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

Ten Thousan Marbles

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.........Despite its sophisticated military equipment and multiple advantages on paper, Russia has stumbled strategically, operationally, and tactically in Ukraine. It has been hampered by faulty planning assumptions, unrealistic timelines, and impractical objectives. It has suffered from inadequate supplies, bad logistics, and insufficient force protection. It has been impaired by poor leadership. These problems do not stop at technical equipment issues, poor training, or corruption. Rather, they are linked by a core underlying theme: the military’s lack of concern for the lives and well-being of its personnel. In Ukraine, the Russian military struggles to retrieve the bodies of its dead, obscures casualties, and is indifferent to its worried military families. It may spend billions of dollars on new equipment, but it does not properly treat soldiers’ injuries, and it generally does not appear to care tremendously whether troops are traumatized........
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Understanding Zelenskyy through “Servant of the People:” Bicycles, Ships, and Digital Easter Eggs
Progressive Muse

SotP_Vasya-Sviatoslav.jpg

Just a comedy, right? Not by a long shot. The humor is there to lighten some of the darker matters in the show.

Americans, welcome to the Zelenskyy Cinematic Universe. The bicycle courier may have been delayed with the invitation, but we are definitely on the guest list.

From 2015 to 2019, then-actor and now-President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy led the cast of the television series Servant of the People. The first two seasons floated a trial balloon for his candidacy, which he announced on December 31, 2018. Zelenskyy and his studio, Kvartal 95 (Quarter 95, named after the Kryvyi Rih neighborhood of his youth), wove into the show images and symbols suggesting the type of leader he would strive to be; he is quoted as saying, “I didn't invent all this [the concept of the show] — I felt all this, I am really feeling all this.” The series is also a showcase of some of Ukraine’s best, parts of which are now in rubble; Zelenskyy’s vision for the country’s future; an entreaty for entrance to the European Union; and a prod to Western democracies to live up to what we believe in by reminding us of democracy’s roots.

Bicycles

Beginning with the opening credits, we see that bicycles — widely recognized as a symbol of progress and unification — are important for highlighting things in the show that represent advancement, even if relatively small. As the title character pedals through Kyiv, we look upward to see skyscrapers, bridges, a modern rail system, and graceful works of outdoor art intermixed with street signs depicting bicycle icons and upward-pointing arrows. The message to the world is that Ukraine, led by Kyiv, is constantly working on elevating itself.

The Importance of Children


Zelenskyy’s character, Vasily “Vasya” Petrovych Goloborodko (also transliterated as Holoborodko, which translates to “beardless” — a man without experience) is a mild-mannered, divorced history teacher who lives with his parents in a modest home in Kyiv. At school one day he launches into an expletive-filled political rant to another teacher while his class is out, but one student catches the outburst on his cell phone and uploads the video to the internet, where it goes viral. Vasya, who has a visceral sense of responsibility for educating the children who represent Ukraine’s future, later apologizes to his class, but they tell him they agree with him and so do their parents. With some crowdfunding by the students, Vasya puts his name on the ballot, and, against all odds, he is elected president by the popular vote.

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Glotov, the student wearing the bowtie near the center of this picture, is responsible for the video. One of the girls manages the crowdfunding account.

The Everyman President’s Choice: Oligarkhia vs. Demokratia

The series begins with a nighttime view of Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) and then pulls out to show three oligarchs on a hotel balcony overlooking it. The lights around the Square are yellow-tinted and the oligarchs are shown in a blue light, colors which suggest the Ukrainian flag — but upside down, in a position of distress. The oligarchs, who are discussing the upcoming election, seem to surround the monument in the Square, imperiling Ukraine’s independence.


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Oligarchs seem to surround Independence Square.

In contrast to the oligarchs, Vasya awakens in his brightly-lit bedroom, flanked by a model ship on the headboard and a telescope in the corner. The ship and telescope are allusions to Plato’s Republic and his “Ship of State” metaphor. The Greek philosopher compared a wise, benevolent leader to a person with the skills to pilot a ship, which required being able to navigate by the stars.


Picture a shipmaster in height and strength surpassing all others on the ship, but who is slightly deaf and of similarly impaired vision, and whose knowledge of navigation is on a par with his sight and hearing. Conceive the sailors to be wrangling with one another for control of the helm, each claiming that it is his right to steer though he has never learned the art and cannot point out his teacher or any time when he studied it. … They have no suspicions that the true pilot must give his attention to the time of the year, the seasons, the sky, the winds, the stars, and all that pertains to his art if he is to be a true ruler of a ship, and that he does not believe that there is any art or science of seizing the helm with or without the consent of others, or any possibility of mastering this alleged art and the practice of it at the same time with the science of navigation.

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Vasya is framed between a model ship and a telescope, so based on the “Ship of State” metaphor, he should be a wise leader.

Also behind his head is a decorated curved animal horn. This Easter egg is a nod to Zelenskyy’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih, which means “crooked horn.”


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The curved horn decoration near the center of the photo is a reference to Zelenskyy’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih.

While Vasya is going through his chaotic morning routine, Prime Minister Yuri Ivanovich Chuiko arrives with an entourage and greets him as Mr. President. They depart in a private vehicle, where Yuri asks if he prefers Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin, but Vasya, who has never heard of the luxury watch brands and thinks they are writers, says he has never read them. In the next scene, Yuri offers a case of watches to choose from; Vasya asks if Putin wears a Hublot and Yuri asserts that he does. The way Vasya words the question (“Putin Hublot?”) is an Easter egg referring to a popular obscene football chant in Ukraine (Putin khuylo - “Putin is a dick”), which resulted in the show being banned in part of Russia. Unsurprisingly, Vasya declines the watches.

Back at the Goloborodko home, Zelenskyy slips in an Easter egg referring to his name. As his father, Petro Vassilyevich (“Petya”), leaves the house, we see workers repainting the exterior from white to green. “Zelenskyy” means “green” in English, and the website of Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People Party is also green.

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Workers repaint the outside of the Goloborodko home green. Zelenskyy’s name means “green.”

The third episode begins with an almost mystical scene in which Vasya, having fallen asleep while reading, dreams about a conversation between two ancient Greeks — the philosopher Plutarch and the historian Herodotus — concerning the government of Ukraine. I have used a mix of the official Kvartal 95 video translation and the Netflix version for this transcript:


(Vasya mumbles in his sleep.)
Plutarch: He’s raving.
Herodotus: He’s raving after reading your book.
Plutarch: What are you talking about, Herodotus? This guy is nervous now. The whole country is on his shoulders now.
Herodotus: He should be happy. His children and their children will be rich!
Plutarch: Listen, he’s an honest person.
Herodotus: Ah. That is a problem.
Plutarch: He wants to serve the country and to make it better.
Herodotus: Is he a reformer?
Plutarch: Yes.
Herodotus: That’s his doom.
Vasya (murmurs): Demos Russos… the euro at five hryvnias, and only at five…
Herodotus: What does he want to change? What type of government do they have?
Plutarch: Democracy.
(Vasya reacts by laughing in his sleep.)
Plutarch: Well, they call it a democracy.
Herodotus: And what’s his goal? Anarchy?
Vasya (responding softly): No
Herodotus: Centralization?
(Vasya mumbles negatively.)
Herodotus: Ahh! Federalization!
(Vasya, asleep, reaches for Herodotus’ throat.)
Plutarch (to Vasya): What are you doing? Keep your hand away from his neck!1
Vasya (murmurs): The moonlight night, starry and clear...Shining a brilliant gleam like the light of day...2
Herodotus: Listen, Plutarch, did they live badly during communism?
(Vasya, still asleep, bolts upright.)
Plutarch (to Herodotus): Hey you, think about what you are saying.
(Vasya settles back down.)
Plutarch: If they actually want to change something, the only way is autocracy. Tsar Goloborodko!

(Vasya laughs in his sleep.)

SotPS1E3Herodotus-Plutarch.jpg

A sleeping Vasya (left), Herodotus (center), and Plutarch (right), make plans for the Ship of State.

Herodotus’ remark about federalization is seen in the mirror, indicating that this is exactly the opposite of what Goloborodko (and Zelenskyy) wants for Ukraine given the country’s tragic history with Russian federalization. The conversation continues with Vasya negatively reacting in his sleep at the mention of default, another thing Zelenskyy wants to avoid, and an amusing discussion of Ukraine’s economic strengths.

Later in the episode we see the Ukrainian oligarchs doing a background investigation of Vasya as none of them “owns” him. The Easter eggs in their research are actual photos of Zelenskyy’s youth, which you can find on his Instagram account.

TTM note.......continued below.....

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Name-dropping the West

Vasya prepares for his inauguration at the Mezhyhirya Mansion and his assistants give him a speech to rehearse, which he recognizes as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. He has serious misgivings about plagiarizing Lincoln but carries on with his speech exercises, which include reciting a tongue-twister about lobbyists with two unshelled walnuts in his mouth. Yes, he went there.

His ex-wife, Olga, calls to remind him of a scheduled visitation with his son, Dima. Since Vasya cannot bring his son to the zoo, they visit a mall instead to ride a carousel together. He sits backwards to face his son during the ride, another indication that his focus is on children and the future they represent.

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Who rides a carousel like this? Vasya faces his son to have an open conversation.

They have a heart-to-heart talk. Dima is proud of his father becoming president but says that he is only the second coolest dad in his class because another dad drives a cool car: a Dodge. At the end of the ride, they meet Olga, who is wearing a shirt with English text — not Ukrainian or Russian (i.e., aimed at local audiences) — that reads, “Dear past, thank you for all the lessons. Dear future, I am ready.” English is one of the three official languages of the European Union; this message is for the EU and for us in North America, asking for a new relationship.


S1E4DearpastDearfuturedetail.jpg

Most of the shirts with text on them are in English. Read them.
Even now, as war is raging, this is one of Zelenskyy’s favorite methods of communicating with the West.


Back at the mansion, Vasya imagines a conversation with Abraham Lincoln himself, the first of a series of historical figures who offer him advice for his new role, ranging from potentially useful to merely illegal to utterly barbaric.

On Inauguration Day, Vasya ditches his bodyguard and arrives in a diminutive taxi. Upon entering the building, he comes to a fork in the red carpeting — suggesting Ukraine’s relationship with Russia — and goes to his left, ending up in the crowd. Thinking of his students when he reaches the lectern, he begins the prepared speech but then puts it aside, saying he won’t make promises because that would be dishonest, and it’s more important for government officials to act in a way that won’t make them ashamed to look in their children’s eyes.

A Just Society vs. Lawlessness

Over the course of several episodes, Vasya manages to get some reforms passed, including reducing the number of deputies, cutting costs, and moving the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) to the Kyiv expo center, making the center of the city less congested. The deputies begin riding bicycles to work, indicating the changes are a sign of progress.


SotPS1E7deputies.jpg

Progress is highlighted by the presence of bicycles.

The show adds several subplots including a bribery scandal in the Goloborodko administration, duplicitous officials, and undercover operations. The Ukrainian oligarchs emerge from the shadows as Vasya, with the help of Yuri, begins setting them against each other in an attempt to roll up some of the racketeering. But is Vasya himself being corrupted? As people begin to react differently to him and his family, the Goloborodkos move to a large lake house with a replica longship in the yard and start living more lavishly.

In S02E04, Vasya has a nightmare in which Ukraine goes visa-free, but everyone has left the country for opportunities elsewhere. He stays to maintain continuity of government while also performing everyday tasks such as mowing the lawns of the government complex. He pays for his groceries in cash — first in hryvnias, representing the status quo, then later in US dollars, representing prosperity — even though no one is in the store to accept his payment. He stops for red lights at crosswalks even though there is no traffic whatsoever. This episode is Zelenskyy’s way of demonstrating his sense of integrity: doing the right thing even when no one is watching.


Evolving Attitudes

Sergei Viktorovich Mukhin, Vasya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Oksana Skovoroda, Sergei’s assistant, personify the differences between unjust and just attitudes toward others in Ukrainian society and how they are changing. After Sergei is confirmed to his post, he and Oksana repeatedly butt heads over proper protocol with foreign dignitaries. In one conversation about an upcoming delegation visit, they discuss humor and different people’s reactions to it. Sergei wants to tell a joke which demeans a transgender individual and another joke about animal mistreatment, but Oksana explains that these are hurtful ideas in the modern world. Note that during this conversation, a brightly-lit statue of Lady Justice stands tall on Oksana’s side of the frame and a painting of a dark valley is hanging in an alcove on Sergei’s side.

Oksana then tells what she considers to be an acceptable joke involving exercise and her watch, but Sergei doesn’t get it. This is an admission that there is still work to be done to persuade an older, harsher mindset to be more open and accepting of newer, egalitarian ideas, but over time, Sergei learns to be more diplomatic and the two become an effective team, even falling in love.


Country Over Money

In S02E16 Vasya turns down an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan that has damaging strings attached: shale gas extraction requirements, a reduction in the wheat crop, and a huge nuclear waste facility. As justification, he gives a patriotic speech asserting that Ukrainians are not beggars, and Ukraine is neither a suburb nor a border region between orcs and elves. As his enemies start whispering about impeachment, he decides to resign. The show’s theme song mentions Superman, and here Vasya emulates the Man of Steel in Superman II by giving up his power; he loves his country too much to sell it out. Despondent, Vasya retreats to his Fortress of Solitude: the attic. When we see him, lying on a low sofa, the shots are framed with a bicycle, representing progress, hanging on the wall like a Sword of Damocles over his head. A vertical beam forms a visual line from Vasya’s head to the bike so we know what he is pondering. The bicycle faces to the left, an anomalous position, because when bikes are hung on a wall, they are mounted facing to the right to keep the chain away from the wall. For cultures that read from left to right, movement from right to left represents strenuous effort. The message of the bicycle is that progress is a struggle; Vasya knows this but feels that he has let down his constituents.


SotPS2E17attic.jpg

Vasya tries to come to grips with his resignation.

Later, Vasya musters enough energy to walk down to the dock to fish. Concerned about the possibility of self-harm, Petya joins him as he sits listlessly holding a fishing pole. Meanwhile, his team members in government try to carry on with their jobs, but without Vasya, their hearts are not in it. At the end of the day, as Vasya and his father walk back to the house, Petya tries to cheer him up by saying that he can go back to teaching and the students won’t let him down. After all, his father asks, “What is the Presidency to you?” Vasya looks up to see his trusted staff standing together on the longship next to the house. Though unspoken, his answer to his father’s question is Plato’s “Ship of State” — the use of power by a wise leader to work for progress for Ukraine.


S2E17whatisthepresidencytoyou.jpg

Top: Petya asks Vasya what the presidency matters to him. Bottom: Vasya’s team members in government (left to right): Anatoly “Tolik” Stepanovich, his bodyguard; Mikhaylo Ivanovich Sanin, Minister of Finance; Mikhail Ashotovich Tasunyan, Secret Service; Ivan Andreyevich Skorik, Minister of Defense; Sergei Viktorovich Mukhin, Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Oksana Skovoroda, assistant to Mukhin.

Path through the Darkness

Vasya changes his mind about his resignation and decides to run for president in the snap election. The closest members of his administration become his campaign team, do some crowdfunding, hire a consultant, and acquire a bus, which is covered with an image of Vasya and four staffers pedaling one long bicycle, hinting at the potential for progress.


SotPS2E19campaignbus.jpg

Skorik salvages a bus that was destined to be used for target practice and has a printer apply the bicycle design.

Shortly thereafter, Vasya and his father see a morning news report about an increase in the number of pedestrians hit by vehicles in crosswalks. Petya asserts that Vasya could have done something as president and blames him for the situation, but Vasya tells him there had been no time or money to make the needed improvements, and he leaves for his office.


TTM note: Continued below,.,.,..
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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While traveling the following evening, the campaign bus comes to a screeching halt at a small roadblock. A man is installing glowing panels in a crosswalk adjacent to a playground. Vasya and his staff get off the bus and ask him questions. The man explains that the street is dangerous and the lighting is cheap, but he has not been able to persuade local officials to install it; Vasya listens thoughtfully while gazing up at one of his nearby campaign billboards.

SotPS2E20crosswalknearplayground.jpg

Vasya (center) examines a literal bright pathway through the darkness.

The following morning, the team discovers the campaign is suddenly out of funds. Television news reports that Vasya donated all of his campaign money to install crosswalk lighting around the country. Essentially Zelenskyy is insinuating that he will commit his resources in pursuit of a bright path through the darkness for Ukraine, bringing to mind part of Vasya’s dream in Episode 3. Outraged at the impulsive expenditure, Vasya’a staff members chase him, but he escapes on a bicycle — a reminder that the illuminated crosswalks are a mark of progress in saving lives.


SotpS2E20.jpg

Vasya blows all of his campaign funds on crosswalk lighting, but the presence of the bicycles mark this as progress rather than waste because he is saving lives.

I will end the story arc here to avoid giving away the plot twists in Season 3, which explores weighty subjects at the national level and has some bleak moments for Vasya. By the time the final episodes aired in 2019, Zelenskyy had declared his candidacy. Besides making a case for him as a candidate, the show allowed Zelenskyy to address some of Ukraine’s fears (short of the current situation with Russia) and maybe some of his personal ones in seeking office. Who laughs at pictures of their own apparent assassination? Zelenskyy demonstrates that humor can help get us through even the worst situations.
.............
Bonus Easter Egg

In a scene during Tolik and Dima’s trip to the arcade, there is a white stuffed bear perched on a pull-up bar; the red curtain is positioned to draw attention to it. This Easter egg refers to the Kvartal 95 logo; the pull-up is also part of one of Zelenskyy’s signature studio skits.


8H1dT2qp9lqT1J7LInqEP5D1moHCjJL71T4FzrmjPbXBNVuM942guLPqesPuBOYq8gpeHT8jzXZNitb9nZfGpuAHPIPwVnYT4sx1JLN0AyoqJUOHOT5YTpL2gKivM0kvVLgBiNRrYHJ_4YT98Q

Compare the Kvartal 95 studio logo (left) with the white bear on the bar in front of the red curtain. Who puts a pull-up bar in an arcade game?
..........

Notes

1 This line, which is in the Kvartal 95 translation on YouTube, is a dark joke referring to the death of Julius Caesar, who was first stabbed in the neck according to Plutarch’s Lives: “It was Casca who gave [Caesar] the first blow with his dagger, in the neck, not a mortal wound, nor even a deep one, for which he was too much confused, as was natural at the beginning of a deed of great daring; … “

2 This line is in the Netflix translation and evokes the imagery in the poem “Moonlight Night” by Ukrainian poet Mykhailo Petrovych Starytsky (1840-1904). Starytsky’s cousin Mykola Lysenko (1842-1912) composed a famous Ukrainian folk song based on the poem.

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukraine Update: As Ukraine begs for MLRS, here's a weapons system we absolutely shouldn't send them
kos

mfc-mlrs-m270-a1-02.jpg.pc-adaptive.1280.medium.jpeg

An M270 MLRS rocket artillery system. Each one of those rockets carries 644 cluster munitions.

No no no no no.


Another weapon high on Ukraine's shopping list are Multiple Rocket Launch Systems (MLRS) such as the M270 made by Lockheed Martin which can strike a target 70 or more kilometers away, a three-fold increase over many of their current howitzer rounds [...]

The two U.S. officials said the M270 or similar system like the M142 HIMARS would be considered for shipment to Ukraine once Congress passed a $40 billion supplemental funding bill that would authorize an additional $11 billion worth of Presidential Drawdown Authority.

I have no first-hand experience with the relatively new HIMARS, but the M270 MLRS? I spent three years doing fire direction for an M270 MLRS battery, and I can’t imagine a worst idea than sending them those pieces of junk.

To be clear, militarily, M270s are deadly systems, able to obliterate a football-field-sized grid of land with a single volley of its 12 missiles. It was nicknamed the “Grid Square Removal System.” A battery of these, on paper, would seriously make Russian lives difficult. The firing range is between 32 and 70 kilometers depending on the munition, with the shorter-range stuff being cheaper and more plentiful (like with howitzer shells).

mfc-mlrs-m270-a1-04.jpg.pc-adaptive.1280.medium.jpeg


These aren’t like cruise missiles. Rather, they are canisters containing 644 grenades each. Thus, 12 rockets times 644 grenades equals 7,728 munitions air-scattered on that football field plot of land. When you see stuff about Russia using “banned cluster munitions,” this is exactly the same thing. (The United States was due to get rid of those munitions by 2019, but the Trump administration rolled that back, of course.)

Aside from the morality of cluster munitions, which Russia has rendered moot, the M270s were a maintenance nightmare.

I joined my MLRS unit, A/76 Field Artillery, 3rd Infantry Division, in 1989. This was just six years after the M270 first entered service in 1983. And even then, all of them relatively new, keeping our battery’s nine M270s all up and running at the same time was impossible. They were perpetually broken down—both the drivetrain and the mechanism which swivels the launcher around. I can’t speak to the exact problems with the machinery, but as fire direction, it was my job to send mechanics to a launcher every time it broke down, and I’m not kidding when I say that, out of nine launchers in the batter, two of them were typically out of commission at any given time.

MLRS first saw action during Desert Storm. I remember seeing pictures of them in action: bunched up and firing from the safe rear position, no fear of Iraqi Army counter artillery fire or ground-attack aircraft. Saddam Hussein lacked such capabilities. And it was clear the Army wasn’t about to use the MLRS as intended—as shoot-and-scoot platforms, always in motion, hiding from enemy countermeasures (the way Ukraine certainly would need to in this war). It was clear to me why: You couldn’t trust those M270s to move and not break.

But hey, I have a terrible memory. Maybe I was misremembering, so I googled, and yes, I remembered correctly, but turns out it was even worse than I ever imagined and extended far beyond the M270 mechanics:


Just two years after the war’s end, the Government Accountability Office reported that M.L.R.S. rockets failed at far higher rates in combat than the Army had advertised, and that dud grenades left over from rocket attacks had killed and wounded at least 16 American troops. An Army report in the early 2000s noted that even though the M.L.R.S. was deployed in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, “not one rocket was fired because of the lack of precision and potential for collateral damage as well as the high submunition dud rate.”

Time is not kind to anything, including military equipment. If we were having so many problems with our M270s in 1989, just six years from deployment, I can’t imagine the shape those vehicles are in today, 40 years from manufacture. We had an entire platoon of experienced mechanics dedicated to keeping these launchers up—during peacetime, without logistical challenges, and with endless supply of parts—and even then we could barely keep them running. Ukraine wouldn’t have any of those advantages.

The original M270 is still around, and is even being upgraded with new systems. Meanwhile, the M142 HIMARS entered service in the 2000s, dramatically lighter and easily transportable.

HIMARS_-_missile_launched.jpg


The wheeled truck chassis is undoubtedly simpler to maintain than the M270’s tracks. But the swivel launcher is the same, except that instead of using two six-missile pods, HIMARS uses just one. Hopefully, manufacturer Lockheed-Martin has improved the reliability and serviceability of their systems since my time.

If that’s the case, then for sure, send HIMARS to Ukraine. We don’t have that many; only 414 have been built. But sending a few dozen could make a world of difference. Logistical issues (like the size of the rockets, each weighing 675 lbs and 13 feet long) are less of an issue now that we’ve shipped hundreds of thousands of 155mm shells. Clearly, Ukraine and NATO have cracked the logistics code. We would need to send trucks capable of transporting the missile pods. We have over 13,000 HEMTTs trucks being phased out that could help with that and other supply matters:

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HEMTT carrying a M270 rocket artillery pod, during exercise in Germany sometime in 1990-1991. I took that picture while serving in A/76 Field Artillery.

Heavy trucks are not as sexy as weapons systems, but send those suckers over to Ukraine, please. Logistics are just as important.

Ukraine’s last two big wish-list items are aircraft and MLRS. For the love of God, please don’t send them M270s junk. HIMARS are the likely better option.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Trump thinks Truth Social is failing because Google hates him. And Don Jr. is coming to the rescue!
Aldous J Pennyfarthing

In a classic scene from The Office, temp Ryan Howard explains how he tricked his colleague Creed into blogging for an audience of nobody, leaving Creed to spend his workdays spewing his disturbing “Creed Thoughts” into a yawning void. “Wanting to protect the world from being exposed to Creed’s brain, I opened up a Word document on his computer and put an address at the top,” Ryan explained. “I’ve read some of it. Even for the internet, it’s pretty shocking.”

If only the rapacious asshole who taught Donald Trump how to tweet had been half as patriotic as young Ryan. Because I can all but guarantee Trump would have never figured it out on his own.

Why am I so confident? Several reasons. For one thing, when Trump decided to start his own social media company, he hired a hyper-litigious dairy farmer to head it up. For another, he tapped Rudy Fiddle-Drawers Giuliani, who once had to beg for help at an Apple Store after getting locked out of his iPhone, as his presidential cybersecurity adviser. Finally, he appears to know next to nothing about modern technology. I mean, the guy thinks we have invisible airplanes and worries that China is shooting hurricanes at us with their Dr. Evil weather machines, so you can draw your own conclusions.

With all that in mind, how can we be even a little surprised by the following revelation?

Vanity Fair:

Donald Trump apparently believes that the reason his newly formed social media company, Truth Social, is not a runaway success is because Google has internally decided to sabotage him. “Is Google trying to **** me?” the former president has reportedly been asking friends and advisers over the past several weeks.
According to Rolling Stone, Trump believes the tech giant has it out for him due to the fact that the Truth Social app is not yet available for Android users. Which, reporters Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng note, probably has less to do with Google trying to screw over the ex-president and more to do with the fact that, as of Tuesday, the company hadn’t “even submitted an Android app to Google to review for Play Store approval.” Nevertheless, Trump continues to labor under the idea that this is personal. “He keeps hearing about how Google and YouTube have it out for him…including on Truth Social, and I think he’s taking [it] seriously,” one source who’s discussed the matter with Trump told Rawnsley and Suebsaeng. According to the outlet, Trump, who reportedly doesn’t use email, once suggested that everyone in the U.S. should stop using computers, and reportedly calls iPads “the flat one,” has also asked if Google is is trying to “screw with me” or has simply wondered aloud, “What’s up with Google?”

“How dare Google refuse to carry our Android app just because we haven’t developed one yet?! Where are my lawyers?! No, not the ones I haven’t paid yet. The even more gullible ones!”

Needless to say, it’s not Google’s fault that Truth Social is being run like a basement cockfight with 80 one-star Yelp reviews. That’s all on Trump.

But fear not, Truth Socialites! Don Jr. is on the job!

Rolling Stone:

In recent weeks, the former president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was called in to take a lead role focused on trying to “fix” what was wrong with the company and the app performance, according to two people familiar with the situation. One of these sources frankly referred to what Trump Jr. was doing as an emergency “rescue mission.”

So what the **** does Trump think his gormless son is going to do? Have Kimberly Guilfoyle scream positive affirmations at the app for 30 minutes? If I ever get a silver coke spoon wedged in my sinuses, Don Jr. will be my first call. Other than that, I have to believe his most promising career path is either abstract Subway sandwich artist or USDA Grade C shark chum.

And now, because I don’t have a proper ending for this post … this:

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Things are likely to get a lot worse for Pennsylvania Republicans with no end in sight
Kerry Eleveld

The Pennsylvania GOP primaries have already proven to be just about as “train wreck-y” as it gets, but they ain’t over yet. Not only has MAGA radical state Sen. Doug Mastriano won the Republican gubernatorial primary, but the GOP Senate primary is likely headed for a recount, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Trump-endorsed TV huckster Mehmet Oz and hedge fund CEO David McCormick are deadlocked at some 31% of the vote. It's a recount that promises to get very sticky on so many levels.

After both candidates embraced Trump's 2020 lie that the election was stolen from him, they will now be bogged down in days if not weeks of waiting as the very mail-in ballots Republicans pilloried as fraudulent are tallied and maybe even retallied to determine the winner.
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But that’s not all. The New York Times reports that McCormick recently hired GOP consultant Mike Roman, who specializes in election challenges and helped Trump push a series of unfounded fraud claims in Pennsylvania. Federal elections records show that McCormick's campaign hired Roman as a consultant on April 21, suggesting his team very much expected a potentially contentious post-election period.

But even as Team McCormick and a former Trump henchman prepped to unload on the election's administration, Trump urged Oz to simply "declare victory" the day after the election.

“It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they ‘just happened to find,’” Trump wrote on his sputtering Truth Social website, taking an early swipe at the remaining mail-in ballots that could flip the race in McCormick's direction.

Whatever the outcome of that hot mess, the open arms of Mastriano await the victor.

Whether it's Oz or McCormick, the GOP Senate nominee will be dogged by Mastriano's every utterance. If either one of them thought they might tone down their right-wing rhetoric on abortion, 2020 election fraud lies, or the Jan. 6 insurrection in order to broaden their appeal in the general election, Mastriano will be there to resurrect the issues anew.

Local reporters will surely take great joy in developing a dialogue between the two high-profile statewide GOP campaigns, playing them off one another. Oz and McCormick both MAGAed it up in the primary to make a play for Trump's endorsement, but Mastriano is an evangelical 2020 truther through and through—he's the genuine article. Moderation isn't in his DNA, which is exactly why he was so appealing to the basest authoritarian instincts of MAGA voters.

Whether the topic du jour is enacting book bans and no-exception abortion bans or advancing 2020 election conspiracy theories, Mastriano will be hungry to dive in with the certainty of a zealot, while the GOP Senate nominee will be left holding the bag.

But only after they are done litigating the mail-in ballots, a likely recount, and a series of potential legal challenges. At that point, the GOP Senate nominee will emerge bruised, battered, and limping along, having won less than a third of the GOP primary vote.

It will be glorious.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Trump pick likely headed for spectacular defeat in pivotal race—Georgia GOP gubernatorial primary
Kerry Eleveld

........Trump is predictably bitter about the whole thing.

“Donald Trump has worked harder to elect David Perdue than David Perdue,” a Trump adviser said, noting that Trump held rallies, coughed up cash, and fundraised for him. Trump also cleared the field for a two-way race with Kemp by convincing another candidate, former state Rep. Vernon Jones, to run for Congress instead.

The only question now seems to be whether Trump will take his lumps and move on, or whether he will double down on trying to tar and feather Kemp throughout the rest of the general election. One way or the other, Trump will still be playing in the Peach State with his handpicked candidate for Senate, former Georgia football star and alleged wife beater Herschel Walker—who is likely still Senate Republicans' best bet for a pick up this cycle.

Stunning.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Details of Trump's direct role in election overthrow surface in fight between Jan. 6 probe, Eastman
Brandi Buchman

New details about the direct role that Donald Trump played in developing a strategy to overturn the 2020 election were revealed in a federal court filing from election coup attorney John Eastman late Thursday.

Eastman is several months into a battle to keep records of his work for Trump in the run-up to January 6 confidential. but in his latest parry to bar access to emails he says should be protected under attorney-client privilege, he has revealed that Trump sent him at least “two hand-written notes” containing information “he thought might be useful for the anticipated litigation” challenging election results

Evidence of Trump’s hand in developing this strategy is not the only thing that Eastman wants U.S. District Judge David Carter to keep away from prying eyes. He also asked the court to protect correspondence with no less than seven state legislators, White House attorneys, and other officials who received his guidance on the appointments of Trump’s so-called “alternate” electors.

Eastman Brief in Support of Privilege Assertions by Daily Kos on Scribd

Details on those officials and legislators in the filing are limited since Eastman was careful to keep their identities private.

But as first reported by Politico:

“But several of the attorneys filed declarations supporting Eastman’s descriptions of his work for Trump. Those declarations, filed under seal with the court, include attestations from Kurt Olsen, the lead lawyer in a Supreme Court lawsuit that Trump backed to overturn the election results, as well as Bruce Marks, a Pennsylvania lawyer who worked on Trump’s election litigation.”

Olsen was subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee in March. His push to change election laws at the Justice Department just ahead of the Capitol attack prompted the demand for his records and testimony. Olsen, in response, countersued the select committee.

Notably, Eastman also mentions in his filing that there are at least “six conduits to or agents of the former president” that he dealt with directly when strategizing the overturn.

Three are individuals who had roles with Trump’s campaign and serve as attorneys and the other three were members of Trump’s “immediate staff and one attorney.”

“While Dr. Eastman could (and did) communicate directly with former President Trump at times, many of his communications with the President were necessarily through these agents,” the filing states.

In another section of the motion, Eastman clarifies further, saying he also “communicated directly with Trump by phone and email through his assistant or attorney agents.”

Even now, Eastman promotes claims and makes insinuations that the 2020 election was rigged against Trump. There is no evidence to support these statements. He was equally adamant in the motion to Judge Carter that the select committee probing the attack is acting unconstitutionally and prejudicially.

Time and again, however, when the committee’s standing has come up in a legal challenge, courts have found otherwise, deeming it a valid and constitutional body acting within the scope of its congressional authority.

“The Select Committee has accused Dr. Eastman and his client of acting to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress with corrupt intent, based on its claim that Dr. Eastman and his client (and others) engaged in the ‘big lie’ about election illegality and fraud. But that claim, that premise, is itself false. One might even say that the assertion of a ‘big lie’ is itself the actual Big Lie,” Eastman maintained in the motion Thursday.

This batch of emails Eastman wants hidden comprise just 600 records. The committee has requested access to 90,000 pages of records housed with Chapman University, Eastman’s former employer.

The committee initially subpoenaed Eastman directly but he refused to comply.

That decision has been a boon for the committee: Judge Carter ruled in March that Trump and Eastman “more likely than not” engaged in a conspiracy meant to stop Congress from engaging in the counting of certified votes, one of the last steps on the path to a transfer of power.

Eastman was previously revealed to be the author of a six-point pressure strategy targeting former Vice President Mike Pence. Eastman advised in the document that Pence had the final say in stopping the certification. In truth, Pence did not, his role, under the constitution, was overwhelmingly perfunctory.


The conservative attorney took a swing at Judge Carter’s ruling from March, and in particular, a section where Carter said the evidence indicated Eastman's conduct was not “driven by preserving the Constitution, but by winning the 2020 election.”
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Coup Lawyer Wants To Shield Evidence Proving Trump's Direct Involvement In Overturning Election
PvtJarHead
 
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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Doug Mastriano did not need Trump to lead him to conspiracy theories. He's been there for 20 years
Laura Clawson

Doug Mastriano, the Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial nominee, did not need Donald Trump to turn him into a paranoid conspiracy theorist. He was there decades ago, a Washington Post report on Mastriano’s 2001 master’s thesis shows.

Mastriano’s thesis, written in 2001 while he was a major at the Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College, warns that recommendations to “depoliticize” the military could lead to the utter collapse of the military and a “civilian putsch” or, taking it up a notch, a “Hitlerian putsch.”

To illustrate this danger, Mastriano’s thesis takes the form of an extended flight of fancy using the fictional voice of a colonel living in the then-future year 2018, hiding out in an “isolated cavern” due to the ascension of a dictator, who, backed by the United Nations and the European Union, ”abolished the Constitution, dismissed Congress and compelled the president to resign. While consolidating power, dictator Aurelius declared martial law and conducted a massive purge. The purge went deep and impacted nearly every family in the nation with millions perishing. Dictator Aurelius‘ form of political correctness was then imposed upon the populace with scores being sent to reeducation camps to adapt their views to his.”

From the fictional vantage point of post-putsch 2018, Mastriano warns that the dissolution of the United States as we know it came after military service members were banned from voting after the 2000 elections (this did not happen, of course) and a broader “assault on the military‘s culture,” including “social experimentation and the imposition of strict policies protecting aberrant sexual behavior in the ranks.”

Mastriano doesn’t dance around his meaning there: “The assault started with the insertion of homosexuality into the military.” But while he claims the undermining of the military happened slowly somehow between his writing in 2001 and his imagined 2018, “The moral underpinnings of the US military were replaced by a neo-pagan worldview, transforming it into a docile social service institution unable to pose any of the imagined threats to the republic.”

A neo-pagan worldview leading to a Hitlerian putsch.

Fast forward 21 years later and the man who wrote this is the Republican gubernatorial nominee for a large state, and he’s basing his candidacy in large part on claims that the last presidential election was stolen by Democrats, after he was on the scene of an insurrection attempting to block the certification of that election. He celebrated his primary win with one of the architects of the coup attempt, who hinted at future plans to undermine Pennsylvania elections.

It all fits, but what’s striking is that far from being turned to conspiracy theories by Trump, Mastriano was right there in 2001, creating them. Trump and QAnon just gave him a new set of false claims to work with—and helped elevate him to prominence in the Republican Party.