Nel's New Day

May 4, 2023

Ukrainian, Sudanese Wars

Russian President Vladimir Putin has a new excuse for his brutal attacks on Ukraine: he accuses Ukrainians of sending two drones over the Kremlin to assassinate him. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denies the attempt, saying that Ukraine needs weapons to fight on their own territory. Nobody was hurt, and Putin wasn’t in the Kremlin, instead staying at his heavily fortified compound in Novo-Ogaryovo, a Moscow suburb. Yet he plans to retaliate, possibly “preparing a large-scale terrorist provocation” in Ukraine, according to a Ukrainian presidential adviser.  

Russia likely sent the drones because Putin is publicizing the event instead of hiding it from the embarrassment of a humiliating failure to protect the Kremlin. Exiled Leonid Volkov, a Russian politician opposed to Putin, wrote on his social media that Russian officials highlighted their “lack of air defenses, their vulnerability, weakness, and helplessness” but “decided that the pluses [of the publicity] would be able to outweigh the minuses.” Vladimir Putin’s first prime minister, Mikhail Kasyanov, said he thought Putin staged the operation to recruit for the Russian military.

Ukraine would probably not fly two drones 280 miles into Russia over the highly defended Kremlin without Russia’s discovering and destroying them before they reached the target. Ukrainian intelligence would also know Putin wasn’t in the building that night. The U.S. is also viewing Russia’s claim with great skepticism. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said takes anything Putin says with a “very large shaker of salt.”

An Atlantic article discusses the historical importance of Ukrainian territory to Putin. In 1774, Catherine the Great’s favorite general, Prince Grigory Potemkin, took the southern frontier of her empire from the Mongol Khans, Cossack hosts, and Ottoman Turks. He founded Kherson, the first home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and, in 1783, annexed Crimea, according to Russian belief. The mythology doesn’t describe Potemkin building fake villages along Catherine’s route on a 1787 six-month visit to Crimea in what was called New Russia to prove he was winning a war that he was not winning.

Russian rule, both czarist and Soviet, targeted Muslim Crimean Tatars, the majority of the peninsula’s population before Potemkin, with repression, intimidation, and ethnic cleansing. In 1944, Stalin sent all 200,000 people to Central Asia. They returned after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989 but mostly fled after Russian rule in 2014. The remaining 100 are political prisoners. Under Putin, Crimea changed from a holiday resort area to an area of trenches and fortifications with prisons for captured Ukrainians and a transport area for stolen Ukrainian grain.

When Russia occupied Kherson 14 months ago, their soldiers “kidnapped the mayor, tortured city employees, murdered civilians, and stole children.” Despite Putin’s declaration that Russian-occupied Ukraine became part of Russia, Ukrainians fought back. Russians bolted seven months later, taking Potemkin’s skull and several of his bones from St. Catherine’s Cathedral, built by Potemkin. Asked about the theft, Zelensky said that Russian soldiers take “everything,” including urinals.

Putin appears to be playing a waiting game, hoping that Western allies will tire, Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) will be elected president, Ukrainians will quit, or the poorly armed and trained Russian soldiers will overwhelm Ukrainians. Asked why the U.S. should support Ukraine, Zelensky said if Russia occupies Ukraine, the first of the dominoes falling to Russia, the Baltic countries would be next, followed by Europe, and then the NATO countries. He described it as a war over civilization, a battle “to show everybody else, including Russia, to respect sovereignty, human rights, territorial integrity; and to respect people, not to kill people, not to rape women, not to kill animals, not to take that which is not yours.” A win in Ukraine is a model to the rest of the world that human rights can be victorious against a much larger autocratic society.

Ukraine has demonstrated how uses everything availability in technology, such as “tiny little computer chips on the back of a rusty old vehicle, or in the backpack of a soldier, or on the payload of a drone.” Donations of weaponry from dozens of other countries has given them “approximately 10 systems of artillery” which Ukrainians coordinate with limited ammunition, manpower, and satellite connection. The citizens’ army is equally diverse from NATO-trained officers to older people guarding their villages. The Ukrainian army has gone from the least educated and ambitious to the best educated and most ambitious.

More than a battle between democracy and autocracy, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine represents a large, corrupt, top-down state fighting a flexible society. Ukrainian farmers defend their land while young engineers protect the skies; on the other side, Russian commanders send poorly armed conscripts as “cannon fodder” to be slaughtered.

A dream of victory in Ukraine is keeping sovereign control of its territory within internationally recognized borders, including land taken by Russia since 2014: Donetsk, Luhansk, Melitopol, Mariupol, Crimea. They believe that Russian de facto ceding territory emboldened Putin to take more territory. A cease-fire, as China has proposed, would encourage Putin to regroup, rearm, and try to take more of Ukraine, creating more areas with daily repression, terror, and human-rights violations.

Victory would also mean safety from terrorist attacks, shelling, missiles aimed at civilian areas and schools. Airports could reopen, refugees come home, foreign investments return, and new buildings won’t be blown up again.

A third meaning of victory means justice for war victims who lost homes, limbs, children—adjudicated from captured or sanctioned Russian assets, possibly by the International Criminal Court. Ukrainians believe neither Russia nor Putin can have impunity.

The Ukrainian dream of an independent country is not impossible. In the early 20th century, Britain was forced to stop considering the Irish as peasants incapable of governing themselves, and in the early 1960s, France was forced to end their colonial project in Algeria.

Putin’s downscaling or cancellations of major public events such as May Day (May 1) and Victory Day (May 9) are less likely intended for public safety from Ukraine’s attacks in Russia and more likely by worry about Russians publicly opposing his invasion of Ukraine, according to an authority on Eurasian affairs. One fear is “the potential humiliation of thousands of civilians marching with the portraits of sons and husbands fallen in Ukraine,” Samantha de Bendern wrote. 

Russia is also falsely blaming the United States for ordering the drone strikes to assassinate Putin. This accusation came hours after Russia launched self-destructing drones against Kyiv and Odessa in very early morning. Eighteen of the 24 drones were shot down without casualties.

In another sign of Russian problems, Chinese President Xi Jinping called Zelensky for the first time since Russia invaded on February 24, 2022. For months, Xi has been suggesting peace plans, but they included Ukraine’s turning over its country’s land to Russia. Zelensky called the hourlong conversation “long and meaningful” and named an ambassador to China. Xi is sending his envoy for European affairs to Kyiv. Assumptions about Xi’s reaching out:

Xi may think that his alliance with Putin less than a month before his invasion was a mistake. Although Xi gives Russia funding and technical gear, he provides no weapons and watches Russia’s failures  as the army’s recent offensive hasn’t moved the lines of battle forward.

Xi failed with his political campaign to benefit China with politico-economic inroads into Europe when China’s hardliner ambassador to France, Lu Shaye, disavowed sovereignty for former Soviet Union republics freed in 1989—including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine—in late April, two days before Xi called Zelensky.

Zelensky’s consistently demands Russia withdraw its military from all occupied Ukrainian territory and agree to the 1991 borders before a ceasefire, meaning Russian departure from Crimea and Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had given Crimea to Ukraine. A Zelensky “win” would collapse Putin’s power, and Xi would be forced into a decision of switching sides or joining Putin.

Much has been said about the leaks from the 21-year-old airman to his game-playing buddies, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Ukraine is better off for the expected Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russia than the documents indicated with changes in the past few months.

Ukraine’s crop-sowing time is nigh, and mine-removers are busy. A Ukrainian farmer has created a way to take out live mines left in his field. His remotely-operated tractor has protective armor panels from damaged Russian tanks. He said an anti-tank mine blew off the armor, but the tractor is safe. He just repaired the tractor. Russians have mind about 30 percent of Ukrainian territory.

In Sudan, neither side—the military and the warlords—has the upper hand as the two generals fight for more strategic positions controlling oil infrastructure, military factories, and prominent landmarks before the next cease-fire on May 5. The military has greater ability to resupply; the paramilitary Rapid Support Force (RSF) has more weapons but less capability to obtain food and wounded treatment. The military has heavy armored vehicles and hundreds of tanks but problems in maintenance. With more maneuverability, however, the RSF has bases in residential neighborhoods. The military controls functioning manufacture of heavy weaponry and ammunition while the RSF has a complex making light weapons and ammunition.

Meanwhile, in the capital, residents are trapped without water, food, or transport. In South Darfur’s Nyala, the RSF has the police and intelligence headquarters, the airport, and the eastern half; the army has the city headquarters and the main markets. Other cities are equally split.

March 9, 2023

Child Labor Increasing, Underage Marriage Laws Considered

Filed under: Legislation,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 12:19 AM
Tags: , , ,

Conservatives don’t want migrant workers, but they want laws permitting child labor.

States are reworking laws to expand the number of hours children can work in jobs and allow them to be in danger with no liability from their employers. Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has just signed the most recent “child labor” law in Arkansas, this one a version of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” It overturns the existing law, almost 100 years old, to require work certificates under the age of 16 with the mandate that minors under 16 had to verify their age and obtain written consent of a parent or guardian for a state work certificate.

In the top Arkansas office for under three months, Sanders said two of her goals are to fight crime and protect children from harm. Sanders’ spokesperson said that “this permit was an arbitrary burden on parents.” The law returns decision-making to parents and streamlines hiring for minors, according to Republicans.

Arkansas is one of eight states where a large food sanitation company illegally employed at least 102 children between ages of 13 and 17 in jobs where they used toxic chemicals and cleaned razor-sharp saws. The company paid a $1.5 million civil penalty for its violations, ten of them in Arkansas. Since 2018, the number of children illegally employed in the U.S. has increased by 69 percent.  

Many of the children are migrants who came to the U.S. without their parents. Some as young as 12, they roof buildings in Florida and Tennessee; work in slaughterhouse in Delaware, Mississippi, and North Carolina; saw wood planks at overnight shifts in South Dakota; etc. throughout at least 20 states. In Los Angeles, they stitch “Made in America” into J. Crew shirts and bake dinner rolls for sale at Walmart. They’re in the country legally and supposedly protected by the government although agencies have lost contact with a third of them.  

To stay within the law, states are lowering the ages for children to fill jobs in factories. Iowa has a bill out of committee permitting 15-year-old children and older to work in industrial freezers and meat coolers, on assembly lines, and loading or unloading items weighing up to 50 pounds. The age drops to 14 years of age if the work is considered part of a work-based learning program. The bill also permits more work hours during the school year, and—in a horrifying provision—employers aren’t responsible for injured or killed children at work. No workers’ compensation.

Iowa isn’t alone. Ohio’s bill extends working hours for 14- and 15-year-olds if parents or legal guardians give permission. Legislators want Congress to pass the same rollbacks for all the states, and its GOP representative David Joyce complied with the request. Minnesota’s bill also extends working hours for the same ages as did Wisconsin whose Gov. Tony Evers vetoed the bill. Between 300,000 to 500,000 minors work in the U.S. agriculture industry with 48 percent of all young worker fatalities between 2001 to 2015 in that industry. 

Under FDR, the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act tried to block “oppressive child labor” but has many loopholes. Large work areas such as agriculture weren’t included, and child-labor provisions only cover the transport of goods across state lines. Regulations relied on states’ guidelines. Iowa’s exemptions for protections are in areas in which employees describe a labor shortage—which can be any work area. According to studies, less-regulated youth employment “comes with high psychological and social costs,” and young workers suffer workplace injuries and fatalities at much higher rates than older workers. Neither of these problems bother employers as long as they don’t have to pay for them.

Violations of child-labor laws are growing more severe; last year’s Department of Labor investigated 3,876 minors’ employment violating child-labor law, three times more than 2015. Iowa’s rate of worker fatalities, 4.9 per 1,000, is 40 percent higher than the national rate. The Iowa Occupational Health and Safety Administration, friendly to employers, closed 145 of 150 complaints regarding dangerous working conditions with no workplace inspection. A 2017 change in workers’ compensation law greatly reduced benefits for injuries to young workers by revising the definition of “permanent disability” and placing a majority of the burden of workplace injuries on workers and their families.  

In addition to a shortage of migrant workers, only 4.8 percent of Iowa’s private sector workers have a collective bargaining contract. The minimum wage has stayed at $7.25 since 2008 with its inflation-adjusted value at slightly over $5 an hour.

Republicans in the U.S. are reducing violations in child-labor laws by make them far more lax. These violations increased 37 percent in fiscal year 2022, including 688 children working in hazardous conditions, likely far fewer than in reality. Children found employed in hazardous occupations, such as meatpacking and construction, skyrocketed by 93 percent over the past seven years.

High-profile discoveries of these violations are in Hyundai and Kia supply chains (Alabama), JBS meatpacking plants (Nebraska and Minnesota), and fast-food chains including McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, and Chipotle. Hyundai employed children as young as 12. The violation in Arkansas was at one of 13 meatpacking plants owned by Packers Sanitation Services and operated by some of the most influential meat and poultry producers including JBS Foods, Tyson, and Cargill.

Violations increased almost 70 percent since 2018, with 835 investigated companies violating child labor laws. The maximum fine for each violation is only $15,138. Young workers have much higher rates of non-fatal injuries on the job and the highest rates of injuries that require emergency department attention.

Staying in school won’t benefit children in Montana if Republicans pass the bill banning “scientific theory” in public schools—only scientific fact. No Big Bang, gravity, evolution, quantum theory, the atom, black holes, three spatial dimensions in the universe, animal classification, etc. Scientific theory is an explanation of “a group of facts or phenomena in the natural world that often incorporates a scientific hypothesis and scientific laws.” The “theory” of creationism might stay; a lawyer in North Korea, the only supporter of the bill during public discussion, explained people can know things only from direct observation or from the Bible.  

The homeschooled Christian behind the bill, state Sen. Daniel Emrich, is newly elected; his tweets push election denial, Hillary Clinton’s “executing [sic] human babies, and ridicule of a teenage girl’s obituary because was “fully vaccinated.” He sees his bill as being constitutional in the forced reevaluation of scientific curriculum, a costly process if the bill passes. Also all science textbooks would have to be trashed. 

Veteran science teacher Rob Jensen, who won the 2019 Presidential Science and Math Teaching Award, said the bill “makes the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial … look like a period of enlightenment.” His conclusions: “Oh, and a special shoutout to the quantum theory for making this Zoom call possible.”

Republicans are also promoting child marriage such as Wyoming’s GOP campaigning against a bill prohibiting marriages under the age of 16 although permitting 16- and 17-year-olds to marry with parental consent. Currently, Wyoming has no minimum age requirement for marriage; a judge can permit marriages for anyone under 16. GOP argument against a minimum age for marriage is “concern about constitutional rights.” Another argument is that children born to parents under 16 should be able to have a stable home because they are “physically capable of begetting and bearing children.” The bill “denies the fundamental purpose of marriage,” according to Republicans.

While Republicans don’t worry about protecting children from child labor and marriage, they want to block any gender-affirming care for youth with the falsehood that young people say that they are transgender only because they are victimized by “groomers,” child sex abusers who have gained their trust.

Vermont is moving in the opposite direction from Wyoming, discussing a bill to increase the age of consent for marriage to 18. At this time, one parent can give consent to youth under 17 to marry. According to the U.S. State Department, forced marriages, especially involving minors, are a human rights abuse. Yet, child marriage remains legal in 43 states, some of which have no minimum age to marry at all. In Vermont, 80 percent of youth in underage marriages during 2020 and 2021 were girls, and half of them marriage someone at least four years older than they were.

According to U.S. statistics, women waiting to marry until they are 18 years or older are far more likely to graduate from high school and college; 50 percent of girls marrying before age 18 are 50 percent more likely to drop out of school. In underage marriages, early marriage doubles a teenager’s chance of living in poverty and triples the possibility of domestic violence. These girls also suffer significantly higher health risks than those who marry in adulthood. In Vermont, 80 percent of youth marrying underage in 2020 and 2021 are girls and half of them married males at least four years older than they are.

Ending child labor and underage marriage are two ways of achieving equality.

February 13, 2023

The U.S. House – ‘Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing’

The U.S. House has one more week to search out corruption before members go home for a week. One question for the GOP weaponization subcommittee: why isn’t it investigating the profitable payoffs by Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to the Trump family? Probably because they’re diverting attention to Chinese balloons or hoping to see the “dick pics” on Hunter Biden’s laptop. 

After former Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) favored MBS, even accepting his brutal torture and murder of U.S. journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and son-in-law Jared Kushner became MBS’ BFF, the two of them royally benefited with largess from Saudi’s funds. Kushner got $2.5 billion for his flailing private equity firm, and DDT’s golf courses made big bucks by hosting the Saudi’s new LIV Golf tournaments. After failing in U.S. real estate, DDT works with a Saudi real estate company to build a Trump hotel at Oman’s $4 billion golf resort. About DDT’s closeness with the Saudis if he’s reelected, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said, “The financial links between the Saudi royal family and the Trump family raise very serious issues.” Delicious details about other Trump favors for Saudis are here.

Despite past rebuffs from the DOJ, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), head of the Judiciary Committee and the weaponization subcommittee, “requested” documents the DOJ provided in an earlier lawsuit filed by GOP-led states accusing the Biden administration of efforts to “suppress free speech and censor content online.” The GOP subject was Biden’s “allegedly working” with social media companies to censor free speech on topics such as Covid and election integrity (aka bogus treatments, fake excuses against vaccinations, and the “stolen” 2020 election). Jordan gave February 22 as his deadline.

How have the House members been earning the taxpayer money?

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) promised he would require the reading of the Constitution on the first day of the House’s 118th Congress. The reading occurred on the 35th day, a little late because McCarthy spent the first four days getting elected and then another five weeks “weaponizing.” Something GOP members missed in the reading is that the executive branch, not the legislative one, enforces the law. In the 117th Congress, the House January 6 investigative committee turned all materials over to the DOJ and made a recommendation. Jordan, however, mistakenly believes he’s in charge of DOJ investigations. Even far-right Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia stated that “the President’s constitutionally assigned duties include complete control over investigation and prosecution of violations of the law.” A full explanation here.

In a new agreement, Judiciary Committee members can ask people to lead the mandatory Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of all meetings—in addition to the mandatory Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of every daily session. One request was that insurrectionists not be allowed to do the leading, so Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who pushed the idea through, instead picked a man on trial for murder.

What happens behind closed doors in classified briefings doesn’t stay there anymore. Someone reported on the statements by Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) at last week’s congressional briefing about shooting down the first Chinese balloon. In a nutshell, she really respects “our veterans,” after saying last year that joining the armed forces was “throwing your life away,” and she knows more about national security that the national security people do. She believes the balloon should have immediately been shot down because it could have a nuclear bomb or hypersonic missiles. Her plan is shooting into a balloon to spread radioactivity and/or disease over a large area. According to Greene, her authority comes from her father serving in Vietnam and having “many other family members that served in the military.” 

Greene has said she wore the white cost with a fur color to the State of the Union speech, saying she wants to look like a Chinese white helium balloon.

While Greene works to make other people’s lives miserable, she hates her life as a legislator, at least according to her rant on a podcast. Her complaints: the job doesn’t pay enough, takes too much time, and is year-round. She doesn’t get to go home often enough, people come up and say crazy things, and she has to run for reelection every two years. Greene added, “Becoming a member of Congress has made my life miserable.” Most of her colleagues wouldn’t mind if went back to Georgia.

Lauren Boebert (R-CO) worries about people in the U.S. owning 46 percent of the world’s civilian firearms. “We need to get our numbers up,” she said. In a sermon at the Storehouse Dallas Church, Boebert again prayed for Biden’s death, quoting Psalms 109:8-13, “Let his days be few… Let his children be fatherless, And his wife a widow.” Her audience cheered and laughed. The quote was also commonly used for Barack Obama during his two terms, including by sitting GOP senator from Alabama David Perdue. Boebert also said she must stand up to demons, including the speaker of the House.

To get another vote for Speaker, McCarthy put Scott Perry (R-PA), leader of the far-right Freedom Caucus, on the Oversight Committee which enabled him to vote against the DOJ accessing his cell phone contents in a probe of DDT’s election overturning efforts. Perry blame pollution on God, but his family company dumped sewage sludge into a nearby creek while Perry was running the company. He also kept DDT’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows company while Meadows burned documents in his office fireplace at the White House.   

David Schweikert (R-AZ), founder of the Freedom Caucus in 2015, has left because its counterpart in Arizona’s state legislature, according to Schweikert, has become too toxic. He blamed the narrowness of his win in his home district on local lawmakers. He said Arizona’s Freedom caucus was different from the national one, but the state used Schweikert’s Freedom Caucus as a model with the same legislative priorities—curbing rights for voting, abortion, education, and LGBTQ people.

Newly elected Andy Ogles (R-TN) is leading 20 representatives in sponsoring a bill to overturn the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), including its lowered costs for Medicare recipients. Biden’s administration plans to release “state-by-state data indicating how [the GOP bill] would affect constituents in different areas.” Two of the IRA provisions are a $35-per-month cap on insulin copayments for Medicare recipients and an annual $2,000 limit on out-of-pocket drug costs. Medicare can also begin negotiating the prices of a subset of the most expensive prescription drugs directly with pharmaceutical companies, set to take effect in 2026. To Ogles’ bragging about cutting inflation, one reader responded:

“So your idea of reducing inflation is raising insulin prices, raising health care costs, raising energy costs, and forcing Tennesseans to pay more for life-saving vaccines.”

Ogles failed to meet his campaign finance reporting deadline by over a week, and his ultimate filing showed he greatly exaggerated his fundraising prowess early in his race. His treasurer was also the sole funder of a super PAC, raising questions about illegal coordination with Ogles’ campaign. He complained that ads reporting his problems came from a “billionaire in Oregon” who didn’t have anything to do with Tennessee. The “billionaire” is Oracle chair and DDT supporter Larry Ellison who is building a $1.2 billion campus in Nashville projected to create 8,500 jobs. Ogles voted against Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for the first 11 ballots until they “talked”; the Tennessee representative is now a member of the prestigious Financial Services Committee.

Freedom again trumps personal safety as smoking is now permitted in the U.S. Capitol’s public areas, expanded from in private offices. When Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) gloated about the change on the Tucker Carlson show, the host accused Biden of “actively encouraging” people to use “meth and crack” and asked why people thought using tobacco was such a big deal. About 41,000 people annually die from exposure to secondhand smoke. Former smoker Carlson, who constantly chews nicotine gum, said that tobacco “founded the country.”

At a roast for the Washington Press Club, Nancy Mace (R-SC) ripped into Maxwell Frost (D-FL) for his youth despite his highly professional manner at the committee meetings. Frost, the first GenZ in Congress, is only 26, but ridiculing youth won’t win badly needed voters for the GOP.

The least deserving of receiving taxpayer money may be George Santos (R-NY), but his issues require an entire blog post. 

Republicans oppose the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, lower costs of prescription drugs, expansion of free school-lunch programs, Covid mandates, family leave, wearing masks, motorcyclist helmets, and the lates concern about pollution in homes from gas stoves. The U.S. House has also removed metal detectors, allowing anyone to smuggle guns onto the chamber floor.

The next weaponization investigation from the GOP House is the origins of Covid and the possibility that U.S. funds went to the Wuhan (China) lab. Republicans will also attack Dr. Anthony Fauci, formerly the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the president of EcoHealth Alliance, a non-profit pandemic prevention research organization.

Tonight was the 68th mass shooting in the U.S. for the first 43 days when a gunman killed at least three people and wounded another five at Michigan State University in Lansing. That issue, however, will surely not be addressed in the weaponization subcommittee.

“It is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/Signifying nothing.”

This is the full Shakespeare quotation for the excerpt cited in this post’s title.

February 11, 2023

GOP Hearings Pure Gold for Democrats [Update: Balloons Keep Flying – The headline about a balloon being shot down may become a daily occurrence. Today’s “unidentified ‘high-altitude object,’” the second in two days, was shot down over Canada’s Yukon territory.]

More GOP failures from the past week: 

The far-right (former fringe) Republican members of Congress thought they were ready for President Joe Biden at his State of the Union (SOTU) speech on February 7. To even the most innocuous of his statements, they booed, made catcalls, and shouted rude rejoinders. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had promised civilized behavior and asked Biden not to refer to “extreme MAGA Republicans” because it isn’t “appropriate.” Biden didn’t use the term, but McCarthy couldn’t control his caucus, no matter how many times he tried to shush them from his high seat beside VP Kamala Harris.

Biden was on a roll. He handled the rudeness and disrespect with humor and humorous responses, showing them as the liars; i.e., the GOP declaration they never said they would reduce Social Security and Medicare. Biden had the proof, which he liberally shared in speeches for the next two days.

McCarthy continued to be the loser of the week as members of the Oversight Committee and the “weaponization” subcommittee failed to achieve their goal of destroying the Democrats.

Wednesday’s Oversight hearing was intended to prove that Twitter had favored the left-wing by censoring conservative messages before Elon Musk purchased the company a year ago. GOP’s witnesses started by claiming that Twitter censored a New York Post article about Hunter Biden’s laptop. The Twitter Files, which Musk made public in December 2022, was a series of internal records showing a two-day suppression of tweets about the story because of the company’s policy against “hacked materials” and concerns about the 2020 election within three weeks. The accusation of Joe Biden’s “corruption” in the article had not been validated.  

Yoel Roth, former Twitter’s head of safety, testified about the persecution he suffered after Musk released the Twitter Files: he was forced to move away from his home and sell it after a campaign of “homophobic and antisemitic” harassment. Musk and others magnified “defamatory” claims that Roth condones pedophilia. Roth also described the harassment of other employees. Musk had released the names of Roth and other company decision makers, and the Daily Mail published his home address.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said Roth’s testimony showed the dangers of “legitimizing unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the deep state, big tech and government and government censorship for political gain.” She added, “Committee Republicans are holding a match to a powder keg.” Far-right committee members proved Norton right.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said she was happy that Twitter employees lost their jobs, and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) called former executives “fascist Twitter 1.0.” They both falsely declared that Twitter had discriminated against them because of their accounts suspended for their breaking company policies. Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) threatened the four former Twitter executives brought to the hearing with arrests and jail but didn’t specify any crimes. Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-MD) asked Oversight Committee chair, James Comer (R-KY), to intervene after Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) said former Twitter executive Yoel Roth’s past communications with the federal government were “highly illegal.”

The hearing blew up the GOP whining that technology is in the pocket of the Democrats when the former Twitter employees testified about DDT demanding tweets be removed that he felt were derogatory to him. DDT complained about “boring musician @john legend, and his filthy mouthed wife,” and the “wife,” Chrissy Teigen, tweeted that DDT was a “pussy ass bitch.” That statement is in the House record because Maxwell Frost (D-FL), the youngest House member, initiated an exchange with the witness. Frost also elicited testimony from two border police officials that Democrats don’t want “open borders.” 

In her testimony, Anika Collier Navaroli, a former member of Twitter’s content moderation team, told Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that Twitter’s policies allowed DDT to tweet in 2019 that she and her liberal colleagues should “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came.” The company’s policy was to ban the phrase “go back to your country,” but former Twitter executive Del Harvey overrode Navaroli’s recommendation to label the tweet as a violation. To accommodate DDT’s racism, Twitter later changed its guidelines to allow the phrase.

New Twitter owner Elon Musk has repeatedly claimed “free speech suppression” on his social media platform, and House Oversight Committee James Comer (R-KY) echoed the statement, saying the “federal government … limit[ed] constitutional free exercise of speech” “to interfere in the democratic process.” Former Twitter executives repeatedly contradicted these statements in the hearings’ testimony.

About the proceedings, which he called an “authentically trivial pursuit,” Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (R-MD) said, “Silly does not even begin to capture this obsession” and added that “private media companies” are free to curate content. Democratic lawmakers said in the hearing that attacks on former Twitter staff were a “distraction” and that the witnesses had already declared under oath there was no collusion between the government and Twitter to suppress conservative speech.

The number of tweets during the hearing forced Twitter to close down for 90 minutes.

The classified briefing on the Chinese spy balloon gave Greene another change for egregiously obnoxious behavior when she attacked administration officials for not immediately shooting down the balloon as soon as they saw it. “I tore ‘em to pieces,” she bragged and screamed profanities in response to the answers to her questions. Leaving the briefing, however, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said he thought the U.S. made the right decision to wait to shoot down the balloon.

With no consequences for the inexcusable behavior of some House Republicans, they will grow worse and worse. [Left: A comparison of a howler Greene with a howler money with a photograph from the SOTU.]

The next fiasco was the hearing on Thursday from the “weaponization” subcommittee. Dana Milbank wrote that Republicans brought “a blunderbuss” to this “QAnon convention” with witnesses—some of them elected to Congress—seemingly “auditioning to guest-host Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), reelected at 89 years of age, testified that a triad of partisan journalists, the FBI, and Democratic colleagues is out to get him and claimed that the DNC and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had colluded with the Russians in 2016. Former Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, past presidential candidate, railed against Hillary Clinton for saying mean things about her and against Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), making “baseless accusations of treason.” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) described a conspiracy including “most members of the mainstream media, big tech, social media giants, global institutions and foundations, Democrat Party operatives, and elected officials,” all working “in concert” with “corrupt individuals within federal agencies” to “defeat their political opponents and promote left-wing ideology and government control over our lives.” And more conspiracy theories from Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ). No evidence was presented for any of these allegations.

Jonathan Turley, brought in as an expert witness regarding Twitter, had to admit he had never worked for Twitter, never had any relationships with Twitter, and had no knowledge of the inner workings of Twitter. He said he used his reading of The Twitter Files for his “legal analysis.” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said that was another word for “opinion,” and he finally agreed. Joe Patrice described the Twitter Files: 

“The mostly inconsequential, misleading, and deceptively incomplete social media rants from Elon Musk’s hand-picked journalists who were given access to cherry-picked data.”

Some topics for the weaponization hearing: the “Russian collusion hoax”; the “engineered” DDT impeachment; the “coordinated effort” to “sabotage any public revelation of Hunter Biden’s laptop”; the alleged maltreatment of January 6 insurrectionists; the federal agents behind the insurrection; Barack Obama’s use of the IRS to persecute tea party groups; the U.S. government funding the creation of Covid; the capture of the World Health Organization by the Chinese government; the wrongful vilification of doctors who treated the virus with hydroxychloroquine and other bogus treatments; the government coverup of damage from Covid vaccines; people called “domestic terrorists” for asking questions at school board meetings or flying the Betsy Ross flag; and an invasion of the U.S. by migrants working for the cartels; the “great replacement” pushing out white people in the U.S.; and a GOP meltdown over the Democratic tweet describing the use of the hearing “to amplify white nationalist conspiracy theories instead of a comprehensive solution to protect our borders and strengthen our immigration system.”

One memorable takeaway from the hearing was an exchange between chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Dan Goldman (D-NY):

Jordan: “[I have] “dozens of whistleblowers” [who describe a] political nature [in the DOJ.]”

Goldman: “Did you take notes?”

Jordan (with a blank expression): “Notes?”

Goldman explains “notes” and presses him; Jordan said they will talk later. After the hearing, Goldman asked, “How can you write a report if you don’t have notes? From memory?”

The committee’s top Democrat, Stacey Plaskett (U.S. Virgin Islands) said:

“I’m deeply concerned about the use of this select subcommittee as a place to settle scores, showcase conspiracy theories, and advance an extreme agenda that risks undermining Americans’ faith in our democracy.”

Jamie Raskin (D-MD) declared that DDT’s rewarding friends and punishing enemies gives meaning to the “weaponization” of the subcommittee. The panel’s name was itself “pure physiological projection. Not because ‘weaponization of the government’ is its target, but because weaponization of the government is its purpose,” Raskin said.

Republicans complained about not learning anything new in the balloon—exactly the problem with their own hearings. Instead the GOP wants a diversion for its book banning, enslaving women’s bodies, revising history, muzzling teachers, erasing LGBTQ rights, eliminating Social Security and Medicare, and sending the nation into default and severed depression.

February 3, 2023

News – February 3, 2023

Follow-up on House Judiciary Committee meeting: Member Chip Roy (R-TX) was caught in the lie that migrants on the southern border are responsible for the fentanyl crisis. A Washington Post reporter called the statement “a rather insidious falsehood.” Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) attacked the reporter, but extensive investigation provides “decades of evidence” that seizures of smuggled fentanyl are primarily at ports of entry and tied to people with legal U.S. status, even a border agent. An El Paso judge also lambasted the myths of migrant invasions “in our community” and said that the “false racist narrative” continues devasting violence in U.S. communities.

House Republicans work on their message that the U.S. has a bad economy under President Joe Biden, but January added 517,000 jobs, double the Wall Street estimate. Unemployment dropped to 3.4 percent, the lowest since 1969 instead of the expected increase to 3.6 percent. In Labor Department revisions, the economy added 500,000 more jobs in 2022 than previously recorded for a total of 12 million jobs in the past 24 months.

Each of the past six months has also seen a drop in annual inflation and a growth in the GDP. Biden’s actions to cut back inflation:

  • Expanding capacity of U.S. ports to address supply chain bottlenecks: Critical U.S. ports operate 24/7 to get goods to market without a price spike.
  • Lowering gas prices by taking gas from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and transitioning to a clean energy economy: These actions countered Russia’s war in Ukraine. Far-right conservatives in the House were so upset with the drop in gas prices that they tried—and failed—to block the use of the reserves to help consumers.
  • Lowering prices on groceries by cracking down on anti-competitive behavior: Lack of competition had especially increased meat and poultry costs.
  • Reducing health care costs: Republicans fought lower costs for prescription drugs, but Biden lowered out-of-pocket costs for medications from Medicare and expanded financial assistance for health insurance in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces.  
  • Pushing private sector investment in job creation and cutting prices: Investments include electric vehicle charging and semiconductors with domestic manufacturing that creates high-quality jobs and boosts U.S. competitiveness now and in the future. Companies such as Tesla and Ford cite Biden’s agenda for significant price cuts to their electric vehicle fleets.

The Department of Transportation also announced nine new projects for roads, bridges, and a tunnel provided by the Mega Grant program supplied by Biden’s infrastructure law.

Behind-the-scenes tapes secretly recorded after DDT’s 2020 loss in Wisconsin show his state GOP campaign knew he had lost the election but decided to “fan the flames” by crying widespread fraud and Democrats stealing the election. Andrew Iverson, then head of the Wisconsin DDT campaign and now Midwest regional director for the RNC, told Republicans to “be on standby if there’s any stunts we need to pull.” He was also heard to concede that Democrats won because they beat Republicans in getting out the vote. On tape, Iverson also admitted that Biden won the state by almost 21,000 votes.

Republicans are delighted with the huge balloon from China about the size of two school buses seen hovering 60,000 feet above Montana: they have another opportunity to attack the president and other Democrats. Conservatives demand it be shot down, calling the president “China Joe.” The Pentagon advised against the shooting idea because of the danger from falling debris to people on the ground so Don Trump Jr. told Montanans to shoot at it with their own guns. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said the balloon was just over land; shooting it wouldn’t be a problem. The military would also like recover part of the balloon intact.

By late February 3, the balloon crossed Kansas into Missouri. The Pentagon expects it to stay in U.S. airspace “for a few days.” The Pentagon expects it to stay in U.S. airspace “for a few days.” While the U.S. complains, China reports that U.S. surveillance has violated Chinese territory at least 800 times last year. Early in the discussion, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) seemed the voice of reason when he said shooting down the balloon could give China a pretext to take action. By late in the day, however, he joined the party line about needing to shoot it down if there is any suspicion of surveillance.  Leaders from both parties in Congress will receive a briefing next week. Another balloon was seen above Latin America on Friday.

Hours before Secretary of State Antony Blinken was scheduled to leave for a diplomatic trip to Beijing, he canceled his first official visit because of the balloon. He told China’s foreign affairs chief Wang Yi that the “surveillance balloon” in U.S. airspace was an “irresponsible act” and a “clear violation of U.S. sovereignty.”

Early this morning, the GOP sent out an email echoing DDT with the subject heading, “Shoot down the balloon, you coward!” The content began with asking readers to sign a petition to pass along the message to Joe Biden. There was more: “Chip in $35 or more.”  

A federal judge is allowing a wrongful death civil case to proceed against city officials, police officers, and Kyle Rittenhouse who shot and killed two men during a protest in 2020. The father of one of the men shot filed the lawsuit. The suit alleges officers permitted a dangerous situation violating his son’ constitutional rights resulting in his death and that Rittenhouse conspired with police to cause harm to protesters. The judge said that the man’s death “could plausibly be regarded as having been proximately caused by the actions of the governmental defendants.”

Rittenhouse tried to get the case dismissed, claiming he wasn’t properly served, but the judge said Rittenhouse “is almost certainly evading service.” Rittenhouse was acquitted of homicide and reckless endangering for killing two men and wounding a third with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle he illegally brought to Kenosha (WI) from his Illinois home. He was 17 at the time, thus illegally having a gun.

The Satanic Temple (TST) has started a telehealth abortion clinic in New Mexico named “The Samuel Alito’s Mom’s Satanic Abortion Clinic.” The virtual clinic “provides free medication abortion services to those participating in TST’s religious ritual.” It schedules screenings and appointments, as well as prescribing abortion medication via mail for patients. The news release states:

“In 1950, Samuel Alito’s mother did not have options, and look what happened. Prior to 1973, doctors who performed abortions could lose their licenses and go to jail. The clinic’s name serves to remind people just how important it is to have the right to control one’s body and the potential ramifications of losing that right.”

Alito wrote the majority opinion for the Supreme Court for Dobbs v. Jackson which overturned abortion rights in Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood. The dissent from the minority of three justices stated:

“[This court] says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A State can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs. An abortion restriction, the majority holds, is permissible whenever rational, the lowest level of scrutiny known to the law.”

TST is a religion recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.

Jair Bolsonaro, deposed president of Brazil who applied for a new six-month U.S. visa, headlined Turning Point’s “Power of the People” rally with Charlie Kirk on February 3. Brazilian investigators are probing any role Bolsonaro had in the protest at his country’s capital after he fled to the U.S. shortly before the attempted coup. He was able to come on an A-1 visa because he was still president.

A Brazilian magazine has the recording of Bolsonaro three weeks before the winner, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Trying to keep power, he wanted help to annul the elections and gave his ally, Sen. Marcos do Val, the responsibility of taping Supreme Court justice Alexandre de Moraes while getting the judge to confess he overstepped his powers under the constitution. Police also found a draft decree at the home of Bolsonaro’s former justice minister to overturn the election.

Thorough searches of President Joe Biden’s vacation home in Rehobeth Beach (DE), purchased in 2017, revealed no more classified documents; none has been found in his possession since the few in his home on January 20. Searches were done with Biden’s permission, unlike those in the property of Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) who fought their removal.

Next, the FBI plans to search former VP Mike Pence’s residence in Indiana and his office in Washington, D.C. for any classified documents after some were found at his home last month. Only Pence’s attorneys have conducted any searches his premises.

Questions have been raised if the FBI plans to search the multitude of DDT’s homes beyond Mar-a-Lago in New York—Seven Springs, Trump Tower penthouse, Trump Parc building, and Trump Park Avenue—and his Bedminster (NJ) golf resort. And of course, his 500+ “companies, solely owned by DDT, comprising the Trump Organization. Outside of DDT’s apartment and a storage unit at Mar-a-Lago, the only searches have been of part of Trump Tower and one area at Bedminster.  

January 28, 2023

Catch Up, Happier News

An addendum to the January 6 sentences: the man who pepper-sprayed officer Brian Sicknick and other police was sentenced to prison for almost seven years, 80 months. Sicknick died the next day from two strokes. The sentenced man has already been in jail for almost two years. The man who provided the pepper spray pled guilty and was sentenced to time served. About 140 police officers were assaulted at the Capitol on January 6, and federal prosecutors have arrested over 950 defendants in over two years since the attack.

News about the Supreme Court’s failed search for the leaker of the draft to overturn Roe v. Wade and make abortion almost completely illegal in over half the U.S. reveals another coverup. Selected to independently validate the investigation, so-called expert Michael Chertoff, George W. Bush’s Homeland Security Secretary, has longstanding, undisclosed financial ties with the high court; it privately contracted with The Chertoff Group for security assessments. Chertoff also has personal connections to justices through his Ivy League education, prior judicial clerkships, and positions in two Bush administrations.

Two horrifying videos released this past week showed the attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (R-CA) in their home while the speaker was in Washington and the vicious beating of Tyre Nichols, an innocent 29-year-old Black man, near his Memphis home by five police officers. Nichols died three days after the beating. For today, however, some more cheerful news from the past week.

The 2.9 percent annualized growth of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the fourth quarter was better than expected, and consumer spending, about 68 percent of GDP, stayed positive. A slide in housing pulled down the GDP, but private investment and government spending helped growth. Jobless claims fell by 6,000 to 186,000, and durable goods orders increased in December. Inflation, which hit a 41-year high last summer, dropped from receding price increases. The news may stop more Fed interest rate increases. The news may discourage rumors of a recession in 2023.

Before Roe v. Wade was overturned, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that banning abortion would be “very damaging” for the economy because some women couldn’t finish school and increase earning potential. Many women would also not be able to contribute to the workforce at a time when it is short on workers, and they are more likely to live in poverty or need public assistance.

In a speech last week, President Joe Biden said:

“Jobs are the highest in American history, and wages are up, and they’re going faster than inflation. Over the past six months, inflation has gone down every month, and God willing, we’ll continue to do that. Manufacturing jobs continue to grow stronger than any time in the last 40 years. And I don’t think it’s unfair to say that this is all evidence that the Biden economic plan … it’s working.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had claimed that Biden is willing to negotiate with him in the debt ceiling fight, but Biden has also said that he won’t negotiate with House Republicans who want drastic cuts to the budget, possibly to Social Security and Medicare. He asked, “Why in God’s name would Americans give up the progress we made for the chaos they’re suggesting?”

During his speech, Biden said:

“If Republicans want to work together on real solutions and continue to grow manufacturing jobs, build the strongest economy in the world and make sure Americans are paid a fair wage, I’m ready. But I will not let anyone use the full faith and credit of the United States as a bargaining chip.

“The very notion that we would default on the safest, most respected debt in the world is mind-boggling. I’m not going to get into the reckless threats that take the economy hostage in order to force an agenda that’s going to only limit American workers and weaken us internationally. I won’t let that happen.”

As Biden pointed out, 25 percent of the current national debt was built during DDT’s administration. Republicans raised the debt ceiling three times during that time.

The DOJ disrupted a cybercriminal group making ransomware attacks on over 1,500 victims worldwide and extorting millions of dollars in payments. The attacks have increasingly affected hospitals, schools, and government services. A court order seized two back-end servers belonging to the Hive ransomware group in Los Angeles and took control of the group’s darknet website. The DOJ has blocked about $130 million to Hive since July. In the past 18 months, FBI personnel have gained access to Hive’s control panels for victims to have keys unlocking their encrypted systems. Hackers tied to some ransomware attacks have been based out of Russia, including those attacking the Colonial Pipeline in 2021 which halted gas supply to the East Coast.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland signed an order closing over 350 square miles of the Superior National Forest in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to mineral and geothermal leasing for 20 years. Although the order is “subject to existing valid rights,” Twin Metals Minnesota, owned by the Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, lost its rights last year when the department rescinded DDT’s decision to reinstate federal mineral rights leases in the northeastern Minnesota region. The area is the most-visited federally designated wilderness area in the U.S., drawing over 150,000 visitors from around the world who paddle its 1,200+ miles of canoe routes. This tourism contributes over $17 million to Minnesota’s economy, and three Ojibwe tribes have treaty rights in the area covered by the moratorium.

A cake is not a form of speech, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled when it turned down an appeal from Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop. In 2021, a judge in Denver determined that Phillips illegally discriminated against Autumn Scardina (left) by refusing to make her a birthday cake because she is transgender. He again used his religious beliefs as rationale as he did in an earlier case that went to the Supreme Court. In its narrow decision, the high court didn’t state that Christians were exempt from anti-discrimination laws. After the 2018 ruling, that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had expressed impermissible hostility to religion, Phillips said he would make a birthday cake for anyone. He agreed to make the pink cake with blue frosting until he discovered Scardina is transgender.

Anyone who thinks the Republicans in the House are not prioritizing important issues isn’t alone. Only 27 percent of adults approve of the new House’s priorities while 73 percent think lawmakers aren’t paying attention to the nation’s most important problems. A 67 percent majority disapprove of GOP House leaders compared to 59 percent disapproval of Democratic leadership. Even 42 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independent are dissatisfied with their own party leaders compared to only 22 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners’ disapproval of their own party leadership in the House. Of those expressing an opinion, two-thirds have a negative view of the new speaker, McCarthy.

Almost half of those polled, 48 percent, give economic issues, especially effects of inflation on housing, food, and gas prices, the most important issue. Instead of working on that, the Republicans passed a bill to limit draws from Strategic Petroleum Reserve which could raise the price of gas. Other top issues include immigration (11 percent), gun violence and crime (6 percent) government spending and taxes (6 percent), and political divisions or extremism (5 percent). Covid was mentioned by only 1 percent of those surveyed. Only 15 percent believe things in the country are going “very badly,” less than half from last summer’s peak of 34 percent and lower than any time since May 2018.

People living in red states should take note of what Biden has done for them: two-thirds of the announced green-energy projects in the Inflation Reduction Act, opposed almost entirely by Republicans, are in GOP-held congressional districts, 21 out of 33. Billions of dollars are devoted to expanding domestic manufacturing in clean energy and reducing dependence on Chinese imports. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who said climate change is “actually healthy for us,” blasted the bill but declared she’s “excited to have jobs” in her district from the bill. She gave credit, however, to Gov. Brian Kemp.

In writing about the rural resentment developing with right-wing extremism, Paul Krugman stated that the shift might reverse if rural lives can be improved with the restoration of rural communities and if these voters will give politicians credit for the improvements. Katherine Cramer attributes this resentment to perceptions that rural areas are ignored by policymakers, don’t get the fair share of resources, and are disrespected by “city folks.” Yet policymakers have always given special treatment to rural people since the New Deal of the 1930s such as farm subsidies which became 40 percent of total farm income under former Dictator Donald Trump. Other benefits are for housing, utilities, and business. Rural areas have more seniors who get Social Security and Medicare, and the “welfare,” Medicaid and food stamps denigrated by Republicans, are more in rural areas where people pay less in federal taxes. If the GOP carried out their plans, they would hurt their own constituents, especially those in the rural areas.   

January 14, 2023

GOP Traumatized by Classified Documents—If It’s Biden

The latest media scandal is that President Joe Biden’s lawyers found another six pages of classified documents at his home after the president asked his legal team to search for any in his home. Articles and Republicans largely ignore the 1,000+ pages that Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) took, first saying that he didn’t have them and then claiming that he had the right to keep them. Biden immediately turned over all the documents to the government; DDT fought a warrant subpoenas to return the materials while lying about their presence in unsecured areas at his club, Mar-a-Lago.

Republican Chris Wallace, once the host of a Fox Sunday news show, described a difference between Biden’s and DDT’s situation with the classified documents:

“In the case of Trump, there was a year fight with a grand jury subpoena and eventually they had to raid. And at this point, we have no evidence of that with Biden that everything they’ve found… We have no evidence that if they found something, they didn’t immediately turn it over.”

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus wrote that discoveries of classified documents possessed by both men “are yoked together politically [but] should be treated and disposed of as separate legal matters.” She listed the difference: DDT “was on repeated notice from the feds that classified material was being sought. He repeatedly failed to turn it over. Biden, as far as we know, immediately alerted the appropriate authorities—the National Archives, in the first instance—when classified material was found. By contrast, rather than a pattern of cooperation, the Trump investigation features evidence of obstruction of justice, which remains mostly undisclosed.”

Another columnist, conservative Jennifer Rubin, added that, compared to Biden’s immediately turning over documents, DDT “went against the advice of his lawyers, personally went through boxes of documents and withheld dozens of classified documents at unsecured locations at his club. When a grand jury issued a subpoena demanding that they be returned, Trump’s lawyers handed over 38 documents, stating that no other documents were in Trump’s possession. But, as The Post reported, ‘an FBI search recovered more than 100 additional classified documents that were not turned over to authorities.’”

As Rubin pointed out, “these scenarios are not remotely equivalent. Yet after news of the documents from Biden’s office emerged on Monday, Republicans rushed forth to scream foul.” Biden may have lied, said Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) although he has no evidence. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) complained about his perception that Biden and DDT are treated with different rules. Republicans are in an awkward place, however: if they demand an investigation of the Biden classified documents, which may result in no wrongdoing, they would have to do the same for DDT, which could clarify the obstruction of justice. It also keeps DDT’s story in the headlines.  

Right now, however, the media is more excited about five classified pages found at Biden’s home than the 350 found at DDT’s Florida club last August.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are trying to convince people that the House policy has changed to transparency. Montana’s second member of the House praised the newly created “weaponization” committee, searching for dirt, supported what has been called the “Tinfoil Hat Committee” tracing QAnon conspiracies, as a probe into the “deep state.” Under DDT, Zinke lasted as Secretary of Interior under two years until DDT forced his resignation after a series of embarrassing ethics probes.

GOP “transparency” led to backroom concessions to House rules still known only by the Speaker and some ultra-right House members. These were in a secret three-page addendum not attached to the 55-page set of rules presented to the entire House for a vote. Far-right Republicans have said they read the three-page documents after McCarthy denied that it existed. Others such as Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), chief negotiator of the deal, called “talking about secret deals” to be “classic swamp speak” but didn’t criticize that its existence.

Part of the transparency includes lying. Using the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as his authority, Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) bragged about repealing “those 87,000 IRS agents” who supposedly would “go after people making less than $200,000 a year,” including “the single mom who’s working two shifts at a restaurant.” The CBO said audits by the 6,500 agents hired over a decade will be almost entirely of taxpayers annually earning over $400,000. The CBO also stated that cutting the $80 billion to the IRS will increase the deficit by $114 billion.

Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) lied that the CBO projected “as many as 700,000 more audits [of] Americans making less than $75,000 a year.” At this time, the total number of annual audits is under 700,000 with 93,654 IRS employees. Addition of 650 IRS agents won’t double that, and CBO would never have made this claim.

Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-TX) also made up the claim that the agents invented by Republicans would “make the IRS larger than the Pentagon, State Department, FBI and Border Control together.” The Defense Department employs about 3 million people by itself, 31 times more than the IRS. Former Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told the house it was the “most dishonest, demagogic rhetoric that I have seen.” That was before he witnessed the lies leading up to a vote on the infanticide bill that some states legalize the killing of babies “outside the womb.” So much for “transparency”—or truth.  

With all the vendettas the House Republicans have launched, they are avoiding their promise of helping the “working families.” During an interview with Sean Hannity, McCarthy and his leadership team mentioned investigations 20 times. Yet inflation and jobs each got one mention, and the economy received only two. One of the investigations, of course, is into Biden and classified documents although the Intelligence Committee new chair Michael R. Turner (OH), who demands “a full and thorough review” of Biden, called DDT’s classified materials debacle a “bookkeeping issue.” Oversight Committee chair James Comer (KY) said probing DDT’s documents would “not be a priority” but said about Biden’s documents: “We’re probing it.”

McCarthy also said all the lies made by George Santos, or maybe Anthony Devolder as he has been known, are no problem because he was elected. The Speaker will seat him on committees although the Nassau County GOP called for him to resign, calling him a “fraud” and a “joke.” McCarthy said Santos can go through the Ethics committee—which doesn’t currently exist because of the new House rules that McCarthy negotiated.  

A few congressional members are becoming more “transparent.” In a Fox interview, Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) said the military budget is safe but “entitlement programs,” the GOP term for Social Security and Medicare,” aren’t. Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX) agreed, and a slide in a GOP meeting listed “reforms” to mandatory spending programs as part of the solution to not increasing the debt ceiling.

Dates Shaping 2023 Politics:

RNC Winter Meeting, January 25-27: Current leader Ronna McDaniel may not get her desired fourth term as RNC chair because of competition from the farther right. For her first three years, the party has underperformed, and at least one state has made a statement of no confidence.

DNC Winter Meeting, early February: One agenda item is reshaping its presidential primary calendar to give racially diverse states more attention in the nominating process with South Carolina beginning the calendar on February 3, 2024, replacing Iowa which is unhappy about any change. Georgia would be moved up to fourth on February 13, followed by Michigan on February 27. Republicans have already adopted the primary calendar, retaining its traditional order.

Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), March 1-4: Leaving Florida and Texas, the event moves back to more neutral territory of Washington, D.C. with the question of whether it will stay a pep rally for DDT and MAGAs. Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union running the CPAC, has been accused of groping and fondling the groin of a GOP strategist in his late thirties while he worked for the Georgia GOP and Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign. Schlapp denied the alleged sexual assault, but texts provide evidence of it.

Election Day 2023, November 7: Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi hold statewide elections, and Virginia will determine which party gets control of the state where the election of conservative Gov. Glenn Youngkin started the march to the left.

In the name of banning “critical race theory,” Alabama’s Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders ordered the term Latinx, used as a gender-neutral alternative to Latina or Latino, removed from all state government documents and communication. Her explanation?

“One can no more easily remove gender from Spanish and other romance languages than one can remove vowels and verbs from English. It is the policy of the Governor’s administration to prohibit the use of culturally insensitive words for official state government business.”

The Latino/Latina/Latinx community is divided on the use of the genderless term, but they think Sanders should stay out of the discussion. Broadway actor Javier Muñoz tweeted. “Not a single one of us wants nor needs you to be our white savior @SarahHuckabee. We define ourselves. You have no say in the matter.”

January 13, 2023

House Out for Blood, DDT in Trouble

The biggest news of the day is the opening salvo of Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and his House Republicans to breach the debt limit. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced that January 19 was the date when the U.S. must take “extraordinary measures” to pay its debts with no increase in the debt ceiling. The purpose of this raise is not to borrow more money; it’s to pay debts incurred, including those from the wealthy and big business paying less taxes, GOP laws under George A. Bush and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Plus two wars started by Bush and DDT’s mismanagement of Covid funds. Republicans raised the debt ceiling three times during DDT’s four years in the White House.

The GOP proposal to prioritize payments when the U.S. runs out of enough money without raising the debt ceiling is part of the private deal McCarthy made with conservatives to get their votes for Speaker. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) brokered the deal: McCarthy agreed to pass a payment prioritization plan by the end of March 2023. Congress must raise the current limit of $31.4 trillion before the Treasury Department can borrow more money to pay for the spending lawmakers authorized in the past.

Failing to increase the debt ceiling will allow conservatives to destroy the parts of government they don’t like. Roy called on GOP House members to defund the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Other suggestions have been defunding the IRS, FBI, and even parts of the military. On Fox Business Network, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) complained about “the woke nonsense that we see now in our military” (aka education).

According to the GOP proposal, the Biden administration can make only critical federal payments, probably interest payments on the debt because it will be short 20 percent of its budget. Anonymous sources said the government should continue payments for Social Security, Medicare, veterans’ benefits, and the military. That omits Medicaid, food safety inspections, border control, and air traffic control among thousands of other programs. Bondholder payments means foreign countries, including China, are prioritized over U.S. citizens.

During 2011 and 2013 debt ceiling arguments, Treasury Department officials said prioritizing payments was not possible because of the daily millions of payments by the federal government. Neil Bradley, executive vice president of the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the business group opposes the proposed prioritization. As he said, “We had this discussion a decade ago.” Policy analyst Brian Riedl studied a similar proposal in 2011 when he was a staffer for then-Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and said that huge numbers of people could be immediately hurt and a “disaster.” An economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute Michael Strain said that financial markets might not be appeased by the government failing to meet some of its spending obligations.

The GOP proposal in the House must pass not only that chamber but also the Democratic-controlled Senate and be signed into law by President Joe Biden. Even if that were to happen, probably impossible, the prioritization would jeopardize trust in the U.S. and throw the global economy into chaos.

On Fox’s Sean Hannity show, McCarthy used the false analogy of changing a child’s behavior if they hit the limit on a credit card. McCarthy threatens to not pay the bills already incurred on the “credit card.” He also blamed the spending on Democrats, despite the fact that deficits rose under GOP presidents and fallen under Democratic ones.  Bush’s and DDT’s tax cuts lost $3.5 trillion with no offsetting revenue or spending cuts whereas both President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act reduce deficits because of new taxes and cuts to other programs.

Debt does not concern McCarthy and the Republicans; it’s the spending programs and taxes financing them. Conservatives believe that taxes are unfair because they take money from deserving people and give it to others. GOP unwillingness to tackle Social Security and Medicare comes from the potential loss of their base—the older people. Even Medicaid is popular as shown by DDT’s proposed cuts in that area being politically disastrous for GOP elections. At a press conference, McCarthy said Republicans need to “protect” Social Security and Medicare—but he didn’t say how.

A mandate from the new House rules package is that any finance bill spending more money must be offset by cutting spending. Typically an offset means that cutting a tax requires cutting a spending program or raising another tax by the same amount. The new GOP rules, however, state that spending program increases have to be paid for by spending cuts, not raising taxes. Any support has to come from slashing other programs that help the same groups such as low- or middle-income people. Stacking the deck against raising taxes also comes from the new rule requiring a three-fifths vote instead of a simple majority. It’s like a filibuster in the Senate. Although Republicans say tax cuts will pay for themselves, they don’t believe it as shown by the new rules.

Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Mike Johnson (R-LA) are leading the charge by the Judiciary Committee to investigate the few documents found in President Joe Biden’s Delaware home and former Washington office despite an independent special counsel. A letter to AG Merrick Garland demands all documents and communications among the DOJ, FBI, and White House about the discovery and any information about Garland’s appointment of special counsel Robert Hur who is overseeing the case. The letter asks whether the DOJ “actively concealed” the November 2, 2022 discovery from the public “on the eve of the 2022 elections.” The DOJ typically does not announce its opening reviews.

In addition, the letter lies about how the DOJ’s “actions here appear to depart from how it acted in similar circumstances” because Garland approved a search warrant looking for government documents in DDT’s Florida home last August “despite the publicly available evidence of President Trump’s voluntary cooperation.” Jordan and Johnson’s letter ignores how the DOJ investigated DDT’s lack of cooperation for several months before the search warrant led to the discovery of some of the classified warrants DDT had concealed and that DDT refused to turn over the documents the DOJ subpoenaed. They also repeat their request from last August for “documents and information related to the FBI’s raid of President Trump’s residence” and give Garland until January 27 to comply with their demands.

Under Rep. James Comer (R-KY), the Oversight Committee is probing corruption among “pandemic relief,” but only under Biden’s administration and primarily in Democratic states. Comer sent letters to the Labor Department and the states of California, New York, and Pennsylvania, stating:

“For the past two years, the Biden Administration has allowed fraud to run rampant in federal assistance programs and Democrats in Congress conducted little oversight. That changes with our House Republican majority.”

In March 2020, the first bipartisan relief package, the Cares Act, saved an economy but faced serious problems in implementation, allowing fraudsters to cheat the system. The damage was done by the time Biden was inaugurated 11 months later. Requests to Democratic states ignored other states, such as Florida, in which benefits were stolen. Oversight hearings will focus on the origin of Covid, the development of vaccines, and lawmaker complaints, and Comer is also investigating Biden and his family.

A bad day for DDT and Bannon:

A newly unsealed deposition reveals how DDT repeatedly insulted E. Jean Carroll while he denied a rape accusation. The judge unsealed excerpts of the deposition from last October after denying DDT’s motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit. DDT claimed Carroll “fainted with great emotion” in response to his attack and “actually indicated that she loved it.” He added that Carroll in a 2019 interview with Anderson Cooper said, “It was very sexy to raped.” She told Cooper what DDT did to her “hurt” and was “not sexual.” DDT’s lawyer Alina Habba praised the judge’s ruling for Carroll’s suit to proceed, saying, “We look forward to trial in April.”

In another DDT loss, the Trump Organization was fined $1.6 million for 17 felonies, including its long-running tax fraud scheme and falsifying business records. The maximum penalty possible will have a “minimal impact” on the company, according to prosecutor Joshua Steinglass. New York DA Alvin Bragg is asking state legislators to raise the fines for companies breaking the law. A bigger threat to DDT is New York AG Letitia James’ $150 million civil lawsuit alleging DDT, his three eldest children, former CFO Allen Weisselberg, and others defrauded lenders, insurers, and tax authorities by inflating the value of multiple Trump Org. properties for more than a decade. In addition to the fine, James is asking that the Trump Organization’s corporate certificate be canceled and block DDT and the children from serving as directors of any business registered in New York state.

Steven Bannon has until the end of February to find new lawyers in a criminal fraud case because the attorney declared “irreconcilable differences.” The case concerns Bannon’s defrauding donors for “We Build the Wall,” the construction of a wall along the U.S. southern border. He may have found another attorney from over seven law firms. And DDT isn’t in the White House to pardon him again.

October 17, 2022

What Happens to Liz Truss?

By her 41st day of being the British prime minister, Liz Truss had fired the cabinet, rehired a new one, fired the Treasury chancellor she hired, seen her agenda destroyed, reversed her financial positions, dropped the UK pound to a value below that of a dollar, forced the Bank of England to solve her problems, and apparently lost her leadership. She watched as Jeremy Hunt, a political rival now the new finance minister with no Treasury experience, announced that the government would allow taxes to increase instead of being slashed. Truss had said the former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, her former friend and ally, was doing “an excellent job’” as chancellor and the pair were “in lockstep”—until they weren’t. Newspapers have been uniformly critical.

UK low-income households would have lost about £400 with her system of increasing benefits with earnings, a lower rate than inflation. The raise would be 5.5 percent instead of the inflation rate of 10 percent. Disposable income would have shrunk by about 7.7 percent, hurting businesses that will make less money. In-work households lost by £458, and the loss for couples with children was £640. For conservatives, welfare is an easy place to cut spending, but even Truss’ own party, the Tories, was upset by the plan. She had also considered increasing the age for state pensions and cutting housing benefits.

Other “slash and burn tactics” including dumping free childcare hours, putting housing on green belt land, abolishing corporation tax, and eliminating teacher training qualifications. Her remote learning would have allowed parents to pick the best teachers, amending the Equalities Act to protect white working-class boys, and returning the link between tax and household income to make a married woman’s income become part of her husband’s. Her expected deregulations covered deregulation in eight areas including planning, business regulation, childcare, immigration, agricultural productivity, and financial services.

Kwarteng’s unfunded tax cuts and extra borrowing leaves a shortage of £60 billion by 2026 and results in serious public services reductions and an annual growth of 0.8 percent during the next five years from a slowing global economy, Brexit issues, and Kwarteng’s £45 billion cost of Kwarteng’s mini-budget. He abruptly left the International Monetary Fund to fly back to London and be fired. Because of Truss’ positions, the IMF had dropped projection of this year’s UK growth from 3.6% to 0.3% in 2023. Markets are happier with the decision, but the question is who’s in charge of the government.

Another Truss rival, House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, was assigned to defend the PM’s fiscal U-turns in a parliament where both sides are calling for Truss to resign. She was forced to say that Truss had “urgent business” about Truss’ absence. Labour Party leader Keir Starmer summed it up: Truss is “in office but not in power.”

The joke from British tabloid Daily Star asks whether a head of iceberg lettuce or Truss will last longer; it’s livestreaming Truss’ photo with the unrefrigerated lettuce. (At least 96.8 percent voted thus far for the lettuce to last longer.) The conservative Sunday Times editorial called Hunt the “de factor prime minister.”

Elected by 160,000 dues-paying members of the Conservative Party, about 0.3 percent of the country’s population, Truss ran as an “iron lady” Margaret Thatcher look-alike. Her campaign promises have now been gutted. People struggling with 10-percent inflation didn’t approve of Truss’ tax cuts for the wealthy, and bond traders were alarmed by the amount of borrowing needed for the plans. Hunt announced “almost all the tax measures announced in the growth plan three weeks ago” would be scrapped. The shift stabilized the UK pound, increased the leading stock index, and dropped the cost of government borrowing although it remains higher than before Truss started her damage.

No general election has been set, but the Labour Party is 30 points ahead of the Conservatives. Jonathan Tonge, professor of politics at the University of Liverpool, said Truss’ survival as PM comes only from the Conservative Party’s inability to “agree on a replacement.” One wing wants former finance minister Rishi Sunak, Truss’ runner-up, but Boris Johnson loyalists see him as the leader of the revolt bringing down their PM hero. A PM is in trouble when a replacement awaits in the wings such as Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.

Truss’ economic program lasted only ten days because interest skyrocketed with no budget score. A conservative view that tax cuts boost the economy didn’t meet reality because lower-income people were responsible for hardships. British journalist Archie Bland wrote that Kwarteng “wanted to fundamentally reshape the British economy in a matter of weeks” and did—“currency fluctuations, mortgage deals withdrawn, £65 billion of emergency first aid for the bond market, and the prospect of deep spending cuts.

Aditya Chakrabortty explains the problems came from the influence of conservative as young people who don’t represent the county generate policies for the government. They also announce ideas to see if the public will tolerate them before the government tackles them. Truss and Kwarteng are connected to the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), formerly a fringe group and funded by dark money including tobacco, oil, alcohol, and gambling.  

The UK’s massive train strikes would add to the disaster, threatening the supply chain. During her campaign, Truss had promised to block trade unions. The UK also faces strikes across UK industries—transport, trash collection, lawyers, etc.—which all relate to pay and great concern about the British economy.

Financial problems were only part of Truss’ differences of opinion. She promised to suspend the U.K.’s “green levy,” in which 8 percent of energy bills fund green energy project that curb the cost of energy. She lifted a 2019 moratorium on fracking, a move supported by only 27 percent of Britain, and announced new North Sea oil and gas licenses. Two of her cabinet picks are outspoken climate change skeptics. Truss’ environment secretary opposes more solar farms in the countryside and told King Charles III, an advocate of delaying climate change, to cancel his plans for attending the COP27 conference about the economics of clean energy in Egypt this November.

To win her election, Truss curried favor with a very narrow and very conservative constituency. A survey had found that the Conservative Party overwhelmingly preferred the previous PM Boris Johnson to both Truss and her opponent. Her win may have come from a scandal regarding Sunak’s taxes. Only 14 percent of the party members said Truss would be better than Johnson, and one-fourth said she would be worse. Uncharismatic and lacking communication skills, she couldn’t even identify two Russia regions mentioned by her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

UK didn’t hold a general election because The Conservative Party had a majority in the House of Commons, the democratically-elected lower house of the UK’s parliament. The next general election will be no later than January 24, 2024. When she took over, she said she was looking forward to “victory” in 2024, but that was six weeks ago.

The Daily Mail reported that lawmakers will try to oust Truss this week despite the warning of a general election. Over 100 Conservative Party MPs are prepared to submit letters of no confidence in Truss to Graham Brady, the head of the Conservative Party’s committee which organizes the leadership contest. If she doesn’t resign, the MPs urge Brady to change the political party rules to allow an immediate vote of confidence in her leadership. Grady argued that Truss deserves the opportunity to set ou9t economic strategy in a budget on October 31.

Truss is the fourth PM since change-happy Brits voted for the ill-fated Brexit, the UK separation from the European Union. Stryker McGuire wrote that former PM Tony Blair called it a “post-empire malaise”—the urge to “take back control” and run an empire. Within 24 hours of the June 23, 2016 vote, the “Brexit pound” fell from $1.50 to $1.33 of its dollar value and his the lowest-ever recorded level of $1.03 on September 26, 2022—thanks to Liz Truss. Being “liberated” never came to fruition: Britain’s borders stayed porous while the post-Brexit trade deals failed to overcome the loss of its largest trading partner, and the former administration didn’t come through with its wonderful deal.

Labor no longer freely moving between the UK and the continent “hollowed out the workforce.” The number of job vacancies in all businesses dropped by one-third this past quarter from before Brexit. Long-term productivity will slump by four percent, both exports and imports will be around 15 percent, newly signed trade deals with non-EU countries “will not have a material impact”, and the government’s new post-Brexit migration regime reducing net inward migration will worsen critical labor shortages.

The Conservative Party and the UK right-wing press are no longer concealing troubles: a “calamitous loss of international standing” and six years of “damage,” “policy confusion” and “ineptitude,” according to the Telegraph newspaper. The columnist added claims of Project Fear, a derogatory term for pre-Brexit warnings about economic harm and disruption, “have turned out to be overwhelmingly correct.” This month, a UK minister apologized to the EU for the UK handling of post-Brexit negotiations over Northern Ireland and said the UK needed to show more humility. Truss has been openly pro-Brexit, but future PMs may not follow her lead.

October 15, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Day 235

In breaking news about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, two volunteer soldiers from a former Soviet Union republic opened fire on other Russian troops at a military training ground for volunteers in the country’s Belgorod region. Eleven people died, and another 15 were wounded. The two shooters were killed.

Since the explosion on Kerch Bridge from Russia to Crimea, Kremlin accelerated its attacks across all Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin blames Ukraine for the explosion, perhaps caused by Russian intelligence. Suspects—five Russian citizens, two Ukrainians, and an Armenian national—were arrested by Russia. They loaded 22 tons of explosives into a truck and drove from Odesa to Russia through several other countries. Russian authorities partially reopened the roadway part of the bridge hours for only light traffic as well as the railway part of the bridge where oil tankers caught fire.

Strikes on the capital of Kyiv, eastern Lviv, northwestern Kharkiv, southern Odesa, and over a dozen other Ukrainian cities killed at least 19 people, injured another hundreds, and temporarily cut off power and water for millions. Ukrainian air defense system intercepted over half the rockets. Targets included a children’s playground, causing a huge crater;  a glass bridge, a tourist spot crossing the Dnipro River; museums; and the Philharmonic building were hit. The new leader for Russian forces in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin, is known as “General Armageddon,” among other epithets, for his brutality and possibly war crimes first years ago in Syria. He has been suggested as a replacement for Putin in case of a coup.

Russian blames Ukraine for shelling an area within Russian territory at the border, but Ukraine blames stray Russian fire. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted that “something went wrong” with a Russian missile launched toward Kharkiv.

A Ukraine prosecutor is investigating Russian air strikes as “a classic act of terror” to “provoke a humanitarian catastrophe” and “intimidation tactics toward civilians.” Russia is also threatening to “not renew” its grain and fertilizer export deal unless its demands are met.  

Pushed by war hawk hardlines, Putin’s heavy use of air strikes indicates a failing ground strategy. Troops retreating on three separate fronts lack supplies, worse since heavy vehicles cannot crossing the Kerch Bridge for another nine months. Fear as Putin’s military strategy for the last century is caving to from poor fuel supplies, terrified conscripts, and lack of effective tactics. Russian conscripts must buy their own body armor, especially the modern 6B45 vest which is part of the Ratnik armor personal equipment program costing about $640 after prices soared.

Putin said he had found 222,000 reservist recruits, instead of the 300,000 he wanted, and announced the end of mobilization with the beginning of fall conscriptions. Moscow government officials are leaving in droves after the death of a colleague in Ukraine after Putin’s mobilization. Despite having no combat experience, Aleksey Martynov was conscripted on September 23, sent to the front within a few days, and killed on October 10. In “a mass exodus,” employees left—”IT people, advertisers, marketers, PR people, and ordinary civil servants.” Since the mobilization decree, multiple conscripted Russians mysteriously died before reaching the battlefield and others soon after being deployed in Ukraine. The deaths cause outrage on social media.

Germany has given Ukraine over 16 Biber bridge-layer tanks and ten pontoon bridge machines. Also promised are more Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled howitzers and MARS II multiple rocket launchers.

To avoid conscription, Russian men are buying false HIV and hepatitis diagnoses added to the Ministry of Health’s database. HIV costs $620; hepatitis runs for $820. The groups selling these certificates also offer transportation to border countries, job opportunities, and housing as well as offering forged government documents and currency exchanges—all payable in Bitcoin. Unfortunately, buyers cannot confirm if the offered services are genuine.

Instead of weakening Ukraine, Russia strikes confirmed world opinion against Russia, weakened the calls for peace talks, and strengthened declarations to supply more advanced weapons systems and air defenses to the invaded country, speeding up their deliveries. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution with 99 votes; it had only one abstention and no one opposed.

Eight countries, including Ukraine, joined the European Council’s decision on the eighth package of sanctions against Russia. These include oil price caps, new bans on imports and exports, and sanctions against people, legal entities and companies warring against Ukraine.

Strikes temporarily cut power went out in Ukraine, but the stations were built during the Soviet regime and designed to withstand a nuclear attack from the U.S. Now they protect against Russian attacks.

While Putin tries to reduce Ukraine to rubble, he wants help from Belarus and deployed troops near the Belarus-Ukraine border. Yet “elected” leader Aleksandr Lukashenko says he doesn’t want to get into war, and his opposition activists volunteer to fight for Ukraine where they have training with modern weapons and combat which could liberate Belarus. Lukashenk has few combat-ready troops and only Soviet-era hand-me-down equipment.

A Russian submarine off the Brittany (France) coast is being monitored by French, British, and Spanish warships. Two NGOs are also suing France’s TotalEnergies for “complicity in war crimes”; the company allegedly helped fuel Russian planes that bombed Ukraine. Russians control TotalEnergies.

Putin has said he doesn’t need to unleash more massive strikes across Ukraine. Analysts believe Russia could be running out of long-range precision weapons, forcing the military to resort to less-accurate missiles. The 84 missiles used in one day’s attack cost between $400 million and $700 million. Putin said he was willing to hold talks. Russia has been using more “kamikaze” drones, purchased from Iran, as a cheaper and more dispensable alternative, although Iran denies it provides any weapons to Russia. If the military had short pulses of long-range missile fire, they would probably have used them, not concerned about civilian casualties.

To make Russian positions on the west side of the Dnipro River unsustainable, Ukrainian troops have attacked bridges, ferries, and pontoons in recent weeks. In the south, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called for the demilitarization of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after Ukrainian engineers twice restored back-up power following last week’s Russian shelling.

Ukraine claims it recaptured over155 miles in the annexed southern Kherson region in less than a week. Russians told civilians to evacuate, indicating Putin thinks he’s losing the region. Last month, Ukraine recaptured over 600 settlements from Russia, including 75 settlements in Kherson along with 502 settlements in the Kharkiv area, 43 settlements in the Donetsk region, and seven in the Luhansk region.

After the invasion, Ukraine lost cellular phone and internet networks, and Elon Musk’s spacecraft engineering firm donated about 20,000 Starlink satellite units to Ukraine. Musk had said that the Pentagon must start paying, but a a new tweet states he changed his mind and will continue the funding. Paying $80 million thus far, Space X estimated the U.S. would have to pay over $120 million for the rest of the year and about $400 million for the next year. The terminals are vital in keeping Ukraine’s military online.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller reported that hundreds of kilometers of the damaged Nord Stream gas pipelines might need replacement. With a series of bullet points, they have filled with water. The process could last require at least a year.  

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called on Hungary and Turkey, the only holdouts of NATO’s 30 member countries, to ratify Finland and Sweden’s memberships. Slovakia was the latest NATO ally to sign ratification documents on Sept. 27.

The UN overwhelmingly condemned Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of the four Ukrainian regions and demanded that the Kremlin reverse course. In a vote, 143 states, three-fourths of the 193-member general assembly, supported the resolution. Belarus, Nicaragua, North Korea, and Syria joined Russia to vote against the resolution, and 35 countries abstained including some of Putin’s quasi-supporters China, India, Pakistan, and South Africa. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said:  

“Today it is Russia invading Ukraine. But tomorrow it could be another nation whose territory is violated. It could be you. You could be next. What would you expect from this chamber?”

The resolution demands that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.” It also supports “the de-escalation of the current situation and a peaceful resolution of the conflict through political dialogue, negotiation, mediation and other peaceful means” that respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and internationally recognized borders.

International Monetary Fund member countries issued a near-unanimous call for Russia to end its war in Ukraine calling the conflict the single biggest factor fueling inflation and slowing the global economy. Only Russia blocked consensus.

In retaliation for U.S. assistance to Ukraine, Russian hackers crashed 14 U.S. airport websites in a coordinated cyberattack. All exhibited “denial to service” to those who wanted to access them. In this attack, air traffic control, internal airline communications and coordination, and transportation security were not targeted. The pro-Russian hacker group “Killnet” took credit.

Russian propaganda films are warning people attempting to seek refuge in the U.S. about the dangers of LGBTQ people, Blacks, and vegetarians.

In ridiculing Russia’s sham vote to annex Ukrainian regions, Poland held a mock referendum to annex Russia’s embassy in Warsaw. Eight days ago, 97.9 percent of an online vote approved the Czech Republic referendum to annex the Russian city of Kaliningrad, changing its name to Královec. Originally the German city of Königsberg, Kaliningrad, not physically connected to Russia, was given to the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. It is Russia’s only ice-free port on the Baltic Sea.

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