russia’s deepening climate of repression. Mr. Putin set the tone in a speech on March 16, declaring that Russian society needed a “self-purification” in which people would “distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and simply spit them out like a fly that accidentally flew into their mouths.”

    In the Soviet logic, those who choose not to report their fellow citizens could be viewed as being suspect themselves.

    “In these conditions, fear is settling into people again,” said Nikita Petrov, a leading scholar of the Soviet secret police. “And that fear dictates that you report.”

    In March, Mr. Putin signed a law that punishes public statements contradicting the government line on what the Kremlin terms its “special military operation” in Ukraine with as much as 15 years in prison. It was a harsh but necessary measure, the Kremlin said, given the West’s “information war” against Russia.

    Prosecutors have already used the law against more than 400 people, according to the OVD-Info rights group, including a man who held up a piece of paper with eight asterisks on it. “No to war” in Russian has eight letters.

    “This is some kind of enormous joke that we, to our misfortune, are living in,” Aleksandra Bayeva, the head of OVD-Info’s legal department, said of the absurdity of some of the war-related prosecutions. She said she had seen a sharp rise in the frequency of people reporting on their fellow citizens.

    “Repressions are not just done by the hands of the state authorities,” she said. “They are also done by the hands of regular citizens.”

    In most cases, the punishments related to war criticism have been limited to fines; for the more than 15,000 antiwar protesters arrested since the invasion began on Feb. 24, fines are the most common penalty, though some were sentenced to as many as 30 days in jail, Ms. Bayeva said. But some people are being threatened with longer prison terms….

    More at the link. From the end:

    Mr. Grachev is now pondering how to replace his “no to war” sign. He is considering: “There was a sign here for which a 100,000 ruble fine was imposed.”

  147. says

    Update to #127 – Guardian – “Pakistan on brink of crisis as Imran Khan blocks no-confidence vote”:

    Pakistan was in constitutional crisis as fears of martial law swirled after the prime minister, Imran Khan, blocked a vote of no-confidence on his rule – despite a legally binding ruling by the supreme court that the vote must go ahead.

    Khan, the former international cricketer turned pious Islamist politician, is clinging to his political career for dear life after he and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party used various means – including filibustering and legal petitions – to prevent the no-confidence vote, which he was expected to lose, from going ahead.

    Khan had tried to halt the vote a week ago by dissolving parliament before it could go ahead. But a damning verdict by Pakistan’s supreme court on Thursday found that the prime minister had broken the law and they called for a vote..

    But over the course of 13 tumultuous hours until late into the night, members of Khan’s party prevented the vote going ahead. The opposition accused Khan of trying to hold the constitution and government “hostage” and commit treason. At one stage, the speaker, an ally of Khan, declared he would refuse to put the vote to parliament, despite this being in contempt of court.

    The opposition claimed that Khan was refusing to let the vote go ahead unless he could get a guarantee that neither he nor his cabinet ministers would face criminal cases once they stepped down. Marriyam Aurangzeb, an opposition spokesperson, told the Observer it was “a violation of the constitution and the supreme court’s order, and they should be ready for the consequences. It’s contempt of the court by Imran Khan and speaker and everyone involved.”

    As Khan held meetings with ministers and senior military figures yesterday, many feared that he would try to get Pakistan’s powerful army to step in and declare martial law rather than hand over power to the opposition. As fear of unrest grew, security was beefed up around the prime minister’s residence.

    In response, Pakistan’s chief justice took the unprecedented step of asking the supreme court to be ready to open its doors at midnight, should the vote not happen. The Islamabad high court also prepared to hear a late-night contempt of court case.

    As the midnight deadline for the vote approached, Khwaja Asif, a leader from the opposition alliance, accused Khan’s government of trying to usurp democracy and “create an environment for martial law. They want the parliament dissolved”.

    The no-confidence vote was expected to lead the way for a new opposition coalition government, with the leader of the opposition, Shahbaz Sharif, the brother of the jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, as interim prime minister. The opposition has stated its intention to hold elections, likely to be October at the earliest.

    Despite many suggesting he might resign rather than face the humiliation of a defeat in parliament, in a late night address to the nation, Khan made it clear he had no intention of stepping aside voluntarily. He called for his supporters to take to the streets in mass protest and said he would not accept any “imported” government, a veiled reference to his previous allegations that the political opposition had conspired with western powers to topple him, a charge they deny….

  148. says

    Johnson and Zelenskyy walking through Kyiv.

    People have been saying for weeks on Twitter how popular Johnson is in Ukraine. It’s weird, but it’s true. Really is amazing to see them walking around out in the open like this. It was just a few weeks ago that Zelenskyy had to put out a video to prove he was still in the city and told other leaders – with good reason – that it could be the last time they saw him alive.

  149. says

    Another update! – BBC – “Imran Khan ousted as Pakistan’s PM after key vote”:

    Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has been ousted from power after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership.

    The vote was held past midnight after opposition parties brought a motion against him, which was upheld by the Supreme Court.

    Mr Khan had said he would not recognise an opposition government, claiming – without evidence – that there was a US-led conspiracy to remove him.

    The assembly will now appoint a new prime minister.

    That person will be able to hold power until October 2023 when the next election is due to be held.

    Mr Khan becomes the first Pakistani prime minister to be ousted by a no-confidence vote.

    Minutes before the vote started, the speaker of Pakistan’s lower house of parliament – an ally of Mr Khan – announced his resignation. Members of Mr Khan’s party left the building, insisting he was the victim of an international conspiracy.

    Opposition parties were able to secure 174 votes in the 342-member house in support of the no-confidence motion, the house speaker said, making it a majority vote….

  150. says

    Rep. Schiff:

    Anti-vaxxers are using breakthrough cases like mine to push dangerous, unscientific lies.

    So let me be clear:

    I feel fine. I don’t need a ventilator. My family isn’t worried about whether I’ll make it. Because I’m vaccinated.

    Vaccines save lives. Please get yours today.

  151. says

    SC @182, Adam Schiff made those points very well. Good.

    Other news: Ukraine update: ‘There just isn’t enough space for the amount of death’

    On Saturday, Rolling Stone writer Mac William Bishop published an account of a visit he made to Ukrainian forces fighting in the east of the country along the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

    That area around the “Kramatorsk gap” represents the defensive line between Ukrainian forces and the territories that Russia, along with their separatist allies, has occupied since 2014. Since the invasion began, Russia has almost continuously attempted to push through this line from the east, making dozens of temporary breakthroughs. Day after day they’ve been pushed back. That conflict has been one of the least talked about parts of the entire invasion, but it’s been one of the most costly in terms of the lives of Ukrainian soldiers.

    [map available at the link] The Ukrainians fighting in the area include regular members of the military, reservists called up during the conflict, and volunteers who have left their day to day jobs behind to join the fight. Bishop’s visit to the area took him to an abandoned school building near Donetsk, a few miles from the front line, where a mixed group of soldiers is fighting every day at the limits of their training, equipment, and strength.

    There’s a fifty-something chef who has become famous in Ukraine for walking away from his home to take the lowest rank as a volunteer among a squad of much younger marines. There are long term members of the service. There’s a grizzled guy who claims to have killed two Russians with a knife. There’s an IT manager who used to troubleshoot networks, and who asks Bishop if he can instruct him on how to fire a Javelin. Every one of these people is an individual. They are all at the center of their own story. They are all making the most terrible of sacrifices.

    Olena is from Mariupol. She’s shy and diminutive, thirtysomething, with a long black ponytail. She has a fearsome reputation as a sniper. Even as her unit was sacrificing lives to stop the tide of Russian armor pushing into Donetsk, her daughter was trying to flee Mariupol. Olena could do nothing to help her daughter. Her duty was with her unit.

    That sacrificing lives part is the key to this whole story. These people are tired. They’re not just tired of seeing their companions cut down—and they are getting cut down, in numbers large enough that Ukraine hasn’t given official casualty numbers in weeks—they’re tired of killing. They want to go home. They want to resume the lives they walked away from to enter this horror.

    “I had a video chat with my son today for the first time in a while,” Oleksiy says happily. Then a brief flash of emotion creases his face. “He told me to make sure I didn’t die. What am I supposed to say to that?”

    It’s very easy when looking at the maps and collecting images of tanks and talking about the various models of drones, to forget that at the center of this story people are being ripped apart. Sometimes metaphorically. Often literally. Those individual stories are getting shredded every day, in large numbers.

    That eastern line doesn’t end where the Izyum salient extends out to the M03 highway and hooks south toward Slavyansk and Kramatorsk. It extends up to and past hard-hit Kharkiv, where Russia continues to deliver a withering daily attack from their base across the border at Belgorod. While areas around Sumy, Chernihiv, and Kyiv may now be clear of Russian troops, the same can’t be said for Kharkiv. Despite how long and how hard that city has held out, Russia is still ramping up pressure in the area. […]

    U.S. defense officials have also reported more forces moving into the Donbas. Those officials also indicate that the roughly 1,000 troops of the mercenary Wegner Group have been moved to the Donbas. The goal of all those movements remains what is has been since the start of the invasion, and forms one of Russia’s key strategic objectives.

    “We still believe that one of their objectives is to fix Ukrainian Armed Forces in the Donbas and then engage them in combat to occupy the Donbas completely.”

    When they “fix,” what they mean is “pin down” or “trap.” The Russian military means to push down from the north and up from the south, isolate the Ukrainian forces fighting along the defensive lines in the Donbas, eliminate those forces and capture the whole of Donetsk and Luhansk oblast. But the constant pressure all up and down the line means it’s difficult for Ukraine to peel away any forces to meet the north-south thrust.

    If Putin can do this one thing, he can claim a kind of victory. Not only would he have expanded the scope of the “breakaway republics” that he intends to immediately make a part of Russia, it would give him control of the area around Kramatorsk, which has been identified as a possible source of oil and gas that might compete with Russian fields.

    With the relief of pressure on Kyiv and Chernihiv, Ukraine can also shift some forces east. If the fight at Kherson draws to some good intermediate position—like Russia retreating across the Dnipro and blowing the bridges behind them—Ukraine might be able to shift even more. And they need more. Because while their resistance to the Russian invasion has become legendary, they’re not superheroes. Their losses are terrible

    On the way back to Kyiv, Bishop stops at a graveyard where the friend of one of the men he’s met is being buried.

    The gravediggers are using a backhoe to cut into the asphalt of the parking lot to make room for more. They want to keep all of the fallen soldiers together in one area, and there just isn’t enough space for the amount of death.

    The Russian invasion of Ukraine isn’t swatches of color on a map, or pictures of tractors pulling tanks. It’s people genuinely dying for their country, in large numbers, every day.

    That territorial guardsman in the picture at the top of the page is in Barvinkove, northwest of Kramatorsk. Russian forces in tanks pushing southwest from Izyum tried to get into that man’s small town on Wednesday. They were repulsed. An air strike hit the town on Thursday. On Saturday evening, Russian forces are reported to be massing in the area for another push through this town.

    The Ukrainians will be waiting.

  152. lumipuna says

    When Russian troops retreated hastily from northern Ukraine, abandoning much of their equipment and looting as much as they could, washing machines were apparently a popular item to take home. At least, according to the internet memes I’ve seen.

    Here’s a quip from Finnish journalist Dmitri Gurbanov (my translation):

    According to rumors, on Victory Day, 9 May, Russian military are planning to parade new washing machines!

    https://twitter.com/Dimmu141/status/1512014435078086659

  153. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he is “deeply disappointed and saddened” by the behaviour of his old friend Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine invasion.

    “I cannot and I do not want to hide that I am deeply disappointed by the behaviour of Vladimir Putin,” Berlusconi told a public meeting in Rome.

    “I’ve known him about twenty years ago and he always seemed to me to be a democrat and a man of peace,” the 85-year-old billionaire continued. [LOL]

    Berlusconi, who served as head of the Italian government three times between 1994 and 2011, had previously refrained from publicly criticising Putin….

    Without oil embargo, Russia has ‘sense of impunity’, Zelenskiy says

    We have some more detail from Zelenskiy’s earlier late-night address.

    The Ukrainian president urged for “more painful restrictions” on Russia’s cash flow, primarily upon oil and gas.

    First of all this applies to the oil business. The democratic world can definitely give up Russian oil and make it toxic to all other states.

    Oil is one of the two sources of Russian self-confidence, their sense of impunity.

    Zelenskiy also pushed for gas sanction, saying over time this “will also be shut down”.

    “It’s just inevitable. Not only for safety, but also for environmental reasons,” he added.

  154. KG says

    Since 2008, very rich foreigners have been able to obtain the right of residence for themselves and their families in the UK by acquiring a UK address, and investing at least £2 million*. Few if any security checks have been carried out, making this an obvious way to launder money, establish influence, and even run spy andor terrorist networks. Finally, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this “golden visa” scheme has been ended. But the names of those (apparently eight) Russians who both got a golden visa and are now sanctioned have not been released, and Labour is demanding that these Russians be named, and a relevant report be published. I rather like the idea of marching with a placard bearing the slogan Name the Eight Oligarchs!

    *Note that this was introduced under “New Labour”, but the Tories have continued it.

  155. says

    Ukraine update: Reports say Russia is massing for massive Donbas attack, but can they really?

    […] Time to go back to the main axis of the war: the eastern Donbas front. [map available at the link]

    Aside from repeated pushes west of that purple region—pre-invasion separatist held territory—there are two Russian goals at the moment. The main one is to build on the recent capture of Izyum to push south towards Slovyiansk and Krematorsk. However, Russia seems to think that it can somehow execute a “pincer” maneuver, to trap the large number of Ukrainian defenders in highly effective defensive entrenchments along the line of contact with the purple, pre-war separatist-held region. […] those defensive trenches have held since 2014, and repeated Russian efforts to break them have proven costly and futile. Hence, the pincer.

    The obvious play would be to lay siege on Slovyiansk and Krematorsk—with short, relatively easily supply lines to defend. Problem is, it took Russia 3-4 weeks to take Izyum, pre-war population 46,000. Both Slovyiansk (pop. 111,000) and Krematorsk (pop. 157,000) are much larger, and Ukraine has had plenty of time to dig in, with the kind of defensive emplacements that have proven so successful on the Donbas front line. So rather than risk a direct assault, Russia is making the same mistake it made in the north and northeast where it bypassed major population centers to push beyond. The problem, of course, is that Russia has shown zero ability to protect supply lines, and it would take 200 kilometers (~120 miles) of territory to fully encircle the region.

    Just like around Sumy, those long, extended supply lines would be chewed up.

    Russia supposedly has an ace up its sleeve. According to just about everyone (Ukraine Ministry of Defense, Pentagon, UK Ministry of Defence, etc), Russia is redeploying troops from its failed Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy efforts to this singular front, in preparation for a massive all-out attack.

    Given what we’ve seen from Russia, I’m skeptical.

    1. Russia’s forces have been shredded, and will take time to reconstitute.

    Last night’s update from the Institute of the Study of War offered detailed reasons why those troops can’t be effectively redeployed so quickly. It’s worth the full read, but here’s the gist:

    The dozens of Russian battalion tactical groups (BTGs) that retreated from around Kyiv likely possess combat power that is a fraction of what the numbers of units or total numbers of personnel with those units would suggest.

    There are many reasons for this assessment. Smushing together broken BTGs doesn’t magically make them full power. Units need to train together to learn how to coordinate complex battlefield maneuvers under the stress of combat. Much of their replaced equipment is from substandard stock. Their soldiers are traumatized, broken, deserting their units, or outright refusing to redeploy into Ukraine. Without rest, morale will continue to plumb to new depths. And speaking of morale, these guys just suffered a devastating battlefield defeat. No propaganda can hide that from the men who were literally there. They’re not eager to go die in a different part of Ukraine.

    2. Russia’s forces have truly been shredded.

    There are several attempts to measure the degraded state of Russia’s military. The Pentagon confusingly says that Russia has lost 20% of its combat capabilities, but also that 29 of its BTGs have been rendered combat ineffective. Given there were around 120 to start the war, that would mean it has lost around 25% of its combat capabilities.

    And even that doesn’t fully capture what “combat ineffective” means. According to this U.S. Army analysis of the Russian BTG, which I cite again and again, it takes very little to render a BTG combat ineffective: [chart available at the link]

    Of a Russian BTG’s 10 tanks and 40 infantry fighting vehicles, Ukraine only needs to destroy 30%, or three tanks and 12 IFVs, to render it incapable of fully operating. Here’s what Ukraine claims is going on:

    Oleksiy Arestovich, chief advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, claimed on April 9 that the Ukrainian military has destroyed 20 BTGs and rendered 40 more combat ineffective. We cannot track individual BTG effectiveness that precisely, but this estimate that approximately one-third of the 180 BTGs Russia has available in and around Ukraine are combat ineffective is consistent with what we have observed.

    We’ve talked about the fog of war in assessing information, and here’s a perfect example. ISW claims 180 BTGs, Russia itself only claims 170, total, while most other sources, including the Pentagon, have said 120 are in theater, which would actually mean that half of Russia’s deployed forces have been rendered ineffective. Ukraine might have an obvious incentive to exaggerate Russian losses, but as we’ll see below, anecdotal evidence backs up their general assessment (if not the exact numbers).

    3. Russia can’t mass its troops for major, coordinated attacks

    ISW made an astute observation on March 9:

    Individual Russian attacks at roughly regiment size reported on March 8 and March 9 may represent the scale of offensive operations Russian forces can likely conduct on this axis at any one time. The possibility of a larger and more coherent general attack either to encircle Kyiv or to assault it in the coming days remains possible, but the continued commitment of groups of two to five battalion tactical groups (BTGs) at a time makes such a large-scale general attack less likely.

    This is around the time ISW realized that Russia was simply incapable of massing the kind of force necessary to make a serious play on Kyiv. I actually think ISW is being kind here with their “two to five” estimate. I don’t think we’ve seen any attack larger than a few hundred soldiers and a few dozen tanks, which would confirm Russia’s inability to coordinate more than two to three BTGs at a time.

    That’s why we repeatedly see these sad, pathetic, half-assed attacks that lack the punch and heft to seriously contest strongly defended territory. And in a weird way, this confirms their core strategy, which has nothing to do with complex combined-arms tactical maneuvers to take and occupy ground. Rather, Russia “prepares” the territory ahead with artillery until there’s nothing left standing or living, then simply marches forward to occupy the rubble. It’s not totally ineffective. Russia has made some gains, but it takes time that Russia doesn’t have, damages its international standing as civilians die by the score, and ironically, it gives defenders plenty of rubble to shelter under. And quite frankly, it hasn’t worked in any major city thus far. Much of Russia’s advances have been of the “trade land for blood” variety, allowing Russia to advance forward, stretching out their supply lines, then Ukraine hitting them when they’re over-extended.

    That’s exactly what happened to Russia’s famed 4th Guards Tank Division (GTD). as Ukraine harassed it into combat oblivion, wiping out or capturing over half of the most advanced tanks in the Russian army.

    4. Russia is no longer fielding complete units

    Those broken units pulled from Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy should be rested, given R&R, and reinforced with new equipment and personnel. Problem is, Vladimir Putin is demanding his victory lap on May 9, and there are no experienced replacements available (they’re all dead, injured, AWOL, or green conscripts), and that famous Russian grift decimated their stored equipment reserves. But that May 9 WWII parade can’t be postponed, so Russia is prematurely pushing its broken units into the Donbas shredder.

    Look, here’s what’s left of the 4th GTD, heading through Izyum. [Tweet and video available at the link]

    Did they reconstitute? Heck no. Visual estimates by the Open Source intelligence community put the unit at around 40% of its original strength. Still formidable! But nothing compared to its former, imposing self with around 220 tanks and 400 IFVs.

    […] on the Donbas front. […]:

    1. Why did Russia only send one BTG on the attack? It was part of a regiment, which should have four. Yet here they sent a lonely BTG to slaughter. A major, coordinated, massive attack might have overwhelmed tired and overstretched Ukrainian defenders,[…] Instead, those exhausted defenders got to stop a drippy leak instead of a burst pipe. Russia can’t do a burst pipe.

    2. Let’s do some math: Ukraine destroyed or captured 15 IFVs and three tanks. The defenders said that was “more than half” of the attacking force. But if you look above at that chart from the US Army report, a BTG has 10 tanks and 40 IFV’s. So assuming the defenders counted correctly, that means Russia couldn’t even manage to send a full-strength BTG on that attack.

    3. Even worse, let’s say the defenders took out exactly half of the attacking force—that would mean 25 IFVs and 6 tanks engaged, or put another way, it was understrength by 15 IFVs and 4 tanks. As the chart above shows, you only need to destroy 3 tanks and 12 IFVs to render the BTG combat ineffective. This poor BTG was already combat ineffective the second it lurched forward into contested territory. It never stood a chance! Russia doesn’t care.

    Yes, this is an anecdotal example, but we see it time and time again. The small, ineffective probes with little power, and no follow up elements to exploit any breakthroughs. Early in the war, observers thought these were “reconnaissance probes,” trying to suss out the location of defensive positions. Turns out, they were actual attacks, the most Russia could muster.

    Thus, Ukraine continues to play rope-a-dope, letting the attacking BTG punch through, then slamming it from all sides. Nothing else is coming to its aid. And these attacks happen daily along this line. Three such attacks yesterday, which was a relatively quiet day, seven on Friday, at least four on Thursday, seven on Wednesday, and so on. […] Ukraine continues to benefit from Russia’s rank incompetence.

    So will Russia’s feared major attack materialize? The obvious cop-out answer is “maybe,” but I just don’t see it. If it was coming, why would Russia be burning men and equipment on hopeless charges with piecemeal, inadequate forces? Why wouldn’t they be massing those troops for a focused, powerful assault on key Ukrainian defenses, using their sheer numerical superiority to overwhelm defenders?

    Thus far, Russia has proven itself to be utterly incapable of mounting coordinated attacks with more than a handful of BTGs, most with around two. Can they somehow fix this glaring operational deficiency in the next month? I don’t see it. But, you know, maybe.

  156. tomh says

    AP:
    Woman faces Texas murder charge after self-induced abortion
    KEN MILLER and HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH / 9 April, 2022

    A 26-year-old woman has been charged with murder in Texas after authorities said she caused “the death of an individual by self-induced abortion,” in a state that has the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S.

    It’s unclear whether Lizelle Herrera is accused of having an abortion or whether she helped someone else get an abortion.

    Herrera was arrested Thursday and remained jailed Saturday on a $500,000 bond in the Starr County jail in Rio Grande City, on the U.S.-Mexico border, sheriff’s Maj. Carlos Delgado said in a statement.

    “Herrera was arrested and served with an indictment on the charge of Murder after Herrera did then and there intentionally and knowingly cause the death of an individual by self-induced abortion,” Delgado said.

    Delgado did not say under what law Herrera has been charged. He said no other information will be released until at least Monday because the case remains under investigation.

    Texas law exempts her from a criminal homicide charge for aborting her own pregnancy, University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck told The Associated Press.

  157. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog. From there:

    Russia is boosting its campaign to recruit men who are not eligible for conscription to fight in the eastern Donbas region, according to Ukraine’s military intelligence service.

    Posting an update on Telegram, the agency said that employees of “strategic enterprises” are now being drafted. They were previously exempt from active service.

    Russia aims to mobilise around 1,700 employees of the Alchevsk steelworks, it said, as well as powerline maintenance workers in the locality.

    Earlier, Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhaylo Podolyak told Ukraine that it must push back enemy forces in the eastern Donbas region in order to bolster negotiating power for President Volodmyr Zelenskiy.

    And here’s a link to their French election liveblog. From there:

    Abstention rate up, but not at record levels

    The abstention rate, likely to prove crucial in this election, is likely to be between 25% and 26.5 %, according to French pollsters – higher than in the previous 2017 first round (22.23%) but not at 2002 record level of 28.4 %.

    Ifop put the abstention rate at 25 %, Harris Interactive at 25.6% and Ipsos, Elabe and OpinionWay at 26.5%.

    Turnout in the southwest, where voters are more likely to favour Emmanuel Macron, is reportedly higher tha in the northeast,one of the regions most likely to support Marine Le Pen – but the abstenton rate in largely pro-Macron Paris is also quite high, according to French media.

  158. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Macron will face Le Pen in second round, according to projections

    Emmanuel Macron will face Marine Le Pen in the second round of France’s presidential elections, projections show.

    According to usually accurate estimates based on votes cast in a representative sample of polling stations nationwide, it looks like the outgoing president narrowly defeated the leader of the far-right Rassemblement National, scoring around 28.6%-28.1% of the vote against her 24.4-23.3%.

    The far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon finished third on 20%, according to the projections.

  159. blf says

    Here in France, the Green, Communist, and traditional (respectable) conservative candidates have all now conceded and endorsed incumbent President Macron in the second round.

  160. blf says

    The Socialist candidate has also conceded and supported Macron. France24 (live video) just mentioned übernazi Marion Maréchal(-Le Pen) has said Éric Zemmour will be (no surprise here) supporting her aunt’s le penazis. I don’t think Zemmour has conceded (yet?), and sort-of wonder if he’ll go all hair furor and claim a rigged stolen election.

    Also, projections are the Greens and traditional conservatives have both, quite surprisingly, failed to reach the 5% threshold, meaning the French state will not be reimbursing any part of their campaign expenses. Sadly, Zemmour seems to over that threshold.

  161. KG says

    SC@192, blf@193,
    That’s a slightly higher vote and bigger lead for Macron than some were predicting. A lot could depend on Mélenchon, who last time said “not a single vote for Le Pen”, but refused to say “Vote for Macron”. If enough of his supporters stayed home in two weeks, Le Pen could still win. I’m inclined to think Macron should focus on Le Pen’s political and financial links to Putin, but maybe this would backfire.

  162. blf says

    Éric Zemmour is babbling now — presumably conceding — I caught only a few bits of the simultaneous translation into English, but one assertion stood out,I never lied. Rather hair furorian & Putinesque (both of whom he is known to be fond of, having even called for a French Putin).

    There’s some buffoon on the France24 live coverage — a le penazi MEP — who is exasperating, even the host seems to be getting annoyed with him. E.g., when asked the reasonable question, (paraphrasing) “Did Zemmour’s run help or hurt Le Pen?”, teh le penazi buffoon answered You’ll have to ask him, to which the host sharply pointed out he was being asked the question. I do wish he’d go away, he’s ruining the coverage.

  163. blf says

    A snippet from UK could target Russian generals and troops with sanctions, says minister:

    In its latest intelligence assessment, the MoD said that in response to mounting losses, Russia was trying to bolster its forces by recalling troops who had been discharged since 2012.

    It said Russia was also trying to “generate more fighting power” by recruiting [in] Trans-Dniester, an unrecognised breakaway region in Moldova that borders Ukraine.

    Russia invaded Transnistria (Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge’s spelling) waaaay back in the early 1990s, and remains there.

  164. blf says

    There’s a statistical analysis on France24, with an alarming conclusion, (parapharsing) “The republican block vote is becoming insignificant” — the “republican block vote” is the name given to the second-round tactic of democratic (or at-least anti-nazi) parties / voters voting for the non-nazi (also known as “holding your nose” due to a famous rallying cry during the 2002 Jacques Chirac vs Jean-Marie Le Pen second round, nowadays it’s also known as “anyone but Le Pen”). Having said that, I didn’t quite follow the analysis, which seemed to centre on the distinction between “vote for Macon” and “don’t vote for Le Pen” in the second round (in two weeks on 24th April) — some of the concession speeches have called for one, others for the other (which the presumed exception of Zemmour). The “don’t vote…” leaves open the possibilities of not-voting, spoiling the ballet, etc.

    As the Grauniad’s live blog puts it:

    The one [defeated candidate (excepting Zemmour)] who did not [say “vote for Macron”] was far-left France Unbowed leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who stopped short of endorsing Macron but at least demanded that no votes be cast for Le Pen. Mélenchon scored more than 20%. How many of his voters decide to abstain rather than vote for Macron will be crucial.

    Macron is speaking now, and he’s making what seems like an error: He’s behind a giant podium, which reminds one of Putin’s giant tables. (At this precise moment, he’s addressing the “republican block vote” issue, and acknowledging the difference between “vote for…” and “don’t vote for…”.) One of the complaints about Macron is he seems alfoot…

  165. blf says

    Some analysts now on at France24’s live coverage are pointing out Zemmour grabbed all of Le Pen’s extreme nutters (the anti-Muslims, antisemitics, pro-Putins, etc., etc.), and was challenged by that on the media, giving Le Pen something of a easy run, allowing her to focus more on both real and alleged shortcomings of Macron. Apparently, Jean-Luc Mélenchon (see @198 in the last (2017) first-round did not say “vote for…” or “do not vote for…”, so his saying now “do not vote for [teh le penazis]” is an improvement — but the analysts are wondering how much that matters, as (they claim) his voters are notably-“anti-establishment” (he is anti-EU, anti-Nato, but also anti-States and anti-Putin(/Russia), babbling about some sort of non-alliance).

  166. says

    Ukraine update: Russia’s newest moves seem to mirror the failed tactics that led to Kyiv retreat

    While Ukrainian defenders brace for a large-scale Russian attack in the east that may or may not ever come, the mood seems eerily similar to that of the war’s first days and first push towards Kyiv. In principle, Russia’s new plan appears to be to sweep south from Izyum and north from the Mariupol region to capture all or most of Donetsk and Luhansk, cutting off the dug-in Ukrainian positions that have held stable in the war against Russian-backed separatists for years.

    In practice, this all relies on Russian commanders showing skills that they haven’t yet shown, marshaling forces on a scale they haven’t yet been able to marshal, the protection of supply lines longer and more tenuous than the ones that quickly fell to pieces around Kyiv, all with a makeshift assemblage of battered troops pulled from other offensives and, theoretically, mercenary forces pulled from elsewhere.

    In other words, Russia’s top-level strategy is believed to be implausibly ambitious by the military experts who have watched the war unfold to date—and even that ignores the onset of Ukraine’s rainy season, turning much of the front into the sort of thick mud slurry that has claimed seemingly as much Russian armor as Ukraine’s human defenders have.

    One new variable on the scene is the appearance of a new Russian general who at least in theory will be taking command of a Ukrainian invasion that up until now had no visible leadership at all. Aleksandr Dvornikov is said to have earned the favor of Russia’s leadership through, bluntly, a campaign of war crimes in Syria, where he oversaw the sort of civilian bombings that Russia has become infamous for elsewhere.

    But again: In practice, the number of Russian generals who have targeted civilian populations when they could not rout the enemy military consists of approximately All Of Them. It is standard Russian military doctrine at this point, though we likely underestimated the extent to which Russian generals have chosen the strategy not as institutional preference but due to what now is more clearly seen as staggering Russian incompetence at combatting armed opponents—forcing Russian commanders to prefer civilian targets so as to report back to the home office with news of at least something that can plausibly be spun as success.

    The Russian military north of Kyiv, for example, has heroically been lobbing missiles at Ukrainian wheat farms, where at least one Russian missile successfully destroyed three of the Russian military’s most-feared opponents: farm tractors. Russia also destroyed six large granaries, Ukrainian officials say. There is no tactical advantage in destroying granaries, but we can deduce that Russian artillery commanders are primarily occupied with shelling any building large enough to be visible from a distance. Granaries are among the biggest, so here we are.

    Everything we’ve seen on the Donbas front so far is a continuation of Kyiv-area tactics. Russia launches battalion-sized raids into enemy territory; Russian forces get decimated by Ukrainian defenders with access to anti-armor weapons and, now, able to target those advances with precision artillery strikes; Russian forces retreat while continuing to shell whatever civilian infrastructure happens to be within range. That Russia was able to finally capture Izyum is significant, but even it faces the Kyiv problem. The supply lines are long, winding through contested areas, and Ukraine can bring the same tactics that it used around Kyiv to whittle down Russian columns before they ever make it to the frontlines.

    The rest of it looks eerily familiar. It’s unclear what new order this new Russian general is being installed to impose, but a campaign of shelling cities, destroying granaries and missile strikes on crowds of fleeing civilians is something that all the other Russian generals have been accomplishing very well on their own. It may only be another name to pin the resulting war crimes to, in the aftermath of all this.

    If Gen. Dvornikov doesn’t fall out of a Moscow window a month or two from now, of course.

  167. says

    A scary, revealing, and personal thread posted by Professor Olga Chyzh:
    https://twitter.com/olga_chyzh/status/1512911246957420555

    Why do so many Russian-speakers support Putin and this war? Still. Even in Ukraine (though their number is declining). And in other former satellites, or even Canada and the US. Why? How? WHY?

    It’s not just the Kremlin propaganda. Let me tell you a deeply personal story.

    When Russian missiles hit my hometown of Odesa on Feb 24, my mom jumped on the first bus out of the country. Her obvious destination was Moldova—because of geographical proximity, but also, because our family lived there until 1995 when we moved to Ukraine.

    My mom has a network of friends there—Russian-speakers who, unlike our family, still live in Moldova. From the bus, she called her old friend—I’ll call her Tanya—who still lives in Moldova, and asked if she could spend the night—she could only find a hotel room for the day after.

    Tanya was irritated. It was her birthday, and my mom’s unexpected visit was at an bad time. The Russian invasion shook up the entire world, forcing millions of Ukrainians to walk over the border with Moldova in the middle of winter—and Tanya was having a party!

    Tanya is not a monster (at least not fulltime)—she is a highly educated woman that plays the piano and casually quotes Russian literature in everyday conversations. But if you ask her about the Bucha massacre, she’ll tell you it didn’t happen.

    There are millions like her in Moldova, Ukraine, Russia itself, and even in Western countries like Germany, Canada and the US. We call them the “deceived generation,” the last victims of Soviet propaganda.

    The break-up of the USSR marked the start of nation-building (actually re-building), pitting Russian minorities against the ethnic majorities. After more than 50 years of repression (think Bucha), the ethnic majorities finally got a say in the politics of their own states.

    This nation-building consisted of downplaying or outright rejecting everything Soviet (read Russian) in favor of national (Moldovan, Ukrainian), and the corresponding change in the distribution of power and wealth.

    All of a sudden, ethnic Russians who refused to learn the national language, started getting passed over for promotions in favor of those (including ethnic Russians) who spoke the national language.

    In Moldova where I lived, everything around me—TV programming, store signs, street signs, and ever street names—changed from Russian to Romanian.

    Other changes included an increase in the hours of Romanian (in schools for Russian-speakers, like the one I attended), as well as the content of literature and history classes.

    I was a child, so none of this was a big deal. I quickly picked up Romanian, as children do. For the Russian-speaking adults, however, it was not so easy. It is difficult to learn a completely new language as an adult. But the real obstacle was the hubris.

    Russians about their undeniable superiority over everyone else. Why should they learn some backward language like Romanian or Ukrainian if Russian is the “purest and the most beautiful language”?

    How and why should they accept a government made up of non-Russians? And anyway, there was no point in trying, because Russia was going to come back and re-absorb all the former satellites soon enough, setting everything back how it was.

    I kid you not, these were the conversations I listened to as a kid in our Russian-speaking circle of friends. More surprisingly, these are the conversations I still hear (even from my own relatives) today, 30 years later.

    These people still hope that Russia will come to save them from the “inferior” national majorities AND give them their coveted Russian pension. These people are still waiting for Russia to give back the money they lost (na knijke) when the Soviet Union broke up.

    These people did not cause the Russian invasion—contrary to what they think, protecting them is the last thing on Putin’s mind (he doesn’t actually want to pay them pensions). But these people are complicit in the crimes being committed against Ukrainians.

    Deep down, they know that the Bucha massacre did happen—they just don’t care, because the victims are “inferior.” Just ask them about Russian crimes in Chechnya. #StandWithUkraine #StopPutin #BuchaMasacre #MariupolMassacre

  168. says

    Russia’s future:

    The invasion of Ukraine has sparked a mass exodus of educated young Russians from Russia. The steady stream of academic, finance, and tech workers leaving the country has become a stampede for the exits as Putin steps up repression. Anti-war and anti-Putin, this is a generation that has grown up under Putin and grown up with Western tech, fashion, and media. They were Russia’s best hope for economic diversification away from total dependence on Oil and Gas revenue. The new vibrant Russian economy they were essential in building collapsed almost overnight along with any hope for a future in Russia under Putin’s iron fist.

    According to RAEK, a Russian technology trade group, between 50,000 and 70,000 tech workers have already fled Russia, and 70,000 to 100,000 more could leave in April.

    They hate Putin and Putin hates them. Putin calls them a fifth column of traitors and that Russia is better off without them. Founders of startups, high in-demand software developers, artists, writers, the best and the brightest of the Russian Federation are now persona non grata in Vlad’s repressive dystopian state. In response to a question from a reporter a new Russian exile in Istanbul had this to say:

    When I ask them if they have encountered any instances of Russophobia while abroad Nastya has a sharp reply: “Nowhere are Russians treated as badly as in Russia.”

    […] One of Russia’s most popular rappers, Oxxxymiron brought his banned anti-war message to a sold-out show in Istanbul. The proceeds from his show which was attended by young Russians and Ukrainians went to help Ukrainian refugees. Oxxxymiron has had concerts benefiting Ukraine in Berlin and London as well. [video available at the link]

    Meanwhile, in Ukraine, Russian soldiers that have joined the Ukrainians and formed the Legion of Free Russia to fight alongside the Ukrainian armed forces have received their new uniforms with the white, blue, white Russian flag of the free Russians. [Photo at the link] The red stripe of blood and shame for the atrocities in Ukraine is gone from the new flag of Russian resistance. The unit has seen its first combat and taken a Russian lieutenant prisoner. In addition, there may be as many as 100’s of anti-Putin Russian activists fighting in the Ukrainian territorial defense forces.

    If Putin’s army is defeated in Ukraine it will create a devastating shock to those who have been living in Putin’s propaganda bubble. Already, cracks in the lie are appearing as Russian soldiers call family and relay the true picture of the disaster in Ukraine. Body bags have been coming home to Russia. The shock of defeat in Ukraine combined with the shock of a collapsed economy and widespread economic misery could change everything. Like President Zelenskyy, the Russian resistance sees Ukraine as the frontline in the war for democracy, freedom, and the rule of law. This movement which is right now just beginning to emerge may become a serious force inside Russia depending on developments in Ukraine. Putin awakened a sleeping lion in Ukraine, he may also have inadvertently awakened one in Russia.

    Link

  169. blf says

    Intriguingly — albeit still unlikely anything changes — as real results are counted replacing the (usually very accurate) projections — Jean-Luc Mélenchon is closing in on Le Pen, within something like a single point. Both Macron and Mélenchon have problems, but neither is a nazi.

  170. blf says

    Update to tomh@28, Murder charges dropped against Texas woman for ‘self-induced abortion’:

    […]
    Lizelle Herrera, 26, was reported to be back with her family on Sunday after the district attorney in Rio Grande City, on the US–Mexico border, put out a statement saying he was immediately dismissing the case. Herrera had been arrested last Thursday and placed in the Starr county jail on the back of a grand jury indictment.

    “The issues surrounding this matter are clearly contentious,” the DA, Gocha Allen Ramirez, said. “However, based on Texas law and the facts presented, it is not a criminal matter.”

    The prosecutor added: “Ms Herrera did not commit a criminal act under the laws of the state of Texas.”

    Ramirez’s statement correlates with the view of legal experts and women’s rights advocates who say that Herrera’s arrest should never have happened in the first place. Texas authorities are now likely to face accusations that by putting the woman behind bars they committed an act of gross overreach.

    […]

  171. blf says

    Currently on the France24 live, the analysts have pointed out in 2017 Macron, in the second round had to win over the traditional conservative voters; this time, he has to win around Mélenchon’s (far-)left voters.

    France24 is currently replaying an excerpt of Macron’s speech tonight, and a difference I’ve just noticed… he is the only(?) candidate who had a sign-language interpreter.

  172. blf says

    Locally, it seems teh le penazis got c.28% (higher than the national rate of c.24%), President Macron c.25% (lower than the national rate of c.28%), with Mélenchon at c.20% (lower than the national rate of c.22%), and, sadly, Zemmour at c.12% (noticeably higher than the national rate of less than 8%). This area is a known nazi / lonnytarin “stronghold”, albeit the actual nazi- or loonytarin-controlled local(-ish) governments in the area are few.

  173. blf says

    @206, Apologies, I neglected to mention local turnout was c.73%, essentially the same as the national (French) rate.

  174. StevoR says

    Lost my beloved old kelpie Chokko on Saturday night. She was hit and killed by a car whilst we were out walking. I’m devastated & heartbroken.

  175. Paul K says

    Oh, SteveoR! I’m so sorry. That’s terrible! I wish there was something I can do other than wish you the best as you process this.

  176. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    SrevoR #208
    Sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved pet. My sincere condolences.

  177. KG says

    blf@198,199,203,
    Full results of the French Presidential election first-round are now in. I think Le Pen (and the many journalists and commentators who just love a far-right victory even though not far-right themselves) will be rather disappointed. While her vote is up on 2017’s first round, Macron’s is up more – and Mélenchon came within 1.5% of cutting her out of the run-off. It would be foolish to assume she will lose in 2 weeks – Macron will no doubt continue to display his infuriating arrogance – but a Harris interactive study linked from this link indicates that more of Mélenchon’s, Pécresse’s and Hidalgo’s voters will back Macron than Le Pen (although a lot of Mélenchon’s will abstain, something he irresponsibly failed to discourage), and I’ve no doubt the same will be true of Yadot’s and Roussel’s. I’ve no idea about Lassalle’s or Dupont-Aignan’s, but with only Zemmour’s ultra-fascists transferring en masse to Le Pen, it’s hard to see how she would overtake Macron.

  178. blf says

    StevoR@208, Condolences. Very sad to hear the news.

    KG@212, I concur (and thanks for the links!). The two imponderables (barring some unforeseen events) are what will be the absenteeism rate in the second-round, and what will Mélenchon’s supporters do? There’s only one correct answer to both — 2002’s “hold your nose” tactical voting against teh le penazis (le putinazis?) — buuuuut… since Mélenchon is, like Le Pen, anti-EU (and so presumably anti-Euro), anti-Nato, and anti-States, at first glance his supporters might prefer her self-constructed image over Macron’s demonstrated reality (Macron is pro-EU, pro-Euro, pro-Nato, and friendly to the States). As one analyst put it, (paraphrasing from memory) “It’d be ironic if Macron looses because he’s been doing his job (instead of campaigning).”

    However, Le Pen is notoriously pro-Putin (Mélenchon, to his credit, never has been), her “green” policies are a racist nonsense (Mélenchon’s are more realistic), similarly for education, etc., and they are dramatically different on economic matters (especially after factoring-in Le Pen’s lying). And Le Pen does lie, a lot (maybe perhaps not at hair furor, Putin, or Zemmour levels, but constantly (not sure how she compares to Borris in teh “U”K on the amount of lying?)). In one early interview I read(? saw?), a naturally-disappointed Mélenchon supporter sobbed I’ll abstain, Macron, Le Pen, they’re the same, it doesn’t matter. I myself tend to discount these early interviews as people are naturally emotional, nonetheless Macron, perhaps especially, will have to get enough Mélenchon supporters to hold their noses, vote, and vote for him. (Putin might come in handy here, except foreign affairs usually aren’t an issue (other than the EU) — another change coming, perhaps, due to Putin’s war on Ukraine?)

    What is perhaps another imponderable is it’s currently thought Mélenchon’s party will take additional seats in the Parliamentary elections later this year (first round is on 12th June). Maybe, if Mélenchon weren’t such an ass and Macron so aloof, Macron could do a deal with Mélenchon, vote now for me (probably better put as vote, and vote against Le Pen) and I’ll work with your MPs (or something like that). Indeed, in an(? that same?) interview, something like that was broadly mooted (with specific reference, as I now recall, to both education and ecology).

  179. blf says

    Rather disappointingly (according to KG@212’s link), the region I live in, Bouches-du-Rhône, voted c.26% for teh le penazis. Mélenchon at c.24% did better than Macron (c.23%). But this is one of the few areas in France where Zemmour got over 10% (fortunately not the highest, some other areas saw that übernazi get c.14%). While this area has waaaay too many facists and loonytarians, they fortunately don’t actually hold very many seats / councils in the area. What I don’t know is just how the facist vote is distributed in this area, which includes Marseille (France’s second largest city), with a historical reputation for crimemafia and a large immigrant population (Zemmour, naturally, conflated and exploited those two reputations with a particularly nasty speech (see @457(previous page)).

  180. KG says

    Results and some analysis from the Guardian. Poll taken before the first round but asking who the voter would vote for in a Macron/Le Pen run-off (if either) suggest a win for Macron of just under 5%.

  181. blf says

    me@218, “What I don’t know is just how the facist vote is distributed in this area, which includes Marseille”. The local paper had a list (but not a map) of the distribution in the area, and Marseille went for Mélenchon in a big way (30-something percent (from memory)). Le Pen seemed to mostly “win” in the rural areas and smaller towns / villages (in this area).

  182. says

    StevoR @212: “Lost my beloved old kelpie Chokko on Saturday night. She was hit and killed by a car whilst we were out walking. I’m devastated & heartbroken.”

    How traumatic that must be. I am so sorry for your loss.

  183. blf says

    Maryland expands abortion access as lawmakers override Republican governor:

    […]
    Maryland has become the 15th US state to allow health professionals other than doctors to carry out abortions, as part of a bill expanding access to reproductive rights for women.

    Under the new law, midwives, senior nurses and trained doctor’s assistants will be authorised to perform medical abortions from 1 July. The bill also directs the state to ring-fence $3.5m a year for abortion-care training.

    The bill was vetoed by the Republican governor, Larry Hogan, but approved on Saturday with substantial majorities in the state house and senate.

    Hogan claimed in an open letter the bill would endanger the health and lives of women and set back standards for women’s health care and safety.

    There is no evidence that allowing advanced clinicians to provide abortion care in states including California, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois and New Hampshire has led to lower standards.

    The law, which may face legal challenge from anti-choice groups, also requires most insurance companies to cover the cost of an abortion at no cost to the patient. […]

    […]

    In 2017, Maryland became the first state to pass legislation guaranteeing funding for Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest abortion provider, regardless of federal cuts.

  184. blf says

    Sweden and Finland make moves to join Nato:

    […]
    Sweden’s ruling party has begun debating whether the country should join Nato, and neighbouring Finland expects to reach a decision within weeks […].

    Both countries are officially non-aligned militarily, but public support for Nato membership has almost doubled since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to about 50% in Sweden and 60% in Finland, multiple opinion polls suggest.

    […]

    Both countries have received public assurances from the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, that their applications would be welcome, as well as expressions of support from several members including the US, UK, Germany, France and Turkey.

    But the move would almost certainly be seen as a provocation by the Kremlin, whose spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said on Monday that the alliance was a tool geared towards confrontation and that their possible accession will not bring stability to the European continent.

  185. says

    Ukraine update: Russia will break new records of stupidity if it really thinks it can move on Dnipro

    Russia expended considerable efforts to take Kyiv in the first five weeks of the war, for all the obvious reasons: Regime decapitation, propaganda value, cutting off supply routes to Ukrainian forces in the east, and so on.

    However, the effort quickly ran into trouble. The prong from the northwest, through Chernobyl, stalled at Bucha and Irpin. From the northeast, Russia’s inability to take Chernihiv fixed Russian forces just over their border. Thus, desperate to encircle Kyiv, Russia stretched itself out from Sumy, all the way to the capital’s eastern outskirts. [map available at the link]

    You can see the two long, billowy east-west supply lines from the Sumy region. Maps marked those roads as Russian controlled, but the reality was quite different. For weeks, Ukraine feasted on supply convoys attempting that trip [snipped links to examples], until at the end of March, Russia cried “uncle!” and that was that. Those forces were withdrawn. Well, what shards of them remained.

    Why bring up this old bit of news?

    [Tweet quoting New York Times]

    Russia will likely wage an offense between Izyum and Dnipro. U.S. analysts predict Russian troops will carry out a major offensive from Izyum to the central city of Dnipro, a strategic target in Donbas region […]

    U.S. intelligence has been mostly good this entire war, so it’s hard to dismiss it out of hand. But … wut? [See map at the link showing out far Dnipro is from Izyum, and how far Dnipro is from the Donbas region. Maybe the NYT got the whole thing wrong?]

    The obvious goal is to try and enact a pincer maneuver from Izyum in the north, to Mariupol in the south, to trap the third (or so) of the Ukrainian army currently holding defensive entrenched positions on the border with the purple separatist-held area. Efforts to breach those defensive positions head-on have repeatedly failed, all the way back to 2014, hence the effort to surround them and cut them off from supplies and reinforcements.

    The pincer maneuver is tough enough, requiring Russia to stretch out around 200 kilometers (~120 miles). This opens them up to the same resupply issues they faced up in their Sumy-to-Kyiv effort, while simultaneously exposing themselves to flank attacks from both the east and the west.

    […] there is little indication Russia can mass the kind of forces needed to make a real go at this. The existing, obvious plan is already a bit of a Hail Mary pass, as Russia desperately tries to notch any success in time for Vladimir Putin’s precious WWII commemorative parade on May 9.

    Yet despite the difficult odds, Russia is supposedly looking to additionally march on Dnipro? Let’s get a close-up of the route Russian forces would have to take: [map available at the link]

    First of all, there is no direct highway to Dnipro. Shortest route would be to head west through Hrushuvakha (pop. 800), down through Lozova (pop. 55,000), take a right at Pavlohrad (pop. 109,000), then push through Novomoskovsk (pop. 70,000), and the rest of the eastern suburbs to Dnipro (pop. 966,400). Total distance? 231 kilometers (144 miles).

    Or Russia could head east, through tiny Hrushuvakha again, all the way out to Sakhnovshchyna (pop. 7,000), to the outskirts of Krasnohrad (pop. 20,000), then directly south toward Dnipro until they hit Novomoskovsk. Dramatically smaller population centers! But the distance is now closer to 300 kilometers (186 miles). Both routes would suffer from the same exposed flanks as the pincer. And looking at the satellite imagery of the route, it’s all like this: [Satellite image showing flat farm land is available at the link]

    That’s wide-open agricultural fields, punctuated by the occasional wooded forest. Meanwhile, Ukrainian artillery would sit in Dnipro and hammer any approaching columns, while those woods would provide natural ambush sites. Ukrainian drones could operate far from most Russian air defenses. It would look like more of this: [video of Ukraine's 53rd Mechanized Brigade artillery attacking Russian equipment is available from the link]

    And say Russia gets to the outskirts of Dnipro, then what? It won’t enter. Russia can’t even take cities on its border with zero supply lines to worry about. Are we really going to pretend that Russia would have a chance against a much bigger city than Kharkiv, Sumy, or Mariupol, except at the end of a long, extended, and vulnerable supply line?

    U.S. intelligence is fallible. It has, at various times, and multiple times, claimed Belarus was about to directly enter the war, and that Odesa faced an amphibious assault. And sure, I bet Russian generals are currently hovering over a map of Ukraine, fantasizing about taking Dnipro. But we would be so lucky if Russia attempted to pull that trigger. It won’t. Just like their fantasies of taking Kyiv and Odesa will never be realized.

    Shifting gears slightly, I’ve noted multiple times, including yesterday, how Russia is incapable of attacking with more than 1-2 Battalion Tactical Groups at a time. Here’s additional evidence: [image available at the link]

    They’ve got six BTGs in Izyum. At full-strength, each would have 800 soldiers, or 4,800 total. (Remember, a big chunk are support, but let’s pretend Russia is throwing everyone into the meat grinder.) […] as we saw yesterday, those BTGs aren’t even at full strength. Nowhere near it, in fact. Ukraine gets to handle the drip-drip of Russian attacks, because the former superpower is incapable of turning on the spigot.

    And actually, we really don’t have to pretend that Russia is throwing support personnel into the meat grinder, because we know they are. We have evidence: [Tweet with image of supporting documents, including Russian passports, is available at the link]

    Three lieutenants, three officers, means they are out of contract soldiers to crew armored personnel carriers (APC). […] it was either untrained uneducated conscripts, or three officers.

    But they weren’t even combat officers, with experience handling such equipment! One was a weather guy, likely there to help inform aviation efforts. But since so few planes and helicopters are flying, I guess it made him expendable. So yeah, the support guys, including officers, are being thrown into the same meat grinder as the (likely also dead) conscripts who were in the back of that APC. […]

    Russia is running low on skilled soldiers and can’t manage a half-coherent attack a few kilometers south of Izyum. So no, they’re not going to now push 230-300 kilometers to Dnipro. That’s the dumbest shit I’ve heard […] in a war so f’n stupid, that if it was a movie, we’d all groan and give it a thumbs down for being so unrealistic.

  186. says

    Jared Kushner got $2 billion in Saudi investment despite ‘unsatisfactory’ business operations

    After his father-in-law left the White House, Jared Kushner got a $2 billion golden parachute—from the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Kushner predictably started a private equity firm despite his lack of experience in private equity, and went to the main Saudi sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), asking for an “investment.”

    The professionals in charge of screening possible investments for the PIF raised a series of objections only to be overruled days later by the fund’s board, which is led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with whom Kushner became close during his time as a senior White House adviser.

    The objections to investing in Kushner’s private equity firm, Affinity Partners, included “’the inexperience of the Affinity Fund management’; the possibility that the kingdom would be responsible for ‘the bulk of the investment and risk’; due diligence on the fledgling firm’s operations that found them ‘unsatisfactory in all aspects’; a proposed asset management fee that ‘seems excessive’; and ‘public relations risks’ from Mr. Kushner’s prior role as a senior adviser to his father-in-law, former President Donald J. Trump, according to minutes of the panel’s meeting last June 30,” The New York Times reports.

    The reason given internally was that Kushner was worth the risk despite his inexperience and potential public relations problems, in order to “capitalize on the capabilities of Affinity’s founders’ deep understanding of different government policies and geopolitical systems.” That’s a lot of words when you could just say “buying access and influence.”

    As a measure of how much the eventual bin Salman-led decision to hand over $2 billion to Kushner was driven by relationships, Steven Mnuchin, the former Trump treasury secretary, also started a private equity firm and went to Saudi Arabia asking for money. He got $1 billion despite having relevant experience in the field. Kushner is also getting a higher asset management fee from the PIF than Mnuchin is.

    Few other investors have bought what Kushner was selling. According to public filings, the main fund at Affinity Partners had just $2.5 billion invested. It sounds like he’s basically owned by Saudi Arabia at this point. […]

    In a side note on the brokenness of the traditional media, check out this framing: “Ethics experts say that such a deal creates the appearance of potential payback for Mr. Kushner’s actions in the White House — or of a bid for future favor if Mr. Trump seeks and wins another presidential term in 2024.”

    Guys. You really don’t need ethics experts to tell you that. Everyone can see it. Nor do you need to include the waffling “the appearance of.” It’s blatantly corrupt, even if we don’t know if it’s more of a thank you for Jared’s help providing cover on the murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, or more of a down payment on future services should Trump make it back to the White House. And it’s business as usual for all of Team Trump.

  187. says

    Republicans being stupid, and being in the dark after they themselves turned out the lights:

    […] GOP leaders quickly announced a boycott of the [January 6 special select] committee, though two House Republicans — Wyoming’s Liz Cheney and Illinois’ Adam Kinzinger — agreed to serve on the bipartisan panel anyway.

    Whether he realized this or not, McCarthy’s decision was risky. Not only did the partisan boycott create uncomfortable questions about patriotism, there were also strategic considerations.

    For example, House GOP leaders haven’t the foggiest idea what’s going on with the investigation. The Washington Post reported over the weekend:

    One by one, Republicans eviscerated the work of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, each one bemoaning the fact that the chief congressional security officials had not been subpoenaed to examine that day’s security lapses. Not interviewing these key officials was proof, they suggested, that the committee was just out to score political points against Republicans.

    The Republicans’ “proof” unraveled soon after. Rep. Jamie Raskin explained that the panel has already interviewed those chief congressional security officials. “We have in fact interviewed precisely the people they set up as a test for the validity of our investigation,” the Maryland Democrat said.

    GOP leaders didn’t know that. They simply assumed that because the congressional security officials hadn’t been subpoenaed, it meant the committee hadn’t interviewed them. In reality, the security officials voluntarily agreed to answer questions.

    In other words, Republican leaders went on the attack without getting their facts straight — and they didn’t have their facts straight because they deliberately left themselves clueless as the investigation has progressed.

    The Post’s report added, “Without knowing precisely what the committee is doing and who it is talking to, Republicans have struggled to prepare lines of defense for former president Donald Trump. Even more important to their own personal interests, dozens of GOP lawmakers are left in the dark about what evidence the committee has collected involving their own contacts with Trump and his senior advisers in the run up to, and during, the attack on the Capitol.”

    As the select committee prepares to hold public hearings, the problem for the GOP is likely to intensify […]

    An NBC News report added:

    Other than public reporting, Republicans aren’t aware of leads the committee is chasing, what witnesses are saying in the 750 depositions it has conducted in private and what’s in the nearly 90,000 documents it has received. “That’s an error,” the GOP aide said. “If Republicans were on a committee and were able to participate in any of this right now, they could be leaking things, they could be setting their own narratives.”

    McCarthy seemed to believe he was punishing House Democrats last year when he refused to participate in the process he previously supported. If he’d only thought ahead a bit more, the would-be House Speaker would’ve realized he was doing far more harm to his own interests.

    Link

    Republicans shot themselves in the foot (feet?). So sad.

  188. says

    Campaign news, as summarized by Steve Benen:

    * The latest ABC News/Ipsos poll found an important enthusiasm gap in the 2022 electorate: 55 percent of Republicans said they’re “very enthusiastic” about voting in this year’s midterm elections, compared to only 35 percent of Democrats who said the same. If that doesn’t change, Democrats will get crushed in the fall.

    * In Pennsylvania’s competitive Republican Senate primary, Donald Trump has thrown his support behind Mehmet Oz, better known as television personality “Dr. Oz.” Many of the former president’s political allies were not pleased with the decision and preferred former hedge fund executive David McCormick. […]

    * Colorado Republicans over the weekend formally backed state Rep. Ron Hanks in this year’s race against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, despite (or perhaps because of) the state legislator’s support for election conspiracy theories. Hanks has not only echoed lies about Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat, he’s also released an ad in which the Republican is seen literally blowing up a fake Dominion Voting machine. [Oh, FFS]

    * Late last week in Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a package of GOP-created changes to the state’s voting and election laws. The Associated Press’ report added, “Republicans who fast-tracked the bills don’t have the votes to override his vetoes.” [Yay. Good news.]

    * And in Georgia’s 10th congressional district, Republican Vernon Jones argued late last week that civil rights protections shouldn’t apply to LGBTQ Americans because, as he sees it, people “can actually change” their sexual orientation. Jones, incidentally, has already received Trump’s endorsement in the race. [Aiyiyiyi]

    Link

  189. says

    Followup to comment 227.

    Josh Marshall:

    […] This is possibly the largest and most brazen instance of public corruption I’ve seen in twenty five years covering American politics as a journalist. And this is saying something since, as you know, public corruption has always been one of my greatest interests and consistent beats. We knew a relationship like this was building through the Trump administration. Trump’s son-in-law, callow and hungry, had taken over administration Middle East policy, in the expectations of the big money pay offs the Saudis especially but not only them could provide to the Trump-Kushner family. And here we are with what is certainly just one example of the pay off. We knew it was coming but the sheer scale of it, the sheer openness of it […]

    But it’s not just the big money payoff to the tune of over $2 billion. The relationship continues. There’s little question that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, now totally controlled by MBS, continues to work on behalf of the Trump/Kushner family and against the Biden administration. Certainly that is not their only aim. But it is a key one that advances numerous interests. The Saudis biggest goal is to get the U.S. to support its war in Yemen and their broader confrontation with Iran. This is what the Trump administration accommodated and the Obama and Biden administrations have generally resisted. The unwillingness of the Saudis and their Gulf allies to raise oil production and thus take some of the pressure off oil prices is also part of this equation. It helps put the squeeze on the Biden administration. (The Saudis have said explicitly and pretty openly, why should we help them on oil prices when the U.S. isn’t helping fight the war in Yemen?) Yes, it’s complicated. The Kushner corruption is only one part of this multi-player relationship. But the continuing political power of the Trumps over the GOP and their possible return to the White House is the critical factor.

    Much more to come here.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/the-big-big-money

  190. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 229

    The latest ABC News/Ipsos poll found an important enthusiasm gap in the 2022 electorate: 55 percent of Republicans said they’re “very enthusiastic” about voting in this year’s midterm elections, compared to only 35 percent of Democrats who said the same. If that doesn’t change, Democrats will get crushed in the fall.

    You see? This is what I’m talking about. The right is motivated. The right is chomping at the bit to vote. The right is willing to commit acts of violence to ensure they have victory or cast doubts upon their defeat? The right has an agenda they are willing to do anything make their racist, sexist, fascist, wet dreams come true.

    What is our nation’s laughable excuse for a “Left” willing to do for their alleged goals? Nothing! Even the prospects of a fascist America and a return of Trump isn’t enough to convince the Dems to be worried about November.

    The right understands how to get victory in politics–Yes, that includes playing dirty. The Left/Dems, when they can be roused at all, can only wring its hands about morality and tone. The Right is going to win, the world is going to go to hell, and all the protesting and tweeting is going to stop them.

    In Pennsylvania’s competitive Republican Senate primary, Donald Trump has thrown his support behind Mehmet Oz, better known as television personality “Dr. Oz.” Many of the former president’s political allies were not pleased with the decision and preferred former hedge fund executive David McCormick. […]

    I’m not going to guess how much Oz gave to Trump for this endorsement, but you can be sure that Trump also agreed to it because Oz has celebrity name recognition and a win could put a loyal thrall into the Senate. Oz’s anti-vax/alt-med spiel should make him popular with the current anti-science/anti-medicine right especially not that he has Trump’s endorsement.

  191. says

    Update on Joe Manchin as the fool he is, and the fool he is seen to be:

    Two big stories hit the wires today, and reading between the lines in them, it seems like everybody is fed up with Sen. Joe Manchin’s back-stabbing of fellow Democrats, and they’re increasingly willing to talk about it. Obliquely and cautiously, of course, but nonetheless on the record. It seems that fellow Democrats are now willing to talk about just how untrustworthy he is.

    The White House has been burned so many times by Manchin that they’re not going to say anything specific about how or whether they are proceeding with negotiations over rebuilding Build Back Better, the big climate and domestic investments bill that Manchin scuttled last year. “I would quite explicitly not comment on the conversations that are happening,” Brian Deese, Biden’s National Economic Council director, told reporters recently. “I don’t think that has served anyone particularly well.”

    It has indeed not, since Manchin has reneged time and time again. At this point, everyone involved is very carefully not saying anything about what Manchin has told them he’s willing to do, because every time they’ve gone out on a limb about what’s he’s committed to, he denies it. […] “There are things like prescription drugs and lower utility bills that people understand are popular—are practical,” Deese told Politico. “If we can get movement, it will be in exactly that frame.”

    […] “This is really up to Joe,” one person involved in the process told Politico. “It’s basically going to be the Manchin reconciliation bill when all is said and done.” Another said “This is a matter of Joe Manchin coming up with a bill that he’s comfortable with. … He is the way he is.”

    That’s no guarantee of getting Manchin on board, however, as his fellow moderate Democrats in the Senate well know. That’s what they did with the voting rights effort. Manchin was the single Democratic senator who opposed HR 1, the For the People Act the House passed early in 2021. So they had him write his own bill, one that he promised he would get Republicans to support. That didn’t turn out so well. [Understatement]

    Rolling Stone has the other big new Manchin story about how he scuttled this effort, and it’s not a flattering portrayal from fellow Democrats interviewed—more than 30 key people inside and outside of Congress who worked on the voting rights legislation. It starts with Sen. Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat who has been spending way too much time trying to get Manchin to play along, telling Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, “I think we’re gonna get this voting-rights thing done.”

    Yeah, right. Tester—along with Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Angus King (I-VT)—had been painstakingly working with Manchin not just to draft the bill, but to get him to agree to a process that would let it pass. And Tester really thought that they were there, that Manchin really wanted what he said he wanted […]

    Here’s how it went: “At the end of one of their calls, Tester recalls saying that with everyone in agreement on a filibuster deal, all they had to do was put the finishing touches on the voting legislation itself and they were ready to proceed. ‘Yeah,’ Manchin replied, according to Tester.”

    Kaine spent the most time working with Manchin on the process, including the night he spent in his car, stranded in a snow storm out side of D.C. He told Rolling Stone that he too had thought Manchin was on board making the changes to the filibuster necessary to get it passed. “I thought we were there a couple of times,” Kaine says. […]

    “It was like riding a roller coaster,” Sen. Tester told Rolling Stone. “There were many nights when I went to bed and I thought, ‘This thing is done. We just have to hammer out the details.’ But then something would always happen,” […]

    In the meantime, the other back-stabber in the caucus was apparently feeling neglected. Her spokesman, John LaBombard, says as much. He told Rolling Stone that no one was paying her enough attention, assuming that she wouldn’t ultimately stand alone against the reform if they got Manchin on board. Team Sen. Kyrsten Sinema wants the world to know that she’s as much of a diva as Manchin. […]

    So that’s why she gave that big, obnoxious floor speech—the longest one in her career—against changing the filibuster to save democracy. She was peeved that Manchin was getting all the attention [Oh FFS]

    […] Some of the stuff Manchin has said he would agree to (and again, all of that has to be taking with several blocks of salt) are thing Sinema has already nixed. Namely, raising taxes on super rich people and corporations, since they’re presumably paying her way these days.

    The level of frustration with Manchin openly expressed by White House staff and Democratic senators suggests that they’ve reached the end of their capacity for patience with him. […]

    As far as Sinema is concerned, who the hell knows. At this point there truly is just one solution: Increase the Democrats’ majority […] Meanwhile, the two of them are doing everything they can to sabotage the 2022 midterm election for Democrats.

    Link

    The article is accompanied by a photo of Manchin sitting with Republicans in the Senate chamber.

    See also: How Joe Manchin Knifed the Democrats — and Bailed on Saving Democracy

  192. says

    Akira @231: “Oz’s anti-vax/alt-med spiel should make him popular with the current anti-science/anti-medicine right especially not that he has Trump’s endorsement.”

    All too true. It’s shameful.

  193. says

    Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer met face to face with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, calling the encounter “unfriendly” and “tough” after raising points about Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine.

    Nehammer was the first Western leader to sit down with Putin since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. While Austria is not a member of NATO, as a member of the European Union (EU), it has backed sanctions against Russia.

    “This is not a friendly visit,” Nehammer said in a statement after the meeting. “I have just come from Ukraine and have seen with my own eyes the immeasurable suffering caused by the Russian war of aggression.”

    According to Nehammer’s office, as reported by CNN, the pair spoke for about 75 minutes at Putin’s residence outside Moscow. Before the talks, Nehammer said he intended to tell Putin that he “lost the war morally.”

    “It should be in his [Putin’s] own interest that someone tells him the truth,” Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said. “I think it is important and we owe it to ourselves if we want to save human lives.”

    Previously, Nehammer met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv and visited Bucha, where Russian forces killed unarmed civilians and left their bodies on the streets. Nehammer said he addressed those “war crimes” in the meeting and urged for humanitarian corridors.

    Despite its backing of EU sanctions, Austria ruled out any sanctions that target oil and gas coming from Russia since it heavily depends on them. Amid ongoing meetings, multiple foreign ministers said Monday that the EU’s executive is drafting proposals for an oil embargo on Russia, as reported by Reuters. […]

    Link

  194. says

    Quoted in Lynna’s #229:

    And in Georgia’s 10th congressional district, Republican Vernon Jones argued late last week that civil rights protections shouldn’t apply to LGBTQ Americans because, as he sees it, people “can actually change” their sexual orientation.

    If he thinks he can just become gay, he mustn’t be too certain he’s straight.

  195. says

    Wonkette: Maryland Dems Save Pile of Bills Over Governor’s Veto

    Yay, good news.

    On Friday, Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan vetoed some really great bills passed by the state’s legislature, including measures to expand abortion access, fund a family leave program, and to require firearms dealers to implement certain security measures to prevent their stores from being robbed.

    However over the weekend, the majority Democratic legislature managed to override those vetoes and pass the damn bills anyway.

    The Time To Care Act (SB 275), which passed Saturday with votes of 30-16 in the Senate and 94-44 in the House, creates an insurance program to provide workers with up to 12 weeks of paid leave to take care of a new child, care for a sick relative or deal with an illness themselves. It also bars businesses from punishing workers for taking advantage of the program. The passage of this bill, which is supported by 88 percent of the state, will make a huge difference in the lives of Maryland workers, who will now be able to deal with major life events without having to worry that they will lose their jobs.

    The program, which will provide employees with up to 90 percent of their current salary while they are out, will be funded with contributions from employees and employers, although employers with fewer than 15 employees will not be required to contribute. Maryland now joins California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Washington, and Washington, DC, in having a paid family leave program. Given the impossibility of getting such a program passed on a national level, let’s hope this starts a trend and other states follow their lead.

    The legislature was also able to pass the Abortion Care Access Act (HB 937) on its own. [See blf’s comment 224]

    Given that Roe is about to be overturned, any step to improve access to abortion is a welcome improvement.

    In addition to these to bills, the legislature also passed HB 1021, a measure to prevent gun stores from being robbed. Firearms dealers will now be required to implement reasonable security measures, such as putting bars on their windows, installing security cameras, alarm systems and commercial grade metal doors. It will also require “a licensed firearms dealer to lock certain firearms in a certain location outside business hours.”

    […] Other bills the Democratic supermajority passed include a bill that will require police interrogating minors to notify their parents and allow them to consult with a lawyer beforehand, [and] a bill “applying the Prevailing Wage Law to a certain contract for the construction of a public work by expanding the definition of ‘construction’ to include services provided under a mechanical systems service contract,” and a bill requiring the Maryland Transit Administration to invest in the Maryland Area Regional Commuter rail service.

    […] Truly, it is refreshing to see a pile of great bills passed that are actually going to help people, and it shows what can be done when the public votes for people who aren’t monsters. It also shows the importance of local elections, because these bills would not have been passed without a Democratic supermajority in the state legislature.

    Vote! And pay attention to contested seats in state legislatures.

  196. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian (support them if you can!) Ukraine liveblog. Their most recent summary:

    Ukraine’s eastern city of Kharkiv came under heavy shelling today, resulting in multiple casualties, mayor Ihor Terekhov said. Among the casualties in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, was the death of one child, the region’s mayor said.

    The bodies of seven people have been recovered from the rubble of two destroyed high-rise housing blocks in the town of Borodianka near Kyiv, Ukraine’s state emergencies service said. The recovered bodies pushed the total death toll there to 19 people found in the rubble, it said in a statement.

    Tens of thousands of people have most likely been killed in Russia’s assault on the south-eastern city of Mariupol, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said. Speaking in a video address to the South Korean parliament, Zelenskiy said “Ukraine needs support for its military, including planes and tanks”.

    Ukrainian forces are readying themselves for a “last battle” to control the besieged southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, a statement on the Facebook page of the 36th marine brigade of the Ukrainian armed forces said. Ukraine’s military commander-in-chief, Gen Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, said Ukrainian forces were still holding out in the port of Mariupol.

    Moscow will not pause its military operation in Ukraine before the next round of peace talks, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said. Speaking in an interview with Russian state television, Lavrov said he saw no reason not to continue talks with Ukraine but insisted Moscow would not halt its military operation when the sides convene again.

    Western officials said they expected Russia to try and “double or perhaps even treble” its forces in Donbas as it shifts forces from Kyiv and elsewhere in the coming weeks. The first of those forces had begun to redeploy via Belarus, but the whole exercise would take “some considerable time” and it was unclear how many units could be effectively brought back into battle.

    The US president, Joe Biden, spoke with Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, stressing the countries’ shared values as the US pushed India to take a harder line against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Modi called the situation in Ukraine “very worrying” and said he has spoken with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy, appealing to both of them for peace.

    The Austrian chancellor, Karl Nehammer, held “direct, open and tough” talks with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow today. In a statement, Nehammer – the first EU leader to meet with Putin since he ordered his troops to invade Ukraine – was quoted as saying that it was “not a friendly meeting”.

    Russia’s defence ministry claimed it has destroyed a S-300 anti-aircraft missile system near Dnipro which had been supplied to Ukraine by an unspecified European country. The claim has been described as disinformation by Slovakia’s prime minister, Eduard Heger, whose country donated an S-300 system last week.

  197. says

    Also in the Guardian:

    “How Le Pen tried to soften image to reach French election runoff”:

    Le Pen, 53, who has been a member of parliament for five years, has created a distance between her smiling persona – posing with her pet Bengal cats or being mobbed by teenagers for selfies in the street – and the radical reality of her far-right, anti-immigration manifesto to keep France for the [“]French[“].

    She has promised a referendum to change the constitution in order to curb the rights of immigrants and foreigners. She aims to prioritise natives over non-natives for housing, benefit jobs and healthcare. She would scrap nationality rights for children born and raised in France by foreign parents….

    “Farm animals and humans should be treated the same, children say”:

    Children think farm animals deserve to be treated as well as human beings but lose this belief in adolescence, a groundbreaking study has found.

    Researchers from the universities of Exeter and Oxford asked a group of British children aged nine to 11, young adults aged 18 to 21 and older men and women about their attitudes to different sorts of animals.

    In general, the children said farm animals and human beings should be treated the same and found eating animals less morally acceptable than both sets of adults. The findings suggest that “speciesism” – a moral hierarchy that gives different value to different animals – is learned during adolescence, according to the study.

  198. says

    Taking the New York Times to task for being stupid … again:

    Republicans showed their asses during soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Senate confirmation hearings. They berated her relentlessly and often nonsensically. They flung QAnon conspiracy feces at her and suggested she was somehow pro-pedophile. When that failed and Jackson was confirmed with bipartisan support, these scumbags walked out of the chamber, refusing to acknowledge the historic moment. (Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul even removed their ties so they could vote “no” from the Senate cloak room like cowards.)

    The GOP is little more than a flaming cross masquerading as a political party. There’s no longer even the weakest effort to hide its contempt for Black people. But, hey, what if they still had a shot at winning over Black voters in November’s midterms? […]

    Yes, we’re talking about another winning expose from the New York Times. This one’s called “Jackson Confirmation Aside, GOP Sees an Opening With Black Voters.” People who buy bridges in Brooklyn are less gullible than publications that willingly run the latest “Republicans think they can do better with Black voters” feature. Sure, Republicans say this all the time, but a competent media should focus instead on what they do. For the past year, Republicans have actively passed voter suppression bills blatantly designed to disenfranchise Black voters. They’ve also shamelessly gerrymandered House maps to minimize the impact of Black voters.

    The Times piece opens with this insulting subhed:

    With inflation, war and the pandemic looming larger, Democrats who hope that the browbeating of Ketanji Brown Jackson will rally Black voters behind their candidates may be disappointed.

    There was nothing hopeful about the shameful way Republicans treated the first Black woman to receive a Supreme Court confirmation hearing. We actually don’t enjoy having to remind people how racist Republicans are every day. […]

    Reporters Jonathan Weisman and Maya King warn us that Democrats are up a creek because of inflation, the Ukraine war, and the pandemic. They don’t immediately mention, as they should, that Republicans have no viable solutions to address these issues and that prominent members of the GOP are both pro-Putin and pro-pandemic.

    How do Weisman and King support their thesis that “Judge Jackson’s rough treatment” is unlikely turn out Black voters for Democrats in large numbers? They offer us some compelling quotes from … Black Republicans. Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, one of two Black House Republicans, said he’d seen nothing during Jackson’s hearings that he felt Republicans should regret. The brother left his soul at the coat check.

    “Never once did they go into her personal life,” he said. “Never once did they go into her personal background. Never once were their accusations about her character.”

    Republicans couldn’t “go into her personal life” because she wasn’t credibly accused of sexual assault. However, they did attempt to smear her as a friend of pedophiles and Nazis. It was baseless character assassination.

    “We are not a monolith,” said Jennifer-Ruth Green, a Black Air Force veteran who is running for Congress in Northwestern Indiana as a Republican. “We see inflation and gas prices. Voters are not stupid.”

    “We are not a monolith” is what sorry-ass Black conservatives tell themselves when all their relatives look askance at them during family get-togethers. Eight-seven percent of Black people voted for Joe Biden. Ninety-two percent of Black women and 88 percent of Black men voted for Democrats in the 2018 midterms. Black people don’t vote for Republicans, because Republicans are garbage.

    […] the Times can’t resist pursuing the elusive Black Trump supporter.

    […] Even a reversion to pre-Obama turnout levels would still have Republicans only winning 12 to 14 percent of Black voters.

    […] Republicans felt free to abuse Jackson for the pleasure of racists, who do vote for them, and they are confident that the remaining Black Republicans lack the dignity to finally say “enough.”

    Link

  199. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Here is a statement from France’s foreign ministry on the decision to expel six Russian diplomats today, reported by Reuters:

    Following a very long investigation, the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI) revealed on Sunday April 10 a clandestine operation carried out by the Russian intelligence services on our territory…

    Six Russian agents operating under diplomatic cover and whose activities proved contrary to our national interests have been declared persona non grata…

    The foreign ministry did not provide any more elaboration into what the “clandestine operation” entailed.

  200. KG says

    But the move [Sweden/finland joining NATO] would almost certainly be seen as a provocation by the Kremlin, whose spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said on Monday that the alliance was “a tool geared towards confrontation” and that their possible accession “will not bring stability to the European continent”. – blf@225 quoting the Guardian

    There was of course nothing in any way confrontational or destabilising in Russia invading Ukraine, flattening its cities, and kidnapping, raping, torturing and murdering civilians.

  201. says

    Dan Lamothe, WaPo:

    A background briefing with a senior U.S. defense official at the Pentagon was held a bit ago this morning. It’s Day 44 of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

    A few highlights:

    As has been widely documented at this point, an eight-mile convoy of military vehicles has emerged north of the Ukrainian city of Izyum. It’s “clear evidence” that Russia is following through with its goal of focusing on the Donbas region, the senior U.S. defense official said.

    What’s in this new convoy? A command element, a support battalion, helicopter support and other forces, the senior U.S. defense official said.

    It’s unclear what it’s planned final destination is, the official said.

    The Pentagon also assesses that Russia has begun to reinforce its posture around the city of Donetsk, mostly with artillery units to the southwest, the senior U.S. defense official said.

    As of Monday, Russia’s northeastern grouping of troops includes 20 battalion tactical groups, about half of which are in Ukraine (others are in Russia), the senior defense official said. The number in Ukraine has ticked up by two in the last couple of days, official adds.

    That isn’t the full extent of it, however. Dozens of Russian battalion tactical groups are still arrayed across southern and southeastern Ukraine.

    It’s unclear when this new Russian offensive in the Donbas might begin, the senior U.S. defense official says.

    Missile strikes and airstrikes continue on Ukraine, mostly in the Donbas region, senior U.S. defense official says. He notes that the Dnipro airport was hit Sunday.

    Russian claimed they hit an S-300 air defense system. U.S. sees no evidence of that, defense official says.

    Mariupol is still in dire straits, with thousands of dead civilians. Russia still occupies Kherson, in the south. Russia has been unable to take Mykolaiv, but Russian forces are in between there and Kherson, senior U.S. defense official says.

    While Russia is no closer than seizing Mariupol than they were last week, “we are all bracing” for what the full extent of the damage and death there is, senior U.S. defense official says.

  202. says

    Ukraine update: NATO dramatically expands Ukraine weapons shipments after Russia’s war crimes

    In a previous update, we noted that the United States and NATO allies have been pointedly dropping the distinctions between “defensive” and “offensive” weaponry that sharply limited what sorts of equipment NATO countries were willing to send to Ukrainian forces. Body armor, ammunition, and anti-armor drones and missiles were readily handed over; armored vehicles and especially military aircraft were right out.

    The distinction was made in an effort to not be seen as providing anything that could be used to attack Russian territory directly, out of fear that Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin would insist that NATO was now attempting to attack Russia itself. That would lead to Putin ordering retaliatory attacks on whatever NATO member he declared to be most involved, which would trigger NATO’s reciprocity agreements and turn the war directly into one between NATO and Russia. The Biden administration was especially fierce about limiting such aid, knocking away proposals from NATO countries (read: Poland) that wanted jets or other offensive tools handed over—even as Ukraine’s president stumped furiously for such assistance.

    There are still a whole lot of reasons why Ukraine probably won’t be getting planes anytime soon, but that other equipment? It’s flowing. […] Pictures showed evidence of the torture and summary execution of civilians, the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, and a Russian focus on looting that went past obsession to something bordering on pathetic. The evidence of those crimes was enough to goad NATO nations into taking more aggressive action; it became clear that every passing hour of Russian occupation, in the lands presently under their control, is another hour in which Russian troops are committing new war crimes in the places they still can.

    […] Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a public show of speaking with Ukrainian soldiers being trained on the use of U.S.-provided Switchblade drones in Biloxi, Mississippi, highlighting the direct U.S. training of Ukrainian troops that was no doubt being provided all along but which defense officials were circumspect in talking about. Now it’s not just out in the open, the U.S. is very nearly rubbing it in the faces of their Russian counterparts.

    […] Ukrainian forces have shown such dramatic success that NATO countries are now much more confident that if they do take the step of supplying heavy offensive weapons, provoking likely Russian rage, it won’t just be pissing into the wind. Those weapons will be used and used effectively and might even make the difference between Ukrainian defeat, long-term stalemate, or outright routing of Russia’s forces.

    In balancing the risks of “provoking” Putin against the potential gains of providing those weapons, the scales have now tipped heavily toward the gains. NATO now sees Russian occupation of Ukrainian towns as far more intolerable, due to the documentation of war crimes, and sees the odds of Ukraine’s military being able to kick those occupiers out as being quite high, compared to what NATO’s own military analysts were expecting in the early days of the war.

    So Ukraine gets the weapons […]

  203. says

    From the CNN liveblog:

    Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza detained outside his Moscow home, according to reports

    Vladimir Kara-Murza, a prominent Kremlin critic who has survived two suspected poisonings, has been detained outside of his apartment building in Moscow on Monday, according to Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin and media reports.

    “Vladimir Kara-Murza was detained by the police in Moscow near his home,” Yashin said on Twitter. “It is not yet clear what for.”

    Yashin told CNN he learned about the detention from Kara-Murza’s lawyer.

    Russian state news agency RIA Novosti also reported Kara-Murza’s detention citing his lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov.

    “I just found out about his detention, so far I can’t say the details,” Prokhorov told RIA Novosti.

    An interview with Kara-Murza aired on “Big Picture with Sara Sidner” on CNN+ earlier Monday. The opposition figure has condemned what he calls Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “aggression” in Ukraine.

    He told Sidner that he believes the war in Ukraine will ultimately end Putin’s regime.

    “I have absolutely no doubt that the Putin regime will end over this war in Ukraine, doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen tomorrow. The two main questions are time and price and by price, I do not mean monetary — I mean the price of human blood and and human lives and it has already been horrendous, but the Putin regime will end over this and there will be a democratic Russia after Putin,” Kara-Murza told Sidner.

    I’ve seen him on TV in the past few weeks. I had no idea he was in Russia.

  204. says

    Bill Browder:

    I had dinner with Vladimir Kara Murza in London two weeks ago in London as he was on his way to Moscow. I begged him not to go. He insisted saying that as a Russian opposition politician, how could he ask Russians to stand up to Putin if he was afraid to return himself

    Update on the Vladimir Kara Murza situation. He is being held in OVD Khamovniki of the Central Administrative District of Moscow, notorious for illegal detentions, and his lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov is being refused access.

  205. says

    WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Brett Kavanaugh is “upset” that the newly confirmed Justice of the Supreme Court Ketanji Brown Jackson has refused his invitation to a beer-pong initiation ritual he created for new members of the Court.

    “It’s a great way to bond with your fellow-Justices,” Kavanaugh told reporters. “And, if the game goes on long enough, you get a righteous buzz on.”

    Jackson reportedly told her fellow-jurist that she would be too busy studying the cases before the Court to participate in the beer-pong initiation, but Kavanaugh said that such an excuse “just doesn’t cut it.”

    “Amy Coney Barrett played beer pong when she joined the Court,” he said. “It looks like Ketanji isn’t going to be much fun. She’s probably gonna skip Beach Week, too.”

    Satire/humor from Andy Borowitz

    New Yorker link

  206. says

    Ukraine update: Russia faces myriad challenges in Donbas front, and here’s the primer

    With Russia massing its troops in Eastern Ukraine for a major offensive to take the entire Donbas region (or maybe stupidly drive into central Ukraine), there is increased chatter about the state of Russian forces. Specifically, what do they even have left to send there, and in what condition? And even if they amass all that combat power, would they even be able to coordinate a massive all-out offensive? In short, I’ve identified the five following key problems bedeviling Russia today.

    Russia was undermanned even before the war began
    Russia has suffered grievous losses
    Some of those shredded units are being recommitted to the Donbas front too quickly, and without proper rest or reinforcement
    Russia is out of experienced troops
    Russia can’t attack with massive force

    So I’ll try to concisely explain each one of those issues, since that’ll be foundational to the events that take place in the weeks ahead.

    The Russian Battalion Tactical Group (BTG)

    The BTG is Russia’s basic combat maneuver unit. On paper, it has anywhere between 600 to 1,000 soldiers, so it’s usually rounded out to 800. A BTG is supposed to have 10 tanks and 40 infantry fighting vehicles (IFV). Three BTGs make up a regiment (which has additional resources, like artillery). Of the 800 soldiers, only 200 are infantry, and according to a U.S. Army analysis, “as many as 50 percent of infantry soldiers can be required for local security and routine administrative tasks. This leaves relatively few infantrymen available for mounted squads.” As I’ve repeatedly written, the bulk of soldiers in an army are in support roles, and don’t fire or shoot anything.

    Russia undermanned their BTGs, even before the war began

    U.S. intelligence estimated that Russia had 120 BTGs at the start of the war. That means 1,200 tanks, 4,800 infantry fighting vehicles, and 96,000 troops. The other ~100,000 Russian troops massed in the area were likely additional support units, combat aviation, engineering detachments, etc. Note that some estimated Russian strength up to 130 BTGs, so it’s not a precise count.

    Thing is, we’re not even sure that many BTGs deployed. Turns out that the BTG system was a fantastic vehicle for corruption and graft. A regiment commander could keep one of his three BTGs fully operational for deployments like Syria or to squash a rebellion in Kazakhstan. The other two could be pilfered from the top, for Italian villas and super yachts, in the middle for a country dacha, to the lowliest supply officer, for vodka. Just a few checkmarks on a spreadsheet, and no one would ever need to know. That’s what Russia’s nukes were for—to make sure they never had to fight a real war!

    Furthermore, a big part of a pre-war BTG infantry was conscripts doing their one-year-and-out. While we know that many ended up deploying to Ukraine, contrary to Russian law, apparently many did not. Makes sense that various units across such a vast country would handle the situation unevenly.

    So there’s a good chance that up to a third fewer BTGs ended up in Ukraine than those original estimates of 120-130, and the ones that did go in were undermanned and under-equipped.

    Russia has suffered grievous losses

    Ukraine claims 20,000 Russian dead. Last I saw, Western estimates were around 60,000 dead or wounded and out of the fight—a frighteningly high number. Russia obviously won’t release any numbers, not even bullshit ones, though Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson admitted that “[w]e have significant losses of troops and it’s a huge tragedy for us.”

    The BBC reported that “the number of Russian battalion tactical groups (700-1k soldiers each) rendered combat ineffective in the Ukraine war so far has been reassessed at 37-38 according to a western official, leaving 90 operational.” Meanwhile, the Pentagon is saying that “Russia has more than 60 battalion tactical groups currently inside of Ukraine” and another 20 are “regrouping” in Russia and Belarus. Okay, so between 80-90 are left.

    However, get this: All it takes for a BTG to become combat ineffective is a loss of 30% of its armor. According to the Oryx database of visually confirmed Russian losses, Russia has lost 475 tanks—the equivalent of entirely wiping out the tanks of 47 or 48 BTGs! And remember, a BTG only has to lose three tanks to be rendered combat ineffective. So presumably, even more BTGs are affected.

    Likewise with infantry. Assuming the BTG’s entire 200-man infantry contingent is deployed (which the U.S. Army says doesn’t happen, but let’s assume a desperate Russia is pushing everyone to the front), only 60 need to be killed before the BTG is combat ineffective. So if 60,000 Russians soldiers are out of the war … you can see how that would affect far more BTGs than 37 or 38.

    So how does this square with Western estimates? It seems clear that even more BTGs have been knocked out of the war, though it’s very plausible that reinforcements have arrived, others have been combined, bringing the number of available BTGs back up to 80-90.

    But given that Russia only had around 170 BTGs in their entire armed forces to start with (assuming that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu wasn’t lying or exaggerating), they don’t have a limitless supply.

    Some of the those shredded units are being recommitted to the Donbas front too quickly, and without proper rest or reinforcement

    Lots of news like this the last two weeks:

    Radio Svoboda published images of a document on April 10 that it reported was issued by the Russian Ministry of Defense on April 2 offering specific bonuses for Russian troops in Ukraine. The document specifies large payments including 300,000 rubles [$3,600 at the official rate] for destroying a fixed-wing aircraft, 200,000 for destroying a helicopter, and 50,000 for armored vehicles and artillery. Radio Svoboda stated the payments are intended to coerce units withdrawn from the Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy regions to reenter combat. We have previously reported several instances of Russian soldiers refusing orders to return to Ukraine after being pulled back.

    Russian troops around Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy regions got absolutely mauled. They just lost a battle, saw unspeakable things, committed unspeakable things, and want nothing more to do than get their war loot and themselves back home. There are ample stories of desertion and mutiny, and while they are usually sourced to Ukrainian intelligence (which are listening in on cell phone calls and other unencrypted communications), stories like the one above lend supporting credence. […]

    But even if such reports were not true, you just can’t take a broken, traumatized unit, and send them to a new front in the span of a couple of weeks. You can’t take two broken units, smush them together, and call it an operational unit. […]

    Russia is out of experienced troops

    […] the U.S. also says that only 20 BTGs are currently in the Donbas region. If you’re asking yourself, where the hell are the other 40 if Donbas is the main axis of attack, join the club! We know there are around six near Kherson in the south, and another six trying to take Mariupol. Beyond that, the math doesn’t add up. UA War Data, an open-source effort tracking all Russian units in Ukraine, has found around 40 to 51 BTGs in the country [see update below]. Doesn’t mean there aren’t more! Just that no one has found visual confirmation of their existence inside Ukraine. But if all that combat force is available near Donbas, you’d think that U.S. satellites would pick them up.

    We also know that Russia is resorting to some extreme measures to maintain combat operations. There was this anecdote which I included in my morning update: [Tweet and images available at the link] Three officers to crew an armored personnel carrier? Ludicrous. Three officers, none of them in the combat arms? Unfathomable. But it was clearly either that, or turn the vehicle over to poorly educated conscripts or other non-combat arms contract soldiers. They don’t have experienced crews left to operate their equipment.

    We also saw Russia’s troop and equipment shortage in another anecdote I’ve previously discussed: [Tweet and images available at the link] […] In short, it was a BTG-sized attack with a fraction of the vehicles that BTG was supposed to have. Indeed, it was combat ineffective the second it rolled out of its staging area to the front lines. Instead of 10 tanks and 40 IFVs like it’s supposed to have, it rolled out with around six tanks and 25 IFVs.

    Now check this out: [video and tweet available at the link] I sat there and counted. It’s not gigantic. It’s a BTG. Except that instead of 40 IFVs, I counted 30 or so (the camera work isn’t always steady). No tanks, but let’s assume those are assembling elsewhere, otherwise this BTG is in even worse shape. Lots of supply cargo and fuel trucks—a reminder that most of the BTG’s manpower isn’t firing guns. But ultimately, it’s an undermanned BTG. On paper, it looks impressive. Driving along the road, it seems massive. But it’s already down 25% of its supposed IFV allotment.

    Russia can’t fully man its BTGs, and what they do send out aren’t experienced contract soldiers who know what they’re doing. Is it any wonder that Ukraine has so far been able to chew them up?

    Russia can’t attack with more than one or two BTGs at a time.

    This is the big one. During this entire war, we haven’t seen Russia attack with more than two BTGs at a time. Maybe it’s happened! Fog of war and all. But we have no public evidence of it. All the way back on March 9, barely two weeks into the war, the analysts at the Institute for the Study of War were already doubting Russia’s ability to take Kyiv for this precise reason:

    Individual Russian attacks at roughly regiment size reported on March 8 and March 9 may represent the scale of offensive operations Russian forces can likely conduct on this axis at any one time. The possibility of a larger and more coherent general attack either to encircle Kyiv or to assault it in the coming days remains possible, but the continued commitment of groups of two to five battalion tactical groups (BTGs) at a time makes such a large-scale general attack less likely.

    They said two to five, but they were being generous. Two really seems to be the magic number.

    I mean, think about it—they have four to six BTGs around Izyum, they’re stuck trying to push further south, and they can’t just roll that entire contingent south? Okay, maybe leave one BTG to hold Izyum, or better yet, park some separatist scrubs in some foxholes there. Regardless, they have a fair amount of combat power around the city, yet they rotate them so only one or two of them are on the offensive at any given time. As I noted earlier:

    [W]e see it time and time again. The small, ineffective probes with little power, and no follow up elements to exploit any breakthroughs. Early in the war, observers thought these were “reconnaissance probes,” trying to suss out the location of defensive positions. Turns out, they were actual attacks, the most Russia could muster.

    Thus, Ukraine continues to play rope-a-dope, letting the attacking BTG punch through, then slamming it from all sides. Nothing else is coming to its aid. And these attacks happen daily along this [Donbas front] line. Three such attacks yesterday, which was a relatively quiet day, seven on Friday, at least four on Thursday, seven on Wednesday, and so on. […] Ukraine continues to benefit from Russia’s rank incompetence.

    […] Everyone is expecting a massive Russian offensive in Donbas. No one should underestimate Russia, and NATO needs to hurry up with promised weapons shipments, while making new promises, daily. (That’s starting to happen now, but more urgency is needed.) Ukraine is obviously preparing for a worst-case scenario.

    But do I think it’s going to happen? I’ve seen no evidence that Russia is capable of anything “massive’ other than killing civilians. They’ve got that down to a science. But taking and holding contested ground is a whole different skill set. And here’s hoping that they can’t fix their issues—new supreme commander notwithstanding—given their severe equipment and personnel shortages.

    Oh, and weather. Check out Izyum for the next week: [weather chart is available at the link, showing rain almost every day, and temperatures that are warm]

    Don’t expect much territory to change hands this next week, but lots and lots of Ukrainian ambushes as Russia is forced to stay on easy-to-target roads.

  207. raven says

    There are now numerous reports that the Russians are using nerve gas in eastern Ukraine.

    These reports aren’t confirmed yet, but they are from mainstream sources now.
    If so, this means the Russians are getting desperate.
    Or, they are being very stupid. Use of prohibited terror weapons escalates the war by a lot. By the time the Russians are done, they will be fighting most of the world, not just Ukraine.

    Reports of Russian Chemical Weapons Use in Ukraine ‘Deeply Concerning,’ Pentagon Says
    Russia’s reported use of chemical weapons in Ukraine, first identified by a far-right Ukrainian military regiment, would represent a ‘game-changer’ for Western involvement.

    By Paul D. Shinkman April 11, 2022, at 7:19 p.m.
    U.S. News & World Report

    The Pentagon on Monday expressed alarm about reports as yet unconfirmed that Russian forces loyal to President Vladimir Putin employed chemical weapons against Ukrainian troops in the besieged city of Mariupol – a move that, if true, would represent a major shift to the conflict there and Western involvement in it.

    The supposed use of some sort of toxic aerosol dropped from a drone apparently operated by Russian forces was first reported by the far-right Azov Regiment, one of the elements of Ukraine’s armed forces operating in the key port city that has come under devastating and indiscriminate Russian shelling in recent weeks. The regiment reported late Monday that nearby troops subsequently had trouble breathing.

    “We are aware of social media reports which claim Russian forces deployed a potential chemical munition in Mariupol, Ukraine. We cannot confirm at this time and will continue to monitor the situation closely,” Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said in an emailed statement to U.S. News. “These reports, if true, are deeply concerning and reflective of concerns that we have had about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, in Ukraine.”

  208. KG says

    Johnson, and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, have both been issued fixed penalty notices over breaches of Covid regulations by the Metropolitan Police. There have of course been renewed calls for Johnson (and now Sunak) to resign after this confirmation that they broke the laws they were responsible for designing and passing, and in Johnson’s case, repeated lying to Parliament. If these fines had come before 24th February, Johnson might well have been forced out, but police unnecessary tardiness and Vladimir Putin will probably enable him to brazen out his criminality and lies once again.

  209. says

    Multiple people have been shot in a subway station in Brooklyn during rush hour. There are reports that a man threw some sort of explosive device and then started shooting.

  210. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog. From there:

    A pro-Russian cavalcade in Dublin led by a car with the Z symbol has provoked astonishment and condemnation in Ireland.

    About 10 cars with Russian and Irish flags drove in a convoy down the M50 motorway last Sunday afternoon in an apparent display of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The bonnet of the lead vehicle, a green Jeep, bore the ”Z” symbol that Russian forces use in Ukraine.

    The rally is believed to have been organised through a private Facebook group for Russians living in Ireland. Pro-Russia rallies were held in Germany on the same day, including a motorcade rally in Hanover.
    Footage shows pro-Russia cavalcade in Dublin led by vehicle bearing Z symbol – video

    “It’s absolutely disgusting that these Russians living in Ireland demonstrate their complete disrespect for [their] country of residence and the Irish people who stand against Russia’s war in Ukraine,” the Ukrainian embassy in Dublin said in a tweet that included video footage of the rally. The embassy said “Z” symbolised killings and atrocities and should be banned.

    The cavalcade occurred three days after Irish legislators gave a standing ovation to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who thanked Ireland for its support for Ukraine in a video address to both chambers of parliament.

    The cavalcade reportedly set out from the Maldron hotel near Dublin airport and made its way down the M50, Ireland’s busiest motorway, bearing Russian, Soviet and Irish flags.

  211. says

    Here are a couple more links related to religious aspects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine:

    This HRC article is from 2015 but the short report they link to in the penultimate paragraph is very useful in understanding the global nature of the movement – “Exposed: The World Congress of Families”:

    The World Congress of Families (WCF) is one of the most influential American organizations involved in the export of hate. Since 1997, WCF has held conferences and events around the world that foster homophobia and transphobia under the guise of protecting the “natural family.”

    It is connected to some mainstream conservative organizations and to the very highest levels of government in the countries where it operates.

    Active across five continents, WCF’s activities range from holding conferences in Nigeria focused on denying rights to LGBTQ people to working to silence the Russian LGBTQ community.

    Thanks to WCF’s connections, its rhetoric and its willingness to associate with and encourage radically homophobic and transphobic activists, the group has had an outsized influence on anti-LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) sentiment and legislation in many places….

    Religion Dispatches – “Another Important Defection From the Russian Patriarchate Looms — The Fate of Orthodoxy in the West Hangs in the Balance”:

    As the rhetoric of the Russian Orthodox Church grew even more shocking and dangerous this week, an anonymous group of students at the famed St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris have sent a letter asking their local bishop, Metropolitan John (Reneto), to leave the Moscow Patriarchate—led by Putin crony Kirill—for the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Constantinople which opposes the war….

    When the seminary was transferred to the Moscow Patriarchate from Constantinople [in 2018], there was some suggestion that it would be left alone, merely to be used by Kirill and his allies against charges that they were totalitarian reactionaries; a token jewel of free thought in the tsar-like crown of Moscow. And this has, for the most part, been true. But, like so many tenuous situations in the Orthodox Christian world, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has rendered this situation no longer tenable….

    This contains an informative discussion of St. Vlad’s in the US, which “has come to be dominated by ultra-conservative American converts from various Protestant denominations, largely part of the wave of Protestant conservative Culture Warriors into the Orthodox Church that began in the 1980s. They have mostly succeeded in turning the school into a fortress in their on-going battle against the forces of modernity. ” (I don’t agree with the author about the importance of saving the soul of this or any religious group, but the analysis seems sound.)

  212. says

    Times Higher Ed – “Russian universities expelling large numbers of anti-war students”:

    Russian institutions are leading the charge in cracking down on student opposition to the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine, with hundreds of students estimated to have been expelled already.

    With Russian academia increasingly cut off from the outside world, student dissidents are finding themselves targeted by the very institutions tasked with nurturing their critical thinking.

    On 9 March, Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs reportedly ordered Saint Petersburg State University to expel 13 students who participated in anti-war protests, in what academics have said is an escalation of the crackdown on free speech.

    While no official figures exist, hundreds of students have likely been expelled for their opposition to the war, estimated Vladimir Ashurkov, a Russian activist and executive director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, a Moscow-based non-profit established by opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

    Mr Ashurkov, who now coordinates the Freedom Degree project, which fields queries from students facing expulsion, told Times Higher Education that the initiative has been flooded with requests in recent weeks.

    Even at universities that stop short of expelling students, scare tactics are “blatant and offensive, and they target the brightest and most promising students” – students are being rejected by supervisors, fired from laboratories and told they’ll face problems defending their theses, he said.

    He described administrators as zealous in their pursuit of offenders: “We have the impression that university managers are playing the key role in the attempts we’re seeing to silence students – not an order from above.”

    Dmitry Dubrovsky, a professor at the School of Higher Economics (HSE) University in Moscow, said that many Russian universities have been scouring social media to identify anti-war students and pressure them to remove so-called anti-patriotic posts.

    Universities are increasingly taking “extraordinary measures” – escalating their response from warning talks with students to making “direct threats”, said Professor Dubrovsky.

    Expulsion is far from the worst outcome for those who speak out, academics noted. Those in Russia who challenge the Kremlin’s version of facts about its “special operation” in Ukraine face up to 15 years behind bars. Across Russia, more than 15,500 people have been detained for anti-war actions since 24 February, according to data from human rights project OVD-Info….

  213. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    A prominent Russian opposition activist and outspoken critic of the invasion of Ukraine has been sentenced in Moscow to 15 days in jail on charges of disobeying police orders when leaving his home on Monday night, his lawyer said.

    Vladimir Kara-Murza, 40, is a veteran Kremlin critic who says he was deliberately poisoned in Moscow in 2015 and 2017 as retaliation for his lobbying efforts to impose US and EU sanctions against Russian officials accused of human rights abuses. A close friend of the opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was shot and killed in 2015, Kara-Murza nearly died from kidney failure in the first incident.

    His longtime lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov, said police had accused Kara-Murza of “changing his walking pace and trying to escape” when they approached him outside his house on Monday evening.

    Kara-Murza, who studied at Cambridge University, has been a vocal opponent of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, launching an anti-war committee with other leading Russian opposition figures. He has also been one of the few prominent opposition figures still living in Russia, as many have fled the country out of safety concerns after the jailing last year of Alexei Navalny.

  214. tomh says

    Oklahoma governor signs bill making nearly all abortions illegal
    Oriana Gonzalez / April 12, 2022

    Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) on Tuesday signed into law a bill that makes providing an abortion a felony.

    The legislation bans all abortions unless they’re necessary to save a pregnant person’s life. A person found guilty of providing an abortion would face up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $100,000.

    Oklahoma’s S.B. 612 has no exceptions for rape or incest and is set to go into effect this summer.

    The person receiving the abortion would not be criminally liable. The bill’s passage last week was unexpected, as the Oklahoma state House approved it a year after it was introduced and cleared by the state Senate.

    The bill’s signature comes as state lawmakers are considering another near-total abortion ban modeled after Texas’ law barring the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy.

    That bill, H.B. 4327, would incentivize private citizens to sue anyone suspected of helping a person get an abortion for a reward of at least $10,000. If it is signed into law, the bill would go into effect immediately.

    “I promised Oklahomans that I would sign every pro-life bill that hit my desk, and that’s what we’re doing here today,” Stitt said in an event Tuesday morning, joined by several anti-abortion groups.

    “We want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country. We want to outlaw abortion in the state of Oklahoma.”
    […]

    Oklahoma abortion providers have seen an increase in patients from Texas seeking abortion care.

    Planned Parenthood clinics in the state reported a 2,500% increase in Texas patients compared to the previous year during the first four months of the state’s six-week ban being in effect.

    Stitt said that this bill “will take care” of Texans crossing state borders to obtain abortion care, adding: “We certainly don’t want Texans coming up to Oklahoma.”

  215. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 263

    And our “liberal”—Indeed, “the most progressive administration in history!”–government does nothing to stop this fascist madness.

    At least Lincoln sent in armies to deal with disobedient states. In comparison, today’s Dems just sit around in the halls of power, drooling and pissing their Depends as the Redneck Bible-fuckers drag us off to Gilead.

  216. says

    Ukraine update: Ukrainian artillery chips away at Russian forces as spring mud season arrives

    Heavy rains have arrived across the two remaining axes in Ukraine—Kherson in the south and Donbas in the east. And with that, don’t expect much territory to change hands. This Canadian volunteer in the Ukrainian foreign legion is fighting around Kherson.

    It was a quiet day here, not a lot going on other than tactical regrouping. It’s raining, it’s muddy, gloomy and grey.

    The upside is that we’re going to enjoy complete cloud cover tonight, and I bet the #Russians are feeling real uncomfortable and wet.

    See you all soon ✊🏻🇺🇦

    The rain is going to do a number on Russian morale, already rock bottom. [weather forecast available at the link]

    That Canadian’s unit has night-vision gear, and they do their thing under the cover of darkness. No moon means it’ll be even darker. It’s a great way to degrade Russian equipment and morale, and the weather will certainly contribute, but no territory is changing hands. [Ukraine] t now has the tools to defend itself against Russian attacks, and it can certainly harass the hell out of the enemy, but it lacks the air and heavy armor to go on the offensive against entrenched Russians.

    I’m in the “armor is mostly obsolete” camp, but that assumes air superiority and massed artillery. If you can’t take out the big enemy guns from the air, or suppress them from afar, you have to charge them on the ground—and you need armor to make that happen. NATO is definitely talking about it, but dear god, there’s nothing left to discuss. Just f’n do it. Western weapons have already killed and maimed tens of thousands of Russian soldiers as Vladimir Putin stands helplessly by. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin literally released a photo of him video chatting with Ukrainian special forces training in Mississippi on the Switchblade killer drone system. We’re already rubbing their nose in our indirect involvement. There’s not much escalation left in sending more and bigger guns at this point.

    Meanwhile, out east, guess what Russia did? Yup. The same ineffective shit they’ve been doing. Drip-drip-drip attacks with one to two battalion tactical groups (BTG) because they are unable to turn on the full spigot and attack en masse.

    The enemy tried to launch an attack in the directions of Dovgenke and Dmytrivka settlements with the forces of two battalion tactical groups, without success and returned to previously occupied positions.

    Russia repeated this doomed and wasteful approach in three other places. This is what I just can’t square—we know Russia is massing its troops in the region, but if they really planned one major all-out assault, why are they willfully feeding men and equipment to the Ukrainian wood chippers today, instead of resting those soldiers, servicing their equipment, resupplying them, and planning something that might actually work. Given Russia’s inability to deploy more than a small number of BTGs at any given time, is this the future of this front? A handful of daily “probes” every day until Russia burns through all their BTGs or Ukraine runs out of anti-tank missiles, whichever comes first?

    The rains over the next week will make a muddy mess of the battlefield, swallowing any vehicle stupid enough to go off road. Artillery won’t be affected however. A clever ambush would drop a few random artillery shells in front of a convoy, wait for the vehicles to veer into those muddy fields in a panic, and then helpfully take them off Russia’s hands, intact, for Ukrainian army requisition. Tractors would be helpfully standing by.

    The mud will make it even easier for this kind of raid by Ukrainian special forces.<Tweet and photos available at the link]

    That’s the sanitized, cropped version of those pictures. Others show a field littered with Russian corpses. However, it’s dubious the entire BTG was eliminated. On paper, they have 10 tanks, 40 infantry fighting vehicles, and 800-1,000 soldiers. On the other hand, given how undermanned these BTGs seem, maybe a couple dozen corpses was truly all that was left of that unit.

    Regardless, if Russian armored vehicles are this vulnerable to guerilla-style attacks now, when they have at least some mobility, imagine when they’re unable to move. Men on foot or SUVs, with night-vision goggles in the dark, will have a huge advantage over blind Russians without air or direct artillery support.

    As flashy as those special forces raids are, Ukrainian artillery is even more impactful. Remember, Izyum’s supply lines run perilously near Ukrainian-held territory around Kharkiv, within easy artillery range. [Map available at the link]

    That’s a lot of yellow Ukrainian-held territory on the western flank of that supply road down to Izyum, allowing artillery to set up and use both drone-guided and precision-guided munitions to wreak havoc on those roads. Look what artillery managed to do in just the last 24 hours: [Tweets and videos available at the link]

    […] Not much remains after Ukrainian artillery is done […] [from Visegrád]

    This intercepted report from a Russian officer in Izyum says it all: “Once again, I would like to note the very precise work of the Ukrainian artillery and mortars. It is their worth that is the main deterrent. 99 percent of our losses are the result of artillery work. There are no bullet wounds at all.” The same officer begs his superiors to stop “the Syrian experience of traveling in kilometer-long dense columns along the roads.”

    Who wants to place bets on whether anyone listens to this guy’s sage advice?

  217. says

    In a speech delivered on Tuesday [today], Putin insists that Russia had “no choice” but to attack Ukraine. He also indicated that Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine were a “triune nation” and that “greater integration” would be necessary between Russia and Belarus. All of this reinforces the idea that Putin still plans the conquest of all of Ukraine, not just some fragment.

    Belarus dictator Lukashenko also spoke to to offer what may be the oddest claim yet when it comes to Russia and its allies dismissing the brutal war crimes in Bucha. According to Lukashenko, people in Bucha were killed by the special forces of the U.K. government. He offered to provide the “car brands” in which the British forces arrived in Bucha. [Lying by adding stupid details like “car brand.” Sheesh!]

    In the speech, Putin also indicated that he had no faith that there would be any negotiated settlement with Ukraine.

    Posted by Mark Sumner at 7:56:08 AM
    Link

    See also:
    https://twitter.com/Luce808/status/1513873041540931600

  218. says

    Wonkette: “OAN Idiot Chanel Rion Says Biden Is ‘Groomer-In-Chief,’ Lots Of Other Idiot Words Too”

    It seems almost cruel to make fun of One America News at this point on a national website. Hell, they’ve been kicked off so many platforms, kinda feels like breaking into an old folks home and knocking Nana off her chair while she’s doing a puppet show for her friends.

    But shit, George Soros doesn’t pay Wonkette to be nice. Or for anything. He ought to start paying us.

    Anyway, Chanel Rion, y’all remember her jackass? We used to make fun of her on the regular back when Donald Trump was in the White House and they let any old OAN [“journalist”] into the press room. She’s the one who used to get a serious journalist look on her face and ask Trump if the term “Chinese food” was racist.

    Her internet bio says she “has been frequently described as one of Hillary Clinton’s ‘worst nightmares’.” No really it says that.

    Her website says she is the author of a popular mystery book series for girls that is totally different from other mystery books for girls, which are full of “manophobia, hatred, gender-confusion and blame.” Wonkette investigated these books, and … well, we couldn’t find them.

    She was homeschooled. :(

    But about all that manophobia, hatred, gender confusion and blame! Rion went on her OAN show, which exists, and had some real fightin’ words for Joe Biden, AKA the “groomer-in-chief,” and also a bunch more fightin’ words for transgender people and trans kids and a whole bunch of other stuff. It was exactly the kind of stream-of-consciousness babbling you’d expect from a journalist as esteemed as Rion. [video available at the link]

    CHANEL RION: The reality is, trans activists pushing gender mutilation on children are aiding and abetting in crimes against humanity.

    Wow, if somebody was doing that, it sure would be bad!

    RION: And if the trans movement is about normalizing child mutilation, the trans movement belongs in the eternal flames of hell!

    Good thing there’s no “normalize child mutilation” movement out there.

    RION: Why would the president of the United States support such a radical agenda? It’s easy to say, like all the other big issues of the day, he’s just following orders, he’s the whipping boy of Obama and AOC.

    Is that what people say?

    RION: But in this case, it’s even more simple. Before Biden became the masterpiece in senility he is today, he was a bona fide creep, a class A pervert. Watching this week’s clips of the ignored dementia patient wandering around in the shadow of a shadow government King Hussein Obama.

    “Wandering around in the shadow of a shadow government King Hussein Obama.” Just want to emphasize that a human said that with their mouth. She’s also trying to make the hashtag #ShadowGovKing happen on Twitter.

    RION: it’s tempting to feel sorry for old Joe. Don’t. Your sympathy is grounded in your remnant memories of sweet old grandpa. Joe Biden isn’t your sweet old grandpa. Everyone gets old, even perverts.

    Even perverts.

    RION: Spare him your ounce of sympathy, if only in honor of his victims!

    We’re pretending Joe Biden has “victims” now, everybody spare Joe Biden your ounce of sympathy!

    At this point Rion goes on a tirade about Tara Reade and far-right conspiracy theories about things that allegedly appear in Ashley Biden’s stolen diary, and “Biden’s uncomfortable fascination with the hair and necks of women and children.” All this is somehow supposed to be worse than the fact that the previous president has been accused of rape, sexual assault or harassment by too many people to count on your fingers and toes.

    Which brings her to call Joe Biden a name she wouldn’t have called him a year ago because a year ago wingnuts hadn’t made up this “groomer” smear yet:

    RION: Biden is the groomer-in-chief. He’s open to the language of fellow groomers, but sympathy for groomers only enable them further. Look at their newly nominated Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, America’s queen of child porn apologists.

    Oh now she’s the “queen.” Chanel Rion has studied sentencing practices and determined based on her Do Your Own Research that Ketanji Brown Jackson is the “queen of child porn apologists.”

    We mentioned Rion was homeschooled, yeah?

    Rion word salads a while longer about her argument, which we think is that Biden and the trans activists want to do female genital mutilation to children, it’s beyond parody, and then comes to her big conclusion:

    RION: Don’t be fooled by their wordplay. Their true motive isn’t about protecting the gender identities of children. This is about satisfying their own warped perversions.

    What?

    RION: And if you want to take it a layer deeper, it’s about canceling reproduction.

    What?

    RION: This is population control. Sterilize your children, abort your babies, discourage nuclear families, and encourage non-reproducing unions.

    What?

    RION: Don’t let them get away with this. Don’t let them get away with terms like gender-affirming health care for children. Call it what it is: gender mutilation and child abuse illegal under current US law.

    What?

    RION: Don’t give them an inch in the language wars. As this issue illustrates, lose the language war, lose our children. And that’s my opening argument.

    Madam, the Arby’s is down the street if you need to talk to somebody.

    So, class, what have we learned today? We are not entirely sure. But we listened to Chanel Rion’s free speech and that is a thing that happened, the end.

    It is really a shame to think that rightwing voters are listening to this kind of garbage on a daily basis.

    Also, we remember that Russia is planning to put their “partner,” Donald Trump back in the White House. I’m sure they will find plenty of fodder for their social media disinformation campaign in whatever Chanel Rion says on air.

  219. says

    Followup to comment 269, and SC’s comment 249.

    Wonkette: “Russian TV Can’t Wait To Use Trump And Tulsi Gabbard To Exact Revenge On America”

    This is not a post about Donald Trump or Tulsi Gabbard, or for that matter Tucker Carlson or Candace Owens, [or Chanel Rion] spewing new propaganda that sends thrills up the Kremlin’s pantleg. We are sure that amidst Russia’s latest massacres and war crimes […]

    This is about the attaboys they’re already getting, for the propaganda they’ve already spewed.

    Know how Russian state-run TV is always playing Tucker Carlson clips and calling him their best boy? Here’s what Russian TV is saying about Trump and Tulsi Gabbard right now. The specific words being said should make those two retch […]. To know this is what your words and actions are inspiring … we’d be on our knees begging every god we could think of for forgiveness.

    As Russian media expert Julia Davis reports, pundits in Russia are starting to talk about what they need to do to help Donald Trump and hurt America in the 2024 elections. Just recently a Russian pundit and government official named Evgeny Popov called Trump “our partner” and called for “regime” change in the US. Davis picks up on the story on Russian TV broadcasts this past Thursday, on a show called “The Evening With Vladimir Soloviev.”

    “We’re trying to feel our way, figuring out the first steps. What can we do in 2023, 2024?,” Russian “Americanist” Malek Dudakov, a political scientist specializing in the U.S., said. He suggested that Russia’s interference in the upcoming elections is still in its early stages, and that more will be accomplished after the war is over and frosty relations between the U.S. and Russia start to warm up. “When things thaw out and the presidential race for 2024 is firmly on the agenda, there’ll be moments we can use,” he added. “The most banal approach I can think of is to invite Trump—before he announces he’s running for President—to some future summit in liberated Mariupol.”

    That’s right, Trump should get to come to “some future summit” that would happen in a “liberated Mariupol.” You know, when Mariupol is “liberated,” after Russia is done genociding babies there.

    To be clear, Mariupol is already getting close to being fully razed to the ground. Mariupol is where Russia intentionally bombed a theater that was marked “children.” Mariupol is where the mayor is estimating that at least 10,000 civilians have been killed, a number that could in actuality be as high as 20,000, where corpses are “carpeted through the streets.” And more:

    In Mariupol, about 120,000 civilians are in dire need of food, water, warmth and communications, the mayor said.

    Only those residents who have passed the Russian “filtration camps” are released from the city, [Mayor Vadym] Boychenko said.

    Ukrainian officials say Russian troops are confiscating passports from Ukrainian citizens then moving them to “filtration camps” in Ukraine’s separatist-controlled east before sending them to distant, economically depressed areas in Russia.

    Boychenko said Monday that improvised prisons were organized for those who did not pass the “filtering,” while at least 33,000 people were taken to Russia or to separatist territory in Ukraine.

    The AP notes that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy specifically said last night that he’s worried Russia’s going to use chemical weapons in Mariupol. There are allegations out there that maybe they’ve already done it. The chancellor of Austria came out of a meeting with Vladimir Putin yesterday openly worrying that Putin is going to “drastically intensify the brutality of the war,” per the New York Times.

    And Russian TV is floating the idea of Trump being invited there, once it’s “liberated,” to really get things going for Russia’s 2024 campaign to steal the American presidency for him. By the way, the AP reports that the mayor said Russia has been bringing “mobile crematoriums” into Mariupol to get rid of all the bodies it’s making. Wouldn’t want Trump to trip.

    Back to Thursday night on Russian TV, another pundit, Dmitry Drobnitsky, chimed in and said they should also invite Tulsi Gabbard to that summit. His pal Dudakov was into it, and he had another idea:

    “Tulsi Gabbard would also be great. Maybe Trump will take her as his vice-president?” Gabbard has recently become a fixture of state television for her pro-Russian talking points, and has even been described as a “Russian agent” by the Kremlin’s propaganda machine.

    C’mon down to “liberated” Mariupol, Tulsi Gabbard! Be the vice president who has the courage Mike Pence didn’t!

    Davis’s analysis says it’s not that Russian state TV truly loves these people so much, it’s just that they want to hurt America a lot. Dudakov:

    “With Europe, economic wars should take priority. With America, we should be working to amplify the divisions and—in light of our limited abilities—to deepen the polarization of American society.”

    He went on: “There is a horrific polarization of society in the United States, very serious conflicts between the Democrats and Republicans that keep expanding. You’ve already mentioned that America is a dying empire—and most empires weren’t conquered, they were destroyed from within. The same fate likely awaits America in the near decade. That’s why, when all the processes are thawed, Russia might get the chance to play on that.”

    And inviting Trump and Gabbard to dance on mass Ukrainian graves in Mariupol would be a totally “banal approach” to help further that goal.

    […] The host of the show, Soloviev, whined that Russian state-run propaganda organ RT is no longer operating in America, and suggested Russia should really try to worm its way into Spanish-speaking media to influence American voters that way. (Quite frankly we’ve wondered ever since 2020 if Russia might have already wormed its way into Spanish-speaking media. Lotta Beltway pundits took it at face value that the giant shifts in Latino votes in Florida and South Texas in 2020 were 100 percent organic.) A bunch of pundits talked, like Russian pundits just love to talk, about how the West is gonna be real sorry when Russia nukes everybody.

    But it was largely about how they’re going to pay America back for being nice to Ukraine and for sanctions, by attacking our elections and helping Trump again.

    Speaking about the upcoming midterm elections on Soloviev’s show last week, Konstantin Dolgov, the deputy chairman of the Committee on Economic Policy of Russia’s Federation Council, predicted that “the results will apparently not be good for the Democrats,” because of rising gas prices in the U.S. But the midterms, he emphasized, are “just a rehearsal. The main elections are further ahead and preparations for those are already underway.”

    And Tulsi Gabbard is invited too!

    This is what their words have wrought. This is what we mean when we talk about giving aid and comfort to the enemy. These are the fruits of the words Donald Trump and Tulsi Gabbard speak. […]

  220. says

    KG @268, good point. Also funny.

    In other news: Tucker Carlson Declares He’s Completely Unvaccinated.

    White nationalist bon vivant Tucker Carlson has spent the past year spreading disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine, so it’s not surprising that he now claims he’s personally vaccine free.

    Earlier this month, Carlson addressed a blasphemy-tolerant crowd at the Awaken Church “megachurch” in San Diego. He praised their ongoing defiance of COVID-19 restrictions during the pandemic (after all, Jesus had a known disregard for public health). While mocking the need for additional booster shots, Carlson revealed that he’d missed the other installments in the franchise.

    From The Daily Beast:

    “I skipped the first three, I’m not getting that one either,” Carlson said, to rapturous applause from the crowd, Voice of San Diego first reported.

    Carlson doesn’t possess a single recognizable human virtue, so it’s not a stretch to assume he’s lying. Since December, Fox News has required that its employees show proof of vaccination before entering the gates of hell. Previously, Carlson had insisted that Fox News had no such policy and the corporation was footloose and vaccine free.

    Carlson is the biggest burning cross at the network, so maybe he’s excluded from the vaccine mandate. However, this raises the larger question of how is he still alive? A significant number of genuine, don’t-fake-the-funk anti-vaxxers have died over the past year, and the Omicron variant is more infectious […]

    But maybe he’s built up his immune system with the “million” other vaccines he claimed he’s willingly had injected into his system. He’s all for vaccines as long as it’s not this specific one, which he opposes for logical, well-articulated reasons.

    I look at these people, like, this just does not make sense at all. And I have no idea what’s up here, but whatever you’re telling me it’s just not true.

    Carlson lies professionally and Fox News has stated in court that no sensible person should take him seriously. Nonetheless, millions watch with mouths agape while Carlson undermines the COVID-19 vaccine and attacks any private or public effort to encourage vaccination.

    The observable reality is that COVID-19, particularly the Omicron variant, has kicked the crap out of unvaccinated Americans. Dr. Mahdee Sobhanie, an assistant professor of internal medicine and an infectious diseases physician at The Ohio State University, told ABC News in February that “the vast majority of patients — anywhere from 75 percent and greater — we’re seeing is primarily unvaccinated individuals who are getting COVID and wind up in the hospital severely ill and are currently dying.”

    The small percentage of fully vaccinated and boosted people who’ve died were either older or had truly severe preexisting conditions that put them at risk. Carlson (and his Fox News cohorts) have downplayed the impact on unvaccinated people while making quite the scene out of every fully vaccinated and boosted person who catches so much as a sniffle from COVID-19. When a fully vaccinated Colin Powell died from COVID-19 complications, Carlson claimed his death was evidence “you’ve been lied to.” Carlson didn’t tell the dullards watching at home that Powell, 84, had a weakened immune system from fighting cancer of the white blood cells. [video available at the link]

    Carlson has long resisted confirming his vaccination status, often in the grossest ways. When the New York Times asked him last June, he texted back: “When was the last time you had sex with your wife and in what position? We can trade intimate details.” Obviously, whether someone gets freaky deaky on the regular is irrelevant to an immunocompromised person who just wants to stay alive.

    So, now we know (if you believe him) that Carlson is unvaccinated and defenseless against COVID-19. For the sake of our soul, we’re gonna just end this post right here.

  221. says

    Brooklyn subway station shooter injured at least 29, and wore gas mask.

    Washington Post link

    Police are searching for a suspect after at least 29 people were injured in a shooting that erupted on a New York subway platform during Tuesday’s morning rush. None of the victims suffered life-threatening injuries and the incident is not being investigated as an act of terrorism, New York Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell said during an afternoon briefing.

    Officers received a 911 call to the 36th Street subway station near 4th Avenue in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood just before 8:30 a.m., a police spokeswoman said. Fire officials, responding to reports of smoke, arrived on the scene to find multiple injured victims as well as several undetonated devices in the area, according to a fire department spokesperson.

    Sewell acknowledged that authorities did not know what could have motivated the shooter and were “not ruling anything out.” He said there were “no known explosive devices on our subway trains.”

    Sewell said the attacker, described as a heavyset Black man, put on a gas mask and apparently opened a canister on the train, filling the subway car with smoke. He then opened fire, Sewell said, hitting multiple people on the subway and the platform. […]

  222. says

    Is Ali Alexander really ‘cooperating?’

    Cooperation in the colloquial sense is not the same as cooperation in the legal sense.

    Last Friday, The New York Times reported that Ali Alexander, “a key figure in the Stop the Steal movement,” has received a grand jury subpoena about his and others’ involvement in and planning for January 6. Perhaps more importantly, it noted that Alexander “agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation of the attack on the Capitol.”

    Yet while Alexander’s purported cooperation may be headline grabbing, it’s not clear that Alexander has done anything — yet — beyond receiving a federal grand jury subpoena and announcing that he intends to comply with that subpoena. There is no indication that the Justice Department has a cooperation agreement with Alexander; at most, he appears to be dangling his willingness to offer more than the subpoena demands. When prosecutors and defense lawyers refer to cooperation, on the other hand, they are usually referring to something wholly different. […]

    Specifically, in the criminal context, a cooperator means someone more like Jan. 6 defendant and Proud Boy Charles Donohoe. Donohoe pled guilty last week to two counts stemming from his participation in January 6 and could face 20 years in prison just on one of those counts alone. Yet in addition to the penalties he faces, Donohoe also has a range of new and ongoing obligations to DOJ.

    Under Donohoe’s plea agreement, he is now required to cooperate in any federal, state, or local investigation DOJ believes relevant. The scope of that cooperation is broad, ranging from providing sworn written statements, grand jury testimony, and trial testimony and agreeing to be interviewed by law enforcement and DOJ lawyers without his lawyer present, to handing over all evidence of crimes about which he is aware, agreeing to forfeit any proceeds or assets traceable to those crimes, and providing DOJ with a “full and complete accounting” of his financial assets.

    That’s not exactly a good development for the other defendants charged in the same indictment, including Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio. But that’s also the point: Cooperation is a two-way street. The witness gives DOJ information; DOJ agrees to refrain from charging that witness with certain crimes and/or recommends more lenient treatment once a defendant pleads guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

    For his part, Alexander told the Times, through a lawyer, that “he was taking a ‘cooperative posture’ with the Justice Department’s investigation but did not know what useful information he could give.” He also provided a statement to The Times in which he insists, “I did nothing wrong, and I am not in possession of evidence that anyone else had plans to commit unlawful acts.”

    From where this recovering lawyer sits, a witness who publicly questions the utility of what he knows and denies responsibility for any wrongdoing is not a likely candidate for a cooperation agreement. But will Alexander ultimately offer federal prosecutors cooperation not just in the colloquial sense, but within the conventional legal framework too? Stay tuned.

    P.S.: You might have noticed I now post here on the MaddowBlog occasionally, thanks to the always gracious, ever-brilliant Steve Benen. And you might be wondering: Who is she and what is she doing here?

    Following a short stint on Capitol Hill, I went to law school, clerked on a federal court, and joined a BigLaw firm, expecting to spend two years there. Instead, I spent more than a decade as a litigator in private practice. And right before Trump made that infamous call to Zelenskyy, I joined TRMS as its first *off-air* legal analyst.

    Broadly speaking, I advise Rachel and the team on our coverage of those stories at the intersection of legally significant and politically salient. Consider me not only a friendly translator of legal lingo and processes, but more importantly, an interpreter of what matters when law becomes news.

    To date, I’ve written about those things I can’t stop obsessing about. But what I really want to do is address the legal issues that matter to you. Please drop me a note and share your questions about the legal news du jour at Rachel@msnbc.com with the subject line “Ask A (Recovering) Lawyer.” And as Rachel says, watch this space.

  223. says

    Beating the Russians on the digital battlefield: Ukraine foiled Russian cyberattack that tried to shut down energy grid

    Russian military hackers tried and failed to attack Ukraine’s energy infrastructure last week, the country’s government and a major cybersecurity company said Tuesday.

    The attack was designed to infiltrate computers connected to multiple substations, then delete all files, which would shut that infrastructure down, according to Ukraine’s summary of the incident.

    ESET, a Slovakia-based cybersecurity company working to help secure Ukrainian infrastructure, said in a summary of the attack that it was conducted by the same arm of Russia’s military intelligence agency, GRU, that had executed similar attacks successfully in 2014 and 2015. In both of those incidents, some residents of Kyiv temporarily lost power. This attack had been planned for at least two weeks, ESET said.

    The attack adds to a growing number of efforts by Russia to target crucial Ukrainian infrastructure, some of which have been successful. Ukraine has faced multiple “wiper” attacks, including ones that have targeted computers in Ukraine’s government, financial institutions and internet service providers. Those attacks also look to mass-delete files from hacked computers. Russia has succeeded in hampering some of the country’s internet providers.

    But a destructive hack of energy infrastructure is among the most aggressive possible cyberattacks in a government’s arsenal. A successful attack would have had wide impact and been the most visible cyberattack on Ukrainian infrastructure since Russia’s invasion started.

    Viktor Zhora, a top Ukrainian cybersecurity official, said in a news conference held over the video conferencing platform Zoom that the malware successfully infiltrated some computers in Ukraine’s energy sector and caused disruptions at one facility. But that was quickly remedied and no customers lost power, he said.

    The effective defense came from a combined team of information technology staffers, Ukrainian intelligence officers, ESET and Microsoft, which is also helping defend Ukraine from hackers, Zhora said.

    Zhora declined to name the electrical company or the region where it operates, but said the company provides electricity for an area where millions of people live.

    Ciaran Martin, the former head of the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre, said the attack was in line with previous Russian hacking attempts.

    “This is the sort of operation Russia carried out on more than one occasion between the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the full invasion this year,” Martin said in a text message. “It’s just a more rushed version and, it seems, an entirely unsuccessful one thanks in part to excellent cyber defense work.”

    John Hultquist, vice president of intelligence at the cybersecurity company Mandiant, praised Ukraine’s defenses.

    “Any move by Ukraine to stop a major attack like this, given the circumstances, is an outstanding success. The fact that they’re still defending their networks under these conditions is incredible,” Hultquist said.

    The attack “would have added to the enormous suffering that Ukrainians are already enduring” if it had gone according to plan, he said.

  224. says

    Why Jared Kushner’s Saudi Arabian money is impossible to defend

    During his presidency, Donald Trump’s agenda in the Middle East was often difficult to understand, much less defend. Much of the administration’s foreign policy, shaped in part by presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, appeared to be built around [Trump’s] unexplained affinity for Saudi Arabia.

    […] As Rachel noted on the show last night, Trump’s first foreign trip while in office was to Saudi Arabia. When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman imprisoned other members of the royal family, Trump announced his support for the move. When the Saudis imposed a blockade on U.S. allies in Qatar, Trump endorsed this, too. When the U.S. had evidence of bin Salman approving the operation that killed Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump boasted that he came to the crown prince’s rescue and shielded him from consequences.

    Kushner was responsible, at least in part, for helping shape the administration’s policy, making at least three trips to Saudi Arabia during his father-in-law’s first year in the White House. (Oddly enough, the actual total might be more: One of Kushner’s trips was kept private and only came to public attention after his return.)

    And it was against this backdrop that The New York Times had this report:

    Six months after leaving the White House, Jared Kushner secured a $2 billion investment from a fund led by the Saudi crown prince, a close ally during the Trump administration, despite objections from the fund’s advisers about the merits of the deal. A panel that screens investments for the main Saudi sovereign wealth fund cited concerns about the proposed deal with Mr. Kushner’s newly formed private equity firm, Affinity Partners, previously undisclosed documents show.

    That second sentence is of particular significance: Those responsible for helping oversee the Saudi sovereign wealth fund were, to put it mildly, highly skeptical about giving Kushner’s firm all of this money, and for good reason: They rightly noted that Trump’s son-in-law has no relevant experience, and the firm’s operations were deemed “unsatisfactory in all aspects.”

    Kushner got the money anyway — alongside an agreement that after the firm received its first $500 million installment, the inexperienced former White House official would hire a “qualified investment team,” which seems like the sort of thing Kushner probably should’ve done before the $2 billion deal.

    Let’s also not forget that Kushner’s relevant background, to the extent that it exists, was running is family’s commercial real estate empire — when it ran into serious money trouble.

    By any sane measure, the fact that the Saudis handed Kushner $2 billion anyway is awfully tough to defend. Indeed, it’s an open question as to whether Riyadh agreed to such an investment because of services rendered — which is to say, a possible reward for the pro-Saudi work Kushner did during his time in the White House — or because of possible services to come in the event of a second term for his father-in-law.

    Either way, this appears awfully corrupt.

    At this point, if you’ve shared my missive with your weird uncle who consumes conservative media all day, he’s probably already sent you a furious email that reads in part, “What about Hunter Biden? If we’re worried about presidential family members engaging in shady deals with foreign governments, why focus on this and not President Joe Biden’s son and his international efforts?”

    On the surface, this may seem like a fair question, but just below the surface, there’s a problem: Hunter Biden never worked at any level in any presidential administration. He didn’t steer his father’s foreign policies toward any country. His role in U.S. foreign policy was, is, and has been literally non-existent.

    Kushner, on the other hand, was Trump’s right-hand man in the White House, taking a special interest in U.S. policy in the Middle East.

    If you’re a voter preoccupied with presidential children becoming compromised by a foreign power, there is no “both sides” dynamic to which to cling.

  225. says

    Ukraine update: Russia has issues with logistics and command, but there’s one more factor

    We seem to be having Russian History Month. There has been the head of the Russian orthodox church reaching back 900 years to claim that neither Ukraine nor the Ukrainian church is “real.” Vladimir Putin has insisted that Ukraine is not a country because it “illegally left” the USSR. And on Tuesday, Russian diplomats insisted that Japan pay them back for gold supposedly stolen in 1920. [FFS! Really?]

    […] Russia is also short of clear lines of command to maintain strategic goals, is saddled with a lot of poorly maintained equipment, and is utterly lacking in the intelligence necessary to predict the actions of their opponent at any scale.

    On Tuesday, as ever more Russian forces are crowded into eastern Ukraine, President Zelenskyy desperately seeks the materials to keep his nation afloat, and everyone braces for a battle that will define the future. Let’s take a quick look at two battles where all those issues facing Russia were true. Except we’re not looking at Russia, we’re looking at the United States. And we’re not looking on the European steppes but at the Pacific Ocean.

    On August 7, 1942, a massive U.S. fleet approached the islands of Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida in the southern Solomon Islands. There the fleet successfully landed Marines, captured two airfields under construction, annihilated a small Japanese base, and drove construction workers into the jungle. After two days of hard fighting, U.S. forces stepped down from high alert on the evening of August 8. They had control of the islands, two large naval forces standing in the strait between Guadalcanal and Tulagi, a screen of destroyers guarding the entrance to the area, a carrier fleet providing air cover, and reconnaissance planes making loops to warn of any Japanese approach. The admiral in charge even expressed a wish that someone would attack, showing confidence in their position.

    That night, a much smaller Japanese fleet sailed into the area under cover of darkness, opened fire on the southern half of the fleet, and either sunk or sent into flight every major ship. Then it turned to the north, did the same to the northern fleet, and escaped beyond small Savo Island after taking only light damage. On the U.S. side, four heavy cruisers were utterly lost. Another was seriously damaged and left adrift. Two destroyers were also left with serious damage, unable to continue the fight. 1,077 men were killed—almost as many as the Marines would lose on Guadalcanal over the course of that whole infamously terrible campaign. And all those troops onshore would be left without air cover, without cover from the sea, and short on supplies, setting up everything that was to come.

    What went wrong? What didn’t. A U.S. spotting plane had seen the Japanese fleet—in fact, two planes spotted them while approaching. But those planes were under a different command. Since the naval operations were secret, the planes didn’t know the U.S. ships were off to their east and weren’t all that concerned about the course the Japanese fleet was taking. It took more than 8 hours for the first message to reach the U.S. ships. Even when it did, everyone misinterpreted what the spotting planes had seen.

    It wasn’t just the planes that were under a different command. The naval fleet was actually split up among different admirals, and after the landing, the commander of the carrier fleet unexpectedly announced he was taking his ships and leaving the area. Surprised, the overall commander of the landing fleet called in his next in command for a conference. That next in command failed to put anyone in charge of the southern fleet, where he had been stationed, and no one bothered to notify the northern fleet of what was happening. In fact, no one bothered to notify the northern fleet that anything was wrong even after the Japanese sailed into the strait and attacked the southern fleet. The Japanese got to stage two separate surprise attacks because no one on the U.S. side thought to pick up a radio. And all during the fight, the two guys really in charge were somewhere else, complaining about the other admiral and the carrier fleet. They didn’t even see the action.

    Command, control, logistics, communications … they failed every test. And the result may have added a year to the war in the space of just minutes.

    What may seem stranger is that this battle came just after the resounding U.S. victory at Midway, a battle where combined groups of bombers operating from multiple carriers came together to sink three Japanese carriers and genuinely turn the tide of the war. How is it possible that the U.S. could be so coordinated at Midway and so utterly hapless at Savo Island? The answer is that it wasn’t.

    [Snipped discussion of “luck” as a factor.] Russia’s lack of NCOs, inexperienced soldiers, and top-heavy management style makes it hard for them to coordinate more than two or three battalion tactical groups (BTGs) at a time. In fact, most of Russia’s actions seem to be single BTGs, or even partial BTGs, being flung around Ukraine without the support they need to actually hold a position, or contest a position against dug-in opponents.

    At Midway, the U.S. had exactly that same problem. The U.S. kept trying to get off waves of planes, but each carrier was having its own set of difficulties, resulting in planes going up in small clusters all morning, rather than forming a coordinated attack. A handful of fighters here. A slightly larger grouping of attack bombers over there. Some dive bombers who took a wrong turn and came from another direction.

    None of it was working as designed, and the Japanese defenses took out these flights almost as soon as they arrived. Throughout most of the morning, not one bomb or torpedo reached a single Japanese ship, while several of the U.S. flights were wiped out to a plane.

    However, that chaos turned out to be just what the U.S. needed. The Japanese had already launched half their planes and needed a 45-minute window to recover them, get them stowed away, and get another flight ready on deck. U.S. planes kept hitting them every time it seemed they were about to get that window. Not by design. By luck.

    And when the Japanese finally managed to get all their planes landed, stowed, fueled, and re-armed for a response, that was when two separate flights of U.S. bombers—launched in different directions at different times—just happened to show up at once, hitting the Japanese fleet from opposite sides of the sky. Exhausted and frustrated by a morning of constant attacks, the Japanese watched as a handful of bombs went right through openings in the Japanese carrier decks and found all those planes. With their fuel. And their bombs. Japan lost three carriers, lost any chance at taking Midway, and may have lost the war. In about eight minutes.

    That happened despite U.S. issues with command, control, and communication. Sometimes, things just do.

    As all those tanks in the Donbas get ready to roll, just hope that Russia has all Savo Islands, no Midways.

  226. says

    Followup to comment 276.

    […] Ukraine had been getting supplies into Mariupol, and taking away soldiers, using helicopters landing at the edge of the city. That there was a spot where helicopters were landing without Russians catching on for days, if not weeks, speaks to the ingenuity of Ukrainian fighters, the skill of Ukrainian pilots, and just how large this city really is.

    But after those helicopters were discovered and the source of those supplies cut off, it wasn’t all that surprising that a few days later, some of the forces in Mariupol — exhausted, low on food, and out of ammunition — saw only one option.

    🇺🇦marines of the 36th brigade shared a farewell video from Mariupol, saying they are devoted to Ukraine till the end. However, no ammunition was delivered to them in the besieged city. They ask to finish the job and fight for victory.

    Which makes the announcement that the 36th has not surrendered, but instead fought through a cordon within the city to link up with the forces of Azov both amazing and exciting.

    What the supply situation looks like for this combined force is unclear. What is clear: Mariupol has not fallen.

    BTW, the media has been slow to catch up with reality when it comes to the Azov Regiment. That group of soldiers was mostly rightwing several years ago. Now, it is a mixed group with everything from leftists to rightwing represented in the ranks. Leaders say they are slowly culling the worst of rightwing symbols and other stupidly idealogical stuff, but that they can’t afford to lose soldiers right now. The mixed and diverse ranks are all united when it comes to fighting Russians. So, as far as the Azov Regiment is concerned, I think we should just view them as Ukrainian soldiers. Putin and his cronies are falsely using the Azov Regiment to bolster their “Nazi” claims. They too are behind the times. If need be, a closer look at rightwing elements within the Ukrainian military can be taken when the war is over.

    See also:
    The Azov Battalion: How Putin built a false premise for a war against “Nazis” in Ukraine

    Excerpt:

    […] “More than 130,000 people are still held by the nationalist battalions [in Mariupol]. People are being held hostage, they are simply not allowed out of the areas controlled by the Nazi battalions, threatened with executions and physical liquidation,” Denis Pushilin, head of the Russian-backed separatist regime in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, said […]

    References to “Nazi battalions” appear in virtually all Russian news reports about the war in Ukraine. The Kremlin has doubled down on the narrative that Russia is “liberating” Ukraine from Nazis, and that narrative has maintained a consistent focus on one extremist militia in particular – the Azov Battalion.

    Russian state TV anchors have worked around the clock to portray Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — who is Jewish — as a leader of a neo-Nazi-leaning government infiltrated by the Azov group.

    […] “There are no Nazi battalions in Ukraine,” said Ruslan Leviev, an analyst with the Conflict Intelligence Team, which tracks the Russian military in Ukraine.

    “There is [the Azov] regiment… There are [estimated] several thousand people who are in this regiment. It is indeed a group where many members adhere to nationalist and far-right views,” Leviev said. “But a lot of people also join it because it is one of the most prepared and fit-for-war units.”

    […] The unit has its roots in aggressive fan clubs that support regional soccer teams, known as “ultras,” but as the fighting ramped up, they attracted various far-right activists, who often made no secret of their neo-Nazi sympathies [in 2014].

    […] There were no Nazi battalions roaming around the streets and trying to embed into [the government] system, as the Kremlin is trying to portray.”

    It’s not all black and white here. There are shades of gray, but it is also clear that Russian propaganda is wrong, and that many people have overly simplified the supposed ideology of the Azov Regiment.

  227. says

    “…Currently in the Dnipro morgues there are over 1,500…killed Russian soldiers, no one wants to take them away. … Of course we do not burn them. We hope that some Russian mothers could come and pick up their sons whom they raised all their lives.”

  228. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Zelenskiy announces capture of Putin ally in Ukraine

    Volodomyr Zelenskiy announced that oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, Putin’s closest ally in Ukraine, has been captured by Ukrainian law enforcement. On his official Telegram account, Zelenskiy posted a picture of Medvedchuk in handcuffs.

    The official Twitter account of Ukraine’s Security Service, the country’s law enforcement agency, posted on Twitter another picture of Viktor Medvedchuk, Putin’s closest ally in Ukraine who had been in hiding since he fled his house arrest at the beginning of the invasion.

    In the tweet, the Security Service says that Medvedchuk was wearing a Ukrainian army uniform as a “disguise”.

    Zelenskiy proposes swap for Putin ally for Ukrainian fighters

    Following news that Ukrainians had captured oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk – Putin’s closest ally in Ukraine – Zelenskiy proposed releasing him to Russia in exchange for Ukrainians captured by Russian forces.

    “I propose to the Russian Federation to exchange this guy of yours” for Ukrainian men and women in Russian captivity, he said in an address posted to Telegram.

  229. says

    Kyiv Independent:

    Ambassador: Ukraine invited Scholz to Kyiv.

    According to the German newspaper Der Spiegel, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk said Kyiv would be happy to welcome German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for talks on assistance with heavy weapons.

    Earlier, the German newspaper Bild said Kyiv had rejected a visit by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier over his “close ties to Russia” in the past.

  230. says

    I will describe here who Ukrainians are and why they are resisting. This resistance has very deep historical roots, and are based upon a specific Ukrainian political culture.

    to conclude: this freedom-loving, decentralized, anti-tyrannical spirit was in Ukraine for centuries. This is very different from Russia. Naturally, Ukrainians understand that defending this modus vivendi is an existential fight”

    I appreciate this thread, but feel obliged to note that Kropotkin, the greatest anarchist thinker, and Bakunin were both Russian (Emma Goldman was from Kaunas, a Lithuanian city that was then part of the Russian empire).

  231. says

    Though the White House has largely avoided the term, President Joe Biden this afternoon used the word “genocide“ today for the first time in reference Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: “Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank — none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide a half a world away.”

  232. says

    Opinions are like assholes — everyone’s got one, and eventually they all wind up featured in the New York Times. This morning the paper of record showcased eight of them in a piece headlined, “These 8 Conservative Men Are Making No Apologies.” The men were interviewed by Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson about why they’re so disaffected […]

    “This country has become more feminized. It’s not the way it was when I was growing up. We started off talking about how the country has a weak image. They don’t call women the weaker sex for no reason. Men are necessary to maintain a vibrant society. And we’ve been feminized,” complained Tony, a 72-year-old white retiree from Massachusetts. “No offense.” [Groan]

    No offense!

    “There’s men, and there’s women, and there’s masculinity, and femininity. And there’s no reason to destroy one in order to make the other one better. I’m not trying to get into a negative men-versus-women thing, but I’m seeing masculinity under attack,” agreed Danny, a 47-year-old Middle Eastern man from Florida who went on to express his disgust at “men wearing tight skinny jeans, with no socks and velvet shoes” and “some of the younger generation wearing very feminine clothes, blatantly feminine clothes — so much so that we are almost trying to portray masculinity as negative.”

    Kids these days, always attacking masculinity with their fashion choices! Maybe if they would just wear Levis 501s like “normal” manly men, there would be no war in Ukraine.

    “To me, the stuff that’s going on with Ukraine — the United States hasn’t filled our role as being masculine as a nation in that aspect. And that’s why Putin is doing what he’s doing, because when you don’t step up into certain roles, then the stronger person is going to take over. In past times, we’ve taken a leadership role, and to me, we’re not taking a leadership role,” said Robert, a 50-year-old Black man from Texas.

    It’s like a room full of Archie Bunkers wailing for the days when “Girls were girls, and men were men.” Except the whole point of “All in the Family” was that social change was inevitable, and none of these guys is remotely in on the joke. Asked for “good examples of masculinity or manliness these days,” the group offered Denzel Washington, Jason Statham, and Tom Brady.

    “This is not the America I remember growing up in, and it’s just sad to see what’s going on,” said Joe, a 37-year-old white guy from New York whose biggest concern about America is that it’s “weak.”

    Joe pines for the good old days with Mayor Giuliani, despite the fact that he was only 16 when Rudy wandered off to do whatever the hell it is he’s doing now. Joe is also conflicted about Andrew Cuomo, whom he “couldn’t stand,” but whom he sympathizes with because he was hounded out of office by the “mob,” and “maybe he was really trying to have a relationship with one of these women.”

    None of the men believe that racism or sexism is a major problem today, with Krupal, a 22-year-old Asian man from Maryland, insisting that women are actually at an advantage compared to men.

    “It’s like, you’re a woman, you’re given a trophy. If a guy does something, it’s not a big deal. If girls do the same thing, it’s like, you go! Girl power!” he scoffed. “I think her gender plays a bigger role, and it gives her more advantage these days — be it career or anything.”

    The group was uniformly concerned about crime rates, which have declined precipitously in the past 25 years, although that news appears not to have reached them.

    “You’re not free to be yourself anymore because of crime. You’ve got to be concerned about ‘If I go out, am I going to be a victim of crime?’” said Robert, a 50-year-old Black man from Texas, where crime is at a historical low, as it is in Orlando, where Michael, a white 67-year-old retiree, expressed the same sentiment.

    But the greatest crime of all was of course cancel culturing them for their bad opinions.

    “I would say you’re not allowed to be free anymore. Due to the internet and social media, a bunch of trolls have gotten so much power. They’re constantly out there to play gotcha. So you got to be cautious,” lamented Krupal.

    “I voted for Trump. I like Trump from when he was with “The Apprentice.” I knew him as a businessperson. That’s why I voted for him. And then — oh, Lord — from church to every place, people just had a problem with it,” agreed Robert. “You can’t have a different viewpoint.”

    They all expressed pride in their roles as husbands, fathers, providers, and family men, while simultaneously lamenting the younger generation’s choices.

    “We are the most selfish, self-centered, entitled culture. Everything is me, me, me,” grumbled Danny without irony, just moments after complaining about being oppressed by having to look at dudes in pink shoes.

    In short, the whole thing is ridiculous. Which is not to say that the Times was wrong to run it […] But these men who profess to be making enormous sacrifices for their beloved families have pretty low regard for their children’s preferences. It seems not to have occurred to them that the country does not “belong” to them any more, to the extent that it ever did.

    And just as our parents had to hand over the keys and let us drive, the time is coming for us to let our children run the place. […] it is the height of selfishness to insist that you can freeze time, deny progress, and dictate the rules forever, all the while whining that you’ve been cancel-cultured because people have the nerve to tell you your ideas suck.[…]

    Wonkette link

  233. StevoR says

    Australian Greens leader on the ABC TV’s National press Club giving speech and answering questions now. Worth a litsen /read if you can find it. Or if you are in Oz & able to turning TV on & watching now in SA with WA to follow in couple of hours time I guess.

  234. StevoR says

    ^ Should be on their iView streaming service later too and maybe separate website.

    @ 212 Paul K, Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls, KG, blf, Lynna, OM, SC and others upthread. Thanks for yourcndolecne s and thoughts. Its been a very rough and sad few days here.

  235. KG says

    Lynna, OM@277,
    Your link itslef has a link to a bellingcat investigation (from early 2019 i.e. before not only the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but the Ukranian elections of that year), which gives a far less benign view of the Azov Regiment (as it apparently is now). Specifically, bellingcat details its extensive links to neo-Nazi groups and individuals in Europe and the USA, and the appointment of leading Azov members to government and police posts (contrary to the quote from Ruslan Leviev at your link). These appointments seem to have been made or approved by Minister for Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov, also mentioned at your link. Avakov is indeed no longer Minister for Internal Affairs, as Leviev says – but he only resigned in July 2021. One of his most notorious appointees, Vadym Troyan, former deputy commander of the Azov Battalion, in November 2021 “resigned from his position as Deputy Head of the National Police of Ukraine and was later dismissed from his other positions by the new Minister of the Interior Denys Monastyrsky”. So it’s posible Zelenskiy has been removing far-right ministers and senior officials as and when he can – but they were certainly left in place initially.

  236. KG says

    Related to #288, very interesting article (but not to be accepted uncritically) from a Ukranian antifascist group (fans of Rosa Luxemburg) on how some Russian Nazis have moved to and sided with Ukraine. Note that it was published in November 2021. The Sergey Korotkikh/”Botsman” referred to there is another of Avakov’s appointees. Russian sources are now claiming Botsman was the actual perpetrator of their atrocities in Bucha.

  237. KG says

    I may have been wrong @289 in saying the Ukrainian anti-fascist group “Marker” are “fans of Rosa Luxemburg”: they are financially supported by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, which is affiliated to Die Linke, the German left party. Here is another article from Marker, on far-right penetration of Ukranian civil society, and here one from Bellingcat on their strong influence in the Ministry of Veterans’ Affairs. The truth seems to be that while Ukraine is certainly not a Nazi state, or run by a Nazi government, far-right politics is normalised in the country.

  238. Akira MacKenzie says

    From Salon:

    Another Trump hate rally: The threats get worse, and polite America turns away

    The American news media has collectively decided to ignore Donald Trump’s threats of white supremacist violence and sedition. If you believe this will keep you safe from his schemes and machinations, or from what his legions of followers may do, you are greatly mistaken.

    Apparently, the gatekeepers of the approved public discourse have convinced themselves that they are somehow serving the public interest by ignoring these escalating threats. In reality, these gatekeepers are doing exactly the opposite: They are normalizing American fascism by minimizing its dangers. In a moment when the news media as an institution should sound the alarm even more loudly about the threat to American democracy, safety and security represented by Trumpism and neofascism a choice has been made to mock or whitewash the imminent danger.

    One does not ignore an arsonist in the hope that he will stop burning down buildings; the same logic should apply to political arsonists as well.

    […]

    To the uninitiated — and also to those who have just become numb to it all — Trump’s North Carolina speech was an uninspired recitation of his personal grievances, malignant narcissism (“I’ve got to be the cleanest, I think I’m the most honest human being, perhaps, that God has ever created”) and victim fantasies, mixed with now-standard talking points about the Big Lie, the 2020 election and Jan. 6, “parents’ rights”, “invaders” at the U.S.-Mexico border, supposed crime and barbarism in “Democrat-run” major cities and an assortment of lies both small and large about Joe Biden and the Democrats.

    But for those attuned to the poisonous gospel that is white supremacy in America, Trump’s words and the danger they represent were very clear. As a matter of self-defense and survival, Black and brown folks must be keenly aware of such words. Trump’s cult followers and other members of the conservative movement and larger white right also hear his words and understand their message clearly. For them, Trump’s words are inspiration and aspiration.

    […]

    The Democratic Party has shown itself to be largely ineffective, powerless and incompetent in their response to the neofascist attacks on democracy. This is part of a much larger pattern: For more than 50 years the Republican Party and the “conservative” movement have won and kept power by leveraging the politics of white racial resentment and grievance-mongering, even though their policies are extremely unpopular with most of the public. In many ways, Trumpism, neofascism and straightforward white identity politics are the next step in that political strategy.

    What should the Democrats do? They need to speak in clear and direct terms about the dangers the Republicans represent. Democrats also need to make clear to their voters and the larger public that Republicans (and the Trump movement specifically) view liberals, progressives, Black and brown people, the LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups as enemies and an existential threat to their right-wing nightmare version of America. That animus is not about “mere” disagreements about public policy or just a matter of “polarization,” partisanship or hyperbolic language. It is a direct threat of violence, with the goal of eliminating the “enemy” in order to “purify” America.

    In even more plain speech: if you are not white (and a man), a heterosexual, and a so-called “Christian,” today’s Republican Party, the “conservative” movement, and the larger white right do not like you. They want you to suffer. Republicans are masters at the personalization of grievance, and will lie and distort reality and the facts to frighten their voters in order to win, maintain and expand their political power and societal control.

    Democrats need to respond in kind by personalizing the dangers that Republicans, the “conservative” movement, and the larger white right pose to the American people as a whole. This is a remarkably easy strategy to implement: All it requires is for Democrats to tell the truth about the human misery that Republicans and “conservatives” have caused for decades — and the much worse misery they will cause in the future.

    Yet out of gross denial, or perhaps naive investment in a “normal” political order that is dying and cannot be resurrected, the Democrats have not done that and likely never will. This is not even defeat. It’s surrender, and a pitiable sight at a moment when courage is required to save American democracy and society from the neofascist assault.

  239. says

    KG 2288, 289 and 290, thank you for the additional information.

    Ukraine update: American artillery headed to Ukraine

    […] With rain fixing the battlefield in place, last night’s big news was the United States’ announcement that its next big shipment was being formulated. Both the $800 million aid package and the $100 million in Javelin anti-tank missiles will be fully delivered by the end of the week, thus the Pentagon is now formulating its next package, this one delivering $750 million worth of equipment. The U.S. has already donated equipment worth $2.4 billion. This package does not require congressional approval. […]

    Humvees are a fantastic addition to the Ukrainian army, and the United States has thousands of them sitting in storage as they get replaced by a new-generation vehicle. Ukraine already fielded the vehicle, so they have expertise running and maintaining them. It’s not a new system, and given that Humvees were included in the previous $800 million package, this is adding to an existing and growing stockpile.

    The Humvee will be far more mobile than some of the rickety commandeered civilian vehicles currently used by many Ukrainian units, and could be of particular use to Ukrainian special operation forces operating behind enemy lines at night. But to be clear, they’re not immune to mud, as this particular crew found out while patrolling the Rio Grande valley down at the Mexican border. [photo at the link]

    Humvees can be modded out to no end—including mounting anti-tank missiles for fast shoot-and-scoot ambushes. Ideally, every Ukrainian infantry squad would have several of these. It’s impossible to deliver too many of them.

    But even more exciting … ARTILLERY

    I’ve argued that the United States should facilitate the transfer of the nearly 1,000 Soviet-era 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled artillery guns in NATO stock, as Ukraine already operates them in its arsenal. Remember, having to learn a new system delays deployment and makes it exponentially harder to maintain and support. While the United States doesn’t have any of these in its arsenal, it can “backfill” allies with more modern western NATO-standard options.

    […]. Yes, the U.S. is working on getting Ukraine the same systems they’re already familiar with, but—and this is critical—they’re also sending American artillery. Any fears about sending “heavy” equipment or “offensive” equipment have evaporated. The only question now is, “Can Ukraine make use of this ASAP?” The United States has thousands of M109 self-propelled howitzers in storage, and the system is ubiquitous in NATO armies, many of which are in the process of replacing them. Germany alone has reportedly phased out 570 of them, Italy 221, the Netherlands 126, and Belgium around 100. If Ukraine has to learn any new system, with dramatic potential impact on the battlefield, this is it. Nothing else comes close.

    The M109 (and all NATO heavy artillery) aren’t compatible with the munitions currently in Ukrainian hands. A whole new logistical chain will have to be built to support these in the field. On the other hand, it allows Western NATO countries to help supply ammunition, including smart rounds like the GPS-guided Excalibur artillery shells. Ukraine has a home-grown laser-guided artillery round it has used to great effect […]

    These guided shells are an even bigger game changer than the Switchblade suicide drones we’re so excited about. Ukraine is only getting 100 of the tank-busting Switchblade 600, likely because it’s a new weapon and the U.S. simply doesn’t have many in its arsenal. But laser-guided artillery munitions? Thousands are sitting in American and allied storage depots. The Excalibur has a range of 22 to 35 miles depending on variant, and is designed specifically to be used in civilian areas (like cities) where minimizing collateral damage is of paramount importance. Imagine how useful that will be in liberating cities like Kherson and Melitopol, and hopefully more down the line. New variants have additional laser guidance.

    And if you’re fantasizing about taking out murderous Russian artillery, the 2S1 Gvozdika howitzers that make up the bulk of Russia’s heavy artillery have a range of 9 to 14 miles. Russian GRAD MLRS have a range of 12 to 19 miles, depending on the ammo. All of those would be well within range of guided 155mm rounds. Dumb rounds have a range of 8 to 13 miles depending on variants.

    The catch? Cost. A dumb 155mm NATO-standard artillery shell costs around $1,000. The Excalibur costs $112,000 per round. So a mix of smart and dumb shells is the most likely outcome. Germany has its own guided 155mm shells, the SMArt 155 laser-guided artillery round (17 mile range), which could also find its way into Ukrainian hands […]

    Now check this out: [Tweet and video at the link] Nah, these M109s and supporting vehicles aren’t going to Ukraine. This is American gear, deploying to Poland or one of the Baltic nations as part of NATO’s reinforcement of its eastern flank. But soon, hopefully, one of these will truly be Ukraine-bound.

    Wait, did someone say something about helicopters?

    Original reports claimed that the Pentagon was looking at adding attack helicopters to this package. Not long after, the helicopters were struck from the list. Considering that they were talking about Mi-17 transport helicopters modded with attack systems, that makes sense. First of all, any such modification would take time (and could be included in a future package, ready to roll), and second of all … the United States has Russian-built helicopters? Turns out yes, from back in 2011:

    In a turnabout from the Cold War, when the CIA gave Stinger missiles to Afghan rebels to shoot down Soviet helicopters, the Pentagon has spent $648 million to buy or refurbish 31 Russian Mi-17 transport helicopters for the Afghan National Army Air Corps. The Defense Department is seeking to buy 10 more of the Mi-17s next year, and had planned to buy dozens more over the next decade.

    The 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea would’ve ended such purchases, but there are reports that the U.S. Army operates the helicopters for its special forces, obscuring their activities in locations where Soviet-era gear predominates. And it turns out that the U.S. already handed over five Mi-17s to Ukraine that previously belonged to the Afghan military. I couldn’t find information on what might be left in U.S. hands, but it’s clearly something if they were under consideration.

    Still, without air cover, helicopters are terribly vulnerable to Russian aircraft and missile systems, and especially so on the Donbas front, close to Russia’s one zone with bona fide air superiority.

    And the ‘Coastal Defense Drones’?
    The Washington Post reported that “coastal defense drones” could be part of the package. No clue what that’s about. Never heard of such a thing, and some quick googling came up with nothing. I honestly don’t think they exist, and I’m guessing the reporter misunderstood […]. So … maybe regular drones? Or more Switchblades? More of those would be nice.

    Next on the wish list?
    Now that the taboo against “heavy” weapons is shattered, let’s get the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle into Ukrainian hands. It is being phased out of the U.S. Army, and there are thousands available for gifting.

    The Bradley is nowhere near as difficult and complicated to maintain and supply as a modern combat tank, it can be mounted with tank-killing missile systems, it can protect infantry during the kind of open ground combat we’re seeing in south and east Ukraine, and it can more safely transport infantry to combat zones than softer-skinned vehicles (including through defensive Russian artillery barrages). To get a sense to how much simpler the Bradley is, the training program to maintain it is 12 weeks, while it’s six months for the M-1 Abrams tank. And the Bradley uses regular diesel, not jet fuel like the Abrams.

    (In case you’re wondering, a U.S. Army artillery mechanic has a 15-week training program. Maintaining the Bradley is simpler than the M109 system. It does mean fielding the M109 has a real training curve.)

  240. says

    David Dietrich, the Republican chairman of a Virginia electoral board, resigned this week after publishing a racist Facebook message that called for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to be lynched.

    Link

  241. says

    Republican commits voter fraud … consequences: Trump’s former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows faces a voter-fraud investigation. The former North Carolina congressman has now been removed from North Carolina’s voter rolls.

    Link

  242. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has said joining the military is like “throwing your life away” due to President Joe Biden’s foreign policies. Speaking to former Fox News host Lou Dobbs’ podcast on April 9, Greene listed other reasons why people should not join the military, including the vaccine mandate and “woke” training.

    Link

    Commentary:

    […] When the host asked who “in his or her right mind” would enlist in the U.S. military, the right-wing congresswoman said, “Not my son and I know a lot of young people don’t want to have anything to do with that. It’s like throwing your life away.”

    [Marjorie Taylor Greene] added, “Not to mention how they’ve been forced to take the vaccine and the ones that didn’t want to take it have been discharged. Who wants to be treated that way?” (Remember, depending on where servicemembers may be deployed, American troops were already required to receive up to 17 different vaccinations before Covid. This wasn’t considered controversial.)

    For good measure, Greene, in a possible nod to adherents of the QAnon delusion, went on to say that she believes servicemen and women have to undergo training in “this ridiculous ideology of the sick and satanic left.”

    NBC News’ Sahil Kapur noted this morning that it’s difficult to “imagine the reaction if a member of Congress said this about the military” in the recent past. He added that it “seems doubtful they’d remain a House Republican in good standing with the caucus.”

    I think that’s right. And yet, here we are.

    But just as notable is the degree to which the Georgia lawmaker’s bizarre rhetoric fits into a larger pattern. Earlier this year, for example, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas complained that the U.S. military is overly interested in addressing structural racism and climate change.

    A week earlier, Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said, “[O]ur military has become the woke military, not the lethal military.” A few months before that, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy added, “[O]ur military is focused on woke-ism instead of defeating and winning war.”

    Nearly a year ago, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz promoted a Russian military video via social media, adding, “Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea.” The same day, the Texan added that Democrats and journalists intend to turn American troops “into pansies.”

    All the while, several GOP senators, including Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, have abused Senate rules to block Defense Department nominees, even in the midst of an international security crisis.

    […] There was some polling in 2020 showing troops’ votes shifting a bit in Democrats’ direction. I don’t imagine Republicans’ recent rhetoric will help reverse the trend.

    Link

  243. says

    I finally decided to just post my Ribose centered (PRPP specifically) metabolic drawing with some commentary, so I can maybe process that part of my life, but WordPress.

    Has anyone had issues using android versions? I can log into WP on my phone, but WP on my (Samsung S6) tablet doesn’t recognize the pw. I changed the pw on my phone, still no recognition. I’m hoping something just has filter through their servers.

  244. says

    Ukraine update: Mariupol gave its all, but now it needs a miracle

    On Wednesday, Russian officials reported that over 1,000 Ukrainian marines belonging to the 36th Brigade had surrendered in the besieged city of Mariupol. Reuters reports that these Ukrainian forces had been in the Azovstal industrial district, one of three much-reduced pockets of resistance remaining inside the battered remains of what was once a city of almost half a million people. If this area is captured, there may be no large organized force remaining to oppose Russian control of the city.

    This report may be false. The number of Ukrainian forces surrendering is almost certainly exaggerated. However, there have been other surrenders in the area in the last week, along with messages indicating that surviving forces were low on food, supplies, and ammunition. Cut off from resupply, battered by weeks of constant shelling, and hectored by Russian forces now entering the rubble with armor, there’s legitimately not much more that Ukrainian forces in Mariupol can do, barring a miracle.

    Almost since the beginning of the Russian invasion, we’ve been writing about the situation in Mariupol. Russia desperately wants to take the city as part of a land bridge between the Donbas region and Crimea, and thanks to its location, Russia is able to mount immense force against Mariupol. Nearly surrounded by the second day of the war, a combination of territorial defense, fighters from the far-right Azov battalion, and regular Ukrainian military have waged a fierce resistance even as Russia shelled, bombed, and directed missiles into the city. Every single hospital in Mariupol was bombed. So were major shelters, like the opera house that Russia bombed in spite of—or because of—a sign indicating that there were children inside. We’ve come back to Mariupol again, and again, and again, both because of the strategic importance of the city and because of the genuine horrors happening there.

    […] Ukraine was apparently slipping supplies to Mariupol in an amazing way: using helicopters to swing around above the Sea of Azov, then landing at a remote location on the outskirts of the city. In that way ammo kept coming in and the wounded were carried safely away. However, the reason the report came out when it did was that Russia had discovered this secret supply route and brought down two Ukrainian helicopters.

    Without that stream of supplies, it seems that some units have quickly come to the end of their rope. Several hundred Ukrainian marines surrendered last week in a report that Ukraine first disputed, but which turned out to be true. Now it seems even more may have laid down arms.

    Still, there are a few reasons why this still isn’t over. Reports of locations of engagements between Ukrainian forces and Russian invaders over the last week show that the Ukrainian forces were still able to move relatively freely around large areas of the city and contest even more. And if the large group of marines did surrender, that doesn’t seem to include other members of the 36th Marine brigade, who first announced that they had no choice but surrender because they were on their last legs, but then managed to fight their way through a Russian cordon within the city to join the Azov fighters.

    How can we be sure this isn’t the same group? If Russia had captured the Azov fighters, they would definitely be talking about it. On Tuesday, Ukraine War Maps (@War_Mapper) reported that Ukrainian control in Mariupol remained in three areas. [map available at the link]

    Based on the site of the reported surrender on Wednesday and the site of reported Azov attacks over the last week, it’s possible to deduce that the Azov fighters are primarily operating in that southwest area, while the 36th Brigade was mostly to their east. Looking at the situation from a satellite view, it gives a sense of where these forces are located. [map available at the link]

    Based on the reported site of the surrender (the red triangle on the right) and the GPS location of recent Azov activity (blue stars on left), it can be theorized that some elements of the 36th Brigade fought their way across that roughly 2-mile gap between the area of Ukrainian control in the southeast to that area where Azov forces have been fighting in the southwest. This area, as well as the area in the north of the city, may still be controlled by forces loyal to Ukraine […]

    These areas of Ukrainian control are still large areas. They’re measured in miles, not blocks. So despite Russian proclamations, it seems unlikely that Mariupol will be entirely within their hands real soon now. However, it can be expected that all the Ukrainian forces in the city are suffering the same problems: lack of supplies, lack of food, lack of ammo, and plain exhaustion. Without a change in that situation, whatever Ukrainian forces remain in Mariupol can’t be expected to be there forever.

    Meanwhile, horrible rumors and claims continue to circulate about the fate of civilians in the city. Russia has admitted to taking thousands to “filtration” camps inside Russia, where some former Mariupol residents have been forced to record propaganda videos thanking the Russian forces for saving them from a city that was peaceful and growing two months ago.

    The mayor of Mariupol indicates that there are still as many as 120,000 people inside the city, trapped among the ruins and the rubble. The mayor indicates that as many as 20,000 people may have already been killed. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense reports that Russia wants to get the capture of Mariupol over with so that Russians can hold a parade there on May 9.

    And this claim keeps popping up. [Tweet available at the link] To be clear, images of a supposed mobile crematorium in Mariupol that have circulated on social media appear to be taken from a video that’s at least eight years old. That doesn’t mean the story of these mobile crematoriums isn’t true, but it certainly means that the images are false and the whole story is suspect. Despite claims that have continued since the beginning of the invasion, there doesn’t seem to be visual evidence of these units being deployed in Mariupol, or anywhere else at this point. Let’s hope it stays that way, but considering what’s already been seen in Bucha and elsewhere, it’s all too easy to believe.

    Right now, Mariupol needs a miracle. What shape that might take is hard to imagine. But hopefully someone has a plan that isn’t a Russian parade.

  245. says

    Wonkette: “Texas Gov Gets Very Own Blockade By Pissed Off Mexican Truckers, Good Job Well Done”

    Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a number of measures that are absolutely vital to keep his name in the news with the primary coming up, and also ostensibly to protect Texas from Joe Biden’s allegedly open borders. In addition to a stunt that would involve busing and flying asylum seekers to to dump them in Washington DC so Biden can have them […], Abbott ordered Texas state police to start performing “safety inspections” on every single commercial truck entering the US from Mexico.

    When he announced the harsher “safety” inspections, Abbott said he knew they would “dramatically slow” cross-border traffic, but by golly it was worth it to keep Texas “safe.” This week, it turns out that Abbott was more right than he knew: The inspections have led to hours-long delays for trucks entering Texas, and have sparked blockades of official border crossings by Mexican truckers angry at Abbott’s policy.

    The Texas Tribune reports that at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge near McAllen, Texas — normally one of the busiest ports of entry — no commercial vehicles crossed the border at all Monday or Tuesday because Mexican truckers had blocked both north and southbound lanes of the the highway on the Mexico side, in protest of Abbott’s inspection order.

    Crossings have also slowed to a fraction of normal in El Paso and at other ports of entry, and the New York Times reports that delays of up to 14 hours have led some truck drivers to skip Texas altogether, and to take the longer drive to cross the border in New Mexico or Arizona.

    […] around $12 million a day in produce alone is being held up. If the slowdowns continue, that’s certain to lead to higher prices and possible shortages in grocery stores across the US, which of course will be blamed on Joe Biden and Democrats regardless of the fact that Abbott caused them.

    Mind you, Abbott’s enhanced inspections come after the trucks have already made it through the regular border inspections done by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Under US law, searches for narcotics or undocumented immigrants at the border are entirely a matter of federal responsibility. After the trucks are screened by CBP, they’re perfectly legal to travel on into the US. On a typical day, one trucker told the Texas Tribune, the process of getting through the El Paso port of entry only takes about a half hour. Tuesday, he said, the traffic backups and extra inspections delayed him six hours on his trip to pick up office supplies in El Paso, bound for Juárez.

    […] As of yet, the escalated inspections don’t seem to have netted any huge caches of drugs or disrupted any cartel human trafficking operations, the Tribune reports; for that matter, it’s not even clear what exactly the long, slow DPS inspections are even looking at. (They’re looking at staying in the governor’s good graces.)

    […] There’s little reason to think that CBP really need’s Texas DPS to help […] if Abbott can create some chaos at the border, he can scream about “chaos at the border” and blame Joe Biden without much chance of suffering electoral consequences. […]

    Texas truckers and businesses, however, are starting to hurt because of Abbott’s policy, and they don’t seem to have any trouble seeing who’s fucking around with their profits, as the New York Times reports: “This has national ramifications,” said John D. Esparza, the chief executive of the Texas Trucking Association. “This is trade going to Ford Motor Company. This is trade going to Minnesota. It’s not just about the city of Laredo trying to get stuff to their local H-E-B,” he said, referring to the Texas grocery chain.

    […] Mexico is the state’s largest trading partner, with more than $100 billion in imports in 2019, according to a report from the Texas Department of Transportation. At one of the busiest crossings, in Laredo, 16,000 trucks ordinarily pass through on a given day, Mr. Esparza said.

    […]

    The longer than average wait times – and the subsequent supply chain disruptions – are unrelated to CBP screening activities and are due to additional and unnecessary inspections being conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) at the order of the Governor of Texas.

    As the Texas Tribune also points out, it’s not just Mexican truckers who are being harmed by those “unnecessary” inspections, since most Mexican truckers make several runs a day across the border, bringing Mexican goods and produce to US border cities, where American trucks and drivers haul the loads out to the rest of Texas and beyond. […]

    “Your inspection protocol is not stopping illegal immigration,” Miller [Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller] said in his letter. “It is stopping food from getting to grocery store shelves and in many cases causing food to rot in trucks — many of which are owned by Texas and other American companies. … The people of Texas deserve better!”

    Miller is among the first Republicans to call for Abbott to knock this the hell off […]

    Mind you, Miller’s criticism isn’t merely a call for good government; he’s also a rightwing ally of Donald Trump seeking a third term as Ag Commissioner […]

  246. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 295

    Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has said joining the military is like “throwing your life away” due to President Joe Biden’s foreign policies. Speaking to former Fox News host Lou Dobbs’ podcast on April 9, Greene listed other reasons why people should not join the military, including the vaccine mandate and “woke” training.

    I’m sorry, but who on the Democrat side of the aisle is calling out this shit? Which “liberal” representative of senator are calling Trump, MTG, Crus, Hawley, et a.l fascists and bigots out to turn America into a Christian theocratic, white ethnostate that will either resort to apartheid or genocide to achieve their sick dreams and demanding the government take action?

    Oh, wait! No one is. (See 291)

  247. says

    U.S. and Ukrainian Groups Pierce Putin’s Propaganda Bubble

    New York times link

    Using a mix of high-tech and Cold War tactics, Ukrainian activists and Western institutions have begun to pierce the propaganda bubble in Russia, circulating information about the Ukraine war among Russian citizens to sow doubt about the Kremlin’s accounts.

    The efforts come at a particularly urgent moment: Moscow appears to be preparing for a new assault in eastern Ukraine that could prove devastatingly bloody to both sides, while mounting reports of atrocities make plain the brutality of the Kremlin’s tactics.

    As Russia presents a sanitized version of the war, Ukrainian activists have been sending messages highlighting government corruption and incompetence in an effort to undermine faith in the Kremlin.

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a U.S.-funded but independent news organization founded decades ago, is trying to push its broadcasts deeper into Russia. Its Russian-language articles are published on copies of its websites called “mirrors,” which Russian censors seek out in a high-stakes game of whack-a-mole. Audience numbers have surged during the war despite the censorship.

    American organizations are also promoting the use of software that allows Russian citizens to leap over the nascent firewall erected by the Kremlin to control internet access.

    The efforts face high barriers as the Kremlin tightens controls on journalists and the internet, passing laws that have forced the closure of independent media outlets, like the Echo of Moscow. President Vladimir V. Putin is doing all he can to keep Russians in the dark about Europe’s largest land war since 1945, with casualties going largely unreported in Russian news media.

    […] cracks in Moscow’s facade are starting to show. On Thursday, the Kremlin’s spokesman acknowledged that Russia had suffered “significant losses.”

    After the war started in February, Mr. Putin began erecting an internet firewall similar to China’s to block some Russian and Western news sites and social media networks. Russians can still visit Google and YouTube, but many Western sources of news are labeled “foreign agents.”

    An authoritarian government does not have to maintain a perfect firewall to keep its public in a propaganda bubble. Many Russians get their news from state-controlled television and radio. And some Russian analysts argue that most citizens support the government for reasons beyond their news diet and want to believe the Kremlin’s lines.

    American intelligence officials say that is why pushing information into Russia, and reaching the broadest population, is so difficult. Nevertheless, American and European officials say that the attempt by outsiders to get facts about the war to Russians is important.

    […] There are early signs that the efforts to break down the wall of propaganda may be working, said a senior Western intelligence official, who like other security officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified or sensitive government assessments.

    And an American data analytics company, FilterLabs.AI, which has been tracking Russian sentiment on internet message boards and other online forums, says it has measured growing anxiety among Russians about the draft and war casualties. Mr. Putin recently signed a decree ordering up about 134,500 conscripts, though the Defense Ministry said they would not go to Ukraine. […]

  248. says

    Voter fraud at Republican stronghold leads to light sentences

    White voters in Florida cast illegal ballots. They received vastly lighter sentences than Crystal Mason. This keeps happening.

    To the extent that the United States has a famous retirement community, The Villages in central Florida probably fits the bill. It’s also earned a reputation as a far-right Republican stronghold.

    A couple of years ago, for example, when Donald Trump promoted a video showing a parade of supporters in golf carts — one of whom shouted, “White power” — it was recorded at The Villages.

    It was against this backdrop that we learned late last year that three residents of The Villages were charged with voter fraud. A fourth soon followed. As we discussed at the time, according to local police reports, the accused tried to game the system by voting in Florida, while also trying to cast absentee ballots in other states. Not surprisingly, they also got caught.

    Whatever happened to these charges? The Orlando Sentinel reported today on the latest developments.

    Two residents from The Villages confessed to voter fraud charges after filing two ballots in the 2020 Presidential election, court records show. Charles F. Barnes and Jay Ketcik pleaded guilty to casting more than one ballot in an election, a third-degree felony that could have resulted in a maximum five-year prison sentence.

    The report added that Ketcik, a registered Republican, and Barnes, who is not affiliated with a political party in Florida, received a fairly light sentence. The Sentinel, citing pre-trial intervention documents, noted that the admitted fraudsters “will avoid further punishment if they regularly meet with a supervising officer, complete 50 hours of community service and attend a 12-week adult civics class, among a handful of other requirements.” (The other two residents from The Villages facing the same charges have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.)

    If these circumstances seem at all familiar, it’s not your imagination. […] it was nearly a year ago when we learned about Pennsylvania’s Bruce Bartman, who cast an absentee ballot in support of Donald Trump for his mother — who died in 2008. Bartman pleaded guilty to unlawful voting, conceded he “listened to too much propaganda,” and was sentenced to five years’ probation.

    About a month later, Edward Snodgrass, a local Republican official in Ohio, admitted to forging his dead father’s signature on an absentee ballot and then voting again as himself. NBC News noted at the time that Snodgrass struck a deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to three days in jail and a $500 fine.

    In August 2021, we learned of a Pennsylvania man named Robert Richard Lynn, who used a typewriter to complete an absentee ballot application on behalf of his deceased mother. After getting caught, he faced up to two years behind bars. Lynn instead received a sentence of six months’ probation.

    Nevada’s Donald Kirk Hartle, meanwhile, became a cause celebre in Republican circles when he said someone cast a ballot for his late wife. In November 2021, we later learned that it was Hartle who illegally voted for his late wife, lied about it, got caught, and ultimately pleaded guilty. As part of a plea deal, he received a yearlong probation.

    Now we have two related incidents out of The Villages, along with two guilty pleas and two light sentences.

    […] there are a couple of relevant angles to keep in mind. The first is the degree to which these incidents don’t bolster conspiracy theorists’ claims. “See?” many on the right will likely say. “Voter fraud is real; people keep casting illegal ballots; and sweeping new voter-suppression laws are fully justified.”

    As we’ve discussed, that remains the wrong response. What these examples actually show is that when would-be criminals try to cheat, the existing system is strong enough to catch and prosecute them. This doesn’t prove the need for new voter-suppression laws; it helps prove the opposite.

    But let’s also again spare a thought for Texas’ Crystal Mason, who cast a provisional ballot in the 2016 elections while on supervised release for a federal conviction. She didn’t know she was ineligible to vote, and her ballot was never counted, but Mason — a Black woman — was convicted of illegal voting and sentenced to five years in prison.

    And yet, the aforementioned white guys — Donald Kirk Hartle, Robert Richard Lynn, Edward Snodgrass, Bruce Bartman, Charles Barnes, and Jay Ketcik — received vastly more lenient sentences, despite the fact that they knowingly hatched schemes to cast illegal ballots.

    Indeed, none of these men stumbled into the crimes by mistake. On the contrary, they requested absentee ballots as part of their deliberate efforts to cheat.

    They were caught and charged, but judges didn’t exactly throw the book at them.

  249. says

    Vote on naming a federal courthouse shows just how extremist House Republicans have become

    […] Every member of Florida’s congressional delegation had co-sponsored a bill to name a federal courthouse after Justice Joseph W. Hatchett, the first Black man to serve on the Florida Supreme Court and the first Black judge on a federal appeals court in the Deep South. That means Republican Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio and 16 House Republicans, along with 11 House Democrats. The bill had passed the Senate. But then, at the last minute, a majority of Republicans in the House, including co-sponsors, turned against the bill in a moment that resonated with the racist attacks some Senate Republicans leveled at Justice-designate Ketanji Brown Jackson in her Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

    Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia appears to have singlehandedly turned the vote from a routine vote to name a federal building after a trailblazing judge into a Republican purity test. Clyde circulated a 1999 Associated Press article about one of Hatchett’s decisions relating to prayer in schools. Never mind that Hatchett was following Supreme Court precedent when he ruled against student-approved prayers at graduation ceremonies. This single decision made him toxic among House Republicans, with 89% voting against naming the courthouse after him. Since the bill’s passage was seen as certain, it had come for a vote under a fast-tracked process that required a two-thirds majority, which meant that with Republicans suddenly opposed, it failed.

    All this at the behest of Clyde, a lawmaker most famous for his insistence that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was a “normal tourist visit.” Clyde also voted against the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act and against making Juneteenth a federal holiday, which, combined with his active organizing against naming a federal courthouse after a Black judge, kind of starts looking like a pattern.

    Clyde did not bring years of credibility within the House to his objection. He’s a first-term representative. Republicans are now so beholden to extremism, so ready to jump at the first hint they might not be pure enough, that a first-termer who should be seen as an embarrassment is able to wield the power to shift a majority of Republican votes. Multiple representatives who had sponsored the bill voted no at the last minute […]

    The last-minute shift shows how undisciplined House Republicans now are by anything except the race to the right. But its echoes of Jackson’s confirmation hearing—in which senators like Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton used routine decisions of the sort made by judges all the time to paint her as a supporter of pedophiles and drug dealers—highlight how willing Republicans are to trash any Black person who is a candidate for an honor. […] they voted against honoring Hatchett with a courthouse name over a single decision that followed Supreme Court precedent.

    As Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said after the vote, “If the standard that we use is one ruling out of thousands, then what else could we conclude but that they are not willing to name a courthouse after a Black person.”

  250. says

    Yes, it is true, some Ukrainian marines broke through a Russian cordon in Mariupol yesterday.

    “I can’t give you all the details, but I can say that right now we have joined the “Azov” Regiment. Several hundred marines managed to escape, including the wounded,” – an officer from the 36th Brigade

    More details:

    […] Not only did several hundred Marines break through but they took their wounded with them. According to Олексій Арестович
    1. Azov received a significant reinforcement.
    2. The 36th brigade […] actually found a second chance.
    3. The city’s defenders, now together, have seriously strengthened their defense district.

    […] This is what happens when officers don’t lose their minds, but maintain control of the troops firmly.

    Russian ‘news’ outlets have been claiming they have taken Mariupol. That would be news to the defenders of Mariupol who are still holding the city.

    “The #Azov Regiment, #KORD Special Forces, National Guard, Marine Corps, the Marine Guard, the National Police and other departments are still on guard in Ukrainian #Mariupol, without panic and tears. Together we will stand! Mariupol will survive!”

    Glory to #Ukraine ✊🏻🇺🇦

    [video available at the link]

    […] Azov has played a critical role in the defense of Mariupol. How critical it’s difficult to say, as it may be that Azov is more connected to social media than other Ukrainian units in Mariupol, so they cast a larger media presence. But it is clear Azov has been giving the Russians hell.

    Let me address the “Azov are Neo-Nazis” issue here. When Russian apologists try and buttress the claim of a Neo-Nazi threat from Ukraine you will note that all of the incidents and images are from 8-10 years ago. Both Ukraine and the Azov Regiment are very different today than they were before the Minsk agreement in 2014. Ukraine has done nothing to violate that agreement and what happened before can’t be used to justify any action today.

    The alt-right coalition that included the Neo-Nazis went from 10% of the vote back in 2014 to 2.2% nationwide in the last elections. The Azov regiment that started as a militia of skinheads and soccer hooligans was integrated into the armed forces. Its Neo-Nazi leaders are long gone and the unit takes orders from the armed forces and is no longer connected to any political party. It now includes Jews and Muslims in its ranks and a lot of Russian speakers. There are more Nazis at a typical Trump rally than among the defenders of Mariupol today. […]

    t should also be pointed out that the Russian side of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine has been chock full of Neo-Nazis: [Glenn Greenwald tweet promoting the Nazis-in-Ukraine propaganda is available at the link]

    […] The most effective separatist militia in the Donbas is the Neo-Nazi Sparta brigade [Tweets and photos available at the link]

    Then there is one of the Neo-Nazi founders of Putin’s private army, the Wagner Group, which is active in Ukraine:

    This is Dmitry Utkin – callsign “Wagner” – the founder of the Kremlin’s “Wagner Group” PMC.

    Yes; that is a Nazi Eagle tattooed on his chest, and those are Nazi SS ‘Schutzstaffel’ runes tattooed on his collarbones.

    Because unlike Jewish Zelensky, Utkin really *is* a neo-Nazi.

    [effing scary photo available at the link]

    The point of this is not to excuse Azov’s origins or its past when it was a violent militia. It’s to point out the fact that Putin has no problem with Nazis. He employs them and finances them. He could not care less about Nazis in Ukraine or in Russia.

    The Ukrainians and the Azov regiment have been doing an excellent job of ‘de-nazifying’ Ukraine. Another battalion that started life as a right-wing militia, the Tornado battalion was disbanded and its leaders prosecuted for crimes. The Ukrainians have done what the Russians have not done, they are cleaning house and imposing the rule of law in the government and the military. The same can’t be said for Putin and his fascist thugs. This brings us back to Mariupol and its defenders. No doubt there remain ultra-nationalists and Neo-Nazis in military and police units. Every army and police force in the world attracts these types and Ukraine is no different. It’s a problem here in the US. Ukraine should not be held to a standard that no nation in the world could meet.

    The “Azov is Neo-Nazi” propaganda has deprived this unit of the Ukrainian armed forces of weapons and training, as no one in the West would have anything to do with them. Despite that, they have held out against all odds. Mariupol and its defenders, including the heroes of Azov, will take their place in history alongside the defenders of Leningrad and Stalingrad against the Fascist hordes. They all deserve the full support of the West. I hope the Ukrainian army manages to reach them before it is too late. That would not only be a tragedy for the defenders of Mariupol, it would be a bigger disaster for 10s of thousands of civilians who would be left completely defenseless against the full wrath of Putin’s Orcs.

  251. says

    Josh Marshall:

    A few miscellaneous Ukraine notes.

    The White House just announced that President Biden has approved the transfer of another $800 million in arms and security assistance to Ukraine, including ammunition, armored personal carriers and helicopters. This comes just after a call today between Presidents Biden and Zelensky. This is part of a more general move toward providing Ukraine not just defensive weaponry — light/mobile anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry — but heavier weaponry required for offensive operations. It’s also best to see these moves in the context of actions taken by all NATO member states since they are all coordinated.

    If you haven’t been watching the latest developments closely there’s been a key evolution over the last couple weeks. Russia has withdrawn troops not only from the area around Kyiv but from various theaters which were part of its original, more ambitious plan to topple the Ukrainian government and occupy the country. Those forces, or those that remain capable of fighting, are being redeployed in the Donbas region in the east. This is area where Russia set up its puppet separatist statelets in 2014. So Russia is shifting toward much more limited goals but ones that it is or should be more able to achieve. These are regions right on the border with Russia. Russia’s forces will now be more concentrated and easier to resupply. These areas at least have more pro-Russian sentiment than the rest of Ukraine — though how much is not clear given the events of the last six weeks. At the moment a race is on for both sides to redeploy for this new, more concentrated battle and get there first with the most.

    Over the last couple weeks military analysts have spoken extensively about a window of opportunity Ukraine has to deal Russia a decisive blow in the east while the Russians are still moving their forces into position, resupplying and reequipping battered units that were mauled in the failed effort to conquer Kyiv and other parts of the country. One aspect of surrounding another country is that you have to travel further outside the country to move your forces around than they do on the inside. Of course, the Ukrainians have been through intense fighting. They’ve lost soldiers. They’ve lost hardware. You have two armies that have both been bloodied pretty badly racing to get into position for the next phase of the war.

    A key question is Ukraine’s offensive capacity. Much of Ukraine’s success so far has been disrupting the Russian conquest. So using anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry to block Russian offensives. […] The Russians seem to want to expand and consolidate their hold in the east. Ukraine needs to reconquer territory they don’t currently hold. That’s a bigger challenge and it requires different military hardware. So much of the debate now over arming Ukraine and the kinds of weaponry the U.S. and other NATO allies are willing to provide is tied to that question: what kinds of weaponry are necessary to make it possible for the Ukrainians to reconquer territory?

    You may be thinking, well, they’ve already been taking back territory. And that’s true. But there are some key differences. Much of the territory Ukraine has taken back over the last couple weeks is territory Russia was withdrawing from. They were withdrawing because a combination of poor logistics and Ukrainian counteroffensives made it untenable for them to stay. But in many of these areas the Russians decided to retreat. That’s much less likely in the the Donbas region. Russia will be able to concentrate its forces and just as importantly they will have Russian territory at their backs. So their ability to resupply their forces should be much greater.

    Final point — and this is more a reportorial observation than a substantive one. But it’s notable nonetheless. Ukraine has totally dominated the information war from the beginning. Russia also mobilized big armored formations which are inherently easier to see. So we see lots of destroyed Russian tanks and satellite views of Russian positions and so forth. But if you watch news coverage you don’t “see” the Ukrainian Army a lot. You see individual soldiers in social media videos and stuff. But you get much less of a sense of quite literally what the Ukrainian Army is made of — how much armor it has, how many planes it’s flying, the scale of its offensives.

    Trained analysts and people with access to intelligence certainly know a lot more. I’m not saying no one knows these things. But what you pick up in news coverage is overwhelmingly about the Russian Army. Ukraine’s armed forces are paradoxically hard to see clearly, both literally and figuratively. That artifact of press coverage and information warfare is worth thinking about as we try to get a sense as observers as to just what is going on.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/a-few-ukraine-notes

  252. says

    As of now, one branch of the United States military is pledging to offer financial, medical, and legal help to families who are impacted by state laws targeting LGBTQ+ youth. This includes helping them to move to a new state if that’s what’s needed […]

    The Air Force is the only branch of the military to do this (so far) and it’ll be interesting to see if it becomes a norm across the military. Per a press release, Air Force leaders have promised that military legal personnel is available to offer free counseling to families who need to understand their rights and protections under this slew of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. They’ve also said military medical facilities are available to provide mental health resources, including to children of Air Force families.

    Families would be able to move states based on the precedent set in the Exceptional Family Member Program, where one can be reassigned to a different location based on safety need