1. StevoR says

    As South Australians grapple with the loss of four women in separate and unrelated incidents over the course of one week, advocates are calling for change.Embolden, the state’s peak body for domestic, family and sexual violence services is calling for a royal commission to investigate gender-based violence in South Australia.

    The group and supporters rallied on the steps of parliament on Friday.

    Deirdre Flynn, from support service Catherine House, said a “battle” was underway.

    “Every person needs to go out in their community and ask each other ‘what can we do?'” she said.

    “I’m very worried about tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.”

    Embolden general manager Mary Leaker said a royal commission was “essential” to shine a light on the experiences of those experiencing violence and abuse.

    Source :

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    Terry Gou, the founder of iPhone maker Foxconn, drops out of Taiwan’s presidential election race

    Terry Gou, the founder of Foxconn – Apple’s main manufacturer of iPhones – has dropped out of Taiwan’s presidential race.

    He announced the decision on Friday, the final day for presidential candidates to register with the election commission.

    Gou’s withdrawal came after a breakdown in negotiations among opposition parties to form an alliance against the ruling party’s candidate, William Lai from the Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP…

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    Republican Senate candidate’s family egg company caught in price-fixing plot

    The family farming company of a Republican candidate for the US Senate was found liable on Tuesday in a plot to fix the price of eggs.

    Rose Acre Farms, which claims to be the second-largest egg producer in the country and until September was chaired by John Rust – now running as a Senate candidate for Indiana – was accused in a civil suit of cutting supply to raise prices…

  4. says

    For the convenience of readers, here are a couple of links back to the previous group of 500 comments in The Infinite Thread:
    Speaker Mike Johnson’s decision to publicly release thousands of hours of Capitol security footage from Jan. 6, 2021, has fueled a renewed effort by Republican lawmakers and far-right activists to rewrite the history of the attack that day and exonerate the pro-Trump rioters who took part.
    “When, exactly, as a society, did we decide that locking people up indefinitely was OK?

    Scroll around to find other interesting discussions, including lumipuna’s updates regarding Finland’s border with Russia.

  5. says

    The first 13 Israeli hostages were freed from Hamas captivity Friday as part of the captive exchange deal between Israel and Hamas; 39 Palestinian women and teenagers who were being held in Israeli prisons were released in exchange, according to a spokesperson for the foreign ministry of Qatar.

    Separately, Hamas also released 12 Thai nationals who were being held hostage.

    A pause in fighting in Gaza went into effect Friday morning — the first respite in seven weeks of war — as aid trucks entered the Palestinian enclave and people in southern Gaza ventured out, filling streets after weeks of fighting and Israeli airstrikes. Fifty Israeli hostages are expected to be freed over a four-day pause in fighting in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners in Israel under the agreement, which resulted from weeks of Qatar-mediated negotiations.

    […] The International Committee of the Red Cross announced Friday that it would work as an intermediary in the captive exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, transferring hostages held in Gaza to authorities in Israel and Palestinian prisoners to the West Bank. The ICRC will also bring medical supplies into Gaza, to be disbursed to hospitals in the besieged enclave.

    “The parties to the conflict agreed to the details of the operation, including who would be released and when,” reads the ICRC’s statement. “The ICRC was not involved in the negotiations, and its role is to help facilitate the agreement as a neutral intermediary.” […]

    Washington Post link

  6. says

    Right-wing protesters angered by a stabbing attack they believed had involved someone of immigrant background rampaged through central Dublin on Thursday night, leaving behind a trail of burning destruction.

    Ireland’s police chief on Friday described the unrest, in which double-decker buses, trams and police cars were torched, as “scenes that we have not seen in decades.”

    The violence and looting through some of Dublin’s most famous streets began after a stabbing attack outside a school that left five people hospitalized. They included three young children and a woman. Police detained a man who also is being treated for injuries.

    Rumors spread online that the perpetrator of the attack was an immigrant or had an immigrant background. The BBC, citing unnamed sources, said the man was an Irish citizen who had lived in the country for 20 years. […]

    Washington Post link

  7. says

    Russian and Chinese business executives with government ties have held secret discussions on plans to build an underwater tunnel connecting Russia to Crimea in hopes of establishing a transportation route that would be protected from attacks by Ukraine, according to communications intercepted by Ukraine’s security services.

    The talks, which included meetings in late October, were triggered by mounting Russian concerns over the security of an 11-mile bridge across the Kerch Strait that has served as a key logistics line for the Russian military but has been bombed twice by Ukraine and remains a vulnerable war target.

    The negotiations underscore Russia’s determination to maintain its grip on Crimea, a peninsula that it annexed illegally in 2014, as well as Moscow’s growing dependence on China as a source of global support.

    Constructing a tunnel near the existing bridge would face enormous obstacles, according to U.S. officials and engineering experts who said work of such magnitude, probably costing billions of dollars and taking years to complete, has never been attempted in a war zone. […]

    The project would also pose political and financial risks for China, which has never officially recognized Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and whose companies could become ensnared in economic sanctions that the United States and the European Union have imposed on Moscow.

    Nevertheless, intercepted emails indicate that one of China’s largest construction companies has signaled its willingness to participate. The messages were provided to The Washington Post by Ukrainian officials hoping to expose the project and China’s potential involvement. The authenticity of the messages was corroborated by other information separately obtained by The Post, including corporate registration files showing that a Russian-Chinese consortium involving individuals named in the emails was recently formed in Crimea.

    Emails circulated among consortium officials in recent weeks mention meetings with Chinese delegates in Crimea. One dated Oct. 4 describes the Chinese Railway Construction Corporation, CRCC, as “ready to ensure the construction of railway and road construction projects of any complexity in the Crimean region.” […]

    Washington Post link

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    … an underwater tunnel connecting Russia to Crimea in hopes of establishing a transportation route that would be protected from attacks by Ukraine…

    So nobody in Russia or China has read any of the recent reports about Ukrainian agents allegedly blowing up the North Sea oil pipelines?

  9. says

    It does not matter that we have seen how things turn out in Britain, USA, Hungary and Dumbfuckistan .
    Some voters (a k a “low-information voters”) do not care about lessons from other countries.

    It’s even worse. Some people, especially those voting for the PVV and other populist right parties, are looking to those countries and saying, “yeah, I would like some of that as well.”
    Way too many people think a Nexit would be a swell idea. Way too many Trump-fans over here. Way too many people who think Orbán is right in denying LGBTQ+ rights.

  10. says

    Ukraine Update: Russia continues meat grinding around Avdiivka

    Another day, another massive claim of Russian losses by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense—1,100 men, 30 tanks, 30 armored infantry vehicles, and 31 artillery systems. Also important—32 fuel and cargo trucks. Ukraine’s suicide drones have been specifically targeting Russia’s logistics.

    Today wasn’t an anomaly. Yesterday, Ukraine claimed to have destroyed 1,130 men, 20 tanks, 36 armored infantry vehicles, 33 artillery systems, and 39 trucks. General mud and the onset of winter doesn’t seem to be slowing down the pace of attacks.

    We can assume the claimed numbers are exaggerated. The personnel numbers clearly included wounded, and can’t be anything more than a rough guesstimate in the best of circumstances. It’s doubtful even Russia knows the real number of its casualties. And in the past month of fierce combat around Avdiivka, the open source intelligence community has been able to visually verify less than half of the claimed armored vehicle kills, despite extensive drone and satellite footage of the entire battlefield. It is what it is.

    Still, the claimed numbers are useful as a barometer of intensity. And right now, we’re seeing some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

    A spokesman for one of the units fighting in the area claims that Russia has gathered 40,000 soldiers around Avdiivka for a final push into the town. I am skeptical of that number, as it is in Ukraine’s interest to exaggerate the number—it both adds urgency for further aid packages from its allies, while presenting a handy excuse if it becomes necessary to retreat.

    Yet this entire war, Russia has proven incapable of massing forces, and it wasn’t long ago that Ukraine claimed that Russia had over 100,000 soldiers massed near Kupyansk in the country’s north. The most Russia managed was a handful of insignificant villages in that approach, which Ukraine may or may not have retaken (as no one seems overly concerned about it).

    Russia has certainly attempted surprisingly larger-scale operations around Avdiivka, but they’ve been clumsy single-file approaches down easily targeted roads. This one was mid-October: [Tweet and video at the link]

    Another one a week ago: [Tweet and video at the link]

    Infantry small unit attacks continue, giving cluster munitions the chance to do their best work: [Tweet and video at the link]

    Ukraine reported another major armored attack yesterday, likely leading to Ukraine’s elevated kill claims. We don’t have video of that yet. But reports are trickling out of more of the same Russian meat-grinder tactics, and results, as we’ve seen the last six weeks. AFP reports:

    “The fields are just littered with corpses,” Oleksandr, (one name) a deputy of a Ukrainian battalion in the 47th mechanized brigade, told Agence France-Presse.

    “They are trying to exhaust our lines with constant waves of attacks,” he said. He did not provide his full name for security reasons.

    “The fields are just littered with corpses” is not an exaggeration, as you can see in photos and videos here, here, here, here, here, and here. [Embedded links are available at the main link] All the usual caveats apply. It’s gruesome stuff. Combat is bad enough, but just witnessing this is traumatic enough. Those drone operators dropping grenades and steering FPV suicide drones into other humans will have trouble sleeping for the rest of their lives. Ukraine will face a mental health crisis for decades.

    Here is the current map: [Map at the link]

    Orlivka, which I’ve circled, is the logistical lifeline for Avdiivka. That road running to its east has to feed Ukrainian defenses all the way through to its southeastern tip, surrounded on three sides most of the way.

    The author of this map, Andrew Perpetua, has marked six Russian air strikes in town, which is what Ukraine’s general staff claim took place yesterday. But the rims is where the action is happening, almost exclusively drone strikes from both sides.

    As of now, Russia is trying to encircle Avdiivka, or at the very least, bring that one last remaining supply road into town under direct fire control. Ukraine cannot hold the town without that lifeline.

    Still, Russia’s encircling attempts have created two salients of their own, both north and south of Avdiivka, presenting some tempting counterattack opportunities.

    Ukraine has long since given up using its armor for its operations in southern Ukraine. Both the Kherson and the Zaporizhzhia fronts feature mostly small infantry tactics today.

    As such, this is a great place for that armor to redeploy, as those Russian flanks don’t enjoy the kind of defensive structures that cover Ukraine’s south. Even if the “40,000” claim is real, it still requires Russia to expose a great number of its forces within easy flank attack. And lo and behold, we’re now seeing video of some of Ukraine’s best armor engaging in this fight.

    Here is a Leopard 2 in action: [Tweets and videos at the link]

    And here is an M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle in action: [Tweet and video at the link] Note how the Bradley deploys a smoke screen to mask its location, then uses its thermal sights to find its targets beyond it. (And as an aside, that smoke screen is white phosphorous, which is used by all armies to generate smoke screens. The use of white phosphorous for smoke is not prohibited by international law, and in fact, has an explicit carve out to those prohibitions. So when you see claims about white phosphorous regarding, ahem, another current conflict, they are bullshit.)

    Here, two Bradleys evacuate a squad, including wounded, at risk of being overrun. [tweets and videos at the link]

    Again, note the use of smoke to shield their position from the enemy.

    No one is pretending the situation at Avdiivka isn’t difficult, and as Russia closes the vice, there certainly appears to be an uptick in Ukrainian casualties from several weeks ago. But look at Perpetua’s map up above again—aside from the assault on the coke factory—Russia must attack across open fields. Those aren’t just getting muddier by the day, but they allow Ukraine’s drones, mine layers, cluster munitions, and rocket artillery to work effectively.

    Perhaps Russia can charge 40,000 men across those fields all at once, a la Braveheart, overwhelm Ukrainian defenses, and claim themselves some sort of victory. But it is far more likely that it continues to roll out hapless mobiks in waves, to be chewed up by Ukrainian defenses.

    Drones as literal infantry air support: [tweet and video at the link: "October 2023, Novomikhaylivka, Donetsk Oblast. Russians assaulting a Ukrainian trench, blocking the lads in a dugout. Coming to the rescue is a reserve group supported by a loitering drone. This saved the lives of all Ukrainians, although the position was eventually lost. Exclusive archive footage from the ground. 79th Brigade."]

    A brutal 33-minute uncut video of what war in the trenches around Avdiivka looks like: [Tweet and video at the link]

    Russian delivers drinking water to the troops, films it, and gives Ukraine everything it needs to wipe out the position. [Tweet, images and video at the link]

    I find the number of drones—20 in this case—interesting. It means Ukraine has the means to send swarms of them against targets.

  11. says

    All horse race, no substance: The nation’s major papers continue to endanger democracy

    When historians set out to determine why Donald Trump happened, from initial campaign to attempted coup to authoritarianism-premised comeback, the role of this nation’s press will be hard to overlook. In a piece published for the Columbia Journalism Review, five researchers who examined The New York Times’ campaign coverage leading up to the 2016 presidential election returned to similarly examine the 2022 race.

    [W]e did expect, or at least hope, that in the years that followed, the Times would conduct a critical review of its editorial policies. Was an overwhelming focus on the election as a sporting contest the best way to serve readers? Was obsessive attention to Clinton’s email server really justified in light of the innumerable personal, ethical, and ultimately criminal failings of Trump? It seemed that editors had a responsibility to rethink both the volume of attention paid to certain subjects as well as their framing.

    As any New York Times or Washington Post reader could likely tell you, the new results are just as dismal. Political coverage at even the largest and most consequential newspapers consists almost exclusively of horse race reporting and campaign gossip. Actual issue and policy examinations were nearly nonexistent.

    After the 2022 midterms, we checked back in, this time examining the printed front page of the Times and the Washington Post from September 1, 2022, through Election Day that November. As before, we figured the front page mattered disproportionately, in part because articles placed there represent selections that publishers believe are most important to readers—and also because, according to Nielsen data we analyzed, 32 percent of Web-browsing sessions around that period starting at the Times homepage did not lead to other sections or articles; people often stick to what they’re shown first. We added the Post this time around for comparison, to get a sense of whether the Times really was anomalous.

    It wasn’t. We found that the Times and the Post shared significant overlap in their domestic politics coverage, offering little insight into policy. Both emphasized the horse race and campaign palace intrigue, stories that functioned more to entertain readers than to educate them on essential differences between political parties. The main point of contrast we found between the two papers was that, while the Post delved more into topics Democrats generally want to discuss—affirmative action, police reform, LGBTQ rights—the Times tended to focus on subjects important to Republicans—China, immigration, and crime.

    By the numbers, of four hundred and eight articles on the front page of the Times during the period we analyzed, about half—two hundred nineteen—were about domestic politics. A generous interpretation found that just ten of those stories explained domestic public policy in any detail; only one front-page article in the lead-up to the midterms really leaned into discussion about a policy matter in Congress: Republican efforts to shrink Social Security. Of three hundred and ninety-three front-page articles in the Post, two hundred fifteen were about domestic politics; our research found only four stories that discussed any form of policy. The Post had no front-page stories in the months ahead of the midterms on policies that candidates aimed to bring to the fore or legislation they intended to pursue. Instead, articles speculated about candidates and discussed where voter bases were leaning. (All of the data and analysis supporting this piece can be found here.)

    If one set out to design a national press that would be most conducive to undermining democracy, you could hardly do better. In focusing on horse race coverage, campaign speculation, and the superficials of each race, the actual policy differences between each candidate are brushed aside.

    Even when the race features a conventional political figure paired against a coup-attempting alleged felon whose policy prescriptions call for the restructuring of government into a one-party, authoritarian-premised tool determined to bend the nation’s laws in unprecedented ways—as the 2024 presidential race will likely have it—the public cannot exercise its democratic rights if those differences are intentionally hidden from them. In ignoring the policy differences between each and every pairing of candidates, the nation’s press is hiding the stakes of each election. It is hiding the most existential of policy debates in darkness, shining a light instead only on candidate sound bites, gaffes, and infighting.

    In particular, the researchers call out the journalistic fiction of “objective” reporting. “What appears in a newspaper is less a reflection of what is happening in the world than what a news organization chooses to tell about what is happening—an indicator of values,” they write. And they emphasize that the papers are not being inaccurate in their reporting, but that coverage is “misleading” nonetheless.

    […] Words such as “objectivity” and “independence”—even “truth”—make for nice rhetoric but are so easily twisted to suit one’s agenda as to be meaningless.

    […] There has never been an American election in which the would-be beneficiary of an attempted coup came back, upon losing, to call for the indictment and imprisonment of his political foes, mass deportations and an end to birthright citizenship, and a purge of government to ensure only partisans loyal to himself can remain. It is a fascist manifesto—and you would not know it from the front pages, whose editors find such dangers to be no more important than whether his opponent is old, or analyses of how voters in Iowa are reacting to various campaign pitches.

    It is dreadfully dangerous. This is how democracies die.

    And the free press, as those same editors should know perfectly well, cannot itself survive in a nation that has decided it is addicted to the flash of political upheaval but indifferent to its consequences.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    (Klaxons going off, lights flashing).
    Holy. Fucking. Shit. This is BIG.
    “Search algorithm reveals nearly 200 new kinds of CRISPR systems ”

    It is a pity Freeman Dyson is not alive to see this. More than two decades ago he predicted that the genome – together with the sun and the internet – would become the biggest driver of scientific and technological progress.

  13. says

    GOP’s long-term plan to kill public schools in America might be succeeding

    Not long ago, everyone agreed that public education was a value in this nation, much like the notion of a democracy. Yet just like with Republicans shifting attitudes toward democracy, more prominent Republicans are now openly disparaging the entire concept of public schools. Laura Ingraham claimed that “a lot of people are saying it’s time to defund government education or at least defund it by giving vouchers to parents.” Fox’s Greg Gutfeld similarly declared that private school vouchers are needed because public schools are “a destructive system” and described teachers as “KKK with summers off.”

    Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has called public schools “a cesspool of Marxist indoctrination.” Donald Trump declared, “public schools have been taken over by the radical left maniacs.” And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia called them taxpayer-funded indoctrination centers that need to end, which is a bit ironic since she is the poster child for the necessity of funding public education.

    Although Republicans have long held a disdain for public schools, only recently have they openly advocated for ending them. Like libraries, they are arguing that giving taxpayer money to educate people is a socialist concept. Thankfully, we have had a public school system for centuries, which makes it hard to destroy. However, the GOP has opened up a new front by starving public schools for funds while diverting the resources to charter schools, private institutions, and homeschooling without any of the standards that public schools must adhere to. After all, the biggest threat to their party is critical thinking and an educated populace.

    Conservatives have had a considerably extensive history fighting public education. School desegregation is what originally drove white evangelicals to become the strongest Republican demographic. Ronald Reagan promised to end the Department of Education in 1980, and every other GOP presidential candidate has been openly hostile to it. Possibly no Republican did as much damage as Trump, who put heiress Betsy DeVos in charge of the Department of Education despite having no background in education.

    […] DeVos was particularly terrible. She took the unique approach of actually advocating against federal funding for education. She attacked teachers, rolled back protections for minority students, and rewrote regulations to make it more difficult for sexual assault victims. Yet conservatives loved her precisely because she was a leading proponent of taking public school funds and funneling them to right-wing religious schools.

    Right now, red state legislatures are trying to do this through “school choice” reforms. Conservative states, like Florida, are burdening public schools with expensive requirements and taking money to give to unregulated charter schools. They defund schools while supporting a fast-growing sector of charter schools funded by right-wing billionaires to deliver indoctrination of their ideology. The money they take away from public schools cuts not just educational programs, but mental health funding to prevent violence, suicide, and drug abuse.

    Their plan looks like this: Parents are given a voucher for several thousand dollars that comes out of the state education budget. The money can be spent on tuition for charter or private schools, microschools (collective homeschooling), or regular homeschooling. Republicans say the “money goes to the kids.” In reality, it reduces money going to public schools to a point where the schools will be dramatically underfunded and collapse. That’s the point, according to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers:

    Instead of coming together around solutions we know will help our students, some are unfortunately hellbent on destroying public education to advance both a political and school privatization agenda.

    Overwhelmingly, parents, educators and supporters of public schools are against this ongoing divisive rhetoric and against the systematic defunding of schools. But we must do more.

    States like Arizona, Florida, and Texas have aggressively pursued “school choice” reforms, undermining public school funding. Pennsylvania’s failed right-wing Christian nationalist candidate from 2022, Doug Mastriano, tried to eliminate property taxes, a significant source of school funding, and instead give families inadequate $9,000 vouchers. If his plan succeeded, it would have completely gutted funding for public schools.

    Vouchers for private schools simply aren’t a viable alternative for many families. They often fall short of covering the tuition costs at most private or charter schools, leaving parents with hefty expenses. Florida’s history with vouchers illustrates that poorer students promised a better education often end up in low-quality charter schools that eventually shut down, harming the students.

    […] Just this year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a sweeping bill that took money allotted for public school students and redistributed it to those who want to send their kids to private or charter schools. Thanks to the recent Supreme Court ruling in Carson v. Makin, which broke decades of precedent, religious schools now have access to public funds.

    Worse, there is no barrier for financial need, so the wealthiest parents in Florida who are already sending their children to expensive private schools get taxpayer money to do so.

    Some private schools responded by instantly jacking up their rates by thousands of dollars, which created a windfall of taxpayer funds for them but rendered the vouchers completely useless. They weren’t shy about doing it. Monsignor Robert Gibbons of St. Paul Catholic School said they needed to take “maximum advantage of this dramatically expanded funding source.”

    Meanwhile, the charter schools it went toward included schools that had high school dropouts working as teachers and even allowed that information to be kept from parents. Charter schools in Florida have essentially no rules; they don’t need to disclose curriculum, graduation rates, or where they spend their money. Public schools must do all of this, and are required to only hire teachers with degrees and certifications.

    In addition, public schools have strict requirements on what items can be purchased for learning supplies. If you take a voucher to not go to public school, however, you can buy everything from surfboards to theme park tickets as a legitimate expense.

    The right-wing grifts write themselves. […]

    Then there’s the legal discrimination issue. Public schools are required to admit everyone. Charter schools have flat-out refused to admit children with disabilities. Here in Florida, it’s both legal and disgusting. They have handbooks that say they’ll only accept students who can walk on their own and have no “limited intellectual functions.” Even when one family tried to offer payment for physical and occupational therapy, which they shouldn’t have had to do, the school told the parents they didn’t want the child.

    Also, this being DeSantis’ Florida, you can also deny children who identify as LGBTQ+. Charter schools even have handbooks that say if someone is discovered to live in a home with a “homosexual lifestyle,” that child will be expelled. These are just the policies that are written down. The treatment they receive that isn’t written down is worse. Parents have made disturbing complaints, according to the Orlando Sentinel:

    “Cleaning lady substituting for teacher.”

    […] “They don’t provide lunch and they don’t even have a place to eat.”

    “I don’t see any evidence of academics.” […]

    Not exactly what parents expected. Nor what most taxpayers want to hear about how public money is being spent.

    So how did Florida’s education department respond to these complaints?

    Well, the state won’t provide the public records that answer that question—unless the Orlando Sentinel coughs up more than $10,000.

    […] A propaganda outfit called Prager U, put together by firebrand Dennis Prager, is allowed to be used as an educational resource in Florida schools, so kids can learn that climate change is a hoax and systemic racism no longer exists.

    […] Everything in the U.S. has been viewed through a political lens, which is why we still can’t get benefits or social policies that exist in most other developed nations: universal health care, reliable public transportation, paid parental leave, and strong social safety nets. The one exception to this rule has always been education, where Republican and Democratic parents have been able to traditionally put aside ideological differences to support the needs of their children. Not long ago, teachers were regarded by everyone to be heroes.

    It’s not surprising since public schools serve 90% of America’s children regardless of socioeconomic status or religious views. Yet this new breed of MAGA Republican has upended everything. Now poor people are doing Republican billionaires’ bidding by calling for the destruction of public education, demonizing teachers, and being openly hostile to educating their children. This may be Trump’s worst legacy to date.

  14. says

    Actor and comedian John Leguizamo roasted Univision’s recent interview with former President Trump Tuesday.

    “I don’t know what’s more shocking, that Univision gave Trump a softball interview, or that Trump let a Latin guy into his house,” Leguizamo said on The Daily Show.

    […] Leguizamo heavily criticized what he said was a failure on the part of Univision to its Latino audience to “to fully report what a second Trump presidency could mean for them.” […]


  15. StevoR says

    When it comes to entomology, Australia IS NOT number 1 or anywhere near esp for the hymenoptera:

    Out of all the thousands of native species of bees in Australia, only about two-thirds have even been named. So it may be surprising that finding work to study and catalogue native bees is a tough slog for those in the industry. Native bee expert James Dorey, an adjunct lecturer at Flinders University, is about to move overseas, despite wanting to stay in Australia to study native bees.

    Dr Dorey said Australia was decades, or even “centuries behind” the United States when it came to native bee knowledge. “We really don’t know much about our bee fauna,” he said. “Even for the species we do have a name for, we probably know next to nothing about them.” … (Snip!)…Dr Hogendoorn said Australians needed to start looking past pollination when it came to bees.

    “The flavour of research is all crop pollination,” she said.

    “Australian native bees are on the whole are not important pollinators of our crops because they didn’t evolve with those crops, and if we want to know about those native bees, we shouldn’t be focusing on pollination.

    “When it comes to protecting a bandicoot, nobody asks what kind of important things this bandicoot does, it is just a native animal that is struggling and needs our support.” Dr Hogendoorn said the government needed to focus more funding on ecology and conservation research. “We can’t rely on volunteers and community groups and citizen scientists to start doing things when we don’t even know what species we have,” she said.

    Source :

    Despite Dex Hamilton alien entonmologist.. here & see also here : among other places.

  16. lumipuna says

    Update on the Finnish/Russian border situation.

    Predictably, since Finland closed nearly all border points on Thursday, asylum seekers have begun showing up at the one remaining border point in the far north. Three people arrived on Friday, and at least 50 today (the Raja-Jooseppi station is only open for a few hours a day, as there’s very little regular traffic). Polar night is just about to begin in the area, and temperatures are dropping below -20C after a couple days of milder weather.

    There are reports on Finnish media and the Barents Observer that the situation in Russia’s Murmansk region is confusing. This story was posted on Thursday:

    Russian media has been increasingly exploiting the situation, blaming Finland for causing inconvenience for its own and Russian citizens, and potential peril for the desperate migrants. Naturally, there’s no discussion on why the migrants are so desperate to leave Russia behind them. By Tuesday, there had been some photo ops of migrants congregating in heated tents in southwestern Murmansk region while waiting entry to the Salla border station (which was still open at the time). Andrei Chibis, the regional governor, was raising alert on Telegram for the brewing humanitarian crisis. More details here:

    However, it seems that the local people in Russia’s remote northwest are suspicious on why hundreds of brown foreigners have suddenly appeared in the region. Aside from the sudden influx of migrants, everyone there knows that you can’t normally access the border area unless you have the documents needed for actually crossing into Finland. Chibis has apparently found that he needs to do (or pretend to do) something else besides blaming Finland. By Thursday, he started playing Tough on Security.

    In a meeting late Wednesday, the regional government decided to announced a ‘regime of high alert’ and said that “a series of additional security measures for our citizens” was established.

    According to Chibis, the new measures were instrumental in easing the situation. “The establishment of the checkpoints has stimulated the foreigners to return to their cars and go back,” he says in a video announcement. He also confirms that there on the 22nd of November were attempts by migrants to illegally “break through the border.”

    At the same time, it becomes clear that authorities in Murmansk plan to establish three reception points for migrants heading towards Finland. The centers will be located in Murmansk City and the towns of Kola and Kandalaksha, B-port reports.

    In the announcement, Chibis reiterates his verbal attacks on Finland. “Our main mission is to take all necessary measures to preserve law and order in the region, irrespectively of the unfriendly and provocative actions of Finland that has closed the border-crossing points.”

    All this is confusing, possibly garbled in translation. It’s unclear whether Chibis is pretending to stop illegal entry to the Finnish border (which is being machinated by the FSB) or illegal entry to the Murmansk region (the migrants seem to have valid “student” visas to Russia). On Friday, Finnish Yle reported (from the Murmansk authorities) that most (over 200) of the migrants stuck after Salla’s closing had “voluntarily” chosen to stay in Russia, and were supposedly being transported to St. Petersburg. How convenient that they voluntarily chose to get the fuck out of Murmansk region! Meanwhile, some 58 were reportedly being given a hike to the Raja-Jooseppi border crossing, and who cares if they have valid documents for entering Finland.

    Now, we’ll see if Chibis ends up in hot water if increasing numbers of new migrants continue to travel through the Murmansk region, either clogging or bypassing the supposed reception points.

  17. says

    Derek Chauvin Stabbed In Fed Prison

    Derek Chauvin, the former police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, has been stabbed in federal prison, according to a source for the Associated Press.

    No other details are currently known about Chauvin’s condition or the precipitating events.

    Chauvin killed George Floyd during a stop over alleged counterfeit money in Minneapolis, after kneeling on his neck for nine minutes while Floyd struggled and gasped for help.

    The killing triggered a wave of protests around the country in 2020, and prompted discussions at the federal, state, and local level over police reform.

  18. says

    Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces began a renewed offensive effort towards Avdiivka on November 22, although likely with weaker mechanized capabilities than in the previous offensive waves that occurred in October.

    High-ranking Russian officials may be engaged in a wider scheme of forcibly adopting deported Ukrainian children.

    Ukraine’s Western allies declared their commitment to further develop Ukrainian air defense capabilities during the 17th Ramstein Group virtual meeting on November 22.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s (CSTO) Collective Security Council session in Minsk, Belarus on November 23 against the background of Armenia’s continued absence from recent CSTO events and exercises.

    Chinese businesses, including a prominent state-owned Chinese construction firm, are reportedly working with Russian businessmen to plan the construction of an underwater tunnel that would connect Russia with occupied Crimea.

    European states are responding to Russia’s continued orchestration of an artificially created migrant crisis on its northwestern borders.

    The Russian Strelkov (Igor Girkin) Movement (RDS) called prior Russian regional elections and the upcoming Russian presidential election illegitimate, likely in an effort to establish Girkin’s inevitable presidential election loss as a long-standing grievance.

    Russian law enforcement reportedly detained about 700 migrants at a warehouse in Moscow Oblast and issued some military summonses, likely as part of an ongoing effort to coerce migrants into Russian military service.

    The Kremlin is reportedly renewing attempts to control all video surveillance systems in Russia, likely as part of ongoing efforts to intensify its tools of digital authoritarianism to increase domestic repressions.

    Russian forces conducted ground attacks along the Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and marginally advanced in some areas.

    The Russian aviation industry is likely under significant constraints due to international sanctions and demands from the Russian defense industrial base (DIB).

    The Russian occupation authorities continue efforts to indoctrinate Ukrainian children in occupied Ukraine into Russian national and cultural identities

    More details:

    High-ranking Russian officials may be engaged in a wider scheme of forcibly adopting deported Ukrainian children. BBC Panorama and Russian opposition outlet Vazhnye Istorii published investigations on November 23 detailing how Just Russia Party leader Sergei Mironov adopted a 10-month-old Ukrainian girl whom Russian authorities forcibly deported from a Kherson City orphanage in autumn of 2022 alongside over 40 other children. The investigations found that Mironov’s new wife, Inna Varlamova, traveled to occupied Kherson Oblast, where occupation authorities issued her a power of attorney to deport two children—a 10-month-old girl and a two-year-old boy. Both BBC and Vazhnye Istorii noted that Varlamova falsely introduced herself to the leadership of the children’s home as the “head of children’s affairs from Moscow,” a position which she does not hold and that still would not legitimize the deportations of the children under international law. Russian court documents show that Mironov and Varlamova then adopted the girl in November 2022, changed her name from her Ukrainian birth name to a new Russian name and the surname Mironova, and officially changed her place of birth from Kherson City to Podolsk, Russia. Neither investigation could confirm the whereabouts of the two-year-old boy. Mironov notably responded to the investigation and called it a “fake from Ukrainian special services and their Western curators” meant to discredit him.

    Mironov and his wife, who reportedly holds a low-level unspecified position in the Russian Duma, follow in the footsteps of Russian Commissioner on Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova, who has also adopted at least one Ukrainian child from occupied Mariupol. While ISW can only confirm that these two Russian officials have forcibly adopted deported Ukrainian children at this time, the adoptions may be indicative of a wider pattern in which Russian officials adopt deported children in order to legitimize the practice in the eyes of the Russian public. Russian politicians may be adopting deported Ukrainian children to set administrative and cultural precedents for wider adoptions of Ukrainian children to further escalate Russia’s campaign to deport Ukrainians to Russia. ISW continues to assess that the forced deportation and adoption of Ukrainian children likely amounts to a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

    More details concerning migrants:

    European states are responding to Russia’s continued orchestration of an artificially created migrant crisis on its northwestern borders. The Finnish government announced on November 22 that Finland will close three more checkpoints on the Finnish-Russian border from November 23 to December 23, leaving only the northernmost checkpoint open. Norwegian Prime Minister Johan Gahr Store stated on November 22 that Norway would also close its border to Russia “if necessary.“ Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur stated on November 23 that an increased number of migrants have also arrived at the Estonian-Russian border and that Russia is organizing the arrivals as part of an effort to “weaponize illegal immigration.” Reuters reported on November 23 that the Estonian Interior Ministry stated that Estonia has undertaken preparations to close its border crossings with Russia if “the migration pressure from Russia escalates.” Latvian Prime Minister Evika Silina stated on November 24 that Latvia has experienced a similar influx of migrants on its border with Russia, and Silina and Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo stated that these are Russian and Belarusian “hybrid attacks.” Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Maria Zakharova accused Finland on November 22 of “stirring up Russophobic sentiments” and interrupting border services that were an integral part of Russian–Finnish cooperation. ISW previously assessed that Russia is employing a known hybrid warfare tactic similar to Russia’s and Belarus’s creation of a migrant crisis on the Polish border in 2021 that is likely similarly aimed at destabilizing NATO.

  19. says

    Ukraine secures Black Sea grain corridor on its own, 100 ships have already passed — UA Minister

    Ukraine has independently established a grain corridor in the Black Sea, Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Olha Stefanishyna, said during a briefing at the representation of the European Commission in Vienna on Nov. 23.

    Ukraine, without an agreement with Turkey, the UN, or Russia, has secured a Black Sea grain corridor on its own, stated Stefanishyna, quoted by Ukrinform news agency.

    “You probably know that Ukraine has ensured the grain corridor in the Black Sea on its own, not thanks to an agreement between Turkey, the UN, and Russia.”

    “So, we provided the ‘grain corridor’ ourselves, and the grain vessels are now liberated,” said Stefanishyna, adding that the United Kingdom has established a special insurance fund to ensure the corridor’s operation.

    […] The Ukrainian Navy on Aug. 10 announced new temporary routes for the movement of civilian vessels to and from Black Sea ports after the cessation of the grain agreement involving the UN, Turkey, and Russia in July.

    […] Russia is gradually losing control over the Black Sea and retreating to the eastern part of the waters, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced on Nov. 2.

  20. says

    Updates from The Washington Post:

    […] The Palestine Red Crescent Society said Saturday that 61 trucks of aid had been dispatched to Gaza’s embattled north, including Gaza City, describing it as the biggest aid convoy to that part of the enclave since the war began. The vehicles, which entered via the Rafah crossing with Egypt, carried food, water and emergency medical supplies, it said. Despite this, it added, “it is not enough as the needs are enormous.”

    […] Hamas will delay the release of the hostages set to be freed Saturday, its military wing said in a Telegram post, saying Israel must first allow agreed-upon aid into northern Gaza. The Hamas post did not elaborate on the demand, nor was it clear how long the delay could be.

    Relief groups had delivered some aid to the north, but not all areas were accessible. Hamas spokesperson Basem Naem told The Washington Post earlier Saturday that Israel had violated the terms of the agreement as “the aid did not reach the north” and “they didn’t abide by the standards of the release of Palestinian prisoners,” among other claims.

    […] After several digital blackouts in Gaza, Palestinian telecom provider Paltel said early Saturday its technical staff had reached north Gaza and was “working to contain and repair the damage within available means, despite extensive damage and difficult field conditions.” Netblocks, which monitors internet governance, said on X that there had been a jump in activity Saturday. […]

  21. says

    Updates from NBC News:

    Hamas said it is delaying the second round of hostages from being released over allegations that Israel violated the four-day cease-fire agreement.

    In a statement shared with NBC News, Hamas highlighted three terms of the cease-fire agreement Israel has violated — insufficient aid, Israel not releasing prisoners in the agreed-upon order and violence in northern Gaza.

    Hamas said it is delaying the second round of hostages from being released over allegations that Israel violated the four-day cease-fire agreement.

    In a statement shared with NBC News, Hamas highlighted three terms of the cease-fire agreement Israel has violated — insufficient aid, Israel not releasing prisoners in the agreed-upon order and violence in northern Gaza.

    […] A Qatari operations team landed in Tel Aviv today to “ensure the deal continues to run smoothly, and discuss further details of the ongoing deal,” a diplomat told NBC News today. Earlier, Hamas accused Israel of violating the truce. […]

  22. tomh says

    WaPo Opinion:
    Why are U.S. courts afraid of the 14th Amendment? Because it’s radical
    By Sherrilyn Ifill / November 24, 2023
    Sherrilyn Ifill, a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, will launch the 14th Amendment Center for Law & Democracy at Howard Law School in 2024.

    Why are U.S. courts so determined to dilute the 14th Amendment?

    Consider the recent ruling upholding former president Donald Trump’s appearance on Colorado’s 2024 presidential ballot. Here we have the latest entry in a dismaying 155-year tradition of American judges stripping that radical amendment to the U.S. Constitution of its intended power.

    Judge Sarah B. Wallace’s decision that Trump engaged in insurrection but is nevertheless qualified to run for office is emblematic of the often outright resistance courts have shown to the 14th Amendment’s guarantees and protections. This instance applies to Section 3, which bars any participant in a rebellion against the government of the United States from holding public office. But almost from its inception, all the amendment’s radical provisions have inspired fear and timidity in jurists of every stripe.

    I use the word “radical” deliberately. The 14th Amendment was conceived of and pushed by the “Radical Republicans” in Congress after the Civil War. They were so named because of their commitment to eradicating slavery and its vestiges from American political life. A number had been abolitionists, and all had seen the threat that white supremacist ideology and the spirit of insurrection posed to the survival of the United States as a republic. Although the South had been soundly defeated on the battlefield, the belief among most Southerners that insurrection was a worthy and noble cause, and that Black people — even if no longer enslaved — were meant to be subjugated to the demands of Whites, was still firmly held.

    The 14th Amendment was meant to protect Black people against that belief, and the nation against insurrection, which was understood to constitute an ongoing threat to the future of our country. Frederick Douglass, the formerly enslaved abolitionist who rose to become one of the most prominent voices of the Reconstruction period, had no illusions about the persistence of the “malignant spirit” of the “traitors.” He predicted that it would be passed “from sire to son.” It “will not die out in a year,” he foretold, “it will not die out in an age.”

    It was of this understanding that Section 3 was born….

    The language is clear: “No person shall … hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who having previously taken an oath as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States … shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”

    William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen, widely respected conservative constitutional legal scholars, have combed through the legislative history to answer the question of whether the president is to be considered an “officer of the United States.” Their exhaustive research points inexorably toward the conclusion that Section 3 is meant to cover both the president and vice president, as well as other federal and state officials…

    Wallace’s decision is of a piece with courts’ frequent unwillingness to contend honestly with all the radical demands of the 14th Amendment. During Reconstruction and the first half of the 20th century, it was the Supreme Court that left unprotected Southern Black people seeking to vote and engage in the political process in the face of deadly violence by White mobs seeking to disenfranchise them (United States v. Cruikshank, 1875). It was the Supreme Court that held that the 14th Amendment did not protect Black citizens from discriminatory conduct by private actors (Civil Rights Cases of 1883). And it was the Supreme Court that endorsed a system of Jim Crow segregation (Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896) that essentially nullified the 14th Amendment for Black people in the South for nearly 100 years after its ratification. Later, the court created onerous burdens to prevailing in discrimination cases brought under the 14th Amendment.

    The 14th Amendment is treated as a suggestion but rarely imposed in full measure when the status quo will be upended. This was perhaps most famously on display in 1955, in the case of Brown II, when the Supreme Court undercut its majestic decision of a year earlier in Brown v. Board of Education, by hedging on the immediate end to segregated schools and counseling instead that local officials should move with “all deliberate speed.”

    The Colorado court’s approach to Section 3 continues this tradition. To find that a president incited a violent insurrection against the United States but hold that such a president can still run for public office — indeed to return to the presidency itself — could not stand in starker opposition to the words and spirit of Section 3.

    The 14th Amendment has once again proved too bold for the judges empowered to interpret it. Political forces are at play again, this time fearful of a backlash if Trump is removed from the ballot. As this case makes its way through the appellate process and, most likely, to the Supreme Court, it should be understood in the context of how the timidity and unwillingness of judges to acquiesce to the judgment of the 14th Amendment’s framers effectively derailed our democracy’s promise after Reconstruction and until the mid-20th century. We must ensure that it does not do the same in the 21st.

  23. birgerjohansson says

    Some lighter reading for the weekend:
    -After consuming lots of alcohol , LazerPig and Falcon sit down to design the armoured vehicle of the future, capable of wiping out anything the Russians field in Ukraine.
    (lots of in-jokes from online debates about military tech)
    I especially liked the ground-support Zeppelin.

  24. Reginald Selkirk says

    Right-Wing Activist Chris Rufo Calls for “Siege” of University at UT

    It wasn’t a cakewalk for Chris Rufo.

    The right-wing thought leader delivered a smooth and articulate call to “lay siege” to the nation’s system of higher education at UT’s Republican donor-funded Salem Center on Nov.13. But by the end of the Q&A, a trio of university professors had neutered his message.

    Who is Chris Rufo? He’s an enormously influential and connected conservative activist (he has counseled Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis) who has helped popularize some of the most successful right-wing propaganda of recent years. He is credited with initiating the controversy on the right over critical race theory. He helped pass the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, a Florida ban on teaching or even discussing gender issues in public schools. Lately, he has turned his attention to higher education, advocating for legislation like SB 17, the new Texas law that bans diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in the state’s public colleges and universities…

    “I just want to be honest with you,” Baker said, “your rhetoric in relation to barbarism and the way you smugly say that the university is not going to like what’s coming – I think that in the context of the world right now, where there is a lot of really tragic violence, that we ought to be careful to remove ourselves from that and from groups with white supremacist associations. I really think you should rethink the glibness.”

    By “white supremacist associations,” Baker was referring to reports linking Rufo to the figures who constitute a new alt-right bro culture, including the recently disgraced Richard Hanania – a visiting professor of the Salem Center who was, in his words, canceled after revelations that he’d written pseudonymously for white supremacist publications a decade earlier. Rufo also associates with anti-democratic voices like Bronze Age Pervert, as well as people from the Claremont Institute, who advocate for the overthrow of the 2020 presidential election, and Charles Haywood, an extremist who has called for a war of extinction against the left through his “No Enemies to the Right” philosophy. (Haywood is speaking at a far-right conference in Austin next month, by the way.)

    Rufo responded to Baker’s remarks directly: “Well, well – be straightforward. What are you saying? You’re alluding, you’re insinuating –”

    “That you hang around with fascists?” Baker replied. “Is that what you’re insinuating I’m insinuating?”

    And there it was…

  25. says

    Ukraine Update: Ukraine aid was complicated, now it’s tangled up in border security, by Associated Press for Daily Kos

    As war and winter collide, a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged during a recent visit to Washington that the days ahead “will be tough” as his country battles Russia while U.S. support from Congress hangs in the balance.

    President Joe Biden’s nearly $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other needs sits idle in Congress, neither approved nor rejected, but subjected to new political demands from Republicans who are insisting on U.S.-Mexico border policy changes to halt the flow of migrants.

    Linking Ukraine’s military assistance to U.S. border security interjects one of the most divisive domestic political issues — immigration and border crossings — into the middle of an intensifying debate over wartime foreign policy.

    When Congress returns this coming week from the holiday break, Biden’s request will be a top item on the to-do list, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Failure risks delaying U.S. military aid to Kyiv and Israel, along with humanitarian assistance for Gaza, in the midst of two wars, potentially undermining America’s global standing.

    […] What just a year ago was overwhelming support for Ukraine’s young democracy as it reaches for an alliance with the West to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion has devolved into another partisan fight in the United States.

    Members of Congress overwhelmingly support Ukraine, embracing Zelenskyy as they did when he arrived on a surprise visit last December to a hero’s welcome. But the continued delivery of U.S. military and government aid is losing favor with a hard-right wing of Republican lawmakers and with some Americans.

    Nearly half of the U.S. public thinks the country is spending too much on aid to Ukraine, according to polling from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

    Rather than approve Biden’s request, which includes $61 billion for Ukraine, Republicans are demanding something in return.

    Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said the “best way” to ensure GOP support for Ukraine is for Biden and Democrats to accept border policy changes that would limit the flow of migrants across the border with Mexico.

    “It’s connected,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

    To that end, a core group of senators, Republicans and Democrats, have been meeting privately to come up with a border policy solution that both parties could support, unlocking GOP votes for the Ukraine aid.

    On the table are asylum law changes pushed by the Republicans that would make it more difficult for migrants to enter the United States, even if they claim they are in danger, and reduce their release on parole while awaiting judicial proceedings. Republicans also want to resume construction of the border wall.

    Democrats call these essentially nonstarters, and the border security talks are going slowly. Those who have worked on immigration-related issues for years see a political disaster in the making for all sides — Ukraine included.

    “I think it’s terrible that we’re in the position we’re in,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

    “But you know, we were talking all through the night and talking all day today,” he said recently, “trying to find a path forward.”

    […] The White House has requested roughly $14 billion for border security in its broader package, with money for more border patrol officers, detention facilities and judges to process immigration cases. It also includes stepped-up inspections to stop the flow of deadly fentanyl.

    Biden and his national security team met recently with key senators of both parties. With Congress narrowly split, Republicans holding slim majority control of the House and Democrats a close edge in the Senate, bipartisan agreement will almost certainly be required for any legislation to advance.

    Pentagon funding for Ukraine is rapidly dwindling. The Defense Department has the authority to take about $5 billion worth of equipment from its stockpiles to send to Ukraine, but only has about $1 billion to replenish those stocks. So military leaders are worried about the effect on U.S. troop readiness and equipping.

    The need for an infusion of funding is growing “by the day” said Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh.

    Overall, half the $113 billion Congress has approved for Ukraine since the war began in February 2022 has gone to the Defense Department, according to the Congressional Research Service. The dollars are being spent to build Ukraine’s armed forces, largely by providing U.S. military weapons and equipment, and replenish U.S. stockpiles.

    Much of the rest goes to emergency and humanitarian aid and to support the government of Ukraine through the World Bank.

    National security experts have watched the Ukrainian forces repurpose outdated American equipment that was headed for decommissioning and use it to obliterate aspects of the Russian armed forces. McConnell has noted that much of the spending stays in the U.S., flowing to defense production in states across the nation.

    “Ukraine is at a critical point,” said Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The Russians are just counting on us to give up and walk away — and then they walk in.”

    […] Yermak, during his talk in Washington, was thankful for U.S. support, and blunt about the need for more.

    “I tell you the truth, this winter will be tough for us,” he said, urging Americans to back Ukraine at this “historical moment for all of us.”

    Posted by readers of the article:

    Our media treats Ukraine with the same horse-race mentality that they apply to elections — there’s no right or wrong, just differing perspectives. Unfortunately for us and for Ukraine, one of the prevailing perspectives is that Russia should be allowed to invade and conquer Ukraine, Budapest Memorandum be damned.
    The Republican Clown Car Caucus just needs a favor or two.
    They’re just continuing Trump’s extortion.
    Same as it ever was.
    It’s time to expose the fact that the GOP does not want to work on issues of immigration.
    It’s one of their best fear mongering talking points since they refused to pass the 2013 Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill.
    If the GOP wants this border security money, pass the funding for it.
    It’s also time people of all countries demand our world leaders start solving the issue of all the migration going on around the world. People need somewhere to go without going through hell and back.
    Republicans never solve any issue that they can instead use to further radicalize their base, because nobody will throw money at a con artist like a mark on tilt will eagerly do. And these days the entire GOP is marked and on tilt.
    If Republicans want to tie border funding increases to Ukraine Aid, I can swallow that. But the Republicans are asking for wholesale changes to how America accepts refugees, trying to make it harder for people fleeing persecution based on sexual orientation or gender discrimination.

    My wife was an immigration attorney for many years, and one of the ways in which she was able to get people to stay here legally was for them to be accepted as refugees who were attacked on the basis of their gender.

    For example, she had clients who were targeted as “prizes” for gang members, who had been gangraped and subjected to intense violence and threatened with death, only to escape to the United States from Guatemala and other central American countries.

    She was able to obtain refugee status for some of her client if she was able to prove that her client had been targeted due to her gender—that is, she was viewed as property by gangs because she was a woman which subjected to her to provable acts of violence, persecution and verifaible threats of death (like death threats recorded on her cell phone).

    She had clients like this who were as young as 13.

    Republicans want to put an end to this, basically making political persecution the only avenue for refugee status.

    To say this makes me angry doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about GOP immigration policy.

  26. whheydt says

    Re: birgerjohansson @ #43, 44…
    You know….you can test the links while you’re still editing a post.

  27. KG says

    The North Atlantic Fella Organization is trying to shut down Trump’s flailing social media platform before the 2024 election—by shitposting… – Reginald Selkirk@33 quoting

    But will the shit they post even be noticed among all the shit Trump and his worshippers post?

  28. Reginald Selkirk says

    ‘Straight through the bushes’: Google Maps misleads Californians into the desert during dust storm

    When a group of Californians went to enjoy the recent Formula 1 race in Las Vegas, they weren’t expecting to go off-roading on the way back.

    Shelby Easler, her brother Austin and their significant others were headed back to Los Angeles on Nov. 19 when they used Google Maps. Instead of taking the Interstate 15 — the major highway connecting Southern California to Sin City — the app suggested they take an alternate route to avoid the dust storm that caused major Sunday traffic delays…

  29. says

    The Washington Post is very worried that American women don’t want to marry Trump supporters

    In an editorial published last week, titled, “If Attitudes Don’t Shift, A Political Dating Mismatch Will Threaten Marriage,” the Washington Post’s editorial board points out that political polarization in this country has reached the point where it is now a prominent, often decisive factor in determining who Americans settle on as their potential mates. They emphasize this trend is now so acute it may actually threaten the institution of marriage as a whole. In particular, it seems that Democratic women are rejecting potential Republican suitors not only for marriage but as relationship material, all across the board. The message the editorial conveys — perhaps hyperbolically, perhaps not — is that as a consequence of this shift in attitudes marriage itself in this country is in jeopardy.

    Presumably the Post’s editorial board has a good reason for alerting us to this phenomenon. But what it doesn’t bother to do is tell us “why” it is occurring, and if what the editorial portends is true, Americans would be well served by knowing “why.” Had the Post bothered to provide some basic context, explaining that young American women, in particular, are loathe to date right-wing (presumably Republican) men because they find some specific views, attitudes and values they represent to be abhorrent — in fact, incompatible with someone they’d ever want to share their lives with — the editorial might live up to the serious social ramifications it implicates.

    t’s easy enough to point to Donald Trump as the catalyst for such a drastic social upheaval, but by failing to address the actual belief and value systems his presence has stoked among Republican men and instead just throwing up their hands and asserting that such “attitudes” must change and that “someone will need to compromise,” the Post ends up simply doing a disservice to its readers. […]

    The problem with polarization … is that it has effects well beyond the political realm, and these can be difficult to anticipate. One example is the collapse of American marriage. A growing number of young women are discovering that they can’t find suitable male partners. As a whole, men are increasingly struggling with, or suffering from, higher unemployment, lower rates of educational attainment, more drug addiction and deaths of despair, and generally less purpose and direction in their lives. But it’s not just that. There’s a growing ideological divide, too. Since Mr. Trump’s election in 2016, the percentage of single women ages 18-30 who identify as liberal has shot up from slightly over 20 percent to 32 percent. Young men have not followed suit. If anything, they have grown more conservative.

    Maybe it’s just me, but is anyone else getting tired of hearing excuses about why “men” in particular are “increasingly struggling?” Higher unemployment? Really? It’s 3.9%. “Lower rates of educational attainment?” Nope. Those rates are higher than ever, for both men and women. Perhaps if the Post had acknowledged the reality of stagnant wage growth, out of control housing and health care costs — which affect women just as much (if not more) as men — that might have proved a more enlightening exercise. As for the psychological traumas fueling drastically “more drug addiction” and “deaths of despair” among men (but apparently not as much among women) — it also might have been helpful to ask whether it isn’t more a case of the male ego and a wounded sense of their assumed primacy in our society that’s actually the root of these problems, which aren’t occurring to the same degree in other countries.

    […] The Post observes that as a consequence of this political divide, “A 2021 survey of college students found that 71 percent of Democrats would not date someone with opposing views.” Implicitly, then, this appears to be a Democratically-driven phenomenon (Republican men, apparently, are still willing to mate with anyone who will tolerate them). Accepting that premise at face value, then, the question still is “why?”

    The Post grudgingly concludes that, well yes, there may be “some logic” involved.

    There is some logic to this. Marriage across religious or political lines — if either partner considers those things to be central to their identity — can be associated with lower levels of life satisfaction.

    What kind of “things” are so “central” to women’s identities that would compel them to so collectively reject Republican males? Rather than address that question, the Post instead chooses to punt.

    This mismatch means that someone will need to compromise. As the researchers Lyman Stone and Brad Wilcox have noted, about 1 in 5 young singles will have little choice but to marry someone outside their ideological tribe. The other option is that they decline to get married at all — not an ideal outcome considering the data showing that marriage is good for the health of societies and individuals alike. […]

    Those who click on the links in that paragraph will first be directed to an article in the Atlantic written by two members of the Institute for Family Studies (IFS), a right-wing think tank whose founders and contributors promote two-parent, heterosexual marriages, advocating fundamentalist “Christian” marriage principles and the abolition of no-fault divorce laws. The second link is to a survey on marital satisfaction conducted by the same conservative-leaning IFS. […]

    Neither the Post editorial board, or the (uniformly right-wing) sources it cites explain the reasons this polarization is happening. Why it’s quite understandable that the prospect of dating someone who regards women as vessels to be forced to endure unwanted pregnancies; who supports a man currently accused by at least 26 women of sexual battery, sexual assault and rape; and who believes the solution to gun violence in our schools is to equip everyone with an AR-15, might just be a nonstarter for Democratic women (and maybe even some Democratic men!). […]

    by aligning themselves with Donald Trump, men are — implicitly and explicitly — declaring their allegiance to what he represents. Putting children in cages and tearing them away from their parents? Mocking those with disabilities? Mocking and belittling American servicemen? Lying about serial marital infidelity? Insulting and degrading women? Demonizing people of different colors, and different faiths? Refusing to take responsibility for … anything (except, perhaps, for overruling Roe v. Wade)?

    […] They’re values rooted in intolerance, bigotry and hatred. So, perhaps the more important question the Post should have explored is: Why any woman would want to commit the rest of their lives to such men? Why would anyone want to raise children by them?

    But instead, the Post editorial board decides, in effect, that incorporating one’s politics into decisions about marriage itself is an idea that needs to be re-evaluated:

    A cultural shift might be necessary — one that views politics as a part of people’s identity but far from the most important part. Americans’ ability to live together, quite literally, might depend on it.

    In essence, what the Post suggests is that Americans — and particularly Democratic American women — ought to sublimate their own values for the sake of preserving the institution of marriage. […]

    Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that those same religious-based “think tanks” that the Post cites — all of whom supported Trump in the first place — have only themselves to blame for the destruction of an institution they claim to revere.

    They shouldn’t worry so much, though. They’ll have the same opportunity to demonstrate their values in just a few short months.

  30. says

    Followup to comment 48.

    Posted by readers of the article:

    And always the notion, that it is the women who must compromise! No thanks! Don’t have anything in common with right-wing conservative men. Their beliefs I find abhorrent and cannot tolerate, nor do I want in my life. I urge the women to hold onto their principals and maybe, just maybe the male half will evolve out of this whining, grievance-based crap they have succumbed to.
    The actions and beliefs of the male MAGA contingent, being repellent to a majority (or at least a significant plurality) of female potential partners, are going to reduce those men’s chances of reproducing. Which will, in turn, cause them to evolve out of existence.
    The TL;DR of the editorial seems to be “hey girls, you’re just going to have to deal with abusive and toxic males to make your white babies”.
    Wow, what crap. The underlying message here seems to be that these silly liberal straight women need to give up their values and marry some wingnut a-hole so that we can save the institution of marriage.
    Speaker MAGA Mike Johnson’s way of life.
    Closer to an incel manifesto than a thoughtful editorial.
    Large numbers of disaffected young men are a problem for our society, but the answer can’t be for women to tolerate men in their lives who hate what they represent
    The “Man-o-sphere” has started a pivot towards pushing influencers to promote “trad-wife” lifestyles and co-opted aesthetics like “cottage-core” to market to younger women. When the external religious, legal, and social rails are no longer working to pen people into the roles needed to prop up the hierarchy, then it becomes a matter for propaganda to manufacture internal rails.

    It’s a losing battle for them, but not, ultimately, one that they will give up without a fight.
    This is not the first time these moral-panic articles about the death of marriage/family/life as we know it is imminent based on some group of people getting slightly more freedoms than they have traditionally enjoyed and using those freedoms to make different choices than the ones they were forced into under the old system. If the demographics are showing that assholes don’t get as many dates as they used to, the answer isn’t bemoaning the lack of asshole-tolerance these days.

  31. says

    Ukraine Update: Russian glide bombs are a major problem. F-16s are the solution.

    On Nov. 20, 2023, Ukrainian intelligence officer Tatarigami_UA wrote a short analysis describing how increasingly ubiquitous Russian glide bomb attacks have become a major problem for Ukrainian forces.

    Those glide bombs—regular dumb bombs retrofitted with wings—have limited precision. However, they are massive, and their large destructive effects have become increasingly problematic for front-line Ukrainian forces. His solution—fighter jets with 100km+ radar detection abilities and air-to-air weaponry to match, namely the F-16. [Tweet and images at the link]

    Training is ongoing. Ukraine reportedly intends to deploy the F-16s in squadron strength or greater (15-24 planes), expecting to reach a critical mass of qualified pilots and airframes by late Spring 2024.

    So, why are the F-16s important?

    Consider the struggles Ukraine has had in expanding its beachhead near Krynky. [map at the link]

    Russian forces in the area complain that their artillery is afraid to fire more than a handful of rounds before relocating due to the ferocity of Ukrainian counter battery fire. As a result, artillery doesn’t appear to be a major problem for Ukrainian forces pushing down from the riverbanks.

    Additionally, Ukrainian drones continue to target Russian armor and quickly destroy new Russian anti-drone electronic warfare (EW) systems, including one confirmed destruction on Nov. 24th. Ukraine has the upper hand in the drone war.

    While Russian artillery and drones appear to be nothing more than a nuisance, Russia’s massed glide bombing campaign is not.

    Andrew Perpetua tracks geolocated footage of Russian air strikes on his daily updated map, tracking the frequency of Russian glide bombing strikes on Ukrainian positions along the Dnipro River:

    11/24: 13 airstrikes.
    11/23: one airstrike.
    11/22: five airstrikes.
    11/21: nine airstrikes.
    11/20: two airstrikes.
    11/19: three airstrikes.
    11/18: 12 airstrikes.
    That is 45 glide bomb strikers in a single week.

    That may not sound like a huge number, but 500-1500 kilogram bombs pack far more explosive power than a 49.5 kilogram 152mm artillery shell—10 to 30 times more powerful. And even with rudimentary guidance systems, these glide bombs strike with greater accuracy than a typical artillery barrage. Look at the size of these bombs: [Tweet and image at the link]

    This is what they look like hitting targets. Look at the size of the explosions contrasted with the taller buildings still standing in Avdiivka. [Tweet and video at the link]

    And a ground-eye view: [Tweet and video at the link]

    Russian glide-bombs have a theoretical range of over 50km, but in combat situations, with pilots flying low to avoid Ukrainian air defenses, they seem to be restricted to a release range of around 35-40 kilometers.

    Thirty-seven of the 40 air strikes targeted Ukrainian positions on the left (southern) bank of the Dnipro, or within 1 kilometer of the river on the right (northern) bank. The remaining strikes struck targets within 3 km of the river. That means that Russia can only hit targets within a few kilometers of the front lines, afraid to strike deeper into Ukrainian territory.

    Given the range of the glide bombs, and the location of the strikes, we can guesstimate where Russia is releasing them—around 30-35 kilometers behind the front lines: [map at the link]

    Both Ukraine and Russia deploy various short and mid-ranged missile defenses systems close to the front lines to protect against enemy airstrikes, such as the Buk System.

    Most air defenses systems rely on radar, whether to identify the location of a target to fire a heat-seeking missile, or to guide the missile to its target. Either way, radar detection is the key to ground based air defenses.

    To avoid radar detection, Russian (and Ukrainian) pilots fly at treetop heights as they approach their targets. Low-altitude flying in NATO parlance is defined as any fixed-wing aircraft flying below 600 meters. Ukraine and Russia are flying at altitudes of around 75-150 meters.

    These low altitude approaches make radar detection difficult for two reasons.

    First, interference, or “radar clutter.” [illustration at the link]

    A radar detects aircraft by bouncing electronic waves off of the surfaces of objects. A radar is designed to ignore “blips” (contact points) that may be false positives generated by objects on the ground.

    A fighter flying low enough may appear to a radar to be a false hit and thus avoid detection.

    The second reason flying low helps avoid radar is the “radar horizon.”

    Radar waves are straight, whereas the earth’s surface is a curvature. [illustration at the link]

    By flying low enough, and far enough from the enemy radar tower, an aircraft can “fly below the horizon” from the perspective of the enemy radar crew and thus avoid detection.

    The distance at which an aircraft becomes undetectable to radar due to the curvature of the earth is called the “radar horizon.” Due to the refraction of the radar waves, actual detection distances extend beyond the simple visual horizon, but you get the point. Ultimately, given the constant nature of the earth’s curvature, a radar’s detection distance is based mostly on two factors:
    – The height of the radar.
    – The altitude of the aircraft.

    The higher the elevation from which the radar is emitted, the “further” the radar can peer over the horizon. The higher the enemy aircraft is flying, the further it can be detected. The theoretical maximum detection range of an aircraft can be reduced to a single mathematical formulae based on those two variables.

    […] For example, using a radar tower 20 meters tall, an aircraft flying at 30 meters could be detected at a distance of 41 kilometers.

    When paired with interference challenges, practical detection range falls a little below the theoretical maximum—thus Buk Systems generally detect low flying enemy aircraft at around 35 kilometers away.

    So assuming Ukrainian air defenses set up around 5 kilometers behind the front lines, the “30 kilometer zone” into which Russian aircraft dare not fly into suddenly makes a lot of sense. The release point distance is not random. It is just at the edge of Ukrainian air defense range.

    So how can Ukraine extend that range? The earth’s curvature is fixed, and Russia won’t fly its aircraft at higher altitudes. So the only other variable that can be manipulated is … the height of the radar. And that’s where F-16s come in.

    Flying at tree-top heights (150 meters or less), F-16s can remain safe from enemy air defense while detecting Russian aircraft much further than any SAM battery. The difference is massive—tracking an enemy bomber flying at 30 meters, an air defense radar antennae would see the aircraft at a distance of around 40 kilometers, while the F-16 would detect it at 72 kilometers.

    Furthermore, when Russian bombers release their glide bombs, they rapidly ascend as they prepare to release the bombs, as the bombs need altitude to glide the necessary distance. This would give F-16s in the vicinity an even better chance at interception.

    Therefore, an F-16 flying combat air patrols 30 kilometers from the front lines (to avoid Russian air defenses) with a powerful enough radar would be capable of intercepting a Russian bomber 40 kilometers or more behind the front lines.

    Ukraine is getting 61 F-16 AM/BMs from Denmark and the Netherlands which come equipped with the AN/APG-66(V2A) Radar—offering detection ranges of fighter-sized objects at distances of up to 110 kilometers. Detecting enemy aircraft at 70-75 kilometers, even through radar clutter, should be well within the capabilities of this radar.

    The question would be whether Ukraine has air-to-air missiles capable of engaging targets at 70+ kilometers. The US has already placed a large order of AMRAAM C-8 long-range missiles for Ukraine with a range of 160+ kilometers, but the first deliveries are not expected until 2026. [Yikes. That’s a long delay.]

    Securing the most advanced AMRAAM D3 or C8 missiles with 160+km ranges may be a challenge, but Ukraine may have an easier time finding allies willing to part with their stocks of AMRAAM C5 and C7 missiles, which boast an engagement range of up to 105 kilometers. AMRAAM C-5 and C-7 variants are 20-25-year-old missiles, first introduced between 1996 and 2003, thus thousands are stocked in US military stockpiles and those of Ukraine’s allies. Operators include Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, France, Sweden, and others.

    If Ukraine can assemble enough pilots, F-16s with good enough radars, and armed with AMRAAM C5~C7 missiles, suddenly Ukrainian air defense against low-flying bombers could extend up to 10~20km further than it currently does. [map at the link]

    This would make a huge difference in the war.

    Presently, Russian bombers can fly in and strike targets up to 5 kilometers behind the front lines with relative impunity, staying out of radar detection ranges of Ukrainian air defenses.

    Low-flying F-16s well behind the front lines could extend the reach of Ukrainian air defense an extra 15-20 kilometers with minimal risk—neutralizing any Russian bombers in the glide bomb drop zone.

    Sixty F-16s will not be enough to provide regular around-the-clock defenses for 1,000 kilometers of front lines. But focused on a narrow stretch of hotly contested front lines, like the Dnipro riverbank near Kherson or the area north of Tokmak, the F-16s would make regular Russian glide bomb attacks too costly to conduct.

    Russia is making up for its disadvantages in drone and artillery warfare through relentless glide bombing. F-16s are what Ukraine needs to counter this new Russian threat.

  32. says

    Followup to comment 51.

    Posted by readers of the article:

    Since Russia is now using glide bombs carrying cluster munitions, Ukraine urgently urgently urgently needs countermeasures. They can’t get those F-16s soon enough.
    Bureaucracies may be rigid, but individuals within them can be creative. 25-year old weapons? Time to decommission them! Wait, it’s cheaper to ship them overseas than to destroy them locally? Well, we’ve got to save those taxpayers their hard-earned money!
    At what point would they need aircraft like the E3 with radar and command and control capabilities to really make use of the capabilities of the F16s? It seems to me that target acquisition and coordination from far behind the frontline will also be needed if Ukraine is going that route.

  33. says

    Nebraska activists launch effort to put abortion rights on the ballot next year

    Abortion rights supporters have launched a ballot initiative effort to put a constitutional amendment before voters next year that would protect abortion rights in a state where Republicans this year enacted a ban on the procedure after 12 weeks of pregnancy. To get onto the ballot, proponents will need to gather signatures from 10% of registered voters, which is roughly 125,000 at present. However, the exact requirement won’t be known until the July 5, 2024 filing deadline because it’s based on the registration numbers at the time.

    Importantly, supporters will also need to gather signatures from 5% of registered voters in at least two-fifths of the state’s 93 counties. This requirement significantly hinders progressives—but not conservatives—because the “bluest” two-fifths of counties include ones that Donald Trump won by landslide margins of up to 78-19. However, abortion rights advocates were able to overcome a similar requirement this year in Ohio, where voters approved an abortion rights amendment by 57-43 earlier this month.

    Organizers in several other states are pursuing similar measures next year, including in Florida, Arizona, and Missouri.

  34. says

    Corporate greed and the price of eggs

    On Tuesday, a federal jury in Illinois concluded that along with two egg industry trade groups, two of the nation’s largest egg producers conspired to restrict the availability of eggs and drive up prices. Across social media, the jury finding was immediately connected to a huge spike in the price of eggs beginning in the fall of 2022.

    However, the truth of the story is more complicated than headlines may suggest. As Bloomberg Law reports, food companies began complaining about the price-fixing scheme all the way back in 2011. What’s more, the scheme was seemingly put in place in the 1990s, if not sooner.

    The story about the price-fixing of eggs turns out to not be so much about how food producers conspired to drive up prices at a time when the nation was struggling from the lingering effects of a pandemic. It’s a story about how food industry groups and corporate producers are always looking for ways to cheat the system.

    According to the American Farm Bureau, the cost of Thanksgiving dinner is down by 4.5% compared with 2022. However, it’s up by 25% when compared with 2019. How much of that is simply corporate greed? A lot more than the national media wants to admit.

    Here’s a chart from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics looking at the prices of some common food items earlier this year. [chart at the link]

    Egg prices doubled in a month. When Thanksgiving rolled around last year, shoppers found that a dozen eggs cost almost three times as much as they had in the spring. That’s the kind of increase that media outlets—which seemed poised to deliver dire stories about inflation, even if it meant finding a family that buys 12 gallons of milk each week to use as an example—were dying to highlight. And they did.

    Whether it came from The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, or PBS, the message and the treatment were the same: numbers showing how egg prices are up, a story of some family or small restaurant owner hurt by rising costs, and an explanation that “eggflation” was caused by an outbreak of avian flu that had killed millions of chickens. The flu problem was real. However, so were the artificial shortages and price gouging among producers that had not been heavily affected by the flu.

    As a March 2023 story from CNN notes, the nation’s largest egg producer, Cal-Maine Foods, reported a 200% increase in revenues and an astounding 718% jump in profits for the previous quarter “because of sharply higher egg prices.”

    Cal-Maine controls about 20% of the U.S. market for eggs. As CNN reported, not only had the company doubled the price of its eggs, it also sold more eggs than it did in the previous year. It’s hard to find evidence of an actual shortage. What’s more, in its December 2022 quarterly report, Cal-Maine indicated that “no bird flu had been detected at any of its facilities.”

    The nation’s largest provider saw no bird flu. It sold more eggs than in 2021. But it more than doubled its price while scoring an incredible spike in profit. That certainly makes it seem like avian flu—which was a real thing that really did affect poultry production around the world—was used as an excuse to jack up prices to completely inexcusable levels.

    Unsurprisingly, Cal-Maine is one of the two companies involved in the jury finding on Tuesday.

    When it’s all put together, what it shows is an industry that has been manipulating the market for seemingly three decades or more, and that took advantage of both a real disease and media hype about inflation to disguise a naked grab for record profits.

    Eggs have long been one of the cheapest forms of protein available to consumers. They are critical to the diet of many low-income individuals and families. As this Lifehacker article pointed out during the 2022-2023 price spike, eggs deliver 20 grams of protein for just 48 cents when eggs cost $2.00 a carton. But drive the cost of those eggs up 280% and the cost per gram moves above milk, tuna, and even chicken. A traditionally cheap and versatile protein source becomes one of the most expensive.

    Corporate greed and the desire to make a quick buck always play a role in inflation. However, the price increases over the last few years are unique when it comes to “greedflation.” In 2021, 60% of inflation could be attributed not to increases in cost of raw materials or increasing wages for labor, but to increases in corporate profits.

    But somehow, The New York Times is still discussing inflation as if it’s a symptom of a need to “cool the economy” by jacking up interest rates. Naturally, the words “profit” or “greed” don’t appear in this story. The Associated Press reports that Americans “feel gloomy” about the economy, which economists attribute to “lingering financial and psychological effects of the worst bout of inflation in four decades.” That article also doesn’t mention corporate profits or greed, but it does have a story about a single mom who has had to cut back on food for her children.

    Government agencies are showing that the biggest source of inflation is corporations reaching for record profits. The nation’s largest media outlets are not reporting this story with the magnitude it deserves. However, the AP article does note that this is a problem … for President Joe Biden.

    Inflation caused by corporate greed can’t be addressed by raising interest rates that harm consumers. Solving the underlying problem can’t be done until the public is fully aware of the real cause of rising prices.

    Bur corporate media is failing them on this issue, as it is on so many others.

  35. says

    Followup to comment 54: Inflation is providing cover for price fixing

    […] “No price-fixing conspiracy in the modern world involves a written agreement where they sit down in a smoke-filled room and they say, ‘OK, we all go up by 10 percent.’ That’s not how it works. They’re not that dumb. What they’re doing is trying to coordinate in a way that defies scrutiny from the antitrust laws.”

    Singer said one common coordinating tactic is earning calls.

    “At the end of 2021 — I was livid — you’d hear these executives saying, ‘We plan on raising our prices by 17.24 percent next quarter.’ I thought to myself, I can’t believe the agencies are letting them get away with this. This is clearly an invitation to collude. […]

    Posted by readers of the article featured in comment 54:

    We seem to have neutered our regulators to the point that we are on the edge of another Golden Age designed to benefit Robber Barons who dream of an Oligarchy.
    I know the egg price increase freaked out my daughter. No matter how often I tried to explain the facts to her, there was no changing her mind this was the current administrations fault.
    Profits work and keep a corporation in business, Excess profits simply corrupt the whole system all the way the down to the share holders.
    The answer to this problem, of course, is resumption of anti-trust enforcement. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act is in fact relatively simple, still on the books, and entirely appropriate to this situation.

    Anti-trust enforcement started gathering dust under Nixon, and under Reagan it was shot in the head and buried in a shallow grave.

    Long past time we revived it.

  36. says

    4-year-old American hostage released by Hamas, Biden says

    President Biden announced on Sunday that a four-year-old American Israeli citizen, Abigail Idan, was among the 13 hostages released on Sunday from Gaza.

    “Two days ago, two days ago, one of our fellow Americans, a little girl named Abigail, turned four years old. She spent her birthday, that birthday… held hostage by Hamas. Today, she’s free and Jill and I, together with so many Americans, are praying for the fact that she is going to be alright. She’s free and she’s in Israel now,” Biden said in remarks on Sunday.

    “What she endured is unthinkable. Abigail was among 13 hostages released today from Gaza under the brokered and sustained though intensive US diplomacy. She’s now safely in Israel. And we continue to press and expect for additional Americans will be released as well,” he added. ” And we will not stop working until every hostage is returned to their loved ones.”

  37. tomh says

    Battle over ‘legal ballot harvesting’ being waged in New York
    GOP challenging law to allow any New Yorker to vote by mail
    By Joshua Solomon / Nov 25, 2023

    ALBANY — U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik is waging a court challenge against New York’s new vote-by-mail law in court while also promoting “legal ballot harvesting” on the campaign trail as the fierce and costly battle for control of Congress in next year’s election has already begun.

    New York Republicans are arguing the state law allowing “no-excuse” mail-in voting is unconstitutional and, if not halted right away, could hurt the “likelihood of future victory” for GOP candidates…

    Democrats, in legal briefs filed in response to the lawsuit in recent weeks, contend the state Legislature’s method to create early voting by mail for all New Yorkers — through a bill and not a constitutional amendment — is a sound, legal practice.

    “There is no express language in the New York constitution that precludes early voting by mail,” attorneys for state Attorney General Letitia James countered in a brief.

    Democrats argue extending vote by mail to anyone is within the scope of the Legislature’s ability to act within its constitutional right to dictate the “manner” in which New Yorkers vote…

    Two months ago, Gov. Kathy Hochul, a moderate Democrat, signed into law the Early Mail Voter Act. The measure, among several other components, granted any New Yorker the ability to request a ballot to vote by mail.

  38. says

    While Chinese leader Xi Jinping was meeting with President Biden and dining with 300 American CEOs in San Francisco on Nov. 16, news emerged that Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s family trust was set to sell 10 million American Depository Shares of Alibaba Group Holdings on Nov. 21, fetching approximately $871 million.

    Ma’s move could not have come at a worse time for Alibaba. The Chinese e-commerce giant recently reversed plans to spin off its cloud operations and halted the listing of its supermarket unit, both crucial avenues for unlocking the value of its expansive business. This shift in strategy is believed to be influenced by the United States imposing tighter restrictions on chip sales to China.

    […] Despite Alibaba Chairman Joe Tsai’s attempt to appease investor disappointment by announcing that Alibaba will commence paying annual dividends, the stock plummeted by 9 percent in New York, erasing $20 billion from the company’s market value, and continued to slide during the next day’s trading in Hong Kong.

    Ma’s move holds significance for two reasons. First, it suggests that key insiders in China lack confidence in the Chinese economy, despite Xi Jinping’s efforts to demonstrate improved relations between China and the U.S., aiming to brighten the investment prospect in China and stem capital flight from the country. […]


  39. says

    Yeah, it’s more like gossip than news, but I am heartened by the fact that Trump was booed.

    Former President Trump drew a smattering of cheers and boos as he oversaw South Carolina’s chief college football rivalry Saturday.

    At the famed Palmetto Bowl, the Clemson University-University of South Carolina rivalry game, Trump attempted to upstage former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, the state’s former governor and a rising rival in the 2024 GOP presidential primary.

    […] Trump walked onto the field at halftime and garnered a fierce wave of boos from the Clemson marching band, according to video.

    […] The city of Columbia and the area around the stadium were posted with pro- and anti-Trump messages, both lauding his reelection campaign and ribbing him for a 2020 loss that he failed to accept […]


  40. says

    […] On Sunday, two days after the first group of 13 hostages was released and brought back to Israel, details began to emerge of the nearly 50 days they and others released on Saturday spent as captives of armed groups in the Palestinian enclave, via conversations with relatives.

    The freed hostages have not spoken directly to the news media and most are still being treated in private areas of Israeli hospitals. Much of the information about where, and how, they were held remains classified.

    Relatives who have spoken or met with some of the released hostages said all seemed to have spent their weeks in captivity totally cut off from the outside world, and to have returned thinner than before.

    “They were eating, but not regularly and not all of the time,” said Merav Mor Raviv, a cousin of Keren Munder, 54, who was released on Friday along with her son, Ohad Munder-Zichri, 9, and her mother, Ruth Munder, 78. “They ate a lot of rice and bread,” Ms. Raviv said, adding that Keren told her that both she and her mother had lost about 6 to 8 kilograms, or 13 to 18 pounds.

    Ms. Raviv related that the Munders had slept in a reception room on improvised benches they fashioned by pushing three chairs together, and that when they wanted to go to the bathroom they would have to knock on a door and wait — sometimes for up to two hours.

    Adva Adar’s grandmother, Yaffa Adar, 85, was among the hostages released on Friday. She noted that her grandmother had lost weight and was aware that she had been held for nearly 50 days because she had kept count.

    Ms. Raviv and Adva Adar spoke to reporters on Sunday via a video call organized by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a nongovernmental group set up to support the hostages and their families, and Media Central, an Israeli nonprofit group that provides services to journalists.

    In an indication of how isolated the hostages were, Ms. Raviv said, Ruth Munder learned only after being released that her son, Roi, had been killed during the Oct. 7 assault. […]

    New York Times link

  41. says

    Burlington, Vermont, shooting, live updates: Three Palestinian men shot on their way to dinner

    The three men were on their way to a family dinner on Saturday night when they were shot.

    Two of the victims were wearing keffiyehs, police said, and they were speaking Arabic, according to the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee.

    The suspect was described by Burlington police as a white man with a handgun who didn’t say a word before firing at least four times. […]

    The families said the victims are “dedicated students who deserve to be able to focus on their studies and building their futures.” […]

    “Preliminary investigation has determined that all three were visiting the home of one victim’s relatives in Burlington for the Thanksgiving holiday. The three were walking on Prospect Street when they were confronted by a white male with a handgun,” Murad said. “The suspect was on foot in the area. Without speaking, he discharged at least four rounds from the pistol and is believed to have fled on foot.”

    All three victims, whom police did not identify out of respect for their own wishes, were struck — two in the torso and one in the “lower extremities,” police said.

    Police confirmed that all three victims are Palestinian, and two of them are U.S. citizens while the other is a legal resident.

    […] Murad said now that the victims are safe and getting medical care, the priority is finding the suspect.

    “The fact is that we don’t yet know as much as we want to right now. But I urge the public to avoid making conclusions based on statements from uninvolved parties who know even less,” he said.

    […] “It is shocking and deeply upsetting that three young Palestinians were shot here in Burlington, VT,” Senator Bernie Sanders wrote on his X account. “Hate has no place here, or anywhere. I look forward to a full investigation. My thoughts are with them and their families.” […]

  42. says

    Chicago scrambles to house migrants as winter approaches

    City and state officials are looking to get migrants off the streets and out of shelters more quickly, but advocates say new restrictions will only make things harder.

    […] As of Monday morning, there were 12,251 migrants living in 26 active city-run shelters, with another 2,175 waiting in O’Hare and Midway airports, as well as inside and outside of police stations, for placement, according to a city census of new arrivals. According to the city, more than 21,700 asylum-seekers and migrants have arrived since August 2022, when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s migrant busing program reached Chicago.

    The influx has put a strain on Chicago’s network of social services. There have not been enough shelter beds for everyone in need. And the process of moving people from temporary shelter to permanent, independent housing has been painfully slow, advocates have said.

    “It’s all about, how do you triage an ecosystem that is already in crisis?” Ayala-Bermejo said.

    […] As part of a plan to move people out of shelters and eventually into permanent housing, the state and city have put new restrictions on the assistance migrants can receive, reducing both the number of days they can stay in shelter and also the amount of rental assistance they can receive, both with the stated goal of moving people more quickly into independent living.

    Last week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that the state would invest an additional $160 million to address “bottlenecks” in the “asylum-seeker resettlement pipeline.” According to the governor, that includes: $65 million to expand case management, housing assistance and legal services; another $65 million to create “winterized” temporary housing for up to 2,000 migrants and ensure safe and warm places for migrants to live during winter months; and $30 million to launch an intake center.

    The state also is reducing rental assistance for asylum-seekers in shelters to three months of rent, down from up to six months. The governor’s office said this would “allow all current shelter residents to access” the rent-assistance program. But going forward, the program will not be available to new migrant arrivals, the state said, adding, “housing assistance will still be provided to support the housing search process, tenant rights, and landlord-tenant communications.”

    […] Advocates said those changes could hinder efforts to find housing and potentially lead to asylum-seekers falling through the cracks and out onto the streets in plunging temperatures.

    […] Phelps said it had already been difficult to find landlords and property managers willing to rent to migrants with up to six months of rental assistance, as most asylum-seekers lack documentation usually provided during the rental process and do not yet have work permits. He feared that reducing the program would make the process more daunting.

    “I feel very defeated. There’s no way the city is going to be able to keep its promises,” Phelps said.

    […] The state said last week that since August 2022, some 9,000 migrants have been resettled — either by being placed in permanent housing or with relatives — both inside the state of Illinois and in other states.

    Oscar Peñalver Sanchez hopes to soon be among them. After living for about a year in a shelter with more than 150 other migrants, he recently moved into his own apartment.

    “It’s a huge relief because it’s difficult to stay in the shelters for so long,” he said in Spanish, but added that he was grateful to have had “somewhere to sleep and lay our heads.”

    He is in the process of applying for a work permit, which he hopes will put him on track to becoming financially independent.

    “I want to work and face life head on,” he said.

  43. says

    Trump and Nunes Are Now Selling “World Class Wines” Loaded With Glycerine. No Joke

    Devin Nunes is now in the wine business. Last I knew, he and Donald Trump were going to sue every media outlet on the planet for reporting that they lost $71 million when the figure was a mere $31.6. But even though Truth Social is doing just fine, for some reason Nunes is spreading his wings into another line of work.

    Now this I need to share: I actually know something about fine wines. I used to pair appropriate wines with courses for some high end caterers. So I know the difference between a Pouilly Fuisse and a Pouilly Fume and which one goes with Chinese food and which one goes with trout. So in reading the reviews of Nunes new “vintages” my jaw fell open.

    This news story isn’t getting a lot of press for some reason. PolitiZoom picked up on on it and the writer there is as horrified as I am. Now before you read what she said, let me tell you about glycerine in wine. Glycerine is a chemical additive, added to wine “to sweeten, add body, and smooth and mellow wine and liqueurs.” This is not how fine wine is made, I guarantee. This is rotgut. […]

    These are “patriot” “world class” wines. Uh huh. What world? Mars? The atmosphere there smells like rotten eggs. Wait, that might be the perfect environment to drink a Devin Nunes wine. This is from Nunes website.



    […] they’re going to drink a fine cabernet with Donald Trump’s mug shot on it. […]

    No, I can see it all now, unfolding before me. The gourmet-ization of MAGA. The day MAGA went cultural. Who wants to tell them that drinking wine is what the commie liberals that they hate so much do? […]

    Here, let’s read a review, shall we?

    The first vintage, 2021, will be publicly released this month. […] I recently had an opportunity to sample both with some friends. They are amazing wines. Deep, dark, midnight ruby in color, lots of glycerine, (gylcerine? As in nitro? Oh my phuquing god — it’s an ADDITIVE!) with an intense (as in bitter?) hard-to-pinpoint nose. […]

    Something woody? […] Unfamiliar to the American palate! (That translates as “This is pure swill but if you think so, it’s because you have an American palate”) these were wines full of hints and adumbrations (BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) rather than declarative sentences. (This isn’t a wine review, this is SATIRE. Trust me on that one, too.)

    Adumbration “means the act of providing vague advance indications.” It’s not used in wine reviews. At least none I’ve ever seen and I’ve been reading them about 40 years now. This is paint thinner. On a good day it might be mouthwash or salad dressing. But this is not fine wine. This is maybe Boone’s Farm at four times the price, and with Trump’s face on it. Or Nunes’ name.

    […] Nobody in the Republican party wants to govern. They just want to sell people shit. And shit is what this wine is.

  44. Reginald Selkirk says

    US Energy Department Funds Next-Gen Semiconductor Projects to Improve Power Grids

    America’s long-standing Advanced Research Projects Agency (or ARPA) developing the foundational technologies for the internet.

    This week its energy division announced $42 million for projects enabling a “more secure and reliable” energy grid, “allowing it to utilize more solar, wind, and other clean energy.” But specifically, they funded 15 projects across 11 states to improve the reliability, resiliency, and flexibility of the grid “through the next-generation semiconductor technologies.”

    Streamlining the coordinated operation of electricity supply and demand will improve operational efficiency, prevent unforeseen outages, allow faster recovery, minimize the impacts of natural disasters and climate-change fueled extreme weather events, and reduce grid operating costs and carbon intensity…

  45. Reginald Selkirk says

    Attackers seize an Israel-linked tanker off Yemen in a third such assault during Israel-Hamas war

    Attackers seized a tanker linked to Israel off the coast of Yemen on Sunday, authorities said. While no group immediately claimed responsibility, it comes as at least two other maritime attacks in recent days have been linked to the Israel-Hamas war.

    The attackers seized the Liberian-flagged Central Park, managed by Zodiac Maritime, in the Gulf of Aden, the company and private intelligence firm Ambrey said…

  46. Reginald Selkirk says

    Eerie ‘witch bottles’ found along Gulf of Mexico, and even researchers are creeped out

    Superstitious beachcombers who spot glass glinting along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico ought to exercise caution – “witch bottles” intended to entomb malevolent spirits are popping up along the coast, one researcher said.

    On a 60-mile stretch of beach near Corpus Christi, Texas, monitored by the Harte Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, eight of the curious artifacts have washed up onshore since 2017, per researcher Jace Tunnell.

    Tunnell pulled the most recent bottle, filled with vegetation, on Nov. 15 – gooseneck barnacles that had clustered on the green glass indicated that the bottle had been floating for quite a while, the researcher said.

    “I don’t get creeped out by them, but I’m also not going to open them,” Tunnell told Fox News Digital. “I mean, they’re supposed to have spells and stuff in them – why take the chance?” …

  47. says

    What next? Texas legislators don’t know.

    […] it is unclear what happens next at the Capitol [in Texas] after the House voted 84-63 to strip a voucher program out of a broad education bill.

    Abbott responded to the defeat by promising to “continue advancing school choice in the Texas Legislature and at the ballot box.” He has not said whether he wants legislators to keep trying in the current special session — which still can go until Dec. 6 — or whether he would call a fifth special session to push again for vouchers.

    “Texas parents deserve the freedom to choose the education path that’s best for their child to succeed,” Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze said in a statement for this story. “Governor Abbott has made it clear that he will do whatever it takes — however long it takes — to deliver that freedom for all Texas families through school choice.”

    Voucher opponents in both parties hoped that Friday’s vote was decisive enough to put an end to Abbott’s crusade, which dates back to his 2022 reelection campaign. To drive home the message, anti-voucher state Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, led the House in passing a motion to prohibit any reconsideration of Raney’s amendment. […]

    Other House Republicans lamented [the earlier vote in November], especially because the amendment’s passage likely doomed the entire bill, which includes increased public school funding and teacher pay raises. Abbott had made clear he would veto the bill if it did not include the voucher provision.

    […] Prior to the amendment vote, Abbott raised the prospect he would summon lawmakers back for another special session if they removed the voucher provision. […]

    Yet Abbott has not repeated that threat since Friday, and both chamber leaders have stayed quiet on their plans for the rest of the special session. The Senate’s presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, issued a long statement Tuesday bashing the House and its leader, House Speaker Dade Phelan, for “killing school choice,” [Republicans always try to brand killing public education as “school choice”] signaling he sees little hope for a revival of the proposal in the near future.

    […] The Senate is set to return 12:30 p.m. Monday, while the House is slated to come back at 4 p.m. that day.

    Even before HB 1 reached the floor, the House was struggling to consistently maintain quorum. By all appearances, lawmakers were starting to move on with their lives and uninterested in traveling to Austin unless they knew major legislation would be up for debate.

    […] Abbott has long suggested he would politically target GOP lawmakers who block his voucher crusade. The endorsements he announced Monday were seen as the first move in that direction.

    […] “Many of us are so resolute on this, that we’re going to break caucus rules, and we’re gonna support primary challengers,” Toth said.


  48. says

    Followup to comment 67.

    Posted by readers of the article:

    If only charter schools managed to educate their students any better than traditional public schools. Then they might be worth the subsidies they get from cannibalizing the public school system.
    This isn’t about charter schools, this is about entirely unregulated (and mostly right-wing Christian) private schools getting state money. This is, in fact, a bigger threat to our public school system than charter schools. After all, charter schools are still public in the sense that they have to follow some rules and cannot pick and choose their students in the way that private schools can.
    Much of the “Texas miracle” economy is based on importing educated workers from other states, and that has been true ever since I moved here in the eighties. I came to Texas as an engineer fresh out of college, and I can tell you that my fellow engineers were also mostly from out of state. Yeah, we had a few UT grads and Aggies (A&M), but they were the minority.

    So what happens to the Texas economy if those out of state engineers (and other professionals) are no longer willing to take jobs here because of the hostile environment our state government is creating?
    Texas school districts should make clear to the voters that if public schools lose money due to “school choice” then the first cut is eliminating the football team.
    Public schools in rural Texas are the backbone of the small towns. There’s not much else to do on any given Friday night. There are no charter schools and only 2 religious schools within a 40 mile radius of my home.

  49. says

    Sigh. Stephen Miller … the news about him is worse and worse.

    […] former Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller is special. The same guy who thought it was a rad idea to forcibly remove children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border is now pretending he cares about parents’ rights—and so he’s harassing transgender kids to make his point.

    The America First Legal Foundation, for which Miller serves as president, is currently suing Arizona’s Mesa Public Schools and its superintendent because they’ve decided to treat transgender students as human beings instead of political pawns. Of course, that’s an outrage to Miller and his ilk […]

    The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Mesa Public Schools governing board member Rachel Walden, seeks to turn back policies the district has instituted to protect the rights of transgender kids.

    Arizona Republic:

    The suit alleges the school district’s guidelines for supporting transgender students violate Arizona’s parents’ bill of rights law, which says parents have the right to direct their child’s upbringing, education and health care. The district’s guidelines permit transgender students to access facilities consistent with their gender identity and to use names and pronouns that reflect their identity. The lawsuit claims the district purposely keeps parents out of the loop when a gender-related support plan is implemented for their child. […]

    In the spring, the district sought legal advice from Udall Shumway, a Mesa-based law firm, on the guidelines. A lawyer from the firm told Mesa Public Schools’ general counsel in a May letter that the guidelines do not appear to violate state or federal law, and there seems to be “no contradiction between what the law requires under the Arizona parents’ bill of rights … and what the Guidelines recommend to staff as a tool to assist in addressing the students’ needs.”

    […] The America First Legal Foundation has also tried to defend Arizona’s law prohibiting transgender girls from competing on girls’ school sports teams. Over the summer, Miller’s group filed a motion to intervene to defend the law on behalf of the conservative group Arizona Women of Action. That motion was denied. The group also filed a brief supporting an attempt to overturn a preliminary order in the case. That appeal is still pending.

    As the Arizona Republic notes, the America First Legal Foundation has filed dozens of lawsuits across the country “challenging school districts’ policies related to LGBTQ+ students and challenging private companies’ programs to promote diversity, alleging they are examples of reverse discrimination against white people and men.”

    Meanwhile, the organization is not keen on Mesa Public Schools’ “Guidelines for Support of Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students,” which were created to “help schools ensure a safe learning environment free from discrimination and harassment, and to support the educational and social needs of transgender and gender nonconforming students.”

    Of course, while Miller and his group are ostensibly intervening on behalf of parents, a June letter from Superintendent Andi Fourlis to families who have children enrolled in Mesa Public Schools emphasized that parents are consulted every step of the way:

    […] I hear a concern that students are placed on Transgender Support Plans without parent notification. That is not the case. I have also heard that the Transgender Support Plan is a plan to help students with medical transitions. That is also not true.

    Not that Miller cares about the truth […] This is the same guy who helped bury a Health and Human Services report that proved immigrants contribute more in federal, state, and local taxes than they receive in benefits. Because we can’t let people know that immigrants are a net plus for society—and always have been. […]

    We wish Stephen Miller the best of luck as he transitions from human being to Beelzebub’s Diet Coke gofer. Hopefully, he ruins as few lives as possible in the process.


  50. says

    Followup to comment 69.

    Posted by readers of the article:

    Last week The Messenger reported that in 2022 Miller’s nonprofit legal attack group raised $44 million last year, mostly from a single donor that was not identified.
    of course the parents of trans kids don’t have rights under these new “Parental rights” laws, do they?

    The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Mesa Public Schools governing board member Rachel Walden

    So we see that this “parents’ rights” lawsuit isn’t even being filed on behalf of a parent, but rather on behalf of a school board member who was on the losing end of a vote?

  51. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 66

    “I mean, they’re supposed to have spells and stuff in them – why take the chance?” …


  52. says

    Angelo Carusone, president and CEO of Media Matters, appeared on “The Katie Phang Show”:

    PHANG: “Angelo, let’s be clear. X’s problem with advertisers came long before Media Matters did this report and before this lawsuit. As early as this summer, advertising on that platform was down nearly 60%. Do you think Musk is just using this lawsuit as a scapegoat for his own poor management of this company?”

    CARUSONE: “Yeah, and I think not only the mismanagement in terms of gutting the brand safety, the trust teams. To your point, advertisers had been leaving. A lot of them left very early on before he even really made big changes yet because he signaled he was going to roll back a lot of brand safety.

    So I think that’s part of it. And I think the other part, we shouldn’t forget this, is that this lawsuit came and this advertiser exodus came not only on the heels of the report that we put out but on Elon Musk’s own behavior, where he wasn’t just … engaging with some pretty extreme antisemitic Great Replacement Theory, he responded to this notion that the thing that people were chanting in Charlottesville, that Jews in America are somehow funding mass immigration in order to dilute white power, he responded to that Great Replacement Theory claiming ‘the actual truth’ on his own platform.

    So if you’re an advertiser, you’re looking at the increased rise in extremism and toxicity. We’re putting out reports showing that they’re sharing ad revenue with these Hitler stan accounts, getting thousands of dollars of ad revenue.

    […] Then other reports come out showing the juxtaposition of ads next to extreme content. And if you’re an advertiser, when you put it all together, you’re like the rot goes all the way to the top and they’re never going to really be able to put in place the kinds of mechanisms that make it good for business. At least that’s from an advertiser’s perspective.”

  53. says

    […] News organizations are supposed to report news, not make it. And they’re definitely not supposed to manufacture it out of whole cloth. But then Fox is not so much a news organization as a […] Playland ball pit for adults.

    Posted by Brian Stelter:

    A Fox reporter says Biden “continues to face questions about his age, even here in Nantucket”

    Then he plays a clip of Biden being asked, “Mr. President, are you too old to be running for reelection?”

    Without disclosing that the reporter is the one shouting the question


    FOX’S LUCAS TOMLINSON (VOICEOVER): “The oldest president in U.S. history also continues to face questions about his age, even here in Nantucket.”

    TOMLINSON (SHOUTING QUESTION AT BIDEN): “Mr. President, are you too old to be running for reelection?”

    BIDEN: “That’s stupid.”

    TOMLINSON (SHOUTING AT BIDEN): “Why is Donald Trump beating you in the latest polls?”

    TOMLINSON (“REPORTING”): “President Biden faces the lowest approval rating of his presidency. We hope to hear from President Biden before he takes off to go back to Washington.”

    [video at the link]

    […] But hey, it’s vitally important for our country that we have a presidential horse race—even if one of the horses is a fascist who’s currently channeling Hitler and promising to jail his enemies. And you know Fox will always do its part for the dozen or so grotesquely rich men who might actually benefit from another Trump term.


  54. Reginald Selkirk says

    Leader of pro-Russia DDoS crew Killnet unmasked by Russian state media

    Cybercriminals working out of Russia go to great lengths to conceal their real identities, and you won’t ever find the state trying to unmask them either – as long as they keep supplying the attacks on Axis nations. It’s the reason why we found it so amusing that of all the ways the identity of an organized cybercrime gang leader could be revealed, it was Russian state media that may have recently outed someone of note.

    Moscow-based has named a man it alleges to be the leader of pro-Russia DDoS merchants Killnet, known as “Killmilk,” in an expose following earlier claims that he started targeting the Russian Federation…

  55. says

    Florida’s Ladapo finds new ways to become even more controversial

    When Gov. Ron DeSantis tapped Dr. Joseph Ladapo to serve as Florida’s surgeon general, the highly controversial doctor became the Sunshine State’s top public health official. The University of Florida wanted to go a step further and give Ladapo a second well-paid position.

    In fact, as Politico reported, it was just two years ago when the school — the flagship of the state’s university system — took steps to fast-track Ladapo into a tenured professorship, with the expectation that he’d bring in lucrative grant funding and conduct worthwhile research on internal medicine. With this in mind, Ladapo was able to skip past the usual review process generally required for candidates for tenured professorships.

    Apparently, that hasn’t turned out especially well. From the Politico report:

    [Ladapo] edited science research manuscripts, gave a guest lecture for grad students and wrote a memoir about his vaccine skepticism. … Some also bristled that Ladapo, in an email to the heads of the medical school, said he’d only visited the sprawling Gainesville campus twice in his first year on the job, showing a lack of familiarity with Florida’s flagship medical school.
    An unnamed professor was quoted saying that Ladapo has “undoubtedly sullied the academic reputation” of the University of Florida.

    Democratic state Sen. Tina Polsky added that she’d asked Ladapo during his confirmation hearing last year about his performance at the school, and he responded with “his typical word salad answers.” She added, “This guy is a charlatan.”

    It’s worth noting for context that this is hardly the first controversy surrounding Florida’s surgeon general. Revisiting our earlier coverage, Ladapo has rejected vaccination guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and faced accusations about misleading the public. He’s embarrassed professional colleagues with his antics and urged the public not to trust scientists, physicians, and other public health officials.

    […] The editorial board of The Orlando Sentinel described Ladapo as a “COVID crank” who’s been “associated with a right-wing group of physicians whose members include a physician who believes infertility and miscarriages are the result of having sex with demons and witches during dreams.”

    Earlier this month, Ladapo even took the unusual step of hitting the campaign trail, participating in a super PAC event in an early primary state in the hopes of giving a boost to the politician [DeSantis] who gave him his influential job.

    What’s more, let’s also not forget that Ladapo’s former supervisor at UCLA discouraged Florida officials from hiring the controversial doctor, explaining that he relies on his opinions more than scientific evidence. The UCLA supervisor added that Ladapo’s weird theories “created a stressful environment for his research and clinical colleagues and subordinates,” some of whom believed the doctor “violated the duty in the Hippocratic Oath to behave honestly and ethically.”

    One UCLA source told my colleague Kay Guerrero, in reference to Ladapo, “A lot of people here at UCLA are glad that he is gone because we were embarrassed by his opinions and behavior. At the same time, we don’t wish this on the people of Florida. They don’t deserve to have someone like him making their health decisions.”

    The relevance of that quote lingers for a reason.

  56. says

    Fascism’s most powerful backers: The Mercers may go all in on the coup-attempting Trump

    There are few families more consequential to the rise of fascism in this country than the Mercers. Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah have been the big-money funders behind most of the most aggressively fascist-minded groups you may have heard of. While the more famous Koch family has centered its political giving around corporate-friendly dismantling of government, the Mercers are the funders for Republicanism’s far right, from white nationalist organizations to anti-democratic hoaxes and paranoia. [And they backed Betsy Devos.]

    The Mercers backed Donald Trump’s 2016 rise before becoming disenchanted with him somewhere near the midpoint of his term, reportedly unsatisfied with what their political investment had brought them. A new CNBC report, however, suggests that the father-daughter pair are once again mulling whether to back Trump as Trump attempts to retake the presidency on a platform of openly authoritarian rule.

    One of the Republican Party’s most influential families may come off the sidelines to financially support Donald Trump’s latest White House run, after years of distancing themselves from him, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah, have not yet made a final decision on whether they’ll publicly back Trump, these people said. But the Mercers remain friendly with key players in Trump’s orbit, including former senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, according to some of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the thinking of the notoriously private Mercer family.

    Once again, the real story here is that this story is being shopped to begin with. We have only “people familiar with the matter” to rely on here, which means somebody involved with the Mercers, possibly with their permission, wants the political world to know the Mercer family may be close to choosing the horse they’ll bet on.

    Is it a prodding meant for the Trump camp, a signal that the family is willing to meet supplicants from Trump’s camp and hear them out on why the indicted and furious Trump is again a good investment? Or is it meant to test the waters after the Mercers apparently began to feel uneasy about the publicity that resulted from their successful efforts to push Republicans into white nationalism and anti-democratic extremism?

    The Mercers have reportedly become quite sensitive to charges that they support white nationalism […]

    That the Mercers are one of the most powerful backers of fascist causes in America seems incontrovertible. An especially good rundown of the Mercer causes and connections was published by Salon a month after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

    “The Mercers laid the groundwork for the Trump revolution,” Bannon told The New Yorker in 2017. “Irrefutably, when you look at donors during the past four years, they have had the single biggest impact of anybody, including the Kochs.” Steve Schmidt, a former Republican strategist and co-founder of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, sees it differently. Rebekah Mercer, he said in an interview with Salon, is the “chief financier or one of the chief financiers of the fascist movement, and that’s what it is.”

    Rebekah Mercer was a co-founder of Parler, the social media network popular with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, militia groups, and the Jan. 6 insurrectionists. Previously known more for their backing of xenophobic far-right groups, Mercer backed-groups leaned heavily towards the promotion of anti-democratic election hoaxes before Trump’s attempted coup.

    Whatever might have caused the Mercers to sour on Trump during his largely hapless and incompetence-riddled administration, it appears Trump’s violent insurrection and attempted coup might have actually boosted his worth in the eyes of the Mercers. […] apparently the Mercers are mulling returning as major Trump backers now that Trump is promising full-on fascist rule, from the purge of non-MAGA federal workers to the promised mass deportation of millions.

    It is something to watch. […]

    Posted by readers of the article:

    Those neo Nazis were thick as thieves with Steve Bannon and Peter Thiel too. And the DeVoss family, which includes Erik Prince, of Blackwater infamy, and so many iterations of it since. Private armies.
    When fascism comes to America it’ll be waving the flag and carrying a cross and be fully funded by billionaires.

  57. says

    Better Watch Out Sweden! You Are Pi**ing Elon Musk Off!

    The Swedes better watch out! Those spoiled Swedish workers are pissing off anti-union Elon Musk!

    It has taken nearly a month, but workers striking against Tesla in Sweden have finally drawn a response from the company’s famously anti-union boss. “This is insane,” CEO Elon Musk said Thursday on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter that he owns.

    Musk was responding to news that Swedish postal workers are refusing to deliver Tesla license plates, joining a wave of action in sympathy with mechanics who stopped servicing Tesla cars late last month.

    About 130 mechanics began their ongoing strike in October after their employer, a Tesla subsidiary in Sweden, announced that it would not recognize their labor union, according to Expressen, a CNN affiliate.

    The industrial action soon spread to dockworkers who started blocking deliveries of Tesla cars at the country’s ports, to electricians who stopped maintenance work for the carmaker, and other workers in Sweden, Expressen reported.

    Amazing! According to CNN, nine out of ten workers are unionized in Sweden. And it appears those other union workers are not fans of the X King and his anti-union ways.

    What will Musk do in retaliation? Close out X for Swedes? LOL.

  58. says

    Israel and Hamas Agree to Extend Truce, Qatar Says

    New York Times link

    Israel and Hamas agreed to extend their truce for two more days, according to officials in Qatar who helped negotiate the initial cease-fire, as Israeli officials signaled that a fourth exchange of hostages and prisoners would go forward Monday.

    Majed Al-Ansari, a spokesman for the foreign ministry of Qatar, which has helped mediate the talks that led to the initial pause in fighting, said an “agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian truce for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip.” It did not elaborate on the terms. […]

  59. says

    […] “Blatant antisemite & publisher of antisemitism Elon Musk should be persona non grata in Israel,” Haaretz editor-in-chief Esther Solomon wrote in a post on X. “Instead, Netanyahu — plumbing new depths of amoral sycophancy — gifts him a PR visit to the kibbutzim devastated by Hamas. Profane, venal, bilious, both of them.” […]


  60. says

    Schumer plans to advance Ukraine funding as soon as Dec. 4

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) informed his colleagues in a letter Sunday that he will bring legislation to the Senate floor funding the war in Ukraine and providing aid to Israel “as soon as the week of December 4th.”

    Schumer warned senators that time is running out for Ukrainian forces, and he identified GOP senators’ demands for immigration policy reforms as “the biggest holdup to the national security assistance package.”

    The Democratic leader indicated he’ll give Senate negotiators at least another week to hammer out a compromise on asylum reform and border security funding but signaled they have limited time to reach a deal.

    “One of the most important tasks we must finish is taking up and passing a funding bill to ensure we as well as our friends and partners in Ukraine, Israel, and the Indo-Pacific region have the necessary military capabilities to confront and deter our adversaries and competitors,” he wrote, also citing the need to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestinians caught up in the fighting in Gaza.

    “These national security priorities are interrelated and demand bipartisan Congressional action,” he wrote.

    Schumer noted that negotiations over border security, asylum and other immigration reforms continued over the Thanksgiving holiday.

    “We will need bipartisan cooperation and compromise to achieve a reasonable, realistic agreement that both sides can support. I urge you to engage with our Republican colleagues quickly to help push for a bipartisan path forward in the coming weeks,” he wrote.

    Schumer informed Senate colleagues there will be an all-senators classified briefing on Ukraine in the next few days and urged them to attend.

    “Remember what President Zelenskyy told us in the Old Senate Chamber when he addressed senators in September, ‘If we don’t get the aid, we will lose the war.’ Nothing would make autocrats like Putin or Xi happier right now than to see the United States waver in our support for the Ukrainian people and its military,” he wrote, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

  61. birgerjohansson says

    I found an interesting video at Youtube.
    Remember how the media in general, -in particular television- is pretty awful and has contributed to the dumbificstion of the American voters.

    It does NOT have to be this way.

    “How watching the news in Germany is completely different than in America”

  62. Reginald Selkirk says


    Tanker in Middle East safe from attackers after U.S. Navy responds, officials say

    A U.S. Navy warship responded to a distress call from a commercial tanker in the Gulf of Aden that had been seized by armed individuals and the vessel is now safe, U.S. officials said on Sunday.

    The tanker, which had been carrying a cargo of phosphoric acid, was identified as the Central Park by the vessel’s company. The officials did not identify the attackers.

    In a statement, the U.S. military said the USS Mason, with help from allied ships, demanded that the commercial ship be released by the attackers.

    Five armed individuals tried to escape on a fast boat but were chased by the U.S. warship and they eventually surrendered…

  63. tomh says

    Election Law Blog
    “Why Biden’s Weakness Among Young Voters Should Be Taken Seriously”
    RICHARD PILDES / November 27, 2023

    This Nate Cohn piece for the NYT argues that we should take seriously the results from a number of recent polls which converge on the finding that young voters are more divided on a Biden-Trump contest than in 2020. But this paragraph toward the end of the piece cuts the other way:

    “There’s one other way the results might end up “normal,” even with today’s polling: a low youth turnout. Almost all of the polls nowadays are among registered voters, not likely voters, and most of Mr. Biden’s weakness is among disengaged voters on the periphery of the electorate. In the latest Times/Siena polling, Mr. Biden leads by 15 points among young voters who turned out in the midterms, while he trails by three points among young voters who didn’t turn out. If these irregular, disaffected voters simply choose not to vote, Mr. Biden will most likely have a healthy lead with young voters.”

  64. says

    […] One of the features of this variant of the “settler colonialism” construct is that any resistance by definition justified. The purpose of this is to collapse any idea that the current round of violence began with or was triggered by the October 7th attacks. One side of the conflict (Israel) is incapable of acting in self-defense because they are inherently the aggressor – by definition and in all cases. The ubiquitous claims of “genocide” are fruit of the same totalizing ideology. As argued a few weeks ago, claims that what is happening today in Gaza is “genocide” not only conflict with the most basic definitions of the word and the relevant parts of international law. They amount to a premeditated slander, one among many examples of equating Zionism, for all its flaws, with some of the greatest tormentors and torments Jews faced in the 20th century. It is understandable that some people unfamiliar with the details and definitions may gullibly buy into that formulation given the now lopsided number of fatalities on each side. But it is worth noting that the “genocide” claims began in the first 48 hours after October 7th, when the distribution was reversed.

    If these are the terms of the debate, if these are the stakes, then no settlement is possible. But this is also an illustrative example of a case in which some real grounding in history is indispensable to navigating the present. History doesn’t settle protracted conflicts. One side never convinces the other. We each prioritize different aspects of the past to make sense of it. This is inevitable. But grappling with history still complicates the enthusiasms and amnesia of sloganeering and propaganda and in that way cracks open spaces for, if not compromise, then moments of mutual understanding.

    That’s far from where we are at the moment.

  65. says

    Ukraine Update: General Storm smashes Russian defenses in Crimea

    After a year building up defenses in Crimea, Russia saw many of them swept away in a massive storm this weekend.

    Much like they’ve done along the entire front line in Zaporizhzhya, in the approaches to Tokmak, Melitipol, and Mariupol, Russia built an extensive network of coastal defenses across all of western Crimea, attempting to protect against any Ukrainian amphibious assault. [Annotated satellite image at the link]

    This 100-year storm absolutely pummeled both Crimea and Ukraine’s port city of Odesa. The videos of the storm, with its 6-meter (20-foot) waves, are dramatic: [Tweets and videos eat the link]

    Those coastal defenses are all gone.

    […] the odds of Ukraine staging an amphibious assault on Crimea’s western coast are just about zero. Ukraine lacks the amphibious ships to transport equipment, the navy to protect them, the air power to cover their approach, and the sustainment capabilities to supply that force after landing. There is nothing more difficult in warfare than an amphibious assault, and Ukraine lacks pretty much everything it would need for one.

    On the other hand, the elimination of these defenses, however temporary, will make it easier for Ukrainian raiding parties to infiltrate the coastline , like the way they did earlier this summer to reportedly destroy Russian radar arrays—sabotage that opened up Sevastopol to Ukrainian long-range missile attacks.

    The storm may also affect Russia’s critically important railway logistics. This is in mainland Russia, near Putin’s palace in Sochi: [Tweet and video at the link]

    But the storm’s real value may not be those on-shore defenses and infrastructure, but the off-shore ones. [Tweet and images at the link]

    Russia has placed a network of barges and booms with netting all around its sensitive port facilities, both in Crimea and in Russia’s mainland. That includes all of its naval bases and the Crimean Kerch Bridge. The purpose is to block the ability of Ukrainian naval drones from hitting those targets, and by all indications, they are pretty effective at it.

    The chances that any of those ocean defenses survived this massive storm are just about nil, giving Ukraine an opportunity to launch a new wave of naval drones against these targets. Heck, the Kerch Bridge is the juiciest and most strategically important target of all. Let’s hope Ukraine has the means to capitalize on this opportunity.

    Furthermore, there will be a lot of unmoored mines floating around Russian harbors. If Ukraine is lucky, a few of them smashed up against Russian warships.

    Another storm video: [video at the link] Any rotary-wing aircraft Russia failed to evacuate is likely trashed. Hopefully, they were too incompetent to fly them out in time. There is also a great deal of hope that the storm might’ve sunk some Russian vessels. We’ll have more clarity in the coming 24 hours. Russians love to post videos of their broken stuff.
    [Tweet and video at the link: “Head of RT Margarita Simonyan predicted that Russia’s demographic crisis will be resolved in the future, when streams of Americans will flood to Russia—even if they have to work fixing toilets. Russia will choose only the best and send the rest back home.”]

    Wouldn’t it be great if streams of MAGA Americans fled to Russia? Problem is, if they only take the best and the brightest Americans to work on fixing toilets, that kind of excludes all of them.

    Let’s hope they lower their standards.

  66. says

    FFS. Here we go again: Trump touts new push to repeal Obamacare

    Donald Trump is once again living in the past, trying to resurrect a Republican political debacle that even the Freedom Caucus has abandoned: Obamacare repeal. “The cost of Obamacare is out of control, plus, it’s not good Healthcare. I’m seriously looking at alternatives,” he spewed on Truth Social on Saturday.

    […] Republicans absolutely gave up after the last gasp for “repeal and replace,” Trumpcare, failed to make it to the Senate floor in 2017. That’s after they spent seven years and at least 70 votes on trying to kill the Affordable Care Act, the program that has provided health insurance to more than 40 million Americans.

    […] But Trump is either trying to make the nation’s first Black president his foe in 2024 because he’s a racist and wants to keep his racist base fired up, or he’s living in the past in his addled brain. [At rallies Trump refers to Obama when he means Biden … and he makes that mistake repeatedly.] Either way, the health care of more than 40 million people is on the line in the next election. Again.

  67. says

    For some time now, Donald Trump has touted himself as “the most pro-life president ever” — and if one’s understanding of being “pro-life” is exclusively limited to being “pro-forced-birth,” then he’s not actually wrong. At least not from an existential point of view. Whether or not he actually ever gave a crap about abortion has long been up for debate. Frankly, the idea of him sincerely believing anything is up for debate.

    However, as per a report from Rolling Stone, he is now looking to rebrand himself as a moderate on abortion. Yes, the guy who kicked off the whole “women are having abortions as they’re giving birth!” thing, the guy who brought back the global gag rule on abortion, the guy who barred Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X funds, leaving six states without any Title X providers until the Biden administration reversed the rule in 2021, the guy who put three justices on the Supreme Court for the explicit purpose of overturning Roe v. Wade … now wants to be seen as a reasonable moderate on the issue. Sure.

    Via Rolling Stone:

    In recent weeks, according to two people familiar with the matter, Donald Trump has privately remarked that several anti-abortion leaders — people who spent the past year pushing him to commit to enacting a draconian national ban — now have no “leverage” to force him to do anything. […]

    According to the two sources and other Trump allies and aides familiar with the situation, Trump and his team are looking past the primary towards a general-election fight against President Joe Biden — and they think they can somehow run the former president as a supposed “moderate” (as three sources put it) on abortion, at least compared to the majority of the 2024 Republican field. For months, the sources tell Rolling Stone, Trump and some of his closest aides — such as top campaign adviser Susie Wiles — have planned for the ex-president to position himself in a way that “makes both Republicans and Democrats very happy,” as Trump is fond of saying.

    That does not seem like the kind of thing that is going to happen!

    […] As much as I would love to say that Trump would never be able to spin himself as a moderate on this issue … the fact that very few people actually thought he was a true believer on abortion and assumed he was only adopting the position in order to win as a Republican could actually work in his favor here. I’ve also learned to never say never when it comes to what people are willing to believe about Donald Trump. For many of his supporters, he was a Choose Your Own Adventure president who did and said every single thing they ever wanted, regardless of whether or not he did or said even one of them.

    That being said, “flip flopping” on abortion could actually make him seem weak to the people who specifically admired his macho tendency to refuse to admit wrongdoing, ever.

    Whatever position he ends up taking, it’s becoming increasingly clear that abortion is likely the issue that is going to decide the next election — and if that’s the case, he’s gonna get hurt no matter where he lands.

  68. says

    Gaza war live updates: Hamas and Israel agree to extend truce by two days, Hamas says

    […] The IDF said the 11 hostages released by Hamas today are now with IDF forces and in Israel’s territory.

    “After they undergo an initial medical assessment of their health, our forces will accompany them until they are reunited with their families,” the IDF said in a statement.

    A spokesperson from kibbutz Nir Oz confirmed that all 11 hostages were from their community, which was attacked by Hamas on Oct. 7. The spokesperson noted that 49 community members remain in captivity in Gaza.

    […] The Palestine Red Crescent Society said in a post on X that its team is moving 40 trucks of aid into Gaza City and northern areas of the strip.

    Earlier today, the organization said it had delivered 150 trucks of aid into the northern part of the strip since the beginning of the temporary truce agreement on Friday. Distribution of aid into that area proved difficult as it was the hardest-hit area of Gaza as a result of Israel’s siege on the strip.

    […] A third group of wounded Palestinian children arrived in the United Arab Emirates today for treatment.

    The 93 children were flown to the UAE as part of the country’s promise to aid thousands of cancer patients and injured children.

    […] The current agreement between Hamas and Israel’s government is that Hamas will release Israeli women and children — 50 from the original four-day framework and 20 more in the next two days — in exchange for 150 Palestinian women and children in Israeli detention.

    Other countries, such as Thailand and Russia, have also brokered individual agreements for the release of their own citizens being held hostage in Gaza.

    […] Elon Musk has struck a deal with Israel that will formally limit use of potential Starlink satellite internet terminals in Gaza, the company’s minister of communications, Shlomo Karhi, said today.

    […] All broadband internet and phone calls in Gaza are routed through Israeli infrastructure. […]

  69. Reginald Selkirk says

    Rep. Kevin McCarthy Mocked For Historically Illiterate Tweet

    Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) may have led Congress, but he probably shouldn’t ever teach history.

    That’s the verdict after the former House speaker posted a tweet on Sunday that is getting mocked for its historical inaccuracy.

    McCarthy’s post on X (née Twitter) included a video in which he claim, inaccurately, that “in every single war that America has fought, we have never asked for land afterward — except for enough to bury the Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.” …

  70. says

    Reginald @98, all cyberattacks bother me, but the attacks on hospitals make me feel especially sick inside.

    In other news, Cartoon: The squeaker of the House visits Mar-a-Lago

  71. says


    Mostly, it’s about Taylor Swift encouraging her fans to vote. She regularly reminds them to register to vote.


    […] “Taylor Swift is going to come out in the presidential election and she is going to mobilize her fans. And we’re going to be like, ‘Oh wow, where did all these young, female voters come from?’ We better have a plan for that.”– Charlie Kirk, founder and executive director, Turning Point USA

    Since 2018, Taylor Swift has encouraged young people to register to vote; to come out in support of President Joe Biden and Democrats in her home state of Tennessee, and has weighed in on the right-wing’s assault on abortion rights, trans rights, gay rights and any measures to deal with gun violence. In doing this she went against advice from friends and family who remembered the right wing trashing of the Dixie Chicks for their opposition to George W. Bush’s Iraq War.

    […] Swift commented on the risk of taking a political stand, “…what happened to the Dixie Chicks was real outrage. I registered it — that you’re always one comment away from being done being able to make music.” But she felt like she had to speak out.

    As the threat of a Trump autocracy looms in 2024, will Swift, the globe’s biggest star who has given her fans her heart and soul, once again stand strong for democracy in America?

    […] Swift was “adamant about pressing the button to send a nearly internet-breaking Instagram post, saying that [Tennessee Republican Senator Marsha] Blackburn has voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act as well as LGBTQ-friendly bills: [Tennessee Senator Marsha] Blackburn. Swift said that ‘I can’t see another commercial [with] her disguising these policies behind the words ‘Tennessee Christian values.’ I live in Tennessee. I am Christian. That’s not what we stand for.’” Willman noted that Swift “Pushing back tears, she lamented not having come out against Trump two years earlier, ‘but I can’t change that. … I need to be on the right side of history.

    […] Swift clearly understood that her father “[was] terrified of threats against my safety and my life, and he has to see how many stalkers we deal with on a daily basis, and know that this is his kid. It’s where he comes from.”

    Now that Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the country, has hired a reporter to exclusively cover all things Taylor Swift and there are breathless wall-to-wall stories across social media about her ERAS tour and romance with Kansas City Chiefs football star, Travis Kelce, the world’s most popular pop star is perfectly positioned to use her platform. Granted, by opposing the rise of autocracy and criticizing right wing bigots, haters, and MAGA-ites, she might lose some of her fan base, and face threats to her health and well-being. But Lord knows she could lose half of her followers while still breaking box office records for a concert film, selling millions of records, and winning Grammy Awards by the bucketful.

    […] According to Politico’s Claudia Chiappa (, “Swift’s ability to move political markets appears to be growing, […]

    Taylor Swift could be an influential player in the 2024 election cycle. Pro-democracy advocates need Swift — and her many friends in the music and entertainment industries — to mobilize youth in opposition to MAGA authoritarianism.

  72. says

    Followup to comment 100.

    Posted by readers of the article:

    […] her voice WILL matter because she has a HUGE following and her people are on the right side of history.

    But I just wanted to say that I am kinda annoyed at the framing of this Diary. I mean, Biden needs “saved” because he isn’t capable of winning without her help? Or he needs her to step in and save him because he can’t do it himself? Or he needs saved because he isn’t a good president?

    Look, I get that his polling numbers are not great, but I think that’s horse shit. I have posted many times that every presidential incumbent POTUS that won a second term since at least Reagan has had as bad or worse polling numbers as Biden. And, polling itself has some serious problems right now.

    I get that a lot of young people are pissed about Biden’s public stance in terms of the I/P situation, I am not excited about it either. But I believe a lot of young people will get over that when they remember that the GOP is coming for their bodies (either with anti-abortion legislation or with odious gun laws).

    […] saying that she is going to “save Biden’s ass” is pretty discourteous to our president.
    The media hypes any poll that shows Biden losing to TRump
    I am a fan of her using her voice to save democracy!
    Joe is saving his own ass by being an extremely effective President, as well as the alternative to Trump. Since the media doesn’t seem to interested, he certainly can use the help of anyone who recognizes the truth and helps to publicize it. Taylor Swift can be one very helpful such person, but it takes all of us. With all he has accomplished (Infrastructure bill, Chips bill, economic recovery, judicial appointments, rebuilding NATO, Ukraine assistance, Gaza cease fire, ect.) he has a record to be proud of.
    Our local League of Women Voters gave Taylor an award for registering 35,000 young folks, during her Eras tour, nearly as many as the entire LWV was able to register in a year of trying. As the League is nonpartisan, it ostensibly doesn’t care which party they’re registering with or who they intend to vote for. But let’s be honest, we know who most of them will vote for and it won’t be Orange Julius Caesar. If Taylor stays in that lane — voting is patriotic — she shouldn’t bring any recriminations down on herself a la The Dixie Chicks.

  73. says

    Wall Street Journal:

    Iran continued to expand its nuclear program, including its stockpile of near-weapons-grade enriched uranium in recent months, although it hasn’t accelerated the pace of its production of nuclear fuel amid the current turmoil in the Middle East.

  74. Reginald Selkirk says

    Ukrainian spy chief’s wife poisoned, media reports say

    The wife of Ukraine’s military intelligence chief has been poisoned with heavy metals, several Ukrainian media outlets reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed intelligence sources.

    Marianna Budanova is the wife of Kyrylo Budanov, who heads Ukrainian military intelligence agency GUR, which has been prominently involved in clandestine operations against Russian forces throughout the 21-month war…

  75. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 100

    I am Christian. That’s not what we stand for.

    I’ve got a two-thousand-year-old heap of murdered people who would disagree, you supersticous scut.

  76. Reginald Selkirk says

    Europol arrest hackers allegedly behind string of ransomware attacks

    Europol and its international law enforcement partners have arrested five individuals who authorities accuse of involvement in a string of ransomware attacks affecting more than 1,800 victims worldwide.

    The arrested individuals, which include the criminal gang’s ringleader, 32, and four of his “most active” accomplices, were arrested following a series of raids at 30 properties across Ukraine last week, Europol said in a statement on Tuesday. The suspects were not named…

    The arrests are the latest in a years-long investigation that in 2021 saw 12 individuals arrested in raids in Ukraine and Switzerland. Europol said in its announcement Tuesday that its earlier actions subsequently “facilitated the identification of the suspects targeted during the action last week in Kyiv.” …

  77. says

    John Kelly served as Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff for 17 months. Now he’s practically begging people not to vote for the former president.

    In Bob Woodward’s first book on Donald Trump’s presidency, the author highlighted a meeting in which then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly said of the-then president, “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here.”

    And while that was certainly an unflattering comment, it was a private and unconfirmed exchange. That said, what Kelly has been willing to say on the record has been nearly as striking. The Washington Post published this report last week:

    John F. Kelly, the longest-serving chief of staff in President Donald Trump’s White House, watches Trump dominate the GOP primary with increasing despair. “What’s going on in the country that a single person thinks this guy would still be a good president when he’s said the things he’s said and done the things he’s done?” Kelly said in a recent interview. “It’s beyond my comprehension he has the support he has.”

    The retired four-star general went on to tell the Post, “I came out and told people the awful things he said about wounded soldiers, and it didn’t have half a day’s bounce. … If anything, his numbers go up. It might even move the needle in the wrong direction. I think we’re in a dangerous zone in our country.”

    The comments come on the heels of Kelly telling CNN that Trump privately disparaged U.S. troops, has “no idea what America stands for,” and has “nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law.”

    These were not casual asides. As regular readers know, after Trump left the White House, Kelly, the man who served as the Republican president’s chief of staff for 17 months, has struggled to contain his contempt for his former boss. Over the last few years, the retired Marine general, who also served as Trump’s Homeland Security secretary, has accused Trump of, among other things, “poisoning” people’s minds, having “serious character issues,” and not being “a real man.”

    Just as notably, Kelly has also raised concerns about Trump’s abuses while in office. Last fall, for example, Kelly told The New York Times that Trump, during his presidency, told his chief of staff to use the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department to target his critics and perceived political foes.

    It’s against this backdrop that Kelly seems absolutely baffled as to why anyone in their right minds would even consider supporting his former boss.

    I’m mindful of the fact that Trump’s followers reflexively distrust the Republican’s opponents, but it’s worth reemphasizing that Kelly isn’t a pundit, scholar, or elected official — he’s the man Trump personally tapped to oversee his White House.

    He’s also the man who appears to be practically begging people not to vote for the former president.

  78. says

    Tommy Tuberville’s position has evolved from targeting travel reimbursements, to attacking military officers themselves, to condemning the military itself.

    Earlier this month, several Senate Republicans decided they’d seen enough of Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s unprecedented blockade on confirming U.S. military leaders. In fact, these GOP members publicly accused the Alabama Republican of, among other things, being dishonest, damaging the military during international crises, assisting U.S. adversaries abroad, and relying on tactics that are “ridiculous” and “dumb.”

    If the goal was to encourage the far-right senator to be more responsible, those efforts have apparently fallen short. HuffPost reported overnight:

    Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) is coming under fire after he insulted the U.S. military on Monday evening. “We’ve got the weakest military that we’ve had in your or my lifetime,” he told Newsmax’s Eric Bolling as he complained about diversity initiatives. “Infiltrating our military is all this wokeness.”

    There was, of course, a degree of irony to the circumstances: The politician responsible for weakening the military whined on national television about the military being weak.

    Soon after, former Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said Tuberville isn’t just wrong; he’s “an idiot.”

    Putting questions about the Alabaman’s intellect aside, I’m struck by the broader shift in Tuberville’s tactics. Following up on our earlier coverage, the senator’s original position was indefensible, but it was at least consistent. In the wake of Roe v. Wade’s demise, the Pentagon created a travel-reimbursement policy for servicemembers who needed to travel for reproductive health care.

    The Alabama Republican insisted that the policy is “illegal” (it’s not), and further argued that the Defense Department was paying for abortions (which was also untrue). The result was a radical tactic: For the first time in American history, a senator imposed a blanket hold that made it effectively impossible for the Senate to confirm U.S. military promotions in large numbers.

    The right-wing coach-turned-politician made his position clear: The military nominees — who have broad, bipartisan support — could advance just as soon as the Pentagon eliminates these benefits for servicemembers and aligns military policies with his regressive beliefs. DOD leaders have balked, and the result has been a nearly year-long blockade without precedent.

    But Tuberville’s position has subtly evolved over time. The Alabaman used to attack a specific benefit the military made available to active-duty troops. In the late summer, however, the Republican started attacking high-ranking military officers themselves.

    Now, Tuberville is going a step further, condemning his own country’s military for having descended into “weakness.”

    It’s tempting to explore in detail all of the many substantive reasons the senator is wrong, but there really isn’t much of a point: Tuberville doesn’t take his own positions seriously, so there’s little reason for anyone else to respond to them as if he were a mature policymaker.

    The larger question, meanwhile, is what, if anything, senators can do to circumvent the Republican’s efforts.

    Two weeks ago, the Senate Rules Committee advanced a measure — that’s being referred to as a “patch” — which would temporarily empower members to confirm pending military nominees, crushing Tuberville’s blockade. In a letter to colleagues on Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he’d bring up the resolution “in the coming weeks,” clearing the way for confirmations before the new year.

    The trouble, of course, is that the measure would still need 60 votes, which means nine GOP senators would have to side with Democrats in support of the military. While Republican criticisms of Tuberville are becoming more common — even Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas recently conceded that the Alabaman’s tactics are hurting the armed forces — it’s not yet clear whether those votes will materialize over the next month. Watch this space.

  79. says

    Followup to comment 94.

    […] “My predecessor, once again — God love him — called for cuts that could rip away health insurance for tens of millions of Americans on Medicaid,” Biden said at a White House event. […]

    Biden’s public comments coincided with a written statement from the president’s re-election campaign. “Forty million people — more than 1 in 10 Americans — have health insurance today because of the Affordable Care Act and Donald Trump just said he would try to rip it away if he returns to power,” spokesperson Ammar Moussa said. “He was one vote away from getting it done when he was president — and we should take him at his word that he’ll try to do it again.

    “That means letting insurance companies deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions like diabetes, cancer, or asthma; kicking college kids off their parents’ coverage the moment they graduate; leaving a job once again resulting in a loss of coverage; premiums skyrocketing; and middle class families suffering. Donald Trump’s America is one where millions of people lose their health insurance and seniors and families across the country face exorbitant costs just to stay healthy. Those are the stakes next November.”

    This was soon followed by a lengthy memo from White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates on the same issue.

    Soon after, the Biden campaign announced a press call with House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper in order to “highlight the devastating impact that a Trump and MAGA repeal of the Affordable Care Act would have on millions of Americans.”

    The aforementioned Post report added, “The campaign will run new TV ads this week in swing states to highlight the president’s efforts to lower prices for some prescription drugs and spotlight Trump’s call to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”

    If Democrats were to have literally written a script for Trump to follow, they probably would’ve had the Republican pick a fight over the future of the ACA. It was awfully generous of him to play along for no apparent reason.


  80. says

    In a new report this morning, Katherine Faulders et al. of ABC News describe what former Vice President Mike Pence has told Special Counsel Jack Smith.

    […] the ABC News team paints a picture of detailed questioning of Pence by investigators and a more granular (but not inconsistent) account of what Pence has already said publicly. The sources almost surely come from Pence’s circle, as the report goes so far as to use quotations purportedly from Pence.

    According to the ABC News report, Pence told investigators that:

    Trump surrounded himself with “crank” attorneys, espoused “un-American” legal theories, and almost pushed the country toward a “constitutional crisis.”

    Pence briefly considered not showing up for the Jan. 6 certification by Congress of the Electoral College vote.

    Trump privately asked Pence for his advice, and Pence told him that if nothing changed, “[you] should simply accept the results,” “you should take a bow,” travel the country to thank supporters, “and then run again if you want.”

    After Trump re-tweeted a memo titled ‘Operation PENCE CARD,’ Pence turned to his wife and said, “Here we go.”

    Trump “acted recklessly” as the Capitol was under siege, but Pence will “never believe” Trump meant for Jan. 6 to become violent.


    So, Pence remains partially delusional.

  81. says

    Idaho Asks Supreme Court To Let It Fully Impose Punitive Abortion Ban During Appeal

    Idaho asked the Supreme Court Monday to stay a lower court injunction, or to take up its case directly, as it attempts to fend off the Biden administration’s challenge of the state’s abortion ban.

    The government filed suit in August 2022, arguing that Idaho’s abortion ban — which includes penalties for providers who perform abortions — runs afoul of Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA).

    Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra published a memo shortly after the Dobbs decision reminding hospitals that EMTALA requires them to perform abortions as part of emergency stabilizing care. Idaho’s ban prohibits abortions except when necessary to prevent the pregnant woman’s death.

    The government has argued that the gap between those two requirements is large, and that EMTALA preempts the abortion ban in those cases. That argument won at the district court level, and a judge enjoined Idaho’s ban where it conflicts with EMTALA. A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel, composed of three Donald Trump appointees, lifted the injunction in September. The government immediately moved for emergency reconsideration by the Ninth Circuit en banc, which vacated the panel order and denied Idaho’s request to impose its ban in those emergency situations during the appeals process.

    Now, Idaho is going to the Supreme Court for permission to fully enforce its ban.

    In its new filing, the state rails against the Ninth Circuit’s “unreasoned order,” its “pulling the case away from a panel that had thoroughly considered the merits of Idaho’s stay application” and the federal government’s “unauthorized power grab.”

    […] “The district court’s injunction effectively turns EMTALA’s protection for the uninsured into a federal super-statute on the issue of abortion, one that strips Idaho of its sovereign interest in protecting innocent human life and turns emergency rooms into a federal enclave where state standards of care do not apply,” Idaho’s lawyers fumed.

    […] The Supreme Court could — if it’s disinclined to grant the stay — take up the case directly instead and add a high-profile abortion showdown to the docket this term, Idaho’s lawyers suggested. […]

  82. says

    Followup to comment 111

    […] According to ABC’s unnamed sources, Pence repeatedly insisted on his continuing loyalty to Trump, saying, “My only higher loyalty was to God and the Constitution.” […]

    “Not feeling like I should attend electoral count,” Pence wrote in his notes in late December. “Too many questions, too many doubts, too hurtful to my friend. Therefore I’m not going to participate in certification of election.”

    […] It was Pence’s son, a Marine, who reportedly convinced him to go to the Capitol and preside over the certification. He said, “Dad, you took the same oath I took,” which is to say, “an oath to support and defend the Constitution.”

    The emphasis on Pence’s regret and abiding loyalty to Trump—as well as the overall lack of leaks from the special counsel’s office—strongly suggest that ABC’s sources were from the Pence camp. If so, the continuing effort to show that he was a good Trump loyalist to the end, despite his principled and pained conclusion that President Joe Biden was the legitimate winner in 2020 and that the Constitution did not permit Pence as vice president to overturn that election, is just sad. “Too hurtful to my friend,” wrote the man whose “friend” weeks later sent a mob chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.”

    Ah, but about that:

    According to sources, when Pence spoke with Smith’s team earlier this year, he said Trump’s words that morning “didn’t help,” and he said Trump “acted recklessly” as the Capitol was under siege. But Pence also said he will “never believe” Trump meant for Jan. 6 to become violent.

    Sure, Mike.

    ABC also reports that Pence emphasized the conversations in which he told Trump that he could not alter the election results and that he did not believe there had been fraud that altered the election results. He also said there is “no doubt” that Trump “knew what I thought of” outside attorneys like Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, who were encouraging Trump to believe he’d won even as the White House attorneys told him he’d lost.

    Trump is currently scheduled to be tried on these charges in March. This report could be a preview of any testimony Pence might give in that trial. If so, expect the sanctimony to be laid on with a trowel. But it’s worth it, because he really can show that Trump had every reason to know that he lost, and that Trump’s denial was willful and implausible.


  83. lumipuna says

    Update: Finland just decided to close the entire Russian border for two weeks, starting Wednesday afternoon (nominally Thursday midnight, but the one remaining border station already has very limited opening hours). In this plan, all border stations will tentatively open in mid December. The original partial border closure was tentatively planned for three months.

    The last couple days have seen almost no asylum seekers crossing the border. I have a hunch that Russia will now hold the migrants, rather than sending them hiking across a closed border, aiming to make the border closure look ridiculous and unnecessary and impractical and politically divisive, to ensure it won’t be extended beyond a couple weeks. Then when the easily accessible border stations open in mid December, the whole cycle starts again.

  84. lumipuna says

    As a side note, Thursday (30 November) is the 84th anniversary of the beginning of Winter War. Those who still use Twitter can follow the day-by-day events from @RealtimeWWII, where the six-year cycle has just rolled over back to 1939.

    Also, just as in 1939, the winter in Finland has started out relatively early and cold. Most of the rest of the world is wildly overheated, though.

  85. Akira MacKenzie says


    The retired four-star general went on to tell the Post, “I came out and told people the awful things he said about wounded soldiers, and it didn’t have half a day’s bounce. … If anything, his numbers go up. It might even move the needle in the wrong direction.”

    Because they don’t believe you. For decades the right has vilified the press as propagandists and liars. Is it any wonder why they would rush to defend their savior against Kelly’s “treasonous” claims about our Dear Leader?

  86. says

    Rupert Murdoch is set to be questioned under oath on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of voting technology company Smartmatic’s $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox Corp (FOXA.O) over coverage of debunked vote-rigging claims involving the 2020 U.S. presidential election, a person familiar with the matter said.

    Murdoch will be deposed in Los Angeles, according to that person, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The deposition does not appear on the public docket for the case.

    […] Florida-based Smartmatic is seeking damages from Fox Corp, Fox News and five individuals: Rudolph Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who were lawyers for Republican former President Donald Trump; and Fox hosts Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, as well as former Fox host Lou Dobbs.

    Smartmatic alleges in its lawsuit filed in state court in New York that the defendants knowingly spread false claims that the company’s software was used to flip votes in favor of Democrat Joe Biden and against Trump.


  87. says

    Russian Court Extends Detention of WSJ Reporter
    Wall Street Journal link
    Evan Gershkovich has been in custody since March and denies an allegation of espionage

    A Russian court ruled to extend the detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich for a third time since he was taken into custody in March on an allegation of espionage that he, the Journal and the U.S. government vehemently deny.

    The decision followed a judge’s ruling in August to grant the request of investigators from the Federal Security Service, or FSB, that Gershkovich remains behind bars awaiting trial until Nov. 30. Tuesday’s ruling lengthens his detention through at least Jan. 30, by which time he will have been held for 10 months.

    The Journal said it continued to stand with Gershkovich and called for his immediate release.

    “Evan has now been unjustly imprisoned for nearly 250 days, and every day is a day too long,” the Journal said in a statement. “The accusations against him are categorically false and his continued imprisonment is a brazen and outrageous attack on a free press, which is critical for a free society.”

    The U.S. Embassy in Moscow also criticized the extension of Gershkovich’s detention.

    “Today, U.S. Embassy representatives attended the hearing of wrongfully detained WSJ journalist Evan Gershkovich at the Lefortovo Court. We are deeply concerned by the court’s decision to extend his detention for an additional two months,” it said on its Telegram messaging service channel. “Evan has already been in pretrial detention without legal grounds for almost eight months. We reiterate our call for Evan’s immediate release.”

    Gershkovich, a 32-year-old U.S. citizen who was accredited by Russia’s Foreign Ministry to work as a journalist, was detained by FSB agents on March 29 during a reporting trip. Russian investigators haven’t publicly presented evidence to back up their espionage allegation against Gershkovich, who is being held at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison. […]

  88. says

    Hunter Biden asks to testify publicly. House Republicans scurry away in a panic

    After months of being treated as a punching bag by Republicans in the House and by right-wing media, Hunter Biden has reacted to a Republican subpoena by offering to testify in person before the House Oversight Committee that’s supposedly looking into allegations of misconduct by President Joe Biden and members of his family. It’s a direct challenge to Republican committee Chair James Comer and to the GOP’s ongoing efforts to create an excuse to impeach the president.

    Hunter Biden’s testimony could be one of the greatest “put up or shut up” moments of the century.

    Except it’s not going to happen. It’s not happening because the offer to testify in public and answer any question that Republicans wanted to ask was met with a refusal from Comer. The last thing the House Oversight chair wants in his committee is the truth.

    According to Hunter’s attorney, David Lowell, the president’s son is willing to sit for the committee on “December 13, or any date in December that we can arrange.” And he has just one requirement: That testimony has to be public, so everyone gets to hear what Republicans ask and what Hunter has to say in response. “All you will learn is that your accusations are baseless,” writes Lowell. “However, the American people should see that for themselves.”

    That’s exactly what terrifies Comer. As CNN reports, the Republican congressman who has been making outrageous claims about the Biden family for months quickly rejected the idea of public testimony. “Hunter Biden is trying to play by his own rules instead of following the rules required of everyone else,” said Comer. “That won’t stand with House Republicans.”

    Instead, Comer insists that Hunter must appear before Republicans in private so that they can frame information released about both questions and answers in the way they best suits their “investigation.” Republican Rep. Ben Cline followed Comer’s refusal by maintaining that Hunter’s offer to testify in public was part of a Democratic scheme to block Comer’s investigation.

    Because, as everyone knows, open public testimony is something that a Republican investigation simply cannot tolerate.

    Hunter has been the subject of continuous attacks since Rudy Giuliani first strolled into The New York Times in 2019 and handed them an utterly ridiculous story about Hunter, his father, and a corrupt prosecutor in Ukraine. That story was rapidly and thoroughly debunked, but that hasn’t kept Republicans from citing it as fact from that day until the present. Just days before the 2020 election, Giuliani announced that he had obtained “Hunter Biden’s laptop”—a phrase that has now been promoted thousands of times by Donald Trump, Republicans in the House and Senate, right-wing media, and Elon Musk. Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene went so far as to brandish revenge porn taken from this nonexistent laptop on the floor of the House.

    The combined effort of Republicans, their supporters, and the media to crush Hunter may be the most jaw-dropping example of the lengths to which the right will go in an effort to find some reason, any reason, to defame Joe Biden. In the past few weeks, Comer has been dribbling out already well-established information one crumb at a time, treating each piece as if it’s some kind of revelation and throwing claims of corruption at multiple members of the Biden family.

    And that’s exactly what Comer and others intend to do over the coming months. They have no interest in the truth, and no interest in what Hunter Biden has to say. They only want to preserve their ability to pretend to “investigate” by way of smear.

    Rep. Jamie Raskin issued a response to Comer’s insistence that his work can only be carried out in darkness:

    “Let me get this straight. After wailing and moaning for ten months about Hunter Biden and alluding to some vast unproven family conspiracy, after sending Hunter Biden a subpoena to appear and testify, Chairman Comer and the Oversight Republicans now reject his offer to appear before the full Committee and the eyes of the world and to answer any questions that they pose? What an epic humiliation for our colleagues and what a frank confession that they are simply not interested in the facts and have no confidence in their own case or the ability of their own Members to pursue it. After the miserable failure of their impeachment hearing in September, Chairman Comer has now apparently decided to avoid all Committee hearings where the public can actually see for itself the logical, rhetorical and factual contortions they have tied themselves up in. The evidence has shown time and again President Biden has committed no wrongdoing, much less an impeachable offense. Chairman Comer’s insistence that Hunter Biden’s interview should happen behind closed doors proves it once again. What the Republicans fear most is sunlight and the truth.”

  89. says

    Tyrant Joe Biden Reforms Welfare, Won’t Let States Steal From Poor To Build Volleyball Palaces

    Or blow welfare funds on abstinence education, private colleges, etc.

    We love it when the Biden administration just out of nowhere solves problems that may not make the nightly news, but that have real impacts on people’s lives, like how last year Health and Human Services fixed a glitch in the design of Obamacare that had kept about a million people from being able to get coverage. No drama, no midnight vigils outside the White House: instead, people at HHS looked at the problem, proposed new administrative rules, and voila, a big headache for some Americans was gone. That’s happened with a lot of small fixes to student loans, too, in addition to the bigger loan forgiveness packages the administration has pursued.

    This is what happens when you staff up an administration with smart people who want to solve problems. […] closing a huge loophole that allowed states to divert federal antipoverty funds to governors’ pet projects, like promoting abstinence, holding “heathy marriage” classes that did nothing to prevent out-of-wedlock births, funding anti-abortion “clinics” to lie about abortion “risks,” sending middle-class kids to private colleges, and other schemes only tangentially related to helping poor kids. It’s the same loophole that Mississippi officials tried to drive a truck through to divert welfare funds to former sportsball man Brett Favre’s alma mater, for a volleyball palace. That scandal made enough headlines that the administration’s plan to fix the loophole just might get covered beyond policy nerds, even.

    At the root of the problem is some vague language around the program that used to be called “welfare” but which was rebranded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in Bill Clinton’s 1996 “Welfare reform” law. TANF normally gave cash assistance to low-income families, to use for basic living expenses. But under the 1986 “reform,” states were allowed to take their TANF block grants and allocate them to other programs that ostensibly assist low-income families with kids. Over the years, while some states still provided cash assistance, others shifted the funds to other budget slots, rationalizing almost any spending as somehow helping poor kids. Mississippi claimed that new volleyball stadium might prevent poverty by encouraging poors to adopt exercise and healthy eating habits, for instance.

    ProPublica detailed the widespread abuse of TANF funds in a series of stories in 2021, explaining how Utah’s public assistance rules convinced some families they had to join the LDS church to get help, and how Arizona used TANF funds for child welfare investigations of needy parents — effectively “helping” poor families by breaking them up. Some states didn’t spend the funds at all, simply hoarding parts of their TANF grants.

    So yeah, said the Biden folks at the Administration for Children and Families, let’s fix that! The agency has proposed new rules — open for public comment until December 1 — aimed at nudging states to actually use TANF funds to give cash to needy parents, not fill budget holes or punish poor people.

    One change will put an end to the scheme Utah used to substitute LDS church funds for welfare, by prohibiting states

    from counting charitable giving by private organizations, such as churches and food banks, as “state” spending on welfare, a practice that has allowed legislatures to budget less for programs for low-income families while still claiming to meet federal minimums.

    Another new rule will put the kibosh on using TANF to fund child protective services or foster care programs, which are not what TANF is supposed to be for, damn it.

    And then there’s the simple matter of making sure that funds for needy families go to needy families, not to pet projects that have little to do with poverty:

    The reforms would also redefine the term “needy” to refer only to families with incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty line. Currently, some states spend TANF money on programs like college scholarships — or volleyball stadiums — that benefit more affluent people.

    Guess the real “Welfare Queens” were the state bureaucrats who robbed poor families to help people who didn’t need it, huh?

    But wait, there’s more! Instead of allowing states to write up flimsy rationalizations for how a Don’t-Fuck-Before-Marriage Summer Camp might benefit poor families, states would have to

    provide concrete evidence, including social science research or real-world examples, showing that they are using their TANF spending in ways that truly help families in need.

    And the best way to do that, the government writes in its announcement of the proposed rule, is to do what TANF was originally set up for: giving cash assistance to needy families, because it works, even if you’re sure they’ll just blow it on booze, drugs, and My Little Pony collectibles. That’s just wrong, you see:

    [We] remind states that there is a large body of research that shows that cash assistance is a critically important tool for reducing family and child poverty. Studies have found that when families receive TANF and are more financially secure, they are less likely to be involved in the child welfare system.

    When this new rule goes into effect, states will still have some flexibility if they want to use TANF grants for something other than direct cash assistance. But they’ll need to show that poor families really are benefitting, or they’ll be penalized. […]

  90. says

    From The Washington Post: Koch network endorses Nikki Haley for president as it looks to stop Trump

    The powerful political network led by conservative billionaire Charles Koch endorsed Nikki Haley for president on Tuesday, as it looks to stop Donald Trump from being the Republican nominee.

    Americans for Prosperity Action, the network’s flagship political group, announced the group’s first endorsement of its type in a presidential race. In 2015, the Koch network identified five approved presidential candidates, all of whom fell to Trump.

    […] The endorsement comes just under seven weeks before the first nominating contest in Iowa, with Trump in command of the race there and in other early states. Haley, the former U.N. ambassador and governor of South Carolina, has gained momentum in the Republican primary and has in many ways surpassed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as the top alternative to Trump. […]

  91. says

    Paul Krugman, writing for The New York Times: Nikki Haley Is Coming for Your Retirement

    It feels like years ago, but actually only a few months have passed since many big Republican donors seemed to believe that Ron DeSantis could effectively challenge Donald Trump for the Republican nomination. It has been an edifying spectacle — an object lesson in the reality that great wealth need not be associated with good judgment, about politics or anything else.

    At this point, both conventional wisdom and prediction markets say that Trump has a virtual lock on the nomination. But Wall Street isn’t completely resigned to Trump’s inevitability; there has been a late surge in big-money support for Nikki Haley, a former governor of South Carolina. And there is, to be fair, still a chance that Trump — who is facing many criminal charges and whose public rants have become utterly unhinged — will manage to crash and burn before securing the nomination.

    So it seems worth looking at what Haley stands for.

    From a political point of view, one answer might be: nothing. A recent Times profile described her as having “an ability to calibrate her message to the moment.” A less euphemistic way to put this is that she seems willing to say whatever might work to her political advantage. “Flip-flopping” doesn’t really convey the sheer cynicism with which she has shifted her rhetoric and changed her positions on everything from abortion rights to immigration to whether it’s OK to try to overturn a national election.

    And anyone hoping that she would govern as a moderate if she should somehow make it to the White House is surely delusional. Haley has never really shown a willingness to stand up to Republican extremists — and at this point the whole G.O.P. has been taken over by extremists.

    That said, Haley has shown some consistency on issues of economic and fiscal policy. And what you should know is that her positions on these issues are pretty far to the right. In particular, she seems exceptionally explicit, even among would-be Republican nominees, in calling for an increase in the age at which Americans become eligible for Social Security — a bad idea that seems to be experiencing a revival.

    So let’s talk about Social Security.

    The first thing you should know about Social Security is that the actual numbers don’t justify the apocalyptic rhetoric one often hears, not just from the right but also from self-proclaimed centrists who want to sound serious. No, the exhaustion of the system’s trust fund, currently projected to occur in roughly a decade, wouldn’t mean that benefits disappear.

    It would mean that the system would need additional revenue to continue paying scheduled benefits in full. But the extra revenue required would be smaller than you probably think. The most recent long-term projections from the Congressional Budget Office show Social Security outlays rising to 6.2 percent of gross domestic product in 2053 from 5.1 percent this year, not exactly an earth-shattering increase.

    It’s true that the budget office projects a much bigger rise in spending on Medicare and other major health programs. But much of this projected rise reflects the assumption that medical costs will rise much faster than economic growth, which has been true in the past but need not be true in the future. Indeed, since 2010, Medicare spending has been far less than expected. And there is every reason to believe that smart policies could further curb health care costs, given how much more America spends than other wealthy nations.

    Still, Social Security does face a funding gap. How should it be closed?

    Anyone who says, as Haley does, that the retirement age should rise in line with increasing life expectancy is being oblivious, perhaps willfully, to the grim inequality of modern America. Until Covid struck, average life expectancy at 65, the relevant number, was indeed rising. But these gains were concentrated among Americans with relatively high incomes. Less affluent Americans — those who depend most on Social Security — have seen little increase in life expectancy and, in some cases, declines.

    So anyone invoking rising life expectancy as a reason to delay Social Security benefits is, in effect, saying that aging janitors must keep working (or be cast into extreme poverty) because bankers are living longer.

    How, then, should the Social Security gap be closed? The obvious answer — which happens to be favored by a majority of voters — is to raise more revenue. Remember, America collects less revenue as a percentage of G.D.P. than almost any other advanced economy.

    But Haley, of course, wants to cut income taxes.

    […] I would beg political reporters not to focus on Haley’s personal affect, which can seem moderate, but rather on her policies. […] On fiscal and economic policy, she’s a hard-right advocate of tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the working class. […]

  92. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Lynna #92:

    One of the features of this variant of the “settler colonialism” construct is that any resistance by definition justified. […] One side of the conflict (Israel) is incapable of acting in self-defense because they are inherently the aggressor […] ubiquitous claims of “genocide” are fruit of the same totalizing ideology. […] They amount to a premeditated slander […] If these are the terms of the debate, if these are the stakes, then no settlement is possible

    Gasp slander! Better keep killing then. A world-class military carpet bombing starving children has no business being so violently fragile.

  93. says

    Nazi flags and SS history book found in Ohio Walmart shooter’s house

    Nazi flags and a Schutzstaffel history book were among the items found in the home of the Ohio Walmart shooter who earlier this month wounded four people before killing himself, records show.

    The FBI previously said Benjamin Charles Jones, 20, may have been at least partly inspired by violent, racist ideology based on journal writings and other evidence collected after he opened fire at the Beavercreek Walmart on Nov. 20. Details about the writings and other items were not detailed in a statement at the time.

    However, court documents now indicate Beavercreek police detectives seized a total of 18 items, including two Nazi flags, the Schutzstaffel — or SS — history book, a shooting complex card, handwritten notes, electronics and a blue folder containing documents, during a search of Jones’ home in Dayton. […]

    The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

  94. Reginald Selkirk says

    Home Depot billionaire says he’d likely still fund Trump if candidate convicted

    Republican mega-donor Bernie Marcus said on Tuesday he would likely still give money to Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential bid if the former president was convicted of a crime – but the billionaire does not plan to be one of his biggest financial backers.

    Marcus, a co-founder of home improvement retailer The Home Depot, announced earlier this month that he was supporting Trump, the runaway frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination contest that kicks off on Jan. 15 in Iowa…


  95. says

    Ex-girlfriend of Vermont shooting suspect reported his alleged harassment to police

    A former girlfriend of the man accused of shooting three Palestinian college students in Vermont once told police he was harassing her with messages “sexual in nature” — but stopped short of pressing charges against him, law enforcement records showed.

    The then-36-year-old woman called police in DeWitt, New York, on Oct. 21, 2019, telling them Jason Eaton had been sending her “numerous text messages, emails and phone calls,” according to a department report obtained by NBC News on Tuesday.

    […] College students and longtime friends Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmad were staying with Awartani’s family in Vermont for the Thanksgiving holiday when they were shot.the woman made it clear she didn’t want “to communicate with him or see him anymore,” according to police in the Syracuse suburb.

    Awartani is a junior at Brown University, while Abdalhamid runs track at Haverford College and Ahmad attends Trinity College. The three have known one another since their days at Ramallah Friends School in the occupied West Bank.

    The victims’ loved ones said they wanted the young men to spend the holidays in Vermont, fearing the West Bank would be dangerous.

    An attorney for Eaton declined to comment Tuesday. The defendant pleaded not guilty to three counts of second-degree attempted murder Monday.

    Police have yet to say whether racial animus played any role in Saturday’s attack.

    However, the victims’ loved ones said they’re convinced the college students “were targeted simply for being Palestinian,” according to a joint statement Tuesday. […]

  96. Reginald Selkirk says

    Judge recuses himself from Elon Musk’s case against Media Matters

    The judge presiding over tech billionaire Elon Musk’s lawsuit against Media Matters for America has recused himself from the case, according to court documents.

    In a notice filed with the court on Tuesday, Judge Mark Pittman of the U.S. District Court in Northern Texas wrote that he was recusing himself from the case and requested the clerk of the court assign it to another judge.

    Pittman, who was appointed to his position by former President Trump, did not give a reason for stepping away, and it was not immediately clear why the request was made.

    Federal judges are mandated to recuse themselves when their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” including when they have a financial interest or personal bias…

  97. says

    Well that’s just stupid.

    Texas AG’s office argues women should sue doctors — not state — over lack of abortion access

    Lawyers in the Texas attorney general’s office said Tuesday that women should sue their doctors, not the state, over a lack of access to abortion in defending the state’s strict law.

    Beth Klusmann of the Texas Attorney General’s Office made that point in oral arguments before the state Supreme Court in a case challenging Texas’s abortion ban, which bars doctors from providing abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — typically around six weeks into pregnancy — with exceptions only for cases in which the life of the mother is at risk.

    […] The lawsuit in Zurawski v. Texas was brought by 22 women who said that state law had forced them to carry nonviable and dangerous pregnancies to term — in other words, to go through the ordeal of pregnancy with a fetus that would not survive, and that in many cases was putting them at serious risk.

    The suit brought by the Center for Reproductive Freedom charges that many of the 22 women were denied care because, despite the severity of the damage that the nonviable pregnancy was doing their body, doctors told them they weren’t quite sick enough for it to be clearly life threatening.

    Forty businesses have also signed a brief in support of the suit — arguing that ambiguities in the law have incurred a substantial financial cost: nearly $15 billion in lost revenues, and businesses and employees leaving the state.
    The plaintiffs argued that the 2021 law flew in the face of a long history of doctors being allowed to determine when abortion was necessary to preserve the health of the mother under state law — even when the procedure, in general, was not legal.

    They contended that while the legislation included language intended to allow abortions in life-threatening cases, it was so vaguely worded — and its penalties so harsh — that it amounted to a total ban that threatened the lives of mothers already carrying babies who would not survive.

    […] Senate Bill 8 exposed Texas doctors to harsh penalties — potential life in prison, loss of their medical license and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines — if they perform an abortion on a fetus with a heartbeat.

    “The abortion bans, as they exist today, subject physicians like my clients to the most penalties imaginable,” Duane said.

    That ban holds even for complicated pregnancies where the fetus would not survive birth — something that in August caused a district judge to block the prosecution of doctors who performed abortions in those cases.

    The same day that ruling came down, the office of Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) appealed it to the state Supreme Court — effectively keeping the ban in place.

    […] In court, the state argued that the 22 women suing the state were the wrong plaintiffs going after the wrong target.

    First, Klusmann argued that the women had no standing to challenge the 2021 law — because it targeted doctors, not pregnant women themselves.

    Second, she argued that women with complicated and dangerous pregnancies should have no problem obtaining abortions under the law, and that they should be taking up their grievances with the doctors who had denied them the procedures they now argued were medically necessary rather than the state.

    A woman risking death if she doesn’t get an abortion, Klusmann argued, would clearly “qualify for a medical emergency exemption. And so, if she has to come to court to make that happen, that is not the state’s fault.”

    [snipped many examples of the Texas law simply not working in real life, and of the law putting women’s lives in danger]

    For the state, Klusmann argued that these cases — which the Legislature sought to avert with its language about protecting the life of the mother — did not rise to the level of a constitutional issue.

    “The Legislature decided to value unborn life and prohibit abortion in all circumstances unless that life is going to conflict with the life of the mother — we’re just trying to identify when it’s, when it’s appropriate to end the life of an unborn child,” she said.

    “The Legislature has set the bar high, and there’s nothing unconstitutional about their decision to do so,” she added.

    “What is your response to [Duane’s] argument that she, that these plaintiffs do not want to sue their doctor because they feel their doctor has done nothing wrong?” asked Justice Debra Lehrmann.

    “That is their choice,” Klusmann said. “They don’t have to actually obtain damages [from the doctors] if they don’t want to. But if they wish to gain clarity of law through perhaps a medical malpractice claim, that’s their choice.”

  98. says

    There are a lot of threats right now, and they are all directed at America’s powerless white conservative Christians. […] Now it turns out Taylor Swift is summoning the demons.

    Worse? She may not even know she’s doing it.

    JoeMyGod directs us to the extremist Catholic LifeSiteNews, which has a petition to ask Taylor Swift to please stop doing demon shit, even if only by accident. […]

    This is especially important considering how Swift’s concert film starts streaming on her birthday December 13, which could also be an important demon’s birthday, you don’t know.

    An exorcist priest — shut up, stop laughing — named Fr. Dan Reehil explained what is happening at the Taylor Swift concerts, and the Catholic website ChurchPop — shut up, stop laughing — is dutifully sharing his wisdom. It’s just one song in the concert, he says, the song called “Willow,” and, well:

    As Swift performs the song “Willow” from her “Evermore” album, the singer and her dancers dress in black capes and dance with orbs. Elements of Earth and fire are also a central part of the performance.

    Uh oh. The orbs.

    Diocese of Nashville exorcist Father Dan Reehil told ChurchPOP why the concert, which includes this performance, could spiritually endanger attendees.

    He also explains how the “Willow” performance mimics witchcraft with its use of Earth, fire, black capes, and orbs.

    Reehil says those who practice witchcraft “harness energy or they try to harness energy, and they look at the Earth with the elements of water, fire, Earth, and sky. They believe that they can harness this energy in some ways to do good and in some ways to do evil.”

    Wait, is Taylor Swift doing witchcraft? Is she an orb-handler? Doesn’t matter, says this serious person who is not crazy:

    “The problem with the concert is that whether Taylor knew she was trying to imitate witches or in fact was doing some kind of a cult ceremony during the show is sort of irrelevant to the demons,” Father Reehil continues.

    Irrelevant to the demons.

    “She is an incredibly talented and influential artist. And so the demons will take deep note of what she’s doing and how she’s doing it and who she’s influencing.”

    The demons have their notebooks open, they’re seeing how Taylor is doing the orbs, yep. Writing down who likes it.

    “So when they imitate these rituals with these orbs and these black capes, that looks like something you’d find in the woods.”

    And Taylor Swift also has a song called “Out Of The Woods,” and the video is kinda spooky too! Wonder if the demons have seen it. [video at the link]

    Back to Exorcist Dan:

    “Even if her intent was not to practice any witchcraft or do any of the incantations, she is probably attracting a lot of demons to her concerts.”

    Oh shit, that’s how they gitcha.

    “Look what you made me do,” sang along, didst the demons.

    Of course, they probably had to go through the ticket lottery and presale nightmares just like everybody else, so if they got seats they deserve them as much as anybody. Not sure what Exorcist Dan is so wee-wee-d up about here.

    Reminder, this is a grown man who believes what he is talking about is real.

    “That’s where the problem can lie because then you have these little girls who you know literally sort of worship her who are now putting themselves in a position where they could be attacked by demonic forces.”

    Through the orbs.

    “So not saying that’s going to happen to everybody, but you’re definitely putting yourself in a very dangerous situation if you’re going to a concert where there’s somebody who’s imitating or even practicing the art of witchcraft. I would say don’t do it. Skip the concert.”

    You might be fine. You might get attacked by demons.

    Don’t go to the thing you enjoy, little girls, says the stranger danger who says he’s from the Church and he’s here to help.

    These are such fucked up people.

    Exorcist Dan needs to find something better to do with his time.

  99. says

    Forgot to add to comment 135 that the video of Exorcist Dan telling little girls not to go see Taylor Swift, because of the demons and the orbs, is also available at the link.

  100. says

    Twelve more hostages were released today.
    NBC News link

    The truce between Israel and Hamas entered a fifth day today after both sides agreed to extend the pause in fighting to allow for the release of more Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners. CIA Director Bill Burns is in Qatar for talks aimed at a further extension and a broader hostage deal.

    […] The U.S. says it has urged Israel that any offensive in southern Gaza after the truce must be designed to avoid “significant further displacement” of Palestinian civilians, who have been suffering for weeks in the south as supplies of food, water and medicine run low amid Israeli bombardment while the military campaign against Hamas was centered on the north. […]

  101. John Morales says

    Māori atheism on the rise: the legacy of colonisation is driving a decline in traditional Christian beliefs

    Um, these so-called “traditional Christian beliefs” only exist by virtue of colonisation, so that this headline is exceedingly and remarkably stupid.

    (And sly, too. It fosters the conceit that colonially-imposed religion is traditional to the Māori. For shame!)

  102. says

    Ukraine Update: Under cover of storm, Ukraine takes action at Avdiivka and Novoprokopivka

    Over the weekend, a major winter storm spread across Ukraine. Bad weather affected all regions of the country, destroying Russian defenses in occupied Crimea and causing 10 reported deaths in the Odesa area. The storm wasn’t quite as bad along the Zaporizhzhia front as it was further to the west, but all regions of Ukraine appear to have been affected, largely putting a stop to major military operations while both sides hunkered down against wind, snow, and plunging temperatures.

    However, not every operation went on hold. At this point in the invasion, Russia continues to rely heavily on the use of artillery. Even the older-generation tanks it brings to the front lines are often relegated to hanging back and acting as additional, less-effective guns. Unlike some of the systems available to Ukraine, almost all the Russian artillery is traditional “non-precision” weaponry. It has a variety of older guided shells that can be delivered to a target with the help of a laser spot, and it has the KAB-500S-E glide bombs based on GLONASS (Russia’s version of GPS). Identifying targets for those shells (and for the thousands of “dumb” shells Russia throws every day) is now largely the job of surveillance drones.

    Thanks to the storm, those surveillance drones were grounded. And Ukraine took that opportunity to claw back some ground.

    Weather reports along the southern front near Robotyne suggest that this could be the area where the storm had the least impact. Unsurprisingly, it’s also the area where the fighting remained most intense over the past two days as Ukraine pushed south toward Novoprokopivka. [map at the link]

    In addition to the areas recently secured on the east and west side of the Robotyne area, indications on Tuesday are that Ukraine has advanced into that angular area just above Novoprokopivka, in spite of heavy artillery use by Russia.

    Late in the day, Russia reportedly tried to press Ukraine back, but Ukraine appears to have held its gains. The General Staff reports just two failed attacks in the area by Russia, showing how much Ukraine is currently on the offensive in this region. Ukraine also made additional gains in the northeast part of this area in the direction of Novopokrovka (as opposed to Novoprokopivka … hey, I don’t name them). That is at the top-right corner of the map above. There are also reports that Ukraine picked up a small area along the right side of this map, about halfway between Novopokrovka and Verbove.

    For the moment, there are no additional reports of activity near Verbove, even though Ukraine has occupied defensive trenches just west of the town for weeks.

    The weather was actually worse at Avdiivka, where Russia has been attempting to cut off Ukrainian sources near the 2014 defensive lines for over two months. Those two months have seen Russia blow through an incredibly high number of troops, tanks, and armor in an effort to close a gap only 5 kilometers across. [map at the link]

    On Tuesday, Russia continued its push from the southeast. Having broken through Ukrainian defensive lines last week, Russia has been moving gradually through an industrial area on the edge of the city. Ukrainian forces have reportedly left this area, moving back into streets of homes and small businesses beyond a small wooded area. It’s likely Russia will occupy that whole industrial area by the end of the week.

    On Monday, Russian sources claimed that Russia had entered the industrial area on the north side of the city near the infamous Terrikon mountain of coal-mining waste. That does not seem to be the case.

    Instead, as Russia was claiming to have made advances in this area, it was Ukraine that was actually on the counterattack. Having previously pushed Russia back from Stepove on the north, Ukraine moved into the area near the rail lines on Monday and Tuesday, forcing Russia to retreat to the other side. This puts the number of Russian forces in this area back to where they were around Nov. 9.

    Reports last week showed Russia sending even more troops to the Avdiivka area. Deep State shows one Russian brigade camped out at the Terrikon, but the actual area in which they seem to be massing is a little to the north, around the area of that red circle on the map. There is cover in this area, both from old mine pits and from defensive trenches dug by Russia or Ukraine. Russia has even reportedly “tunneled” in this area, but there were similar claims about Russia tunneling into the waste of Terrikon, and that’s nonsense. This material is in no sense sound enough to maintain a tunnel.

    Russia may try to execute its next long-expected “big push” on both sides of the Terrikon in the next few days, weather permitting.

    None of the changes at the front lines during the storm period appear to have been very large, but pushing Russian forces back north of Avdiivka and costing them weeks of progress won through sacrificing thousands is certainly significant.

    It’s also interesting that, even though both sides are heavily dependent on drones, Ukraine was apparently better able to operate in the snow and cold than Russia. That factor could easily come into play again over the winter.
    Clearly, this one came before the snow. Russia might be glad for the snow in Avdiivka, just so it will cover all the machines—and men—they’ve left on the field. [Tweet and video at the link]
    Does anybody need a bike? Russia has apparently been delivering about 900 refugees a day from countries such as Morocco, Pakistan, and Syria to the Finnish border, but over the last week, Finland has been closing the gates. [Tweet and video at the link: “cemetery of bicycles at the border”] [See lumipuna’s comments 115 and 116]

    Finland is reportedly concerned that Russia is using legitimate migrants to disguise agents and influencers being moved across the border. Russia has also been reportedly bringing people to the border and forcing them across by closing the Russian border crossing behind them. Of course, real migrants are caught in the crossfire of this policy war, as are Russians trying to escape before the next round of conscription.
    Foreign Policy is suggesting that the West move toward a “containment strategy” to help Ukraine survive what could be years of warfare.

    The war is not lost for Ukraine. Far from it. Enamored of Kyiv’s early successes and high morale, Ukraine’s supporters became accustomed to stunning Ukrainian triumphs. Yet this David-versus-Goliath framing of the war now generates too much pessimism when Ukrainian forces struggle or come to a deadlock with Russian troops. Even a stalemate, as frustrating as it seems, represents a huge accomplishment

    The goals of this plan are to secure everything Ukraine has gained, keep Russia off balance, and keep continuous pressure on Russian positions seeking weak points. Which, honestly, doesn’t seem like much of a change from what’s happening now.
    Built Ukraine Tough: “🇺🇦 UAV pilot spotted an enemy drone, which was adjusting the fire of artillery, and decided to ram it. As a result, our drone remained in the air, while the enemy “bird” fell.” [video at the link]

  103. Reginald Selkirk says

    Russian General Blown Up on a Landmine in Ukraine

    A Russian general has been killed in a mine blast in Ukraine, one of the highest-ranking military officers to be snuffed out in the war. Maj. Gen. Vladimir Zavadsky died Tuesday, according to an announcement from graduates of his alma mater, the Moscow Higher Combined Arms Command School.

    The deputy commander of the 14th Army Corps, Zavadsky was not killed in combat but is thought to have been killed by a landmine placed by a fellow Russian unit to target Ukrainian reconnaissance groups…

  104. says

    Trump tries to delay trial with another spurious court filing, but this one’s a stinker

    The latest news in the criminal case against coup-attempting seditionist Donald Trump—and this would be the federal case filed in Washington, D.C., charging Trump with attempting to obstruct the 2020 election we’re talking about, since Trump is under multiple indictments in multiple jurisdictions at this point—is another demand from Trump’s lawyers that the federal government turn over basically every scrap of info related to the insurrection, from multiple branches of the government, because reasons. We’ll go to The Washington Post for this one:

    In court papers filed Monday, Trump’s legal team sought permission to compel prosecutors to turn over reams of information on the 2020 election and Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack from the FBI, national security and election integrity units of the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Capitol Police, the Defense Department, the D.C. police department, the National Guard, and members of Congress.

    There’s some surrounding hokum about how this is allegedly part of a Trump defense plan to show that the election was too stolen, or the violent insurrection he fomented was actually a false flag operation meant to make him look bad, and none of that matters even the slightest little bit. This is just another showboating delay tactic from Trump’s lawyers, almost certainly on Trump’s own orders, as he tries desperately to delay each of the trials against him until after the November 2024 elections and a possible election victory that would allow him to pardon himself for any federal convictions and simply ignore the charges in New York, Florida, and Georgia.

    The point of dumping this 370-page dead whale on U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s doorstep is that the judge now has to spend at least a little time cleaning it up, adding another delay to the trial. Trump probably won’t even get that, though; by making the requests so broad and open-ended, he’s made them easy for the judge to reject.

    Here is a tip: Prosecutors aren’t required to turn over information they don’t have. They’re also not obligated to do the defense team’s work for them.

    Federal criminal defendants typically can and often do file shotgun-blast requests for information in hopes of finding gaps in the prosecution’s case or at least slowing down the push toward trial. However, courts give U.S. prosecutors broad discretion to decide which evidence reasonably may be helpful to the defense and thus must be turned over. Their obligation to produce evidence is also limited to information available to the prosecution team — not everything known to the U.S. government at large.


    […] Trump would have just as much luck demanding that special counsel Jack Smith’s team turn over Walmart sales records for Lincoln, Nebraska. If his lawyers want to see Walmart’s records, it’s on them to either go get them from Walmart or to convince the judge to issue a subpoena obliging Walmart to hand them over.

    The team of government officials prosecuting Trump are not Mar-a-Lago butlers, obliged to swoop in and clean Trump’s office windows, vacuum his rugs, and investigate all his latest conspiracy theories. They’re responsible for building a case and sharing with the defense whatever documents or testimony they’ve collected in order to build that case. They are not magic document fairies who can be sent off to fetch documents from every other nameable government department and agency—documents they don’t have, don’t know about, aren’t using, and which likely don’t even exist.

    There is the strong, strong stench of Donald Trump’s personal paranoias on this one. The biggest clue that Trump’s lawyers might just be sheepishly writing up whatever rambling new demands pop into Trump’s head is the inclusion of a wacky new conspiracy theory that suggests maybe Mike Pence is in on the plot to prosecute him. Maybe Pence was turned.

    Pence, Trump’s defense suggested, could have been motivated to align his story with prosecutors’ desires because of classified documents found at his home by his lawyer months after an FBI search of Trump’s residence and the discovery of classified documents at Biden’s home in Delaware and a separate think tank office. The Justice Department closed its investigation of Pence in June without charges.

    Oh dear God, shut the hell up with this nonsense. Trump thinks Mike Pence is now working with prosecutors because Pence also had classified documents turn up in his home but, like nearly every other prominent public official in recent history […]

    [Pence was not indicted!] That’s because, like all of those other non-indicted officials, Pence gave the documents back as soon as they were found! He didn’t hide hundreds of them next to a toilet or in a utility closet while sending his lawyers out to give signed statements promising he didn’t have them—absolutely no classified documents over here under the bathroom chandelier or by his bed or in his desk drawers. Donald Trump is such a dimwitted criminal […]

    Back to the matter at hand, though. Judge Chutkan already tossed a similar Trump team demand—one that would have subpoenaed members of the House in a supposed effort to find “missing” documents from the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6 insurrection—and is not likely to spend as much time on this one as Trump might hope. It’s a desperate move from Trump, but this particular desperate move won’t result in the delay Trump has been trying for.

    Not that he’ll stop trying, of course. Give it a week, tops, and he’ll be back with something else.

  105. says

    Good news:

    ** 1) Generation Z is VOTING and voting BLUE

    Victor Shi @Victorshi2020

    Jaw-dropped at some of the Gen Z turnout rates from last night’s election compared to 2021.—Temple University: 523% HIGHER—Penn State: 300% HIGHER—College of William & Mary: 128% HIGHER
    Gen Z turned out & made Republicans find out. We will do it again in 2024. […]
    Note also that in the 2022 elections, about 63% of the Youth Voters in that election registered as Dems, which is an enormous shift in party identification.
    For example, compared to the 2020 election research from the Pew Research center, 49% of the voters “identify as/lean toward Democratic”, while 44% “identify as/lean toward Republican.”

    Major donors are sitting tight rather than giving to tRump.
    Although the Mercers are apparently going all in on TDFG, most others are not. His legal and physical/mental challenges are adding up to huge uncertainty on him as a candidate for the Presidency.

    […] The economy isn’t collapsing.
    We can debate whether the economy is strong and delivering for enough people, whether inflation is still high for key goods and services, or whether consumer confidence is misplaced. But what no one is talking about, but which was on the expectations list of nearly every economist and banker in 2022, is a recession.

    BTW, consumer spending during Black Friday ‘23 jumped 7.5% over the same time in 2022. So consumer confidence is higher than earlier expectations. That is very good news- if all or most of that increase continues thru the Christmas season!! […]


  106. Reginald Selkirk says

    Trump targets Judge Arthur Engoron’s wife on Truth Social

    Donald Trump is now taking aim at the wife of the New York judge overseeing his $250 million civil fraud trial, Raw Story reports. On his Truth Social platform Tuesday, the former president shared at least four posts from conservative activist Laura Loomer that accuse New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron’s wife, Dawn Marie Engoron, of attacking Trump via images shared to X/Twitter…

    In a statement to Newsweek earlier this month, Dawn Engoron firmly denied making the posts and told the outlet that the account does not belong to her. “I do not have a Twitter account. This is not me. I have not posted any anti Trump messages,” she said…

  107. says

    Donald Trump’s radical blueprint for a second term is multifaceted, but his interest in cracking down on the free press is a key piece of an ugly mosaic.

    There’s been increased interest of late in Donald Trump, his post-election vision, and the degree to which the former president’s plans echo authoritarianism. […]

    The blueprint is, by any fair measure, multifaceted. Trump has raised the prospect, for example, of seizing control of government departments and agencies that have historically operated with independence. There’s also been increased talk about the Insurrection Act and Trump’s interest in possibly deploying the U.S. military domestically.

    Unfortunately, the list keeps going. Members of Team Trump have a radical anti-immigration vision in mind for a second term. They’ve also hatched plans to hire right-wing lawyers who will be positioned to help Trump politicize federal law enforcement and exact revenge against his perceived political foes. The former president himself has also been quite candid about issuing pardons to politically allied criminals and labeling his opponents “vermin,” seemingly indifferent to the word’s 1930s-era antecedents.

    But let’s not forget that Trump’s plans for the free press are a key part of this ugly mosaic. Here, for example, was a missive the former president published to his social media platform shortly before midnight:

    “MSNBC (MSDNC) uses FREE government approved airwaves, and yet it is nothing but a 24 hour hit job on Donald J. Trump and the Republican Party for purposes of ELECTION INTERFERENCE. Brian Roberts, its Chairman and CEO, is a slimeball who has been able to get away with these constant attacks for years. It is the world’s biggest political contribution to the Radical Left Democrats who, by the way, are destroying our Country. Our so-called ‘government’ should come down hard on them and make them pay for their illegal political activity. Much more to come, watch!”

    Obviously, it’s a free country. If the former president doesn’t like my employer’s coverage, he’s welcome to criticize it to his heart’s content.

    But note that Trump didn’t just say he disapproves of MSNBC’s work. He also raised the prospect of the government coming down “hard” against the network, adding that he considers MSNBC’s journalism to be “illegal.”

    […] last month, Trump also publicly questioned CBS News’ right to access public airwaves after it ran an interview with President Joe Biden that Trump didn’t like.

    A month earlier, the former president also suggested that Comcast — MSNBC and NBC News’ parent company — should be investigated for “Country Threatening Treason” because he disapproved of the network’s coverage of the Trump/Russia scandal.

    There are counties where such talk and tactics have long been common. The United States just wasn’t one of them.

  108. says

    Summarized from a Huffington Post article:

    as the Republican National Committee moves forward with plans for its fourth presidential primary debate, Donald Trump last week demanded that the party scrap its plans. If Republican officials ignore his calls, the former president added, he will consider it time to “REVAMP THE RNC, NOW!!!”

  109. says

    Utah’s Mike Lee used to be a relatively mainstream GOP figure. Now he’s amplifying Infowars content and peddling bizarre Jan. 6 conspiracy theories.

    It was in late August when Republican Sen. Mike Lee went in a weird and new direction. Commenting on new Covid-related lockdowns that did not and will not exist, the Utah Republican decided to amplify unfounded allegations from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ InfoWars website.

    Even by contemporary GOP standards, this was unsettling. Republicans have grown increasingly comfortable with strange ideas from the political fringe, but most of the party’s sitting U.S. senators recognize the value of steering clear of Alex Jones’ nonsensical misinformation. He is, after all, a media personality who owes nearly $1.5 billion in damages for spreading ugly lies about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

    Lee, however, apparently didn’t care.

    A couple of days after Lee amplified false Covid-related claims, Deputy White House Press Secretary Andrew Bates told Lee via social media, “Senator, this is completely false. Respectfully, we’d urge you to double-check before sharing misinformation from a source that now has to pay tens of millions of dollars for spreading some of the most painful lies imaginable.”

    That was good advice that the Utah Republican chose to ignore. A few months after promoting conspiratorial misinformation, Lee did it again last week. NBC News reported:

    A Republican senator said over the weekend that he planned to question the director of the FBI on whether a Trump supporter currently serving four years in federal prison is an undercover federal agent. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, promoted on his personal X account a conspiracy theory that one of the Jan. 6 videos released at the order of House Speaker Mike Johnson shows an undercover federal agent disguised as a Trump supporter.

    [Lee] promoted a message showing a picture of a man on Capitol Hill that right-wing conspiracy theorists said was carrying an FBI badge. “I can’t wait to ask FBI Director Christopher Wray about this at our next oversight hearing,” Lee wrote.

    There is, however, nothing to ask about: We already know the identity of the man in the picture. It was Kevin Lyons, a Jan. 6 defendant who described himself as an “idiot,” and who was sentenced to 51 months in prison. What conspiracy theorists thought was an FBI badge was apparently a vaping device.

    In fringe circles, there are still people clinging to the idea that nefarious federal agents somehow participated in the assault on the Capitol, and the conspiracy theory that Lee helped promote was part of this ridiculous push.

    Indeed, in a follow-up online item, Lee showed a video of Jan. 6 violence and asked, “How many of these guys are feds?”

    A week later, the Utah Republican conceded to HuffPost that the man in the picture he promoted online probably wasn’t a federal agent disguised as a Donald Trump supporter. That said, Lee’s original online content still hasn’t been taken down, and the senator hasn’t made any effort to explain his support for fringe misinformation.

    There’s also a larger context to consider. The Bulwark’s Charlie Sykes reflected last week on Lee’s “strange, twisted journey.”

    By now it is a story as old as time. A once-respected, apparently normal Republican politician looks in the mirror one day and decides, to hell with it, I’m going all in on the insanity. Somewhere in the mists of the Before Times, Mike Lee was a simulacrum of a serious conservative. But there is no longer any incentive to try to sound like William F. Buckley Jr., so Lee has decided to follow ElonAlexJonesTuckerMTGTrump into the feculent bog of conspiracism. Actually, he dove in face-first.

    I’ll confess that every time this happens to a Republican official, I find it jarring. No one ever accused Lee of being a moderate GOP voice, but he presented himself as something of an intellectual. There was even some discussion in the not-too-distant past that the senator actually wanted to be considered for the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Lee held a safe seat in a reliably “red” state; he knew he’d probably never face a credible primary challenge; and he didn’t have any obvious incentives to go off the deep end.

    And yet, here the senator is, amplifying Infowars and peddling bizarre Jan. 6 conspiracy theories.

    It’s not too late for Lee to start working his way back to more sensible waters, but by all appearances, the Utahan has no interest in doing so.

  110. says

    Liz Cheney sheds new light on McCarthy’s infamous Mar-a-Lago trip

    In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy took some modest steps away from Donald Trump. Publicly, for example, he conceded that the former president “bears responsibility” for the riot.

    Privately, McCarthy told his members — in comments that were recorded and later released — that he’d “had it with this guy,” referring to Trump. The GOP leader added, “What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that, and nobody should defend it.”

    That was in early January 2021. In late January 2021, just 17 days after the “had it with this guy” comments, McCarthy hopped on a plane, went to Mar-a-Lago, met with Trump, and kissed the proverbial ring of the disgraced former president he’d infuriated with a mild rebuke.

    In her new book, former House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney sheds some additional light on the story with new behind-the-scenes details. CNN reported:

    Cheney also accuses McCarthy of repeatedly lying and choosing the “craven” path of embracing Trump. She recounts the moment she first found out that McCarthy, fearing he had lost his ability to fundraise, secretly went to visit Trump at Mar-a-Lago just three weeks after the Jan. 6 attack. At first, Cheney thought the photo of the two men smiling and shaking hands was fake. But she was incredulous at McCarthy’s defense of his visit. He claimed Trump’s staff summoned him.

    […] Cheney asked the future House speaker, “Mar-a-Lago? What the hell, Kevin?” McCarthy replied, referring to the former president’s aides, “They’re really worried. Trump’s not eating, so they asked me to come see him.”

    The Wyoming Republican was apparently incredulous. “What? You went to Mar-a-Lago because Trump’s not eating?” Cheney asked. “Yeah, he’s really depressed,” McCarthy said.

    […] The book, “Oath and Honor,” will be released next week, and Cheney apparently doesn’t pull her punches, taking aim at many of her former GOP colleagues as “enablers and collaborators.”

    [Cheney’s book is] reportedly filled with plenty of important insights related to House Speaker Mike Johnson, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and an exchange in which Republican Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee, in Cheney’s telling, referred to Trump as “the Orange Jesus.”

    With this in mind, let’s also note that Cheney will be sitting down with Rachel Maddow live on Monday’s show. I have a hunch you won’t want to miss that one.

  111. says

    No judge has had a better global view of the Trump prosecutions than U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, who as chief judge in DC until earlier this year oversaw the grand juries investigating Trump’s election subversion efforts and his unlawful retention of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

    It was Howell who made key rulings during the Jan. 6 grand jury proceedings on executive privilege, the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege, and other investigative issues. As chief judge, she also had administrative responsibilities for the district court’s heavy case load of Jan. 6 rioter cases.

    So when Howell warns of creeping authoritarianism in the United States, it’s worth taking notice.

    Speaking last night at a lawyers event in DC, Howell quoted from Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson’s new book, including:
    – “Big lies are springboards for authoritarians.”
    – The U.S. “is at a crossroads teetering on the brink of authoritarianism.”

    Howell’s comments were reported by Politico’s Josh Gerstein:

    “We are having a very surprising and downright troubling moment in this country when the very importance of facts is dismissed, or ignored,” Howell told the annual gala of the Women’s White Collar Defense Association at a downtown hotel. “That’s very risky business for all of us in our democracy. … The facts matter.”

    Howell did not mention Trump by name but noted that the DC judges “regularly see the impact of big lies at the sentencing of hundreds, hundreds of individuals who have been convicted for offense conduct on Jan. 6, 2021.”


  112. says

    Update on Senator Tommy Tuberville’s blanket hold on hundreds of top-level military promotions:

    […] Tuberville is stalling for time, trying to convince his fellow Republicans to hold off on a vote to override his holds for as long as he can manage it. He’s also claiming the Armed Service Committee colleagues are “getting close” to a solution. He hasn’t offered up any evidence for that claim either, only the broad assertion that he’s “trying to get some kind of resolution before we get home for Christmas.”

    But no, his colleagues don’t appear to see whatever “resolution” Tuberville claims might be forthcoming. They keep proposing compromises, Tuberville keeps insisting that the holds will continue until the military’s abortion policies are rescinded, and top military officials keep warning that our armed forces cannot remain effective with hundreds of command positions left in limbo.

    This has been going on for 10 months now, with Tuberville insisting that a solution is just around the corner for at least the last two months. Tuberville’s main problem at this point may be that even his fellow Republicans know full well that he’s lying to them. […]

    An impasse that came about because a performatively ignorant racist who got his official Senate picture taken with a damn football believes he, and not administration and the Pentagon, is the one who gets to set military health care policies to what he wants them to be.


  113. says

    Most news coverage of yesterday’s memorial service for Rosalynn Carter simply noted that the service was attended by Joe and Jill Biden, along with all four living former first ladies — Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Michelle Biden, and Melania Trump — and left it at that. A few snarkier sites like Page Six and New York Magazine’s Intelligencer pointed out that, unlike the other first ladies who dressed in black because that’s traditional for a funeral, Ms. Trump chose a grey tweed coat instead. They reported it as a fashion don’t, while at least being relieved that Melania Antoinette left her “I REALLY DON’T CARE DO U?” coat at home.

    Chip Carter, Jimmy and Rosalynn’s son, told the Washington Post that regardless of the many mean things Donald Trump has said about his father, it went without saying that Melania Trump would be invited, because “My mother was a gracious person and she would treat everybody with respect, including a former first lady.”

    And then there’s Alex Jones’s InfoWars, whose coverage pointed out that only Satanists wear black to a funeral, whereas Melania was singled out for attention by God, who arranged for some light from the windows at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church in Atlanta to fall on her, and her alone, with some slippage, during one part of the service. We have not altered a single bit of this screenshot: [Screenshot is available at the link]

    Under the subject heading “Occult & Globalists,” the headline proclaims, “Melania Trump Cast in Angelic Light at Rosalynn Carter Funeral as ‘Evil’ First Ladies Wear Black, Lurk in Shadows.” (“Evil,” is a quote from one of the many tweets in the story, not necessarily the judgement of InfoWars, wink-wink.) Just to make sure readers get the point, the story’s subhead quotes another tweet that said “Take notice how Melania is clothed in the light of God, while the others sit in the dark world they live in with Satan.” [OMFG]

    So that’s some serious journalism […]

    The story also made sure to mention the wingnut conspiracy theory that Michelle Obama is actually a dude, but we wonder if some of the faithful will take issue with InfoWars’ admission that Donald Trump is a former president:

    The wife of embattled former President Donald Trump appeared alongside Michelle “Big Mike” Obama, Laura Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Joe and Jill Biden, but received a chilly reception from leftists and mainstream publications who complained she wore light attire, while others wore black.

    The story highlighted tweets accusing Michelle Obama and Laura Bush of “glaring” at Ms. Trump, and featured another that, ha-ha, suggested Bill Clinton couldn’t stop staring at her ass, because with MS-Paint, everything is possible. (Seriously, Clinton was looking more or less straight ahead.) [image at the link]

    Then it was time to gripe at tweets from “leftists” and to promote tweets from decent patriotic Americans who recognize Melania’s near-divinity. [Example at the link]

    Here’s another, which may be spoiled some by the fact that a little of God’s Light is also shining on Michelle Obama and Laura Bush, those demons […] [Image at the link]

    A few smartasses figured the guy who’s also randomly lit up five rows behind Melania must also be a favorite of the Almighty, or MAYBE he was Melania’s guardian angel, his cover blown by a TV camera.

    In conclusion, we sure are glad that Trumpers are sane normal people who accept reality as it is, and also my solar-powered cat Thornton is clearly God’s Favorite Kitty, the end. [cat photo at the link]

  114. says

    PHOENIX – Attorney General Kris Mayes today announced that the State Grand Jury has returned an indictment charging Peggy Suzanne Judd, age 61, of Willcox, and Terry Thomas “Tom” Crosby, age 64, of Sierra Vista with the felony offenses of Interference with an Election Officer and Conspiracy.

    “The repeated attempts to undermine our democracy are unacceptable,” said Attorney General Mayes. “I took an oath to uphold the rule of law, and my office will continue to enforce Arizona’s elections laws and support our election officials as they carry out the duties and responsibilities of their offices.”

    The indictment filed November 27, 2023, in Maricopa County Superior Court alleges that on or between October 11, 2022, and December 1, 2022, Judd and Crosby conspired to delay the canvass of votes cast in Cochise County in the November 2022 General Election.

    The Indictment further alleges that Judd and Crosby knowingly interfered with the Arizona Secretary of State’s ability to complete the statewide canvass for the 2022 General Election, by preventing the canvass of votes from Cochise County from occurring during the time period required by Arizona law. Defendants Judd and Crosby are currently serving as Cochise County Supervisors. […]


  115. says

    Deutsche Bank comes off as gullible in this story:

    Deutsche Bank eagerly pursued former President Trump as a “whale” of a client more than a decade ago, and over the years, their partnership became mutually beneficial, according to documents introduced by Trump’s legal team Wednesday during his ongoing fraud trial.

    Trump’s counsel on Wednesday introduced 2011 emails between then-bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic and colleagues, where Vrablic expressed significant interest in working with the Trumps.

    “We are whale hunting,” she wrote after meeting Donald Trump Jr., before she had met his father. The bankers used “whale” to refer to very wealthy clients, she testified Wednesday.

    Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank is a core component of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit against the former president, his business and several executives — including his adult sons. The state claims the Trump Organization falsely inflated and deflated the value of its assets on key financial statements to receive lower taxes and better insurance coverage, deceiving lenders and insurers in the process.

    As part of its defense, Trump’s counsel has attempted to show that bankers were excited to work with the former president’s business and that there was “no victim” of its business dealings. According to a bank document prepared for Deutsche Bank’s then-co-chairman in 2013, shown as evidence at trial, the bank’s revenue from its business with Trump skyrocketed from around $13,000 in 2011 to a projected $6 million in 2013.

    Trump testified earlier this month that his statements of financial condition — documents at the heart of the case that detail the value of his business’ various assets and were used to secure loans and deals — were “not really documents that the banks paid much attention to.”

    “I’ve been dealing with banks for 50 years and probably know banks as well as anybody,” Trump said on the witness stand earlier this month. “I know what they look at; they look at the deal.”

    But the attorney general’s office claims that the government was nonetheless misled and banks were shortchanged millions of dollars. Earlier in the trial, an expert witness hired by the state testified that the Trump Organization’s skewed financial statements may have cost banks more than $168 million in interest.

    Judge Arthur Engoron has already found Trump and his business liable for fraud. The trial is addressing other claims, including conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsifying business records.

    Four Deutsche Bank executives are expected to testify this week in the defense case, which is set to span until mid-December when Trump plans to retake the stand as the defense’s last witness.


  116. says

    U.S. prosecutors allege assassination plot of Sikh separatist directed by Indian government employee

    Washington Post link

    An Indian government employee who described himself as a “senior field officer” responsible for intelligence ordered the assassination of a Sikh separatist in New York City in May, U.S. prosecutors alleged Wednesday. The court filing heightens scrutiny of India’s spy services following similar allegations made by Canadian authorities in September.

    The government employee, who was not named in the indictment filed in a federal court in Manhattan, recruited an Indian national named Nikhil Gupta to hire a hit man to carry out the assassination, which was foiled by U.S. authorities, according to prosecutors.

    The court filing did not name the victim, but senior Biden administration officials say the target was Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, general counsel for the New York-based Sikhs for Justice, a group that advocates the creation of an independent Sikh state called Khalistan within India.

    The scheme was foiled in June by the Drug Enforcement Administration, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

    Gupta is charged with murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire. He was arrested in the Czech Republic in late June pending extradition to the United States.

    The alleged link between the Indian government and the assassination attempt on U.S. soil threatens to strain ties between the two countries and prompted the Biden administration to dispatch its top two intelligence officials to New Delhi to demand the Indian government investigate and hold to account those responsible, senior administration officials said.

    CIA Director William J. Burns flew to India in August and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines followed in October, said the officials, who like others interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity. […]

  117. says

    Israel-Hamas war live updates: Israel assessing Hamas claim that 10-month-old hostage was killed in Gaza

    Negotiations are ongoing to extend the truce, which is due to expire tonight.

    The truce between Israel and Hamas is due to end today, but talks are ongoing to extend the pause in fighting to allow for the release of more Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners. The expectation is for an extension of at least two additional days, a senior Arab diplomat directly involved in the negotiations told NBC News.

    Israel’s military said today it is looking into Hamas’ claim that the youngest hostage held in Gaza, 10-month old Kfir, has been killed, along with his 4-year-old brother, Ariel, and their mother Shiri Bibas. Hamas had said the three hostages, some of the most prominent faces of the crisis, had been killed in Israeli bombardment.

    Israeli forces carried out a raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank and said they had killed two senior militants. Graphic video shared on social media this morning showed a group of boys being shot at in a side street in Jenin. The Palestinian Health Ministry said two children were killed in the area today, including an 8-year-old boy.

    The U.S. says it has urged Israel against any military assault on southern Gaza unless it has a clear plan to limit civilian suffering. But President Joe Biden is sticking to his belief that despite intense pressure to change course, a close embrace of Israel gives him greater influence with its leaders and public.

    More than 1.7 million people have been displaced in Gaza, where health officials say the death toll has surpassed 14,500 after weeks of Israeli attacks. The Israel Defense Forces estimates 1,200 people were killed in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, with around 160 people still held captive in Gaza. […]

  118. says

    The federal government is investigating multiple hacks suspected to have been launched by an Iranian government-linked cyber group against U.S. water facilities that were using Israeli-made technology, according to two individuals familiar with the probes.

    One of the breaches made headlines Saturday after the Tehran-linked Cyber Av3ngers group claimed responsibility for hitting a water authority in Pennsylvania. In total, the government is aware of and examining a “single digit” number of facilities that have been affected across the country, according to the two people who were granted anonymity to discuss details that had not yet been made public.

    None of the hacks caused significant disruption, according to the individuals, while cyber experts familiar with the Pennsylvania incident say the activity appears designed to stoke fears about using Israeli devices.

    Washington has been bracing for increased cyber breaches from Iran since the latest conflict broke out between Israel and the militant group Hamas, which Tehran has long supported. It also comes amid a spate of recent drone and rocket attacks on American troops in the Middle East, conducted by Iranian proxy groups.

    Water facilities in general are a particularly vulnerable part of U.S. infrastructure, often due to a lack of funding and personnel for the issue at smaller utilities. The Biden administration has sought to address this problem, including through expanding partnerships with private organizations involved in the water sector.

    In Saturday’s hack on the Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa outside of Pittsburgh, authorities say Cyber Av3ngers, which researchers believe has ties to the Iranian government, breached a digital control panel made by an Israeli-owned company, Unitronics, and disabled it. The group also took over the control panel’s digital display screen — which is used to automatically adjust water pressure — to make it read: “Every equipment ‘Made in Israel’ is Cyber Av3ngers legal target.”

    Robert Bible, the general manager of the water authority, told POLITICO on Monday that control over the Unitronics devices would not give attackers the ability to alter the chemicals used in drinking water, and that the authority has not suffered any service disruptions at the affected station, which serves 1,200 people. […]

    The utility is operating the water pumps at the affected station manually while the authorities investigate the incident […]

  119. says

    Biden admin circulates map showing states that benefit from Ukraine aid

    Battleground states Pennsylvania and Arizona are reaping billions of dollars from Washington’s efforts to arm Ukraine, according to a graphic the Biden administration has circulated on Capitol Hill.

    The circulation of the graphic is part of the administration’s push to sell the American public — and their congressional representatives — on President Joe Biden’s proposal to spend billions of additional taxpayer dollars on the wars in Ukraine and Israel.

    During an Oval Office address last month, Biden highlighted the benefit to U.S. manufacturing centers when making the case that Republicans should support the $60 billion for Ukraine contained in the $106 billion emergency supplemental. A faction of GOP members has fought further funding, arguing that the U.S. is spending money to help Ukraine rather than focusing on problems at home.

    “Let me be clear about something,” Biden said. “We send Ukraine equipment sitting in our stockpiles. And when we use the money allocated by Congress, we use it to replenish our own stores, our own stockpiles with new equipment.”

    “Equipment that defends America and is made in America. Patriot missiles for air defense batteries, made in Arizona. Artillery shells manufactured in 12 states across the country, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas. And so much more,” he said. “You know, just as in World War II, today patriotic American workers are building the arsenal of democracy and serving the cause of freedom.” […]

    Economic Impact map is available at the link.

  120. Reginald Selkirk says

    ‘Perfect solar system’ found in search for alien life

    Researchers have located “the perfect solar system”, forged without the violent collisions that made our own a hotchpotch of different-sized planets.

    The system, 100 light years away, has six planets, all about the same size. They’ve barely changed since its formation up to 12 billion years ago…

    In the time it takes for the innermost planet to go around the star three times, the next planet along gets around twice, and so on out to the fourth planet in the system. From there things change to a 4:3 pattern of relative orbit speeds for the last two planets…

  121. says

    Followup to comment 156.

    The more there are incidents in which officials balk at certifying elections, the more we’re reminded about the consequences of the post-2020 “big lie.”

    The primary elections in New Mexico in June 2022 were largely unremarkable. Candidates ran, voters participated, ballots were counted, and election results were announced. It couldn’t have been more routine — except for one thing.

    As regular readers might recall, in New Mexico’s Otero County, some Republican commissioners balked at certifying the results of local primary races. These GOP officials didn’t have any specific reasons to reject the results, but they had some conspiracy theories related to voting machines, so they refused to do their jobs based on their baseless hunches.

    Eventually, New Mexico’s secretary of state filed suit, and the state Supreme Court issued an order that the Republicans agreed to follow. But the fact that these extra steps were necessary was unsettling. An Associated Press report described the mess in New Mexico at the time as “a preview of the kind of chaos election experts fear is coming in the fall midterms and in 2024.”

    The article quoted Jennifer Morrell, a former election official in Colorado and Utah who now advises federal, state, and local officials, saying, “We are in scary territory. If this can happen here, where next? It’s like a cancer, a virus. It’s metastasizing and growing.”

    That quote came to mind reading this NBC News report out of Arizona on Wednesday:

    A grand jury voted to indict two local officials who delayed the certification of midterm election results in 2022 in Cochise County, Arizona, state Attorney General Kris Mayes said Wednesday. Cochise County Supervisors Peggy Judd, 61, and Tom Crosby, 64, voted against certifying the county’s election results by the statutory deadline in 2022, after months of casting baseless doubt on the integrity of the election.

    A report in The Arizona Republic added that the local GOP officials, in the wake of last fall’s elections, forced a delay in the certification process, saying they wanted to consider questions about voting machines. “By that time,” the article noted, “they had ignored repeated legal advice that their actions were illegal.”

    As was the case in New Mexico several months earlier, litigation was filed, culminating in a court order in which supervisors in Cochise County were ordered to certify the results. Officials honored the court directive, though one of the two indicted Republicans didn’t show up for the vote.

    One of the pair also attended Donald Trump’s anti-election rally on Jan. 6, 2021, but she denied entering the Capitol.

    “The repeated attempts to undermine our democracy are unacceptable,” the local prosecutor said in a written statement after a grand jury indicted the two GOP officials. “I took an oath to uphold the rule of law, and my office will continue to enforce Arizona’s elections laws and support our election officials as they carry out the duties and responsibilities of their offices.”

    At first blush, this might seem like a random local legal dispute, but I keep thinking about the aforementioned quote from the former election official in Colorado and Utah: “It’s metastasizing and growing.”

    The more incidents like these pop up, the more we’re reminded about the lingering consequences of the post-2020 “big lie.”

  122. Reginald Selkirk says

    Elon Musk To Advertisers: “Go F–k Yourself”

    Elon Musk made plain his view of an advertiser withdrawal from X, formerly Twitter.

    “Don’t advertise,” he advised any marketer with misgivings. “Somebody’s going to try to blackmail me with advertising?! Blackmail me with money? Go f–k yourself. Go. F–k. Yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is.” …

    Sorkin repeatedly asked Musk how the economic model of X/Twitter would be affected by a longer-term advertiser withdrawal.

    “What this advertising boycott is going to do is it’s going to kill the company,” he said. “And the whole world will know that those advertisers killed the company. It will be documented in great detail.” …

    “Once in a while I will say something foolish,” he said. “I would certainly put that ‘You’ve said the actual truth’ [post] as one of the most foolish things, or the most foolish thing, I ever put on the platform” – maybe “one of the dumbest of my 30,000 posts.”

    He tried to explain what he did mean, that Jewish people have been persecuted for thousands of years and there is a natural affinity among a persecuted group. “You have seen protests for Hamas in every major city and they receive funding from prominent people in the Jewish community,” he said. “If you fund persecuted groups in general, some of those persecuted groups unfortunately want your annihilation. What I meant is that its unwise to fund organizations that support groups that want your annihilation.” …

    In which pro-Palestinian protests are considered “protests for Hamas” – does this stable genium ever get tired of being wrong?

  123. tomh says

    Supreme Court conservatives seem likely to axe SEC enforcement powers
    Nina Totenberg / NOVEMBER 29, 2023

    The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative justices seemed highly skeptical Wednesday about the way the Securities and Exchange Commission conducts in-house enforcement proceedings to ensure the integrity of securities markets across the country. The case is one of several this term aimed at dismantling what some conservatives have derisively called, “the administrative state.”

    Wednesday’s case was brought by George Jarkesy, a former conservative radio talk show host and hedge fund manager. After a fraud investigation by the SEC and an in-house evidentiary hearing conducted by an administrative law judge, the SEC fined Jarkesy $300,000, ordered him to pay back nearly $700,000 in illicit gains and barred him from various activities in the securities industry.

    He challenged the SEC actions in court, contending that he was entitled to a trial in federal court before a jury of his peers, and that Congress didn’t have the power to delegate such enforcement powers to an agency. Supporting his challenge is a virtual who’s-who of conservative and business groups — plus some individuals like Elon Musk, who has repeatedly resisted the SEC’s attempts to investigate stock manipulation charges in his companies.

    Although Wednesday’s case involved several different constitutional challenges to the SEC’s enforcement actions, the justices focused almost exclusively on one: the contention that the agency’s in-house fact finding process violated Jarkesy’s Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial. All six of the conservative justices questioned the notion that an administrative agency can impose penalties without offering the option of a jury trial.

    “It seems to me that undermines the whole point of the constitutional protection in the first place,” Chief Justice John Roberts said.

    Deputy Solicitor General Brian Fletcher repeatedly replied that Congress has, for some 80 years, delegated these core executive enforcement powers to agencies that are charged with applying the law and imposing consequences for violations. If the SEC’s administrative enforcement powers are unconstitutional, he said, so too might be similar enforcement powers at some 34 federal agencies, from the Food and Drug Administration to the National Transportation Safety Board and the Social Security Administration, which issues a whopping half million hearing and appeals dispositions each year.

    “The assessment and collection of taxes and penalties, customs and penalties, the immigration laws, the detention and removal of non-citizens — all of those things … have long been done in the first instance by administrative officers,” Fletcher said.

    Making the counterargument, Michael McColloch — Jarkesy’s lawyer –contended that only those functions that are analogous to laws at the time of the founding in 1791 are presumed to be legitimate.

    “The dramatic change that you’re proposing in our approach and jurisdiction is going to have consequences across the board,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor observed…

    Justice Elena Kagan added that in recent decades there have been no challenges to these administrative enforcement functions because these powers have been considered “settled.”…

    Kagan noted that there have been three major tranches of securities legislation to strengthen securities enforcement: First during the Great Depression in the 1930s when the agency was founded, then after the Savings and Loan Crisis in the 1980s and then after the 2008 Great Recession when huge investment banks failed, sending the economy spiraling downward and forcing a federal bailout to prevent even more bank failures.

    Each time, observed Kagan, “Congress thought … something is going terribly wrong here … people are being harmed.” And “Congress said ‘we have to give the SEC … greater authorities.’ ”

    “I mean, is Congress’ judgment … entitled to no respect?” Kagan asked.

    The conservative court’s answer to that question may well be, “No.”

  124. Reginald Selkirk says

    Trump Caught Moving Money Around to Pay Massive Tax Bill

    A court-ordered financial auditor has caught Donald Trump quietly moving $40 million from the Trump Organization into a personal bank account—seemingly so the former president could pay his whopping $29 million tax bill.

    Trump isn’t supposed to be moving any money around without alerting Barbara S. Jones, a former federal judge in New York tasked with babysitting the Trump Organization for its relentlessly shady business practices. But on Wednesday, she notified a New York state court about some major bank transfers that were never brought to her attention by the Trumps…

    Barbara Jones? The same Barbara Jones mentioned here?
    Fraud-trial judge saves Trump from what could have been a shoot-self-in-foot plan to call Trump Org’s court-ordered watchdog as a defense witness

    Donald Trump’s lawyers tried to squeeze an unlikely new name onto their already crowded witness list in the New York civil fraud trial on Monday: Barbara Jones, the Trump Organization’s highly critical court-appointed monitor.

    The judge in the non-jury trial, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, turned down the defense request, saving Trump’s side from itself in the process…

  125. Reginald Selkirk says

    Governor Katie Hobbs signs petition for 2024 abortion ballot measure in Arizona

    Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs was joined by other political leaders on the morning of Nov. 28 to try and get an abortion measure on the ballot in November 2024.

    According to an Associated Press article published in early November, abortion access advocates in Arizona want to amend the state’s constitution in order to protect access to abortion until the fetus is viable, generally considered to be around 24 weeks gestational age or later, to protect the life or physical or mental health of the woman…

  126. says


    House Speaker Mike Johnson pretended Wednesday that Republicans have any basis at all for moving forward on impeaching President Joe Biden, and that this is a serious inquiry. Johnson soberly intoned that the Republicans understand “impeachment requires time … You don’t rush something like this.”

    Meanwhile, House Republican leadership told members that they’ll be taking a formal vote on impeachment in the next few weeks, possibly in January. That’s even while their plans for a hearing with their primary witness, Hunter Biden, are crumbling around them. Johnson laughably praised the committee chairs for conducting their circus “methodically and transparently,” when right now they’re trying to force Hunter Biden’s testimony to happen behind closed doors.

    Johnson really gave the game away, though, in a statement that could have come straight from “1984”’s Ministry of Truth. He claimed that both of Donald Trump’s impeachments—in which he was on the Trump defense team—were “brazenly political” and “meritless.” The GOP’s efforts to impeach President Joe Biden, however, are “just the opposite” because “the Republican Party stands for the rule of law.”

    That’s the whole game, right there. It’s not about the rule of law. It’s about revenge for Trump. Period.


  127. says

    Ukraine Update: Assisting Ukraine is the best U.S. defense program in decades, by Mark Sumner

    The list of reasons why assisting Ukraine is good for the United States is a long one. There’s the immense damage to the Russian military, the revitalization and expansion of NATO, the restoration of America’s position as a leader in the fight for democracy, the strengthening of diplomatic ties, and even a giant shift away from Russian-supplied oil and gas.

    Also, defending a peaceful democratic nation against an illegal invasion by an aggressive, authoritarian military force is simply the right thing to do. And doing the right thing now and then is good for everyone.

    But there’s another way in which helping Ukraine is helping the United States: It is revitalizing the American defense industry, generating innovation, and creating jobs in America.

    An evaluation from the Center for Strategic and International Studies shows what should have been obvious from the start: When we talk about assistance to Ukraine, most of it involves the transfer of existing weapons systems that have already been built. Many of those systems are older, like the 1,669 Humvees and 300 M113 armored personnel carriers the American military has shipped to Ukraine.

    But when shipments to Ukraine involve either systems or ammunition that need to be replaced, or new systems that are seeing their first use in combat, that generates orders to defense contractors. And those defense contractors aren’t in Ukraine: They’re in the U.S.

    In fact, The Washington Post reports that of the $68 billion in military assistance Congress has approved following Russia’s invasion, almost 90% has gone to Americans. The locations where these systems are being built are scattered across the nation. [Tweet and map at the link]

    Bradley fighting vehicles are built in Pennsylvania and Alabama. HIMARS rocket launchers come from Arkansas. Switchblade drones come from California.

    Both Abrams tanks and Stryker combat vehicles roll off United Auto Worker lines in Ohio. This means that Republicans like Sen. J.D. Vance and Rep. Jim Jordan aren’t just voting against democracy when they try to block assistance to Ukraine, they are actively voting against jobs in their own home state and district.

    I’m a big believer in many of the things President Dwight Eisenhower had to say in his farewell address. No one should cheer the spending of a single penny on military hardware that might otherwise be spent on infrastructure, health care, or any peaceful purpose. And guarding against the influence of what Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex” is at least as important today as it was in 1961.

    But Eisenhower understood that, in an age where war could reach around the world in minutes, the risks of a robust defense industry had to be weighed against the cost of being unable to respond when necessary. It wasn’t a situation that he wanted. It shouldn’t be a situation that anyone wants. But if the United States is going to spend money on acquiring weapons so that Ukraine can fight against the invading might of Russia, it’s a very good thing that the money is being spent in the United States.

    So far, Ukraine’s use of those weapons systems looks like a bargain, by anyone’s accounting. Over the last 643 days, Russia’s efforts to illegally invade and subjugate Ukraine have been a disaster for Vladimir Putin and his dreams of a renewed Soviet empire. Ukraine now estimates that Russia has lost 5,538 tanks in the conflict, over 2,500 of which have been independently visually confirmed. Add to that over 10,000 armored vehicles, over 8,000 artillery and MLRS systems, more than 300 military helicopters, and over 300 jet aircraft. All that’s on top of losing a sizable fraction of the Black Sea Fleet, the rest of which is now cowering in ports they hope are outside of Ukraine’s reach.

    Russia has also lost at least 20 generals, thousands of lower-ranking officers, and an estimated 300,000 soldiers. Putin can call up all the conscripts he wants, scour the weeds for rusting tanks, and turn up the dial on his nation’s miserable industrial capacity, but Russia will spend decades recovering from the losses it has suffered in Ukraine. It may never recover.

    Of course, the cost to Ukraine is measured in far more than dollars. They’ve also suffered tremendous losses and seen whole cities leveled by Putin’s insatiable appetite for destruction.

    One of these days, money to assist Ukraine is going to be spent in Ukraine. Because that money won’t be for weapons: It will go to rebuilding homes, restoring vital services, and replacing lost schools and hospitals.

    Let’s get to that day as fast as we can.

    For much of last year, the small village of Khromove was frequently mentioned because of its vital tactical position at the end of a road that started at Bakhmut and ran to Chasiv Yar. That “Kromove road” was at times known as the “road of life,” because it represented the last completely paved road allowing supplies and reinforcements to reach Bakhmut. At other times, it was the “road of death” because Russian forces had reached the heights about 4 kilometers to the north and began to rain artillery down on any vehicle that attempted the route.

    You can see the change in positions in these two maps from Deep State. First, here’s where things stood on Monday.

    Since Bakhmut fell, Khromove—which was little more than a couple of buildings and a crossroads, even before Russia bombed holy hell out of it—has been largely out of the news. But that changed Tuesday evening when Russia claimed to have surged west out of Bakhmut and captured the village. [map at the link]

    And here’s how they looked by end of day on Tuesday. [map at the link]

    To make the difference more clear, I’ve dropped a circle around the area of the Russian advance. The peak distance here is just over 1 kilometer, so it’s not a huge change. However, Russia is moving into an area where it had been unable to advance since Wagner Group forces left Bakhmut. This could mean that Ukraine has redeployed forces out of this area to bolster efforts at Avdiivka or elsewhere, leaving this area more open to Russian movement. However, that’s just speculation.

    According to Deep State, which is generally conservative in all of its claims, Ukraine still controls that crossroads at Khromove, with Russia only holding positions at the northeast end of the village. However, Russia says it took it all. The Ukrainian General Staff also doesn’t include Khromove among the locations hit by Russian artillery on Wednesday but does list Ivaniske, which is the next town over. That could be an indicator that Russia either has the location or has essential control of the area.

    It is reported that last night, Ukraine attacked Saki air base in occupied Crimea, specifically the 43rd Aviation Regiment. Preliminary reports suggest over 30 Russian servicemen were killed.

    [Video at the link]

  128. says

    President Joseph Biden is in Pueblo, Colorado, today — Lauren Boebert’s district — to talk about “how Bidenomics is mobilizing investments in clean energy manufacturing and creating good-paying jobs in communities across the country,” per the White House.

    This is what is known as rubbing their nose in it.

    He’s going to the biggest wind turbine tower manufacturing plant in the world, so this will likely hurt Donald Trump’s feelings too, because he hates windmills.

    “We want every American to know that Bidenomics is working for them — creating jobs and opportunities, especially in communities that have been left behind,” a White House official told Playbook last night. “And it’s important for Americans to know that if Republicans in Congress — including self-identified MAGA Republican Representative Lauren Boebert — want to undermine their communities by taking those investments and opportunities away.”

    Lauren Boebert is not invited. […]

  129. says

    Followup to Akira @168.

    American diplomat Henry Kissinger dies at 100

    […] Known for a sprawling career in national security and foreign policy, Kissinger served as national security adviser from 1969 to 1975 under President Nixon. While serving as security adviser, Nixon appointed him as the 56th Sectary of State, becoming the first person to ever serve as both secretary of state and national security adviser.

    He remained secretary of state under former President Ford, who then removed him from his role as national security adviser.

    Kissinger, born in 1923 as Heinz Alfred Kissinger, spent the beginning of his life in Germany before his family, who is Jewish, immigrated to the U.S. after the Nazis seized power. Once in the U.S., Kissinger changed his name to Henry. […]

    […] But he was also one of the most singularly reviled public figures of his age.

    […] Kissinger drew international condemnation and accusations of war crimes for his key role in widening the American presence in Vietnam and the U.S. bombing of Cambodia, died Wednesday.

    He was 100. […]

    [His] legacy is inextricably bound up with bloodshed around the world. In the eyes of his critics, he was synonymous with the brutality of American power and some of the costliest foreign policy decisions in modern history.

    Kissinger’s detractors denounced him for the central role he played in expanding U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, bringing a wide-scale bombing campaign to Cambodia and supporting brutal regimes in Argentina, Chile, Indonesia and Pakistan. His most vociferous opponents labeled him a war criminal, and some called on him to face charges at the Hague.

    In academia and politics, Kissinger strove to “project the myth of being a no-nonsense, half-European realpolitiker capable of explaining to naive America how to behave on the international stage,” according to Mario Del Pero, who wrote the 2009 book “The Eccentric Realist: Henry Kissinger and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy.”

    Kissinger’s worldview revolved around “great power competition” — the idea that decisions made by the U.S., its allies and rivals are generally motivated by their national interests, rather than concerns about others or even accepted moral norms.

    This “dark narrative” gains traction “in the U.S. during times of great crisis and difficulty” such as the 1970s and today — rather than during the post-Cold War Western optimism of the 1990s, said Del Pero, who is an international history professor at SciencesPo, a university in Paris. […]

    Cambodia is not the only nation where Kissinger’s legacy is one of violence and chaos. He is accused of supporting Pakistan’s military regime during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, and backing the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975. Better known perhaps is his role in helping Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet overthrow the country’s democratically elected President Salvador Allende in 1973. […]

    Kissinger was accused of glossing over the facts when writing his memoirs to enhance his own reputation and role in history. For example, in reflecting on his first visit to China in 1971, he wrote that Taiwan “was only mentioned briefly,” when in fact records released decades later showed that he had offered dramatic concessions over the contentious island in the hope of earning China’s support over Vietnam. […]

    In interviews around his 100th birthday in May, he said that many world leaders — including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin — would likely answer his call were he to telephone them unscheduled. […]

  130. says

    New York Times:

    The Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed receptive on Wednesday to an attack on one of the primary ways the Securities and Exchange Commission enforces laws against securities fraud.

  131. says

    New York Times:

    The United Automobile Workers union announced Wednesday that it was undertaking an ambitious drive to organize plants owned by more than a dozen nonunion automakers, including Tesla and several foreign companies — a goal that has long eluded it.

  132. KG says

    “What this advertising boycott is going to do is it’s going to kill the company,” he [Musk] said. “And the whole world will know that those advertisers killed the company. It will be documented in great detail.”

    And for once, the whole world will owe those large, powerful and generally malign companies a vote of thanks!

  133. KG says

    Lynna, OM@153,

    I’ve seen it suggested that Tuberville’s real motive is to keep as many senior military posts as he can vacant so Trump can appoint his cronies if he wins next year’s election.

  134. lumipuna says

    From the Daily Kos, quoted by Lynna at 142:

    Russia has apparently been delivering about 900 refugees a day from countries such as Morocco, Pakistan, and Syria to the Finnish border, but over the last week, Finland has been closing the gates … Finland is reportedly concerned that Russia is using legitimate migrants to disguise agents and influencers being moved across the border.

    To be clear, 900 (or currently about 1000) is the total number of asylum seekers who have arrived from Russia since early November. It’s not a very impressive number as such, but there’s much concern about potential escalation, or something more nefarious. It’s not entirely clear what kind of threat assessment our government has done behind closed doors. It might involve on some classified intelligence about potential threats, or it might be just pandering to kneejerk racist voters.

    Shortly before the last border crossing at Raja-Jooseppi was closed, international reporter crews began visiting there. However, the situation was very anticlimactic, since practically no asylum seekers arrived during the last couple days. This Guardian story from yesterday was likely based on an email interview:

    There are similarities, certainly, with the migration crisis of 2015 and 2016, when about 1,700 people traversed Finland’s remote northern border crossings. But, for the head of the border guard’s international affairs unit, the tensions that have heightened in recent weeks between Helsinki and Moscow have resulted in a situation that is unique.

    Or rather, the tensions have heightened considerably since early 2022. During this previous debacle, there was much less sense of Russia being an enemy rogue state using migrants for hybrid warfare, and the bigger and more blatant migrant push operation by Belarus hadn’t yet begun.

    Many of the people arriving have done so by bicycle, a way for the people smugglers who have facilitated the asylum seekers’ journey across Russia to avoid detection at the border.

    Smugglers are understood to sell bikes to asylum seekers at inflated prices as part of their passage from St Petersburg. By road, the total journey from the Russian city to the most northerly border crossing at Raja-Jooseppi is more than 1,400km (870 miles).

    It’s not very clear why almost all of the migrants have crossed the border on bicycle. As I noted before, the bikes are not used for travel, except for the last 1 km or so. People use trains to get to St. Petersburg or Murmansk, and then the human smugglers operating with the FSB give them a car or bus ride to the border. Certainly someone is making money on junk bikes, which are then abandoned at Finnish border stations.

    Russian authorities are saying that they cannot prevent anyone to exit Russia if they have valid travel documents to Russia.

    This is indeed how the Russian Border Guard and Ministry of Foreign Affairs respond to Finnish queries. Meanwhile, Dmitry Peskov has told to Russian media audiences (who definitely have a right to be in Russia, but can’t freely access the border) that nobody is allowed to access the border without travel documents to the other country.

    However, the UN and refugee advocacy groups fear [the border closure] could prevent people from seeking asylum and warn that the border’s entire closure could contravene international law. During the closure, asylum seekers will instead be directed to airports and ports.

    Indeed, preventing people from seeking asylum is the whole point of Finland’s response.

    Incidentally, people without necessary travel documents are being systematically and globally prevented from boarding airplanes and ships to rich western countries, which is why land routes (or crossing the Mediterranean in unregulated boats) play a central role in the movement of asylum seekers and other undocumented migrants. Naturally, people without Schengen visas cannot legally enter Europe from any point, and in practice they’d have to (illegally) cross a land border to exercise their supposed right to seek asylum.

    The EU has also relied on agreements with neighboring outside countries such as Libya, Turkey and (until now) Russia to prevent third country undocumented migrants from accessing the EU borders. The Mediterranean border has been notoriously leaky nevertheless, but here up north we’ve been cozy and safe and haven’t gotten used to dealing with large numbers of migrants.

  135. lumipuna says

    This the Guardian on-site at Raja-Jooseppi, with some hilarious melodrama:

    The Guardian was given exclusive access to the border station shortly after its closure on Wednesday

    By “exclusive” they must mean there were no other media crews interviewing the border station staff at the same time.

    Since the closure of other border crossings farther south on Friday, 63 asylum seekers have arrived at Raja-Jooseppi. But on Wednesday, the Finnish border guard said they had had a “peaceful day”, with just 14 people leaving Finland, three people entering and no asylum-seeker arrivals.

    You have to appreciate the comedy of reporters traveling to the middle of nowhere, in arctic conditions, to witness this.

    On the other side of the border, the Kremlin said on Wednesday that any decision by Finland to permit a “concentration” of troops on its border would be seen by Moscow as a threat.

    That came after Poland offered to send military advisers to help Helsinki police the border. Finland said it had been unaware of the Polish offer.

    A handful of Polish border guards (not “military advisors”) and assisting staff have arrived in Finland to support our border guard, as a part of EU border supervision cooperation. Russia has called this a “threatening gesture”, while arguing that the Finnish border closure is a hysterical and disproportionate response to whatever has been happening.

  136. birgerjohansson says

    As you know by now, Kissinger is dead.

    If you want to participate in celebrating Kissmas (Nov 30) here is Kool and the Gang with “Celebration”
    Many of the recent comments at the song mention him- feel free to add to them 😊

  137. says

    KG @177, interesting point. I don’t know if that is true, but it certainly sounds like something Trump and Tuberville would try to do.

    In other news: When Republican members of Congress try to argue that 3.9% unemployment reflects poorly on President Biden, there’s a problem.

    Every month, the story unfolds in roughly the same way. New job numbers come out; people are impressed by the resiliency of the U.S. economy; the Biden White House celebrates the data; and Republicans respond to the developments by pretending not to notice them.

    The motivation for their silence is obvious: GOP leaders don’t want to be seen criticizing good news, but they also don’t want to acknowledge encouraging economic figures that cast the Democratic incumbent in a positive light. So, they remain silent and hope that no one notices.

    On Wednesday, however, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler broached the subject his party’s leaders tend to ignore. In remarks delivered on the House floor, the Pennsylvania Republican began by arguing that the U.S. economy created just 1,500 jobs in October. [video at the link]

    That wasn’t even close to being true: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ last report, the economy created 150,000 jobs in October. The GOP congressman left off two zeroes, which in this instance, made a rather dramatic difference.

    But perhaps that was just a simple mistake. Maybe Reschenthaler misread the remarks prepared by his staff. Even more notable were his comments about the unemployment rate: “The unemployment rate rose to 3.9% in October.”

    While it’s true that the jobless rate inched higher, from 3.8% to 3.9%, if the Republican congressman is looking for things to criticize President Joe Biden about, I’d recommend looking elsewhere.

    […] when members of Congress suggest there’s something unfortunate about a 3.9% unemployment rate, there’s a problem.

    How many times, across the entirety of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, did the unemployment rate fall below 4%? Literally zero times. Economists quibble over the precise meaning of full employment, but for practical purposes, when the jobless rate is below 4%, it doesn’t get much better.

    When Biden took office in January 2021, unemployment stood at 6.3%. By the end of 2021, it was 3.9%. In the nearly two years that followed, the jobless rate has not climbed above 4%.

    Or put another way, 3.9% unemployment, in historical terms, is kind of amazing.

    Meanwhile, we’ve seen roughly 2.39 million jobs created so far this year, which is exceptional, and the U.S. economy has created roughly 14.4 million jobs since January 2021 — which is more than double the combined total of Donald Trump’s first three years.

    Guy Reschenthaler apparently sees this as an area of vulnerability for Biden. Reality suggests otherwise.

  138. says

    Washington Post:

    During a phone call with Kevin McCarthy weeks after his historic Oct. 3 removal as House speaker, Trump detailed the reasons he had declined to ask Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and other hard-right lawmakers to back off their campaign to oust the California Republican from his leadership position. … During the call, Trump lambasted McCarthy for not expunging his two impeachments

  139. birgerjohansson says

    Lumipuna @ 179

    The Finns think this is the beginning of “hybrid warfare” and want to stop it at an early phase.
    The refugees have reportedly been told “go to Finland”.

  140. says

    […] The newly disclosed documents reveal an extraordinary web of communications between Perry [Representative Scott Perry, a Republican from Pennsylvania], who is now the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, and key figures in Trump’s orbit. They include:

    A Dec. 12, 2020, text exchange with Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel discussing efforts to challenge Joe Biden’s victory in the election.

    A series of exchanges between Perry and a former DOJ colleague, Robert Gasaway, between Dec. 30, 2020, and Jan. 5, 2021, in which Perry embraced a plan to have then-Vice President Mike Pence “admit testimony” prior to the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021. Perry agreed to “sell[] the idea” with a call to Trump, Pence and Trump adviser John Eastman, but Perry later alerted Gasaway that Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, “will not allow access.”

    […] A Nov, 12, 2020 text to Trump campaign lawyer Alex Cannon advising the campaign on challenges to the election results in Pennsylvania, as well as numerous other contacts with Trump-affiliated lawyers Jenna Ellis, Boris Epshteyn and Justin Clark.

    An exchange with Simone Gold, a doctor known for opposing the Covid vaccine who would later plead guilty to misdemeanors for her role in the breach of the Capitol on Jan. 6.

    Exchanges with numerous Pennsylvania state legislators, including Doug Mastriano, strategizing ways to challenge the state’s election results.

    Texts with “cybersecurity individuals” working with attorney Sidney Powell to challenge the election results, including Phil Waldron. In one exchange, Perry emailed former Trump National Security Council staffer Rich Higgins to relay an “incredibly spooky” allegation that the U.S. Army had confiscated election servers in Germany to help cover up fraud.

    In the days after the election was called for Biden, Perry told one ally, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, that he would attempt to help get him or Sidney Powell booked on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show. The filing shows Perry was in touch at times with Phil Waldron, a purported cybersecurity expert working with Powell, and discussed ways to get a pipeline of information to state legislative leaders. […]

    But the exchanges with DOJ’s Clark — described in Smith’s federal indictment of Trump as one of six unnamed and unindicted co-conspirators in an effort to subvert the 2020 election — are perhaps the most revealing. Clark, then a low-profile figure who oversaw the Justice Department’s civil litigation in the final months of the presidential term, was introduced to Trump by Perry amid Trump’s effort to remain in office.

    Trump came close to appointing Clark as acting attorney general in the early days of 2021 before backing down amid a mass resignation threat by senior DOJ and White House officials. During this time, Clark pressured top DOJ officials to send a letter to state legislatures urging them to consider sending alternate slates of presidential electors to Congress, and he obtained a security clearance to review intelligence about potential foreign efforts to interfere in the election.

    Perry indicated in one newly disclosed exchange that Trump had personally approved a “presidential security clearance,” a comment that followed Clark asking Perry to ensure that Trump was aware that CIA Director Gina Haspel needed to supply him with “security clearance tickets” to access intelligence related to the 2020 election.

    In one exchange, Perry told Clark that Trump was upset with Clark for using the Justice Department to defend Pence against a lawsuit brought by another House member, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas). Gohmert was seeking a court ruling declaring that Pence had the power to unilaterally reject Biden’s electoral votes, but DOJ’s civil division — then under Clark’s leadership — stepped in to defend Pence against the suit, which failed.

    “[H]e’s not thrilled with your decision regarding Pence and Gohmert,” Perry texted.

    Clark responded, “The branch within Civil Division responsible for Gohmert brief refused to have anything to do with my brief.”

    The newly disclosed exchanges also include Perry’s contacts with other House members seeking to reverse Trump’s defeat or to raise challenges to the election results. Perry texted Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) on Nov. 7, 2020 that there was “concrete evidence” of fraud in Michigan. The same day and on Nov. 8, Perry “exchanged text messages with Congressmen Hice, Jordan, and Roy, about issues with ‘the Dominion voting system,’ prompting comment from Rep. Hice, ‘YES!! … And don’t forget, on the Trump campaign call this afternoon, they have uncovered ‘illegal ballot harvesting’ in 3 GA counties,’” the filing reveals.

    And Perry also exchanged texts with then Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, who complained about “incompetence here in Georgia,” prompting Perry to respond, “Nothing can beat effective cheating.”

    Politico link

  141. says

    Dead at 100, Henry Kissinger Leaves Behind a Bloody Legacy, by David Corn.

    From Argentina to East Timor, his actions led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

    Do not speak ill of the dead. That’s an honorable admonition. But what of the truth? When a person dies, should he be remembered accurately? That question is acutely posed by the demise of Henry Kissinger. The veteran diplomat passed away on Wednesday at the age of 100, leaving behind a long legacy that includes such highs as the opening to China, as well as foul deeds that resulted in mayhem and death—thousands and thousands of deaths. His obituaries will be filled with hosannas from the foreign policy establishment that hailed him as the wisest of wise men. Unfortunately, those who were slaughtered in part due to his global gamesmanship are not able to comment on his contribution to international affairs.

    Earlier this year, ahead of his centennial birthday, I published an assessment of his career. I noted, “Kissinger is indeed a monumental figure who shaped much of the past 50 years. He brokered the US opening to China and pursued detente with the Soviet Union during his stints as President Richard Nixon’s national security adviser and secretary of state. Yet it is an insult to history that he is not equally known and regarded for his many acts of treachery—secret bombings, coup-plotting, supporting military juntas—that resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands.” I provided a break-down of these episodes. Is it an appropriate moment to revisit Kissinger’s dark past? We can only imagine what the dead would say. Here’s the roll call. […]

    It’s easy to cast Kissinger as a master geostrategist, an expert player in the game of nations. But do the math. Hundreds of thousands of dead in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and East Timor, perhaps a million in total. Tens of thousands dead in Argentina’s Dirty War. Thousands killed and tens of thousands tortured by the Chilean military dictatorship, and a democracy destroyed. His hands were drenched in blood.

    […] There were no apologies from Kissinger. But the rest of us will owe history—and the thousands dead because of his diplomatic scheming—an apology, if we do not consider the man in full. Whatever his accomplishments, his legacy includes an enormous pile of corpses.

    Details at the link include facts related to:
    Cambodia (The US military dropped 540,000 tons of bombs. They didn’t just hit enemy outposts. The estimates of Cambodian civilians killed range between 150,000 and 500,000);

    Bangladesh (Kissinger and Nixon turned a blind eye to—arguably, they tacitly approved—Pakistan’s genocidal slaughter of 300,000 Bengalis, most of them Hindus);

    Chile (Kissinger backed Pinochet to the hilt); East Timor (Here was a “green light” from Kissinger (and Ford). Suharto’s brutal invasion of East Timor resulted in 200,000 deaths); Argentina (The Dirty War would claim the lives of an estimated 30,000 Argentine civilians).

  142. birgerjohansson says

    Do not forget that by dragging Laos and Cambodia into the war, Kissinger paved the way for the communist takeovers. The 1,5 million murdered by Khmer Rouge would not have happened without this intervention
    We will not hear this voice again
    “…in the drunk tank…”

  143. says

    Followup to comment 188.

    It was just after 8 p.m. ET on Jan. 6, 2021. Law enforcement had just finished clearing the Capitol building, and Congress was beginning to reconvene to finish the task which Stop the Steal supporters had violently disrupted: formalizing Biden’s win, and Trump’s defeat, in the 2020 election.

    But Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) had his mind elsewhere.

    “Is this true?” he texted one of his legislative directors, attaching to the message a press release claiming that an Italian defense contractor had “switched votes throughout America” in the 2020 election.

    Perry was inquiring about ItalyGate, the theory which holds that Italian satellites zapped votes in the 2020 elections away from Trump and to Biden.

    A new tranche of texts from Perry, an influential figure in several prongs of Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election, were revealed on Wednesday in a previously sealed filing with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Perry has been fighting to block Special Counsel Jack Smith from accessing records on the congressman’s cell phone.

    […] Perry, along with then-acting assistant attorney general Jeff Clark, tried to enlist the DOJ in Trump’s attempt to reverse his loss while, texts show, attempting to use Clark’s access to government databases to verify pulp novel-esque allegations of foreign cyber espionage.

    […] On Dec. 30, he had already sent acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen a request to investigate the ItalyGate conspiracy theory.

    “Can you believe this?” Rosen replied in a message to another official.

    JFC. And Republicans like Scott Perry are actually elected officials. Sheesh.

  144. says

    A four-judge panel in the New York Appellate Division, First Judicial District, has reinstated the gag order barring Trump and his lawyers from posting, emailing, or speaking about the court and its staff.

    Link to PDF

  145. Reginald Selkirk says

    Hubble science instruments still out after going down 3 times in a week

    NASA has confirmed it is working to resume science operations on the Hubble Space Telescope after an ongoing gyroscope issue put it in safe mode.

    According to NASA, the instruments are stable and telescope is in good health, but a faulty reading from one of its gyros caused it to automatically enter safe mode, suspending science operations once again, on November 23rd…

  146. Jean says

    Re #188, 191

    Scott Perry is one of the many elected republicans who should be subject to section 3 of the 14th amendment. The whole republican party is trying to have all US election results be meaningless, i.e. kill democracy in the US. And no one is doing anything to correct this (half the population seems to be ok with it too). And the media are just concerned about poll results and stupid talking points.

  147. Reginald Selkirk says

    John Cornyn and Ted Cruz flee U.S. Senate hearing as Democrats vote on Harlan Crow subpoena

    U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz were among several Republicans who fled a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Thursday to protest subpoenaing Dallas-based conservative donor Harlan Crow.

    The committee’s Democrats are seeking records over payments, gifts and travel Crow reportedly provided Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, some of which were not initially listed on financial disclosures. The committee’s GOP members cast the subpoena authorization as a partisan attack against one of the most conservative members of the court and a private citizen.

    The Republicans left the committee room as the roll call vote was taking place. Committee rules require a quorum of nine members including at least two members of the minority. But since the Republicans left during the vote, it’s unclear whether they counted toward a quorum.

    All 11 Democrats voted to authorize the subpoena and declared the move adopted…

  148. says

    Earlier this week, Elizabeth Warren posted on social media in support of the FTC investigating private equity firm Roark Capital (yes, the name references exactly what you think it references) for attempting to create a mediocre-at-best sandwich shop monopoly by purchasing Subway when it already owns Jimmy John’s and McAlister’s Deli.

    “We don’t need another private equity deal that could lead to higher food prices for consumers.” Warren wrote on social media on Monday. “The FTC is right to investigate whether the purchase of SUBWAY by the same firm that owns jimmyjohns and McAlistersDeli creates a sandwich shop monopoly.”

    Was she wrong? Absolutely not. Private equity is ruining this country. But a bunch of right-wing pro-monopoly weirdos went bananas in the responses to her with comments mocking the idea of “Big Sandwich” being a serious problem for the government to deal with.

    In fact, right-wing media has been whining about it all week, leading up to today, when the National Review published a Very Serious op-ed attacking Warren for the tweet and arguing that it is impossible for there to be a sandwich monopoly on the grounds that anyone can make a sandwich.

    No, really.

    Via National Review:

    Of course, to Warren and her progressive ilk, a “monopoly” is simply a company that has gotten so successful it suddenly deserves regulation. As Adam Smith put it, “a monopoly granted either to an individual or to a trading company has the same effect as a secret in trade or manufactures.”

    […] Obviously, larger companies are going to be subject to more regulation, not because anyone is mad at their success and doesn’t want them to be happy, but because mistakes they make will have a larger impact. Though to be clear, I feel fairly confident that the rule that businesses with fewer than 15 employees are not subject to federal anti-discrimination laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Civil Rights Act (though state laws may differ) was not thought up by the Left.

    But, of course, there is no monopoly on sandwich-making primarily because there is no trade secret. It is simply surrounding a filling with two slices of bread. This is a process so rudimentary that people do it at home. They do it on picnics. They do it with lettuce and braunschweiger. They do it with peanut butter and jelly. It is a meal so simple we teach children to make it themselves.

    This point was also argued by an obvious genius in Warren’s replies, who wrote “Anyone can make a sandwich, even you probably. It’s bread and lunch meat. A monopoly can’t exist in the ‘sandwich shop’ sector.”

    If only Warren’s correspondent and Schneider had been around nearly a decade ago to tell Jimmy John’s there are no sandwich secrets, the company never would have forced workers to sign non-compete agreements.

    It can, however, exist in the “large sandwich shop chain” sector and that is also a problem. This isn’t about controlling all of the sandwiches; no one is suggesting that if this company buys Subway that no one will be able to make their own sandwiches at home. This is about the fact that it is a legitimate interest of the FTC to ensure that one company doesn’t have a controlling interest in a segment of any industry.

    The fact is, private equity firms kinda ruin everything. Roark also bought Dunkin’ Donuts (now just Dunkin’, which remains weird) and what did they come out with this year? A coffee beverage with Munchkins mixed in. Now, we all love Ice Spice, but that is very unappealing! [video at the link]

    It doesn’t stop at wet-bread frappes. Private equity firms buying up lots of individual companies leads to job losses, lower wages and higher prices across the board. And when they get involved with prisons or nursing homes, things can actually get dangerous.

    Schneider goes on to try to make jokes about people who ask whether or not things are sandwiches online and to reference an op-ed from 1910 titled “The Club Sandwich — Why?” and suggesting that if ol’ Liz Warren were in charge back then that there would be no club sandwiches. Because that’s what this is about. Actual sandwich regulation. [/sarcasm]

    He then tried to make the case that such a move would actually lower prices for consumers, a thing that has never, ever, ever happened in the history of ever.

    […] savings will never, ever be passed onto consumers.

    He also has a swell theory that “greedflation” only happened because customers wanted to pay more for things, not because companies used actual inflation to cover for raising prices to line their own pockets.

    Warren has spent years arguing that the rising cost of goods is the result of “greedflation” — corporations boosting prices during hard times to goose their profits. But not only do such price hikes typically take place in the wake of a recession, the idea of “greedflation” gets consumer spending wrong in exactly the opposite way. Companies charge more because consumers have more money, not because they have less. A report by the Kansas City Federal Reserve showed that, most recently, household income actually rose during the pandemic-induced recession. And thus consumers were willing to pay more for goods. And yet the White House and others blamed increasing meat prices on Big Meat rather than on both consumers’ desire for beef and their ability to pay for it.

    That’s still greed. People were willing to pay more for things, for a time, due to scarcity and being in an emergency situation. Keeping prices that high post-scarcity? That’s greed.

    The best part of this whole thing, however — where Schneider shows he really gets it — is where he suggests that if Warren really wanted sandwich prices to go down, she and other progressives should fight for poverty wages, not against.

    Finally, Democrats insist on increasing the cost of hiring individuals to work in these sandwich restaurants, as state and local governments continue to hike minimum wages for hourly employees. Those increased costs are either recouped by hiring fewer employees or passing the costs on to consumers.

    Again, part of the issue with private equity companies is that they very frequently cause wages to go down. We want people to make a decent living so they can afford to eat sandwiches themselves. This is not hard!

    The issue isn’t the sandwiches at Subway or Jimmy John’s […] The issue is private equity firms getting away with too much and controlling too much of any economic sector.

    We need to be looking at what private equity firms are doing, because whether the people mocking Warren want to understand this or not, this is something that affects all of us — it hurts the economy and it hurts our ability as consumers to vote with our dollar.

  149. Reginald Selkirk says

    Stop the presses! Rand Paul did a good thing.

    Rand Paul uses Heimlich maneuver on Ernst during Senate GOP lunch

    Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) used the Heimlich maneuver on Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) during the Senate GOP’s Thursday lunch after she choked on part of her meal.

    Ernst said as much on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, thanking Paul for intervening.

    “Can’t help but choke on the woke policies Dems are forcing down our throats. Thanks, Dr. @RandPaul !” she wrote, referencing a post from Politico.

    Ernst hosted the Thursday luncheon, which is provided weekly by a member and frequently features their home state’s delicacies. Her fellow Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) posted about the meal shortly beforehand, which was headlined by pork chops from the Hawkeye State.

    What a horrible person Ernst appears to be. She chokes on her own food and tries to blame Democrats.

  150. says

    Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans tried to shut the committee down Thursday with histrionic fits and manufactured outrage over Democrats’ plans to proceed with subpoenas to GOP mega-donor Harlan Crow and conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo. They failed, walking into a procedural trap of their own making; the committee voted 11-0 to issue the subpoenas.

    Republicans got obnoxious right out of the gate, objecting to Chair Dick Durbin’s efforts to finish with some housekeeping matters. There were a few judicial nominees that had already been approved, but needed a third vote because of a procedural technicality GOP senators had attempted to use to kill the nominations. Republicans repeatedly shouted down the clerk who was trying to conduct the roll call votes, and tried to filibuster. Durbin, citing the precedent of former Republican chairs Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham, pushed ahead on the nominees against Republican opposition, resulting in more histrionics from the GOP members.

    The Republicans’ goal was to waste two hours of committee time so they could invoke a rule that limits the committee’s sessions to two hours. They had 177 amendments to the subpoenas lined up if they couldn’t waste those two hours on the nominees. But Durbin had a procedural ace up his sleeve and the votes to use it. He suspended the two-hour rule, and all 11 Democrats voted to issue the subpoenas, while the Republicans all walked out.

    “They think we’re gonna roll over and come back sometime later and try all over again and face the same limitations,” Durbin told Politico after the brouhaha. “You know, there reaches a point where there has to be a vote. They walked out on it. That’s their decision.”

    Unsurprisingly, Politico reports, Leo issued a statement saying he would refuse to comply. “Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats have been destroying the Supreme Court; now they are destroying the Senate,” Leo said. “I will not cooperate with this unlawful campaign of political retribution.” Since he’s handpicked a great many of the federal judges under the last two Republican presidents, he’s probably confident that he’d end up in front of a friendly one if Durbin pushes the matter.

    Watch Graham’s meltdown and Durbin’s refusal to allow the committee to be hijacked yet again. [video at the link]


  151. says

    More Russian stuff blowing up: Ukraine blows up 15 km train tunnel in Siberia

    Just the other day Ukrainian President Zelenskyy hinted that Ukraine would make some long-range strikes against Russia soon. Last night Ukraine delivered, blowing up a fuel train inside a tunnel that is the main rail line between Russia and China.

    The SBU (Ukrainian security services) blew up the train inside the 15.3-kilometer-long Severomuysky Tunnel in Buryatia, which is north of Mongolia and about 4,000 km from Ukraine. How they managed to pull that off has not been revealed.

    It is significant that the explosion was said to have happened while the train was in the tunnel. Just blowing up the train on the tracks would not put the line out of action for that long — maybe a month or two. But blowing the train inside the tunnel will cause major problems. […]
    Destroying a warehouse full of Shaheed drones used to target Ukrainian cities is a major accomplishment. [Tweet and images at the link.]
    Taking out a building full of drone operators is as good as taking out Russian artillery. [video at the link]
    A Russian air-defense system creates a big bavovna. [Tweet and video at the link: Kherson Oblast, Ukrainian forces released what is most likely some of the first footage of a US-supplied AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missile hitting, and destroying, a Russian Buk-M2 SAM system.]
    […] About 20 people from the [Russian marine brigade] lit a fire during their lunch break nearby with ammunition storage. The RPG-7 grenade launcher shell rolled into the fire and exploded. Eight people died on the spot, another eight were injured. All those injured and killed were contract soldiers from Vladivostok. Four seriously wounded soldiers died in hospital within a few days. […]

  152. says

    YouTube link to Jimmy KImmel segment.

    Kimmel discusses Republicans DESPERATE to Smear Biden [by focusing on Fox News freaking out over Joe Biden’s use of a large straw to drink a milkshake], and other subjects, like cutting Christmas trees.

  153. StevoR says

    Seems we could be seeing some aurorae soon :

    Aurora chasers around the world are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a super-hot plasma eruption — known as a coronal mass ejection (CME) — that will slam into Earth tonight.

    The rapid Earth-bound CME left the sun on Nov. 29 during a powerful M9.8-class solar flare eruption. But it isn’t alone. The speedy plasma outburst will merge with several slower upstream CMEs that left the sun a day earlier (Nov. 28), creating a “Cannibal CME” that will likely trigger a strong geomagnetic storm akin to a Nov. 5 event that supercharged auroras and STEVE around the world.

    Source :

  154. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    SciAm – Space junk is polluting Earth’s stratosphere with vaporized metal

    potential environmental hazards that remain poorly understood. […] the metals are accumulating within sulfuric acid particles, which constitute most of the stratosphere’s particulates and influence our world’s ozone layer and climate. […] only very recently—in the past few years—has the contribution from falling space junk come to rival, or […] even exceed, that from this natural background. […] most of the aluminum, copper and lithium now found in the stratosphere is from space junk.
    What is clear is that this metallic pollution is set to accelerate […] Thanks in large part to […] satellite “mega constellations” such as SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Project Kuiper, the global launch industry is on track to loft as many as 50,000 new satellites into orbit by 2030. […] what goes up must come down […] debris pumping more metals into the stratosphere.
    “When you have potentially 50,000 satellites in orbit, and they have a five-year lifetime, that’s 10,000 reentries a year—something like 30 a day. That is very different than the situation in the past […]”

  155. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Sam Lawler in Nature – Bright satellites are disrupting astronomy
    ^ unpaywalled author link.

    they remain sunlit long after the sky has grown dark. […] one of the newest […] outshines all but a handful of the brightest visible stars. It exemplifies how, without stronger regulation, satellites could substantially change the view of the night sky worldwide, and severely jeopardize future use of Earth’s orbit
    SpaceX […] owns and operates 57% of the 8,859 total active satellites
    astronomers require more telescope time for the same scientific return because a portion of data will be lost to satellites ‘photobombing’ telescopes every night. […] Satellites have already added noise to radio astronomy observations and even to images from the Hubble Space Telescope. […] Most governments require corporations to pay fines to those affected by a firm’s pollution. Perhaps it’s time to require […] compensation for the negative impact they are having on taxpayer-funded astronomy research. Even the task of measuring the brightness of satellites […] has been left to […] astronomers […] these observations took away time from astrophysical research
    [Those astronomers also tracked a large satellite that jettisoned another, smaller one.] its orbit was not publicly reported for four days after the two objects parted ways. This lag is a potential problem for researchers attempting to mitigate […] by […] pointing telescopes elsewhere
    A single unreported satellite doesn’t pose a substantial risk of a collision, but that risk quickly multiplies if it becomes standard to report satellites days after they enter orbit
    the worst-case scenario: the onset of full Kessler syndrome would prevent the use of communication, weather, science and astronautical satellites in low Earth orbit for decades. And it is unclear whether a spacecraft could even be launched successfully through the debris shell […] Humans would effectively be trapped on Earth by space junk, with multiple tonnes of vaporized metal being added to the upper atmosphere every day

  156. StevoR says

    Moere exoplanet stuff and links here :

    By law, the logging agency is required to regenerate the areas it has logged and hand them back to the public in a healthy state. But until now, how much that has actually happened has largely been a mystery. An AI-based analysis of 20 years of VicForests’ logging, researchers say, shows the scale of failed regeneration in Victoria’s state forests. The data, which has been shared exclusively with the ABC, suggests that 20 per cent of Victoria’s state forests have not regenerated after logging.

    ..(Snip).. Across Victoria, close to a fifth of all logged land was classified as not regenerated, according to the researchers. That’s almost 13,000 hectares of state forest the analysis found to be standing in a state of ruin.“The logging industry is basically walking away and handing this forest back in a disgraceful manner,” said Trent Patten from Wildlife of the Central Highlands, a conservation group that commissioned and funded the analysis. …(snip)..Leading forest ecologist Professor David Lindenmayer has been researching that question, and has found a range of reasons why forests don’t grow back after logging. He said logging could damage soil in two key ways: it can deplete the earth of nutrients, and the machinery can cause severe compaction. Another reason for the failure is the changing climate.The new trees are trying to germinate in a different world to the one the logged forests established themselves in decades or even a century earlier. Another cause of failed regrowth is feral deer, which love to eat young trees, said Professor Lindenmayer.

    Source :

  157. StevoR says

    Inadequate as ever :

    The world just took a tentative step toward compensating countries hit by deadly floods, heat and droughts. Nearly all nations on Thursday finalised the creation of a fund to help compensate countries struggling to cope with loss and damage caused by climate change, seen as a major first-day breakthrough at this year’s UN climate conference. Some countries started putting in money right away.

    The amount was small compared to the overall anticipated needs. ..(snip)..

    ..A recent report by the United Nations estimates that up to $US387 billion will be needed annually if developing countries are to adapt to climate-driven changes.

    Source :

    I expect that last figure willbe a really gross under-estimate and of course, thelives and sufferingand lingeringand escalating damage is really incalculable.

  158. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    NYTimes – Israel knew Hamas’s attack plan more than a year ago

    Israeli officials obtained Hamas’s battle plan for the Oct. 7 terrorist attack more than a year before it happened, documents, emails and interviews show. But Israeli military and intelligence officials dismissed the plan as aspirational, considering it too difficult for Hamas to carry out.
    The translated document, which was reviewed by The New York Times, did not set a date for the attack, but described a methodical assault designed to overwhelm the fortifications around the Gaza Strip, take over Israeli cities and storm key military bases, including a division headquarters.

    Hamas followed the blueprint with shocking precision. The document called for a barrage of rockets at the outset of the attack, drones to knock out the security cameras and automated machine guns along the border, and gunmen to pour into Israel en masse in paragliders, on motorcycles and on foot—all of which happened on Oct. 7.

    The plan also included details about the location and size of Israeli military forces, communication hubs and other sensitive information, raising questions about how Hamas gathered its intelligence
    The document circulated widely among Israeli military and intelligence leaders, but experts determined that an attack of that scale and ambition was beyond Hamas’s capabilities, according to documents and officials.
    Then, in July, just three months before the attacks, a veteran analyst […] warned that Hamas had conducted an intense […] exercise that appeared similar to what was outlined in the blueprint. But a colonel in the Gaza division brushed off her concerns
    Officials privately concede that, had the military taken these warnings seriously […] Israel could have blunted the attacks or possibly even prevented them.

  159. lotharloo says

    I was bored and I decided to check Jerry’s blog. So there you go, comments that openly call for murder of Palestinians.

    Leslie MacMillan
    November 30, 2023 at 11:30 am

    The Palestinians are a Jew-hating death cult. No Jewish polity can make peace with them as they are today. Richard Hananian argues, and I agree, that not enough Palestinians in Gaza have been killed yet as human shields for them to resign themselves to the futility of continuing to try to kill Jews. …
    A two-state solution will not work either, for much the same reason a one-state solution won’t work. As long as you have neighbours on your border who spend all their time trying to kill you, the situation is not stable. And you can’t keep invading a foreign hostile state every few years because your allies won’t let you conquer it. The only two-state solution that might work would be a Palestinian state that has a large expanse of desert belonging to some other country serving as what historians call a glacis* between it and Israel, and moving the Palestinians forcibly into that new state. Maybe somewhere in the middle of Saudi Arabia. Or Yemen. Maybe they can find oil on it and get rich. But a Palestinian state on Israel’s borders? No way. Not after 7 October.

    Jerry later responds but he had nothing to say against “we gotta kill more Palestinians” likely because he agrees. He just chimes in to say that he agrees that one-state solution doesn’t work.

  160. birgerjohansson says

    The major threat to humankind – apart from nuclear war, and quite certain upcoming disasters like, more pandemics and climate change- is a giant geomagnetic storm, or Carrington event.
    Think Bruce Willis fighting baddies destroying communications and the electric grid, except this time it is nature.
    There was a biggie in 1859, and two slightly smaller ones 1872 and 1921.
    We are overdue for the next one.

    I recall Scientific American warned for the results of a hurricane hitting New Orleans several years before hurricane Katrina.
    Politicians did not act then, either. 🥺

  161. Reginald Selkirk says

    Giant Stone Age Cemetery Near Arctic Circle Surprises Archaeologists

    The soil in one of the largest Stone Age cemeteries in Europe is so acidic that all the human remains were destroyed thousands of years ago. But now, a team of archaeologists reviewing the site have found that at least 120 people were once buried there, three times previous estimates.

    The cemetery, located at Tainiaro in Finnish Lapland, is 6,500 years old and is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of the Arctic Circle. Excavations of the site in the 1980s and 1990s revealed about forty graves across one-tenth of the site’s total area. But excavations conducted in 2018 have found that there were once three times that number, and possibly more than 200. The team’s research was published today in Antiquity…

  162. Reginald Selkirk says

    Elon Musk’s Boring Company Has Drilled A Grand Total Of 2.4 Miles In 7 Years

    At the outset of the Boring Company’s plans to build a network of underground tunnels in Las Vegas, Elon Musk claimed that the Boring Company would build one mile of tunnel per week. At that rate, the proposed 68-mile network would have taken little more than one year to build out entirely. But seven years on, the Boring Company has completed only 2.4 miles of tunnels in Las Vegas, as Fortune reports…

  163. Reginald Selkirk says

    Speaker Johnson wrote foreword for book filled with conspiracy theories and homophobic insults

    Speaker of the House Mike Johnson wrote the foreword and publicly promoted a 2022 book that spread baseless and discredited conspiracy theories and used derogatory homophobic insults.

    Written by Scott McKay, a local Louisiana politics blogger, the book, “The Revivalist Manifesto,” gives credence to unfounded conspiracy theories often embraced by the far-right – including the “Pizzagate” hoax, which falsely claimed top Democratic officials were involved in a pedophile ring, among other conspiracies.

    The book also propagates baseless and inaccurate claims, implying that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was subjected to blackmail and connected to the disgraced underage sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein…

  164. Reginald Selkirk says

    Rail havoc in Russia after second explosion in as many days destroys key ‘Devil’s Bridge’ – NV souces

    Another fuel train explosion on Russia’s Baikal-Amur Mainline signals the second phase of a strategic operation by Ukraine’s SBU to disrupt this vital railway route, sources told NV.

    Russians utilize this mainline, including for military logistics purposes.

    The initial incident occurred in the Severomuiskii Tunnel, prompting Russians to divert their use of the line through a bypass route known as the “Devil’s Bridge.” However, during a train’s passage on this towering 35-meter bridge, embedded explosive devices were triggered, resulting in the ignition of six tanks, Russian Telegram channels reported…

  165. tomh says

    From the Messenger

    Friday is set to be a packed day for Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee with morning and afternoon hearings scheduled to sort through a raft of pretrial motions in the ongoing Georgia election racketeering criminal case against Donald Trump and the former president’s 14 remaining co-defendants.

    The morning session will cover eight pre-trial motions to dismiss the charges or quash the entire 41-count Fulton County grand jury indictment originally brought in August against 19 people overall, including the former president. It also marks the first time that Trump’s Georgia-based legal team of Steve Sadow and co-counsel Jennifer Little will be in position to go directly toe-to-toe with District Attorney Fani Willis’ prosecutors.

    Streaming live right now on C-Span.

  166. says

    Facing multiple Jan. 6 lawsuits from police officers, Donald Trump has claimed “absolute immunity.” A federal appeals court didn’t buy it.

    ]…] Donald Trump has tried to get the civil cases thrown out, claiming he has “absolute immunity” in actions related to his term in office. As NBC News reported, a federal appeals court this morning rejected that argument.

    “The sole issue before us is whether President Trump has demonstrated an entitlement to official-act immunity for his actions leading up to and on January 6 as alleged in the complaints. We answer no, at least at this stage of the proceedings,” a panel of judges from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. said in its ruling. The three judges noted that Trump is alleged to have instigated the riot during the course of his re-election campaign, and said, “When a first-term President opts to seek a second term, his campaign to win re-election is not an official presidential act.”

    [Excellent logic.]

    The panel included one judge nominated by Barack Obama, one nominated by Bill Clinton, and one nominated by Trump.

    […] in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack, among those who filed lawsuits against Trump were police officers injured during the insurrectionist violence. In fact, multiple cases were filed:
    – In March 2021, two Capitol Police officers, James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby, sued Trump, claiming he was liable for the injuries they suffered during the riot.

    – In August 2021, seven more police officers who were attacked and beaten during the Capitol riot sued the former president.

    – In January 2022, three more police officers — including two who aided the evacuation of lawmakers — sued Trump, seeking damages for their physical and emotional injuries.

    – In January 2023, the longtime partner of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after the Jan. 6 riot, filed a wrongful death civil suit against Trump.

    Last year, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta rejected the “absolute immunity” argument, ruling that Trump could be held liable for damages. “To deny a president immunity from civil damages is no small step. The court well understands the gravity of its decision,” the jurist wrote in his decision. “But the alleged facts of this case are without precedent, and the court believes that its decision is consistent with the purposes behind such immunity.”

    The Republican and his legal defense team, not surprisingly, appealed the ruling, hoping to convince the D.C. Circuit of Appeals that Trump’s defense has merit. That didn’t work, clearing the way for the officers’ civil cases to proceed.

    But the impact might prove even broader. As NBC News’ report added, “Trump has made a similar immunity claim in special counsel Jack Smith’s criminal case charging that he illegally tried to overturn the election results. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan has not yet ruled on the issue.”

    With this in mind, it’s a safe bet that Chutkan took note of the D.C. Circuit’s decision.

  167. says

    Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis debate

    […] The showdown — dubbed “The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate” by Fox News — featured spirited exchanges on tax, education, abortion, energy, immigration, Covid and crime policy, with both DeSantis and Newsom warning that their opponent’s models would be disastrous for the country if they were exported nationwide.

    […] The two men agreed to debate each other in August, setting up a contest between DeSantis — a current presidential candidate and possibly a future one if he fails to nab the Republican presidential nomination this cycle — and Newsom, a governor who is considered a likely future presidential contender and is serving now as a top surrogate for President Joe Biden.

    […] During an exchange on immigration policy, Newsom said DeSantis’ strategy was merely “trolling folks” and “trying to find migrants to play political games, trying to get some news and attention so you can out-Trump Trump.”

    “And by the way, how’s that going for you, Ron?” Newsom said. “You’re down 41 points in your own home state.”

    […] DeSantis talked up keeping businesses like Walt Disney World open early in the pandemic while blasting Newsom for school and business closings.

    “You were not following science,” DeSantis said. “You were a lockdown governor. You did a lot of damage to your people.”

    Newsom countered that DeSantis had initially closed down businesses at the onset of the outbreak and followed guidance from Dr. Anthony Fauci, then the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, whom DeSantis has railed against over the past few years.

    “You followed science; you followed Fauci,” Newsom said, adding that DeSantis had also previously worn a mask and promoted Covid vaccines. “He decided to fall prey to the fringe of his party, and as a consequence of that, Ron, tens of thousands of people lost their lives.”

    […] “Joe Biden is in the pocket of the teachers union, and so is Kamala Harris,” DeSantis said.

    […] DeSantis, at two points, used props to help back up his assertions. In one instance, he held up a map purporting to show documented instances of human feces that were reported on the streets of San Francisco. At another moment, he held up imagery of cartoon depictions of sex acts from the book “Gender Queer,” which was removed from Florida school districts.

    Newsom took issue with DeSantis’ framing of restrictions on books in public schools and said his education platform was a “sword” he used to launch broader attacks on LGBTQ Americans.

    “I don’t like the way you demean people,” Newsom said. “I don’t like the way you demean the LGBTQ community. I don’t like the way you demean and humiliate people you disagree with, Ron. I really find this fundamentally offensive, and this is a core value that distinguishes the values of my state and, frankly, the vast majority of Americans against the weaponization of education.”

    […] “I’ll give Gavin credit, he did at least admit in his first answer he’s joined at the hip with Biden and Harris,” DeSantis said. “He thinks Biden and Harris have done a great job. He thinks the economy is working because of their policies for Americans, and they are not. And so what California represents is the Biden-Harris agenda on steroids.”

    Newsom countered that DeSantis promoted $28 million in investments in semiconductor and chip manufacturing made possible by legislation Biden signed. And, taking issue with how Hannity framed some questions, he said Fox News viewers weren’t being presented with positive economic news, including wage growth, cooling inflation and substantial growth in the gross domestic product in the previous quarter.

    While the presidential campaign played a secondary role in the debate, both candidates were pressed about whether they felt Biden was up for four more years.

    “Yes, he’s in decline,” DeSantis said. “Yes, it’s a danger to the country. He has no business running for president. And you know, Gavin Newsom agrees with that. He won’t say that. That’s why he’s running his shadow campaign. [Biden] should not be running. He is not up to the job. and it is dangerous for this country.”

    Newsom disagreed that he’s running a shadow campaign for president, saying DeSantis was “making this stuff up.” He said he “will take Joe Biden at 100 vs. Ron DeSantis any day of the week at any age.”

    Biden “will be our nominee in a matter of weeks,” Newsom said. “And in a matter of weeks, Sean, [DeSantis will] be endorsing Donald Trump as the nominee for the Republican Party.” […]

  168. says

    NBC News:

    The House voted overwhelmingly to expel indicted Rep. George Santos on Friday, pulling the curtain down on a tempestuous term in office that was marred by revelations that he’d fabricated parts of his biography, a scathing House ethics investigation and a 23-count federal indictment charging him with crimes like wire fraud and money laundering.


    […] The final tally was 311-114, with two members voting present. A two-thirds majority was necessary — in this instance, 290 votes — and proponents cleared the threshold with relative ease.

    It’s difficult to overstate how unusual this is. Capitol Hill has featured plenty of scandal-plagued members in recent generations, but successful expulsion votes have only happened three times since the Civil War. In 1980, Democratic Rep. Michael Myers of Pennsylvania was expelled over his involvement with the Abscam scandal, and Democratic Rep. Jim Traficant of Ohio was expelled in 2002 after he was convicted on multiple corruption charges.

    Santos has now joined the small and ignominious club.

    At this point, he officially became a former member of Congress the moment the vote concluded. His seat is now vacant, and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul will have to schedule a special election in the state’s 3rd Congressional District. That race is expected to be highly competitive.

    As for his current office, NBC News reported that under congressional rules, the House clerk “is responsible for supervising the staff and managing the office of any member who dies or resigns or is expelled until a successor is elected.”

    But as the dust settles on a truly amazing political tale, it’s worth appreciating just how difficult it was to kick the New York Republican out of office. Santos was exposed as a prolific liar before he was even sworn in as a freshman lawmaker. At the time, House GOP leaders nevertheless treated him as a member in good standing.

    In May, the Justice Department charged the then-congressman with seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives. Republican leaders again ignored those who said Santos should be forced out.

    In October, prosecutors filed additional charges against Santos, accusing him of, among other things, identity theft and charging a supporter’s credit card and then transferring the money to his personal bank account.

    Republican leaders once again rebuffed those who said Santos should be ousted, and a second attempted expulsion vote fell far short.

    But a recent report from the House Ethics Committee changed the nature of the debate. As my MSNBC colleague Clarissa-Jan Lim recently reported, the House Ethics Committee issued a brutal, 56-page report on Nov. 16, concluding that the freshman lawmaker “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit,” including using campaign funds for personal use, deceiving donors who thought they were contributing to his campaign, and reporting “fictitious loans” to his political committees to “induce” additional contributions.

    “And he sustained all of this through a constant series of lies to his constituents, donors, and staff about his background and experience,” the report added.

    The panel’s members went on to say that it found “substantial evidence” of criminal wrongdoing — beyond the crimes Santos has already been charged with — and they voted unanimously to refer the evidence to federal prosecutors.

    Despite all of this, in the third and final expulsion effort, 112 Republicans and a pair of House Democrats opposed the effort to kick him out of the chamber. Among those who voted “no”: the entirety of the House GOP leadership, including Speaker Mike Johnson, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Majority Whip Tom Emmer and Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik. [And others, including Matt Gaetz]

    […] there are no laws or rules that would prohibit Santos from running for office again. […]


  169. says

    On Thursday, the Supreme Court of the State of New York reinstated a narrow gag order against Donald Trump that prohibits him from making statements about court staff. The order was originally put in place by Judge Arthur Engoron after Trump repeatedly attacked law clerk Allison Greenfield, including falsely claiming that she was the “girlfriend” of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Trump’s statements have been tied to multiple threats on the life of both Greenfield and Engoron.

    In response, Trump posted a series of false claims about Engoron’s wife, using a widely debunked series of images posted by conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer. Trump also reposted the images along with statements sure to generate threats against Engoron’s wife and family.

    Not only is this vivid confirmation that Trump is a low-life POS, it’s also an obvious threat aimed at every prosecutor, judge, or other member of the justice system who tries to hold him to account for his crimes.

    Loomer’s original “exclusive” was based on posting several images from an account on X (formerly known as Twitter) that had messages indicating Trump was a criminal. [Examples at the link]

    Loomer’s original “exclusive” was based on posting several images from an account on X (formerly known as Twitter) that had messages indicating Trump was a criminal. [Examples at the link]

    Loomer’s original post on X has now been viewed over 13 million times. Responses to that post have included numerous threats and accusations against Engoron. That includes at least one supporter who located the Engoron family home, provided it to Loomer, and offered to join in harassing them.

    Online observers immediately noted that Loomer had no evidence that the posts had been made by Engoron’s wife. The following day, Newsweek spoke with Dawn Engoron, who made it clear she had no connection to the account Loomer cited. New York’s Office of Court Administration has since confirmed that the account did not belong to Engoron’s wife, that Dawn Engoron doesn’t even have a Twitter account, and that she never posted the images Loomer used.

    None of this stopped Loomer and her followers from continuing to spread the images and elaborating on lies about Engoron, his wife, and his family.

    On Wednesday, Trump began reposting the images on his Truth Social platform. He kept right on posting them on Thursday, even after the gag order had been reinstated. [Examples at the link]

    Since Engoron was not protected under the intentionally narrow gag order, it’s unlikely that these reposts are in violation of that order. Trump has made or reposted a number of false claims and threats against Engoron, including one suggesting that Engoron and New York Attorney General Letitia James be subject to “citizen’s arrest.”

    Trump is issuing clear threats to Engoron and other members of the court, showing that he’ll go to any lengths in his constant search for revenge. Their spouses, family, and friends are not off limits for Trump. To underscore this, a hearing just last week revealed hundreds of “serious and credible“ threats each day made against Engoron and Williams even before Trump began repeating Loomer’s “Engoron crime family” images.

    This is a blatant and obvious effort to rule through fear.

    With multiple criminal cases to follow the New York civil fraud trial, it’s also a message that is sure to be heard by every judge, clerk, and prosecutor Trump will be facing in the coming weeks. And something that will be viscerally felt by every member of their families.


    I am appalled.

  170. says

    Going to end the day with a clip of Governor Gavin Newsom crushing fascist weak scumbag Ron DeSantis’ fragile ego. Good night. 💙👊

    See also: Gavin Newsom’s Fox performance sets X-witter on FIRE

    […] Newsom pointed out that cities in Florida have a 66% higher murder rate than cities like San Francisco.

    […] I watched the end of the debate and the follow-on program with the regular Fox crowd and all four of their pundits — while giving credit to Newsom — gave their thumbs up and the “Victory” on the evening to DeSantis who just spouted the same tired dishonest rhetoric that every one of Fox hears day in and day out.

    […] Newsom has totally energized progressives by standing up to DeSantis and pantsing him in his own front yard.

  171. says

    The Heritage Foundation is looking for fascism’s new foot soldiers. It might not go well

    We’ve previously reported on The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, an effort to provide a future Republican presidential administration with a pre-built agenda and an army of loyalists who have already been vetted. This would weed out anybody who might have qualms about bending the law in an administration planning mass deportations, a purge of those who are disloyal from government and the military, and the arrest of Donald Trump’s enemies.

    A major part of that effort is assembling that army of loyalists, which is being done through an online pre-vetting process that will allow the next Republican administration to check that each potential administration hire is, in fact, a MAGA-style hard-liner.

    Axios has now followed up on its prior reporting on that effort by obtaining and publishing the loyalty “questionnaire” Donald Trump’s team was subjecting hires to during the waning, ultra-paranoid months of his administration. Their premise is that it might be a hoot to compare that vetting effort to this vetting effort, and you know what? They’re right. It is a hoot.

    You can go look at both versions here to see how the Trump administration’s 2020 loyalty tests and The Heritage Foundation’s “Talent Database” share a lot of similarities. The biggest difference is that the prior Trumpian version expected you to fill out large text boxes containing things like, “What part of Candidate Trump’s campaign message most appealed to you and why?” or, “What political commentator, thinker or politician best reflects your views?”

    The revamped Heritage version has near-identical versions of the same questions, e.g.: “Name one person, past or present, who has most influenced the development of your political philosophy.” But it also tacks on a list of multiple choice questions that you must answer and that present explicit litmus tests for you to pass.

    Do you believe that “The U.N. should have authority over the citizens or public policies of sovereign nations”? Do you believe that “The permanent institutions of family and religion are foundational to American freedom and the common good”?

    Whether you do or you don’t, you’d better at least have the wherewithal to know how The Heritage Foundation’s army of ideological zombies wants you to answer those. It appears that this very long list of questions (“The police in America are systemically racist”) is meant to weed out people who are too stupid to know what the preferred conservative lies are.

    Which, to be fair, is probably The Heritage Foundation’s most important priority. Fascist regimes don’t particularly care what is true and what is false, but you’d better believe they expect you to know, and rigorously, what you’re supposed to think is true or false. Whether you have the rote competence expected of a Burger King manager is not being tested here; the tests are all meant to weed out anyone but the most ideologically obtuse.

    Heritage is looking for people like themselves, conservative loyalists who can keep insisting that Conservatism Is The Way no matter how many real-world disasters they leave in their wake. […] Not even the arch-conservative but jail-averse Bill Barr could pass muster with this crowd now.

    Anyhoo, what’s intriguing about this effort to build a list of fascism’s most loyal future foot soldiers is that the application process is entirely online. You can just go fill it out yourself by going here, and the entry price is that you have to give The Heritage Foundation a valid phone number to send texts to. But there’s nothing that says people can’t lie when applying for jobs in a new Trump administration. Heritage reportedly has at least 4,000 applicants to sort through. They’re aiming for 20,000, but there’s nothing to say that non-Trump supporters can’t fill out their little forms.

    And they can hardly expect that applicants won’t lie when the majority of the form is specifically asking people to lie about things like systemic racism and the utility of school voucher programs. Alternatively, there’s nothing that says you can’t tell the truth!

    Name one person, past or present, who has most influenced the development of your political philosophy.

    The person who most influenced my political philosophy is Richard Scarry. Richard Scarry taught me that even worms can drive cars if the cars are made of apples, and if worms can drive apple cars then why are we passing laws that say you can’t make cars out of apples? That seems bigoted against worms. I have a girlfriend in Canada who is a worm and drives an apple car and she says it works just fine except that they start to smell and you have to buy a new apple car every few days, but it seems like that would stimulate the economy quite a lot.

    Name a book that has most significantly shaped your political philosophy, and please explain its influence on your thinking.

    The book that has most shaped my political philosophy is the Richard Scarry book with the worm driving the apple car, because it made me realize that cars can be fruit and fruit can be cars and it made me think a lot about what our national transportation infrastructure would look like if you had separate lanes for fruit cars and log cars and normal cars. I drew what this would look like and I sent it to my girlfriend and she said it was cool. If you like, I can draw another one and send it to you. If I am in charge of the Department of Transportation I would draw one and make everybody look at it and I would make sure that if you wanted to drive an apple car you could drive an apple car without bureaucrats getting in your way.

    See? Filling out forms like this is easy.

    This is basically not much different from what Larry Kudlow and Ryan Zinke joined the Trump administration to do, after all, except we didn’t even get half-decent drawings of apple cars out of it. Look me in the eye and tell me The Heritage Foundation would be worse off recommending someone who filled out their entire application talking about Richard Scarry. If Ayn Rand’s life philosophies crashed and burned the moment these twits tried to model an Iraqi government after them, maybe Heritage needs to broaden its list of movement-approved ideologues.

  172. birgerjohansson says

    At the nine-minute mark of this episode of Terry Talks Movies, he brings up the documentary Casa Susanna. It is about a 1950s haven for transgender people that existed in the Catskills. As this was a very repressive time, this was one of the few places they could get together with like-minded.

  173. Reginald Selkirk says

    In which a lawyer goes ‘sovereign citizen’

    Vancouver lawyer who sued neighbour over deck divider accused of pseudolegal ‘paper terrorism’

    A Vancouver woman is asking for the courts to make an example of her neighbour, a practising lawyer she alleges has filed a baseless pseudolegal lawsuit against her in an attempt to “provoke a state of fear.”

    Colleen McLelland stood before a B.C. Supreme Court master on Wednesday, asking for a notice of claim filed by real estate lawyer Naomi Arbabi to be struck as “scandalous, frivolous or vexatious.” McLelland also called on the court to refer a complaint against Arbabi to the Law Society of B.C…

    An affidavit of service filed by McLelland says that when a process server knocked on Arbabi’s door to serve her with McLelland’s response to the claim, the woman who answered said she was not Naomi Arbabi.

    The process server writes in the affidavit that she found Arbabi’s photo online, and confirmed it was the person she’d just met, so she emailed Arbabi to ask for an explanation.

    Arbabi responded: “when you ask i if i am Naomi Arbabi the answer is always no as Naomi Arbabi is an incorporated name and does not refer to a living breathing woman.”

    According to the affidavit, Arbabi expanded on her theory in another email later the same day, explaining that Naomi Arbabi was a “dead entity corporation” created by her birth certificate.

    “I, a woman, am not Naomi Arbabi, but Naomi Arbabi is the name i am called. There is a subtle but crucial difference between the two. Unfortunately, this is not common knowledge yet,” she wrote…

  174. Pierce R. Butler says

    Yoga now qualifies as a religion:

    A yoga leader promised followers enlightenment. But he’s now accused of sexual abuse


    blockquote>… Gregorian Bivolaru… The arrest this week in the Paris region of the 71-year-old Romanian yoga guru and 40 others marked the culmination of a six-year manhunt involving Interpol. The raid, led by 175 officers of a French police unit that combats sect-related crime, also freed 26 people, who were described by authorities as sect victims that had been housed in deplorably dirty and cramped conditions. …

    Bivolaru’s group, initially known as MISA (“Mouvement pour l’Intégration Spirituelle vers l’Absolu”) and later as the Atman yoga federation, allegedly engaged in non-consensual sexual activities under the facade of tantra yoga teachings…

    Despite expulsion from international yoga federations and legal scrutiny for prostitution, sexual slavery and human trafficking, the group’s “ashrams” were centers for indoctrination and sexual exploitation disguised as spiritual enlightenment, according to the official. …

    He had obtained political refugee status in Sweden, thereby delaying legal proceedings in Romania. …

  175. Reginald Selkirk says

    Japan Debuts Six-Story Experimental Fusion Reactor

    The biggest experimental nuclear fusion reactor in operation was inaugurated north of Tokyo today, as scientists continue to plug away at making nuclear fusion a viable source of the world’s energy.

    The reactor—JT-60SA—is a tokamak, a doughnut-shaped reactor that can heat plasma to 360 million degrees Fahrenheit (200 million degrees Celsius). The reactor fired up for the first time in October; at the time, researchers affiliated with the project estimated that it will take two years for the reactor to produce the plasmas necessary for experiments, according to the publication Science…

  176. says

    NBC News:

    Israel renewed its assault on the Gaza Strip Friday after the end of a weeklong truce with Hamas, pummeling the Palestinian enclave from the air while warning civilians to leave parts of southern Gaza in a sign that it intends to expand its ground offensive.

    NBC News:

    The White House says it is continuing efforts to renew a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. ‘We continue to work with Israel, Egypt, and Qatar on efforts to extend the humanitarian pause in Gaza,’ a National Security Council spokesperson said this morning. ‘Hamas has so far failed to produce a list of hostages that would enable a further extension of the pause,’ the spokesperson added.

    New York Times:

    Israeli officials obtained Hamas’s battle plan [the so-called “Jericho Wall” document] for the Oct. 7 terrorist attack more than a year before it happened, documents, emails and interviews show. But Israeli military and intelligence officials dismissed the plan as aspirational, considering it too difficult for Hamas to carry out.

  177. says

    Miami New Times:

    A Florida Proud Boy who assaulted police and passed around a sledgehammer and pepper spray during the January 6 attack at the U.S Capitol is headed to prison. Zachary Johnson, a 34-year-old Tampa-area Proud Boy nicknamed #GogglesMan on social media, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon to more than three years in prison and another three years of supervised release for his role in the insurrection.

  178. says

    Ukraine Update: Russia is not winning the war, by Mark Sumner

    On Friday, Russian state media reported that dictator Vladimir Putin had ordered the size of the Russian military to increase by 170,000 active members. This is the second time in a year that Putin has increased the size of his military. According to a statement on the Kremlin website, the overall size of the Russian military now stands at 2,209,130 personnel, of which 1,320,000 are active-duty service members.

    According to deputy chair of the Russian Security Council and long-term Putin stooge Dmitry Medvedev, over 452,000 men have enlisted in the Russian army in 2023. That follows 300,000 reservists being called up for active duty in September 2022.

    Before the invasion of Ukraine, there were around 800,000 active service members in the Russian military. Considering the numbers that were already mobilized and those that Medvedev says have been recruited, there should already be over 1.5 million soldiers in the Russian army. That’s not the case, and there is one big reason.

    Putin is enjoying a lot of good publicity at the moment. It’s not “good” in the sense that he’s done something good—in fact, on Thursday Russia declared simply being gay makes someone “an extremist” and ramped up an already steep program of restrictions and persecutions. Instead, Putin is getting a boosts from The Economist in an article titled “Putin seems to be winning the war in Ukraine—for now,” and from an editorial in The Washington Post that declares that the Russian economy has stabilized, public opinion has moved solidly in favor of the war, and Putin’s regime “looks more stable than at any other time in the past two years.”

    Not only that, but European allies are increasingly worried about how the pro-Russian position of Republicans in Congress and distractions caused by the war between Israel and Hamas signal a bleak future for American military support of Ukraine. Delays delivering long-range GLSDB rockets are being read by Ukrainian sources as a decline in American support.

    In short: Putin is expanding the military; the Russian economy is enjoying a burst of activity (in large part because oligarchs are finding it harder to spend their money abroad); Russia has a fresh batch of military supplies from China and North Korea; and as all that’s making hearts warm in Moscow, Ukraine is coming off a largely unsuccessful summer offensive and entering a winter in which it seems support for their cause is declining.

    On top of everything else, earlier this week Putin signed a new budget that greatly expands the Russian military budget. Under this budget, military expenses exceed the cost of everything else in the Russian government. According to one Russia expert, Putin wants the invasion of Ukraine completed so he can be “ready for a military confrontation with the West in perpetuity.”

    It’s completely understandable that Ukrainians, supporters of Ukraine, and even those whose only interest is seeing Russia’s future military ambitions dulled are not feeling like this is the best of all holiday seasons.

    However, there’s a big difference between Putin having temporarily stabilized his position at one end of a very long table, and declaring that the war is lost—or even being lost.

    In May, Russia was offering new contract soldiers a $2,400 sign-on bonus. It’s now paying $7,000. That immediate payment upon sign-up is now over half the median annual salary in Russia, and far more than most men living in rural areas can earn in a year. On top of that, the average wage of a Russian soldier in Ukraine is now reportedly three times the average national salary.

    If the Russian military is seeing a wave of recruits and the public is being more supportive of Putin, it’s because he’s paying them an unprecedented amount to go to Ukraine and be a part of this: [list of Russian losses]

    According to some Telegram reports, Russian men are being driven to the recruiting station by wives or parents eager to pick up that fat check … even if it means they never return.

    There’s a reason why Putin needs all those men and why he’s willing to pay for them. Over the last year of the war, most Russian success has been marked by a single tactic: meat waves. Russia throws out a group of men to be slaughtered. Then throws out another. And another … all in hopes that the wave of bodies will carry them to their objective.

    It worked in Bakhmut, where Wagner Group forces drove tens of thousands of poorly trained prisoner troops in attacks that sometimes resulted in mounds of bodies. It didn’t work at Vuhledar, despite repeated efforts. Russia is trying it again at Avdiivka, where … we’ll get to that.

    Russia is pouring more money into its military, but there’s little sign that money is expanding their ability to manufacture new arms or speed up the supply of equipment. For that, Russia is buying drones from Iran, artillery from North Korea, and counting on China to supply most of the other needs for its army of occupation. It’s paying soldiers to go to the front, using a temporary burst of revenue that is absolutely not guaranteed to last.

    So far there are few signals that this strategy is doing more than allowing Russia to largely hold on to what territory it still occupies in Ukraine. That could change for the better (or worse) at any moment. But right now, the only thing the numbers show is that the invasion of Ukraine is becoming an increasingly costly enterprise for Russia, and even a huge increase in men and money hasn’t given them any significant advances in months.

    For most people, that’s not what winning looks like.
    Russia did manage three very small advances on Friday. [map at the link]

    One of these was in the Bakhmut area, where Russian forces continued an advance from the heights around Dubovo-Vasylivka. The advance in this area was less than one-half of a kilometer. However, Russia has picked up several areas on the north and west of Bakhmut in the last two weeks after months in which Ukraine seemed to be on the offensive. At this point, Russia still doesn’t seem to fully control the village of Khromove, which they reached earlier this week. [map at the link]

    Maybe the most disappointing change was a reversal north of Avdiivka. In the past several days, Ukraine had managed to drive Russian forces from Stepove and from areas west of the rail line. On Thursday, they had even pushed across the rail line and threatened an accumulation of Russian armor and infantry that had gathered north of the big hill of mine waste known as Terrikon. However, on Friday that gathering of Russian forces drove west, reversing the tide of the week, re-crossing the rail lines, and moving into the eastern portion of Stepove. Dammit. [map at the link]

    The third Russian gain was by far the smallest, but also reportedly the most costly. Russia picked up about four square blocks in Marinka on Friday. Ukrainian sources indicate those blocks were responsible for the bulk of those 1,280 men that Russia reportedly lost on Friday.
    Ukraine reportedly made gains north of Novoprovopivka, though those are not yet reflected on Deep State’s map. There seems to be something of a circling motion underway, with Ukrainian forces pressing south in an area roughly 1 kilometer west of Robotyne, and Russian forces trying to move north right beside them. The level of artillery and drone activity from both sides remains high in this area. [map at the link]

    The biggest movement for Ukraine seems to be in an area that hasn’t generated a lot of news in the last two weeks: Staromaiorske and Urozhaine, in the direction of Mariupol. Both these towns have taken a battering from Russian artillery and survived multiple attempts by Russia to retake the area. On Friday, Ukraine reportedly made gains west of Staromaiorske. This movement takes them closer to higher ground. In addition to the area circled, some sources are also indicating that Ukraine has taken the area north of that small river just to the northwest (the area around that red arrow). But this is not yet confirmed.
    I’m honestly not sure what conclusions to draw from this. Are Russian attacks getting progressively smaller? Are they using a higher ratio of infantry to armor? [Chart showing vehicle losses for November]

    It could also be that Ukraine is running low on the artillery and drones needed to stop Russian advances, but Russia doesn’t seem to have made the kind of gains that would indicate such a change in the balance.
    A heartwarming tale for the holidays: [Tweet at the link: “☠️ 2 nice girls brought vodka and food to a Russian military base checkpoint in Simferopol, occupied Crimea to thank the soldiers. 24 Russian soldiers died and 11 more hospitalized. The gifts were laced with heavy doses of arsenic. The girls disappeared without a trace.”]

  179. says

    Police raid Moscow gay bars after a Supreme Court ruling labeled LGBTQ+ movement ‘extremist’

    Russian security forces raided gay clubs and bars across Moscow Friday night, less than 48 hours after the country’s top court banned what it called the “global LGBTQ+ movement” as an extremist organization.

    Police searched venues across the Russian capital, including a nightclub, a male sauna, and a bar that hosted LGBTQ+ parties, under the pretext of a drug raid, local media reported.

    Eyewitnesses told journalists that clubgoers’ documents were checked and photographed by the security services. They also said that managers had been able to warn patrons before police arrived.

    The raids follow a decision by Russia’s Supreme Court to label the country’s LGBTQ+ “movement” as an extremist organization.

    The ruling, which was made in response to a lawsuit filed by the Justice Ministry, is the latest step in a decadelong crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights under President Vladimir Putin, who has emphasized “traditional family values” during his 24 years in power.

    Activists have noted the lawsuit was lodged against a movement that is not an official entity, and that under its broad and vague definition authorities could crack down on any individuals or groups deemed to be part of it.

    Several LGBTQ+ venues have already closed following the decision, including St. Petersburg’s gay club Central Station. It wrote on social media Friday that the owner would no longer allow the bar to operate with the law in effect.

    Max Olenichev, a human rights lawyer who works with the Russian LGBTQ+ community, told The Associated Press before the ruling that it effectively bans organized activity to defend the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

    […] Before the ruling, leading Russian human rights groups had filed a document with the Supreme Court that called the Justice Ministry lawsuit discriminatory and a violation of Russia’s constitution. Some LGBTQ+ activists tried to become a party in the case but were rebuffed by the court.

    In 2013, the Kremlin adopted the first legislation restricting LGBTQ+ rights, known as the “gay propaganda” law, banning any public endorsement of “nontraditional sexual relations” among minors. In 2020, constitutional reforms pushed through by Putin to extend his rule by two more terms also included a provision to outlaw same-sex marriage.

    After sending troops into Ukraine in 2022, the Kremlin ramped up a campaign against what it called the West’s “degrading” influence. Rights advocates saw it as an attempt to legitimize the war. That same year, a law was passed banning propaganda of “nontraditional sexual relations” among adults, also, effectively outlawing any public endorsement of LGBTQ+ people.

    Another law passed this year prohibited gender transitioning procedures and gender-affirming care for transgender people. The legislation prohibited any “medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person,” as well as changing one’s gender in official documents and public records.

    […] Many people will consider leaving Russia before they become targeted, said Olga Baranova, director of the Moscow Community Center for LGBTQ+ Initiatives.

    “It is clear for us that they’re once again making us out as a domestic enemy to shift the focus from all the other problems that are in abundance in Russia,” Baranova told the AP.

  180. says

    MAGA mucho mad at the 105 Republicans who ousted George Santos! YIKES!

    […] Below are a few delicious MAGA screenshots post-expulsion, warning, your WTF-odometer might break:

    First up is from leading GOP pundit, Catturd—you read that right—his name is Catturd (SMDH):

    No matter what they did, the Democrat party would never expel one of their own.

    *cough, cough* “Al Franken…” *cough, cough* and really—is that the metric?: the other guys would protect their criminals, so we need to protect ours? Sigh.

    [Tweet from Charlie Kirk claiming that Mayorkas is worse than Santos] I am surprised Kirk’s nose doesn’t stretch from here to Canada from all the lies and misdirections in this post. Santos isn’t being expelled for having an Only Fans page and Botox injections—he is being removed for defrauding folks to the tune of millions!

    Oh, and about that other claim: the Only Fans page and Botox are purported to be paid for with campaign funds.

    Charlie wouldn’t know the truth if it spat on his head.

    [Tweet from Rep. Dan Bishop] So, he doesn’t think even a Republican colleague’s mama should be safe from being victimized by Santos? The poor woman spent tens of thousands to rectify a situation caused when the criminal used her card without permission.

    Law and order party ladies and gents *slowclap*.

    Plenty more MAGA idiots’ hot takes where that came from […]

    Democrats have become the actual law and order party that will back the blue and hold lawbreakers accountable.

    An aside—some Democrats have taken to social media to point and laugh with well-earned relief that at least one Republican criminal has been dished a heaping helping of their just desserts. Hilarious! [ ]

    […] Look, one can acknowledge we all make mistakes while expecting individuals to atone for them—even the bible calls on sinners to repent. Did Santos? Not so much.

    He went out the door, pointing fingers at others and claiming to be a victim.

    All I can say regarding the latest in Republican snafu is this: The next time one of these ass hats tries to pull an Al Franken-style expulsion on Dems, point to Trump or Santos and exclaim, “Who among us is without sin!”

    Vote blue.

    The Daily Show:

    This is the worst day for George Santos since his mom fake-died in 9/11

  181. says

    In October, President Joe Biden announced a new campaign to crack down on junk fees, potentially saving American consumers billions of dollars. He announced new efforts to target the surprise fees that companies sneak onto consumer bills, such as banking overdraft fees, excessive credit card late fees, service charges for purchasing concert tickets, and hidden hotel-booking fees.

    And coincidentally, as The Daily Beast points out, “it just so happens that Biden’s likely opponent, former President Donald Trump, has raked in a small fortune” on hidden hotel booking fees.

    The Daily Beast, in an article by Jake Lahut, wrote:

    At least three of Trump’s hotel properties bill guests for a “resort fee,” a sneaky and pricey charge that covers an array of unspecified amenities, and typically only appears at the end of the online reservation process.

    The October announcement by the Biden-Harris administration said the Federal Trade Commission is proposing a rule that, if finalized, would ban businesses from charging hidden and misleading fees and require them to show the full price up front. Under the proposed rule, companies that fail to comply could face monetary penalties and have to provide refunds to consumers.

    Biden, speaking from the White House Rose Garden after the announcement of the new anti-junk fee campaign on Oct. 11, began his remarks by noting that it’s an issue of “simple fairness … folks are tired of being taken advantage of and being played for suckers.”

    He added:

    Research shows that without — without realizing it, folks can end up paying as much as 20 percent more because of hidden junk fees than they would have paid if they could see the full price upfront and compare it with other options.

    It’s wrong. It’s wrong. It’s just taking advantage of people. And it makes it harder for honest businesses who are trying to do the right thing to compete with dishonest companies who trick customers into thinking their prices are lower when they, in fact, are not.

    And as Conde Nast Traveler pointed out, the proposed FTC rule would “ban one of the most frustrating aspects of hotel stays: being charged misleading resort fees at checkout.”

    Here’s how Conde Nast Traveler described resort fees:

    Resort fees, sometimes also called “destination” or “amenity” fees, are some of the most notorious hidden charges in the travel industry. They’re mandatory fees charged on a per-room, per-night basis that suddenly show up on a hotel guest’s final bill, resulting in an unpleasant surprise for many vacationers at checkout. Hotels say the charges cover a broad range of services provided to guests, such as access to a resort’s gym, free Wi-Fi, local phone calls, and sometimes complimentary equipment rentals like snorkel gear at beachfront properties.

    Depending on the length of a vacation and the type of resort, the fees can add hundreds of dollars to a traveler’s tab. The average resort fee is $42.41 per night, according to a recent study from NerdWallet, but on the higher end of the spectrum, they can reach $90 per night or more. The charges are lucrative for the hotel industry, which makes nearly $3 billion a year off of them, according to a 2018 study by lodging industry researcher Bjorn Hanson.

    The Daily Beast story detailed the resort fees charged at three Trump properties:

    The Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas, for instance, was built on a three-acre parking lot and doesn’t have the sprawling features and amenities of a typical resort there. But it charges a one-time resort fee of $132—nearly as much as the $159 rate for one night in a king room at the hotel in January.

    Meanwhile, a room with an ocean view at the Trump International Hotel on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii might be listed for as low as $499 per night. But with a daily resort fee of $125, the total cost of a three night stay balloons closer to $2,000, once the $375 in resort fees and local taxes kick in.

    Trump’s golf resort property in Doral, Florida, also charges a one-time $135 resort fee, a healthy chunk of the $319 nightly rate for a king room there.

    The Daily Beast noted that Biden’s focus on pesky junk fees could open a path for the president to simultaneously turn Trump’s business practices into a political liability while burnishing the president’s own record in reducing costs for American consumers.

    Biden campaign spokesman T.J. Ducklo told The Daily Beast:

    “Joe Biden working to eliminate the sky-high junk fees Donald Trump greedily charges guests at his failing hotels perfectly encapsulates the difference in their values. It’s Scranton vs Park Ave., middle class vs. the billionaire class and it’s why voters can’t trust Trump in the White House to fight for them.”

    […] “Bidenomics needs explaining; junk fees don’t,” […]

    The bipartisan lesson from Hogan [former Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland] and Whitmer [Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan] is that voters remember and reward politicians who saved them a direct household expense more than any argument based on macro-level economic indicators. Voters care about the economy in front of them.

    […] In August 2023, a consumer group named Travelers United filed a class action complaint against Hyatt Corp., alleging the hotel chain has been cheating guests out of millions of dollars by falsely advertising its room rates and charging hidden fees at check out.

    There are also two separate bills that have been introduced in the Senate that would ban resort fees, including the bipartisan Hotel Fees Transparency Act, proposed by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, that would require hotels and short-term rentals to display the full price, including fees, up front.

    As Washington Post opinion columnist Caroline Rampell wrote in October after Biden’s announcement:

    In the grand scheme of things, resort fees and the like might seem like a minor issue. But they matter to consumers, they distort markets and they’re an easy thing for policymakers to remedy. This is good government at its most boring, pedestrian best.


  182. says


    EV Sales Kicking More Ass Than Ever

    The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported this week that combined sales of new battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), hybrids, and plug-in hybrids reached a record-setting 17.7 percent of all light-duty vehicle sales in the third quarter. For the year so far, that puts sales of those three types at 16 percent of all vehicles, compared to 12.5 percent in 2022 and just nine percent in 2021. Here, have a chart, which shows the corresponding dip in sales of new internal-combustion cars and light trucks: [charts at the link]

    We oughta start a betting pool on when those two lines will cross, and more than 50 percent of vehicles sold will be EVs or hybrids. I’ll put my marker on 2027, but it’d be neat if it came sooner. As EV charging infrastructure ramps up in the next few years, expect the portion of hybrids and plug-in hybrids to start declining, too.

    When Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm posted about the report on Xitter Tuesday, all the MAGA Chuds with blue checkmarks told her she had to be lying, because Fox News says EVs are unworkable and nobody wants them, you liar. We’ll assume they also consider “confirmation bias” a dirty liberal lie.

    On top of that, the EIA reports that, as you’d expect with any new technology, luxury battery-electric vehicles remain the biggest market segment, but that EV prices overall went down during the third quarter, dropping by five percent to an average of “$50,283, bringing the price 24% lower than at the price peak in the second quarter of 2022.”

    On average, BEV prices are within about $3,000 of comparable internal-combustion models, which means that models that qualify for the full $7,5000 tax credit for EVs are actually cheaper, even before you start saving money on never gassing up again.

    But also, keep in mind that the most expensive EVs and the richest buyers don’t even qualify for the tax credits, so no, it’s not a subsidy for the rich.

  183. says

    Good news:


    The Climate Bill’s Good For Working-Class America

    A new report from the Treasury Department finds that the Inflation Reduction Act is “driving clean energy investment to communities that have been underserved and at the forefront of fossil fuel production” — exactly as it was designed to do.

    A few takeaway stats, handily compiled on Xitter by Heather Boushey, a member of President Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers: in the year and some months since the IRA passed,

    – 81% of announced clean investments have been for projects in counties with below-average weekly wages

    – 86% of clean investments are in counties with below-average college graduation rates

    – 70% of clean investments are in counties where a smaller share of the population is employed

    – 78% of clean investments are in counties with below-average median household incomes

    – The share of clean investments going to low-income counties rose from 68% to 78%

    The energy transition is happening, kids. And it’s going to be good for almost all of us not named ExxonMobil.

    Same link as in comment 246. Scroll down to view.

  184. says

    What weirdo theocratic Christofascist gay-hating conspiracy-addled porn-dodging phony-impeachment-pitching lunacy has Speaker of the House Mike Johnson signed his name to today?

    We’re glad you asked!

    CNN dug up a 2022 book called The Revivalist Manifesto penned by a Louisiana political blogger and generic-faced Republican whose next picture you see will probably be a booking photo after a child porn arrest by the name of Scott McKay. And hoo boy does it sound like a banger:

    “The Revivalist Manifesto” gives credence to unfounded conspiracy theories often embraced by the far-right – including the “Pizzagate” hoax, which falsely claimed top Democratic officials were involved in a pedophile ring, among other conspiracies.

    The book also propagates baseless and inaccurate claims, implying that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was subjected to blackmail and connected to the disgraced underage sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

    The book also reportedly defends Joe Rogan for using the n-word and sneers at poor people on welfare, so McKay is really playing the entire gamut of conservative hits from the last half-century or so.

    Johnson’s foreword actually feels fairly generic as far as forewords go at first, but because its baseline subject is a mountain of insanity pressed between two cardboard covers, it quickly devolves into something that could have been written by Pat Robertson in the depths of an ether binge:

    As McKay says, we must become a counter-revolutionary movement against the Left and its “Progressive Democrats,” communists, deep state operatives, and cultural and institutional arsonists who are advancing their scorched-earth policy through our republic.

    Oh sure, the congressman who supported Donald Trump’s coup attempt on January 6 that resulted in the sacking of the nation’s Capitol simply because millions […] believed a whole bunch of evidence-free horseshit about voter fraud is worried about the opposing party taking a gas can and a book of matches to our republic’s institutions. That fits.

    Anyway, what crap is Johnson, who we remind you is second in line to the presidency at the moment, signaling his apparent approval of? Well, we mentioned Pizzagate:

    McKay insinuates that hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta contained coded references hinting involvement in “child sex trafficking” because of “unexplained references” to “hot dogs and pizza,” resembling alleged code words used by pedophiles.

    “The Pizzagate scandal was born, and though some of the most outlandish allegations made in it were clearly disproven, other elements were not; the whole thing just seemed to be dismissed as debunked, and no explanation was ever given,” he writes.

    There is some Seth Rich trutherism, which even Fox News has been forced under penalty of lawsuit to recant. There is some Great Replacement yammer that “the Biden administration deliberately allowed undocumented immigrants into the country to turn them into voters.” There is some gay bashing of Pete Buttigieg, who is referred to as being “obnoxiously gay,” […]

    The book targets and taunts prominent Democratic officials, including calling Interior Secretary Deb Haaland “half oppressed” because her mother is Native American and father is of Norwegian descent and writes that former President Barack Obama’s “chief selling point was that he was black.”

    All class.

    Now, one could, if one felt generous, chalk up writing this foreword to an ambitious Louisiana politician taking on an unpleasant task to shore up his support from the lunatic right. We are not feeling generous, however, so we will note that, according to CNN, Johnson hasn’t exactly tried to distance himself from this distasteful fuckery:

    Johnson’s endorsement of the book extends beyond the foreword: In 2022, he actively promoted the book on his public social media platforms and even dedicated an episode of his podcast he co-hosts with his wife to hosting McKay.

    During the podcast episode, Johnson expressed his belief in the book, stating, “I obviously believe in the product, or I wouldn’t have written the foreword. So I endorse the work.” He also referred to McKay as a “dear friend” and highlighted that the book “really could make some waves.”

    Well, after 18 months on the market, the book is #79,914 on Amazon’s best-seller list as of this writing, so those are some pretty anemic waves.

    McKay has also written and apparently self-published a series of fantasy novels in which a tribe of savages with “no moral compass…or principles of private property ownership” [JFC! LOL!] attempt to take over a peaceful nation of civilized people. Oh boy, we wonder where he got the inspiration for that not-at-all-obvious metaphor!

  185. says

    I don’t trust Netanyahu.

    Netanyahu pulls negotiators from Qatar claiming talks hit ‘dead end’

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulled his country’s negotiators from Qatar, calling off hostage negotiation talks saying they had reached an “impasse” with Hamas.

    Negotiations previously resulted in a weeklong cease-fire that freed over 100 Hamas-held hostages and 240 Palestinian prisoners. Fighting resumed in the conflict on Friday, but the Biden administration, Arab allies and some factions of the Israeli government pushed for a longer pause to continue hostage releases.

    “Hamas did not fulfil its part of the agreement, which included the release of all children and women according to a list that was forwarded to Hamas and approved by it,” the Israeli prime minster’s office said in a statement.

    Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Israel on Thursday and Friday, his third trip to the region since the start of the conflict in October.

    He blamed Hamas for the cease-fire deal falling through, but also reiterated the need for the Israeli military to better consider Gaza civilians.

    “The way Israel defends itself matters,” he said Thursday. “It’s imperative that Israel act in accordance with international humanitarian law and the laws of war, even when confronting a terrorist group that respects neither.”

    […] “This is going to be very important going forward. It’s something we’re going to be looking at very closely.” […]

    As fighting ramped up again Saturday, the Israeli military said it struck 400 targets in Gaza, including 50 in southern Gaza, where an estimated 2 million civilians shelter from the conflict. […]

  186. says

    Three US cities make list of most expensive in world

    New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco are three of the most expensive cities on the planet to live in, according to a new report.

    New York tied with Geneva as the third most expensive city on earth in this year’s Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living report.

    Last year, the Big Apple tied with Singapore for the top spot on the ranking.

    […] Zurich bumped New York from its top rank this year, in part because of the strength of the Swiss franc and the high prices of groceries, household goods […]. The Big Apple is now tied for third in the world.

    Los Angeles and San Francisco, meanwhile, came in as the sixth and tenth most expensive cities on the list.

    The survey was conducted between August 14 and September of 2023 and used data from 173 major cities. […]

    The report found that on average, prices for over 200 commonly used goods and services rose by 7.4 percent over the past year.

    That number is slightly lower than last year — when prices rose by an average of 8.1 percent — but still well above trends seen between 2017 and 2021
    A decline in supply-chain issues stemming, in part, from China lifting its COVID-19 restrictions late last year have helped drive down some prices, according to the report.

    On top of that, the spike in energy prices seen after Russia invaded Ukraine have also eased causing energy prices to slightly decrease, the report added.

    Here’s the complete list of the world’s top 10 most expensive cities:
    Singapore, Singapore (tied for 1st)
    Zurich, Switzerland (tied for 1st)
    Geneva, Switzerland (tied for 3rd)
    New York, U.S. (tied for 3rd)
    Hong Kong, Hong Kong
    Los Angeles, U.S.
    Paris, France
    Copenhagen, Denmark (tied for 8th)
    Tel Aviv, Israel (tied for 8th)
    San Francisco, U.S.

  187. says

    NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week

    A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:

    CLAIM: An expert who debunked the “pizzagate” conspiracy theory has been jailed for possessing child sexual abuse images.

    THE FACTS: A former ABC reporter referenced in a meme circulating online was recently sentenced to federal prison for such crimes, but he never investigated “pizzagate.” The long-dormant conspiracy theory – which posited that Democratic Party insiders harbored child sex slaves in a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor — has been revived online in recent days, boosted by prominent social media users including Elon Musk. […] the false connection stems from an image of a fabricated New York Post headline that spread online in recent months. “Award winning ABC journalist who ‘debunked’ pizzagate, pleads guilty in horrific child porn case,” the headline reads over an image of Meek. […] Meek never published an investigation on “pizzagate” while employed at ABC. A 2017 story he co-wrote about Russian propaganda during the war in Syria only briefly mentions the conspiracy theory. Instead, numerous news outlets at the time, including CNN and The New York Times, debunked the rumor. Meek, who covered national security issues until his resignation last year, was sentenced to six years in federal prison after pleading guilty to possessing child sexual abuse images.— Associated Press writer Philip Marcelo in New York contributed this report.


    Trump misleadingly cites ‘duplicate’ ballots in disputed Georgia county as proof of election fraud

    CLAIM: A recent court filing revealed that 3,600 “duplicate” ballots were cast for Biden and illegally counted in Fulton County, Georgia, during the 2020 election.

    THE FACTS: A state review of the county’s audit of the 2020 presidential race found errors and inconsistencies in the vote count, including some double counting of ballots, but the errors weren’t deemed criminal and they weren’t enough to alter the election results. Nevertheless, former President Donald Trump is continuing to cast doubt on the legal filing in Georgia’s Fulton County […] “Fulton County, Georgia, acknowledges, in a major Consent Decree, that 3,600 individual ballots were DUPLICATED,” the Republican wrote in a post on his social media platform Truth Social. “THAT’S A LOT OF CRIME. When are the rest of the facts coming out? We are all waiting. This is just the beginning. UNBELIEVABLE!” In a video that spread widely on other platforms, Trump made similar remarks and called it “massive voter corruption.” Trump’s posts refer to a June consent order that found Fulton County election workers “misidentified and duplicated” voting results during the state-mandated audit of the 2020 election, which was a hand recount of the presidential race results. “There was, in fact, no crime,” Jessica Corbitt, a spokesperson for the Fulton County Board of Elections, responded in an email this week. “The consent order addresses procedural issues but there were no accusations or admissions of criminal activity.” The order identified 36 inconsistencies in batch tally sheets for the audit, but found they were due to “human error” and not “intentional misconduct.” [36 is NOT 3,600] It also found they did not affect the final election results as they represented a “fractional number” of the votes cast. […]

    Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, noted Georgia’s election results were tallied three times in 2020: the initial Election Day count, the hand-counted audit and a final recount by voting machine requested by Trump’s campaign. All three times, Biden prevailed. “It’s misleading to claim this is fraud,” Bullock said by phone. […]
    — Philip Marcelo.

    Video of West Bank fighting does not show a Doctors Without Borders medic giving a man a rifle

    CLAIM: A video shows a Doctors Without Borders medic in the West Bank city of Jenin take an assault rifle from a man lying on the ground and hand it to a man nearby who begins shooting.

    THE FACTS: The man identified as a medic in the video does not belong to Doctors Without Borders, which works only in hospitals in that area, a spokesperson for the organization told The Associated Press. He is wearing an orange vest with the letters “PMRS” below a yellow circle that matches those worn by members of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society. In the video, the man runs to a person lying facedown on a city street as people shout and gunfire is heard around them. He takes a rifle from the person, runs a few feet and hands it to another man who begins firing as the man in the orange vest takes cover. […] Doctors Without Borders does not work in areas of Jenin where the video spreading online was filmed […] the misrepresented video “incites violence and poses a severe threat not only against MSF staff but all humanitarian workers in the region.” […]

  188. Reginald Selkirk says

    Pro-Trump attorney who helped orchestrate fake electors plot cooperating in Nevada criminal probe

    A Nevada state-level criminal investigation into the fake electors plot intended to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election win is ramping up with prosecutors securing the cooperation of a key witness, even as some of those who served as pro-Trump electors remain politically active ahead of the 2024 election.

    Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer who helped orchestrate the fake electors plot across multiple states, has agreed to sit down with Nevada investigators in hopes of avoiding prosecution there, sources familiar with the matter told CNN…

  189. says

    […] Rep. Liz Cheney has been forced to watch in horror as one Republican after another genuflects before the clammy sack of nougat who’s nudged our democracy to the brink.

    Cheney, vice chair of the House Jan. 6 committee that recommended criminal charges be brought against (alleged!) criminal Donald Trump, recently joined John Dickerson of “CBS News Sunday Morning” for an interview scheduled to run this weekend. She’s promoting her book “Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning” while also sounding alarm bells over just how close we are to losing the country we all grew up with.

    CBS has made an excerpt of the interview available […]

    DICKERSON: You say Donald Trump, if he is reelected, it will be the end of the republic. What do you mean?

    CHENEY: He’s told us what he will do. It’s very easy to see the steps that he will take. People who say, ‘Well, if he’s elected, it’s not that dangerous because we have all of these checks and balances’ don’t fully understand the extent to which the Republicans in Congress today have been co-opted. One of the things that we see happening today is a sort of a sleepwalking into dictatorship in the United States.

    Of course, this has been obvious for some time, but someone on the right had to say it out loud, and that someone appears to be Liz Cheney. […]

    In the upcoming interview, Cheney also touches on a major theme of her book: Republicans in Congress are far too cowardly and cowed by Trump to uphold sacred American values and the rule of law. And she reserves particular scorn for current House Speaker Mike Johnson:

    CHENEY: If you look at what Donald Trump is trying to do, he can’t do it by himself. He has to have collaborators. And the story of Mike Johnson is a story of, of a collaborator and of someone who knew then—and knows now—that what he’s doing and saying is wrong, but he’s willing to do it in an effort to please Donald Trump. And that’s what makes it dangerous.

    DICKERSON: The speaker of the House is a collaborator to overthrow the last election?

    CHENEY: Absolutely.

    […] Needless to say, Cheney isn’t the only one sounding the alarm. On Thursday, Washington Post Editor at Large Robert Kagan published a chilling editorial titled, “A Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop pretending.” And while it’s easy to quibble over just how “inevitable” Trump’s return is […] nothing in the piece could be considered outlandish or overly alarmist. And Kagan—no doubt correctly—notes that, once Trump secures the GOP nomination, the vast majority of Republicans will dutifully fall in line behind the feral former POTUS, who no longer makes any attempt to conceal his plans for transforming the world’s preeminent democracy into a fascist Cracker Barrel.

    The magical-thinking phase is ending. Barring some miracle, Trump will soon be the presumptive Republican nominee for president. […] Donors who find Trump distasteful have been free to spread their money around to help his competitors. Establishment Republicans have made no secret of their hope that Trump will be convicted and thus removed from the equation without their having to take a stand against him.

    All this will end once Trump wins Super Tuesday. Votes are the currency of power in our system, and money follows, and by those measures, Trump is about to become far more powerful than he already is. The hour of casting about for alternatives is closing. The next phase is about people falling into line.

    […] The recent decision by the Koch political network to endorse GOP hopeful Nikki Haley is scarcely sufficient to change this trajectory. […]

    That’s scary stuff, but as Cheney, et al., point out, it’s not just a frightening prospect—in many ways, it’s already happening. And one of America’s two major political parties appears to be all in.

    So in this case, Cheney—the enemy of our enemy—is not just our friend but potentially a key ally in saving American democracy. […]


  190. says

    […] Kirk Cameron, who is the worst, wants to replace the Scholastic Book Fair with the Kirk Cameron Book Fair. Oh … joy.

    OK, so it’s not actually the Kirk Cameron Book Fair, but it might as well be. It’s the SkyTree Book Fair, organized by Brave Books, which publishes terrible right-wing Christian books for children. The company features such titles as …

    Elephants Are Not Birds, by Ashley St. Clair, a woman who was kicked out of Turning Point USA for palling around with white supremacists like Nick Fuentes

    The Island of Free Ice Cream, by Jack Posobiec, noted Pizzagate idiot (The book is about evil wolves offering free ice cream and the moral of the story is that capitalism is good)

    Paws Off My Cannon, by former NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch.

    The Night the Snow Monster Attacked, by General Michael Flynn

    Freedom Day the Asher Way, by Dinesh and Debbie D’Souza

    The Parrots Go Bananas, by Sean Spicer

    And, of course, multiple books by Kirk Cameron himself.

    Why is he doing this? Because Scholastic has some books about LGBTQ+ kids and issues that absolutely no one is required to buy.

    “They’re a billion-dollar company, around for over 100 years,” Cameron told the Moonie Times. “They have over 100,000 book fairs around the country, hundreds every single day in public and private schools, and the books are increasingly laced with gender-confusing, race-infused, pornographic, sexually explicit material that you can’t even advertise on Facebook.”

    This is all very ridiculous, but more importantly … what the hell is “race-infused?” What does that even mean? […] Does it just mean, like, mentioning that Black people exist? Or that racism exists? Is it like homeopathy?

    Now, it would be one thing if these people wanted to hold book fairs at private Christian schools — but they’re aiming for public schools. In fact, they are holding their first book fair at a public school today, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, featuring Kirk Cameron himself. That will surely be very exciting for kids born years after Growing Pains was last in syndication. […]

    Now, if you think this isn’t stupid enough, allow me to introduce you to Lanah Burkhardt, a 20-year-old woman who blames her “porn addiction” on, I shit you not, having seen “a single kiss” in a Scholastic book, at the age of 11.

    Lanah also just so happens to be the public relations coordinator at Brave Books. So weird! [video at the link]

    She explains:

    My story started when I was 11 and was introduced to a single kiss in a scholastic book. I didn’t understand why I liked it.

    This was the start of my porn addiction journey.

    I was then very curious and began exploring and it only got worse. I looked for other books that gave me pleasure and it led to internet searches that I will never forget. I was addicted, every night and it was something I immediately regretted and eventually became depressed about. When I was 13 years old, I told my mom I wanted to die.


    OK, so we are meant to believe that this was the literal first time this girl ever saw a kiss? Like, in eleven years she never saw a Disney movie? Never saw any movie, period?

    Judd Legum and Rebecca Crosby at Popular Information reported that “Burkhardt cited her story as a reason to restrict access to Drama, a novel published by Scholastic.”

    This is the naughty kissing scene in question. This. [Illustration at the link]

    Further on in Burkhardt’s speech, which was shared to social media by Sky Tree Book Fairs, she said she also wanted Scholastic Book Fairs abolished from all schools, forever, so that no other 11-year-old child ever accidentally sees a cartoon of people kissing again. Or reads such obvious pornography as “Boy-crazy Stacey!,” book #8 of that tawdry Babysitters’ Club series sold by Scholastic.

    Ironically, this actually seems more like an argument against preventing your child from ever seeing people kiss in a cartoon or in a book. Like, if you don’t so much as let your kid watch an anthropomorphic crab sing a song to a mermaid about how she needs to kiss the prince before the evil witch turns her into seafoam, then maybe they do, at the age of 11, see a drawing of people kissing and go bananas.

    Hell, I saw my first naked man’s ass when I was 8 because my mom rented Yentl for me to watch while I was sick (this is normal, shut up) and the only effect that had on me has been my lifelong crush on Mandy Patinkin (also normal, there are others).

    In conclusion, the children should read books and watch all the Barbra Streisand movies and Christian book companies should not be allowed to do book fairs at public schools […]

  191. StevoR says

    Bing Crosby, Shirley Temple, Hitler and Stalin lived in the Australian outback. Their names hark back to a dark chapter in Australia’s past. ..(sip).. Many — like Bing — were named by the white pastoralists who ran these stations. Bing’s mother was named Shirley Temple. She was a beautiful woman, locals say, who had soft, shiny, curly hair. But some men were given the names of the worst mass-murderers in human history — names like Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini.

    Other First Nations people were named after objects or animals, such as Flourbag, Mosquito, Billycan, Helicopter and Frypan. The names have been carried through life by people in remote pockets of northern and central Australia — relics of a time not that long ago when Aboriginal people were denied basic rights, including the right to name their own child. ..(snip)..“The pastoralists just gave out these names, like Potato or Shovel or whatever popped into their head,” Annette reflects. “It was very disrespectful – like a joke.”


    ..Stalin came in from the desert as a young boy. It’s believed he arrived at Old Cherrabun station in the 1930s. His name was Watikarra. But not for long. “When he came up here to the station, the manager gave him the name Stalin,” Brian says. “I don’t think he understood. He’d never been to school and it was hard for people to understand what the white men were saying back then.” Later in life, Stalin was able to add ‘Watikarra’ as his surname — a compromise of sorts. But among the family there was a gradual realisation of the name’s origin — their father had been named after a murderous dictator from the other side of the world.

    …(Snip)..The naming practices are unsurprising in the context of the time. In Western Australia, Aboriginal people had been stripped of basic rights and freedoms. Draconian laws were in place making every Aboriginal child a ward of the state; police were enforcing segregation in cities and towns; and people working on cattle stations could be arrested for leaving the property they were assigned to. Further fueling tensions was a policy of paying police a cash bonus for every Aboriginal person in their custody, which incentivised the arresting of people who defied the new regime.

    ..(snip).. While many people came to embrace their ‘whitefella’ names, the practice raises questions about the use of slavery in Australia. As Annette Kogolo puts it: you don’t name something unless you feel like you own it. “I think it’s similar to the slave plantation time in America,” she reflects. “It’s similar, how people were treated. Not many stories were captured, but they were told, and passed on, and kept.”

    Source :

  192. StevoR says

    So I watched this tonight if folks here can see it :

    Spain’s Secret* Conquest on SBS TV Oz.

    Fascinating history doco on Spain’s colony & the Seminoles incl. black runaway slave rebels La Florirda which was fascinating, informatiove and at time s brutal and tragic too. Well worth watching in my view. Typing as an Auissie with pretty minimal self-taugt and picked up via popukar culture ideas of US of A-ite history.

    (Seen this Marcus Ranum? Thoughts on it?)

    .* Okay, “Secret” probly not-so-much but still.

  193. Reginald Selkirk says

    American Fiction director says white audiences are too comfortable with black clichés

    American Fiction isn’t your average piece of cinema entertainment.

    Sharp and incisive, it’s a satire that aims savage barbs at modern culture.

    It’s the story of an author, Monk, played by Jeffrey Wright, who becomes disillusioned with the way the publishers he wants to work with only seem interested in stereotypical black storytelling.

    In frustration, he pens a book overflowing with black clichés. To his dismay, it becomes an instant literary hit…

  194. says

    The allegations reported this week about Florida Republican Party Chairman Christian Ziegler and his wife, “Moms for Liberty” co-founder Bridget Ziegler, are salacious enough to sufficiently occupy the press for weeks. A three-way relationship involving a couple of the so-called morality police of the GOP goes badly south, ending up in a rape allegation against Christian Ziegler: OK, that’s bad. Real bad.

    And as reported by Lori Rozsa and Will Oremus, writing Saturday for The Washington Post, it gets even worse.

    On Oct. 2, the woman had agreed to have a sexual encounter with Ziegler that was to include his wife, Bridget, the affidavit says. But when the woman learned that Bridget couldn’t make it, she changed her mind and canceled. When Ziegler told her in one message that his wife was no longer available, she replied, “Sorry I was mostly in for her,” she said in a message, according to the affidavit.

    According to the affidavit, the woman told Sarasota police that Ziegler then showed up at her apartment uninvited and raped her. The woman reported the alleged assault to police two days later, and a rape kit was done at a Sarasota hospital, the affidavit states.

    So, according to the affidavit, the entire underpinning of “Mom’s for Liberty” — the self-appointed moral scolds accusing school boards nationwide of allowing the “sexualization” of children via books about gender and sexual orientation (for allegedly “promoting” bisexuality, among other things) — is probably disgraced for good, as it should have been long ago.

    Got it.

    But I’m also really interested in the reaction of the rest of Florida’s Republican Party.

    As Rozsa and Oremus report:

    “It’s certainly deeply, deeply troubling,” said state Rep. Spencer Roach, a member of the Florida GOP executive committee. “I would describe this as just an absolute body blow to the Republican Party. Everyone that I’ve talked to about this is in an absolute tailspin.” [***]

    “They have held themselves out to be paragons of the Christian conservative family values, a prototype,” Roach said. “And I think there’s a very heavy sense of betrayal, certainly within the Republican Party.”

    OK Republicans, help me understand here. Your party’s leader, Donald Trump, is a man who has been judicially adjudged as committing the rape of E. Jean Carroll. That’s not an allegation, it’s a judicial determination. He’s also been accused by 26 women of sexual assault, harassment and battery as well.

    How is this qualitatively — or “morally,” if you prefer — any different than what Ziegler has allegedly done? Do your fellow party members feel a “heavy sense of betrayal” about Trump’s alleged actions? Are they in “an absolute tailspin” about those charges? Why or why not?

    What say you, Florida Republicans?


  195. says

    Biden Administration Announces Dramatic Plan to Cut Methane Pollution

    The Biden administration announced an ambitious new plan on Saturday to dramatically curb methane emissions, the second biggest cause of global warming after carbon dioxide. It would require oil and gas producers to detect and fix leaks of methane for the first time.

    The announcement came as the United Nations hosted the Cop28 climate summit in Dubai, where Vice President Kamala Harris delivered brief remarks. “We must have the ambition to meet this moment, to accelerate our investments and to lead with courage and conviction,” she said.

    The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the new rule would prevent 58 million tons of methane emissions from 2024 to 2038—roughly equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted annually by coal-fired power plants in the United States. The administrative rule doesn’t need congressional approval and will take effect next year, although conservative groups are likely to challenge it in court. (The US Supreme Court has already placed limits on the administration’s efforts to fight climate change.)

    Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, called the policy “the most impactful climate rule that the United States has ever adopted in terms of addressing temperatures we would otherwise see.”

    In a separate announcement at the UN summit, the world’s 50 largest oil producers reached a new pact to reduce methane emissions by 80 to 90 percent by the end of the decade.

    Still, environmental groups have criticized Biden for not doing more to fight climate change by targeting fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gas. The administration has approved new drilling leases this year and domestic oil production has surged. The United States is poised to extract record amounts of oil and gas in 2023, which is on track to be the hottest year on record. Biden skipped the UN summit to focus on other issues, including Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

    Environmentalists have also faulted the UN for holding the summit in the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s largest oil producers. The president of the summit is the head of the state-owned oil company.

  196. says

    Ukraine Update: Why a lack of armored vehicles is stalling Russia’s infantry assault

    A Ukrainian artillery spotting drone with a thermal camera hovers in the darkness, silently observing. Small glowing dots scurry across the dark landscape—Russian infantry.

    An almost single file of Russian infantrymen, perhaps 20-30 in all, are strung out over a short distance.

    Furious shelling occurs, as large explosions (heavy and light howitzers) and smaller explosions (mortar rounds) occur around and amongst the scurrying targets.

    Gradually, the Russian platoon reaches its staging area— the treeline. Perhaps the Russians felt safer, huddling close to each other underneath the foliage. Perhaps they thought the trees and vegetation hid them from observation.

    You can see in the shelling, the survivors resting, perhaps catching their breath from running the deadly explosive gauntlet to get to this point. They would need their strength to make the final assault on Ukrainian positions beyond the freeline.

    Then, a DPICM 155mm cluster munition artillery shell strikes. The characteristic shotgun-like circular explosive pattern rings around the Russian position. Each DPICM shell contains 72 sub-munitions, spraying shrapnel that is highly deadly to exposed infantry across a broad area.

    The Russians stop moving. Then, another Ukrainian howitzer shell lands directly on the Russian position to end the video.

    This short video illustrates why Russian attacks around Avdiivka have all but stalled in the past six weeks.

    This incident was geolocated to a small treeline a touch under 2km east of Stepove, a small village north of the heavily fortified Ukrainian held town of Avdiivka. [map at the link]

    In the nearly two months since launching its major offensive to capture of fortress town on October 10th, Russia has made small but incremental gains particularly north of the town, around 1.5 kilometers in about two weeks. [comparison maps at the link]

    However, despite repeatedly fighting their way into and contesting the village of Stepove, Russia has been unable to make any significant advances of more than a few hundred meters. [comparison maps at the link]

    This isn’t to say that Russian gains have been zero in Avdiivka. Both north and south of the town, waves of Russian infantry assaults have gradually increased the contested area of around Stepove, and north of Vodiane.

    But this Russian “progress” has been measured in meters, and the pace of the Russian advance has clearly and significantly slowed since the early days of the assault. This isn’t necessarily to say that Russia won’t eventually win a pyrrhic victory at a horrific cost and capture Avdiivka. But their progress has significantly slowed since the early days of the advance.

    So what’s changed?

    For one, Ukraine committed significant reinforcements to Avdiivka. At the start of the battle, only the battle-weary 110th Mechanized Brigade was defending Avdiivka. For well over a year, the 110th Brigade had been defending Avdiivka against periodic and persistent Russian attacks, turning back two major Russian assaults in January and March-May 2023.

    After the 110th was driven back north of Avdiivka, Ukraine hurriedly deployed one of its finest brigades, the 47th Mechanized Brigade to defend the northern flank of Avdiivka. With its Leopard 2A6 tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, the 47th Brigade is one of Ukraine’s heaviest armored units. Ukraine also deployed the 53rd Mechanized Brigade to the south of Avdiivka to shore up its defenses there.

    However, the first elements of the 47th Mechanized were reportedly on the scene before October 20th. The Russian drive north of Avdiivka would not truly lose momentum for another 1-2 weeks. While the reinforcements tell part of the story, there may be additional elements to the loss of Russian momentum.

    So what else changed?

    Consider the pattern of verified Russian armored fighting vehicles losses around Avdiivka, as compiled by Andrew Perpetua. Here are the visually confirmed losses for October. Note that the Battle of Avdiivka begins in earnest on October 10th. [chart at the link shows visually verified Russian losses]

    Note how losses vary, presumably depending on the intensity of Russian assaults, but Russia is losing 15-25 armored vehicles on most days, while spikes of losses occur every 5-10 days Where Russia loses 40-70+ vehicles in a single day.

    Now look at Andrew Perpetua’s tabulation of losses for November. Note the shift in scale for the Y-axis. [chart at the link]

    Whereas in October, Russia was regularly losing 15-25 armored vehicles, including eight days between October 10th — 31st where Russia lost over 30 armored vehicles, Russia only lost more than 30 on two days in all of November,

    The total number of visually confirmed armored vehicles Russia lost around Avdiivka now exceeds 200, with Ukraine claiming to have destroyed over twice that many. As a result of these losses, Russia was forced to switch tactics, switching to mostly conducting Bakhmut-style infantry assaults.

    Russian infantry are not only conducting final assaults on Ukrainian positions on foot, they are being forced to do so after walking through miles of Ukrainian artillery kill zones to reach their staging points to even begin their assaults.
    To understand the difference, it’s probably helpful to see what a mechanized infantry assault looks like in practice. This is a mechanized assault being conducted by the Ukrainian 5th Assault Brigade in the hills near Klischiivka, south of Bakhmut in the Summer of 2023.

    The assault is conducted by an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier and a CV90 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (both of which carry squads of infantry) that are supported by a T-80 tank. [video at the link]

    The M113 and CV90 advance into the line of trees to the lefthand side of the video, disappearing into the foliage to reportedly drop off the soldiers at their staging area.

    Then you see the CV90 and the M113 pull back (again under artillery fire) while the T-80 continues firing at Russian positions and the infantry reportedly begins their assault. The narrator claims the assault was successful, but this is impossible to verify on the video.

    Now contrast this with the Russians advancing to their staging area on foot in the video described in the opening paragraphs of this article.

    This, in a nutshell, is why armored fighting vehicles are important in an infantry war.

    While the fire support from the T-80 tank is undoubtedly highly valuable, armored vehicles that deliver the troops from reserve areas to forward staging areas to begin their assault are just as important, if not more so.

    In ordinary defensive circumstances, one to two battalion of Russian troops, or 1-2,000 soldiers, are expected to occupy a 10 x 10 kilometer space of front. Reserve forces are generally kept 10-20 kilometers behind the lines, dispersed over a wide area, and assembled only when preparing for a major assault (or called to assist in defense). When Russia makes a concentrated assault, it moves up those reserve soldiers from the rear to temporarily bolster front-line strength.

    Those highly concentrated assault forces are extremely vulnerable to artillery or air strikes. A thousand soldiers spread out over 10 kilometers of front offer small targets of two or three soldiers at a time. An assault force features densely packed troops of 10-30 soldiers or more close to the front lines, making inviting targets for mass casualty events.

    The staging area for the assault can vary in distance, but will often be around 1-2 kilometers from enemy positions. The Russians attempting to assemble around 1.5 kilometers outside Stepove in the video above would be highly typical of this type of attack.

    In the earliest days of the assault on Avdiivka, Russia moved its infantry in massive columns of armored vehicles to try to protect them. Although Russia lost hundreds of vehicles to artillery fire and drones, the armored vehicles protected their infantry from artillery shrapnel as they were dropped off at their staging areas, vulnerable only to direct artillery, drone, or missile strikes. [video at the link]

    Unfortunately for Russia, their armored vehicle losses were unsustainable, so Russia has now switched to fully dismounted infantry assaults, who must now traverse 10 kilometers or more on foot, just to get in position to launch the attack.

    Not only do these units suffer significant combat losses just to get to the assembly point, but Russian soldiers accumulate dramatically more fatigue and mental exhaustion before they even begin their assaults.

    This, more than anything, likely explains why the Russian advance slowed from around 120 meters per day in the first two weeks of the assault north of Avdiivka, to a less than 20 meters per day crawl for the past month.

    This doesn’t mean that the Russian attack on Avdiivka will inevitably fail. If Russia continues to throw hundreds or thousands of Russian infantry at Ukrainian positions, they can continue to advance 10-20 meter a day over the next 10-15 months to close the 5km gap they need to cut the main supply line into Avdiivka.

    However, Russia has only sustained this crawling advance by losing an estimated 1,000 soldiers a day, an unsustainable longer-term rate even for Russia.

    Without a serious infusion of reinforcing armored vehicles for another major push, it appears the casualty costs and slow speed of the Russian advance are so problematic that it appears unlikely that Russia will capture Avdiivka on any reasonable timeline or cost.

  197. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 262

    “What say you, Florida Republicans?”

    I know what I would have said during my misspent right-wing youth: “Its all a lie! The press, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Communists made up these allegations to attack patriotic, Christian, parents who just what to protect children from smut, blasphemy, and disloyalty to America!”

    They’re probably saying the same thing.

  198. says

    Akira @265, well that’s disheartening. True, but depressing.

    In other news: DeSantis-bot glitches out, and ex-Trump aide says the former guy is ‘slowing down’

    If you somehow missed Thursday’s big debate between Govs. Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis, well, don’t fret. For one thing, Newsom didn’t debate DeSantis so much as curb-stomp him over and over like an increasingly shopworn series of Cabbage Patch dolls.

    Secondly, DeSantis is still running for president, so he’s not going anywhere. Other than nowhere, of course. Unless third place in the Iowa caucuses is now considered some kind of milk-and-honey-festooned promised land.

    Yes, DeSantis-bot glitched out several times over the course of the debate. It was like watching a deer caught in a car’s headlights … then a car’s grille … then a car’s windshield … and finally a car’s trunk, where the Flailing Florida Man struck a dashing pose […] Take, for instance, this exchange, previously highlighted by Daily Kos’ Walter Einenkel: [video at the link]

    Wow. That was something, huh? How are the smiling lessons going, Ron? Looks like you’ve finally mastered “constipated prairie chicken.” Next stop: “inflatable car wash dancer.”

    Of course, we may not have DeSantis to kick around much longer, so we better kick him now. (Figuratively, of course.) And this week he’s on the OG Sunday political show, “Meet the Press,” which promises to be a barrel of awkward, off-putting laughs.

    So let’s see how that went, shall we?

    Off we go!

    1. Have we mentioned how utterly screwed Republicans are on abortion? Oh, yes, we have, haven’t we? Well, they are, because they don’t have anything that approaches a consistent or coherent message. Democrats do: We need to codify Roe and ensure that private reproductive health care decisions are made by women in close consultation with their doctors. Democrats can look voters square in the eye and tell them that simple truth.

    Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidates are continually asked where they stand on federal abortion bans, and it’s like asking Louie Gohmert how the CERN supercollider works. Or Legos. Or underpants, for that matter. In other words, they don’t have the slightest clue what to say.

    DeSantis appeared with Kristen Welker on “Meet the Press” to discuss a campaign that’s shrinking in inverse proportion to his pupils whenever he gets asked about this stuff. [video at the link]

    WELKER: “You signed a six-week ban in the state of Florida, so voters want to know, people of Iowa want to know, where do you stand on this issue? Would you sign a six-week federal ban if it came to your desk? If you were president?”

    DESANTIS: “But we signed a legislation to stand for a culture of life that was done by the Florida Legislature. I mean, this was them bringing the will of the people …”

    WELKER: “So is that a yes? Is that a yes?”

    DESANTIS: “Well, Congress is not going to do any type of abortion legislation. They haven’t done abortion legislation—the only thing that’s impacted abortion on the federal level, I think the last thing is Obamacare in 2010. So we understand that, and so part of me promoting a culture of life is to do things that are achievable and that obviously would have consensus. No taxpayer funding for abortion. We’re going to eliminate the abortion tourism policy of the Department of Defense, and we’re going to protect the rights of states to enact pro-life protections.”

    “Come on, now! Congress won’t pass abortion legislation! Nothing has been done on abortion since 2010. And nothing of note has changed since then. Nope. Not a single thing. It’s moot. Next question! Wait, Dobbs? What is Dobbs? Now you’re just making baby noises. Can we get back to my talking points, please? […]

    Good Lord. Honestly, he’d be better off appearing on these shows wearing an “Ask Me About My Boot Lifts” button.


    DeSantis has a really hard time condemning Donald Trump’s use of the word “vermin” to refer to one’s political enemies. Must be tough trying to continually walk that tightrope between full-blown Nazi rhetoric and the kind of stuff Hitler just randomly thought of in his shower. [video at the link]

    Geez, Ron, grow a pair. Of eyes, I mean. Can’t you see how hopelessly behind you are? Newsom was right. You need to drop out, ASAP.

    Master projectionist Donald Trump has lately been trying to claim that President Biden is actually our nation’s biggest threat to democracy—not the guy who literally tried to end America. And Trump is giving extremely low-energy speeches to make his point.

    Former White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah Griffin joined “State of the Union’s” expert panel to discuss this frothy nonsense, telling host Dana Bash that she’s noticed Trump is “slowing down.” […] [Tweet and video at the link]

    TRUMP (AT RALLY): “But Joe Biden is not the defender of American democracy, Joe Biden is the destroyer of American democracy. … So if Joe Biden wants to make this race a question of which candidate will defend our democracy and protect our freedoms, I say to Crooked Joe—and he’s crooked, the most corrupt president we’ve ever had—we will win that fight and we’re going to win it very big. Very big.”

    BASH: “Welcome back to ‘State of the Union.’ My panel joins me now. Alyssa, this is probably one of the least surprising things you’ve seen Donald Trump do. Right, I mean, if, if—I don’t want to call it ‘evil genius’ because, I don’t—but it’s so classic. To have something wrong with him, a negative, and he says, no, it’s the other guy.”

    FARAH GRIFFIN: “And just tries to flip it on its head and you heard the audience eat it up. It’s kind of remarkable—I was watching some of the clips from Trump’s visit to Iowa, and I’m stunned, having spent a lot of time with him in 2020 and years before, he is slowing down. There is a lack of sharpness in what he is saying, and a lack of kind of clarity. There’s another clip where he basically says he’s going to overturn Obamacare but then also says that he’d fix it. Just complete inconsistencies. And for Republicans, our strongest case against Joe Biden is, you know, the age and the decline that some of us have seen. And if I’m being honest, head to head, I’m not sure which is struggling more.”

    You’re not sure who’s struggling more? Trump. Trump is struggling more. Biden looks slightly bent over when he walks and occasionally elides or butchers a word or two [which may be due to overcoming a stutter]. He doesn’t continually claim he ran against George W. Bush, brag about passing preschool-level dementia tests, and confidently assert that windmills are murdering whales.

    Then again, Farah Griffin is a Republican. Who worked for Trump. Sometimes the deprogramming takes a while to fully kick in, apparently.

    The fake Biden impeachment is still a hot topic over at Fox News, and veteran journamalist Maria Bartiromo is all over it. There’s no need to rehash how empty and cynical this endeavor is. You can simply read this fact check […]. Or you could just stare into House Oversight Committee Chair Jim Comer’s eyes for 30 seconds and see for yourself that there’s nothing behind them but insensate evil and pingpong balls.

    But Republicans are determined to go ahead with the charade—so long as the people they’re accusing aren’t allowed to share their stories with the same public Comer, et al., have been dishonestly working into a lather for the past two years. [Comer refused to let Hunter Biden testify publicly.] [Tweet and video at the link]

    BARTIROMO: “[We want to] understand why you have had to take so long to actually get a vote to impeach, get this impeachment inquiry going. Do you feel that you have the votes within the House right now to get a formal impeachment inquiry?”

    COMER: “I do, and I had a reporter ask, well, what’s changed? You know, because the press has been writing we didn’t have the votes forever. And I said, well, I tell you one thing that changed. We were in Washington, D.C., for 10 weeks, and there were about 15 or 20 moderates that they really worry about what CNN says or what the Washington Post writes, and they were getting in their heads, Maria. But a great thing happened during Thanksgiving. The members went home—many of them for the first time and circulated for the first time in over 10 weeks—and they met people in Walmart and people on Main Street, and they’re like, what in the world have the Bidens done to receive millions and millions of dollars from our enemies around the world, and did they not pay taxes on it? So they heard from their constituents—yes, we want you to move forward, we want to know the truth. And we expect the Bidens to be held accountable for public corruption.”

    Got that? Those vulnerable House Republicans who represent Biden-leaning districts stopped reading The Washington Post for 10 days and started listening to the constitutional scholars picking out hydrogenated pie toppings at Walmart. Case closed. Joe Biden is as good as gone. […]

    National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby appeared on “Meet the Press” with Kristen Welker to discuss the Israel-Hamas war and a recent New York Times report alleging that Israeli intelligence obtained the battle plan for Hamas’ October terrorist attack more than a year before it occurred.

    So why, Welker wondered, didn’t U.S. intelligence have any inkling of this? Isn’t Israel supposed to share intelligence with us?

    I suspect you know the likely answer—even if Welker doesn’t. We’ll see if you’ve got your thinking caps on. The big, startling reveal will come … after the jump! [Tweet and video at the link]

    WELKER: “John, I have to ask you about this New York Times reporting which found that Israeli officials received Hamas’ specific attack plan over a year ago. Was the United States aware of this intelligence, and if not, why not?”

    KIRBY: “The intelligence community has indicated that they did not have access to this document. There’s no indications at this time that they had any access to this document beforehand.”

    WELKER: “Should they have, given how closely U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials coordinate, or are supposed to coordinate?”

    KIRBY: “Intelligence is a mosaic, and sometimes, you know, you can fashion things together and get a pretty good picture, other times there’s pieces of the puzzle that are missing. As I said, our own intelligence community said that they looked at this. They have no indications at this time that they had any advance warning of this document or any knowledge of it.”

    WELKER: “John, very quickly, was this a failure on the part of Israeli intelligence and U.S. intelligence?”

    KIRBY: “I think there’s going to be a time and a place for Israel to do that sort of forensic work. I mean, Prime Minister Netanyahu has already spoken pretty candidly about this, calling it a failure on their part. They’ll take a look at this at the right time. They need to do that. Right now, though, the focus has got to be on making sure that they can eliminate this truly genocidal threat to the Israeli people.”

    Gee, why wouldn’t Israel want to share intelligence with us? What might have happened in the past several years that could have given them pause? It’s a huge fucking mystery, isn’t it? [LOL]

    This one is a Video Daily Double: [image at the link]

    Oh, you need it spelled out? Okay, then.

    Foreign Policy, May 2017:

    Just days before President Donald Trump’s arrival in Tel Aviv, Israeli intelligence officials were shouting at their American counterparts in meetings, furious over news that the U.S. commander in chief may have compromised a vital source of information on the Islamic State and possibly Iran, according to a U.S. defense official in military planning.

    “To them, it’s horrifying,” the official, who attended the meetings, told Foreign Policy. “Their first question was: ‘What is going on? What is this?’” […]

    [B]ehind the public display of harmony, Israeli intelligence officers are angry and alarmed over the U.S. president revealing sensitive information in a May 10 meeting in the White House with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

    Well, maybe Welker doesn’t read Foreign Policy. Or NBC News. I’m pretty sure People magazine covered it, too, alongside Sergei Lavrov’s favorite braised turnip recipes.

    But wait! There’s more!
    – Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer says his country will “get to the bottom” of reports that Hamas’ attack plan was known to Israeli officials a year in advance. (ABC’s “This Week”)
    – Sen Lindsey Graham claims he supports Trump’s bizarre, out-of-the-blue calls for getting rid of Obamacare, which is now more popular than ever. (“State of the Union”)
    – Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, an ex-Republican, says, “I don’t think there is a Republican Party. There is a cult around Donald Trump” and Trump “will tear down the very guardrails of our democracy.” (“The Saturday/Sunday Show With Jonathan Capehart”)
    – Chris Christie says Republicans should avoid setting a national policy on abortion. (“Face the Nation”)

    That’s it for today. Hope you’re all enjoying this joyful War on Christmas season. See you next week!

  199. says

    […] A U.S. warship in the Red Sea on Sunday shot down at least two drones, according to a U.S. defense official, with early assessments indicating that at least one was launched from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen.

    The USS Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, also observed a ballistic missile landing in the vicinity of a commercial vessel in the area, said the official, who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity to discuss a fluid military situation.

    The commercial vessel, named Unity Explorer, sent a distress call to the USS Carney. While the naval ship was near the Unity Explorer, a drone approached the two ships and the Carney shot it down, the official said.

    Brig. Gen. Yahya Sarea, the Houthi military spokesman, said in a televised address that the attack was launched in solidarity with Palestinians. He said his Yemen-based force targeted the Unity Explorer and another ship “after they rejected warning messages from the Yemeni naval forces.”

    […] The Houthis are a rebel movement that controls much of Yemen’s north.

    U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria have faced near-daily assaults from rocket fire and one-way attack drones since Israeli operations in Gaza began, recording at least 76 attacks since Oct. 17, according to data provided by a U.S. defense official who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of ongoing operations.

    The United States has responded at times, including airstrikes targeting militants in Iraq after a close range ballistic missile attack on Nov. 20, the first use of such weapons in this stretch of attacks.

    Washington Post link

  200. says

    Palestinian American student shot in Vermont paralyzed from the chest down

    Hisham Awartani has had a bullet lodged in his spine since he was shot in Burlington along with two friends last weekend, according to his family and friends.

    Hisham Awartani, one of the three Palestinian students who were shot in Burlington, Vermont, last weekend is paralyzed from the chest down.

    On Thursday, Awartani’s mother, Elizabeth Price, told NBC News that her son was paralyzed from the midtorso downward and may not be able to walk again.

    “He has what they call an incomplete spinal injury, which means that he can feel, but he can’t move the areas that are currently paralyzed,” Price said. “He is going into intensive rehab later this week, and we hope that that will help with his prognosis.”

    In a GoFundMe created Saturday to raise money for Awartani’s medical expenses, his family and friends disclosed that “one of the bullets that struck him is lodged in his spine and has left him paralyzed from the chest down.”

    “The family is committed to his recovery and remain hopeful, in spite of the grave prognosis,” Awartani’s family said in a statement on the fundraiser page, which NBC News has confirmed is authentic.

    Awartani’s family and friends describe him as “a kind, gentle, brilliant young man with enormous potential.” A Palestinian Irish American who grew up in the West Bank, he speaks seven languages and is a teaching assistant at Brown University, where he studies math and archaeology.

    Awartani is dedicated to his studies, and is determined to start the next semester on time, according to his family and friends.

    Awartani was walking near his grandmother’s home on Nov. 25 with Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmad, all 20 years old, when a suspect pulled a gun on them without provocation and shot them.

    The students were speaking Arabic when they were attacked, and two of them were wearing Palestinian keffiyehs, scarves that have become a symbol of Palestinian solidarity.

    Awartani and Abdalhamid are U.S. citizens and Ali Ahmad is a legal U.S. resident.

    Awartani, a student at Brown University, was shot in the spine. Ali Ahmad was shot in the chest, and Abdalhamid was shot in the glute, according to court documents.

    Jason Eaton, 48, was arrested in connection with the shooting. Eaton has pleaded not guilty to three counts of second-degree attempted murder.

    The families of the victims and advocacy organizations are encouraging law enforcement to investigate the shooting of their children as a hate crime.

    “We believe a full investigation is likely to show our sons were targeted and violently attacked simply for being Palestinian,” a joint statement from the families read. “Full justice and accountability is important, and needed to ensure that this type of brutal and violent attack does not happen again.”

    Police have not yet revealed a motive for the shooting, saying it is an ongoing investigation.

  201. birgerjohansson says

    Huffpost has an article about Middle East advisor Brett MacGurk, who has a disproportionate influence over the US Middle East policy. He thinks like 19th century statesmen and does not care much about human rights.

  202. says

    Russia Is Fighting More Than One War. I Went to Check on the ‘Other’ One.

    Mahmoud Amed Nasser arrived in Turkey a month ago. It’s safe here, but he still can’t stop listening for the sound of planes. Russian planes.

    Nasser, 48, traveled from the rebel-held city of Idlib, Syria, to Turkey with his young grandson, who needs medical treatment for a congenital heart defect. In Syria, planes signal danger. Just the day before, he told me, his grandson was utterly terrified by the sounds of a commercial airliner.

    “All our children know the sounds,” Nasser said. Even though there was no danger there in Turkey, his grandson grabbed him and told him, “Granddad, there’s a warplane in the sky!”

    In Syria, he added, there is little they can do when Russian warplanes come, except hide and hope for the best. Oh, and “open your mouth,” he said with a grim laugh. Opening their mouths helps them not get injured or killed by the pressure waves from the blast, he explained.

    “We and the Ukrainians have the same enemy, have the same killer,” Nasser said.

    In Ukraine, Russian bombing is detected by radar and warnings sent over digital apps. Hundreds of foreign journalists relay the events. In Syria, the death and destruction comes without much notice — or attention from the outside world.

    The Russian military has continued to fight and commit atrocities in Syria for eight years, with no sign of slowing. It’s a signal to Ukraine of just how long Russia is willing to conduct indiscriminate attacks, and a warning that Russia is able to drag out conflicts over long periods of time.

    The war in Syria is also a sad reminder that public attention in the West fades, and that the Syrian civil war — once a central point in the U.S. foreign policy discussions — continues even after the vast majority of attention has shifted to other conflicts.

    More than 12 years ago, it was war in this part of the world that riveted the world’s attention. As part of the broader Arab Spring, Syrians marched for democratic rights in 2011. For a time they won Western attention and sympathy, as dictator Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown was revealed through photographs and videos of torture, killings and the use of chemical weapons. But over the years, the war ground to a stalemate, and the world’s attention drifted away.

    I’m guilty of that, myself. As a reporter, I covered the Syrian civil war intimately in its early years. But time went on, and other topics came up. I’ve never forgotten about it, exactly, but it sort of shifted to the side.

    For almost two years now I’ve been reporting in Ukraine, covering Russia’s full-scale invasion and its efforts to seize more Ukrainian territory. I often thought about what was happening to Russia’s other war — the war that people were paying far less attention to, the one that it was fighting in support of Assad, a war of attrition where Russia aimed to outlast its enemies.

    So on a trip to Turkey, I decided to make a trip to the Syrian border to find out.

    […] only some wars have the misfortune of fading in the public consciousness while the killing continues largely unabated, ignored by nearly all except for victims and aggressors.

    Here’s what’s being ignored in Syria: An average of 84 civilians have been killed per day over the past decade, according to a U.N. estimate. This totals more than 306,000 deaths since 2011, when the Assad regime brutally cracked down on pro-democratic demonstrations and triggered the civil war.

    The U.N. has said that these numbers represent a minimum estimate and that the likely number killed is much higher. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based NGO, has made an estimate of over 600,000 killed, including civilians and non-civilians. Russia has been assisting Assad since 2015, conducting air and ground operations against the opposition forces.

    The war in Ukraine, also a conflict driven by Russian action, has made things even worse for Syrian civilians. Goran Ahmad, chair of the board at the humanitarian group Bahar, said it has added to skyrocketing inflation. He pointed out that flour in rebel-controlled parts of Syria now costs double what it did before Russia invaded Ukraine, which supplies much of the world with grain.

    Meanwhile, apparently taking advantage of the world’s attention being focused on Ukraine and Gaza, the Assad regime and Russia have stepped up their attacks in recent months. From January to July, there were a total of 388 bombardments. The second half of the year, which is not yet complete, has already seen 415, according to the Syrian Emergency Task Force, an American NGO that tallies attacks in Syria.

    Nasser and his grandson have been staying for about three weeks at the House of Healing, a charitable initiative in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep, just about an hour from the Syrian border.

    […] The Syrians at this home — there were a few dozen waiting for help — come from places whose names might spur a brief moment of recognition from when they were regularly and intensely covered in the Western press a decade ago. Places like Aleppo, where 147 bodies were found in the river in 2013, likely executed in Assad regime-controlled areas. And Ghouta, where the Assad regime used a nerve agent, killing 1,429 people and testing President Barack Obama’s “red line” for American military intervention (the U.S. ultimately would not intervene).

    […] The world’s forgetting about the Syrian conflict is no mere inconvenience for Syrians fighting to uproot the Assad regime. […] The UAE began restoring diplomatic relations with the Assad regime in 2018. This year, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have pressed regional countries to recognize his government. And in May, Assad was welcomed back to a summit of the Arab League for the first time since 2011, in what Al Jazeera described as a “warm reception” — this despite an overwhelming amount of evidence that he and his regime have committed war crimes. Assad used the opportunity to deliver a speech stressing that other countries should not meddle in the “internal affairs” of Arab states.

    […] “Backed by war criminal [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and the terrorist Mullahs in Tehran, over half a million people in Syria have been slaughtered by this criminal regime, and over half the Syrian population has been displaced,” said Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), the lead sponsor of the bill, in a statement. “The Assad regime is illegitimate and poses a threat to peace and prosperity in the region.”

    […] a September 2018 poll found that 83 percent of Turks viewed Syrian refugees negatively. A majority of those upset with Syrian refugees cited economic issues like rising unemployment, lower wages and Syrian nonpayment of taxes.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who welcomed Syrian refugees over a decade ago as “our brothers,” decided this year during his reelection campaign to promise the repatriation of a million Syrians back to Syria. His political opposition ran on even harsher measures.

    […] Caring increases international cooperation, which reduces local suffering — whether in Ukraine, or in Syria.

  203. says

    ‘Plain historical falsehoods’: How amicus briefs bolstered Supreme Court conservatives

    A POLITICO review indicates most conservative briefs in high-profile cases have links to a small cadre of activists aligned with Leonard Leo.

    Princeton Professor Robert P. George, a leader of the conservative legal movement and confidant of the judicial activist and Donald Trump ally Leonard Leo, made the case for overturning Roe v. Wade in an amicus brief a year before the Supreme Court issued its watershed ruling.

    Roe, George claimed, had been decided based on “plain historical falsehoods.” For instance, for centuries dating to English common law, he asserted, abortion has been considered a crime or “a kind of inchoate felony for felony-murder purposes.”

    The argument was echoed in dozens of amicus briefs supporting Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court case that struck down the constitutional right to abortion in 2022. Seven months before the decision, the argument was featured in an article on the web page of the conservative legal network, the Federalist Society, where Leo is co-chair.

    In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito used the same quote from Henry de Bracton, the medieval English jurist, that George cited in his amicus brief to help demonstrate that “English cases dating all the way back to the 13th century corroborate the treatises’ statements that abortion was a crime.”

    George, however, is not a historian. Major organizations representing historians strongly disagree with him.

    That this questionable assertion is now enshrined in the court’s ruling is “a flawed and troubling precedent,” the Organization of American Historians, which represents 6,000 history scholars and experts, and the American Historical Association, the largest membership association of professional historians in the world, said in a statement. It is also a prime example of how a tight circle of conservative legal activists have built a highly effective thought chamber around the court’s conservative flank over the past decade.

    A POLITICO review of tax filings, financial statements and other public documents found that Leo and his network of nonprofit groups are either directly or indirectly connected to a majority of amicus briefs filed on behalf of conservative parties in seven of the highest-profile rulings the court has issued over the past two years.

    It is the first comprehensive review of amicus briefs that have streamed into the court since Trump nominated Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020, solidifying the court’s conservative majority. POLITICO’s review found multiple instances of language used in the amicus briefs appearing in the court’s opinions. [Chart at the link: 69% connected to Leo]

    The Federalist Society, the 70,000-member organization that Leo co-chairs, does not take political positions [or at least that’s what it claims]. But the movement centered around the society often weighs in through many like-minded groups. In 15 percent of the 259 amicus briefs for the conservative side in the seven cases, Leo was either a board member, official or financial backer through his network of the group that filed the brief. Another 55 percent were from groups run by individuals who share board memberships with Leo, worked for entities funded by his network or were among a close-knit circle of legal experts that includes chapter heads who serve under Leo at the Federalist Society.

    The picture that emerges is of an exceedingly small universe of mostly Christian conservative activists developing and disseminating theories to change the nation’s legal and cultural landscape. It also casts new light on Leo’s outsized role in the conservative legal movement, where he simultaneously advised Trump on Supreme Court nominations, paid for media campaigns promoting the nominees and sought to influence court decision-making on a range of cases.

    […] Like George’s view of abortion as a crime throughout history, arguments in amicus briefs often find their way into the justices’ opinions. In major cases involving cultural flashpoints of abortion, affirmative action and LGBTQ+ rights POLITICO found information cited in amicus briefs connected to Leo’s network in the court’s opinions.

    […] “There’s no real vetting process for who can file these amicus briefs,” said Larsen, and the justices often “accept these historical narratives at face value.”

    […] A former Supreme Court clerk, Larsen has called for reforms including disclosure of special interests behind “neutral-sounding organizations” which, in reality, are representing a broader political movement.

    For instance, Leo and George are board directors at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, which filed amicus briefs in support of the restrictive Mississippi abortion law in the Dobbs decision and in the case in which the court found a Colorado website designer could refuse to create wedding websites for same-sex couples. They are also both on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which also filed briefs in those cases.

    […] In July of 2022, a few weeks after the Dobbs decision was announced, historical organizations issued a statement saying that abortion was not considered a crime according to the modern definition of the word and citing a “long legal tradition” — from the common law to the mid-1800s – of tolerating termination of pregnancy before a woman could feel fetal movement.

    “The court adopted a flawed interpretation of abortion criminalization that has been pressed by anti-abortion advocates for more than thirty years,” they wrote.

    A trio of scholars of medieval history also denounced Alito’s argument as misrepresenting the penalties involved related to abortion. The Latin word “crimen” was more akin to a sin that would be “absolved through penance” before the Church — and not a felony, said Sara McDougall, a scholar of medieval law, gender and justice at City University of New York Graduate Center. Further, the meaning of “abortion” often involved “beating a pregnant woman” and was so broad it covered infanticide, she said.

    “There’s not one felony prosecution for abortion in 13th century England. The church sometimes (but not always) imposed penance — but usually when the intent was to conceal sexual infidelity,” said McDougall, who was one of the three medieval scholars. Indeed, this medieval doctrine persisted for hundreds of years until Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1869 that life began at conception, they wrote.

    […] While debates over when life begins date to ancient Greece, the definition George uses in an expanded version of his brief that he provided to POLITICO — that a child is an “immortal soul” after 42 days — came from the author of an early forerunner to the encyclopedia (c. 1240) who was a member of the Franciscan order and frequent lecturer on the Bible. It is not clear how, without modern ultrasound technology, a fetus’ gestational stage could have been determined in the 1300s.

    [One gets the feeling that anti-abortionists just cherry-picked all of history to come up with factoids they thought would support their case.]

    The case that abortion was a historical crime wasn’t part of the anti-abortion push until it was introduced by Dellapenna during an anti-abortion conference in the early 1980s, says Mary Ruth Ziegler, a legal historian who authored a book on the history of Roe. Dellapenna was a law professor at Villanova University and not a historian. Moreover, she said: “This was not a disinterested historian doing the research. This is someone at an anti-abortion event.”

    […] In April, Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk in Texas cited George’s 2008 book, “Embryo: A Defense of Human Life,” in the first footnote of his preliminary ruling invalidating the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the abortion pill, mifepristone. Kacsmaryk used George’s work to defend his use of the terms “unborn human” and “unborn child” — most often used by anti-abortion activists — instead of “fetus,” which is the standard term used by jurists.

    […] In June, when the court rejected affirmative action at colleges and universities across the nation, there were at least three instances in which Justice Clarence Thomas used the same language or citations from amicus briefs of filers connected to Leo, whose friendship and past business relationship with Thomas’s wife, Virginia Thomas, who is known as Ginni, have been reported. [chart at the link]

    […] The overall concentration of conservative amicus briefs in the LGBTQ+ rights case tied to Leo’s network is among the highest, at about 85 percent, of any of the seven cases reviewed. Many were filed by Catholic or Christian nonprofits in support of the plaintiff, a designer whose company is called 303 Creative.

    The two pillars of Leo’s network, The 85 Fund and the Concord Fund, gave $7.8 million between July of 2019 and 2021 to organizations filing briefs on behalf of 303 Creative LLC.

    […] Many of these professional ties are through the Center for National Policy, whose members have included Leo himself, Ginni Thomas, former Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and former Vice President Mike Pence.

    […] While POLITICO’s analysis relies heavily on annual forms filed to the IRS, its approximations may underrepresent Leo’s influence over opinions presented to the court. That’s because the IRS does not require nonprofit groups to list members of advisory boards, and groups filing as churches don’t have to disclose their leadership. Leo’s organizations also route tens of millions of dollars through anonymous donor-advised funds like DonorsTrust, making it unclear where it is going.

    […] “In law reasons are everything. Rationale is our currency. It matters that they’re using the briefs to justify themselves,” said Larsen, who wrote a 2014 research report titled The Trouble with Amicus Facts.

    “They’re looking to amicus briefs to support their historical narrative,” she said.

    Much more at the link.

  204. StevoR says

    Good article with some nice animations and info here :

    The inner edge of the habitable zone will cross Earth’s orbit in about a billion years (give or take a few hundred million years). From that point on, there won’t be any more liquid water on Earth. Game over. But is there anything that might happen in the next billion years that could save the Earth? Maybe. ..(Snip).. Every billion years there is a 1% chance that a star will pass within 100 astronomical units of the Sun. Remember, 1 astronomical unit – or au – is the Earth-Sun distance, so a star flying within 100 au has a chance of having an effect on the planets’ orbits. A billion years is the time that Earth has left on its doomsday clock (at least the astronomical one), so this means that there’s a 1% chance that a star will flyby and shake things up before it’s too late.

    Source :

  205. Reginald Selkirk says

    Ancient redwoods recover from fire by sprouting 1000-year-old buds

    When lightning ignited fires around California’s Big Basin Redwoods State Park north of Santa Cruz in August 2020, the blaze spread quickly. Redwoods naturally resist burning, but this time flames shot through the canopies of 100-meter-tall trees, incinerating the needles. “It was shocking,” says Drew Peltier, a tree ecophysiologist at Northern Arizona University. “It really seemed like most of the trees were going to die.”

    Yet many of them lived. In a paper published yesterday in Nature Plants, Peltier and his colleagues help explain why: The charred survivors, despite being defoliated, mobilized long-held energy reserves—sugars that had been made from sunlight decades earlier—and poured them into buds that had been lying dormant under the bark for centuries…

  206. Reginald Selkirk says

    Can Anyone Give An Actual Argument For Atheism?

    by Casey Chalk
    … Cohen’s atheism, she explains, “derives naturally from a few simple observations.” The first of these is that many religious traditions are based on mythical accounts that are obviously fanciful, and that many others — such as Mormonism and Scientology — are so absurd as to merit nothing but derision.

    Yet from the premise that some religions are mythical or downright preposterous, it does not follow that all religions are thus, just as recognizing that the history of medical science has been full of quackery (and often still is) does not mean modern medicine is all illegitimate. Indeed, if there were a God, it’s at least plausible he might even make use of the mythical genre to communicate truths to primitive cultures whose understanding of the world is informed by such stories, as many scholars posit God does in the Old Testament…

    Cohen’s arguments against God, little more than regurgitations of the tired rhetoric of the New Atheists, are superficial, illogical, and emotive. They are also embarrassingly ignorant. There is absolutely no engagement with any of the classical arguments for God’s existence, be they Thomas Aquinas’s “Five Ways” or Anselm’s ontological argument. Nor is there any interaction with the best responses to the New Atheists, such as from theologian David Bentley Hart or philosopher Ed Feser. It’s certainly possible all of the arguments in favor of God’s existence are bad, but if Cohen believes them to be so, she offers no rebuttals.

    Instead, she complains that atheists are held to an unfair standard by those who expect them to be able to “prove that God doesn’t exist.” Well, given that’s the definition of atheism … yes, one should be able to demonstrate that. Or is Cohen demanding atheists be allowed to be intellectually lazy? …

    If he wanted a serious philosophical treatise, maybe he should have read one of those instead. Plenty of those exist.

  207. says

    Followup to Reginald @276.

    Texas GOP balks at proposed ban on associating with Nazi sympathizers

    For much of the American mainstream, Nick Fuentes’ name is probably unfamiliar, and as we’ve discussed, that’s a good thing. He is, after all, a radical who’s called for “a homeland” for white people, who’s engaged in Holocaust denialism, who’s expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler, and whose YouTube page was permanently suspended for promoting hate speech.

    Fuentes nevertheless tries to maintain a high public profile — a couple of congressional Republicans have even spoken at some of his right-wing events — and he attended a meeting in Texas in October. That wouldn’t have been especially notable were it not for the fact that Matt Rinaldi, chairman of the Texas GOP, was seen going into the same building at the same time.

    Rinaldi has insisted that he met with someone else at the time and didn’t even know Fuentes was there. But the controversy that followed — Fuentes did meet with others closely tied to Texas Republicans — gave a jolt to party politics in the Lone Star State.

    It was against this backdrop that several members of the Texas GOP’s executive committee initially called for the party to end its associations with specific local groups known for their white supremacist ties. A proposed resolution on the matter was soon after watered down to bar associations with individuals or groups “known to espouse or tolerate antisemitism, pro-Nazi sympathies or Holocaust denial.”

    As The Texas Tribune reported, this weakened effort was rejected, too.

    Two months after a prominent conservative activist and fundraiser was caught hosting white supremacist Nick Fuentes, leaders of the Republican Party of Texas have voted against barring the party from associating with known Nazi sympathizers and Holocaust deniers. In a 32-29 vote on Saturday, members of the Texas GOP’s executive committee stripped a pro-Israel resolution of a clause that would have included the ban.

    The Texas Tribune report added, “In a separate move that stunned some members, roughly half of the board also tried to prevent a record of their vote from being kept.”

    It’s one thing to get an issue wrong; it’s something else when people know they’re getting an issue wrong and want to keep their efforts hidden in the shadows.

    […] For what it’s worth, Texas Republican officials will meet again in February, at which point they’ll likely have an another opportunity to consider the issue.

  208. says

    Republicans use AI images to create xenophobic newsreel of nonexistent threat

    What do you do when there’s an election coming up and your party doesn’t have any policies, your own members admit they’ve failed at everything, and you don’t even have a platform? If you’re the Republican National Congressional Committee, there is only one answer: Use AI-generated images to create a 1930s-style newsreel pitching a xenophobic threat that not only doesn’t exist, but can’t exist.

    Republicans have no passed or even pending legislation to tout. There’s no health care plan. There’s no education plan. There’s no plan at all. Other than endless hearings in a wasted effort to find something they can pin on President Joe Biden, the only thing they have to show for their control of the House are vicious interparty fights. Republicans went 15 rounds of voting to make Kevin McCarthy speaker, then kicked out McCarthy and spent 22 days without a speaker before selecting someone whose only credentials are that no one knew who he was.

    So what are they running on? Claims that without them, illegal immigrants will overrun the National Parks. Even though that has never happened. And there are really good reasons why it can’t.

    Nothing says “no, I’m not a Nazi” like recreating an old newsreel format and filling it with propaganda designed to create fear of the “other.” [Image at the link]

    The response to this should be … is that the best they can do? Really? Given enormously capable AI tools that can make any image they want, and a clear lack of anything resembling morality, an excess of tents in a National Park is the issue that Republicans are genuinely running with as their lever to pry open vulnerable Democratic seats.

    The problems with this are nearly infinite, but here’s a good place to start: National Parks already have extremely strict (some hikers would even say draconian) rules about camping without a permit or in non-designated areas. Hikers and backpackers in national parks often have to seek permits to camp months in advance, and camping must be done in very specific areas. Just showing up and plopping down a tent is a fast route to serious fines and significant jail time.

    Here’s the recent story of one hiker who dared camp in the wrong place for a single night, even though the camping followed a medical emergency in which one member of their party had to be evacuated. [video at the link]

    In some parks, hikers are required to stay in designated shelters, and God help you if that shelter is full, heavy snow is falling, and it’s 19 miles to the next shelter. Park rangers are the original f**k and around find out guys.

    But even without the laws that parks already have in place to limit the number of visitors and strictly control where people are allowed to camp, there’s a much better reason why the National Parks aren’t already overrun with immigrants or with homeless people from right here in America: They’re parks.

    As in, places like Yosemite or Yellowstone are largely wilderness by design. Camping there requires bringing in food, water, and anything else necessary to get through the day. Camping for an extended period takes extensive planning, is difficult, and is often expensive.

    The best indicator of the inherent ridiculousness of this Republican fearmongering is how much this is not happening now. No one, but no one, is running into large groups of immigrants or homeless people, in National Parks.

    But then, Republicans aren’t interested in reality. This isn’t even the first ad campaign in which they’ve used AI images to create a vision of a bleak dystopian future. Last spring, Republicans ran another ad campaign using AI images. Guess what that one was about. [image at the link showing AI generated immigrants crossing a river]

    To be fair, the first Republican fantasy-fest wasn’t all about immigrants. It also featured AI-generated images of cities burning and cities overrun with people who are simply … not white. All of it is designed around the horrible fears that dominate Republican minds. Fears like diversity, acceptance, equality, and progress.

    Republicans are sure to do this again. They can’t find the images they need in reality. So they’re increasingly turning to AI to get that visceral thrill of seeing the dystopian future that’s sure to exist … if we don’t give all power to a single-party authoritarian government whose leader has promised to gather up all the unsuitable people, put them in massive camps, and do away with the protections of law.

    If the Republicans want a real challenge, they could try making a propaganda reel showing what things will be like if they win.

    But then, that reel has already been done.

  209. says

    ‘We are out of money to support Ukraine in this fight,’ Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young said in a letter to congressional leaders.

    Washington Post link

    The White House issued an urgent warning to Congress on Monday about Ukraine’s need for additional aid to help it resist Russia’s invasion, with Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young bluntly writing in a letter to congressional leaders that the United States is “out of money to support Ukraine in this fight.”

    In the letter, Young wrote that “without congressional action, by the end of the year we will run out of resources to procure more weapons and equipment for Ukraine and to provide equipment from U.S. military stocks.”

    “There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment. We are out of money — and nearly out of time,” she added, emphasizing that Congress must decide whether “we continue to fight for freedom across the globe or we ignore the lessons we have learned from history and let [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and autocracy prevail.”

    A Biden administration request for nearly $106 billion for Ukraine, Israel and other needs remains stalled on Capitol Hill.

    The White House has faced difficulty garnering support from Republicans for continued aid to Ukraine […] Republicans have sought to tie the aid negotiations to U.S.-Mexico border policy changes — an issue on which Congress has failed to take broad-ranging action for decades.

    […] “House Republicans have resolved that any national security supplemental package must begin with our own border,” Johnson’s [ House Speaker Mike Johnson (D-La.)] statement said. “We believe both issues can be agreed upon if Senate Democrats and the White House will negotiate reasonably.” [Republicans are making unreasonable demands, like building Trump’s wall, changing asylum rules in ways that would prevent most immigrants from requesting asylum, etc.]

    In September, under pressure from House Republicans, lawmakers agreed to strip Ukraine aid from a bill to continue funding the government and avert a shutdown. [hostage taking by the Republicans] The rejection came nine days after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky flew to Washington and pleaded with lawmakers to maintain aid.

    The Biden administration request includes about $61 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel, roughly $14 billion for immigration priorities and $10 billion for humanitarian aid, as well as more funding to counter China’s influence in Asia and the developing world.

    Without congressional action to continue the flow of U.S. military equipment and resources to Ukraine, Young wrote, the United States would “kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield, not only putting at risk the gains Ukraine has made, but increasing the likelihood of Russian military victories.”

    “Already, our packages of security assistance have become smaller and the deliveries of aid have become more limited,” Young wrote. “If our assistance stops, it will cause significant issues for Ukraine. While our allies around the world have stepped up to do more, U.S. support is critical and cannot be replicated by others.” […]

    Putin is getting what he wanted.

  210. says

    Supreme Court tackles Sackler family liability protections in opioid settlement

    The Biden administration is questioning a bankruptcy plan that lets the Sackler family avoid future lawsuits related to the opioid epidemic.

    The Supreme Court on Monday [today] will examine the Biden administration’s objection to the bankruptcy reorganization of opioid maker Purdue Pharma, which includes a provision that protects the Sackler family from liability from future lawsuits.

    It is no ordinary bankruptcy case, touching as it does upon the nationwide harm caused by the opioid crisis and the role that Sackler-owned Purdue played in creating it.

    As part of the proposed deal, which the Supreme Court put on hold in August, the Sackler family had agreed to pay around $6 billion that could be used to settle opioid-related claims, but only in return for a complete release from any liability in future cases.

    The overall settlement, including assets held by Purdue, is likely to be worth significantly more, with the reorganized company set to dedicate itself to tackling the impact of opioid abuse.

    […] During oral arguments on Monday, the justices will probe whether the bankruptcy court had the authority to release the Sackler family members from the claims being made by opioid victims.

    Purdue made billions from OxyContin, a widely available painkiller that fueled the opioid epidemic. The company’s tactics in aggressively marketing the drug came under increasing scrutiny as thousands of people died from opioid overdoses in recent years.

    The company sought bankruptcy protection, but the Sackler family members did not. Instead, they negotiated a separate deal with Purdue and plaintiffs in pending lawsuits that would allow the company to reinvent itself to address the opioid crisis.

    The Biden administration objects to the release of additional claims against the Sacklers, saying it would be unfair to potential future plaintiffs.

    Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote in a court filing that the settlement prevents the Sacklers from facing “claims alleging damages in the trillions” while “keeping billions of dollars that they siphoned from Purdue.”

    In a May decision, the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals approved the plan over the objection of William Harrington, the U.S. government trustee monitoring the bankruptcy. The Justice Department’s trustee program, of which Harrington is part, is aimed at ensuring that the bankruptcy system operates as required under law.

    Purdue has criticized Harrington’s role, noting that groups representing thousands of plaintiffs have signed on to the settlement, which could not have happened without the Sackler family contribution.

    “This intense, yearslong process culminated in a series of interlocking agreements dependent on the multibillion-dollar settlement reached with the Sacklers,” Purdue lawyers said in court papers.

    At the Supreme Court, various groups representing plaintiffs are supporting Purdue, including one that includes 1,300 cities, counties and other municipalities, and another representing 60,000 individuals affected by the opioid epidemic.

    In one brief filed by a group representing a large array of plaintiffs, lawyers wrote that their clients “have no love lost for the Sacklers” but recognize that the settlement is “the only means of getting billions of dollars in life-changing and live-saving funds … that are desperately needed today.”

    Canadian municipalities and Indigenous First Nations are among those objecting to the settlement.

    Purdue flourished under brothers Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, who died in 2010 and 2017, respectively. The family reaped billions and spent lavishly […]

    The family told the Supreme Court that it continues to back the settlement.

    In a brief filed on behalf of the relatives of Mortimer Sackler, most of whom are based overseas, lawyers warned of “significant litigation costs and risks” in seeking to enforce any foreign court judgments against the family if the settlement were thrown out.

  211. says

    I don’t have to give an argument for atheism and neither does anyone else, it’s disbelief. I just disbelieve. Someone else want me to defend my disbelief, do the work of explaining why their beliefs aren’t believable.

  212. Reginald Selkirk says

    … the only thing they have to show for their control of the House are vicious interparty fights.

    Probably should be intraparty fights

  213. Reginald Selkirk says

    23andMe confirms hackers stole ancestry data on 6.9 million users

    On Friday, genetic testing company 23andMe announced that hackers accessed the personal data of 0.1% of customers, or about 14,000 individuals. The company also said that by accessing those accounts, hackers were also able to access “a significant number of files containing profile information about other users’ ancestry.” But 23andMe would not say how many “other users” were impacted by the breach that the company initially disclosed in early October.

    As it turns out, there were a lot of “other users” who were victims of this data breach: 6.9 million affected individuals in total…

  214. says

    About that Heritage Foundation “Project 2025” questionnaire, this is from the New York Times:

    […] Candidates are asked whether they agree or disagree with the statement that “the president should be able to advance his/her agenda through the bureaucracy without hinderance from unelected federal officials.”


    For several decades, the Heritage Foundation has been more than a leading think tank for the right, it’s also helped serve as a farm team of sorts for Republican officials: GOP offices looking for qualified and professional staffers routinely turned to Heritage for personnel assistance. […]

    With this recent history in mind, Axios reported a few weeks ago on the Heritage Foundation “pre-screening the ideologies” of thousands of people hoping to work in a second Trump administration. The goal, the report added, is to “install a pre-vetted, pro-Trump army of up to 54,000 loyalists across government to rip off the restraints imposed on the previous 46 presidents.” These far-right ideologues would be deployed throughout the federal bureaucracy, taking on “legal, judicial, defense, regulatory and domestic policy jobs.”

    […] Axios advanced the story, shining a light on “the exact questionnaires Trump allies are using” as part of the pre-screening process. […] [See New York Times excerpt above]


  215. says

    As summarized by Steve Benen from an NBC News article:

    Gov. Doug Burgum struggled in recent months to gain national traction, and this morning, the North Dakota Republican suspended his longshot presidential campaign. The governor is the latest in a GOP series of candidates to drop out, following Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, former Rep. Will Hurd, businessman Perry Johnson, media personality Larry Elder, former Vice President Mike Pence, and Sen. Tim Scott.

  216. says

    Steve Benen:

    Former Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who’ll appear on The Rachel Maddow Show tonight, told CBS News’ John Dickerson that if her party were in the majority after the 2024 elections, “I do think it presents a threat” to the U.S. political system.

  217. says

    Rep. James Comer’s newest ‘smoking gun’ debunked in record time

    Rep. James Comer put a considerable amount of product in his hair Monday before recording a video claiming to have new smoking-gun evidence of President Joe Biden’s corruption. Comer, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, dramatically announced that “Hunter Biden’s legal team and the White House’s media allies claim Hunter’s corporate entities never made payments directly to Joe Biden. We can officially add this latest talking point to the list of lies. Today, the House Oversight Committee is releasing subpoenaed bank records that show Hunter Biden’s business entity, Owasco PC, made direct monthly payments to Joe Biden.” [video at the link]

    Sounds devastating. Right-wing media outlets excitedly pushed out the details, specifically that Hunter Biden set up “recurring payments” of $1,380 in late 2018. Besides being an extraordinarily small amount of money in the grand scheme of corruption, the thinnest digging revealed that Joe Biden was not president in 2018. In fact, deeper investigation reveals that Biden wasn’t even in any political office at the time!

    Receipts were then posted that revealed Hunter Biden was paying his father back for helping to cover car payments while he was in between jobs. The three monthly payments totaled $4,140.

    […] every single smoking gun these guys announce seems to prove that President Joe Biden has been a very supportive father. He sure hasn’t helped his son-in-law get $2 billion in Saudi money, but we all can’t be that good at “winning.”

  218. says

    Commander projects Mikey Weinstein on screen at unit gathering, calls him “anti-Christian terrorist“

    That time of year is upon us once again — that joyful season when crusading Christian military commanders bent on bringing all of their subordinates to Jesus abuse their authority to compel all to have a merrily mandatory Christmas. Often, this is done in the form of a commander’s Christmas party, which all unit members are expected to attend, lest they end up in the “naughty” column on their commander’s “naughty or nice” list (a distinction that, in all seriousness, could negatively affect their careers).

    In this story, the commander, who, according to two Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) installation representatives in the unit, “belongs to a well known Christian proselytizing organization whose express mission is to spread The Gospel of Jesus Christ in the military community,” was planning his annual “Christmas Extravaganza Party.” This “party,” as described by the MRFF reps, who had been at it the two previous years, is “more like a solemn Christmas religious service and less like a party,” with “chaplains who lead sectarian Christian prayers” and only the most religious of Christmas carols sung.

    And, of course, attendance was not to be optional, with the commander saying he expected the unit’s “full participation” at “my Christmas Extravaganza Party.”

    But this year, 47 members of the unit (36 of whom are Christians, as are the two MRFF reps) decided to put a stop to their commander’s torturous tradition, calling upon the MRFF reps to represent them. With threats of bringing in Mikey Weinstein and the full force of MRFF, the commander at length relented, reluctantly agreeing to the demands of the MRFF reps and their 47 clients to rename the event and make it inclusive of all.

    The story doesn’t end there, however. The true insanity didn’t occur until a few days later. As the MRFF reps reported in an e-mail to Mikey Weinstein (emphasis added):

    “Several days later at a previously scheduled mandatory unit gathering, our Commander started the meeting off by getting all jacked about what had happened with our demands. He started loudly yelling about what had gone down with the new name change and other inclusive changes for ‘his’ Christmas event and the new emphasis on inclusion and diversity. He said that the ‘globalist War on Christmas’ had no place in his unit and that ‘Christmas is for everybody anyway.’ He then said that he knew that many in our unit were as equally pissed off as he was. And that they should direct and vent their rage against ‘that anti-Christian terrorist Mikey Weinstein and the anti-Christian MRFF.’ He then had the screen projector show a picture of Mikey with his 800 phone number at the MRFF plainly visible.”

    But this Christmas-crazed commander wasn’t done yet. He continued his raucous retaliatory rant by telling the unit’s members to contact their members of Congress in support of Christian nationalist Rep. Mike Turner’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment to shut MRFF down by making it illegal for military members to contact or respond to MRFF (a measure that is still up in the air with the NDAA still in conference and the final bill not having been passed yet). As the MRFF reps wrote in their e-mail to Mikey (emphasis added):

    “Our Commander then additionally advised all attendees to contact their Members of Congress as Congress was ‘just this far away’ (he held up his left thumb and left forefinger to indicate a very short distance) from finally accomplishing the banning of MRFF from even existing anymore. He even told everyone that this was his personal Christmas wish for this year.

    When I first heard about this commander putting a picture of Mikey up on the screen, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the time, over a decade and a half ago now, when a prominent fundamentalist mega-church pastor put Mikey’s picture up on the large screen TVs in his church, dubbing him the “Field General of the Godless Armies of Satan.” As outrageous as that was, that was a civilian pastor, who was free to do it. This is a freakin’ military commander, which is an altogether different matter!

    Here is the entire e-mail from the two MRFF reps, who we all should congratulate on a job well done!

    From: (MRFF Reps’/Clients’ e-mail address withheld)
    Subject: Our Commander calls Mikey and MRFF “Anti-Christian Terrorists” after renaming of unit’s “Christmas Extravaganza Party”
    Date: December 1, 2023 at 5:02:50 PM MST
    To: Mikey Weinstein

    Hello Mikey and all of our colleagues at the MRFF.

    The undersigned are both MRFF representatives at a large U.S. military installation. We both happen to be practicing Christians however from different denominations.

    Please keep any of our identity information redacted from this communication for the obvious reasons of avoiding retaliation.

    We are not actually requesting Mikey or MRFF’s additional specific help on this matter at the moment as we have already been able to use our positions as MRFF reps on our military installation as a force multiplier to get our Commander to take the action we demanded from him. But we wanted you all to know what just went down anyway.

    It’s just so disgraceful!

    Our unit has a distinct combat mission and is fairly large and very diverse. Like most military units It is comprised of outstanding personnel from many different ethnicities, religions, cultures, theologies or lack thereof and related personal backgrounds.

    Our Commander is a well known supporter of evangelical Christianity, especially never missing an opportunity to try to spread it in uniform and on duty using his rank and influence. He belongs to a well known Christian proselytizing organization whose express mission is to spread The Gospel of Jesus Christ in the military community.

    In past years he has made it clear that he expected the unit’s “full participation” at “my Christmas Extravaganza Party”. Having been at the last 2 of these we can assure you that these gatherings are more like a solemn Christmas religious service and less like a party. There are chaplains who lead sectarian Christian prayers and New Testament bible readings at these events and the only Christmas carols on tap to be sung by all attendees are the most sectarian possible. No “Jingle Bells”, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” or “Frosty the Snowman”. Just “Joy to the World”, “Silent Night”, “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” and “Come All Ye Faithful” and the like. So much for morale, discipline good order and especially unit cohesion. So many attendees have felt badly alienated and ostracized. But what could we all do? It’s essentially mandatory to attend as per our Commander’s “full participation expectation”.

    So this year we were asked by 47 active duty military members here at our installation to request that this agonizing event be renamed and reorganized IAW [in accordance with] all of the diversity, equity and inclusion principles of our service branch and DoD. As well as on-point service branch regulations and the Core Values of our service branch. 36 of our 47 MRFF clients are either Protestant or Catholic. 4 are Jewish, 2 are Islamic. 1 is Buddhist, 1 is Sikh and 3 self-identify as Atheist or Agnostic. At the top of our demand list to the Commander was to rename the event as our unit “Holiday Season Party” and to deep-six the name of “Christmas Extravaganza Party”.

    We requested to meet with our Commander but somehow he was constantly “unavailable”. Instead he had us meet with his “Christmas Event Coordination Team”. After a pretty contentious 2 hour-plus meeting, including serious threats by us to bring in Mikey personally and the MRFF full force to achieve our goals, it was agreed to rename and reorganize the event to make it secular and inclusive for all unit attendees as per our demands. Clearly nobody from Command wanted the MRFF to roll in and engage any further which frankly we found to be delightful! We were so happy we had prevailed!

    Our happiness was short-lived, however.

    Several days later at a previously scheduled mandatory unit gathering, our Commander started the meeting off by getting all jacked about what had happened with our demands. He started loudly yelling about what had gone down with the new name change and other inclusive changes for “his” Christmas event and the new emphasis on inclusion and diversity. He said that the “globalist War on Christmas” had no place in his unit and that “Christmas is for everybody anyway”. He then said that he knew that many in our unit were as equally pissed off as he was. And that they should direct and vent their rage against “that anti-Christian terrorist Mikey Weinstein and the anti-Christian MRFF”. He then had the screen projector show a picture of Mikey with his 800 phone number at the MRFF plainly visible. Our Commander then additionally advised all attendees to contact their Members of Congress as Congress was “just this far away” (he held up his left thumb and left forefinger to indicate a very short distance) from finally accomplishing the banning of MRFF from even existing anymore. He even told everyone that this was his personal Christmas wish for this year.

    Most people at this meeting seemed shocked by these rage antics by our Commander. People were looking around at each other with confusion, fear and even embarrassment by what he was screaming about. Needless to say no one is particularly looking forward to this mandatory “party” given the unjustified wrath displayed by our Commander towards Mikey and the MRFF. And we presume the two of us as installation MRFF reps as well.

    We all want to thank Mikey and the whole of MRFF for always being there for us. Through the years the MRFF has intervened successfully many times at our particular military installation. Were it not for the MRFF we would never have had the resolve to stand up to our Commander in the first place on behalf of our 47 MRFF clients and comrades-in-arms. If any of us get any personal blowback from our Commander or his lackeys we will immediately ask for MRFF’s help in fighting back.

    (Names, ranks, titles, unit, and installation of both MRFF Reps withheld)

  219. says

    Florida attorney general is arguing in court for virtually unlimited book-banning authority

    Republicans like to rail against public schools as “government schools,” with the implication that they are sites where the government brainwashes children with liberal and “woke” ideology. Now, Florida Republicans are in court arguing that Florida public schools are their government schools and can be required to push their message—all the way down to the books in the school libraries.

    In response to two lawsuits against the Escambia County and Lake County school boards and, in one case, state education officials, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and the two school boards are arguing, as Moody put it in her brief, that “Public-school systems, including their libraries, convey the government’s message.” According to Moody, who is representing the state, public school libraries are “a forum for government speech,” not a “forum for free expression.” The logical extension of that position is that whoever is in charge of the government gets to decide on all of the information that is not only taught in schools but available in their libraries.

    Republicans are of course safe in pushing this idea because while they will ban books with LGBTQ+ characters and anti-racist messages, Democratic administrations tend to leave decisions up to the professionals in the schools. Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, for example, is not pushing for the removal of books with straight characters because she is herself LGBTQ+.

    This lawsuit, reported on in depth by the Tallahassee Democrat, is a classic case of Republicans ignoring concerns about hypocrisy to simply argue for whatever gives them power at any given moment.

    “There’s considerable irony in that those who seek to limit access to books in school libraries often say they’re fighting for parental rights,” said Ken Paulson, director of the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University. “If government speech determines what books can be in the library, the government is essentially saying your children can only see the ideas that the government has approved.

    “That’s not parental rights,” he added. “That’s authoritarianism.”

    A group of First Amendment scholars filed an amicus brief in one of the cases, describing the Escambia County board’s argument, one shared by the state, as an “aggressive, unprecedented interpretation of the government speech doctrine” being deployed “to justify the politically motivated manipulation of the contents of public school libraries.” That amicus brief offers multiple grounds for the courts to completely reject the claim that schools are a forum for government speech (a term with a specific, limited meaning in legal precedent). The problem, of course, is the courts today.

    The current Supreme Court has shown that it will overturn decades of precedent for partisan benefit. So we’ll see how this one goes. But when Republicans try to claim that they’re not really banning books, remember their argument in court that “Public-school systems, including their libraries, convey the government’s message.” At least, that’s what they want when Republicans are in charge.

  220. says

    […] There’s also this Slate letter signed by Dahlia Lithwick, Joyce White Vance and others on the sexual torture that was visited on Israeli women on October 7. It is Definition Trigger Warning. If you are (and I was!) of the vague opinion that sex crime as war crime is bad but like the least of the atrocities, well. You will be disabused. […]

  221. Reginald Selkirk says

    Texas sues Pfizer with COVID anti-vax argument that is pure stupid

    Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Pfizer last week, claiming the pharmaceutical giant “deceived the public” by “unlawfully misrepresenting” the effectiveness of its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine and sought to silence critics.

    The lawsuit also blames Pfizer for not ending the pandemic after the vaccine’s release in December 2020. “Contrary to Pfizer’s public statements, however, the pandemic did not end; it got worse” in 2021, the complaint reads.

    “We are pursuing justice for the people of Texas, many of whom were coerced by tyrannical vaccine mandates to take a defective product sold by lies,” Paxton said in a press release. “The facts are clear. Pfizer did not tell the truth about their COVID-19 vaccines.”

    In all, Paxton’s 54-page complaint acts as a compendium of pandemic-era anti-vaccine misinformation and tropes while making a slew of unsupported claims. But, central to the Lone Star State’s shaky legal argument is one that centers on the standard math Pfizer used to assess the effectiveness of its vaccine: a calculation of relative risk reduction…

  222. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Reginald Selkirk #79, @Brony #285:
    One could just, not let them pretend they’ve even communicated a position to refute.

    RationalWiki – Ignosticism

    “We have no clear concept of anything labeled ‘God’ and/or how to test a clear concept of God.” In fact, there is no evidence that anyone has a clear idea of God or how to test for its existence either.
    The answer is invariably that “does God exist” is a non-question not worth taking seriously until someone, some day, comes along with a clear, non-outlandish, and falsifiable concept.
    In general, those rare times when falsifiable definitions of God are given, they are easily falsified. Experience shows that for the majority of God debates, the conversations are pointless and time-wasting.

  223. says

    Bundy update:

    I have to confess that I missed this bit of news with regards to the right wing extremist Ammon Bundy and his legal troubles. It’s extremely confusing, but Bundy had been arrested on a contempt of court warrant for his actions after the FIRST TRIAL involving defamation against St Luke’s Hospital. Bundy lost that defamation suit, and the court awarded damages of $52 million dollars to St Luke’s. As I pointed out previously, Bundy failed to comply with the court orders, but I missed that St Luke’s took Bundy to court A SECOND TIME(!) and got him ARRESTED! Bundy made bail, and it is then he did a runner.

    Yes, there is another arrest warrant out for Ammon Bundy. This is all very Trumpian. And if you are confused, it’s because this is SOP for right wing crooks.

    […] Bundy “sold” his home to a one of his friend’s for $250,000 and paid “rent” to him. By the way, the home is 4, 760 square feet. Anyway, Bundy gave St Luke’s and the judge the middle finger. This is when St Luke’s took him back to court, and the judge ordered Bundy’s arrest. […]

    […] Bundy said he felt attacked.

    “The largest corporation in Idaho is attacking me because I’m exposing them. … I do not see how I could go up against this monster in court,” Bundy said.

    Boo hoo hoo. Typical Trumpian projection going on here. This from the man who sicced a mob on the hospital. Bundy claimed that St Luke’s was involved in child sex trafficking, and the mob attacked the hospital. This was because one of Bundy’s supporters grandkid ended up in the emergency room, and the hospital contacted child protective services because the child was malnourished and dehydrated.

    Now, it turns out that Bundy was going to go through a second trial over this issue, but this time the issue was contempt of court. But guess what happened next? [News from last summer:] Bundy has a new warrant out for his arrest after skipping the first day of his court trial.

    Bundy and Rodirguez did not attend the two-week jury trial in July[…] “Once again, Mr. Bundy thinks he can simply say he does not need to be in court. Again, that is not how the rule of law works in this country,” Baskin said.

    […] Bundy did appear in court in August after he was arrested on contempt of court charges.

    So this is where you can get lost. Because Bundy decided to quit the first contempt of court trial, he now will have to have ANOTHER CONTEMPT OF COURT TRIAL! And it appears this is both a criminal and civil contempt trial. And if they ever find the asshole and keep him in jail for the trial, Bundy could get up to six months in jail if convicted.

    So to summarize:
    – Bundy harassed and sicced a mob on St Luke’s Hospital. The hospital sued Bundy for defamation, and he lost big time.
    – Bundy tried to hide his assets by selling his home and violate the court orders from the defamation trial.
    – St Luke’s took him back to court for his contempt of court, and Bundy got arrested.
    – Bundy posted bail, and he decided to do a runner instead of participating in the new trial.
    – The court has now issued an arrest warrent for Bundy for a second contempt of court trial.


    Okay then, Bundy is still a criminal, and Bundy is in a hole and still digging. I bet he is found and jailed soon.

  224. says

    […] You just can’t get good help these days. These guys took the money and ran.
    [Tweet and images at the link]

    💰 Earning money in the Russian Army. How eight Nepalese “dumped” the Ministry of Defense and fled from the Northern Military District ‼️🤣🤣🤣

    “I think it’s no secret to anyone that you can meet not only citizens of the Russian Federation in the Northern Military District. In places there are inhabitants of Central and South America, Central Asia or Africa . Some are interested in a Russian residence permit or a Russian citizen passport. But most go for money that they cannot earn at home, despite the risk to life and health.

    The case that I’m going to tell you about today is unique, since it’s not often in the northeast district that you can meet residents of such a distant country as Nepal .

    The heroes of our story are eight residents of the Republic of Nepal who came to Russia in search of work . They crossed the Russian border on October 14, 2023 .

    In early November, while in Moscow, they signed a contract with the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, agreeing to take part in the Northern Military District. Then they were distributed to one of the units of the 58th Combined Arms Army of the Russian Federation (military unit 47084, North Ossetia) .

    Their names (arranged according to numbering in the photo):
    1. Khadka Chetendra , born April 29, 1979, private, grenade launcher;
    2. Adhikari Yubraj , born 10/06/1979, private, machine gunner;
    3. Bishwakarma Lal Bahadur , born 05/08/1983, private, senior rifleman;
    4. Bishwakarma Tilak Bahadur , born 08/05/1989, private, machine gunner;
    5. Khadka Deepak , born July 26, 1998, private, grenade launcher;
    6. Bhattarai Laxman , born July 26, 1982, private, machine gunner;
    7. Pahadi Jagadish , born July 22, 1984, private, senior rifleman;
    8. Rahapal Sushant Kumar , born June 17, 1992, private, rifleman.

    Each of them received 195 thousand rubles , which are issued upon the initial signing of a contract with the RF Armed Forces. Moreover, they even managed to be delivered to the unit located in the Rostov region.

    However, the heroes of our story decided that “bird in hand” was better, and they did not intend to risk their lives.

    Without spending even two weeks in service, on the night of November 16-17, 2023, eight Nepalese escaped from the unit’s location. A search has been announced. They are charged with Art. 337 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation – unauthorized abandonment of a unit.

    As of December 1, 2023, they were never found. They are probably already outside the territory of the Russian Federation.

    Such a success story from Nepalese expats.

    Photos of failed contract workers below 👇.

    Link. Scroll down to view.


  225. says

    @Lynna, OM, #298:

    I remember when we were told — by the same people now pushing these rape claims, Hillary Clinton and, in fact, a bunch of Israelis who claimed to have inside information! — that Gaddafi’s troops were taking Viagra so they could rape more effectively, and so all feminists had to be in favor of the invasion of Libya. Then, after the invasion, that claim was debunked and Hillary Clinton never spoke of it again and the Israelis who had made the claim admitted that they had made it up. And then there was the claim that Hamas had beheaded 40 babies on October 7, which rapidly became a claim that Hamas had killed 40 babies, which rapidly became an admission that 1 baby had been found dead after October 7, but that the IDF could not rule out having killed it themselves. (Biden lied outright that he had seen footage of the 40 beheaded babies, and has never admitted it was a lie, incidentally. That’s the kind of integrity the Democrats are showing these days.) And there was the admission that at least some of the deaths at the music festival were caused by Israeli helicopters firing indiscriminately — of which the footage has now “gone missing”, and Israel has decided to literally bury the cars which were parked nearby “to show respect” so they will no longer be available as evidence of the direction of fire. And then there was the admission that at least half the initial body count we were supposed to find so horrifying was made up of Palestinians and active-duty IDF, not Israeli civilians, even ignoring the fact that some portion of the civilian deaths were caused by the IDF. And there are Israeli eyewitnesses who have come forward saying the IDF ground troops were firing on Israelis. And then, just a couple of days ago, the NYT reported that Israel knew the attack was coming as much as a year before it happened — which means that they deliberately sacrificed all the people who died at the music festival (which was encouraged to extend to October 7 by the Israeli authorities).

    Here is some better-written text a Twitter thread (Musk wants us to call it X, so call it Twitter) by user RotaryCup:

    You’re seeing an obvious coordinated effort to disseminate propaganda about mass sexual violence from 2 months ago. Notice the complete lack of mention of alleged crimes against babies/children now. Those headlines have disappeared because they were falsifiable; these are not.

    Anonymous/nameless allegations of mass rape are not falsifiable and that’s the point: you’re not meant to have an opportunity to scrutinize evidence because even expressing scepticism makes you anti-Semitic, a rape apologist, or a weirdo who wants to look at graphic footage.

    These are the same tactics which were used to sell every military conflict since 9/11, being used by the same totally unethical warmongers who sold all those conflicts, and people like you have failed to recognize a very obvious pattern. It’s an open-book test, and you’re still failing. I almost wish I believed in an afterlife, because there is no punishment strong enough for the people who are supporting this genocide — as Lord Vetinari said in Terry Pratchett’s later book Snuff, how could we build a scaffold high enough to hang them from, given the punishments we give for more common crimes which do less harm?

  226. says

    Vicar @304. I am waiting for more information.

    In related news, NBC reports:

    The Israeli military announced it was expanding its ground assault against Hamas to all of the Gaza Strip, following the collapse of the truce deal that saw more than 100 hostages and 240 Palestinian prisoners freed.

    New York Times:

    Up to 1.8 million Gazans — around 80 percent of the population — have been forced to leave their homes since Israel began its bombardment in response to Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7. That number is expected to rise after Israel issued a new evacuation order on Saturday for areas in the south.

    Associated Press:

    Ballistic missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels struck three commercial ships Sunday in the Red Sea, while a U.S. warship shot down three drones in self-defense during the hourslong assault, the U.S. military said. The Iranian-backed Houthis claimed two of the attacks.

  227. says

    NBC News:

    India’s space aspirations show no signs of slowing, as the country strengthens cooperation with the United States on a slew of upcoming science and human spaceflight missions. The partnerships between the U.S. and India’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organization, were part of a key visit to the country last week by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

  228. says

    This is a fascinating story amidst the general tragedy and bleak carnage of the last two months. Two scholars analyzed trading in the days just before the October 7th massacres in southern Israel and put together a pretty strong case that someone essentially shorted the Israeli economy based on foreknowledge of the attacks. Specially they tracked short selling of an exchange traded fund which gave investors broad exposure to the Israeli economy.

    I’m far from an expert on this topic of this kind of analysis. So perhaps someone with greater technical knowledge could find gaps in the argument. But it seems pretty convincing: short-selling just in advance of October 7th that greatly exceeded what had been seen during various crises over the last twenty years – COVID, the great recession, various Israeli wars and domestic crises. If you’re a Haaretz subscriber they have a detailed write-up here. You can also read the paper published at SSRN here.

    As we’ve learned recently, Israel had a decent amount of advance intelligence on an attack something like the one that happened on October.7th. Most of that intelligence was disregarded in the belief that Hamas lacked the capacity to mount an attack on that scale and also because it was widely believed that Hamas hoped for a sustained period of “quiet” with Israel. But the exact date of the planning would have been a closely guarded secret. It seems likely that the trades were placed by someone with various tightly held knowledge of Hamas’s plans.

  229. says

    House GOPer Moves To Cut Off Pension Benefits For Ousted Members

    […] Today we learned that expelled-Rep. George Santos (R-NY) is using the website Cameo to sell videos for cash now that he no longer has a congressional salary and has been accused of, among many other things, misappropriating campaign funds to bankroll his expensive taste.

    Inspired by Santos’ shamelessness, it appears a former colleague in the House may be taking legislative action to cut off some financial benefits for expelled members in the future.

    Rep. Zach Nunn (R-IA), one of 100-plus Republicans who voted to expel Santos from Congress last week, introduced the Congressional Pension Accountability Act on Monday, which would block lawmakers who are expelled from Congress from accessing a congressional pension. While Santos is not entitled to a pension because a member, typically, must serve five or more years to be eligible, Nunn said it was necessary to have a “road map” for the future.

    “No one should be serving in Congress, be excommunicated and removed from Congress, and still be able to draw a pension,” Nunn said at a press briefing Monday. “A pension is earned for honorable service. When you’re removed from office … you should not be able to continue to cash in on the American taxpayer’s dime.” […]

    George Santos posted a tweet: “The truth will set me free! ❤️🙏🏽”

  230. says

    Zelensky will brief senators Tuesday ahead of key vote on military aid

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address senators at a classified briefing Tuesday via a secure video conference feed, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced.

    Zelensky will brief senators on the state of the war in Ukraine and the need for another round of military aid a day before the Senate is scheduled to vote on proceeding to the legislative vehicle for a $106 billion emergency foreign aid package that includes more than $61 billion for Ukraine.

    “The administration has invited President Zelensky to address senators … as part of our classified briefing tomorrow so we can hear directly from him precisely what’s at stake in this vote,” Schumer announced on the Senate floor. “I ask that all senators — all senators — attend this important briefing.”

    Zelensky warned senators at a closed-door meeting in the Old Senate Chamber in September that Ukraine would lose its war with Russia without more aid from the United States.

    Schumer filed cloture Monday evening on a motion to proceed to the shell bill that will carry the supplemental foreign aid package.

    The final details of the package are still being worked out. It’s being held up by a disagreement between the two parties about adding immigration and asylum policy reforms to reduce the flow of migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border.

  231. says

    Sanders opposed to sending $10B to ‘extremist Netanyahu government’ in Israel

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), one of the Senate’s most prominent progressives, on Monday stated his opposition to sending $10.1 billion to the “Netanyahu government to continue its current offensive military approach,” lambasting the siege and assault of Gaza as “immoral.”

    “I do not think we should be appropriating $10.1 billion for the right-wing, extremist Netanyahu government to continue its current military approach. What the Netanyahu government is doing is immoral, it is in violation of international law, and the United States should not be complicit in those actions,” Sanders argued on the Senate floor.

    […] “I believe it is appropriate to support defensive systems that will protect Israeli civilians against incoming missile and rockets attacks, but I believe that it would be absolutely irresponsible to provide an additional $10.1 billion in unconditional military aid that will allow the Netanyahu government to continue its current offensive military approach,” he said. […]

  232. KG says

    The Vicar@304,
    Systematic rape in war is unfortunately very common – I’ll reserve judgement on allegations it took place during the Hamas attack. We do know that both Hamas and Israel have carried out deliberate and systematic war crimes duirng this war – taking civilian hostages on Hamas’s side, mass murder of civilians on Israel’s. I don’t regard it as proven that the Israeli authorities deliberately allowed the October 7th attack – arrogant disbelief that Hamas was capable of carrying out such an attack, and the “need” to use the IDF to support further land theft on the West Bank are an alternative explanation. What is most significant in this regard, if it stands up to further examination, is the “short selling of an exchange traded fund which gave investors broad exposure to the Israeli economy.” (Lynna, OM@107 quoting TPM), which would indicate knowledge of the actual date of the forthcoming attack by people outwith Hamas. “Follow the money”, as usual.

  233. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 310

    What the Netanyahu government is doing is immoral, it is in violation of international law, and the United States should not be complicit in those actions…”

    Since when has morality ever stopped the U.S. from backing fascist governments in the name of its own “interests” (i.e. money and power)?

    Besides, Bernie. Didn’t you get the memo? The Civilized world has finally decided to let the Israeli’s commit a genocide of its own. It’s only fair.

  234. StevoR says

    What is it with horrible people who seem tohave gotten away with stuff suing for defamation here in Oz? Fiorts Bne Roberts Smith ( ) then the disgusting Bruce Lehrmann ( ) and now hateful, electorally rejected transphobe Moira Deeming! Will they ever learn? :

    ictorian MP Moira Deeming has lodged a defamation lawsuit against her former boss and state Liberal leader John Pesutto in the Federal Court. Ms Deeming had long threatened defamation action against Mr Pesutto amid a public and protracted dispute following her attendance at an anti-trans rights rally earlier in the year. The upper house member for Western Metropolitan had served for less than four months when she attended the Let Women Speak rally on the steps of Parliament House in March. That event was gatecrashed by neo-Nazis. Mr Pesutto moved to expel her from the party room following that event, citing her association with the organisers of the rally, who he said had links to neo-Nazis. She was instead suspended for nine months, before being ousted from the parliamentary party in May.

    After months of attempted mediation failed, Ms Deeming is now seeking aggravated damages from Mr Pesutto for alleged defamation in the wake of the event.

    Source :

    Be nice if our criminal courts delivered as ethical and actual justice “justice” as our our civil ones here. Sigh.

    Of course, also be nice if we maybe look at defamation and press freedom laws some as well..

  235. says


    Speaker Johnson said Republicans are blurring faces in Jan. 6 footage “because we don’t want them to be retaliated against and to be charged by the DOJ.”

    At a Capitol Hill press conference last week, House Speaker Mike Johnson boasted to reporters, “We are the rule-of-law team.” The Louisiana Republican quickly added, “The Republican Party stands for the rule of law.”

    The quote came to mind anew this morning. HuffPost reported:

    House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said Tuesday that Republicans are blurring faces in security footage from inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to protect rioters from prosecution. “We have to blur some of the faces of persons who participated in the events of that day because we don’t want them to be retaliated against and to be charged by the DOJ,” Johnson said at a press conference.

    Oh my.

    […] a couple of months into his tenure as House speaker, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy thought it’d be a good idea to give Tucker Carlson exclusive access to Jan. 6 security camera footage. The results were predictable: The host, before his departure from Fox News, cherry-picked footage that allowed him to tell the deceptive story he set out to tell, sparking outrage from both parties and law enforcement.

    Nearly 10 months later, McCarthy’s successor decided it was time to go a step further: Johnson released thousands of hours of security footage to the public. The results were again predictable: As a New York Times report recently explained, the move has “fueled a renewed effort by Republican lawmakers and far-right activists to rewrite the history of the attack that day and exonerate the pro-Trump rioters who took part.”

    […] “As you know,” Johnson told reporters, “we have to blur some of the faces of persons who participated in the events of that day because we don’t want them to be retaliated against and to be charged by the DOJ and to have other concerns and problems.”

    In other words, the Republican Party’s most powerful official is concerned that if law enforcement saw the unmodified footage, the Justice Department might see evidence of criminal misconduct. In order to prevent possible accountability, Johnson and the House GOP are taking deliberate steps to obscure the identities of those who entered the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack.

    It’s almost as if Johnson didn’t tell the truth last week when with his boast about Republicans being “the rule-of-law team.”

    HuffPost’s report added that while federal prosecutors have long had access to Jan. 6 security footage, “blurring people’s faces could prevent amateur investigators from sending tips to the FBI. Online sleuths have previously used social media and facial recognition software to help the government track down a number of suspects.”

  236. says

    Republicans imperil Ukraine aid with inflexible border demands

    […] Today, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, at the behest of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Joe Biden, will address senators via video conference at a classified briefing. The point is simple: The Ukrainian leader will make clear to lawmakers that U.S. military aid is absolutely necessary.

    But if the need is great, the crisis is now, and leaders of both parties are willing to support our allies in the midst of a deadly war, what’s the problem? The answer is that Republicans will only approve aid to Ukraine if Democrats agree to a series of far-right border policies.

    To be sure, there’s no connection between the war in Ukraine and domestic immigration. But GOP lawmakers believe they have leverage, effectively telling Democrats that Republicans will let Ukraine suffer unless the GOP gets the border measures they want.

    This isn’t altogether new: Republicans first presented this ultimatum a month ago, sparking detailed bipartisan negotiations. What is new is that those talks appear to have collapsed. NBC News reported:

    Republicans have vowed to filibuster Biden’s aid package unless Democrats agree to tighten U.S. asylum and parole laws in immigration proceedings. But bipartisan negotiations on a border policy deal, led by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., faltered on Friday amid deep disagreements between the two parties, according to congressional aides with knowledge of the talks.

    As The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reported last week, Democrats have already made a series of concessions in the hopes of reaching an agreement. GOP senators have not responded in kind — and it’s important to understand why.

    “I think there’s a misunderstanding on the part of Senator Schumer and some of our Democratic friends,” Republican Sen. John Cornyn told NBC News. “This is not a traditional negotiation, where we expect to come up with a bipartisan compromise on the border. This is a price that has to be paid in order to get the supplemental.”

    The Texan’s candor was illuminating. For these GOP senators, there is no give and take. These talks are not designed to be constructive policy negotiations in which both sides make concessions and work towards a common goal.

    Republicans, in the dynamic they’ve created for themselves, are not playing the role of policymakers. Rather, they want and expect to be seen as hostage-takers. They haven’t presented Democrats with an idea to be explored; they’ve handed Democrats a list of demands they expect to be met.

    Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut told Politico that in exchange for aid to Ukraine, “Republicans are insisting on policies that would ‘essentially close the border’ and eliminate asylum for people with meritorious claims.”

    Just so we’re clear, GOP leaders, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, actually want Ukraine to receive the support. I emphasize this because it creates a dynamic in which Republicans expect to get what they want in exchange for something else that Republicans also want.

    What’s more, it’s not just the Senate: House Speaker Mike Johnson has also told the White House that Ukraine is “dependent upon“ Democrats approving the far-right border policies the GOP wants.

    Schumer declared on the Senate floor yesterday afternoon, “Democrats want to be reasonable on immigration, and we are willing to make concessions. But we will not keep going in circles if Republicans aren’t interested in even meeting us halfway.”

    In response, GOP officials have already said they have no intention of meeting Democrats halfway. I can only imagine how pleased Russia’s Vladimir Putin is with the Republicans’ tactics.

  237. says

    Excerpts from live coverage of FBI Director Wray testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

    […] Senator John Kennedy says the problems with the FBI have come out of the Washington office. This is odd, considering that two Republicans devoted their entire time to screaming about a memo from low-level analysts in a single field office.

    Kennedy then asks Wray to talk about who made the decision to “raid” Mar-a-Lago. Wray points out that this would be a violation of just the kind that Kennedy just accused Comey. Wray talks in general terms about the need to use search warrants.

    […] after the first two Republicans to speak, every Republican has just sought the opportunity to talk about how much they don’t like the FBI.

    […] Hawley’s smugness and sneering is just beyond belief. This is something even Fox News would be embarrassed to run. He’s playing directly for a Newsmax / OAN audience.

    […] Senator Josh Hawley then tries to conflate a case in which someone who was piling up weapons, including Molotov cocktails, where the FBI asked people who knew them—including their priest—about the suspect. Hawley is now screaming at Wray about how many “choir directors” they have questioned.

    The smarminess of Hawley’s performance is hard to capture.

    […] We’re back with Sen. Mazie Hirono [Democrat] asking about human tracking and about the high levels of crimes against indigenous people.

    Wray talks about programs that are both designed to both track down criminals and rescue victims. Hirono mentioned six rescued people in what was a very friendly chat.

    […] Ted Cruz wins the award for being the first to bring up Hunter Biden. In fact, he doesn’t seem to be interested in hearing from Wray at all. He’s just sitting there reading out-of-context text excerpts and making claims about special counsel David Weiss. We’re going to just be treated to Cruz using his “I’m disgusted voice” for the next ten minutes.

    […] Now Cruz has moved into his screaming and shouting phase. “It’s not an ongoing investigation! You’re not doing the work!” Now saying that Merrick Garland has lied under oath and that he needs to be arrested.

    Cruz calls for his staffers to hold up a chart. Except they forgot the chart.

    Cruz is still screaming at Wray. “You’re simply sitting blithely by” while partisan Democrats yada, yada, yada. More screaming.

    Particularly hilarious is that Cruz keeps screaming about the idea the FBI might have notified Hunter Biden before searching a storage unit when that’s exactly what they did before the search of Mar-a-Lago.

    Five-minute break. Good chance that Cruz and Lee will now depart, having completed their camera time.

    […] Sen. Mike Lee launches into a bizarre case in which an FBI analyst reportedly searched through data to see if his father was having an affair.

    Wray, questioned about this, seems to have never heard of it. But Lee charges on. In the middle of one question, Wray notes that Lee is actually asking him about an NSA analyst, forcing Lee to hop to “if they had been FBI” would they be fired?

    Mike Lee is full-bore screaming now. “You have a lot of gall, sir! … This is why we have a Constitution, sir, and you must comply with it!”

    Mike Lee [Republican from Utah] goes into fluttering fury as Wray tries to defend 702.

    “You’re asking me to believe something that is not believable, because you have made it unbelievable, and I refuse to accept it.”

    Ladies and gentlemen, that would be the closing line of the Mike Lee Show for today.

    [….] Sen. Chris Coons is up and starts off by saying he hasn’t made his mind up on 702. He asks Wray about a bill put forward by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Marco Rubio that would forbid using 702 data in connection to a domestic crime without a court order, but would still allow its use to handle foreign intelligence without a warrant or order.

    Wray doesn’t seem to think this is too bad a compromise.

    […] Coons isn’t saying it explicitly, but the subtext here is that if Trump gets in, what protections are there that keep 702 data from being used to chase down anyone who dares speak up. Especially if Trump puts a MAGA zealot in charge of the FBI.

    […] Klobuchar asks Wray to talk to the effects of social media.

    Wray says there has been an increase in hate crimes, with a 60% increase in already high numbers since October 7.

    […] Now Sen. Chuck Grassley is up and talking about what he calls the “Richmond field office anti-Catholic memo” and claims that two other offices were involved.

    This is a conspiracy theory that has been played up by both Jim Jordan and Mike Johnson have been playing up in the House and which has become one of the articles Republicans in the House are going to in their “defund the FBI” campaign.

    Grassley asks a question, Wray answers, and then Grassley pretends that Wray agreed with him when he didn’t. Grassley is just going to go on with this no matter what Wray says.

    […] Wray says the biggest use of 702 is in preventing and addressing cyberattacks.

    […] Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse starts off talking about Charles McGonigal, the FBI agent in charge of the New York office back in 2016 who is now under federal indictment for money laundering, lying to the FBI, and violating sanctions against Russia.

    […] Wray is spending a lot of time talking about the need for warrantless surveillance in fighting cybercrime.

    “Stripping the FBI of its 702 authority would be a form of unilateral disarmament.” That’s going to be Wray’s theme of the day. […]


    So that’s how the hearing is going. Democrats try to get answers regarding substantive issues, and Republicans grandstand and yell a lot so that they’ll get a video replay on Fox News or other rightwing media.

  238. says

    The media may be waking up to the threat of Donald Trump

    There are no more dog whistles. No code words. No efforts to hide the truth. When it comes to democracy, Republicans are against it. [video at the link]

    That little nugget may have been just one of the endless series of mistakes, slip-ups, and misstatements that the media seems willing to overlook when it comes to Donald Trump. But even if that’s the case, you don’t have to go far to understand what Trump has in mind for America. There’s “Agenda47,” where Trump promises to expand the death penalty, end birthright citizenship, and create giant “tent cities” for homeless people. And there’s the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, which lays out plans to destroy the Department of Justice and replace tens of thousands of career federal employees with conservatives pledged to Trump’s will.

    But this past week, it seems that major media outlets woke up enough to realize that whistling past the Chancellery may not be the best idea.

    As The New York Times reported on Monday, Trump’s plan for moving the country into authoritarian control is now more sophisticated, and the systems that are supposed to safeguard democracy have all been weakened. It’s not that Trump hasn’t always been a radical fan of authoritarian rule.

    “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it,” Donald J. Trump said in an interview with Playboy magazine the year after the massacre. “Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak.”


    It’s just that the first time around, Trump seemed unprepared for the idea that he couldn’t just step into the Oval Office and begin enjoying the despotic freedom of a Kim Jong Un or Vladimir Putin. This time, Trump and his allies seem to be pulling out all the stops to ensure that there are no stops.

    Not only has Trump been mimicking the language of the Nazi Party in describing his opponents as “vermin” and fretting that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” he’s also making it clear that he intends to take actions lifted from Germany circa 1939.

    Republicans have made the idea of invading Mexico practically a requirement for being a candidate in 2024, and Trump has sworn to get that done. Besides getting a little American lebensraum, Trump has also threatened to send military forces to take control of “Democratic cities.” Which would be all but three of America’s 20 largest cities and almost two-thirds of the top 100.

    Meanwhile, the whole Republican system of institutes and foundations has reshaped itself into a tool for wielding power in a second Trump term. In Congress, Trump has “worn down, outlasted, intimidated into submission or driven out” any Republican not willing to bend the knee, according to the Times. And when it comes to staff, Trump has lined up a prospective cabinet and collection of staffers all of whom know the only word the boss wants to hear is “yes.” None of them is going to get in Trump’s way or try to talk him down from illegal action.

    Last Thursday, it was The Washington Post with an op-ed about not the possibility, but the probability of a Trump dictatorship during a second term. That article includes a warning that as bad as the political rhetoric is now, it’s about to get worse. […]

    As soon as it’s clear Trump is the Republican nominee, no one should hold on to a fantasy that anyone will stand up to oppose him. The other candidates are already out there on the hustings, trying to run against Trump without really running against Trump. It’s a stage trick that all of them seem to think is necessary, but it’s also one that dooms them from the outset.

    Trump will roll into the fall as the guy who has once more “united his party,” as every Republican who gets in front of a microphone does their best to find new ways to garner attention by voicing even greater support and admiration. All of this will be reported as “momentum.”

    The Post points out that when voters in Weimar Germany turned to Adolf Hitler, they did so in a period of disgust with their messy and ineffective democratic government. For decades, Republicans have been the party of political dysfunction, and they’ve raised their ineptness to high art in the past year—but there’s no reason to think that voters will be selective in expressing their distaste. “Throw all the bums out” is an expression even more common than “Let’s get ourselves a strong man who gets things done.”

    Right now, a strong majority of voters say they are worried about democracy. No one should assume that just because Republicans are the problem, they will pay the cost. And The Washington Post op-ed points out a critical piece of the puzzle: If Trump wins the election, it will be because he has already shown the justice system holds no power over him. Why should he ever fear the law—any law—again?

    Maybe it wouldn’t help if The New York Times and The Washington Post ran such articles every day. Maybe it wouldn’t help if all the rest of the media joined in.

    But it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

  239. says

    Ukraine Update: Zelenskyy lobbies Republicans blocking aid to Ukraine

    President Zelenskyy is unable to attend the classified briefings, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday. National security staff and Stefanchuk will still brief members. [uh-oh, bad news]

    […] The supplemental funding bill coming to the floor as soon as Wednesday includes $60 billion in aid for Ukraine.

    […] House Speaker Mike Johnson countered the White House’s letter sent Monday warning that time and money is running out for Ukraine assistance with a missive of his own. Further assistance to Ukraine, he wrote, is “dependent upon enactment of transformative change to our nation’s border security laws.” He remains insistent that it’s the House’s racist immigration bill or nothing.

    That’s the kind of digging in that could doom Ukraine, and unfortunately it’s been embraced by some Senate Republicans, like Sen. John Cornyn. He and his fellow Republicans are not actually negotiating this, he told NBC News. There’s no “negotiation” about it. “I think there’s a misunderstanding on the part of Senator Schumer and some of our Democratic friends,” Cornyn said. “This is not a traditional negotiation, where we expect to come up with a bipartisan compromise on the border. This is a price that has to be paid in order to get the supplemental.”

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer seized on that statement Tuesday morning. “What that Republican said, Mr. President, is the textbook definition of hostage-taking,” he said in his floor speech opening the session. “If funding for Ukraine fails, the failure will solely be on the Republican Party.”

    Some Republicans seem to recognize that. In fact, there’s some disagreement among Senate Republicans, and between them and the House GOP. Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, who’s been leading the talks for Republicans, insists that talks and negotiations are continuing, though Democrats dispute that as well. “We continue to work to find a solution that will protect our national security, stop the human trafficking and prevent the cartels from exploiting the obvious loopholes in our law,” he tweeted Tuesday. “That is the goal & we will continue to work until we get it right.”

    Lankford also dismissed Johnson’s demand that the Senate and the White House have to swallow the House immigration bill whole. “H.R. 2 didn’t get a single Democrat vote in the House,” Lankford told Punch Bowl News. “I have to get 20 Democrat votes here [in the Senate]. If the House is going to say it has to be our bill that we got zero Democrats on but I need you to go get 20 over in your body, that’s not rational. That’s not how things work.”

    Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, another Republican who’s been involved in the talks, agreed. “That’s good—he’ll get what we send him,” Tillis responded when asked about Johnson’s position.

    They both need to have a word with Cornyn, and also with Zelenskyy, before time runs out for Ukraine.

  240. says

    Tuberville releasing hold on hundreds of military promotions

    Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) announced on Tuesday that he is ending his months-long blockade on hundreds of military promotions.

    Tuberville said that he is jumping on board with an idea presented by Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) that would release all of his holds on military officers at the 3-star level and below.

    A hold will remain in place for the roughly ten nominations for 4-star generals and officers.

    […] Tuberville expressed no regrets about how he handled matters throughout the blockade, though conceded that he didn’t get the “win that we wanted. […] We’ve still got the bad [abortion] policy.”

  241. says

    Fox News Was Honest About Election For Literally One Second And Steve Bannon Is So Mad

    […] Donald Trump was doing one of his Hitler rallies this weekend, and as he started to babble incoherently about the 2020 election being RIGGED AND STOLLEN, Fox News cut away like yeah fuck this. The anchor, Arthel Neville, came back and did an a cappella cover version of her uncle Aaron Neville’s famous duet with Linda Ronstadt, singing “I DON’T KNOW MUUUUUCH, but I know Donald Trump is full of shit when he says the election was stolen, and THAT MAY BEEEEE ALL I NEED TO KNOW.”

    It was good enough.

    Neville explained that Trump had said “many untruths,” and indeed corrected his lies about the election. [video at the link]

    Is Fox News to be credited for turning over a new leaf, or is this just something the network feels pressured to do after that nearly a billion dollar Dominion Voting settlement? Mysteries! […]

    Steve Bannon is real mad about it […] Bannon, who every day looks more like somebody’s butch grandmother who was nice enough to organize the bake sale to pay for the junior high band trip to All State — IYKYK — had himself a right conniption: [video at the link]

    STEVE BANNON: It’s a disgrace — you saw Fox, what they did of President Trump’s speech, they cut in right — or they right away when he said — eh, he didn’t lose the 2020 election. Oh no, you’re totally incorrect, and we don’t care if you wrote a $800 million dollar check, or a billion dollar check, two billion dollar check to keep the demon father of all this, Murdoch, himself from being humiliated on the stand. Which just reinforced all the other problems people have to do with trying to get this right.

    The supervisors in Cochise County are heroes. You at Fox, TV for stupid people, are cowards. And for you to cut in on Trump in Iowa and say that crap, shows you everything you want to know about what you guys are. OK? Just like that debate with Newsom and DeSantis last week, and Hannity should be ashamed of himself. Absolute disgrace. Everything they do is to try to stop Trump, or stop some aspect of Trump.


    Hannity should be ashamed of himself and Arthel Neville should be ashamed […]

  242. Reginald Selkirk says

    Research Finds That Renting Ages You Faster Than Smoking, Obesity

    schwit1 shares a report from the New York Post:

    A landmark study out of the University of Adelaide and University of Essex has found that living in a private rental property accelerates the biological aging process by more than two weeks every year. The research found renting had worse effects on biological age than being unemployed (adding 1.4 weeks per year), obesity (adding 1 week per year), or being a former smoker (adding about 1.1 weeks). University of Adelaide Professor of Housing Research Emma Baker said private renting added “about two-and-a-half weeks of aging” per year to a person’s biological clock, compared to those who own their homes…

  243. Reginald Selkirk says

    Gold bars featured in Sen. Bob Menendez bribery case are linked to a 2013 robbery, records show

    Four gold bars connected to the FBI search of Sen. Bob Menendez’s home have direct links to a New Jersey businessman now accused of bribing Menendez, the state’s senior senator, Bergen County prosecutor’s records from a 2013 robbery case show.

    The businessman, Fred Daibes, reported to police that he was the victim of an armed robbery in 2013, and he asked police to recover the gold bars stolen from him. Daibes reported that $500,000 in cash and 22 gold bars were stolen, Edgewater, New Jersey, police records show. Police later caught four people with the stolen goods.

    To get his property back, Daibes signed “property release forms” certifying the gold bars belonged to him, the records show.

    “Each gold bar has its own serial number,” Daibes told investigators in a 2013 transcript made by prosecutors and police who recovered — and returned to Daibes — the stolen valuables. “They’re all stamped…you’ll never see two stamped the same way.” …