More to ignore, Book 50..........

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Ripples are spreading beyond the Ukraine - Russia war
xaxnar

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Defensive missile batteries now in place at the airfield in Rzeszow, located in Southeast Poland which is supporting Ukraine supply efforts.

While the sinking of the Moskva and the question of how much longer Mariupol can hold out are getting headlines, there are broader developments going on.

Abraham Mahshie at Air Force Magazine reports U.S. Patriot Air Defense systems and other measures have been deployed at a regional airport in Poland that has become an international shipping hub for supplies going into Ukraine.

...Military and cargo aircraft from the United States and across Europe land, unload, and take off in quick succession here. Ukrainian registered cargo and military trucks line the gate waiting for their load, passing American Soldiers stationed next to Humvees. Then, they promptly stream down a nearby highway, over a hill, and out of sight in the direction of the Krakovets, Ukraine border crossing.
After Moscow promised to target defense assistance to Ukraine, the United States established an array of anti-aircraft, anti-missile systems, including Patriots, in Poland to protect this vital airfield and cargo transfer center. Camouflage netting covers command-and-control points scattered throughout. Even miles away, military equipment is strategically positioned on hilltops.
“It’s balanced risk,” Polish Chief of the Air Force Directorate Brig. Gen. Ireneusz Nowak told Air Force Magazine by videoconference from Warsaw.

Watching the skies has taken on a new urgency: Nato intercepts of Russian aircraft near Poland's airspace are increasing. Again from Air Force Magazine:

WARSAW, Poland— Russia is increasingly harassing NATO aircraft near Polish air space, reinforcing the need for both Polish and NATO air policing, including various U.S. Air Force assets, a senior Polish Air Force official told Air Force Magazine.
“The current situation brings more tension—more risk—and it’s definitely more serious for the whole NATO community,” Polish Chief of the Air Force Directorate Brig. Gen. Ireneusz Nowak said via videoconference.
Nowak said Russian Su-35s, Su-27s, and MiG-29s from Belarus have approached Polish air space multiple times since the invasion of Ukraine.
“It’s a rather frequent situation,” Nowak said. “Fighters are scrambled twice or three times from the [quick reaction alert] typically in 24 hours, so that’s a lot.”
Russian air defense systems also track NATO aircraft.
“Whatever they have, they flew here,” he said. “There are a variety of threats.”

Nowak said Russia is also keeping its airborne early warning and control aircraft, the Beriev A-50, airborne at all times.

There’s also robbing Peter to pay Paul. From Defense News:

WASHINGTON — Pandemic-related acquisition issues have sparked a backlog in the U.S. delivering $14.2 billion worth of military equipment to Taiwan that the island has purchased since 2019.
With much of Washington’s attention focused on how to rapidly deploy a steady stream of military aid to Ukraine, some lawmakers are concerned the Taiwan delay is undermining its ability to deter a potential Chinese invasion.

...Defense News has obtained a spreadsheet detailing the backlogged equipment, which includes Taiwan’s $8 billion purchase of 66 F-16 fighter jets as well as $620 million to replace expiring components of its Patriot missile system.
The delayed deliveries also consist of smaller, asymmetric weapons systems Washington believes would be useful in deterring and thwarting a potential Chinese invasion. China considers the self-governing island a rogue province and has promised to bring it back under Beijing’s control, by force if necessary.

Those asymmetric weapons include Stinger missiles, heavyweight torpedoes, high-mobility artillery rocket systems, Paladin howitzers, MS-110 reconnaissance pods and a field information communications system. They also include $2.37 billion in Harpoon Block II surface-launched missiles and $1 billion in air-launched SLAM-ER missiles.

The GOP concerns expressed in the Defense News article are in somewhat contrast to GOP positions on Ukraine before the invasion, but then the GOP has been more vocal about threats from China than from Russia...

Regardless, China has been aggressively expanding its presence in the South China Sea and has been demonstrating military capabilities around Taiwan in a manner that is not reassuring. China has been making remarks not all that dissimilar to Putin’s claims about Ukraine being a part of China and a potential threat to China by reason of its alliances with foreign powers.

The increasingly vigorous response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by NATO and other countries has to be having an effect on calculations being made in Beijing — China is having to recalibrate its perception of Europe.

It’s not just China, either. Around the world, there are people trying to balance “What can we get away with while they’re busy” versus “Do we really want to risk getting their attention while they are cranked up”? The constraints on supplies of critical weapons is also a factor.


And, you don’t hear anyone talking about the peace dividend any more.

Maxims:

54. It's only too many troops if you can't pay them.

55 It's only too many weapons if they're pointing in the wrong direction.

58. The pen is mightiest when it writes orders for more swords.

68. Negotiating from a position of strength does not mean you shouldn’t also negotiate from a position near the exits.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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The New York Times discovers that Fox News has a Russia problem
Dartagnan

You have to credit the Grey Lady: this is really quite the scoop. And I hesitate even to point it out, lest my mild criticism that follows be misinterpreted. So let me be clear, I’m all for American media outlets policing each other. I think it’s perfectly OK for one media outlet to call out another for bias or dissimulation. That’s what makes journalism such an integral part of our democracy, so much that its inherent value is literally enshrined in the Constitution. “Keeping them honest” should be the watchword governing all journalism.

That being said, you may wish to remain seated, because this is guaranteed to make you faint with shock. Hold onto your hats — here it comes.
.......

As reported by the New York Times’ Stuart A. Thompson:

The narratives advanced by the Kremlin and by parts of conservative American media have converged in recent months, reinforcing and feeding each other. Along the way, Russian media has increasingly seized on Fox News’s prime-time segments, its opinion pieces and even the network’s active online comments section — all of which often find fault with the Biden administration — to paint a critical portrait of the United States and depict America’s foreign policy as a threat to Russia’s interests.

When I read that I was stone-cold flummoxed. Who could have possibly imagined? Oh, wait!

And it seems that Tucker Carlson is a Kremlin favorite. Can you believe that? They even cite examples!

“The U.S. baselessly accused Russia of spreading disinformation about biolabs in Ukraine because they later actually confirmed their existence, TV presenter Tucker Carlson told Fox News,” Radio Sputnik wrote in an article summarizing Mr. Tucker’s lengthy segment for a Russian audience.

But there’s more!

Mentions of Fox News in Russian-language media grew 217 percent during the first quarter of this year compared with the final quarter of last year, as news coverage of Ukraine increased, according to an analysis by Zignal Labs, a media tracking company that reviewed social media posts, broadcast media and online websites. CNN, which has about three times the global viewership of Fox News, according to the tracking company Similarweb, was mentioned more often but grew less, by 71 percent.

And the Times really put their nose to the grindstone to break this, having “reviewed nearly 500 Russian-language articles mentioning Fox News between July and late March, sourced from the two largest state news agencies in the country — RIA Novosti and TASS — along with dozens of articles from other Russian-language media.” Talk about due diligence!

The Times has even broken it down by category! They’ve determined that Russia now highlights Fox News stories that tend to “Blame NATO expansion,” “Buttress Conspiracy Theories” (can you imagine???) “Question the West’s goals,” and — get this — “Criticize President Biden.”

I am shocked, shocked, I tell you.

In all seriousness, we didn’t have to wait nearly two months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to be told they were making use of Fox News for propaganda purposes. That fact has been a staple in the media for well over a month, if not longer. More importantly, as this article, one of literally dozens from Media Matters, gamely points out, the relationship between Fox and Vladimir Putin has long been a two-way street, going back well into the Trump administration, with Fox echoing Putin’s policy on a fairly repeated basis.

But you won’t find a single word about that in the Times article. No, it’s as if Russia just suddenly discovered it had its own propaganda outlet all along.


And probably even more importantly, Mr. Thompson, for all his analytical skill, doesn’t devote a single sentence to asking why that is. Why did Fox News spend the last five years amplifying Putin talking points?



Exploring that question would be serious journalism. Exploring the uncomfortable question of why the Times ignored something this important, and obvious, for so long, letting relatively small, niche outlets like Media Matters do all the heavy lifting, would be even more serious journalism.

But simply reporting the data without context -- which is all the Times article really does --is not.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Texts show they were all for Trump overturning the election—until a lack of evidence got in the way
Brandi Buchman

When Donald Trump lost the presidency in 2020, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Rep. Chip Roy of Texas spent weeks frantically prodding then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to find ways to overturn the 2020 election results, according to text messages newly obtained by CNN on Friday.

But when evidence of so-called fraud did not materialize and Trump’s ever-expanding team of ethically challenged attorneys failed to deliver in court, instead holding spectacle-riddled press conferences rife with dubious constitutional theory, Lee and Roy became cynical.

In the end, after blood had been shed inside of the Capitol courtesy of the insurrection incited by Trump, Lee and Roy voted to certify Joe Biden as president.

Now, as the nation prepares for public hearings about Jan. 6, the texts offer a keen glimpse into some of the private thoughts and conduct of legislators who were willing to override the will of over 80 million voters.
.......
The text messages from Lee and Roy to Meadows range from Nov. 7, 2020 to Jan. 6, 2021, and they are already in the Jan. 6 committee’s possession. There are roughly 100 texts in the batch CNN made public Friday.

A spokesperson for the probe declined to comment or confirm any of the details reported. Representatives for Lee, Roy, and Meadows did not immediately respond to request for comment by Daily Kos.

Roy’s spokesman, however, told CNN the texts “spoke for themselves,” and a communications director for Lee called Lee “fully transparent” since he previously and publicly aired his concerns about fraud in the aftermath of the 2020 election.


It was Nov. 7, 2020, when Lee planted his flag with Meadows and pledged to find “every legal and constitutional remedy” to “restore Americans faith in our election.”

Trump didn’t have to concede, Lee told the White House chief of staff.

Trump also didn’t have to destroy the “credibility of the election process,” he added.

Lee believed there was a “third way” that could work.

Lee pushed to have right-wing attorney Sidney Powell guide those efforts and sent Meadows her cell phone number and email. She had a “strategy that would keep several states in play” for Trump, the senator vowed.

He urged Meadows again just a couple of days later, saying Powell was a “straight shooter.”

Powell had already established a reputation for herself in Washington long before Lee made the recommendation that she take on Trump’s latest scheme. She represented Trump’s ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn after he pleaded guilty to lying to Vice President Mike Pence.

She would eventually launch a legal bid against the Department of Justice on Flynn’s behalf, accusing them of prosecutorial misconduct. A judge swatted her down, finding no such proof. She was also vehemently opposed to Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election and regularly carried on about “deep state” conspiracy theory.

For a while, Powell’s knack for right-wing red-meat spectacle only increased her cache in Trump’s White House. Trump even praised her on Twitter as a “great” attorney after she took up for Flynn.

Around the same time that Lee was pushing for Powell to get more involved, Roy sent a flurry of texts to Meadows. The Texas congressman was concerned that the president’s allies in Congress were ill-equipped to make the case of widespread fraud to the public.

“We have no tools/data/information to go out and fight RE: election/fraud. If you need it/want it, we all need to know what’s going on. Fwiw ...” Roy wrote on Nov. 5.

Meadows told Roy he was “working on it.”

Two days later, Roy again texted Meadows.

“Dude, we need ammo. We need fraud examples. We need it this weekend,” Rep. Roy wrote.

Meadows tried to soothe him.

“We are working on exactly that,” he replied.

By Nov. 9, Lee had told Meadows he held a meeting with Powell and fellow Republican senators so she could familiarize them with Trump’s “legal remedies.”

“You have us in a group of ready and loyal advocates who will go to bat for him, but I fear this could prove short-lived unless you hire the right legal team and set them loose immediately,” Lee said.

With the electoral college safe harbor certification deadline only weeks away at that point, Powell was well into Lee’s ear. Lee said she told him that Trump’s campaign attorneys were “obstructing progress” that could be made on the president’s supposed path to victory.

But within a few weeks, things changed. Powell’s performance at a 90-minute press conference with Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis just before Thanksgiving caused a major rift.

Powell made wild claims at the press conference. She said Dominion Voting Systems used rigged software on its machines at the behest of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez because that helped him rig his own election. She also said the company had ties to George Soros and the foundation run by former President and First Lady Bill and Hillary Clinton known as the Clinton Foundation.

She also claimed that the software used and set an algorithm that switched votes from Trump to Biden.

None of what Powell said during the Nov. 19 press conference was true.

Lee was watching and shot Meadows a text.

“I’m worried about the Powell press conference,” Lee wrote.

In another message, he warned Meadows: “The potential defamation liability for the president is significant here. For the campaign and for the president personally.”

“Unless Powell can back up everything she said, which I kind of doubt she can,” Lee said.
Meadows replied: “I agree. Very concerned.”

Lee urged that Powell be cut off from the campaign unless her wild claims of fraud could be substantiated.

“He’s got deep pockets, and the accusations Powell made are very, very serious,” Lee wrote.

It is unclear if Lee meant Trump had deep pockets or was referring to the owner of Dominion Voting Systems.

The company did eventually sue Powell for defamation for her comments and when she responded in court in March 2021, the conservative attorney defended her conduct by saying she was only sharing her opinion and that “reasonable people” would not accept her commentary as fact. She was ordered to pay damages and was later sanctioned in court for filing lawsuits in bad faith.

The text messages demonstrate how Lee pulled away from Powell after the press conference and began advocating for longtime conservative attorney John Eastman to get involved. Roy was chatting with Eastman around this time, too.

“Get Eastman to file in front of PA board of elections,” Roy wrote to Meadows after asking him if the president had engaged with Eastman yet.

“Get data in front of public domain,” Roy wrote on Nov. 22.

“Frigging Rudy needs to hush,” Roy added.

The GOP needed a “controlled message ASAP,” because, according to Roy, without “logic and reason” presented, only the most “hardcore Trump guys” would lodge an objection at certification.

Over in the Senate, Lee was still spitballing and told Meadows he had “ideas” about how to audit battleground states. Eastman had a proposal that could help things move along, but the White House would have to act fast.

Eastman was responsible for writing a memo proposing an unconstitutional strategy that pressured the vice president to stop the certification despite lacking the authority to do so. It is unclear what date the memo was written.

Eastman Memo by Daily Kos on Scribd

By mid-December, neither Roy nor Lee seemed confident that they had the “evidentiary support” they needed to anchor the fraud claims and bolster support from fellow lawmakers to object.


“The president should call everyone off. It’s the only path,” Roy wrote on Dec. 31. “if we substitute the will of states through electors with a vote by congress every 4 years, we have destroyed the electoral college … respectfully.”

Lee told Meadows a few days later he had “grave concerns” about the plan Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas had in place to object to battleground state electors. It wouldn’t help Trump, he warned on Jan. 3.

That same day, Lee wrote:

I don't think the president is grasping the distinction between what we can do and what he would like us to do. Nor do I think he's grasping the distinction between what certain members are saying that sound like they could help him, but would really hurt him. He's got a very real opportunity for a win in 2024. That opportunity could be harmed in multiple ways this effort.

Lee believed things could change if battleground states certified Trump’s electors “pursuant to state law” but absent that, he conceded, the effort to stop or delay the certification was “destined not only to fail but to hurt DJT in the process.”

Trump took a swipe at Lee during a rally on Jan. 4, saying he was a “little angry at him” for suggesting he was against objecting on Jan. 6.



Lee had spent hours that day, he whined to Meadows over multiple texts, trying to “figure out a path that I can persuasively defend.”

Meadows apologized, saying Trump had “bad intel.”

“And this won’t make it any easier, especially if others now think I’m doing this because he went after me. This just makes it a lot more complicated,” Lee seethed to Meadows. “And it was complicated already. We need something from state legislatures to make this legitimate and to have any hope of winning.”

That same day, Roy messaged Meadows and apologized for having to break with the president when lawmakers would convene at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“I am truly sorry I am in a different spot then you and our brothers re: Wednesday. But I will defend all,” Roy wrote. [Spelling original]

Within 48 hours, Trump would take to the stage at the Ellipse, flanked by his attorneys, like John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani. He would spend more than an hour delivering remarks about a stolen, fraudulent election, whipping the crowd into a frenzy.

Before he even finished his speech, rioters had already made their way down to the Capitol and began pouring over police barricades.

Roy sent a message to Meadows during the attack: “This is a complete shitshow.”

He urged: “Fix this now.”
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Vladimir Putin in the Multiverse of Consequences
ShowerCap

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In many ways, the universe has been telling humanity the same story, over and over again, for at least half a decade now, and the moral of that story is that Nationalists Cannot Do One ****ing Thing Right, on account of the debilitating inefficiencies of their rage-warped raisin brains.

And yet, despite the clarity and the repetition, here we are once more, talking about putting Marine Le Pen in charge of a whole-ass country. And like, how many mass graves is it gonna take to drive this shit home, people? Problem-solving is not what this ideology is about.

Sigh. I would desperately like to be a member of a species that’s capable of learning.........
.........
Anyway.

What a colossal dumb**** is Vladimir Putin, huh?

Just how many different ways are you lookin’ to humiliate th’Motherland on the world stage, Mr. Shirtless Cowboy Czar Man? Future historians will be unable to speak your name without shaking their heads and chuckling derisively.

Fifty ****ing days into the Special Military Operation™️ that was supposed to take two, the Russian military has graduated from Retreating in Shambles to In Hindsight We Probably Shouldn’t Have Left That Black Sea Flagship Out Where Ukraine Could Sink It, so I’d say throw ‘em a party, but I think we all know Russia lacks the logistical capacity to transport cake to the front lines without losing another thousand conscripts.

The mighty Kremlin disinformation factory’s best bullshit spin on this debacle was “NUH-UH! We suck so hard we blowed up our OWN boat!,” but in fairness, after seven solid weeks of dropping bowling balls on their own feet/groins, I can’t imagine they’re at their best over there.

Meanwhile, the plan to fragment and weaken NATO is going so well, the debate on membership in Finland and Sweden has swung from “hard nah” to “would it be tacky to include baked goods with our application packet?” which, when you think about it, is the entirely inevitable consequence of A) starting a war of aggression in Europe, and B) ****ing it up this badly.

The Russkies have threatened retaliation, of course. They’re doing quite a bit of threatening these days, which, like…you and literally what army, dawg? Incidentally, y’all are the ones who decided to wander into somebody else’s country and start murdering children, so you’re not allowed to get all fussy when folks fight back.

I mean, yeah, I imagine it’s downright aggravating, watching that endless supply of Western weapons flow to the army that’s kicking your loser army’s ass, but that’s why we don’t start wars, now ISN’T IT?

‘Specially now that they’re gettin’ the good shit. While you struggle to rearrange the shabby remnants of your bungling butcher brigade, Zelensky’s shopping the most advanced arsenals in the world, on Instacart, from the comfort of Kyiv, aka That City You Completely ****ing Failed to Conquer. Twelve drummers drumming, 500 Javelins jumping, and a partridge in a ****ing pear tree; they’re all headed your way, Poots.,,,,,,,,,
.........
Tucker Carlson, multi-tasking fascist beaver that he is, won’t let his content-creating obligations to Putin’s propaganda machine interfere with his existing domestic radicalization/stochastic terrorism program. It made distressingly few headlines this week, when the most watched man on cable openly, casually called upon his viewers to physically assault public school teachers. I mean, it’s no Nancy Pelosi Has Loads of Ice Cream, but in a country with a real and growing right-wing violence problem, it feels newsworthy.........
.........
Hey you guys, I’ve got a great idea: let’s get ahold of Hunter Biden’s laptop, and use it to read about the new revelations regarding the Turd Reich’s ridiculously corrupt, multi-billion dollar dealings with the journalist-dismembering House of Saud! Or would that require too much ethical consistency?.......
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Now that Eric Greitens’ ex-wife claims extensive documentation in support of her abuse allegations, perhaps it’s started to dawn on Missouri Republicans that a disgraced, chronically violent lunatic is not the best available fit for the open U.S. Senator gig, though I’ll concede the example set by Josh Hawley muddies the waters, standards-wise.

It’s obviously profoundly unhealthy that voters even flirted with Grody Greitens, given existing allegations, but I have to admit, I always sleep a little easier any time this flock of assholes finds a limit to the level of depravity they’re willing to accept in an elected official. Limits are our friend here........
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Like their comrades in the Kremlin, America’s ultra-right extremists tend to be men of grandiose ambition, but negligible ability, which is my cutesy little way of bringing up Mark Meadows, who clearly lacks the intellectual bandwidth necessary for the life of high-stakes crime he’s chosen for himself. Still, I suppose it was kind of him to leave such a damning digital trail, demonstrating precisely how horny the likes of Mike Lee and Chip Roy were back in 2020 to join any slightly-less-batshit insurrection than the one Sydney Powell offered. Some might call these texts, “evidence of a criminal conspiracy,” because that’s what they are.

Oh, and Mark has finally been removed from the voter rolls in North Carolina, having been caught committing honey bunches of voter fraud there. Hopefully this will not be the Consequences Fairy’s last visit to the Meadows household.........
.........
I see the Marsha Blackburn Couldn’t Graduate Grade School Pageant that debuted at the recent SCOTUS confirmation hearings wasn’t some one-off thing, but merely the opening installment of what looks to be a multi-season epic. For the record, if Tennessee gets its own, private border wall, ALL the wingnut loony bins’ll want one, so I’m afraid the answer is no.

Surely some bright, enterprising 10-year-old can be found to tutor the good Senator on the basics of American civics. Shit, Tommy Tuberville could use some help in that department, now that I think of it. Actually, from disinformation spigots like Ron Johnson to autocracy enablers like Lindsey Graham, I can’t think of anybody in Mitch McConnell’s godforsaken caucus that wouldn’t benefit from a remedial citizenship course or two..........
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Speaking of the world’s greatest deliberative body*, the Dotard-in-Exile endorsed carpetbagging huckster ****wit Mehmet Oz in the competitive Republican Pennsylvania Senate primary, CUZ HE SAW HIM ON THE MAGIC BOX THAT TALKS, you see. He would endorse Tom Selleck if he could. Or Mr. Ed. Or the Hamburglar. (“He’s been treated very unfairly!”)

Somehow, this 100% foreseeable outcome caught the Pennsylvania GOP flatfooted, and folks, I feel like you’ve had ample opportunity to internalize at least the broad outlines of the Frankenstein story by now, so, y’know…sorry ‘bout your damn luck. “Wow, we took a television addict with late-stage brain rot and anointed him kingmaker, WHERE DID IT ALL GO WRONG?”........
........
Now that the gates of kakistocracy have swung wide enough to lure Sarah freaking Palin back, the idea of vetting these candidates at all seems quaint and faintly snobbish. I mean, of course the dude who manufactures the tear gas used against Black Lives Matter protesters showed up, OF COURSE HE DID.........
...........
You creeps are under no obligation to keep propping up the utterly valueless currency that is Donald Trump’s dank, clammy endorsement, by the way. Didn’t do shit for Mo Brooks. It’s not doing shit for insider-trading milksop David Perdue, though by all means, flush half a million bucks down that toilet, kids..........

..........
Hell, Mike Pence is so desperate to wash the Trumpstank off, he’s boiling himself in holy water thrice daily, not that it’ll do the little weasel a lick of good…it gets in your ****in’ pores, doesn’t it, Mr. Vice President? Incidentally, your erroneous belief, that you had the right to defile Heather Heyer’s memorial with your obscene presence, proves you’re too son-were-you-kicked-by-a-horse ****ing stupid to be president of the late shift at Starbucks, not that there’s any conceivable political future for MAGA Judas anyway. Shut the **** up and go the **** away.........
............
A routine, entirely non-controversial courthouse-renaming bill, the sort of thing even C-SPAN junkies can’t get into, erupted like a Troma film cyst, thanks to the rampaging bigotry of the feral, white nationalist cult that is the House Republican Conference. America, if you’re listening, I know inflation sucks, but the Ku Klux Klownshow is not the answer........
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Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a breathtakingly regressive abortion bill into law, no doubt daydreaming of being chosen as the lucky theocrat who gets to hold Anti Choicey Barrett’s hand when she fulfills her lifelong ambition to Make Women Legally Incubators Again. Better watch out, Kev; given recent developments in Florida and Kentucky, there’re quite a few salivating hyenas circling already........
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Texas Governor Greg Abbott is so ****ing thirsty for Fox News airtime that he took a tire iron to the nation’s already-battered supply chain, because the great thing about a culture war is that you wage it on yourself. In a marginally sane world, you’d expect the electorate to turn on an incumbent who abused his power to directly, intentionally harm his constituents, and indeed the whole dang economy, for the sake of a pathetic stunt that didn’t even ****ing land, but as the pandemic so distressingly demonstrated, Republican voters genuinely want a Daddy who spanks.,..........
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…but not one who might be capable of answering simple questions without coming off like a drooling moron, mind. Yes, the Party of Lincoln retreated in terror from the field of presidential debates, presumably forever, which actually makes sound strategic sense, considering their frontrunner spent years bragging about passing a cognitive test.......

...............
Plus, the week saw a not-particularly-rare double serving of that uniquely American shit sandwich: the public mass shooting. I simply cannot figure out how this keeps happening in a nation where gun policy is set by sociopaths with unweaned cowboy fantasies.........
.............
Anyway, Elon Musk is attempting a hostile takeover of this blog; I’m gonna go see if I can trick him into paying in beer. You folks stay safe n’ sane out there…if you can!
............

* Try saying it out loud without laughing. Can’t be done.
 
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Once again, New York Times reporters betray the public interest for the sake of a book deal
Laura Clawson

Here’s a story that encompasses the total, flaming, corrupt disaster of U.S. politics and media all at once. In late 2020, Donald Trump told then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about his plans to overturn his election loss—and McConnell remained silent because saying publicly that Trump should stop trying to overturn the election would have jeopardized Republican chances in January 2021’s Georgia Senate runoffs. That’s the flaming corrupt disaster of U.S. politics part. The flaming corrupt disaster of U.S. media part is that we are learning this now, in 2022, because some New York Times reporters saved it for a book.

Yes, once again we are learning information that it would have been good to learn at the time it was happening, or at least as soon as reporters became aware of it, more than a year later so that people with regular salaried jobs as reporters can juice their book sales.

The reporters this time are Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns. Back in February, it was fellow New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who waited for her book to reveal that White House residence staff would find toilets clogged with paper and believed that Trump was trying to flush documents. In Nov. 2021, ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl came out with a book revealing that, in the run-up to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows had sent Mike Pence’s top aide a memo outlining a plan to overturn the election. In September 2020, Bob Woodward released a book revealing that in February and March of that year, Trump had repeatedly told him how dangerous the coronavirus was, in complete contradiction to his public message or his administration’s actions, and admitted that he “wanted to always play it down.”

I am almost certainly missing some.

Time after time, reporters get information that is genuinely important for the general public to learn about, important for the future of the democracy, and … they sit on it for months, the better to collect a big advance and rack up sales. In the past, these after-the-fact revelations were more likely to be gossip, details about internal blow-ups, and backstabbing. Thanks to Trump and the increasingly extremist, anti-democratic Republican Party, these days, the revelations are literally information about an attempted coup. That’s not something you save for the book, unless your sole concerns are money and a glitzy book roll-out with lots of high-profile coverage. Which, to be real about it, is how the entire New York Times politics desk operates these days, to a degree that shows it’s coming from the top.

So, yeah, it’s terrible that a Senate leader heard about plans to overturn an election that he knew to have been legal and fair and kept his mouth shut because he was worried about losing the next election. But it’s not the first time McConnell has done something like that, as when he blocked the Obama administration from blowing the whistle on Russian election interference in 2016. Mitch McConnell has one concern in the world, and that is Republican power. He will always act to get more of it.

But people like McConnell get the ability to act that way when no one holds them to account. When, for instance, the media doesn’t hold them to account. When the media reports brazen lies from one party as holding the same weight as largely truthful statement from the other party. And when the media simply does not report what’s going on until months after the fact because it benefits the careers of individual reporters to hold back information.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Far-right Marine Le Pen pledges submission to Moscow, reminding us what Trump 2.0 would look like
Dartagnan

In the span of a few weeks the tilt of the geopolitical world has shifted so quickly that perhaps Americans just haven’t had enough time to digest how fortunate they are Donald Trump did not win the 2020 election. Doubtlessly the Ukrainians are aware, and those living in in the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are as well, because their very lives would have been entirely forfeit or at grave risk right now. But given the soothing comfort of its giant pick-up trucks, guns and doorbell cameras it might be asking too much of an American culture — a culture wholly unfamiliar with the prospect of actually being brutally invaded, despoiled and utterly wiped out — to pause and consider the alternative reality we could all be living in.

Still, there are many — both in this country and elsewhere — who would gleefully embrace that reality with open arms. Even as Vladimir Putin’s appalling army systematically rapes, tortures and beheads helpless civilians in its murderous invasion of Ukraine, the Russian dictator has found a fawning ally in the French far-right, with the re-emergence of Marine Le Pen. Last week Ms. Le Pen drew 23% of the vote in France’s splintered election, forcing a runoff on April 24 between herself and French President Emanuel Macron, who garnered approximately 28%.

On Wednesday Le Pen — apparently unperturbed by what is now aptly characterized as a genocidal campaign by Russia to eradicate the Ukrainian population -- pledged to effectively abandon the seventy year-old NATO alliance in order to ratify Putin’s brutality, should the French people vote her into the presidency.

PARIS — Rejecting a “herd-like conformity” with the Biden administration, Marine Le Pen, the French far-right candidate for the presidency, said Wednesday that France would quit NATO’s integrated military command if she were elected and would seek for the alliance “a strategic rapprochement” with Russia.

As reported by Roger Cohen, writing for the Washington Post, Le Pen’s rationale for accommodating Putin’s aims echo the same sentiments espoused by Donald Trump, who according to former aides was also intent on appeasing Putin by withdrawing the U.S. from the NATO alliance had he managed to be re-elected. This brand of Putin-envy appears to be particularly common among more autocratic, fascist-leaning politicians who have traditionally applauded the Russian despot as exemplifying what they call “strength” and resolve. In reality what they admire and envy are the lack of any real constraints on his power, which they all shamelessly covet. We are now seeing the end product of that “lack of constraints” play out in Ukraine.

As Cohen observes, Le Pen’s agenda -- to the extent she has one -- mirrors Trump’s in all its essentials.

Dismissing multilateralism, blasting Germany, criticizing the European Union, relegating climate issues to a low priority, attacking “globalists” and maintaining a near silence on Russia’s brutal assault in Ukraine, Ms. Le Pen gave a taste of a worldview that was at once reminiscent of the Trump presidency and appeared to directly threaten NATO’s attempts to arm Ukraine and defeat Russia.

The similarities between Le Pen and Trump were evident in the first days of the latter’s administration. As James Traub observed in a column written for Foreign Policy, Le Pen’s xenophobic brand of so-called “populism” (by now simply a more pleasant word for “fascism”) and the race-baiting lies she espoused to support it were simply more glib and soothing in their delivery than Trump’s general penchant for crudeness and bombast:

Le Pen repeated Donald Trump’s canard that Barack Obama had “banned” immigrants from Iraq; denied, despite vast evidence to the contrary, that her supporters routinely fire off racist and homophobic tweets; and claimed, wrongly, that immigrants can automatically gain French citizenship through marriage. And then there were the Trumpian delusions: that a policy of “economic patriotism” penalizing French companies that move abroad would not raise the cost of French products but rather would foster a “virtuous circle” boosting growth and employment.

As Traub points out, Le Pen’s calculated delivery of her trademark nationalism and bigotry stems in large part from her need to distance herself in the French public’s eyes from her ultra-radical and unabashedly anti-Semitic father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front party she now leads. Still, Le Pen and Trump appear to be cut from basically the same cloth, even where Le Pen will, as Traub puts it, “demonize Muslims with a gracious smile instead of a vicious Twitter tirade.” Both are adept at cynically manipulating their public through fear of the “other.” Both display an instinctive aversion to the very idea of cooperation between nations, which they perceive only as a means to undercut their own aspirations for control and power.

Both are also intolerant of any dissent. Just as Trump encourages his rabid base to attack journalists and protesters at his rallies, Le Pen exhibits a similar hostility against perceived political enemies:



Le Pen is currently expected to lose the run-off election, mainly because the majority those who originally voted for the far left Jean-Luc Melenchon will be unable (at least in theory) to stomach a Le Pen victory. And even if she wins, the NATO alliance will most likely remain standing, albeit with France as a thoroughly diminished and unreliable presence.

But if the 2020 U.S. election — which Trump may have lost simply because of his dismal handling of the COVID-19 pandemic —had gone the other way, what would have been left of American strategic power and influence in this world would have shriveled and died on the vine in brutally short order, probably from the moment Putin sent troops into Ukraine. It’s impossible to know how much resolve to assist Ukraine would have existed among the remainder of NATO, but without a credible leader it’s difficult to imagine how that response would have been effective. The world has never seen a nuclear-armed pathology like Putin invade a peaceful neighboring country for wholly irrational reasons, wielding his nuclear capability as a threat against any country that dares to oppose him, and even worse, vowing to continue his efforts until he is stopped. History suggests that such countries will not stop until they encounter an immutable opposing force.

And Trump would not have delivered that force. A mercurial buffoon with no grasp of (or interest in) foreign policy or even a basic understanding of what NATO stands for— and against — might have been cajoled into reluctant action by an exasperated military. But the sheer weakness of that position would have been evident to anyone paying attention. And Putin, for all his now glaringly apparent flaws, pays attention.

Law professor Alan Rozenshtein, writing for Lawfare, described the “nightmarish” scenario that this country would have faced if Trump were still in office:

From this perspective, it is sobering, if not downright terrifying, to think of how Trump would have handled this current crisis, had he won in 2020. Consider first the question of loyalty. Trump’s infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in which he responded to the Ukrainian president’s request for more Javelin anti-tank missiles (which have proved vital for the Ukrainian defense) by asking for Ukrainian help in digging up dirt on his main political rival, betrays a disloyalty to the national interest whose geopolitical implications are now all too clear.
Nor is it clear that Trump would even feel that it was his responsibility to rally the world to confront Russia, as the Biden administration has skillfully done. After all, Trump’s response to criticisms of his administration’s early missteps in handling the coronavirus pandemic was to say “I don’t take responsibility at all.” Why expect that he would feel different about a war half a world away, or that he wouldn’t simply have delegated weighty foreign policy decisions to informal advisors, thereby maintaining distance and plausible deniability, as when Rudolph Giuliani effectively ran the White House’s Ukraine policy. Even worse, given Trump’s personal affinity for Vladimir Putin, which he reiterated even as Russian forces entered Ukraine, is the very real possibility that Trump would have supported Russia’s invasion.

The world we all still live in — the world of liberal democracies with legitimate transfer of power untainted by autocratic, fascistic propaganda, coercion and repression— is now sitting atop a knife-edge, susceptible to one misguided election by an apathetic, self-absorbed and frankly historically ignorant electorate. Racist demagogues like Le Pen and Trump are perfectly willing to push us off that edge, into the abyss, simply to realize their own dreams of power, with the rest of the world be damned. They are both aided by a radicalized base that sees no problem with simply watching the world burn if only to validate its own delusional, stoked-up grievances.

In 2020 we dodged a bullet. But that gun is still pointed at us. If Democrats can’t wake Americans up to that reality, no one else is going to.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukraine Update: What makes anyone think Russia has the competence to pull off a major offensive?
kos

Russia thinks taking Mariupol will free up its forces to work their way up into a pincer maneuver, surrounding Ukrainian troops dug in hard along the Donbas front line.

pincer.png


All those Russian troops that failed to advance around Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy are moving toward Izyum and the rest of the Donbas front (purple areas). Well, the ones Russia can threaten, beg, and cajole into heading back into Ukraine. They’ve had some issues, such that of the 120 or so battalion tactical groups (BTG) Russia had at the start of the war (around 800 soldiers each, on paper), only 65 remain in the country according to the Pentagon. And as we’ve seen, many, if not most of those BTG were, and remain, severely undermanned.

The Pentagon, Ukrainian military, and every Very Serious Military Analyst is convinced Russia is massing troops to execute that pincer maneuver in the Mother of all offensives. Just you wait for the hellish shock-and-awe Russia has in store! The Pentagon even thinks Russia has eyes on Dnipro further west, which is so implausible and stupid, Russia just might give it a shot.

Yet every day that goes by, any such massive offensive seems less and less likely. And not just because of the rain that has made a slurry of all ground off the major roads, and will keep it that way for at least the next several weeks. (Mark Sumner hilariously talks about “General Mud.”) Russia’s fundamental problem is that it keeps executing the exact same tactics that failed around Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy.

Russian forces continued small-scale, tactical attacks on the Izyum and Severodonetsk axes; additional reinforcements to date have not enabled any breakthroughs of Ukrainian defenses. Russian forces continue to deploy reinforcements to eastern Ukraine but show no indication of taking an operational pause. The Russian military appears to be carrying out an approach in eastern Ukrainian similar to its failed efforts north of Kyiv in early March—continuing to funnel small groups of forces into unsuccessful attacks against Ukrainian defensive positions without taking the operational pause that is likely necessary to prepare for a more successful offensive campaign.

Russia is gathering an army in the east. That much is true! Bur rather than wait for them to get in place, it keeps dribbling out 1-2 BTG-for ill-fated assaults (see here, here, here, and here), perhaps hoping to exhaust Ukrainian defenders into submission. The Ukrainian General Staff reported yesterday:

Yes, in the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, eight enemy attacks have been repelled over the past 24 hours, four tanks destroyed, six armored transport vehicles, four infantry fighting machines, as well as one enemy artillery system.


Would an army preparing a major assault waste troops and equipment with these undersized and under-resourced drip-drip-drip probes? Of course, note that Russia attacks this way because it is the only way it knows how to attack. It simply cannot open up the spigot.

Even if Ukraine exaggerates Russia’s losses, those assaults inevitably degrade their foe’s ability to wage war. Ukraine ambushes an infantry fighting vehicle here, steals a tank there, drops a mortar on some poor Donbas conscripts bunched up in a foxhole over yonder, and at least a couple of times a day, lays down some artillery on one of those long convoys making their way toward Izyum from the Russian border.



Just look at that wide open terrain, with nary any cover. Makes it hard for anyone to make a move, and right now, that’s mostly Russia. (Remember that when someone says Ukraine should counter-attack to retake separatist territory.)

Down south is looking only a little better for Russia.

Mark gave us a Mariupol update yesterday—pockets of resistance are shrinking, but the fighting remains. Russia should’ve taken this isolated, surrounded, and difficult-to-defend city (no hills or rivers to form natural barriers) on the first day of the war. Instead, here we are 51 days, and Russia is still suffering major casualties with their clumsy, hapless urban offensive.



Once Russia takes Mariupol conventionally (a guerrilla war will inevitably continue), what shattered remnants will it have left to turn north? I remain skeptical these remnants would have enough juice to get through the existing Ukrainian defensive emplacements, much less push more than a few kilometers north.

I am excited to see who is right—those of us who still can’t believe Russia is doing nothing to learn and change its failed tactics, or the Very Serious Military punditry who continues to assume a basic level of competence that Russia has never met this entire war.

Can you believe Kyiv’s Presidential Palace has never been hit this war? Russia supposedly sent assassin squads to kill Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, yet they’ve never targeted his workplace?

Why are rail lines still operating from the west of the country, allowing easy, efficient movement of troops, material, and ammunition from the west to the front lines?


Heck, why hasn’t Russia targeted all the NATO heavy equipment streaming in from Ukraine’s western border? Don’t they have satellites to track that equipment’s entry points, spies to report on railway movements, and missiles to strike the convoys as they enter Ukraine? Where are Russia’s special forces, to conduct sabotage operations?

Why did Russia wait until last week to start hitting fuel depots?

Once their shock and awe failed, why did Russia keep hitting civilian targets, instead of degrading Ukraine’s military and command and control infrastructure. Killing sick children is utterly useless in winning any war.


If Russia can’t even manage the most basic military tasks, how is it supposed to deploy a navy that protects its flagship, an army that can perform combined-arms attacks with infantry, army, artillery, and air support, and an air force that can fly deeper than a few kilometers into Ukrainian airspace …
when it flies at all.

People are free to believe Russia can pull off some kind of big offensive. Me, I’ll wait for evidence before jumping on that bandwagon. Given what we’re still seeing on the battlefield, I’m not holding my breath.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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......We started the interview by reminding Zelensky, the Jewish president of a mostly Orthodox Christian and Catholic country, that his words were going to appear on Good Friday on the Western calendar and just before the first seder of Passover, a holiday that marks the liberation of an enslaved nation from an evil dictator.

“We have pharaohs in neighboring countries,” Zelensky said, smiling. (The Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, is, in the minds of many Ukrainians, a sort of deputy pharaoh to Putin.) But although Ukrainians face a formidable enemy, they are not longing for an exodus: “We’re not going anywhere.” Nor does Zelensky plan to spend 40 years wandering in the desert. “We already have 30 years of our independence. I would not want us to fight for our independence for another 10 years.”......
......

Russia’s invasion has caused him to doubt whether it is still possible to associate religion with morality. “I do not understand when religious representatives of Russia”—here he meant the pro-Putin patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church—“say they are faithfully empowering soldiers to kill Ukrainians.” Worse, “I cannot understand how a Christian country, the Russian Federation, with the largest Orthodox community in the world, will be killing people on these very days.” During the Easter season, the Russians are planning “a great battle in Donbas,” the Russian-occupied region in Ukraine’s far east. “This is not Christian behavior at all, as I understand it. On Easter they will kill, and they will be killed.”

As a result, many Ukrainians are going to spend the holy season under siege, hiding in basements. Others will not live to see the holiday at all. Just a few hours ago, early Friday morning, Russian bombs struck Kyiv again. “Ukraine is definitely not in the mood for celebration,” Zelensky said. “People usually pray for the future of their families and their children. I think that today they will pray for the present, just to save everyone.”.....
 
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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......One Ukrainian asset that is said to have played a role in the Moskva's demise is the Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial combat vehicle (UCAV). Though the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has already claimed more TB2s destroyed than were in Ukraine's inventory (including the additional sixteen examples received in March 2022), unofficial Russian reports indicated that a Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2 was used as a distraction, with the crew of the Moskva vessel focused on the drone rather than the two incoming AShMs. [2]

Though it makes for a compelling tale, this narrative is almost certain to be false. Not only are the radars and their operators onboard a warship like the Moskva more than capable of detecting and tracking more than just a single target, and would in fact do so virtually automatically so long as they were operating, but if they were in fact tracking a drone then situational awareness should have been at at a higher level than if the attack had occurred out of the blue. If the sinking was indeed caused by the impact of two AShMs, then a scenario in which either the radars of the vessel simply did not detect them (or detected them too late), and the six AK-630 close-in-weapons systems (CIWS) proved incapable of protecting the ship appears significantly more likely. In this context it should be noted that no reports thus far have explicitely mentioned the number of AShMs supposedly launched (as opposed to the number that impacted), so that a scenario in which the Moskva's defences were overwhelmed by a well-planned volley of missiles is not out of the question.


While large contingents of military analysts still remain baffled by the ineffectiveness of supposedly advanced Russian military equipment, there has in fact been an ongoing trend of Russian military hardware proving unable to hack it on modern battlefields. Though the Ukrainian conflict has exposed this secret to the wider public, the first truly telling conflict was Nagorno-Karabakh's forty-four day war of 2020, in which many of Russia's most modern EW and SAM systems proved little capable against UCAVs and small loitering munitions. [3] [4] There's no reason to suggest this would be any different with radar and SAM systems onboard Russian navy ships when confronted with modern AShMs.

The AShMs claimed to have been responsible for its sinking, the brand-new RK-360MT Neptune, are of indigenous Ukrainian make but based heavily on the Soviet Kh-35 AShM. These missiles employ a variety of techniques to increase the possibility of a successful strike and make timely detection unlikely. For one, flying just metres above the surface of the sea while using inertial navigation until the final approach (thus ensuring its radar signals are not detected by the target), they can be very hard to pick up by radar and harder still to accurately engage. Modern AShMs can have many other tricks up their sleeve however, and though it is unknown whether the Neptune possesses such capabilities many modern AShMs can have programmable routes so that their final impact can be precisely coordinated, overwhelming defences by attacking from multiple directions at the same time.

Though such missiles can be very difficult to defeat, it must also be stressed that the Kh-35 and Neptune are in fact fairly light AShMs flying at subsonic speeds, with the Neptune having a maximum range of 280 kilometres. Not only does the Moskva much outsize the target they were designed for, but a modern battlegroup operating on alert in an active warzone should have been able to if not prevent such an attack from happening at all, then at least limit the damage that could be inflicted. Certainly, the fact that the Moskva is thought to have operated less than a 100 kilometres from Ukrainian-held coastal areas must have made it a juicy target. [5] As it happened, the Moskva's heavy armament may well have contributed to its demise, with its massive cruise missiles and other plentiful explosive armament fuelling uncontrollable fires after initial impact.

All that is not to say the TB2 story is entirely false. Indeed, just a day before the Moskva's sinking the Russian MoD posted a video which it claimed showed a Bayraktar TB2 being engaged by the Russian frigate Admiral Essen over the Black Sea. [6] In another incident hitherto unreported on, the Ukrainian Navy employed one of its TB2s against a Russian Navy vessel with the MAM-L munitions impacting the ship causing very little damage (due to the low weight of their warhead). A more sensible use-case for these drones is in locating enemy ships in the Black Sea and relaying their location to ground-based assets such as coastal defence missile systems (CDS). Their WESCAM MX-15D FLIR turret can spot a target the size of the Moskva at least 100km away in good weather. Weather conditions at the time of the attack might have reduced that range forcing the TB2 to fly in the range of the Moskva's S-300F SAM systems. Although many assume that entering the engagement envelope of a SAM system means certain destruction, especially for an asset like the TB2, this is certainly not the case. For the Ukraine Navy specifically, its TB2s have conducted many of their missions well within the range of Russia's S-400s stationed at Crimea, with the dreaded system apparently failing to secure kills.......
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Saturday, Apr 16, 2022 · 10:09:10 AM EDT · Mark Sumner
Heavy shelling has been reported all through Luhansk on Saturday, mostly along the lines of defense that have held since 2014. Russian forces have made attempts to break these lines at at least two places, but it appears those attempts have been repulsed.

Still, towns and villages that have lived near the separatist line for years while suffering few direct assaults are getting heavily shelled, and residents who had long felt battle-hardened are trying to leave the area.

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Saturday, Apr 16, 2022 · 10:33:31 AM EDT · Mark Sumner
It’s easy to feel that Russia’s propaganda game has been utterly unconvincing outside of Russia. But it is disappointingly easy to find people on Twitter with 40k+ followers who are spouting every line fed to them by the Kremlin, and who are constantly praising Russia’s “feint” toward Kyiv as they await that inevitable victory over NATO. There are uncountable threads out there explaining how the sinking of the Moskva had nothing to do with Ukraine.

Those guys will eat this up.