Nel's New Day

March 30, 2022

Richardson Writes about Mulvaney, CBS

People say they watch Fox network because the mainstream media are too “liberal” for them. Now they can watch Mick Mulvaney on CBS, thanks to the co-president of its news division, Neeraj Khemlani. His goal is access to Republicans because they are going to win in the midterms. CBS “news” helped elected Donald Trump in 2016 and may move the GOP back into leadership this year. Following is the take on this move by scholar Heather Cox Richardson in her blog, “Letters from an American,” on March 30, 2022. You can subscribe to her posts here

CBS News has hired Mick Mulvaney as a paid on-air contributor. In his first official appearance on Tuesday morning to talk about President Joe Biden’s budget proposal, anchor Anne-Marie Green introduced Mulvaney as “a former Office of Management and Budget director,” and said, “So happy to have you here…. You’re the guy to ask about this.”

Mulvaney was a far-right U.S. representative from South Carolina from 2011 to 2017, when he went to work for then-president Trump as the director of the Office of Management and Budget. While in that position, he also took over as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the government organization organized by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) after the financial crisis of 2008. In its first five years, the CFPB recovered about $11.7 billion for about 27 million consumers, but in Congress, Mulvaney introduced legislation to abolish it. At its head, Mulvaney zeroed out the bureau’s budget and did his best to dismantle it.

While retaining his role at the head of the Office of Management and Budget, Mulvaney took on the job of acting White House chief of staff on January 2, 2019. This unprecedented dual role put him in a key place to do an end run around official U.S. diplomats in Ukraine and to set up a back channel to put pressure on newly elected Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to announce he was launching an investigation into the actions of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

As director of OMB, Mulvaney okayed the withholding of almost $400 million Congress had appropriated for Ukraine’s protection against Russia. In May 2019, he set up “the three amigos,” Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, special envoy Kurt Volker, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, to pressure Zelensky. When the story came out, Mulvaney told the press that Trump had indeed withheld the money to pressure Zelensky to help him cheat in the 2020 election. “I have news for everybody,” he said. “Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” He immediately walked the story back, but there it was.

This event was the basis for Trump’s first impeachment. While Republican senators refused to hold Trump accountable, the Government Accountability Office found that withholding the money was illegal. Ironically, the GAO report came out during Trump’s second impeachment.

And yet, CBS News hired Mulvaney and simply introduced him as a former director of the OMB, saying he was the guy to explain Biden’s budget. (After the episode, the CBS News standards department reminded staffers they should always identify people with their relevant biographical information.)

Jeremy Barr of the Washington Post tonight revealed that he had reviewed a recording of a phone call in which the co-president of CBS News, Neeraj Khemlani, suggested they had hired Mulvaney to guarantee access to Republican lawmakers. “If you look at some of the people that we’ve been hiring on a contributor basis, being able to make sure that we are getting access to both sides of the aisle is a priority because we know the Republicans are going to take over, most likely, in the midterms,” Khemlani told staff. “A lot of the people that we’re bringing in are helping us in terms of access to that side of the equation.”

People on the right have talked about a “liberal media” now for a generation. It has come to represent the idea that the media is slanted toward the Democrats. But initially, the phrase meant media based in facts.

In the 1950s, those eager to get rid of the government system instituted by the Democrats during the Great Depression of the 1930s grew frustrated because people liked that system, with its business regulation, basic social safety net, and promotion of infrastructure. In 1951, in God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom,” William F. Buckley, Jr., rejected the Enlightenment idea that rigorous debate over facts would lead toward truth; the fondness of a majority of Republicans and Democrats for the newly active national government proved people could not be trusted to know what was best for them. Instead, he called for the exclusion of “bad” ideas like an active government, and for universities to push individualism and Christianity.

Three years later, Buckley and his brother-in-law, L. Brent Bozell, Jr., would divide the world into “Liberals,” by which they meant the majority of Americans from both parties who liked the New Deal government, and “Conservatives” like themselves, who were determined to overturn that government. Movement Conservatives lumped Soviet-style socialism and the New Deal government together.

With its focus on facts, the media, like the universities, was “liberal,” and Movement Conservatives wanted their ideology to be heard. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan’s appointees to the Federal Communications Commission killed the Fairness Doctrine, which had required public media to present issues fairly, and right-wing talk radio took off. In 1996, Australian-born Rupert Murdoch started the Fox News Channel, calling it “fair and balanced” because it presented the Movement Conservative ideology that fact-based media ignored.

Twenty-five years later, that ideology had become so powerful that true believers tried to stop a legitimately elected Democrat from becoming president, and in the year since, their conviction has only become stronger. Now CBS News has hired a member of the administration that urged the attack on our democracy.

“When, oh Lord, when will the elite political media treat the current Republican Party as the threat to the republic that it most obviously is?” asked Charlie Pierce in Esquire.

Here’s what’s at stake: On the one hand, Biden is trying to rebuild the old liberal consensus that used to be shared by people of both parties, instituted by Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt to protect workers from the overreach of their employers and expanded under Republican Dwight Eisenhower to protect civil rights. To this, Biden has focused on those previously marginalized and has added a focus on women and children.

Biden’s new budget, released earlier this week, calls for investment in U.S. families, communities, and infrastructure, the same principles on which the economy has boomed for the past year. The budget also promotes fiscal responsibility by rolling back Trump’s tax cuts on the very wealthy. Biden’s signature yesterday on the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, making lynching a federal hate crime in the United States, is the culmination of more than 100 years of work. [Note: These GOP House members voted against the bill, may supporting lynching: Andrew Clyde (GA), Thomas Massie (KY), and Chip Roy (TX).]

Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are defending democracy against authoritarianism, working to bring together allies around the globe to resist the aggression of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

On the other hand, the Republican Party is working to get rid of the New Deal government. While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wanted to face the midterms without a platform, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), who chairs the committee responsible for electing Republican senators, has produced an “11-point plan to rescue America.” It dramatically raises taxes on people who earn less than $100,000, and ends Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act.

With a 6 to 3 majority on the Supreme Court, Republicans have also taken aim at abortion rights and are now talking about ending other civil rights protected by the federal government after 1950: the right to birth control, interracial marriage, and same-sex marriage.

The Republicans have sided with authoritarianism as they back former president Trump and his supporters, over 2,000 of whom stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. This week, federal judge David Carter wrote that it was “more likely than not” that Trump committed a federal crime when he encouraged the attack, and yesterday we learned that there are more than 7 hours of phone records missing from the official White House logs of that day. At The Guardian, Hugo Lowell today reported that Trump made at least one call from the White House that day that should have been on the logs and was not, opening up the possibility that Trump’s people tampered with the phone records.

And while Putin has launched a war of invasion on our democratic ally Ukraine, just yesterday, Trump asked Putin to help him dig up dirt on a political rival, just as he did in 2016.

Voters cannot choose wisely between these two paths unless their news is based in facts. Earlier this week, fact triumphed over ideology on the Fox News Channel, when anchor John Roberts noted that Senator Rick Scott’s 2022 Republican platform calls for raising taxes on most Americans and ending Social Security. Scott said that Roberts was using “a Democrat talking point.” But Roberts stood firm on facts: “It’s in the plan!” he said. “It’s not a Democratic talking point. It’s in the plan!”

 

 

 

U.S. Putin Wing, Great Russian Assets

QAnon and wingnut pundits are going to put satirists out of business, unable to match the latest theory espoused by Lara Logan, presenter on Fox nation which streams for the network. According to Logan, the wealthy Jewish Rothschild family paid Charles Darwin to create the theory of evolution. On the podcast As We Know, she purported the theory is a hoax, because the question of evolution, a “chicken or the egg” debate, cannot be scientifically answered. Logan has a trail of lies, such as comparing Dr. Anthony Fauci and his vaccinations to the Nazi Doctor Josef Mengele who conducted horrifying experiments in the Holocaust concentration camps. After that comment, Logan had to find a new talent agency. She is one of the many U.S. assets for Russia who spread its disinformation. For example, this lies that Ukraine caused the invasion and Russian President Vladimir Putin is the “man standing between us and the New World Order.” This theory comes from the conspiracy theory that Jews want to control the world.

The Rothchilds are popular with conspiracy theorists. On her Facebook, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) claimed they funded a space laser starting the California wildfires. Greene also blamed Ukraine for the invasion, claiming the country is controlled by Nazis. In a video, she said she wants no more military aid sent to Ukraine and called on Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to surrender. Greene added that people in the U.S. don’t care about Ukraine and blamed President Obama for the non-existent “bioweapon labs” in Ukraine. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) agrees and thinks that President Joe Biden is collaborating with Ukraine in these labs for chemical weapons.

Logan’s and Greene’s false allegations of “bioweapon labs” in Ukraine have already been debunked several times. In reality, the “labs” are biological research facilities attempting to better detect, diagnose, and monitor infectious-disease outbreaks.  And Hunter Biden was not “financing” these labs. He had no part in a decision to invest in a company at the center of the Russian allegations; he did not profit from it because he was fired by the firm from cocaine allegations; and the company made little money from its tiny bit of business in Ukraine.

Interviewed on Real America’s voice Just the News, Deposed Donald Trump (DDT), another Russian asset, called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to find dirt on President Joe Biden’s family. He claimed the wife of Moscow’s late mayor gave Hunter Biden and Joe Biden each $3.5 million. DDT cited a Senate report prepared by Republicans that reporting that a Russian oligarch gave $3.5 million to the company he claims was founded by Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. Joe Biden explained that the firm giving Hunter money was not the same one which received the “consultancy agreement” payment from Baturina and that there is no indication of any corruption or relationship to Hunter.

The pattern follows DDT’s calling on Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s “missing” emails during his 2016 presidential campaign. On the day DDT made this request, Russia started targeting Clinton’s accounts. In 2018, DDT also tried to blackmail Zelensky into releasing damaging information on the Biden family by withholding congressionally approved military aid.

DDT’s interviewer, John Solomon, had been fired by the conservative publication The Hill for his smear campaign against former against former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch using sources considered not credible. Solomon also had questionable relationships with DDT’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his associate Lev Parnas behind the effort to find dirt on both Bidens in Ukraine. Parnas recently pled guilty to wire fraud.

In his speech last Saturday to a smaller than usual crowd in Georgia, DDT went back to praising the world’s top autocrats. He called China’s Xi Jinping “smart” ruling over his country “with an iron fist,” North Korea’s Kim Jung-Un “tough,” and Putin also “smart,” although putting “200,000 troops on the border” was a “big mistake, but it looked like a great negotiation” that “didn’t work too well for him.” DDT’s close associates such as Roger Stone and Roger Bannon have opposed aid for Ukraine.

Among congressional members, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-SC) called Zelinsky a “thug” and Ukraine “incredibly evil.” Eight House members voting against revoking Russia’s normal trade status: Lauren Bobert (CO), Thomas Massie (KY), Matt Gaetz (FL), Andy Biggs (AZ), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), Dan Bishop (NC), Chip Roy (TX), and Glenn Grothman (WI). Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Matt Rosendale (R-MT) supported Russia by voting against a resolution to support Ukraine. Seventeen GOP House members voted against a ban on Russian oil, but Senate Republicans have not taken up the bill.  In Congress, 69 GOP representatives and 31 GOP senators voted against giving Ukraine $13.6 billion in military and humanitarian assistance. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has blocked bills to put sanctions on Russia. Wannabe president Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis blames Biden for Russia’s invading Ukraine, but he refused to divest Florida of $300 million of Russia in investments.  

In addition to Fox’s Tucker Carlson, these GOP leaders are just a few of the U.S. Putin wing, as Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) calls them:

  • Charlie Kirk, Turning Point USA founder: “It feels as if Putin is going into places that want him. They have voted overwhelmingly to be part of it. It is a family dispute that we shouldn’t get in the midst of, that’s for certain.”
  • Laura Ingraham, Fox network: “We had kind of a really pathetic display from the Ukrainian President Zelensky.”
  • Dinesh D’Souza, convicted felon: “Putin–unlike someone else we know–LOVES his country & FIGHTS for its interests”
  • Michael Lynn, A DDT former national security adviser for three weeks: “[Putin is] a very strong leader. He’s been in charge for a long time. And he’s not going to put up with the nonsense he’s seeing in Europe.”
  • State Sen. Wendy Rogers (R-AZ), who called for Maricopa County’s fake ballot count: “Zelensky is a globalist puppet for Soros and the Clintons.”
  • Nick Fuentes, America First Political Action Conference: “I wish Putin was president of America.”

A large number of people opposing vaccinations and “wellness influencers” claims Biden is “trying to pull a fast one on them by painting Russia as the aggressor” in Ukraine, according to Kiera Butler. She added, “By the time Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, anti-vaccine activists were primed to believe that Putin was the good guy.”

DDT’s former campaign spokesperson A.J. Delgado called reports of Russian bombs hitting maternity wards and other civilian targets “probably bullshit.” Ukraine isn’t a real country, DDT’s fan Candace Owens asserted.

Israel is siding with Russia with its refusal to sell the spyware tool Pegasus to Ukraine and Estonia. The countries wanted to find intelligence from Russian mobile phones. Israel also refuses to provide Ukraine with the Iron Dome antimissile system and other defensive weapons like the ones that the U.S. buys for Israel.

In a circle of lies, Russia feeds them to far-right people in the U.S. who spread them across the country through forms of media before Russia picks them up again for its continuing disinformation campaign. The falsehood about U.S. biological program in Ukraine came from Russia’s Defense Ministry and is now a frequent talking point for the Putin wing. The result is an alternate reality that pushes the idea of the West as the provokers for the Russian invasion. The ones who had not totally bought into the lies then complains about Biden’s lack of aggression after they attack him for an impassioned speech about Putin shouldn’t be Russia’s leader. It’s all a grand game to Republicans, designed to win an election rather than help the cause of democracy and the United States.

Fox’s Tucker Carlson, a typical “snowflake,” led the charge of spreading Russian propaganda so well that Russia state TV plays many of his programs. Yet he can’t bear being called out. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) called his show an “organ of Russian disinformation,” and Carlson said he would sue him for slander. Carlson tried to declare that he is only “interested in the interests of our own country.” He went on to attack Biden and the Democratic party by being wrong about Russian disinformation.

The right-wing in the U.S. wants what Putin has. DDT wants the power to kill with impunity. His supporters want to destroy democracy by claiming “freedom,” to them the right to take over anything they want despite the law and the Constitution. Without any punishment. Even if some conservatives disagree with the Putin wing, they won’t object to it. The Putinites want a pathocracy, in which “a small pathological minority takes control over a society of normal people,” according to Andrzej Lobaczewski. As long as they are part of that minority. And DDT leads this cult along with the QAnon followers. Chauncey DeVega wrote:

“The Russian partnership has proved invigorating to the American right’s overlapping agendas of white supremacy, masculine authority, and anti-democratic Christian authority… American theocrats are telling us what they seek here at home.”

A new survey shows that the Putin wing, while noisy, is also unpopular. Over three-fourths of U.S. voters, 77 percent which includes 68 percent of the Republicans, disapprove of lawmakers’ expression of support or admiration for Putin, and 71 percent disapprove of DDT’s glowing comments about the Russian president. Only 17 percent approve of those statements.

Democracy is a choice. The question in the U.S. is whether those who choose democracy can overcome the ones who prefer a pathocracy.

March 27, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine Enters Second Month

During strongly-stated speech from President Joe Biden while visiting Poland and Brussels, President Joe Biden said that Russian President Vladimir Putin should not stay in power. Republicans used his words to again attack Biden and ignored the terrible devastation in Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. For 32 days, Putin’s troops are flattening that committed only the sin of wanting to be a democracy.

After significant losses Russia withdrew troops surrounding Kyiv, reducing its advance and forcing troops to regroup in Belarus. Russia is also sending short range ballistic missiles called Iskander to southeastern Belarus. These missiles have decoys that can evade air-defense radars and trick heat-seeking missiles. Putin’s goal is to separate Ukraine into two countries similar to North and South Koream according to Ukrainian intelligence.

Saturday night, Russians rained down phosphorus bombs, known for their terrifying burns through flesh. Sick patients and hospital staff were taken from a facility in Mariupol “by force” at gunpoint, probably to Russia.

Invaders also destroyed a laboratory at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, and radiation monitors around the plant no longer operate. In 1986, the plant suffered the world’s worst nuclear disaster when a reactor exploded. According to Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, Russia may still employ nuclear weapons.  Russian forces fired at a nuclear research facility in Kharkiv as well as fuel depots in Lviv and Kyiv.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky reported that Russians have taken over 2,000 children out of Mariupol and deported them into Russia. Russians are driving through Mariupol claiming on loudhailers that Odessa has fallen and refugee havens are rejecting fleeing people. Those who come out of shelters are taken to “filtration camps” and then moved on to Russia. Nazis used the same tactic during the Holocaust. About 400,000 Ukrainian civilians may have been forcibly moved to Russia. Their forces also hit a second Holocaust memorial, this one in Kharkiv, in their self-identified attempt to “denatizify” Ukraine.

The Russian advance is still stalled ten miles from Kyiv while Ukrainians have pushed back the front line from 15 miles to 30 miles east of the capital. Russian troops have been driven out of the Kyiv suburb Makariv that has a highway to the west. This would block Russian occupation from the northwest. Ukraine has also taken back several villages in Kharkiv, including one 20 miles from the Russian border.   

A major discussion has been whether Russia will take the “graceful way out of his failing invasion. According to a rumor, Russia may posit it has sufficiently completed “the main tasks of the first stage of the operation” and weakened Ukrainian forces, therefore able to focus only on “liberating” Ukraine’s breakaway eastern Donbas region. These comments, however, may be only for the consumption of the Russian people.

Russia has up to a 60-percent failure in its “precision-guided” missiles, part of the reason that the country couldn’t reach even its basic objectives such as neutralizing Ukraine’s air force. Failures could be anything from a missile failing to explode on compact to launch failures.

The Russian military is running out of ammunition and supplies. Some of these were destroyed when Ukraine sank Russia’s large ship, Orsk, at the Russian-occupied southeastern port of Berdyansk in the Azov Sea about 45 miles southwest of Mariupol. With weapons and supplies for Russians fighting in Mariupol, the ship can carry 20 tanks, 45 armored vehicles, and 400 people. The fire spread to other vessels, an ammunition depot, and a fuel terminal.

Russians are literally running out of food in grocery stores. Some stores have a 22-pound limit per customer, and people literally attack anyone believed to be over-buying, even fighting for a bag of sugar after a government ban on its exports. Foreign goods such as cars and household items are wildly inflated in price.

In more fiscal damage to Russia, Qatar stated it will not make any new investments there until there is more “political stability.” Qatar has sizable investments in the Russian oil giant Rosneft. In Russia’s stock market, only 15 percent of listed shares will be open for trading, foreigners are blocked from selling shares, and short selling is banned. Short-selling is selling stock a person doesn’t own and hopes to buy it back at a lower price before delivery time.

Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, was not seen in public for 12 days until he appeared for a few seconds on Russian TV on March 24 because of a heart attack, according to a Ukrainian official. A top Putin aide, Anatoly Chubais, resigned and escaped the country. Central bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina tried to resign, but Putin would not allow her to leave. Since the ruble started plunging, Nabiullina more than doubled the key interest rate and put capital controls to stop the cash outflow. So many people left the bank that the IT department didn’t even have enough employees to terminate accounts and other departments had heavier workloads.

As of four days ago, up to 15,000 Russian military members may have been killed, according to NATO which estimates as many as 40,000 Russian casualties in the past four weeks including killed, wounded, and missing in action.  Losses have caused at least 20 of the 115-120 battalion tactical groups to be “no longer combat effective” from losses. Russia has been losing troops and equipment at unsustainable rates

At least 15 top Russian officials have been killed—seven generals, seven colonels, and one commander. That’s the highest number of casualties in the Russian military since World War II. Because of the 50-percent casualty rate in his unit, a soldier ran over his lieutenant-general with an armored vehicle and killed him

Generals killed in battle is a rare occurrence. Retired four-star general and former CIA director David Petraeus blamed the breakdown of “their command and control” and the Ukrainian jamming of communication and secure coms requiring use of a single channel. He said:

“So what happens is the column gets stopped, an impatient general is sitting back there in his armored—or whatever—vehicle, he goes forward to find out what’s going on because there’s no initiative [among junior officers]. “He gets up there, and the Ukrainians have very, very good snipers, and they’ve just been picking them off, left and right.”

A member of the DailyKos staff, formerly serving in the military, has a more complete explanation of why Russian generals and colonels are dying at such a fast pace. And why Russians are unsuccessful at achieving their goals. It’s all about the organization—or lack of it. He summarizes the problem with a comment from an European diplomat who said about top officers, “They’re having to go to the front line to make things happen, which is putting them at much greater risk than you would normally see.”

Two Russian soldiers were overheard complaining about Putin’s “bullshit” war against Ukraine in an intercepted phone call. One soldier talked about the “shitshow” in which Ukrainian forces “tore apart” a column of Russian forces and complete disarray. Fifty percent of his unit suffered from frostbite on their feet but won’t be treated in the hospital. Originally, General-Lieutenant Yakov Rezantsev, the commander of the soldier’s unit, said the “special operation” would be over in “only a few hours.” The soldier also complained about Kevlar vests lacking the hard-armor panel and a Russian plane dropping a bomb on them. Dead bodies rode with the unit for five days. On Facebook, a Russian soldier blamed his commander, Col. Yury Medvedev, “for the deaths of his friends.” After he ran over the colonel with a tank, “Medvedev was awarded the Order of Courage.”  

A dozen soldiers from the Russian National Guard refused to deploy to Ukraine and were subsequently fired. A captured Russian soldier said Putin’s “death squads” kill deserters who refuse to take part in his war.

A recent survey of U.S. opinion regarding the Ukraine invasion:

  • 83 percent: Ukraine did not attack Russia first.
  • 70 percent: Ukraine is not governed by Nazis or neo-Nazis.
  • 57 percent: Following the Russian disinformation, they don’t know if the U.S. has biological weapons in Ukraine.
  • 74 percent: The U.S. should admit Ukrainian war refugees.
  • 71 percent: No U.S. company should do business in Russia.
  • 58 percent: Biden has done a good job in avoiding direct military conflict with Russia.

During the entire devastation in Ukraine while thousands of people lose their lives and millions lose their homes, conservative, mostly white men have whined about not having freedom because they might be required to have a vaccination against a deadly disease. After three weeks of being offensive, assaulting people, and playing macho, they’re going home. They plan a “more southern route, so it’s a little warmer” than where they are in Maryland. The snowflakes are decamping. But they claim to return—maybe when they like the weather a bit more?

March 26, 2022

March 26 – Catching Up on the News

During the past week, the media largely focused on the song-and-dance smear campaign of Supreme Court justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson and the ongoing flattening of Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin in his determination to eradicate all the nation’s civilians. But a few other things occurred.

After a week, Clarence Thomas is out of the hospital after suffering a mysterious illness. While there, he dissented in a Supreme Court ruling of 8-1 for new guidelines that permit a Texas death row inmate’s spiritual adviser to pray aloud and “lay hands” on him during his execution. Now no longer sequestered, he faces continuing ethics questions about his wife, Ginni Thomas, who exchanged 29 texts with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that pushed him to overturn the 2020 presidential election. She argued for continued dispute of the election results, declared that Joe Biden did not win the election, and lobbied for legal strategies to accomplish these ends. Thomas has already defended Dictator Donald Trump (DDT); i.e., having been the only Supreme Court justice against releasing DDT’s records to the House January 6 investigation committee.

In her texts, Ginni Thomas pushed the conspiracy theory that 12 battleground states used DDT’s water-marked ballots to trick Democrats. She encouraged Meadows to watch a video by Steve Pieczenik whose ideas are too far out for Alex Jones. His history of lying includes claims of having worked throughout the national security bureaucracy in classified positions and arresting Pope Francis. Like Jones, he tried to persuade people that the massacre of 20 young children at Sandy Hood Elementary School was faked and said the same thing about Pearl Harbor, the 9/11 attack, and the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 60 people. Ginni Thomas agrees with Pieczenik lies and told Meadows that military “white hats,” the QAnon term for DDT supporters in the federal government, had been deployed to key states.

“I think we should be careful destroying our institutions because they don’t give us what we want when we want it.” These were Clarence Thomas’ words in a speech last September; his wife should have heeded them. Republican congressional members are solidly on the Ginni Thomas’ side while incensed about Jackson’s ethical behavior. She also pressured congressional members to overthrow the election. Soon after the 2020 election, she wrote to an aide of Jim Banks (R-IN), the incoming Republican Study Committee chair, stating she would have nothing to do with his group until his members go “out in the streets.” The RSC is only less conservative than the tea-party Freedom Caucus.

Voter fraud by Meadows’ wife, Debra Meadows, has emerged.  In October 26, 2020, she two false voter forms, one for voter registration and the other an application for a mail-in ballot. On both forms, his wife certified that she resided at a place for at least 30 days where she didn’t live. Both forms had this notice: “fraudulently or falsely completing this form” is a Class I felony.  She also dropped off her husband’s absentee ballot. Three months earlier, Mark Meadows had protested in an interview about how mail-in ballots and ballot “harvesting,” having someone else drop off a ballot, results in voter fraud. He also “fraudulently or falsely” completed the same forms. And he had the ballot with the wrong address sent to their Alexandria condo. The state Bureau of Investigation is looking into Mark Meadows but declined to say whether their probe would cover his wife actions.

North Carolina should take the Meadows’ case seriously. In 2016, a resident Latisha Bratcher Jones, on probation for a felony after serving time in prison, completed an application to vote because she thought she was eligible. She was indicted for making a false affidavit about being on probation and giving her residence in a different county than the one where she voted. State officials concluded she unintentionally voted illegally, but a prosecutor brought felony charges that could have sent her to prison for 19 months. Eventually she pled guilty to a misdemeanor about living in a different county.

Corruption and conspiracy theories are okay with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), but he apparently draws the line at conviction. At the House GOP retreat, he said that Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) should resign if he is convicted of a felony. Fortenberry was convicted of three felonies, all lying to federal authorities about an illegal $30,000 donation from a foreign billionaire from Nigeria. Conviction is a low bar; he kept House members in their committee seats after their insurrection attempts to overthrow the United States government. 

Instead of using loopholes to get out of trouble, Fortenberry just used lies and excuses. When his campaign violation was discovered, he claimed he didn’t lie and even made a video while he and his wife sat with their dog in an antique pickup out in the Nebraska countryside. Later he used an excuse about “a bad cell phone connection” causing a misunderstanding. Then the accusation was a “failed memory test.” Another Fortenberry excuse was that the FBI were trying to trap him when agents planned to “feed” him information to “set up” future charges. He asked for a second interview and then lied again. Fortenberry claimed that the lead prosecutor had political reasons to attack him. Failing with those tactics, his attorneys explained Fortenberry was confused—because of his age. He was 60.

Fortenberry has resigned from the House of Representatives as of March 31. Nebraska prevents a gubernatorial appointment; replacing Fortenberry requires a special election.

The feud between DDT and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), candidate for U.S. Senate, continues. DDT changed his endorsement of Brooks to the primary opponent, and Brooks went on the road telling everyone that DDT incessantly begged for his help in overturning the election, even after the January 6 insurrection. Brooks said DDT told him to rescind the 2020 election, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, put DDT back into the White House, and hold a new special election to get him elected. DDT called Brooks, who gave a speech on January 6 calling for protesters to take action at the Capitol, “woke” because he told people to put the election behind them.

The 12th missile fired this year by North Korea, the biggest thus far, was first unveiled in October 2020. It flew 71 minutes before landing near Japan’s territorial waters; its height suggests the range could be 9,320 with a normal trajectory, putting the U.S. within striking distance. In 2017, North Korean missiles also demonstrated the possibility of reaching the U.S.

U.S. customs officials stopped Paul Manafort, DDT’s former campaign manager, from getting on a plane to Dubai with a revoked passport. Over the past decade, Manafort had submitted ten passport applications and had three active U.S. passports, each with a different identification number. Convicted of lying to investigators after pleading guilty to tax and bank fraud, he served two years in prison of his 7.5-year sentence before being released during the COVID pandemic. DDT pardoned Manafort a month before DDT left the White House.  

The truck convoy in Washington, D.C. is still trying to create havoc, but the cracks are starting to show. Their goal is to slow traffic, but they claim they have to pee in their pants because they keep getting slowed down. One of their threats is to make “citizen’s arrests” of the drivers, the DC police officers, and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Some of the truckers claim that just driving around the Beltway is a “waste” although their leader Brian Base came back to camp after a few days at home and told them they are succeeding. The rain seems to be an excuse for their not going out on the road. He also said that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), after his media appearance a while back, hasn’t been in touch.   

Last Thursday, convoy member Brandon Jackson, 28, was arrested “on handgun violations” and “charged with ‘illegal possession of a loaded handgun on person.’” A vehicle was blocking the roadway in front of the Hagerstown Speedway where the convoy is camping, and the arrest came during a heated argument between Jackson and another trucker about the convoy’s plans and the possibility of corruption.  Earlier that week, two men, one of them Jackson’s friends, had argued during the morning meeting earlier in the week about who could to speak on the microphone. Jackson accused the organizer of planting a spy among the convoy members.

Two people also said they were attacked by members of the convoy in two separate incidents, one on March 16 and the other March 20. One was on a motorcycle, a trucker tried to knock him over by opening his vehicle’s door.  A group of truckers surrounded the man and pushed him off his motorcycle. A video of truckers assaulting the motorcyclist.

Jobless claims fell by 28,000 to 187,000 for the week ending March 19. The four-week average for claims also fell to levels not seen in five decades. Employers added 678,000 jobs in February, the largest monthly total since July. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.8%, from 4% in January. In total, 1,350,000 Americans were collecting jobless aid the week that ended March 12, another five-decade low.

And that’s the tip of the iceberg—lots more later.

March 23, 2022

SCOTUS Confirmation Hearing

The latest confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court justice began last Monday, and Republicans promised a “respectful” back and forth. From the first GOP speaker on Monday regarding President Joe Biden’s nominee through 13 hours of GOP electioneering and ugly questions on Tuesday, Ketanji Brown Jackson, the only “respect” was on Jackson’s side; the Republicans acted like a bunch of “mean girls” in their verbal attacks on the candidate.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) opened his questioning of Jackson with the unconstitutional question, “what faith are you, by the way?” (A person isn’t a faith; a person sometimes has a faith.) He continued the illegal badgering by asking if she regularly attends church and “on a scale of one to 10, how faithful would you say you are, in terms of religion?” Graham used these questions as revenge for questions for Amy Coney Barrett, but Barrett had written that her religion should influence her judicial opinions. Jackson said the reverse. About Jackson’s response that she is a nondenominational protest, he asked her if she could “fairly judge a Catholic.” No one ever asked the six Catholics now on the Supreme Court how they could deal with non-Catholics.

Following that, he attacked her for her defense of Guantánamo Bay prisoners during her employment with a private firm. To Jackson’s response that she was working for her clients, he pretty much called her a liar. In whining about Michele Childs, his preferred nominee from South Carolina, not being chosen, Graham seemed to accuse her of working with groups asking Biden to not nominate Childs. The preference of several GOP senators, Childs defended large corporations in race and gender discrimination cases, including a beachwear retailer charged with near-daily sexual assault at work.

After Graham used almost all his time to complain and cut off Jackson’s answers, he promised more “questions” about Jackson’s judicial philosophy during the four-day hearing. He also denigrated Jackson’s supporters by calling them wanting to “pack the court,” believing “this court is a bunch of right-wing nuts who are going to destroy America,” and considering “the Constitution trash.” He added that “these right-wing radical groups” will “destroy the law.” He took up extra time not allotted and then stomped off in a huff. Ten months ago, Graham was one of three GOP senators to vote for Jackson when Biden nominated for the D.C. Circuit Court.

After Graham, each senator presidential wannabe carved out his subject: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) – the so-called “critical race theory”; Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), like Cruz under ethics investigation for supporting the January 6 insurrectionists – pornography; and Sen. Tom Cotton  (R-AR) – drugs, rape, and murder.  Cruz already drew national media attention for his temper tantrum in the Bozeman (MT) airport that required police intervention; he had arrived too late to check in on his scheduled flight. He was rescheduled and arrived in time for the hearing.

In his speech on Monday, Cruz bemoaned the lengthy process of confirming Supreme Court justices—skipping over former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) refusal to address President Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland for the president’s last ten months in office. Cruz praised the confirmation of Bushrod Washington as justice the day after appointment. Washington had been serving on a temporary basis for over a month, and the slave-owner was confirmed by a Senate in which 58 percent of the members also owned slaves. Cruz also brought up Brett Kanvaugh’s hearing by saying no one would ask Jackson, “Do you like beer?” In fact, Kavanaugh asked that question of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) that question.  [visual – Kavanaugh beer cartoon]

Cruz tried to start a conspiracy theory with his claim that the White House not giving Republicans the same documents as Democrats. Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) told him “we completed discovery before we started the hearing” and said Republicans had access to all the information. Yet Cruz kept saying that Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) had information that Republicans didn’t have until Durbin shut him down.

According to a Washington Post factcheck:

“Hawley is still leaving out significant context in his thread. He uses snippets of quotes, pretends a bipartisan recommendation is Jackson’s alone and then ignores a variety of factors—such as probation recommendations and out-of-date guidelines—that might result in lower sentences. In his zeal, he also ignores a long debate within the legal community about whether the current guidelines are appropriate.”

Andrew McCarthy wrote an essay about Hawley’s attempt to smear Jackson for the conservative National Review

“For now, I want to discuss the claim by Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) that Judge Jackson is appallingly soft on child-pornography offenders. The allegation appears meritless to the point of demagoguery….  (Contrary to Hawley’s suggestion, however, she appears to have followed the guidelines, at the low end of the sentencing range, as most judges do.)”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) falsely accused Jackson of calling George W. Bush and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld “war criminals” when she was “representing a member of the Taliban.” In fact, Jackson, then a public defender, filed a habeas petition on behalf of a Guantánamo Bay detainee alleging that he had been tortured in violation of international law. Bush and Rumsfeld were respondents, required by procedural rules.

Sen. Marcia Blackburn (R-TN) used all the other attack topics before she launched into a transphobic diatribe. She asked Jackson about a definition of a woman and then blocked her answer after Jackson said, “I can’t …” When she could finish, Jackson said, “I’m not a biologist,” and Blackburn continued her verbal assaults. As in many of her other answers, Jackson reminded the questioners that her job would be to interpret the law. Blackburn forgot about Texas law that could declare parents of transgender children guilty of child abuse for their healthcare of the minor when she said:

“And parents want to have a Supreme Court justice who is committed to preserving parental autonomy and protecting our nation’s children.”

On Monday, Blackburn asked Jackson about a “personal hidden agenda” to bring critical race theory into “our legal system” and referred to transgender girls as “biological males.” Two years ago, Jackson had spoken about Nikole Hannah Jones’ “provocative thesis that the American that was born in 1776 was not the perfect union that it purported to be, and that it is actually only through the hard work, struggles, and sacrifices of African Americans over the past two centuries that the United States has finally become the free nation that the Framers initially touted.” About girls sharing locker rooms with transgender girls, Blackburn said, “They’re being treated like second-class citizens.”

Women who want contraception might also be concerned that Blackburn’s rejection of Jackson included her rejection of Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 SCOTUS ruling that legalized birth control, as “constitutionally unsound.” If she wants it overturned, she has five conservative justices who might do it.  

Despite Republicans repeatedly repeating questions, such as Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) demanding an answer to his question about what Supreme Court justice Jackson would emulate, Jackson kept her cool and stuck to her first answer to the question—in this case, that she already has a history of 570 cases while on the bench.

Former Republican Charlie Sykes made two points about the first day of questioning for Jackson’s confirmation.

“(1) The confirmation process is no longer about judicial qualifications, because (2) it’s now all about payback and ideology.”

Jackson’s manner and credentials are so impeccable that all Republicans have are vicious statements and hypocrisy. It’s all theater to attract QAnon followers for the 2024 election. 

Garland wasn’t nominated because Republicans said eight months was too close to an election. Barrett went from appointment to justice in only 31 days—just one week before the election.

A major false charge from the Republicans concerns “dark money” groups supporting Jackson. McConnell has been pushing dark money into politics for decades, and that includes money supporting Barrett. Fox’s Laura Ingraham complained about “the left’s dark money trolls” but didn’t mention her involvement with Independent Women’s Forum, the Koch network dark-money group evolving from the committee defending Clarence Thomas from sexual harassment accusations in his 1991 confirmation hearings. Dark-money propaganda partially comes from the Judicial Crisis network, the conservative nonprofit hiding its donors. Its president clerked for Thomas, and the group, also receiving money from the Koch network, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to support nominations of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito. JCN also spends millions to elect their state judicial and attorney general candidates and pledge at least $10 million backing Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. An undisclosed donor gave them $17 million.

The conservative Gallup poll found 58 percent approval for Jackson’s approval. Only John Roberts had a higher approval, and that was only one point higher in the past 35 years. Jackson is seven points higher than Amy Coney Barrett, 13 points higher than Neil Gorsuch, and 17 points higher than Brett Kavanaugh who came in at 41 points approval and 37 percent opposed. Barrett was the most controversial with 46 percent in opposition and only three percent having no opinion. 

Wednesday continues the questioning of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson with much more mud thrown at her.

March 21, 2022

Truck Convoy Claims They Want ‘Freedom’

A month ago, the law closed down a disruptive truck convoy in Ottawa and blocked city streets and closed down businesses because a few truckers opposed vaccination mandates for crossing the border into the United States. The emergencies act blocked them, the law enforcement drove them out, and all their donations—even in bitcoin—were frozen. Polling showed that 72 percent of the people wanted protesters to “go home,” and the protests made 44 percent of them more likely to support mandates for mask wearing and cross-border vaccine checks. Only 21 percent were more likely to oppose the mandates, and the rest of them didn’t care.

Other parts of Canada are more successful about controlling convoys. In Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, police blocked trucks from getting to the legislature after eight weeks of incessant noise and ridicule against those who wear masks. The convoy protest was cancelled.

In the United States, bored, attention-seeking truck drivers want to cause chaos in Washington, D.C. The motley collection of mostly white men including Three Percenters, Proud Boys, and a variety of QAnon followers gathered 80 miles outside Washington, D.C. for their camp in Hagerstown (MD). Participants who said they voted in 2020 supported Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and believe the election was rigged against him. The ones who didn’t drop out on the trip from California searched for obstacles in their cry for “freedom.” They kept repeating the demand about no masks although only one state, Hawaii, still requires them.

Pete Simi, researcher of far-right movements, explained their current hostility to the D.C. police:

“You’ve got to have villains. You’ve got to have enemies, you’ve got to have outgroups, and D.C. police, part because of what happened with Jan. 6, they have a special status as a potential source of antagonism for these folks. Because of the emphasis on confrontation, there’s always that unforeseeable potential in terms of the turns that it can take, and when it is going to escalate to the point of where there’s potentially overt violence.”

At the beginning of the convoy’s trip on the day before Russia invaded Ukraine, they claimed to be peaceful and wouldn’t leave the Beltway to go into the District. Organizer Brian Brase told them that, like on January 6, 2021, they had to stay out of D.C. proper, falsely claiming that their going into the city was a police “set-up” to justify a crackdown on conservatives. After mask mandates were lifted, truckers added conspiracy theories and other far-right grievances. Last week, irritated by blockades into downtown Washington, they complained about the violation of their First Amendment rights, split up, and started traveling D.C. streets. Driving through the streets, they honked, disrupted commutes, and harassed people.

Paul Waldman wrote that the convoy is protesting something that doesn’t exist:

“The protesters shifted their complaint from the specific to the general, saying that liberty is under assault from everywhere. That creates an umbrella under which almost anything can fit, whether what bothers you is building codes or the microchip Bill Gates and the CIA implanted in your brain.”

Paranoid truck drivers believe commuter traffic near them are “antifa vehicles,” ripe for their attacks. One trucker, John Bigard livestreamed on the OTR Survival YouTube channel his getting out of his truck on the highway and going over to a car trying to merge from the far-left lane to reach an exit. Bigard repeatedly ranted at the driver, punched the car’s window, ridiculed the driver’s accent, yelling “f**king idiot.” Bigard drives for Courier Delivery in North Carolina. In other road rage, four trucks boxed in a car by coordinating on CB radio to pull the driver over and take over two lanes of the highway. One trucker got into a minor accident and then threatened to run over the driver who got out to talk.

In downtown D.C., police are investigating the possibility that one of the convoy truckers hit a pedestrian on Sunday afternoon while the convoy drove through the city. A DuPont Circle resident said she was on the west side of the 1600 block of Connecticut Ave NW “when [the convoy member] struck her with his vehicle and drove on top of her right ankle.” Donald Bryan Thomas of Butler (OH), driving a silver BMW 550i with stickers such as “TRUCKERS RULE!!! MSM LIES” blamed the woman for walking

At a meeting, a driver used a racist rant in calling on the convoy to vandalize the Black Lives Matter Plaza. He said, “All that paint’s coming off that street. Before I get put in my grave, it’s going to get tar and feathered, and then we’re going to tar and feather all our delegates.” Protesters also gathered outside the home of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the hated right-wing symbol of vaccinations and masks.

 About extremists, Simi said:

“That’s part of what the culture thrives on, the idea that they have this power to potentially intimidate, coerce through fear, through their history of using violent action that obviously, people are well aware of. That is a source of empowerment for folks within that culture.”

Republican politicians and candidates came to worship at the shrine of the Hagerstown speedway camp. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) even rode in the lead truck complete with a classic video of his trying to de-truck. Pennsylvania state senator and gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who chartered buses for the January 6 rally, dropped by along with nine GOP congressional members. Those events were orchestrated pro bono by the GOP consulting firm Axiom Strategies that worked for Cruz and Virginia’s Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Cruz wants his DDT supporters back after his stupid actions including his description of the January 6 rioters as “insurrectionists.” Fox’s Tucker Carlson made him retract the statement and apologize for it. The drivers still booed him when he tried to make a speech at their camp.

Truck drivers say they want to slow down traffic, but they weren’t as successful as a guy on a bike who rode slowly in front of the line to frustrated honking from truck drivers. The video, complete with noise, has been seen over 4.2 million times. [visual – truck bicycle]

Truck drivers felt they didn’t enough attention from calls to police about insignficant problems, and the leader Brase suggested drivers “flood 911” with calls because the Maryland police wouldn’t take their calls about insignificant problems. Brase said, “So they can answer the phone tomorrow or enjoy 911 calls.” A police communications official said the truckers’ calls are answered and that a driver flipping off a trucker is not an emergency. Frivolous 911 calls not only keep help from needy people but are also illegal. Wanting to cause more trouble, drivers get out of their rigs and wander around in the middle of traffic on the highway.   

All those “expert” truck drivers also had trouble with the D.C. rain and traffic, having trouble finding their way around. Truckers canceled the convoy for a day because of the rain. Brase wandered the camp with a bag for donations. He also took unwarranted credit for rolling back vaccine and mask mandates throughout the country that had already been announced before the convoy. 

The convoy has collected almost $2 million, processed by the right-wing American Foundation for Civil Liberties and Freedoms, for gas and food although the goal was $5 million. Donations seem to have disappeared the last week. Questions have been raised about wire fraud or intent to defraud because of the convoy’s website claims that “100% OF THE DONATIONS GO TO SUPPORTING THE CONVOY!”

The convoy took a day off on Monday after their organizer left for home but promised to be back tomorrow. Organizer Brase said, “We ain’t going anywhere” just before he went home, saying he needed to “take a break.” No one knows if or when he’ll be back. The convoy has no deadline to leave but might relocate.

Zachary Petrizzo with The Daily Beast tweeted on Sunday:

“Today out in Hagerstown, more and more truckers with The People’s Convoy have complained about becoming sick with a bad cough. One streamer, ‘OTR Survival,’ ended up going to an urgent care, and described the illness as getting ‘hit by a bus.’”

Observing the “freedom fighters” in the U.S. since DDT’s election gives a new definition of “freedom”:  to people like those in the truck convoy, freedom means, “I can do anything I want to do no matter what how much damage it causes people.” The other part of the definition for “freedom”: “I can stop anyone else from doing anything if I disagree with what they are doing.” That’s the new perception of “constitutional rights” for conservative rights.

March 20, 2022

Ukraine: Day 25

In Ukraine, the Russians keeps brutally killing civilians to “win” their invasion, the Ukrainians bravely fight back, and the rest of the world tries to figure out what to do. Despite their shelling of Ukrainians, however, Russia, continuing its brutal shelling and bombing of civilians, seems to be at a stalemate with heavy causalities and equipment losses faced by the invaders of Ukraine. Foreign forces have failed to achieve their initial objectives, and front lines have barely moved in more than a week. Russian actions, especially in the city of Mariupol, will go down in history as war crimes, but its own forces are dying or wounded at up to 1,000 a day, even more by Ukrainian estimates. Analysts report that Russian troops lack sufficient manpower, supplies, and munitions.

Initially, Russian forces going into Ukraine from four directions expected to be greeted as liberators and were unprepared for a long battle. Their goals were the capture of Kharkiv, a northeastern city on the Russian border, and Kyiv, the capital, while connecting the occupied Donbas region with the southern city of Odessa. None has been accomplished. Their forces are still stuck 15 miles outside Kyiv, and the failure with Odessa comes because of Ukrainian resistance at the besieged city Mykolaiv with its first counteroffensive last Wednesday. Needing to win before the world could coalesce against him, Russia’s failure allowed time to put into effect damaging repercussions.  

Mykolaiv is near Russian-occupied Kherson, Russia’s only significant urban victory, and Russian forces must use the bridges there and at Voxnesensk to cross the deep Southern Bug River. Unable to take Mykolaiv, Russians used artillery for to nonstop barrage civilians. The so-called elite Russian marines going north along the riverbanks 57 miles to Voznesensk were routed, leaving armor and dead soldiers. Ukrainian artillery destroyed at least 15 Russian helicopters at the Kherson airport, resulting in Russia’s withdrawal, and Ukraine took an area centered between Mykolaiv and Kherson, pushing Russians back 75 miles from Vozesensk and 22 miles out of Mykolaiv.   

Russia retaliated with “hypersonic” missiles shot from Crimean airspace, the first country to use these. Capable of speed at least five times faster than sound (Russia says ten), the missiles can also change direction; anti-missile systems have difficulty in neutralizing them. Their attack on marine barracks in Mykolaiv killed over 40 Marines. Russian forces also drop “dumb bombs,” an imprecise explosive inaccurately hitting designated targets and therefore “increasing damage to civilian infrastructure and civilian casualties” as well as thermobaric weapons against civilians despite their being banned. Russia’a electronic jamming device, not seen before, helps missiles evade Ukraine’s air-defense systems. Radio-signal decoys trick radars and heat-seeking missiles, like those the Cold War “penetration aids” allowing individual warheads to reach their targets.

Almost 5,000 residents of Mariupol have been forced to go into Russia; the city’s deputy mayor fears they may be subjected to forced labor. Last week, Russia bombed a theater holding hundreds of civilians with the word “children” in large letters outside on the pavement and an art school sheltering 400 others. In the Luhansk region, Russia fired on a nursing home in eastern Ukraine with a tank, at least 56 elderly people. The occupiers abducted the 15 survivors and took them to the regional geriatric boarding school in occupied Svatove. The dead cannot be buried because of the Russian occupation. Russians are also scattering improvised explosive devices (IED) looking like children’s toys throughout the city. This direct hit on a children’s and maternity hospital in the city shows Russian intent to flatten Ukraine. Russian troops are also holding 500 people hostage in another hospital to be used as human shields.

At least ten million Ukrainians have been displaced by the invasion—about one-fourth of the country’s population—with over three million of them refugees in other countries. In Russia, people are also fleeing, especially after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech declaring he pledged a “self-cleansing” of Russian society, possibly targeted at the wealthy by highlighting those with property in France and the U.S. Private jets are departing for Dubai which has not banned Russian air traffic. Earlier they went to Israel for fear of crackdowns and Russia’s economic situation after a vast number of sanctions.

Reuters reported a Russian political scientist describing the “immediate impact of sanctions on the Russian economy” as “30 years of economic development thrown into the bin. All in all, no other economy in the world has experienced anything like this—extreme de-globalization in a matter of days.”

In his speech to the joint congressional session last Wednesday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky asked people to stop buying products from companies that fund Russia’s war machine that deliberately kills women and children.  According to Dana Milbank, about 400 U.S. and other multinational companies have pulled out of Russia with 33 remaining. and he lists several that remain there. Yale’s Jeffrey Sonnenfeld has produced an up-to-date status on corporate actions in Russia. Milbank lists some of the products made by these companies. (Fortunately for me, the one product I use is made from a company that recently stopped dealing with Russia.)

The Russian government claims its websites and state-run media are facing an “unprecedented” wave of hacking, at least twice as powerful as earlier ones. For example, hackers changed the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry hotline with a telephone number for Russian soldiers to call if they want to defect from the army, using the title “Come back from Ukraine alive.” The Russian ministry’s front page states, “Don’t believe Russian media—they lie” and “Default in Russia is near” along with a link offering “full information about the war in Ukraine.” Dozens of Russian judicial websites have insults at Putin and Russians regarding the Ukrainian invasion.

Despite the claim from the GOP Putin wing about Pentagon-controlled biolabs in Ukraine, ten Russian biologists, some of them still in Russia, claims Putin’s QAnon conspiracy theory is false. They state that the Russian military had ed them “deliberately false information” including “the absolutely wild idea of the existence of special ‘DNA of the Slavs,’” which could be used to target ethnic Russians with a biological weapon. One biologist said the “nonsense” echoes “German Nazi propaganda.” All the bacterial strains in the Russian documents are those found in any epidemiological or public health lab, some of them obtained from Russian labs. There are “no deadly pathogens on this list – no plague, anthrax, cholera.”

With the help of U.S. right-wing media, especially Fox, and Russian assets now and formerly in Congress, the lie about “biolabs” has created a global frenzy, much like the evidence-free “weapons of mass destruction” leading the U.S. into a two-decade war in the Middle East earlier this century. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has even introduced the lies from Russia state media into the congressional record without identifying the source when she introduced “a bill to stop taxpayer funding for bioweapons.”

Biden travels to Europe this week to meet with allies about the West’s response to Russia’s invasion and efforts to impose steep costs and participate in a NATO summit in Brussels on March 24. That day and the next, he will join a European Council summit. House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) thinks Biden should go into the country but said nothing about going himself. Last week, government leaders from three European countries met with Zelensky in Ukraine.

Like the U.S., many countries unequivocally support Ukraine, but other parts of the world have backed Russia in the past. China may have the worst dilemma: it has wanted an alliance with Russia, but the destructive sanctions imposed on Russia are frightening. The selloff of Chinese stocks has started creating financial problems. The drop of 6.6 percent on Tuesday brought the biggest plunge since the global financial crisis after an 11-percent plunge on Monday. The tech sector has been particularly hard-hit. Instead of raising the interest rate, as the U.S. Federal Reserve did with 0.25 percent this week, China is leaving its rate steady and putting in 100 billion yen ($15.7 billion) into the financial system. Although the stocks rebounded somewhat at the end of the week, U.S. institutional investors have pulled out about one-third of their holdings, and people in the finance industry are calling China “uninvestible.”

Czech president Miloš Zeman and Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán, both of whom have nurtured friendly relations with Putin, came out against the invasion.

n Latin America, Putin spent billions to exploit internal divisions and back autocratic regimes, especially in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. His propaganda from state TV goes to their countries with staffed RT and Sputnik news bureaus that promotes Russia and disparages the U.S. and Western democracies. Putin called Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, known as the DDT of South America, as his most important partner in Latin America; Bolsonaro will probably be replaced by a leftist president in the upcoming election. Yet not one Latin American nation voted against a UN resolution condemning Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine although four of them abstained. With few exceptions, Latin American officials spoke out against Russia. Columbia plans to join the international sanctions against Russia, and Chile, also promising sanctions, sharply condemns Russia.

Russia has many plans to retaliate against U.S. sanctions. One Russian parliament member wants to take back Alaska and Fort Ross, north of San Francisco, back. John Sutter, of the gold discovery boon, bought Fort Ross for under $20,000, completing the transaction in 1849; the U.S. bought Alaska, originally known as Seward’s Folly, for $7.2 million in 1867. He also wants Antarctica because “we actually discovered it,” said Oleg Matveychev.

March 19, 2022

Courts, Legislation for Spring Equinox 2022

Migrant families experienced a small victory last week when the D.C. Circuit Court said President Joe Biden can remove them under an emergency pandemic rule “only to places where they will not be persecuted or tortured.” Biden has followed a rule instated by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), Title 42, allowing the U.S. to turn back thousands of migrants at its southern border.

Soon after that ruling, however, a one of DDT’s federal judges in Texas ruled against Biden’s exemption of unaccompanied migrant children from DDT’s rule, but CDC terminated the government’ ability to reject these children. Title 42 can still expel single adult migrants and families traveling with children to Mexico or their home countries. CDC said that expulsion of unaccompanied children seeking asylum, established because of COVID, is no longer necessary for health reasons, citing increase of vaccination rates and decrease in cases.

A federal judge ruled that New York illegally took a 2,000-acre plot of land in the northeastern part of the state from the Akwesasne Nation of the Mohawks in the 1800s. After the 1796 Treaty of Canandaigua, the state bought the Hogansburg Triangle in 1824 and 1825 but failed to get federal approval, thus violating the Non-Intercourse Act of 1790. The ruling affects one square mile of Massena, a town of about 13,000 population.

The Second Circuit Court has denied ExxonMobil’s latest try to stop New York and Massachusetts AGs from investigating whether the company lied about how much it knew regarding climate change. To stop the states, ExxonMobil started to sue them in 2016 to keep them from obtaining documents and continuing the probe.

DDT’s campaign must pay over $350,000 in legal fees and expenses for trying to enforce and “unenforceable” nondisclosure agreement against former staffer Alva Johnson. Her case, including claims that he tried to forcibly kiss her, was dismissed by one of DDT’s judges who declared it was merely political. Johnson also asserted she was paid less than comparable workers because she is a Black women. The arbitrator found that the campaign couldn’t invoke a legally unsound NDA. DDT typically uses arbitration to conceal potentially damaging or embarrassing claims from being revealed in court. Two other DDT campaign staffers, Jessica Denson and Omarosa Manigault Newman, won challenges to identical NDAs. In all the cases, the NDA confidentiality and nondisparagement sections were ruled “vague and unenforceable.”

The House of Representatives have passed a bill banning discrimination against hairstyles by 235-189. It “would bar discrimination against locs, braids, Bantu knots, and other hairstyles to make uniform the hodgepodge of state laws against this form of bias, as well as competing court rulings weighing in on bias against specific styles,” according to Bloomberg reporter Paige Smith. The NAACP stated:

“Hair discrimination is rooted in systemic racism, and its purpose is to preserve white spaces. Policies that prohibit natural hairstyles, like afros, braids, bantu knots, and locs, have been used to justify the removal of Black children from classrooms, and Black adults from their employment.”

On the last day of Black History Month (February), 188 Republicans tried to block the bill from a vote. Fourteen Republicans, all from northern or western states, voted yes. The House has 56 Black Democrats and 2 Black Republicans.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who will be 89 by his 2022 re-election try, has told Democrats that they must pass lowered prescription medication costs before Republicans re-take Senate control because the GOP won’t support it. He said that then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sabotaged the legislation in 2019 by telling GOP senators to reject a bill that easily passed the House. The bill never got to the Senate floor. The current bill needs 60 votes to overcome Senate opposition. Democrats are largely in support, perhaps even Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who has fought Biden’s agenda. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) ran on drug-price reform but has opposed it for several months.

Rep. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) teaches a class at Arizona State University on funding campaigns, perhaps explaining this strategy. At a fundraiser, she ridiculed the Democratic president, praised congressional GP members, and called herself “anti-government” and “anti-tax.” Sinema appreciates House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who allows QAnon behavior from his representatives while chastising GOP representatives who tell the truth. About her far-right colleague from Arizona, she said, “I love Andy Biggs.” He believes the election was stolen and denies climate change. Two of his own brothers have called for his removal from Congress for his involvement in the insurrectionist at the Capitol by “attempting to cause uncertainty in the election’s outcome.” Sinema opposed wearing a mask to a meeting with Biden at the White House and told him not to appear in Arizona about the passage of the American Rescue Plan.

Republicans have accused Democrats of wanting to “defund the police” when the argument has been to fund mental health teams in an attempt to stop unnecessary police killings. Denver has a program that does this, a pilot so successful that the Colorado city is expanding it. STAR sends medical and behavioral health clinicians to low-risk calls of trespassing, intoxication, or mental health crises involving poverty, homelessness, or addiction. In its 2,200 calls, the teams have not needed any police back-up for safety issues and saves money for the cities. Other Colorado cities—Pueblo, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins—are investigating similar programs. Aurora has already duplicated Denver’s model.

North Carolina is investigating DDT’s former chief of staff and former representative Mark Meadows for voter fraud after reports that he registered to vote at a property he had never visited. Meadows and his wife are also registered to vote in two different states. Since DDT lost the 2020 presidential election, Republicans have consistently accused minorities and Democrats of voter fraud and passed punitive laws against them voting in at least 19 states. Meadows has been a leader in the charge in the lie that the 2020 election was “stolen” from DDT. Almost all the identified cases of voter and election fraud involve Republicans, and Meadows’ case is for the most prominent Republican. A Florida probe has discovered Republicans coordinating efforts to change registration from Democrat to GOP with the persons’ consent.

Life expectancy is lower in red states such as West Virginia and Mississippi (74 years) and Alabama (75) compared to 80 years in blue states including California, Hawaii, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Conservative Jennifer Rubin wrote: 

“A political mindset that prioritizes racial resentment, anti-science zealotry and manufactured cultural wedge issues is not likely to be conducive to long, healthy lives. Indeed, antagonism toward ‘elites’—e.g., experts—often impedes common-sense measures that save lives.”

Stephen H. Woolf, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, explained

“Conservative governors increasingly use preemption, the authority to override local governments, to block liberal health policies—e.g., indoor smoking bans. States have preempted local regulations on nutrition—e.g., menu labeling, food deserts—and as of 2013, 45 states had enacted statutes to limit local firearm regulations.”

These figures of 2019 don’t reflect COVID deaths, but “eight of the ten states with the highest COVID death rates adjusted for age have Republican governors: Mississippi, Oklahoma, Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, Arizona, Arkansas and Indiana,” according to Rubin. “Nevada and Kentucky are the exceptions, coming in 6th and 10th, respectively.”

Rubin concluded:

“It’s clear the governing philosophy of right-wing states—e.g., low spending; prioritization of cultural wedge issues; anti-elitism—leads to deadly results. Maybe it’s time they stop spending their political energy persecuting gay kids, banning books, outlawing abortion and fanning culture wars. They have plenty of systemic problems they’ve failed to address while busying themselves with MAGA crusades. Red-state voters should look around and see why their states have fallen so far behind in so many categories.”

Republicans also blame Democrats for the crime rate. A few statistics: the homicide rate in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) San Francisco is half that in Bakersfield, McCarthy’s region. In 2020, DDT’s states had a 40 percent higher rate than Biden’s states. And 8 of the 10 states with the highest murder rate in 2020 voted for the GOP candidate in the 21st century. And the GOP stats keep getting worse.

While the U.S. faces the possibility of World War III, the Senate worked on a distraction issue—unanimously passing their all-important bill to keep Daylight Savings Time. It now goes to the House where Democrats are still amazed that the Senate Republicans can accomplish anything. (I confess I’m not real happy about exchanging ordinary time to fake time: success means that the sun won’t come up in the winter until about 8:30 am.)

The lovely bill, the Sunshine Protection Act, would be better named the Business Protection Act: people spend more money if the sun goes down later. People have long known that changing time twice a year causes health problems by disturbing the circadian rhythm, or internal clock. The “social jet lag” almost always results in sleep deprivation with increased risk of mood disturbance, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic dysregulation especially for those in the western areas of any time zone and in northern latitudes. Children have greater safety issues when going to school in the dark.

People grew dissatisfied with the last experiment with permanent DST in January 1974; by February, polling approval dropped to about 30 percent and 19 percent in March. The law lasted only ten months. You can check on your sunrise here.

Consistency can be good, but even when the Senate takes action, it screws it up.

March 15, 2022

Women’s Equal Pay Day, More Ukraine

Today, March 15, 2022, is Equal Pay Day for white women. The National Committee on Pay Equity sets the date each year that represents how far into the year women, on average, must work to earn what men earned in just the previous year. In 2020, women earned 83 cents for every dollar men make. All women make 73 cents for every dollar that white men make. Other equal pay days in 2022:

  • Asian American/Pacific Islander Women’s Equal Pay Day: May 3 (75 cents for each white man’s dollar)
  • Black Women’s Equal Pay Day: September 21 (58 cents for each white man’s dollar)
  • Native Women’s Equal Pay Day: November 30 (50 cents for each white man’s dollar)
  • Latina Women’s Equal Pay Day: December 8 (49 cents for each white man’s dollar)

On the day before Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress, President Joe Biden blocked all property and interests owned by Russian-supporting Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his wife. Lukashenko allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to send his troops into Belarus for his Ukrainian invasion. A new U.S. visa restriction bans current and former Russian government officials and their families from entry to the U.S., affecting at least 38 people “believed to be involved in suppressing dissent.” 

Upset about the U.S. sanctions, Putin sanctioned 13 U.S. Democrats: Biden, White House press secretary Jen Psaki, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and other high level Biden officials. (The sanction misspelled Biden’s name.) Putin even included Hunter Biden and Hillary Clinton in the sanction roundup in blocking travel to Russia and freezing their assets there. (Which they don’t have.) In response to the sanction, Clinton tweeted, “I want to thank the Russian Academy for this Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Russians have killed two more journalists in Ukraine, one of them Pierre Zakrzewski, the Fox network photojournalist riding with Fox reporter Benjamin Hall when they were fired on at a checkpoint outside Kyiv. Also murdered was 24-year-old Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova, a Ukrainian working for the Fox network.

Fox network host Tucker Carlson has stopped praising Putin, but he’s still pushing disinformation that Putin re-broadcasts on Russian state TV. In one clip, retired Army Col. Doug Macgregor told Carlson:

“What is happening now is the battle in eastern Ukraine is really almost over, all the Ukrainian troops there have been largely surrounded and cut off … and if they don’t surrender in next 24 hours, I suspect the Russians will ultimately annihilate them. The game is over.”

This statement is false, but Putin uses it to convince Russians that he is victorious. MacGregor also told Carlson that Putin invaded Ukraine “in defense of his country” to stop Ukraine’s genocide on Russian-speaking civilians. He also blamed the U.S. “globalists” trying to destroy Russia’s “national identity.” Carlson has frequently chosen the conspiracy theorist with a history of xenophobia as his “first choice for foreign policy analysis.” They agree that the Russia should “absolutely” be permitted to annex as much of Ukraine as Putin wants. They are promoting the country killing their network’s journalists.

Carlson and MacGregor aren’t the only conservatives who have a record of supporting Putin’s brutality over Ukraine’s democracy. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) calls a group of Putin-supporting lawmakers the “Putin wing” in their attempt to support Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) attempt to blackmail Zelensky. Staunch DDT supporters are still trying to whitewash his demand for a “favor” to investigate Hunter Biden, the president’s son, in exchange for releasing the congressionally-approved military aid. 

With 80 percent of registered voters in the U.S. viewing Russia as the enemy, Carlson’s propaganda is failing. The number of those seeing Russia as a U.S. ally has dropped by one-half from 17.6 percent in February 2017 to 8.4 percent, according to a YouGov weekly tracking poll. The 80 percent is across both parties and unaffiliated; it’s up one-third from 60 percent since DDT’s inauguration.

A popular demand by some Republicans is a no-fly zone over Ukraine, allowing U.S. and other foreign planes to shoot down Russian planes which can lead to a world war, possibly a nuclear war. Former U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker, is leading the charge. Volker was part of DDT’s 2019 blackmail scandal to block the $400 million of U.S. military aid to Ukraine without a bogus probe into Hunter Biden. Volker’s job was to connect Giuliani with a Zelensky aide, access that Giuliani used to push for DDT’s deal.  He even lied about DDT’s behavior under oath in House testimony, saying he wanted to release the funding. Volker also said he had no idea that the deal had anything to do with Biden.

The indictment of Russian oligarch Andrey Muraviev in September 2020 has been made public. The tycoon allegedly funneled illegal foreign donations for Rep. Pete Sessions’ (R-TX) and DDT’s campaigns, among others. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Soviet-born associates of DDT’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, have been convicted on the same charge in Giuliani’s failed attempt to force Ukrainian officials to investigate Hunter Biden. DDT’s PAC received $325,000 in foreign donations from Muraviev. Sessions received his money for asking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to fire Marie Yavanovitch as U.S. Ambasador to Ukraine, writing Pompeo that he had “notice of concrete evidence” that she had been trashing the Trump administration. DDT fired her a year later, one of the events leading to his first impeachment trials.

For over two decades, Russian oligarchs have stashed their money in the U.S. through the purchase of condos in New York and other U.S. cities, the “luxury apartments” Biden promised to go after in his State of the Union speech. DOJ’s new Task Force KleptoCapture plans to go through the labyrinth of trusts and shell company LLCs to find the owners’ names. DDT joined the scam when he sold Dmitry Rybolovlev a Palm Beach mansion for $95 million at over twice DT’s cost of $14.35 million four years earlier.

Putin claims he’s keeping approximately 500 airplanes leased from foreign countries, most of them inside Russia when the country invaded Ukraine, even if he can’t pay for them. He signed a law allowing his airlines to register the planes, worth approximately $12 billion, and keep flying them. Almost half of the planes are from Ireland, a member of the EU which banned any planes’ sales or leasing to Russia as part of their sanctions. Many of the over 100 leasing companies are too small to survive if they lose these planes.

Leasing companies must end contracts in Russia by March 28. Sanctions also prevent Western companies from providing spare parts and maintenance to Russian airlines, and the planes may also not be insured. Russia will likely use up all the parts they have and then start cannibalizing planes to keep the others flying. Russia plans to use only the planes they own or lease from Russians for flights outside the country.

Putin’s law violates the 1944 Chicago Convention that allows lessors to cross international borders and take back planes from defaulting customers. As of 2019, every UN member—including Russia—had signed on to the agreement except Lichtentein. Because of sanctions, Boeing is losing on-order sales for 35 of its 737 Max and 777 cargo planes. Airbus had orders for 27 planes.  

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new law helps Putin, according to Mark Hertling, a retired U.S. Army officer and Florida resident. In an op-ed for the Miami Herald, Hertling wrote that the law eliminating any incentive for Floridians to generate their own alternative energy provides more oil money to Putin. As former commanding general of the United States Army-Europe, he asserted Russia’s invasion did not come as a “complete surprise” to “those of us who spent most of our professional lives in the U.S. Armed Forces.” They had tracked and reported on Putin’s takeovers and “other adventures in Moldova and Azerbaijan.” Hertling wrote that solar panels on his house cut his electric bills by two-thirds and were paid for within a few years.

Russia’s invasion and its fake disinformation have created a dilemma for its two allies, North Korea and China. Most awkward is Kim Jong Un’s nationalist position, causing an invasion of another country hard to approve. Yet he wants to support one of his very few allies. Korea-language press ignores he invasion.

China looks on Russia as a good ally, but the rapid destruction of Russia’s economy warns the Chinese about danger on Russia’s side against most of the industrialized countries. Chinese President Xi Jinping seems to follow a “pro-Russia neutrality,” a series of contradictory messages with echoes of Russian disinformation. Last week, China promised almost $800,000 humanitarian aid to Ukraine and called the invasion “a war” against Putin’s rules. Yet its propaganda account accidentally posted guidelines for its coverage that said “no posts unfavorable to Russia or with pro-Western content should be published.” State media also published posts using Putin’s term for the U.S. as “an empire of lies” and Russian lies about the U.S. building bioweapons in Ukraine. The question will be whether China gives Russia the military aid it requested.

A custom LEGO retailer in Chicago has raised controversy by selling custom figures of Zelensky and war weapons Molotov cocktails. All the proceeds, thus far $16,540, are donated to Direct Relief, providing emergency medical assistance throughout the world, that donated $26 million to Ukraine in the past six months. When the company ran out of the product, it asked people to donate to “a relevant charity.” The LEGO group has stopped shipments to Russian brand stores and donated £12.3 million in relief efforts through the LEGO Foundation.

 

Russia Continues Brutality, Faces Economic Disaster

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 1:04 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

In the 19th day of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, the brutality of bombing civilian targets continues, but Russia’s assaults seems to be stalled with strong Ukrainian resistance, especially around the cities of Cherniv and the capitol, Kyiv. Russians, however, are still producing false propaganda: the presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the military operation is “proceeding in accordance with the original plan and will be completed on time and in full.”

Since the invasion began, Russia has fired over 900 missiles at Ukrainian targets, dozens of cruise missiles this past weekend on the Yavoriv military training base in western Ukraine about six miles from Poland and 18 miles northwest of the city of Lviv. Fifty Russian vehicles moved southeast of Kharkiv in an attempt to link with Russian forces in the south to cut off Ukrainian troops in the east of their country.

The Red Cross described one besieged city, Mariupol, as a “worst-case scenario” with dead bodies under the rubble or lying in the open. Injuries cannot be treated, and hundreds of residents face “extreme or total shortages of basic necessities like food, water and medicine.” Russia has promised permission for evacuations on four different occasions but won’t stop shelling the city while people try to leave.

After little movement toward Kyiv, the 40-mile-long convoy has split off through the countryside with rocket artillery and supply trucks in firing positions 30 miles north of the capital. The convoy may have about 15,000 troops with fuel tankers and ammunition truck. On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin okayed up to 16,000 mercenaries from the Middle East to be sent to Ukraine, hoping to stop more Russian casualties.  About two million people, over half Kyiv’s residents, have evacuated, and the remainder of them are fortifying the city.

Another high-level military official, Russian tank commander Colonel Andrei Zakharov, was supposedly killed. In addition, at least three Russian generals and three colonels were killed in the first two weeks of the invasion. These disasters echo the common belief that Russian troops didn’t understand they were heading into an invasion. They chatted with Ukrainian motorists and were reluctant to drive into civilians blocking highways.

Russians have arrested mayors of two cities, one of them Melitopol where the occupying forces put in a Russian-supporting replacement who dissolved the city’s government. The new pro-Russian mayor is promising broadcasting of “Russian TV channels,” which means that what the mayor calls “trustworthy information” will be Putin’s lies. The legal mayor hasn’t been heard from. Meliopol, in southeastern Ukraine, has a strategic importance and was previously captured by Nazi Germany in 1941. 

The arrest of Marina Ovsyannikov, an editor at Moscow’s state TV, Channel One, went viral today when she protested the war on her own station. Shouting “Stop the war!” she held up an anti-war sign on live evening news, reading “No War” in English and Russian messages including “Don’t believe the propaganda” and “You are being lied to.” In a pre-recorded message, she said, “They can’t jail us all.” A new Putin law could leave her in prison for 15 years. Another woman was arrested for carrying a blank sign on the streets. Ovsyannikova also expressed shame for working for the network and “allowed to zombify Russian people.” She blamed Putin for the war which she called a “crime.” Other Russian state TV commentators are risking their lives by pushing Russia to leave Ukraine, concerned about civil war in their own country.

In the U.S., Fox network Tucker Carlson has been so supportive of Putin that the Russian president sent a memo to state television stating it is “essential” to rerun Carlson’s rants against the U.S. and Ukraine. His latest message is that the two countries have colluded in preparing chemical weapons. While Carlson and other right-wing media promote Putin, Fox network correspondent Benjamin Hall has been hospitalized in Ukraine for injuries while reporting outside Kyiv. U.S. photojournalist Brent Renaud was killed in Irpin, a town outside Kyiv, when Russian soldiers opened fire on a car. Another U.S. journalist, Juan Arredondo, was hospitalized with shrapnel wounds. They were filming refugees fleeing the area when they drove to a checkpoint and Russians shot them.

The invasion is threatening the global food supply. Over 40 African and least-developed countries import at least one-third of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia, and 18 of them import at least 50 percent from Ukraine to feed 125 million people. Twenty percent of the world’s corn supply also comes from Ukraine.

Russia has asked China for help with the invasion, and China appears open to providing military and financial assistance. The U.S. has warned a top Chinese aide of “potential implications and consequences” if China gives that support. Russia has even asked for military food kits; Russian troops are breaking into grocery stores to get food because the government doesn’t give them these supplies. The Chinese Communist Party leadership is concerned about giving assistance for fear of economic consequences, and the country’s President Xi Jinping is bothered of how Russia’s invasion has strengthened the NATO alliance as well as Russia’s lack of competence in the invasion.

Xi was also off-guard because his intelligence didn’t predict the invasion although the U.S. has warned the world about it for weeks. It is probable that Putin lied to Xi the same way he lies to his own people. In the beginning of a possible axis in February, Xi and Putin declared their relationship had “no limits” when Xi was furious about President Joe Biden’s diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics.

Russia’s economic situation is dire, and the country is on the edge of default, failing to meet its foreign debt obligations for the first time since the Bolshevik revolution more than a century ago. In 1918, Vladimir Lenin repudiated bonds issued by the Tsarist government. Russia last defaulted on its domestic debt after a collapse in commodity prices in 1998. The default could come as soon as April 15, 30 days after $117 million in interest is due, and credit agencies will consider payment in rubles to be default. Russia’s dollar bonds have already crashed to 20 cents on the dollar, and the ruble, dropped in value from $.08 to under $.0083 in two weeks, probably can’t be used to pay creditors from “countries that are unfriendly,” something that Putin threatened.

Fitch Ratings downgraded Russia’s credit to “C,” junk status, and Moody’s and S&P Global did the same earlier. The U.S. will no longer import Russia fossil fuels and other Russian products such as seafood, alcohol, and diamonds; the EU is cutting is consumption by two-thirds. Lack of capital in Russia means massive unemployment and failure to pay salaries. More oligarchs and elites, including Russian bank board members and lawmakers, have been sanctioned.

With Russian banks sanctioned, consumer credit will be gone. Outside the country, investors will look for safer bets than Russian interests and flood Western markets with capital pulled from China, India, and Brazil, causing higher price inflation. Russia cannot borrow money from eight of the world’s ten largest economies, and its largest customers from exporting natural resources have cut off relations. The country simply cannot transfer capital.  

Biden, the other G7 countries, and EU are calling for revoking “most favored nation” status for Russia, meaning trade under the best possible terms such as lower tariffs and fewer trade barriers. The U.S. will ban imports of seafood, vodka and diamonds from the nation as part of an effort to ramp up economic pressure on Russia for invading Ukraine as well as bans on exporting luxury items such as jewelry, cars, and antiques to Russia. G7 will seek to deny Russia borrowing ability from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

In the first two weeks of invasion, over 300 companies suspended operations or left the market, but Koch Industries is staying. If Jane Mayer’s report on Koch industries is correct, the major U.S. corporation staying in Russia would be predictable. Author of the book Dark Money, Mayer, an investigative journalist, wrote, “The Koch family fortune started by building refineries for Stalin and Hitler.”

Experts say that even with the lifting of sanctions, the economic effects from other countries’ actions will last for “many, many years to come.” The stock market has been frozen for three weeks, and “Russia will become poorer and more technologically backward,” according to Edward Alden, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Meanwhile, Russia continues to commit war crimes by shelling civilians, and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky will give a virtual address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

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