Comments

  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    @497: That seemed to be the case in my household, November last. Everyone tested positive and became symptomatic within a few days of my mum returning from having some (unrelated to covid) tests done at the hospital.

  2. says

    Satire from Andy Borowitz:

    In a speech to the House of Representatives, George Santos disclosed that he is an M1 Abrams battle tank.

    Representative Santos apologized for not previously including his battle-tank status on his résumé, calling the omission a “careless error.”

    Describing his many outstanding features, Santos said that he is equipped with two six-barrel smoke-grenade launchers and an AN/VLQ-6 Missile Countermeasure Device.

    “The Ukrainians have called battle tanks the punching fist of democracy,” Santos said. “I, George Santos, am that fist.”

    In recognition of Santos’s career as an M1 Abrams battle tank, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy named him the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

    New Yorker link

  3. says

    NBC News:

    Five former Memphis police officers were indicted Thursday on murder charges in the death of Tyre Nichols, whose beating following a traffic stop was captured on video that ‘sickened’ a top Tennessee law enforcement official.

    The video is supposed to be released tomorrow, Friday, probably late in the day.

  4. says

    USA Today:

    Faced with a steady stream of disclosures about improperly kept classified documents, the National Archives on Thursday asked former presidents and vice presidents to look for any sensitive and potentially top-secret material they might have, according to a source familiar with the matter.

  5. says

    NBC News:

    The FBI infiltrated and disrupted a major cybercriminal group that extorted schools, hospitals and critical infrastructure around the world, federal officials said Thursday.

  6. says

    California Bar Moves To Nix Eastman’s Attorney License

    ‘Moral turpitude’ is cited as a reason.

    The California state bar moved to revoke attorney John Eastman’s law license on Thursday, saying that he lied over and over again to support President Trump’s effort to stay in office after losing the 2020 election.

    The chief trial counsel of the California bar slapped Eastman with eleven counts of violating attorney ethics rules during the effort. They include eight counts of moral turpitude, two counts of trying to mislead a court, and one count of failing to support the laws and Constitution of the United States.

    Eastman, the bar said, either knew or was negligent in not knowing “that there was no evidence upon which a reasonable attorney would rely of election fraud or illegality that could have affected the outcome of the election, and that there was no evidence upon which a reasonable attorney would rely that the election had been ‘stolen’ by the Democratic Party or other parties acting in a coordinated conspiracy to fraudulently ‘steal’ the election from Trump.”

    In spite of that, the bar found, Eastman “continued to work with Trump and others to promote the idea that the outcome of the election was in question and had been stolen from Trump as the result of fraud, disregard of state election law, and misconduct by election officials.”

    Via an attorney, Eastman issued a statement saying that he “disputes ‘every aspect’” of the filing, and characterized his own involvement with Trump as part of the “fluid and fast-moving aftermath of the 2020 election” while doubling down on long-debunked allegations of “illegality” in the vote.

    Bar officials said that Eastman violated his duty as an attorney by providing legal advice based on allegations of voter fraud that he knew were false, and that he propagated a legal theory regarding Vice President Mike Pence’s supposed power to reject electoral votes that he also knew to be baseless.

    […] The 35-page notice of disciplinary charges reads like a greatest hits of Eastman’s involvement in Trump’s attempt to stay in power. It cites as evidence of his misdeeds the speech he gave on the Ellipse on the morning of Jan. 6, the memos he penned arguing that Pence could reject electors, and alleged lies he included in legal filings before federal district judges and the Supreme Court.

    In the Supreme Court matter, Eastman allegedly included information that he knew to be false as part of an attempt to support a coalition of Republican attorneys general, led by Texas, in convincing the court to flip the result to Trump.

    […] In his case, because the matter deals with disbarment, the state bar court’s recommendation will go to the California Supreme Court, which will make the ultimate decision on whether to yank Eastman’s law license. […]

  7. says

    Behind the scenes of Durham investigation reveals special counsel engaged in serious abuse of power

    Almost four years after launching his investigation into the less than two year Russia investigation, John Durham came up with no proof that the FBI, DOJ, or any member of Robert Mueller’s team did anything wrong. But that doesn’t mean that Durham did nothing wrong.

    In fact, according to The New York Times, after finding nothing but actions taken in good faith by other investigators, Durham ended up chasing down several avenues that he never shared with the America people. That includes covering up evidence provided by Italian intelligence that Donald Trump might have undisclosed fiscal ties to Russia.

    But that’s far from the worst aspect of Durham’s investigation. Because it certainly seems as if, in his attempt to prove that the FBI stepped over the line when looking into Trump, Durham didn’t just step over the lines, he erased them. And in at least one extraordinary instance, the man investigating the Russia investigation took his marching orders straight from … Russia.

    What’s amazing about the Times look into the Durham investigation is that [irony alert] Durham seems to have done almost everything that Trump accused the Mueller investigators of doing. For example, where Republicans have repeatedly gone apoplectic in their efforts to prove that the information collected by former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele was central to the Russia investigation (it wasn’t) and pretended that Steele’s memos were all unsourced rumors planted by the Russian government. Durham based parts of his operation on information that was without a doubt being shipped straight from Moscow.

    Mr. Durham used Russian intelligence memos—suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation—to gain access to emails of an aide to George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who is a favorite target of the American right and Russian state media. Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.

    Read that again. In his attempts to prove that there were flaws in the investigation linking Donald Trump to the Russian government, John Durham relied on information from the Russian government to break into the emails of a private citizen who had no connection to the Russia investigation. He found nothing, but kept violating the privacy of his target repeatedly, even after a judge found his further requests unjustified.

    […] When then attorney general William Barr appointed John Durham as a special investigator in May of 2019, he had just one task—find a way to blame the FBI and DOJ for Donald Trump’s collaboration with Russia. Durham was changed with following up on every possible conspiracy claim that Trump had made since 2016, looking for any way in which the FBI could be pinned with exaggerating Trump’s connections to Russia, Russia, Russia, or some reason why the investigation might be accused of being prejudice against Trump.

    Then Barr kicked off the investigation by calling the head of the National Security Agency into his office to meet with Durham, accusing the NSA of being somehow involved in a conspiracy against Trump, and promising to use his power at the Department of Justice to “f**k” the NSA if they didn’t give Durham everything he wanted. That’s how the investigation started.

    […] Durham had disagreements with his own staff, leading to the resignation of his top assistant back in 2020, but only now is the extent to which others involved in the investigation became disgusted with Durham becoming clear. Two more members of Durham’s team marched out the door when he decided to indict attorney Michael Sussman on the filmiest of charges — charges that a jury swiftly dismissed when Durham took the case to court.

    […] For months, Barr dropped hints that the investigation was turning up big news, which would soon be relayed to the public. That included announcing that Durham’s scope had been expanded beyond just looking at those who were directly involved in collecting evidence against Trump, but peeking into the CIA to see if they had a hand in setting Trump up to fail and looking into the Clinton foundation because … why not look at the Clinton Foundation?

    […] The big bombshell turned into a dud well before Election Day.

    Even after Trump packed up hundreds of highly classified documents and scurried away to Mar-a-Lago, Durham declared that his investigation would continue. Throughout the next year, Durham surfaced now and then to make obscure statements that thrilled Fox News and created ripples among the QAnon crowd still hoping for those gallows to be erected on the White House lawn. [Durham kept the conspiracy theories alive.]

    […] Except there was no crime. Durham never charged a crime. As it turned out, there wasn’t even a finding of conflict of interest.

    As the end of 2022 approached, it became clear that all Durham had really done was vindicate everything about the original Russia investigation. […] The reason the Russia investigation found connections between Trump and Russia was simple enough — there were connections between Trump and Russia.

    […] At this point, a month into 2023, Durham still hasn’t issued an official final report. […] don’t be surprised if Durham’s final report includes plenty of vague statements that have Trump and his supporters in Congress demanding more investigations into the investigation.

    Durham’s last act isn’t just a sad end to a long career, it’s a genuine example of how the special counsel’s office can be used as a means of persecuting for political purposes, not prosecuting based on facts. And don’t be surprised if Durham has another day in court — as the subject of lawsuits from those who suffered from this genuine “witch hunt.”

    In MSNBC’s coverage of this debacle it was pointed out that Barr and Durham apparently became buddies. They traveled together to Italy to try to get dirt on the USA’s CIA agents from Italian intelligence officers. That aim was not accomplished, but they did get dirt on Trump that they failed to follow up on properly (apparently). Also, Barr and Durham shared meals and drinks frequently while, I assume, Barr pressured Durham to keep the ill-conceived witch hunt going. Sounds almost like Barr was grooming Durham.

  8. says

    Followup to comment 8.

    How Barr’s Quest to Find Flaws in the Russia Inquiry Unraveled

    New York Times link

    It became a regular litany of grievances from President Donald J. Trump and his supporters: The investigation into his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia was a witch hunt, they maintained, that had been opened without any solid basis, went on too long and found no proof of collusion.

    Egged on by Mr. Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr set out in 2019 to dig into their shared theory that the Russia investigation likely stemmed from a conspiracy by intelligence or law enforcement agencies. To lead the inquiry, Mr. Barr turned to a hard-nosed prosecutor named John H. Durham, and later granted him special counsel status to carry on after Mr. Trump left office.

    But after almost four years — far longer than the Russia investigation itself — Mr. Durham’s work is coming to an end without uncovering anything like the deep state plot alleged by Mr. Trump and suspected by Mr. Barr.

    Moreover, a monthslong review by The New York Times found that the main thrust of the Durham inquiry was marked by some of the very same flaws — including a strained justification for opening it and its role in fueling partisan conspiracy theories that would never be charged in court — that Trump allies claim characterized the Russia investigation.

    Interviews by The Times with more than a dozen current and former officials have revealed an array of previously unreported episodes that show how the Durham inquiry became roiled by internal dissent and ethical disputes as it went unsuccessfully down one path after another even as Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr promoted a misleading narrative of its progress. [Yep. I remember that phase well.]

    Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it.

    Mr. Durham used Russian intelligence memos — suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation — […] Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.

    There were deeper internal fractures on the Durham team than previously known. The publicly unexplained resignation in 2020 of his No. 2 and longtime aide, Nora R. Dannehy, was the culmination of a series of disputes between them over prosecutorial ethics. A year later, two more prosecutors strongly objected to plans to indict a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign based on evidence they warned was too flimsy, and one left the team in protest of Mr. Durham’s decision to proceed anyway. (A jury swiftly acquitted the lawyer.)

    […] Robert Luskin, a criminal defense lawyer and former Justice Department prosecutor who represented two witnesses Mr. Durham interviewed, said that he had a hard time squaring Mr. Durham’s prior reputation as an independent-minded straight shooter with his end-of-career conduct as Mr. Barr’s special counsel. […] “When did these guys drink the Kool-Aid, and who served it to them?” […]

    After Mr. Sussmann’s acquittal, Mr. Barr, by then out of office for more than a year, suggested that using the courts to advance a politically charged narrative was a goal in itself. Mr. Durham “accomplished something far more important” than a conviction, Mr. Barr told Fox News, asserting that the case had “crystallized the central role played by the Hillary campaign in launching as a dirty trick the whole Russiagate collusion narrative and fanning the flames of it.” [OMFG!!!!]

    […] two failed cases are likely to be Mr. Durham’s last courtroom acts as a prosecutor. […]

    Much more at the link.

  9. Reginald Selkirk says

    Jury: $1M to Oregon woman told ‘I don’t serve Black people’

    PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A jury has awarded an Oregon woman $1 million in damages after finding she was discriminated against by a gas station employee who told her, “I don’t serve Black people.”

    The Multnomah County jury’s award this week to Portland resident Rose Wakefield, 63, included punitive damages of $550,000.

    Wakefield’s lawyer, Gregory Kafoury, said she stopped for gas at Jacksons Food Store in Beaverton on March 12, 2020, and saw the attendant, Nigel Powers, ignore her and instead pump gas for other drivers…

    Surveillance video showed Wakefield go inside to ask for help. Another employee followed her back outside to pump her gas. Kafoury said as she was leaving, Wakefield asked Powers why he refused to help her and that he said, “I don’t serve Black people.” …

    During the following week, Wakefield complained twice to managers, but her phone calls were largely disregarded, Kafoury said.

  10. Reginald Selkirk says

    US will send Ukraine more advanced Abrams tanks, but without “secret armour”

    The Abrams tanks that the United States intends to transfer to Ukraine are the modern M1A2, not the A1, which the US military has in stock, but they will also be stripped of their so-called secret armour, which includes depleted uranium.
    The M1A2 Abrams has more advanced optics and a control system than the A1, which allows for more accurate targeting, and a separate thermal camera for the crew commander, allowing him independent identification of targets in any weather and battlefield conditions.

    The new modification of the tank contains digitised control mechanisms, which allow machines to continuously and automatically exchange information, quickly track the location of allied machines, identify enemy positions and process artillery requests.

    At the same time, those Abrams that Ukraine will receive will be deprived of the secret armour packages used by the American military, which include depleted uranium. The USA uses the same practice when selling tanks to other countries…

  11. Reginald Selkirk says

    Abortion front and center in Wisconsin Supreme Court race

    MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A liberal judge running in a pivotal race to determine majority control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court touts her support for abortion rights in the first two television ads of the closely watched race launched Thursday.

    The winner of the April 4 election will determine whether the court remains under control of conservative justices or flips to a liberal majority. Everything from redistricting to abortion rights to election laws heading into the 2024 presidential election and after in the swing state could be determined by the court…

  12. raven says

    Here is a short explanation of corruption in Ukraine from a Ukrainian economist.
    This corruption is a holdover from the USSR days. 70 years of communism and Russian rule left Ukraine with no experience and no idea how to run a modern nation.
    They are learning rapidly.

    Twitter thread rollup
    Tymofiy Mylovanov

    Twitter logo
    9h • 16 tweets • 3 min read
    A perspective on corruption in Ukraine. I am an academic economist, a former Ukrainian minister, and a public figure, in that order. I did a land market reform after 20 years of sabotage by vested interest. That experience helped me understand 1/
    how corruption works in Ukraine and how one can fight it. Corruption is a culture problem. The culture of disregard for rules, zero respect for others, zero empathy, egoism, and belief that all other people are also corrupt, but they simple havent had the opportunity 2/
    Corrupt people believe that they can bribe everyone else because everyone else is the same as they. When they meet honest people they consider them crazy or losers. When they get arrested and prosecuted, they are surprised and attribute it to some conspiracies or political 3/
    enemies. They find it unfair! The Ukrainian public hate corrupt officials. This hate transpires across all areas of public life and office. The peak of the corruption happened around 2013 under the pro Russian president Yanukovich. His culture was that of a thug,

    4/
    the rule of the strong one rather than the rule of law or justice. That’s why people revolted and he was ousted. Russia took advantage of the situation and annexed Crimea and set up a “separatist” movement in the East of Ukraine. The Ukrainians then learned how 4/
    incapable Ukrainian institutions had become under Yanukovich, with the army being unable to resist the Russian annexation and the security and police services being inept in resisting the Russians in the East. It is the Ukrainian public, the volunteers who took up arms 5/
    to defend Ukraine in 2014-2016. It is them who now constitute the backbone of the Ukrainian military leadership. Today, the Ukrainian army is nothing like what it was in 2013. Today it defends Ukraine against one of the largest armies in the world – russia. 6/
    And so the clean up of the corruption started in 2014. The Ukrainians realized that corruption is destroying the state and it must stop. There has been a lot of progress in some areas. The central bank has been reformed, half of the banks – about 100 – have been shut down
    7/
    Many of them were just fronts to steal money from the taxpayers through the fraudulent refinancing from the central bank. That was over. The state procurement has been reformed too. An electronic system has been introduced and it was heralded across the world as one of the most8/
    advanced, transparent, and effective. I am proud I have participated in designing parts of it – the auction for selling assets of bankrupt banks. The patrol police has been changed from an extremely brutal and corrupt agency that instilled fear into everyone to a modern civil 9/
    Service. Today, I am more afraid when I get pulled over in the US than in Ukraine. A framework of anti corruption agencies has been set up – a special court, an investigative bureau, a special prosecutor, a reporting agency. All of this has not been easy. There have 10/
    been reversals, mixed results, challenges.
    But the trend is clear and the progress is steady. There is also a vibrant civil society and a good network of investigative journalists and a culture of whistleblowing. The competency of the anti corruption agencies and 11/
    the civil society and investigative journalists has been improving. There are plenty of challenges and pockets of corruptions. First, the courts, especially at the lower level. Many judges are corrupt. The situation is improving but we have a long way to go. Corporate 12/
    governance at the state owned enterprises continues to be an issue – a lot of work is ahead. Oligarchs still control many of the monopolies, so the competition authority reform needs to be done. Lobbying and political campaign donations have to be cleaned up and regulated. 13/
    Media reform that balances the freedom of speech with the transparency of funding must be done too. Defense procurement (outside of weapons) is another not fully reformed area – and this is where the latest corruption scandal has happened. So, much work remains 14/
    , but a lot has been done and achieved already. We must fight the culture of corruption and we must reform the way the political system is financed. But it can be done as the experience of the last 8 years shows. 15/15

  13. KG says

    Lynna, OM@8,9,

    There really needs to be a special counsel appointed to carry out a full-scale investigation into the investigation into the investigation!

  14. KG says

    Oggie: Mathom@495, Reginald Selkirk@497,
    My wife tested positive and had symptoms less than 48 hours after the earliest possible exposure (we know exactly who infected her, because we were both being extremely careful in the run-up to our son’s wedding, until a relative came to stay with us for that event (despite already having a sore throat). She tested positive the morning after arriving. We missed most of the wedding.

  15. KG says

    I had a weird dream last night. Someone I knew to be Noam Chomsky (I did wonder why he appeared to be in his 30s or 40s, but this didn’t clue me in that I was dreaming) and asked me what I was reading at present. I couldn’t think of the titles of the books I’m actually reading, and said “The New Cold War”, which – in the dream – Chomsky had co-authored (it’s by Edward Lucas and I haven’t read it). However, I then told him:
    “I’m one of many who disagree with you completely about Ukraine. Fascism must be defeated, and the centre of fascism today is in Moscow.”
    So there!

  16. StevoR says

    The late Archie Roach Took the Children Away true stories sung

    There’s a place just down the road from where I live (Colebrook House) where they took stolen Indigenous children up unti the 1970’s .

  17. raven says

    MTG never misses a chance to demonstrate what a monster she is.
    She is an open supporter of the Russians and a supporter of the Russian genocide of Ukraine.
    The other prominent GOPer who supports the Russian genocide is of course, Trump.

    Twitter
    Marjorie Taylor Greene

    We must stop funding Ukraine. This war needs to end.

    America has sent over $113 billion to Ukraine, now sending tanks, and
    have funded the Ukraine government at $1.5 billion every month.

    It’s a corrupt slush fund and it’s just killing people.

    FWIW, MTG very easily won her reelection in 2020.
    It wasn’t even close.

    Ms. Greene, a far-right conservative, has represented northwest Georgia for two years.
    With nearly two-thirds of votes counted, Ms. Greene had 64.5% of the vote, to 35.5% for Mr. Flowers.

  18. raven says

    Tweet

    Alfons López Tena 🦇 @alfonslopeztena
    Russia plans to build 25 prisons and 3 forced labor camps in occupied areas of Ukraine. The Russian prime minister has ordered the construction of a large network of prisons to control the population in the illegally annexed territories

    I can’t confirm this but it is at least plausible.

    Russia has been controlling its population with the Gulags and slave labor camps since before the USSR. It’s deeply embedded in their culture.

    And, they really hate and are determined to wipe out the Ukrainians.
    Especially since the Ukrainians had the courage to stand up and oppose their own genocide.

    The author here, Alfons López Tena, is at least a reliable source, a Spanish journalist.

  19. raven says

    Russian lawmakers warn Moldova’s Nato aspirations may lead to its destruction

    Another day, another Russian threat.
    They are going to destroy Moldova.
    This threat at least isn’t fake. Moldova only has 2.6 million people and doesn’t have much of an army. If Ukraine falls, Moldova is next and they wouldn’t last a week.

    Russian lawmakers warn Moldova’s Nato aspirations may lead to its destruction

    Russian lawmakers warn Moldova’s Nato aspirations may lead to its destruction

    Moldovan President Maia Sandu commented that the country may seek membership of “a larger defence alliance”. / presedinte.md
    16
    By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest January 25, 2023
    Two influential Russian lawmakers warned on January 24 that Moldova considering Nato membership “may lead to its destruction”, after another Russian senator said the day before that President Maia Sandu risks repeating the “suicidal policy” of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

    The statements were prompted by Moldovan President Maia Sandu telling Politico that her country may seek membership of “a larger defence alliance” in order to consolidate its security. Moscow’s vehement objection to Ukraine joining Nato was one of the reasons for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Like Ukraine, Moscow considers Moldova to be part of its sphere of influence.

    Sandu and other members of the pro-EU authorities have emphasised recently that Moldova’s military neutrality, enshrined in its constitution, shouldn’t impede the development of defence capacities.

    Moldova lies on Ukraine’s western border, and part of the country is occupied by Russia-backed separatists, making it highly vulnerable to spillovers from the war in the neighbouring country. Several Russian missiles have crossed or crashed onto its territory since the start of the war.

    “Usually, we react to actions. Moldova has upset us lately with a series of its decisions,” Svetlana Zhurova, a member of President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party and first vice-president of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, told Vedomosti.

    The MP said that she is confident that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs “will know how to respond” to Sandu’s statements.

    Moldova’s accession to Nato could lead to the destruction of this state and will be seen by Russia as a threat to its security, said Leonid Kalashnikov, another influential member of the State Duma in Moscow, to Vedomosti.

    “If Moldova wants to destroy its own state, this is the best way … If they think that, like Finland or Sweden, secretly, quickly, taking advantage of the situation, they can join Nato and that nothing will happen to them for this in their own country, they should remember something else. The fact that Finland has two official languages and respects its people.”

    Kalashnikov went on to refer to the Russia-backed separatist republic of Transnistria within Moldova, as well as the autonomous Gagauzia.

    “And they [Moldova] have Gagauzia … and Transnistria, which has a Russian-speaking population and which expressed its will [to unite with Russia] a long time ago, in the early 1990s,” Kalashnikov added.

    Kalashnikov emphasised that Russia’s attitude towards a possible accession of Moldova to Nato will be negative because it represents a “threat to the security” of the Russian Federation.

    In the interview with Politico, Sandu said last week that after the invasion of Ukraine, there is a serious discussion in Moldova about the country’s ability to defend itself and the possibility of joining a “larger alliance”, without naming Nato as such.

    “And if we come, at some point, to the conclusion as a nation that we need to change neutrality, this should happen through a democratic process,” she said.

    Her comments sparked a backlash within Moldova too, with pro-Russian former president Igor Dodon called Sandu’s statement about the option of renouncing Moldova’s neutral status or joining a “larger alliance” “dangerous”.

  20. says

    The GOP clearly hasn’t thought through its DirecTV complaints

    Republican rhetoric about DirecTV isn’t just hysterical, it’s also increasingly weird for a party that claims to care about free-market principles.

    At face value, the dispute between DirecTV and Newsmax seems like the sort of corporate clash that occasionally arises in the telecommunications industry. The provider and the cable channel have a disagreement over funding, so the former decided this week to cut ties with the latter.

    The Daily Beast ran a report on the conflict this week, noting that, at least according to DirecTV, the provider didn’t actually want to break up with the far-right channel, but since Newsmax content is available for free in a variety of ways, the channel’s “demands for rate increases” led DirecTV to walk away.

    Newsmax — an unabashedly conservative channel that has run into some legal trouble over its promotion of election conspiracy theories — has a competing version of events […]

    For congressional Republicans, however, this is a political matter requiring governmental attention. As my MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones explained:

    GOP lawmakers are up in arms that DirecTV might pull the plug on a major source of right-wing disinformation, and they’re trying to throw their weight around to stop it. In a letter late last week, more than 40 Republicans decried the possibility that DirecTV would no longer offer Newsmax — the archconservative, Trump-loving network known for spreading lies.

    […] Republican Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois characterized DirecTV’s decision as “an attack on members of Congress,” and she didn’t appear to be kidding. There were related complaints from Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York.

    Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey went so far as to suggest such business disputes are generally only found in “authoritarian regimes,” which was every bit as odd as it seemed.

    […] A surprising number of GOP lawmakers this week have raised the prospect of congressional hearings into the matter.

    The apoplexy wasn’t limited to Capitol Hill. From his Mar-a-Lago perch, Donald Trump condemned the move as a “big blow to the Republican Party” — he apparently didn’t feel the need to maintain the pretense that Newsmax is an independent journalistic entity — “and to America itself.” [LOL]

    The former president, who added that he will boycott DirecTV and its AT&T corporate parent, went on to encourage the provider to drop news organizations he doesn’t like, including my employer [MSNBC]. Trump concluded that the “REPUBLICAN PARTY DEMANDS” Newsmax’s return to DirecTV’s lineup.

    […] We’re talking about a dispute over money between two companies. This isn’t a conspiracy; it’s capitalism.

    Since when does the Republican Party put its media interests above free enterprise? Evidently, the answer is now.

  21. says

    KG @15: “There really needs to be a special counsel appointed to carry out a full-scale investigation into the investigation into the investigation!”

    LOL. Yep. At the very least, the Department of Justice (and Merrick Garland) should be so concerned that they put their ethics watchdogs on the case. Unbelievably, John Durham still works for the DOJ. Maybe Garland is waiting for him to finish his report?

    Some additional commentary from Steve Benen:

    […] On the surface, what matters most is the conclusion: Barr told Durham to prove that the investigation into the Russia scandal was an outrageous abuse. We now know that this aspect of the endeavor was a spectacular failure: Durham apparently found no such evidence, and his prosecutorial efforts were an embarrassing debacle.

    […] But just below the surface, the details uncovered by the Times paint an even uglier portrait. Instead of allowing the U.S. attorney to conduct an independent probe, Barr effectively oversaw the details of Durham’s probe, as the two met in the attorney general’s office “for at times weekly updates and consultations about his day-to-day work.” [And they sipped some scotch.]

    […] a series of related and dramatic revelations — too many to reference here — including Durham pressuring the Justice Department’s inspector general, Barr pressuring Durham to release an anti-Clinton memo ahead of Election Day, and internal dissent among members of Durham’s team about the integrity of the investigation, including the resignation of the prosecutor’s top aide.

    […] Among the first priorities of the new House Republican majority was the creation of a special committee that would investigate the political “weaponization” of the federal government.

    The point, of course, was to create a panel to pursue assorted GOP conspiracy theories, many of which have been directed at incumbent Attorney General Merrick Garland, who has drawn Republicans’ ire for reasons that really don’t make any sense.

    But the irony matters: If the new committee is looking for a real example of partisans using the levers of federal power as “weapons” against their political foes, Chairman Jim Jordan and his cohorts should start with Durham, Barr and one of the most obvious Justice Department abuses of the post-Watergate era.

    For years, Team Trump has insisted that the Russia scandal was pointless but the Durham investigation was real. It now appears the GOP had it backward: The Russia scandal was real, and the Durham investigation was a fiasco.

    Link

  22. says

    Followup to comment 24.

    It turns out Bill Barr and John Durham were sipping scotch as they burned down Main Justice.

    Extraordinary new reporting from the New York Times peels back more layers of corruption, malfeasance, and politicization within the Barr Justice Department. In a groundbreaking story that is focused on Special Counsel John Durham but is really an indictment of Barr, the NYT unveils several previously unreported episodes:

    Durham Investigated Trump?!? The most explosive revelation in the NYT piece is that Barr allegedly directed Durham to dramatically expand his brief beyond “investigating the investigators” by opening a financial crimes investigation in the fall of 2019 of President Donald Trump based on a tantalizing tip from Italian authorities. It’s unclear how and to what extent Durham investigated the tip. No charges ever resulted. While it’s unclear what exactly Durham did with the tip, the strong impression left by the story is that the Trump investigation was buried.

    Oopsies! The New York Times and other news outlets later misleadingly reported that Durham’s review of the origins of the Trump-Russia probe had turned into a criminal investigation, suggesting that the Durham was zeroing in on the investigators of Trump. In fact, Durham’s criminal probe involved Trump himself. Barr never sought to correct the widespread public misperception.

    […] Bogus Intel. In an unbelievably ironic twist, Durham allegedly used dubious intel from the Dutch and sidestepped a federal judge’s objections to obtain emails from a U.S. citizen who worked at a pro-democracy organization founded by George Soros. Later the Trump administration would infuriate the Dutch by publicly revealing the intel.

    Election Interference. The bad-faith machinations of Barr and Durham reached their zenith in the summer of 2020, when Barr allegedly pressed Durham to draft an interim report before Election Day. The draft interim report was never released but it prompted the resignation of a longtime Durham protege. Then there’s this nugget about how Durham’s original investigation had never panned out:

    By summer 2020, it was clear that the hunt for evidence supporting Mr. Barr’s hunch about intelligence abuses had failed. But he waited until after the 2020 election to publicly concede that there had turned out to be no sign of “foreign government activity” and that the C.I.A. had “stayed in its lane” after all.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/morning-memo/bill-barr-john-durham-special-counsel-investigation

  23. says

    Followup to comments 8, 9, 24 and 25.

    Josh Marshall:

    […] the probe Bill Barr stood up to discredit the Trump/Russia probe and which long served as the shining hope of Trump partisans, the vehicle of a promised vengeance that never arrived. […]

    The picture the Times story paints is stark if unsurprising: a politicized, instinctively unethical and deeply corrupt effort which managed to embody in almost cartoonish fashion the story it sought to tell about the original Russia investigation. The one thing a criminal investigation is never supposed to be is one that starts knowing the conclusion it wants to arrive at, brings a heavy dose of political motivation and bends rules and cuts corner to get where it wants to go. That caricature describes the Durham probe to a T. The two cases Durham managed to bring to trial were mainly vehicles for airing tendentious conspiracy theories he couldn’t prove and had no real evidence for. The actual cases were laughed out of court with speedy acquittals.

    […] Probably the best way to see the cheap and hucksterish story of the Durham probe is as another way in which an entire political party and a good bit of our justice system has been wrenched over half a dozen years in an effort to protect, exonerate and coddle Donald Trump.

    […] Before the Durham Probe and before the Democratic takeover of the House in 2019, there was Rep. Devin Nunes and his rearguard effort to kneecap the Mueller investigation from Congress. What the re-empowered House GOP is now doing with its “weaponization” committee is really just the Durham Probe rebooted in the legislative branch. It’s really that simple.

    […] much of the political world we’re currently living in is driven by efforts to get Donald Trump off the hook for things which he was never even properly investigated for.

    […] Most of the investigations into 2016 and subsequent actions which lead to Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 took place during Trump’s presidency, with the inherent thumb on the evidentiary scale that goes inevitably with that.

    Link

  24. says

    Ukraine update: Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has restarted history and revived old fears

    […] With the collapse of the Soviet Union, many otherwise reasonable people appeared to get the notion that the world would settle down into a condition in which there were minor conflicts, but the kind of multi-nation battles in which the stakes were counted in millions of lives would no longer be possible. The West had won. Democracy had won. Please step out of the car and take the nearest exit to happily ever after.

    This left a lot of military contractors scrambling for relevance and a lot of military experts desperately in search of the next threat. Mabe Japan? Sure, Japan had money, electronics, and all those funny exercises at the workplace. Let’s get scared of Japan. Oh, wait, China? The Chinese economy in 1990 was just 15% of that in the U.S., but they did have a lot of people. That could be scary.

    Then 9/11 clarified things for a generation. The military mission was no longer about fighting massive armies with comparably trained soldiers and comparably deadly weapons. It was about going after insurgents and extremists. Dealing with suicide bombers and IEDs. About getting them there before they came after us here.

    That new vision didn’t just pervade the way politicians used the military, it affected every aspect of military doctrine. It became the basis on which everything from small unit tactics to new military vehicles were designed.

    Then the invasion of Ukraine hauled out a giant AED and restarted history.

    To be fair, the United States never left behind its strategic doctrine of being able to deal with two major conflicts in different parts of the world at the same time. This is really an oversimplification of strategies and doctrines that were never 100% at one extreme or the other. However, over the post-Soviet period, it has often felt like that two-theater large conflict doctrine was more about justifying military budgets and force levels than what that military was actually designed and deployed to accomplish.

    It’s not hard to understand why. After all, anyone standing around the Pentagon in 2005 shouting about Russian tanks pouring across Eastern Europe was likely to be quietly directed down the street to stand in the Smithsonian next to the other dinosaurs. Strategic, tactical, and equipment changes were desperately needed before the military could effectively deal with the challenges that politicians kept putting in their paths. An army designed to plug the Fulda Gap was not necessarily a great fit for clearing buildings in Fallujah or clearing caves on the Pakistan border. They had to find ways to accomplish the tasks they were given, and to protect American forces while doing it.

    That need for a different kind of military reached down into how units were structured, how infantry tactics were designed, and what the military was looking for in its next generation of vehicles. It also helped create a confusing list of highly specific requirements that often fell into conflict between providing force protection and rapid deployment. So much so that the Army alone blew through $23 billion in repeated failed attempts to produce a new set of vehicles that would replace the M1 Abrams (in service since 1979), Bradley (1981), and M113 (1960), along with literally hundreds of different specialty vehicles from amphibious landing craft to bridge layers to minesweepers to the recovery vehicles that drag damaged tanks back to where they can be repaired.

    It wasn’t until around the time that Russia rolled into Ukraine for the first time in 2014 that the voices talking about the possibility of fighting a large army of “near-peer” forces started to be heard again. Those voices grew louder as Iraq and Afghanistan appeared to be winding down; scenes from Syria, Georgia, and Chechnya made it clear that artillery had not magically stopped functioning. Also, the Chinese economy that had looked so small in 1990 was still growing at a rate that seemed headed for the stratosphere. […]

    it wasn’t just the 2022 illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine that got “history” (i.e., the idea that large trained armies with masses of equipment might face off on a battlefield fighting for control of territory) rolling again. Military palms in the Pentagon and in Brussels have been getting sweaty for some time. But Ukraine definitely took those voices talking about a renewed threat of large-scale conflict and turned the dial to eleven.

    Those concerns are making it easier than ever for politicians to pitch more money at the Pentagon than it requested. They’re also generating new flexibility in the Army’s effort to secure that next generation of vehicles, including some feelings of “you know, that thing we turned down last time? Was it really so bad?” That new flexibility has helped to generate a lot of announcements in the last year, from the first look at the Abrams X tank to some quick movement on both the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMVC) and the Armored Multi-Purposed Vehicle (AMPV). All of these machines are likely headed for redeployment with considerably more alacrity […] [video of 50MM cannon]

    At the same time, the military is definitely studying what’s happening in Ukraine extremely closely, and it is already having an impact on planning and training. For one thing, the proliferation and rapid evolution of drones affects how every military views the battlefield. The way that each side can “reach out and touch” soldiers who feel themselves safely behind the lines with a $1000 bit of consumer kit and a 3D printed grenade holder hasn’t been lost on anyone. Neither has the role clouds of swirling drones played in turning clusters of “dumb” artillery into much more precise weapons.

    Some of those in Western militaries have also begun to have a big concern about air power. For decades, the doctrine has said that air power is step one in dominating the battlefield. The side that has air superiority goes where it wants and fights where it wants. […] they’re watching very closely what it means to fight an artillery-heavy army if you don’t have effective air superiority. What they see is scaring them. They’ve very worried that changes in air defenses and all those pesky drones could mean that Western forces also have to deal with a situation where simply knowing the location of the enemy doesn’t translate into incoming fire from heaven. […]

    All of this helps explain why there is sometimes an unexpected resistance to giving up hardware from militaries that might seem to have a lot of the stuff collecting a tan out in the desert or living under a half-inch of cosmoline in some forgotten warehouse. They’re looking at Ukraine, and they definitely see the need. There is not a single one of these governments that doesn’t understand how crushing Putin’s dreams of empire in Ukraine is 10,000% better than having to do it in the next place. 1,000,000% better than having to do it at home. But they’re worried. They’re worried that Ukraine isn’t the last gasp of a dying past, but the first sign of things to come. They haven’t figured out exactly what they might need if Bad Things happen.

    So they give up their gear … but their fingers open more slowly than anyone, especially Ukraine, might want.

    A whole new generation of hardware is going to come out of the current situation, and a whole new set of training and tactics, all of it designed to deal with what’s being seen now in Ukraine. The best thing we can hope is that all that new gear ends up moldering somewhere for decades, and that when Ukraine wins, we can tuck this particular branch of history back into bed. […]

    More Ukraine updates coming soon.

  25. says

    The Stupid, It Burns … Books!

    https://www.wonkette.com/the-stupid-it-burns-books

    The far Right’s war on students’ right to read a goddamn book if they want to read a goddamn book — as well as grownups reading grownup books, as if that’s somehow allowed either — continues across the country, with ever-more surreal battles being pursued in the name of protecting kids from things kids want to read. Put on your helmet and body armor, because the anti-book crazies are still going ballistic.

    Kentucky: Librarian Wins Small Claims Case Over LGBTQ Book
    In a fairly open-and-shut […] case in Jefferson County District Court last week in Louisville, Kentucky, a small claims court judge tossed a case brought by a local bigot who had sued a high school librarian over her decision to include books on LGBTQ+ topics in the library. The man, Kurt Wallace, had sought “damages” of $2,300 because Waggener High School librarian Kristen Heckel had kept the award-winning memoir/essay collection “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson in the library despite Wallace’s attempts to make it and other LGBTQ books go away.

    Heckel still had to take the day off from school to attend the hearing, a situation for which Judge Jennifer Leibson was apologetic. As Louisville Public Media explains, court records showed that Johnson

    began sending letters to Heckel in the spring of 2022 objecting to the library’s purchase of “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and other titles Wallace claimed were “obscene” or “pornographic.” He also claimed the books were intended for “grooming” minors for sexual exploitation, a common unfounded and homophobic talking point among some right-wing activists.

    We have to say that LPM reporter Jess Clark appears to have relished the chance to describe the courtroom drama, such as it was, noting that Judge Leibson began by explaining the purpose of small claims court, and what kinds of cases are and aren’t allowed there.

    Then she called up Wallace. The middle-aged man in dress slacks made his way to the stand dragging a carry-on-sized suitcase behind him, presumably filled with evidence he intended to present. He also carried a large leather-bound Bible and a posterboard scrawled with red marker but illegible from a distance.

    He never had a chance to read it. Leibson dismissed the case.

    “Mr. Wallace, your case is one of those cases,” Leibson said. “You cannot recover in small claims on this kind of judgment.” She had explained earlier that small claims court is only meant to decide cases in which a plaintiff had incurred actual costs as the result of a defendant’s action.

    Wallace tried to argue with Leibson, demanding that she identify the statute that gave her the authority to dismiss his very valid claim, but she asked him to leave the courtroom […] He returned a bit later and “sat in the public viewing area with his Bible in his lap.”

    Leibson apologized to Heckel for having to put up with the nonsense, and added “I admire your courage. … I wish you had been my librarian when I was a kid.”

    Honestly, we were hoping maybe Heckel would have sued Wallace for making her miss work, but she probably got paid for being there, since school district attorneys went along to defend her if that had been needed.

    Pennsylvania: First They Came For The Inspirational Poster Featuring Elie Wiesel
    In the Central Bucks School District in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, a librarian at Central Bucks South High School says the school’s principal told him to remove posters featuring a quote by Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel, because the posters supposedly violated a new policy banning educators from “advocacy activities.”

    Librarian Matt Pecic said Wednesday he’d been told to remove the posters because they featured a quote from Wiesel’s 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

    I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

    Well sure, we can see why speaking up for the oppressed would be a terrible thing. The truly neutral action, as mandated by district policy, would be to allow the tormentors to do as they like, because who are you to decide they’re wrong?

    Pecic told public station WHYY that if the posters weren’t removed, there would be “consequences” from the district’s Human Resources office. He said he felt “powerless” to refuse. […] “It’s a horrible feeling. And you feel like you have to do something that you don’t agree with,” Pecic added. Pecic added that his daugher, a ninth-grader in the district, had emailed him the quote.

    […] The Central Bucks District has been the center of a discrimination lawsuit brought by the ACLU, which argues rightwing members of the school board have created a “hostile environment” for LGBTQ+ students in the district. The district is currently considering whether to remove as many as five books from district libraries, four of which have LGBTQ+ themes, under a new policy that makes books easier to ban. […]

    There’s a semi-happy ending to the Wiesel quote story, at least: After the story blew up on social media, the principal reversed the decision and Pecic will be putting the posters back up. […]

  26. says

    Wonkette:

    Put aside everything you thought you knew about what Fox News halfwits believe about Hunter Biden. You know, stuff like TWITTER FILESHUNTER BIDEN LAPTOPBIGGUS DONGUSRIGGED ELECTIONPEEN HONKERBURISMA CHINAUKRAINELAPTOP TYRANNO-BONER REX AIYEEEEEEEEEEEE!

    All of that is good and normal and full of sane and quanitifiable allegations, full of verbs, about who Hunter Biden is and actions he may have taken. Obviously Joe Biden is guilty by association, because he loves his son. And we are sure the new Republican Congress and House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer will heavy-breathe all over all of it and get to the REAL truth.

    But the conspiracy theories are gettin’ kinda weird.

    Yesterday, Sean Hannity was talking about how Hunter Biden has been naked a bunch of times […] and in the process he made the strangest allegation:

    HANNITY: The amount of money, the sheer amount of money, and a number of countries and Joe’s outright lie about never having discussed this with Hunter are now coming to light. Now there’s going to be pushback because they have now hired, you know, SWAT teams and are creating a war room to slander and smear and attack every single solitary person that either reports it or is investigating it.

    Hate it when Joe Biden hires the SWAT team to come after everybody who investigates the creature who lives in Hunter Biden’s underpants. […]

    Also yesterday afternoon Jesse Watters was on his Fox News show, and we cannot emphasize enough how literally every word out of his mouth about Hunter Biden would sound like absolute nonsense to normal people. As in, you visit a mental hospital and this is what you overhear in the playroom.

    New theory just dropped: Is Hunter working for the FBI or CIA? Is that why Trump got impeached?

    [video at the the link: "FBI SAT BACK AS HUNTER SOLD HIMSELF TO CHINA"]

    Questions, assertions and wild speculations from Jesse Watters in this clip:
    Did FBI and CIA work for Joe Biden?

    OR DID HUNTER BIDEN WORK FOR FBI AND CIA?

    Is Hunter Biden FBI asset?

    Does Hunter Biden know he is FBI asset?

    Did Hunter Biden give the CIA intel?

    Was Hunter “doggy biscuit” to “lure in the Chinese”?

    […] All this “certainly makes sense,” says Jesse!

    Trump got impeached “the second he started zeroing in on the Biden family corruption in Ukraine,” after all!

    Also makes sense the intel community covered up THE LAPTOP!

    Sweet Jesus, that’s a lot.

    It’s amazing that these people are so stupid they still think the Biden Ukraine conspiracy theories, the ones Trump tried to use to extort Ukraine into helping him steal the 2020 election, are real. Because that’s what Jesse Watters is talking about there, Trump wanting Volodymyr Zelenskyy to do him a favor though, and investigate the fever dreams he found in his shart clouds about Hunter Biden in Ukraine. Trump’s PERFECT CALL! Trump’s RELEASE THE TRANSCRIPT!

    There is not much in the world that is stupider than people who are still brainwashed by all that.

    But anyway, we guess these aren’t really new Hunter Biden conspiracy theories. They’re the same old batshit, just rearranged in new ways,.

    And again, none of this makes sense to normal people. To normal people, it sounds like somebody spiked these people’s protein shakes with paint thinner.

    And yet they wonder why the American people tell them to get fucked in just about every election these days.

    It is a mystery.

    Link

  27. whheydt says

    Re: Lynna, OM @ #28…
    When our kids were young (they’re late 40s now), my wife and I decided that we would let them read any book in the house, though some–such as “Grey’s Anatomy”–were put on particularly high shelves. If they asked about any given book, we would discuss with them about reading it and might advise against, but they wouldn’t be forbidden to do so. Our position was that, if they understood the content of a book, then they were old enough to read it. If they didn’t understand the content, then no damage would be done.

  28. says

    Followup to comment 27.

    More Ukraine updates:

    […] For the last three weeks, pro-Russian sites have been reporting a large offensive by Russia in the Zaporizhzhia area. For the most part, that offensive has been limited to arrows drawn on maps sourced from Russian Telegram accounts and the usual “oh boy, now I’m going to be proven right!” fist-pumping from tankies across social media.

    However, there is one (count ‘em) area in the south where the pace of conflict has actually accelerated, and that’s around the town of Vuhledar (also written as Vugledar or Ugledar if you’re searching for news). Over the last week, Russian sources have claimed the town was taken. It wasn’t. Then pulled back to saying that Russian forces had entered the town. They haven’t. What’s actually happening in the area is the same kind of fighting that’s been seen at other locations along the front, with Russia trying to push unsuccessfully toward Vuhledar mostly from the direction of the neighboring town, Pavlivka.

    The result of Russia’s attempted assaults on Vuhledar has been some of the most horrific (or spectacular, depending on how you look at it) losses of whole units that have been caught on video in the war to date. Outside of Vuhlendar Russia is leaving a junkyard of T-80s, BMPs, and assorted bits of armor. Also other bits. The Ukrainian military reported over 100 Russian soldiers were killed in a single assault on Vuhledar on Thursday. While the Ukrainian MOD has been known to exaggerate, it’s very easy to believe these numbers. [video at the link]

    These are some of the best units of the actual Russian military being thrown against Vuhledar and ending up in flames. However, there’s a big difference between what’s going on here and around Bakhmut, one that extends beyond the fact that these are actual soldiers being killed rather than Wagner mercenaries. [Tweet and map at the link]

    That’s right. Vuhledar has actual strategic importance. From this location, Ukraine has potential fire control over the rail lines that run through Volnovakha to the southeast. With the railroad bridge into Crimea still under repair and reportedly unable to transport materiel, placing artillery at Vuhledar allows Ukraine to disrupt the primary line of supply for everything Russia holds to the west. That’s most of Zaporizhzhia, the still occupied areas of Kherson, and all of Crimea.

    Even more than Starobilsk in the north, Volnovakha is currently a vital transport hub for Russia, and it will remain that way at least until the bridge into Crimea is back at full capacity. Russia can get around this tight spot by offloading gear onto trucks, but as kos has talked about many times, that’s exactly the kind of process at which Russia simply sucks. They want to put things on a train somewhere outside Moscow and take it straight to a big depot somewhere near Melitopol, because they’re just not equipped for a lot of rehandling and transfer.

    They want Ukraine out of Vuhledar so that Ukraine can’t easily reach that track passing through Volnovakha. Or at least can’t do it without employing systems like HIMARS.

    Considering the losses that have already been seen this week at Vuhledar, it’s unclear if Russia is willing to keep smashing its forces against this location with the disregard Wagner shows for its forces at Bakhmut. If they do, at least there’s a little bit of a reason behind the madness.

    But it’s still madness.

    Word today is that things are getting increasingly tight around Bakhmut. Russian forces to the south have pushed through the town of Klishchiivka, including that fortified hill to the west, and are driving toward Ivaniske on the T0504 highway. [map at the link]

    The threat to supply lines into Bakhmut is significant, the city is increasingly being isolated, and forces there are at increased risk of encirclement. Ukraine has staged a number of counteroffensives at Bakhmut and pulled that location out of what seemed like near defeat over and over, but the situation in the area is looking pretty dire on Friday. Something needs to change … or something is going to change in a bad way. […]

  29. says

    whheydt @30, that’s far better than banning books. Besides, if you ban a book youngsters may have more incentive to seek it out. Banning books is a self-defeating tactic.

    In other news: Kari Lake has a lucrative incentive to push conspiracy theories

    About a week after Election Day 2022, Arizona’s highly competitive gubernatorial race was called for Democrat Katie Hobbs. In the wake of her defeat, Republican conspiracy theorist Kari Lake accepted the results with grace and dignity, putting democracy’s interests above her own.

    No, I’m just kidding. What Lake actually did was file some misguided lawsuits, tell the public that she secretly won the race she lost, and declare herself the state’s “duly elected governor,” election results be damned. In fact, on several occasions, the failed GOP candidate has even suggested — in classic Trump-like fashion — that she might yet be elevated to the governor’s office once the 2022 results are reversed. (This, of course, will not happen.)

    But that’s not all Lake did in the aftermath of her loss. The former candidate also made a lot of fundraising appeals, and as The Arizona Republic’s Laurie Roberts noted this week, pointing to data compiled by The Arizona Mirror, Lake’s requests for money were a wild success.

    Ever wonder why Lake won’t concede? Or at least storm off on some new adventure, now that hardly anybody in Arizona (other than the conspiracy crowd) is paying attention? Ka-ching. Turns out election denial is a lucrative business.

    How lucrative? Between Nov. 9 — the day after the election — and Dec. 31, Lake raised $2.5 million, which was an amazing haul for a candidate who’d just lost. […]

    Roberts added, “There are big bucks to be made by undermining Arizona and its elections. Facts don’t matter. Just continue to invent new and ever more hair-raising ways in which the election was supposedly stolen [and] then stand back and watch the money roll in.”

    […] As partisans eyed assorted recount schemes, the results were awful for democracy, but great for GOP coffers: The Arizona Republic reported at the time, “The Arizona Republican Party, along with other Trump-leaning groups, has used the state Senate’s ongoing ballot review as a way to raise funds for their causes and candidates. The fundraising has helped revitalize the Arizona GOP financially.”

    Donald Trump, of course, has been a pioneer in separating those who believed his election lies from their money. In the aftermath of his 2020 defeat, [Trump] raised millions of dollars from supporters who made the mistake of trusting the former president.

    As we’ve discussed, this created a perverse set of incentives: The moment Trump stopped lying would be the moment donors stopped sending him money, which not surprisingly encouraged the Republican to keep the con going.

    It’s a lesson Lake appears to have learned quite well.

  30. whheydt says

    A general comment on the issue of accuracy of casualty numbers on behalf of an opponent…
    Many years ago, I read a book about the Battle of Britain. The author–an RAF pilot who had been in the battle–very carefully and completely accounted for each and every aircraft lost on each side. Not just combat losses, but crashes on takeoff, beach landing from being out of fuel, ground accidents, everything.
    He also did a thorough review of pilots combat victory claims. The upshot was that British pilots claimed to have shot down twice as many German aircraft than they actually did. Pretty bad, huh? The German pilots, however, claimed three times as many British kills as they actually got. No wonder that Goering kept claiming the British were down to their last 50 Spitfires.
    As noted above, the author flew (Spitfires, as it happens) in the battle. Twenty years later, while hiking in some woods in SE England, he turned a corner and happened to look up. Hung up in a tree was an intact Spitfire. When he checked the tail number, he realized it was the very one he, himself, had bailed out of because it was on fire. Apparently the air stream had blown the fire out and the plane–otherwise undamaged–had glided into the tree tops and remained there for 20 years without anyone noticing it.

  31. says

    whheydt @33, thanks for the additional information. I know to take casualty figures with several grains of salt, but we can all see the trend. The trend is that Russian forces are suffering greater casualties than Ukrainian forces, due in part to the “madness” of Russian tactics.

  32. says

    Despite recent failures, RNC’s Ronna McDaniel wins another term

    As RNC chair, Ronna McDaniel has suffered a series of electoral and legal setbacks. Party members elected her to a fourth term anyway.

    During her tenure as chair of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel has seen more setbacks than she generally like to admit. As regular readers know, after Donald Trump chose her for the RNC role, McDaniel’s first national election cycle was awful: The party lost 40 House seats and its majority in the chamber.

    Republicans’ fortunes did not soon improve. In McDaniel’s second election cycle atop the RNC, Republicans lost the White House and the U.S. Senate. And in her third election cycle at the RNC, McDaniel saw her party fall far short of expectations as Democrats defied the historical odds.

    Complicating matters, McDaniel played a role in Trump’s post-election plot to overturn the results, conceding to the Jan. 6 committee that she helped recruit partisans for the fake elector scheme.

    With a record like this, it wasn’t too surprising when Harmeet Dhillon — who, among other things, leads the Republican National Lawyers Association — announced on Fox News in early December that she’d challenge the incumbent chair. Dhillon argued that, as far as she was concerned, the party was “tired of losing.”

    As it turns out, the party didn’t quite see it that way: McDaniel won a fourth term this afternoon with relative ease.

    I wouldn’t want that job.

  33. says

    JFC

    Republican Lawmakers in Arizona give themselves the right to destroy documents.

    In a new ruling, Republican lawmakers in Arizona are now legally allowed to discard documents after 90 days. The Washington Post reports that legislators from both the Senate and House can destroy any documents, including emails, texts, etc., on personal phones after three months, exempting themselves from state public records law.

    According to the White Mountain Independent, if these rules had been in place in the months after the 2020 election, the public would never have been privy to the Arizona lawmakers who attempted to trash President Joe Biden’s win.

    The rule would have shielded the public from knowledge of emails Virginia Thomas, spouse of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, sent to GOP House and Senate members urging them to forget Biden’s Electoral College delegates in exchange for a fake group of GOP delegates.

    Link

    Lawless dunderheads.

  34. says

    Followup to comment 36.

    As reported by the White Mountain Independent:

    […] The House changed its rules on Tuesday, and the Senate on Wednesday. The changes create broad exemptions for the Legislature from state Public Records Law, which requires retention of records indefinitely and release to the public on request.

    […] The House package that was adopted despite unified opposition from minority Democrats also makes major changes to many other rules of the chamber, including limiting debate on controversial legislation to just 30 minutes and requiring the Republican speaker to approve future rules changes — even if a majority of members vote to do so. And it allows Speaker Ben Toma, R-Peoria, or Senate President Petersen to sue for any perceived slight by new Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs without holding a vote.

    Looks and smells like fascism.

  35. says

    Followup to comments 8, 24 and 25.

    Yes, William Barr was such a dubious character that our allies were appalled by him way before the recent New York Times articles that detailed Barr’s and Durhams unethical shenanigans.

    Excerpts from a Daily Kos article published in 2019:

    U.K. officials report that William Barr appeared in their country with a “wish list” of items he wants to collect from agencies and individuals. Just as in Rome and Australia, Barr is continuing his world-tour “investigation” into the origins of Trump’s Russia scandal. And just as in those places, local officials are gob-smacked to see that Barr is genuinely, seriously trying to destroy U.S. intelligence agencies in the service of supporting conspiracy theories that not only declare the innocence of Donald Trump, but protect Vladimir Putin.

    […] Ever since he stepped onto the national stage by purposely distorting the results of the Mueller investigation, Trump’s new Roy Cohn has been engaged in politicizing the DOJ and turning the department into an wing of Trump’s reelection campaign. One of his first acts was drafting U.S. Attorney John “Bull” Durham to begin a round-the-world quest into claims Trump had made against Joe Biden, the pursuit of a DNC server that never existed, and undermining the actions of his own department in the Trump-Russia investigation. […]

    Yes, we should have all been outraged back in 2019.

    Excerpt from commentary by Mark Sumner:

    […] What Barr claimed were the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the actual findings of the Republican-led Senate committee were 180 degrees apart. That’s not because Mueller did a bad job. It’s because what Mueller actually reported, and what Barr put in his “summary” of those findings could not have been more different. Then Barr strung the nation along for months with promises of a peek at the real deal, holding onto Mueller’s actual findings until his false claims had become the accepted result.

    And still the Times—and other major media outlets—continued to treat Barr as a reliable source, as if his use of the Justice Department to pursue Trump’s perceived opponents and cover up Trump’s actions was legitimate.

    Even now, Barr is being given massive credit for having walked away before Jan. 6. Show after show has featured Barr talking about how there was no truth behind Trump’s claims of election fraud. Only that’s not what he said at the time. In fact, Barr was a key player in helping to create the big lie.

    CNN: “You’ve said you’re worried a foreign country could send thousands of fake ballots … what are you basing that on?”

    Barr: “Logic.”

    CNN: “But have you seen any evidence?”

    Barr: “No.”

    The fantasy that German satellites, Italian servers, or Venezuelan dictators could have somehow planted votes in an American election can be laid right at the feet of the guy who took his protege [John Durham] around the world, trying to co-opt American allies into participating in a lie.

    This isn’t some tragic tale in which Barr and Durham were pulled into Trump’s orbit and gradually became corrupted. They were bad guys all along. They eagerly and immediately jumped into the fray, using the power Trump had granted them in an effort to distort justice, protect Trump, and influence the public. The Durham non-investigation was only one aspect of the many ways in which Barr attempted to turn the Department of Justice into Trump’s litigating army in a political war. […]

    The frustration isn’t just that Trump, Barr, and Durham have all gotten away with massive abuse of power and distortion of justice for so long. It’s that this is being treated like a revelation … when almost nothing about this story is new.

    Link

  36. says

    Wonkette: “Congressional Florida Man Gives Out Dummy Grenades To Fellow Republican Dummies”

    Rep. Cory Mills (R-Florida), one of the fun new Trump-endorsed members of Congress who actually won in the midterms, did his best to make a memorable impression on his new colleagues by handing out grenades (the kind fired by a grenade launcher, not the kind you throw) to other members of Congress, along with a note saying that the grenades were products of the Sunshine and Bath Salts State. It was just his way of saying how pleased he was to be on the House Armed Services Committee, you see.

    Nothing to fear, kids; the letter noted that the grenades were inert, much like Kevin McCarthy’s future. (Haha, we added that.) You know, just in case the GOP elephant logo printed on the grenades didn’t make that clear. [Tweet and image at the link]

    The cheerful letter that accompanied the cheerful projectile read:

    Welcoming you to a mission-oriented 118th Congress. I am eager to get to work for the American people, and I look forward to working with you to deliver on this commitment. I am honored to be a part of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees

    In that spirit, it is my pleasure to give you a 40mm grenade, made for a MK19 grenade launcher. These are manufactured in the Sunshine State and first developed in the Vietnam War.

    Let’s come together and get to work on behalf of our constituents. […]

    * These Florida manufactured grenades are inert.

    Honestly, nothing says “looking forward to working together” like simulated explosive ordnance like the kind used by Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgement Day to temporarily blow big holes in the liquid-metal T-1000 death robot.

    Mills spokesperson Juan Ayala told the Washington Post that “Per the letter,” the whimsical keepsake grenades “are inert, and were cleared through all security metrics.”

    The fussbudgets at the Post also note that after Republicans took control of the House earlier this month they removed the metal detectors that had been installed following the January 6 insurrection.

    The Post also points out the cheerful irony that Mills came to Congress by defeating January 6 Select Committee member Stephanie Murphy, and gosh how things change, don’t they?

    Mills, the story adds,

    is among several new House members who deny that President Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election. A veteran and defense contractor, Mills also braggedin his campaign that he “sold tear gas used on Black Lives Matter protesters.”

    [JFC]
    Well that might have made for a fun hi-howdy-do gift for his new colleagues, too!

    No one should read anything into the fun gift, because while many Republicans love paramilitary fantasies, it would take a herculean effort to suggest that there’s anything at all worrisome about handing out pretend ammunition to other insurrection-curious Republicans in Congress, or to suggest it brings to mind Marjorie Taylor Greene’s wistful reflections that if she’d been in charge on January 6, the insurrectionists would have been armed and would have won.

    God, it’s just a little inert grenade. We should get a better sense of humor! Cory Mills knows all about humor! When Kevin McCarthy finally got enough votes to become House speaker, Mills tweeted a funny joke saying, “Finally, one less gavel in the Pelosi house for Paul to fight with in his underwear.”

    That is very amusing, because old men having their heads fractured by a hammer really is humorous if it’s not you and you consider violence against your enemies’ families very witty. (The officer bodycam footage of Pelosi being attacked right in front of them was released today; it will not make a single conspiracy theorist change their minds, but that is for a different post.) […]

  37. whheydt says

    Re: Lynna, OM @ #34…
    It’s all one with the reported Russian claims that they’ve destroyed 44 of the 18 HIMARS launch vehicles that have been provided to Ukraine.
    With any kind of luck, it’ll be Ukraine that merely doubles Russian losses while the Russians triple Ukrainian losses.

  38. says

    Albanian Firm Ties Indicted Former FBI Official To Yet Another Disgraced Former Agent

    Indicted former top FBI official Charles McGonigal is a partner in an Albanian firm along with another disgraced former FBI agent, records obtained by TPM show. [All the bad guys flocking together.]

    An Albanian corporate filing ties McGonigal to Mark Rossini, a flamboyant figure who left the FBI amid scandalous 2008 charges and who currently faces separate bribery-related charges in an August 2022 federal indictment in Puerto Rico.

    The previously unreported business connection links McGonigal to another former agent with a similar profile: a high-flier at the bureau with experience in counterterrorism and counterintelligence, and one who appears to have engaged in business with an eyebrow-raising array of foreign clients after leaving federal law enforcement.

    The nature of the Albanian company — called Lawoffice & Investigation — remains unclear. Why and how McGonigal apparently got involved with the firm, and how he may have met Rossini, are also unknown.

    Albanian journalists have published a series of articles since September 2022 highlighting McGonigal’s presence at the company, which they tie to the country’s oil industry.

    Prosecutors accused McGonigal this week in separate federal indictments in D.C. and Manhattan of concealing cash he received from a former Albanian intelligence employee totaling $225,000, and of evading sanctions for work he performed for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a paymaster of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

    But the Albanian corporate document connects McGonigal to the murky world that led Rossini to not just one, but two run-ins with federal law enforcement. Federal prosecutors charged Rossini in August 2022 over his alleged involvement in a bribery scheme involving the former governor of Puerto Rico. That came 14 years after Rossini’s first scandal, which involved actress Linda Fiorentino and notorious Hollywood fixer Anthony Pellicano, and quickly became tabloid fodder.

    […] what we’re seeing is one of the worst case examples of someone abusing their position and trying to leverage it for a different purpose.”

    Ray Batvinis, a former supervisory agent for the FBI and an ex-counterintelligence course instructor at the FBI academy, said that the bureau would now likely be investigating the extent of the damage that McGonigal had done.

    […] McGonigal’s link to the Albanian company surfaces a cast of characters who appear to be connected to the series of events that purportedly led to his indictments. The corporate filing for Lawoffice & Investigation shows four partners: McGonigal, Rossini, Agron Neza, and Shefqet Dizari.

    […] Rossini, Neza, and Dizdari are not named and have not been accused of wrongdoing in the two McGonigal indictments. […]

    Flashback to Hollywood
    The story of Rossini’s downfall from the FBI begins in the late 2000s.

    A star FBI agent who helped track Al-Qaeda before 9/11, Rossini had spent the years after playing a major role in trying to refit the agency to handle counterterrorism. Rossini, who was on detail to the CIA’s counterterrorism center at the time of the attacks, was no stranger to sensitive assignments. Then in 2006, amid an acrimonious divorce, Rossini began to date a Hollywood actress: Men in Black star Linda Fiorentino.

    […] Fiorentino was friends with an LA fixer named Anthony Pellicano, who the New York Post dubbed “Hollywood Hitman” for his uncanny abilities as a private eye.

    It all came crashing down for Pellicano in 2006, when federal prosecutors hit him with an 110-count indictment for illegally accessing police records from the LAPD and Beverly Hills Police Department, and for allegedly tapping Sylvester Stallone’s phone.

    Things got weirder.
    All of a sudden, Pellicano’s attorneys produced internal FBI records to accuse prosecutors of failing to turn over evidence to the defense. At first, it was unclear how they obtained those records.

    But the trail led back to Rossini. It turned out that Rossini had passed FBI records to Fiorentino, who in turn gave them to Pellicano’s defense.

    “When the document that he gave her was introduced at Pellicano’s trial, DOJ was like, ‘what the fuck?’” […]

    The Pellicano case brought Rossini down, forcing him to leave the FBI amid charges of illegally accessing bureau computers. Rossini was ultimately sentenced to one year probation, but that was the end of his 17-year career in federal law enforcement.

    Pellicano was ultimately found guilty at trial on more than 70 charges including racketeering, wiretapping, and wire fraud. He was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, before being released in 2019.

    Stein told TPM that, after the scandal, Rossini needed money to keep funding his lavish lifestyle. […]

    To Puerto Rico
    Flash forward to August 2022. Federal prosecutors charged Rossini with conspiracy, federal programs bribery, and honest services fraud over his alleged involvement in a graft scheme involving Puerto Rico’s governor.

    Per the allegations, the leadership of a bank that Rossini was consulting for allegedly promised to fund the Puerto Rico governor’s 2020 re-election campaign in exchange for her allowing the bank’s leadership to name the head of the island’s bank inspection commission, which was reviewing the lender. […]

    McGonigal Indicted
    So, how did Rossini end up a partner in an Albanian company? And how did McGonigal go from being a senior FBI agent to a partner in the same firm as Rossini?

    The two indictments outline part of what prosecutors believe to be McGonigal’s journey. In August 2017, McGonigal allegedly asked a former Albanian intelligence employee referred to as “Person A” for money.

    The description offered in the indictment suggests that the person is Neza, one of the co-partners in the firm with Rossini. In September 2022, Business Insider published a subpoena issued in the McGonigal investigation which named Neza. Neza was quoted this week in Albanian media as admitting to giving the money to McGonigal, but denying any wrongdoing associated with it. […]

    [snipped some oil drilling in Albania details]

    The exact nature of the scheme that McGonigal was allegedly involved in remains unclear from the indictment. […]

    Prosecutors said that McGonigal hid the extent of his work with the Albanians until after his September 2018 retirement from the bureau. Before then, the person matching Neza’s description allegedly gave McGonigal $225,000 in cash. […]

    McGonigal is also alleged to have opened an FBI investigation into a lobbyist who had been hired by a political party other than that of Albania’s prime minister. The lobbyist, according to prosecutors, is an American citizen.

    In recent years, Rossini has also begun to speak out about Albania.
    Specifically, Rossini has taken positions about the country’s internal politics, accusing opponents of the country’s prime minister of being connected to the Russian government. He spoke out frequently against the Albanian opposition party after his February 2019 visit to the country.

    It’s not clear if it was related to his work with the Lawoffice & Investigation.

    A translation of the Albanian corporate records is available at the link, along with tweets, photos and maps.

    Unethical dealings here there and everywhere. Simple greed everywhere.

  39. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Supreme Court failed to disclose that guy who signed off on leak report is on their payroll

    […] CNN reports that the [Supreme] court has “longstanding financial ties” with former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who Chief Justice John Roberts tapped to endorse the leak investigation that found no leaker and let the justices and their spouses off the hook. Chertoff has a contract with the court for security consultations that has “reached at least $1 million.”

    Because Supreme Court contracts are as exempt from public scrutiny as everything else connected with the justices, the exact amount of money Chertoff has been receiving from the court for security services can’t be discovered. According to court sources to CNN, however, the court has been paying “The Chertoff Group for security assessments, some broadly covering justices’ safety and some specifically related to Covid-19 protocols at the court itself,” for a number of years.

    Chertoff has a long association with Roberts stretching back to their overlapping years at Harvard Law School, then as clerks at both the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, then the Supreme Court. Chertoff eventually served with Alito on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals before leaving the gate bench to serve as the first secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. Chertoff and Roberts both served in the first Bush presidency (H.W.) and Chertoff served with Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch in W’s administration. It’s all been very cozy among the crew for a very long time.

    […] Now we know that the court majority turned to one of its well-paid and long-time friends to rubber-stamp the findings of this investigation that completely exonerated the justices themselves without actually investigating them. “It feels like every day being a new story about the Roberts Court’s nonexistent relationship with transparency and ethics” Lipton-Lubet said in response to the Chertoff revelations.

    […] “We identified more than a dozen questions worth asking—but then again, we don’t have secret contracts with the Court. I guess Chertoff had a least a million reasons not to ask any of those questions.”

    […] Demand Justice Executive Director Brian Fallon said: “While it’s not surprising only those on the Supreme Court’s payroll are willing to vouch for this botched investigation, the Court continues to amaze in its willingness to flout basic standards of transparency and honesty.

    “At this point, it looks like the goal of this so-called investigation was to protect the justices, who were paying everyone involved, and not get to the bottom of the leak,” Fallon continued. […]

    Actually, the justices are not really paying. We the taxpayers are paying.

  40. Reginald Selkirk says

    US to make it easier for gay men to donate blood

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced it will be changing a current three month abstinence policy for blood donations from gay men.

    Current rules only allow donations if a man has not had sex with another man for that period.

    Under new “individual risk-based” draft rules, all potential donors would be asked about new or multiple sexual partners in the past three months.

    The FDA hopes this change will encourage more blood donations…

  41. Reginald Selkirk says

    Scientology Leader David Miscavige Allegedly Dodging Lawyers … As Trafficking Lawsuit Looms

    David Miscavige, leader of the Church of Scientology, is playing a cat-and-mouse game with lawyers trying to serve him a trafficking suit — at least that’s what the lawyers think now that he’s allegedly vanished.

    Over a four month period, Miscavige has reportedly eluded process servers a whopping 27 times at Scientology offices in L.A. and Clearwater, Florida, where the group is headquartered…

  42. Reginald Selkirk says

    Marjorie Taylor Greene Mocked After Her Amendment Fails Spectacularly

    Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) offered an amendment on Thursday ― and it quickly went down in flames.

    New House rules put in place by the Republican majority allow any lawmaker to offer an amendment. The Hill reported that led to some 140 amendments being proposed for a bill regarding the use of the strategic petroleum reserve. Greene’s proposed amendment would have forbidden President Joe Biden from selling oil from the reserve.

    The conspiracy theorist ― who spoke last year at a white nationalist event ― was joined by just 13 others as the amendment failed 14-418…

  43. Reginald Selkirk says

    Rep. Matt Gaetz introduces ‘PENCIL’ resolution barring Adam Schiff from accessing classified information

    Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., introduced the “Preventing Extreme Negligence with Classified Information Licenses,” or PENCIL Resolution, on Thursday that would bar Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., from accessing any classified information.

    “The resolution expresses the sense of the U.S. House of Representatives that Congressman Adam Schiff should not have access to classified information, should be investigated by the House Ethics Committee, and should have his comments made during any proceeding of Congress regarding Russian Collusion and the Trump campaign be officially struck from the record,” Gaetz’s office said in a statement…

  44. Reginald Selkirk says

    Donald Trump argues in wild court filing that New York can’t sue the Trump Organization because it doesn’t legally exist

    Donald Trump, his real-estate company and his three eldest children have filed an extraordinary, nose-thumbing response to the $250 million fraud lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James in September, stating that “Trump Organization” is branding shorthand — not a legal entity — so it can’t be sued…

  45. raven says

    Xpost from the North Dakota thread.

    Here is another one.
    Indiana. All the right wingnut states just copy each other.
    Once again, they are prohibiting something that doesn’t even exist.

    It is all rather stupid.
    In point of fact, they can’t prohibit children from identifying as animals. All they can do is prohibit them from wearing fur suits to school. And who wants to do that anyway?

    Everything I’ve seen says it must be miserable to grow up in Red states these days.
    The right wingnuts like to attack children because they don’t have the Civil Rights protection of the law, they are smaller, and they don’t have enough money to hire lawyers.

    Indiana lawmaker targets furries in schools. Schools say there’s no problem

    Indiana lawmaker targets furries in schools. Schools say there’s no problem
    Arika Herron, Indianapolis Star
    Thu, January 26, 2023 at 3:29 PM PST·4 min read

    A bill working through the Indiana Senate would reiterate that schools are allowed to enforce dress codes and curb disruptive behavior to address concerns about students identifying as furries.

    It follows a nationwide wave of claims – none proven – that students are dressing and acting like animals in classrooms.

    Indiana Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond, authored Senate Bill 380. The “various education matters” bill makes changes to how the state calculates high school graduation rates and then also includes this line: “a school corporation may adopt a policy concerning student dress code or disruptive behavior.” When introducing the bill in the Senate’s education committee, which Raatz chairs, he said it was to address concerns about students who “may be imitating or were behaving like a furry.”

    “Essentially, what this signals to school corporations is that through the dress code you have the ability to drive how students dress,” he said.

    Parents and school employees brought the complaints to him, Raatz said, declining to name their districts or schools in an interview with IndyStar. The bill does not require schools to make changes, he said, but reinforces the idea that they can.

    School corporations already have the right to create and enforce a dress code, as many do. Raatz said this line was added to a different section of code – that governing the duty and powers of school corporations to supervise and discipline students – and the wording slightly different from the section of law that already allows schools to implement dress codes.

    Sen. Jeff Raatz leads the Senate education committee hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. The committee would hear House Bill 1041, which could ban transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams level K-12.
    Sen. Jeff Raatz leads the Senate education committee hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. The committee would hear House Bill 1041, which could ban transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams level K-12.
    Stay in the conversation on politics: Sign up for the OnPolitics newsletter

    Indiana schools say it’s not an issue
    IndyStar hasn’t been able to find evidence of an Indiana school district actually reporting that students are dressing as animals. An online search turned up no verified reports of furries in schools here, nor did requests sent to several districts. Representatives of Westfield Washington Schools and the districts in South Bend, Fort Wayne, Lawrence Township and Wayne Township said it has not been a problem in their classrooms.

    “We are not aware of any students dressing as furries or animals during the school day in the M.S.D. of Wayne Township,” said Jeff Butts, that district’s superintendent.

    Hamilton Southeastern Schools said the biggest issue they’ve dealt with around “furries” is the time it takes to combat untrue rumors.

    “We have not had disruptions that I am aware of with students acting out as ‘furries,'” said Emily Pace Abbotts, HSE spokesperson. “This overall issue, I believe stemmed from national media, which also spread that schools had litter boxes in their restrooms. This is not true for Hamilton Southeastern Schools – and is worrisome that people would believe such.”

    The district already has a dress code in its student handbooks to limit “clothing distractions.”

    Kim Patterson, a middle school teacher in rural Howard County, said there are no furries in schools there, either. Patterson is an Indiana State Teachers Association board member.

    “Only ‘furry’ kids I see are high school boys who don’t shave,” Patterson said.

    Last fall, several people came to an Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation board meeting, the Evansville Courier & Press reported, to raise concerns that the district was allowing students to dress and behave as animals, even providing litter boxes in bathrooms.

    “There are no litter boxes in our schools. Period. There never will be,” Evansville Superintendent David Smith said after that meeting.

    Ruth Baize and Theresa Finn talk to the EVSC school board about "furries," on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. Baize said schoolchildren are being allowed to dress and behave like animals and disrupt school. EVSC officials say that is not happening.
    Ruth Baize and Theresa Finn talk to the EVSC school board about “furries,” on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. Baize said schoolchildren are being allowed to dress and behave like animals and disrupt school. EVSC officials say that is not happening.
    What’s a furry?
    At the heart of the rumors ‒ repeated by conservative politicians and commentators nationwide ‒ is the idea that schools are letting children identify as animals as an extension of allowing them to choose their own gender identity independent of the one assigned at birth.

    According to Furscience, a team of scientists studying the furry fandom, the term furry describes a diverse community of fans, artists, writers, gamers and role players. Most furries create for themselves an anthropomorphized animal character with whom they identify. Some furries wear elaborate costumes or paraphernalia such as animal ears or tails, or represent themselves as anthropomorphic animals in online communities. While a small percentage of those surveyed think they have a deeper connection to animals, the vast majority do not identify as animal.

    Though many self-identifying furries are teenagers and young adults, according to data collected by Furscience, it doesn’t mean that all students who wear a headband with cat ears on it – a popular accessory among kids sold at major retailers – are part of the furry community.

    SB 380 is expected to receive a vote from the Senate’s education committee next week. Should it pass, as bills sponsored by powerful committee chairs usually do, it would move onto the full Senate for debate.

  46. says

    In the video of the police beating of Tyre Nichols, the officers beat him and kicked him for awhile as he was lying on the ground, then they picked him up and held him up so that they could hit him some more. The whole thing is something that I cannot understand.

  47. says

    Followup to comment 52, I meant to mention that the police officers also pepper-spray Nichols multiple times, and they deploy a stun gun.

  48. raven says

    Here is an example of modern day witch hunts.
    In this case, they are hunting for girls and women who have had abortions in Red States.
    In some cases, the police managed to get subpoenas to look at people’s emails.

    The best way to avoid the cops is at the end of the article.
    “…“if you are white, have money, and the ability to travel to a state where abortion is legal — you will have a much easier time than those from marginalized communities.”

    If you aren’t white and have money, at least be careful of your emails and internet search history.
    And if you end up in the ER for the after effects, never, ever admit you had an abortion. The ER can’t tell the difference between a miscarriage and an abortion even though they may tell you that.

    How US police use digital data to prosecute abortions

    TechCrunch
    How US police use digital data to prosecute abortions
    Runa Sandvik
    Fri, January 27, 2023 at 12:11 PM PST·9 min read
    In this article:

    In late April, police in Nebraska received a tip saying 17-year-old Celeste Burgess had given birth to a stillborn baby and buried the body. Officers soon learned that her mother, Jessica Burgess, and a friend had helped her with transportation and burial. The police issued citations for concealing the death of another person and false reporting. But in June, they also charged Jessica with providing an abortion for her teenage daughter. Police had made the discovery after obtaining a warrant that required Meta to hand over their conversations on Facebook Messenger. The messages, which were not encrypted, showed the two had discussed obtaining and using abortion pills.

    Warrants for digital data are routine in police investigations, which makes sense, given how much time we spend online. Technology giants have for years responded to valid court orders for specific information sought by law enforcement, though some companies have done more to fight for our privacy than others. Millions of people now use apps that encrypt their calls and messages, like Signal and WhatsApp, so that no one can access their messages — not even the providers themselves.

    The case in Nebraska is not the first in which police have used digital data to prosecute an abortion, and it won’t be the last. While digital data is rarely the main form of evidence, prosecutors use it to paint a picture in court; by showing messages sent to friends, internet searches or emails from an online pharmacy. As in the Burgess case, however, it’s often people around the women who first notify the authorities — a doctor or nurse, a family member or a friend of a friend.

    When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, it ended the constitutional right to abortion. In doing so, it gave states the power to regulate abortion or ban the procedure altogether, triggering a wave of abortion bans nationwide. At least 13 states now ban abortion with few or no exceptions. Georgia recently reinstated a ban after six weeks of pregnancy. And in many states, the fight over abortion access is still taking place in courtrooms.

    A week after the ruling, Google announced it would delete location data for visits to abortion clinics and other medical facilities. The Electronic Frontier Foundation said we should review our privacy settings. The Digital Defense Fund encouraged us to use encrypted messaging apps. Some suggested that we delete our period tracking apps. It may seem odd to dedicate so much attention to digital privacy in the context of our reproductive rights. But a look at prosecutions between 2011 and 2022 illustrates why these conversations are needed.

    In May 2011, police in Idaho charged Jennie McCormack with inducing her own abortion. The 32-year-old couldn’t afford a legal procedure. Instead, she took pills purchased online. NPR reported that McCormack confided in a friend shortly after the abortion. It was this friend’s sister who told the police. When officers arrived at her home, they found the fetus wrapped up on her back porch.

    McCormack admitted to the police that she self-induced an abortion after ingesting a pack of five pills. At trial, she told the court that the medication was “FDA-approved,” “procured through the internet” and “prescribed by a physician.” Years later, an appeals court noted that “McCormack’s sister allegedly found unspecified abortion pills online, paid $200 for them and had them shipped to McCormack in Idaho.”

    At the time, McCormack faced up to five years in prison. The case was eventually dismissed.

    In March 2015, Indiana sentenced Purvi Patel to 20 years in prison for neglect of a dependent and feticide. Two years earlier, Patel had gone to the hospital with bleeding after delivering a child at home. She first told the medical staff that she had been 10 to 10 weeks pregnant. But when questioned by two doctors, she admitted to giving birth and said the baby was stillborn.

    Patel told the doctors she had put the body in a paper bag and placed it in a dumpster behind a Target store, not far from her family’s restaurant. The hospital notified the police, who searched the area and recovered the bag. A doctor who participated in the search said “the baby was cold and lifeless” but “was an otherwise normal, healthy appearing baby.”

    Court documents show that police obtained a search warrant for Patel’s phone. An officer with “training in examining electronic devices” downloaded her text messages. In reviewing the data, the police found that she had discussed her abortion with “at least one friend.” Patel had also shared that she’d obtained and taken abortion pills from Hong Kong.

    An Indiana appeals court overturned the feticide conviction in July 2016. The court noted that in searching Patel’s iPad, “police found a customer service email from InternationalDrugMart.com.” The email confirmed that Patel had ordered mifepristone and misoprostol for $72. A detective ordered the same pills, presumably to confirm that it was possible to do so. Police also found Patel had visited a website titled “Abortion after Twelve Weeks.”

    The court documents do not mention the type of phone Patel had or how police gained access to her messages. But the messages were at least three months old, suggesting that she likely did not delete the texts or the email from the online pharmacy.

    Indiana’s attorney general decided not to appeal the court’s ruling. In September 2016, Patel was resentenced to 18 months for child neglect, less time than she had already served. The judge then ordered Patel’s immediate release.

    In April 2015, police in Arkansas arrested Anne Bynum after she gave birth to a stillborn child at home. She was charged with concealing birth and abuse of a corpse. The state also charged her friend, Karen Collins, with performing an abortion.

    Bynum, who already had one child and worked a minimum-wage job, never told her parents about the pregnancy. When her pregnancy became difficult to hide, she took medications to induce labor.

    In a video interview, Bynum said she delivered the baby at home by herself, in the middle of the night. “She was just beautiful. Really beautiful. But eyes closed, mouth closed. Complete stillness.” Bynum wrapped up the remains and went to bed. The next day, she drove to the emergency room with the remains in the front passenger seat. Bynum said she “gave birth last night, but she didn’t make it.” Medical staff determined it had been a stillbirth.

    When the hospital discharged Bynum days later, she was arrested on her way home. The sheriff put her in handcuffs and placed her in the back of the police car. Bynum’s trial was brief, just two days of testimony and a few minutes of jury deliberation. The judge sentenced her to six years in prison. An appeals court reversed the conviction in December 2018.

    Exactly who notified the police remains unknown. The appeals court noted that “Bynum told friends, her attorneys, and her priest about the pregnancy and of her intent to put the child up for adoption when it was born.” On the morning after she gave birth, Bynum texted her attorney “who advised her to go see a doctor.” The attorney also called a funeral home and “was advised to have Bynum take the fetal remains to the hospital.”

    It’s unclear whether Bynum shared the texts herself, or if police recovered them another way.

    In January 2018, Mississippi charged Latice Fisher with murder for the death of her newborn the year before. The Washington Post reported that when paramedics arrived at her home, they found “a baby in the toilet, lifeless and blue, the umbilical cord still attached.” The baby was pronounced dead at the hospital. Fisher initially said she didn’t know she was pregnant, but later admitted that she had been aware of the pregnancy for at least a month. She also admitted to conducting internet searches for how to have a miscarriage.

    Fisher reportedly “voluntarily surrendered” her iPhone to police. Court records show her phone’s “memory and data were then downloaded, including but not limited to Fisher’s past internet activity.” While reviewing that data, investigators learned that Fisher had researched “buy abortion pills, mifeprisone [sic] online, misoprostol online,” and “buy Misoprostol Abortion Pill Online.” Fisher had also “apparently purchased misoprostol immediately subsequent to these searches.” Another court document suggests police also searched her husband’s phone.

    While there is no evidence that Fisher took the pills, prosecutors used her digital data to argue that she intended to abort her pregnancy. The murder charge was eventually dismissed.

    Technology companies may not have many options for handling search warrants from the police, even when the investigations relate to abortion. But companies do get to decide how much digital data they collect about people and for how long they store the information. They also get to decide whether to offer end-to-end encryption, which would give people increased privacy for all of their messages. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Meta announced it’s making encrypted one-to-one chats in Instagram available to adults in the two countries. And while Elon Musk said Twitter should end-to-end encrypt direct messages prior to acquiring the company, it’s unclear if this will actually happen.

    Last year, reporters found that Facebook and anti-abortion clinics collect sensitive information on would-be patients. The Markup also reported that Hey Jane, an online abortion pill provider, employed a series of online trackers that follow users across the internet — until the journalists reached out about the practice. More recently, ProPublica found nine pharmacies selling abortion pills also sharing sensitive data with Google and other third-parties. All nine were recommended by Plan C, which provides information about how to get abortion pills by mail. None responded to ProPublica’s request for comment.

    In Abortion, Every Day, publisher Jessica Valenti reminds us that “if you are white, have money, and the ability to travel to a state where abortion is legal — you will have a much easier time than those from marginalized communities.” Everybody deserves access to reproductive health care. If the past decade is any indication, protecting essential abortion rights is going to require all of us, from doctors, nurses and attorneys to lawmakers, software engineers and voters.

  49. Reginald Selkirk says

    All Flybe flights canceled after UK airline ceases trading

    London (CNN) — British airline Flybe has “ceased trading” and canceled all scheduled flights, the company and the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said on Saturday.
    “Flybe, which operated scheduled services from Belfast City, Birmingham and Heathrow to airports across the United Kingdom and to Amsterdam and Geneva, has ceased trading,” the CAA wrote in a statement.
    “We urge passengers planning to fly with this airline not to go to the airport as all Flybe flights are canceled,” consumer director for CAA Paul Smith was quoted saying.
    In a statement posted to social media Flybe warned that canceled flights “will not be rescheduled.”
    The company has been placed into administration, according to the statement.

  50. Reginald Selkirk says

    California law aiming to curb COVID misinformation blocked by judge

    (Reuters) – A U.S. judge has blocked a California law that sought to penalize doctors who spread “misinformation or disinformation” about COVID-19 while he considers a pair lawsuits challenging it on free speech grounds.

    Senior U.S. District Judge William Shubb in Sacramento ruled on Wednesday that Assembly Bill 2098, which was signed last October by California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, was too vague for doctors to know what kind of statements might put them at risk of being penalized.”COVID-19 is a quickly evolving area of science that in many aspects eludes consensus,” he wrote.

    The preliminary order means that the law cannot be enforced while Shubb hears two lawsuits brought against the law shortly after its passage last year – one by a group of five doctors, and another by a doctor and two advocacy groups including Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s Children’s Health Defense, which has long promoted false information about standard childhood vaccines.

    “This Act is a blatant attempt to silence doctors whose views, though based on thorough scientific research, deviate from the government-approved ‘party line,'” said Greg Dolin of the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a lawyer for the doctors, in a statement. “At no point has the State of California been able to articulate the line between permissible and impermissible speech.”

    Though based on scientific research” –
    ha ha ha ha ha – lie to me some more

  51. raven says

    The gene LAV-BPIFB4 gene addresses the unmet therapeutic need to delay the heart’s spontaneous aging. In mice anyway.

    It was originally discovered in aged humans over 100 years old.
    It will take years to see if gene therapy with this variant has any clinical utility in humans. Bu that time the Boomers who are left will probably be those that need it.

    “Finally, gene therapy with LAV-BPIFB4 prevented cardiac deterioration in middle-aged mice and rescued cardiac function and myocardial perfusion in older mice by improving microvasculature density and pericyte coverage.”

    The longevity-associated BPIFB4 gene supports cardiac function and vascularization in aging cardiomyopathy

    The longevity-associated BPIFB4 gene supports cardiac function and vascularization in aging cardiomyopathy
    Monica Cattaneo, PhD, Antonio P Beltrami, PhD, MD, Anita C Thomas, PhD, Gaia Spinetti, PhD, Valeria Alvino, PhD, Elisa Avolio, PhD, Claudia Veneziano, PhD, Irene Giulia Rolle, PhD, Sandro Sponga, MD, Elena Sangalli, PhD … Show moreAuthor Notes
    Cardiovascular Research, cvad008, https://doi.org/10.1093/cvr/cvad008
    Published: 13 January 2023 Article history
    Abstract
    Aims
    The aging heart naturally incurs a progressive decline in function and perfusion that available treatments cannot halt. However, some exceptional individuals maintain good health until the very late stage of their life due to favourable gene-environment interaction. We have previously shown that carriers of a longevity-associated variant (LAV) of the BPIFB4 gene enjoy prolonged health spans and lesser cardiovascular complications. Moreover, supplementation of LAV-BPIFB4 via an adeno-associated viral vector improves cardiovascular performance in limb ischemia, atherosclerosis, and diabetes models. Here, we asked if the LAV-BPIFB4 gene could address the unmet therapeutic need to delay the heart’s spontaneous aging.

    Methods and Results
    Immunohistological studies showed a remarkable reduction in vessel coverage by pericytes in failing hearts explanted from elderly patients. This defect was attenuated in patients carrying the homozygous LAV-BPIFB4 genotype. Moreover, pericytes isolated from older hearts showed low levels of BPIFB4, depressed pro-angiogenic activity, and loss of ribosome biogenesis. LAV-BPIFB4 supplementation restored pericyte function and pericyte-endothelial cell interactions through a mechanism involving the nucleolar protein nucleolin. Conversely, BPIFB4 silencing in normal pericytes mimed the heart failure pericytes. Finally, gene therapy with LAV-BPIFB4 prevented cardiac deterioration in middle-aged mice and rescued cardiac function and myocardial perfusion in older mice by improving microvasculature density and pericyte coverage.

    Conclusions
    We report the success of the LAV-BPIFB4 gene/protein in improving homeostatic processes in the heart’s aging. These findings open to using LAV-BPIFB4 to reverse the decline of heart performance in older people.

  52. tomh says

    WaPo:
    Justice Department asks FEC to stand down as prosecutors probe Santos
    The request is the clearest sign to date of an active criminal investigation examining the congressman’s campaign finances
    By Isaac Stanley-Becker, Jonathan O’Connell and Emma Brown / January 27, 2023

    The Justice Department has asked the Federal Election Commission to hold off on any enforcement action against George Santos, the Republican congressman from New York who lied about key aspects of his biography, as prosecutors conduct a parallel criminal probe, according to two people familiar with the request.

    The request, which came from the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, is the clearest sign to date that federal prosecutors are examining Santos’s campaign finances.

    The request also asked that the FEC provide any relevant documents to the Justice Department, according to the knowledgeable people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.
    […]

    The FEC ordinarily complies with DOJ requests to hold off on enforcement….

    “Basically they don’t want two sets of investigators tripping over each other,” said David M. Mason, a former FEC commissioner. “And they don’t want anything that the FEC, which is a civil agency, does to potentially complicate their criminal case.”

    The request “indicates there’s an active criminal investigation” examining issues that overlap with complaints against Santos before the FEC, said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer….

    Separately, the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday interviewed two people about Santos’s role in Harbor City Capital, an investment firm that was forced to shut down in 2021 after the SEC accused it of operating a “classic Ponzi scheme.” SEC interest in those people came after they were quoted Wednesday in The Washington Post describing how Santos solicited an investment in Harbor City at an Italian restaurant in Queens in late 2020.

  53. says

    Ukraine update: Drone warfare keeps evolving, but the latest weapons are almost unbelievable

    A quick visit to Kreminna this morning. After Ukraine liberated Izyum in September, Russian forces fell back to Kreminna and Svatove. Recognizing that this area was critical to protecting supply lines running 50km further east through Starobilsk, Russia made this area one of the largest sites of deployment for freshly mobilized forces, dropping tens of thousands of poorly trained troops in Ukraine’s way. Even so, Ukraine made good progress over the next month, closing to within a few kilometers of both cities, liberating dozens of small towns and villages, and clearing out Russian ambushes to solidify control over main highways.

    But even as Ukrainian forces reached a position where an assault on either city seemed possible, weather conditions turned every field and every dirt road into the region into an impassable swamp. At Svatove, Ukraine can bring forces down the highway from Kupyansk, but those forces remain under artillery fire from Russian forces over the ridge to the east. Attempts to move toward Svatove from the west have resulting in a series of back and forth battles that have served only to level those locations while leaving neither side with a notable tactical advantage.

    And then there’s Kreminna …[map at the link]

    At Kreminna, Ukrainian forces worked for some time to secure Dibrova and Kuzmyne, but attempts to advance from Kuzmyne are reportedly hampered by a sea of mud. Tanks and other tracked vehicles can make progress, but only so slowly that they are subject to pounding by artillery and RPGs. Plus it’s difficult for infantry or wheeled vehicles to move at all.

    On the south, Ukrainian forces have been able to work their way through the more solid ground in the dense forests and even reach the outer streets of Kreminna. But the nature of this area means that it’s difficult to maintain unit cohesion, that ambushes are a constant threat, and that bringing up armor in force is nearly impossible. North of the city, Ukraine still holds the highway near Chervonopopivka, may have pushed Russia out of Holykove, and can prevent Russia from moving troops between the Svatove area and Kreminna area without a long detour. But it’s simply not enough.

    The reason for all this mess can be neatly summed up in the Kreminna forecast from weather.com. [Forecast at the link showing inches of rain/snow]

    Every night, the temperature dips slightly below freezing. Every day it’s back above freezing again. It’s been this way for weeks. The mixture of snow, rain, sun and middling temperatures is a recipe for a miserable half-frozen soup that simply makes it impossible to conduct travel off paved highways.

    In a lot of ways, the extremely warm winter across Europe is a very good thing. It’s not just making it easier for most of Europe to eliminate the need for Russian natural gas and destroying Vladimir Putin’s economy, the warm weather is greatly reducing the misery caused by Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure. But right now, getting Ukrainian forces into Kreminna means either forcing them down a narrow highway from the north (not good), sending them through the woods in small numbers (not good), or making them swim for it from the west (not good). Which makes sitting still for the moment frustrating, but just about the only answer that doesn’t involve watching Ukrainian forces suffer the kind of disaster Russia just had at Vuhledar.

    Okay, these tanks are still in the United States. However, pro-Russian social media has posted hundreds of videos of tanks in Russia that are supposedly on their way to Ukraine. Consider this the feel good response. Man … that that is a lot of firepower. [video at the link]

    Of course, no matter how fast the tanks end up moving, they will never match the speed of Russian propaganda. Russian Telegram last night was extremely excited to share the first images of a M1 Abrams tank destroyed in Bakhmut.

    It’s clear that some of the pro-Russian accounts passing this around know that it’s a fake. And honestly, there were at least two “confirmed pictures” of Abrams destroyed in Ukraine before the U.S. announced that it was sending the tank, so this isn’t really first. It’s not even the only “Abrams killed at Bakhmut” picture circulated on Saturday. There’s another one going around that includes a palm tree. War is hell on imaginary M1A2s fighting in the deserts of Ukraine. [Russian propaganda is comically inept]

    If you’re wondering why the second half of the drone field guide has yet to emerge, a big part is how the use of drones, and modifications of existing drones, keeps running ahead of my ability to keep up. But even after seeing the most innocuous consumer drone armed with a bandolier of grenades, I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite as outrageous as this: [tweet and image at the link, small drones, large warheads]

    Can those tiny drones actually lift these RPG warheads? I don’t know. Maybe. I guess. The reason the drones are missing their shells is likely because this particular flying Frankenstein is so close to the limit, every gram counts. Presumably a sensitive contact switch is going to get screwed into the nose at the last moment. Even then, without the kinetic impact given by a rocket, these are likely to be ineffective against any sort of armored vehicle. One thing is certain: These are not long range weapons.

    If you’re unfamiliar with these FPV drones, watch this video on two popular models cranked out by ubiquitous drone maker DJI. [video at the link]

    When you have a handle on the basics, watch a video on some FPV racing or from professional operators using an FPV drone to shoot video. The agility and control allowed by these FPV drones greatly exceeds what can be done using most normal camera quadcopter or hexacopters, making them much better suited to slipping through trees, avoiding branches, and reaching difficult positions. It’s completely understandable why these would best serve as the base of a kamikaze drone. But still, that lash up of warhead and drone just seems outlandish.

    Any Russian operators flying such a drone have something new to worry about. Anti-drone drones. [Tweet and image at the link. “Ukraine 🇺🇦 is now using flying drone interceptors from the USA 🇺🇸 to counter the threat of #Shahed loitering munitions. Deputy PM Mykhailo Fedorov shared that #Ukraine has bought 6 of the Fortem DroneHunter F700 drones, which use their aerial agility to down threats with nets.”]

    These drones have already been utilized to capture civilian drones flying around airports and in other illegal areas, but the upgraded version is supposed to target fast, fixed-wind drones. It would be interesting to see one net a Lancet. [tweet and video at the link]

    Prepare to have your heart broken. This little girl lived in Mariupol. [video at the link]

    Unlike many Twitter videos that have a warning, this video deserves one. [video at the link, video shows able-bodied Russian soldiers leaving their wounded behind.]

  54. says

    Trigger warning for details of physical brutality in the text. Videos are available at the link.

    […] The Washington Post has reviewed the footage in detail. Here is a description of what each video shows.

    Video one: Body-cam footage shows Tyre Nichols pulled from his car. In video clip one, Nichols is pulled from his car and pushed to the ground by a group of police officers.

    “I didn’t do anything!” Nichols says as officers shout at him using expletives.

    As Nichols is moved to the ground, a voice, presumably Nichols, can be heard saying: “You don’t do that, okay?” and “All right, I’m on the ground.”

    Nichols appears calm and can be seen sitting on the ground, while officers shout commands at him: “Turn around! Right now! Get on the ground!”

    “Okay, you guys are really doing a lot right now, stop,” Nichols says as multiple officers pin him to the ground and tell him to turn around and put his hands behind his back. “I’m just trying to go home!”

    An officer warns Nichols, who is already on the ground, “Man, if you don’t lay down — ” to which Nichols responds “I am on the ground!”

    The officer wearing the body camera appears to Taser Nichols, who is struggling to get away. After several seconds, Nichols gets up from the ground and sprints down the street.

    The officer chases him, making a left turn and running about half a block before he stops, panting. He says over his radio: “Taser was deployed. Suspect is running down Ross [Road].”

    “Young male Black, slim build, blue jeans, and a hoodie,” the officer says
    .
    The officer arrives at an intersection with several others and appears out of breath. A sheriff’s car pulls up and an officer asks which way Nichols ran and for his description, then speeds off.

    “I sprayed myself,” the officer wearing the body camera says, referring to pepper spray.

    “Yeah, you sprayed me too,” another officers responds. “But luckily it didn’t get in my eyes, just on my eyebrow.”

    The Memphis police remain in the intersection for several minutes and hear over their radio that Nichols has been found.

    “I hope they stomp his a–,” one officer says as they wait.

    “What?” another officer says.

    “I hope they stomp his a–,” the officer repeats.

    Video two: A security camera on a pole shows the beating
    This 30-minute clip, recorded by a security camera on a pole, has no sound, but shows Memphis police delivered at least two kicks and two baton strikes, and five punches to Tyre Nichols’s face.

    Two officers are seen struggling with Nichols, who is lying on the pavement, as they appear to try to handcuff him. At 8:34 p.m., a third officer can be seen exiting a police car and approaching them. After appearing to say something, he then takes a kick at Nichols, though it is unclear whether he makes contact with his head or another body part, as the officer appears to slip.

    The officer appears to say something else — then takes another kick or swipe with his right leg, appearing to aim at Nichols’s arm.

    Moments later, a fourth officer arrives, brandishes his police baton, and strikes Nichols in the back [with full force]. The officer strikes him a second time and, as Nichols struggles to his feet, [This account says Nichols struggled to his feet, but it looked to me like the officers hauled him to his feet in order to punch him in the face] perhaps to avoid more blows, the same officer who did the kicking circles around and punches him in the face. That officer then punches him four more times, as the first two officers restrain his arms.

    After hitting and kicking him for several moments, Nichols is handcuffed on his stomach. A police officer drags Nichols over to a car, where he sits him down.

    At this point, there are at least seven officers on the scene, patting each other on the back and waving flashlights. Many are clearly out of breath; one fist-bumps another.

    More than 15 minutes after the beating began, with Nichols in clear medical distress, no one is attending to his injuries. As police continue milling about, Nichols can no longer keep himself up with his back against the car and falls over to his side.

    About 26 minutes into the clip, a medic appears and begins tending to Nichols’s injuries. At this point, three officers are largely blocking his body from the camera.

    An ambulance finally comes into view of the camera 30 minutes into the video. The ambulance blocks the view of Nichols being loaded onto the stretcher, and the video ends with the ambulance’s red lights flashing in the video. A review of the timeline of events revealed that the ambulance arrived 22 minutes after officers announced Nichols was in custody.

    Video three: Body-cam footage shows Nichols pinned by officers
    Video clip three, from an officer’s body-camera video, provides audio of the assault shown in video two. The video shows an officer leaving his car and running up to Nichols, who is already pinned to the ground by two other officers.

    “You about to get sprayed again,” the officer says as he gets to the scene. [It looks and sounds to me like some of the officers are enraged because they pepper-sprayed themselves earlier.] Then he pepper-sprays Nichols in the face, and Nichols screams in pain. “Mom!” Nichols yells, shielding his face. “Give me your hands boy,” another officer says.

    After the spray, the two other officers punch Nichols in the stomach and head. “Give me your f—ing hands,” one officer says. “I’ll spray your a– again.”

    Three other officers alternate punching Nichols in the face and corralling his hands to handcuff him. One officer punches Nichols in the head from behind while he’s handcuffed. The officers then take him to the ground.

    The officer is completely out of breath and steps away from the altercation before turning back to Nichols, who is on the ground five feet away, pinned down by two officers.

    “Watch out, I’m going to baton the f— out of you,” he says as the other officers move aside. The officers continuing yelling, “give me your hands. Give me your hands, motherf—er.” Nichols is moaning in response.

    As the dust settles, and Nichols is pinned to the ground by multiple officers, other arriving officers come into view of the video, appearing to gear up to take some swings of their own.

    “That motherf—er made me spray myself,” one officer can be heard saying.

    The officer turns away. He walks away and says to another officer, “Let me get my car quick.”

    Video 4: Body-cam footage captures audio of Nichols screaming for his mother

    The fourth video briefly shows footage of the beating, with the body camera apparently knocked off moments after the confrontation began.

    It shows Nichols on the ground, yelling “No!” as multiple officers surround him.

    With the video obscured, the footage instead captures distressing audio: Nichols screaming for his mother, again and again.

    Officers are heard demanding he give them his hands, or lie on the ground. [As far as I could see, officers were holding Nichols’s hands that whole time, and they were tossing and turning him on the ground.] For a time, the audio captures only the sound of someone heavily breathing.

    When the camera is apparently picked up, it provides for the first time a clear image of the scene: At least five officers standing in the area, one of them shining a flashlight. The beam of light illuminates Nichols’s face as he sits, propped up against a car, his hands behind his back.

    Blood is visible around his mouth.

    Officers are heard comparing notes on their use of force. One officer is heard saying that officers fired pepper spray and deployed a Taser. Another says that Nichols reached for another officer’s gun.

    Officers can be heard discussing their chase of Nichols and appearing winded. At least one officer complains about his leg hurting. An officer says Nichols appears to be “on something.”

    In the background, while the officers talk, Nichols, who has been leaning against a car, is seen toppling over to the ground.

    “Hey, sit up, bro,” the officer wearing the body camera appears to say.

    The officer approaches Nichols and appears to lift him up. When he does, the light captures Nichols’s face and again shows blood around his mouth. It is unclear whether he is conscious or not.

    What the videos don’t show
    […] When the video begins, “this officer and the other officer that joined were already ramped up about Mr. Nichols in his car,” Davis said. “If something did happen we don’t know what it was. They allege that he was driving on the wrong side of the road but we have not been able to prove that.”

    Washington Post link

  55. says

    On Musk’s Twitter, this surging trend is a killer—literally

    I watched Died Suddenly, an hour-long anti-vaccination “documentary” percolating through social media since November, so you don’t have to. A cacophonous, almost gleeful montage of out-of-context, pseudo-scientific, conspiratorial hooey, […] filled with people speaking with conviction and authority who are either unidentified or labeled with uninspiring credentials (“funeral director,” “embalmer”) and replete with hackneyed film techniques […] Some sequences are so downright bizarre (people literally falling down on camera, none of whom are identified or have the cause of their sudden incapacity sourced or corroborated) you can almost hear its creators smirking.

    The central theme is that the COVID-19 vaccines caused an untoward, undisclosed large number of people to “die suddenly,” of stroke, pulmonary embolism, or something else, and you—yes you, dear viewer—can verify this by Googling the words “died suddenly,” and gaze with horror upon all the hits that appear. […]

    This is a world made up in large part by gullible, ignorant people eager for certitude in a very confusing time, and this type of conspiracy junk caked over with a thin scientific veneer is all that is necessary to confirm their preconceptions.

    It’s not just stupid, it’s appallingly stupid in a dull, malevolent way. But in social media it’s all about eyeballs, and there’s a huge market for this stuff. It would be wonderful if people had the necessary critical skills to evaluate it for what it is, but unfortunately, that’s not the society we live in.

    The consequences of abolishing any serious constraints or regulation of content on the social media platform known as Twitter were predictable when Elon Musk took over the company. Yet the remarkable speed at which deliberately harmful, disinformative, and malicious content is supplanting the platform’s legitimate uses continues to exceed the dismal expectations that proliferated when the Tesla CEO took over.

    […] As explained by Kaitlyn Tiffany, writing for The Atlantic, this is but a small preliminary taste of what is likely to ensue on broad-based social media platforms should they, like Twitter, abandon content moderation. Such content has always been available on the web, but never before has it been afforded an opportunity for mass, continuous consumption—the kind of consumption that can actually harm people for years, if not decades, through normalization.

    Died Suddenly has been viewed nearly 20 million times and cheered on by far-right personalities such as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Candace Owens. It was released by the Stew Peters Network, whose other videos on Rumble have titles like “Obama Formed Shadow Government BEFORE Plandemic” and “AIRPORTS SHUT DOWN FOR EVERYONE BUT JEWS!” And its creators are already asking for donations to fund a sequel, Died Suddenly 2, which promises to explore “deeper rabbit holes.” […]

    As a meme, “died suddenly” could last a long time—possibly indefinitely. People will always be dying suddenly, so it will always be possible to redeploy it and capture further attention. What’s more, there is a thriving alt-tech ecosystem that can circulate the meme; a whole cohort of right-wing, anti-vaccine influencers and celebrities who can amplify it; and, crucially, a basically unmoderated mainstream social-media platform that can put it in front of hundreds of millions of users—some of whom will make fun of it, but others of whom will start to see something unsettling and credible in its repetitions.

    In a November tweet directed to Musk, the film’s creators proudly note that Died Suddenly is “the first movie to premiere on Twitter since your friendly takeover.” Initially labeled as misinformation by then-existing Twitter guidelines, the film now comes with no such warning. […]

    The danger here is not simply the emergence of another crackpot conspiracy film, but the fact that it will continue to engender doubt and resistance to lifesaving vaccines in an unprecedented health emergency that shows no sign of tiring itself out in the coming years.

    […] the real “link” (if any) between COVID-19 and sudden deaths is most likely due to illness caused by the virus itself and its mutations, not by the vaccines designed to prevent or ameliorate its symptoms. […] even to the extent recipients of the mRNA vaccines might (rarely) experience cardiac inflammation, the risk of such inflammation to unvaccinated people who contract COVID-19 is far higher.

    […] the implicit sanction of such disinformation by Twitter and other platforms means that, quite literally, thousands of people may suffer and die unnecessarily simply because the Musk-led Twitter behemoth used to amplify such vaccine denialism deems it to be “free speech,” despite its patent falsity and malignancy. And that fact doesn’t even begin to implicate the consequences of other vaccine rejection fostered by this kind of pseudo-scientific garbage. […]

  56. says

    Marjorie Taylor Green claimed that President Biden abused his power by lowering gas prices. Well, at least she admitted that gas prices are lower.

    President Biden abused his power to sell our oil, reduce gas prices, so that the midterm elections would swing Democrats’ way. It’s a shame to trick the American people just to win an election. No president should be able to use their emergency powers for politics.

    Backstory and context:

    […] gas prices have fallen considerably. They now average about $3.44 per gallon nationwide, which is equal to where they were two years ago. That’s down from a high of $5.02 in June of 2022. And even though prices fell each month for the remainder of last year, the GOP furiously condemned Biden as being responsible for the high prices and criticized him for not bringing them down. […]

    Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu responded to Greene:

    I can summarize this debate of the last two days into one sentence: Joe Biden lowered your gas prices and Republicans are upset about it. That’s what this is about. Joe Biden lowered your gas prices and that makes Republicans mad. And how do we know? They said it out loud. The gentlewoman from Georgia earlier this morning just said that Joe Biden lowered your gas prices for political reasons. You know, I don’t care why a president lowers your gas prices. If any president can lower your gas prices, we should support that president’s action.

    There’s another reason this Republican bill is so stupid. Because not only did Joe Biden lower your gas prices, the United States of America made a profit on it. Buy low, sell high. It was brilliant what Joe Biden did. He released the Strategic Petroleum Reserves when gas prices were high, and that helped lower the gas prices. And then he refilled it at the lower amount. The U.S. made $4 billion dollars on Joe Biden’s actions. The Republicans always want to say ‘Let’s run government like a business.’ Joe Biden did exactly that when he lowered your gas prices, and then made a $4 billion dollar profit for the United States of America.

  57. whheydt says

    Re: Reginald Selkirk @ #57…
    Best decoy trick from WW2 that I know of was when the British disguised a large number of tanks as trucks in western Egypt to convince Rommel that that wasn’t where the planned attack was going to happen. The British, as part of that effort, also faked building a water pipeline to an area from which they weren’t going to attack. The fake pipeline construction was timed to look like it would be completed a few days after they planned to attack.

  58. whheydt says

    Re: raven @ #60…
    If I make it to just a bit past 93, I will have completed my last promise to my late wife and won’t be terribly interested in life extension treatments past that.

  59. raven says

    “Orban told a group of foreign visitors that he thinks Russia made Ukraine an “ungovernable wreck”, “it’s Afghanistan now”, “the land of nobody”, according to…”

    Hungary is going all in on the Russian side.
    Why is Hungary in the EU? Why is Hungary in NATO?
    Hey, if they want to join the outcast states of Russia, Iran, Serbia, and Syria fine.
    They shouldn’t get all the advantages of NATA and the EU while trying to undermine both.

    And BTW, the wreck right now is Russia. Sick economy and now a vicious dictatorship kept in power by propaganda and murder.

    Mayor of Dnipro Borys Filatov wrote an open letter to Orbán: “…your atrocities and constant desire to please tyrants in every World War have made you historical pariahs. “

    He has a point here. Hungary was on the German’s side in WW I.
    Hungary was on the Nazis side in WW II.
    “In June 1941, Hungary decided to join Germany in its war against the Soviet Union. Finally, in December 1941, Hungary joined the Axis Powers in declaring war against the United States, completely cutting itself off from any relationship with the West.”

    Hungary was also invaded by Russia in 1956 to keep them from revolting and throwing off the Soviet rule. Orban is licking the hand that beat them to a pulp.

    Thread Tweet
    Szabolcs Panyi @panyiszabolcs

    Orban told a group of foreign visitors that he thinks Russia made Ukraine an “ungovernable wreck”, “it’s Afghanistan now”, “the land of nobody”, according to

    These remarks have infuriated Ukraine’s government:
    (My note. No kidding, I can see why.)

    Szabolcs Panyi @panyiszabolcs
    @panyiszabolcs
    Mayor of Dnipro Borys Filatov wrote an open letter to Orbán: “…your atrocities and constant desire to please tyrants in every World War have made you historical pariahs. You should be complete scum to forgive the Soviets and their successors for ’56.”

  60. says

    Followup to comment 63.

    More from the Ukraine update article:

    A word of advice for all those “realists” among Western elites who oppose support for #Ukraine: Finally, once and for all bury the Yalta mindset. Understand the Russia is no more entitled to a sphere of influence than a gangster is entitled to keep the spoils of a robbery.

    […] Watch how the Russians behave in #Ukraine, where premeditated destruction and murder is the rule, and ask yourself if that this someone you would like to invite to dinner, or even live next door to. Bottom line: Europe will know no peace until Russia is expelled from Europe.

    Listen to Finns, Poles, or Balts. They have lived next door to Russia for centuries and paid an awful price while the West often looked the other way. It’s time “realists” among Western policy elites grow up and end the “what-about-ism” nonsense when it comes to Russia.

    Democracies are not perfect, but we certainly are better than the Russian and Chinese alternatives. And the Ukrainians are fighting on our behalf, they want to be a part of us. They deserve our respect and all the material and political support we can muster.

    Excerpts above are from a thread posted by Andrew Michta.
    https://twitter.com/andrewmichta/status/1619031802873786368

  61. says

    Here we go again: Kansas Republicans pitch another anti-abortion constitutional amendment

    Anti-abortion organization Kansans for Life entered the legislative session in Topeka this year with one key agenda point: more state funding for “pregnancy crisis centers,” fake clinics designed to take advantage of people making difficult medical decisions about pregnancy by offering them little to no actual medically valid advice. Well, that isn’t enough for Republican state Rep. Randy Garber, who is pushing another constitutional amendment to ban abortion in the state of Kansas. In a letter written to the House caucus, Garber opined: “This is a simple amendment that says there is no natural right to an abortion in the constitution.”

    This is, of course, after an outright spanking in the public vote last August by a nearly 60-40 margin upholding a state Supreme Court ruling saying there is a fundamental right to reproductive care, and a Republican attempt to oust the state Supreme Court justices that failed. Even though the people have spoken, Garber felt the need to push the abortion amendment. “I think if we had made it a little more simpler, maybe we would have had a better chance of getting that passed,” he told the Sunflower State Journal.

    […] Garber’s case may end up centering around putting this back on the ballot alongside the 2024 presidential election. Republicans have made abortion the centerpiece of quite a bit of legislation to begin this session, starting with GOP state Sen. Chase Blasi’s position that city governments should be able to ban abortions, movements on pregnancy crisis centers, and now this proposed constitutional amendment.

    Garber believes that the original bill needed to be simpler and more to the point. This goes along with Republican Sen. Molly Baumgardner’s point after the amendment was defeated in August because it did not go far enough: If it were a clear outright ban, it would have passed. [Delusional!]

    […] this certainly won’t be the last of the anti-abortion radical legislation to be put forward in the next two years.

  62. says

    Ha! Some actual fact-checking took place on Fox News:

    Fox guest on Pelosi attack: Where is the evidence of a breaking and entering?

    Fox anchor: There’s video of him breaking into the house.

    G: I haven’t seen that

    A: It’s on the screen right now.

    G: Maybe that’s true, maybe I’m wrong

    A: He’s clearly using that to break in

    Link

  63. says

    Excerpt from a Wonkette article:

    […] It is worth considering what police are actually doing — aside from beating innocent people to death. The Supreme Court says that they are not legally obligated to intervene in order to prevent a crime from happening. A study published last year found that police pretty much spend zero time responding to or solving crime and most of their time on officer-initiated traffic stops like the one that resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols.

    The study, published by the advocacy group Catalyst California and the ACLU of Southern California determined that L.A. County Sheriff’s Department officers spent 88 percent of their time on officer-initiated traffic stops — and only 11 percent of the hours they spent doing that had anything to do with “reasonable suspicion of a crime.” It also found that the Sacramento sheriff’s department spent 3/4 of their time pulling people over for stops that ended in warnings.

    Studies have repeatedly shown that not only do routine traffic stops not make us safer in general, they are not even the most efficient way to deal with speeding and other actual driving-related issues. A 2022 study determined that police have killed nearly 600 people at these traffic stops since 2017.

    Ironically, they are also very dangerous for the police themselves. A logical person might consider that cutting down on these traffic stops might make us all a whole lot safer. It’s one thing when people are drunk driving and swerving all over the road, but that is not actually going to be the case in most traffic stops, and it certainly shouldn’t be the vast majority of what armed police officers are doing with their time.

    Other research has shown that police only “solve” two percent of all violent crimes, which is impressive given that we also have the largest prison population in the world. One would have to imagine that this would not be the case if they were doing such a spectacular job of keeping us safe.

    I know people don’t like to talk about alternatives to policing and want to believe that there must be some way to tweak the system in order to make it do the things we want it to do without doing the things we don’t want it to do. They want it to be individual bad apples, they want it to be individual racism and prejudice, they want it to be a lack of training or a lack of proper funding — because as big as those problems are, they feel a lot more manageable than considering that it’s the system itself that is bad. That maybe policing in the form it currently exists in is bad even for the police themselves — that perhaps it turns them into people they might not otherwise be. That in many cases the power goes to their heads and comes out in a way that hurts people and leads to situations like this one. That maybe we are creating monsters, and no amount of superficial reform is going to change that.

    It would be really great if we could just calm down and look at things logically — look at what actually works and what doesn’t, what we need the police for and what we don’t, and consider where our money would be better spent in terms of public safety. […]

    https://www.wonkette.com/tyre-nichols-police-reform

  64. says

    Memphis police’s Scorpion unit is permanently deactivated after Tyre Nichols’ death

    All five former officers charged in Nichols’ death were members of the Scorpion unit.

    The Memphis Police Department said it has permanently deactivated its Scorpion unit following the death of Tyre Nichols.

    “In the process of listening intently to the family of Tyre Nichols, community leaders, and the uninvolved officers who have done quality work in their assignment, it is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the SCORPION Unit,” the department said in a statement Saturday.

    According to the statement, “the officers currently assigned to the unit agree unreservedly with this next step. While the heinous actions of a few casts a cloud of dishonor on the title SCORPION, it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department take proactive steps in the healing process for all impacted.” […]

  65. raven says

    Tanks Alone Won’t Turn the Tide of the War in Ukraine.
    “The new donations alone are unlikely to boost combat power enough to win the war for Ukraine, but officials and outside analysts say they will help substantially.”

    This article says what I thought.
    The tanks will help but they aren’t going to be the magic bullet or shell that ends this war.

    We saw this in Vietnam, where all we needed was a few 100,000 more troops and another few years and then we would win. It never happened.
    We’ve already seen it in Ukraine with the HIMARS and Bayraktar drones. They helped a huge amount no doubt but the Russians adapted and now they are just another weapons system.
    For that matter, the Russians have seen it when they tried to starve and wreck Ukraine into submission by targeting their power plants with cruise missiles and Iranian drones.

    At least the article isn’t completely negative.
    We are also giving the Ukrainians more modern US weapon systems and other help.

    I’d go all in and give the Ukrainians whatever we have and could. They are paying a very large price in blood and lives, while our aid is just money, money that is replaceable.

    Tanks Alone Won’t Turn the Tide of the War in Ukraine

    Tanks Alone Won’t Turn the Tide of the War in Ukraine
    The United States will have to step up its training program to ensure the Ukrainian military can use all the Western-provided equipment effectively.

    A tank covered with camouflage, with open hatch showing soldiers inside.
    The advanced tanks Washington has promised to Ukraine send important signals to both Kyiv and Moscow about continued American support. Credit… Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
    Julian E. BarnesEric Schmitt
    Jan. 27, 2023
    Sign up for the Russia-Ukraine War Briefing. Every evening, we’ll send you a summary of the day’s biggest news.

    WASHINGTON — For all the fanfare about the advanced battle tanks Ukraine secured from the West this week, they won’t be the silver bullet that allows Kyiv to win the war. Instead, the United States military will, once again, attempt to remake an army in its own image to give Ukraine the best chance to break through entrenched Russian defenses.

    To do that the United States and its allies will not just have to provide the newly promised tanks, armored vehicles and advanced munitions, but also expand what has been something of an ad hoc training program to teach Ukraine’s military to use all the new equipment together. It will be a crash course in what the U.S. military calls combined arms warfare, something that takes months if not years for American units to master.

    Decisions about new military aid are a delicate balancing act for the White House and the NATO alliance: While they want to provide Kyiv with new capabilities that have the potential to break through a battlefield stalemate, they also don’t want to provoke President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia into escalating the fight into a wider war.

    As a result, providing the Western tanks produced considerable hand-wringing. But so far Moscow has been deterred from expanding the war, and creating newer and stronger Ukrainian units represents the best chance of avoiding a stalemate.

    As satellite imagery revealed Russians building primary and secondary lines of defensive trenches along the front lines, American government analysts began the year forecasting a deadly stalemate as the likely outcome for 2023. Worried that a frozen conflict favors Russia, the United States and its allies began more earnest discussions in recent weeks about how to change the battlefield dynamics in Ukraine’s favor.

    “We want to put them in the best possible position so that whether this war ends on the battlefield, whether it ends with the diplomacy or some combination, that they are sitting on a map that is far more advantageous for their long-term future and that Putin feels the strategic failure,” Victoria Nuland, a senior State Department official, told the Senate on Thursday.

    Much of the first year of the conflict has involved Russia and Ukraine pounding each other’s positions with artillery, but there have been some tank operations. Ukraine’s biggest success, its counteroffensive outside Kharkiv, used tanks, but some of the most important weaponry were the quick-moving armored fighting vehicles. There, Ukraine also faced disorganized Russian forces.

    The State of the War
    Military Aid: Germany and the United States announced they would send battle tanks to Ukraine, a decision that came after weeks of tense back-channel negotiations between Western officials. But it may be months before the tanks rumble across the battlefield.
    Russian Strikes: A day after the announcement, Russia fired dozens of missiles at Ukrainian cities, piercing snow clouds and air defenses to kill at least 12 people across the country.
    Corruption Scandal: After a number of allegations of government corruption, several top Ukrainian officials were fired, in the biggest upheaval in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government since Russia’s invasion began 11 months ago.
    But in the next phase of the war, the Ukrainian military will target those dug-in trench lines of Russian units. Breaking through those lines is not just about driving a battalion of tanks over the trenches. It requires a coordinated attack with infantry troops marking targets, tanks firing at those positions and artillery guns providing cover and support. Such combined arms maneuvers are the backbone of U.S. military combat operations and the focus of the U.S. Army’s most intense training.

    Though tanks have been the focus of attention, military analysts say a critical part of the recent donations by the West may be the 109 Bradley Fighting Vehicles the United States is sending and the large numbers of artillery guns that European allies will send. This equipment is likely to be combined with the German Leopards to help create new Ukrainian armored units. When the full package of Western equipment arrives, Kyiv could create as many as three additional brigades.

    “The most important parts of the package are armored fighting vehicles, artillery, and precision-guided munitions,” said Michael Kofman, the Russia expert at CNA, a Washington analytic organization. “The small numbers of tanks promised are the least significant part of this.”

    To ensure Ukraine’s army can conduct such maneuvers will involve an increase in American and European training. For months, the United States avoided sending Ukraine complex new systems that require new training. That attitude has shifted — first when the United States sent American artillery, then longer-range missile systems, and most recently, the Patriot battery system, all of which required training outside Ukraine.

    The initial hesitancy was in part because of concerns about taking experienced Ukrainian soldiers off the battlefield as well as worries that having the United States train Ukrainian soldiers could be seen by the Kremlin as a provocation. But with training on Patriot missile defense systems underway in Oklahoma and instruction on intensive maneuver warfare underway at America’s training ground in Germany, the original concerns have faded, U.S. military officials have acknowledged.

    This isn’t the first time the United States has done this kind of training. The United States tried, and failed, to teach such techniques to the Iraqi army and, to a lesser degree, the Afghan military. But Ukraine has proved itself time and time again to be technically capable and resourceful — and its army has shown itself extremely motivated to learn how to employ new equipment.

    “Ukrainians have a core professional army group that has been fighting the Russians for years and years and years and received Western training until 2022,” said Stephen Biddle, a professor at Columbia University. “They are not starting from scratch.”

    Just how realistic it might be for the Pentagon to train the Ukrainians in the complexities of combined arms maneuver warfare in a short time span remains to be seen. Even in peacetime it takes a while for American units to master such operations, and that’s with the luxury of expansive training areas and deep institutional knowledge. Still, new warfare techniques can be learned under fire. After all, the American army first learned modern combined arms techniques in the midst of World War II.

    “Militaries that are properly motivated and have the right kind of command structure adapt and learn pretty quickly,” Dr. Biddle said. “There is this view out there that militaries never change. And that’s nonsense. They can change really fast when they’re motivated and they’re organized correctly.”

    Some analysts believe the single most effective weapon the United States could give Ukraine is precision-guided missiles. Ukraine’s army, by training and tradition, focuses on artillery. It is that expertise that allowed them to quickly and effectively use the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, to strike Russian ammunition depots and command posts.

    Russia has adjusted, pulling back its logistics hubs outside the range of the HIMARS. A more advanced, longer-range missile, like the ATACMS, could hit those targets. But for now, weapons that could strike deep into Russia are off the table, seen as far too likely to provoke Mr. Putin. Though the United States has steadily opened up to providing Ukraine with more powerful weaponry over the course of the conflict, it has remained resolute on this one point.

    American officials acknowledged that the true power of the 31 Abrams tanks the United States announced on Wednesday it would send Ukraine is that they will unlock more donations of German-made Leopard 2 tanks, as well as more artillery and infantry fighting vehicles.

    The U.S. provision of the tanks will “spur the Germans and inspire the Poles” while demonstrating NATO unity, said one U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations. In addition to the 112 Leopards Germany will send, Poland has pledged 14 (along with hundreds of older tanks) and Canada will send four. Norway said it will send some of the tanks and Spain is considering a donation.

    The new donations alone are unlikely to boost combat power enough to win the war for Ukraine, but officials and outside analysts say they will help substantially.

    The tanks will punch through the trench lines and open a path for infantry in Bradley Fighting Vehicles to hold the reclaimed territory.

    And the tanks send important signals to both Ukraine and Russia about continued American support. For Russia, the tanks demonstrate that the flow of arms from the West is growing, not waning. And for Ukraine it is a big morale boost, said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a former American intelligence official now with the Center for a New American Security.

    “It’s a vote of confidence that people are still invested in Ukraine retaking its territory rather than pushing Ukraine to negotiate,” she said.

  66. whheydt says

    I keep seeing suggestions in various places that we should train for and send F-16 fighters to Ukraine. Seems to me it would make more sense to send them A-10 Warthogs.

  67. Reginald Selkirk says

    Arizona Republicans pick former Trump official to lead party

    PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Republicans on Saturday selected former state treasurer and Donald Trump aide Jeff DeWit to be the party’s next chairman, turning to a familiar face with relationships across the fractured party after its worst election in decades.

    DeWit replaces firebrand Trump ally Kelli Ward, who helped the former president in his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss and was a vocal proponent of his false claim that the election results were fraudulent. She broke with precedent in last year’s primary, openly promoting a slate of election deniers who went on to lose the general election in November…

  68. raven says

    “Drones attack military plant in Iran, Tehran says.”

    According to Iran, the attacks were mostly unsuccessful.
    Other sources claim they were.
    At this point, there is no way to know which claim is correct. Satellite photos will determine it one way or another.
    It is also not known who carried out the attack. The number of possibilities is quite large though, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Israel, internal dissenters.

    Drones attacked a military plant in Iran’s central city of Isfahan, Tehran said on Sunday.

    Drones attack military plant in Iran, Tehran says
    By Artemis Moshtaghian and Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN
    Updated 9:04 AM EST, Sun January 29, 2023

    Drones attacked a military plant in Iran’s central city of Isfahan, Tehran said on Sunday.

    “An explosion has occurred in one of the military centers affiliated to the Ministry of Defense,” the deputy head of security for Isfahan governorate Mohammad Reza Jan-Nesari told the semi-official Fars News Agency.

    Jan-Nesari said the explosion left some damage, “but fortunately there were no casualties.”

    The state news agency IRNA later said the explosion had been caused by “small drones.”

    “There was an unsuccessful attack by small drones against a defense ministry industrial complex and fortunately with predictions and air defense arrangements already in place, one of them (struck),” IRNA said in a post on Twitter, citing the country’s defense ministry.

    “The air defense system of the complex was able to destroy two other drones. Fortunately, this unsuccessful attack killed no one and minor damage was sustained to the roof of the complex.”

    The ministry said the attack took place at 10:30 p.m. local time.

    The plant is about 440 kilometers (270 miles) south of Tehran.

    In the past few years, several explosions and suspicious fires have occurred around Iranian military and nuclear facilities.

    In July 2020, a fire tore through the Iranian Natanz nuclear complex, a site that has been key to the country’s uranium enrichment program, in Isfahan Province, south of the capital Tehran. Iranian authorities decided not to publicly announce the findings on what caused the fire due to security concerns, according to Iran’s Supreme Nation Security Council.

    The following year, a blackout occured in Natanz on the anniversary of National Nuclear Day, with Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) calling it a “terrorist action.” Israel’s army chief appeared to hint at possible Israeli involvement in the incident.

    In October 2019, an oil tanker belonging to the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) was hit and damaged by two missiles. A spokesperson for the National Iranian Tanker Company initially suggested it could have been fired from Saudi soil, but that was later dismissed and the Iran government did not provide an alternative conclusion.

    Earlier that year, a truck loaded with explosives detonated and struck a bus carrying members of the Iranian military’s elite Revolutionary Guard in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, killing at least 23 and wounding 17. A separatist group called Jaish al-Adl, or Army of Justice, claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.

  69. tomh says

    Minnesota Passes Law Guaranteeing Right To Abortions
    January 29, 2023

    The Minnesota legislature yesterday gave final passage to HF1, the Protect Reproductive Options Act (full text ). It provides in part:

    Every individual who becomes pregnant has a fundamental right to continue the pregnancy and give birth, or obtain an abortion, and to make autonomous decisions about how to exercise this fundamental right.

    According to a CBS News report on the bill:

    Abortion rights in Minnesota are already protected because of Doe v. Gomez, a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision. Democrats frame the bill as a “secondary” line of defense to that ruling.

    The bill now goes to Gov. Tim Walz for his signature. According to MPR News, Gov. Walz has said he will sign the bill into law.

    Religion Clause

  70. Reginald Selkirk says

    Pro-Russian Ukrainian MPs Korolevska and her husband give up their MP mandates

    Referring to its own sources, Ukrainska Pravda said journalists had established that both MPs moved to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates after the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
    According to the Ukrainian political movement Chesno, Korolevska, 47, missed all the government sessions after Feb. 24. She was an MP of the 5th, 6th (from the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc), 8th (from Opposition Bloc) and 9th (from OPZZh) convocations of parliament…

  71. raven says

    More from the BBC on the new tanks for Ukraine.

    “Ben Barry, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (ISS), tells the BBC that Western tanks will make a difference. But the former British Army Brigadier also warns that the pledges made so far are unlikely to prove decisive.”

    Few people see these new tanks as silver bullets.
    After all, Ukraine already has close to a 1,000 tanks, Russian designed ones.
    The T series tanks may not be as good as a Leapord but they are still dangerous tanks.

    Everything helps I guess.

    FWIW, what I’ve read on Ukrainian war blogs keeps saying they are taking very high casualties just like the Russians. It is having an effect on how well their army functions.
    We saw that in the Vietnam war too.
    We lost 58,000 soldiers and it really wrecked our society.
    We are still paying for it today.

    How tanks from Germany, US and UK could change the Ukraine war

    How tanks from Germany, US and UK could change the Ukraine war

    US M1 Abrams are faster than most Russian-made tanks
    By Jonathan Beale
    Defence correspondent

    Is this the week when the war dramatically turned in Ukraine’s favour? It was certainly a decisive moment, with a coalition of Western nations confirming they were finally willing to supply modern-made main battle tanks.

    Germany said it would send Leopard 2 tanks and the US said it would send M1 Abrams tanks. Both the UK and Poland have already made concrete pledges, and other nations are expected to follow. Some commentators have described the move as a potential “gamechanger”.

    But is it really enough to win the war?

    Ben Barry, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (ISS), tells the BBC that Western tanks will make a difference. But the former British Army Brigadier also warns that the pledges made so far are unlikely to prove decisive.

    In modern warfare, tanks have been a key element for offensive operations – to punch through enemy lines and retake territory.

    Used effectively, they provide mobile firepower, protection, shock and surprise. Concentrated in numbers, they can dislocate an enemy’s defences. But they also need the support of artillery to first weaken those defences and then the support of infantry to hold retaken ground.

    History shows tanks alone don’t win battles. The British first used hundreds of tanks at the battle of Cambrai in November 1917 – to end the deadlock of static trench warfare. Initially they made significant advances, but many tanks soon broke down and a German counter offensive turned British gains into losses.

    Tanks can also be used in defence. In 1940 they were used by the retreating British and French armies at Arras to stall the Nazi invasion, allowing the subsequent evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk.

    But Ukraine has made clear that it wants weapons not just to stall any potential Russian spring offensive, but to retake its own territory – to go on the attack.

    How Ukraine might use tanks as attack spearheads
    It would make little sense for Ukraine to disperse its additional tanks across a frontline of more than 1,000km (621 miles). To break through Russian defences, Ukraine will need to concentrate its forces – possibly over an area of between five and 20km (between three and 12 miles).

    Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former colonel in the British Army’s Royal Tank Regiment, says numbers do matter for a breakthrough. An armoured brigade for a significant offensive operation would normally include at least 70 tanks. So more than 100 Western battle tanks could make a big difference, he says.

    If Ukraine had more it could try to conduct simultaneous offensive operations in different places, as it did last year in the north and the south.

    Germany confirms it will send tanks to Ukraine
    Leopard 2 tanks: Why Germany delayed sending themg
    Then there’s the additional support required for what the military call “combined arms manoeuvre”.

    The UK is not just sending Ukraine 14 Challenger tanks, but also 30 artillery self-propelled guns and armoured vehicles to carry and protect troops.

    That new package of military support also includes mine breaching and bridge-laying vehicles. In other words, the essential elements needed for any offensive operation.

    The US is also providing Ukraine with more than 100 Bradley and Stryker armoured vehicles, and Germany 40 of its Marder infantry fighting vehicle – as well as tanks.

    Tanks are the tip of the spear, designed to move quickly over open ground. The Challenger 2, Leopard 2 and M1 Abrams are faster than most Russian-made tanks with speeds of more than 25mph (40km per hour) on rough terrain.

    To take ground quickly, with any element of surprise, they would likely avoid urban areas where they would be more vulnerable to attack. Russia showed early on in this war, in its failed attempt to surround Kyiv, that a long column of armour on a road is an easy target.

    Mr Barry, of ISS, says any spearhead attack would look for an enemy’s weak points. But he also warns that Russia has spent the last few months reinforcing defensive positions with trenches and tank traps.

    Western tanks are also about 20 tonnes heavier than their Russian counterparts. The additional armour gives better protection but it also means the tanks may be too heavy to cross some makeshift bridges. Russia and Ukraine have both blown bridges to slow down advances.

    Surprise attacks at night
    Mr de Bretton Gordon, who commanded a squadron of British Challenger tanks, says one of the big advantages of Western-made tanks is their ability to fight at night.

    Night sights and thermal imaging camera are standard. Only Russia’s more advanced tanks – like the T-90 – are fitted to fight at night. Attacks under the cover of darkness also add to the element of shock and surprise.

    The greatest challenge for Ukraine will be logistics – maintaining the flow of fuel, ammunition and spare parts. Ukraine is not just having to maintain its old Soviet-era arsenal, it is also having to worry about an increasingly complex inventory of Western supplied weapons.

    Ukraine weapons: what equipment is the world giving?
    Britain’s Challenger 2 tanks, for instance, do not use the same Nato standard ammunition as the Leopard and Abrams. The Challenger 2 is no longer in production and even the British Army has had to cannibalise some spare parts from its existing fleet.

    Mr Barry says Ukrainian engineers may be familiar with repairing diesel engines – like those in the Leopard and Challenger. But he says the US-made Abrams runs on a more complicated gas turbine engine. It also consumes about twice the amount of fuel as a German-made Leopard.

    Germany produces the vast majority of modern heavy tanks in Europe – the Leopard 2s
    If Western pledges are firmed, Ukraine’s armed forces could be boosted by more than 100 tanks. That would still fall well short of what Ukraine’s overall military commander asked for.

    Last October, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi said Ukraine needed an additional 300 tanks, 700 infantry fighting vehicles and 500 howitzers for his planned offensive this year. It might end up with just half of that.

    The training required on the weapons will take time too – weeks if not months. And it’s still not clear when all this equipment will arrive.

    The US has indicated that its 31 M1 Abrams tanks might not be ready for months. Ukraine is also waiting for the West to respond to its repeated request for modern warplanes. An army attacking on the ground will need protection from the air.

    Western officials had hoped that Ukraine may be able to mount an offensive as soon as this spring. They believe there is now a window of opportunity while Russia struggles to recruit and rebuild its battered forces, and to replenish its dwindling supplies of ammunition.

    Ukraine has managed to prove the doubters wrong in the past – but it will still need more Western support if it is to achieve its goal of expelling Russian forces.

  72. Reginald Selkirk says

    Peru’s protest ‘deactivators’ run toward tear gas to stop it

    LIMA, Peru (AP) — When police fire tear gas at protesters demanding the resignation of Peruvian President Dina Boluarte, most run away.
    A few, though, run toward the gas canisters as quickly as possible — to neutralize them.
    These are the “deactivators.” Donning gas masks, safety goggles and thick gloves, these volunteers grab the hot canisters and toss them inside large plastic bottles filled with a mixture of water, baking soda and vinegar…

  73. says

    Secret Service releases study on mass shootings: It’s economics, misogyny, and conspiracy theories

    […] the Secret Service published a 60-page report on Wednesday that details the data they have about mass attacks. The study, conducted by the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, examines 173 mass shooting incidents that occurred between 2016 and 2020. Each attack included in the report resulted in at least “three or more individuals injured or killed across public or semi-public spaces, including businesses, schools, and houses of worship.”

    Dr. Lina Alathari, chief of the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center, told CBS News that “there is no community that is immune from this. But we do see commonalities that will help us with prevention.” One of those commonalities: Guns. Nearly three-quarters of the attacks studied involved someone using a firearm, and it was the firearm that killed or maimed the victims of those events. Less than a quarter of those firearm attacks involved guns acquired illegally.

    The study also reports that more than one-quarter of the attackers had “beliefs (including conspiratorial, topic-specific, and hate-focused belief systems).” During a press conference, Alatheri told reporters that those “conspiracy beliefs” included “that 9/11 and the moon landing never happened, that the U.N. was sending an armed force to come take away everyone’s guns.”

    Other findings from the study:

    96% of the attackers studied were male, 3% were female, and 2% were transgender.

    57% of attackers were white.

    34% of attackers were Black.

    11% of attackers were Hispanic.

    4% of attackers were Asian.

    1% of attackers were American Indian.

    72% of attackers experienced some kind of financial stressor sometime prior to the attack.

    Just under 20% of attackers had an “unstable housing” situation at the time of the attack.

    Bystanders intervened in about 10% of the attacks. When that happened, the attacker was killed by the intervening bystander only 2% of the time. […]

    While there was a large age range, the average age of an attacker was 34 years old.

    41% of attackers had a history of “engaging in at least one incident of domestic violence.”

    And nearly a fifth of attackers exhibited “misogynistic behaviors.”

    […] Media Matters put together a breakdown of some of the reasons Donald Trump ended up having his accounts suspended—even though he was the President of the United States at the time.

    In October, Media Matters analyzed Trump’s posts on Truth Social and found at least 58 mentions of the word “rigged” in at least 55 posts, and at least 255 mentions of the word “election” in at least 195 posts.

    […] nearly half of Trump’s posts on Truth Social in the week after the 2022 midterm election pushed election misinformation, including baseless falsehoods about mail-in ballots and voting machines, or amplified QAnon-promoting accounts.

    As of January 25, Trump has amplified QAnon-promoting accounts more than 400 times, far outpacing the pace of his QAnon account amplifications when he used Twitter. […]

    There are a lot of things we need to do to fix violence gun violence in our country. [And reelecting Trump is not one of them.] The problems are economics-related, social safety net-related, and symptoms of the inequity embedded in our country’s legal system. But they are also obviously related to gun safety legislation. The data, while not perfect, has been in for a long while. Doing what we have been doing—which amounts to a big fat nothingburger—isn’t working.

  74. says

    The news from Thwaites is getting grim; the open ocean is battering the ice shelves.

    [NASA image at the link]

    Conditions at the Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers in West Antarctica appear to be rapidly deteriorating. Satellite imagery shared by Kris Can Steenbergen and Chris Cartwright on Twitter show massive cracks and iceberg calving along with the breakup of sea ice that has accelerated since Iceberg B22A lifted off its sea mount and entered the open ocean.

    The oceans are now the hottest they have ever been. Ever! [Tweet and images at the link]

    The predicted fracturing of the marine extensions of the two enormous marine-terminating ice streams reported last year that will occur in three to five years is now happening. Faster than expected.

    All pinning points are simultaneously collapsing. We are in unchartered territory.

    Antarctica is not waiting for us to get our shit together. Where is the media? [Tweets and images at the link]

    The entire 4-year-old sea ice shield in front of the Thwaites Glacier tongue is collapsing (every iceberg & every pinning point included) […]

    Stay tuned. Twenty-three more days remain until the melt season ends, though all damage occurs under the ice in the Amundsen Sea.

    A build-up of sea ice would be most welcome now. [graph at the link]

  75. Reginald Selkirk says

    Man gets prison for attacking Capitol officer who later died

    WASHINGTON (AP) — A New Jersey man who joined a mob’s attack on the U.S. Capitol was sentenced Friday to more than six years in prison for using pepper spray to assault police officers, one of whom died a day after the siege.

    Julian Khater didn’t mention the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick or address the officer’s family in a written statement he read aloud before U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan sentenced him to six years and eight months of imprisonment.

    Khater wasn’t charged in the officer’s death. A medical examiner concluded that Sicknick, 42, suffered two strokes and died of natural causes a day after he and other officers tried to hold off the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021…

  76. says

    Bad news for Trump, good news for us:

    […] on January 28, 2023, it appears the Trump fever has broken. Sadly it’s left a toxic residue that will poison our politics for years, and even this anemic turnout of Trump supporters can still be a winning force that captures thirty-percent of the vote in a multi-candidate GOP primary field. Trump’s support seems to have diminished in size, but intensified with those remaining.

    So how lame was the turnout of Trump fanatics to greet him at his very first campaign event in New Hampshire for the 2024 election?

    It was a sad bad turnout for The Donald, who once drew thousands of followers from half-way across the country. Not today, which doesn’t bode well for the fragile Trump ego who will forever remember those big crowds. (Imagine the psychological trauma Trump’s staff experiences when he’s talking about all this?)

    What was lost in crowd size was made up by the fanaticism of these dead-enders. Bringing “spirituality” to the event was a true believer who played the Trump QAnon medley Trump began reciting last summer. [Tweets, images and videos at the link. “Trumper playing Trump’s QAnon speech to get nonexistent crowd excited. #TrumpIsDone”]

    Contrast this QAnon flavored Trumpism of today with the conservative grassroots support Trump had in 2015, and you quickly realize that Trump support is spread thin, but where it exists it is dense. And dangerous.

    Which brings us to the presence of the Proud Boys—the Neo-nazi group that currently has five members of their leadership being tried for seditious conspiracy related to Jan. 6th—who are now a new norm at Trump events.

    Sure, there are some “main stream” Republicans supporting Trump. But on this day, the ”political insiders” were inside a high school building—which this Trump crowd was standing outside of—attending the NH GOP convention that Trump was addressing.

    The “vibe” outside felt as if ninety-five percent of the thousands of very conservative people who I’ve seen at Trump events, disappeared and only the most committed five percent remained and showed up today.

    Of course it’s too early, but it is another datapoint that indicates the wind is out of Donald J. Trump’s sails. […]

    Finally, even the counter protesters are getting tired of Trump’s act. Large counter protests were the norm back in the Trump heyday, but today it was just a couple of people. When I told them that Trump’s arrival was still an hour away, they—like me—left shortly afterward.

    Link

  77. says

    Republicans leaders in Utah … being clueless yet again:

    Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed a couple of terrible bills on Saturday. The first will create a massive school voucher system, and the second is so truly crappy that no one is even talking about that.

    Because the second bill Cox signed will outlaw life-saving gender-affirming care for trans youths.

    While signing the bill, Governor Cox noted that it was a “terribly divisive issue” while adding that “experts, states and countries around the world are pausing these permanent and life-altering treatments.” The latter, of course, is explicitly untrue on a number of levels. Every possible relevant medical association has issued statements supporting gender-affirming care as the standard of care for trans youths — so no, “experts” are not pausing these treatments.

    Courtesy of the Trans Health Project:

    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
    American Academy of Dermatology
    American Academy of Family Physicians
    American Academy of Nursing
    American Academy of Pediatrics
    American Academy of Physician Assistants
    American College Health Association
    American College of Nurse-Midwives
    American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
    American College of Physicians
    American Counseling Association
    American Heart Association
    American Medical Association
    American Medical Student Association
    American Nurses Association
    American Osteopathic Association
    American Psychiatric Association
    American Psychological Association
    American Public Health Association
    American Society of Plastic Surgeons
    Endocrine Society
    GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality
    National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health
    National Association of Social Workers
    National Commission on Correctional Health Care
    Pediatric Endocrine Society
    Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine
    World Medical Association
    World Professional Association for Transgender Health

    It is worth noting that the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints is still quite active in Utah and was probably marrying some preteens off to some old men as he signed this.

    Additionally, many of the treatments are not permanent and those that are permanent are not being doled out willy nilly to anyone who asks for them. It often takes years and is approached by doctors with far more seriousness than when teenage cis girls wish to get breast implants, which this law makes clear will still be perfectly legal.

    “While we understand our words will be of little comfort to those who disagree with us,” Cox said in an entirely disingenuous statement released on Saturday, “we sincerely hope that we can treat our transgender families with more love and respect as we work to better understand the science and consequences behind these procedures.”

    This would have been entirely possible for Cox to do before signing this bill, as the science behind these procedures is well understood and has been in use for decade, and study after study has shown that denying gender-affirming care to trans youths is severely detrimental if not dangerous to their mental health. Indeed, these studies have frequently shown a connection between being denied gender-affirming care and suicidality. So as sweetly as he wants to put it, Spencer Cox is still saying that he would rather these teenagers commit suicide than get the care that actual experts believe would be most beneficial for them.

    These laws have nothing to do with what is best for trans youths and everything to do with adults who want to believe that if they just ignore them, transgender people will go away and this will all stop being a thing. Given that this did not occur over the many decades when trans people were ignored and continued to exist despite this, that seems pretty unlikely.

    https://www.wonkette.com/utah-anti-trans-bill

  78. says

    Followup to comment 92.

    Short excerpts from Trump’s campaign speeches in New Hampshire and South Carolina will tell you all you need to know:

    […] He blamed Biden for border crossings and drug deaths […]

    “They are sending people that are killers, murderers, they’re sending rapists. And they’re sending, frankly, terrorists, or terrorists are coming on their own, and we can’t allow this to happen,” Trump said. […]

    Link

  79. Pierce R. Butler says

    Lynna @ 89 quoting DailyKos piece summarizing Secret Service report: The study… examines 173 mass shooting incidents … Bystanders intervened in about 10% of the attacks. [Thus, ~17 incidents, no?] When that happened, the attacker was killed by the intervening bystander only 2% of the time. [Ergo, bystanders killed 0.34% of one attacker.]

    While I sometimes enjoy spotlighting DK boo-boos, all too often the pros screw up just as innumerately. But, still …

  80. says

    Ukraine Update: Tanks are nice, but it’s combined arms that can change the game

    [Photo of lovely cats: “Ukrainian army cats. Aside from the usual benefits of having pets, cats are incredibly important in the war, as warm winter trenches with stored food become infested with rats. Soldiers tell of waking up with rats cozied up inside their coats”]

    Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainians were estimated to have over 2,000 tanks, though half were in storage and presumably in poor shape. Visually confirmed, Ukraine has captured at least 545 Russian tanks, though we can’t assume all were fully salvaged and returned to action. […]

    Add it all up, and Ukraine had at least 2,000 tanks, and maybe more depending on the status of the stored kit (most of which was likely used for spare parts). A quarter to half of those tanks are likely destroyed or inoperable. But even if they have 1,000 tanks left, that’s still quite a bit. So, are a few dozen Western tanks that much of a game changer?

    Three weapons systems have undoubtedly changed the dynamics of the war so far. The first was the two main Western portable anti-tank missile used by Ukraine to stop Russia’s initial thrust—the British NLAW and the American Javelin. The second was M777 artillery howitzers. With over 130 delivered, they provided far more accurate fire than Soviet designs, and allowed allies to supply Ukraine with western shells at a time when it was running out of Soviet-era ammunition. The third was HIMARS, which broke Russian logistics, both by destroying massive stockpiles of artillery shells and other supplies, and by pushing back those ammo depots further behind the front lines. Russia struggles with supply lines more than 25 kilometers from a railhead.

    Still, this whole “game changing” concept is a bit of a ridiculous metric. […]

    Less than a hundred new tanks, no matter how powerfully Western they might be, aren’t going to change the trajectory of the war by themselves, not on a a front that spans thousands of kilometers. But they don’t need to be in the context of combined arms warfare. Combined arms warfare is when armor, infantry, artillery, engineering, electronic warfare, intelligence, and air power (both fixed-wing, helicopters, and as of now, drones) all combine for maximum effect.

    Armor provides punch, but has low visibility and is exposed to infantry, mines, and aircraft. Infantry has all the visibility, but is exposed to artillery, other infantry, and lacks offensive punch. Artillery has tons of punch, but is exposed to counter-artillery fire and air attack. Air power is exposed to infantry with man-portable anti-air missiles, while drones can be downed by electronic warfare. Engineering can breach defenses (like trenches and minefields), but has no combat power and is exposed. Electronic warfare can disrupt the enemy’s guided weapons systems and blind radars and drones, but requires the sort of antenna and radar arrays that are prime targets for air attack and artillery.

    Each one of these combo elements has strengths and weaknesses. Combined arms is designed to both amplify each branch’s strengths, while using complex choreography to mask each others’ weaknesses. It’s not easy to pull off and requires extensive and expensive maneuvers and drilling. Russia clearly never bothered. At the beginning of the war, they would send armor unsupported by infantry, making them easy pickings for Ukrainian forces with NLAWS and Javelins. […]

    For Russia, it’s proven effective to pick up tens of kilometers over months of attritional warfare. Ukraine has proven more adept, but less because of “combined arms,” and more because of smart battlefield decisions. Ukraine won the Battle of Kyiv by harassing Russia’s long supply lines and, simply, by resisting. Russia expected the “shock and awe” of the initial four-prong assault to destroy Ukraine’s resolve to fight. When that didn’t happen, Russia was forced to retreat from its northern axis.

    Ukraine won the Battle of Kharkiv by goading Russia into moving the bulk of its army into Kherson, thus leaving Kharkiv essentially undefended. There was no need for “combined arms” to punch their way deep into Russian territory. They just needed speed.

    Ukraine won the Battle of (north) Kherson by using HIMARS to take out the bridges supplying tens of thousands of Russian troops. While Russia attempted to supply by barge, it proved untenable, and they withdrew. That was a triumph of logistics. (And, yes, exhibit A on why HIMARS rocket artillery was literally a “game changer.”)

    Now? Now the front line has been condensed to the Donbas and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, and Russia has scarred the land with a still-growing network of defenses (click on the link for an interactive map). [link and maps embedded at the main link]

    If you zoom in at the link above, you’ll see that entire cities in southeastern Ukraine have been literally surrounded in trenches. We’ve talked before about the importance of Polohy and Tokmak and other cities in Zaporizhzhia for any drive toward Melitopol. Look at what Ukraine would need to get through to reach Melitopol, thus cutting Russia’s “land bridge” from mainland Russia to Crimea: [map at the link]

    Ukraine isn’t going to liberate any more territory through subterfuge and trickery (unless they find a way to move an entire army across the wide Dnipro river south of Kherson, and into Crimea). And they certainly aren’t going to do it with undisciplined charges. That’s what Russia is doing, and it’s costing them dearly around Bakhmut and Vuhledar.

    So back to those Western tanks—their value isn’t that “oh, Ukraine has Western tanks.” It’s this:

    The U.S. military’s new, expanded combat training of Ukrainian forces began in Germany on Sunday […]

    The so-called combined arms training is aimed at honing the skills of the Ukrainian forces so they will be better prepared to launch an offensive or counter any surge in Russian attacks. They will learn how to better move and coordinate their company- and battalion-size units in battle, using combined artillery, armor and ground forces.

    Speaking to two reporters traveling with him to Europe on Sunday, Milley said the complex training — combined with an array of new weapons, artillery, tanks and other vehicles heading to Ukraine — will be key to helping the country’s forces take back territory that has been captured by Russia in the nearly 11-month-old war.

    The United States is now teaching Ukrainian forces how to do combined arms training. While I wasn’t able to find any exact details of the training (likely for good reason), I’d wager that it’s not rank and file soldiers doing this training, but officers. It’s getting those tank, infantry, intelligence, engineering, electronic warfare, artillery, and air officers into a tent and learning complicated choreography. Here’s what it takes to breach a defensive position using combined arms: [video showing combined arms breach is available at the link]

    If you can do that, you then don’t need hundreds of tanks to punch through one of those trench lines. You need a handful, the vanguard, supported by infantry, engineering, artillery, and air. […]what was most exciting about the January 20th Ramstein contact group meeting of Ukraine’s allies was the mass of new artillery and armored infantry vehicles headed to Ukraine.

    As a reminder:

    In the first three weeks of 2023, the US announced it was sending 109 M2 Bradleys, likely the first in what should become a steady stream of these powerful IFVs, as well as 548 armored personnel carriers (APCs, lacking the bigger guns of an IFV)—100 M113s, 108 MRAPs, 90 Strykers, and 250 M1117 Guardians). The Pentagon is also sending 488 new Humvees. At over 1,000 vehicles, that’s a lot of protected mobility for Ukrainian infantry.

    In addition, the United States is sending 18 M109 self-propelled howitzers, and 36 new 105 MM towed howitzers. Unlike the bigger and heavier M777s, these smaller howitzers can be towed by humvees, and are easier to set up and break down quickly—important for an army pushing quickly into enemy territory. Finally, the U.S. keeps sending hundreds of laser-guided Excalibur artillery shells. In the video above, they stress the importance of air power to take out enemy armor. Ukraine doesn’t have that, but Excaliburs are a great replacement.

    Meanwhile, Germany and Sweden will be sending an additional 90 IFVs, the Brits are sending “hundreds” of Bulldogs APCs, and the French and Belgians are adding another 100 APCs or so. And, just as importantly, Norway, France, the UK, Germany, Estonia, and Sweden are sending over 100 new pieces of artillery. Estonia handed over everything it had. Sweden is sending the famed Archer—quite simply the most incredible artillery gun in the world—able to set up, fire three rounds, and take off before the first round has hit its target. (Watch the video, it’s quite amazing. Even the US Army is interested.) Ukraine will get 12 of Sweden’s total 48.

    So back to tanks … [snipped some details already provided by raven in comments 77 and 86] In total, that’s at least 260 incoming tanks, not too shabby when supported by over 1,300 armored infantry vehicles and literally the most advanced artillery systems in the world. (We’ll just assume the 31 M1 Abrams tanks the U.S. sending later this year will be part of some future effort, like Crimea.)

    Less sexy, but just as importantly, Germany and the U.S. have both been sending engineering equipment. Today, Germany announced a new aid package that included tractors and trailers, adding to previously sent “remote controlled vehicles for support tasks” (usually mine clearing), forklifts, and bridge layers. No one breaches Russian defenses without solid combat engineering.

    All that’s left is air power, and there’s already talk in the Pentagon about sending F-16s. If it happens, put that into the “later in the war with the M1 Abrams.” Pilot training would take months, maintenance training even longer, and while this war is extremely expensive, air power is next-level expensive. An hour of F16 flight time costs $27,000. And while F16s would help protect Ukrainian airspace against cruise missiles and Russian aircraft (if they ever venture out from safe Russian airspace), it’s hard to see Ukraine establishing the kind of air superiority needed to provide direct ground support. If there is an “air” component to combined arms operations in the short- to mid-term, it’ll have to come from drones, and I bet Ukraine could pull it off effectively.

    One final point—Mark Sumner noted yesterday that unseasonably warm temperatures have helped Ukraine and Europe weather the winter cold, but have also hampered the Ukrainian counteroffensive around Kreminna and Svatove in the northeast. That’s not likely to be alleviated anytime soon, as spring rains will keep things slushy and bogged down. But that’s okay! Because Ukraine will need 3-5 months to learn to use this gear, train those units on newfangled combined arms tactics, and set up supply lines.

    n total, that’s at least 260 incoming tanks, not too shabby when supported by over 1,300 armored infantry vehicles and literally the most advanced artillery systems in the world. (We’ll just assume the 31 M1 Abrams tanks the U.S. sending later this year will be part of some future effort, like Crimea.)

    Less sexy, but just as importantly, Germany and the U.S. have both been sending engineering equipment. Today, Germany announced a new aid package that included tractors and trailers, adding to previously sent “remote controlled vehicles for support tasks” (usually mine clearing), forklifts, and bridge layers. No one breaches Russian defenses without solid combat engineering.

    All that’s left is air power, and there’s already talk in the Pentagon about sending F-16s. If it happens, put that into the “later in the war with the M1 Abrams.” Pilot training would take months, maintenance training even longer, and while this war is extremely expensive, air power is next-level expensive. An hour of F16 flight time costs $27,000. And while F16s would help protect Ukrainian airspace against cruise missiles and Russian aircraft (if they ever venture out from safe Russian airspace), it’s hard to see Ukraine establishing the kind of air superiority needed to provide direct ground support. If there is an “air” component to combined arms operations in the short- to mid-term, it’ll have to come from drones, and I bet Ukraine could pull it off effectively.

    One final point—Mark Sumner noted yesterday that unseasonably warm temperatures have helped Ukraine and Europe weather the winter cold, but have also hampered the Ukrainian counteroffensive around Kreminna and Svatove in the northeast. That’s not likely to be alleviated anytime soon, as spring rains will keep things slushy and bogged down. But that’s okay! Because Ukraine will need 3-5 months to learn to use this gear, train those units on newfangled combined arms tactics, and set up supply lines.

    Perhaps that’s why Ukraine is happy to let Russia continue to smash its head against Bakhmut. There’s no denying that Russia continues to make incremental gains as it attempts to cut off the city’s supply lines. But in attritional terms, it works to Ukraine’s advantage. And given Bakhmut’s low strategic value, Ukraine can even afford to retreat if the situation ever warrants it.

    In the meantime, Ukraine’s next vanguard can train in the UK and Germany.

  81. raven says

    Bloomberg.com
    01/29/2023

    Hungary’s prime minister warned that Western allies have become “part of the war” by sending “ever more modern” weaponry to Kyiv. Poland will send 60 PT-91 Twardy main battle tanks to Ukraine in addition to 14 previously announced German-made Leopard 2 tanks and more than 200 other tanks provided in 2022.

    Captain Obvious here, Orban has noticed that the West has “become part of the war”.

    It is a bit late.
    We were part of the war long before it even started.
    We’ve been supporting Ukraine since Russia invaded it in 2014.

    That is one reason why I support going all in with Ukraine.
    We are already so far along, that it won’t even be that much of a change.

  82. whheydt says

    In light of the various posts about combined arms training, one should note that Ukraines military has been receiving training from at least the US ever since 2014. This appears to have markedly changed Ukrainian military doctrine. Specifically, getting away from the old Soviet (and current Russian) doctrine in which even tactical decisions have to come from fairly high up the chain of command to the western practice of pushing such decisions as low as possible. Thus, sergeants making tactical decisions–on the order of, “Ooo! There’s a juicy target! Fire!”–instead of waiting the word to get to some colonel and then word to filter back down…by which time the target is long gone, or has wiped out those that might have done something to/about it.
    This would make the combined arms training the next step up…strategic planning…so those lieutenants and sergeants will be in the right place with the right stuff to make and exploit tactical options as they occur.

  83. says

    Wall Street Journal reports Israel drone strike responsible for damage at Iranian munitions factory

    The Wall Street Journal is now reporting that Israel is responsible for an explosion at a munitions factory in Isfahan, Iran. The Journal cites unnamed “U.S. officials and people familiar with the operation.”

    The Journal’s reporting adds to a report by The Jerusalem Post also citing unnamed sources to assert Israel and the Mossad was behind the strike. Iran claims that three quadcopter drones attacked the facility and that one was shot down; the Journal reports that images of the strike’s aftermath show “minor” damage, primarily to the facility’s roof. The site is next to a government Space Research Center facility. Neither paper can offer more than speculation as to what the intended target of the Israeli strike was; Israel has previously struck targets inside Iran said to be associated with the nation’s nuclear research, but Iran has more recently been accused of providing Russia with drones used in Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian cities and civilians.

    The explosions led to apparent panic inside Iran, with social media claims speculating that the explosions could indicate a coup attempt against the hardline religious regime; seven different Iranian cities were said to have been attacked, and even a strong earthquake in northern Iran was speculated to be somehow involved. None of those other attacks have been verified—some or all may be hoaxes inspired by or intended to take advantage of the panic.

  84. says

    The first complete Ancient Egyptian papyrus in over a century has been discovered

    For the first time in over 100 years, a complete ancient Egyptian papyrus has been discovered. The text of the 52-foot-long scroll is a version of the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. It has been discovered in the Saqqara Necropolis site outside of Cairo. The document is believed to be more almost 3,000 years old and was discovered long enough ago that its announcement comes after conservation efforts were completed and it has moved into the phase of being translated into Arabic.

    The Book of the Dead is the modern name for a collection of texts that would be buried or emblazoned on the tombs of important Egyptians in ancient times. The collections that have been discovered over the centuries show a variety of hymns, spells, incantations, magic words, and prayers, which were put in the tombs as a guide for the deceased individual/s through the underworld. The mummified occupant was supposed to be able to use these texts as they passed through and towards Osiris.

    Papyrus discoveries are frequently fragmented; finding a complete scroll is as rare as it gets. Last year a 13-foot-long, very fragmented papyrus was discovered at Saqqara.

    […] the burial site that housed this version of the Book of the Dead came from the Late Perior (circa 712 B.C. to 332 B.C.E.).

    The secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities made the announcement on the discovery of the scroll Jan. 14. He said they hope to display the enormous new document as a part of the opening of a new Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in the near future.

    From comments posted by readers:

    Recent discoveries have also revealed an utterly fascinating, comparatively well watered biome surrounding Giza at the time the three main pyramids were built — along with an ancient, long gone Nile fork their construction may have been impossible without. […]
    ———————–
    To give an idea of just how long ancient Egyptian civilization lasted, consider that the time span between the building of the pyramids and the reign of Cleopatra is centuries longer than the time span between Cleopatra and now.
    ———————–
    53 feet of text is not common. I wonder if there are any unique passages in this discovery, but it looks as if we’ll have to wait until translation and publication is complete.

  85. StevoR says

    So what are “spider stars” here? :

    https://www.space.com/spider-system-pulsar-gamma-ray-eclipses

    Turns out they are pulsars – neutron stars – & they come in two arachnid flavours :

    A black widow system contains a pulsar and a stellar companion with less than 5% of the sun’s mass, while a redback system partners a pulsar with a larger stellar companion that has between 10% and 50% the mass of the sun. (In both species, female spiders sometimes eat their mates.)

    I’d heard of the Black Widow Pulsar – or pulsars plural before but didn’t know they’d divided them up & had Redback pulsars too now..

  86. raven says

    Did Elon Musk Warn that ‘Woke Mind Virus’ Is Destroying Civilization?

    Claim: Elon Musk warned that a “woke mind virus” was destroying civilization.

    Snopes.com Correct attribution

    Musk has said this many times.
    Guy is an idiot nutcase.

    Elon Musk @elonmusk
    Replying to @Astro_Angry

    Unless it is stopped, the woke mind virus will destroy civilization and humanity will never reached Mars
    11:30 AM · May 19, 2022

    There is no woke mind virus.

    Who is a huge danger to humanity are people like Elon Musk.
    No matter how many reasons I can find to dislike Elon Musk, he will always provide more.
    There is no limit to how low he can go or to how much I can dislike him.

  87. says

    Donald Trump insisted the United States’ armed forces are incapable of fighting or winning. It’s an odd part of a larger Republican offensive.

    Just a few days before the 2022 midterm elections, Sen. Josh Hawley tried to rally GOP voters in Arizona with a curious message. “We’ve got a military that is more interested in pronouns than winning wars,” the Missouri Republican complained.

    It echoed related rhetoric from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who last year encouraged Americans not to enlist in the U.S. military, saying it’s like “throwing your life away.” The Georgia Republican added that she believes military training is too “woke.”

    Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida, a Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee, tried to be more specific, claiming that he had received complaints about a course at West Point titled, “Understanding your whiteness and white rage.” The congressman further alleged that the class was “taught by a woman who described the Republican Party platform as a platform of white supremacy.”

    We later learned that there was no such course and the classroom instruction Waltz referenced did not exist.

    Nevertheless, after the midterms, future House Speaker Kevin McCarthy stuck to the party line, complaining, “I’ve watched what the Democrats have done in many of these, especially in the [National Defense Authorization Act] and the ‘woke-ism’ that they want to bring in there.”

    On Saturday, Donald Trump headlined an event in New Hampshire, where he took this rhetorical line a little further. Forbes magazine reported:

    He … went after Biden’s controversial withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 2021, arguing, “we have a woke military that can’t fight or win, as proven in Afghanistan.”

    Historians can speak to this with more authority than I can, but I’m not aware of any modern examples of a former American president — by some measures, the front-runner for the Republican Party’s 2024 nomination — publicly declaring that the United States’ armed forces are incapable of fighting or winning.

    Alas, it fits into a larger pattern in which Trump has publicly disparaged military service, mocked prisoners of war and even downplayed the importance of injured troops.

    But stepping back and taking stock of the larger context, why in the world are so many Republicans preoccupied with criticizing their own country’s military? The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman recently explained the problem well:

    So here’s the truth: The military has indeed changed, because American society has changed, and so has the nature of modern warfare. Our military needs not just guys with big muscles, but people with a wide variety of skills and knowledge. To be maximally effective, it can’t deprive itself of the talents of large swaths of the population. But conservatives — especially those whose ideas about war come mostly from the movies — don’t like many of those changes. While they sometimes claim to oppose “politicization” of the military, what they actually want is for their cultural and political agenda to prevail there.

    In other words, the increasingly common whining among Republicans about the military is less about the armed forces themselves, and more about society becoming more inclusive and progressive in ways that make the right feel uncomfortable.

    The GOP believes the military can and should be shielded from the larger societal trends, and when it’s not — when the troops celebrate Pride Month; when the Pentagon lifts a ban on transgender Americans serving; when abortion services are made available to those in uniform; when the Defense Department considers environmental impacts; etc. — Republicans stomp their feet as they feel another culture war slipping away.

    “We need to refocus our military on what it’s supposed to do, which is blow things up and kill people,” Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas recently declared.

    Except, that’s wrong. It’s not what Americans should expect from the planet’s strongest fighting force, and it doesn’t serve our interests to limit the military’s role to death and destruction.

    This won’t stop Trump from slamming his own country’s military, and it won’t stop GOP lawmakers from complaining about “wokeism,” but it should.

    Ukraine’s military forces are “woke” by this description, and they are successfully fighting a war.

  88. says

    More nonsense from Republicans in the House of Congress:

    The World Health Organization announced Monday that COVID-19 remains a global health emergency, but that it could be nearing an “inflexion point” where higher levels of immunity as a result of both vaccination and infection will lower the death rate. But the world isn’t there yet, and at least 170,000 COVID-19 deaths were recorded globally in the last two months.

    Never mind the realities of science. Barely Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s House GOP is going to spend the better part of the week declaring the pandemic over—literally they will vote on a bill called the “Pandemic is Over Act”—and punishing and endangering the health care and federal workforces. The four bills related to the pandemic they’ve got scheduled would end the original national COVID emergency from 2020, end the public health emergency declared in 2020, eliminate the COVID–19 vaccine mandate on health care providers, and require federal agencies to return to pre-pandemic telework policies

    The U.S. is officially averaging 521 COVID-related deaths a day, “a troublingly high figure that is about double the number of daily deaths typically seen in a bad flu season,” and 46,021 newly reported cases. Every day. The Department of Health and Human Services renewed the public health emergency for the pandemic a few weeks ago. This is the 12th renewal of the emergency since the first declaration in January 2020. The renewals extend for 90 days. The Senate is unlikely to take up this push, which is a nice reminder that the House GOP isn’t in control of anything.

    […] Additionally, the House will vote on the ever-critical denunciation of the horrors of socialism. For real. The gotcha bill H. Con. Res 9 declares that “Congress denounces socialism in all its forms, and opposes the implementation of socialist policies in the United States of America.”

    Now do fascism, Republicans. I dare you.

    […] It’s also going to be “oversight” time in the House, which will basically mean a lot of screeching from Reps. Jim Jordan and James Comer. Jordan’s Judiciary Committee will have a hearing on “The Biden Border Crisis.” The Oversight Committee, packed with election deniers, QAnon adherents, and conspiracy theorists, will have one titled “Federal Pandemic Spending: A Prescription for Waste, Fraud, and Abuse.”

    The Senate still hasn’t voted on an organizing resolution […] You might remember last session, when the Senate was tied 50-50 and McConnell dragged the organizing resolution out for nearly a month to prevent the Democrats from getting a jump start on legislating. There really aren’t big things at stake this time around since with a GOP House, legislating is definitely back-burnered, but McConnell’s default mode is obstruction. […]

    Link

  89. says

    We Tried to Call the Top Donors to George Santos’ 2020 Campaign. Many Don’t Seem to Exist.

    In September 2020, George Santos’ congressional campaign reported that Victoria and Jonathan Regor had each contributed $2,800—the maximum amount—to his first bid for a House seat. Their listed address was 45 New Mexico Street in Jackson Township, New Jersey.

    A search of various databases reveals no one in the United States named Victoria or Jonathan Regor. Moreover, there is nobody by any name living at 45 New Mexico Street in Jackson. That address doesn’t exist. There is a New Mexico Street in Jackson, but the numbers end in the 20s, according to Google Maps and a resident of the street.

    Santos’ 2020 campaign finance reports also list a donor named Stephen Berger as a $2,500 donor and said he was a retiree who lived on Brandt Road in Brawley, California. But a spokesperson for William Brandt, a prominent rancher and Republican donor, tells Mother Jones that Brandt has lived at that address for at least 20 years and “neither he or his wife (the only other occupant [at the Brandt Road home]) have made any donations to George Santos. He does not know Stephen Berger nor has Stephen Berger ever lived at…Brandt Road.”

    The Regor and Berger contributions are among more than a dozen major donations to the 2020 Santos campaign for which the name or the address of the donor cannot be confirmed, a Mother Jones investigation found. A separate $2,800 donation was attributed in Santos’ reports filed with the Federal Election Commission to a friend of Santos who says he did not give the money.

    Under federal campaign finance law, it is illegal to donate money using a false name or the name of someone else. “It’s called a contribution in the name of another,” says Saurav Ghosh, the director for federal campaign finance reform at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group. “It’s something that is explicitly prohibited under federal law.” […]

    Two other donors who contributed $1,500 and $2,000, respectively, were listed in Santos’ FEC filings as retirees residing at addresses that do not exist. One was named Rafael Da Silva—which happens to be the name of a Brazilian soccer player.

    More at the link.

    Even when real donors did actually contribute to the Santos campaign, Santos treated them badly:

    The Santos fundraiser later arranged for this donor to have breakfast with Santos at a restaurant about an hour’s drive from the donor’s home. The donor arrived for the meeting, but Santos stood him up and, afterward, ignored his calls, according to the donor. Santos later phoned this donor to ask for more money. He did not give again.

  90. says

    “For years, congressional Republicans have advocated for slashing earned benefits using Washington code words like ‘strengthen,’ when their policies would privatize Medicare and Social Security, raise the retirement age, or cut benefits,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in an emailed statement. “House Republicans refuse to raise revenue from the wealthy, but insist they will ‘strengthen’ earned benefits programs.”

    True.

    Link

  91. says

    New Mexico Bill Would End Life Without Parole For Children, Which Is Somehow A Thing

    https://www.wonkette.com/new-mexico-second-chance-bill

    Democratic New Mexico legislators are looking to pass a bill that would bar sentencing children to life without parole and which would allow offenders under the age of 18, in most cases, to be eligible for parole after 15 years.

    A similar bill was introduced last year and then dropped for a variety of reasons, including opposition from prosecutors, Republican legislators, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and “some victims of violent crimes who raised concerns that the people who harmed them would be prematurely released.” It was pulled from consideration four days after being introduced, when a Republican proposed an amendment that would have allowed for life without parole to still be achieved by way of “stacked” sentences. Such an amendment, the bill’s sponsors concluded, would have obviously undermined the entire purpose of the legislation.

    New Mexico currently has one of the highest rates of juvenile incarceration in the nation, with 227 per 100,000 children in prison at any given time. For comparison, the United States as a whole had a juvenile incarceration rate of 114 per 100,000 children in 2019, and that is the highest youth incarceration rate of any country in the entire world. Throughout the US, 1,465 people are currently serving life without parole for juvenile offenses, which is actually a 44 percent drop since 2012.

    […] Senate Bill 64, known as the Second Chance Bill, is the result of a compromise reached between Democratic state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and the bill’s other sponsors, as well as the District Attorney’s Association. Since last year, it has been amended in a way that has appeased some of the groups who initially opposed it. While most children given life sentences would be made eligible for parole after 15 years, those convicted of “willful, deliberate first-degree murder” would have to wait 20 years to see a parole board, and those convicted of the first degree murder of multiple people would have to wait 25 years. […]

    The bill has attracted the support of anti-death penalty advocate Sister Helen Prejean, who wrote an op-ed praising the measure in the Santa Fe New Mexican:

    Life without parole is, as Pope Francis recently called it, a “hidden death penalty.” By allowing New Mexico’s children to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole and equivalent sentences, we are literally condemning them to die in prison. We ignore the potential for growth and change that every young person possesses. We say to our children: “It does not matter the ways in which you commit yourself to rehabilitation, healing and accounting for the harm that you caused. Nothing you do matters. You will never be welcomed back. There is no mercy and no hope for you.” […]

    When a child causes harm, we must join with our communities in mourning alongside those harmed. But we must not forget that within a hurt child is an invitation for redemption. The ultimate practice of justice is to heal those who cause harm, not to harm them further.

    Boy, that sure would be nice.

    If this legislation passes, New Mexico will become the 26th state (plus the District of Columbia) to ban life without parole sentences for children.

  92. says

    Followup to comment 105.

    […] Trump gave a campaign speech this weekend, his first of the 2024 campaign. It sounds like it was a real snoozer. It was in a high school auditorium, for the state GOP convention. Only Newsmax, OAN, and Real America’s Voice played it live. And bless his heart, but it sounds like he thinks windmills are making all the airplanes crash now.

    That’s right, they don’t just create bird graveyards now. They “kill all the birds, destroy all the planes, and our beautiful oceans and seas and everything else.” The wind turbines are apparently escalating their murderous behavior.

    […] Trump apparently thinks if he had been president for just three (3) more weeks, the wall would have been built?

    Maybe if one of those weeks had been Infrastructure Week.

    Trump said “so many people” ask him for help becoming a US citizen, and he tells them “go to the southern border, just walk across the line.” He said a rich guy he knows can’t become a citizen, even though he’s studied so hard, and Trump just told him to go to Mexico and walk across the border. All of this is real and it happened.

    […] Maybe he was never that special to begin with. He was just different in 2016, and that, combined with all those factors that helped him cheat his way into a “victory,” was enough to creep him across the finish line. Didn’t work in 2020.

    Will the tired loser even make it out of the primaries this time? You know, assuming he isn’t in prison?

    https://www.wonkette.com/trump-windmills-new-hampshire

    Lots of video snippets are available at the link. We owe Aaron Rupar many thanks for live-tweeting the whole thing.

  93. says

    Tyre Nichols’s savage killing is the predictable outcome of modern law enforcement. So, naturally, most Americans struggle to find an alternate explanation that blames anything but the system itself. Friday, on his HBO vent fest, Bill Maher suggested we’re focused too much on race, which conveniently aligns with his own personal obsessions.

    “And I just thought it was very interesting that this week, Asians were killed by Asians [in Half Moon Bay and Monterey Park, California],” he said. “Two Asian men who were, you know, 66 and 72. And then this week, we just got this video of the Memphis Five. A Black man is brutally beaten in Memphis by five cops. They’re all Black. I guess what I’m asking is America’s culture of violence — it does go deeper than race. Right?”

    […] We’ve already discussed how Black people, especially if they’re cops, can still actively enable a racist system. Some of the “overseers” on antebellum plantations were also enslaved Black men known as “drivers.” They weren’t able to give their people an easy day in the fields with more coffee breaks.

    Maher claimed that “this mono-focus we have on race is short-circuiting us trying to fix some of the realer problems.” […]

    Former Democratic House Rep. Tim Ryan seemingly agreed with Maher and said there are “definitely deeper concerns here. And this is an opportunity for us to have that conversation. The conversation about mental health, the conversation about guns, the conversation about … ”

    Oh, we’re going to discuss how policing in America steadily escalated into a militaristic, occupying force that regardless of an individual officer’s race overtly treats Americans of color and their communities differently than white Americans? And how politicians, including Democrats, promote “tough on crime, let’s all fund tanks for the cops” policies that don’t actually make anyone safer but inevitably lead to the latest trending hashtag for a dead Black person?

    No, instead, Ryan suggested the problem lies with “the cops and the stress, and the stress the cops are under.”

    “And I’m not defending these guys, of course,” he said while defending cops. “This is a tragedy.”

    It’s not a tragedy. It’s a homicide. It’s not even tragic in the Greek drama sense. No one who dared watched the snuff film footage of Nichols’s beating experienced any accompanying catharsis, a “pain [that] awakens pleasure.” (At least I hope not.)

    Ryan continued, “They should be prosecuted, full extent of the law, the whole nine yards. But if we don’t at some level realize that it’s not a white cop or a Black cop, it’s a cop who’s under stress, who’s underpaid. I had cops in my congressional district, Bill. They were getting paid $14 an hour.” [Bullshit]

    Ohio’s minimum wage is $10.10. It gets pretty stressful during the lunch rush at a Cincinnati Buffalo Wild Wings, but the waitresses don’t beat people to death. The cops in Columbus enjoy a generous benefits package that includes affordable health care. Life is a lot less stressful when you can afford to take your kids to the doctor.

    Ryan’s former congressional district includes Youngstown and despite the cries of poverty, about one-third of Youngstown police made more than $70,000 in 2020 when overtime and bonus payments are included.

    The most senior patrol officers make $58,320 annually, about $28.03 per hour, in base pay.

    In 2020, 30 of the union’s 95 members made more than $70,000, including 11 who received more than $80,000, according to data provided by the city finance department at the request of The Vindicator.

    The additional pay is for overtime as well as hazardous duty pay, bonus payments for working a certain number of years (called longevity pay), a uniform allowance and extra money for things such as having a college degree, working a late shift or out of rank.

    Teachers are legitimatelyunderpaid. With a master’s degree and 10 years of service, a teacher still makes less than $70,000. Given the number of school shootings and the risk of a gun-toting student popping a cap in them, they should probably also qualify for “hazardous duty” pay. Republicans never make excuses for teachers and suggest they’re so overworked, they can’t help but poison young minds with CRT. I appreciate that Ryan is more empathetic, but there’s a limit. Let’s focus more on the actual victims here rather than the supposedly horrific working conditions of the people brutalizing them. We’ve tried offering back rubs and medals to cops if they can avoid killing Black people for at least a full year … or even a whole month, and it’s just not working out.

    I watched those cops beat the life out of Tyre Nichols, and they don’t look very stressed. They were angry and belligerent, like grizzly bears without compassion. Before he opened his mouth, Ryan should’ve watched the entire video himself […] Every politician should, and then we can start those long overdue “conversations.”

    Link

  94. says

    By the numbers:

    […] Two: The percent of violent crimes police actually solve

    Four: The percent of police time that is actually devoted to dealing with violent crimes in any capacity

    4.4: The percent of calls dispatched to police that have anything to do with violent crimes

    Five: The percent of the time that police respond to a 911 call in time to either prevent violence from going down or catch a perpetrator

    70,000 to 80,000: The approximate number of people arrested for prostitution every year

    $200 million: The cost to taxpayers of arresting people for prostitution every year

    170,856: The number of arrests for marijuana possession in 2021

    88.8: The percent of time officers in the LA County Sheriff’s Department spent on officer-initiated traffic stops

    20 million: The estimated number of traffic stops per year

    600: The estimated number of people killed at traffic stops since 2017

    86: The number of officer involved-killings that started with a traffic violation in 2020

    Zero: The effect police density has been found to have on traffic fatalities

    1,176: The number of people who were shot and killed by police in 2022

    64: The number of police officers fatally shot while on the job in 2022

    379: The number officer-involved killings that actually involved a violent crime of some kind

    596: The number of officer-involved killings in 2022 that started out as a suspected non-violent crime or a case in which no crime was reported at all

    109: People killed by police responding to a mental health call in 2022

    54: The percent of officer-involved killings that “were traffic stops, police responses to mental health crises, or situations where the person was not reportedly threatening anyone with a gun” in 2022

    Nine: The total number of days without an officer-involved fatality in 2022

    Nine: The number of officers who killed people and were charged with a crime in 2022

    2.9: The number of times Black people are more likely to be killed by police than white people

    2 million: The number of people in US prisons

    39: The percent of people in those prisons who are no threat to public safety at all

    60,000: The number of juveniles incarcerated in the US at any given time

    400,000: The number of people in jail who have not yet been convicted of a crime

    $215 billion: The amount the US spends on law enforcement and corrections in 2022

    $129 billion: The amount spent on policing alone

    83: The percent of US counties that increased funding for police departments in 2022

    69: The percent of US Americans who “trust local police and law enforcement to promote justice and equal treatment for people of all races.” […]

    https://www.wonkette.com/police-brutality-statistics

  95. says

    Sheesh.

    Republicans didn’t get the big red wave they expected in November’s elections, thanks to voter anger over harsh abortion bans. So how are Republicans going to do better in 2024? By embracing harsh abortion bans, if the Republican National Committee has anything to say about it. That’s the party’s official position as laid out at length in a resolution passed by the RNC on Monday.

    See, the problem is that Republicans didn’t talk about abortion enough in 2022. “Instead of fighting back and exposing Democratic extremism on abortion, many Republican candidates failed to remind Americans of our proud heritage of challenging slavery, segregation, and the forces eroding the family and the sanctity of human life, thereby allowing Democrats to define our longtime position,” in the resolution’s words.

    […] The resolution for action moving forward is twofold. First, there’s a plan to “go on offense,” aka lie. “The Republican National Committee urges all Republican pro-life candidates, consultants, and other national Republican Political Action Committees to remember this proud heritage, go on offense in the 2024 election cycle, and expose the Democrats’ extreme position of supporting abortion on-demand up until the moment of birth, paid for by the taxpayers, even supporting discriminatory abortions such as gender selection or when the child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome.”

    That is simply not the position of the Democratic Party.

    […] The second part of the action plan is to pass more anti-abortion laws, specifically ones based on disinformation. Yep, voters dealt you a historic rebuke in 2022 over the anti-abortion laws you had already passed, but this time is going to be different. “The Republican National Committee urges Republican lawmakers in state legislatures and in Congress to pass the strongest pro-life legislation possible – such as laws that acknowledge the beating hearts and experiences of pain in the unborn – underscoring the new relics of barbarism the Democratic Party represents as we approach the 2024 cycle.”

    […] Abortion, and the long-term consequences of banning it, isn’t going anywhere as a political issue because it isn’t going anywhere in people’s lives. If Republicans want to keep being loud and proud about which side they’re on, that’s helpful in ensuring that voters know what their votes mean when Election Day rolls around.

    Link

  96. raven says

    “Coal in the US is now being economically outmatched by renewables to such an extent that it’s more expensive for 99% of the country’s coal-fired power plants to keep running than it is to build an entirely new solar or wind energy operation nearby, a new analysis has found.”

    Says it all.
    One of the main drivers these days is Russia.
    Everyone found out the hard way that Russian gas and oil weren’t really cheap. You had to give up your national security and national sovereignty as well. It wasn’t worth it.

    US renewable energy farms outstrip 99% of coal plants economically – study

    US renewable energy farms outstrip 99% of coal plants economically – study
    Oliver Milman
    Mon, January 30, 2023 at 3:00 AM PST·5 min read

    Coal in the US is now being economically outmatched by renewables to such an extent that it’s more expensive for 99% of the country’s coal-fired power plants to keep running than it is to build an entirely new solar or wind energy operation nearby, a new analysis has found.

    The plummeting cost of renewable energy, which has been supercharged by last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, means that it is cheaper to build an array of solar panels or a cluster of new wind turbines and connect them to the grid than it is to keep operating all of the 210 coal plants in the contiguous US, bar one, according to the study.

    “Coal is unequivocally more expensive than wind and solar resources, it’s just no longer cost competitive with renewables,” said Michelle Solomon, a policy analyst at Energy Innovation, which undertook the analysis. “This report certainly challenges the narrative that coal is here to stay.”

    The new analysis, conducted in the wake of the $370bn in tax credits and other support for clean energy passed by Democrats in last summer’s Inflation Reduction Act, compared the fuel, running and maintenance cost of America’s coal fleet with the building of new solar or wind from scratch in the same utility region.

    On average, the marginal cost for the coal plants is $36 each megawatt hour, while new solar is about $24 each megawatt hour, or about a third cheaper. Only one coal plant – Dry Fork in Wyoming – is cost competitive with the new renewables. “It was a bit surprising to find this,” said Solomon. “It shows that not only have renewables dropped in cost, the Inflation Reduction Act is accelerating this trend.”

    Coal, which is a heavily carbon-intensive fuel and responsible for 60% of planet-heating emissions from electricity generation, once formed the backbone of the American grid, generating enough power to light up 186m homes at its peak in 2007. However, by 2021 this output had dropped by 55%, while jobs in the coal mining sector have more than halved over the past decade, to less than 40,000.

    We need to accelerate the buildout of wind and solar so that when the time comes we can wean ourselves off coal

    Most of the US’s coal plants are aging and increasingly expensive to maintain, while their fuel source has been widely displaced by cheap sources of gas. Environmental regulations, which Donald Trump vowed to roll back in an unfulfilled mission to revive the coal industry when president, have also imposed costs on the sector by enforcing cuts to toxic emissions such as mercury and sulphur dioxide.

    Coal production hit a 55-year low in 2020 but the industry saw subsequent signs of an uptick in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which pushed up the price of energy worldwide and saw pressure on countries to find an alternative fuel source to Russian gas.

    Supporters of coal contend it is a reliable fuel source at a time of instability and have attacked Joe Biden for attempting to shift the US away from fossil fuels. “Forcing essential coal capacity off the grid – without reliable alternatives and the infrastructure to support them – will only deepen reliability and economic challenges,” said Rich Nolan, president of the National Mining Association, in November.

    “Look to our friends in Europe, who blindly rushed to close coal plants at a rapid pace and are now working from Germany to Denmark to bring those same plants back online. The global energy crisis is real and imposing costly burdens on people around the world and here at home; taking deliberate steps to intensify that crisis is reckless and unthinkable.”

    While coal is in long-term decline it is unlikely to disappear in the immediate future – many utilities are still deeply invested in the fuel source and the scale of renewable infrastructure, including energy projects, new transmission lines and battery and other storage to cope with intermittent delivery, isn’t yet vast enough to trigger a mass shutdown of coal. But analysts say the broader trends, bolstered by last year’s climate spending, look set to call time on the era of coal.

    “We can’t just snap our fingers and retire all coal plants but we need to accelerate the buildout of wind and solar so that when the time comes we can wean ourselves off coal,” said Solomon.

    “There’s a huge opportunity here to invest in coal communities, build local economic resilience and save money in the process.”

    James Stock, an economist at Harvard University who was not involved in the Energy Innovation report, said the analysis “rings true” and that coal is no longer economically competitive.

    “We can’t shutter all these plants tomorrow, we need to do it in an orderly fashion to support grid reliability but we should be able to do it in fairly fast order,” he said. “Coal has been on a natural decline due to economics and those economics are going to continue, this is a transition that’s just going to happen.

    “We built a lot of coal plants in the US around 50 years ago because we were worried about energy security in the world. That made sense at the time and they made an important contribution. But we know a lot more now about climate change, so now we need to make different decisions.”

  97. says

    Grand jury to reportedly hear evidence in Trump hush money case

    It’s long been an open question as to why Donald Trump wasn’t charged in his hush money scandal. It appears the door is now open to a possible indictment.

    When the words “grand jury” appear in the same sentence as “Donald Trump,” it’s surprisingly challenging to know which of the Republican’s many scandals the sentence might refer to. After all, a special grand jury heard evidence in the criminal investigation into election interference in Georgia. Evidence of the former president’s alleged Jan. 6 misconduct also went to a grand jury. The same is true in the criminal investigation into his mishandling of classified documents.

    A grand jury was even empaneled to consider evidence in the investigation surrounding Trump’s special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

    But it appears there may be yet another grand jury for the former president to worry about. The New York Times reported today:

    The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Monday will begin presenting evidence to a grand jury about Donald J. Trump’s role in paying hush money to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign, laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The grand jury was recently impaneled, and witness testimony will soon begin, a clear signal that the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, is nearing a decision about whether to charge Mr. Trump.

    […] prosecutors have already sought interviews with witnesses. In fact, one witness was seen today entering the New York building where the grand jury is sitting: David Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, the tabloid that helped broker the deal with Stormy Daniels.

    In case anyone needs a refresher let’s revisit our earlier coverage and review how we arrived at this point.

    In a normal political environment, it would’ve been a career-ending scandal. Then-candidate Trump, in the run-up to Election Day 2016, allegedly paid illegal hush money to Daniels, a prominent a porn actress, in the hopes of keeping secret an alleged extramarital affair. The Republican’s fixer, Michael Cohen, took the lead in orchestrating the illegal payment.

    Cohen was ultimately charged, prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to prison, even as his former client was rewarded with the presidency.

    The closer one looks at the relevant details, the worse the controversy appears. Not only did Cohen directly implicate Trump in the scandal, telling a court he arranged the illegal hush money payments at the instruction of his client, but the former president, while in office, was also caught lying about what transpired.

    It’s long been an open question as to why Trump wasn’t also charged in the case. If the Times’ reporting is correct, the door is now open to a possible indictment. […]

  98. says

    House GOP sets out to prove just how useless it will be for the next two years

    The House GOP as extremist performance art is starting in earnest this week. From now on, it will be a downward spiral into time-wasting, MAGA performative bullshit. All on the public dime.

    It is what we were promised, after all.

    On the very first day of the new Republican-led Congress, we will read every single word of the Constitution aloud from the floor of the House—something that hasn’t been done in years.

    Except, of course, that promise was broken. Note the date stamp on that, Nov. 25, 2022. That was before the knock-down, drag-out fight he had to become Barely Speaker. After four-plus days and 15 rounds of balloting, McCarthy just didn’t have time or energy for . . . the Constitution. Go figure. It still hasn’t happened.

    They’ve moved on to other things, which are also nonsense. Like voting to denounce the horrors of socialism, one of the gotcha votes they’ll be bringing to the House floor this week. When it was introduced last session by Rep. Maria Salazar (R-FL), it was adopted as the “bill of the month” by FreedomWorks, the Freedom Caucus-affiliated dark money launderer.

    They applauded the resolution for outlining “the history of socialism as a failed ideology that has resulted in the deaths of over 100 million people worldwide.” That’s in the text of the bill, too: “Whereas socialism has repeatedly led to famine and mass murders, and the killing of over 100,000,000 people worldwide.”

    Ironically enough, this is also the week that the House is going to be declaring the COVID-19 pandemic over, saying that healthcare workers shouldn’t be subject to the vaccine mandate, and that protections that allow federal employees to work remotely should end. In three years, more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. alone have been killed by COVID-19. Worldwide, that’s 6,759,755, according to Worldometer. Russia, China, and India are vastly underreporting deaths, so that’s a significant undercount. Additionally, a new report published in JAMA finds that COVID-19 is the eighth most common cause of death in children in the U.S.

    So, you know, perspective is sometimes helpful, even though it is never welcomed by the GOP.

    Another fun fact from this bill, they have a quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, and the fruits acquired by it.”

    It’s not Jefferson. It’s Antoine Destutt de Tracy, a French economist and philosopher Jefferson was translating. Granted, Jefferson wrote that sentence out in his 1816 translation of “Treatise on Political Economy,” but he didn’t originate it.

    The other thing that’s just a bit telling about this resolution is that it includes Donald Trump’s BFF, Kim Jong Un, in the list of baddies, along with a number of other world leaders Trump at some time or another has emulated.

    Seems like a resolution denouncing authoritarianism and fascism would be a lot more appropriate for 2023.

    Meanwhile, they are still demanding debt ceiling negotiations with the White House, but have come up with absolutely nothing to bring to the table. Expect this to be the norm for the whole of the session.

  99. Reginald Selkirk says

    Manhattan Prosecutors Will Begin Presenting Trump Case to Grand Jury

    The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Monday will begin presenting evidence to a grand jury about Donald Trump’s role in paying hush money to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign, laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

    The grand jury was recently impaneled, and witness testimony will soon begin, a clear signal that the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, is nearing a decision about whether to charge Trump.

    On Monday, one of the witnesses was seen with his lawyer entering the building in lower Manhattan, New York, where the grand jury is sitting. The witness, David Pecker, is the former publisher of The National Enquirer, the tabloid that helped broker the deal with the porn star, Stormy Daniels…

  100. says

    BREAKING: Kari Lake Still Not Governor

    https://www.wonkette.com/breaking-kari-lake-still-not-governor

    It is almost February of 2023, and yet the 2022 gubernatorial election rages on in Arizona. This weekend, Republican Kari Lake hosted a rally for the faithful at which she took a call from Donald Trump on stage. That should help boost her profile, not to mention her fundraising for an endless stream of legal challenges after a narrow loss to now-Governor Katie Hobbs.

    The failed candidate’s imaginary government in exile is being propped up by Steve Bannon, who knows a good grift when he sees one. Lake and Pillow Puffer Mike Lindell recently visited the putrefying podcaster to complain that Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel won’t meet with her.

    […] Just look at these bloody idiots marching for their has-been never-was hero. [video at the link]

    Buoyed by the Bannon toxic filth firehose, Lake has filed one garbage lawsuit after another in her search for “one judge that loves the Constitution and loves this country.” She even managed to get her lawyers, including Alan Dershowitz, sanctioned by a federal judge for spamming the court with a sack of crap that “no reasonable attorney” would have filed. And she’s not done yet, because, by God, this woman is going to get to the statehouse if she has to burn down the entirety of Arizona’s body politic to do it!

    And she’s attracting help — errrr, make that “help” — from some unlikely quarters. Meet Ryan Heath, an anti-vax activist who likens his anti-mask protests to Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott. Now don’t get too attached because (Spoiler Alert!) we ain’t keeping this mangy puppy longer than it takes to point and laugh in this blog post.

    Our Ryan graduated from law school in 2020, so he knew he was just the guy to bring it home for “Governor” Lake. So on January 12, Heath marched into Arizona’s Supreme Court and filed a petition for writ of mandamus on his own behalf against the Honorable Peter A. Thompson. That’s right — he sued the trial judge.

    […] Heath wasn’t a party to Lake’s case, in which she sued then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs demanding that the judge toss out Maricopa County’s vote results and decertify the November 2022 election. Lake actually got her day in court, during a two-day trial, after which her claims were dismissed. She appealed, but the appeal has not been fast tracked so the case should be decided sometime in the middle of Gov. Hobbs’s first term. Nevertheless, Heath is sure that the loss was only because Lake’s lawyers failed to “live up to the ethical duties of care to research the law and disclose to the tribunal controlling authority.” He’s certain that this case he dug up from 1997 means that the trial court just had to order a new election, and he’s threatening to get the Maricopa County defendants’ lawyers disbarred for saying, “Uh, no, kid, that’s not how any of this goes.”

    He’s also written this, the greatest footnote of all time, to explain why it isn’t his fault that he didn’t sue two years ago when the exact same election procedures were used in the 2020 election:

    Petitioner is uniquely situated to bring this action — given that Petitioner graduated from law school in 2020 and was not licensed to practice law until November of 2020. Thus, even though Maricopa County apparently employed the same illegal process as described herein during the 2020 election cycle, this election cycle is the first opportunity Petitioner has ever had to challenge this process and, therefore, laches should not bar this Special Action.

    […] Not for nothing, but the only other election suit this numpty filed got dismissed because he couldn’t figure out how to serve Hobbs. And this case also flamed out on Friday when the Supreme Court dismissed it without a hearing, although they did offer the young whippersnapper a participation trophy of sorts, allowing him to file an amicus brief in Lake’s appeal. The appellate panel consisted of four Republican appointees, including three installed on the bench by Hobbs’s Republican predecessor Doug Ducey — which just goes to show you the depths these Deep State RINOs will go to keep a truth teller like Kari Lake down.

    In summary and in conclusion, Arizona, why are you like this? Vote Gallego!

  101. says

    Megyn Kelly:

    Announcers for this Eagles-49ers game just spotted the First Lady in a box and of course call her “Dr. Jill Biden.” Wonder if she realizes what a wannabe she looks like insisting on this fake title. Get a real MD or just work on your self-esteem.

    Commentary from Wonkette:

    Insecure white conservatives like to whine that the first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, has a doctorate degree and is therefore allowed to be referred to as “doctor.” We don’t know why, but it upsets them. […]

    Megyn Kelly’s own father had a Ph.D. and was addressed as Dr. Kelly.” Kelly also is fine with referring to “Dr. Phil.”

  102. Reginald Selkirk says

    Catholic civil rights group asks for House GOP probe into pro-abortion extremist group Jane’s Revenge

    The president of the nation’s largest Catholic civil rights organization sent a letter to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Monday “requesting an investigation of those responsible for attacks on churches, pro-life activists and crisis pregnancy centers, with a focus on Jane’s Revenge.”
    According to a copy of the letter obtained by Fox News Digital, Catholic League president Bill Donohue asked Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, “to convene an investigation into the reluctance of the Department of Justice and the FBI to pursue those who have engaged in violence against churches, pro-life activists and crisis pregnancy centers.” …

    It is hilarious/stupid the way this FauxNews article poses Donohue as anyone who matters.

  103. Reginald Selkirk says

    Bolsonaro, Brazil’s former president, has applied for U.S. tourist visa

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has applied for a six-month tourist visa to remain in the United States, his lawyer said on Monday, despite calls for any U.S. visas held by Bolsonaro to be revoked following violent protests in Brasilia.

    The United States received his application on Friday, his lawyer, Felipe Alexandre, said, adding that Bolsonaro will remain in the United States while his application is pending…

  104. says

    Terrorist attack in Pakistan, as reported by NBC News:

    A suicide bomber struck a crowded mosque inside a police compound in Pakistan on Monday, causing the roof to collapse and killing at least 59 people and wounding more than 150 others, officials said.

  105. says

    Associated Press:

    Greeted by the cheerful blare of a train horn, President Joe Biden stood Monday before a decrepit rail tunnel that he estimated he’s been through 1,000 times — fearing for decades it might collapse.

    “For years, people talked about fixing this tunnel,” Biden told a crowd in Baltimore. “Back in the early ’80′s, I actually walked into the tunnel with some of the construction workers. … This is a 150-year-old tunnel. You wonder how in the hell it’s still standing.”

    “With the bipartisan infrastructure law, though, we’re finally getting it done.”

    The president came to familiar terrain to promote his 2021 infrastructure law, a bipartisan win that is just now ramping up the spending on major projects.

    Biden said replacing the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel could slash what’s now a 60-minute Baltimore-to-Washington commute in half, giving daily riders extra time with family and friends.

    […] The tunnel, first opened in 1873 when Ulysses S. Grant was president, connected Philadelphia and Washington by rail for the first time. But over time, it became more of a chokepoint than a lifeline. There’s only one tube, and trains need to slow to just 30 mph (48 kilometers per hour) to navigate a tight turn on the southern end. […]

    ‘Amtrak Joe’ Biden hails plans for big East Coast tunnel fix

  106. says

    Associated Press:

    Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has filed a request for a six-month visitor visa to stay in the U.S., indicating he may have no immediate intention of returning home, where legal issues await.

  107. says

    Satire from Andy Borowitz:

    As Ron DeSantis reportedly prepares a White House bid, Donald J. Trump accused the Florida Governor of lacking the classified documents necessary to be President of the United States.

    “A President needs nuclear codes, weapons designs, top-secret stuff like you wouldn’t believe,” Trump said. “How are you gonna get all that without classified documents? The answer is, Ron DeSantis should not be allowed to run.”

    Trump predicted that “if the F.B.I. raided Ron’s house today, they wouldn’t find a goddam document. Not a goddam document. This is what makes Ron DeSantis so dangerous, quite frankly.”

    In perhaps his most damning accusation, Trump alleged that DeSantis “never even tried to buy classified documents from me.”

    “I had all these beautiful, gleaming documents for sale, and Ron never picked up the phone and said, ‘Sir, I’d like to buy some documents,’ ” he said. “Ron DeSantis is a disgrace.”

    New Yorker link

  108. says

    Hi! I’m finally back. Thought I’d have more time to read and post while I was away (incidentally, my views were repeatedly blighted by that clown’s stupid plane and we were delayed briefly once due to Secret Service guys outside Mar-a-Lago – if I lived near there I would want to smash things), but that didn’t happen; thanks Lynna and everyone for providing all the news so I can catch up!

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog. From their closing summary:

    Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s most senior adviser, Andriy Yermak, has suggested Poland is willing to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighters. Yermak said Ukraine had had “positive signals” from Warsaw in a Telegram posting, although Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, was careful to stress his own country would only act in consultation with Nato allies, as Ukraine’s lobbying for the combat jets steps up only a few days after Germany and the US agreed to send over their tanks.

    President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called for western weapons to be supplied more quickly. Speaking in his nightly address, the Ukrainian president said Russia was hoping to drag out the war, and exhaust his country’s ability to resist the invaders. “So we have to make time our weapon. We must speed up the events, speed up the supply and opening of new necessary weaponry options for Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said.

    The Kremlin warned the west’s supplying of further weapons to Ukraine would only lead to “significant escalation” of the conflict. Kyiv “demands more and more weapons” while Nato countries were “more and more becoming directly involved in the conflict”, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, after Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Andriy Melnyk, called on Germany to send his country a submarine. [Oh, STFU.]

    Russian forces continued attacks on positions across the frontline near the eastern cities of Bakhmut and Donetsk. Moscow’s troops have been pounding Bakhmut in the Donbas for several months, but in recent days the invaders appeared to have opened up a new effort to gain ground around the village of Vuhledar, 30 miles south-west of Donetsk city.

    The situation in Bakhmut and Vuhledar was “very tough” with both and “other areas in the Donetsk region are under constant Russian attacks”, President Zelenskiy said. Vuhledar is close to the junction with the southern Zaporizhzhia front and considered a hinge point for both sides, but remains held by the Ukrainians despite a claim by the leader self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic to the contrary.

    Ukraine’s military and Russia’s Wagner private military group are both claiming to have control in the area of Blahodatne, eastern Donetsk region….

    The UK’s defence minister, Ben Wallace, has said that the tanks donated to Ukraine will arrive on the frontline “this side of the summer”.

    The president of Croatia, Zoran Milanović, has criticised western countries for supplying Ukraine with heavy tanks and other weapons. Speaking to reporters in Zagreb, Milanović said he was “against sending any lethal arms” to Kyiv, arguing that supplying Ukraine with weapons only “prolongs the war” and that Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula seized and annexed by Russia in 2014, will “never again be part of Ukraine”. [You STFU, too.]

    Delays in the provision to Ukraine of western long-range fires systems, advanced air defence systems, and tanks have limited Ukraine’s ability to seize opportunities for larger counter-offensive operations presented by Russian military failures, according to a Washington-based thinktank. Western delays in providing necessary military aid exacerbated “stalemate” conditions and the ability to regain significant portions of territory, the Institute for the Study of War said.

    President Tayyip Erdoğan signalled that Turkey may agree to Finland joining Nato without Sweden, amid growing tensions with Stockholm.

    The new US ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, was heckled by a crowd of people chanting anti-US slogans as she entered the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow to present her diplomatic credentials. Protests in Russia – particularly on issues related to the war – are effectively banned unless they have the backing of the authorities.

  109. Reginald Selkirk says

    Slovenia Arrests Two Suspected Russian Spies

    The Slovenian Intelligence and Security Agency, SOVA, together with the National Investigation Agency, NPU, has arrested two foreign citizens accused of spying for Russia, the daily newspaper Delo and Siol website reported. The unofficial information was also confirmed by the District Prosecutor’s Office in Ljubljana.

    According to media outlet 24ur.com, the alleged Russian spies were two Argentine nationals, named Mario Roso Mayer Munos and Ludwiga Gischa, who operated through an art gallery, Art Gallery 5’14, and an information technology company DSM & IT.

    They had rented a small office in a building In the Ljubljana district of Bezigrad, where they were arrested. They allegedly deal in real estate and antiques as a cover-up…

  110. Reginald Selkirk says

    “The War on Christmas” gets an early start this year – according to FauxNews:
    Christmas, Easter removed from London School of Economics academic calendar: ‘Church of woke’ has taken over

    LSE is stripping Michaelmas, Christmas, Lent and Easter as the names for its terms and breaks, which are being renamed next year as “autumn term,” “winter break,” “winter term” and “spring break,” respectively, according to The Telegraph.

    Wait, so they are still getting those days off, the breaks are just being renamed? And no mention of Boxing Day or New Years Day? Their outrage seems selective.

  111. Tethys says

    I’m wondering why a London Economics School would still be using such archaic religious terminology to name its terms? Michaelmas? As an non-religious American, I am proudly ignorant as to what date that might be, but it’s far past time to update it.

    All hail the church of woke!

  112. StevoR says

    FWIW, It has taken me a while to get around to reading and responding as requested to do so but on this thread here :

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2023/01/10/plumbing-the-depths-of-gullibility/#comment-2166226

    Is my response to this blog post here :

    https://idlewords.com/2023/1/why_not_mars.htm#fn2

    Which, yeah, I strongly disagree with.

    A very old thread now hence my posting this here for KG and others who might be intrested to read my deconstruction of it starting here ..

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2023/01/10/plumbing-the-depths-of-gullibility/#comment-2166223

    taking my time because I wanted to do it & my reply justice – & because, whew, is it ever easy to get side-tracked and distracted and have life in general get in the way.. An issue I feel really strongly about as y’all can probly tell!

  113. Reginald Selkirk says

    Secretive Saudi executions leave families in the dark

    Executions of prisoners have been carried out in Saudi Arabia with no advance warning to their families, relatives have told the BBC. The country’s execution rate has almost doubled since 2015 – according to a new human rights report – the year when King Salman and his son Mohammed bin Salman took charge. ..

  114. raven says

    “Why is the Ukrainian population in Russia declining under Putin?

    This is what ethnic cleansing and genocide look like.
    The number of Ukrainians in Russia were once in the millions. Their numbers have been dropping sharply lately.
    Supposedly. Most of this drop is an illusion and due to Russian persecution.

    Most Ukrainians probably didn’t answer on their last census. The Russians don’t care. All their statistics are whatever they want them to be.
    And it isn’t safe to claim to be an ethnic Ukrainian.
    “The results of the 2021 All-Russian Population Census are doubtful, as it was held with many violations, demographers warn.”

    It is also due to forced assimilation. The Russians persecute Ukrainians any way they can think of. The ones still in Russia hide their origins as best they can and keep their heads down.
    The Russians don’t care if you claim to be a Russian. They encourage it.
    They’ve been forceably assimilating minorities for centuries and have the procedure down well.

    After this war is over with, assuming Ukraine still exists, I’m sure a huge number of Russian Ukrainians will leave any way they can to wherever they can, including back to Ukraine.
    There used to be a lot of Germans in Russia (and Ukraine for that matter) due to centuries of immigration started under Catherine the empress who was a German. After the USSR fell, several million of them left mostly for Germany.

    Why is the Ukrainian population in Russia declining under Putin?

    Why is the Ukrainian population declining under Putin?
    The cleansing of everything Ukrainian in Russia began long before the full-scale war
    DATE OF JAN 24 2023
    AUTHOR SONYA SAVINA
    Why is the Ukrainian population declining under Putin?

    The 2021 All-Russian Population Census showed a record reduction in the number of Ukrainians in Russia: it has halved in ten years. And although experts question the results of the census, the same trend is recorded by data from other studies, demographers, and representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora themselves. “Important Stories” tells how the Russian authorities eradicated Ukrainian identity from their own citizens long before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine – from the very beginning of Vladimir Putin’s presidency.

    Record reduction
    Historically, Ukrainians have been one of the most widely represented nationalities in Russia: ten years ago they were in third place after Russians and Tatars in terms of the share of the Russian population, according to census data . In 2021, they left the top three for the first time and moved to eighth place. If ten years ago almost two million Ukrainians lived in Russia, then before the start of the war with Ukraine there were 884 thousand of them.

    And although the number of the Ukrainian population has been gradually declining throughout the history of modern Russia, it has been over the past ten years that it has more than halved by a record high. In previous decades, the number of Ukrainians decreased by 30% every ten years.

    The same trend is recorded by alternative data: if in the 2000s Ukrainians made up almost 2% of the population of Russia, then by 2021 they no longer make up even 1%, follows from the results of the Russian Monitoring of the Economic Situation and Health of the Population of the National Research University Higher School of Economics.

    What could this mean
    How could less than a million Ukrainians remain in Russia in 2021? Even before the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, more than a million refugees arrived in Russia: with the outbreak of hostilities in eastern Ukraine in 2014, in the first two years alone, 1.2 million people who previously lived in southeastern Ukraine entered Russia and did not leave back , follows from the FMS data. More Ukrainian refugees crossed the border in 2022: according to the UN as of January 2023, more than 2.8 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed the border with Russia since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, but it is not known how many of them remained in the country, and in they could not participate in the 2021 census.

    The results of the 2021 All-Russian Population Census are doubtful, as it was held with many violations, demographers warn. According to Aleksey Raksha, about 50 million people did not take part in the census. This year, about 16 million participants in the census did not indicate their nationality – in the previous census there were only 5 million. According to Yulia Florinskaya, Senior Researcher at the HSE Center for Demographic Research, this figure suggests that, in general, the census cannot be trusted. “Most likely, these are [16 million without nationality] rewritten not personally, but administratively ( those who are rewritten according to administrative sources, for example, according to house books. – Approx. ed. )”.

    However, the same trend with a decrease in the number of Ukrainians in Russia is also shown by the data of the Russian Monitoring of the Economic Situation and Health of the Population of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, an annual survey of the population, which also asks the question “What do you consider yourself by nationality?”. The sample of this survey is much smaller, but with these data it is possible to draw conclusions about the largest nationalities scattered across Russia: Ukrainians can be considered such due to their relatively even distribution throughout the country, says independent demographer Oleksiy Raksha. If in the census data on nationality was missing for 11% of the respondents, then in the data of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, 4%. For comparison: in the HSE Survey in 2010, they were absent only in 0.5% of respondents.

    It is important to bear in mind that the census does not take into account the number of individual peoples, but the answers of citizens to questions about nationality: when answering the question about nationality, everyone chooses who to call himself. Therefore, demographers believe that the drop in the share of Ukrainians, which we see in the census data, can be explained by the fact that fewer of them call themselves Ukrainians when answering the question about nationality. “Some part probably preferred to be called Russians rather than Ukrainians, in 2021 the level of negativity [in relation to Ukraine] in society was already very strong,” says Yulia Florinskaya.

    Aleksey Raksha calls the main reason for this reduction the accelerated assimilation of the Eastern Slavs (they cease to identify themselves as Ukrainians and begin to identify themselves as Russians – faster than representatives of other nationalities), mainly at the expense of young people. Ukrainians may also emigrate from Russia more than come here, the expert suggests, but there are no exact figures on this: migration in Russia is poorly accounted for.

    Representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora themselves believe that the Russian authorities have been reducing the Ukrainian population of the country for years, erasing their identity and destroying organizations that would represent the interests of Ukrainians in Russia: the official state policy aimed at clearing the entire Ukrainian field in Russia influenced the population decline.

    “Now it’s not safe to admit that you are Ukrainian”
    “Being an ethnic Ukrainian in Russia has become uncomfortable,” Viktor Girzhov, former deputy chairman of the Association of Ukrainians in Russia, explains the results of the census. He lived in Russia for over 20 years, but in 2015 the FSB banned him from entering the country for five years. Formally, for violating the procedure for entering and leaving the country, but Girzhov himself believes that he was expelled for telling the truth about what is happening in Ukraine on Russian central television channels.

    Viktor Girzhov considers the official state policy aimed at clearing the entire Ukrainian field in Russia one of the main reasons why there are fewer Ukrainians. According to him, this began after 2004, when the “orange revolution” took place in Ukraine, and some Ukrainian organizations in Russia supported it. “After the collapse of the Union, Ukrainian organizations began to appear in Russia like mushrooms after the rain. There was such euphoria, such a mood that under Gorbachev, under Yeltsin there would be some kind of freedom … – says Girzhov. “And then something clicked, and it all started to fall apart — it happened under Putin.”

    Girzhov tells how in 2010 and 2012 two federal organizations of the Ukrainian diaspora were liquidated: “Association of Ukrainians in Russia” and “Federal National Cultural Autonomy of Ukrainians in Russia”, which were engaged in the preservation of Ukrainian identity and the development and dissemination of Ukrainian culture. In 2018, the only world-famous library of Ukrainian literature in Moscow was liquidated. “Allegedly, there were some violations of the documentation in the statutory activities of [organizations]. But this is all sucked from the finger: if there were any small flaws, all this is corrected in a second. The director of the library was tried for allegedly possessing nationalist literature, although [the library] employees said that the security forces themselves planted these materials,” says Girzhov.

    By the mid-2000s, Russia no longer had the opportunity to study the Ukrainian language, says Girzhov: “In Ukraine [then] there were a lot of schools teaching Russian. And in Russia, for the entire two-million diaspora, there was not a single school, not even a class with Ukrainian. In Russia, there is no way to communicate in Ukrainian: there are no schools, no libraries [with Ukrainian literature].” Together with other representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora, he tried to open the only Ukrainian school in Moscow, but the relevant departments “all the time put forward unrealistic demands, and everything died out.” Now, according to the 2021 All-Russian Population Census, only 33% of Ukrainians living in Russia speak Ukrainian.

    There are almost no associations of Ukrainians left in Russia, says Girzhov. “Formally, such organizations exist, but they live on the money of the [Russian] government and presidential grants, and the authorities arrange what I call “sharovarshchina”: these organizations participate in city holidays and festivals, dance and sing, but no politics, no social activity, no rights for Ukrainians,” says Girzhov. – These are the sharovar Ukrainians that suit the Russian authorities. And as soon as you start supporting Ukraine, not even the Maidan, but just independence, culture, language – that’s all.”

    “Religious freedom of conscience, language proficiency, culture – this is what lives in people. Ethnos is what distinguishes one from the other, that it has some of its own cultural and national characteristics. There is an Armenian diaspora, there is a Georgian one. They are pleased to get together, sing songs, speak their own language. This is what a multinational Russia is – all peoples must mutually exist and mutually enrich themselves. Girzhov continues. – And this cultural environment was constantly cleaned up and banned in Russia: people are drawn to their national roots, and they are constantly chopped off. This gives rise to conflicts between nations.”

    According to Girzhov, the decrease in the number of Ukrainians in the census can also be explained by the fact that not all ethnic Ukrainians in Russia identify themselves as such when answering the question about nationality. “People are afraid because now it is not safe to admit that you are Ukrainian,” says Girzhov. – For example, the FSB called people from the register of readers of the Library of Ukrainian Literature for interviews. Older people have children and grandchildren, they are worried. Younger people are afraid of losing their jobs. Whoever could, left before the war,” says Girzhov. “Now it’s difficult, so until the end of the war, the rest try not to emphasize their “Ukrainianness” – this is fraught.”

    “Ukrainians were invited: ‘You sing in Russian’”
    Valery Semenenko moved to Moscow from Ukraine in 1978 to enroll in graduate school and stayed. He is one of the founders of the “Association of Ukrainians in Russia” and from 2005 to 2012 was a co-chairman of the organization until it was closed by the Russian authorities. “At first, in the late 2000s and in the 2010s, we wrote letters, appeals addressed to Putin: we called for mutual understanding [between Russia and Ukraine], for taking into account interests. This is wrong: we live here, we should be friends. We were closed for this: after the “orange revolution” in Russia, the authorities started up. And two months after the closure, they created a puppet federal organization of Ukrainians, whose representatives now say on television that we are all Russians,” says Semenenko. “Now they periodically hold demonstrative [government] meetings on interethnic politics. Ukrainians used to sit at the head there: what, the greatest friend is the people! And now they are invited, then they call back: “You do not come to the meeting.”

    Now Semenenko heads a public association of Ukrainians in Russia, which operates without legal registration. “Now the Ukrainians of Russia are sitting underground. In fact, there is no public activity — it’s dangerous… We know Russian law: we can only write about the pain and suffering of Ukrainians, but of course, we can’t talk about military operations, let alone discuss the [Russian] army. And we can help: people are fleeing from shells, from bombs, we help them get from the border. But even this help is not welcomed in Russia,” says Semenenko. You can’t even sing. In the fall of 2022, there was an annual concert in St. Petersburg: there, each society – Kalmyks, Chuvashs – is given one number, they perform. Ukrainians were also invited. Then they realized: “Come on, sing in Russian.” They rested: “Either we sing in Ukrainian, or we don’t sing.”

    “This is a general trend towards the denial of Ukrainian identity,” he continues. “Now they [authorities and propagandists] are already openly saying that there are no Ukrainians and there never was, and there was no Ukrainian language, and all this is a fantasy.” Semenenko does not believe the results of the census, but also notices that the number of Ukrainians in Russia is declining: “I know how these censuses are conducted. Everyone shouted: “Census, census, census!” But no one came to us. And I personally went to the council, I said: “How did they register us? Nobody asked me. I want us all to be registered as Ukrainians: me and my children.” They never showed me those papers. But the trend is indeed such that the number of ethnic Ukrainians is sharply declining.”

    “If Russia [after the war] remains in the form of an undisintegrated state, and all these trends continue, there will be zero Ukrainians here,” Semenenko said. He admits that he always wants to leave Russia: “But I am connected here: my house, my family, and my wife are a native Muscovite, well, where will she go? Should have left earlier. Now let my children go.”

    “Mom, I won’t go to fascist Russia”
    Anna (name changed at the request of the heroine) from Chernigov has been living in Russia for more than 20 years and heads one of the associations of Ukrainian women in Russia. Every time an air raid alert sounds in Chernigov, she “hears” it at her home in the Moscow region: Anna follows the notifications, because her adult daughter remains in Chernigov. When the war began, Anna invited her daughter to evacuate to Russia: “I tell her:“ Come here. And she replies: “No, mother, I will not go to fascist Russia.”

    As Anna says, she does not trust the results of the census, but she also feels that there are fewer Ukrainians in Russia: “The census was carried out like this: we have an entire street of Ukrainians living – no one even showed us his nose and did not ask who we are, what we are. But now there are much fewer Ukrainians coming here. I have been here since 2000: so many Ukrainians went to work… My friend opened a construction company, there were 300 Ukrainians in the team. And now nobody, the company has closed.

    “When I first arrived, in the early 2000s, everything was developing so rapidly: we [representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora] met with the authorities, talked about opening a Ukrainian school…” continues Anna. – And it seemed to us that Russia is so big, so much work, so much could be done, communicate with countries, exchange students, exchange artists. We thought it would be like this, but it’s completely different. The Ukrainian diaspora is now in a very deplorable state. If you say what the local authorities say, then, of course, the authorities will support you. But I don’t know how you can say something that doesn’t exist.”

    Anna says that some acquaintances from Ukraine have stopped communicating with her only because she now lives in Russia. “But what can I do here alone? Anna asks. – Recently, people who care, took flowers to the monument to Lesya Ukrainka, so they were all arrested. Now the police will probably be on duty near all Ukrainian monuments.”

    Now Anna “withdrew from all affairs” in the organization so as not to “harm the family”: “We used to be engaged in cultural and educational activities, and we saw many Russians who helped us, were with us on our [Ukrainian] public holidays. Now we can’t do anything: we just worry, we help our refugees. But you know how the authorities treat you, even if you help, you have to be careful.”

    Now it is hard for her to live among the Russians, 90% of whom, as Anna read in the news, support the war. “When you start telling everything that happens [in Ukraine], you see aggression, people’s eyes are filled with blood, ready to eat,” she says. “But there is a part [of Russians] that just sympathizes, they come to me: ‘Tell us the truth, because apart from TV, we don’t see anything, we don’t know anything.’”

    Anna does not believe that Ukrainians, when answering a question from the census about nationality, can hide their Ukrainian origin: “Everyone says:“ We are from Ukraine. We do not consider ourselves Russian. And we speak Ukrainian in the family. And there are many such: at home in Ukrainian, at work in Russian. Everyone who is from Ukraine, they all miss it, even if they live here for 50 years, everyone wants to go home. They are all crying for Ukraine, and everyone is worried now.”

    Anna thinks that after the end of the war, there will be no Ukrainians left in Russia. “I know very many who are waiting for the end of the war to leave here, because it is impossible to live here after what has been done there [in Ukraine]. I have a daughter in Chernigov, how can I live here in peace? Anna asks. “I lived there for 40 years, worked at a school, my students, classmates, relatives are there, my parents’ graves are there. The liberators came and destroyed everything: in Chernihiv, 70% of the city is gone. How can I look at it? I just can’t mentally live here. While morally, and then, maybe, the turn will come to physical reprisals [against Ukrainians], I do not exclude this.”

    Editor: Alesya Marokhovskaya

  115. says

    Ukraine update: Another pointless line is being drawn, and it will cost Ukrainian lives

    Over the last four days, Russia’s progress around the city of Bakhmut can be summed up this way: There isn’t any. Claims that they had surged past the town of Klishchiivka and were about to overrun Ivaniske on the south appear to have fizzled out along the line of a drainage canal that has proved to be an effective obstacle. The previous push on the north that saw Wagner Group forces move into Soledar appears to have not advanced in the last two weeks, and very well may have lost ground in the area east of Krasna Hora. [map at the link]

    This isn’t to say that Russia did not gain ground over the last month in the Bahkmut area. That little town of Bakhmutske northeast of the city, now some 4km behind the line, was on the line back in November. However, the impetus that seemed to be carrying Russian forces to incremental advances on both side of Bakhmut appears to have stalled out, returning to the days of small forces being sent forward to their annihilation, followed by more of the same.

    Already, there are hints that Russia is about to face another round of mobilization, so they can scrape together another mass of “mobliks” to grind down Ukrainian defenders at Bakhmut and other locations along the line. But Wagner Group appears to have another idea. Why not recruit Americans to do the job?

    There’s a tagline for the original Night of the Living Dead movie that goes like this: “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth.” The Wagner Group version of this saying appears to be, “When there’s are no more desperate men to be dragged out of Russian prisons to throw at Bakhmut … recruit some Americans.” [video allegedly recruiting US army vets into Wagner group]

    The video may or may not be an actual production of the Wagner Group. To quote pro-Russian bloggers when they’re pretending that Ukraine hasn’t just liberated Kyiv, Kharkiv, or Kherson … time will tell. But whoever put together this “true patriot” video did an admirable job of touching Americans right in the Q-center. From the footage of Jan. 6 “patriots” to the final scenes that crib part of the atomic blast from Terminator 2, it’s a love letter to anyone who ever thought it would be great to scream “Wolverines!” only while working for the Russia,s

    Will this video actually send some Americans looking for the nearest Wagner recruiting station? Unknown. But it’s tempting to wish them success in this venture. Sending Americans to Ukraine who believe in Wagner’s idea of “the patriot” might be the best thing for both nations.

    In another example of just how sympatico Russia and certain American factions are, this past week, Fox News was once again running a series on how American cities had been utterly destroyed by the violent hordes of antifa. This time, it was Atlanta that was burned to the ground in a “night of rage.” And no, they weren’t talking about Sherman. But it’s just one of many cities that have been converted into a “Mad Max Hellscape.” [video of Tucker Carlson bloviating]

    From the Russian publication, It’s My City comes the story of 63-year-old Galina Antonova from the village of Tavatuy. Her apartment has no gas, and no heat. In fact, it’s so cold in her home that the contents of her refrigerator froze. There should be running water, but the cesspool filled up some time in the 1990s, and no one has ever come to pump it out.

    Her building is collapsing, with cracks that run through the walls, and a roof that sags down to allow patches of the sky to peek through. What heat the whole building occasionally gets comes from an aging coal stove that belches black smoke and fumes, and that’s on the rare occasions they manage to get coal. She can’t get anything repaired, because she’s told everyone who can fix things has been called up by the mobilization. In fact, her son and grandson are both being recruited by Wagner, even as the dead are being shipped back to the village from the Ukrainian frontlines. Galina is okay with this.

    There’s no school in the village, no internet, and only spotty cell phone service. But they do have electricity and Galina does have a television set. A television set on which she watches Russian state media, and that has given her a firm idea of

    ”It’s good that Putin still started the military action in Ukraine,” she said. “Otherwise, we would now be running and hiding. Of course, there are also many dead among our people, but what to do … As they said in the movies: ‘There is such a profession – to defend the Motherland.’”

    [video at the link]

    Her neighbor, a 62-year-old retired railroad worker, agrees. He spends his time watching the programs “Who is against” and “Time will tell” on Russia Channel One—programs dedicated to showing how Russia will ultimately be the only power remaining when Western nations fail. And he agrees with them. About everything. “Well, why, everyone is right,” he says.

    There’s been a tendency to flip between the idea that the illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is Vladimir Putin’s crime, and the idea that this is a war in which all of Russia is to blame. Both things can be true at once. Putin’s hand is on the tiller, but don’t expect anyone to complain about the direction of the ship.

    Another day, another confusing and almost certainly temporary line when it comes to what weapons the West is willing to provide to Ukraine.

    Now that the barrier on Western-made tanks has been broken, Ukraine has made no secret of what else it wants to win the fight against Russia: Aircraft and longer-range missiles. A squadron of modern multipurpose fighter jets would help Ukraine add a taste of air superiority into its combat along the front, as well as act as a platform to strike down Russian aircraft and launch missiles into Russian-occupied areas. Surveying the available craft, there seems to be a general agreement that the American F-16, introduced to service in 1978 but vastly upgraded over the years, would be the best fit for Ukraine’s needs.

    As with the German Leopard 2 tanks, there seem to be several nations indicating that they would be happy to lend Ukraine some of their F-16s. There have also been reports that analysts at the Pentagon believe sending F-16 jets to Ukraine would be a good move, and there have been reports about the U.S. training Ukrainian pilots to operate the “Fighting Falcon.”

    So it had to be extremely frustrating for Ukraine when President Joe Biden told a reporter at a news conference on Monday evening that the U.S. would not be sending F-16 fighters to Ukraine. Biden’s answer on whether the U.S. intended to send the planes was simple: “No.”

    Also on Monday, the U.K. stated that it would not be sending any planes, with the Ministry of Defense falling back on the idea that Western jets are “very sophisticated” and require “months of training.” To which Ukrainian pilots would likely reply … nothing that can be accurately translated.

    Now even some of the nations that appeared to be on the edge of handing over the keys on their F-16s seem to be making “not right now noises.” Meaning that, once again, Ukraine is stuck behind one of those artificial lines separating them from the weapons necessary to efficiently end this war.

    But don’t worry. Biden and other Western leaders will probably change their minds and the jets will eventually go to Ukraine … after the next huge Russian war crime leaves enough broken bodies on the ground to make them realize just how ridiculous this particular line in the metaphorical sand happens to be. Then they’ll draw another one.

    These guns are impressive both in the speed with which they can set up, their accuracy of fire, and the way the loading system lets them pop off six rounds in under two minutes. This could be a very handy weapon in counterbattery fire, where Ukraine can bring them in, get off enough fire to suppress Russian artillery, and get out of there before drones or fire control computers are able to locate the Caesars. [video at the link]

    When it comes to Russian artillery, for weeks the number of areas targeted and the number of shells being used was dropping day over day. Many reports associated this with a series of Ukrainian strikes against ammunition depots in Russian-occupied areas and increased difficulty for Russia in bringing in new materiel.

    However, around the first of the year, things started to ramp back up again. Not only did Russia fire profligate numbers of shells both in the area around Bakhmut and to the south at Vuhledar, the number of reported sites struck overnight ticked up to 111 towns and villages—the highest number since before Russia was forced to surrender Kherson. However, in the last week, the number has dropped steeply again, with 80 settlements struck on Monday.

    On a trendline, the total number of artillery strikes from Russia continues to decline. Does this mean that Russia is running short of shells, or that it has decided that expending these shells in areas where it has no hope of advancing is pointless? Either way, the decline has to be welcomed by both Ukrainian forces and the civilians still living in these settlements.

    It’s been a while since we’ve had one of these. Crank up the beat! [video of Ukrainian military dance]

  116. raven says

    Thread
    Olga Lautman 🇺🇦 @OlgaNYC1211

    Kadyrov’s nephew and his guards beat up a Russian cameraman and raped a Russian NTV propagandist in Russian temporarily occupied Melitopol. Now they are trying to cover up the incident. These genocidal thugs are turning on their own.

    This sounds like something straight out of Kafka or made up Ukrainian propaganda.

    I tried to check it out and it is apparently real.
    Things are not OK in Russia but it has been this way for decades, so nothing new there.

  117. tomh says

    WaPo:
    Hide your books to avoid felony charges, Fla. schools tell teachers
    Unsure what titles violate new state rules, two school districts tell educators to conceal every book for now
    By Hannah Natanson / January 31, 2023

    Students arrived in some Florida public school classrooms this month to find their teachers’ bookshelves wrapped in paper — or entirely barren of books — after district officials launched a review of the texts’ appropriateness under a new state law.

    School officials in at least two counties, Manatee and Duval, have directed teachers this month to remove or wrap up their classroom libraries, according to records obtained by The Washington Post. The removals come in response to fresh guidance issued by the Florida Department of Education in mid-January, after the State Board of Education ruled that a law restricting the books a district may possess applies not only to schoolwide libraries but to teachers’ classroom collections, too.

    House Bill 1467 (full text), which took effect as law in July, mandates that schools’ books be age-appropriate, free from pornography and “suited to student needs.” Books must be approved by a qualified school media specialist, who must undergo a state retraining on book collection. The Education Department did not publish that training until January, leaving school librarians across Florida unable to order books for more than a year.

    Breaking the law is a third-degree felony, meaning that a teacher could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for displaying or giving students a disallowed book.
    […]

    The new law covers more than books. For instance: “Each district school board must establish a process by which the parent of a public school student or a resident of the county may contest the district school board’s adoption of a specific instructional material.”

  118. says

    A bit of Santos news, as summarized by Steve Benen:

    In New York, a new Newsday/Siena College poll found Republican Rep. George Santos with a 7% favorability rating in his own congressional district. The same survey found 78% of voters in the district want the prolific liar to resign — a figure that includes 71% of local Republicans.

    Eyebrow-raising. Also kind of funny.

  119. says

    Trump is still on Putin’s side:

    Donald Trump’s presidency was filled with low points, but his 2018 summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Helsinki stood out as especially indefensible. After a private meeting with the autocratic leader, in which the American president took interpreters’ notes for reasons that were never explained, the Republican held a disastrous press conference in which Trump defended an American adversary, took cheap shots at his own country, and sided with Putin over the judgment of American intelligence professionals.

    Soon after, The New York Times reported that U.S. intelligence officials “were unanimous in saying that they and their colleagues were aghast at how Mr. Trump had handled himself with Mr. Putin.” One official summarized a consensus view, concluding that it was clear whose side Trump was on, and “it isn’t ours.”

    As regular readers might recall, in the aftermath of the event, Axios spoke to one of Trump’s own former National Security Council officials who described the situation as “a total [effing] disgrace,” adding, “The president has lost his mind.”

    In June 2021, three years after the Helsinki meeting, the former president wanted Americans to know that he had no regrets — and he stood by his decision to side with the Russian leader over U.S. intelligence officials. Yesterday, as my MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones noted, Trump thought it’d be a good idea to once again publicly side with Putin, publishing this missive to his social media platform:

    Remember in Helsinki when a 3rd rate reporter asked me, essentially, who I trusted more, President Putin of Russia, or our “Intelligence” lowlifes. My instinct at the time was that we had really bad people in the form of James Comey, McCabe (whose wife was being helped out by Crooked Hillary while Crooked was under investigation!), Brennan, Peter Strzok (whose wife is at the SEC) & his lover, Lisa Page. Now add McGonigal & other slime to the list. Who would you choose, Putin or these Misfits?

    It’s obviously a problem that Trump sided with the Russian authoritarian over his own country’s intelligence agencies and law enforcement officials. But the fact that Trump keeps doing this, for no apparent reason and to no apparent benefit, makes matters vastly worse.

    What’s more, there’s a larger context to the Republican’s rhetoric, which he’s no doubt aware of. Indeed, Trump has occasionally been sensitive to the fact that his public praise for his political benefactor in Moscow has raised difficult questions about his loyalties. While in office, his own director of national intelligence feared that Putin “had something” on Trump that the Kremlin could use as leverage, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy famously joked that Trump was secretly on the Russian leader’s payroll.

    With this in mind, it stands to reason that the former president, who went to almost comical lengths to make Putin happy while in office, would go out of his way not to appear beholden to the Russian, especially in the midst of atrocities in Ukraine.

    And yet, as we were reminded yesterday, Trump can’t seem to help himself. I wonder why that is.

    Link

  120. Reginald Selkirk says

    N.Y. AG’s office: Trump and kids ‘falsely deny facts they have admitted’

    Both the former president his children “falsely deny facts they have admitted in other proceedings,” deny knowing things “ that are plainly within their knowledge,” and use defenses “repeatedly rejected by this Court as frivolous and without merit,” Kevin Wallace, senior enforcement counsel in the Attorney General’s office, said in a letter to New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron.

    James’ office is seeking a pre-trial conference to work out fact from fiction and to “sanction Defendants and their counsel,” for the false claims, according to the letter…

  121. says

    Followup to comment 144.

    Commentary from Wonkette:

    […] even now Trump is such anti-American scum that he thinks it’s a good idea to remind us of that day in Helsinki, when he publicly sided with Putin over American intelligence. Putin, a man anyone could see was playing his obvious weaknesses like a fiddle, and grinning while he did it. […] Trump also took the interpreter’s notes that day, and the general feeling afterward in the intelligence community was that Trump was not on America’s side.

    […] If you scroll up and down Trump’s social media feed, you see that he’s bragging quite a lot about comments he recently made that if Joe Biden would just ask him, he could end the Russia/Ukraine war in 24 hours, and he’s posting links to slobbering news coverage of those remarks from his favorite rightwing propaganda sources. One article quotes Kremlin spox Dmitry Peskov being very outraged that the United States is sending Ukraine the tanks it needs, and Charlie Kirk being very outraged that the United States is sending Ukraine the tanks it needs. The tanks are a huge deal, definitely, and they pave the way for Germany and others in Europe to also send Ukraine tanks and other arms it needs.

    “FIRST COME THE TANKS, THEN COME THE NUKES,” Trump screamed last week on Truth Social.

    Oh, how they panic whenever there is a development that looks good for Ukraine and bad for Russia. (Reminder: Russia attacked Ukraine unprovoked because Putin has delusions in his brain that Ukraine does not exist, and because Putin is consumed with shame over the rotting husk of nothingness Russia has become in the last several decades and dreams of lording over a “Russian world” that does not exist. […])

    Trump also posted a link to an op-ed from the same rightwing rag, referring to Trump’s demands to end the war as an “executive call” and approvingly quoting The Art of the Deal. […]

    Obviously Trump isn’t going to just give Joe Biden the keys to his Art of the Deal that would end the war in 24 hours. […]

    But thanks to Donald Dumbfuck Junior, we know what the plan is. Surprise, it is to “peace deal” Ukraine by cutting off all funding and forcing Ukraine to come to the negotiating table with Russia. […]

    You should watch this clip, and then watch it again on silent just to watch Junior talk with his hands, it is funny as shit: [video at the link]

    In the clip, Junior is furious that the media never reports about any of Russia’s “strategic victories” and only focuses on Ukraine’s. He is furious Ukraine keeps asking for weapons. “Where does the blank check stop!” He quotes his father saying the war is never going to end, saying that’s just another thing “Trump’s been right about.” (Yes, he refers to his father as “Trump” instead of as “dad” […])

    And then he says:

    JUNIOR: Until we say “enough is enough,” no one’s coming to the table! Until we say we’re not funding this crap anymore, no one has an incentive to negotiate!

    “This crap.” (Reminder: “This crap” is that Russia attacked Ukraine unprovoked because Vladimir Putin has delusions in his brain that Ukraine does not exist, and because Putin is consumed with shame over the rotting husk of nothingness Russia has become in the last several decades and dreams of lording over a “Russian world” that does not exist. Much of this is due to his shitty leadership.)

    In summary and in conclusion, the Trump plan is for America to fuck Ukraine over and “force” it to come to Russia (the country that attacked it) and beg it to stop, giving away whatever sovereign Ukrainian territory or treasure Russia wants in the process.

    In other words, everything Putin wanted when he invaded Ukraine unprovoked and started bombing babies.

    In related news, here’s Russian TV star Tucker Carlson shitting bricks last week because people are now talking about Ukraine taking Crimea back, after Russia stole it in 2014. “Russian Crimea,” he repeats over and over again, like that makes it more real. [video at the link]

    https://www.wonkette.com/trump-peace-plan-ukraine

  122. says

    Wonkette comments on police officers beating unarmed people … and on the Republican politicians responding as addled doofuses:

    […] “We’re not getting enough good people applying because of the disparagement on police officers,” Jordan [Rep. Jim Jordan] claimed. “They don’t get enough people applying, taking the test to enter the academy to be an officer, because there’s been this defund the police concept out there.”

    Although activists have advocated for defunding and even outright abolishing police departments as far back as the 1960s, the “defund the police concept” […] didn’t become common until after George Floyd’s murder. It’s not as if all bad cops were hired after 2020, although that’s emerged as the developing Republican narrative.

    […] You could pass laws requiring that cops are trained not to beat up people they’ve handcuffed, but Jordan seemed to think that the only effective reform is if the public stopped giving cops such a hard time.

    We’re literally just asking cops not to murder people. They’re sort of telling on themselves if that bare minimum standard somehow lowers their morale. You’ll notice that Republicans don’t seem to think baselessly smearing educators as leftist hacks at best and pedophile groomers at worst has had a negative impact on teacher recruitment and retention (although it has).

    Jordan added, “There’s been this attack on law enforcement, and you’re not getting the best of the best.”

    Let’s make one thing clear: Tyre Nichols was attacked. George Floyd was attacked. Elijah McClain, Eric Garner, and so many others were attacked. The police, however, were not in any way “attacked” when people rightly demanded this violence stop. But Jordan’s blather is not unique. It’s common for cops to make the latest incident of police brutality all about them.

    After cops almost beat Rodney King to death in 1991, a 20-year-veteran of the LA police department told the LA Times, “I really feel like I got raped … The department got raped and the community we’re sworn to protect got raped.” The officer admitted the cops who beat King “stepped over the line” but the “frustrating part” for him was the perceived hit to the police’s public image.

    But it’s not just that Jordan has thrown up his hands over police violence. He blames us for feeling outraged and not embracing the fiction that these incidents are mere outliers.

    “These five individuals did not have any respect for life,” he went on. “And again, I don’t think these five guys represent the vast, vast majority of law enforcement. But I don’t know if there’s anything you can do to stop the kind of evil we saw in that video.”

    Presumably, if Jordan saw video of teachers torturing children, he wouldn’t shrug his shoulders and say there’s nothing he could do. He’d demand sweeping policy changes.

    Wonkette’s Michael Mora compared Jordan’s remarks to the “West Wing” scene where George W. Bush stand-in Gov. Robert Ritchie responds to the news that a good man was shot and killed with a blasé, “Crime? Boy, I don’t know.” President Jed Bartlet declared that this was the moment “when I decided to kick your ass.”

    If you weren’t already fully resolved to remove Jordan from any important position of power, his intentionally feckless response to Tyre Nichols’s brutal killing should’ve done the trick.

    Link

  123. Tethys says

    Further to Chigau’s 136, which is about Michaelmas and calendars.
    I’m still finding it very weird that anyone is using medieval St. day calendars in 2023, most particularly an Economics school. I suppose it fits with the long outmoded nonsense of having hereditary royalty, which is equally archaic and useless.

    I’m sure the paying of debts on particular days far predates Xtianity, but that doesn’t make it ‘pagan’. Accurate calendars are based on solar and lunar cycles, the oldest one discovered in Europe is Gaulish and dates to the 2nd century BCE.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coligny_calendar

  124. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog, which has already closed for the day.

    Also from the Guardian:

    “Iranian couple filmed dancing in Tehran are jailed for 10 years”: “Couple convicted of ‘encouraging corruption and public prostitution’ after video of dance at landmark tower went viral…”

    “Strike action over Macron’s pensions plan brings major disruption to France”: “Over 1.27 million workers across transport, school and energy sectors rally against government plan to raise retirement age to 64…”

    “Losing their religion: why US churches are on the decline”: “As the US adjusts to an increasingly non-religious population, thousands of churches are closing each year – probably accelerated by Covid…”

    “‘Less clumpy’ universe may suggest existence of mysterious forces”: “Survey could mean there is a crucial component missing from so-called standard model of physics…”

  125. says

    France 24 – “A forgotten crime: Remembering the 1943 Marseille roundup”:

    In this edition on Holocaust Memorial Day, we discover a little-known chapter of French history. In 1943, the Germans had occupied the southern French port city of Marseille. With its working class, immigrant and Jewish neighbourhoods around the Old Port, the city had come to represent everything that Hitler and the Nazis hated. The Germans, who saw the Old Port neighbourhoods as a hotbed of the French Resistance, decided to make an example of Marseille.

    They rounded up thousands of people, including hundreds of Jews who were later sent to a concentration camp, and destroyed an entire district.

    Between January 22 and 24, 1943, some 6,000 Marseille residents were arrested. More than 1,500 were later deported, including almost 800 Jews who were sent to the Sobibor extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

    From February 1, 1943, a whole neighbourhood near the Old Port was razed to the ground. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and 50 streets wiped from the map.

    FRANCE 24’s Florence Gaillard and Georges Yazbek met with survivors and descendants of victims of the Marseille roundup, who shared their harrowing accounts.

    Among them is Pascal Luongo, a lawyer who filed a criminal complaint in 2019 for crimes against humanity.

    Video at the link.

    (Speaking of southern France, was blf around at all while I was away?)

  126. says

    Some podcast episodes:

    Citations Needed – “Ep 174: How Your Favorite 1990’s ‘Very Special’ Anti-Drug Episode Was Probably Funded by the US Government”:

    On a Very Special Episode of “Home Improvement,” Tim and Jill lecture their son about the dangers of marijuana after he’s caught smoking a joint. On a powerful episode of ABC’s “Sports Night,” written by Aaron Sorkin, sportscaster Dan Rydell delivers a four-minute monologue on how dope killed his younger brother. On a devastating episode of CBS’s “Chicago Hope,” a dozen teenagers are rushed to the emergency room after taking a new psychedelic drug at a rave.

    We’ve all seen these “Very Special” drug episodes throughout our childhoods and adolescence. For some reason, our favorite shows, seemingly out of nowhere, decided to dedicate an entire episode to the perils of teenage drug use.

    These episodes, mostly from the 1980s and ’90s, have become a cultural punchline, something amusing and mocked but ultimately, one would think, harmless. But what most viewers don’t know is that many of these episodes were not just part of a teen-oriented convention turned TV trope; a number of them were actually funded by the federal government to the tune of hundreds of thousands––sometimes millions–– of dollars to promote so-called “drug awareness.”

    The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in the late 1990s made a deal with multiple TV networks to include anti-drug messaging in show plots. In 1997, Congress approved a plan to buy $1 billion of anti-drug advertising over five years for its National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.

    From at least 1997 to 2000, the Feds paid TV networks to air what was ostensibly drug awareness public health information but was, in many key ways, propaganda to sustain and build support for the war on drugs. The White House drug office paid networks large sums of money to weave so-called “anti-drug” stories in their narratives, undisclosed to the viewer, often revising and approving scripts without the show writers knowledge.

    Rather than being harmless––if corny––anti-drug messages we can all now laugh at, these narratives were also part of a broader scare strategy to frighten, misinform, and prop up the federal government’s war on drugs both at home and abroad.

    On this episode, we will review some of the major TV shows that ran these episodes, how much money they took in from the U.S. government, and how these tropes shaped and directly impacted public policy that promoted racism, imperial meddling in Latin America, and mass incarceration.

    Our guest is Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

    The War on Cars – “99. Car Brain with Dr. Ian Walker”:

    Is it acceptable to harm another person? To steal someone’s private property? To bend health and safety rules just to save a few minutes or make more money? According to a new study, it might depend on whether or not a car is involved. Dr. Ian Walker, a professor of environmental psychology at Swansea University in Wales, joins us for a fascinating discussion about the unconscious biases we all share in favor of cars, how those assumptions shape our streets, and how they prevent the kind of change needed to make them safer. It’s a phenomenon he and his co-authors call “motonormativity.”

    If Books Could Kill – “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus”:

    In 1992 a yoga instructor with a distance-learning PhD had the courage to ask: “Are women not getting help around the house because they’re using the wrong modal verb?”

  127. says

    Allan Smith, NBC:

    Turning Point is hosting an event with Jair Bolsonaro near Miami next week that it’s billing as his first public appearance since he fled Brazil following the presidential election

    It’s being hosted at Trump’s Doral golf club

    Flyer at the (Twitter) link.

    Laura Rozen:

    Outrageous if the US extends Bolsonaro’s visa to be doing his political campaigning from the United States after an attempted coup by his supporters

    Brazil President Lula supposed to meet Biden at WH next month, NSC’s John Kirby today did not confirm what date the visit expected

    Bolsonaro reportedly applied for a six month tourist visa. This looks like political campaigning, not tourism.

  128. says

    CNN – “Covid-19 is a leading cause of death for children in the US, despite relatively low mortality rate”:

    Covid-19 has become the eighth most common cause of death among children in the United States, according to a study published Monday.

    Children are significantly less likely to die from Covid-19 than any other age group – less than 1% of all deaths since the start of the pandemic have been among those younger than 18, according to federal data. Covid-19 has been the third leading cause of death in the broader population.

    But it’s rare for children to die for any reason, the researchers wrote, so the burden of Covid-19 is best understood in the context of other pediatric deaths.

    “Pediatric deaths are rare by any measure. It’s something that that we don’t expect to happen and it’s a tragedy in a unique way. It’s a really profound event,” said Dr. Sean O’Leary, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases.

    “Everyone knows that Covid is the most severe in the elderly and immunocompromised and that it’s less severe in children, but that does not mean it’s a benign disease in children. Just because the numbers are so much lower in children doesn’t mean that they’re not impactful.”

    In 2019, the last year before the pandemic, the leading causes of death among children and young adults ages 0 to 19 included perinatal conditions, unintentional injuries, congenital malformations or deformations, assault, suicide, malignant neoplasms, diseases of the heart and influenza and pneumonia.

    The researchers’ analysis of data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that there were 821 Covid-19 deaths in this age group during a 12-month period from August 2021 to July 2022. That death rate – about 1 for every 100,000 children ages 0 to 19 – ranks eighth compared with the 2019 data. It ranks fifth among adolescents ages 15 to 19.

    Covid-19 deaths displace influenza and pneumonia, becoming the top cause of death caused by any infectious or respiratory disease. It caused “substantially” more deaths than any vaccine-preventable disease historically, the researchers wrote.

    According to CDC data, children are less vaccinated against Covid-19 than any other age group in the US. Less than 10% of eligible children have gotten their updated booster shot, and more than 90% of children under 5 are completely unvaccinated.

    “If we looked at all those other leading causes of death – whether you’re talking about motor vehicle accidents or childhood cancer – and we said, ‘Gosh, if we had some simple, safe thing we could do to get rid of one of those, wouldn’t we just jump at it?” And we have that with Covid with vaccines,” said O’Leary, who is also a professor of pediatric infectious disease at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado.

    A CDC survey of blood samples suggest that more than 90% of children have already had Covid-19 at least once.

    There is uncertainty about exactly how much risk the virus will continue to pose, O’Leary said, but the potential benefits of vaccination clearly outweigh any potential risks.

    The findings of the new study, published in JAMA Network Open, may underestimate the mortality burden of Covid-19 because the analysis focuses on deaths where Covid-19 was an underlying cause of death but not those where it may have been a contributing factor, the researchers wrote. Also, other analyses of excess deaths suggest that Covid-19 deaths have been underreported….

  129. says

    Respectful Insolence – “Economist Mark Skidmore publishes antivax propaganda disguised as a survey.”

    Finally, how did this study manage to get approval from MSU’s IRB, anyway? My guess is that the survey looked looked like a straightforward assessment of factors that affected people’s decision to be vaccinated against COVID-19, without any obvious indication how the authors would use the results to deceptively claim that close to 300,000 people had been killed by COVID-19 vaccines and then bolster a conspiracy that the government was somehow hiding this carnage. Again, the whole study strikes me as a bait-and-switch to get antivaccine disinformation published in a peer reviewed journal. It might be worth asking the chair of the IRB.

    It certainly might. WTF? I went on VAERS a while back, and IIRC before even getting into the system I had to agree to a statement that I understood how it works and wouldn’t use it improperly. This is blatant and harmful misuse.

    A total of 2840 participants completed the survey between December 18 and 23, 2021. 51% (1383 of 2840) of the participants were female and the mean age was 47 (95% CI 46.36–47.64) years.

    Made me laugh.

  130. Pierce R. Butler says

    SC… @ # 161, quoting Orac quoting Skidmore: … 51% (1383 of 2840) …

    Odd, I get a bit under 49% from those numbers. Made me laugh. indeed.

    Most economists are bullshitters, but I (used to) expect a professor to get the basic arithmetic closer than that.

  131. raven says

    US says Russia is violating key nuclear arms control agreement

    This is the last nuclear weapons treaty we have with the Russians.
    It is almost certainly now dead.

    “Asked if Moscow could envisage there being no nuclear arms control agreement between the two nations when the extension of the 2011 New START Treaty comes to an end after 2026, Ryabkov told the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti on Monday: “This is a very possible scenario.”

    I can’t remember why the Russians even bothered to negotiate a treaty like that with us.
    At one time, the USA had something like 31,000 nuclear weapons, mostly tac nukes. We discovered that this was way more than we needed, the tac nukes weren’t all that useful, and these weapons needed very expensive maintenance to work.

    CBO: Changes in Estimated Costs. The estimate of $634 billion in total costs for nuclear forces over the 2021–2030 period…
    Even today we spend 63 billion USD a year on our nuclear weapons.

    US says Russia is violating key nuclear arms control agreement | CNN Politics

    The RT-2PM2, Topol-M, is one of the most recent intercontinental ballistic missiles to be deployed by Russia. Russian international military expo Army Expo 2022 at Patriot park in Kubinka, Moscow, Russia, on August 20, 2022.
    The Washington Post/Getty Images
    CNN

    Russia is violating a key nuclear arms control agreement with the United States and continuing to refuse to allow inspections of its nuclear facilities, a State Department spokesperson said Tuesday.

    “Russia is not complying with its obligation under the New START Treaty to facilitate inspection activities on its territory. Russia’s refusal to facilitate inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control,” the spokesperson said in statement.

    “Russia has also failed to comply with the New START Treaty obligation to convene a session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission in accordance with the treaty-mandated timeline,” the spokesperson added.

    The US announcement is likely to increase tensions with relations between the two countries in the doldrums as Moscow continues its war on Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear saber rattling during the war has alarmed the US and its allies.

    In December, Putin warned of the “increasing” threat of nuclear war, and this month, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, threatened that Russia losing the war could “provoke the outbreak of a nuclear war.”

    “Nuclear powers do not lose major conflicts on which their fate depends,” Medvedev wrote in a Telegram post. “This should be obvious to anyone. Even to a Western politician who has retained at least some trace of intelligence.”

    And though a US intelligence assessment in November suggested that Russian military officials discussed under what circumstances Russia would use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, the US has not seen any evidence that Putin has decided to take the drastic step of using one, officials told CNN.

    Under the New START treaty – the only agreement left regulating the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals – Washington and Moscow are permitted to conduct inspections of each other’s weapons sites, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, inspections have been halted since 2020.

    A session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission on the treaty was slated to meet in Egypt in late November but was abruptly called off. The US has blamed Russia for this postponement, with a State Department spokesperson saying the decision was made “unilaterally” by Russia.

    The treaty puts limits on the number of deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons that both the US and Russia can have. It was last extended in early 2021 for five years, meaning the two sides will soon need to begin negotiating on another arms control agreement.

    John Erath, senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, emphasized to CNN on Tuesday that Russia’s noncompliance “doesn’t mean that they are building vast numbers of nuclear weapons secretly.”

    “That’s not the part that they’re being found not in compliance with,” he said. “It’s the verification provisions.”

    But he added that Russia is likely using its noncompliance as leverage to attempt to end the war on their terms.

    “They have fixed on New START as a piece of leverage they have,” Erath said. “They know that we would like to see it continue, and we would like to see it implemented because everybody feels better when there’s a functioning arms control agreement.”

    Russia, he continued, is “using their noncompliance as a way to gain a little bit more leverage so that we will say, ‘Oh, this war is threatening arms control, that’s important to us. Hey Ukrainian friends, don’t you think you’ve done enough? How about stopping?’”

    Lawmakers responded by warning that any future arms control arms control agreement with Russia could be in jeopardy if the situation is not salvaged.

    “We have long supported strategic arms control with Russia, voting for New START in 2010 and advocating for the Treaty’s extension during both the Trump and Biden administrations. But to be very clear, compliance with New START treaty obligations will be critical to Senate consideration of any future strategic arms control treaty with Moscow,” wrote Democratic senators Bob Menendez, Jack Reed, Mark Warner in a joint statement.

    The State Department says Russia can return to full compliance, if they “allow inspection activities on its territory, just as it did for years under the New START Treaty” and also scheduling a session of the commission.

    “Russia has a clear path for returning to full compliance. All Russia needs to do is allow inspection activities on its territory, just as it did for years under the New START Treaty, and meet in a session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission,” the spokesperson said. “There is nothing preventing Russian inspectors from traveling to the United States and conducting inspections.”

    According to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, Russia has roughly 5,977 nuclear warheads, 1,588 of which are deployed. The US has 5,550 nuclear warheads, according to the Center, including 3,800 active warheads.

    Administration officials have said that the willingness to discuss the arms control agreement, even as Russia carries out its war in Ukraine, demonstrates the US commitment to diplomacy and mitigating the risk of nuclear catastrophe.

    But Russia has indicated in recent days that the US support for Ukraine is preventing the treaty from being renewed.

    On Monday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the last remaining element of the bilateral nuclear arms control treaty with the United States could expire in three years without a replacement.

    Asked if Moscow could envisage there being no nuclear arms control agreement between the two nations when the extension of the 2011 New START Treaty comes to an end after 2026, Ryabkov told the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti on Monday: “This is a very possible scenario.”

    CNN’s Jonny Hallam contributed reporting.

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