Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Morning and Happy Caturday!!

Why Cats PaintToday’s images are from the book Why Cats Paint: A Theory of Feline Aesthetics, by Heather Busch and Burton Silver. It’s a delightfully tongue-in-cheek discussion of “cat artists” that is really fun to read. Here’s some commentary on the book at Goodreads.

Today’s news is full of Ukraine stories. It’s looking as if Putin really plans to go through with an invasion. Here’s the latest:

CNN: Biden says he’s now convinced Putin has decided to invade Ukraine, but leaves door open for diplomacy.

President Joe Biden on Friday said he is now convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine, but emphasized that room for diplomacy remains.

“As of this moment, I am convinced he’s made the decision,” Biden said during remarks at the White House.

The President also said the US believes Russian forces intend to attack Ukraine “in the coming week” or sooner, and that an attack will target the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday said Russia was “moving into the right positions to conduct an attack,” echoing Biden’s assertion that Putin had made up his mind on invading.

“They’re uncoiling and now poised to strike,” Austin said, speaking from Vilnius, Lithuania. Austin said the US would pursue a diplomatic solution “until the very last minute, until it’s not possible.”

Biden plans to spend the weekend monitoring the ongoing Ukraine crisis from the White House as he meets with his national security team and remains in close contact with world leaders, multiple officials say. Biden had considered traveling to Delaware, as he typically does, but decided to remain in Washington.

Vice President Kamala Harris is in Germany today for the Munich Security Conference. Reuters: West puts up united front as Russia begins nuclear exercises.

MUNICH, Feb 19 (Reuters) – Russia must not attempt to move Ukraine’s borders by force, Western leaders warned on Saturday, saying they would be ready to respond even if Russia created a pretext for an invasion by accusing Ukraine of aggression.

Charlie the peripheral realist

Charlie the peripheral realist

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said the United States would reinforce NATO’s eastern flank to act as a further deterrent to any Russian military action in addition to the threat of sanctions.

“National borders should not be changed by force,” Harris said at the Munich Security Conference.

“We have prepared economic measures that will be swift, severe, and united,” she said. “We will target Russia’s financial institutions and key industries.”

Western leaders were meeting in Munich amid reports of explosions just inside Russian territory to Ukraine’s east and in the parts of eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Moscow-backed rebels.

But most also added that diplomacy had not yet run its course.

“History has not yet been written: there is an exit that the Russian government can choose at any time,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock after a meeting of Western foreign ministers.

“Our common message to them is very clear: Don’t make this fatal mistake. Withdraw your troops … Let’s talk.”

But she warned against being misled by misinformation coming from separatist regions , saying Ukraine had done nothing to give the separatist leaders a reason for the evacuations they ordered on Friday.

Read more about the Munich meeting at The Washington Post: Harris, Blinken navigate Munich Security Conference as Europe holds its breath.

NBC News: Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine call to mobilize as Putin oversees nuclear drill.

Pro-Russian separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine ordered a full military mobilization Saturday, amid a spike in violence that has heightened fears that Moscow is planning to use an escalation in the conflictas a pretext to invade.

Pepper’s self-portrait

Pepper’s self-portrait

The announcements came ahead of planned large-scale drills involving Russian nuclear forces, overseen by President Vladimir Putin, offering a timely reminder of the country’s nuclear might, as Europe faces its gravest security crisis since the Cold War. Ballistic and cruise missiles were launched from land, air and sea the Kremlin said in a statement Saturday. 

In eastern Ukraine, where the Moscow-supported separatists have been fighting government forces since 2014, Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic,” urged reservists to show up at military enlistment offices in a video released on the chat app Telegram on Saturday.

In neighboring Luhansk, Leonid Pasechnik, leader of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic,” also signed a decree calling for “full combat readiness.”

The separatists control an enclave about the size of New Jersey, where it’s population of around 2 million speak Russian use the Russian ruble and hundreds of thousands have Russian passports.

Their statements came as the evacuation of civilians from the rebel-held territories in those regions to neighboring Russia continued.

The New York Times interviewed Russia expert Fiona Hill about Putin’s motives: Explaining Putin’s Decades-Long Obsession With Ukraine. Here’s the beginning of the interview:

How would you evaluate the administration’s handling of this crisis so far? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

I think they’re handling it as well as they can be, given the circumstances. Writ large, what the administration is doing right now is certainly what I would recommend doing. But I don’t know whether we can say if it’s going to work or not. The real test is going to be over a long period of time. I don’t think this is going to be a short, sharp crisis.

Tiger the spontaneous reductionist

Tiger the spontaneous reductionist

What do you mean?

Putin’s been trying to get a grip on Ukraine for years now. They cut off the gas to Ukraine in 2006. He’s been in power for 22 years, and the whole of that time, he’s had Ukraine in the cross hairs one way or another, and it’s intensified over time. Putin wants to be the person who, on his watch, in his presidency, pulls Ukraine back into Russia’s orbit. And he could be president until 2036, in terms of what’s possible for him.

Is this fundamentally ideological for him, or geopolitical?

It’s about him personally — his legacy, his view of himself, his view of Russian history. Putin clearly sees himself as a protagonist in Russian history, and is putting himself in the place of previous Russian leaders who’ve tried to gather in what he sees as the Russian land. Ukraine is the outlier, the one that got away that he’s got to bring back.

Head over to the NYT to read the rest.

Back in the USA, we continue to learn more about Donald Trump’s many crimes.

The Washington Post: National Archives confirms classified material was in boxes at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

The National Archives and Records Administration confirmed in a letter Friday that it found items marked classified in boxes of White House records that former president Donald Trump took with him to his Mar-a-Lago residence.

In a letter to Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), U.S. Archivist David S. Ferriero wrote that officials had “identified items marked as classified national security information within the boxes” at Mar-a-Lago and had been in touch with the Justice Department over the matter.

The Washington Post reported last week that some of the Mar-a-Lago documents were marked as classified, including some at the “top secret” level — a revelation that seemed likely to intensify the legal pressure that Trump or his staffers could face.

Princess

Princess, the Elemental Fragmentist

Ferriero’s letter, though, provides the first official confirmation of classified material being in the boxes, and it is likely to reignite calls that the Justice Department investigate to see how the information got out of secure facilities, and who might have seen it.

It remains unclear how many classified documents were in the 15 boxes of materials, or what the Justice Department might do. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment, and a spokesman for the Justice Department did not immediately return a message.

Ferriero wrote that the National Archives was conducting an inventory of the boxes’ content and expected to complete that process by Feb. 25. He wrote that the agency also had “asked the representatives of former President Trump to continue to search for any additional Presidential records that have not been transferred to NARA, as required by the Presidential Records Act.”

CNN: Judge says Trump could be culpable for January 6 and says lawsuits against the former President can proceed.

Civil lawsuits seeking to hold Donald Trump accountable for the January 6, 2021, insurrection can move forward in court, a federal judge said Friday in a ruling outlining how the former President could conceivably be responsible for inciting the attack on the US Capitol.

Trump’s statements to his supporters before the riot “is the essence of civil conspiracy,” Judge Amit Mehta wrote in a 112-page opinion, because Trump spoke about himself and rallygoers working “towards a common goal” of fighting and walking down Pennsylvania Avenue.

“The President’s January 6 Rally Speech can reasonably be viewed as a call for collective action,” Mehta said.

Democratic members of the House and police officers who defended the US Capitol on January 6 sued Trump last year, claiming he prompted his supporters to attack. Friday, Mehta wrote that the three lawsuits could move to the evidence-gathering phase and toward a trial — a major loss in court for Trump.

Wong Wong and Lulu

Lulu and Wong Wong

“To deny a President immunity from civil damages is no small step. The court well understands the gravity of its decision. But the alleged facts of this case are without precedent,” Mehta wrote.

“After all, the President’s actions here do not relate to his duties of faithfully executing the laws, conducting foreign affairs, commanding the armed forces, or managing the Executive Branch,” Mehta added. “They entirely concern his efforts to remain in office for a second term. These are unofficial acts, so the separation-of-powers concerns that justify the President’s broad immunity are not present here.”

While he homed in on Trump’s legal liability, the judge ruled in favor of three close allies to Trump who also spoke at the rally on January 6 — his attorney Rudy Giuliani, his son Donald Trump Jr. and Republican Rep. Mo Brooks, saying he would dismiss the claims against them.

Philip Bump offers an analysis of Mehta’s decision at The Washington Post: The president, the extremists and the conspiracy to storm the Capitol.

There were three things that jumped out at me from D.C. District Judge Amit Mehta’s decision that lawsuits targeting former president Donald Trump and two extremist organizations could move forward.

That is, three things beyond this remarkable paragraph:

 
“ … the court concludes that the Complaints establish a plausible §1985(1) conspiracy involving President Trump. That civil conspiracy included the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, [Proud Boys leader Enrique] Tarrio, and others who entered the Capitol on January 6th with the intent to disrupt the Certification of the Electoral College vote through force, intimidation, or threats.”

Before moving forward, it’s very important to qualify those sentences in two ways. The first is that Mehta is not saying that this conspiracy was proved; rather, that it was not implausible that it might be. It’s the difference between going to trial and reaching a verdict. The second important qualifier is that Mehta is describing only a civil conspiracy, in keeping with the nature of the lawsuits (brought by several members of Congress) that he was considering.

Misty goes off the wall

Misty goes off the wall

A civil conspiracy, Mehta writes, does not require that conspirators “entered into any express or formal agreement, or that they directly, by words spoken or in writing, stated between themselves what their object or purpose was to be, or the details thereof, or the means by which the object or purpose was to be accomplished.” They don’t need to know all the details of any plan or all of those participating in affecting it. They need only have come “to a mutual understanding to try to accomplish a common and unlawful plan … [the] general scope of which were known to each person who is to be held responsible for its consequences.”

The evidence at hand, Mehta concluded, suggests that such a conspiracy may have been in place between Trump and members of those right-wing extremist groups.

Read the rest at the WaPo. It’s very interesting.

One more January 6 story at Law and Crime: Stuart Rhodes is still locked up.

‘Clear and Convincing Danger’: Federal Judge Refuses to Let Oath Keepers Founder Stewart Rhodes Out of Jail Pending Seditious Conspiracy Trial.

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers militia group accused of seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, is a “clear and convincing danger” who must stay behind bars pending trial, a second federal judge has ruled.

Rhodes, 56, has been in custody since his arrest in January, after a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Texas deemed him to be a “credible threat” to the public. Prosecutors say Rhodes has weapons caches and unregistered cars stashed in multiple locations, and that he saw Jan. 6—when hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Donald Trump supporters overran police at the U.S. Capitol to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden‘s win in the 2020 presidential election—as “an initial skirmish or battle in a larger war.”

Smokey at work

Smokey at work

Prosecutors say Rhodes and other Oath Keepers planned to bring years of military experience and a variety of weapons to support the pro-Trump mob, going so far as to prepare for ferrying a trove of firearms and other weapons across the Potomac.

“My observation at this point [is] if the conduct alleged is true, the danger that it poses cannot be [overstated],” U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said at the start of Rhodes’ bond hearing Friday, signaling his intention to keep Rhodes in behind bars.

Mehta said that the government hadn’t convinced him that Rhodes is a flight risk, but they won on their arguments that he posed a risk of future dangerousness to the general public. 

Prosecutors say Rhodes and other Oath Keepers planned to bring years of military experience and a variety of weapons to support the pro-Trump mob, going so far as to prepare for ferrying a trove of firearms and other weapons across the Potomac.

“My observation at this point [is] if the conduct alleged is true, the danger that it poses cannot be [overstated],” U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said at the start of Rhodes’ bond hearing Friday, signaling his intention to keep Rhodes in behind bars.

Judge Mehta was busy yesterday.

So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?


17 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a great President’s Day weekend!!

  2. bostonboomer says:

    More National Archives info. If you click over to Twitter, you can make the print bigger.

    • Enheduanna says:

      It’ll take decades to sort out every crime committed by the Dump admin. Then there are the legal but highly unethical things….I seem to remember Vanky hawking jewelry in interviews on television. They’ll never find all the money that went into that inaugural fund IMO.

      I’m hoping we get to see the older Dump Org money laundering crimes being hashed out in public, like that dildo hotel in Azerbaijan Vanky worked on bringing to fruition.

      That this crime family got away with all this stuff for decades and then in plain view of the entire world is an indictment on the U.S. “justice” system. The one for rich white people.

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. dakinikat says:

    The cat pix are adorable! Wonder if I can get my two to paint a little rather be little pillows on the couch?

    • quixote says:

      And I bet, being cats, if you told them it was time to start being useful as pillows, considering that’s all they planned to do in life, you’d hear the yowls in Arabi!

  5. dakinikat says:

  6. dakinikat says:

  7. NW Luna says:

    It remains unclear how many classified documents were in the 15 boxes of materials

    Doesn’t matter. None of the materials were legal to take out of the White House. That some are classified makes it even more egregious. Can you imagine if Hillary had done this? Not that she would, but the Republicans would be frothing at the mouth while making daily calls for her imprisonment. Now it’s more than a year later and Trump’s still free. A regular Federal employee who stole classified papers would be in a holding cell now.

  8. NW Luna says:

  9. dakinikat says: