Thursday, February 29, 2024

It Just Gets Crazy, Repeating the Same Shutdown Madness

Oh, with all the craziness going on this month, totally forgot that the House Republicans were threatening ANOTHER government shutdown. There's supposed to be ANOTHER temporary deal in place, but no guarantee it'll get approved (via Sahil Kapur, Scott Wong, Ryan Nobles, and Rebecca Kaplan at NBC News):

Bipartisan negotiators announced Wednesday they have struck a deal to avert a partial government shutdown this week, securing agreement on half of the dozen must-pass spending bills and extending a pair of fast-approaching funding deadlines deeper into March to buy Congress more time.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement with appropriators, members charged with crafting spending bills, that they have a deal on six bills that fund several federal agencies, including the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Interior, Justice, Transportation and Veterans Affairs. And they've agreed to vote on a short-term bill to avoid a partial government shutdown this weekend, buying more time to pass the funding deal...

Still, the House and the Senate need to pass the stopgap measure by the end of Friday to avert a partial shutdown. In the Senate, a speedy vote will require consent from all 100 members, which means it's not yet guaranteed they will pass it in time...

So there's the likelihood a Republican Senator - or either Manchin or Sinema, just for shits and giggles to appease their conservative allies - could hold up the votes and send us into shutdown. As long as enough Democrats and Republicans in the House agree to the measure - something the Not-Really-Freedom Caucus can't delay - it ought to get through that half of Congress.

It then becomes a question if the UnFreedom Caucus retaliates by holding another Motion to Vacate to punish Johnson for making this deal, which just repeats the cycle of shutdown mania all over again chasing after yet another Speaker replacement.

I am tired of this staged drama. I am tired of the wingnut hostage-taking that happens every time.

Just stop fucking voting for Republicans, America. Please. For just common decent sanity. Just stop this needless drama. Just stop it.



Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Justice Delayed Becomes Injustice, What the HELL

When I heard this (I saw it on Twitter but I'll provide an official report from NPR via Carrie Johnson and Nina Totenberg) my first thought was 

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments the week of April 22 in a high-stakes dispute over whether former President Donald Trump enjoys immunity from federal criminal prosecution.

The order from the court on Wednesday keeps Trump's prosecution in the Jan. 6 case on hold for at least a few more months.

The justices said, in an unsigned order, that their review would be limited to a single question: "Whether and if so to what extent does a former President enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office."

(deep inhale) "FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK"

The good news: I was getting in my car at the workplace parking lot when I checked Twitter so I wasn't upsetting the kids at the library when I dropped that F-Bomb.

The bad news: JFC WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED

The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals was supposed to be airtight. That panel of jurists came back with a unanimous ruling that they "cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter... Doing so would collapse our system of separated powers by placing the President beyond the reach of all three branches."

Apparently there were at least five Supreme Court Justices who decided "nah" and want to jump into this mudpit to make their own ruling.

I considered three possible reasons why this is now happening:

1) This is just the Far Right Conservatives on the Supreme Court - three of them appointed by trump himself, expecting favors in return - doing what they can to stretch out the calendar on trump's DC felony insurrection trial (and maybe the South Florida classified documents trial) to keep it from even starting before the November general election happens, with Early Voting starting in some states by mid-September. Even if the Supreme Court ultimately affirms the lower court's ruling, it won't be until mid-August when they're expected to make such a ruling and the trial itself is expected to last at least two months (the South Florida trial is expected to last four to six months, it was never expected to wrap up before November). 

This is the most likely reason, as it's the one defense trump truly has: DELAY EVERYTHING. Even then it's such an extreme partisan move that no honest American should ever trust a SCOTUS ruling under the Roberts regime ever again.

2) The Justices saw something in the Appellate ruling that required either clarification, or they believed that a decision on Presidential Absolute Immunity required a final say from the highest court in the land. This is the least likely reason, because most legal scholars agreed with the Court of Appeals and there was no reason for SCOTUS to rule on this other than ego.

3) There are at least five Supreme Court Justices - considering how many of them are members of a Federalist Society that supports the Unitary Executive Theory that Presidents can wield incredible powers not even allowed in the Constitution - who legitimately think donald trump can claim Absolute Immunity as President and even to keep claiming after leaving office.

This is the nightmare scenario. This possibility would do exactly what the Court of Appeals warned against: Immediately break the Checks and Balances of the Constitution and basically be a suicide note ending any judicial power of the Supreme Court itself.

You might think even the Far Right Justices would recoil from the reality that granting trump that Absolute Immunity would be the end of their own power of Judicial Review. But remember, those Justices believe it is not only possible under Unitary Executive rules, but necessary. They agree with the idea of a dictator in the Oval Office just as long as it's a conservative standard bearer seizing all that power. It may destroy the Constitutional order we've all lived with for 230-plus years, but it'll give them the excuse to rebuild their conservative utopia on those ashes.

We now are facing the real and serious reality that at least five Justices - Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett (with Roberts being the only conservative who might balk at the destruction of his own jurist legacy) - will try to find a way to give trump the "Get Out of Jail Free" card that Absolute Immunity could give him.

The logical argument that would deter such a ruling - that by agreeing Presidential Absolute Immunity exists, the Supreme Court may be giving current President Joe Biden a literal license to overthrow government himself - ignores the fact that the Republican-backed Justices have twisted rulings and precedent in previous decisions in order to carve out narrow rulings to benefit only a select few. Don't put it past the Far Right Justices to come up with a legal argument that grants that immunity to trump alone. Even though our entire legal system is supposed to be based on "equality before the law" as a rule.

The Far Right may also be gambling on the possibility that even granted this weapon, Biden's own personal nature would prevent him from wielding it as he sits in the White House right now. But don't count on that. Biden may have no choice but to use such absolute power if it comes to it. He's got solid evidence right now that trump and the Republicans are colluding with a hostile foreign power - Russia - to subvert the 2024 elections, and his own intelligence agencies could be telling him by October the only way to save the United States is to declare emergency powers and arrest everybody in the GOP from trump on down. Granted, that move will trigger an open and bloody civil war, but the alternative would be to risk the likelihood that trump and his wingnut allies will sabotage the Electoral College count one way or another. And then trump gets to be dictator on Day One, and the Constitution dies for good.

Sanity and common sense tells us no one person should hold such absolute power: Not in politics, not in religion, not in law, not in life. But we're not living in sane times, are we. Not since 2015 when trump upturned everything this nation was supposed to stand for.

I'd been trying to calm other people down over the last few years, people at work and people I know online, trying to get them to hope that the worst can't happen.

Tonight, I am panicking in a way I haven't felt since that terrible night back on November 9 2016.

I am honest-to-God worried now that the worst CAN happen. That trump will evade justice for his crimes altogether. And that he'll lie and cheat his way back into a White House he will NEVER give up again.

Even exhorting every American out there to get the vote out this election cycle - which we need to do, anything we can to make it clear the majority of us DO NOT WANT trump BACK IN POWER - doesn't feel like it'll be enough.

Fuck it. We're going to fight. 

Stop trump. That's the mission now. Just fucking STOP trump

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The REAL Scandal: Republicans Are Kompromized by the Kremlin

If the Republicans' efforts to dig up scandals on Joe Biden and his son Hunter - in an effort to weaken Biden's standing and cause embarrassment to cover for donald trump's real weaknesses and scandals (and upcoming criminal trials) - looked weak and ridiculous on their own, that's because the GOP's efforts to stir up scandal were weak and ridiculous.

And now, those Republican efforts have turned into a goddamned John Le Carre spy novel with the revelation that one of their key "witnesses" to Hunter Biden's business shenanigans was not only lying about his testimony but that he was passing along "evidence" fabricated by Russian Intelligence.

It's unsettling enough that the Special Counsel overseeing the investigation in Hunter Biden's potential criminal behavior had to pull a 180 on relying on this "witness" Alexander Smirnov and issue felony charges against him instead. And then, worrying that the Nevada magistrate who handled the bail release on Smirnov was giving Smirnov a chance to flee the country, they recharged Smirnov in a California court with more specific evidence - and that he was a flight risk - to ensure the guy stayed in custody.

How important was this "witness" to Republicans digging for Biden dirt? According to that AP News report from Lindsay Whitehurst, this important:

Smirnov’s claims have been central to the Republican effort in Congress to investigate the president and his family and helped spark what is now a House impeachment inquiry into Biden.

They became a flashpoint in Congress in July as Republicans demanded the FBI release the unredacted form, a so-called FD-1023, documenting the unverified allegations. Republican Rep. James Comer of Kentucky had subpoenaed the form as Republicans deepened their probe ahead of the 2024 presidential election. Republicans acknowledged they couldn’t confirm if the allegations were true but said they were significant in their investigation of Hunter Biden.

The allegations of Russian contact with the source of those allegations should be a death knell for the impeachment inquiry, said Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland. “It appears like the whole thing is not only obviously false and fraudulent but a product of Russian disinformation and propaganda,” he said.

Of course, the Republican leaders on this - Comer, Jim Jordan, the other clowns in that car - are running away from having Smirnov as their keystone to their entire impeachment effort, except for the fact they've been running away from every other tainted source they tried to rely on over the past year of sham hearings and "rumored" revelations.

What this twist exposes is not only their failure to find legitimate scandal against their true target Joe Biden (they honestly don't care if Hunter goes to jail or not), but exposes how corrupted and compromised the modern Republican Party leadership is towards a foreign power like Putin's Russia. The nominally conservative pundit at Washington Post Jennifer Rubin spells out the problem (this was via a gift link, don't know if it will paywall):

Are Republicans easy marks or willing participants in Russian anti-Biden operations? That’s a troubling question raised by the Feb. 14 grand jury indictment of a former FBI informant, Alexander Smirnov, on charges of concocting a tale about President Biden’s supposed involvement in his family members’ business dealings.

Allegations by Smirnov — who appears to have ties to Russian intelligence, according to the federal indictment — have formed the backbone of the House Republicans’ laughable attempt to build an impeachment case against the president. They championed him as their star witness. Now the Republicans’ fact-deficient storyline has been shredded...

Now Republicans are pretending that Smirnov wasn’t so important after all. They’re vowing to plow ahead on this cock-and-bull mission that never got off the ground. Not only did multiple witnesses testify that Biden had no involvement with his son’s business dealings, but previous allegations that Biden acted on his son’s behalf had also already been thoroughly repudiated...

The current House debacle overlaps with a Russian disinformation project described by the national security specialists Ryan Goodman and Asha Rangappa on the website Just Security in 2020. That scheme enticed Republican Sens. Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) to buy into the now-discredited scenario that as vice president Biden sought on behalf of his son to stop an investigation of Burisma. (It also added in another phony Ukraine election interference claim.)

And let’s not forget that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III found “sweeping and systematic” Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election on Donald Trump’s behalf.

The current revelations concerning Smirnov should not merely spell the end of the comically inept impeachment proceedings; they should provoke questions about Republicans’ recklessness in peddling claims they apparently knew were unreliable.

At the very least, it is clear that House Republicans had reason to be skeptical of Smirnov’s allegations instead of embracing them. FBI briefers “warned lawmakers that the document, known as a 1023, containing Smirnov’s allegations against the Bidens also included raw, uncorroborated intelligence that should not be made public,” CNN reported on Wednesday. Even if the Republicans did not know Smirnov might have ties to Russian intelligence, they certainly knew the basis for making wild allegations about Biden was extremely shaky...

Republicans’ affinity over multiple elections for Russian-backed plots should warrant wall-to-wall coverage. (Let us not forget Russian efforts detailed in the Mueller report to enlist the Trump campaign and sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016.) Responsible news outlets should press House Republicans to justify their refusal to vote for aid for Ukraine and habit of spreading Russian conspiracy theories.

In short, Trump (enabled by House Republicans) wants Ukraine aid blocked and invites Vladimir Putin to invade NATO countries with military budgets Trump deems insufficient. He already has served as an indispensable helpmate in Putin’s assault on democracy and the international order. No wonder Russia appears yet again ready to pull out all the stops to boost Trump.

Rubin refers back to a particular matter that obsessed me during the trump years: The Mueller Report. It annoys me to no end that when then-Attorney General Barr - appointed by trump to shut down the Mueller investigation before it closed in on trump himself - ended that grand jury probe, he promoted - and the mainstream media bought into - the lie that the Report "exonerated trump" and that was the end of that. What everyone seemed to ignore were the factual elements Mueller's team found - the first half of his legal objectives - rampant and provable evidence that Russian Intelligence and their oligarch allies actively engaged in election interference in 2016. What Mueller couldn't prove was trump's direct involvement with those efforts (instead Mueller found at least five instances of Obstruction, which he couldn't criminally charge due to Presidential Immunity but tried to get House Democrats to attempt impeachment, which they failed to pursue).

I remain shocked and angered to this day that Congress both Democrats and Republicans failed to heed Mueller's - and the rest of the U.S. Intelligence agencies - warnings that Russia - above all the other foreign powers looking to interfere like China and Iran - will continue to attack America's electoral systems to force the results - like stealing the presidency AGAIN for trump - that benefits Russia instead of the U.S. and our long-standing European / Middle Eastern / Asian allies. There's been almost no legislation - no priority put to making our elections more secure nor passing legal sanctions and punishments on Russia for their crimes. We're talking about acts of war getting committed on us - our rights as Americans - and nothing, no response.

Worse: We have had solid evidence for almost a decade that Russia was, is, and will do anything they can to disrupt and divide the United States. And it's getting clearer that the Republican Party as a group are happy to help them.

I mentioned before how the Republican mindset - drawing from their deep conservative ideology - their One Truth is that they view only themselves as True Americans. To do so, everyone else - aka Democrats and those who do not fit in the Republican Culture War like women, Blacks, Latinos, gays and trans, and more - dare not and cannot be considered "American" even though geographically, demographically, philosophically, we are as American as they.

Their problem is that those conservative Republicans are not in the actual majority of Americans... and they know it. They've been sliding out of contention with the majority of voters since 2008, they'd been warned after the 2012 election cycle, and yet instead of moderating themselves to retain broad appeal the conservatives doubled down on Culture War extremism and RINO purging to keep party unity, tied into aggressive state-level and federal-level gerrymandering and voter suppression to skew elections to their favor.

Thing is, that Game of Demographics can only work for so long, as the Republican extremism on issues like abortion (and related issues like birth control and IVF) and tax cuts for the rich peel away the edges of their GOP voting base to where they can't "win" even with all the gerrymandering and suppression.

So the Republicans are desperate to get any help from anywhere they can. Even if that help is coming from a foreign power like Russia where their leader Putin and his cronies are openly threatening our allies and our own nation's safety/stability. Even when that help falls under open acts of sedition that rely on corrupted persons like Smirnov. 

Similar to how trump's 2016 campaign met with and tried to coordinate with Russian nationals over getting dirt on Hillary Clinton - in possible violation of 52 US Code sect. 30121 - the current House Republican leadership and their allies from trump's Justice Department (looking at you Bill Barr) have come dangerously close to breaking that law getting tampered/manufactured Russian intel just to pursue false claims against Biden. Not to mention more obviously legal problems like suborning perjury and presenting false evidence.

The GOP leaders did all this because they truly believe 1) they're above the law, 2) they're the Real Americans fighting against un-American Democratic "criminals," 3) the Russians are not the bad guys. That last part is important because the modern Republicans driven by their Culture War bullshit truly see Putin - with his open homophobia, his disdain for "librul" Western norms, and "traditionalist" worldview (not to mention his sadism towards his lessers) - as a serious ally in that Culture War.

I wasn't there to see it, but I read the history books about the Red Scare, the McCarthyism of the 1950s where conservative Republicans openly hunted liberals and left-leaning Americans as Communist threats buddying up to Stalinist Soviet Russia. "Pinko down to their underwear" was the accusations, and anybody who ever expressed solidarity with Soviet Russia were hounded until they were broken or dead. Today, we now see those inheritors of the conservative Republicans happily and publicly embracing a Russian regime that may no longer be Communist but is just as corrupt and tyrannical as anything Stalin ever led.

The irony of such betrayal is lost on these modern Republicans, too greedy and too desperate to stay in power to see how they've sold their own ideals and their own nation out to a Russian dictator.

This scandal ought to convince every American voter who truly wants what is best for our nation - for our families, for our communities, for our future - to stop voting for a Republican Party corrupted and compromised beyond redemption

Elections matter, people. There's a reason why Putin wants to corrupt ours this 2024 just like he tried in 2020 and succeeded in back in 2016. Get the vote out, America. For the LOVE OF COUNTRY  everybody, do NOT vote (R)epublican (R)ussia.


Sunday, February 25, 2024

The 2024 U.S. Presidential Primary Checklist

Okay, just to help voters keep track of which Presidential candidate has certain issues and concerns as we head into the thick of the 2024 Primary Season:


Joe Biden

Donald Trump

Is Old

a

a

Is Showing Signs of
Memory Issues

a

a

Is Still Screaming about
"Stolen Votes" from 2020


a

Is Threatening to quit NATO


a

Is Demanding Republicans in Congress Block Any Aid to Ukraine In Its War Against Russia


a

Is Gloating about
ending Roe V Wade


a

Found Liable of Sexual Assault in a Court of Law To the Tune of $88 Million and Counting


a

Found Liable of Acts of Business Fraud To the Tune of $450 Million Plus Interest


a

Refuses to Let Congress
Pass a Border Reform Bill
to Keep His Opponent From Benefiting Politically


a

Promoting an Ugly-Ass Sneaker for $499.00 (when it probably costs $49.00 in real life)


a

Is Facing Criminal Trial in New York on 34 Counts for
"Election Interference" and Filing False Documents this March 2024


a

Is Facing Criminal Trial in DC on Four Felony Counts Concerning January 6th 2021 Riots as Soon as The Supreme Court Considers an Appeal Over Absolute Presidential Immunity


a

Is Facing Criminal Trial in
South Florida on Multiple Counts of Classified Documents Mishandling, Probably by
May 2024


a

Is Facing Criminal Trial in Georgia on Multiple Counts of Election Interference and Racketeering Related to a Fake Electors Scheme, TBD


a

Is Winning the 2024
Party Primaries with
90 Percent of the Vote

a


Is Getting Told By National Media Pundits to "Step Aside"
or Quit Campaigning
to Make Room for the Pundit's Preferred Candidate (TBD)
for the "Good of the Party"
and the United States

a


 I'm not WRONG, am I?

What the Wingnuts REALLY Want: Control of Women, Control of Science, Control of Everything

You would think the so-called "pro-life" movement would be thrilled to support something like in vitro fertilization (IVF). After all, IVF should be a good thing: It's the active choice to get pregnant and have a baby in spite of various health or physiological factors that were preventing couples (or women) from natural reproduction. It's expensive, and painful, and not always successful: but thousands of people choose it because they want to be good parents. In the opposition to abortion - that it's "baby-killing" or "ending God's gift" - the choice of IVF would reflect that positivity of life.

And yet, those anti-abortionists - you can't call them "pro-life" in most respects now they're not even "pro-fetus" - are perfectly happy nuking from orbit IVF as a medical option, just like they did in Alabama's Supreme Court ruling earlier last week.

It has to do - mostly - with how it's done: Harvesting multiple ova and fertilizing each one, freezing the embryos until one is needed, implanting it, and hoping it works. All those extra harvested eggs become troubling to the "pro-fetus" believers because in their world-view those embryos are now persons, and any potential destruction of those embryos would be an act of abortion. There's also the problem that an implanted ova may not take, which becomes in their minds an abortion as well.

I'd also argue the "pro-fetus" people are annoyed - jealous, really - by how instead of relying on God for the miracle of childbirth, people can rely instead on Science and fertility doctors to get it done.

There's also the rage against feminism, the fear that single women would choose IVF with a random sperm donor and avoid the emotional - and oft-times physical - complications dealing with men. God forbid the Patriarchy - "OBEY your husbands, ladies" - be denied or disturbed in any way.

But it all boils down to what these wingnuts REALLY want. They want control.

I mentioned before how I've seen them in-person protesting at clinics, driven by rage and shilling fearmongering images of bloodied fetuses. Eager to pass "moral" judgment on women and families they didn't know, just so they could have some insane level of control over how the world around them truly works.

In the Religious Right's obsessive need to end abortion as a choice, they will tear down everything else to impose their religious views - their control - on everyone else. They will deny rape and incest as a problem to ensure women can't get abortions from unwanted pregnancies. They will obscure the reality that pregnancies are not 100 percent safe, and deny how miscarriages, stillbirths, and ectopic pregnancies can happen in "God's perfect world." They will demonize women who suffer miscarriages and seek to jail any doctors foolish enough to provide any kind of prenatal care in these Red States under theocratic misrule.

The Religious Right are going after IVF because it's still a choice, one they can't control and one that dares question their foundational belief in personhood for embryos.

The Religious Right are going after birth control - something that actually stops fertilization, so it shouldn't affect "personhood" - because these wingnuts want their control over the reproductive act for every woman, even the ones - liberal Christians, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim - who don't subscribe to their religion.

The Religious Right will bust down the doors of every house in America to check on your uteri, women, never mind your personal rights. These same enforcers won't lift a finger to go after men who commit onanism and waste all that sacred sperm.

These same Religious Right will deny you any chance to get pregnant and have families on your own terms, through IVF or through personal use of contraceptives until you're ready - emotionally and financially - to have children. Because they want to control that part of your lives as well.

As much as they'd love to control your souls, and demand your fealty to their Church (not their God, because they will deny other Christians any say in what God truly is), they know in the end they truly can't. So they want control - political, physical, public - of everything else just so they can make themselves superior to the rest of us. 

The Religious Right are doing all of this so they can sit themselves atop a throne to look down on the rest they view as sinners and un-persons. 

Doing all this so they can judge us, before God judges them for the damage they've done to their neighbors.

God DAMN them, and for the Love of a true and just God drive every one of these Christianist absolutists out of our elected offices and courtrooms.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Anniversary: The Fires Of Putin's War Still Burning

It's been two years now, and it's not the best possible way to celebrate this anniversary of when Putin sent the full might of his Russian military into all of Ukraine back in February 2022. Looking back at some of what I wrote, I noticed these observations:

Russia (Putin) doesn't want Ukraine to go running off to another European alliance like NATO or the EU, but they can't offer anything to Ukraine that would honestly entice Ukrainians to take Russia back as a political/economic partner. So instead, Russia (Putin) will try to "encourage" their relationship by force, not caring that such bullying behavior will only drive Ukrainians more towards joining Western Europe against Russia.

Ukraine is never going to give in to Russia's demands here, they will not agree to any deal absolutely barring them from even thinking about joining NATO. They dare not. Even the mere threat of joining NATO is the only leverage Ukraine has against outright invasion and occupation. Paradox: Every move Russia makes to stop Ukraine from joining NATO only pushes Ukraine further towards joining NATO.

It's that fear of NATO - how Putin and his lackeys see that western alliance as a bulwark against Russian dreams of rebirthing their empire - that keeps Russia from just admitting to themselves they screwed up because it's been two years of failure after failure. I noted this five days in:

What Putin got was a bloody nose, figurately speaking. 

Literally, five days into his ordering the invasion of Ukraine, what Putin has is an international PR nightmare, near-global condemnation of his war, escalating sanctions and lockdowns of every financial avenue Russia has - including cutting off banks from SWIFT, a transactional process that can arguably block the Russian citizenry and businesses from their own accounts - not to mention a tanking stock market, and nothing resembling a cakewalk into Kyiv to set up his puppet state.

Putin's rival Zelensky failed to flee the capital when the invasion started, instead using his media savvy to go onto social media and make a personal call to arms to every Ukrainian to stop the Russians approaching their major cities. Reported when asked by western powers to evacuate for his own safety, Zelensky answered "I need ammunition, not a ride." Sonofabitch (and I mean this in a cool way) is getting comparisons to freaking Winston Churchill, for God's sake...

Putin has already shot his load, as it were. Making a grand pronouncement that Ukraine wasn't even a real country and that he was going to make them all happy Russians again, only to have nearly every Ukrainian grab a rifle and fight back. Even grandmothers were tossing sunflower seeds at Russian troops cursing that their bodies will be fertilizer for the flowers that will bloom. 

Putin has already flexed his nation's military might, only to face the possibility that he's going to have to retreat, never a good look for a bullying autocrat. Or worse, double down on the troops and weaponry (that he may not have) and try to overwhelm Ukrainian resistance by sheer numbers, risking the growing anti-war sentiment of the citizenry at home...

If there has been any noticeable anti-war sentiment - most of Russian media and local police have clamped down on any overt sign of unrest - it's been from the young Russian men savvy enough to skedaddle - yes still love that word - when they had the chance:

Putin is doubling down on making this conscription (don't call it a mobilization like it's a good thing, this is forced military servitude) because Ukraine's recent success shredded much of the ground forces he had there and he needs as many bodies as possible to hold onto whatever he can claim. As mentioned earlier, Putin is also forcing the occupied regions of southern Ukraine - the Donbas in particular - to "vote" on a rigged "annexation" so that Russia can claim to the world that it's Ukraine invading Russia, even though most other nations would never recognize such a brazenly illegal move.

Putin is relying on the one last resource he can utilize in his war to conquer Ukraine: Manpower. Russia's overall population at 143 million is 100 million more than Ukraine's (43 million), and just on simple numbers in a slogfest Russia should be able to outlast Ukraine to conquer a bloodied landscape.

But in his desperation, Putin is overvaluing quantity over quality of armies. By all reports, Russia's armed forces are poorly trained, poorly motivated, poorly supplied... and everything that's happened since this February has proven how poor Russia's performance has been in a straight-up fight with an army that can fight back. While Putin is emphasizing in conscripting men with previous military experience, there's no guarantee those men have good enough experience in the first place, and there's no sign of them having the discipline and motivation to perform any better than the first wave of troops Putin sent in. Most military experts in the West argue that Putin needs to train his conscripts, which would take months... and Putin doesn't have months at this rate. He will send raw untrained victims to the front lines and hope to Zerg Rush Ukrainian forces by sheer attrition...

It is that - combined with Putin's illegal use of artillery and drone attacks on Ukrainian civilian populations - sole advantage of bodies for the meat grinder that has prolonged this war.

Well, there's actually a second advantage Putin is wielding against Ukraine to prolong this war: A willing faction of Republicans in Congress - bowing not just to trump's demand they appease his puppetmaster Putin, but playing their own game of obstructing Biden to make him look weak - blocking all financial and supply aid to Ukraine as they need it most. The Western European nations making up most of NATO have been providing military aid here and there - surplus of tanks and transports and weapons - but without the military and financial might of the U.S. getting to them, Ukrainian front line forces are running out of ammo.

Without that help, Ukraine will enter its third year of survival at their most vulnerable with Putin willing to prolong the attrition until he can be certain of complete victory, which would be if trump steals the electoral results this November. If that happens, trump's threats to drive the U.S. out of NATO become fact, and NATO is suddenly faced with an emboldened Russian Empire eager to reclaim Eastern Europe and use their influence on internal Far Right political factions to destabilize whatever's left.

There's a lot of things we as American citizens can do to provide help to Ukraine. Urging President Biden to transfer the millions in seized Russian assets to fund Ukraine's war effort is one. Stopping trump this November is the other step. For the love of Ukraine, our European allies, and a true end to Russian aggression/war, DO NOT VOTE REPUBLICAN.

Slava Ukraini

Friday, February 23, 2024

Time to Break the NRA, Now That It's Financially Broke

I hadn't talked about it much, but the National Rifle Body County Association had been facing civil lawsuits in the state of New York - where their organization had been incorporated - and the State AG Letitia James delivered for justice and sanity (again) when the jury came back this afternoon holding the NRA leaders liable for decades of embezzlement, mismanagement, and corruption (via Emma Bowman and Brian Mann at NPR):

A Manhattan jury found three top executives of the National Rifle Association liable Friday in a lengthy civil trial that focused on alleged corruption and the misspending of millions of dollars.

Longtime NRA leader Wayne LaPierre, a key architect in the nonprofit's hardline gun rights agenda who stepped down as CEO last month, was central to New York state's case.

Jurors found that LaPierre "violated his statutory obligation to discharge the duties of his position in good faith."

They concluded that he had caused roughly $5.4 million worth of harm to the nonprofit group's finances — though they also found that LaPierre had already repaid roughly $2 million.

LaPierre is the same sonofabitch who made the decision after the horrifying Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre to double down on the madness of gun proliferation that has led to more guns and more gun violence. He went out there and claimed "there was no way to end the violence" and that the best way to solve it was "good guys with guns." (Guess what, good guys with guns doesn't work) All the while raking in the profits that the NRA succored out of the gun manufacturers - who all had a part of the NRA's leadership - that he then indulged himself.

The executives were accused of misappropriating and mismanaging funds donated to the gun rights group's members. According to New York state Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the lawsuit, their actions led to "the loss of more than $64 million in just three years."

During the six-week trial, state lawyers alleged that LaPierre had spent over $11 million for private flights and approved $135 million in NRA contracts in exchange for yacht access and free trips to the Bahamas, Greece and other vacation hotspots, The Associated Press reported.

All those vacations to overseas nations that have gun control laws in place. Probably made it safe for LaPierre to walk around at night spending more blood money.

LaPierre spent three decades growing the NRA's political and lobbying influence. Even as mass shootings became commonplace, LaPierre rejected attempts to change gun policy, branding gun control proponents as enemies of freedom and using the threat of firearms regulation to fundraise.

His resignation was announced just days before the trial began, with the NRA instead citing health as the reason for his departure.

The NRA's grip on politics has weakened in recent years as it's faced declining membership and revenue, and concerns within the group over leadership's direction and misuse of funds...

There was a moment, years ago, when ties to Russian intelligence exposed the dire financial straits that the organization found itself (It doesn't look like that investigation went far). There had also been power struggles both behind the doors and on the public stage that exposed how corrupt LaPierre had made himself and the NRA. There'd been complaints the organization had been rigging their internal elections for decades.

With any luck, this court ruling breaks all of that. This jury decision will block some of the more corrupt NRA leaders from holding office, hopefully leaving room for reformers to gain meaningful footholds. AG James is looking to install an independent court monitor to oversee the financials, which would go a long way towards clearing out any of the other org leaders unable to bribe or bully their way back into power.

While I am hopeful of all that, whether this will lead to any sanity on the political stage remains unknown. Far too many politicians - cough Far Right Republicans cough - have built their "brands" on being "gun-toting, 2nd Amendment Loving" psychopaths, and they're not going to change their public image any time soon.

It's up to the voters - now without the NRA funneling their blood money into the electoral process - to hear the calls for gun reforms more clearly, and to vote appropriately for the federal and state officials who will do something - banning the assault rifles that make up most of our mass shootings; reinstating gun safety regulations like waiting periods, registration and training; and stopping the intentional market glut of cheap guns; things like that - to stop our streets - and our schools, and our stores, and our churches, and our movie theaters, and our concerts - filling with innocent blood.

Hope you go to Hell broke, Wayne. You earned that.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

This Is What Censorship and Whitewashing Look Like

So this Sunday, Doonesbury ran a comic strip that directly attacked Ron DeSantis' attempt in Florida to whitewash American History: (edit, I had a bad link earlier. second edit: where are all the views coming from? please comment below...)


I can't show the whole strip (copyright), but you can click the link to see it. While Trudeau is usually good on research - when he states a fact in his strips, he can vouch for the sources - he does make a mistake claiming that I-95 is the best escape route to take. Christ, I-95 is a parking lot just like I-4! The teacher will never make it. Take the backroads like Highway 441!

All kidding aside, the story doesn't end with this strip angering up DeSantis or any "Lost Cause" wingnut. Because it angered up a major media conglomerate instead, as the Gannett newspaper chain decided not to run the strip as though they could hide it (via Keegan Kelly at Cracked.com):

This past Sunday, many readers whose regional newspapers are owned by the multi-billion dollar, conservative-leaning mass media holding company Gannett flipped to the funny pages to find that Doonesbury was conspicuously missing from its usual position in the printing. Former Iowa State Representative and president of the Veterans National Recovery Center Bob Krause noticed that absence and made sure to show Twitter what Gannett hid from them.

Gannett owns almost 400 newspapers in the United States, including the national publication USA Today and local papers in 44 states, among which is Krause's Iowa, where the Des Moines Register followed company protocol and cut out the above strip from circulation. Apparently, Gannett didn't want its readers knowing that seven of the states in the U.S. Confederacy explicitly cited the issue of slavery in their declarations of secession. Gannett also doesn't want comic strip fans learning about how almost 100,000 white southerners chose loyalty to their country over preserving slavery as they fought for the Union during the Civil War.

Many conservative-dominated states have passed legislation designed to prevent education about historical topics such as slavery and civil rights, but the state that Trudeau name-drops in Sunday's censored Doonesbury strip has drawn the most attention for how hilariously absurd its lengthy ban list stretches – a school district in Florida even made national headlines this past summer for banning an Arthur book from the school library...

I'd written before about how Doonesbury sits on the edge of controversy and how newspapers try to find a balance to ensure First Amendment rights aren't violated (often by putting the comic on the Op-Ed page). Here, the Gannett media corporation couldn't be bothered with that, and just straight up banned the Sunday comic. Gannett however forgot that Doonesbury is available through other sources - such as the GoComics archive - and that too many people would notice that void in the Sunday funnies.

What we're seeing here in real time is the Far Right Republican effort - led by DeSantis and a dozen-plus Republican governors - to whitewash American history to hide the "shame" of slavery, civil war, and racism from the schoolbooks in order to "protect the sensitivities of privileged Whites." They're getting help by these media empires - mostly owned by conservative rich folk, and owning most of our newspapers, radios, and local television stations - who want to pander to the wingnut Narrative of White Victimhood and the avoidance of literal centuries of racism and sexism that underlines our nation's history. (It ought to horrify everyone to realize how much control over our media that's held by so few corporations)

These history deniers, these panderers, these censors are incapable of even debating what it is they're trying to shove down the throats of our school-age children, and so they will resort to silence because they cannot convince. And this wasn't censored just in Florida: it reached as far as Iowa (a Union state) showing how far the company's - and the wingnut conservatives' - reach was on this.

All these wingnut deniers are doing is highlighting their own fear, their own ignorance, their own racism.

Shame on Gannett corporation for violating the First Amendment. Shame on DeSantis and every Florida Republican who cannot accept the racist history of our state and our nation. Shame on them for failing to recognize their sins and work to improve themselves by, you know, being less racist and less sexist.

I hope to God Trudeau sues Gannett on free speech rights. I hope to God the Republicans lose the next ten election cycles so their inept and racist legislation gets flushed out of our legal codes.

Stop voting Republican, Florida. Stop voting Republican, America. They don't want people to know the facts about our history, about our current economic and social inequalities, they don't want people to think period.

Update: I received a follow-up tweet from Ruben Bolling (aka Tom The Dancing Bug creator) on Bluesky - wait do we call them tweets there? - that he had done some digging into the matter, and had spoken to someone from Doonesbury's publisher that Gannett Media had "simply canceled" their subscription to the strip. Bolling considers it "not censorship, but a bad business decision."

I dunno. It depends a little bit on when the Gannett owners decided to drop Doonesbury. It just seems a little too coincidental that they drop the strip for ALL their papers - even in places where it's still popular - as this particular comic was getting prepped for print.

One of my core arguments remain: Florida Republicans are whitewashing our state's and nation's history, to the detriment of ALL our youth and adults who need the facts from the past to understand what needs repair in our society to improve our future. The corporate media is doing nothing to fight against that censorship, no matter how this looks.