More to ignore, Book 59........

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ten Thousan Marbles

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NYT: DOJ requests transcripts of interviews conducted by House committee investigating 1/6 attack!
Charles Jay

The Justice Department has asked the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection for transcripts of interviews it is conducting, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The Times cited unnamed sources with knowledge of the situation wrote:

The move, coming as Attorney General Merrick B. Garland appears to be ramping up the pace of his painstaking investigation into the Capitol riot, is the clearest sign yet of a wide-ranging inquiry at the Justice Department.
The House committee has interviewed more than 1,000 people so far, and the transcripts could be used as evidence in potential criminal cases, to pursue new leads or as a baseline text for new interviews conducted by federal law enforcement officials.

Aides to Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the committee, have yet to reach a final agreement with the Justice Department on what will be turned over, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the investigations.

On April 20, Kenneth A. Polite Jr., the assistant attorney general for the criminal division, and Matthew M. Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, wrote to Timothy J. Heaphy, the lead investigator for the House panel, advising him that some committee interviews “may contain information relevant to a criminal investigation we are conducting.”

The Times reported that Polite and Graves made a broad request for interview transcripts from the committee, but did not indicate how many transcripts they were seeking or whether they had particular interest in any interviews.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the select committee, confirmed Tuesday that the DOJ had requested the transcripts, but said the panel has not yet shared them, according to Politico.

Thompson said he has replied that the committee won’t hand over its “work product” to the DOJ, but might invite department officials to review the documents in committee offices.

The Jan. 6 investigations by the Justice Department and the House Select Committee have been proceeding on separate tracks.

The House select committee plans to begin holding public hearings next month. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the ranking Republican on the committee, has said the committee should keep an intense focus on former President Donald Trump’s role.

So far, the Justice Department’s focus has been on lower-level activists who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 rather than on the organizers of the attack.

The Times noted that a few months ago the DOJ brought in Thomas Windom, a veteran federal prosecutor from Maryland, to its headquarters to consider whether a case can be made related to other efforts to overturn the 2022 election, aside from the Capitol attack.

The Times report said it reviewed a subpoena that indicates that the Justice Department is exploring actions taken by rally planners.

The Times wrote:


Prosecutors have begun asking for records about people who organized or spoke at several pro-Trump rallies after the 2020 election as well as anyone who provided security at those events, and about those who were deemed to be “V.I.P. attendees.”

They are also seeking information about any members of the executive and legislative branches who may have taken part in planning or executing the rallies, or tried to “obstruct, influence, impede or delay” the certification of the election, as the subpoena put it.”

The House committee has already obtained documents and testimony from a wide range of witnesses, including Trump White House officials, Justice Department officials, top staff members to Vice President Mike Pence and family members of former President Donald Trump.

At least 16 Trump allies have indicated that they will not fully cooperate with the House committee, but the committee has been able to get testimony from some lower-level Trump administration staff members about their bosses’ activities.

The committee recently issued subpoenas to five Republican members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
 

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Thomas Barrack, a longtime friend of former President Donald Trump and chair of his 2017 inaugural committee, sought hundreds of millions of dollars in investments from the United Arab Emirates at the same time he was illegally lobbying the Trump administration on behalf of the UAE, according to a superseding indictment filed on Tuesday in New York federal court.

The superseding indictment adds two new charges of making false statements to investigators to Barrack’s 2021 indictment and provides new allegations about how, Barrack, 75, lied to federal investigators when he denied facilitating phone calls between then President-elect Trump and two Emirati officials in 2016.

Last year Barrack and two co-conspirators were accused of “acting and conspiring to act as agents” of the UAE between April 2016 and April 2018 without registering as foreign agents. Barrack was also charged with obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements to federal law enforcement agents.

For more on this story, go to NBC News.
 

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A federal judge struck down a Tennessee law on Tuesday that would have required businesses in the state to post warning notices on their public restrooms if they had policies allowing transgender patrons to use the facilities that match their gender identity.

The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law in June on behalf of two business owners — the owner of Sanctuary, a performing arts and community center in Chattanooga, and the owner of Fido, a restaurant in Nashville, among other businesses.

The law went into effect on July 1, but Judge Aleta A. Trauger of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee issued a preliminary injunction against it a week later. Then on Tuesday, Trauger permanently blocked the law by granting the ACLU's motion for summary judgment, which asks a court to decide a case without a full trial.

In her 40-page decision, she wrote that the law violates the First Amendment because it compels speech that is controversial and with which the plaintiffs disagree.

"It would do a disservice to the First Amendment to judge the Act for anything other than what it is: a brazen attempt to single out trans-inclusive establishments and force them to parrot a message that they reasonably believe would sow fear and misunderstanding about the very transgender Tennesseans whom those establishments are trying to provide with some semblance of a safe and welcoming environment," Trauger wrote.

Glenn Funk and Neal Pinkston, both district attorneys general; Christopher Bainbridge, director of code enforcement; and Carter Lawrence, the state's fire marshal, are named as defendants in the lawsuit and have not returned a request for comment. A representative for Gov. Bill Lee has also not returned a request for comment.

The law required business owners with even an informal policy that allows people to use whichever bathroom they want to post a sign that reads, “This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex regardless of the designation on the restroom,” at the entrance of single-sex public restrooms, locker rooms, dressing areas or other facilities that are “designated for a specific biological sex ... where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

The law stated that the sign be at least 8 inches wide and 6 inches tall and use the colors red and yellow, with boldface font, among other requirements.

Representatives for the state argued that Tennessee's law is a "content-neutral" rule meant to clarify restroom signage and is not meant to be an endorsement of how gender identity should be understood, according to the opinion. The ACLU's clients, they argued, have “imagined an idiosyncratic, hidden undertone to the [required] signage.”

But Trauger disagreed, noting that the government's preferred view of how gender works — that it is dictated by "biological sex," which is assigned at birth and is limited to male or female — is contested.

"The only thing that is imaginary in this case, though, is the imagined consensus on issues of sex and gender on which the defendants seek to rely," Trauger wrote. "Transgender Tennesseans are real. The businesses and establishments that wish to welcome them are real. And the viewpoints that those individuals and businesses hold are real, even if they differ from the views of some legislators or government officials."

The ACLU and its clients celebrated the decision Tuesday.

“We applaud the court for recognizing that this law violates the First Amendment and harms transgender people,” Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee executive director, said in a statement, according to a news release. “Transgender individuals should be able to live their lives free of harassment and discrimination. Today’s decision ensures that the businesses who welcome them are not forced to become instruments for politicians’ discrimination.”

Bob Bernstein, owner of Nashville restaurant Fido, has an informal policy that allowed customers to use the restroom that they feel is most appropriate. He said he has not had any complaints or concerns about the policy and objected to the "stigmatizing" message the law required.

“As a former journalist, I believe strongly in free speech,” Bernstein said in a statement. “The government can’t just force people to post discriminatory, inaccurate, and divisive signs in their places of business. I am glad that the court recognized that this law violates the First Amendment.”

Advocates have described the law as a new iteration of "bathroom bills" passed in 2016, such as House Bill 2 in North Carolina, which sought to bar trans people from using the bathrooms that aligned with their gender identity.

The sponsor of Tennessee's bathroom sign law, Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, said during legislative debate in May that the bill is meant to protect women and children “against sexual predators that could be taking advantage of policies, executive orders or legislation that may allow the opposite sex to enter a restroom, shower or locker room,” the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

Trauger wrote in her opinion that Rudd "was unable to provide examples or evidence of such a problem," though he argued, “[W]e shouldn’t wait for people’s rights to be abused” to potentially prevent “an attack.”

The issue is not new, advocates have said, and proponents of bathroom bills passed in 2016 cited similar arguments. But a 2018 study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found there is no evidence that trans-inclusive policies for public facilities increase safety risks.

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022 · 10:33:13 PM EDT · Steve Singiser
PA-17 (D/R): The showdown to replace outgoing Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb in this light blue (Biden +6) district is now known. The AP is calling the Republican primary for former Ross Township Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer, as a challenge from national security analyst (and frequent right-wing media guest) Jason Killmeyer never quite materialized. Shaffer currently leads Killmeyer 59-25. At the same time, the AP has called the Democratic primary for military vet Chris DeLuzio, who had the backing of organized labor in his bid. He is leading Sean Meloy by a 63-37 margin.
......

Tuesday, May 17, 2022 · 10:39:34 PM EDT · Steve Singiser
PA-12 (D): State Rep. Summer Lee has moved into a narrow lead over Steve Irwin, who boasted both the backing of outgoing Rep. Mike Doyle and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. But the margin is a mere 47 votes out of over 100,000 votes cast, so to say it’s still up in the air is a monster understatement.
............

Tuesday, May 17, 2022 · 10:51:43 PM EDT · David Beard
PA-Sen (R): The closest statewide race of the night continues to narrow as David McCormick continues to very narrowly Dr. Mehmet Oz, 31.6% to 31.2%
............

Tuesday, May 17, 2022 · 11:03:31 PM EDT · Steve Singiser
PA-SD-05: In one of the few D-versus-R contests of the night, the Democrats are headed to win in what had been a thorny state Senate special in northeastern Philadelphia. SD-05 is the most pro-Republican turf in the county, and Trump actually came within single digits here. Also, the original Democratic nominee was forced to withdraw over a paperwork snafu, leaving his replacement (also his younger brother) to run in his stead on only about a six week campaign schedule. All that said, Democrat Jimmy Dillon leads Republican Sam Oropeza 54-46 with only a handful of Dillon-friendly precincts left to report.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022 · 11:16:02 PM EDT · Steve Singiser
PA-Sen: Wow. This is proving to be the cliffhanger of the night in terms of statewide races. Uber-rich guy David McCormick now leads Mehmet “Doctor Oz” Oz by about 1700 votes. That’s out of more than a million votes cast. Kathy Barnette’s surge was not quite what some hoped (and others feared). She is several points down at 24 percent.
 

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Madison Cawthorn, a contender for most unhinged Republican in Congress, loses after just one term
David Nir

North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn, whose various scandals, embarrassing videos, unhinged rhetoric, and run-ins with the law made him one of the most notorious Republicans in Congress during his short time in office, has lost his bid for a second term. State Sen. Chuck Edwards, who pitched himself as a dependable arch-conservative alternative to the shameless, attention-seeking incumbent, defeated Cawthorn in the Republican primary for North Carolina’s 11th District by a 34-32 margin.

Cawthorn’s tireless ability to humiliate his own party crescendoed in late March when he claimed on a podcast that an unidentified colleague had invited him to an "orgy" and that he'd witnessed prominent conservatives doing "a key bump of cocaine." That earned him a scolding from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, but Cawthorn’s real undoing may have been the widespread perception back home that he cared more about burnishing his own reputation on the national scene than about working for his district.

That pattern of behavior prompted a number of prominent Republicans to back Edwards, including Sen. Thom Tillis, who emphasized Cawthorn’s lack of concern for his constituents. "It comes down to focus on the district, producing results for the district, and in my opinion, Mr. Cawthorn hasn't demonstrated much in the way of results over the last 18 months." Cawthorn’s November announcement that he’d leave behind his western North Carolina district to run for a different seat in the Charlotte area—a plan that was derailed when the state courts replaced the GOP’s new gerrymander with a fairer map—sent an unmistakable signal that he cared far more about enhancing his profile than about the voters who’d sent him to D.C. in the first place.

Edwards will now face Democrat Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, a pastor and member of the Buncombe County commission, in the November general election for a district that Donald Trump would have carried 55-44. Speaking of Trump, the young congressman’s loss represents the second time he bet wrong: He endorsed Cawthorn’s opponent in the 2020 primary but backed Cawthorn on this occasion—and stuck with him until the bitter end. Better luck next time.
 

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Ukraine update: The tankies think everything—even the Ukraine invasion—is America's fault
kos

280091044_365251788980137_8976814542085395380_n.jpg

Digging defensive trenches somewhere on the eastern front while their faithful dog keeps guard.

You’ve seen tankies around. They’re the ones who believe that all the world’s evils are the product of imperialism and the only country capable of imperialism is the United States. It looks like this:



The pejorative term “tankie” comes from American leftists who defended the violent Soviet crackdown of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, an uprising crushed by tanks. They were our allies during the Iraq War, so it may come as a shock seeing them become pathetic apologists for Vladimir Putin’s ambitions to reconstitute the Soviet empire.

In their telling, the Ukraine invasion is the United State’s fault because it “expanded” NATO too aggressively, threatening poor Russia. How would we like it if Mexico joined a military alliance with Russia? We didn’t like it when the Soviet Union tried to place nuclear bombs on Cuba!

In the tankie worldview, no one has agency except the United States. Poland and Slovakia and Romania and Bulgaria didn’t have the ability or right to choose to join NATO. Neither do Finland and Sweden. These are all imperialist provocations and machinations by the American empire. What other option did Russia have but to defend its borders by, uh, explicitly advocating for its own empire?


Their favorite term for the Ukraine invasion is “American proxy war,” and they think it’s particularly brilliant how the United States has gotten Ukraine to do all the dying for America’s imperial glory. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is a sadist, allowing his people to die instead of giving Russia everything it wants: full hegemony over a Ukrainian people Vladimir Putin claims do not have a right to exist.

There’s Max Blumenthal, busy trying to excuse away clear examples of Russian massacres and war crimes.



Glenn Greenwald, of course.

[Tucker] Carlson pursued the [Ukraine-United States biolabs] story on three different episodes of his show over the past week. On 10 March he brought on writer Glenn Greenwald. “When the government comes out and emphatically denies that they have biological weapons,” Greenwald said. “We know they’re not telling the truth.”

Michael Tracey, who spent some time harassing Ukrainian refugees as they fled the death and destruction in their homelands:



Now, those refugees weren’t calling for WWIII. He writes, “And what I can report thus far is that with the exception of just one person, every recently-arrived Ukrainian I’ve spoken to in Poland has expressed strong support for “Closing the Sky” when queried.”

That’s it. Refugees coming from a war zone, in their desperation, wanted a no-fly zone for protection from Russian death. Tracey, the insufferable asshole tankie that he is, turned that into “they want WWIII” because, in his estimation, a no-fly zone would escalate the conflict into nuclear war.

There’s Noam Chomsky.



Jill Stein is a tankie. So is Tulsi Gabbard. British-Lebanese conflict reporter Oz Katerji, currently reporting from the ground in Ukraine, gives the tankies all the scorn they deserve.



The tankies like to pretend that President Joe Biden and nearly all European heads of state begged Russia to hold off any invasion, or maybe think it was some dastardly effective reverse psychology ploy. They point to increased defense spending and new riches enjoyed by the military industrial complex and say “aha! It’s all going according to their plan!” as if this unfortunate new round of defense spending hasn’t been foisted by Putin’s actions.


But nothing galls more than their utter disregard for the choices of free nations to decide their own destiny. They have been so impacted by America’s real foreign policy sins that they have lost the ability to understand that the world is a complex place, and sometimes, other people get a say in their own affairs. And sometimes America is on the right side.
 
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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A 21-year-old Russian soldier facing the first war crimes trial since Moscow invaded Ukraine pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing an unarmed civilian.

Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin could get life in prison for shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in the northeastern Sumy region on Feb. 28, four days into the invasion.

Shishimarin, a captured member of a Russian tank unit, was prosecuted under a section of the Ukrainian criminal code that addresses the laws and customs of war.

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova previously said her office was readying war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offenses that included bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting.

It was not immediately clear how many of the suspects are in Ukrainian hands and how many would be tried in absentia.

As the inaugural war-crimes case in Ukraine, Shishimarin’s prosecution was being watched closely. Investigators have been collecting evidence of possible war crimes to bring before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Venediktova’s office has said it was looking into more than 10,700 potential war crimes involving more than 600 suspects, including Russian soldiers and government officials.

With help from foreign experts, prosecutors are investigating allegations that Russian troops violated Ukrainian and international law by killing, torturing and abusing possibly thousands of Ukrainian civilians.

Shishimarin’s trial opened Friday, when he made a brief court appearance while lawyers and judges discussed prosecedural matters. Ukrainian authorities posted a few details on social media last week from their investigation in his case.

Shishimarin was among a group of Russian troops that fled Ukrainian forces on Feb. 28, according to Venediktova’s Facebook account. The Russians allegedly fired at a private car and seized the vehicle, then drove to Chupakhivka, a village about 200 miles east of Kyiv.

On the way, the prosecutor-general alleged, the Russian soldiers saw a man walking on the sidewalk and talking on his phone. Shyshimarin was ordered to kill the man so he wouldn’t be able to report them to Ukrainian military authorities. Venediktova did not identify who gave the order.

Shyshimarin fired his Kalashnikov rifle through the open window and hit the victim in the head, Venediktova wrote.

“The man died on the spot just a few dozen meters from his house,” she said.

The Security Service of Ukraine, known as the SBU, posted a short video on May 4 of Shyshimarin speaking in front of camera and briefly describing how he shot the man. The SBU described the video as “one of the first confessions of the enemy invaders.”

“I was ordered to shoot,” Shyshimarin said. “I shot one (round) at him. He falls. And we kept on going.”


Russia is believed to be preparing war crime trials for Ukrainian soldiers.
 

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Ukraine update: Russia threatens two Ukrainian cities in the east, but Russian failures continue
Mark Sumner

GettyImages-1240745048.jpg

Ukrainian tank in Severodonetsk, May 18, 2022.

For the past three weeks, the advance of Ukrainian forces out of Kharkiv to capture surrounding villages, march all the way to the Russian border, and even cross the Siverskyi Donets River to threaten Russian supply lines has given supporters of Ukraine a lot of opportunities to cheer. The Ukrainian drive into the Russian salient at Izyum, which still seems to be underway, is an additional cause for optimism. And there’s the massive losses Russia received in not one, not two, but three failed attempts to cross the Siverskyi Donets near the town of Bilohorivka.

On a more strategic level, there is also the estimate, first issued by the U.K. Ministry of Defense earlier this week, that Russia has now lost over one-third of all the forces it brought to Ukraine. Those losses didn’t exit Ukraine in the form of neat little markers taken from a Risk board, one neat little plastic triangle at a time. They went out in the form of a tank here, an artillery piece there, a helicopter downed here, troop transports lost almost everywhere—and every one of those losses was accompanied by the loss of people. That means almost every Russian battalion tactical group (BTG) still on the ground in Ukraine is almost certain to be short of both equipment and experience,—critical factors in operating a military structure that is both fragile and easily disrupted.

........
If you stop reading at that point, it would be reasonable to think that any day now, Ukrainian forces would be driving the last Russian across the border at bayonet point and Ukrainian commanders would be fighting the urge to chase Russian soldiers all the way to Moscow.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Russian forces have been terribly ineffective over the course of this invasion. What they’ve taken came at high cost, and most of of their gains have been temporary. Ukraine recaptured the area around Kyiv, and Sumy, and Chernihiv. They’ve recaptured almost all the territory north of Kharkiv, fought off what seem to be innumerable assaults by Russia in the east, and seem to be engaged in counteroffensives at multiple points along the line.

But Russian military leaders still have one ace up their sleeve. Which is: They don’t give a f##k about how many men they lose in the field. Repeating an action that resulted in failure may be one definition of insanity. It’s also Russia’s underlying military tactic. And in two key locations, that tactic is bringing Russia close to capturing key objectives.

The first of those locations is Severodonetsk in the east, where its position on the east bank of the Siverskyi Donets River isolates the city from other areas under Ukrainian control and leaves it with Russian forces pushing in from three sides. The second one is Lyman, where the city’s position on the north side of the same river leaves it isolated from other Ukrainian areas, etc. etc. etc.


screencap.jpg

Eastern Ukraine from Lyman to Severodonetsk.

Much has been made, and rightly so, about Russia’s inability to sustain long supply lines or move quickly toward objectives. Those factors are still in place here. But in this case, the cities being squeezed are practically on the front line with areas that Russia has long controlled. The entire distance from Lyman to Severodonetsk is only about 45 kilometers (28 miles). Russia hasn’t made any big leaps, rapid breakthroughs, or astonishing gains in this area. It’s an open question which is faster: the movement rate of the Russian military, or the speed at which your fingernails grow.

Even so, the news from this central part of the battlefield has consistently been one of Russia taking more villages, more towns, and applying more pressure to the cities at the edge of Ukrainian control. Russian forces have been reported in parts of both Lyman and Severodonetsk and fighting could soon reach a level that forces Ukraine to surrender territory and decamp to the other side of that twisting river. Reports are that getting either troops or supplies into these two cities is already difficult.


Add on the apparent removal of all but a handful of the remaining Ukrainian troops resisting the occupation of Mariupol, and Vladimir Putin may well claim that the “special military operation” has reached its objectives. It hasn’t. That doesn’t mean Putin will not say that it has.

If that happens, be prepared for a string of media outlets to trumpet Russia’s victory in the Donbas, if not the entire Ukrainian invasion. CNN will definitely break out the doom graphics. And definitely expect both Republicans and right-wing media to complain that this is somehow Joe Biden’s fault.

But consider this brief list:

  • Seredyna-Buda, along the Russian border in Sumy Oblast
  • Ternova, on the Russian border north of Kharkiv
  • Bohorodychne, 20 km to the southeast of Izyum
  • Dovhenke, 15 km due south of Izyum
  • Toshkivka, 5 km north of Popasna
  • Pylypchatyne, 7 km west of Popasna
  • Novomykhailivka, directly north of Mariupol
  • Marinka, just west of the city of Donetsk
  • Pisky, a northwestern suburb of Donetsk
  • Avdiivka, 5 km north of Donetsk
Those are all places where Russia tried to advance on Tuesday alone. And failed.

The disaster at the attempted river crossing may be the largest and most conspicuous Russian loss of men and materiel, but it’s far from the only one. A military whose presence is already down by one-third is still launching multiple piecemeal attacks every single day. As a result, the percentage of Russian forces out of action increases every day.

How high do those losses need to be before Russian troops can no longer act as a cohesive fighting force? It’s certainly not 100%. It may not even be 50%.