More to ignore, Book 73.......

Ten Thousan Marbles

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62bc5a872224c3001814227e-4088485186.jpg


U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Pope Francis on Wednesday and received Communion during a papal Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, witnesses said, despite her position in support of abortion rights.

Pelosi attended the morning Mass marking the feasts of St. Peter and St. Paul, during which Francis bestowed the woolen pallium stole on newly consecrated archbishops. She was seated in a VIP diplomatic section of the basilica and received Communion along with the rest of the congregants, according to two people who witnessed the moment.

Pelosi's home archbishop, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, has said he will no longer allow her to receive the sacrament in his archdiocese because of her support for abortion rights. Cordileone, a conservative, has said Pelosi must either repudiate her support for abortion or stop speaking publicly of her Catholic faith.


Pelosi has done neither. She called the recent Supreme Court ruling removing constitutional protections for abortion an "outrageous and heart-wrenching" decision that fulfils the Republican Party's "dark and extreme goal of ripping away women's right to make their own reproductive health decisions."......
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ginni Thomas backpedals after House committee asks her to testify (after she said she would)
Hunter

When it was discovered that she had had been communicating with the Jan. 6 coup's major plotters and with the fraudulent "electors" Donald Trump's clan intended to substitute for actual electors in his coup, Ginni Thomas quickly declared that she would be oh-so-happy to testify to the House Jan. 6 committee to clear her name. After all, Ginni Thomas is just a regular ol’ far-right Republican activist who just happens to also be the spouse of an equally far-right Republican Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Of course she was willing to help the investigation, she said publicly.

That's a lie that we've been getting from coup-associated Trump allies, and nobody thought highly enough of Ginni Thomas at that point to believe she
wasn't lying. She got a good news cycle out of pretending that she'd be willing to testify about her role in a violent attempt to stamp out the next United States government, then scuttled back behind her legal team when the House select committee took her up on her offer.
.......
Ginni Thomas' new position, as clarified by her lawyers, is that she isn't going to testify because the committee has "no basis" to interview her. In a long letter to committee heads Rep. Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney, Thomas' lawyer says the committee must provide "better justification" for why the committee wants her testimony.

So, imagine that: We've swiftly once again gone from a Republican vow to clear themselves to a clarification that they will absolutely not agree to be put under oath when declaring that innocence. What a shocker.

You can read the letter if you want the "not under oath" version of events from Thomas, or you can not bother because, again: not under oath. But Thomas' lawyer for the day got to bill some decent hours for this new demand that the House select committee investigating a violent coup against the government better explain why it wants to hear from an extremely prominent Republican activist identified as sharing anti-election conspiracy hoaxes and other forms of pressure with Trump officials now known to be at the very heart of the coup's planning, so—in the interest of squeezing more money out of whoever's funding Ginni Thomas' campaign of far-right paranoia—let's give her legal team a head start on figuring out why coup investigators might want to hear her explanations right from the horse's mouth, as it were. Shall we?

First, the committee has evidence Ginni Thomas was funneling election conspiracy hoaxes directly to the White House chief of staff, hoaxes that were being used as supposed evidence of the illegitimacy of the 2020 presidential election, and of the sort that the sitting president was himself promoting. She promoted those hoaxes as if real, even bolstering Mark Meadows, now known to have played an important role in letting the Capitol violence unfold, with assertions that fighting the election's results was a "fight of good versus evil." Those messages also advocated for White House actions that the White House later took, such as the elevation of crank lawyer and hoax promoter Sidney Powell.

Second, Thomas' similar advocacy for central figure John Eastman—architect of the plan that would have seen Vice President Mike Pence unilaterally overturn the results of a presidential election through the introduction of fake electoral slates meant to challenge the real, certified electors—likely gives her insight into how Eastman concocted the plan and, importantly, the "evidence" circulating among the coup plotters used to justify it. But Eastman also made the incendiary claim that he had been made aware of a "heated fight" inside the Supreme Court as justices privately mulled the legal questions Eastman was raising with his plan to declare the election's results invalid based on the White House's own say-so.

That claim puts Ginni Thomas squarely in the spotlight. There is likely nobody Eastman was in contact with who would have had more intimate knowledge of the Supreme Court justices’ positions. She's married to one. She's based a consulting career on selling herself as someone who knows what arguments you should use to best sway court conservatives, aka
her husband, when preparing cases; her communications with Eastman during this time would therefore naturally come under scrutiny.

It's possible that Eastman was simply lying about his court access. It's possible he had insight into the court's state of mind through other channels. It is perfectly reasonable, however, for those investigating a violent coup to pose questions about the coup planners' efforts to put the nullification of an American election on some sort of legal or pseudo-legal footing.

We also know that Eastman himself believed his legalese amounted to an illegal scheme, even as he continued to push for it. That gives the committee all the more reason to want to probe all of Eastman's contacts to confirm who was telling him what, and when.

Third, Ginni Thomas' actions show her to have been vigorous in herself promoting the hoaxes that the White House was using to falsely discredit the election and goad Congress into overturning it. She personally signed a letter demanding Arizona Republican legislators toss out the state's presidential results to assign a new, pro-Trump slate of electors—the precise plan Eastman himself was basing his own efforts on. Thomas was not a bystander here, but part of a larger group of very prominent Republican pundits, consultants, and operatives who were actively promoting fraudulent hoaxes challenging the election's results and using those fraudulent claims to advocate for the Eastman plan.

That's ... a very big deal! If Thomas either herself knew those hoaxes to be fraudulent or simply did not bother to make the most minimal checks of their accuracy, that expands the bounds of the seditious conspiracy to her own social circle. She advocated, personally, for the nullification of an American election based solely on manufactured hoaxes crafted to discredit Biden (and only Biden) votes. She was in direct contact with individuals in the White House who were using those hoaxes to pressure states into changing election totals and who, when all other efforts had failed, solicited a furious mob of hoax believers for the purpose of disrupting the joint session of Congress that would formalize the election's results.

No, perhaps the committee would not be looking for Ginni Thomas' testimony if she was instead Ginni Jones, podunk gadfly tweeting Facebook memes and amplifying whatever conspiracy theories were floating through her own social circles. But none of those other people were in direct contact with multiple people inside the Trump White House who were themselves active in attempts to nullify an American election, or able to provide legal insight into strategies her own husband would be most receptive to in legal arguments justifying such nullification.

Yes, it is very tragic she has gotten involved in all of this by virtue of ... being an omnipresent voice in Trumpism who has previously advocated for purging non-Republicans from government while elevating maudlin conspiracy theories intended to justify those acts. The world is unfair. Consider an appearance before a House committee to be the price of admission, if you are a very powerful partisan advocating for very extraordinary things.

Thomas' messages indicate that she both has insight into how anti-democratic hoaxes began to percolate in the White House and considerable possible knowledge of who, inside the White House and outside it, was most supportive of those hoaxes. Given that we are investigating the origins of a violent coup attempt, it is reasonable to expect Ginni Thomas to
want to testify about the origins of a plan that ended in violence. It would be the decent and patriotic thing to do, if Ginni were not notoriously averse to both of those things.

The committee is not particularly interested in what Ginni Thomas thinks or in her omnipresent efforts to ingratiate herself to Washington elites through the relentless promotion of partisan crackpottisms. The committee wants to know whether Thomas was in communication with anyone else now identified as central to election nullification efforts. It wants to know whether Thomas can provide testimony as to the state of mind of those inside the White House who are themselves refusing to testify about the sequence of events that led to deaths in the United States Capitol. It wants to know if Thomas has any insight into White House claims that the Supreme Court was signaling a willingness to debate the legal merits of declaring Mike Pence sole arbiter of our elections.

Ginni Thomas has made a Washington career asserting she has access to power and skill in bending that power, so a letter from a lawyer insisting that she is but a mere Facebook-reading bystander as the coup unfolded around her is a bit much. Thomas has every right not to answer questions that would provide evidence of crimes
on her part; she has no right to declare that she need not show up to be questioned at all, or to refuse questions pertaining to the possible criminality of others.

The committee is investigating a multi-pronged effort to topple the United States government through legal wrangling, weaponized disinformation, and organized efforts to put a violent mob on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. If Ginni Thomas believes that is not a serious enough investigation to merit her own cooperation—not unless she gets something of personal use to her, a "clearing" of her name—then we in the public can come to our own moral conclusions about that.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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The J6 Committee May Know Trump Did Grab that Wheel
Dan K

Cassidy Hutchinson’s brave testimony to the Jr Committee included her reporting what she had been told about Trump’s behavior when the Secret Service wouldn’t let him go with his armed mob to the Capitol. Trump defenders have manufactured one discrepancy already: he couldn’t have done that because “The Beast”’s structure made that impossible. Well, actually, that’s not quite true — but it’s also irrelevant, because the Secret Service didn’t use The Beast — the limo — to take him back to the West Wing. They used one of their SUV’s, where it’s much easier for Trump to do what it seems he did.

But then there’s this: Secret Service officials: Agents willing to dispute Trump SUV incident under oath. Seems Ornato and Engel, whom Hutchinson says told her about the incident, are prepared to say they told her no such thing — though they do admit Trump was absolutely furious that they wouldn’t take him up the Hill.

But here’s the thing, according to CBS News:
Secret Service plans to respond to Jan. 6 committee regarding Trump's actions, after Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony

According to the source close to the agency, both Ornato and Engel have appeared before the committee on the record and behind closed doors, at the committee's request. Those sessions were recorded, but not used in Tuesday's hearing.

In other words, the committee already has testimony taken under oath from the Secret Service agent (Engel) and the guy in charge of WH operations (Ornato). Given how careful they’ve been so far, I am completely confident the committee would never have had Hutchinson testify about the wheel grabbing unless they already had, on tape, corroborating testimony from these two. The wheel grab story is highly sensational — but it’s not a critical story; it would have been enough to say Trump was insistent on joining the march and furious when wouldn’t let him.

So why are Ornato and Engel offering to testify again? Well, maybe they aren’t, really. Here’s what Greg Sargent (WaPo) has to say: Trump’s silly new ‘defense’ against Hutchinson is full of holes

First off, Ornato and Engel are Trump loyalists. “[A]s Post reporter and Secret Service expert Carol Leonnig told Rachel Maddow, Ornato and Engel are known as “yes men” to Trump. So we don’t have any idea how cooperative they were.”

More to the point, if the committee gets them under oath again, they would have to answer some very uncomfortable questions:

For instance, Ornato was the person who informed Meadows that Trump supporters attempting to enter the rally were armed at a meeting on the morning of Jan. 6, according to Hutchinson’s testimony.
Ornato also told Meadows he informed Trump of this, per Hutchinson. She went on to recount that Trump angrily demanded that armed supporters be let in, after which he directed the mob to the Capitol to intimidate his vice president into completing his coup attempt.
If Ornato wants to testify under oath, he could address all of those claims as well. Is that something Trump supporters want?

Similarly, Ornato and Engel can address the core assertion that Hutchinson made about the president’s alleged rage-fit in his vehicle. They can testify about whether Trump actually did want to go to the Capitol and what happened then.

On that last point, the Secret Service has already admitted that Trump did have a rage-fit; it’s just the details of that fit that may be hazy. From the CBSNews story:

The Secret Service officials do not dispute that Trump was irate or that he demanded to be taken to the Capitol, in the language that Hutchinson related to the committee.

Again, I can’t see the committee pursuing the wheel detail if they thought it might be challenged. So this offer to testify may be no more genuine than Ginni Thomas’ was.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony introduced a new figure in the Jan. 6 hearings: Donald Trump
Mark Sumner

In the public testimony that’s come so far, the Jan. 6 committee has carefully laid out the evidence showing that the assault on the Capitol was not a spontaneous event, but the result of a widespread conspiracy that went on over a period of months. That conspiracy put the Proud Boys in place to break through police lines and lead the way into the Capitol. It fabricated claims of election fraud that ensured thousands of the most gullible would be on hand, ready to be shaped into a weapon. It pressured local and state officials in an effort to create some appearance of fire beyond waves of smoke. And it sent slates of false electors to Washington in order to bolster a faux-legal assault on democracy.

But until a 26-year-old assistant to the White House chief of staff testified on Tuesday, the central figure of that conspiracy largely remained hidden. Until Tuesday, the big missing hole in that conspiracy was Donald Trump.
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It’s not that Trump’s name hadn’t come up over and over. Trump was on the phone with state and local officials, trying to cajole, bully, or threaten them into giving him the votes he wanted. Trump was there in the meetings with attorney John Eastman, where they worked out the scheme to turn Jan. 6 from a ceremonial event into a last-ditch effort to derail the government. Trump was there with would-be Attorney General Jeffery Clark. There with Rudy Giuliani. Bent over a table with disgraced former general Michael Flynn and with no one-should-take-me-seriously Sidney Powell. Trump was there months, even years, earlier, undermining the foundations of democratic elections.

But for the most part, Donald Trump’s private words were passed along in snippets and generalities, his attitudes and actions rarely seen in detail when outside the public eye.

What Hutchinson’s testimony did was fill in an essential gap. Not the gap that described how Trump was desperate to join the conspirators at the Capitol so that he could personally lead his forces in assault—though that’s certainly an important thing to know. What Hutchinson’s testimony provided was a chance to see Trump. To see him raging through the halls of the White House, slinging a plate against the wall in a scene that is shockingly familiar to a million victims of domestic abuse. It was visceral testimony. Testimony that made it patently obvious just how hard others were still working not to admit to the kind of man they had helped.

Hutchinson’s testimony was shocking especially because it provided such a clear vision of the angry, petty, raging, and abusive man driving the nation to the brink. It was the first time we were told that the Trump who appeared on stage—to mock disabled people, brag about his love for violence, and spew vile about his every perceived slight—was even worse in private. It presented scenes of a man not only completely lacking in any kind of self-control, but unaware that self-control was something he should have.

This wasn’t Trump described in generalities and paraphrased statements. This was Trump with ketchup running down the walls and the broken plates still on the floor. It’s the man at the center of the conspiracy who was there all along, but who America has been so reluctant to see.

On Wednesday morning, Republicans are rushing forward with unnamed sources to claim that both Security Chief Bobby Engel and other members of Trump’s Secret Service team are ready to testify that Trump didn’t grab the wheel of the presidential limo, or assault Engel.

However, there’s absolutely no doubt that the House select committee would not have put Hutchinson’s testimony before the public if they did not already have corroboration of everything she said. Rep. Bernie Thompson would not risk the reputation of the investigation on unsupported testimony. None of the members of the committee—several of whom have ambitions that go beyond their current position—would risk their political futures on being tied to testimony that could be readily knocked down.

Hutchinson testified she was told about the events in the limo by White House Chief of Operations Anthony Ornato, and it’s a good bet that the committee already has Ornato agreeing to that story.

The more interesting thing about the Republican response to Hutchinson’s testimony is just how specific that response has been. They’ve zeroed in on just a few seconds in that limo, because that’s the only part where Hutchinson wasn’t actually present. The only part where they can bring it back to something … vague. Something with the rage and ugliness stripped away. Maybe they can get Engel or some Secret Service agents to say Trump didn’t
actually put his hands on the wheel. Maybe they can find someone who will use a term other than “lunged.” Maybe they’ll say that his efforts to get to the Capitol fell short of “assault.” Maybe.

But none of those Trump apologists seem to be going after the statements that Hutchinson made concerning her own direct experience. None of them are hurrying to have House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sit down to testify about the phone call he made to Hutchinson while Trump was on stage at the rally on the Ellipse. None of them are encouraging Pat Cipollone to step forward and explain why he and so many others did not want Trump going to the Capitol. None of them are telling Mark Meadows to get up there and explain how his former aide is wrong. None of them are challenging Hutchinson about the observations she personally made, day after day, both before and after the election.

In her testimony, Hutchinson came off as absolutely believable. The statements that she made about Trump were absolutely believable. What’s unbelievable is how many people, even at this late date, are still trying to cover up for a man whose actions and statements make him beneath contempt.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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A reminder for the D.C. media: Anonymous sources don't equal public testimony delivered under oath
Joan McCarter

The far right pushback to the searing testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, before the Jan. 6 committee Tuesday kicked in immediately. And of course the traditional media fell for the diversion. Some in the media are seizing on the trivial, falling for an attempt from Trump hangers-on to distract from Trump’s attempted coup. Because even when faced with a violent attempted overthrow of the government, there has to be both sides.

First to fall was NBC’s Peter Alexander, who passed along a denial from an anonymous source “close to the Secret Service” who disputed the account from Hutchinson about what happened in the Suburban carrying Donald Trump away after his speech at his “Stop the Steal” rally. Hutchinson testified that Anthony “Tony” Ornato told her Trump was “irate” and “said something to the effect of I’m the f’ing president, take me up to the Capitol now.” When he was told by Secret Service Agent Bobby Engel that they had to return to the White House, Trump “reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel,” and when Engel held Trump’s arm away, Trump “used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel. And Mr.—when Mr. Ornato had recounted this story to me, he had motioned towards his clavicles.”

Alexander’s source said that both men—Ornato and Engel—“dispute Trump grabbed the steering wheel or assaulted an agent.” Note that Hutchinson didn’t say that Ornato told her Trump actually grabbed the wheel or that he assaulted an agent. Just that he was attempting to do that. Also note that no one is disputing the fact that Trump was livid that he wasn’t being taken to the Capitol to lead the assault.
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Not wanting to be left out of the bothsidesing on this one, Politico jumped in to report that the committee did not reach out to the Secret Service before this hearing. “[W]e were not asked to reappear before the Committee in response to yesterday’s new information and we plan on formally responding on the record,” Anthony Guglielmi, the service’s chief of communications told Politico in an email.

“We have and will continue to make any member of the Secret Service available,” Guglielmi said. Note that the agency is not disputing the content of Hutchinson’s testimony, just that the agency wasn’t contacted about it beforehand. And never mind that Engel already testified to the committee in private session and told it that Trump got into the vehicle with the intention of going to the Capitol. Whether he talked about what happened inside the armored Suburban isn’t public. But the headline from Politico: “Secret Service: Jan. 6 committee didn’t reach out before Hutchinson’s explosive Trump testimony.”

Meanwhile, here’s what else Hutchinson testified to and what the committee revealed, which no one is disputing but which is also being swept aside by reporters looking for some kind of “but her email” story:
  • Rudy Giuliani was in the White House in the days leading up to Jan. 6 for planning, and Hutchison said “I recall hearing the terms ‘Proud Boys’ and ‘Oath Keepers’ when [Rudy] Giuliani was around.” She also recalled her boss, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, telling her “things might get real, real bad on January 6” when she asked about what Giuliani was talking about.
  • The Secret Service informed Trump and his advisers at the rally that there were people with rifles, pistols, spears, and body armor outside the Ellipse and Trump’s response was that the Secret Service should take down the metal detectors to let them in. “I don’t ****ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the ****ing [magnometers] away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.”
  • After White House counsel Pat Cipollone confronted Trump about the direct threat to Vice President Mike Pence during the siege of the Capitol, that the crowd was chanting “hang Mike Pence,” she heard Meadows tell Cipollone “You heard him, Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it.” She said Meadows told the White House counsel, in her hearing, “He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”
  • On January 7, 2021, Trump’s inner circle made him record a video condemning the riot. Hutchinson said Trump deleted references in the original drafts about prosecuting the rioters, and that he “wanted to put that he wanted to potentially pardon them,” because he “didn’t think that they did anything wrong.” She testified that “He thought … the person who did something wrong that day was Mike Pence by not standing with him.”
  • Hutchinson testified that Meadows wanted that pardon language included as well, but the White House counsel advised against it. Also, she testified that Meads and Giuliani sought pardons.
The committee also provided evidence Tuesday that former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn repeatedly pleaded the Fifth to questions about the events of Jan. 6, including refusing to answer this question: “Do you believe in the peaceful transfer of power?”



The committee also provided evidence—and the promise of much more in follow up hearings—of ongoing attempts by the Trump inner circle to intimidate witnesses and tamper with their testimony.

None of this is being disputed by the anonymous sources or by the Secret Service spokesperson. Not one of them—anonymously or openly—has denied the testimony about Trump being informed about the weapons, demanding the metal detectors be removed, and telling people to go to the Capitol.

They’re also not talking about the fact that Tony Ornato, took leave from his job as detail leader with the Secret Service to become Trump’s deputy chief of staff in 2020. He was part of the team that planned Trump’s infamous Bible photo op in Lafayette Square after peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters were attacked with rubber bullets, flash bangs, and tear gas.

By the way, former White House communications direct Alyssa Farah told CNN’s Jake Tapper that “she has told the truth under oath” to the committee, about that incident, “only to have Ornato dispute her claim while NOT under oath.” Farah says she told Ornato and Meadows “to give a warning to the press that they’d be clearing the park so members of the press wouldn’t get hurt. He said on the record to reporters it was untrue.” But, Farah says, “half a dozen people heard it.”

Ornato is back with the Secret Service after that stint with Trump, and is now overseeing the Rowley Training Center. He’s actually training new Secret Service agents. So it is worth taking anything that the Secret Service says not under oath with a very large helping of salt.


And to demand better from the media by looking at the larger picture. None of the critical aspects of what the Jan. 6 committee has made public have been refuted, just the trivial—whether Trump got his hand on a steering wheel or an agent’s neck or not. That’s a distraction. It does nothing to refute the building case of Trump’s seditious conspiracy to overthrow the government.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukraine update: Turkey relents, Finland and Sweden to join NATO
kos

Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine because of empire, a bizarre historical reading that erases Ukraine’s nationhood in pursuit of a legacy equal to Peter the Great. Yet the tankies have latched on to the idea that the West goaded Russia to attack by expanding NATO to its borders, giving it no other choice but to prevent the same from happening in Ukraine. Putin has even given the notion lip service, saying he was fighting to keep Ukraine out of NATO.

Let’s assume, for the moment, that this notion is correct, that Russia had no choice but to attack to keep NATO from further encroachment. How has that worked out for Russia?

Pre-war, this is what NATO looked like from Russia’s perspective:

surrounded.jpeg


One might be vaguely sympathetic to the notion that Russia was surrounded by the alliance. Here’s the thing: There was nothing in NATO’s posture that threatened Russia’s territorial integrity. Canada and Denmark make up a great deal of that “encirclement,” yet neither was particularly concerned with Russia. The Baltic nations (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania)? Their militaries each were around 15,000 strong, and no other NATO countries had a presence. Russia was buffered from Poland by Belarus, and Poland wasn't invading Russia anytime soon. No one had a problem with the rump Russian territory of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, or its major Russian naval and nuclear presence. Turkey was more concerned with the Kurds to its south, and Armenians to its east. Its increasingly autocratic leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was actually buying advanced air defenses systems from Russia.

As we’ve seen, European NATO militaries were hollowed out by complacency and a sense that Russia was more interesting as an economic partner (and energy supplier) than a military foe. Germany barely has a functioning army at this time. Europe has been happy to invest its resources in its people rather than arms suppliers. As the popular meme says, “Russia is finding out why the United States doesn’t have universal health care.” And speaking of, the U.S. was trying to disentangle itself from European affairs to better focus on a growing threat from an increasingly aggressive China.

The problem wasn’t that Russia was threatened by NATO, it was that NATO just wasn’t scared of Russia anymore, depriving it of the respect and deference Putin thought it deserved. A peaceful Russia would’ve been free to continue grifting to the benefit of its oligarchs, making Putin and his entourage fabulously wealthy by heating and cooling the European continent for decades more. But already worth hundreds of billions of dollars, Putin yearned for something more. He needed historical notoriety.

Now, four months into his failed blitzkrieg, NATO will soon be larger, accepting requests from historically neutral Finland and Sweden to join. What joy Putin, his supporters, and the tankies got from Turkey’s initial reticence (the alliance requires unanimous approval to accept new members) was hilariously snatched away yesterday as Turkey and the two Nordic nations signed a new treaty.





With an 830-mile border with Russia, Finland nearly completes NATO’s eastern encirclement of Russia. It, along with Sweden, boasts some of the most capable air and ground forces in Europe. Russia blustered and threatened, but in the end, what can it do? In fact, all that empty blustering just further underscores how pathetic Russia has become.

Meanwhile, NATO’s 30,000-soldier rapid reaction force, which was deployed to the Baltic countries, Poland, and Romania in response to Russia’s aggression, is about to become a
300,000-strong presence. Additionally, the Baltic countries and Poland have all requested permanent NATO bases, and particularly an American presence (it comes with the bonus of a nuclear shield).

And when Ukraine wins this war? It too will become part of NATO before long, and it too will host NATO troops in its territory. The only thing that might prevent that would be a negotiated settlement that removes Russian troops from all occupied territories including Crimea in exchange for neutrality, and we know that’s not going to happen.

All that is already catastrophically bad for Russia, but it gets even worse.

After 50 years of “negotiations” over Russia’s occupation of the Kuril Islands, those efforts were abandoned at the start of the war (and they were going so well!). After decades of trying to play nice, Japan declared the islands “illegally occupied” and is ramping up anti-Russian rhetoric. With Russia’s military depleted in Ukraine, Russia now has to worry about an angry neighbor on its Pacific flank. Meanwhile, Japan and South Korea are both attending the NATO summit in Madrid this week—a sign of greater integration between the Western alliance and Asia’s most economically powerful democracies. For Japan, particularly, this is a watershed moment given its constitutionally mandated pacifism. And while a NATO with Japan in it is unlikely for various reasons, even tighter integration has to be driving Putin crazy.

Looking to Russia’s south, the former Soviet republicans in Central Asia are getting antsy at Putin’s talk of empire. We saw Kazakhstan’s dictator Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, literally propped up by Russian forces just last year during a popular uprising, directly tell Putin to his face that he wouldn’t recognize the independence of Russian proxy states in Ukraine. He hadn’t taken kindly to Putin saying to
his face that his country didn’t deserve independence.



Take a look at the map at the top of this story. Kazakhstan is about a third of Russia’s southern border, and that’s a long border spanning 11 time zones. Russia expected a pliant puppet regime. It no longer has that as countries that might have cowered at Russia’s belligerence just six months ago are thumbing their noses at their impotent neighbor. China is eyeing the situation hungrily, ready to fill a void.

This might be the most unmitigated foreign policy disaster by any one nation since … World War II? NATO has significantly enlarged its presence on Russia’s border, and now is just 250 miles from St. Petersburg. NATO’s military presence on Russia’s border is about to grow from nothing, to 30,000, to 300,000, and much of it will be permanent. Ukraine has shredded Russia’s military to the point that Belarus is providing military aid for their war effort. Russia’s foes and neighbors are taking note. Japan and South Korea are playing footsie with NATO, while China increases its influence in Central Asia. Russia only got four supporting votes at the United Nations voting on the war: Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea, and Syria. Even old allies like Cuba, Venezuela, and half of Africa turned their backs.

I truly wonder what Putin thinks of all that. His generals can lie to him about the battlefield situation, but this? There’s no way he can avoid this reality.

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Meanwhile, back in Ukraine, rumors abound that Ukraine will be abandoning Lysychansk for more defensible positions to the west. It makes military sense:

FWYF-mpXEAA1vSQ-2.jpeg

Ukraine has prepared defensive line between Sivers’k and Bakhmut.

Lysychansk is squeezed into a little pocket with sketchy supply lines. Its location deep into a salient limits artillery support. But if Ukraine withdraws to the well-prepared defensive line between Sivers’k and Bakhmut (marked on the map by the red line), artillery (inducing HIMARS rocket artillery) can roam relatively safely right behind those lines, striking Russian artillery and ammo depots deep behind Russian lines. It also forces Russia to begin extending its supply lines, something it still struggles to do. Look at that Izyum salient northwest of Slovyansk—it has barely budged in months.

Indeed, if some Russian sources could be believed (like the infamous Igor Gerkin), Russia may call a pause after claiming Lysychansk, and with it, the entire Luhansk oblast. Putin gets a propaganda victory to wave at the home crowd while giving his exhausted forces time to catch their breath and reconstitute.

A Lysychansk withdrawal would be unfortunate since it is a very defensible city, but as I’ve repeatedly said, it serves little strategic value. Its defense would’ve been better secured by an early retreat from Severodonetsk, using those forces to reinforce Lysychansk’s southern advance. But what’s done is done. Pull back from Lysychansk and give brave defenders better artillery cover and stronger supply lines, making Russia suffer on any advance well short of the twin fortresses of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk—the real strategic prizes on this front.

.......
The Kherson region is a big mysterious question mark as Ukraine General Staff has requested an information blackout to mask operations. We know two small settlements were liberated south of Kryvyi Rih, but that’s rolling up the margins. The big important towns in the area remain contested. I suspect much will depend on whether this front gets two HIMARS to assist in clearing out Russian defenses (and artillery, in particular). Every video and picture we’ve seen has them operating in pairs, so are all four operating in the eastern Donbas front, or have they been bifurcated?

And look, another ammo depot goes boom!

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Cippollone gets hit with a Subpoena
AKALib

The January 6th Committee has officially issued a subpoena to Pat Cippollone, former Trump White House counsel, to appear and testify at a deposition on Wed, July 6.



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The January 6h committee is uncovering all the rocks, while the critters underneath are flailing and perhaps praying for their “savior”. How many of them will continue to destroy their careers and reputations for their boss who will claim they were nothing but coffee servers once they open their mouths?

No matter, we have to keep pressing, make sure justice is done and educate the electorate about the rottenness of the republican party. Our Democracy depends on it.

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Conservative Washington Examiner on Hutchinson testimony: 'Trump is a disgrace'
Aldous J Pennyfarthing

Donald Trump is like an old Chucky doll you threw in a dumpster years ago while packing for a move across the country—and then one day, out of nowhere, he shows up in the seat behind you during your morning bus commute.

When are we gonna get rid of this guy? Seriously, when? And why do I get the feeling that if Jeffrey Dahmer had been a GOP president, conservatives would try to convince us those were really Beyond Meat corpses in his freezer?

Well, some conservatives are indeed waking up—slowly but surely. Unfortunately, they’re the rare sort who can consistently write more than three paragraphs without confusing “your” and "you’re.” But hey, it’s something, right?
........
In an unbylined editorial, the conservative Washington Examiner stated it’s through with Trump following Mark Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s explosive testimony before the House Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday. (To be fair, I don’t regularly read The Washington Examiner, so I’ve no idea if they’d already 86’d him in the wake of any of his numerous past scandals. But they’re definitely off the bandwagon now.)

Noting that Hutchinson established her credibility—not to mention her conservative bona fides—by working in the highest echelons of Republican politics, the paper argues that Trump deserves a hearty heave-ho in light of the hearing’s gobsmacking revelations.

What Hutchinson relayed was disturbing. She gave believable accounts of White House awareness that the planned Jan. 6 rally could turn violent. She repeated testimony that Trump not only knew that then-Vice President Mike Pence’s life had been credibly threatened that day but also that he was somewhere between uncaring and actually approving of Pence’s danger.
[...]
Also distressing to hear were Hutchinson’s accounts of Trump’s repeated fits of rage, including dining table contents overturned and ketchup dishes thrown violently across the room. The worst by far, though, was that people immediately returning from being with Trump in the presidential vehicle told of the president trying to grab the wheel of the car to force it to be driven to the Capitol and then violently reaching for the neck of Secret Service agent Bobby Engel, who headed the president’s protective detail.

Yeah, the neck-lunge story was weird, but are we really supposed to be shocked by it? If I’m surprised by anything, it’s that Trump didn’t slice one Secret Service agent open like a tauntaun, toss his carcass over his shoulders like an opera cape, and then ride the other agent like a horsey to the nearest Arby’s.

Hutchinson’s testimony confirmed a damning portrayal of Trump as unstable, unmoored, and absolutely heedless of his sworn duty to effectuate a peaceful transition of presidential power. Considering the entirety of her testimony, it is unsurprising that Hutchinson said she heard serious discussions of Cabinet members invoking the 25th Amendment that would have at least temporarily evicted Trump from office.

Gee, ya think? All I can say is ... we told you. Oh, did we ever.

The editorial ends with a simple statement—and an even simpler ask: “Trump is a disgrace. Republicans have far better options to lead the party in 2024. No one should think otherwise, much less support him, ever again.”

Again, we told you assholes this years ago. It was as plain as the wattle on Trump’s neck. I mean, the guy canceled his gravely ill nephew’s health insurance out of spite. A dude who’d do something that shitty is capable of almost anything.


But, whatever. Welcome to the reality-based community, Washington Examiner. Maybe send your pals over at Fox News an invitation to the party. We need all the MAGA refugees we can get.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/29/politics/liz-cheney-donald-trump-reagan-library/index.html

Liz Cheney says US is 'confronting a domestic threat' in Donald Trump​


Rep. Liz Cheney delivered a searing rebuke of … Donald Trump and GOP leaders at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Wednesday night, recounting some of the damning details that the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, has uncovered thus far and praising the bravery of witnesses – particularly the young female aides – who have come forward to aid its investigation.

“We are confronting a domestic threat that we have never faced before – and that is a former President who is attempting to unravel the foundations of our constitutional Republic,” said Cheney, the vice chair of the House committee. “And he is aided by Republican leaders and elected officials who have made themselves willing hostages to this dangerous and irrational man.”.....
 
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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.....Teachers told the Miami Herald the new standards portray the founders as against the idea of the separation of church and state, downplay the role of the colonies in slavery, and push conservative judicial theories......
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Russia withdraws troops from Snake Island

....General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces, has thanked "everyone who is helping to defend Ukrainian land" following the news that Russia has withdrawn from Snake Island.

He says Russian forces were "unable to withstand" Ukrainian artillery, missiles and air strikes on the island.

"Thank you to the defenders of Odesa, who took maximum measures to liberate a strategically important part of our territory," he says.


He also thanks Ukraine's foreign partners for "providing the means of defeat".....

Summary

  1. Russia says its forces have relinquished control of Snake Island in the north-western Black Sea, which has been battled over since the start of the war
  2. Moscow says its withdrawal is a "goodwill gesture" to facilitate grain exports - but Ukraine celebrates a victory
  3. UK PM Boris Johnson says it is evidence of Ukrainian forces' "amazing ability" to fight back
  4. Nato's chief says members have agreed a significant increase in funding for the alliance, on the second day of its Madrid summit
  5. Jens Stoltenberg says Sweden and Finland will sign the protocol to join Nato on Tuesday, though member states will then need to ratify it
  6. Ukraine's military has welcomed fresh Nato pledges but officials say shells are continuing to rain down in eastern Ukraine
  7. Vladimir Putin meanwhile accuses Nato of having imperial ambitions