1. lumipuna says

    Re SC at 3 – That’s a good one, but weirdly enough, something like that could actually happen.

    Over the years, Russian warplanes have semi-regularly “by accident” dipped briefly into the airspaces of Finland and other small countries in the Baltic Sea region. This is thought to be intended as low level intimidation and/or testing the effectiveness of our airspace monitoring. Last winter, a Russian civilian airplane applied a permit to make a weird detour across Finland for no apparent reason.

    Now, as tensions increase, some security experts have predicted that Russia might do something more showy in this vein. For example, a Russian submarine might show up in Finnish territorial waters and make its presence very notable by needing to be rescued after “accidental” grounding in a shallow. It’d be be a showy military-diplomatic incident without (presumably) sparking an actual war. Frankly, I don’t quite understand the logic here, but this kind of speculation is currently seen on Finnish media.

  2. says

    So I was reading a few more reactions to Hulu’s Under the banner of Heaven. This review was OK, and it noted some facts I didn’t know or had forgotten:

    …Mormonism does have a persistence of right-wing extremists who operate both within the mainstream church and among its fundamentalist offshoots. The Laffertys were not only religious extremists, but they were also involved in far-right politics, including opposing federal authority and taxes. This isn’t just an accident in modern Mormonism. Ezra Taft Benson was a senior leader who rose to the office of president of the church in the second half of the 20th century. Benson was drawn to the John Birch Society and other extremist ideologies, and his teachings continue to contribute to the radicalization of many Latter-day Saints.

    So, it isn’t just fundamentalist polygamous Mormons who embrace these ideas. This brand of Mormonism inspired an online collective of Mormon separatists and fascists known as #DezNat (short for Deseret Nationalism) in recent years. It also inspired the Bundy family who led an armed stand-off against the federal government in 2014 and an armed takeover of federal property in 2016, which led to the death of one of their men. The Bundys are members of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in good standing.

    It also linked to a 2019 essay in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin, “The Study of Religion on the Other Side of Disgust” by Robert Orsi:

    Would we who are scholars of religion not all agree—and who ought to know this better than we do—that on balance, in the long perspective of human history, religions have done more harm than good and that the good they do is almost always inseparable from the harm? I think we would. This is not to deny that religions have done and continue to do good things. But that I even have to utter such a correction—and that we scholars of religion feel compelled to do so, always, right after we speak what we all agree is a simple truth—shows the power of the idea that, in the end, religions are essentially good. It is so powerful and deeply embedded that rarely do we—who ought to know better—pause to stare into the depths of the truth that religions have, over time, done more harm than good before we scramble up toward the warm sunlight of good religion.

    What I want to offer here is a phenomenology of the disgust of a scholar of religion, of its dangers, but also of what I have come to see not only as the inevitability of disgust in the life of a scholar of religion, but more, its usefulness on many levels, emotional, psychological, existential, and intellectual.

    It feels to me that disgust is the final step in the explication of the idea of lived religion. On the other side of disgust is a clearer vision of how religion is actually lived in everyday life, with its intimate cruelties, its petty as well as profound humiliations, its sadism and its masochism, its abuses of power, and its impulses to destroy and dominate. We know there is more to religion than this. But we ought to know as well, and never forget, that there is nothing to religion without this and that even the more of religion, religion’s really realness, is implicated in horrors.

    (I could live without the gratuitous dig at atheists, but overall I was fairly surprised by the piece.)

  3. lumipuna says

    Reportedly, the UK yesterday signed some kind of outstanding mutual security assurances with Sweden and Finland, just in time for our upcoming Nato application period. So, my thanks to all UK citizens who support this sort of thing.

    It seems a bit unclear what exactly the UK is committed to, but we’ll take anything. In recent weeks, there’s been speculation on Finnish media on whether the US or some other major Nato country might provide us a “full security guarantee” during the application period. Experts have dismissed this as an unrealistic wish, while pointing out that we can expect guaranteed intelligence and material support from several countries. That in itself is very significant, since Finland’s own military has a high potential for making use of such support.

    Presumably, “mutual assurance” means that we’d also help the UK against Russian aggression, though I’m not sure how that’d work out logistically. Sweden at least has a relatively strong navy and air force, whereas Finland mainly just has a strong infantry and field artillery. In Nato, we’ll be able to provide some amount of air, logistical and intelligence support for the Baltic countries.

  4. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Reuters is reporting that Ukrainian forces have set on fire a Russian ship in the Black Sea:

    Ukrainian forces have damaged a modern Russian navy logistics ship in the Black Sea, setting it on fire, a spokesman for the Odesa regional military administration in southern Ukraine said on Thursday.

    Spokesman Serhiy Bratchuk said in an online post that the Vsevolod Bobrov had been struck near Snake Island, the scene of renewed fighting in recent days, but did not give details. The tiny island is located near Ukraine’s sea border with Romania.

  5. tomh says

    Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas 5 Republican Representatives
    May 12, 2022

    WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas on Thursday to five Republican members of Congress, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, who had refused to meet with the panel voluntarily….

    The panel said it was demanding testimony from Mr. McCarthy, of California, who engaged in a heated phone call with President Donald J. Trump during the Capitol violence; Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who coordinated a plan to try to replace the acting attorney general after he resisted Mr. Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud; Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who was deeply involved in the effort to fight the election results; Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, the former leader of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus; and Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, who has said Mr. Trump has continued to seek an unlawful reinstatement to office for more than a year.

    All five have refused requests for voluntary interviews about the roles they played in the buildup to the attack by supporters of the former president who believed his lie of widespread election fraud.

    Mr. McCarthy told reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday that he had not yet seen the subpoena.

    “My view on the committee has not changed,” he said. “They’re not conducting a legitimate investigation. It seems as though they just want to go after their political opponents.”…..

    The subpoenas come as the committee is ramping up for a series of public hearings next month to reveal its findings…..

    Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming and the vice chairwoman of the committee, said the decision was not made lightly. “It’s a reflection of how important and serious the investigation is, and how grave the attack on the Capitol was,” she said….

    Mr. McCarthy has long feared being subpoenaed in the investigation. In recent months, he has been in discussions with William A. Burck, a longtime Washington lawyer, about how to fight a subpoena.

  6. says

    Pres. Biden tweeted: “In remembrance of today’s tragic milestone, I’ve ordered the United States flag to be flown at half-staff in memory of the one million American lives lost to COVID-19.”

  7. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    US Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has blocked the passage of a $40 billion aid bill to Ukraine. Paul demanded changes to the legislation that would include implementing a special inspector general to oversee how the aid is spent, according to CNN.

    “We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the US economy,” Paul said.

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell offered to allow a vote on the Republican senator’s amendment. But CNN is reporting that Paul insisted that it be added to the actual bill.

    “The package is ready to go,” Schumer said. “The vast majority of senators on both sides of the aisle want it. There’s now only one thing holding us back the junior senator from Kentucky is preventing swift passage of Ukraine aid because he wants to add at the last minute his own changes directly into the bill. His change is strongly opposed by many members of both parties.”

  8. says

    Ukraine update: ‘Russians are arriving to replace Ukrainians and live in their homes’

    In both a tactical and strategic sense, it certainly seems as if Ukraine has played its hand smartly. In the most heavily contested areas of the Donbas, they’ve used intelligence about Russian actions, defensive positions built up over eight years since the previous invasion, and dogged persistence in the face of almost constant hammering by artillery, to slow Russian advances in the area to a crawl. Meanwhile, in areas where Russia has drawn down its forces to reinforce that effort in the Donbas, Ukraine has gone on the attack. Most notably, they’ve moved quickly to recapture villages and towns north of Kharkiv, pressing Russian forces kilometers away from Ukraine’s second-largest city and, in some areas, right back to the Russian border.

    Ukrainian leadership is well aware that before it can make extensive gains in any area, it has to have some measure of air support, and some ability to push back at Russian artillery. In many areas, that means waiting until new equipment promised by the West is in place, and new training being offered to Ukrainian soldiers is completed.

    In some cases, even that may be not enough. Much of the Donbas is not only territory that Russia has held, and fortified, since 2014, it’s also close enough to Russia to be covered by anti-aircraft systems positioned across the border. It’s certainly within easy range of Russian planes and helicopters and it’s the only area of Ukraine that those aircraft feel remotely comfortable flying over. All those factors that have made it so difficult for Russia to capture territory inside Ukraine, go into effect for Ukraine when it’s operating in or near territory that has long been held by Russia. Meaning that Ukraine needs the same kind of massive advantage if it wants to recapture territory without suffering horrendous losses.

    Even for recapturing a city like Kherson or Mariupol, where Russia doesn’t have the advantage of long-established fortifications and reliable air support, it’s hard for Ukraine to advance without having at least a localized advantage in numbers. Traditionally, it requires a 3-1 advantage. Better tactics and better technology can shave down that number, but they can’t necessarily make it go away.

    For the world of watching keyboard warriors, the fact that Ukraine hasn’t swept back into Kherson—which seemed like a possibility in the week following the Russian retreat from Kyiv, when Ukrainian forces in the Kherson area appeared to be recapturing villages at a steady clip—is frustrating. It has to be far, far more frustrating for the people held hostage in a city that has become a very large-scale prison.

    I have a friend in Kherson and the situation is incredibly bad.

    They said to me:
    “I am reading a lot of shit about Kherson, unfortunately it’s nothing compared to reality. It is much, much worse”

    Ukrainians are facing a dire situation, which I’ll lay out in a short thread

    Escape routes out of the city are blocked. My friend has attempted to get out several times – the last driver they were in contact with was captured and had their car destroyed.

    There are now many Russians in Kherson who arrived for the 9th May parade. Many of them now work at the market and sell Russian products. My friend says that when they go out now they don’t see familiar faces. Russians are arriving to replace Ukrainians and live in their homes.

    For example, a story of a Russian person moving into an apartment block, becoming admin of the block and sending messages to residents about how they want Ukrainians to burn.

    There are checkpoints between Kherson and all other cities – the Russian army check all papers and search anyone who comes into the city.
    People are forced to undress and show any tattoos, to check for any “pro-Western” or patriotic iconography. […]

    [ ]

    […] That incredibly bad situation includes ongoing efforts to turn Kherson into an outpost of Russia. Kherson has been taken off the Ukrainian internet and placed on a Russian network. Russian cell towers are going up. Ukrainian products are being replaced on the shelves with ones brought in from Russia as Russian troops insist that business be done in rubles. There are checkpoints throughout the city where Russian forces demand strip searches at gunpoint. And, “My friend says that when they go out now they don’t see familiar faces. Russians are arriving to replace Ukrainians and live in their homes.”

    In the last week, Ukraine announced that a counteroffensive was underway in Kherson as well as in Kharkiv and near Izyum. But unlike the Kharkiv area, where there has been the constant excitement of villages and towns captured, including some very fast and unexpected movements by Ukrainian forces, even reports of heavy fighting in the Kherson area have resulted in few changes on the map. Part of the explanation for this can be seen on this map of where Russian cellphones are being used in Ukraine. [available at the link]

    This map shows a significant number of Russians positioned across the entire Kherson region. A month ago, some reports had indicated that Russian soldiers were packing up and getting ready to go back across the Dnipro River. Instead, Russia seems to be digging in. As one visiting Russian official told the people in Kherson last week, they expect Russia to be there “forever.” [map available at the link]

    Rather than pulling out, Russia has been shoving into this area. That’s because they’re supporting two different actions out of Kherson. First, there’s the push toward Kryvyi Rih. Strategically this move for Russia appears pointless. It gets them none of the ground they have set as strategic goals. It moves their forces into a vulnerable position. It gains them nothing except that Kryvyi Rih is Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s home town and Vladimir Putin wants to hurt Zelenskyy. It’s also an industrial center, but count on the personal motive as the real driver here. [map available at the link]

    The bigger show is going on between Mykolaiv and Kherson. There was a point, almost a month ago now, when Ukraine was retaking settlements in this area rapidly, was pushing toward Kherson from both north and south, and seemed ready to drive Russian troops back across the bridges. This is not currently the case. Russia remains on the west bank in force, struggles over towns are going on at multiple positions along the line, and nothing seems to be moving all that quickly.

    Unlike Kharkiv, if Ukraine is going to mount a major counteroffensive at Kherson, they’ll be doing it into the teeth of serious Russian opposition. On the other hand, Kherson is one part of the area Russia now occupies where they’re unlikely to feel safe providing extensive air support and are also less likely to have significant air defense. So Ukrainian armor may be better able to maneuver without a response from above.

    However, there’s one other big difference: Kharkiv was already in Ukrainian control. Kherson is not. Every day that Russia remains in control of the city, they do damage to it in ways that may be more subtle than the artillery that leveled Mariupol and has so damaged Kharkiv, but it’s just as real.

    With that kind of incentive, Ukraine may be prepared to initiate that offensive, even if the odds are less than great.

    Rather than looking at Russian stuff blowing up, today it’s Russian stuff that Ukraine is driving away more or less intact. Showing once again that Ukraine understands that you need combined arms, they start with an APV…[tweet and video at the link]

    Then add a tank …[Tweet and video at the link]

    Then throw in some artillery (with an appearance from the 101st fighting tractors)… [tweet and video at the link]

    And finish off with a bit of specialist kit in the form of a TOS thermobaric missile system. [tweet and video at the link, showing a thermobaric MLRS fully loaded and apparently in perfect condition]

  9. says

    Guardian – “‘They were furious’: the Russian soldiers refusing to fight in Ukraine”:

    …Dmitri’s refusal to fight highlights some of the military difficulties the Russian army has faced as a result of the Kremlin’s political decision not to formally declare war on Ukraine – preferring instead to describe the invasion, which will soon reach its fourth month, as a “special military operation”.

    Under Russian military rules, troops who refuse to fight in Ukraine can face dismissal but cannot be prosecuted, said Mikhail Benyash, a lawyer who has been advising soldiers who choose that option.

    Benyash said “hundreds and hundreds” of soldiers had been in touch with his team for advice on how they could avoid being sent to fight. Among them were 12 national guardsmen from Russia’s southern city of Krasnodar who were fired after refusing to go to Ukraine.

    “Commanders try to threaten their soldiers with prison time if they dissent, but we tell the soldiers that they can simply say no,” Benyash said, adding that he was not aware of any criminal cases against soldiers who refused to fight. “There are no legal grounds to start a criminal case if a soldier refuses to fight while on Russian territory.”

    Many soldiers, therefore, have chosen to be fired or transferred rather than going into “the meat grinder”, he said.

    Pointing to Russia’s military laws, Benyash said it would be more difficult for soldiers to refuse to fight if Russia were to declare a full-scale war. “During wartime, rules are totally different. Refusal then would mean much harsher penalties. They would be looking at time in prison.”

    While the exact number of soldiers refusing to fight remains unclear, such stories illustrate what military experts and western governments say is one of Russia’s biggest obstacles in Ukraine: a severe shortage of infantry soldiers.

    Moscow initially put about 80% of its main ground combat forces – 150,000 men – into the war in February, according to western officials. But significant damage has been done to that army, which has confronted logistical problems, poor morale and an underestimated Ukrainian resistance.

    “Putin needs to make a decision regarding mobilisation in the coming weeks,” said Rob Lee, a military analyst. “Russia lacks sufficient ground units with contract soldiers for a sustainable rotation. The troops are getting exhausted – they won’t be able to keep this up for a long period.”

    Lee said one option for the Kremlin would be to authorise the deployment of conscript units to Ukraine, despite Putin’s earlier pledges that Russia would not use any conscripts in the war. “Conscripts could fill some of the gaps, but they will be poorly trained. Many of the units that are supposed to train conscripts are fighting themselves,” Lee said.

    But without conscript battalions, Russia could soon “struggle to hold the territory it currently controls in Ukraine, especially as Ukraine receives better equipment from Nato,” he said.

    Russian authorities quietly stepped up their efforts to recruit new soldiers as it became clear that a quick victory in Ukraine was unattainable.

    But analysts say voluntary recruits and mercenary groups are unlikely to lead to a substantial increase in the number of new soldiers, compared with the numbers that a partial or a full-scale mobilisation would bring.

    Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment, said the authorities may be worried that a general mobilisation would antagonise large sections of the population that support the “special operation”.

    Russians “might be in favour of the conflict, but they don’t actually want to fight,” he said, adding that a general mobilisation would entail “colossal losses of untrained soldiers”.

    And while the current status of the conflict gives Russian soldiers a legal path to refuse participation, some soldiers have complained that it has also led to them not being adequately cared for.

    A junior sergeant said he was injured during one of the recent Ukrainian attacks on the Russian border territory where he was stationed. His superiors argued that he should not be given the monetary compensation of up to £2,500 that wounded Russians are entitled to by law because his injury took place on Russian soil – meaning it did not fall under the rules of Russia’s “special military operation”.

    “It is unfair, I am fighting in this war just as the others in Ukraine, risking my life,” the soldier said. “If I don’t get the compensation that I am entitled to soon, I will go public and make a major issue of it.”

  10. KG says


    I wouldn’t place too much faith in a security assurance from the UK – this is Johnson and his cronies we’re talking about, who are currently preparing to renege on the international treaty they signed with the EU, specifically to the part of that treaty entitled the “Northern Ireland Protocol”. Johnson regards international treaties, as he regards all promises and agreements, as things to be made when it suits his interests, and broken likewise.

  11. says

    Wonkette: “‘Queen Of Canada’ Telling Followers Not To Pay Their Bills Is Making An Old Cult New Again”

    In the fall of last year, there were some rumors going around that former Trump national security advisor and current who-even-knows-what General Michael Flynn was perhaps a Satanist or secretly a member of a weird New Age cult, after video surfaced of him doing a strange prayer during a speaking engagement. This is because that prayer, to St. Michael, was extremely similar to one written by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, the leader of the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) cult that you may remember from when they were all hoarding guns and living in bunkers in Montana back in the 1980s.

    As I pointed out at the time, this was highly unlikely and not just because Flynn is a practicing Catholic. The big tell was that he wears black and red all of the time. In CUT and other Ascended Masters groups, those colors are largely forbidden. It’s all purple, white, gold and green.

    Why am I bringing this up? Because there is another QAnon-adjacent person who does appear to be reviving the Violet Flame — Romana Didula, self-appointed Queen of Canada. Didula has been popping up in the news every so often these days, most recently because she issued a royal decree announcing that no one need pay their utility bills anymore, and a bunch of her followers got their heat and electricity turned off and now owe thousands of dollars to their utility companies. [Tweet available at the link]

    Via VICE:

    The bill-payment claims are causing direct harm to her followers, with many saying in their group chat that they’ve racked up thousands of dollars of bills. Many of Didulo’s followers are vulnerable people, including seniors on fixed incomes, who could face steep consequences for these decisions. A page created by Didulo which allows her followers to ask her questions is filled with questions about bill payments.

    “Dear Queen Romana I received a 24-hour notice for the power bill. Should I make a payment? Or will it be shut off?” reads one.

    “Queen Romana please What do I say to the City of Red Deer trying to shut off my water on Monday,” reads another. Some said that when they reach out for help about the situation, they’re mocked for their beliefs.

    You’ll notice that her name on her Telegram channel is “Her Majesty I AM Queen Romana.” Her followers have taken to calling themselves “I AMs.” This is actually significant, and I will try to explain why as efficiently as possible.

    The “Ascended Masters” thing largely originated with Madame Helena Blavatsky, who is largely considered kind of the godmother of Theosophy/New Age bullshit, in the 1800s. Blavatsky claimed to have come up with Theosophy, her system of belief, by channeling “Mahatmas” or “Masters of Ancient Wisdom.” (From the beginning, New Age stuff was always highly appropriative of Eastern religions.) Another New Agey lady, Alice Bailey, also claimed to channel a Master, an imaginary Tibetan named Djwal Kul. The “masters” were basically people who had been reincarnated to perfection and then just hung out in the ether waiting to get channeled by con-artists. They were also sometimes called “The Great White Brotherhood,” which is perhaps why theosophy was so popular among Nazis. [What a farce.]

    Then, by the 1930s, you get “beloved messengers” Guy and Edna Ballard, who found the “I AM” Activity. The “AM” stands for Ascended Masters, which were pretty much the same deal as Blavatsky’s Mahatmas/Great White Brotherhood. Their personal favorite Ascended Master was St. Germain, who was kind of sort of the same person as the Comte de St. Germain but also possibly an alias adopted by Sir Francis Bacon after he faked his own death and “ascended” using alchemy. […]

    Guy Ballard supposedly met St. Germain on Mount Shasta in California, and was told that he was the reincarnation of George Washington, which seems very likely. For her part, Edna was Joan of Arc and Benjamin Franklin. This is not important, just hilarious.

    A big part of the “I AM” Activity and subsequent groups like CUT and the Bridge To Freedom are “I AM” Decrees. Here is Elizabeth Clare Prophet of CUT doing one. [video at the link]

    In Ascended Master groups, decrees are basically prayers, usually said very fast over and over again for HOURS in hopes of manifesting them into reality. This is different from Queen Romana’s royal decrees, but who knows where she’s going with this.

    Romana also uses a number of terms heavily associated with Ascended Master and other New Age groups — light, flame, etc. In addition to calling her followers “I AMs,” she also calls them “Light Holders,” a term favored by Canadian “mystic” Manly P. Hall. Her signature color is a particular shade of purple that tends to be popular among Ascended Master groups. It’s highly unlikely that all of this is a coincidence. You can see the same color in the Elizabeth Clare Prophet video above.

    It’s actually surprising that she’s the first to do this. While we think of right-wing groups as being Christian and New Age stuff as being for hippie dippie liberals, the Ascended Master groups tend to be extremely far right and “anti-communist.” The whole reason CUT was out there in Montana hoarding guns in bunkers was because they thought the communists were going to launch an attack, possibly a nuclear one. It’s also just about as confusing and bizarre as the QAnonsense, and thus should appeal to the same people.

    Basically, although she seems like a regular old kook who may not be all there, she’s actually cobbling a bunch of New Age crap together to create a new cult of her own. The references she uses are some pretty deep cuts and it’s unlikely she’d be familiar with them without having some kind of background in New Age bullshit.

    There is a reason there are people out there are refusing to pay their utility bills for her, and it’s because this is some tried and true brainwashing magic.

  12. says

    New episode of Why Is This Happening? – “Episode #213: Elie Mystal” (YT link):

    “Forced labor is already unconstitutional and what is forced birth other than forcing a woman to labor against her will?” remarked Elie Mystal, a justice correspondent at The Nation, following the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Mystal is also author of the New York Times bestselling book, “Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution,” in which he points out problems with – and solutions for – reversing systemic issues created by America’s founding document. He joins WITHpod to discuss his objections to conservative interpretations of rights, abortion rights law, changes he’d make to the Constitution, and revisions he’d make to the structure of the Supreme Court and more.

    LOL – “That’s how you end up at the Olive Garden, folks.”

    (Taking this opportunity to renew my recommendation of Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch.)

  13. says

    A Trump-appointed judge issued another bad decision: California Can’t Keep Semiautomatic Guns From Young Adults, Court Rules

    New York Times link

    A panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected a judge’s argument that those under 21 were historically “believed unfit” for “responsible firearm possession and use.”

    An appeals court panel ruled on Wednesday that California’s ban on the sale of semiautomatic weapons to adults under the age of 21 violated the right to bear arms found in the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

    Judge Ryan Nelson, writing for a two-to-one majority in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, struck down a ruling by a federal judge in San Diego that upheld what Judge Nelson called an “almost total ban on semiautomatic” rifles for young adults.

    “America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army,” Judge Nelson wrote. “Today we reaffirm that our Constitution still protects the right that enabled their sacrifice: the right of young adults to keep and bear arms.”

    Judge Nelson rejected an argument, made by a lower court judge, that young adults “were considered minors or ‘infants’ for most of our country’s history without the rights afforded adults” and were therefore unfit for “responsible firearm possession and use.”

    The office of Attorney General Rob Bonta of California, the case’s defendant, said it was reviewing the decision.

    “California will continue to take all necessary steps to prevent and reduce gun violence,” it said in a statement. “We remain committed to defending California’s common-sense gun laws, which save lives and make our communities safer.” […]

  14. says

    Humor/satire from Andy Borowitz:

    In what she described as a “genuinely terrifying” incident, Senator Susan Collins called 911 after receiving a copy of the United States Constitution in the mail.

    Collins recalled the feeling of abject fear after opening her mail and recognizing the eighteenth-century document.

    “I had never read it before, so it took me a moment to figure out what it was,” she said. “Once I saw that it had been written in an old-timey way, I put two and two together.”

    After she called 911, a squad car from the Bangor police arrived and carefully removed the Constitution from the premises.

    “I exhaled when I realized that the danger had passed,” Collins said. “But it was a close call.”

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted the person or persons who mailed the Constitution to Collins.

    “I recognize that emotions are running high right now, but there is no excuse for making a United States senator read the Constitution,” he said.

    New Yorker link

  15. says

    White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha issued a dire warning Thursday that the U.S. will be increasingly vulnerable to the coronavirus this fall and winter if Congress doesn’t swiftly approve new funding for more vaccines and treatments.

    In an Associated Press interview, Jha said Americans’ immune protection from the virus is waning, the virus is adapting to be more contagious and booster doses for most people will be necessary — with the potential for enhanced protection from a new generation of shots.

    His warning came as the White House said there could be up to 100 million infections from the virus later this year — and as President Biden somberly ordered flags to half-staff to mark 1 million deaths.

    “As we get to the fall, we are all going to have a lot more vulnerability to a virus that has a lot more immune escape than even it does today and certainly than it did six months ago,” Jha said. “That leaves a lot of us vulnerable.”

    Jha predicted that the next generation of vaccines, which are likely to be targeted at the currently prevailing omicron strain, “are going to provide a much, much higher degree of protection against the virus that we will encounter in the fall and winter.” But he warned that the U.S. is at risk of losing its place in line to other countries if Congress doesn’t act in the next several weeks.

    Also, speaking of a need provide vaccination assistance to other nations, Jha cast the urgency in terms of the benefits to Americans, even if they never travel overseas.

    “All of these variants were first identified outside of the United States,” he said. “If the goal is to protect the American people, we have got to make sure the world is vaccinated. I mean, there’s just no domestic-only approach here.”

    […] The Food and Drug Administration is to meet in June to determine the specific strains of the virus that the fall vaccines will target, and Jha said it takes two to three months for manufacturers to develop them. Right now the U.S. has run out of federal COVID-19 response funding to place new orders of vaccines.

    “If we had the resources we’d be there having those conversations today,” said Jha. “The window is really closing on us if we want to be in the front of the line.” […]


  16. says


    Experts believe Russia is experiencing a shortage of troops. State TV exchanges seem to confirm that notion. Using a lie that “NATO is about to start a war against Russia,” pundits discuss how to lure new Russian citizens and people from impoverished regions into the military.

    Video with subtitles at the (Twitter) link.

    “The fact that Finland and Sweden are joining NATO supposedly isn’t directly related to Russia…” The hell? I think everyone’s been quite clear that it’s directly related to Russia.

  17. says

    Zachary Petrizzo, Daily Beast:

    Getting closer to the D.C. area, leaders of The People’s Convoy say that this time around, truckers will seek to enter D.C. proper with the hopes of occupying the city.

    “We are not doing circles around D.C. again,” the trucker Mug Pig says. “Hopefully, when we go to D.C., we are in D.C.” Fellow convoy leader “Santa” agrees, saying the group will enter the city only once.

    Worth noting here: The convoy might be smaller this time around, but they are incredibly violent. The group remains a party to a police investigation over the firing of a gun near Portland and has ties to the extremist group the Proud Boys.

  18. StevoR says

    Excellent blog post here : :

    on Abe Drayton’s Oceanoxia which raises some really points I think.


    ABC TV’s National Press Club on channel 24 right now has the very omimpressive Penny Wong and Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne holding a foreign policy debate right now and repeated on c 2 from 12.30 pm noon here . (SA time.)

  19. StevoR says

    ^ Fix : That’s meant to be : “very impressive Penny Wong..” & “really good, thought-provoking” points. Sigh, sorry.

    Link to that TV debate here :

    The Adelaide Refugee Vigil is on at 5 pm in Rundle Mall as usual this evening too :

    Adelaide vigil for Manus and Nauru

    Adelaide Vigil members invite you to join us for this week’s vigil, in RUNDLE MALL, at the intersection with Gawler Place, near the giant silver pigeon.

    Late last year the Australian Government announced its plan to abandon the 110 refugee men remaining in Papua New Guinea, having detained them there, illegally, since 2013. That has now been in effect since January 1st, and continues to cause much anxiety.

    A new Memorandum Of Understanding was signed with Nauru, enabling the continuation of Australia’s offshore human warehousing to continue there, into the future.

    Although most of the Manus and Nauru refugees medevacced to Australia have at last been released into “community detention”, the government’s own figures record 6 as remaining in closed detention in Australia. 216 remain without resettlement in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

    Please help us to keep a spotlight on this wrong, perpetrated in our name, and join us in standing for the freedom, safety and human rights of the refugees the Australian government wants us to forget. Over 200 still being held in inhumane conditions after almost 9 years of punishment on #Manus, #Nauru and now also Port Moresby PNG and Australian Immigration Detention.
    The only laws that have been broken in their seeking of asylum are those which Australia itself has an international obligation to uphold, through its signing of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

    Via the Adelaide vigil for Manus and Nauru fb page.

    Think this tweet / meme seen the other day :

    Middle Age Riot

    Allowing Donald Trump back on Twitter is like surgically implanting a hemorrhoid

    Describes it pretty accurately!

  20. says

    Recently posted to nextdoor.
    “Related to political insults, fair is fair in many places. I won’t reflect Trump’s bigotry at his supporters, but insults in general are fair game. “Hand-wringers” for people who can’t deal with education about racism, sex education, gender, other people getting abortions…

    I’m thinking about other things that Trump does that become fair game unless his supporters make another choice.”

    “Hand-wringer'” was a shift from “pearl-clutcher” because I saw the usefulness of an non-sexist choice.

    And the “related to political insults” part has to do with me labeling “fake news” as a political pejorative and pointing out that without an actual fake thing it’s just an insult.

  21. says

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

    The UK’s ministry of defence has said the failed crossing of the Siverskyi Donets river by Russian forces in the Donbas showed the pressure Russian commanders were under.

    Ukrainian military forces released footage on Thursday that they say shows destroyed Russian military vehicles and a pontoon bridge in eastern Ukraine. According to the Ukrainian forces, the images were taken along the Siverskyi Donets River.

    The first war crime trial since Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine has opened in Kyiv in a watershed moment. Vadim Shysimarin, a 21-year-old Russian commander of the Kantemirovskaya tank division, allegedly killed a civilian on 28 February in the village of Chupakhivka while fighting in the Sumy region in north-east Ukraine.

    The Ukrainian counteroffensive around the north-eastern city of Kharkiv is “starting to look very similar to the counteroffensive that ultimately drove Russian troops away from Kyiv and out of western Ukraine entirely”, the Institute for the Study of War has said in its latest assessment of the conflict.

    Swedish membership of Nato would have a stabilizing effect and would benefit countries around the Baltic sea, Sweden’s foreign minister Ann Linde said today, the day after neighbour Finland committed to applying to join the 30-nation alliance.

    The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, has said that the European Union would provide another €500m (£425m) worth of military support to Ukraine, and that he was confident a deal could be reached in the coming days to agree an embargo on Russian oil.

    British foreign secretary Liz Truss said it was vital to keep up the pressure on Russia by supplying more weapons to Ukraine and imposing further sanctions. “It is very important at this time that we keep up the pressure on Vladimir Putin by supplying more weapons to Ukraine and by increasing the sanctions.”

  22. says

    Guardian – “US secretly issued subpoena to access Guardian reporter’s phone records”:

    The US justice department secretly issued a subpoena to gain access to details of the phone account of a Guardian reporter as part of an aggressive leak investigation into media stories about an official inquiry into the Trump administration’s child separation policy at the southern border.

    Leak investigators issued the subpoena to obtain the phone number of Stephanie Kirchgaessner, the Guardian’s investigations correspondent in Washington. The move was carried out without notifying the newspaper or its reporter, as part of an attempt to ferret out the source of media articles about a review into family separation conducted by the Department of Justice’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz.

    It is highly unusual for US government officials to obtain a journalist’s phone details in this way, especially when no national security or classified information is involved. The move was all the more surprising in that it came from the DoJ’s inspector general’s office – the watchdog responsible for ethical oversight and whistleblower protections.

    Katharine Viner, the Guardian’s editor-in-chief, decried the action as “an egregious example of infringement on press freedom and public interest journalism by the US Department of Justice”.

    She added: “We will be asking the DoJ urgently for an explanation for why and how this could have occurred, and for an apology. We will also be seeking assurances that our reporter’s details will be erased from DoJ systems and will not be used for any further infringements of press freedom.”

    The leak inquiry was conducted on behalf of the DoJ by the inspector general’s office of an outside government department, housing and urban development (Hud). Its investigation focused on allegations that an employee within the DoJ’s inspector general’s office had leaked sensitive information to three news outlets – the Guardian, the New York Times and NBC News.

    The Guardian was the only one of the three outlets to have a subpoena issued relating to its reporter’s phone account….

    More at the link.

  23. says

    “Female student in Nigeria beaten to death over ‘blasphemy’”:

    A female student in Nigeria was beaten to death and set on fire by fellow students who accused her of posting “blasphemous” statements in a WhatsApp group, two witnesses have said.

    The school, located in Nigeria’s northwestern state of Sokoto, was immediately closed down following the attack.

    Two suspects were arrested in connection with the murder of the student, who was identified as Deborah Samuel, said a spokesperson for the Sokoto state command.

    “There is a WhatsApp group being used by the students, and her Muslim colleague student posted an Islamic piece. She criticised the posting,” said one of the witnesses, who declined to be named.

    “She composed an audio that contains blasphemous comments on the prophet of Islam and posted in the group. That is what triggered everything.”

    School security and police attempted to rescue the girl but were overwhelmed by the students, the witnesses said.

    “Police have fired teargas on the students … then began firing shots in the sky to disperse the students, but they resisted,” said Summayya Usman Inname, a student in her second year.

    “The police sacrificed the lady after the students began throwing sticks and stones at them, then the students used stones and sticks to beat the lady. After being beaten, she was set on fire.”…

  24. blf says

    KG@15 notes teh “U”K’s current alleged-government “are currently preparing to renege on the international treaty they signed with the EU, specifically to the part of that treaty entitled the ‘Northern Ireland Protocol’. ”

    Indeed. The States has been dropping hints that if teh “U”K drops the NI protocol, then there will not be a trade agreement with the States to replace the EU-wide agreement. The States is sending a bipartisan delegation to drive home the point; this is not surprising since Ireland (the island) is a big deal in the States, who helped to negotiate the Good Friday Agreement and are some sort of a guarantor of that agreement. The States friendliness with Ireland is not just a dummie thing, teh thugs have generally been very supportive as well. Broadly, teh “U”K is looking, if not at a “trade war” with the States (unlike the EU, e.g., UK should not fear EU trade war, says [former “U”K brexit minister David] Frost as he backs ripping up protocol), then at nothing better than WTO terms (with exceptions for the few areas where new agreements have already been agreed).

    Off-the-top of my head, almost the only change I can guess at is if Putin orders the thugs to stop supporting Ireland. Keep an eye on what RT-in-the-States (Tucker Carlson, et al.) are bellowing.

    A snippet from the above-linked Frost article:

    Earlier this week Frost told the US president, Joe Biden, who has invested much of his career in supporting peace in Northern Ireland, to butt out of UK business.

    I get slightly frustrated when we are told by a third party, albeit a very important one in this context, how to manage these issues, he told a[n unnamed] thinktank in the US. It is our country that faced terrorism, faced the Troubles. […] Most people were very affected in one way or another by this.”

    (Rolls eyes, shakes head.) Putin’s acolytes will have to do better than that.

  25. blf says

    KG@492(previous page) observes “great care should be taken to minimise the risk of a direct Russia-NATO clash, and I am alarmed by some of the gung-ho sentiment (On to Moscow!!!) I see in some Daily Kos comments, for example.”

    Indeed, I concur, especially on the taking great care part. Those comments at Kos — and as an aside, many thanks to Lynna for their continuing excerpting of their Putin’s invasion coverage — of the onward to Moscow! variety, whilst probably not always tongue-in-cheek, I’ve chosen to read that way (presuming Nato remains not directly involved): Ukraine hasn’t the resources to do that (attack Moscow city), which is c.700km from Kyiv (over 400km at the nearest point on the border), and it’s difficult to see any rational justification to do so. Doing-so would perhaps finally motivative the Russians (along with giving Putin an excuse to declare war and order a general mobilisation, etc.); with allowances for the fog of war and some regrettable individual-level incidents, Ukraine to-date doesn’t seem to that stupid.

    Carefully-targetted raids on militarily-justified targets just over the border in Russia are a different matter (e.g., on artillery or anti-aircraft, military fuel and ammo dumps, or train tracks leading into Ukraine) — and Ukraine may be doing some of that, albeit to-date (as far as I am awares) have never announced (Russian-occupied territories excepted?), and if asked, have either been silent, or denied responsibility.

  26. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan remarked to journalists after leaving Friday prayers in Istanbul that Turkey would not welcome either Sweden or Finland from joining the Nato.

    “We are currently following developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t feel positively about this,” he said.

    “We don’t want to commit a mistake,” he added. “Scandinavian countries are like guesthouses for terrorist organisations. To go even further, they have seats in their parliaments too.”

    Erdoğan’s comments were primarily directed at the militant group the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Turkey regards as a terrorist organisation, although they appeared to encompass the communities of Kurdish origin in Scandinavia as a whole.

    Accession to Nato requires consensus from all member countries.

    Sweden has a large Kurdish diaspora, with the community considered to be one of the largest outside of the Middle East. Prominent Swedish citizens of Kurdish origin currently include six members of parliament. The Turkish authorities are yet to provide any evidence for their claims that the parliamentarians in question have links with the PKK or similar groups outside Sweden.

    The Kurdish-speaking population of Finland was estimated at just over 15,000 people as of 2020, less than one percent of the population.

    Turkey has been a Nato member since 1952 and its membership remains a cornerstone of its foreign policy towards Western countries. Despite this, Turkey recently decided to withdraw from a scheduled NATO military exercise in Athens in May due to disagreements with Greece.

  27. says

    Guardian – “Israeli police ​attack funeral procession for shot journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh”:

    Israeli forces have attacked a funeral procession for a Palestinian American journalist shot dead this week, kicking and hitting people with batons and causing mourners carrying her coffin to lose balance and drop it to the ground.

    Police said mourners were “disrupting public order”. Footage showed the coffin of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Aqleh on mourners’ shoulders outside St Joseph’s hospital in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem as police rushed in and attacked people, several of whom held Palestinian flags. The sound of a stun grenade could be heard.

    Israel forbids public displays of Palestinian flags and often prevents people from hoisting them at rallies and protests in the city.

    A senior Palestinian figure, Hanan Ashrawi, tweeted that “savage [sic] Israeli ‘special forces’ viciously attack the funeral procession bearing the coffin” of Abu Aqleh as it left St Joseph’s hospital. “The inhumanity [sic] [of] Israel is on full display,” said the former Palestine Liberation Organisation official.

    Police said they had held talks with Abu Aqleh’s family in order to “enable a respectable funeral. Unfortunately, under the auspices of the funeral and taking cynical advantage of it, hundreds of people began disrupting public order before [the funeral] even began.

    “As the coffin was about to exit the hospital, stones began to be thrown at officers from the hospital’s plaza, and the officers were forced to use riot dispersal means.”

    Police released a video in which an officer outside the hospital grounds addresses the crowd. “If you don’t stop these chants and [Palestinian] nationalistic songs we will have to disperse you using force and we won’t let the funeral take place,” the officer says.

    Abu Aqleh’s coffin left the hospital grounds by vehicle and arrived at a Jerusalem church for her funeral.

    The 51-year-old reporter was shot in the head on Wednesday morning in the West Bank city of Jenin during what her colleagues at the scene said was a burst of Israeli fire on a small group of journalists covering an expected Israeli military raid.

    The Israeli military said its troops shot back after coming under “massive fire” in Jenin and that “there is a possibility, now being looked into, that reporters were hit – possibly by shots fired by Palestinian gunmen”. However, the Israeli military chief, Lt Gen Aviv Kochavi, later appeared to back away from those assertions, saying: “At this stage we cannot determine by whose fire she was harmed and we regret her death.”

    Video of the incident showed Abu Aqleh was wearing a helmet and body armour clearly marked “press”. Ali Samodi, a producer for Al Jazeera who was shot in the back, told the Guardian from his hospital bed that contrary to claims made by Israeli officials, there were no gunmen standing near the journalists when they were targeted.

  28. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    There has been a little bit of Finnish reaction to those comments by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He said that Turkey was “currently following developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t feel positively about this.”

    At the G7 foreign ministers meeting in Germany, Reuters is quoting Finland’s foreign minister Pekka Haavisto as saying that issues need to be taken step-by-step and that the process needs patience. He said that he would be meeting Turkey’s foreign minister in Berlin tomorrow.

  29. blf says

    A survey in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Americans love conspiracy theories, and that’s dangerous for everyone (all emphasis in the original, albeit my added emboldening & embedded links):

    America’s conspiratorial thinkers appear to have stood ready to accept false claims on such seemingly unrelated issues as the COVID-19 vaccine and the war in Ukraine, according to our ongoing research in the COVID States Project. In an era of heightened political polarization, conspiratorial thinking by even a relatively small segment of the public, especially when disproportionately aligned with one political party, could have outsized and potentially catastrophic consequences for key policy initiatives aimed at responding to crises. Whether policies are aimed at containing the emergence of contagious virus variants or preventing a third world war, tsunamis of misinformation threaten to undermine the post-World War II global order.

    In our recent survey of all 50 US states plus the District of Columbia, we asked respondents to assess the accuracy of eight widespread false claims. Four of those claims were about the COVID-19 vaccine, while the other four pertained to the war in Ukraine. We also queried respondents about their attitudes and behaviors regarding both crises.

    The results contain both good and bad news. The good news is that in both cases, most Americans did not believe false claims about either crisis (see Figure 1). The bad news is that relatively large percentages of respondents were unsure about the accuracy of the false claims.

    Beginning with the good news, belief in false claims about the COVID-19 vaccine ranged from a low of 5 percent who believed “the COVID-19 vaccine contains microchips that could track people” to a high of 11 percent who believed that “the COVID-19 vaccines can cause infertility, making it more difficult to get pregnant.” The percentages are a bit lower for Ukraine, ranging from a low of 4 percent who believed that “Ukraine’s government is controlled by Nazis” to a high of 7 percent who believed “the US is assisting Ukraine in developing chemical and biological weapons in secret Ukrainian laboratories.”


    It is distressing that any Americans believe these claims. Yet these numbers are not so different from the 11 percent who in 2019 reported “somewhat” or “strongly” believing that the US faked the Apollo moon landing. They are well below the 26 percent of Americans who in 2019 “somewhat” or “strongly” believed that the US government is housing aliens in Area 51 or the 36 percent of Americans who in 2007 believed 9/11 was an inside job perpetrated by the US government. […]

    [… T]he bad news, much larger percentages of respondents were unsure about the accuracy of the individual false claims — far more than the 7 to 9 percent that expressed uncertainty about those other conspiracy theories. When uncertainty is added in, the overall percentages of respondents who either believed or were unsure about the various false claims surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine and war in Ukraine ranges from about one quarter to one-half of all respondents in each case […]. Overall, half of all respondents believed or were unsure about at least one false claim about Ukraine; while the corresponding figure for the COVID-19 vaccine is 62 percent. Those are big numbers.

    Even more concerning, misperceptions are linked to attitudes. In the case of COVID-19 vaccines (Figure 3), people who hold two or more misperceptions are over four times more likely than people with no misperceptions to indicate that they will not take the COVID-19 vaccine (60 percent vs 13 percent).

    Holding misperceptions about Ukraine, in turn, strongly predicts warmer, more favorable feelings toward Russia and colder, less favorable feelings toward Ukraine. […]

    Our survey also suggests that many of the same people believe false claims about both crises. We considered a variety of socio-economic, demographic, and political factors that might influence people’s likelihood of believing false claims about Ukraine, including age, education, income, gender, region, geography, trust in government, and political party. Most had little or no effect. The exception is believing COVID-19 false claims […]. Compared to those with no vaccine misperceptions, people who believed at least one false claim about the COVID-19 vaccine were almost six times more likely to also hold at least one false belief about Ukraine (8 percent vs 45 percent).

    [… T]he association of demographic, geographic, and political factors with false beliefs about Ukraine, holding at least one COVID-19 vaccine misperception was about 10 times better at predicting Ukraine misperceptions than the next best predictor, trust in the government […]

    Attitudes and misperceptions about the two global crises are not uniformly distributed across the United States population. Notably, we find greater partisan polarization around beliefs in false claims about COVID-19 vaccines than around beliefs in false claims about Ukraine. […]

    These patterns illustrate the complex policy challenge of responding to conspiratorial thinking. Playing whack-a-mole with individual false beliefs in particular may not be a successful strategy. We may instead need to address the underlying willingness to accept false claims in general. To borrow from the public health perspective, successful strategies need to address both the supply and the demand side of misinformation. […]

  30. blf says

    Bogus Ashley Bloomfield [New Zealand’s director general of health] vaccine letter goes viral among US far right and QAnon followers:

    Typed beneath Ministry of Health letterhead, the message makes the baseless claim that the Covid-19 vaccine will become mandatory across New Zealand on June 1. In fact, the opposite is true — vaccine mandates were never universal and are on their way out, with most scrapped early last month. In many hundreds of social media posts […] the letter is presented with superimposed red type that falsely states, NZ ISSUES $15,000 FINE OR 6 MONTHS JAIL FOR THE UNVAXXED.

    The contents of the letter appear to be a mishmash of historical instructions mixed with original disinformation. Quite apart from the untruthful central claim, it is immediately apparent from the language of the letter that it is bogus.


    Among those who have shared the misinformation is Joey Gilbert, who is currently in the Republican Party primary race for the Nevada governorship. Population control, was the would-be politician’s assessment […]

    Some of the details pointing to an obvious fake include a “dubious footer on the supposed letter, which included hyperlinks that are tricky to click on printed paper and a purported Bloomfield signature that didn’t match other examples from the director general of health.” (I should point out including links in PDFs which are then printed is common practice, albeit if intended to be printed, the links are explicitly stated, e.g., https://etc.)

  31. blf says

    Four House committee chairs ask Big Tech to archive evidence of war crimes in Ukraine:

    The requests say that while the networks may have “rightfully implemented graphic content policies to protect their users,” an archive is necessary for potential war crimes trials.


    The letters were signed by Reps Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, chair of the Oversight Committee; Gregory Meeks, D-NY, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee; Stephen Lynch, D-Mass, chair of the Oversight and Reform subcommittee on national security; and William Keating, D-Mass, chair of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, energy, the environment and cyber.

    They specifically request the social media companies “to flag or mark content as containing potential evidence of war crimes and other atrocities.”


    While the lawmakers’ letters don’t have the power of subpoena that would allow them to seek legal enforcement, social media companies have historically complied with requests like this one.


    The letters cite a 2021 report from the University of California at Berkeley’s Human Rights Center that found human rights investigators “are increasingly losing the race to identify and preserve information that may have legitimate human rights and historical value before it is removed,” and implore the companies to create “digital lockers” to safely store evidence of potential war crimes.

    A report from the nonprofit Institute for Strategic Dialogue noted that conspiracy theories questioning the existence of the massacre in Bucha were shared more in the second week in April on Facebook than posts claiming the slaughter actually occurred.


  32. says

    ‘The Liberty Report’ hosted by Rand Paul’s dad began on Kremlin propaganda network RT. When RT became too publicly toxic, the show was moved to YouTube where it still pushes Kremlin propaganda 5 episodes/week.

    Episode list is on IMDB…”

    IMDB link at the (Twitter) link. You’ll be surprised, I’m sure, to learn that most of the other content is anti-vax garbage and homicidal lies about public health measures during the pandemic. Ron Paul’s role in moving people to the far right over the years isn’t sufficiently appreciated.

  33. blf says

    ‘Lost’ Picasso spotted in Imelda Marcos’s home after son’s election win:

    Images released by the family showed Marcos Jr visiting the home of his mother, Imelda, who had displayed Picasso’s Femme Couche VI (Reclining Woman VI), or a replica, above the sofa.

    On September 30, 2014, the government seized a Picasso Reclining Women VI from the Marcoses’ San Juan home. What’s it doing there in Imelda Marcos’ home in recent photos? […]

    It is unclear if the painting, one of eight targeted for seizure by anti-corruption authorities in 2014, is genuine, but the unexpected appearance of the nude in blues and greens reclining on an orange and yellow bed has added to fears the family will use its now-increased power to brazenly further stifle efforts to recover ill-gotten wealth.


    “Mrs Marcos has had a habit of buying fake paintings, as well as lending fake paintings for display,” [a former commissioner for the presidential commission on good government (PCGG), Ruben] Carranza said.

    But he added: “The fact that she’s now displaying it just shows not just the duplicity of Mrs Marcos — but that she has to display the duplicity and the extravagance that she thinks she’s displaying for Filipinos to see … That says something even worse.”

    He added: “It shows this really, absolutely uncaring attitude for Filipinos. They’ve not only now been led to believe that {the Marcoses} have gold. Now, they’re leading them to believe, again, that they have so much wealth that they can just display it whenever they please,” said Carranza.

    For years, there has been speculation online that the Marcoses have huge sums of gold, which was given to Marcos Sr by a wealthy family as payment for acting as their lawyer. According to the story, the gold would be shared with the people if the family regained power.

    Marcos Jr has either downplayed or denied the abuses that occurred in the Phlippines under his father. As president, he would have the power to appoint the commissioners of the PCGG, granting him huge influence over the body that was set up to recover the family’s wealth.

    The PCGG has reportedly retrieved about $5bn, while a further $2.4bn was bogged down in litigation, and more remains missing, according to recent reports.

    The Picasso was supposed to have been seized by the government in 2014, but a former commissioner on good government, Andres Bautista, told the Rappler news site […] he believed the [seized] item was a fake.

    “Personally I know that what we seized was a fake. It was a tarpaulin so it’s still with them,” he told the site.


  34. blf says

    In England, ‘Hilarious’: Cornish pub will not change name despite letter from Vogue owner:

    The Star Inn at Vogue, named for the hamlet in which it is situated, has received a message from the magazine’s owner asking for the change because a link between the two businesses is likely to be inferred.

    Dear Vogue (allegedly a magazine),
      This village is named Vogue, and has been since the 17th C (we realise research is not your strong point, so to help you out, that’s over 300 years ago). Your alleged magazine, as you should be aware but probably are not, was founded in 1916 here in England (and a few years earlier in New York). So our village, Vogue, has existed for 200 years-and-a-bit longer than your alleged magazine. You owe us considerable royalties and fines for the unlicensed use of our name.

      However, we are willing to overlook these violations of logic and moral rights provided you indicate an understanding that neither a village nor a pub — which is also older than your alleged magazine — is magazine, not even allegedly.

    Sincerely yours with a large added feck off,
       – The bemused international readers of the Grauniad

    “If someone had obviously taken the time to look us up, it wouldn’t have taken five minutes to say: ‘Oh, there’s a place called Vogue,’” said Rachel [Graham, one of the pub’s co-landlords], who is not a reader of the magazine.


    [Mark Graham, the other co-landlord, in their reply (a “categorical no”)] added: “I presume that at the time when you chose the name Vogue in the capitalised version you didn’t seek permission from the villagers of the real Vogue. I also presume that Madonna did not seek your permission to use the word Vogue (again the capitalised version) for her 1990s song of the same name.”


    The pair bought the pub after going out for a bike ride and found it closed for the afternoon. They were disappointed to not be able to stop and have a pint. If they had the pub, they thought at the time, it would have been open.

    Not long after, an ad popped up in the local paper and they bought it.

    Condé Nast has been approached for comment.

  35. says

    Ukraine update: Severodonetsk faces the storm

    According to statements that Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have made on state-run media, there are three goals for the “special military action” in Ukraine.

    One is to secure all of Donetsk and Luhansk oblast and bring them into Russia. The idea that either will be an independent “people’s republic,” or that there might be some kind of referendum to determine their fate is now old hat. They’ll just be part of Russia. And like it.

    The second is to secure a land bridge between the Donbas and Russian-occupied Crimea. Mariupol still sits in the middle of this space like a big middle finger to Putin’s ambitions, but except for the resistance still striking out from Azovstal, this is the one part of Putin’s plan that is more or less going to plan.

    The third goal is … denazification … or demilitarization … or something like that. Which Putin seems free to redefine at every speech. At the moment, it seems to be simply an excuse to kill anyone who opposes being ruled by Russia. Which is a number roughly equal to everyone.

    Of course, those goals have only the loosest connection to what Russia is actually doing in Ukraine. Fighting is going on far outside the Donbas, and Russia now appears to have decided that Kherson is an independent republic. Strike that. Russian protectorate. Strike that. Russian colony. Putin is also continuing to fling missiles everywhere in Ukraine, almost all of them at civilian targets. When the first “hypersonic” missile was launched into Ukraine, it was a big deal. Now Russia has launched somewhere around a dozen, mostly into Lviv, Odesa, and other cities in the west. These seem to have no objective other than causing death and destruction. He’s killing people, because he can.

    The U.S. Department of Defense assesses that Putin’s plans have not changed from the beginning. Sure, he lost the Battle of Kyiv, but that was just a setback. Yes, capturing the Donbas and a land bridge to Crimea is the bare minimum that Putin can call a “victory.” But there’s absolutely no reason to think Putin will stop there if those goals are achieved.

    In fact there is no red line, neither in the sense of goals achieved, or materiel losses, that will cause Putin to call a stop. He won’t stop if 50,000 Russian soldiers are dead. He certainly won’t stop if his forces enjoy enough success to achieve goals one and two. Putin will stop when he is made to stop. When it becomes clear that every day the invasion continues things are going to get worse for both Russia and the Russian military, and most importantly, that they’re going to get worse for Vladimir Putin.

  36. blf says

    Snippets from Meduza’s live blog:

    Moscow refreshes its geopolitical messaging
    Russia’s First Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, announced that Moscow now opposes Ukrainian membership in the European Union. Polyanskiy said the policy shift is a response to EU Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell Fontelles declaring in early April that the war with Russia “will be won on the battlefield.” EU membership can no longer be part of a peace agreement with Ukraine, Polyanskiy said on Thursday. […]

    Halt, in the name of the law
    Russia’s Justice Ministry has proposed legislation that would disbar defense attorneys who are licensed to practice the law in unfriendly countries. The bill would also bar all lawyers from those countries from working in Russia. The government’s current list of unfriendly countries includes all EU members, the United States, Great Britain, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Ukraine, Taiwan, Norway, Australia, and several more nations.

    Rise of the neofascists
    While explaining to a constituent why state officials denied a permit for a local concert, the governor of Russia’s Komi Republic said that the event’s organizers planned to incite anti-Putin slogans. Governor Vladimir Uyba also accused State Duma deputy Oleg Mikhailov (who was not involved in the concert planning) of being a neofascist. Uyba added that all the neofascists deserve a wooden stake on their graves.

    Er, that’s the undead — like vampires or Putin — who get staked.

    A revealing court reading
    The judge who rejected Holod Media editor-in-chief Taisia Bekbulatova’s lawsuit challenging her foreign agent status read aloud in court on Wednesday a document from Russia’s Federal Financial Monitoring Service that explained Bekbulatova’s designation as the state’s response to Holod Media’s work to discredit Russia’s political system. The document is noteworthy because Rosfinmonitoring doesn’t typically use such language and instead pretends that it’s focused solely on foreign financial flows. The woman presiding at Wednesday’s hearing wasn’t the court’s usual judge, raising the odds that this disclosure was an accident.

    📺Too-smart-for-its-own-good TV
    Early in the morning on May 9, Russian Smart TV owners saw an anti-war message appear in the channel descriptions on their devices. “The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of their murdered children is on your hands. The TV and the authorities are lying. No to war,” read the message, which appeared in the descriptions of a number of different channels. Additionally, on the morning of May 9, hackers attacked the video service Rutube, causing the site to crash.

    🪖A secret mobilization?
    The wife of a Moscow subway worker claims that her husband and his colleagues were summoned to a staff meeting and told to undergo health exams for potential volunteer deployment to Ukraine. Managers allegedly threatened anyone who refused with termination or even prosecution for violating the laws of war, the man’s wife told

    🚨An attack on Elena Osipova
    Two young men attacked Elena Osipova on Monday, stole her antiwar banners, and ran off. The 76-year-old activist is a fixture of St Petersburg’s antiwar movement. Meduza interviewed her in April [‘Indifference is our main problem’ Artist and activist Yelena Osipova on Russia’s war against Ukraine and her 20 years of protesting Putin’s regime].

    Some snippets from that interview (Meduza edits in {curly braces}):

    I’d seen many Soviet rulers in my day, but they were totally different. They had their faults, to be sure, but the current leadership has certainly surpassed the old methods. {Putin and his people} have built an entire system for themselves, they hoard money and spend it only on weaponry. They’re inculcating even the youngest generations with militarism. They put kids in military caps, but rarely do you see dove imagery anymore. It’s as if there haven’t been horrible wars before, as if they’ve forgotten everything. And all around us are the government’s disciples. I blame them, too: they support the state and turn people against peace. They brag about murdering people!

    [… T]oday {Russia’s} ideals have changed: it’s all about owning everything, subjugating everyone, annexing as much {territory} as possible.

    The question that’s being decided right now is: How much longer can the current government survive? The fate of Russia is being decided — and the rest of the world, too. Maybe the horrors that have come to pass will let us pivot somehow. […]

  37. says

    Followup to comment 45.

    A few more details to add to the Ukrainian update:

    […] The M777 howitzers sent by the U.S. have gotten most of the attention, but there are other systems that have been provided to Ukraine that could also make a huge difference. Among them are M113 APCs. We last saw them in Georgia, being lined up for shipment. [tweet and video at the link in comment 45]

    Now they are actually rolling through the mud in eastern Ukraine, and it looks like some Ukrainian troops are enjoying the ride. [Tweet and video at the link in comment 45]

    As with Popasna, Rubizhne is one of those locations where Ukrainian forces have repelled one advance after another during weeks of heavy fighting. The city has gone down almost street by street, but in the last few days it was clear that remaining troops were being forced to step back to the south, especially after Russian forces captured the village of Vojevodivka, which guarded the road connecting Rubizhne and Severodonetsk. [map at the link]

    Capturing Severodonetsk is a major goal for Russia, as it is now the only large Ukrainian holding on the east bank of that ubiquitous Siverskyi Donets River. With forces pushing up from the breakthrough at Popasna, and Severodonetsk under attack from three sides, Ukraine has to be considering pulling back from these easternmost areas under its control. Reports indicate that Russian troops are now pushing into the city from both north and south.

    Progress out of the Izyum salient continues to be all but nonexistent, and the fast action of Ukrainian forces north of Kharkiv has caused Russia to shift some tactical groups north to protect against a possible breach of their supply lines. But in this one area, Russia seems to be grinding out yardage, and it’s not clear that Ukraine is capable of holding this last position east of the river. Ukrainian commanders on the ground at Severodonetsk say they expect an “all out ground assault” by Russian forces within the next day.

    Pulling surprises out of their helmet seems to be a Ukrainian specialty. They need a big one in Severodonetsk. [That’s the Severodonestsk subject matter I should have included in comment 45]

  38. blf says

    A comment on a report (twitter) linked-to by the article excerpted by Lynna@45, about Putin’s “army” again failing to bridge a river:

    If they keep going they’ll eventually have a bridge of sunken tanks…

    When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that’s what you’re going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all of England.

    Ah which point I started LOLing so much the mildly deranged penguin took the cheese and exited via a new penguin-shaped hole she punchedran through the wall at some considerable speed…

    (How many quotes / scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail have been used to describe Putin’s antics and his war? The black knight comes up frequently, and I recall seeing “run away, run away” also used; probably others that I’m now forgetting…)

  39. says

    Today’s episode of the Guardian podcast – “The fight for the right to roam in the English countryside”:

    As the days lengthen and spring turns to summer, millions of people in England begin to head for the great outdoors to soak up the tranquility of the countryside. Since Covid lockdowns ended, people have been encouraged to make the most of the physical and mental health benefits of getting active in England’s green spaces.

    However, as the environment reporter Helena Horton tells Michael Safi, they might be surprised to learn that they have no legal right of access to most of the country. Only about 8%, in fact.

    And despite its messaging around the importance of leading a healthy and active lifestyle, the government does not appear inclined to change the law. A review of the accessibility of England’s countryside was recently shelved, with a minister telling parliament that the countryside is a ‘place of business’.

    There are invisible barriers, too. The journalist and author Anita Sethi argues that for many minority ethnic Britons, the countryside can seem unwelcoming and inaccessible. A Natural England study showed that only 1% of visitors to national parks were from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. She describes participating in a recent event in the Peak District to mark the 90th anniversary of the Kinder Scout trespass in 1932. The Kinder in Colour walk highlighted the issues of racial inequality that still remain, she says.

    Here’s an episode of A World to Win with Grace Blakeley from last year on the same general theme – “THE RIGHT TO ROAM: An interview with Nick Hayes”:

    This week, Grace speaks to Nick Hayes, author of The Book of Trespass: Crossing the Lines that Divide Us, about the radical history of English trespassers, how the enclosure of common land formed the foundations of English capitalism, and how we can fight to enforce our rights to the commons and our right to roam against the Conservatives’ assault on our basic freedoms.

    Listening reminded me of a fun chapter in Peter Mitchell’s Imperial nostalgia called “The adventures of the Imperial Wonder Boy: Rory Stewart and the fantasy of innocence”:

    For Stewart, walking is a guarantor of contact with the authentic. In imperial fashion, it combines the figure of the prophet and the mystic (he usually carries a long stick) with that of the ethnographer; it is a strenuous exercise of his mettle as a man alone in a fantastically exotic world, and it collapses Afghanistan and Middlesbrough, the Scottish borders and Nepal into the same field of action: one through which he travels, encountering other people, the numinous, and himself with romantic immediacy.

    Such a striking contrast between the entitlement people like this feel not just to domestic spaces but to global spaces, including places that have just been invaded, and the exclusion of so many others.

  40. blf says

    Sanctions forcing Russia to use appliance parts in military gear, US says:

    [… S]anctions are forcing Russia to use computer chips from dishwashers and refrigerators in some military equipment, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Wednesday.

    “We have reports from Ukrainians that when they find Russian military equipment on the ground, it’s filled with semiconductors that they took out of dishwashers and refrigerators,” Raimondo told a Senate hearing, noting that she recently met with Ukraine’s prime minister.


    In her Senate remarks, Raimondo also pointed to recent reports that two Russian tank manufacturers have had to idle production because of a lack of components. The White House, too, has previously highlighted those reports, saying Uralvagonzavod and Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant have halted production.


    In a novel move that the United States has used only once before — against China’s Huawei — it is also requiring companies worldwide to abide by the rules and block such sales to Russia if they use US manufacturing equipment or software to produce chips. Most chip factories around the world use software or equipment designed in the United States, analysts say.

    Yes indeed! In fact, I myself doubt there is any modern fab (semiconductor chip fabrication plant) which doesn’t use one, and probably both (software & equipment). The equipment isn’t always made in the States, but it very likely is designed in the States. Banning the use of such equipment and software (to make chips in, or exported-to, Russia) is a devastating move.

    Modern fabs easily cost over one billion dollars each, with much of that cost being the equipment. None of that is easy to replicate (or even build). It takes years to build a single modern fab, and if you have to design and build your own equipment and controlling software as well… I’m guessing the software is (relatively) easy to pirate (steal), but cloning modern equipment, not so much…

    Previous research has shown Russia’s military has long relied on Western electronics. Russian military drones shot down over Ukraine in recent years have been full of Western electronics and components, according to investigators from the London-based Conflict Armament Research group, which dissected the drones.

  41. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said Kyiv hopes to arm a million people as the country prepares for a “new, long phase of war”.

    He warned that “extremely tough weeks are ahead” and that Ukraine needed “unity, cohesion, will and patience” during this extremely difficult period.

    The UK has issued sanctions against a dozen members of Vladimir Putin’s family and inner circle, including his long-rumoured girlfriend, arguing that given the Russian president officially owns only modest assets, these are the people who help support his lavish lifestyle.

    The Foreign Office announcement means asset freezes and travel bans will be imposed on, among others: Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, Putin’s former wife; Alina Kabaeva, a media executive and the Russian president’s presumed partner; and Anna Zatseplina, Kabaeva’s grandmother.

    The Foreign Office statement noted that Putin’s official assets ran to little more than a small flat in St Petersburg and two Soviet-era cars, despite his very obvious enormous personal wealth, including a yacht and the vast Putin’s Palace mansion on the Black Sea coast.

    The sanctions targeted what the statement called a “wallet” of relatives and associates. The statement said: “Putin relies on his network of family, childhood friends, and selected elite who have benefited from his rule and in turn support his lifestyle. Their reward is influence over the affairs of the Russian state that goes far beyond their formal positions.”

    Those named in the latest sanctions comprise seven family members and five people listed as financiers of Putin’s lifestyle.

    Kabaeva, a former Olympic rhythmic gymnast, holds several powerful positions and has long been rumoured to be Putin’s girlfriend. She chairs the board of Russia’s National Media Group, which controls several television stations. Zatseplina is associated with Gennady Timchenko, a billionaire with close links to Putin.

    Kabaeva, who is originally from Tashkent in Uzbekistan and won gold in the 2004 Athens Olympics, spent more than six years as an MP for Putin’s United Russia party. In 2014, she stepped back from politics to begin her role with National Media Group, despite her apparent lack of relevant experience beyond hosting a TV chat show.

    Ocheretnaya and Putin divorced in 2014, but she had since, the statement said, “benefited from preferential business relationships with state-owned entities and exhibited significant unexplained wealth”.

    The other family members issued with sanctions are Igor Putin, a businessman and cousin of the president; Mikhail Putin, another businessman believed to be related to the president; Roman Putin, who is Igor Putin’s son and runs a consulting firm; and Mikhail Shelomov, a business owner and Putin’s first cousin, once removed.

  42. blf says

    Probably doesn’t really amount to much of anything (just sounds dramatic), found via the Grauniad’s current one madman’s war live blog, but seemingly garbled there; so from Reuters, Russia’s Inter RAO to halt power exports to Finland due lack of payment:

    Russian state-owned utility Inter RAO […] will stop exporting electricity to Finland from Saturday because it has not been paid, the company’s Finnish subsidiary said on Friday.

    Inter RAO has not received payments for electricity sold via pan-European power exchange Nord Pool since May 6, the subsidiary said […].


    Power imports to Finland will be halted from 1 a.m. local time on Saturday (2200 GMT on Friday) “for the time being,” Finnish grid operator Fingrid said in a separate statement, citing RAO Nordic.

    Fingrid added there was no threat to Finnish supplies and that power from Russia accounted for some 10% of Finland’s total consumption.

    “Missing imports can be replaced in the electricity market by importing more electricity from Sweden and also by domestic production,” it said.

    Fingrid three weeks ago prepared for the prospect of Russia cutting electricity flows to Finland by restricting the transmission capacity by a third.


    Asked whether payments had been required to be made in roubles, the [Nord Pool] spokesperson told Reuters: “We have never had settlements in roubles, only in euros, Norwegian crowns, Swedish crowns and Danish crowns, in line with our standard procedures.”


    The not-excerpted Grauniad report suggests the problem is, in part, linked to Finland’s intention to join Nato.

    As Fingrid says, it’s probably a lot of nothing, and if indeed linked to the forthcoming Nato application, another example of Putin shooting off his own feet. The European / EU electricity interconnect allows power to be distributed from whereever it is generated to where it is needed, so in principle, power generated in Portugal or Ireland could be used in Finland. (Ireland is not (yet) directly connected to the continent, all power interconnects go via the UK.)

  43. says

    Is it possible that Elon Musk will fuck up so much that he does not succeed in buying Twitter? Or will he, perhaps, be so dizzy from pivoting that all of his business deals fall apart?

    Elon Musk tweets that his purchase of Twitter is ‘temporarily on hold,’ then backtracks

    Elon Musk continues to be a hot mess whose billions of dollars give him the power to inflict his hot messiness on the world. On Friday, just days after saying he would reverse Donald Trump’s Twitter ban, he tweeted that his deal to buy the company is “temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users.” Two hours later, he followed up to say that he was “still committed” to buying the social media platform.

    Sure he is.

    Musk’s initial tweet caused an 18% drop in Twitter stock, which recovered slightly after his second tweet. That’s on top of a drop in Twitter share prices that left the company worth $9 billion less than Musk had agreed to pay for it. (If nothing else, this whole saga is showing how imaginary and whim-driven the “value” of many companies is.)

    One particularly striking thing about Musk’s “on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users” thing is that there have always been questions about how many spam and fake accounts there are on Twitter, but Musk suddenly put the deal on hold (via tweet) after the company came out with an estimate that those accounts are less prevalent than some have suspected. This raises questions about whether the estimate provided an excuse for something Musk was looking to say anyway. Or maybe it simply caught his attention for a minute, he fired off an ill-considered tweet, and then backtracked when he realized that could be a problem. Either way, it’s a poor advertisement for how he’ll run one of the world’s major social media platforms […]

    Multiple analysts said Musk’s tweets did suggest he’s looking to get out of the deal to buy Twitter or trying to renegotiate.

    […] Twitter’s isn’t the only relevant stock to have dropped since Musk’s purchase was announced. Tesla stock has also dropped by nearly 30% over the past month—but rose some on Friday after his tweets about Twitter. Since Musk’s personal wealth is largely in the form of Tesla shares, the drop in the value of those could be a barrier to closing the deal.

    If Musk walks away from Twitter, he will owe the company a $1 billion breakup fee, and vice versa. The more his erratic behavior is on display, the cheaper that seems.

  44. says

    SC @49, I was reminded of a similar situation in the USA. Of course, the US has a lot more public land, but many low-income people are barred by entrance fees they cannot afford. Access to National Parks should be free, in my opinion, but the entrance fees can be quite high. For example, $35 per vehicle or $20 per person (by foot, bicycle, ski, etc.) per day to enter Yellowstone National Park. We pay taxes to support public lands, but many policy decisions have reduced taxpayer funded support for public lands, and those same policies have, via entrance fees, increased the commercial or capitalist aspects of maintaining public lands.

    I live close enough to Grand Teton and to Yellowstone national parks to make day trips to those areas, but I can’t afford to go there.

    Native American communities, many of them on the borders of public lands, are comprised mostly of low-income persons who cannot visit the lands on which their tribes used to roam.

    We do have some national forest land, and Bureau of Land Management lands, to which I have free access. There are few or no facilities, and the “roads” may require a four-wheel-drive vehicle and an experienced driver, but there are plenty of places for primitive camping or hiking. National forests may have official campgrounds, but camping fees are charged there and you don’t really get away from other people, so I avoid those.

  45. says

    Ukraine update: Russia’s incredibly shrinking ambitions

    I had this image in my head last night and was ready to mock it up and write about it this morning, but it turns out someone on Reddit scooped me a few weeks ago: [image at the link, it’s a startling map showing Russian goals from March to June 2022]

    Now, the memester predicted that the tiniest encirclement wouldn’t be Russia’s stated goal until June of this year, but only because he underestimated Russia’s incompetence. Turns out that now, mid-May, was more like it.

    Russia’s original stated goals are reflected in the March 2022 arrows—come down from the north, through Kyiv, and also from the south, from Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Kryvyi Rih. […]

    By April, we were onto the new plan, the one supposedly focused 100% on the eastern Donbas front. Russia had learned from its mistakes, and would now concentrate its efforts on a single axis! After weeks of hard fighting, they had captured Izyum and were thus supposedly primed to head south for a wide encirclement. This was important because about a third of Ukraine’s army is on a line of defensive trenches that Russia has been mostly unable to pierce. [map at the link]

    The idea, of course, was that Russia would not just cut off supply lines to those Ukrainian defenders, but would then be able to hit them from the backside. As you might imagine, most of these defenses point east. They’re generally not designed to protect against someone sneaking up on your weaker defenses. Furthermore, you can see that the avenue of attack would capture the administrative boundaries of the Donbas region (the dotted red line), which is made up of Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts.

    That plan always had a fatal flaw, however: [map at the link]

    Russia sucks at logistics, so the idea that they’d be able to manage a 300+ kilometer encirclement (~200 miles) was patently ludicrous. Furthermore, that entire line would be vulnerable to flank attacks from the other two-thirds of the Ukrainian army outside of that “cauldron.” Sure, spread your forces that far out, Russia! Ukraine would be able to puncture any part of it with concentrated force.

    Anyway, the southern half of that pincer never budged. Russia was too fixated on killing the Mariupol Azov remnants in the Azovstal fortress/steel factory. Still is. And like everything else this whole war, Russia wasted units around Kherson, where it is still trying to push toward Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih, even though they have nothing to do with the Donbas. (It has its own “land bridge” dream to reach through Odesa to the Transnistria region in Moldova, but they could always pivot to that later in the war, instead of continuing to dilute themselves ineffectively.)

    Remember that weird push westward from the Izyum salient? That was exactly geared toward the wider encirclement. But like everything else Russia has attempted this war, that effort stalled. And so they began to push into a yet tighter circle, this time toward Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. [map at the link]

    Yet nothing moved, and hasn’t for weeks. Same with the southern edge of that pincer, around separatist-held Horlivka. And as with all the other plans, this was doomed to fail for one major reason—there was no way Russia would be able to handle Slovyansk (pre-war pop. 111,000) and Kramatorsk (pop. 157,000) in a timely manner. Both are much better fortified than Mariupol, and there’s been more time to stock its defenders with supplies. Also, they aren’t as isolated as Mariupol, giving Ukrainian forces ample opportunities to punch through any siege.

    Furthermore, we now know full well Russia’s urban warfare strategy: Systematically level a town block by block, then march into the ruins claiming the rubble for Mighty Russia. Yet that strategy is slooooow, and any artillery targeting Slovyansk and Kramatorsk would be in range of Ukrainian artillery both on its western flank, but remember, also on its eastern flank. [map at the link]

    This new “Slovyansk salient” would be even more exposed than the Izyum salient, which has been under severe stress for weeks now. But ultimately, this strategy was doomed by Ukraine’s liberation of territory around Kharkiv, which put Russia’s key supply railhead into Ukraine in range of Ukrainian artillery. The Izyum salient was already stuck in the mud. Cutting off its main supply line from Russia is its death knell.

    But then a funny thing happened—Russia finally started moving! And it happened in two fortuitous places, Rubizhne and Popasna: [map at the link]

    It took months of systematic obliteration, but Russia finally controls their rubble. By closing the loop around those two cities, Russia would essentially have the entire Luhansk Oblast under its control, allowing it to trumpet some sort of victory.

    Now if you look closely at the image, you’ll see the Donets River, and how important it has been to the area’s defense. Ukraine is left with just two major cities on the north bank—Severodonetsk and Lyman, both under fierce assault as I type this. Remember, Russia has lost a ghastly amount of personnel and equipment just to get to the river, and it hasn’t even finished doing that. Crossing it will be a challenge. Russia has tried twice in the last several days and has lost two battalion tactical groups in the process. [tweet and images at the link]

    […] There are more than 5,000 square miles of the Donbas’ territory still in Ukrainian hands. Despite broad attacks along that entire front, Russia has only managed to notch gains in that tiny northeastern corner. Yet that movement is precisely why Russia seems likely to give up that Izyum salient, moving much of the combat power it had amassed there to the east, where it might have some opportunities to press their advantage without depending on threatened supply lines near Kharkiv.

    And still, what happens if Russia takes that corner of territory? What then? They must still traverse layers of Ukrainian defensive positions to crash upon Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. As always, there’s no scenario in which Russia has the manpower, equipment, and logistical juice to seriously challenge those cities, all the while Ukraine gets stronger, their reserves training and equipping with NATO gear.

    Russia’s slow pace of advance now ensures this war will last well into this year (and likely longer), allowing time for a full Ukrainian transition to NATO-standard weapons. Indeed, Ukraine General Staff is arguing they can be fully transitioned by the end of summer. That may be little consolation to those who would rather see peace break out, global food deliveries reestablished, an end to needless death, and money spent on more fruitful endeavors than weaponry. But Vladimir Putin cannot retreat now without delivering the glorious (and easy) victory he promised his nation, and Ukraine sees no reason to surrender given Russia’s sorry battlefield performance. It really believes (and I agree) that with the right gear, it can recapture everything lost to Russia since 2014, including the entirety of Donbas and Crimea. And as long as the Ukrainian people are prepared to make that sacrifice (and they appear so), it makes perfect sense for the West to help it achieve its goals.

  46. says

    This is kind of funny, and may be a schadenfreude moment. Steve Benen posted this summary of a Washington Post report:

    In a move that’s certain to enrage his former boss, former Vice President Mike Pence touted Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s record this morning and announced plans to appear with the Republican governor ahead of the state’s May 24 primary. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has made defeating Kemp one of his top 2022 priorities.

    […] On a related note, Kemp’s GOP rival, former Sen. David Perdue, recently filed a lawsuit alleging fraud in the 2020 election in which he was defeated. Yesterday, a Georgia judge dismissed the case.

    Trump’s plans to control the state of Georgia’s governorship are in disarray.

  47. says

    Oh, I do hope so: President Biden’s nominees now have a majority on the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors. That could spell trouble for Louis DeJoy.

    For those wondering what it would take to remove Postmaster General Louis DeJoy from his post, there were some developments of note in the Senate yesterday. C-SPAN’s Craig Caplan reported:

    [The] Senate today by unanimous consent confirmed Dan Tangherlini (D) and Derek Kan (R), President Biden’s two nominees to serve on the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, which now has a majority of the Senate-confirmed Biden appointees on the USPS board.

    […] It wasn’t long after DeJoy, a former Republican fundraiser and deputy RNC finance chair, became the postmaster general that he became highly controversial. He is, after all, facing an FBI investigation over a campaign-finance scandal, among other ethics allegations.

    DeJoy’s problematic policies haven’t been well received either: He has, among other things, implemented changes intended to make some mail service “permanently slower.”

    President Joe Biden does not have the legal authority to fire the postmaster general, though he probably wishes he did. Early last year, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, “I think we can all agree — most Americans would agree — that the Postal Service needs leadership that can and will do a better job.” She added months later, “We are, of course, deeply troubled, continue to be deeply troubled, as many Americans are, by the earlier reporting on Postmaster General DeJoy’s potential financial conflicts of interest and take serious issues with the job he’s doing running the Postal Service.”

    The governing board of the U.S. Postal Service has the power to remove DeJoy, and the confirmation of some Biden nominees to the board increased the odds that it might take such a step, but those efforts fell short: Ron Bloom, a Democratic Trump appointee, threw his support behind the postmaster general. Republican members on the board were in the minority, but with Bloom backing DeJoy, it didn’t matter.

    So, Biden decided late last year to replace Bloom with Tangherlini, who served as the administrator of the General Services Administration during the Obama administration. The Democratic president also announced that Kan, a Republican and the former deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, would replace Republican John Barger, an outgoing USPS board member.

    Yesterday, those nominees proved so uncontroversial, that they were confirmed without opposition. It took six months, but they were confirmed easily.

    Where does that leave us? The Postal Service’s governing board has nine members, but no party is permitted to have more than five members. That’s where this gets a little complicated.

    It’s tempting to simply count members by party, which shows the board with four Democrats, four Republicans, and an independent. But with one of the Democrats having been appointed by Trump, and one of the Republicans having been appointed by Biden, the partisan lines aren’t as neat as they might appear.

    The better way is to count members by president: Biden now has five appointees on the USPS board (three Democrats, one Republican, and one independent), while Trump has four appointees (three Republicans and a Democrat).

    In other words, if we put party affiliations aside, Biden’s picks now have a majority, even if Democrats don’t. And while it’s possible that some of the incumbent president’s nominees will go their own way and ignore the White House’s wishes, if Biden’s appointees follow the Democratic president’s vision, this could spell trouble for DeJoy and his controversial postal plan.

  48. says


    This morning I was blessed with a lovely email from Monica Cole, the woman with One Million Moms living inside her head, all about how they and the SPLC-designated anti-LGBTQ hate group the American Family Association are asking their supporters to pray and fast in hopes of ensuring that God will overturn Roe v. Wade.

    Dear Robyn,
    The fight to end abortion in America is a spiritual battle. That is the best way to understand the events of the past week – indeed of the past 50 years, since the Roe v. Wade decision effectively legalized abortion on demand in all 50 states.

    Our battle plan for the reversal of Roe v. Wade includes prayer and fasting. We invite you to join us in taking this pledge.

    Honestly, I’m not even mad at that. They should absolutely fight the abortion battle on the spiritual plane, with prayer and fasting. That is far preferable to fighting it on the earthly plane with horrific legislation (which they are of course also doing anyway). It’s really the next paragraph where things go off the rails.

    The Left – and the media – would have you believe the issue of abortion has divided America into two warring camps. On the one side are Christians and people of good will who believe abortion ends a human life. On the other are those who would defend even the murder of a child after being born alive.

    Is that how we’re framing things? Really? We’re the ones saying that they’re holy people of good will and that we want to do infanticide on newborn babies (probably so we can sacrifice them to Moloch)? That sure doesn’t sound like us. Perhaps she is confusing us with Texas Governor Greg Abbott who is totally okay with killing newborn babies if their parents are immigrants. Or, or God! God is pretty into killing newborn babies, either for real because he feels like doing a plague or for pretend because thinks it would be funny to tell a guy to kill his baby and then yell “psych!” He also likes killing fully grown adults by turning them into pillars of salt for looking the wrong direction.

    Faced with the prospect of allowing voters in each state to decide what to do about abortion – and not, as the Left has claimed, with the end of legalized abortion itself – the pro-abortion crowd, the media, and the Biden administration have gone to war with anyone who disagrees with them, including the Supreme Court.

    We also want voters to decide what to do about abortion, but for themselves, not for other people. The only people who have “gone to war” here are those who think they should get to make that decision for other people just because they happen to live in the same state, everyone else is responding to the attack.

    The Left is literally at war with America. This is no exaggeration. This war includes fire-bombing a family policy group in Wisconsin. A pro-abortion terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that “Wisconsin is the first flashpoint, but we are all over the U.S., and we will issue no further warnings.”

    In violation of federal law, abortion extremists are protesting outside the homes of Supreme Court justices. The Biden Administration has specifically encouraged these illegal acts, an arguably impeachable offense. Senate Democrat Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has also said he doesn’t have a problem with the protests. And the Department of Justice – perhaps too busy going after parents at school board meetings – has been totally silent.

    Still, none of these people are our enemies, and we are not at war with them. “For we are not contending with flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places,” teaches Paul in the book of Ephesians.

    The rulers and powers of this present darkness are working hard to make sure legalized abortion remains the law of the land. We must respond by entering into this spiritual battle with faith and courage.

    These people sure have a hard time figuring out if they are at war or not!

    The letter then asks that supporters do five magic prayers to ensure that SCOTUS overturns Roe for sure.

    1. We pray that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade once and for all.

    2. We pray for each of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices. We pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen their minds and their wills so that they will truly understand how precious each life is and vote in favor of reversing Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs case.

    3. We pray, in particular, for Chief Justice John Roberts, that he will be filled with the wisdom, courage and prudence he needs to lead the court to a majority consensus to overturn Roe.

    4. We pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will bind any evil spirits, powers and forces seeking to keep Roe in place and defeat their wicked strategies.

    5. We pray for God the Father’s mercy and forgiveness over our country for the millions of lives lost and destroyed through abortion.

    And then, after that, they want those supporters to give up something pleasant for three weeks.

    We are also asking each of you to join us in making some sacrifice for the reversal of Roe v. Wade this year. Perhaps pause your digital TV subscription for a month or give up some pleasant food – ice cream, sweet tea, candy, etc. – as Daniel the prophet did as he prayed to God (Daniel 10:3). During this time of fasting, focus your prayers toward ending abortion.

    Remember, this is war. In war, you have to make certain sacrifices. During World War II, people were forced to go without sugar, coffee and meat. That was for four years. This is for one month. Just pick one thing and sacrificially offer it up in prayer for God’s mercy over our nation’s sin of abortion and for God to bring about the reversal of Roe v. Wade via the Dobbs decision.

    5 prayer requests and 1 sacrifice. Unified in prayer across the country, God can heal our land from the blight of abortion, bring victory in this battle, and truly change our country for generations to come.

    Let me get this straight. God is an all-powerful immortal deity who really, really, really hates abortion and is, in some capacity, involved in the creation of human babies. He once got a virgin pregnant with himself. But he can’t just make sure that everyone who would get an abortion if they got pregnant does not get pregnant in the first place, while also denying some people who actually do want to get pregnant the ability to do so. And he could end abortion, which is one of the main things he hates outside of the people he made not being heterosexual, but he won’t do it unless Sheila from Bismarck, North Dakota, doesn’t eat Twinkies for a month or continue binge watching Dynasty? Is that how this all works?

    I would have to think that if God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit were that upset about abortion, they would not need such bribes in order to prevent them or overturn Roe. Also it’s not totally clear what that would even do for them. Is it like a Tinkerbell scenario we’re talking here? They want to prevent abortions but they just can’t unless enough people out there stop putting sugar in their tea? If that is the case, are they really all powerful?

    This is all purely hypothetical since I don’t believe in God, but I have to think that if I were an all-powerful immortal deity, I would be a tad confused by this entire arrangement.


  49. says

    Wonkette: “Pandemic Investigation Finds Meat Industry Acted Like Common Scooby Doo Villain”

    Probably the worst effect of Donald Trump’s presidency was that there was so much widespread incompetence, corruption, and downright criminality that it’s nearly impossible to keep track of it all. Trump and his Team of Evils got away with stuff that would have sunk prior administrations every damn day. Steve Bannon’s approach to misinformation — “flood the zone with shit” — applied equally to misbehavior in office. There was far more than any of the official watchdogs in government, or the unofficial ones in the media, could keep track of. So much criminality, so little time, and so little brain space for all of it.

    As a prime example, take this report released yesterday by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which found that the meatpacking industry was thick as thieves with Trump’s Department of Agriculture, where career staff were sidelined so that political appointees could do everything possible to keep meat plants running during the pandemic, worker safety be damned. At least 269 workers died during the pandemic, and more than 59,000 became infected, all while the industry resisted any attempt to protect workers from spreading infection.

    Worse, the report presents evidence that the industry pushed “flimsy if not false” claims of an impending meat shortage to justify keeping plants running near capacity, no matter what, although internal industry documents showed management knew there was no such shortage. Ultimately, the report says, the industry enlisted the USDA and the White House in an effort to avoid oversight from state and local health authorities. Donald Trump’s April 2020 executive order demanded that meat plants stay open, to keep meating America with all the meat the meat industry could meat at us.

    As Wonkette’s Evan Hurst noted at the time, Trump’s HEREBY DECLARE was a hell of a departure from how Trump handled other aspects of the pandemic:

    Trump has been reluctant to use actual powers he has, like invoking the Defense Production Act to make sure doctors have PPE and hospitals have ventilators, but he sure did invoke it to make sure America’s delicious meats are able to make their full journey from the plant all the way into his Big Macs which go in his mouth. How can the White House chef burn him steaks and slather them with ketchup if the meat plants are closed? Clearly an untenable situation.

    Well gosh, what a coincidence Donald Trump took such meaty action to protect the meat industry, which was worried about being sued by workers forced to process animal carcasses in close quarters, with little protective equipment. The report details that the executive order was actually proposed and drafted by lawyers at Tyson Foods, with input from other companies. […] Tyson and industry lobbyists then shared the draft “with allied USDA officials who had previously helped them lobby or interfere with decision-making by other arms of federal and state government.”

    In the days leading up to President Trump’s issuance of the Executive Order, meatpacking industry representatives and companies—Smithfield and Tyson in particular—engaged in constant communications with Trump appointees at USDA, the National Economic Council, and the White House. […] The eventual order adopted the themes and statutory directive laid out in Tyson’s draft, invoking the Defense Production Act to ensure meatpacking plants “continue operations.”

    That was just how the Trump administration worked: Why bother regulating industries during a deadly pandemic when you can just let the industry tell you what it would like to do?

    Not that the executive order was a complete freebie; the report also notes that the day after President Meat Sweats ordered more meat, the White House demanded tribute, requesting in an email to various meat trade groups that the companies “issue positive statements and social media about the President’s action on behalf of the industry, about the Order itself and about how it will help ensure the food supply chain remains strong.”

    A flack at the “North American Meat Institute” obligingly sent back not only a press release, but a set of talking points the White House might use to thank the industry for thanking Trump.

    The report concludes that the meatpacking companies

    knew the risk posed by the coronavirus to their workers and knew it wasn’t a risk that the country needed them to take. They nonetheless lobbied aggressively—successfully enlisting USDA as a close collaborator in their efforts—to keep workers on the job in unsafe conditions, to ensure state and local health authorities were powerless to mandate otherwise, and to be protected against legal liability for the harms that would result.

    As the Washington Post (free link) reports, the committee combed through a wealth of information, including

    a review of 151,000 pages of documents, more than a dozen survey calls with industry union representatives, former Agriculture Department and Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials, and state and local health authorities. The subcommittee also held a staff briefing with OSHA and the USDA.

    Some of the details are simply astonishing, like the quote from a meat industry lobbyist that graces the cover of the report, “Now to get rid of those pesky health departments!” Yes, someone said that in a real email, not in an episode of Scooby Doo. [Image at the link]

    That quote’s from page three, in which the committee explained that well into the pandemic, the industry was still refusing to take science-based measures to keep workers from getting infected on the job.

    For example, as late as May 22, 2020—well after the efficacy and necessity of coronavirus precautions such as testing, social distancing, and personal protective equipment were widely recognized—an executive at Koch Foods told a meatpacking industry lobbyist that temperature screening was “all we should be doing.” The lobbyist agreed, saying “Now to get rid of those pesky health departments!”

    In a footnote, we find that’s from an email by one Ashley Peterson, who was and is the “Senior Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs” for the “National Chicken Council.” After all, a temperature check found one worker who was sick, the worker went home, and later tested positive, so clearly that was the only sick worker at that plant. (Also, no, temperature checks alone were never sufficient to safeguard against infections at work) [Image at the link]

    […] We left a message for Dr. Peterson at the Chicken Lobby seeking comment, and will update when / if we hear back from her. [tweet at the link]

    In another fun incident, we learn that Foster Farms enlisted help from a Trump USDA appointee, Undersecretary of Ag Mindy Brashears, to prevent a local health department from ordering protections for workers. The chicken company, it turns out, had hidden death counts of workers in reports to the county as “resolved cases.”

    According to officials from this health department, during a call with Foster Farms and Brashears’ office, someone working for either Foster Farms or USDA callously referred to these death counts as “toe tag resolutions,” likely alluding to the toe tag that is often put on a corpse at the morgue.

    […] Also too, the report notes that the meatpacking companies fairly regularly “lobbied the White House to make clear that—despite concerns by state and local health departments—meatpacking companies should not have to address coronavirus risks if it would impact productivity.” Because heavens, you wouldn’t want either a meat shortage or a loss in profitability, now would you? The lobbying was particularly intense in seeking protection from liability for workers getting sick, a matter of such importance to then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he fought tooth and nail to have it included in federal stimulus bills, even after Trump lost the 2020 election. Poor sad Mitch, it never did get passed.

    In conclusion, this report makes clear that the meat industry and the Trump administration didn’t give two good shits about worker safety, because there was a lot of money to be made. Besides, it wasn’t like anyone important was dying — just low-income workers, many of them Latino, and as a Smithfield pork plant spokesperson memorably said, “Living circumstances in certain cultures are different than they are with your traditional American family,” so probably the workers were getting sick at home and then tainting the company’s immaculate slaughterhouse with filthy non-American virus.

    At least the workers’ health made for a fun betting pool among Tyson plant managers, allegedly.

    See? We still can’t get our heads around all that shit. It’s infuriating, and nobody’s going to go to jail.

  50. says

    Wonkette: “Time For Another Episode Of ‘Regular Normal Conversations,’ With Tucker Carlson And Glenn Greenwald!”

    You probably think the appropriate question about this clip of Tucker Carlson and Glenn Greenwald talking on Tucker’s “If Little House On The Prairie Was A Gay Porn” daytime set is “why?” But you are wrong, the question is “why not?”

    Glenn Greenwald tells Tucker that tweeting death threats and watching porn is an “outlet” for people who harbor a desire to murder and rape. He and Tucker argue that removing those “safety valves” of expression lead to things like January 6th.

    [Video available at the link]

    We really do not know what is happening here or why these two guys think this is a normal talk, but we’re just going to describe it for you and you can see what you think.

    Glenn says “everybody knows” that people who actually send death threats online are probably not actually going to come kill you. That’s probably correct.

    Tucker giggles in his soprano register because Glenn is very funny.

    Glenn says “watching pornography is an outlet and alleviates the desire to go rape,” like that is a perfectly normal thing to say. He says “when you give people a channel to express themselves” — you know, by sending death threats online or watching porn — then they just won’t go off killing and raping. This is why before the internet existed, all people were murderers and rapists.

    Glenn says that QAnon is a “protest movement” that’s about “upsetting elites.” This is true because as we all know, elites get very upset when friendless losers on the internet believe Donald Trump is running a secret crime-fighting superhero outfit with the resurrected John F. Kennedy Jr. to fight child trafficking. Elites are like “UGH! I’M UPSET!”

    Glenn says when you tell these people “they can no longer use the internet to gather with like-minded people and exchange grievances and organize, what do you THINK is going to happen?”

    Tucker says “Well exactly!”

    Glenn says this is what happened on January 6, that people were thinking “we don’t really have the democratic process or the basic civil liberties that we were taught as children, we can expect by being in the United States, and so gathering together and protesting and storming things is the only thing we have left.”

    Tucker says “Well yeah! Because they took away the pressure release valves!” You know, the venue for sending journalists death threats and the masturbation internet time.

    Now if you are wondering when every Big-Lie-believing QAnon brain wizard lost their internet access, or what in the hell Glenn is talking about when he suggests these people have lost “democratic process” or “basic civil liberties,” please remember that these men are not like the rest of us and who knows, maybe they just hallucinate all the time, like housecats, oh well fuck it.

  51. says

    Lynna @ #54:

    I live close enough to Grand Teton and to Yellowstone national parks to make day trips to those areas, but I can’t afford to go there.

    Well, that’s infuriating.

    I discovered several months ago quite by chance that new this year the NPS is offering a lifetime free pass for service members, veterans, and Gold Star families. Eligible people to whom I’ve mentioned it didn’t know about it.

    At the bottom of that page is a link to other passes. They include a free lifetime pass for people with permanent disabilities, a free annual pass for kids in fourth grade, a free annual pass for federal volunteers, an $80 lifetime pass and a $20 annual pass for seniors (defined as 62+), and an $80 annual pass for everyone.

    If you have PayPal I’d be happy to chip in a little for you to get a pass. :)

  52. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Ukrainian military authorities loaded the bodies of Russian soldiers onto refrigerated rail cars on Friday, saying they were prepared to return the bodies to Russia in accordance with intern[ation]al law, Reuters reports. The authorities loaded the bodies after fighting in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions. From the news agency:

    Volodymr Lyamzin, the head of Ukraine’s civil-military cooperation, said his country was acting in accordance with international law and was ready to return the bodies to Russia.

    “According to the norms of international humanitarian law, and Ukraine is strictly following them, after the active phase of the conflict is over, sides have to return the bodies of the military of another country “Ukraine is ready to return the bodies to the aggressor, he said.

    Lyamzin said there were several refrigerator trains stationed in different regions across Ukraine where the bodies of Russian soldiers were being kept.

    Several hundred bodies were being stored at a facility on the outskirts of Kyiv filmed by Reuters.

  53. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    The United States accused Russia of using the UN Security Council to spout disinformation and conspiracy theories about biological weapons in Ukraine, to distract from its invasion of the country, Associated Press reported.

    US deputy ambassador Richard Mills called the Russian claims of alleged US involvement in a biological weapons program “categorically false and ludicrous.”

    He warned the council Friday that Moscow’s actions follow a pattern of accusing others of violations it has perpetrated or intends to perpetrate, adding that they need to be watched closely “for the possibility of a false flag chemical or biological attack by Russia’s forces”.

    UN deputy disarmament chief Thomas Markram reiterated to the council what his boss said at council meetings on March 11 and March 18 on similar Russian allegations: the United Nations is not aware of any biological weapons program in Ukraine.

    Russia’s UNAmbassador Vassily Nebenzia had earlier said in the meeting that he had called for a third council meeting because his government continues to receive “very worrying documentary evidence” that the US defense department is directly involved in carrying out “dangerous biological projects that look like a secret biological military program” in Ukraine.

    “Very worrying documentary evidence” pictured here (Twitter link).

  54. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    US sending 10,500 new troops to Europe for new rotation

    The US is sending 10,500 new troops to Europe to replace soldiers who were earlier deployed, the Pentagon’s spokesperson John Kirby also announced in his briefing today. He said the deployments were “one for one unit replacements” and that the turnovers would happen in the coming weeks and into the summer: “It will be a rotation over time.”

    Kirby explained:

    These are not permanent moves. These moves are designed to respond to the current security environment. Moreover these forces are not going to fight in Ukraine. They are going to support the robust defense of Nato allies.

    Still, as the New York Times noted, the move suggests that the temporary expansion of troops is likely becoming more permanent.

  55. says

    Kyiv Independent:

    US official: Ukrainian artillery is frustrating Russian offensive.

    Intense fighting is taking place between Izyum and Slovyansk, but the Russians have not been able to make much progress, according to a senior US defense official quoted by CNN.

    The vast majority of the 89 howitzers the US has given to Ukraine are “in the fight,” the official told CNN. 370 Ukrainian soldiers have completed training on how to use the howitzers.

  56. says

    The US State Department issued a statement on the events @ #35/39:

    The United States again extends our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Shireen Abu Akleh, a renowned Palestinian American journalist. We were deeply troubled to see the images of Israeli police intruding into her funeral procession today. Every family deserves to be able to lay their loved ones to rest in a dignified and unimpeded manner. We remain in close contact with our Israeli and Palestinian counterparts and call on all to maintain calm and avoid any actions that could further escalate tensions.

    Referring to what they did as “intruding into her funeral procession” is ridiculous.

    Their spokesman Ned Price. tweeting the statement, wrote: “The images we saw today of attacks on the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh’s are deeply troubling. She deserved dignity as she was laid to rest.”

  57. lumipuna says

    Re 52, Finnish news are saying that RAO cites the bank embargo and difficulties in payment traffic as the reason why they’re cutting exports. There seems to be widespread opinion (in Finland) that the timing and the short notice are highly suspicious. Anyway, this isn’t causing any major problems here.

  58. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Ukraine has “likely won the battle of Kharkiv”, the country’s second largest city, the Institute for the Study of War has said in its latest assessment of the conflict.

    Ukrainian forces prevented Russian troops from encircling, let alone seizing Kharkiv, and then expelled them from around the city, as they did to Russian forces attempting to seize Kyiv.

    Russian units had “generally not attempted to hold ground against counterattacking Ukrainian forces over the past several days, with a few exceptions.”

    Reports from Western officials and a video from an officer of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) indicate that Moscow is focused on conducting an orderly withdrawal and prioritizing getting Russians back home before allowing proxy forces to enter Russia rather than trying to hold its positions near the city.

    The US-based think tank said Ukraine would now likely “attempt to disrupt ground lines of communication (GLOCs) between Belgorod [in Russia] and Russian forces concentrated around [the Russian-occupied city of] Izyum, although Russia is using several GLOCs, including some further away from current Ukrainian positions than any Ukrainian counteroffensive is likely to reach soon.”

    Russian troops had “made no progress” with an attempted ground offensive from Izyum, it continued, adding: “We had previously hypothesized that Russia might give up on attempts to advance from Izyum, but the Russians have either not made such a decision or have not fully committed to it yet.”

    Meanwhile, it said, the main Russian effort was aimed at encircling the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in Luhansk.

    Russian troops attacking from Popasna to the north made no significant progress in the last 24 hours. Russian forces coming north-to-south have failed to cross the Siverskyi Donets River and taken devastating losses in their attempts.

    The Russians may not have enough additional fresh combat power to offset those losses and continue the offensive on a large enough scale to complete the encirclement, although they will likely continue to try to do so.

    Other key takeaways included:

    – Russian forces have likely secured the highway near the western entrance to the Azovstal Steel Plant but fighting for the facility continues.
    – Russian forces in Zaporizhia Oblast are likely attempting to reach artillery range outside Zaporizhia City.
    – Ukrainian forces are reportedly attempting to regain control of Snake Island off the Romanian coast or at least disrupt Russia’s ability to use it.

  59. StevoR says

    @60. Lynna, OM : Wow. As if watching porn and sending death threats online is mutually incompatible with raping and oh, say , attacking the Capitol building and trying to lynch congress people. Basic logic – how does it work again? How many people / death threats does it take again to consider death threats seriously or asusme all of them are merely “venting” and not to be taken seriously?

    As ways of venting and expressing emotions go, sending death threats to others is certainly NOT ok.

    Porn, maybe? But the idea that porn deters rape, I think is dubious and unproven at best. Pretty sure I’ve heard the case – which I’m also not sure about – that porn may actually encourage, normalise and incite such sexual crimes as well. Almost certainly depending on exact types of porn consumed.

  60. StevoR says

    @62. SC (Salty Current) :

    Lyamzin said there were several refrigerator trains stationed in different regions across Ukraine where the bodies of Russian soldiers were being kept. Several hundred bodies were being stored at a facility on the outskirts of Kyiv filmed by Reuters.

    So very many dead Russians and Ukrainians alike and for what? Putin’s ego & imperial dreams?

    So much damage done and grief and suffering caused so needlessly.

  61. says

    SC @61: “If you have PayPal I’d be happy to chip in a little for you to get a pass. :)”

    Thank you, SC, that’s very kind. I have other, nearby public lands I can visit, so I don’t think a National Park pass for me is a good use of your money.

    You are right, though, that it is infuriating to know that high entrance fees keep low-income people out of our national parks. Congress could change that … but not with so many Republicans against that, and against so many other things that they would classify as “welfare.”

  62. says

    Followup to SC @66: “Referring to what they did as “intruding into her funeral procession” is ridiculous.”

    NBC News:

    The funeral of a slain Palestinian American journalist descended into chaos Friday after Israeli security forces stormed and beat the crowd carrying her coffin, which was at one point dropped by the pallbearers.

  63. says

    Washington Post:

    The Lancet, one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals, issued a dire warning on the front page of its latest edition: “If the US Supreme Court confirms its draft decision, women will die,” the journal’s editorial board wrote.

  64. says

    Ukraine Update: Russia’s river-crossing debacle is beyond belief

    It’s said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. If that’s the case … Russia qualifies.

    We saw it in the early days of the war in Hostomel airport northwest of Kyiv. Russia made an unsupported airborne landing on the base. Got wiped out. Tried it again. Same result. There may have been a third attempt, but the airport wasn’t captured until the spearhead of Russia’s attack, on the ground, arrived a few days later.

    We’re currently seeing it on Snake Island, of “Russia warship, go fuck yourself” fame. Over the past week, Russian forces have been wiped out several times (here, here, here, and here), and yet last night we saw Russian troops landing there once again. (Russia state media tried to claim that it was Ukrainians who were defeated on the island … using the Ukrainian armed forces video (with their logo on the top right corner) featuring the Bayraktar TB-2 drone interface, of which Russia has none. The destruction of the ship, when Ukraine has no navy, was a nice touch of hilarity.)

    But nothing is as dramatic as the saga of the riverside crossing at Bilohorivka, where Russia didn’t just suffer one disastrous river-crossing attempt, but three of them over the past few days. [map at the link]

    Rubizhne, top right, was captured by Russia this week. Severodonetsk, on the right, is currently hell on earth, Russia’s current number one target, being hit on three sides and under relentless months-long bombardment. As I noted earlier, Severodonetsk is on the north side of the river, so its Ukrainian defenders can, if needed, retreat across the river to Lysychansk, where the river provides natural protection.

    Given that Russia will eventually need to cross the river, they clearly thought, why not now, allowing them to completely surround Severodonetsk, cutting off its defenders, and short-circuiting any fall back positions in Lysychansk. Bilohorivka was such an obvious place to make the attempt, that this Ukrainian army engineer claimed to have guessed it ahead of time (account is unconfirmed, but much of it checks out).

    Russia made its first effort May 8, and it was utterly decimated, destroying several dozen vehicles. The bridge lay half-sunk. [image at the link]

    Russian command and control structure is highly centralized, giving local commanders zero ability to deviate from stated orders. So if high command said “get to Bilohorivka,” well, who was to say something like, “Guys, Ukraine has our number, maybe we should look for a new place to cross?” Nah, giving local commanders, or any commanders for that matter, the gift of “free thinking and initiative” might lead to a military coup. Best to keep them stupid. Hence … try number 2: [image at the link]

    You can see the remnants of that first bridge just above it, either completely submerged or towed away during the second attempt. More charred vehicles were added to the list.

    Then someone from Moscow or Belgorod called and screamed, “do we have Bilohorivka yet?” And since the answer was no, then yeah, sigh, there they went again. [image at the link, showing bridge attempts numbered 1, 2 and 3]

    […] The vehicle count keeps rising as the OSINT folks find more vehicles amongst the wreckage. The latest? 82 [destroyed Russian vehicles, + two boats]

    Those 82 vehicles include eight in the river. The tally includes 14 tanks and 62 infantry fighting vehicles. A Russian battalion tactical group (BTG) has 10 tanks and 40 IFVs, but there’s no such thing as a full-strength BTG in Ukraine. Likely never was. So Russia just lost two BTGs worth of troops attempting to make the same compromised river crossing three times. Can you imagine the drone operator calling it in?

    Drone operator: ”Another crossing!”

    Artillery fire direction: “Shit! What are the coordinates?”

    Drone operator: “Uh, same ones!”

    Artillery fire direction: “Ha! Okay, I really thought you were kidding the second time! That was crazy. But seriously, what are the new coordinates?”

    […] But hey, why stop when they’re so close to succeeding? Here’s hoping they’re stupid enough to give it a fourth shot.

    And if you think I’m joking, from that InformNapalm report:

    After [the third attempt], other servicemen of the brigade began to write “refusal”, but the zampolits [political commissar] tried to intimidate them with prison terms and exert psychological pressure.

    Also, InformNapalm sources report that they saw a car in this direction today, which is visually very similar to the mobile point of psychological work of the Russian Armed Forces. Probably for the psychological treatment of the servicemen of the brigade, which suffered heavy losses.

    If that report is correct, it means Russia is literally trying to force its soldiers to give it yet another shot. Hopefully those soldiers choose wisely—prison seems far preferable than whatever fate met the poor souls on those three bridging attempts.

    I simply cannot bear to think that all of those soldiers died because Putin is delusional. What a waste.

  65. says

    Jalal Abukhater in the Guardian – “As we grieved for Shireen Abu Aqleh, Israeli police attacked us. They have no shame”:

    I am writing these words having just returned from the funeral of Shireen Abu Aqleh in Jerusalem. It is hard to describe the exact emotions which every Palestinian is feeling. One thing is certain: this has been the most incredible outpouring of emotion I’ve seen in Palestine.

    Shireen was known to every Palestinian household. During the second intifada – a formative experience for many Palestinians – she was the face that delivered us the news. The TV screen became a window to everything going on: the F16 strikes, the Apache helicopter strikes, the tanks on the streets. And Shireen was out there, bringing the news to our homes.

    We grew up watching her and she became an icon, inspiring a generation of Palestinian journalists. This is why Shireen’s killing during an Israeli raid on a refugee camp in Jenin shook all Palestinians to the core. We feel like we have lost a mother; I personally have lost a major inspiration in my journalistic life. On the day she died, every Palestinian was heartbroken.

    Today in Jerusalem, thousands of Palestinians came to commemorate Shireen’s memory. There were people as far as the eye could see. Jerusalem never looked more Palestinian. And even in our grief, Israeli forces unleashed violence against the mourners and pallbearers. If you do that with the world’s gaze upon you, it is because you believe there will be no consequences.

    Shireen has united Palestinians of all political affiliations and persuasions behind our national flag – to mourn, protest and make sure her loss is not in vain. What has made it all the worse is the Israeli propaganda machine, which swung into action as soon as news broke of Shireen’s killing….

    Israeli officials know the weight of this news. By spreading disinformation and false propaganda, they hope to muddy the waters and obscure the truth of what happened in Jenin.

    I do not expect justice for Shireen Abu Aqleh. According to the International Federation of Journalists, Israeli forces have killed at least 46 Palestinian journalists since 2000, while Palestinian ministry of health data records 50 Palestinians killed in 2022 alone. Why should we expect Israel to investigate Shireen’s death thoroughly? Israel’s record speaks for itself. It should play no part in an investigation of Shireen’s killing….

  66. says

    Guardian – “North Korea: Kim Jong-un declares Covid outbreak a ‘great disaster’”:

    North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has declared the country’s first Covid-19 outbreak a “great disaster” as it reported 21 more deaths.

    State media said 174,440 people were newly found with fever symptoms on Friday alone as the country scrambles to slow the spread of Covid-19 across its unvaccinated population.

    North Korea said on Saturday that a total of 27 people have died and 524,440 fell ill amid a rapid spread of fever since late April. It said 280,810 people remain in quarantine.

    State media did not specifically say how many of the fever cases and deaths were confirmed as Covid-19 cases.

    During a meeting on anti-virus strategies on Saturday, Kim described the outbreak as a historically “huge disruption” and called for unity between the government and people to stabilise the outbreak as quickly as possible.

    The meeting discussed “promptly distributing emergency drugs” and introducing “scientific treatment tactics and treatment methods for different patients, including those with special constitutions”, KCNA reported.

    Kim said he had “faith that we can overcome this malicious infectious disease within the shortest period possible,” the report added.

    The country imposed nationwide lockdowns on Thursday after confirming its first Covid-19 infections since the start of the pandemic.

    Kim said they would be following the Chinese model of virus prevention.

    “We should take lessons from the experiences and fruitful achievements in preventing virus of the China’s Communist party and its people,” he said.

    Experts say a failure to control the spread of Covid could have devastating consequences in North Korea, considering the country’s poor healthcare system and that its 26 million people are largely unvaccinated.

    North Korea has so far shunned offers of Covid vaccines from China and Russia, and via the World Health Organization’s Covax scheme, apparently because administering the jabs would require outside monitoring….

  67. says

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

    The G7 said they will “never recognise” borders changed by force by Russia as they vowed to expand sanctions, Reuters reports.

    After three days of talks in northern Germany the G7 foreign ministers said:

    We will never recognise borders Russia has attempted to change by military aggression, and will uphold our engagement in the support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea, and all states,” the G7 foreign ministers said in a statement after three days of talks in northern Germany.

    We reaffirm our determination to further increase economic and political pressure on Russia, continuing to act in unity.

    The ministers also criticised Belarus over its stance on the war.

    We… call on Belarus to stop enabling Russia’s aggression and to abide by its international obligations,” they said.

    The major of Kharkiv, Ihor Terekhov has told the BBC the Russians have withdrawn from the Kharkiv city area.

    He said that “due to the efforts of Kharkiv territorial defence and Ukrainian Armed Forces, the Russians have withdrawn out far from the city area in the direction of the Russian border.”

    He added that it was now “calm in Kharkiv and people are gradually coming back to the city.”

    There was ”no shelling in the city for the last five days” he said explaining that there was only “one attempt” from the Russians to hit the city with a missile rocket near Kharkiv airport but, he said, “the missile was eliminated by Ukrainian Air Defence.

    According to Reuters, Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, has been in contact with Vladimir Putin to tell him about plans to join Nato.

  68. raven says

    The future was overrated. Here it is, 2022 and I get up in the morning and usually, some high official in Russia is threatening to kill me and a few tens of millions of people with nuclear weapons.

    Moscow Will Respond if NATO Moves Nuclear Forces Closer to Russia’s Border
    By Reuters May 14, 2022, at 3:55 a.m.

    (Reuters) – Moscow will take adequate precautionary measures if NATO deploys nuclear forces and infrastructure closer to Russia’s border, Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko as saying on Saturday.

    “It will be necessary to respond … by taking adequate precautionary measures that would ensure the viability of deterrence,” Interfax agency quoted Grushko as saying.

    Moscow has no hostile intentions towards Finland and Sweden and does not see “real” reasons for those two countries to be joining the NATO alliance, Grushko added.

    Finland’s plan to apply for NATO membership, announced on Thursday, and the expectation that Sweden will follow, would bring about the expansion of the Western military alliance that Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed to prevent.

    This doesn’t mean much.
    The whole point of nuclear weapons is that you don’t have to be close to anything to use them. You can be on the other side of the earth. “It would take a land- based missile about 30 minutes to fly between Russia and the United States; a submarine-based missile could strike in as little as 10 to 15 minutes after launch. Moving the missiles to near the Russian border cuts the flight time to Russia from 10-30 minutes to 5 minutes. Hardly worth the effort.
    It also makes them easier for Russia to find and destroy.

    Moscow has no hostile intentions towards Finland and Sweden …

    .1. This is the country that has threatened Sweden and Finland for the last two centuries.
    .2. Russia fought two wars with Finland in the mid-20th century and stole and ethnically cleansed 11% of their best land, Karelia.
    .3. Russia lately has conquered two parts of Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, part of Moldova i.e. Transnistria, destroyed Chechnya twice, and is now trying to genocide Ukraine and Ukrainians.

    I don’t see any reason why anyone would believe them at this point.

  69. says

    Right-wing extremists ramp up threats amid abortion-rights ruling turmoil

    The right-wing freakout over peaceful protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices and chalk on the sidewalk in front of Republican senators’ homes, built around the seeming belief that any kind of protest at all is an act of violence, is actually a piece of classic right-wing projection. Conservatives assume that all protests feature intimidation and menace, bellicose threats, and acts of violence, because they themselves know no other way of protesting, as we’ve seen over the past five years and longer—especially on Jan. 6.

    So it’s not surprising that the right-wing response to protests over the imminent demise of the Roe v. Wade ruling so far is riddled with white nationalist thugs turning up in the streets, and threats directed at Democratic judges. Ben Makuch at Vice reported this week on how far-right extremists are filling Telegram channels with calls for the assassination of federal judges, accompanied by doxxing information revealing their home addresses.

    One Telegram channel features a roster of targets accompanied by an eye-grabbing graphic with an assault-style gun, complete with their photos, bios, and personal contact and address information, including two federal judges appointed with Democratic backgrounds: a Barack Obama appointee of color, and a Midwestern judge of Jewish ethnicity. Joining them on the roster are people like Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, several bankers, and officials who served on a federal vaccine board.

    […] this particular channel has been repeatedly taken off Telegram, only to promptly reconstitute itself. Now in its fifth iteration, he reports that federal law enforcement is aware of the channel and is investigating the threats.

    The anti-abortion right’s entire track record of protest, in fact, is brimming with case after case of violence and the politics of menace. Between 1977 and 2020, there have been 11 murders of health care providers, 26 attempted murders, 956 reported threats of harm and death, 624 stalking incidents, and four kidnappings, accompanied by 42 bombings, 194 arsons, 104 attempted arsons or bombings, and 667 bomb threats.

    Meanwhile, right-wing pundits are frantically indulging in groundless claims of imminent left-wing violence: “Pro Abortion Advocates Are Becoming Violent After Supreme Court Leak,” read a Town Hall headline over a piece that documented some minor shoving incidents outside the Supreme Court building among the protesters there.

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board speculated: “We hate to say this, but some abortion fanatic could decide to commit an act of violence to stop a 5-4 ruling. It’s an awful thought, but we live in fanatical times.”

    A right-wing extremist was charged only three weeks ago in South Carolina with threatening federal judges, along with President Biden and Vice President Harris. The man—a 33-year-old inmate at the Department of Corrections and Proud Boy named Eric Rome—sent letters he claimed contained anthrax to the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, and left threatening voicemails: “Our intent is war on the federal government and specifically the assassination of the feds Marxist leaders Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” Rome said on a voicemail, citing a laundry list of offenses: “the theft of the last presidential election, promoting critical race theory in our schools, the vax mandate and using Marxist media outlets, notably CNN, to brainwash our citizens,” according to the indictment. [Irony meter warning regarding that “brainwash our citizens” phrase]

    In his most recent threat in March, Rome threatened two unnamed South Carolina federal judges with death by stabbing: “Vacate the benches and we may let you live,” he wrote. […]

    U.S. federal judges faced more than 4,500 threats last year, according to U.S. Marshals Service, which noted that it is concerned about the rise of domestic extremism in America.

    A guide prepared for law enforcement in anticipation of social turmoil over abortion notes that while anti-abortion extremists have engaged in an extended litany of violence, that has not been the case among abortion-rights defenders: “Pro-choice extremists have primarily used threats, harassment, and vandalism, but has not resulted in lethal violence.”

    […] A May 5 bulletin detailed the response by white supremacists: “A neo-Nazi channel responding to the leaked Supreme Court draft signaling an overturn of Roe v. Wade posted a previously circulated pro-life graphic calling to ‘bomb’ reproductive healthcare clinics and to ‘kill’ pro-choice individuals,” the bulletin said.

    SITE Intelligence Group chief Rita Katz told Politico that misogyny is common in these quarters: “For far-right extremists, the focus on Roe v. Wade isn’t simply about religion or conventional debates about ‘when life starts,’” she said. “It’s about the toxic resentment of feminism that unites the entire spectrum of these movements, from Neo-Nazis to QAnon.”

    Shortly after the Jan. 6 insurrection, the violent factions involved in it like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers began forming alliances with Christian nationalists focused on abortion and attacking Planned Parenthood clinics. […]

    They clearly see the protests over the imminent Supreme Court ruling as prime opportunities for more violence targeting their most hated enemies: women.

    A federal counterterrorism official involved in tracking potential threats related to the Supreme Court decision told Yahoo News that authorities fear the ruling will revive the attacks on both judges and providers. […]

  70. says

    Georgia Judge Laughs David Perdue’s 2020 Election Lawsuit Out Of Court

    A state judge in Georgia laughed former U.S. senator and Trump-endorsed gubernatorial candidate David Perdue out of court, saying in essence that he had no idea what he was talking about when he filed suit late last year over the 2020 election results in Georgia.

    Just days after announcing his campaign to become Georgia’s next governor, Perdue sued Fulton County, alleging that through “acts and omissions,” the county “circumvented the majority of the people” in Georgia. Perdue, who lost a special Senate election that year to Sen. Jon Ossoff (D), sought access to ballots in order to conduct a “forensic inspection.”

    “Clearly,” the suit alleged, “unlawful counterfeit absentee ballots were counted and certified in the General Election.”

    Superior Court Judge Robert C.I. McBurney didn’t buy it.

    Perdue’s claims, McBurney wrote, consisted of “speculation, conjecture and paranoia — sufficient fodder for talk shows, op-ed pieces and social media platforms, but far short of what would legally justify a court taking such action.” He said the plaintiffs had failed to state a proper claim for declaratory relief, and granted defendants’ motion to dismiss the case.

    Perdue’s suit, which echoed another unsuccessful water-muddying suit in the state, had asked the court’s permission, McBurney wrote, to “effectively empower Petitioners’ unnamed ‘forensic experts’ to intrude upon the sealed ballot materials of tens of thousands of Fulton County voters, hunt for speculative voter fraud or error, and then determine for themselves what the ‘actual’ vote count should have been in the Election.”

    “This quixotic journey will not take place,” he said.

    The suit was part of an act that Perdue has played for months now: In challenging Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who Donald Trump faulted for not stealing the 2020 election in Georgia on Trump’s behalf, Perdue has gone all in on the Big Lie. Contrary to Kemp, Perdue has said, he would not have certified the 2020 election results as governor.

    Trump has failed to rally Republicans to Perdue’s side. Several high-profile GOP politicians, including two current governors, have announced their support for Kemp. On Friday, Kemp notched another big name: Former Vice President Mike Pence.

  71. says

    Followup to comment 82.

    Posted by readers of the article:

    Given all the reporting on how reluctant Perdue was even to enter this race, I (still) can’t help but wonder what Trump said to him/has on him/promised to him that caused Perdue to set himself up for the certain humiliation to come when he loses the primary. Trump will just drop him like he’d never heard of him before; he’d already said at that rally that if Perdue loses he (Trump) will have wasted a lot of time.

    Of course, I personally find Trump to be not only easily resistible but out and out repulsive, which makes it really difficult for me to figure out why more people don’t feel similarly.
    Mike Pence’s moral core is pretty fluid. Pence is the king of platitude speak. Droning on and on and on spouting nice words without saying a fucking thing.
    Perdue also was the record holder for the most insider trades while a Senator. By a lot.
    Is there ever going to be an antidote to this cult? The attorney who filed this law suit should have his/her license revoked.
    going in and stealing equipment, or allowing others to steal election equipment so you can investigate some cockamamie theory is also not legal.
    Still the Pence endorsement is nice poke in the eye to Trump
    They keep confusing asserted conclusions for evidence.
    Fox News is number one because they are the very best as presenting baseless speculation as established fact.

  72. says

    A dose of reality:

    A 5-week-old child was killed Monday after a car crash ended police pursuit of her mother. Candace Gill, 38, is alleged to have stolen baby supplies from a Monroe, Louisiana, Walmart, according to local CBS affiliate KNOE 8. Another passenger, Edward Williams, died at the scene.

    These tragic deaths are indicative of a significant problem, one the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade will make worse: Raising children is increasingly out of reach for many people in the United States. These deaths come on the heels of reports of baby formula shortages across the country, while price-gouging corporations blame rising prices on inflation while amassing record profits.

    In fact, Walmart’s 2022 fiscal year profits—$572.75 billion—were up 2.4% from the 2021 fiscal year.

    States like Louisana already have a poor safety net, and Congress (rather, Republicans plus two Democratic senators) stands in the way of extending President Joe Biden’s Child Tax Credit expansion, which cut poverty by at least 30%. Congress is also unable to take action on rising housing prices, childcare costs are as high as college tuition; factor in rising food costs, and life is untenable for many within the United States.

    Standing in line at the supermarket and this lady with a small kid is counting change to pay for eggs and a quart of milk. Tell me why another lady behind me saw me reach for my wallet and said “wanna go half on some more food for her?” GIRL, YES. I love good people

    According to official reports, police pursued Gill for this minor property theft—from a multibillion-dollar company owned by one of the wealthiest families in the world—onto a highway. While being pursued by police, Gill crashed, killing her infant she was only trying to care for by the desperate means at her disposal. She fled the scene, and was apprehended the next day.

    […] The scenario is reminiscent of the man killed by police in Kissimmee, Florida, on April 27, after a confrontation in a Target parking lot sparked by the alleged theft of Pokemon cards and pizza. Two others—just 18 and 19—were also shot, but survived.

    […] Undoubtedly, many people believe the man killed in the chase, and Gill—who will most likely spend years behind bars, the death of her infant boring deep into her psyche—deserve their “punishment.” The number of ways our government has failed them, perhaps even before their own births, and so many other victims we don’t know, is a stain on our society.

    […] what fuels poverty? Wage theft and other corporate crimes often outpace amounts stolen through theft or burglary. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found in 2017 that $8 billion is stolen from workers annually. The L.A. Times reported that in 2020, losses to “organized retail crime [were] $2.1 billion,” but even that report show corporations are vastly over reporting retail theft. Of course, corporate crimes, and those of wealthy individuals among the top 1%, are rarely criminally prosecuted. On the rare occasion when there is any accountability, it is often barren of any meaning of justice.

    These two cases are just the most recent evidence of a growing mound of lost and striving souls, crushed by a boot worn by the wretched, the shameless, the contemptuous, and the corrupt. These cases don’t demonstrate the GOP’s claims of rising crime so much as display our flawed social and political values. These values, if we can call them that, are leaving many people treading water in a deep and churning sea, as others sail past on hundred-million-dollar yachts—with the police knocking off anyone attempting to grab on for dear life—or the life of their 5-week-old infant.


  73. says

    The creator of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ reflects on the imminent demise of abortion rights

    Over the past few years the resonance of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale has proved itself, over and over again. The confirmation hearings of Donald Trump’s Supreme Court appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, for example, both drew protesters wearing the emblematic red robes and white, winged bonnets that “handmaids” in Atwood’s novel are required to wear to identify themselves. In 2017 the novel was expertly serialized by Bruce Miller as an award-winning television drama series, currently filming its fifth season.

    In the wake of the Supreme Court’s leaked disclosure of its stunningly virulent repudiation of the constitutional right to terminate one’s pregnancy, Ms. Atwood, in an article for the Atlantic titled “I Invented Gilead. The Supreme Court is Making It Real,” reflects on the eerie convergence of her work of speculative fiction and the reality now looming in the United States as a consequence of this court’s action.

    The idea that a toxic strain of latent religious fanaticism lurking below the surface of American culture could uncurl its hideous tentacles to seize complete control over basic concepts of bodily autonomy and the right to determine one’s reproductive choices formed the basis for Atwood’s nightmarish novel. She sees the same impulse emanating today from the U.S. Supreme Court as it weaves intricate, sophistic arguments to impose its own religious predispositions by pointing to the Constitution’s silence on the issue of abortion. This comes at a time when women in particular […] had historically managed to swim on the surface of American life, with millions achieving the social and economic status traditionally enjoyed by men.

    As Atwood observes, in the eyes of the religious right it was long past time to reach up and yank them down beneath that surface, where they “belonged.”

    It is now the middle of 2022, and we have just been shown a leaked opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States that would overthrow settled law of 50 years on the grounds that abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution, and is not “deeply rooted” in our “history and tradition.” True enough. The Constitution has nothing to say about women’s reproductive health. But the original document does not mention women at all.

    Atwood notes that if the operative standard is really what the Constitution says or does not say then women would never have had the right to vote, a right secured only by an amendment to the document well over a hundred years later (and one opposed by “originalists” on the same grounds that Alito relies in his opinion). She also points out that if, as Alito states, reliance on our country’s “deeply rooted traditions” were the relevant criteria, then forced sterilizations of men and women, legitimized by the Supreme Court in 1927, would still be the law of the land.

    Her point is that the so-called “traditions” upon which Alito places such emphasis are peculiarly arbitrary, particularly when they are ultimately the products of subjective, religious-based moral judgments, such as the notion of when “life” begins.

    The hard line of today’s anti-abortion activists is at “conception,” which is now supposed to be the moment at which a cluster of cells becomes “ensouled.” But any such judgment depends on a religious belief—namely, the belief in souls. Not everyone shares such a belief. But all, it appears, now risk being subjected to laws formulated by those who do. That which is a sin within a certain set of religious beliefs is to be made a crime for all.

    As she observes, one of the amendments (actually the first one) that did make its way into the original Constitution was the prohibition of any attempt by the state to establish a religion. By grounding its argument on the premise that it can act as a moral arbiter, the Court has crossed that line and invented the foundation for further erosion and elimination of rights based on religious convictions.

    […] Along those lines, Atwood ridicules Alito’s reliance on 17th century theological dogma and jurisprudence as precedent for rolling back a right that has existed in this country for half a century. She warns of the implications of using as a point of reference a culture in which women were burned as witches and convicted and charged with crimes through baseless accusations: “[Y]ou should take a close look at that century. Is that when you want to live?”

    Theocratic dictatorships do not lie only in the distant past: There are a number of them on the planet today. What is to prevent the United States from becoming one of them?

    […] Atwood draws a grimmer analogy for the idea of forcing birth of children on people who (for whatever reason) do not want their reproductive lives to be decided for them: she calls it a form of slavery:

    Women who cannot make their own decisions about whether or not to have babies are enslaved because the state claims ownership of their bodies and the right to dictate the use to which their bodies must be put. The only similar circumstance for men is conscription into an army. In both cases there is risk to the individual’s life, but an army conscript is at least provided with food, clothing, and lodging. Even criminals in prisons have a right to those things. If the state is mandating enforced childbirth, why should it not pay for prenatal care, for the birth itself, for postnatal care, and – for babies who are not sold off to richer families – for the cost of bringing up the child? [***]

    No one is forcing women to have abortions. No one either should force them to undergo childbirth. Enforce childbirth if you wish but at least call that enforcing by what it is. It is slavery: the claim to own and control another’s body, and to profit by that claim.

    […] If Americans simply yawn, check their messages, and march right back into the booth to vote for the Republicans who created this nightmare?

    Thanks to Atwood, we can never say we weren’t warned.

  74. says

    “What the “Life of the Mother” Might Mean in a Post-Roe America.”

    New Yorker link

    “We are going to see more deaths and more injuries,” Ghazaleh Moayedi, an ob-gyn in Dallas, said. “I don’t have to speculate about that at all.”

    Savita Halappanavar’s water broke just after midnight on October 22, 2012, in a hospital in Galway, Ireland, in her seventeenth week of pregnancy. This meant two things: the fetus could not possibly survive, and Halappanavar was at risk of infection if the fetus was not immediately expelled or removed. She begged doctors to terminate her pregnancy—or, put another way, to treat her miscarriage—but they refused. A fetal heartbeat could still be detected, and the Eighth Amendment to Ireland’s constitution effectively banned abortion. After two days, Halappanavar developed sepsis; on October 28th, she went into cardiac arrest and died, at the age of thirty-one. An inquest into Halappanavar’s death found that even as her temperature and heart rate soared, even as she was entering septic shock, doctors continued to monitor the fetal heartbeat. ​​“They were worried that, if they did a termination, they might be accused of performing an illegal act by not complying with the Eighth Amendment,” the doctor who led the inquest later said. A national outcry over Halappanavar’s death catalyzed a movement to repeal the amendment, which Ireland’s voters accomplished by referendum in 2018, with a two-thirds majority.

    If, as expected, the Supreme Court abolishes the constitutional right to abortion in its forthcoming decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, scenarios such as the one that killed Savita Halappanavar will become more likely to occur in the United States. Twenty-six states are likely to ban or criminalize abortion if Roe is overturned, including thirteen with “trigger bans.” These typically include a “life of the mother” exception, but the language of these exceptions varies in its scope and specifics state to state. Texas’s current six-week ban—its proponents call it the “heartbeat bill”—allows exceptions for “a medical emergency.” North Dakota would permit abortion “to prevent the pregnant female’s death.” Louisiana invokes “death or substantial risk of death,” or “permanent impairment of a life-sustaining organ,” but also requires “reasonable medical efforts under the circumstances to preserve both the life of the mother and the life of her unborn child.”

    The questions implicit in these phrases—What constitutes an “emergency”? How does one define “substantial” or “reasonable”?—are left unanswered. “These laws presume a certainty that doesn’t exist in medicine,” Cara Heuser, a maternal-fetal-medicine physician in Salt Lake City, said. “How ‘life-threatening’ the situation has to be—I don’t know what that means.”

    “In states where abortion becomes illegal, and particularly in states where there are criminal penalties for doctors or anyone who assists in an abortion, I fear that it will send a chill through the entire medical community,” Audrey Lance, an ob-gyn in Michigan, said. “People are going to be scared to intervene until the last minute or perhaps until it’s too late.” According to the Guttmacher Institute, the reproductive-rights think tank, as many as twenty-two states are likely or certain to enforce felony bans on abortion, with potential penalties including jail time and fines. A doctor who is inclined to provide an emergency termination would have to weigh her medical judgment against the possibility of criminal charges, losing her license, and never being able to practice medicine again. “There’s a very real fear: Will they force people to prove that they really had a miscarriage?” Heuser said.

    Roughly ten to twenty per cent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Yet none of the state bans overtly differentiate between the management of miscarriage and abortion, which share the same objective: to empty the uterus. The two procedures also employ the same tools and techniques, depending on the stage of the pregnancy and the health of the pregnant person: medication or dilation and curettage (D. & C.) for early abortions; and dilation and evacuation (D. & E.) or induced labor for later abortions. (In his draft opinion reversing Roe, Justice Samuel Alito refers to D. & E. as “a barbaric practice.”) Although the two sets of care are near-identical in their mechanics, “when someone is starting to bleed, their cervix is open, their water breaks—that’s not an induced abortion,” Ghazaleh Moayedi, an ob-gyn and complex family-planning specialist in Dallas, said. “This is not a person who comes to you and says, ‘I want to end this pregnancy.’ This is a person who is saying, ‘I am having a pregnancy complication, and I need you to help me.’ ”

    That cry for help often goes unheeded in the presence of a fetal heartbeat, even if the demise of the pregnancy is inevitable. In 2015, the A.C.L.U. filed suit on behalf of a Michigan woman, Tamesha Means, against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the body that writes the religious and ethical directives that must be followed by Catholic hospitals, which, as of 2016, accounted for about fifteen per cent of acute-care hospitals nationwide. The directives state that abortion is “never permitted,” barring “a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman.” Means’s water broke at eighteen weeks, but she was sent home from a Catholic hospital, Mercy Health Partners, mid-miscarriage—twice—despite excruciating pain and possible infection. (The suit was dismissed on appeal, in 2016, partly for reasons of jurisdiction, although the court acknowledged that Means “suffered physical and mental pain, emotional injuries, a riskier delivery, [and] shock and emotional trauma.”) A report found that Means was one of five women in a seventeen-month period who suffered prolonged, dangerous miscarriages while under the care of doctors at Mercy Health Partners.

    Several physicians told me that hesitation to provide emergency-miscarriage care is not peculiar to Catholic or other religious institutions. Even in states where abortion rights are broadly intact, many hospital systems do not permit terminations for any reason; patients in need must be transferred elsewhere. Heuser, who serves as a consultant for general ob-gyns across her hospital system in Salt Lake City, told me, “I have got calls from the E.R., saying, ‘This patient is bleeding, but there’s still a heartbeat—I don’t know what to do.’ And I have had to say, ‘You are allowed to treat the patient. You need to save the patient. This is a medical emergency.’ If you hem and haw because you aren’t sure about the law or the rules—that’s dangerous for patients.”

    Leilah Zahedi, a maternal-fetal-medicine physician in Tennessee, told me about a recent referral. “The patient was eighteen or nineteen weeks pregnant. She came in almost fully dilated and bleeding heavily, but the fetus still had a heart rate. The provider who transferred her was prohibited from giving her care, per the statutes of the hospital—it would have been considered an abortion. She transferred her to us because I am the only provider who is trained to do D. & E.s” in the area, Zahedi said. “When the patient reached us, within two minutes she lost 500 cc.s of blood. I said, ‘We’re done.’ I took her to the O.R. Her case was done in five minutes. She ultimately lost 2,500 cc.s of blood and needed a blood transfusion.”

    Tennessee’s trigger ban would criminalize abortions “except in extreme cases where it is necessary to prevent death or serious and permanent bodily injury to the mother.” Zahedi asked, “What if this same situation happens then? Do I have to watch the patient bleed to death? Do I have to call a lawyer before I save her life?”

    The United States has the highest maternal-mortality rate among industrialized nations, at about twenty-four deaths per a hundred thousand live births; the numbers for Black women alone are more than twice as high. A study published last year in the journal Contraception found an association between restrictions on abortion access and increased rates of maternal mortality, particularly for Black and Native American women. “Women of color may be disproportionately affected by abortion restrictions because they already experience higher structural barriers to healthcare,” the study’s authors wrote.

    All of the ob-gyn practitioners I spoke to are haunted by post-Roe nightmares to come, and these are not limited to life-or-death scenarios. “People really focus just on imminent death,” Moayedi told me. “What we don’t always capture is morbidity—the actual sustainable harm that people also experience from pregnancy complications.” A miscarriage-related infection known as a septic embolus can restrict blood flow to the extremities and cause necrosis; vasopressors, which are medications used to stabilize blood pressure during sepsis, can also choke off blood flow in this way. Moayedi told me about patients she has treated who have had to have limbs amputated, “because physicians refused to intervene in a timely fashion in their miscarriages.” […]

    More at the link.

  75. says

    Ukraine update: Something big is happening, as the Battle of the Izyum Salient begins

    With unconfirmed reports that Ukraine has pushed Russia mostly out of its territory north of Kharkiv, we have been speculating where Ukraine would counter next—toward the railhead northeast of Kharkiv in Vovchansk, or the the logistical hub at Kupiansk, where three major rail lines connect. Both those locations would cut off the flow of supplies to the Izyum salient and Russia’s 22 battalion tactical groups (BTGs) in the pocket—the largest concentration of Russian forces anywhere in Ukraine. [map at the link]

    Ukraine took a look at both of those critical logistical centers, and then decided to hit the salient directly instead. [Tweet and image at the link]

    NASA FIRMS satellite data, designed to track forest fires, gives us a perfect indication of the direction of combat: [Map at the link]

    The woods to the west of Izyum, where any Ukrainian counteroffensive would originate, are lit. It’s happening.

    Also note how, east of Izyum, the line of fire exactly follows the north bank of the Donets River—those are either Ukraine’s last positions on that bank (just Lyman and Severodonetsk at this point), or Russian forces who have reached the waterline being shelled by Ukrainian artillery.

    We can even see the massive artillery barrage at Russia’s ill-fated Bilohorivka river crossing attempt. […] Meanwhile, those fires north of Kharkiv are on newly liberated Ukrainian territory, which means Russia is firing artillery on those positions either to slow down their advance, or simply out of punitive anger. Much of Russia’s military strategy appears to be a manifestation of Vladimir Putin’s aggrieved, irrational rage.

    Back to the Battle of the Izyum Salient, Russian telegram claims five Ukrainian brigades are moving in on Izyum from the north, looking to directly cut off supply lines to the bulk of the Russian forces in the salient. That would be the equivalent of 10-15 Russian BTGs which seems … fantastical. Given how well Ukraine has fought, Russians may be mythifying them so they seem 10 feet tall and three times their number. But for context, a Ukrainian brigade is around 1,600 troops and 200 armored vehicles. If these reports are correct, we’re talking about 1,000 armored vehicles, and a metric buttload of artillery, raining on Russian positions. Ukraine had 20 brigades pre-war, with another four in reserve, which are likely already in action. More are being created from reservists, but there’s no indication they’ve had to be fielded just yet. So five brigades would be a massive commitment of forces.

    Regardless of their actual size (and I do hope it’s five brigades), those Russian sources on telegram also say Ukraine has crossed the Donets for the attack. So if Ukraine is crossing the Donets to attack Izyum’s supply lines, then this seems like a logical place to do so: [map at the link]

    And that NASA FIRMS map certainly supports the notion of ongoing operations both in that pocket, and on the east side of the Donets in the pink (contested) territory just west of Izyum. [map at the link]

    Remember, Ukraine doesn’t announce operations in advance. Looking at FIRMS imagery over the past several days, we can actually see the counter-offensive began on May 10-11: [maps at the link]

    Russia abandoned Kharkiv because it had no reserves left. Ukrainian general staff and the Pentagon have said Russia has 19 BTGs in reserve in Belgorod, so why weren’t they rushed to Kharkiv to defend their supply lines? If there’s anything left in Russia, it’s likely shattered remnants and troops refusing to deploy or redeploy.

    Now, with Russia already at its limits, Ukraine is taking direct aim at the largest concentration of Russian forces in Ukraine.

    Guys, 20-25% of Russia’s entire Army is in that pocket.

    Something big is happening.

    I mean big, as in war-altering.

    We were looking at Izyum’s supply hubs in Kupiansk and Vochansk. Ukraine is going straight for the jugular instead.

  76. Rob Grigjanis says

    Lynna @87: From the update:

    Ukraine had 20 brigades pre-war

    More like 30 in the full-time professional forces, actually. Unlike most western countries, Ukraine counts airborne/air assault/air mobile forces separately from the “ground forces” (aka “army”), even though they all fight on the ground. And the airborne etc troops are the elite.

    The more I’ve looked into Ukrainian capabilities (at least on the ground) since Feb 24, the more I’ve thought “WTF was Russia thinking?”.

  77. says

    We Guess Something Happened With The Crypto?

    The world’s cryptocurrencies and NFTs and Dutch tulip markets all went into the shitter this week, with enormous losses in value in the weird janky digital “money” that seemed kind of fishy to most people. How bad was the collapse? Something called Luna that was worth $85 last week is suddenly worth a penny now, and that is apparently a really big deal, CNET reports. Big swings in cyrpto currencies like bitcoin and ether are “notoriously volatile assets reacting to tempestuous economic conditions.” But this Luna thing is like, bigger, and maybe you’ll understand the following two paragraphs:

    What’s much more unusual, and much more important, is the collapse of the luna cryptocurrency and its associated TerraUSD (UST) stablecoin. You may not have heard of UST before, or know what a stablecoin is, but it’s a big deal. Billions of dollars in crypto wealth has been vaporized, sending shockwaves throughout the whole market.

    There are two intertwined stories here: That of the UST stablecoin and that of luna, both of which are part of the Terra blockchain. The UST coin is designed to retain a value of one US dollar at all times, but depegged on Saturday and has since fallen to as low as 30 cents. Then there’s luna, the centerpiece of Terra’s ecosystem. Its value has collapsed in one of the most stunning crypto crashes ever recorded.

    […] Now, before you go getting your hopes up that this means the end of the crypto mining bidness, which uses extremely powerful computers to do math calculations that prove the computers’ worthiness to poop out more crypto, which eats up tons of (often coal-generated) electricity and is therefore a terrible thing for the planet, I need to tell you that nobody who follows this stuff thinks this is in any way the end of the crypto business. Well, shit.

    We were going to try to summarize how the Terra / Luna thing went bad based on the CNET article, but […] I couldn’t follow it […]

    But I didn’t give up, dear reader! I abandoned my initial backup plan of listing all the possible alternative phrases to “down the shitter” and instead looked at the good old New York Times, which explains this week’s crash wiped out more than $300 billion in imaginary but also very real computer wealth, and that’s something I can more readily get my head around:

    The moment of panic amounted to the worst reset in cryptocurrencies since Bitcoin plummeted 80 percent in 2018. But this time, the falling prices have broader impact because more people and institutions hold the currencies. Critics said the collapse was long overdue, while some traders compared the alarm and fear to the start of the 2008 financial crisis.

    The crash, the Times says, is part of an overall trend of investors getting itchy about risk, what with war and inflation and interest rates, only moreso with crypto, which has fallen more steeply than stocks: The S&P 500 is down 18 percent in 2022, but Bitcoin is worth 40 percent less than it was at the start of the year. “In the last five days alone, Bitcoin has tumbled 20 percent, compared to a 5 percent decline in the S&P 500.”

    The Times also explains that the TerraUSD implosion happened because for all the talk of its value being tied to the dollar, it wasn’t actually backed by other assets; its was tied to this Luna thing that was allegedly more stable, but wasn’t, and oopsie! The whole wobble even affected the value of another stablecoin called “Tether,” which actually is backed by cash and other assets, but it lost value from its usual one Tether thingy to one dollar rate. That was bad, although Tether at least recovered.

    Reuters reports that today, after all that imploding, crypto is starting to stabilize, and that, hooray hooray, “broader financial markets have so far seen little knock-on effect from the cryptocurrency crash.” Terra, however, remains in the shitter, although it’s up from a penny to 11 cents today.

    In conclusion, we can say with absolute confidence that in no time at all, crypto bros will have forgotten all of this and will continue to be insufferable. Or not. I’m just glad my money is safe where it’s always been, spent before I can invest it.

    In conclusion, what do you get when you cross a mafioso with a deconstructionist?

    An offer you can’t understand.

    Hey, that works for crypto, too!

  78. says

    Rob @91:

    The more I’ve looked into Ukrainian capabilities (at least on the ground) since Feb 24, the more I’ve thought “WTF was Russia thinking?”.

    Yep, that was my train of thought too. Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that Russia was not actually thinking. Not sure what they were doing, but “thinking” doesn’t seem to evident.

  79. says

    CNN liveblog:

    FBI says Buffalo shooting is being investigated as a hate crime

    Saturday’s mass shooting in Buffalo is being investigated as a hate crime, the FBI said.

    Stephen Belongia, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo Field Office, said the FBI is assisting in the investigation as well during a news conference.

    Erie County Sheriff John Garcia called the shooting “pure evil” during the news conference.

    “It was straight-up, racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community, outside of the city of good neighbors as the mayor said, coming into our community and trying to inflict that evil upon us,” Garcia said.

    Out of the 13 victims, 11 are Black while two are White, according to Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia.

    Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said the supermarket shooting suspect was wearing tactical gear and livestreaming as he entered the store.

    “At approximately 2:30 today, an individual who the mayor stated is not from this area and is from hours away, drove to Buffalo and went to … the Tops market. He exited his vehicle, he was very heavily armed. He had tactical gear. He had a tactical helmet on. He had a camera that he was livestreaming what he was doing,”

    The suspect is an 18-year-old White male, he said.

    He shot four people in the parking lot, Gramaglia said, three of whom died.

    The suspect went inside the store, where a security guard and former Buffalo police officer engaged him.

    “Because he had heavily armored plating on, the bullet had no round. The suspect engaged our retired officer and he was shot and deceased at the scene. He continued to work his way through the store,” Gramaglia said.

    He made his way back to the front of the store, where patrol officers were able to talk him into dropping his gun after he “put the gun to his own neck.”

    Police arrested the suspect and transported him to Buffalo Police Headquarters.

    At least 10 people are dead. White supremacist terrorist.

  80. says

    CNN liveblog:

    Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has been briefed on the shooting in Buffalo, according to an official tweet from the department….

    Buffalo supermarket shooting live-streamed on Twitch, platform says

    Twitch, the popular live-streaming platform best known for gaming, confirmed on Saturday that the Buffalo supermarket shooting suspect used its platform to stream a live broadcast during the attack.

    “We are devastated to hear about the shooting that took place this afternoon in Buffalo, New York,” the company said. “Our hearts go out to the community impacted by this tragedy. Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against violence of any kind and works swiftly to respond to all incidents.”

    Twitch said that the user “has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content.”…

    There’s also a manifesto.

  81. says

    Guardian – “‘We will not go back’: thousands rally for abortion rights across the US”:

    Thousands of people were taking part in protests across the US on Saturday to decry the supreme court’s expected reversal of the landmark 1973 law that made abortion legal in America.

    Organizers said there were more than 380 protest events in cities including major ones in Washington DC, New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago to demand that the right to an abortion is not stripped away by the court, which is dominated by rightwing justices.

    Gathering in large groups and holding signs that included slogans such as “Reproductive justice for all” and “We will not go back”, and chanting “My body, my choice”, the protesters have been spurred by the leak of a supreme court draft opinion on 2 May….

    The prospect of looming bans on abortion in dozens of US states has provoked international, as well as domestic alarm. On Saturday, Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to health, told the Guardian that the US should not drop federal protections for abortion.

    “It sends chills down my spine to think that the court is being brought on to play – as a very powerful player – to decide on an issue of human rights that has jurisprudence, and has a basis in legal findings, that will actually lead to restriction of rights,” said Mofokeng….

    More at the link.

  82. says

    Guardian – “Judgment day for ‘narcissistic’ Greek pilot who killed British wife Caroline Crouch”:

    …The murder has not only laid bare the ability of an individual to fool authorities but also exposed fault lines in a society that has been grappling with a wave of femicides whose ferocity has stunned the nation. Crouch was one of 17 women whose lives were cut short at the hands of their partners in Greece in 2021.

    Almost every one of the victims – including a 43-year-old pharmacist who was strangled by her husband in a village outside Kavala last week – had, before her death, tried to end an abusive relationship.

    Crouch was no different….

    Follow-up to #29 – Guardian – “Protests in Nigeria after arrests for ‘blasphemy’ killing of female student”:

    Hundreds of people in Nigeria’s north-western city of Sokoto demonstrated on Saturday over the arrest of two students after the murder of a Christian student accused of blasphemy, residents said.

    Africa’s most populous country is roughly divided between Muslims and Christians but religious tensions and deadly clashes are not uncommon, particularly in the north.

    Early on Saturday, Muslim youths took to the streets of the city, lighting bonfires and demanding the release of the two suspects, despite the earlier deployment of police to maintain order, residents said.

    Some of the protesters besieged the palace of Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, the sultan of Sokoto and the highest spiritual figure among Muslims in Nigeria, after he condemned the killing and demanded those involved face justice.

    “It was more of a riot by a mob of young men and women who were demanding the release of the two people arrested over the killing of the Christian student,” said a Sokoto resident, Ibrahim Arkilla.

    “The crowd which made bonfires on the streets were also demanding the police stop the manhunt for those identified to have taken part in the killing,” said Arkilla, who witnessed the protests.

    A large number of protesters gathered at the palace chanting “Allahu Akbar”, said Bube Ando, who lives nearby. “Some among the security men deployed to protect the palace tried to ask the protesters to leave but they became unruly.

    “Policemen and soldiers who stood outside the palace hurled teargas canisters and fired into the air and succeeded in dispersing the crowd,” he said, without giving details about whether anyone was hurt.

    The mob retreated downtown where they tried to loot shops belonging to Christian residents but were dispersed by security patrol teams, said another resident, Faruk Danhili.

    The protests subsided, Danhili said, but the city remained tense and most streets were deserted.

    Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, has “strongly condemned” the murder of Samuel. “No person has the right to take the law in his or her own hands in this country. Violence has and never will solve any problem,” he said in a statement on Friday.

    Banner fucking day for hate murders.

  83. says

    CNN liveblog:

    The suspect in the shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, has been identified as Payton Gendron, 18, Buffalo City Court Chief Judge Craig Hannah told CNN.

    The suspect was arraigned in Hannah’s courtroom.

    They just said on air that this will be the only time they name him.

  84. says

    Kateryna Kruk:

    The worst thing that can happen is being alone in hard times.

    Ukraine goes through the worst times possible but we not alone, wholeheartedly thank you for standing for us, supporting us, cheering us up during last three months and tonight.
    If only you knew how much it means!

  85. says

    Mike Masnick, Techdirt:

    So, it’s quite likely that Twitch removing this channel violates Texas’ new social media content moderation law, which is now in effect. Just to give you a sense of how messed up the law is.

    Just to drive this point home, in the run up to the law passing, an amendment was proposed making it clear that sites could still take down “domestic terrorist” content. And the Republicans rejected it.

  86. says

    Robert Costa, CBS:

    To recap: Many outlets, inc @CBSNews, arrived around 12 noon in Bucks County to cover surging Sen. candidate Kathy Barnette at an event publicly listed as her final rally before she faces voters. From the start, a security team of at least 5 physically blocked us from entering…

    The guards refused to give names or say whether they worked for Barnette or Trump-endorsed PA GOV candidate Mastriano. Whenever we stepped forward, they blocked us. We were civil & careful to not physically provoke in order to avoid altercation, but still rep. tried to move fwd.

    We pushed for a spokesperson for the campaign to appear. Anyone. Give us clarity. Why were we not allowed to come in? What’s the deal? The security guards said nothing, kept blocking us. When we pushed harder for an answer, they brought more guards over and…

    produced a letter purportedly from the venue saying we couldn’t even sit or move toward the bar/food area on the premises even though it was open to the public. We were stopped from even doing that by guards who warned us not to move an inch past them.

    When a veteran cameraman with a 6ABC cap understandbly grew frustrated, he was confronted by this unnamed man below….

    To conclude, what struck me was how no explanation was offered. No Barnette or Mastriano aides formally addressed the press despite repeated calls to do so. No one offered explanation for conduct of guards + refusal to allow reporters to simply cover a now major Senate campaign….

    All In last night (YT link) – “GOP Freaks Out Over Rise Of ‘Ultra MAGA’ Senate Candidate In Pennsylvania”:

    Chris Hayes: “Trump and his allies in right-wing media are being put in the exact same position they put establishment Republicans in back in 2015. They’re closing ranks against an outside candidate with extremist, noxious views and calling her unelectable.”

  87. blf says

    MAJOR TRIGGER WARNING: The linked-to below video is scary, and at one point, heart-stopping, to the point where if you have certain medical conditions you might want to take precautions.

    From one of Lynna‘s linked-to Kos articles is this video (with very clean sound): “One of the most impressive videos of the war so far”. Or as Kos described it, “This is some WWII–, Korean War–level intensity.”

  88. blf says

    Rob Grigjanis@91, A question / clarification, please, if I may: You refer to Ukraine’s Army (pre-invasion) as “professional”. In States(? Nato?)-speak, than means paid all-volunteer, i.e., no conscripts / draftees, albeit some countries (such as the States) do have a “backup” draft registration system in-place should it ever be “necessary” to (re-)activate the draft / conscription. Is that, or something recognisably similar, what you meant by “professional”? (I realise that you might be referring to only a part of Ukraine’s forces; e.g., the link below says “The Ukrainian Naval Infantry was the first service to convert to being staffed by fully professional marines”, albeit it’s unclear from the link whether-or-not those marines are still all-volunteer.)

    The Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge article explains conscription was ended in 2013, “[h]owever, due to the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine conscription, as well as a partial mobilization, was reinstated in 2014.” President Zelenskyy had apparently intended to end conscription next(?) year, but Putin’s war might interfere with that intent.

  89. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current one madman’s war live blog (quoted essentially in full):

    Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra has released a powerful video filmed in the ruins of Irpin and Bucha.

    The band’s lead singer Oleh Psyuk said:

    I once dedicated this song to my mother, and when the war broke out, the song took on a lot of new meanings.

    Although there is not a word about the war in the song, many people began to associate the song with mother Ukraine.

    Moreover, society began to call it the anthem of our war!

    But if Stefania is now the anthem of our war, I would like it to become the anthem of our victory.

    Kalush Orchestra — Stefania (Official Video Eurovision 2022) subtitled in English. The video was filmed in Bucha, Irpin, and other locations near Kyiv.

  90. blf says

    Follow-up to me@31, In teh “U”K, alleged-PM Boris Johnson backs away from Northern Ireland protocol threat ahead of talks:

    Boris Johnson will vow not to scrap the Brexit deal governing Northern Ireland and instead back reform that has “the broadest possible cross-community support”, in an attempt to cool tensions over the issue.

    In a shift in tone before emergency talks in Belfast on Monday, the prime minister will make it clear that he has no intention of scrapping the so-called Northern Ireland protocol, which he claims is causing significant disruption to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    Officials said that Johnson was intending to deliver a “tough message” to the leaders of Northern Ireland’s parties. He will plead with them to “get back to work”, after the Democratic Unionists [teh “D”UP] blocked the election of a speaker at the Stormont Assembly on Friday. The move means the assembly is unable to function.

    DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said that his party’s move was a protest at the impact that the protocol was having on trade crossing the Irish Sea. Such goods have a series of checks that have placed a de facto trade border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In an attempt to push the DUP into re-engaging, Johnson will say that any action by his government to alter the protocol must lead to all parties coming together to form an executive and assembly.


    However, he will call for reforms to deal with the trade issues that UK government figures say is imperilling the Good Friday agreement. Critics say that repeated threats to the protocol by UK figures have caused far more significant dangers to the historic agreement.

    It comes as the US takes a close interest in the treatment of Northern Ireland. President Biden last week urged Johnson not to rip up the Northern Ireland protocol. A powerful delegation of US congress representatives is also due to fly to London within days, in another sign of concern in the White House.


    This is Johnson, so I don’t trust the claims. Even so, being told-off by Biden, the eminent arrival of the bipartisan delegation, and the signals there won’t be a States–”U”K trade agreement if the Good Friday Agreement is endangered (including scrapping the NI Protocol) have perhaps begun to penetrate his skull — albeit will perhaps exit the other side, as there nothing inside to engage with.

    On the unevidenced assertion the Protocol is somehow causing economic problems on Ireland (the island, albeit this column is mostly about N.Ireland), The Northern Ireland protocol is said to be a blight on regional economy. That’s just not true (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    Whenever Boris Johnson’s government wades into battle over the Northern Ireland protocol, it wields one assertion like a broadsword: that the protocol is ruining the region’s economy. Checks on goods entering Northern Ireland are disrupting trade, increasing prices and bankrupting businesses, and the damage will worsen unless the protocol is changed, goes the argument.


    The problem with this justification for slashing the protocol — and risking a trade war with the EU [and no States–”U”K trade agreement –blf] — is that it is bogus. A growing body of evidence suggests Northern Ireland has adapted and started to profit from its new situation, with the benefits of full access to the EU single market and the rest of the UK outweighing the costs of administering checks on some goods entering the region from Great Britain.

    “Every piece of evidence presented so far shows a positive impact,” said Stephen Kelly, head of Manufacturing Northern Ireland (MNI). The protocol initially disrupted supply lines but is now cushioning the region from the costs of Brexit, he said. “Our members have largely gotten to grips with it. Three-quarters of them say there are opportunities and {they} are grasping those opportunities.”


    Stuart Anderson, a spokesperson for Northern Ireland’s Chamber of Commerce, said the protocol affected different sectors in different ways, good and bad, and that overall business sentiment was positive. “We’re seeing an improving picture. About 65% of members say despite initial headaches they have adapted well,” he said. Just 8% of members reported serious problems.

    Anderson said it was difficult to say if the protocol was a net plus or minus since its costs blurred into global supply chain costs.

    Data gives reason for optimism. Manufacturing jobs are growing four times faster in Northern Ireland than the UK average. Since the middle of 2021 the region has recorded inflation below the UK average, with groceries 8% cheaper, according to analyst Kantar.

    A report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research last week said Northern Ireland’s economic output had slightly outperformed the UK average. “This is partly an outcome of the Northern Irish protocol and its special status in the Brexit arrangements, including better trade and investment conditions as part of the EU’s single market and customs union,” it said. […]

    Another (prolonged) episode of non-functioning N.Ireland “government”-by-toddlers could be damaging.

  91. blf says

    Related to @108 & Eurovision, from the Grauniad’s current one madman’s war live blog:

    Italian police thwarted hacker attacks by pro-Russian groups during […] the Eurovision song contest in Turin […]

    Reuters reports that during voting and the performances, the police cybersecurity department blocked several cyber attacks on network infrastructure by the “Killnet” hacker group and its affiliate “Legion”, police said.

    The police also gathered information from the pro-Russian group’s Telegram channels to prevent other critical events and identified the attacks’ geographic location.

    On 11 May, “Killnet” claimed an attack on the websites of several Italian institutions, including the Senate, Italy’s upper house of parliament, and the National Health Institute (ISS), ANSA news agency reported.

  92. KG says

    Officials said that Johnson was intending to deliver a “tough message” to the leaders of Northern Ireland’s parties.

    This is, as one would expect, dishonest. Only one party, the “Democratic” Unionists, is preventing the functioning of the devolved assembly and executive.

  93. blf says

    KG@112, Yes, however, recall that both of the two major parties in Stormont are not-yet-potty-trained toddlers. Scolding just teh “D”UP would cause them to throw another tantrum, probably by engaging in some whataboutism, which Sinn Féin would throw a tantrum about, repeat… Of course, scolding both of them might also trigger tantrums, which is why experienced people are useful — which Johnson is not, in addition to being unreliable. He could, of course, do some good, but probably by having his mouth duck-taped shut so those experienced people can talk teh “D”UP down without triggering the other bunch of toddlers.

  94. blf says

    And a bit more on Ukraine’s win at Eurovision, from the Grauniad’s current one madman’s war live blog:

    Proud Ukrainians revelling in their Eurovision song contest victory have renamed a train route in its honour, Reuters reports.


    The head of the railway service announced that the number 43 train from Kyiv to Ivano-Frankivsk will be renamed the Stefania Express.

    Train stations in Kyiv, Kalush and Ivano-Frankivsk will play the song when the train pulls in, he said.

  95. Rob Grigjanis says

    blf @107: Yeah, “professional” was the wrong term. I was referring to combat units which are not part of the Territorial Defence. But since 2014, the regular armed forces would include mobilized reservists.

  96. blf says

    The Onion, Ohio Law Mandates Rape Victims Send Thank You Notes For Gift Of Parenthood:

    […] Ohio Gov Mike DeWine (R) signed a new law Friday mandating that rape victims send thank you notes to perpetrators for the gift of parenthood. “Parenthood is God’s gift to these women, so it’s only polite that sexual assault victims rush out and write a heartfelt note the moment they discover they’re pregnant,” said state Rep Jean Schmidt (R), sponsor and author of the new law, who emphasized that victims should mail notes no later than three days after receiving a life-changing positive pregnancy test, lest they risk coming across rude and ungrateful to their rapist. “Face-to-face interaction is preferred, but at the very least a nice greeting card is required. Throwing in a gift basket wouldn’t be overdoing it either. I recommend all Ohio women keep some stationery and postage stamps on hand, just in case, since you never know when you might need them.” […]

  97. blf says

    Found via the Grauniad (Ireland says UK risks sending message it will break treaties in Brexit row), an opinion column by Pat Leahy in the Irish Times, Brexit’s back, and this time it’s snarlier than ever, some snippets (Irish Times edits in {curly braces}):

    The claims by the British government that its threats to rip up the Northern Ireland protocol [post-brexit EU–”U”K border in the Irish Sea] are intended to protect the Belfast Agreement [Good Friday peace Agreement] and the peace process are not taken seriously by anyone — not by the Irish Government, not by the European Union or any of its member state governments, not by President Joe Biden or the US Congress, not by the majority in the North who voted for parties that favour either retention or consensual reform of the protocol and not even — one suspects — by the DUP, who has surely been double-crossed enough times by Boris Johnson by now.

    The British government has the formidable capacities and counsel of an extensive and expert foreign service at its disposal. It can read the foreign press. And while the effluvia (analysis is too generous a term) of some of the British media and several dim-witted Tory backbenchers on the protocol confirm only the invincible ignorance of much of that tribe about Ireland, Johnson and those around him are not stupid: they know exactly what they are doing, even if they might not be particularly skilful or consistent at doing it.

    They are not protecting the peace process in the North and the delicate balance of its power-sharing architecture. They are trying to exploit it for their own political purposes. […]

    [… T]here is clearly a problem with the protocol. It’s not as significant as some unionists make it out to be, and their fears about its implications for the constitutional status of Northern Ireland are vastly overdone. […]

    The problems — both practical and political — are eminently fixable with patience, a willingness to compromise and goodwill. The Irish Government and the EU have demonstrated these; they have often been lacking on the British side [including, in my opinion, both sets of toddlers in N.Ireland –blf].

    [… T]he emerging political landscape of Northern Ireland, now with its third, unaligned bloc in the middle, is unsuited to the Belfast Agreement structures, which presume a two-sided, not a three-sided, politics. But what hope have the two governments adjusting the balance of the Stormont [N.Ireland’s government] institutions when Dublin doesn’t trust a word that London says?

    Johnson says that he might scrap the protocol to preserve the Belfast Agreement; the truth is that nobody in Dublin believes he cares a fig for the agreement [or, in my opinion, understands anything at all about it or its importance –blf]. “They {the British} are more concerned with keeping Brexit alive and using it as a wedge issue,” says one person familiar with the thinking in Merrion Street [Irish government]. Government Buildings gossip suggests that [Taoiseach (Prime Minister)] Micheál Martin’s telephone call with Johnson on Tuesday was “the single worst call he’s ever had with anyone”.

    That opinion column was full of Irish political jargon, my apologies if I missed, or mis-explained, any with my editorialising.

  98. blf says

    My recent comment seems to have been eaten.

    Is potato.

    Sorry! That’s Russian (and not just the cuisine), albeit I believe the joke was, at one time, true of Finnish cuisine.

  99. blf says

    More N.Ireland, albeit nothing to due per se with either brexit’s NI Protocol or the Good Friday peace Agreement, ‘Cruel and malicious’: sexist attacks dampen joy for Stormont’s new female members:

    In a sign of how sexism and misogyny were so embedded in Northern Ireland, official minutes once recorded Ian Paisley Jr [Dr “No”‘s son] shouting moo, moo, moo at a female politician.

    I assume, being one of the infamous toddlers, he’d just learned the word.

    The outburst against Monica McWilliams in 1997 was part of a boorish, sneering culture that deterred women from entering politics and sought to intimidate the few who dared.

    Change has come. Of the 90 newly elected assembly members who trooped into Stormont to sign the roll on Friday, 32 are women — a record 35%. Four of the top 10 candidates who polled highest in last week’s election were women. The leaders of the biggest and third-biggest party, Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin and Naomi Long of Alliance, are women.


    Some wonder if this election represented progress, as a vicious brand of sexism and misogyny threaded the campaign, leaving some candidates shaken and fuelling demands for greater oversight of social media platforms.

    “It was an absolute nightmare, it was purposeful, cruel and malicious,” said Cara Hunter, who won a seat for the Social Democratic and Labour party (SDLP) in East Derry despite being targeted for sexual harassment.

    Anonymous trolls circulated a 40-second clip from a pornographic film, which they falsely claimed featured the 26-year-old. It was shared via WhatsApp and forwarded thousands of times.


    Other candidates suffered more direct abuse. Three men in east Belfast surrounded Hannah Kenny, of the People Before Profit party. “They blocked her path, gripping her by the arm and throat before detailing the violence they would subject her to if she returned to the area,” the party said in a statement.


    Amnesty International cited research showing female politicians were 27 times likelier than male counterparts to face online abuse. A Belfast Telegraph survey in 2020 found that more than a quarter of female MLAs had been sexually harassed in their political careers and 70% had received sexist comments.


    Some of the elected toddlers electors are toddlers.

  100. says

    Ukraine Update: American artillery proved decisive in Russia’s Bilohorivka bridge-crossing disaster

    […] Ukraine officially picked up a small town here, Russia did the same over there. While much of the front line was on fire (Ukraine claimed 14 separate attacks), the situation on the ground remained essentially unchanged. […]

    I wrote earlier that pro-Russian Telegram sources claimed Ukraine was assaulting Izyum from across the Donets River (bottom arrow in image below), but several sources claim the assault is actually coming down from Chuhuiv (top arrow). [map at the link]

    If Chuhuiv is the the source of the counter-offensive, it would likely travel that main highway southeast toward Izyium, rather than east toward Kupiansk. Russia has moved a great deal of combat power to Shevchenkove, between Chuhuiv and Kupiansk, to protect its critical supply depot from any Ukrainian advance. Getting through those two cities would be expensive to Ukraine in military resources and lives. And there’s no need, as we’ve can now so clearly see with Ukraine’s push toward Izyum itself.

    In short, if Ukraine collapses that Izyum pocket, there is no longer a need for Russia to maintain operations in either Kupiansk or Vovchansk—the two logistical hubs feeding the war machine in the Izyum salient. After a week of debating “Kupiansk vs Vovchansk,” it turns out that the best answer is “C: Take away the reason for both.” […]

    On another topic, it’s nice seeing our defense tax dollars doing something productive.

    Ukrainian soldier says that the Ukrainian side used freshly delivered American M777 howitzers to smash 70+ Russian military vehicles to pieces as they tried to cross the Siverskyi Donets River on May 9th. [video at the Twitter link]

    The claim by Ukrainian servicemen’s is that American-donated M777 howitzers destroyed the 80+ vehicles at Russia’s unimaginably disastrous Bilohorivka river crossing attempt. I’m looking forward to a translation, but it definitely looks like an “America, FUCK YEAH” moment we liberals can rally behind.

    This whole debacle has been fun to track on pro-Russia social media. The Institute for the Study of War claims, in tonight’s update, that they’ve seen pro-Russia telegram shaken by the carnage:

    Prominent pro-Russian Telegram channels (with approximately 300 thousand followers) largely criticized Russian General Staff for failing to learn from previous combat mistakes and expressed concern that censorship and self-censorship was depriving them of situational awareness. Other pro-Russian Telegram channels noted the slow pace of Russian offensive operations in northern Kharkiv Oblast, blaming it in part on ineffective aerial reconnaissance and the negative effects of bad morale within the Russian military. Some Telegram channels reported receiving criticism for “misrepresenting” the performance of the Russian military.

    I must frequent a different corner of Telegram and pro-Russia Twitter, because what I’ve seen is totally different—the invention of a fantastical alternate reality where most of the destroyed vehicles are Ukrainian. [Oh, FFS. That really smells like desperation.]

    The theory is as such: most of the destroyed vehicles are BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles, and supposedly Russia no longer fields those ancient vehicles. On-the-ground photos show Russian uniforms in those BMP-1s, but hey, those could be faked, right? That’s what the propagandists say. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) analyst Henry Schlottman, the authority on the composition of Russian army units, certainly claims Russia fields them. […]

    Oryx has tracked 43 BMP-1s lost by Russia, like this, this, this, and this, all with prominent Russian invasion markings. Oh, and here’s one still in Russia’s hands, at least a few weeks ago: [video and embedded links are available at the main link]

    Furthermore, Russia has been forced to dig into its operational reserves to backfill combat losses while reconstituting shredded units. There aren’t a lot of modern infantry vehicles in those reserves. This is the crap they’re pulling out.

    Of course, there’s a lot more than just BMP-1s at the Bilohorivka disaster site! There are 14 T-72s, which are standard Russian issue (though Ukraine has captured a bunch), as well as BMP-2s, and engineering and support equipment that only Russia fields. So how do they explain that?

    Well, they say there was a big battle on the spot. Sure, Russia no longer holds the bridgeheads but their losses were just a fraction of the overall total destroyed vehicles. You see, Russia destroyed all those Ukrainians in BMP-1s before tactically retreating back across the bridge, which then Ukraine destroyed after the fact … er … three times. [photo at the link]

    Then Russia released video saying “nuh uh, we destroyed Ukrainian bridge!”

    At Western #Izyum Russians destroyed enemy pontoon bridge. [tweet and video at the link]

    Except … all I see is Russian shooting at a river, then dropping artillery on a river, with no vehicles anywhere around. Who knows, maybe they did compromise a working bridgehead. But it would still mean the tally is as follows:

    Destroyed Russian pontoon bridge: 82+ vehicles

    Destroyed Ukrainian pontoon bridge: 0 vehicles

    But really, that kind of propaganda isn’t designed to convince people, it’s designed to give their partisans crap to spew. Nothing else. There’s a term for that kind of fantasy-making in this war, and it’ll hop over to our own political discourse before long: copium. People will invent what they need to cope with the news they don’t want to see.

  101. says

    Addendum to comment 121:

    The separatist city of Donetsk is having serious problems with their drinking water supply. But they can’t do anything about it because they’ve conscripted the people who used to maintain it.

  102. says

    Former Republican Strategist Steve Schmidt did not pull any punches […]


    Video at the link.


    This is a coherent, organized ideology. And that ideology has a name. It’s called fascism. The argument that Tucker Carlson is making and that JD Vance and others are making is that American freedom that American culture in that in order for it to be saved, we have to deal with the problem of American democracy.

    And the great flaw in American democracy, according to them, is that it treats everyone equally. And because it treats everyone equally, his vote, their vote, a group vote, a group of people that look alike to them, white people who have a similar worldview, their vote, their power, in their view, is lessened. And so, therefore, democracy becomes the opposite of freedom, because freedom cannot be something where they and people who are less than them are treated equally.

    […] So I’ll just tell you what happens at the end of all of this after you dehumanize everybody That’s when the killing start. And we can watch that play out in Ukraine.

  103. blf says

    Somewhat surprisingly, Drquack Oz said something sensible, Republican Senate hopeful Mehmet Oz calls far-right rival’s comments on Islam ‘reprehensible’:

    In an interview, he took issue with a 2015 tweet from [fellow thug nutcase candidate Kathy] Barnette in which she wrote that Pedophilia is a Cornerstone of Islam. Oz, who would be the nation’s first Muslim senator, described the comments as “disqualifying”.

    “It’s reprehensible that she would tweet out something that is defamatory to an entire religion,” Oz told the Associated Press. “This state was based on religious freedom. I’m proud as a Pennsylvanian to uphold those founding beliefs that every faith has its merits.”

    […] Barnette told NBC News that she did not make the statement, though it was still live on her Twitter feed on Saturday.

    [… Hair furor] himself has warned that Barnette’s background hasn’t been properly vetted.


  104. says

    Wonkette: “Racist Kills Ten People In Hopes Of Convincing Nation To Not ‘Replace’ Him”

    Yesterday, in Buffalo, New York, an 18-year-old named Payton Gendron walked into a Tops Supermarket in a notoriously segregated part of the city and streamed video of himself shooting 13 people, killing ten of them, in the deadliest mass shooting we’ve seen all year. In his manifesto, which is now offline, Gendron explained that his reason for doing this was because he was upset about the “Great Replacement” — the far-right white nationalist theory that there is a conspiracy on the Left to take over the world by “replacing” white people with people of color, whom they imagine will be more “obedient” to Democrats. Frequently this is described as a plan being orchestrated by “The Jews,” but more mainstream adherents like Tucker Carlson tend to skip over that part in hopes of making it sound somewhat less batshit.

    Gendron drove 200 miles from Conklin, a town on the Southern tier of New York state, in order to kill Black people. More than that, he wanted to scare Black people. Because that’s what terrorism is, isn’t it? It wasn’t just about taking those ten lives, destroying those ten families, on that particular day, it was about trying make people scared to get food, to go to the grocery store, to do anything because there could be another one of him anywhere.

    In his manifesto, Gendron explained that he hadn’t considered himself a racist before the pandemic, but that during it, he spent a lot of time on 4chan and the Daily Stormer and became increasingly convinced of this evil imaginary plot. Then he read about other white supremacists who had committed mass murder because they, too, were convinced liberals were trying to replace them — Brenton Tarrant in New Zealand, Dylann Roof in the States … and he thought to himself “Why not me?”

    This theory, whether it’s been called that or not, has been around for decades. Most people will date it back to the work of French crackpot Renaud Camus’ 2011 essay “Le Grand Remplacement,” in which he claimed that white citizens of European countries were being replaced by Black and Middle Eastern immigrants, or back to the “White Genocide” nonsense of 1990s white supremacists, but it’s always been there. A major feature of early 1900s anti-Semitism and racism in the United States was that Jewish people were supporting Black civil rights struggles because they wanted to replace WASPs with Black people and then take over the world.

    It’s a theory favored by people who have become so sour and rotten on the inside that they really just can’t imagine that anyone would actually help other people or care about other people, or human rights or equality without it being part of a nefarious plot of some kind. It’s also a theory deftly employed by people like Tucker Carlson who are looking to make people sour and rotten on the inside — because really, who else would listen to that nonsense?

    But the truth is that yes, we want a country without people like Peyton Gendron in it. Not because he’s white, but because he is a racist mass murderer. I think I can speak for most people when I say that we could generally do without white supremacists going on killing sprees in grocery stores or mosques or churches or schools or anywhere else for that matter. Perhaps if these people are so very worried about being “replaced.” they should try not being racist mass murderers. They should try being less terrible in general.

    Because the other truth is that no one gives a damn about trying to “replace” these people, we just want them to stop being assholes.

  105. says

    Followup to SC’s comment 95.

    Some background about Buffalo:

    […] like many major American cities, Buffalo bears a tell-tale scar of long-standing segregation, a highway built in the 1950s and 1960s that cut directly through a Black neighborhood, severing those communities and stifling economic development for decades to come.

    That highway, the Kensington Expressway, is about two blocks from the Tops supermarket, where at least 10 people were shot and killed on Saturday. (Also near the scene of the shooting is City Honors High School, a magnet high school regularly ranked as one of the best in the country that has struggled to improve its disproportionately low Black enrollment.)

    The destruction caused by the Kensington Expressway’s construction included the razing of Humboldt Parkway, a tree-lined public space designed by the legendary architect Frederick Law Olmsted. It has been described as the “spine” of the Black middle-class neighborhood that was emerging at the time.

    Pollution from the expressway, which helped give residents of mostly white suburbs easy access to the city center, has done long-term damage to the health of the people living near it. The road also cut Black residents of the East Side off from key community institutions like banks and grocery stores, according to a 2018 report from the Partnership for the Public Good.

    The very existence of the Tops grocery store was a hard-won victory for East Siders. The neighborhood is a food desert, and residents had been campaigning for a store like Tops for more than a decade when it finally opened in 2003, according to The Buffalo News.

    The dearth of options helped to make Tops a neighborhood establishment. Many families were shopping for their Sunday dinners there when the shooting began. The suspected gunman said in his manifesto that, in addition to targeting the area for its Black population, he had researched the days and times when Tops was busiest.

    The Buffalo Community Fridge network, a mutual aid group that stocks community refrigerators with fresh produce and prepared meals for neighbors […] said it received many donations on Saturday, after its call to support residents affected by the shooting was shared on social media. The group is organizing volunteers to buy and distribute food in the area on Sunday.

    New York Times link

    The shooter was dressed sort of like a soldier, carrying weapons of war and wearing a bullet-proof vest.

  106. blf says

    A snippet from May I have a word about… how the Vikings changed the English language forever:

    In recent columns, I’ve written about the British becoming a nation of somnambulists, given the plentiful number of newspaper headlines warning that we are “sleepwalking into…” (insert your own ending). I’ve also in the not too distant past written about doom loops, so you can imagine my unalloyed delight when I read the following headline: “Work-shy Britain is sleepwalking into a doom-spiral of class war and decline.” It was as if all my Christmases had come at once. I’m pleased to say that the article beneath was suitably apocalyptic, rich in “vortexes of decline”, “farragos of broken promises” and the private sector succumbing to “the dead hand of woke capital”. I do so love to see a pen fully loaded with purple ink.

    The Grauniad column referred to is The shifting patterns of English, “A series exploring the nuances, good and bad, of English”, by Jonathan Bouquet, a subeditor for the Observer (or “Sunday Grauniad”); it has been running since 2018. The Grauniad used to have a similar column of its own — name and author now escapes me — which was a must-read when I was living in teh “U”K.

  107. blf says

    Here in France, the Islamophobes and other nutcases are frothing, etc., again, Plan to allow burkinis in Grenoble swimming pools reignites French culture wars (France24 edits in {curly braces}):

    […] It is not unusual for French swimming pools to issue strict swimwear regulations; in most, swimming caps and body-hugging, lycra outfits are a must. But in Grenoble, Mayor Éric Piolle wants to make the rules more permissive, especially for female swimmers.

    “Our wish is to get rid of absurd restrictions,” he said. “This includes {allowing} bare breasts and swimming costumes that give extra coverage for sun protection or for beliefs. It is not about taking a position for or against the burkini specifically,” he said.

    […] The planned change in Grenoble comes after protests in the city that began in 2018. In 2020 and 2021 a group of activists from the community grassroots association Alliance Citoyenne protested by wearing burkinis in Grenoble’s swimming pools.

    One of these was Taous, a Muslim who lives in Grenoble and wears a hijab. “I love the feeling of being in the water, but those protests were the first time I’ve been able to put my feet in a swimming pool in France,” she said. When her children go to the pool, Taous watches rather than swimming with them.

    She is adamant the rules should change not just to allow burkinis, but to allow more choice for all women. “The rules are not specifically about burkinis,” she said. “They are also planning to allow women to show their breasts if they want to. It’s really a question of feminism and letting women wear what they want to. I believe in each woman’s right to choose.”


    In Grenoble, local politicians were quick to counter the mayor’s plans to allow burkinis in swimming pools. In May, the president of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Laurent Wauquiez, accused the mayor of submitting to Islamism and threatened to cut grants to the town if the measure was passed.

    Dozens of local officials have also signed appeals to cancel the town hall vote on the measure, which they say has been imposed by minority groups with the sole objective of permanently testing the sensitivity of our institutions to religious symbols.


    In 2010, France became the first European country to ban the full-face veil in public places. [sadly, that ridiculous law is still in-place –blf] Today, The French Football Federation bans female players from wearing hijabs (scarfs which cover the hair) even though the international football governing body FIFA does not.


    In May 2022, a survey run by French right-wing news channel Cnews found that 73 percent of people in France would prefer that burkinis were banned in swimming pools.

    This is largely because they are seen as a religious symbol, rather than a swimming costume. “I get women, often older women, coming up to me asking if they can wear burkinis too because they don’t want to show their body” Taous says. “I say, of course you can. They are available for everybody to buy. You don’t have to be a Muslim.”

    Meanwhile, support for burkini-wearers has been quietly growing. In 2018, a rule change in Rennes municipal swimming pools authorised burkini-wearing.

    In light of Grenoble’s proposed rule changes, more than 100 high profile feminist organisations, and feminists including Caroline De Haas and Alice Coffin, have publicly supported an open letter written by Alliance Citoyenne entitled ‘In May wear what you want!’

    […] Mayor Piolle has tried to calm tensions. “In Grenoble we are planning a change to swimming pool rules to ensure equality of access to public services, and the freedom to dress or undress,” he said in a tweet. “The burkini is a non-subject.”

  108. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current one madman’s war live blog:

    Marina Ovsyannikova, the Russian journalist who interrupted the state’s Channel One television main news program with a protest against the invasion of Ukraine, said her RT-employed ex-husband is suing her and threatening the custody of her two children.

    [Via Kevin Rothrock:]

    Marina Ovsyannikova […] says her RT-employed ex-husband is suing her, potentially threatening her custody of their kids (ages 17 and 11).

    She’s currently in Berlin & says she won’t return to Russia until the Putin regime falls. Her ex is raising the kids now & refuses to let them leave the country to be with their mom. The son is apparently a Z-head & now considers her a traitor. The daughter just wants mom back.

  109. lumipuna says

    blf at 119:

    Is potato.

    Sorry! That’s Russian (and not just the cuisine), albeit I believe the joke was, at one time, true of Finnish cuisine.

    To some extent yes, though Finnish or (I think) Russian cuisine was never as potato-heavy as, say, Irish.

  110. lumipuna says

    At 491 on the previous page, raven quoted this excerpt from a 2003 article discussing the Finnish sentiments toward territories that were ceded to Russia after the 1939-40 Winter War. I wasn’t initially going comment on it for further background, but now I just stumbled on a very touching music video on YouTube. Posting the video here requires some tl;dr style background.

    Finland: Soviet Annexation Of Karelia Still A Taboo Subject
    From Radio Free Europe, a US government funded source.
    The entire population of the ceded territory — 420,000 men, women, and children — was forcibly resettled to other parts of Finland. That former Finnish territory now constitutes part of Russia’s Republic of Karelia.
    Reenpaeae also deplores the fact that the once-fertile region of Karelia has degenerated into a wasteland during the past six decades. “Russia and the Soviet Union has achieved nothing during the 60 years they have had Finnish Karelia. The former Finnish Karelia is now a wasteland, and without people, without any activities,” he said.
    The claim that Karelia is sparsely populated is not true, however. After the Finnish population was deported, the Soviet leadership resettled some 200,000 people from Belarus and Central Asia to the region. But there has been an outflow of population from the region in recent years, possibly because the economy is predominantly agricultural.

    About half of historical West Karelia still remains within Finland, although the ceded portion was more fertile and more populous. As noted above, the area was settled by ethnic Russians and various other Soviet peoples – their descendants today are generally Russian speaking. Building a whole new society from scratch wasn’t entirely successful, but nowadays the local economy is not bad by the general (low) standards of rural Russia.

    The best farmland was in the southernmost part of ceded Karelia (around the towns of Vyborg, Priozersk and Roschchino, going by their modern Russian names), which is not actually part of the Republic of Karelia, but another federal region of Russia called Leningrad Oblast (the periphery of St. Petersburg). This part has some decent economic activity, thanks to the vicinity of the big city, and also in part thanks to Finnish tourism. Since Soviet times, farming was concentrated in larger villages while smaller villages were often abandoned to forest. In the post-Soviet free market, farming has declined (much like in many rural areas of the West) but urban middle-class dacha plots proliferate.

    North of Lake Ladoga, there’s much less economic activity and remaining population. By the way, this sort of relatively remote rural area would be struggling economically even if it had remained within Finland. Here, too, tourism and dacha settlement have brought some new life in recent years. Here, within the Republic of Karelia, towns such as Sordavala, Pitkyaranta and Suoyarvi have retained their Finnish names, albeit with a modified spelling in Latin Russian writing. In the far north, there are some ceded territories that are now almost entirely uninhabited, but not very many people lived in those areas to begin with.

    The Republic of Karelia is mostly based on historical East Karelia, which is old Russian territory. It was established in the 1920s as an autonomous region for the Karelian people, whose language is closely related to Finnish. At the time, East Karelia had already become majority Russian speaking, while West Karelia was mostly Finnish speaking. Nowadays, Karelian language is an endangered minority language in Russia, as well as in Finland where the descendants of ethnic Karelian refugees have tried to maintain their language in diaspora. Many Finns aren’t even aware or don’t acknowledge Karelian as a separate language and ethnicity. The term Karelian is commonly used to include ethnic Finns of Karelia, including those living in postwar diaspora.

    In East Karelia, Karelian language traditionally survived in remote rural communities, which have become largely deserted in late soviet and post-Soviet times. The language and culture has become increasingly threatened by displacement since WWII, and it didn’t help that the border between Finland and USSR was effectively closed for many decades. It also doesn’t help that the border has been largely closed again since 2020 due to the covid pandemic and Russia becoming a rogue state, with no end in sight. From the 1990s to 2010s there was much hope for building all kinds of cross-border economic and cultural collaboration, which would’ve been a lifeline for the ethnic Karelian community.

    The topic of returning ceded Karelia to Finland was a Finnish fever dream during the 1941-44 Continuation War, then a taboo during Cold War, then it briefly resurfaced when the USSR collapsed. By then it was already unrealistic, thanks in part to the aforementioned ethnic restructuring and the decades-long rooting of the new settlers. In Finland, the surviving first-generation refugees were already quite elderly, but many of then at least got the chance to once more visit the ruins of their old home. Now, they’ve largely passed away and the new generations are gradually getting over the trauma of displacement. The topic was slowly fading further into irrelevancy even before the recent high political tensions.

    Speaking of getting over that trauma, I found this recently published Karelian language music video from the folk band Loimolan Voima:

    Terveh Vegarus

    It’s narrated from the POV of someone born during WWII to a Finland-Karelian refugee family. The video apparently includes someone’s home video footage from a 1990 reconnection trip to the (long-abandoned) village of Vegarus and nearby places in the formerly Karelian-speaking Suoyarvi area. The lyric translation below is mine; it’s slightly haphazard and incomplete, as I don’t fully understand Karelian (The captioning on the video helped a lot).

    Hail, Vegarus

    I arrived in this world when the land was on fire
    The fathers at the border were paying the ultimate price
    The sky burned, I was born far from home
    I was told, there never was a place
    On earth like the one we left
    Suddenly, we survived in strange places

    I grew older, the sickle and hammer prevailed
    Our own land … was behind the curtain
    The grand utopia, the seventy-year regime
    Finally, the border fell in the woods of Karelia
    With my mother I got to see the birthplaces and the shores
    She praised the Lord, bowing there with linen on her head

    No longer do I travel the road myself
    Nothing can break the connection within me now
    Vegarus is near me, the fathers’ land even nearer
    Whatever you … in the world, you can’t take it with you
    Don’t let the home fall into oblivion
    Go and light a candle for the memory

    Though I’ve lived my life being lost
    In Husanvuara I feel again like at my own home
    At my own home

    Hail, Suojärvi, hail, old Vegarus
    As … I’ve longed here all my life
    Hail, Suojärvi, hail, old Vegarus

  111. says

    Bottom of the barrel people rising to the surface: “Rep. Elise Stefanik promoted ‘great replacement’ conspiracy cited by Buffalo terrorist.”


    New York Rep. Elise Stefanik was catapulted to a top House Republican leadership position after Republicans purged Rep. Liz Cheney from the role as punishment for speaking out against Donald Trump’s violent attempted coup. Stefanik has since proven to have no moral boundaries whatsoever, eagerly embracing the farthest-right conspiracy theories culled from QAnon, from neo-Nazi groups, and other extremists—but we knew that, due to her fervent prior backing of an actual attempted coup and her devotion now to sabotaging investigations of that coup.

    Stefanik was quick to express vague sympathy over the murder of 10 Americans [in Buffalo] at the hands of a white supremacist citing the neo-Nazi “great replacement” theory, a white nationalist conspiracy theory that claims world elites (billionaire George Soros is frequently mentioned, or just nameless “Democrats”) are importing non-white immigrants in great numbers so as to dilute America’s “whiteness.”

    But Stefanik, like Tucker Carlson, has been a promoter of that same neo-Nazi conspiracy theory. She is one of the House Republicans that helped mainstream it into the party proper. […]

    Stefanik did not just embrace the “great replacement” theory as a one-off nod to the party’s white supremacist base. Stefanik launched a Facebook ad campaign pushing the conspiracy theory that was considered abhorrent at the time, and looks even more grotesque now that it has yet again become the cited impetus for a mass murder.

    [Stefanik’s] promotion of fringe-right conspiracy theories includes the frothing QAnon-premised claim that opponents of Trumpism are secretly pedophiles, […]

    Like Tucker Carlson, she uses violence-provoking conspiracy claims to further her own career […] The “great replacement” conspiracy is now widespread in Republican rhetoric; there is now no great difference between the spittle-flecked conspiracies of neo-Nazism and those of Republican Party “leadership.”

    The Republican Party is a cesspit. From national leaders to minor state functionaries, its officials stoke violence like it is nothing to them. Party propagandists invent new hoaxes for every situation, hoping that the resulting extremism boosts them even if it kills others. It makes perfect sense that the fascist supporters of an attempted coup would expel Liz Cheney from leadership while embracing this perpetually amoral liar and propagandist; that is who they are.

  112. says

    On the same day as Buffalo massacre, Ted Nugent calls for violence against Democrats in Trump rally

    […] singer and former board member of the National Rifle Association Ted Nugent was a guest at Donald Trump’s American Freedom Tour held at the Austin Convention Center this Sunday. Before Donald Trump himself rallied Republican convention go-ers ahead of the upcoming midterms and touted his endorsements for the likes of Ken Paxton, Nugent was able to provide “words of wisdom” for the GQP:

    …force, if I do say so myself, everybody in your life, to think of what the enemies of America have done in the last 14 months. […] They lied, they cheated, they scammed, and everyday, the Democrats violate their sacred oath to the Constitution.

    [loud cheers from the crowd]

    And if you can’t impress your friends on that, they shouldn’t be your friends. So, thank you for inviting my beautiful wife, Shemane, and I, and my friends, and my guitar. This is a 1966 Gibson from Kalamazoo, Michigan


    Does it sound as good out there as it does up here?

    [loud cheers]

    By the way, if you don’t eat enough medicine and you’re not clean and sober, you can’t play licks like that.

    [some laughs]

    So I love you people madly, but I love you more if you went forward and just went berserk on the skulls of the Democrats and the Marxists and the Communists.

    [roaring loud cheers from the audience]

    […] Ahead of the Republican primary election for US Senate in Pennsylvania, Dr Mehmet Oz has proudly touted his long list of endorsements, which includes Nugent himself; furthermore, Ted Nugent will appear at Dr Oz’s “Tele-Town Hall” later this evening.

    More at the link

  113. says

    Once again, the conspiracy theories promoted by Fox News and Republican elected officials have resulted in an act of racist domestic terrorism. Ten Americans are dead in Buffalo, New York after a white supremacist citing both the “great replacement” conspiracy theory and “critical race theory” set out to murder Black Americans, part of an ongoing pattern of violence premised on once-underground conspiracy claims that have moved from far-right fascist and neo-Nazi groups into mainstream Republican discourse. Both Fox News and the party it caters to could halt the promotion of such propaganda whenever they wanted to; instead, they have embraced the lies while turning a blind eye to the resulting violence. Yet again.


  114. lumipuna says

    Some international commentators are said to be confused or rolling their eyes already because on Sunday, Finnish government signed a formal resolution about seeking Nato membership, which was billed in the media as “Finland decides to join Nato”. This was after the president and prime minister on Thursday formally announced their intent of seeking Nato membership, which was also billed in the media as “Finland decides to join Nato”. Today, the parliament is expected to vote in favor of the government acting according to the abovementioned resolution, which will be presumably also billed in the media as “Finland decides to join Nato”.

    After that, there should be a few days of negotiating a membership deal for Finland and several months of waiting for it to be ratified in 30 Nato countries. After that, Finnish parliament will have to once again vote in favor of the abovementioned membership deal (which will be presumably billed in the media as “Finland decides to join Nato”) so that the government can sign it.

    (Just to make things more confusing, a few weeks ago there was fake news circulating claiming that Finnish parliament had already voted in favor of Nato membership. What actually happened was that majority of the MPs had individually announced their support for Nato membership by then.)

  115. tuatara says

    At the Guardian.

    Victorian Liberal party seeks to expel Bernie Finn over anti-abortion comments

    State MP will face motion to expel him from parliamentary Liberal party after he said he was ‘praying’ for an abortion ban in Australia

    Victorian state MP Bernie Finn will face a move to expel him from the parliamentary Liberal party after he repeatedly expressed his opposition to abortion.

    Guardian Australia understands the motion to expel Finn has the support of senior opposition MPs and is expected to pass at a meeting next Tuesday.

    If passed, Finn would be forced to sit on the crossbench in the upper house and would be unable to run again as a Liberal at November’s state election. The motion would not expel Finn from the Liberal party, meaning he could retain his membership.

    Finn was criticised this month after saying on Facebook he was “praying” for abortion to be banned in Australia.

    His comments came after the leak of a draft decision showing a majority of US supreme court justices may overturn Roe v Wade, which ruled abortion was a constitutional right.

    In his post, Finn said “killing babies is criminal”. When a woman commented that she did not support abortion but believed there should be options for women who are victims of rape, Finn replied: “Babies should not be killed for the crime of his or her parent.”

    After Finn’s comments, the opposition leader, Matthew Guy, said the Liberal party was “absolutely sick” of Finn’s social media posts and said he should consider if he wished to remain a Liberal MP.

    Finn resigned as the opposition’s whip in the state’s upper house days later, but that has not stopped members of his party moving against him.

    In a statement on Monday, Guy said it was “imperative” that Liberal MPs were “solely focused on recovering and rebuilding Victoria”.

    “A continued lack of discipline and repeated actions detrimental to the party’s ability to stand up for the interests of Victorians has left no other option but to consider Mr Finn’s eligibility to represent the Liberal party,” he said in a statement.

    Guardian Australia has confirmed with several Liberal party sources the motion to expel Finn is expected to take place at a party room meeting next Tuesday.

    One Liberal MP, who requested anonymity, said Finn’s views were “repugnant and do not represent the party”.

    Several federal Liberal candidates in Victoria are under pressure to retain high-profile seats from progressive independent challengers.

    The Liberal party’s preselection for the state’s upper house is expected to open in the coming weeks.

    Finn had previously faced criticism for his social media use. He once likened the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, to Adolf Hitler, and shared pro-Trump conspiracy theories including the claim that the former president was “improperly” removed from office.

    He has been an upper house MP since 2006. Between 1992 and 1999 he was a lower house MP for the electorate of Tullamarine before it was abolished in 2002.

    Earlier this year, Guy dismissed reports Finn would be challenged for the No 1 position on the Western Metropolitan upper house ticket. He described Finn as a “very loud and proud conservative”.

    Guardian Australia has contacted Finn for comment.

    For those not in-the-know, the Liberal party here in Oz is the largest conservative political party in the nation. Them throwing this meatbag out is rare evidence of them havimg a spine (though I remain cynical about their motive).

  116. says

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

    Putin warns Finland and Sweden any military expansion ‘would demand a reaction’

    Vladimir Putin said Russia had no issue with Finland and Sweden, but that the expansion of military infrastructure on their territory would demand a reaction from Moscow, as the Nordic countries move closer to joining NATO.

    Putin, speaking in Moscow at a summit of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), said NATO’s expansion was a problem for Russia and that it must look closely at what he said were the US-led military alliance’s plans to increase its global influence.

    Ukraine’s Kharkiv governor says Ukrainian troops have reached Russian border

    The governor of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region has said that Ukrainian troops defending Kharkiv have reached the state border with Russia.

    Reuters said it could not independently verify the comments made by Kharkiv region governor Oleh Sinegubov on the Telegram messaging service. It was not immediately clear how many troops had reached the Russian border and where.

    Kharkiv region governor Oleh Sinegubov wrote on the Telegram messaging app that troops of the 227th Battalion had restored a sign on the state border.

    “We thank everyone who, risking their lives, liberates Ukraine from Russian invaders,” Sinegubov said.

    If confirmed, it would suggest a Ukrainian counter-offensive is having increasing success in pushing back Russian forces in the northeast after Western military agencies said Moscow’s offensive in the Donbas region had stalled.

    Ukraine has been retaking territory in its north-east, driving Russian forces away from Kharkiv, the second-largest Ukrainian city.

    Ukraine’s defence ministry said in a Facebook post that the 227th Battalion of the 127th Brigade of Ukraine’s armed forces had reached the border with Russia, adding: “Together to victory!”

    McDonald’s to exit Russia and sell its portfolio of restaurants in the country

    American fast-food giant McDonald’s will exit the Russian market and sell its business in the increasingly isolated country, the company said on Monday.

    Many western businesses have pulled out of Russia since its invasion of Ukraine in February.

    Earlier on Monday, the French automaker Renault announced it had handed over its Russian assets to the government in Moscow, marking the first major nationalisation of the economic disentanglement.

    McDonald’s closed all of its 850 restaurants in the country, where it says it employs 62,000 people, in March.

    But the company decided to take a step further, saying in a statement:

    After more than 30 years of operations in the country, McDonald’s Corporation announced it will exit the Russian market and has initiated a process to sell its Russian business.

    The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and the precipitating unpredictable operating environment, have led McDonald’s to conclude that continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values [LOL].

    It said it was looking to sell “its entire portfolio of McDonald’s restaurants in Russia to a local buyer”.

    The company added that after the sale, the restaurants would no longer be able to use the McDonald’s name, logo, branding or menu.

    Russia, where McDonald’s directly manages more than 80% of the restaurants bearing its name, accounts for 9% of the company’s revenue and 3% of its operating profit….

    Hungary has been accused of “holding the EU hostage” over its refusal to agree an oil embargo against Russia, as the bloc struggles to reach consensus on its latest sanctions aimed at eroding the Kremlin’s ability to wage war.

    Lithuania’s foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, said:

    Unfortunately the whole union is being held hostage by one member state.

    He was referring to Hungary, which continues to block the oil embargo, despite being offered an extension on phasing out Russian crude until the end of 2024….

  117. lumipuna says

    KG at 138,

    That’s interesting. The wiki says that Prokopenko’s grandfather fought for Finland in Winter War, but the translated snippet of the source doesn’t actually say that. Also, how’d the family then end up living in Soviet Ukraine by 1991 (since Propkopenko was apparently born there)?

    My best guess is the grandfather actually lived in East Karelia at the time, was forced to fight on the Soviet side and saw his brothers get killed in that war, while generally disapproving communism and (Russian) imperialism. Hence, the family has strongly sympathized with the Finnish side and kept up the memory of Winter War (which wasn’t much talked about in the later days of USSR). It’s also plausible the brothers (and some other family members?) were murdered during 1930s if the family was anti-communist.

    AFAIK the movement for Karelian (republic) independence is extremely fringe, to the point that its suppression under current Russian regime doesn’t really make any noise. Finnish language sources note that Prokopenko has been seen displaying a flag that unofficially represents Karelian ethnicity and desire for cultural autonomy, historically also a desire for independence or political autonomy.

    Anyway, now he’s apparently about to die in the ruins of Mariupol. Shit.

  118. says

    I had missed this last week, and apologies if anyone else posted it already – “GOP senators urge TV ratings board to warn viewers of ‘disturbing’ LGBTQ content”:

    A group of Republican senators is calling for the country’s television ratings system to warn parents about “sexual orientation and gender identity content” on children’s TV shows.

    In a two-page letter dated May 4, Sens. Mike Braun, R-Ind., Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., made the request to the chairman of the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board.

    The TV Parental Guidelines is a television and film content rating system that Congress, the broadcast industry and the Federal Communications Commission created in 1996 “to give parents more information about the content and age-appropriateness of TV program.” The rating icons — including TV-G, TV-PG and TV-MA — are typically displayed at the top of a screen as a program begins.

    “In recent years, concerning topics of a sexual nature have become aggressively politicized and promoted in children’s programming, including irreversible and harmful experimental treatments for mental disorders like gender dysphoria,” the letter reads. “To this end, we strongly urge you to update the TV Parental Guidelines and ensure they are up-to-date on best practices that help inform parents on this disturbing content.”

    Wednesday’s letter suggested that parents’ “rightfully expressed outrage” should be directed beyond the classroom and at broadcasters for creating children’s shows with LGBTQ characters and storylines. It also argued that content on sexual orientation and gender identity “harms child actors.”

    “The motivations of hyper-sexualized entertainment producers striving to push this content on young audiences are suspect at best and predatory at worst,” they wrote.

    In particular, the senators slammed the Walt Disney Co., which conservatives have targeted in recent weeks since the company’s CEO criticized the Florida legislation in March….

    Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD, said in a statement that the senators’ request for an LGBTQ content warning was part of a “growing trend” of lawmakers “fighting and losing against the growing tide of LGBTQ acceptance.”

    “What viewers and voters most need a warning about is how this is part of a larger extremist agenda to target their basic human rights,” she said. “No one wants to go back in time. We need representatives who support everyone’s right to be themselves and have the same chances to contribute and succeed in American life.”

    The senators requested the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board to respond by May 18 and urged for members to provide the senators with an in-person presentation on the matter.

  119. blf says

    Some snippets from the Meduza live blog:

    Return of the Moskvich
    The Russian government has taken control of an auto manufacturing plant that previously belonged to the French company Renault and will use it to bring back the Moskvich, an iconic Soviet-era (and later Russian) car that was last produced in 2001. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced the nationalization on Monday.

    The Renault factory in Moscow was originally the Moskvich factory.

    Air travel in Russia gets worse
    Russian air passengers may soon face massive lines as they go through security. That’s because the foreign technology used to inspect luggage will begin to expire, leaving officials with no choice but to conduct manual inspections, according to Kommersant. Because international sanctions will prevent the machines’ manufacturers from supplying Russian airports with replacements, Russia’s Airport Association has requested that the Transportation Ministry extend the current machines’ certification periods.

    Reading between the lines here — and extrapolating from my knowledge of how payment cards work (there are some similarities) — I presume what is about to happen is some sort of certification of approval is about to expire, and those machines cannot get re-certified (or upgraded) or replaced. Russian-extended or approved certificates (or just ignoring the problem) will get around that hiccup within Russia, unless the equipment “self-bricks” on expiry (unusual, but possible). I have no idea if international destinations will be happy with Russian-originating flights using out-of-date / questionable certification.

  120. richardh says

    “I have no idea if international destinations will be happy with Russian-originating flights using out-of-date / questionable certification.”

    I can guess. Never mind the security certification, how about the certificates of airworthiness of the aircraft?

  121. blf says

    richardh@143, At least one Russian-certified aircraft was found at(?) an international destination (as far as I can recall, this was mentioned previously in this series of poopyhead threads). I don’t recall either the details or the outcome, but yes, They™ weren’t impressed.

  122. dianne says

    Russian air passengers may soon face massive lines as they go through security.

    How extremely different from the situation in the US.

  123. says

    Podcast episodes:

    Guardian – “Marcos’ myths: the dictator’s son rewriting history in the Philippines”:

    Ferdinand Marcos Jr is set to achieve a landslide victory in the Philippines presidential election. His father’s authoritarian regime was ousted by the People Power Revolution movement in 1986, so why have the public voted the family back in?

    Boni Ilagan fought against the former Marcos regime at great personal cost. In 1974 he was jailed and tortured for campaigning against the government’s martial law. His sister and fellow activist Rizalina Ilagan disappeared and her remains were never recovered. He tells Michael Safi how disturbing it is for him to see the family returning to office. “It’s grotesque,” he says. “I cannot seem to fathom why we’ve come to this.”

    The Guardian’s south-east Asia correspondent Rebecca Ratcliffe explains how misinformation and the rewriting of history during the campaign made this result possible.

    Radio Free Humanity – “Episode 68: Chomsky on Ukraine, and the Universal Grammar of Whataboutism (with Bill Weinberg)”:

    The co-hosts and Bill Weinberg––the noted journalist, podcaster, and anarchist raconteur––engage in a wide-ranging critique of Noam Chomsky’s statements about the Putin regime’s war against the Ukrainian people, and of Chomsky’s ideology and political activity over the last several decades. They discuss Weinberg’s recent CountervVortex podcast episode, “Against Chomsky’s Genocide Complicity,” Chomsky’s statements on the war against Ukraine in recent interviews in Current Affairs and Truthout, and the open letter in which Chomsky’s Ukrainian translator called him out. Weinberg provides a synopsis of Chomsky’s most sordid political interventions during the last 45 years. He and the co-hosts also discuss Chomsky’s top-down “realist” orientation to world affairs, centered on struggles between “great powers,” and whether it has anything in common with either anarchism or Marxism. Finally, they discuss the so-called “Chomsky rule,” which is meant to justify centering one’s politics around opposition to the violence perpetrated by “one’s own” state. What is the logic of this “rule,” what are its ethics, and what accounts for its widespread appeal?

    (Speaking of ethnic minorities, their guest Bill Weinberg has a new podcast episode “Whither Khazaria?” I knew nothing about the Krymchaks and Karaites before; after this weekend I know slightly more than nothing, so that’s progress. Here’s a bit more about the “On Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine” law passed last year.)

  124. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    The Swedish government has confirmed it intends to apply for membership of Nato, joining neighbouring Finland in a dramatic decision that marks one of the biggest strategic consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to date.

    “There is a broad majority in Sweden’s parliament for Sweden to join Nato,” said the prime minister, Magdalena Andersson. “This is the best thing for the security of Sweden and its people. We will inform Nato we want to become a member of the alliance.”

    Andersson told reporters after a parliamentary debate on Monday that Sweden would be “in a vulnerable position” while the application was processed, but that ministers saw no direct military threat from Russia at present. She said she felt “confident there is support for this among the Swedish people”.

    The Finnish government confirmed its intention to join Nato on Sunday, shortly before Andersson’s ruling Social Democrats abandoned decades of opposition to back a Swedish bid for membership, making Monday’s debate in the Riksdag a formality.

    Andersson said Sweden’s Nato ambassador would formally hand over Stockholm’s request to the alliance headquarters in Brussels “within the next few days”, adding that the application would be submitted simultaneously with Finland’s….


    Norway, Denmark and Iceland have issued a joint statement offering their support to Finland and Sweden in case the two Nordic nations were to come under attack during their Nato applications….

    The European Union and the United States have agreed closer cooperation to counter disrupted supply of commodities and food caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and to combat disinformation from Moscow….

    Russian forces have shelled frontline positions in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas area as fighting becomes increasingly focused on Severodonetsk, the easternmost city still held by Ukrainian forces after more than 11 weeks of war.

    Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk region, said on Monday that Russian strikes had hit a hospital in the city over the weekend, killing two and injuring nine, including a child – and several other locations had been targeted.

    Ukrainian forces repelled 17 attacks on Sunday, he added, and destroyed 11 Russian armoured vehicles. The air force command said Ukrainians downed two helicopters, two cruise missiles and seven drones.

    The Russians are gradually mounting an assault on Severodonetsk, an industrial city that had a population of 100,000 before the war, as the effort to complete a wider encirclement of Ukraine’s defending forces in the Donbas appears to have failed.

    Overnight the US Institute for the Study of War said it believed “Russian forces have likely abandoned the objective of completing a large-scale encirclement of Ukrainian units from Donetsk City to Izium” in favour of capturing the remainder of the Luhansk region, of which Severodonetsk is part.

    A smaller-scale encirclement of Severodonetsk also failed last week after Russian forces were defeated with heavy losses in a series of unsuccessful attempts to cross the Siverskyi Donets River at Bilohorivka. The river is increasingly becoming a dividing line between the two sides in the Donbas – the name given collectively to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions – and around Kharkiv to the north.

  125. says

    Ukraine update:

    Whether by battlefield success or strategic Ukrainian retreat, Russia is seeing some success in the Lyman-Severodonetsk axis. [map at the link]

    It seems fated Russia eventually swallow up Lyman and Severodonetsk, just off the right edge of the map above—they are the last two remaining Ukrainian strongholds north of the Donets River. And given Russia’s severe troubles fording that river, Ukraine will have more defensible territory on the southern bank when and if they’re pushed back. [Severodonetsk is on the administrative border of the Donbas region.]

    That Russian Popasna salient on the bottom-right of the map above could be more problematic. There’s no river down there to provide fall-back protection if Ukrainian defensive lines collapse. Luckily, Russia has been unable or unwilling to fully exploit that breakthrough, but they will continue their drip-drip-drip of of cannon-fodder charges until Ukrainian defenses are worn through. Or at least, that’s their hope.

    Quick aside: Remember when everyone (including the Pentagon and UK intelligence) said Russia had a big, massive offensive in store for the eastern Donbas after their humiliating Kyiv retreat? Remember how I laughed off the possibility, given Russia’s complete inability to demonstrate any ability to launch large-scale coordinated attacks? I don’t pretend to always be right, but I am so glad I called this one correctly. Our biggest fear should be Russia learning from its mistakes. (And maybe nuclear annihilation, on further thought…)

    Not going to lie, I have no idea why Ukraine fights so hard for Lyman and Severodonetsk. Neither have any particularly strategic value. They’ve both been mostly emptied of civilians, flattened by Russian artillery. But Russia’s gains in the area (like everywhere else on this front) have come at a frightful cost, so perhaps there’s no reason to abandon meticulously created defensive emplacements until they actually need to abandon them? Russia is certainly telegraphing uncertainty about its ability to capture the city, leading to those disastrous bridging attempts to surround Severodonetsk.

    Those rash, desperate river crossings underscore just how important Severodonetsk is to Russia’s war planners at the moment. It clearly needs a victory to parade on state TV, to motivate flagging morale, and to give its aimless slog purpose. The victory doesn’t need to be strategic. In reality, it would be an even smaller target than its already shrunken territorial ambitions: [map at the link]

    Russia is running out of troops and heading to the point of culmination, a word you’ll be hearing more and more—the point where an army is so degraded that it can no longer fight. Ukraine went on the counter-offensive around Kharkiv, and Russia had nothing. This supposedly mighty superpower, the world’s second-best army, pathetically retreated in the face of lightly armed territorial defense troops. Russia couldn’t even muster any reserves from Belgorod, just a stone’s throw away. They’re running on fumes.

    Russian private military companies are reportedly forming combined units with airborne elements due to significant losses in manpower. Denaturing elite airborne units with mercenaries is shocking, and would be the clearest indication yet that Russia has exhausted its available combat-ready manpower reserves. The Russian 810th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade is reportedly receiving personnel from other Black Sea Fleet units, including navy ship crewmembers. Newly formed or regrouped units are unlikely to be effective in combat.

    Russia has had to withdraw at least some of its forces from the Izyum salient—its largest concentration of troops in all of Ukraine with about 20-25% of its total battalion tactical groups—to guard its critical supply hub at Kupiansk. Russia shouldn’t overly sweat it, because Ukraine is pressing directly on Izyum instead from the west and likely its northwest. [NASA FIRMS maps at the link]

    Meanwhile, Russia is having a tough time with people doing shit despite its threats. There’s Kyrgyzstan:

    There is growing speculation that Kyrgyzstan might try to withdraw from the Eurasian Economic Union over Western sanctions. Russian media is warning of dire consequences.

    Finland and Sweden, of course:

    Dmitry Kiselyov’s reaction to plans by Finland and Sweden to join Nato: “Do the Nordic states want things to heat up?”

    Nuclear bomb mushroom clouds are propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov’s favorite recycled TV backdrop & threat. In 2015 it was so outrageous, Russian opposition politicians called for adding him to Magnitsky List sanctions. Now, it’s same old same old.

    There was Poland.

    Propagandist Olga Sakabeyeva threatens #Poland on state-owned TV channel Russia-1.

    And Iceland…

    Russia threatens Iceland for “organizing 13 flights to transport military equipment from Albania, Slovenia, Italy, Croatia and Portugal” to Ukraine. Russia hopes “that the Icelandic authorities are aware of the level of responsibility.”

    They’re threatening UK:

    Russia threatens to nuke UK with terrifying ‘Satan 2’ missile in SECONDS […]

    They even threaten a singing competition.

    Very scary nationalist “journalist” Yuliya Vityazeva proposes blowing Eurovision up with a “Satan” nuclear missile.

    Russia is a bankrupt nation with a bankrupt army and a bankrupt leader who has lost his mind. They dominated their region and struck fear into its neighbors by pretending to have a functioning superpower-class military. Instead, the only acceptable responses to threats like the ones above look like this: [map and tweet available at the link]

    My mortal enemy in Christ, you can’t cross a single river. And you want to jump in head first, into the Finnish Murder Aqua Park™.


  126. says

    Clarence Thomas’ misguided arguments take a self-defeating turn

    The more Justice Clarence Thomas tries to defend the Supreme Court’s reputation, the more he ends up doing the opposite.

    It was 10 days ago when Justice Clarence Thomas appeared at a judicial conference and argued that the judiciary is threatened if Americans are unwilling to “live with outcomes we don’t agree with.” Left unacknowledged was Ginni Thomas’ political activism, and her efforts to overturn the 2020 election because she wasn’t willing to live with an outcome she didn’t agree with.

    But if the conservative jurist’s rhetoric represented a failure of self-awareness on May 6, Thomas’ arguments took a more self-defeating turn a week later.

    At an event on Friday night, the justice reflected on the recent leak of a draft ruling, telling an audience, “What happened at the court is tremendously bad. I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them.”

    […] what Thomas seemed oblivious to was his own role in undermining public confidence in the institution on which he serves.

    The justice appeared at a conference organized by conservative political organizations — the American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Institution, and the Manhattan Institute — and seemed eager to frame disputes in a left-vs-right dynamic in which he gladly took a side. The New York Times reported:

    Justice Thomas said the left had adopted tactics that conservatives would not employ. “You would never visit Supreme Court justices’ houses when things didn’t go our way,” he said. “We didn’t throw temper tantrums. It is incumbent on us to always act appropriately, and not to repay tit for tat.”


    Part of the problem was Thomas’ use of words such as “we” and us,” and his willingness to publicly present himself to conservatives as a fellow ideologue. But just as notable is the degree to which the justice is wrong: A year after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, for any prominent political voice to insist the right doesn’t “throw temper tantrums” is to suggest an alarming detachment from current events.

    Thomas added that conservatives had “never trashed a Supreme Court nominee.” I realize that two months ago may seem like ancient history to some, but as regular readers may recall, during Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Americans saw Republican senators go after Jackson with “barely coded appeals to racism.”

    GOP senators’ antics were disrespectful, and at times embarrassing. The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson went so far as to argue that the ways in which GOP senators approached this fight reflected “a Republican Party in decay.” One Republican senator even launched an attack ad targeting Jackson with deceptive slander after she’d already been confirmed.

    Perhaps Thomas could elaborate on what he means by “trashed”?

    But perhaps most glaring of all was the justice’s willingness to defend Senate Republicans’ abuses. Politico reported:

    Thomas also ventured into discussion of some topics sitting justices rarely opine on publicly. He defended the Senate’s refusal to consider Judge Merrick Garland when President Barack Obama nominated him in 2016 to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The Senate was simply following a policy articulated by then-Sen. Joe Biden, when he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, of not confirming a Supreme Court nominee in the last year of a president’s term, Thomas asserted.

    [Adhering to Republican talking points! And wrong on many levels.]

    Again, it’s a problem that Thomas, an ostensibly neutral arbiter on the nation’s highest court, found it necessary to publicly defend Republicans’ tactics. That simply isn’t his job. If the justice is concerned about public respect for and confidence in the Supreme Court, rhetoric like this is exactly the sort of thing he should avoid.

    But it’s a bigger problem that Thomas’ defense of GOP senators’ efforts was factually incorrect. Republicans were wrong about what Biden said in 1992, and Thomas echoing talking points that were discredited six years ago only added insult to injury.

    The justice specifically said on Friday that under the made-up Biden rule, “you get no hearing in the last year of an administration.” That’s not even close to what Biden actually said, and the fact that a sitting justice peddled a bogus, partisan argument like this is exactly the sort of thing that further undermines the institution.

    Last fall, Thomas insisted that justices aren’t “politicians.” Then why does he keep acting like one?

  127. says

    Former House Republican Conference chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) tore into her party’s leaders on Monday morning for fueling white nationalist “great replacement” fearmongering.

    This comes amid allegations that the racist great replacement conspiracy theory inspired a white gunman to allegedly fatally shoot 10 people in a Black neighborhood grocery store in Buffalo, New York on Saturday.

    “The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism,” Cheney tweeted, directly denouncing the colleagues she once joined in GOP leadership before they ousted her. “History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse.”

    The Wyoming Republican called on the leaders to “renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.”

    Cheney’s condemnation comes as Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who replaced Cheney as conference chair, is under fire over her campaign ads on Facebook that accused Democrats of plotting a “PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION” with their immigration policies.

    Though Stefanik is by no means the only Republican to peddle the racist conspiracy theory, which baselessly suggests Democrats are trying to bring in immigrants to widen their voting base, her ads have come under fresh scrutiny in the wake of the shooting in her home state.

    Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) put Stefanik directly on blast after the shooting on Saturday and compared her to Cheney, who was kicked out of her leadership position for acknowledging that ex-President Donald Trump played an incitement role in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

    “Did you know: @EliseStefanik pushes white replacement theory? The #3 in the house GOP,” Kinzinger tweeted. “@Liz_Cheney got removed for demanding truth.”

    […] on Monday morning, Stefanik’s campaign issued a caustic defense stating, “Any implication or attempt to blame the heinous shooting” on the New York Republican “is a new disgusting low for the Left, their Never Trump allies, and the sycophant stenographers in the media.”

    Stefanik’s senior adviser, Alex DeGrasse, insisted that the GOP lawmaker “has never advocated for any racist position or made a racist statement.” [Utter bullshit]

    Meanwhile, Stefanik’s Twitter feed on Monday shows the lawmaker doubling down on the racist conspiracy theory she promoted in her ad campaign. […]

  128. says

    Americans are addicted to guns, and like most junkies, they’ll blame anything but guns for the damage caused by their beloved death machines. This explains the sadly predictable response from gun lovers after a white supremacist gunman murdered 10 people in Buffalo. (The shooter is 18, so he was legally able to buy a gun but not a beer.)

    GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene bemoaned the “severe mental health crisis” in America that presumably led to the shooting. She tweeted, “Instead of investing billions in foreign countries, we should only be investing in our own people and our own problems.” So, she responds to a racist murder spree with more of her racist xenophobia. I’m too old and depressed for this level of irony.

    This morning, Greene replied to a tweet where the killer said he chose Buffalo because of its relatively large Black population. She ignored his stated racial animus, and instead focused on his claim that he chose New York because of its gun control laws. She wrote, “When people can’t carry, they are defenseless.” This is dumb and offensive even for Greene. Retired police officer Aaron Salter, who worked security, was armed, but firing at the shooter didn’t work because he was wearing body armor. The shooter then killed Salter. The average person isn’t going to the grocery store dressed for combat. You’re better off using Instacart and rolling the dice on bad produce picks.

    Deranged people have absurdly easy access to guns. That’s the problem, but we still get the most ridiculous deflections. Right-wing media quickly dusted off its favorite gun violence scapegoat, video games. [video at the link]

    Fox News anchor Jon Scott wondered what went through the mind of the 18-year-old shooter, who had “his whole life in front of him, but now his life is essentially over” because of how he murdered all those Black people, whose lives are literally over. It’s kinda early to start centering the white supremacist but this is Fox News.

    SCOTT: It seems like these things have gotten so much worse since video games became so realistic and violent.

    Correlation is not causation, asshole.

    Scott further pondered if video games “desensitized” people to the impact of violence. His guest blamed the decline of the family unit. Meanwhile, both these fools were on a network that has arguably desensitized viewers to overtly racist rhetoric.

    This wasn’t Scott’s first bullshit rodeo. He also linked video games, without a shred of evidence, to the racially motivated mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart in 2019.

    From Reason:

    Scott wonders if these guys “raised on a diet of violent video games—if they actually start pulling the trigger of a real weapon and they see real death and they find it’s not as satisfying as it was when they’re playing on a television screen.” He wonders out loud if this is why the alleged shooter, Patrick Crusius, stopped shooting.

    The National Rifle Association has also grossly tried to blame fake violence for causing the real violence it enables. Look, I’d probably suggest pulling from shelves any KKK-approved Great Replacement Theory video games where white-only avatars murder 72-year-old Black grandmothers. However, studies consistently show that playing violent video games doesn’t lead to violent behavior. It’s the prevalence of guns that leads to gun violence. In Japan, people play more video games than their American counterparts, but the nation has 96 times fewer gun homicides. However, Japan has stricter gun control laws and doesn’t waste time chasing down strawmen.

    I admit I prefer the First Amendment to the Second, but it’s not like we’ll ever make racists go away. We can make it harder for them to kill us.


  129. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    The Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Swedish and Finnish delegations should not bother coming to Ankara to convince it to approve their NATO bid because they harbour terrorists.

    In a news conference, Erdogan said Turkey would not approve their bids to join NATO, calling Sweden a “hatchery” for terrorist organisations, and adding they had terrorists in their parliament.

    Ankara says Sweden and Finland harbour people it says are linked to groups it deems terrorists, namely the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the 2016 coup attempt.

  130. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 151

    GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene bemoaned the “severe mental health crisis” in America that presumably led to the shooting.

    Gee, Maj. does that mean that you’re going to support making sure every American can see a mental health professional and get treatment regardless of their ability to pay for it?

    No! Of course not! That would be just a much “COMMUNISM!!!” as gun control.

    When right-wingers start to target the mentally ill (that is, when they aren’t denying its existence, or claiming it’s actually demonic possession), they aren’t looking to treat them, they want to vilify them as potential criminals who are just a “bad day” away from murdering people and preemptively imprison them. They seek to criminalize the mentally ill as a scape goat rather than deal with the real issues.

  131. says


    f there is one thing the far right is sure of this week, it is that its number one mission is proving the Buffalo shooter was either a liberal, a federal agent or someone brainwashed by the FBI to shoot up a Tops grocery store in Buffalo, New York, in hopes of making racist conspiracy theories seem like a bad thing. You know, because otherwise everyone thought Great Replacement/White Genocide stuff was perfectly reasonable.

    Far-right talk show host Stew Peters thinks he has proof the shooter is a liberal, and that proof is that he is supposedly a furry, which means he cannot possibly be a white supremacist.

    In a Telegram post Sunday, Peters wrote, “The Feds knew about the NY shooter, who was a mentally-disturbed ‘furry’, and they let it happen. They WANTED it to happen.” [sic] He then shared a post from Georgia GOP gubernatorial candidate Kandiss “God, Guns and Babies” Taylor featuring an image from the shooter’s livestream where his phone shows that he had been looking at a picture of a sexy cartoon dog.

    It turns out the Buffalo shooter yesterday was a furry,” Taylor wrote. “In my list of executive orders, I explicitly addressed and received blowback for tackling the perversions of the furry culture. Twisting the minds of Generation Z MUST END!” This is true. Kandiss Taylor has been freaking out about furries for some time now. One of her “executive orders” she’d sign as governor involves instituting a dress code in schools that will ban “furry” attire. [image at the link]

    In his post, Peters then wrote that “The gun didn’t do it. A ‘white supremacist’ didn’t do it. A sick and demented furry did it,” adding that “When Kandiss Taylor is elected governor, GA will be furry-free…” [Tweet at the link]

    […] Peters followed that post up with an “explanation” of what furries are for his audience:

    For those asking, a “furry” is someone who identifies as an animal. There are school districts with freak show, nose ring-wearing, purple haired ANTIFA crackpot groomer rapists for teachers that are bending a knee to this sickness and offering students litter boxes in the classroom.

    Fact: Furries are not Conservative “white supremacists”.

    [Oh, FFS!]

    Furries don’t “identify” as animals, and no one is putting litter boxes in classrooms for them. That’s not a thing. This is not to say there aren’t people who claim to identify as animals, but they’re not furries. They call themselves Otherkin or “therians,” and sure, they’re a tad ridiculous, but they’re not bothering anybody.

    Also, while looking at this picture does not necessarily mean alleged shooter Payton Gendron is a furry, neo-Nazi furries are in fact a thing and have been for a while now. The Daily Beast’s Kelly Weill reported in 2017 that the Rocky Mountain Fur Con in Denver had to be canceled due to an influx of fascist furries, organizing themselves under the #AltFurry hashtag.

    Of course, none of this matters to a guy who has been ranting for over week about how the US is giving $40 billion to Satanic Nazi cannibals in Ukraine so they can eat Russians. (We can assume the money is for seasonings and side dishes.) [image at the link]

    I wish I were joking, but I’m not.

    Frankly, the only difference between believing Stew Peters’s nonsense and believing that one is an elf trapped in a human body who remembers the language they spoke on their elf planet back when they were elves in elf bodies or the parent of 2,000 alien-human-hybrid babies is that the latter two aren’t harmful to anybody.

  132. says

    New episode of Geopolitics Decanted – “How effective is the Russian military: Analysis of the war in Ukraine (May 15, 2022)”:

    May 15, 2022: Dmitri Alperovitch talks with Michael Kofman (Research Program Director in the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analysis) and Dara Massicot (Senior Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation and formerly an analyst on Russian military capabilities at the US Department of Defense) about the new developments in the war in Ukraine on Twitter Spaces. In-depth analysis of why the Russian military has performed so poorly at each stage of the conflict, botched river crossings in Donbas, possibility of annexation of Kherson and other parts of occupied Ukrainian territories and implications of such action on the possible employment of nuclear weapons in this conflict.

    This is the video to which they’re referring early on: “The Occupant.”

  133. says

    Followup, of sorts, to comment 121.

    Ukraine update: Someone managed to cross the Siverskyi Donets River, but it’s not Russia

    The Siverskyi Donets River has already played an outsized role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. East of Izyum, Russian forces attempted to cross the river three times with disastrous consequences […] In the east, Ukrainian forces in Severodonetsk, the last Ukrainian stronghold on the east side of the river, may be forced to move back to the west bank of the river, using its natural protection to halt a Russian advance. In the north, Ukrainian forces moving northeast from Kharkiv raced to the town of Staryi Saltiv in an attempt to capture the bridge there, then bombarded a sequence of towns further north in hopes of finding an intact crossing that would allow them to bring forces to the east side of the river, menacing Russian supply lines.

    Unfortunately Russia blew up that series of bridges in the north, just as Ukrainian forces have taken down several bridges in the east. […] Ukrainian forces were just as hemmed in by the river’s rapid flow, which has been bolstered by recent spring rains, as the Russians have been in their own attempts to cross.

    Except … maybe not. Because it seems that Ukraine has crossed the river anyway, and at a position that could be incredibly important: Staryi Saltiv.

    The bridge at Staryi Saltiv is incredibly long, over a kilometer and a half, because the river there is not a river but a lake—a reservoir held back by a large hydroelectric dam. So of all the places that Ukraine might cross, at first glance this would seem among the least likely. However, from the moment Ukraine maneuvered around other villages and shocked Russian forces by capturing Staryi Saltiv, Ukraine began an artillery bombardment of the area directly along the eastern end of that bridge. It certainly seemed that they had some interest in what was going on across the river. [map at the link]

    Every single village and town on this map was held by Russia when the Ukrainian advance out of Kharkiv (just off map to the left) began three weeks ago. That little curve of yellow line represents the actual border, where Ukrainian forces posed for a picture on Sunday before installing a bright new boundary marker.

    Now there are reports that Ukraine has sufficiently repaired the lengthy bridge to move forces across and establish a bridgehead on the eastern bank. There are even reports that Ukraine has moved out from that location to capture two nearby villages. None of this has officially been confirmed by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. However, it is coming from some of the reliable sources that first reported the Ukrainian advance on Ternova last week. There are other, even less confirmed reports that Ukraine may have crossed the river at another point further north, using a pontoon bridge. Take both of these reports with a good dash of salt, but since there are Russian Telegram messages complaining about the Ukrainian forces on “their” side of the river, maybe not that much salt.

    From this bridgehead, Ukraine could go … just about anywhere. They might move north to threaten the rail and road junction at Vovchansk. They might move southeast toward the even more critical supply depot at Kupyansk. Mostly they are loose in Russia’s backfield, able to maneuver toward towns and cities in a way that will require Russia to turn still more forces away from the salient at Izyum, or the battles in the east.

    In fact, former Russian military officer Igor Girkin, who is still stinging from the fact that he didn’t become the leader of the Donetsk area after the 2014 invasion, reports that Ukrainian forces on the east side of the river are already probing toward Vovchansk. [Tweet, in Russian, with map, is available at the link]

    Russia’s primary response to the wave of Ukrainian advances from Kharkiv has been to withdraw its forces across the border. Only in a very few remaining villages are Russian forces continuing to fight west of the Donets rather than simply move on. However, just because Russia is pulling out of the Kharkiv area doesn’t mean the Ukrainian forces that won back that area are content to simply sit on the recaptured land.

    Now Ukraine is threatening Russian supply lines in the rear. And Ukraine is pushing hard against the Izyum salient in a series of attacks that seem designed to destroy Russian forces positioned there. And Ukraine is continuing to keep Russian advances in the east to a snail’s pace. And Ukraine is feeling much more free to involve its air force directly in combat (even though Russia claims to have somehow shot down dozens of Ukrainian jets in just the last week).

  134. says

    It is possible, though not yet confirmed, that the Azov regiment my have surrendered in Mariupol … with some kind of prisoner exchange as part of the deal.

    Zelenskyy is planning to provide details during his evening broadcast.

  135. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Putin involved in war ‘at level of colonel or brigadier’, say western sources

    Vladimir Putin has become so personally involved in the Ukraine war that he is making operational and tactical decisions “at the level of a colonel or brigadier”, according to western military sources.

    The Russian president is helping determine the movement of forces in the Donbas, they added, where last week the invaders suffered a bloody defeat as they tried on multiple occasions to cross a strategic river in the east of Ukraine.

    The sources added that Putin is still working closely with Gen Valery Gerasimov, the commander of the Russian armed forces, in contrast to claims made by Ukraine last week that the military chief had been sidelined.

    “We think Putin and Gerasimov are involved in tactical decision making at a level we would normally expect to be taken by a colonel or a brigadier,” the military source said, referring to the ongoing battle in the east of Ukraine.

    Moscow’s armies have so far failed to achieve a breakthrough in the Donbas, where they have been mounting an offensive for a month that has failed several times encircle the smaller Ukrainian forces.

    No further detail to back up the statement was provided, although it was implied the assessment about Putin’s close personal involvement was based on intelligence that had been received.

  136. says

    NBC – “New York’s red flag law should have helped thwart the Buffalo mass shooting. What went wrong?”:

    Less than a year after a white teenager in upstate New York was investigated for making a threatening statement at school, he legally purchased a firearm, which he is accused of using to gun down 10 Black people in a racist rampage, authorities said.

    The massacre at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo on Saturday should have been thwarted by New York’s red flag law, which aims to stop people from buying or possessing firearms when they show they’re threats to themselves or others, gun policy experts said.

    “It was designed exactly for this circumstance,” said David Pucino, the deputy chief counsel at Giffords Law Center, a gun-safety group.

    Instead, after Payton Gendron appeared on the radar of New York State Police in June over a chilling comment about a murder-suicide he made in the classroom while he was still a minor, he was evaluated and cleared, paving the way for him to legally buy the semi-automatic rifle he is accused of using in the shooting 11 months later, law enforcement officials and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

    No official involved in the investigation in June initiated a court process that could have helped prevent Gendron from buying the rifle, a New York State Police spokesperson said Monday.

    Now, state legislators are looking into whether those involved followed the proper protocol. “I’ve asked for the investigation of exactly what transpired there,” Hochul told Buffalo’s WKSE radio on Monday.

    Enacted in 2019, New York’s red flag law empowers school administrators, law enforcement officials, prosecutors and family members to pursue court intervention when they believe they know someone who is at high risk of harming themselves or others.

    Under the law, a judge could “very quickly” issue an extreme-risk protection order, which could order someone, a minor or an adult, to surrender any firearms, as well as not to try to have or buy any.

    Such an order doesn’t come with criminal charges or penalties. It is meant to keep guns away from dangerous people, gun policy experts said.

    Since New York’s red flag law went into effect on Aug. 25, 2019, 1,464 extreme-risk protection orders have been issued, a New York Unified State Courts spokesperson said. State Sen. Brian Kavanagh, who sponsored the legislation, said at least 530 orders were issued in the first year the law was implemented.

    While there’s no way to measure whether any one order helped avoid a specific tragedy, Kavanagh and Pucino said peer-reviewed evidence has found that red flag laws in Indiana and Connecticut have prevented gun deaths, including suicides. …

    More at the link.

  137. says

    Satire from Andy Borowitz:

    Chaos enveloped Twitter after the social-media company discovered that the Elon Musk who had offered to buy it three weeks ago was actually a bot.

    The bid for Twitter is believed to be the largest corporate takeover ever proposed by a bot, mergers-and-acquisitions experts say.

    A visibly embarrassed Parag Agrawal, the C.E.O. of Twitter, explained to reporters how the company was persuaded that the Elon Musk bot was actually Elon Musk.

    “The bot account had a blue check, indicating that it had been verified,” Agrawal said. “It now appears that the bot had somehow been given the blue check by another bot.”

    The C.E.O. said that Twitter was conducting a “thorough internal review of procedures” to insure that it is not purchased by a bot in the future.

    “The bot appeared to be an actual human being, which should’ve been our first clue that it wasn’t Elon,” he said.

    New Yorker link

  138. says

    More than 260 Ukrainian soldiers, many of them wounded, evacuated from Azovstal plant

    The Ukrainian General Staff announced Monday that more than 260 soldiers, many of them wounded, had been evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol.

    The announcement was made in a video statement by Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Malyar. Her remarks and those of others appeared to indicate that the siege of Azovstal was ending.

    Fifty-three severely wounded soldiers were taken Monday from Azovstal to a medical facility in Novoazovsk, a southeastern border town in Donetsk province held by Russian-backed separatists, she said.

    She said another 211 Azovstal defenders had been evacuated to the Ukrainian-held town of Olenivka through a humanitarian corridor as part of “an exchange procedure.”

    “‘Mariupol’ Garrison has completed their combat mission. The Supreme Military Command has ordered the commanders of the units stationed at Azovstal to save the lives of military personnel,” she said.

    Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday. He thanked the Ukrainian military and negotiators, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations for their help in arranging the evacuation.
    “The work continues to bring the boys home, and this work needs delicacy. And time,” he added.

    Malyar said that measures aimed at rescuing the remaining defenders at the sprawling steel plant continue to go on.
    “Thanks to the defenders of Mariupol, we have gained critical time to build reserves, regroup forces and receive assistance from partners. All defenders of Mariupol have completed the tasks given by the command in full,” she added.

    “Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to relieve the siege of Azovstal by military means. The most important common task of Ukraine and the whole world is to save the lives of the defenders of Mariupol,” she stressed.

    Her statement confirms Russian news media reports earlier Monday by the Russian Ministry of Defense which said an agreement had been reached regarding the evacuation of wounded Ukrainian soldiers from the Azovstal plant and a ceasefire had been established.

    Denys Prokopenko, the commander of Azov special regiment, said on Telegram that the defenders have completed their task and he wants to save the lives of those under his command.

    “The Mariupol defenders have completed their task despite all the difficulties,” Prokopenko said. “For 82 days they drew fire from overwhelming forces of the enemy and allowed the Ukrainian army to regroup, train more personnel and receive a large number of weapons from partner countries.

    “No weapon will work without professionally trained soldiers, making them the most valuable element of the army. In order to save lives, the entire Mariupol garrison is carrying out the approved decision of the Supreme Military Command and hopes for the support of the Ukrainian people”.

    Novoazovsk is only 28 miles east of Mariupol. So it might offer the closest medical facility to the Azovstal plant. If that’s the case, it might raise hopes that once treated and stabilized the wounded soldiers could be taken to Ukrainian-held territory.

    The evacuation is likely to mark the end of the longest and bloodiest battle of the Ukraine war.

    Mariupol has been besieged by Russian forces since March 1. Nearly all the city has been destroyed and thousands of residents have been buried in mass graves.

    Since the end of April, the last Ukrainian stronghold in the city was the sprawling Azovstal steel plant built in the Soviet era with a vast network of underground tunnels and bunkers.

    Earlier this month, civilians sheltering in the plant were evacuated. But an estimated 600 wounded soldiers suffering from lack of food, water and medicine remained in the plant.

    On Saturday, the plight of the Azovstal defenders was brought to worldwide attention by the winning Ukrainian band, Kalush Orchestra, at the Eurovision Song Contest 2022, an event viewed by tens of millions of people.

    After the performing their song about motherhood, “Stefania,” Kalush’s frontman Oleh Psiuk put his hand on his heart and shouted: “I ask for all of you, please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal right now.”

    But the next day, Russian forces dropped incendiary or phosphorus bombs on the steel plant, Ukrainian officials said. Even worse Russians reportedly signed the bombs with their response to the Kalush band’s plea. [Disturbing tweet and photo at the link]

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