Oligarchs with yachts

Yo ho, me hearties! A fat ship off the port bow! Roll out the cannons and let the black flag fly!

Soon to be oligarchs without yachts, I hope. The sanctions might be beginning to sting.

BBC understands that some oligarchs sanctioned by the European Union are “shocked” to find their debit cards no longer function, and they are now relying on using cash from safes.

The French acted quickly on Wednesday when customs officers noticed that Mr Sechin’s 88-metre “Amore Vero” – which translates as “true love” – was “taking steps to sail off urgently”.

It arrived in in the Mediterranean port of La Ciotat in January and had been due to stay there while being repaired until 1 April.

In Hamburg shipyard authorities seized Mr Usmanov’s 156-metre ‘Dilbar’, the world’s largest motor yacht by gross tonnage, according to Forbes magazine.

Seizing half-billion dollar yachts seems like a fair cop to me. Take ’em all. Although I don’t know what you can do with a seized yacht; they’re rather useless luxuries, expensive to maintain. The lack of utility is the only thing preventing me for getting letters of marque and embarking on a pirate’s life.

Texas Republican Rep. Lance Gooden is expected to roll out a measure Monday that would allow private U.S. citizens to seize yachts, planes or other property belonging to sanctioned Russian citizens amid Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Gooden would do it with legislation requiring President Biden to issue letters of marque and reprisal, an enumerated power of Congress mentioned in Article 1 of the Constitution, which were routinely used during the War of 1812 for Americans to seize property on behalf of the U.S. government, but have not been issued since.

“Putin and his inner circle still have yachts and planes sitting in harbors and airports all over the world,” Gooden told Fox News Digital. “The United States must use every tool at our disposal to seize them and hold Russia accountable for the disgusting invasion of Ukraine. The oligarchs who enabled this crisis are a good place to start.”

Uh, question. I’m see the word “oligarch” all over the place, and it only seems to be applied to Russians. But this is not what “oligarch” means, and it has no obligate connection to Russia.

Oligarchy (from Greek ὀλιγαρχία (oligarkhía); from ὀλίγος (olígos) ‘few’, and ἄρχω (arkho) ‘to rule or to command’)[1][2][3] is a form of power structure in which power rests with a small number of people. These people may or may not be distinguished by one or several characteristics, such as nobility, fame, wealth, education, or corporate, religious, political, or military control.

I’m all for privateers boarding and taking over yachts (preferable debarking the passengers and crew safely somewhere), but I don’t like that everyone seems to think it’s specifically a Russian thing. America has oligarchs.

You know, Jeff Bezos bought a yacht to accompany his super-yacht. His super-yacht is so big that he pressured a Dutch city to dismantle a historic bridge so he can get it out of the shipyard.

The Amazon founder’s 417-foot-long, three-masted ship that cost’s roughly $500 million is under construction in the Netherlands, but the pleasure boat will be too tall to pass under Rotterdam’s landmark Koningshaven Bridge, which has a 130-foot clearance, according to the NL Times, which cited Dutch-language outlet Rijnmond.

As a work-around, the megabillionaire and the boatmaker Oceano reportedly asked Rotterdam officials to temporarily dismantle the iconic bridge, and pledged to reimburse the city for expenses.

Taking apart and reassembling the middle section of the bridge known locally as “De Hef” was expected to take more than two weeks, the paper said. Rotterdam officials touted Bezos’ pet project as a revenue generator.

The citizens of Rotterdam have suggested an entirely inappropriate response.

The city has not yet signed off on any bridge construction, but according to Jalopnik, some aggrieved residents are ready to take matters into their own hands. “Rotterdam was built from the rubble by Rotterdammers and we don’t just take it apart for the phallus symbol of a megalomaniac billionaire. Not without a fight,” reads a Facebook post calling for protesters to throw their old eggs at the boat as it sails by (per Jalopnik’s translation.)

No. Just no. This is a terrible idea. Don’t throw rotten eggs at the boat. Instead, organize boarding parties, storm the dock, take control of the boat, throw the crew overboard, and set sail for the South Pacific. If Bezos is aboard at the time, even better: make him walk the plank.

No pity for oligarchs!

You’re doing it wrong if you’re inspired by Texas

Yeah, do not follow the lead of Governor Abbott, he’s just the worst. But now look at Alabama — you know those pathetic kids who join the school bully’s gang, and follow him around and get gleeful when the abuses someone? That’s Alabama.

The Alabama Senate has approved some abomination called the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act. Wow. When the Republicans preemptively engage their contradictory name generator, you know the actual content is going to be bad. This is another bill to criminalize safe medical practices.

Senators voted 23-4 to approve the measure, dubbed the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, sponsored by Republican Senator Shay Shelnutt. The bill now heads to the state House of Representatives, which has already approved a companion bill.

The two bills would make it a felony for medical professionals to treat transgender minors under the age of 19 with gender-affirming care. Violators could face up to 10 years in prison or a $15,000 fine.

The bill also requires school staff in the state to disclose to parents that “a minor’s perception that his or her gender is inconsistent with his or her sex.” Essentially, teachers would be required to “out” transgender students to their guardians — regardless of whether they are ready to do so.

Where’s the “compassion” and the “protection” in that bill? Here’s another surprise (not a surprise):

During Tuesday’s debate, Shelnutt said that he has never spoken to a transgender youth before, adding that he did not know that such treatments were being done in the state when he introduced the bill last year, AP reports.

Ignorance kills.

If it bleeds, it leads

Newspaper editors must relish this situation. There is so much blood.

There are unknown numbers of dead — hundreds, the newspapers say, while also stating that many are uncounted in the chaos — and a million people displaced, bridges and roads and towns destroyed, and the Russian army rumbles slowly forward.

Just over 1 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, according to data from the U.N. refugee agency — an exodus that is set to become Europe’s worst humanitarian crisis this century. That figure already matches the number of refugees who were displaced from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in 2015. The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine, the intergovernmental organization’s prosecutor said in a statement.

It wasn’t that long ago that I’d open up the news in the morning to see graphs and tallies of how many died the slow death of COVID-19. Now I open the news to see the stories of sudden gory deaths, explosions, and families fleeing the onslaught. It is not an improvement, world. Especially since the pandemic continues, it’s just been bumped from top billing.

A new Minnesota state flag would be welcome

Minnesota has a state flag, and it is hideous. They stuck the state seal on a blue background and called it done, so it’s this horribly busy smear with a farmer and a fleeing Indian and flowery glop and a bunch of dates on it. It’s tasteless and ugly.

Ick. Not that the flag is particularly important, but could we at least have one that isn’t embarrassing?

A few people are lobbying for a new flag, an effort that doesn’t have a high priority right now, but they’ve definitely got some better designs. I like this one.

It’s simple and distinctive. I’d vote for it. Heck, I wouldn’t be ashamed to fly it in front of my house, if I bothered with flags at all.

The lyrics are supposed to go “Forward he cried from the rear And the front rank died”, don’t you know

I have no idea how the war is going in Ukraine — it seems to be turning into a hard slog of urban warfare, with Putin committed to saving face by throwing everything he’s got at a couple of cities. He has turned his vicious elite Chechen units on the country. I’m going to take solace in the little victories, at least.

That bearded guy to the right is Magomed Tushaev, a monster who committed atrocities against LGBT people. He’s dead now.

A despotic general who ruthlessly rounded up and killed LGBT+ people in an act that became known as the “gay purge” has been killed in the fighting in Ukraine.

Magomed Tushayev, who was a military boss under the command of hardman Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, was killed in fighting at the Hostomel Airport, a key Russian target not far northwest of Kyiv.

Tushayev previously led the 141 motorised regiment of the Checnyan National Guard and his death was confirmed by a spokesperson for Ukrainian president Vlodomyr Zelensky.

Anti-LGBT+ purges were first reported in the southern Russian republic back in 2017 and reportedly involved kidnappings, torture and extrajudicial killings.

Under the leadership of the infamous Kadyrov, who recently said Vlaidimir Putin needed harsher tactics in Ukraine, Tushayev was key in the persecution of LGBT+ people.

Am I a bad person if I say, “Good!”?

It’s a worrying sign for the Russians that generals are getting killed. Usually it’s just the grunts on the front.

Kent Hovind is a busy, busy man

Wow. Kent has a full schedule this month, with lots of debates to brag about. He’ll “win” them all, too!

I am a bit dismayed. I’ve never heard of any of his opponents, they’re all “debating” exactly the same topic — which tells me that Hovind set it — and also, they’re all hosted on the same “impartial” YouTube channel, Standing for Truth Ministries. You’ve been suckered, gang. You’re getting gamed. These are all a sham. Why do people keep falling for this nonsense?

I can guess why. Hovind is stupid, shallow, and repetitive; you listen to him talk and you think, “that’s all wrong, I know enough to counter that argument,” and you confidently challenge him to a debate. But then you let him set the agenda, since he’ll refuse to talk to you if he doesn’t, and he decides the venue, because, again, he’ll refuse if you don’t let him. Then when you do engage him, he just says the same dumbass crap every time. Evolution is the dumbest religion in the world. Do you believe you came from an amoeba? Cats have never given birth to dogs. Yadda yadda yadda.

You might precisely and eloquently deliver the facts that demonstrate he’s wrong on every point. You think you’ll get him this time, because you listen to a few of his “debates” and discover that they never change, he always says exactly the same stupid things, so you will be prepared. It doesn’t matter, because Hovind will consider it a victory if he obtusely refuses to accept anything you say. He’s got the mind of a two-year-old who has learned the word “NO”. He’ll sail through your debate, rejecting all evidence and reason, and emerge at the end not having learned anything, and then he’ll sign up another sucker who will let him execute the same performance.

Stop doing this. Show a little spine. If you really want to debate him (I can’t understand why, it’s not going to look good on your CV), then demand a debate on a much narrower topic, and get a moderator who is not a fawning lickspittle creationist like SFT, one who will actually shut you down if you veer off topic. This is the way. It is the only way.

You’ll at least get the satisfaction of seeing Kent Hovind yip-yip-yip as a runs away from your conditions.

In case you’d forgotten how bonkers the Christian Right is

Pat Robertson was compelled to rise from his crypt to remind us.

He is explaining to us that Putin is an agent of God who is making a righteous move to expand towards Israel to bring about the End Times. He’s going to take over Ukraine as part of a march towards the Dardenelles so that, when the Apocalypse arrives, he can kill all the Jews, except for the ones who convert to Christianity. A little geography reminder:

Taking Ukraine doesn’t get him that close to Robertson’s hallucinated destination. He’s also going to have to take Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey. I wonder how much Robertson’s prayers for victory every step of the way will help?

Robertson is barely able to move anymore, so we shouldn’t worry about him. There are others like him in the halls of Congress, though, who believe in that bizarre Christian eschatology of the End Times and the Rapture and who babble about “Judeo-Christian morality” while dreaming of the day all the Jews are eradicated or converted in a world-wide spasm of destruction…and who believe that would be a good thing. When you’re fantasizing about Hell on Earth and mass slaughter, I guess someone like Putin begins to look like a divine hero.

We’ve willingly adopted a Cylon

It’s a beauty…look at thing. Ominous, brooding, ready to rise up and destroy us if we don’t do its bidding. We’re glad to have it, though!

Would you believe that’s what a modern microscope looks like? The biology discipline just bought a Keyence BZ-X810, which is a light sheet fluorescence microscope that is intimidatingly automated. You don’t touch any of the microscope components directly, you just load up a holder with multiple slides or petri dishes or 24 well plates, put it in the guts of the box, and close it up. Everything is controlled with a computer. Push a button to select your fluorescence wave length. Push another button to select your microscope objective. Click on the screen to move your specimen under the objective. Focus with your mouse wheel. When an administrator stomps in demanding to know why you spent $100,000 on a strange gray box, click another button and it turns its elongate blue eye to the offender and disintegrates them. It’s perfect.

I am the imperfect one, because I’ve got to get a genetics lecture and exam together tonight, so I can’t snuggle up with our new machine and play. Spring break is coming soon, though, and then…then we will take over the world.

(By the way, this is not mine, it’s shared equipment for the whole biology discipline. I just look forward to mastering it.)

I didn’t ask to live in interesting times

But here we are. It’s been a rough decade — we had a terrible one-term president who appalled most of us with his incompetence and corruption, and seemed to inspire the authoritarians and racists and wanna-be fascists. One of our political parties tumbled down into outright insanity, which isn’t a good thing for a country run by a two-party system. We’re repeating the Gilded Age crap, with billionaires getting richer and richer. The ongoing climate crisis continues to be ignored by our capitalist overlords. Then layer a pandemic on top of all that that has killed a million Americans and triggered another million or so it flamboyant science denial, rapidly spread by the greed of the social network poombahs.

We should cry out like Job, I should think. But now we get a major land war in Europe to add to the world’s tribulations.

I have no idea how that war is going. One thing that has repelled me lately on the media are all the pundits, whether they have a cushy sinecure at some major newspaper or they are Joe Nobody, sitting in his car opining at a camera (oh, how I loathe those videos of middle-class, middle-aged white guys sitting in their cars talking at their phones) telling me which side is going to win. Worse is when they declare why their side is going to when. Near as I can tell, the Right thinks the Russians will conquer because they despise pronouns, while the Left thinks Ukraine will win because Zelensky is sexy. They don’t know. I don’t know. It’s a cacophony of pure noise that isn’t helping.

So, what I do know…

Russia is making a massive effort, throwing all kinds of soldiers and artillery and tanks at Kharkiv. They could win the military battle, it wouldn’t surprise me. Ukrainians are brave, but bravery doesn’t stop a bullet. I have no idea what the outcome of the war will be, other than pain and death and misery, and we’ll have to helplessly wait and see what happens. Isn’t that annoying? Big dramatic bloody events occur, and we here on the other side of the world have to wait.

I do know that Russia is losing the diplomatic war rather brutally. Suddenly, coalitions and alignments and nations that have been around for practically a lifetime are shifting! I haven’t seen this kind of transformation since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Finland is discussing joining NATO? Sweden is increasingly antagonistic to Russia? Ukraine has requested to join the EU, and some countries want to fast-track that application? It’s all happening so scary-fast. We’re racing towards a polarization and alignment of forces that we haven’t seen since the Cold War, and let me tell you, that’s not a good thing.

What I do find encouraging, though, is that the world was quick to react with open condemnation of Russia for invading a sovereign state and killing citizens. I just wish that the world had been equally damning when the US invaded a sovereign state and murdered hundreds of thousands of innocents — we can hope that what emerges out of this new world is an agreement that bullying smaller nations by powerful ones will no longer be tolerated.

Unless, of course, the bullying nation decides everyone needs a good scourging with nuclear fire.

And that’s all I know. Sit. Wait. Watch.

Hey, Job has sort of a happy ending, right? He loses his family, his health, and his security, but God gives him new kids at the end? It’s kind of warped that the Old Testament thinks families and kids are fungible, so I’m not going to take much consolation from that.