More to ignore, Book 48..........

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Friday, Apr 8, 2022 · 9:34:46 AM EDT · Mark Sumner
MSN explains the “filtration camps” where Ukrainians kidnapped from Mariupol and other areas under Russian occupation are sent.

“The filtration camps, described as large plots of military tents with rows of men in uniforms, are where deported Ukrainians are photographed, fingerprinted, forced to turn over their cellphones, passwords and identity documents, and then questioned by officers for hours before being sent to Russia. … Ukrainian officials say more than 40,000 people have been forced into Russia against their will since last month.”

This is a term that goes back to World War II, when the Soviet Union held millions in such camps and used them for relocating whole populations, including from areas of Ukraine. They were also used during Russia’s two wars in Chechnya, where at least 200,000 people were relocated starting with time in these camps.

By the statements of Russian officials, at least 430,000 people have been exfiltrated from Ukraine to Russia.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Friday, Apr 8, 2022 · 9:47:43 AM EDT · Mark Sumner
On March 14, Fox News Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova were killed when their vehicle came under fire from Russian troops in the Kyiv suburb of Horenka. Also in the vehicle was Fox reporter Benjamin Hall, who was severely injured in the attack.

On Thursday, Hall posted a pair of tweets updating his status and reassuring many that he was recovering—even if his injuries will leave serious, life long consequences. However, Hall has since deleted those tweets. With that in mind, we are limiting coverage under the assumption that there are possible aspects to this story that might not be understood—including potential threats to Hall or others.

To date, at least 18 journalists have been verified as killed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Several others are missing or injured. There is evidence that reporters have been specifically targeted.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Friday, Apr 8, 2022 · 11:55:03 AM EDT · Mark Sumner
1) This would end any significant outside investment in Russia for a generation.

2) Seeing companies who invested in an authoritarian-controlled country lose every dime of that investment would not be a bad thing if it made them think twice about shoving money into the pockets of dictators to get “market share.”

3) The idea that you can reform monsters by feeding them money was always lacking in any evidence, or even common sense. The whole idea that the best way to reform a nation is by engaging it in trade isn’t just unproven, it’s been disproven again and again.


 

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The horror of Bucha finally shakes Russia trade bill loose from Senate Republicans
Joan McCarter

Senate Republicans apparently decided that while they can be on the wrong side of history when it comes to voting for the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, they need to shake off their growing reputation as the party of Putin. The stories and images that emerged this week of Ukrainian corpses in the streets, of mass graves, of executions and rampant destruction in Bucha increased pressure to finally force action.

After three weeks of obstruction, Republicans finally allowed a vote to revoke permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia and Belarus and to codify the gas and oil bans President Joe Biden had already imposed. When they decided to let it happen, they did so unanimously.

The House then moved quickly to pass both. For three weeks, the Senate has been wrangling over Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) objections to the reauthorization and expansion of the Global Magnitsky Sanctions that were included in the bills.

The 2012 Magnitsky Act imposed sanctions on Russian officials believed to be responsible for the torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian accountant who exposed corruption among high-level government officials. Since then, the law has been expanded to allow the White House to impose visa bans and sanctions on individuals anywhere in the world it deems responsible for “gross” human rights violations and acts of significant corruption. The bill from the House expands sanctions and travel bans to individuals who are responsible for “serious” human rights violations, and that’s what caused Paul’s objections. He succeeded in getting the language changed back to the original. Mostly, he succeeded in creating a three-week delay.
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Once that objection was negotiated away at the end of last week, there were more unspecified obstacles from other senators, presumably Republicans, that remained undisclosed. One of the sweeteners they added for Republicans was passing a lend-lease program to expedite the provision of U.S. military hardware to Ukraine. President Biden can already use his executive authority to provide materials under the Arms Export Control Act, but this bill creates some waivers of requirements in the law to make the process more efficient. The House did not act on that before leaving for recess Thursday afternoon.

With passage of the PNTR bill, Russia and Belarus join Cuba and North Korea as the only countries denied normal trade status. It will result in higher tariffs for their products, and directs the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office to work with partners in the World Trade Organization to get them to also revoke favored nation status for Russia and suspend its membership in the WTO.

The oil embargo bill codifies the ban Biden had already enacted on oil, gas, coal, and other petroleum products, but requires that if the embargo is going to be lifted, the president certify to Congress that Russia has negotiated an agreement to withdraw troops from Ukraine, end hostilities, poses no threat to any NATO member, and recognizes Ukraine’s total sovereignty and the right of its people to freely choose their own government. Congress could reject that certification. The PNTR bill also includes these certification requirements for Russia and Belarus to regain normal trade status.

Those bills are headed to Biden.

The House, meanwhile, spent Thursday re-passing those bills so they could go on to the president, and passing a $55 billion package to provide more COVID-19 relief for restaurants and other small businesses that are still struggling because of the pandemic.

The biggest chunk of the package, $42 billion, would go into the existing Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a grant program created in the American Rescue Plan. Out of the 300,000 restaurants and bars that tried to get grants from the program last year, only about one-third secured help. The other $13 billion in the bill would go toward other types of small business, particularly entertainment venues and travel-related businesses.

The House is reportedly looking at funding clawed back from fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program loans and grants to pay for it. Senate Republicans, who have the power to kill it, are skeptical.

With that done and Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmed to the Supreme Court (YAY!!!!), Congress left Washington for two weeks. Since Capitol Hill is in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak reaching from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and through the House to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), it’s probably a good thing they’re all getting away from each other. Ironically, they left with the latest COVID-19 supplemental bill still languishing in the Senate.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Former Republican staffer sentenced to 12 years in prison for operating child pornography ring
Jen Hayden

RubenVerastigui.png

Ruben Verastigui speaking at the 2013 March for Life anti-choice rally, because of course

On Thursday, the Department of Justice announced Ruben Verastigui has been sentenced to 151 months in prison on a federal charge of receipt of child pornography.

A Washington, D.C., resident, 29-year-old Ruben Verastigui has spent his entire career in conservative circles, including as an aide to the Trump re-election campaign and stints as a digital strategist for the Senate Republican Conference and the Republican National Committee.



The Department of Justice detailed the evidence against Ruben Verastigui, and this case is extremely disturbing.

[Warning: Graphic description of the DOJ’s case is listed below]

According to the government’s evidence, from April 2020 through Feb. 2021, Verastigui was active in an online group devoted to trading child pornography and discussing child sexual abuse. Verastigui shared child pornography videos with another member of the group and made numerous comments about sexually abusing children. Verastigui indicated his preference for babies, saying they were his “absolute favorite,” and solicited another group member for videos of babies being raped. The other group member promptly sent Verastigui a video of a baby being raped, to which Verastigui responded enthusiastically. The other group member then sent Verastigui numerous other videos of child pornography.


Verastigui is just one of numerous Republican staffers to face child pornography charges in recent years. Chase Tristan Epsy, a lawyer for Alabama Gov. Kay Ivy, was arrested in 2021 for soliciting a minor.



As usual, it seems the howls of Republicans are pure projection.



And last, but not least, Verastigui was a featured speaker at the 2013 anti-choice rally in Washington, D.C.

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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House committee wants to know why Justice Department is blocking its investigation of Trump records
Laura Clawson

The Justice Department is investigating how 15 boxes of official records, including classified materials, made their way to Mar-a-Lago when Donald Trump left the White House. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, as it investigates, the Justice Department is blocking a parallel investigation by Congress. And frankly, given how Attorney General Merrick Garland has dragged his feet on investigating the lawlessness of Trump and his associates, it’s not confidence-inspiring.

The Justice Department has blocked the National Archives from giving information about the 15 boxes of records to the House Oversight Committee, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the committee chair, wants to know why.

“I write today because the Department of Justice is preventing NARA from cooperating with the Committee's request, which is interfering with the Committee's investigation,” she wrote in a Thursday letter, CNN reports. “By blocking NARA from producing the documents requested by the Committee, the Department is obstructing the Committee's investigation.”

While the committee “does not wish to interfere in any manner with any potential or ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice,” Maloney does want an explanation. CNN notes, though, that “It is also common practice for the Justice Department to limit information that government agencies share with Congress while an investigation is ongoing.”

The problem is that this is a very timid Justice Department, more concerned with avoiding the appearance of responding to political pressure than with anything that looks like prompt or efficient justice. The investigations into Team Trump’s lawlessness may be moving forward in secret, but what we know at this point is that if anything is happening, it’s not happening in good time. And House Democrats likely have a limited amount of time left to control investigations.
.......

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Trump's Mar-a-Lago document stash has drawn FBI attention
Laura Clawson

How did classified material make its way to Mar-a-Lago with Donald Trump when he skipped town ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2021? That’s a question for the FBI, which the agency has started investigating, according to reports. (A spokesperson refused to confirm or deny such an investigation when asked by The Washington Post, but there are multiple reports it’s happening.)

Unfortunately, the FBI investigation is currently blocking a parallel investigation by the House Oversight Committee, which Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the committee chair, expressed concern about in a recent letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland. But the FBI investigation itself is an interesting addition to the long list of investigations into Trump’s various activities both in public office and in private business. Just Thursday, New York Attorney General Letitia James asked for Trump to be held in contempt of court in a separate investigation.

The New York Times reports that such an investigation would likely not target any specific individual. The questions asked, to start, would be whether the material involved was properly classified, whether it was mishandled, whether there was any chance that anyone got improper access to it, and, well, how it got to Florida along with many other White House records that should have stayed with the government rather than arrived at a private resort and club.

Nonetheless, Trump has been on the defensive about those 15 boxes of records, saying in a recent statement, “The fake news is making it seem like me, as the president of the United States, was working in a filing room.” In other words, “Don’t blame me, it was my underlings.”

In addition to the FBI and House investigations of the mishandled records, Trump faces investigations by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the New York attorney general (as previously mentioned), Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis. That’s in addition to several lawsuits, including with his niece Mary Trump, magazine writer E. Jean Carroll, and his longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Refuting suggestions that he’s lost interest in going after Donald Trump, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said Thursday a criminal investigation into the former president and his business practices is continuing “without fear or favor” despite a recent shakeup in the probe’s leadership.

In a rare public statement, Bragg denied that the three-year investigation was winding down or that a grand jury term expiring this month would impede his office’s ability to bring charges.

Citing secrecy rules, the district attorney said he couldn’t discuss details of the probe but pledged to publicly disclose findings when it’s over.

“In recent weeks, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has been repeatedly asked whether our investigation concerning former President Donald J. Trump, the Trump Organization, and its leadership is continuing,” Bragg wrote. “It is.”

..........
The Democrat’s affirmation of the investigation was part of a double dose of bad legal news for Trump on Thursday.

It came shortly after the New York attorney general’s office asked a judge to hold Trump in contempt and fine him $10,000 per day for not meeting a March 31 deadline to turn over documents in a parallel civil investigation. Trump is appealing a subpoena for his testimony in that investigation, but not one requiring him to provide documents.

“The judge’s order was crystal clear: Donald J. Trump must comply with our subpoena and turn over relevant documents to my office,” Attorney General Letitia James said. “Instead of obeying a court order, Mr. Trump is trying to evade it. We are seeking the court’s immediate intervention because no one is above the law.”

Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, called James’ request for sanctions “frivolous and baseless,” and said the former president has “consistently complied with the many discovery requests” from her office over the years.

Bragg’s statement marked the district attorney’s first public comment on the Trump investigation since the two men who had been leading it, Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, resigned Feb. 23 in a dispute over the direction of the case.

Pomerantz, a former mafia prosecutor, wrote in a resignation letter that he believed Trump is “guilty of numerous felony violations” but that Bragg, who inherited the probe when he took office in January, had decided not to pursue charges.

Pomerantz said in the letter, published last month by The New York Times, that there was “evidence sufficient to establish Mr. Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” of allegations he falsified financial statements to secure loans and burnish his image as a wealthy businessman.

“I believe that your decision not to prosecute Donald Trump now, and on the existing record, is misguided and completely contrary to the public interest,” Pomerantz wrote.

Bragg’s silence after the resignations and the March 23 publication of Pomerantz’s letter gave rise to a narrative that the investigation was effectively dead.

After Pomerantz and Dunne left, Trump lawyer Robert Fischetti told the Associated Press: “I’m a very happy man. In my opinion, this investigation is over.”

Pomerantz and Dunne started on the probe under former District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

Pomerantz wrote that Vance had directed them to seek an indictment of Trump and other defendants “as soon as reasonably possible,” but that Bragg reached a different conclusion after reviewing the evidence.

Vance and Bragg are Democrats. No former president has ever been charged with a crime.

In his statement Thursday, Bragg tried to wrest back the narrative, putting Trump on notice that he isn’t done while reassuring supporters who backed him in part because he pledged to continue investigating the former president, a Republican.

Bragg said that a team of “dedicated, experienced career prosecutors” is working on the investigation, led by the chief of his Investigation Division, Susan Hoffinger, and that they are “going through documents, interviewing witnesses, and exploring evidence not previously explored.”

“In the long and proud tradition of white-collar prosecutions at the Manhattan D.A.’s Office, we are investigating thoroughly and following the facts without fear or favor,” Bragg said.

Trump has called the investigation a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

So far, the three-year investigation has resulted only in tax fraud charges against Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, and its longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg relating to lucrative fringe benefits such as rent, car payments and school tuition. They have pleaded not guilty.

Weisselberg’s lawyers filed court papers in February asking a judge to throw out his case, arguing that prosecutors targeted him as punishment because he wouldn’t flip on the former president.

Trump has cited potential peril from the criminal case as he appeals a ruling requiring him to answer questions under oath in James’ civil investigation.

Trump’s lawyers contend James, who assigned two lawyers to work on the criminal case, is using the guise of a civil deposition to get around a state law barring prosecutors from calling someone to testify before a criminal grand jury without giving them immunity.

James, a Democrat, has said her investigation has uncovered evidence that Trump may have misstated the value of assets like golf courses and skyscrapers on his financial statements for more than a decade.

Bragg said his career and perspective have been shaped by “high-profile, complex investigations,” including a lawsuit he oversaw while a top deputy in the attorney general’s office that led to the closure of Trump’s charity over allegations he used it to further his political and business interests.

“Prosecutors fulfilling their duties cannot and do not bring only cases that are ‘slam dunks,’” Bragg wrote. “To the contrary, every case must be brought for the right reason — namely that justice demands it. That’s what I’ve done throughout my career, regardless of how easy or tough a case might be.”

A grand jury convened in the Trump investigation last fall hasn’t met regularly for several months and its term is expected to run out soon, but Bragg said there are grand juries sitting in Manhattan all the time and “there is no magic at all to any previously reported dates.”


“In the meantime, we will not be discussing our investigative steps. Nor will we be discussing grand jury matters.” Bragg wrote. “In short, as we have previously said, the investigation continues.”
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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The genius of Rep. Raskin linking Republicans to the 'Trump-Putin axis'
Kerry Eleveld

GettyImages-1000225262.jpg

Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a joint press conference after their summit on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland.

Shortly after a routine congressional outburst Wednesday from a Trump-aligned Republican, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland uttered a phrase that should quickly become a Democratic staple: the Trump-Putin axis.

The GOP offender was Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. Who knows exactly what she said—who even cares? It's Raskin's response that matters.

"The gentlelady said something about the Russian hoax—I accept the heckling, Mr. Speaker," Raskin said from the well of the House floor. "If she wants to continue to stand with Vladimir Putin and his brutal, bloody invasion against the people of Ukraine, she is free to do so, and we understand there is a strong Trump-Putin axis in the gentlelady’s party."
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For the past several months, I have been trying to identify attack lines Democrats can leverage against Republicans ahead of the midterms, and this particular phrase accomplishes so much in so few words—it's just killer.

First, linking Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin passes the smell test. Every reality-based voter (the only ones we can reach) knows that Trump has been a loyal and dedicated Putin bootlicker for many years, including using his White House perch to do Putin's bidding on the global stage for four years. What makes Trump’s actions even more grave now is the fact that Putin has turned himself into a global pariah through his butchery in Ukraine.

Second, "axis" is a potent word that Americans immediately get due to its historical underpinnings. From the disgraced Axis powers of World War II to President George W. Bush's "axis of evil," Americans inherently know "axis" is a word anchored in ignominy. Regardless of whether one agrees with Bush's 2002 adaptation of it, his relatively recent usage helps.

Finally, as GOP congressional members and aspiring candidates continue to embrace Trump across the country, frequent reminders of the "Trump-Putin axis" is very simple shorthand for evoking all the turmoil Trump brought into the White House along with the consequences presently playing out in Ukraine. There's no need to belabor the point, Democratic base voters are crystal clear about Trump's corrosive effect on international relations, and at least some Trump-Biden voters actually defected in 2020 for that very reason. Trump's Putin sycophancy may play well to the GOP’s white nationalist base, but it's pretty cringey to that slice of reality-based Republicans. Some of them even voted for a Democrat in 2020 because of it.

So the term is really a twofer, reminding both the Democratic base why their votes matter and reality-based GOP voters why their party's continued loyalty to Trump has dangerous and despicable real-world consequences. Perhaps those GOP voters, particularly in swing districts, will defect again if they find their candidate too repulsive, or maybe they’ll just stay home. Either one is a win for Democrats.

So yeah, Democrats should start hitting the term on the regular forthwith.




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Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukraine update: It's not as simple as 'give Ukraine the most modern weapons'
kos

GettyImages-1330863419.jpg

Australian M-1 Abrams tank. Would be great for Ukraine to field these ... if they had years to learn how to maintain them.

The war news lately has become one endless civilian massacre after another, so I take solace in focusing on the military side of the story. It’s not that I want to ignore or gloss over war crimes, it’s that it’s deeply triggering to me. Remember, I came to the United States as a war refugee. I’ve lived the life of a child noncombatant in the midst of armed conflict. And my personal experience was nowhere near as horrible as that of many people, either in El Salvador in the late 70s and 80s or in Ukraine today. It’s too much.

Civilians always bear the brunt of war. Always.

The reaction on social media always turns to “we need to give Ukraine everything they request, give them all the weapons!” The sentiment is understandable. We are mostly helpless, sitting on the sidelines of unspeakable horror. And it’s certainly understandable for Ukrainians to ask for it all. They are the ones doing the dying as the rest of the world is paralyzed by Russia’s nuclear weapons.

But each news of fresh massacres changes the equation slightly, erodes constraints. NATO armor and artillery were once off-limits to Ukraine. Today, Czech armor is already in Ukrainian hands, and more is on the way from several countries. Slovakia sent Soviet-era air defenses that logistically fit into Ukraine’s current stock. The U.K. has sent advanced air defense systems, and artillery is on tap. Several countries are sending armored personnel carriers. The U.S. is sending switchblade suicide drones, which truth be told, feels more escalatory than anything, given their ability to strike deep behind Russian lines and their overall nastiness. Those switchblades will soon be the most effective killers on that battlefield.


When the West began its first tentative shipment to Ukraine, Russia threatened retaliation. Before the war, it even made vague nuclear threats if anyone intervened. Today, Russia is rendered mostly mute. The war isn’t over, but it already has been defanged. When Finland first began discussing NATO membership, Putin spokesman’s thundered, “It is obvious that [if] Finland and Sweden join NATO, which is a military organization to begin with, there will be serious military and political consequences.” Yesterday, after news that Finland was moving forward with an application, the Kremlin’s response was sad and pathetic: "We'll have to rebalance the situation. We'll have to make our Western flank more sophisticated in terms of ensuring our security."

As for Ukraine’s new goodies from the West? Russia is essentially mute. And the floodgates have opened. NATO’s Eastern Bloc nations are all moving from Soviet-era equipment to NATO standard gear. Why waste the money to keep old equipment in deep storage? And NATO’s Western flank, including the United States, has entire armies worth of old equipment (like American humvees) being replaced by newer gear. Expect more and more of it to make its way to Ukrainian hands.

Still, that doesn’t mean everything. Mark Hertling, former commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe discusses some of those logistical challenges in this thread.



Looking it up, an M1 Abrams tank mechanic goes to school for six months to learn to maintain it. Then, he or she goes to their unit, where they spend several years learning the craft under the watchful eye and guidance of non-commissioned officers with 10 to 20 years of experience. (We previously talked about why noncommissioned officers are so incredibly important.)

The training on those systems is long, and that’s just the baseline! Think of what you learned in college or trade school, and what you learned at your subsequent jobs. Full training is ongoing and takes years to master. And that’s on a $3 million tank! As Hertling puts it, “The T72 is an old Chevy; the M1 is a Ferrari.” One is easy to maintain; the other is a nightmare without proper training and equipment. In fact, the M1 is so complex, that it needs several different kinds of maintenance personnel to keep one running. And as Hertling notes, if you do it wrong, the tank’s engine and transmission can blow.

Let’s look at the Patriot missile defense system, which sure would come in handy in Ukraine.



With launchers and radar (all of which would be a new Russian military priority to destroy) 60 missiles would cost $10 billion, or an initial startup cost of $33 million per missile. And once they’re launched, that’s it. A T-72 costs $500,000 to 1.5 million per copy. An M1 costs $2.5 to 9 million, all depending on how it’s kitted out. Ukraine, in total, has received a little over $2 billion in U.S. military aid.

Financially, Ukraine could outfit entire tank regiments for the cost of a Patriot system. But let’s say, “Give Ukraine anything it wants, regardless the cost!” The world doesn’t work that way, but sure, let’s make that assumption.

A Patriot operator undergoes 20 weeks of training. Once again, that’s just the baseline. Soldiers then go to their units and spend years, if not decades, perfecting their craft. But as always, pressing the button to fire is the relatively easy part. It’s maintaining the equipment that is the real challenge. A Patriot system repairer has a 53-week advanced training. That’s a full year! And I keep repeating this because it’s true—that’s the baseline. That’s just good enough to get placed in a line unit where NCOs with 10 to 20 years of experience continue the training.

It would be literally impossible for Ukraine to operate and maintain this level of complex hardware anytime within the next year, absent a “foreign legion” of experienced Patriot operators and maintainers to run the systems. I’ll assume that’s not a realistic option.

Now imagine the maintenance requirements for aircraft.



I’ve already written about systems in NATO stocks that could immediately be put to use by Ukraine. There is a lot, including over 1,000 T-72 tank variants, artillery systems, armored personnel carriers, and—just as important—fuel and ammo compatible with their existing army. Even planes! Though they are nowhere near the game-changer people think they are.


But Ukraine stopped Russia dead in its tracks and began to roll them back with simple, infantry-borne weapons like anti-tank and anti-air missiles. And all those hundreds of thousands of reserves in western Ukraine? They need helmets, body armor, and vehicles to transport them. I get that body armor is not sexy, but anything that allows more Ukrainians to engage in the field is worth its weight in gold, and is far more efficient use of resources than expensive high-end military gear.

armpr.png

Body armor for modern combat.

This commercial system from UARM costs $1,260. Outfitting their entire reserves of 300,000, plus their 70,000 territorial defense force (TDF) members, would cost $466 million. Heck, there is a waiting list to join the territorial defense forces. Rounding up to $500 million would provide body armor for another 30,000. More, likely, with volume discounts. The more TDF Ukraine has, the more regular army units are available to go on the offensive.

This stuff isn’t as exciting and sexy as MiG-29s, I get it. But that’s the kind of gear the United States and allies have been sending to Ukraine, allowing it to have the battlefield impact it has had. (The U.S. alone has sent 45,000 sets of body armor and helmets.)

As for going on the offensive, armor, artillery, and Switchblade killer drones are the name of the game, and that’s exactly what’s starting to flood into Ukraine. Will Ukraine ask for more? Of course. Why not? They even asked Germany for submarines, which is laughably absurd. But Ukraine would be in a different place without the flood of Western armaments that have delivered exactly what Ukraine needed to turn the tide of the war.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Friday, Apr 8, 2022 · 2:07:56 PM EDT · Mark Sumner



To get a better sense of where that is on the larger scale of the maps from Ukraine War Maps (@War_Mapper) that we often show, here’s a fraction of that map with the location of Bilozerka marked.

screencap.jpg


This is very close to Kherson proper, no more than 1 mile to the SW of the city. It’s also the first time in the last week that fighting has been reported at this end of the west of the Dnieper “bulge.” Recent fighting had mostly be Ukrainian forces retaking villages at the northeastern edge of the Russian-occupied territory and Russian forces moving toward Snihurivka, directly east of Mykolaiv.

This is by far the closest to Kherson that any fighting has been reported since Ukrainian forces left the area in the first week of the war.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Friday, Apr 8, 2022 · 2:23:41 PM EDT · Mark Sumner
If you’ve been getting your Ukraine war news from Daily Kos, then we’d like to think you’re getting accurate coverage that guards against painting either too gloomy or too rosy a picture of either events on the ground, or prospects for the future. Every day we try to cover some of the tactics, the broader strategic context, the economic, and the human costs of Russia’s invasion.

But you may not be aware there is a whole section of social media (and right wing media in general) that is painting this war in a very different light. There are hundreds of thousands of Twitter accounts out there anxious to assure you that Russia has already destroyed almost the entire Ukrainian military, that the “feint” toward Kyiv was one of the most brilliant military maneuvers in history, and that any minute now the 10’ tall, bulletproof troops of the Real Russian Army™ are going to roll in and simply kick the sad remnants of Ukrainian forces out of their way with gleaming titanium boots.

Rather than point at the sources of this mythology, here’s a (granted, rather lengthy) video from a … strategy game player? Okay. In any case, he does a good job of punching holes in the paper-thin arguments of the “Russia is winning!” crowd.

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukraine update: The Battle of Kyiv was bigger than originally reported, and what about Kherson?
kos

FPu82dxXEAMh2Dd.jpeg

A Ukrainian soldier with an American Javelin anti-tank missile system.

Prior to the Russian retreat from the Kyiv area, on March 23, I posted this image from NASA’s FIRMS satellite service, normally used to track forest fires but also great for tracking a war’s front lines.


kyiv2.jpg


At the time, it was well-known that there was heavy fighting immediately west and northwest of Kyiv—Irpin, Bucha, and Hostomel at the front line. But I marveled at that entire line of fire all the way up to the Belarus border. There was zero information on fighting in that area, yet FIRMS imagery was very clear that something was going on, so I confidently stated that “Russia’s entire NW army is under severe assault.”

As Russia withdrew, the world saw Russia’s brutality exposed. But in addition to the war crimes, we also saw hundreds of destroyed Russian vehicles, all the way up that front. For a battle that had been fought mostly in that Bucha-Irpin front, that seemed odd. Now, it’s not so odd, seeing this Ukrainian artillery assault that took place before the Russian retreat:



The target has been geolocated to here:

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If you compare it to the FIRMS map above, you’ll see that this attack was firmly along that band of fire, the first evidence we have that Ukraine was pushing hard against that entire Russian front from the west. Remember, depending on the artillery system, we’re talking ranges of 9 to 20 miles. So, well outside the range of any artillery Ukraine had in Kyiv and its environs. That artillery had to be much closer to the point of attack, and Ukraine wouldn’t be deploying artillery without proper defenses, as a typical artillery battery lacks defensive capabilities and would be easily overrun in a direct assault. That means that artillery was in support of an entire army pushing along Russia’s western flank. The FIRMS map really did tell us something that Ukraine’s general staff didn’t want to openly discuss.

No wonder Russia pulled their forces out. It had nothing to do with the stalemate near Kyiv. Those Russian forces were in real danger of being fully wiped out via a poorly protected western flank. Russia lost that entire axis on the battlefield.

So what does FIRMS tells us today? A lot, actually.

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There’s a red dot at Kramatorsk, which is Russia’s latest war crime. The Donbas front is on fire, as it has been from Day One. Kharkiv is getting shelled, but not the city proper—north, east, and northeast of it. We know Ukraine has been pushing Russian forces back along that entire line, and even threatening Russian supply lines to Izyum to the east of Kharkiv. So it’s either Russian shelling the counter-attacking Ukrainians, Ukrainian strikes on Russian forces, or, most likely, both.

Then there’s Mariupol. Oh, Mariupol, which should have fallen on the first day of the war but continues to hold out. I’m going to save the story of Mariupol for the next update—it’s quite simply unbelievable.

Interestingly, Kherson looks quiet on FIRMS, but we know that’s not the case. It just means that the fighting, in small towns over barren, open, desert-like terrain isn’t leaving burning vehicles and structures behind for the FIRMS satellite to capture. Also, it’s raining, which presumably snuffs out any such fires. As of now, there are now reports of Ukrainian forces within 5 km west of Kherson.



Let me introduce you guys to the latest and greatest open-source intelligence project—UAWarData, which tracks the movement of individual Russian battalion tactical groups (BTGs). You can even toggle the time slider to get a sense of their movement over time. Note that it’s open-source, based on enthusiasts poring over Ukrainian general staff reports and geolocated photos, so it’s more of an educated guess than precision data. Also, there’s really no way to tell how degraded a particular BTG might be from battlefield attrition.

All those caveats aside, what’s striking about the Russian presence around Kherson is that there only appear to be around six BTGs available, each with approximately 600 to 1,000 troops. Russia has no reinforcements to send, as all spare bodies are being thrown into the Donbas. Kherson was held by “elite” Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) troops, Spetsnaz special operations forces, and elements of the 20th Guards Motorized Rifle Division (GMRD) and a smattering of other units. At full strength, that would be around 6,000 soldiers. But these are the units that tried to go up to Mykolaiv and eventually got spanked at Voznesenks, officially turning the tide of this war. These units are nowhere near full strength. In fact, Ukraine general staff claims the 20th GMRD was degraded 40% and was recently withdrawn back to Russia.


Presumably, that means that all that’s left inside Kherson are a few thousand airborne and special forces types—light infantry with some artillery support, but little in the way of armor. They could try and hold the city, but with an angry and restless populace, they’d have few places to hide, and hostiles inside and outside the city to deal with. While Russian offensives outside of Kherson suggest they’re not giving the city up without a fight, the lack of heavy forces (read: armor) inside the city means they’re ready for a quick and nimble retreat if necessary, blowing that famous Kherson bridge to cover their retreat south.

Given the failure to move on Odesa, there is little strategic value to Kherson left. The source of Crimea’s water supply, the North Crimean Canal and a legitimate strategic concern, is further east, and on the south side of the Dnipro river—easy to defend by blowing all bridges.

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In fact, if Russia blows all the bridges, Ukraine has no way to cross the Dnipro River south of Kherson without building entirely new massive bridges (which would be immediately destroyed by Russia). The river is too wide for all but the most complex military pontoon bridges, even if Ukraine had them, which they don’t. (You can see how wide it is here, during one of the early battles for the bridge.)

Unable to cross the Dnipro, Ukrainian forces around Kherson can’t get to Melitopol. Russian control of all that territory south and easy of the river is protected. So why waste men and material trying to defend Kherson?
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Rep. Ronny Jackson, the ex-White House doc who praised Trump's 'good genes,' is under investigation
Aldous J Pennyfarthing

The GOP’s crack team of doctors (sorry, “quack” team—damn you, spellcheck!) includes such luminaries as Mehmet Oz, Ben Carson, Scott Atlas, and Ronny Jackson, the dude who turned a slovenly heap of fly-pocked Crisco into a Greek Adonis through the magic of barmy bullsh*t.

Now Jackson, who leveraged his unique proximity to Donald Trump’s eminently unkissable bum into a congressional seat, is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee. We don’t exactly know why yet, but if his past assessments of Trump’s “health” are any indication, it likely has to do with rank dishonesty.

The Hill:

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and top Republican, Rep. Jackie Walorski (Ind.), said in a statement that the panel has extended its review of Jackson after receiving a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), an independent watchdog, in late December.
The statement from the House Ethics Committee did not detail the allegations against Jackson.
But a spokesperson for Jackson said that the review concerns his campaign finance activities and that the former White House physician-turned-lawmaker has cooperated with the investigation.

You’ll recall Jackson’s North Korean-like spin from his days as Trump’s personal physician, when he issued a bizarre, fawning report on his health—saying, among other things, “He has incredibly good genes, and it’s just the way God made him. … I told the President that if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years he might live to be 200 years old.”

Okay, the only way Trump lives to be 200 is if he’s literally sucking the life energy out of me, instead of—as I’ve assumed all along—merely sapping my will to live. The guy is more milkshake than man, for ****’s sake. My intestinal fluke, Skippy, has a more refined palate. I’m actually a little surprised Trump never gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mayor McCheese.

But there Jackson was, spewing a hagiographic profile of Trump that likely bore little relation to reality. And “good genes”? I did Nazi that coming.


Of course, this isn’t the first time Jackson has been accused of sketchy behavior. A March 2021 Department of Defense inspector general report raised red flags about the rear admiral’s (RDML) conduct while he served as White House physician.

CNN:

Allegations about his explosive temper and creating a hostile work environment are consistent throughout his time in both the Obama and Trump administrations as an "overwhelming majority of witnesses (56) ... who worked with RDML Jackson from 2012 through 2018 told us they personally experienced, saw, or heard about him yelling, screaming, cursing, or belittling subordinates," the report says.
"Many of these witnesses described RDML Jackson's behavior with words and phrases such as 'meltdowns,' 'yells' for no reason,' 'rages,' 'tantrums,' 'lashes out,' and 'aggressive.' These witnesses also described RDML Jackson's leadership style with terms such as 'tyrant,' 'dictator,' 'control freak,' 'hallmarks of fear and intimidation,' 'crappy manager,' and 'not a leader at all,'" it adds.
On a presidential trip to Manila from April 22, 2014, to April 29, 2014, four witnesses who traveled with then-President Barack Obama and Jackson said that Jackson became intoxicated and made inappropriate comments about a female medical subordinate.

Gee, is it any wonder why Jackson loves Trump so much?

Meanwhile, Pete Souza, a very public Jackson detractor (and former Jackson colleague) who’s devoted his Twitter feed almost exclusively to mocking the disgraced doc—including the frequent posting of upside-down screenshots of the Texas rep’s more irreverent tweets—had a few thoughts of his own on this latest development.



We’ll see where this goes, but this investigation couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. As The Independent notes, “Mr. Jackson frequently alleges without evidence that [President Biden] is ‘senile’ and has accused Democrats of weaponising new variants of the coronavirus to assist in this year’s midterm elections.”


In other words, Jackson’s gone full MAGA—he’s dishonest and corrupt to the core. Godspeed, investigators. Godspeed.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Michigan militia jury acquits two in Whitmer kidnap plot, mistrial declared for two ringleaders
David Neiwert

Jurors on Friday freed two of the four defendants in the Michigan militia kidnapping-plot trial, but after a week of deliberations remained hung on the charges against the two men accused of being ringleaders in the conspiracy to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. A mistrial was declared in the case of the latter two—Adam Fox, 37, of Grand Rapids; Barry Croft, 44, of Bear, Delaware—and they will remain in custody.

However, the jury found both Daniel Harris, 23, of Lake Orion, and Brandon Caserta, 32, of Canton, Michigan, not guilty on all charges, and they were released. The verdicts were announced after jurors told the judge that morning they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on all counts, and he had sent them back to attempt one last time to reach finality.

"After using the suggestions of the court, we're still unable to reach a unanimous decision on several counts," a note from the jury handed to U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker three hours later said.

"On a case that has a lot of evidence ... It is not unusual for a jury to come back and say, 'Hey, we tried, but we just can't get there at everything,'" Jonker had said earlier. "I know you've been at it a while ... I'm not quite ready to say, 'That's the best we can do.'"

"Go back," the judge said, "and make another effort."

Jonker emphasized: "You have to vote your own conscience at the end of the day. ... See if anything moves you on a locked decision."

Jurors had listened to three weeks of testimony, the majority coming from the prosecution. One of the militiamen wanted to spread Whitmer out on a table, hogtied and displayed while they took pictures of themselves. Another worked on detonating an improvised explosive device in his yard while his 10-year-old daughter offered him a Doritos chip. The paramilitary training, the reconnaissance at Whitmer’s home, the weapons collections—it was all part of a plan to spark a nationwide “Boogaloo” civil war, the men believed. "We wanted to be the first to kick it off," a key witness testified.

The testimonial evidence in the trial of the four men charged with plotting to kidnap and kill Whitmer in its first was both riveting and disturbing. All of the cooperating witnesses attested that none of the FBI’s multiple informants at work on the case induced anyone to commit the crimes, though that appears not to have held water with the jury.

Ty Garbin, a 26-year-old from Hartland Township and onetime member of the group (which called themselves the Wolverine Watchmen) was the prosecution’s primary witness this week. Garbin, who entered a guilty plea last year as part of a cooperation agreement, told the jury that no one else convinced him or anyone else in the group to join the kidnapping plot.

The defendants leaned heavily on claims that the government entrapped them into the plot to abduct Whitmer from her summer home and put her on “trial.”

A profile of the jury by the Detroit Free Press suggests that its composition was already problematic, featuring a number of people likely to sympathize with the “Patriots.”
  • A man who owns an AR-15 rifle, which he described as a former military weapon that sits in his closet most of the time. He works third shift in a factory of some sort, and works out at a gym. He noted his rifle is now a semi-automatic.
  • A man who works as a CT scan technologist who expressed concerns with missing work, but said he could handle the issues of the trial.
  • A man who works at a molding and plastics plant, hunts and owns multiple guns, including an assault rifle because, he said, "I like the style of it."
  • A grandmother of four who said that the Whitmer kidnap case was discussed in their home, but said she could put her husband "on mute" if she had to. She said they don't own any guns, "but I don't have problems with guns at all." She said she has political leanings, without elaborating, but can put them aside.
  • A woman who works as an adult foster care director said she doesn't think the governor "takes into account everything all the time."
On Thursday, the jury asked to see purported bomb evidence involving pennies that had been attached to an explosive as shrapnel. Before entering the deliberation room on Friday, jurors were handed an evidence bag, filled with the pennies they inquired about.

The pennies had come up during the testimony of an FBI witness, who said they were found in a "blast zone" at Garbin's property in Luther. The witness testified the pennies were found in a 2- to 3-foot radius, along with a mortar launcher, staples, rubber bands, and markings, which, he said, indicated a detonation took place.

The trial’s outcome likely will have broad ramifications for how federal authorities tackle the rising tide of right-wing domestic terrorism, as well as ongoing prosecution of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrectionists. It likely is also being celebrated by far-right extremists and would-be domestic terrorists.

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Biden's handling of Ukraine appears to be breaking fever of negativity around his approval ratings
Kerry Eleveld

President Joe Biden’s approval ratings are still at least a handful of points (some would argue nearly 10) away from where Democrats want them to be heading into November. But Biden's handling of Ukraine does appear to have, for now, broken a negative fever that had plagued his approvals for months.

An overall reversal in trends presents very clearly in Civiqs tracking, which doesn't tend to be as reactive (i.e. bouncy) as other polling.


But FiveThirtyEight's aggregate over the last handful of days also shows Biden getting a bit of a bump.

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It's nearly impossible to pinpoint the mix of issues that is fueling the uptick, but Biden's handling of Ukraine is certainly possible. In Civiqs polling data, Biden started charting a more positive path shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine and, days later, the president delivered his first State of the Union address.
........
Navigator Research, a consortium of progressive pollsters, also released a survey Friday that showed strong support for the president's actions regarding the conflict.

  • 75% of Americans support the economic sanctions President Biden and other world leaders have placed on Russia
  • 66% support the announcement that the U.S. plans to welcome as many as 100,000 Ukrainian refugees who have fled the war.
Additionally, Navigator’s survey is the second poll this week that found broad support for President Biden's statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power." Navigator found 67% supported Biden's remark while 20% opposed it (a net-plus of 47 points). When the group framed the question without using Biden's name, support grew several points to 72% agree/14% disagree.

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Since late March, President Biden has seen a net improvement for his handling of Ukraine of 6 points in the Navigator polling, although he's still 4 points underwater at 44% approve, 48% disapprove.

In terms of whether he's making the "right decisions" on Ukraine, Biden has also seen a 6-point increase since late March, with 58% supporting his policies while 42% say he's making the "wrong decisions."

Overall, Navigator concludes, "Biden’s approval ratings and the perception he is making the right decisions on Ukraine have both improved as a wide range of actions taken by the United States remain popular."

The positive shift is particularly good news for Democrats as they set their sights on the midterms. President Biden could also continue to see gains among Democratic base voters after the historic confirmation of Supreme Court Justice-designate Ketanji Brown Jackson.